Letters to the Editor

How could your "music of 1999" list bypass Ricky Martin? Plus: Children's lit needs the likes of David Mamet; is Croatia ready for a rebirth?

Published December 22, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

Sound off



Given the number of critics you had chiming in on this subject, I was a
tad stunned at how homogenous the lists were. Is this the new face of
hip? Is there some established canon of middlebrow cool that must be
adhered to? Yes, I agreed with some of the choices, but I cannot fathom
how the lists came out so similar, and somewhat dull.

-- Jeff Patterson

Hartford, Conn.

You don't have to be an obscure, invisible musician, with an independent mini-label and no airplay, no video and no presence, to be chosen as having one of the best records of the year by Salon's critics, but it sure helps.

-- Jeff Winbush

What? No Ricky Martin? How can 14 gazillion screaming teeny-boppers (and
Larry King) be so wrong??

-- John Burger

For me the criteria has always been: Will I listen to this music in five, 10,
15 years? It's not impossible to predict if you consider what you've kept so far.
Repeated plays and shivers aside, music should remain timeless. Some
obvious misses from the assembled lists include: XTC (with their most melodic and
realized pop since "Skylarking"), Townes Van Zandt, Ricky Scaggs (the
best bluegrass recording and playing in 20 years), Those Bastard Souls,
David Allan Coe (a honky-tonk legend long overlooked) and Death in Vegas (Dot Allison's best moments).
I'm sure every consumer can find one disc they purchased in the past year that made them cry, dance
or fuck, that the critics didn't include.

-- Dusty Wright

I can't believe that only one of your contributors had her head screwed on
well enough to mention Macy Gray, who was by far the best artist of the year.
All the rest, even Beck, pale in comparison.

-- Mark Rinzel

You are sadly missing Frank
Black and the Catholics' "Pistolero." Since the death
of the Pixies, Black has not been lavished with the awards and media attention he
deserves. Let's give him some overdue credit.

-- Neale Gay

Burlington, Vt.

A swine in Harvard Yard



It is Alexandra Jacobs who projects adult anxieties onto children, not David Mamet. Jacobs seems
deeply alarmed that Mamet has written a children's book that is more
bracing than relaxing, more exciting than soothing. Every child I know
would scoff at her timidity. She is distressed that the book may suggest
to kids (even little girls, yet!) the dangerous idea that it is good to
struggle and succeed academically.

It is this "don't upset the little darlings" attitude that has led to the
steady decline in quality of children's literature over the past few
generations (a decline accompanied by a matching increase
in therapy for children). With every passing decade, books for children
have become less challenging in their language, less frightening in their
subject matter and more and more ruled by notions of what is
"appropriate" for children to read. Oddly, children growing up with these
homogenized book-products have not, on the whole, proven to be any safer
from danger and anxiety than children who were permitted to read scary
books about bad things. They have simply grown up to be less articulate.

At the turn of the century, a typical literate child read John Bunyan and
Robert Louis Stevenson. Jacobs' generation had the "Betsy-Tacy" books
she approvingly mentions. And today's children have Sweet Valley High and
Goosebumps. It is probably very reassuring to them never to be
challenged by what they read. It must do wonders for their self-esteem.

-- Dan Bryar

Don't you think you ought to ask people who do have children and have seen David
Mamet plays to write reviews of his new children's book? Also people who
are at least fleetingly familiar with "Animal Farm," to which the book is
rather obviously a reference?

-- Martha Freeman

Alexandra Jacobs wrote, "I would be wary of giving any kid a book that even hints at the tortuous,
exclusionary application process required for admission to top-flight
colleges and law schools; they'll have plenty of time to enjoy that later."

If looking ahead to the farcical drudgery that will be their education frightens children, is that a sign
that something is wrong? Worrying over SAT scores and what name is on your
diploma is a waste of time and money. If we want people in our society to
be both happy and productive, we should take a long hard look at what
getting an education in this country means, and what we get out of it.
Maybe an education where you get the chance to enjoy learning and really
do something with your young life instead of 16 years of lectures,
homework and tests would be a less scary future for kids to contemplate.
It sounds like something Henrietta might enjoy, too.

-- Jim Morash

Brilliant Careers: Nick Nolte



I do strongly differ with your assessment of Nick Nolte's
performance in "Lorenzo's Oil." In my opinion, this is one of Nick's
greatest and most challenging roles. As in "Prince of Tides," there isn't
any action or cute banter to hide behind. One of the hallmarks of
a great performance is that the audience forget the actor and become
consumed by the performance. I think this was the case here.

-- Phil Engel

Descending into the dungeon



There is plenty of sane, non-pornographic information
available about BDSM, from which Virginia Vitzhum could have discovered the
difference between BDSM and abuse -- a huge distinction that she
refuses to acknowledge. Vitzhum should find an approach more interesting
and less obvious than the typical shock or disgust.

-- Brook Partner

The geek shall inherit the Earth


Come on now, geeks are America's new heroes. Just look at the wealth and
power we bestow on the technology and Internet tycoons everyday. The
geeks' day is upon us, and Steve Forbes should have his time in the White
House to commence a long-overdue restructuring of business as usual in

-- Scott Johnson

Croatia after Tudjman


I visited Croatia and Bosnia as a tourist this past fall to get a sense of
whether the region would be able to recover from the unbelievable
destruction caused from the breakup of Yugoslavia. I toured the cities of
Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia, as well as Sarajevo and Mostar in

Croatia is, on the surface, extremely prosperous. The cafes and shops of Zagreb were as sophisticated as those in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. Split and Dubrovnik (quite
possible the prettiest city in Europe) have retained all of the amenities
that made them the jewels of the Adriatic. Yet the rural regions,
especially those near the Bosnian border, are a mess. Many of the
structures still have battle damage from 1991 and the fields appeared
unkempt. Industry is nonexistent.

I believe many of the problems with Croatia stem from a feeling within the
country that the Croatians are really just the eastern outpost of Western
Europe. My discussions with locals on the issues produced interesting observations
-- I noticed Croatians would stiffen if I mentioned their past links with
Yugoslavia; they seemed shocked that an American not attached to the
United Nations mission would have any desire to visit Bosnia. I believe
the reason why Zagreb, Split and Dubrovnik appear so spectacular while the
interior of the country is run-down is that Croatians are betting Western
tourists, when they return, will care only about the surface.

I absolutely agree that Tudjman's death presents Croatia with a unique
opportunity to further democratic reform (Tudjman, though pro-Western, was
definitely no political saint). Such reform should produce effective
responses to the legitimate concerns of displaced Serbs and compliance
with the war crimes tribunal in the Hague. Hopefully, Croatia will seize
this opportunity.

-- Eric Winston

As soon as Operation Storm started, all the Serbian leadership in Krajina
fled, leaving the entire Serb population in chaos to fend for
themselves. Since the leaders fled, the population fled as well. Laura
Rozen doesn't mention this in her article, instead attributing the Serbian flight
to Croatian commanders; in fact, the Serbian leadership shares some of the blame.

-- Tammy D. Brinkman

Jack and Baby Vicky sittin' in a tree



I can't help but be disappointed in the ending to this tale. Ms. Girly-girl
should confess -- she was scared for her son's masculinity the whole time.
I'm glad times have changed enough for this article to be possible, but
hope there are others out there who don't associate gender with football
and linear thinking. My husband never has and never will follow or play
football, and is a warm, loving father who values both linear thinking and
fuzzy logic. I'm sorry for Virginia Gilbert and her boy, who will probably
always alter his behavior in light of his family's "mild" homophobia.

-- Yvonne Conybeare

Kill the yeast beast!



For years, women have been trying, to no avail, to cure vaginal yeast by inserting yogurt into the vagina (not the vulva, as Cross suggests). This makes a huge mess and really has no effect.
Eating plain yogurt, however, is a good way to keep the yeast in check and balance.
Acidopholis tablets, taken in large dosages, can help yeast infections.
Inserting processed, fatty and sugared yogurts into our vaginas just does
not work and often makes the problem worse.

-- Paddy Kennedy

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