Art, Madness and Tony La Russa

Letters from the week of October 31, 2002

Nice Shot

The Thinker: Well, once again you have proved that you have the balls to write with wit, integrity, truth and passion ("Sniper," Robert Nelson, October 24). Thank you. If the masses respond to the sniper article as they did to the article on Beau Duran, it will once again firm up my belief that most people want to read the Republic and are happy with the fluff stories they provide. I can't wait to read next week's letter section of the New Times.

The sniper article was genius and should be award material. Thanks again for continuing to think and write "out of the box" material.

Paulette Spadafore

Rising From the Ashes

Medication vs. madness: Medication vs. madness: Great art is characterized by command of all the elements in a composition. This is true of any art form, whether its medium is visual, verbal or aural. But sooner or later, every artist must lose the ability to control the elements once and for all. Even the productivity of an artist whose touch lasts a lifetime is limited by the length of that lifetime, but some, like Jacob Martinez, are destined to lose it much earlier in their careers ("A Is for Artist," Susy Buchanan, October 17).

The ugly truth is that Martinez lost his artistic control at the same moment he lost his intellectual and emotional control, and these losses will never be fully restored, at least not in the foreseeable future. (Just try taking him off his meds.) In Susy Buchanan's telling, this is a great loss indeed to the artistic community, but its sensibilities were never the controlling factor.

Martinez's personality is -- and he now expresses a desire for tranquility stronger than his former desire for self-expression.

Given his present and past states of mind, it is foolish to suppose that, in Martinez's case, medication is worse than the alternative. Medication may be worse for his creative vision, perhaps, but not for his health -- or anyone else's. From there, judging the weight of the interests involved is simple enough. In addition, Martinez knows the cost of unchecked mania better than most artists and critics. He also understands that his survival requires a sacrifice of his talents, and he submits to it willingly. Yet despite all this, he remains in the perverse position of having fellow artists question his insights and judgment, with Buchanan acting as their cheerleader.

In short, Martinez stands to suffer endless condescension just because, through no fault of his own, he can no longer fulfill the expectations of the artistic community. I'm not an artist, so I don't claim to understand those expectations. But I do believe that his sacrifices, his perseverance, and his efforts to find constructive outlets for his experiences and skills deserve respect -- even admiration. Martinez deserves better than he received from New Times and his fellow artists.

Austin W. Spencer

The artist as a young man: I read your story about Jacob Martinez. I must say I was very impressed. I attended Gospel Center Church and School. In fact, I graduated from the school the same year it burned down. I attended the school for almost all of my basic education. I remember when Jacob also attended. My father was the principal of the school at the time Jacob attended. I do not remember much about that time, as I was only 5 or 6 years old.

However, the only flaw in the story is that the school did not fine anyone for failing to attend church. As far as books go, the only way they would have been taken away is if they contained offensive or vulgar content. Study aids were always encouraged.

As for the rest of the story, I thought it was very enlightening and very well put together. I know that there are absolutely no hard feelings toward Jacob from the church or me. I am very glad to hear that Jacob is doing well. I know we were all heartbroken to see him endure the pain he was going through.

Jacob, I hope the worst part of your life is behind you. I hope you have nothing but great times ahead. I hope you have found or do find true happiness soon.

Tracy Castle

A Class Act

Who Is Mark Hodar and Why Is He Saying Those Wonderful Things About Me?: Thanks so much for your interview with Barbara Harris ("Barbara Harris Knew Bill Clinton Was White Trash," Speakeasy, October 24)! She is one of my all-time favorites. She appeared in a 1979 Disney flick called The North Avenue Irregulars and she was (and is, thanks to video) a hoot!

But I really appreciated the clear chemistry between Robrt Pela and Barbara Harris. Funny that she called your question about titles "very silly."

The rest of your questions were different, too. I haven't seen too much written about her -- she is somewhat of a recluse, no? So I did appreciate that you asked different types of questions.

Mark Hodar

Heated Issue

The Great Hot North: On your part, and on the part of Hot Hot Heat themselves, this article verges on both arrogant and ignorant ("Canadian Smoke," Brendan Joel Kelley, October 17). You don't have to be on TV and get signed to an American label (or be recognized in the U.S. at all) to be a great band, and saying that Canada doesn't offer much in the way of musical talent is very short-sighted. Maybe the band was trying to get on your good side by affecting a condescending view of this country, its bands and its labels, which you obviously share. Victoria has been producing great indie and punk bands for years; and Montreal, where I live, has hopping indie pop and post-rock scenes, not to mention the other big cities and small towns with intense, tightly knit scenes. We may not have the population or the industry of the (albeit crashing) superpower that is the USA, but making grand generalizations about the collective talent of the biggest country in the world -- based on a press release, the bullshit spouting of some 20-year-olds and your own personal bias -- is just not cool.

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