Letters to the Editor

Punk pioneer Mike Watt declines his glass coffin; ease up on Jar Jar already!

Published June 16, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

"Punk Rock Hall of Fame Awards 1999"


It's been printed in the press that I was supposed to appear at the "Punk Rock Hall of Fame Awards." This is not true. I was asked if I was available and I said I wasn't. I don't why folks were told I was going to be there.

Yes, I'm from the old days of punk, but my punk days are not over.
However, I don't wish to lie there in a glass box like Lenin or Mao. I
am trying to be intense in the moment and not dick-leech the past.

There is one "old-timer" I am trying to learn from these days. He's dead now but his name was John Coltrane. He was one trippy punk cat. Wild shit lives as fertile ideas, not as brittle souvenirs.

-- Mike Watt

Jar Jar Binks on the cover of Rolling Stone?


Maybe he's not a superstar. Maybe he's not hip. But the "Phantom Menace"
is part of the "Star Wars" movies. They are not made for 29-year-old men; they are kids' movies. Maybe you don't like Jar Jar, and maybe his toys aren't popular, but have you asked the kids? I know small children of 4 and 6 who liked him.

Jar Jar doesn't stand the chance of becoming a Jedi. Can't you just give him a chance at being a buffoon?

-- Holly Ames

I felt a bug-eyed astonishment when I
saw the new Rolling Stone cover. As a relatively new subscriber, I had
previously been impressed with its coverage of pop culture and public
affairs. But after reading the preposterously titled "Jar Jar Superstar"
article, one can only ask: what the hell were they thinking?

I was lukewarm to "The Phantom Menace," but openly hostile to the
"Jamaican drag queen," as you put it so well. In a mediocre movie, he is its only
full-fledged atrocity. Chewbacca and the Ewoks might have been annoying,
but at least they didn't talk. I had been placated by the public's
appropriate "Jar Jar must die" response. Then along came Rolling
Stone -- which depends on its finger-on-the-pulse reputation for
survival -- misfiring badly, and renewing my ire in the process. I was
waiting for other media to pick up on and dismantle the article; you hit the nail
right on the head.

-- Casey Newton

Turko-Armenian war brews in the Ivory Tower

Say it like it is: Armenian genocide. Not massacres, horrors, alleged massacres, deportations, civil war, etc. Impartial journalism does not mean that you need to present a lie to balance
every truth.

-- Rafi Kalachian

I am a Turkish-American and I am sure my views will also be looked
upon with a certain wariness, but I do not subscribe to the idea that I am
disqualified from objectivity by my ethnicity.

First, at the very beginning of the article, you seem to reach a conclusion
-- "The central Armenian experience of the 20th century, after all, was the
death of as many as 1.5 million Armenians ..." and "Every neutral scholar
agrees that the Turkish position is propaganda."

The United States helped to sponsor war propaganda against Turkey during World War I as part
of an official campaign to smear its enemies, as it did with Germany. Part
of this propaganda was the evil butchery of the Turks against the
defenseless Christian Armenians. This is what has been rooted in the
popular memory of America, with very few Turkish-Americans to combat the
insinuations of savagery, yet this is not propaganda?

As far as I could see from the article, every non-Armenian scholar in the field
believes it is an open question whether this event was a genocide. Is it the claim of the article that all of these people are tainted by the tentacles of the Turkish government? If not, then why is it not pointed out that no one outside of the "Armenian position" believes it is a genocide?
Why is it assumed that the "Turkish studies side" has the burden of proof in
overturning the verdict of Turkish guilt? It is because of the underlying
assumption that despite what these people in "Turkish studies" say, there must have been a genocide.

I once asked a professor of mine who taught a class on the laws of war and
war crimes at Columbia Law School to deprogram me from all the propaganda I
had received growing up Turkish. I asked him to please find me evidence of
the genocide by neutral scholars so I could know the truth.

After investigating the issue, he came back and said that he could not find
one non-Armenian scholar who believed this was a genocide, but since "it
looked like a duck, it walked like a duck and it talked like a duck, it
must be a duck." If that's not the product of excellent propaganda, I don't know what is.

-- Cenk Uygur

To observers of corporate involvement in academia, the
situation in Turkish studies provides a sneak preview
of what to expect. For instance, regarding the Princeton
chair funded by Turkey, Shea writes that the appointee,
Heath Lowry, "had advised Turkish diplomats on how to
respond to Armenian criticism of Turkey." Actually,
Lowry had ghostwritten a letter from the Turkish
ambassador attacking the Jewish scholar Robert Jay
Lifton for mentioning the Armenian genocide in his book
"The Nazi Doctors." This despite the fact that Lowry
privately acknowledged that Lifton was merely, and quite
justifiably, referencing existing literature.

Lowry's willingness to set aside his professional ethics
on behalf of Turkey's interests did not go unrewarded.
He was appointed to a Turkish-funded chair at
Princeton despite the lack of tangible credentials for
such a post: He had never held a full-time position at
an American university, nor had a book published in a
mainstream academic press.

My Web site provides details on the issue.

-- Gregory T. Arzoomanian

Providence, R.I.

The really new economy: Red Hat's IPO


Andrew Leonard completely misses the point of Red Hat's business when he
cites a "big potential problem" for the software company's financial
future. Leonard implies that the company could lose a major source of
income if future customers have access to the kind of bandwidth that will
allow them to download the software for free, rather than buying the CD.
Red Hat's business model is geared toward giving the software away for
free in earnest -- the $40-$80 price you pay for the package is for
support and documentation, two commodities that will be just as important
to users well into the age of ubiquitous high-speed Internet access.

-- K. Ellis


Mary Elizabeth William's review of John Sayles' new film "Limbo" accuses the film of not having an ending. The film ends exactly where it should, because the story John Sayles was trying to tell was over. The movie is not about the main characters hiding from the mobsters and it's not about their efforts to return to civilization. It's about three people finding their way out of emotional limbo, and this story is resolved in the last shot of the film. What happens after that shot does not affect the story Sayles was telling.

Whether the characters in "Limbo" die right away or whether they die after decades of wedded bliss, the fact is they are going to die. What Sayles is trying to get us to see is that no matter what happens in the future, these people have regained their lives and are no longer in a state of limbo.

-- Sean Varney


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