Letters to the Editor

LETTER OF THE MONTH

The Rake expresses surprise [The Broken Clock, May] that for the last
forty-seven years, Playboy Magazine has neglected to include “best Jazz
Musician” in its music poll. Yet I’m sure I’m not the only reader old
enough to remember when the Playboy music poll was exclusively a jazz
poll. Jim Hall battled with Kenny Burrell for best guitarist, Sonny
Rollins went head-to-head with John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders on
tenor sax, and pianists as diverse stylistically as Bill Evans,
Thelonious Monk, and McCoy Tyner vied for top honors. I can well
remember my disappointment and discomfiture when the Ginger Bakers and
Eric Claptons of this world began to make their mark in the poll, to
the extent that eventually Playboy changed the name from the Jazz Poll
to the Jazz & Pop Poll. Having Bob Dylan and John Lennon alongside
Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker in the “Playboy Jazz Hall of Fame”
made no sense musically, however. Bitches Brew was a definite
watershed, making it clear to all jazz musicians that they needed to
take up funk fusion or risk marginalizing themselves—that is to say,
losing out on the big bucks associated with the youth market. Well,
jazz has not been a mainstream art form since the 50s. Yet it not only
survives, but develops. Jason Moran is one of those “experimental”
artists who can be thrilling in a club, even if their recordings tend
to be moody, jangling, and perversely difficult. A nice artist to
feature in your magazine.

John Toren,
Minneapolis

CLOSE CALLS

First, my compliments on the article about Moussaoui’s would-be flight
training [“The Grounded Man,” May], it was fascinating. Next, major
props to Brad Zeller’s adroitly written, hilarious article about
buffets [Discomfort Food, May]. If he will pardon my expression, I
laughed so hard I nearly “lost my cookies.” Keep up the mix of serious,
ridiculous, and sublime.

Cameron De Smidt
Murrieta, CA

“A” STANDS FOR ANONYMOUS

I was dismayed to see Dean Staley break an AA member’s anonymity in his
story [“The Grounded Man,” May]. According to AA guidelines, we must
protect the anonymity of all AA members particularly at the level of
press, radio, and TV. The fact that Clancy is a recovering alcoholic is
up to him to disclose- his membership in AA is a different matter.
Principles of the twelve-step program are promoted over personalities.

Donna,
Olympia, WA

NO EXCUSE

Clancy Prevost and the local FBI office acted fast during the critical
weeks preceding 9/11. Meanwhile, urgent requests to FBI headquarters
for a special warrant to search Moussaoui’s computer languished- even
though local agents provided evidence that Moussaoui was connected to
al-Qaida. The bureaucratic bumbling is even more inexcusable in light
of the harvest of information obtained from one of the original World
Trade Center bombers. In addition to the spotlight on Bin Laden, FBI
headquarters had additional warnings in the memo from the Phoenix
office concerning the potential danger posed by foreign students taking
flying lessons in the area. It was nothing less than a tragic betrayal
of the resources and trust placed with the FBI.

Steve Dietrich,
Lompoc, CA

FIGHTIN’ WORDS

Clinton Collins’ column [April] would have been more credible if he had
announced his intentions plainly in the first line. Something like,
“I’m a supporter of Natalie Johnson Lee and this column is my
contribution to her campaign.” Instead he proceeded to do a hatchet job
on Don Samuels while shamelessly extolling the virtues of his- sorry, I
mean the other- candidate. I can see no other rationale for him taking
Don Samuels’ comments and twisting them so out of context that noble
words become self-indicting smears. That takes real journalistic moxie.
But what is even more disturbing is to see him give so much comfort to
all the white racists out there. They know full well how to keep the
voices of the black community from being taken seriously—get them
fighting each other. Mr. Collins column is so rife with race-baiting
remarks (of his own invention) as to supply ample ammunition for
anyone, black or white,
who would like to see this campaign fought not over the issues but over
“who is the one legitimate black leader,” as if blacks don’t deserve
diversity of personalities and perspectives serving them. The real
racism in this campaign, which Collins give scant space to is why, when
we finally get two black leaders, are they put in the position of
having to bump each other off? The only reason I can see for him to
cast aside his journalistic pride and take such a low road, torturing
the truth, distorting the facts, and ignoring context to support his
obvious bias, is that Mr. Collins too would like to be a political
player on the North side. Well, I’m sure his column has ensured him a
place at the table of Natalie Johnson Lee and company. But Mr. Collins
should be careful. In the game of race politics in which he has chosen
to participate, the casualties are heavy—especially for those who are
deemed not “black enough.” Mr. Collins had better be sure of his own
credentials.

Jonathan Odell,
Minneapolis

COMING TO TERMS

While I applaud any publicity for wind energy (given that I work in the
renewable energy industry), I have two comments [on “Buffalo Ridge,”
April]. First, the picture shows Dan Juhl holding up a light bulb using
a contorted hand gesture to hide the wiring, making a unique picture.
Unfortunately, the bulb is a one- to-two percent efficient incandescent
bulb with technology circa the late 1800s. Wind energy means nothing
without energy efficiency. A compact fluorescent light bulb lasts ten
times as long and is ten times as efficient. Wind energy growth must
exceed forty percent over the next twenty years just to keep pace with
predicted electricity demand increases. Americans are truly gluttons
for energy (Minnesota consumes more gasoline than India). Second, the
phrase “Saudi Arabia of wind energy” is entirely overused, similar to
the way we use the term “foreign oil dependency.” I often wonder if we
mean to include the “despotic monarchy” part as much as the “rich in
oil” part of the Saudi Arabia metaphor, given our current political
direction.

Mike Taylor,
Saint Paul