Letters to the Editor

Is Jim Carrey really the best comic since Chaplin? Plus: It's urban playgrounds that produce NBA stars; does Indian school yield high-tech geniuses or drones?

Published December 14, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

The Jim Carrey Show

Andrew O'Hehir writes, "I see Carrey as the greatest film comic of our generation, and perhaps the finest physical comedian since the silent era of Charlie Chaplin,
Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd."

What kind of hyperbole is this? In addition to physical comedy, the
aforementioned were shaping consistent screen characters, comedic film
language and techniques -- in a very explicit manner, and for the
silent screen. Has Carrey reached the level of visual poetry
that was Chaplin's?

For expert physical comedy, O'Hehir should watch the films of Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Harpo Marx, Curly Howard, W.C. Fields and Lou Costello.

-- Charles Greenberg

Jim Carrey is among the best comic talent of our generation. I do, however, take issue with Andrew O'Hehir's dismissal of Tom Hanks' roles of late: Does anyone really think that Hanks should still be making comedies like "The Money Pit" instead of dramas like "Forest Gump," "Apollo 13" and "Saving Private Ryan"? O'Hehir is spot on with regard to his assessment of Robin Williams' recent career, but he does a disservice by including Hanks in that same category.

-- David Bzdak



Sallie Tisdale's review was heavily
burdened by her preoccupation with the supposed mysteries underlying
black dominance of the NBA and white dominance of other sports. "I've
been called a racist myself simply for asking the question," she
tells us at one point.

Blacks came to dominate basketball
because basketball is an inexpensive sport to participate in -- all you
need is a space to act as a court, a basket, a ball and young bodies full
of energy. Cities across the United States created courts in inner cities because
the overhead is slight and it gave kids something to do. This created a
proving ground for black young men, a place to sharpen skills in this one
sport. And of course, from this competition the most talented often rose
to NBA stardom.

I grew up as one of those black kids with one organized sport available to me.
In suburban communities there are also basketball courts -- but these
facilities are not alone. Hockey, figure skating, tennis, soccer -- all
sports requiring more infrastructure (and therefore more money) -- are
often all supported at the same school. Inner city kids (mostly black and
Hispanic) rarely have such a cornucopia of choices.

-- Dwayne Monroe

Sallie Tisdale is another Salon writer who believes that
it takes courage for a white writer to discuss "taboos" about race. Don't
these people read newspapers, watch television or go to the
movies? Performing one-sided rants about racial "taboos"
is the easiest gig in town, and minorities are assaulted by hostile and
inflammatory commentary on an around-the-clock basis.
Even more insidious are the tough-love opinions offered by those who are hypocrites in their own
lives, and who never discuss "taboos" about other ethnic groups, including their own.

-- Ishmael Reed

Sallie Tisdale states, "He sees unspoken
racism ... in a woman's glance at a black man jogging by." The phrase is
troubling because, Tisdale makes all women white women. This is
the kind of historically "invisibilizing" language we who speak and write
about race must look for, diligently, in our own thoughts and communication.

-- Elizabeth McNeil

Technical Sutra


Success in today's world is measured in a certain way, and to succeed in this world is to have accepted its conditions and values. Indian Institutes of Technology attract the best
brains of the country and then proceed to bludgeon them into subservience of the
technocratic world order.

IITs excel at producing a certain kind of human being --
thoroughly analytical and able to work under extreme pressure, but
divorced from social realities; they seem to think deeply only at the
expense of breadth. Success in the IITs is based on how much one is willing to become an
information-processing engine who can solve problems given the
assumptions, but who doesn't question the assumptions themselves.

Alexander Salkever failed to mention the suicides (among both faculty and
students) of those who could not cope with the intense pressure; or the deep
hostility between the all-powerful administration and impotent
students, for whom life was a constant competition and examination in
those four years.

I graduated from the so-called elite computer science
department from IIT Delhi. Mind-numbing amounts of information and techniques were pummeled into our brains. Every course was a crash course, and the price of
failing a course high.

What IITs produce after four years is a man so hungry for the pleasure and space that he has been denied all those years that for the rest of his life, he works on creating a cocoon for himself. Shame on those people who sold off overhyped Internet start-ups, or went to work at
Microsoft. Instead of changing the system, instead of becoming free from it, they exploited it.

-- Harmanjit Singh

As an IITan and a journalist, I read the voices Alexander Salkever quoted with a shock of recognition. I recognized thoughts I have had; I recognized the sort of people who shared those years of joy and despair and insecurity and pride with me many years ago. The environment was
primitive in its physical basics, yet the most intellectually exciting world that any 18-year-old could hope to encounter. And I felt good about myself and all my classmates and friends
and my country -- where the IITs remain a crazy anomaly to be infinitely proud of.

-- Sandipan Deb

Back home in India, all the papers could say of the IITs -- especially Kharagpur -- was to rag on the recklessness and lack of discipline from decades past; they have not
acknowledged the vast improvements brought about in the recent
years. This article, with its realistic portrayal of life at the IITs and beyond, was a
welcome change. Those were the days when end-term preparations were done
in the last few hours, over cups of chai in the hall canteens, a team of
10 or so pouring over multiple photocopies of the class notes of the
person with the best handwriting and the best attendance.
We'd get drunk over "double decker" shots (gin over whiskey), and hear people blown
beyond their senses mutter equations and sing Pink Floyd; and sneak out for
vegetable chops and samosas at Harry's Corner while experiments baked in the furnace or Matlab churned away at matrices.

-- Kundan Sen

Sharps & Flats: "Singles box set"


I found Michelle Goldberg's complaint that Underworld "let" less talented producers rework their music unfair. While an artist is legally entitled to refuse the right for
remixed versions of one's compositions to be released, it is rare that
this right can be exercised without compromising relationships within the
industry. Remixes are a key part in promoting electronic artists,
especially in subgenres where they may be unknown.
Have Underworld's label and managers really done Underworld a disservice?

-- Gabriel D. Vine

Alan Keyes called me a racist


You white folks need to get over your fear of being labeled "racist." Jake Tapper should be ashamed that he engaged in a debate with a moron like
Alan Keyes, who thought he could take the Clarence Thomas approach to
wiggling himself out of a political jam. Tapper took the bait, giving Keyes the press coverage he craves and probably bringing a few more loonies to his side of the river.

Keyes will never be a serious contender because he's just too fringe -- black or not black.
It's as simple as that. It's a shame, because I think black conservativism is a
very important voice -- but Alan Keyes is not the proper channel for it.

-- Corilyn Shropshire

Keyes is right. If a black man,
Clarence Thomas for example, expresses conventional conservative views, he
is automatically attacked or ignored. If a black man says, "Take your special benefits for presumably noncompetitive blacks, and shove them," he is seen as either a megalomaniac or a nut, like Ward Connerly or J.C. Watts. Only the liberal press remains unrepentantly racist.

-- Dorothy Jones

Jake Tapper says that Keyes' claims that Kosovo was a "propaganda war" are "ludicrous" and "superficial." I don't think so. Did the bombings bring peace to the region? Has the killing stopped? Have the forced displacements stopped? The answer to all of these questions is no.

-- Steve Hesske

Exporting Latino politics BY GREGORY RODRIGUEZ

Check the facts: Bush received 40 percent of the Hispanic vote of those who
voted. Not the vote of 40 percent of Hispanics. That election saw a low turnout in
many areas of the state.

-- Victor Harpley

How can Gregory Rodriguez allege that
George W. Bush and the GOP were gaining ground among Hispanic voters
nationwide, particularly in California, when everything I've heard from
eminently reliable sources such as the American Prospect (not to mention the
voting results of the last few elections) has shown the exact opposite?

Voting results and demographic data show that Hispanics, who had been
attracted to the Republican Party in the 1980s by its stance on moral issues
such as homosexuality and abortion, are now leaving the party in droves --
especially in California -- over the perceived anti-Hispanic racism of the GOP.
Only in Texas does even George W. Bush, supposedly utterly beloved of
Hispanics, crack the 50 percent mark among Hispanic voters. How else does one
explain the fact that California, after years of Republican dominance, is now
one of the most heavily Democratic states in the nation?

-- Tamara Baker

St. Paul, Minn.

By Letters to the Editor

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