Letters to the Editor

Open season on Ricky's sexuality; why doesn't Horowitz fault the Wall Street Journal's slant?

Topics: Fiction, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Camille Paglia

Ricky Martin — superstud or closet case?
BY CAMILLE PAGLIA

(05/26/99)

and

We love you Ricky, oh yes we do

BY CINTRA WILSON
(05/25/99)

Camille Paglia’s open speculation of Ricky Martin’s sexual orientation brings to mind only one adjective: pathetic. As a gay man, I confess to “could it be?” wishfulness, but am bothered by her speculation on the topic. With homosexuality more prevalent in culture, are gays now compelled to forgo commercial success for the sake of a seamless personal and professional life?

Paglia chose to address the issue by responding to a write-in question citing “soft facial features and sensual body language” as evidence Martin might be gay. Soft facial features and sensual body language?! Oh my, he must be gay! Self-serving as always in her selection of bait, Paglia bent over backwards to draw comparisons to Elton John, Rock Hudson and George Michael. To Paglia, the fact Martin thaws even Cintra Wilson’s frozen panties is illegitimate.

– Jeff Card

Alexandria, Va.

Paglia’s partner, Alison, said that real men wouldn’t have respect for a man whose hips move like Ricky Martin’s. She should go to Trinidad and Tobago during Carnival and see men and women dance exactly as he does; their hips moving like figure eights, up and down, you name it.

– Glynis Wears Siegel

New York

I am offended by the comparison of Ricky Martin to a
“Medallin-drug-cartel-Latino.” That is a
totally inappropriate comparison that verges on racist. All sexy Italian men
aren’t compared to members of the Mafia, are they? Unfortunately, too many
successful Latino and African-Americans are.

– John Peller

Chicago


Essay questions

BY CHRISTOPHER OTT
(05/25/99)



Computerized grading software works because it takes on a very narrow type of
writing — writing as the systematic presentation of agreed-upon knowledge
in a field or course as measured by a kind of essay exam. The software
doesn’t grade writing so much as it grades the orderly array of recalled
content.

People assessed by these tools will program themselves to write according
to the dictates of the software. But in classes, students learn
really fast how to write the way the teacher likes, anyway. The real difference
will be in the potential richness of response offered to students: The
grading software might report back what needs to be changed to get a
better score; good writing teachers try to report back what students
need to do to be better writers.

Teaching writing well takes a fair amount of time because it means not
just flagging what is wrong, but also explaining why something is wrong;
teaching well also requires pointing out and explaining what is good or
what else could work in a piece with a little more revising.
Grading software is really for teachers who like the idea of having
students write, but who don’t have the time to offer the kinds of rich and
complex responses that can help a student understand what they are
doing — cognitively, ethically, and emotionally — when they write.

But most word processors already include
wizards and templates for formatting business letters. There’s software
for taking the mind-numbing drudgery out of laying out works cited
reference entries for research papers. It’d be a small leap to software
where you only have to plug in a few key phrases and ideas from your
lecture notes and then see it formatted to match the expectations of the
Intelligent Essay Assessor.

Intelligent Essay Writer(TM) will be a logical (and profitable) marketing
leap once the use of grading software spreads.

– Nick Carbone

Director

Colorado State University Writing Center


Dialogue of the deaf

BY DAVID HOROWITZ
(05/24/99)

The real irony is that David Horowitz fails to see the underlying
cause of leftist hegemony of America’s literary institutions. The Los Angeles Times runs the
editorial content it does to appeal to a certain market niche: book review
readers, who (surprise!) tend to be left-leaning. And why does the Times
determine its editorial content on the basis of market research rather than
abstract ideas like truth or beauty? Because we are all living with the legacy
of Ayn Rand’s “selfishness is a virtue” political philosophy, which has
served as a life-giving precursor to modern conservatism. What matters in the context of
this ethos is not art or ideas, but the almighty dollar and, of course, me me
me. Whose fault is that?

– J. Patrick Coolican

David Horowitz’s “Dialogue of the Deaf” asks the musical question, “What
happens when a leftist editor takes over the book review section of the Los
Angeles Times?”

Many of us have often asked the same question about a certain right-wing
ideologue ruling the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal to such an
extent that its essays, endorsements and condemnations often include
information that is contradicted by the newspaper’s own reporters and
editors.

Actually, my question would be to both the left-wing book editor (assuming
one exists) and the right-wing editorial page editor: Whatever happened to
intellectual honesty?

– Francis Volpe

Carlisle, Pa.

DAVID HOROWITZ RESPONDS …

Unfortunately for the L.A. Times, the left-wing slant of its book review is a decision contrary to its market interests. The issue I quoted from is a very thin 12 pages with almost no advertising. The idea that conservatives don’t read and buy books is a typically arrogant left-wing prejudice.

In defense of science fiction

BY JOHN CLUTE

(05/25/99)

It is irritating that calling a spade a spade — or in this case, calling a science
fiction novel a science fiction novel — is considered demeaning to the work.

I recall a particularly irritating issue of the New York Times Book Review
that, on the front page, had a review of both “Maus II” and the collected works
of Phillip K. Dick. I was initially pleased to find that the Times had seen
fit to review Spiegelman’s hardcover comic book and Dick’s science fiction
work. Then I saw the phrase in the Dick review “this is so good, it can’t be
called science fiction” and the phrase in the Maus II review “this is so
good, it can’t be called a comic book.”

But the problem lies with the science-fiction community, which consistently rejects its own bestsellers. Michael Crichton, who has written
about alien viruses, half-mechanical men and (most famously) resurrected
dinosaurs, is constantly lambasted in the science fiction community for not
writing “real” science fiction. “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” novels are also
called “not real science fiction,” although I doubt anyone could come up with
a reasonable definition of science fiction that Doc Smith’s Lensmen series
would pass and “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” would fail.

If you constantly reject the bestsellers from the genre, you have to expect
that you’ll be rejected back.

– John Ordover

Is it my imagination but do science fiction marketers have a not so subtle contempt for their customers? It shows in the book jackets. It shows on the back cover mini-reviews.
The subtext seems to say, “The people who buy this
garbage are a bunch of developmentally arrested adolescents; they’ll buy
anything if we put a ray gun on the cover accompanied by a woman with
breasts the size of bowling balls.” It’s not like the publishers have
gone out of their way to make the genre respectable. Is it any wonder science fiction doesn’t get any respect?

– Chris Geary-Durrill

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