Letters

Taking the Cure

I read your article regarding the anthrax vaccine ("Shot to Hell," Laura Laughlin, January 27), and I salute you on a job very well done. Both sides were represented. I was a member of the Michigan Air National Guard. I took the vaccine, four shots. After the fourth, I got extremely ill. Symptoms varied from being bedridden for a week, then on to abdominal cramping, chronic headaches, memory loss, vertigo, trouble concentrating, achy joints (this was as of March 99). Just three weeks ago, I experienced blood blisters in my mouth. I refused the fifth shot, and have since been kicked out of the military. There were nine out of 12 at our base who had many of the same effects as those that I have listed above. I hope you continue to press on with your coverage of this. This is the most repulsive thing I have ever seen happen within the military. It appears to be a growing war within itself.

Hopefully, if these stories get circulated enough, someone will begin paying attention. If not our leaders in command, then at the very least, soldiers who have not yet heard of this catastrophe.

Randi Allaire
Eton Rapids, Michigan

Thank you for a superb article on the anthrax vaccination program. I am a member of the Ohio Air National Guard with 14 years of service. When I first heard about the vaccinations, I was fairly indifferent and didn't give it much thought. Then I started to hear some of the "rumors" of individuals getting sick from the shots. My unit had a presentation that was running on the projector every weekend. There were articles and pamphlets available to read. It all seemed very cut and dried.

Then, a close friend whom I respect very much told me that he had done some research and would not be taking the shots. He provided me with a lot of eye-opening material, much of which focused on the business aspects of the Department of Defense's deal with BioPort, the vaccine's manufacturer.

I then started to investigate on my own and reviewed much of what your article addressed and more. I subscribe to the "Anthrax-No" mail list, which provides me links to articles such as your own, as well as scientific reports and articles. In light of this new information, I am highly suspicious that the current vaccine being used for phase one inoculations is bad medicine and I will not under any circumstances allow myself to be injected with it.

I feel that there is an as-yet-unproven link between anthrax vaccine and Gulf War Syndrome. I am somewhat buoyed by recent developments in determining actual causes of GWS, but I don't see enough effort in analyzing current veterans who are displaying similar symptoms to GWS, but never served in the gulf and have only received the anthrax vaccine.

The end result is that I will be getting out of the military this summer. I do not want to risk the chance that I will be activated and forced to take the shot. This has absolutely nothing to do with any fears about being activated. It has everything to do with an unproven vaccine in which the data that I've found contradict nearly every claim by DOD. I am proud of my service. I enjoyed my service. I wish that I was not put in this position. At least I have the luxury of choice. Active duty service members, federal civil service workers (full-time guardsmen) and those close to retirement don't have that choice. My decision doesn't help them. That is why it's important for reporters like Laughlin to spread the truth to the public and create enough support to get this policy changed.

Name withheld by request

Thank you for the wonderful article by Laura Laughlin on the military's anthrax vaccination program. Now, how do we get the message to the masses?

The bills in Congress are not moving, and only those involved, with few exceptions, even care. I think one of the biggest problems is that nowadays a very small percentage of our representatives has had military experience, while most of them had in the past. They don't care -- doesn't put money in their pocket -- so why bother?

There are a few who are trying to help; but unless the general public is made aware of this and made to understand the problem, these poor GIs will continue to get sick, quit, ruin careers, and die! Gulf War veterans are in the same boat.

Years ago, it was Agent Orange in Vietnam. Now the government is saying it may have been responsible. Well, too late -- people are dead or sick. My brother is one of those who died of brain tumors we think could have been a result of Agent Orange.

The government just keeps plodding along -- somewhere on the Net is a list of government deceptions from the beginning to now. It's unbelievable.

Barbara Burdick
via Internet

Looking Back

I am writing to correct a number of inaccuracies and false suppositions that appeared in "Spade & Neutered " by Kathleen Vanesian (January 13). Vanesian is discussing "Looking Forward, Looking Black," the exhibition organized by my students and me at Hobart and William Smith Colleges on display at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Earlier in Java, this same critic referred to the show as "adrenaline pumping" and "hard hitting." In her article in New Times, however, she takes a diametrically opposite position, claiming that the same exhibition has been, as she grotesquely puts it, "sanitized for your protection." She is not sure whether the "fault" for this is mine or the museum's. "Who knows?" she writes. "Maybe, SMOCA got jumpy after that Brooklyn Museum of Art brouhaha in November during which Mayor Rudy Giuliani caused a public stink over a show of British contemporary work being shown there." Why is Vanesian asking the reader this question? Isn't it the journalist's job to ascertain the facts? A censored art exhibition is newsworthy -- something we hope a good journalist would investigate. But Vanesian isn't investigating, she just asks a number of rhetorical questions that enable her to hedge while making unsubstantiated accusations. She can imply that I and the staff at SMOCA are involved in censoring art without actually saying so directly. Censorship is a real threat to our basic freedoms, artistic or otherwise, and it is important to speak out when it occurs, but it is irresponsible and damaging to artists, curators and art institutions to make these accusations frivolously. As I read over this article, I sense that Vanesian doesn't really believe her speculations, either. And that makes them worse. If she had believed what she was saying, she would have followed up on her own speculations. Then she would have found out that all of the examples she gives to support her accusations are wrong. These errors could have been corrected by a quick phone call to me, or the curatorial staff at SMOCA, or to any of the other museums that have previously hosted this exhibition. But why bother with the facts? The truth could only interfere with all these speculations. Vanesian writes as if accusations of censorship were no more consequential than seasonings thrown in to spice things up a little; they give her article "hype."

Your readers are ill-served by Vanesian's errors and carelessness. I hope you will take the opportunity to correct them. I intend here just to deal with a few inaccuracies in the review.

Fiction: Vanesian writes that Lyle Ashton Harris' work Brotherhood, which appears in the catalogue, was "swapped out for a less inflammatory Harris work" because it was "apparently too hot for the desert." Fact: Brotherhood has never appeared at any of this exhibition's venues. It was sold while on exhibit in Europe before "Looking Forward, Looking Black" opened last year, and Harris lent us another wonderful work.

Fiction: Vanesian complains: "Instead of something from Carrie Mae Weems' scathing Ain't Jokin' series," there are instead the "staid, plainly historical daguerreotypes of black slaves photographed in 1850." Fact: I included works from Weems' Ain't Jokin' series in "Laughter Ten Years After," the last show I organized. As "Looking Forward" was going to two of the same venues, naturally other work by Weems was selected. The photographs in the exhibition are powerful and searing indictments of slavery.

The work of Ren'e Cox is selected for praise, but it would have been a service to the reader to point out that the information Vanesian gives on the Hottentot Venus was from Marilyn Jimenez's excellent essay "Naked Scene/Seen Naked: Performing the Hott-En-Tot," which is in the catalogue.

Fiction Vanesian: "With the exception of one large mural by Leon Golub featuring old, haggard black women on a street, work by white artists is conspicuously absent." Fact: Wrong. Vanesian obviously missed a number of works in the exhibition.

Vanesian ends by pitting SMOCA against Arizona State University, which is currently showing "Face Off" works by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Michael Ray Charles. Fiction Vanesian: "Perhaps being a black junkie artist exploited by the white New York art world ultimately disqualified Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Wild Child Art Star from the 80s, from being in SMOCA's 'Looking Forward' show." Fact: SMOCA has already shown the work of Basquiat. Ironically, it was only the accident of scheduling that brought "Looking Forward, Looking Black" to SMOCA instead of ASU. Both institutions requested this exhibition; SMOCA just happened to ask for it first. These two institutions are like-minded, and have been working together cooperatively on both exhibitions. Your community is lucky to have them both, and I think New Times could serve the community better with accurate information about their activities.

Jo Anna Isaak, Professor
Department of Art History
Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Kathleen Vanesian responds: The three-sentence mention of the show in Java was written before SMOCA's "Looking Forward" exhibition actually opened. Because of deadline constraints, I had access only to a press kit from SMOCA itself. The press release touted the show as "a fascinating exhibition of works by artists that examines the manner in which the Black body has been represented in American art." It listed artists such as Ren'e Cox, Carrie Mae Weems, Kara Walker and Michael Ray Charles. In the past, these well-known African-American artists have produced controversial, transgressive work using highly offensive imagery and exploring racially sensitive subject matter.

In view of SMOCA's own press, I was hardly out of line to expect that the artists' visual and conceptual high watermarks would be honored and continued in "Looking Forward." In my view, they weren't. "Looking Forward, Looking Black" should have been hard-hitting and adrenaline pumping, but unfortunately it fell far short of being either. I expressed my personal disappointment in my review. My rhetorical questions about curatorial thought processes and selections for the exhibition venue were just that -- questions, not assertions of fact. This was an art review, a subjective commentary examining and taking issue with aesthetic choices that shaped "Looking Forward," not to mention the conspicuous absence of work that was reproduced or cited in the show catalogue. I still question why a full-page reproduction of Harris' potentially controversial work was purposely included in the catalogue, when curator Isaak, by her own admission, knew the work would never appear because it had been sold before the exhibition ever opened.

I garnered my information about the original Hottentot Venus from various sources unrelated to the catalogue, including a transcription of a National Public Radio segment about the legendary Saartije Baartman, the original Hottentot Venus, and South Africa's continuing efforts to have her remains returned to her homeland. In recent years, Baartman has been the subject of a stage play, several works of performance art and a South African documentary film; she has been an ongoing cause c'lËbre in South Africa. Why refer to Jimenez's "excellent essay" when I was reciting facts I ascertained on my own?

I in no way "pitted" SMOCA against ASU. And I am puzzled as to why Basquiat necessarily had to be excluded from "Looking Forward," a group exhibition, just because SMOCA has shown his work in the past. You can't get too much of a good thing, in my book. My reference to the ASU show was intended merely to illustrate the differences in curatorial selections and highlight a certain risk-taking in ASU's choices that was glaringly absent in the SMOCA show.

If I overlooked other white artists in "Looking Forward," I apologize. I was rhetorically inquiring as to why curator Isaak chose to ignore certain well-established white artists who have dealt with the theme of representation, stereotypical or otherwise, of the black body in this culture.

I stand by my review; curatorial choice and exclusion is as valid a subject for commentary as actual work appearing in the show, especially when the theme is as dynamic and potentially explosive as the one chosen by Isaak.

Guarding the Henhouse

I read with interest your article regarding this court-appointed fiduciary ("Nancy Drew," Paul Rubin, January 20). A friend is also a victim of this woman's embezzlement. Because of internal family strife, her father was appointed a ward of the court. She had been pleading to the court for months (or years) to get an investigation on this woman; however, her cries went unattended.

In light of your article, I think the lawyers and the judges, the commissioners, and anyone else involved in this should also be under investigation. There seems to be a lot of head-turning on their parts with regard to Nancy Elliston's negligence, delay in getting bills paid, etc. I find it probable that somebody may be involved. If Elliston is so broke and her close friends could not tell of any vices she had, where did all that money go?

Janis Mastin
via Internet

Hairballs

"Shout at the Mullet" (David Holthouse, January 27) would have been entertaining if it had been original and not a watered-down rip-off of www.mulletsgalore.com. No mention of the Web site at all, amazing. Makes me wonder if all the articles I have enjoyed in the past are just somebody else's rehashed Web site.

G. Bevell
via Internet

Voicing a stereotypical opinion is a true sign of diminutive intelligence.

Matthew Lucas
Mesa

Great Mullet column! My father and brother are both avid Mullet hunters in the Valley of the Sun, so they loved it, too. I'm sure you are aware of it, but if not, please check out www.mulletsgalore.com. It is by far the funniest Mullet site out there. Good luck Mullet hunting.

Bob Hyde
Durham, North Carolina

I consider New Times to be the only newsworthy paper in Phoenix, as well as a solid example of real-life journalistic ethics. That's why I thought I should mention the similarity of your column "Shout at the Mullet" to an established Web site, www.mulletsgalore.com. There seem to be more than a few terms or phrases that are, I'm sure, coincidental. However, when comparing the column as a whole directly with the Web site, the likeness is disturbing.

Steve Kevil
Mesa

While snowbound and trapped in Knoxville, Tennessee, last week, a dearth of reading material in my hotel forced me to purchase a GQ magazine. It was pretty terrible, except for two articles. The first was a pictorial of Tyra Banks. The other, an amusing article -- complete with photos -- detailing the history of the haircut they called "the Mullet."

When I opened the latest New Times several days later, I was delighted to see a pagelong column on the Mullet written by David Holthouse. I assumed that after properly crediting the GQ article, Holthouse was going to put a Phoenix spin on the article, perhaps describing some locally famous Mullets. Instead, I was surprised to find no reference whatsoever to the GQ article, and instead a lengthy piece that virtually appropriated it.

Considering the absolute delight that your publication takes in regularly skewering the Arizona Republic for stealing stories, I am disappointed to find that your newspaper is no better. Apparently, theft of articles and ideas is an acceptable practice throughout the Phoenix media. Is there an explanation for this untoward behavior, or are you merely first-class hypocrites?

Mitchell Klein
Scottsdale

Don't often get to read New Times (but like to). Picked it up and read your Mullet column and nearly died laughing. Extremely funny! Thanks. Made my day. No, made my month!

Bill Friend
Prescott

David Holthouse responds: The only way I could have "ripped off" mulletsgalore.com is if I had either plagiarized the text of the site or passed off an original concept -- ridiculing Mullets -- as my own. I did neither. There are more than 30 Mullet sites on the Web. Some have been around longer than mulletsgalore.com, some have not. My point is that the idea of ridiculing Mullets, like a joke or an urban myth, belongs to no one. Similarly, no one can lay rightful claim to the common observations that Mullet heads wear acid-washed jeans, may snort crystal meth, and like to work on their cars in their front yards. These are simple truths I framed in sarcasm.

However, the decent thing I should have done was to credit the minds behind mulletsgalore.com and the best of the other not-for-profit Mullet sites, because theirs is solely a labor of love, whereas I also got paid. For this oversight, I apologize.

Now, as to the accusation that I boosted language from mulletsgalore.com: The only phrases that appear on that site and in my column are synonyms for the Mullet cut: "Camaro Cut," "Ape Drape," "S&L (Short and Long) Crisis," etc., and the phrase "Fear the Mullet." Every Mullet synonym I used in my column that also appears on mulletsgalore.com or any of the other Mullet Web sites was a term I heard bandied among friends years before the advent of the World Wide Web. Whoever runs mulletsgalore.com must have heard them as well, but he, she or they didn't make them up themselves (by contrast, some of the Mullet a.k.a.'s in my column, such as Restraining Order Mortar Board, I've never heard before).

The phrase "Fear the Mullet" also predates >mulletsgalore.com. I first heard it in the chorus of the song "Get Out Your Shears and Get Ready for the Mullet Cut," on the 1997 album Hostby the Seattle trio Critters Buggin.

I have never seen the GQarticle referred to by Mr. Klein. His letter is based on the mistaken assumption, similar to those of the mulletsgalore.com fans, that before my column there existed only one published example of Mullet ridicule. The earliest I know of was a history of the Mullet cut printed in the second issue of the Beastie Boys' magazine Grand Royale in the summer of 1995, years before the current resurgence of the Mullet.

Finally, I think it's only fair to point out the dissimilarities between my column and mulletsgalore.com, where the text is window-dressing for the site's most attractive feature: Mullet pictures from around the world. My column localized ridicule of Mullets to the Valley, and was written as a mock public health alert. Making fun of Mullets is an old joke, but it's one I thought was worth telling, in a new way, because Mullets are making a strong comeback in Arizona (and, apparently, elsewhere).

Nuff said. Here's a short list of Mullet sites worth checking out: Eye on the Mullet (www2bc.edu/~andersep/mullet/mullet.html); Where the Mullet Hits the Bone (home.fuse.net/jleach/mull.htm); North American Mullet Page (www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/6906/) and my personal favorite, The 1999 Frisco Mullet Expos' (grove.ufl.edu/~pasita/mullet99.htm).

Our Town

Boy, I must be living in a different Phoenix than a lot of the people who've written to say how much they hate/hated living in the Phoenix metropolitan area (Letters, January 13 and 20). I guess it's just my mindset that's different from a lot of people about the many places I've lived, and I've lived all over the country.

One thing I've figured out is that many people move to other cities (including Phoenix) with a whole set of expectations, wants, needs, that somehow aren't fulfilled once they get here, and they hate the place for not fulfilling those expectations, wants and needs the way they would like.

When I moved here six years ago from Baltimore, I had no preconceived notions of what the city would be like, or what it was "supposed" to be like. I accepted it for what it was, and wasn't, and moved on with my life. Baltimore and Phoenix are worlds apart in some ways, and the same in some others, but I would never want to make one into the other. Every place is different from every other place, with the good and bad that comes with that.

A lot of people waste too much energy ranting and raving and worrying that Phoenix isn't like the place they just left, or isn't like they thought it was going to be or hoped it would be. Accept, adapt, adjust and be happy! Life's too short not to!

Randy Kinkel
via Internet

In reply to "Mr." Donaldson's letter (Letter's, February 3), it is ignorant creeps like you who are the problem! Only a true shithead like you would think that a desert filled with cactus, lizards and other of God's flora and fauna as a "shithole wasteland." If you don't like the desert, move! Did it ever cross your mind that a lot of people consider a bland, homogenized strip mall plopped down in the middle of a fake environment and catering only to the spend-spend-spend mindset as the real"shithole wasteland"? So what's wrong with a small mall with local merchants in a natural desert setting? Some of us actually like the desert and mourn its passing.

Brian McKee
Tempe

Never have I been moved to respond to a letter to the editor, but I have been reading New Times for some time now, and while your readers can bitch splendidly when it comes to specific issues or public figures, my God, they are weak when they attack this city. And all the way from Seattle (Letters, January 27)!

I could be wrong, Wendy Gallacci, but is Seattle not the only place they canceled the big New Year's party? Did they not have to implement a curfew there a while back? And, lest we forget, did not a bunch of persons against personal hygiene make the national news and many standup comics happy by kicking the shit out of downtown?

I lived in the great Pacific Northwest a lot longer than you and I will let you in on a secret: If you read/listen to editorials, everyone in Washington who doesn't live there hates Seattle, and that means they hate you, unless, of course, you hate little owls and love guns, and this applies to Oregon versus Portland, Florida versus Miami and anywhere else that has one or two big cities in an otherwise mostly rural space.

So, to all you who despise Phoenix, here is my advice: Pick a quaint little hamlet in, say, southern Oregon, and sentence yourself to at least five years. Then you will really learn how to bitch.

Donald Eastman
Peoria

Pollen Nation

"Heartbreak Kids" by Bob Mehr (January 27) was one of the best and most accurate reviews I have ever read. Mehr hit Pollen's "Chip" dead on.

Stephanie Baijot
Seattle

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