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MUGGER: I’m not sure if I like the stuff about your kids more, or the stuff about politics more. (And pardon my grammar. I’m a half-breed: private elementary school, public high school and socialist collegethe University of Vermont.) As the father of two youngstersa girl of four and a half, a boy of threeI smile whenever I read your stories about your boys. I’d think their friends and co-athletes must get a kick out of getting their names in the newspaper, even if it might horrify their liberal parents.

I spent some time in Texas during the Ann Richards/George W. crossover, and I think Bush has done great things for his state. We lived in Austin (which is a Southwestern version of Berkeley), 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 his campaign is successful. He doesn’t have to beat Al Gore (Bill Bradley?) he has to beat 90 percent of the news media in this country. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s political writer, Carla Marinucci, tried to pump up John McCain as the choice of the Republican “elite.” I’m glad I’m not one of those.

Anyway, I love your work and am glad you got the website up.

Gordon Smith,
Pleasanton, CA

 

Boise Life

MUGGER: I’m just a bumpkin from Boise, but I have to agree with Lars-Erik Nelson when he writes that Hillary Clinton is going to be able to “hang Kenneth Starr around Rudy Giuliani’s neck and sink him like a stone”. It is a fatal error to underestimate the Clintons’ ability to make a political silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Particularly when 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 than me, but I agree with the wags who believe that Starr ought to put up or shut up. If he cannot, or will not indict her, the blistering report will do more harm than good to her opponents.

Tom Ganley,
Boise

 

No More Foot Rubs

Thanks for the sample copy of NYPress. Your paper is worse than I thought. I sent you an e-mail recently complaining about one word. Now I see nearly every other word in your publication is vulgar. I’m sorry that you lack the intelligence to express yourselves without resorting to such obscenities. Do you really have a following for such trash? 

You will receive no further contact from me.

Mildred Perry
Miller, Chattanooga, TN

 

American Hardball

MUGGER: I really enjoy your columns 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 obvious joy you have observing the kids.

My older sons, who are 12 and 13, just completed their trek through a local, small-town Little League system. The location of the fields, the small-town environment and the great parents we were associated with made it all a slice of Americana. My favorite moment 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 ball all yearcame up to bat. Well, he hits a grounder to the infield and is running down toward first base with his hands above his head and the biggest smile on his face you could ever imagine.

Even though he was out by 20 feet, it was his moment. We lost the game, but Adam got the game ball. The best part, though, was that Adam came back this year because he had fun with us. He did very well, making a few “real” hits and doing some nice outfield play.

It took me some time to learn to keep my mouth shut when watching my kids compete in baseball, basketball and other sports. I did learn, though, and I’m always after the parents of kids to cheer and encourage, whether their team is winning or losing. It’s the best thing you can do.

Watching my kids play ball is the hardest and sweetest thing in the world. They kill me.

Gary Matthews,
Somerville, NJ

 

Wallace Stevens Liked It

Andrey Slivka demonstrates gross geographical ignorance in his piece slamming the Hartford Advocate for not having “much of an edge” (“Media Roundup,” 6/30).

To essentialize the spirit of NYPress, as if all alternative newspapers should reflect its innovations, is absurd. Amy Sohn writes honestly of female sex and excitability, and Jim Knipfel locates a warm, sustaining despair in urban nihilism. Even long-gone Howard Kaplan complicated yuppie consciousness with clever prose and a bemused yet earnest perspective. There are readers in New York for this kind of stuff because many of us like to imagine we’re living our lives in similarly boundary-breaking ways. But Hartford doesn’t attract that kind of citizen and doesn’t need your kind of paper.

Marginalized citizens who go largely unrepresented in the mediaand in case you didn’t know, Hartford pretty much lacks bar-hopping trustfund baby hipsters (hell, it lacks bars) need solid, consistent, and (yes) predictable reporting on race, education, City Hall and the police. In the same way that lots of overprivileged young white women in New York City relate to Amy’s self-loathing erotic quests, many Hartford residents seek out stories that reflect their own, less amorous, daily struggles.

What’s most absurd is that to buttress his argument, Slivka quotes from a Hartford Courant reporter’s silly, cliche rendering of having lunch with the Advocate‘s publisher, as if this proves once and for all how ridiculous and interchangeable these backward, backwoods liberal softies truly are. But the Courant will never publish the Advocate‘s personal ads celebrating hedonistic perversion, or its listings detailing appearances by local garage bands and performances at shoestring theaters. Nor will it publish activist, leftist reporting that gives Hartford’s community leaders a forum to speak at length to their varied constituents. The Courant is a white suburbanite’s paper; the Advocate inspires loyalty from people of color, women, gays and young people. In New York City, that may be cause for smug, self-satisfied sneering, but 120 miles away, it’s necessary, it’s real and Slivka’s the fatuous, irrelevant boob.

I wonder if Slivka’s real rage about “alternative” weeklies has to do with how widely influential the 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 Whitenow there’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 New Haven Advocatefor most of five years. I can’t believe my familiarity with the Advocate is worth anything, but man, do I get what Russ Smith and 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 the front of the paper about four years ago. The other guy even graced the cover for 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 the letter I remember clearly: “Here’s a story about how far up its ass is this campus’ head. I was on the cover of the (Hartford) Advocateyou know, 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 at the paper. The most entertaining part was invariably “News of the Weird” or a typo. The attempts to cover the “local music scene”well, it’s Hartford. The listingsHartford again. I understand Smith’s (and Slivka’s) attitude toward complacent alternative newspaper publishers. But Smith eventually took his show to New York. And Hartford, like most towns, isn’t even Baltimore. These papers have to cover their beats, not to mention look to their communities for ads, listings and readership. I think when you “critique” these papers and the AAN in general, you guys are just pissing on other people’s towns, like New Yorkers of every ilk do all the time. Ask this: How goodhow relevantcould a 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, even if it got its laughs taking digs at its hometowneven if it had good writers?

The one time the Advocate mattered at Wesleyan University was in 1995-’96. The Hartford Advocate ran a cover piece about heroin. One of their “confidential” informants was a heroin user from my school. The article’s publication caused a huge ruckus on campus for a number of reasons: Its silly sensationalist tone and focus on the school ensured that many students read it, and the “confidential” informant had implicated his fraternity and a number of individuals, though without naming anyone (unnecessary at a small liberal arts school). This all made the piece really quite juicy. “Tyrone,” the pseudonymous informant, was banished from his frat, and I believe there was some action taken against the frat by the administration. But the article got a reaction. A bunch of students who 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 giving their reactions to the presence of some smack on a college campus. Behind the scenes 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 this dead horse. When my girlfriend was an intern there later, someone asked her to 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 of a snake. “Tyrone” claims this: Everything he said was over a leisurely glass of wine, and that he only spoke because the writer promised it would be “off the record.”

Hope you found this Advocate anecdote amusing. We sure did.

Daniel Skolnick,
Manhattan

 

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