MUGGER: I'm not sure ifI like the stuff about your kids more, or the stuff about politics more. (Andpardon my grammar. I'm a half-breed: private elementary school, public highschool and socialist collegethe University of Vermont.) As the father of twoyoungstersa girl of four and a half, a boy of threeI smile whenever I readyour stories about your boys. I'd think their friends and co-athletes must geta kick out of getting their names in the newspaper, even if it might horrifytheir liberal parents. I spent some time in Texasduring the Ann Richards/George W. crossover, and I think Bush has done greatthings for his state. We lived in Austin (which is a Southwestern version ofBerkeley), and the liberals there wanted to eat him alive. They were, however,impressed by how he worked with Bob Bullock, his Democrat lieutenant governor. I'm a fan, and I hope hiscampaign is successful. He doesn't have to beat Al Gore (Bill Bradley?) he hasto beat 90 percent of the news media in this country. The San Francisco Chronicle'spolitical writer, Carla Marinucci, tried to pump up John McCain as the choiceof the Republican "elite." I'm glad I'm not one of those. Anyway, I love your workand am glad you got the website up.
Gordon Smith, Pleasanton, CA
Boise Life MUGGER: I'm just a bumpkinfrom Boise, but I have to agree with Lars-Erik Nelson when he writes that HillaryClinton is going to be able to "hang Kenneth Starr around Rudy Giuliani'sneck and sink him like a stone". It is a fatal error to underestimate theClintons' ability to make a political silk purse out of a sow's ear. Particularlywhen the name Ken Starr is involved. I don't think she is afraid of the report. I think she's counting on it.Nobody would like to see"the most obnoxious woman in America" get her just deserts more thanme, but I agree with the wags who believe that Starr ought to put up or shutup. If he cannot, or will not indict her, the blistering report will do moreharm than good to her opponents.
Tom Ganley, Boise
No More Foot Rubs Thanks for the sample copyof NYPress. Your paper is worse than I thought. I sent you an e-mailrecently complaining about one word. Now I see nearly every other word in yourpublication is vulgar. I'm sorry that you lack the intelligence to express yourselveswithout resorting to such obscenities. Do you really have a following for suchtrash? You will receive no furthercontact from me.
Mildred Perry Miller, Chattanooga, TN
American Hardball MUGGER: I really enjoy yourcolumns and the rest of the columns in your paper via your website. My favorite,though, are the descriptions of the NYPress Giants games and of the obviousjoy you have observing the kids. My older sons, who are 12and 13, just completed their trek through a local, small-town Little Leaguesystem. The location of the fields, the small-town environment and the greatparents we were associated with made it all a slice of Americana. My favoritemoment from the last four years was when we were playing the championship game,and a boy I'll call Adamour most challenged player, who hadn't hit the ballall yearcame up to bat. Well, he hits a grounder to the infield and is runningdown toward first base with his hands above his head and the biggest smile onhis face you could ever imagine. Even though he was out by20 feet, it was his moment. We lost the game, but Adam got the game ball. Thebest part, though, was that Adam came back this year because he had fun withus. He did very well, making a few "real" hits and doing some niceoutfield play. It took me some time tolearn to keep my mouth shut when watching my kids compete in baseball, basketballand other sports. I did learn, though, and I'm always after the parents of kidsto cheer and encourage, whether their team is winning or losing. It's the bestthing you can do. Watching my kids play ballis the hardest and sweetest thing in the world. They kill me.
Gary Matthews, Somerville, NJ
Wallace Stevens Liked It Andrey Slivka demonstratesgross geographical ignorance in his piece slamming the Hartford Advocatefor not having "much of an edge" ("Media Roundup," 6/30). To essentialize the spiritof NYPress, as if all alternative newspapers should reflect its innovations,is absurd. Amy Sohn writes honestly of female sex and excitability, and JimKnipfel locates a warm, sustaining despair in urban nihilism. Even long-goneHoward Kaplan complicated yuppie consciousness with clever prose and a bemusedyet earnest perspective. There are readers in New York for this kind of stuffbecause many of us like to imagine we're living our lives in similarly boundary-breakingways. But Hartford doesn't attract that kind of citizen and doesn't need yourkind of paper. Marginalized citizens whogo largely unrepresented in the mediaand in case you didn't know, Hartfordpretty much lacks bar-hopping trustfund baby hipsters (hell, it lacks bars) needsolid, consistent, and (yes) predictable reporting on race, education, CityHall and the police. In the same way that lots of overprivileged young whitewomen in New York City relate to Amy's self-loathing erotic quests, many Hartfordresidents seek out stories that reflect their own, less amorous, daily struggles. What's most absurd is thatto buttress his argument, Slivka quotes from a Hartford Courant reporter'ssilly, cliche rendering of having lunch with the Advocate's publisher,as if this proves once and for all how ridiculous and interchangeable thesebackward, backwoods liberal softies truly are. But the Courant will neverpublish the Advocate's personal ads celebrating hedonistic perversion,or its listings detailing appearances by local garage bands and performancesat shoestring theaters. Nor will it publish activist, leftist reporting thatgives Hartford's community leaders a forum to speak at length to their variedconstituents. The Courant is a white suburbanite's paper; the Advocateinspires loyalty from people of color, women, gays and young people. In NewYork City, that may be cause for smug, self-satisfied sneering, but 120 milesaway, it's necessary, it's real and Slivka's the fatuous, irrelevant boob. I wonder if Slivka's realrage about "alternative" weeklies has to do with how widely influentialthe flawed but vital Village Voice has been. Anyway, if I risk humorlessness,it's because I'm from Hartford and I love my hometown. One last thing: Armond Whitenowthere's a writer who's relevant no matter where he's read.
Christopher Shinn, Manhattan
Attention Chris Shinn I went to college in Middletown,CT, right between New Haven and Hartford, so I got to read both of those cities'relentlessly mediocre weekly papersthe Hartford Advocate and the NewHaven Advocatefor most of five years. I can't believe my familiaritywith the Advocate is worth anything, but man, do I get what Russ Smithand Andrey Slivka are talking about ("Media Roundup," 5/19; "MUGGER,""Media Roundup," 6/2). Two of my friends spent time there as interns. My girlfriend takes credit for the "Quickies" section added to thefront of the paper about four years ago. The other guy even graced the coverfor some "slacker" article (during the 1995-1996 academic year!).I was away at the time, but he wrote me of the experience. This part of theletter I remember clearly: "Here's a story about how far up its ass isthis campus' head. I was on the cover of the (Hartford) Advocateyouknow, the tabloid of which a few hundred copies are deposited weekly across campus. Twenty-seven hundred people have been stepping on my face all week long[one pile of Advocates was in the mail room/student-center entrance].The new one will be here tomorrow, and four people have remarked upon it." It's easy to take digs atthe paper. The most entertaining part was invariably "News of the Weird"or a typo. The attempts to cover the "local music scene"well, it'sHartford. The listingsHartford again. I understand Smith's (and Slivka's) attitudetoward complacent alternative newspaper publishers. But Smith eventually tookhis show to New York. And Hartford, like most towns, isn't even Baltimore. Thesepapers have to cover their beats, not to mention look to their communities forads, listings and readership. I think when you "critique" these papersand the AAN in general, you guys are just pissing on other people's towns, likeNew Yorkers of every ilk do all the time. Ask this: How goodhow relevantcoulda Hartford paper be? Even if it strove for a more NYPress esthetic vs.an outdated Village Voice one, even if it used the Web creatively, evenif it got its laughs taking digs at its hometowneven if it had good writers? The one time the Advocatemattered at Wesleyan University was in 1995-'96. The Hartford Advocateran a cover piece about heroin. One of their "confidential" informantswas a heroin user from my school. The article's publication caused a huge ruckuson campus for a number of reasons: Its silly sensationalist tone and focus onthe school ensured that many students read it, and the "confidential"informant had implicated his fraternity and a number of individuals, thoughwithout naming anyone (unnecessary at a small liberal arts school). This allmade the piece really quite juicy. "Tyrone," the pseudonymous informant,was banished from his frat, and I believe there was some action taken againstthe frat by the administration. But the article got a reaction. A bunch of studentswho had previously ignored the paper now hated it. There was also a few-months'long dialogue in the mail section, with students and shocked townspeople givingtheir reactions to the presence of some smack on a college campus. Behind thescenes there was still more comedy. Someone at the Advocate had asked a guy I know to write the heroin piece while he was interning there. He refused,and we had a laugh about the Advocate's clumsy attempt at beating thisdead horse. When my girlfriend was an intern there later, someone asked herto do the piece. She took advice from the other former intern, and wisely declined.Unfortunately for "Tyrone," she did provide the woman (a nonstudent)with the names of a couple of possible sources. Then she called "Tyrone"to warn him not to say anything, and to tell him that the writer was a bit ofa snake. "Tyrone" claims this: Everything he said was over a leisurelyglass of wine, and that he only spoke because the writer promised it would be"off the record." Hope you found this Advocateanecdote amusing. We sure did.
Daniel Skolnick, Manhattan