Letters

Readers respond to "Homing Instinct: Oh Yes You Can!" by Cary Tennis, and "The Unexamined Thug Life," by Janelle Brown


Salon Staff
November 8, 2002 11:46PM (UTC)

[Read "Homing Instinct: Oh Yes You Can!" by Cary Tennis.]

Cary, you make me hurt inside. First you hold out this carrot to us: If two folks of your then-income could acquire a house, then surely all the doubts and despairs I have on this subject are unfounded. Then in the next-to-last paragraph, you throw in this tidbit:

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"Later the real estate market would skyrocket ..."

Goddammit! Why didn't you say this was in 19-friggin'-92?

Yes, I live in the Bay Area (Mountain View, at the moment). I make a more-than-decent living. In fact, I make more than my (middle-class, house-in-California-owning, 30-year-mortgage-paying) older relatives do. But when I plug my vast wealth into ye olde home affordability calculator, it says I can afford about two-thirds the price of an average one-bedroom condo in this burg. Never mind the houses -- I'm not that delusional, because after all, how many single people have three grand to burn on a mortgage payment each month? Yet it still hurts bad to think that I'm going to be beholden to a capricious landlord for the foreseeable future.

This situation has made me think the usual thoughts of moving out of town, which contrast with other distressing thoughts that my job ain't all that portable and, dammit, I really like it here. It just riles me up that a single person who makes an above-average living is still looking at a choice of renting forever, shacking up prematurely, living with an assortment of random roommates and scraping the bottom of the barrel each month, or getting the hell out of Dodge.

-- Michelle Louie

I have just read the whole series of articles that Cary Tennis has written on houses. It was all I could do to keep from standing up on my chair in my office and saying Amen. This guy understands what it is about owning a house and obsessing about this state. Understands why I wander the mega-box hardware store aisles "for ideas." Seeing the elements of my house in everything. Or rather, my house but ... better. Fixed. Improved. Understands why I have a compulsion to have little tags on everything ... "This is not the floor in the kitchen. While it may seem that this is actually the kitchen floor, by dint of some rather temporary financial constraints, the cork-tile kitchen floor is forced to reside in boxes at the floor store. Please look at this floor and adjust your impression accordingly." Understands why I somehow cannot be placated by the compliments about our house. How these compliments fail to mitigate that gnawing feeling about what the house should be. Understands why I rebuff each compliment with a narrative on design or finishing or materials, quoting passages from the "Pattern Language" or "The Not So Big House" or "Fine Homebuilding."

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Cary knows the madness of which I speak. Cary, I light my propane torch and hold it up to you. House Obsessives everywhere would. Yeaaaaaaaaaaaah! Yeaaaah!

-- Phil Scalia

[Read "The Unexamined Thug Life," by Janelle Brown.]

Adam Ripp's pompous declarations that his film is somehow a noble act of social responsibility are laughable. "Gang Tapes" is a minstrel show for the new millennium -- black men performing for our entertainment, "BumFights" in blackface, so to speak. The real documentary being shown in "Gang Tapes" is the story of poor young black men being exploited by a white guy with a half-million bucks. I'm not buying Ripp's story; why should those theater owners?

-- Susan Gula

If Ripp wants to make a movie that de-glamorizes gangbanging he should try to depict on film the pain caused by gang violence and drug dealing. Attach a camera to a paraplegic or someone else crippled by a gang shooting or ask the families of unintended victims how life is after their child was "in the wrong place at the wrong time," which probably means at home. Follow a crackhead or hype around all day and see what they'll do for money to get their sick on, or show some before/after dope pictures -- talk about de-glamorized. As a 42-year-old lifelong resident in the 'hood, I can see Ripp coming from a mile away.

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Ripp wants to make money, a whole lot of money. This is no labor of love. He wants to get rich. A true artist wants his work appreciated, whether it be on video or in theaters. Ripp wants fame and fortune, he's Hollywood dreamin', and he used gangbangers and the black community because he could get it for cheap, the better to maximize his profits.

If Ripp wants to show what life is like for most people in the 'hood, he should attach a camera to a man or woman going to work every day, putting up with a lot of bullshit at the job, and then coming home putting up with bullshit gangbangers and tricks on the block. This would probably be boring to Ripp, since most people that don't get caught up in stupid shit can live relatively "normal" lives of working, raising their children, and being unstereotypical black folks, the invisible majority.

--Theloneous Massai

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I am so tired of hearing filmmakers whine about "racism" being the reason their films don't succeed. It's highly likely that theater owners are reluctant to show "Gang Tapes," not because they are afraid of a black audience, but because there is a history of violence in theaters caused by the kinds of people (black and white) who are attracted to this sort of film. Many a screen has been destroyed by having 40 oz. bottles of malt liquor thrown at it during a film, people have been shot and killed, and therefore fearing mayhem isn't totally unrealistic.

This is not racism, folks. It's a fact. Let's also consider that, interested as this filmmaker is in his subject, a film about black gang life in Los Angeles, with all its violence and glory, may not be as interesting to the rest of the population of the country. And lastly, as an obviously never considered theory -- maybe, Mr. Ripp, your film just isn't good.

-- Sabine Griffin

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Salon Staff

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