Letters from the Issue of February 5, 2004

Volunteers, hookers, belly dancers, and our man back in Havana

In Over Their Heads

Let's thank the volunteers serving on public boards, then show them the door: Tristram Korten's fine column on the Public Health Trust audits ("An Embarrassment of Audits," January 29) ought to be a lesson to this community on the consequences of placing public institutions in the hands of unelected private citizens. Each Public Health Trust (PHT) member deserves our thanks for serving, but let's be realistic about the limitations of such volunteer work.

At the PHT and other volunteer boards, the staffs of the institutions determine the path, and the board members provide oversight and advice. The board members must trust the staff to be forthright and act in the public interest. Board members have limited time and usually lack the technical experience necessary to challenge obscure or seemingly benign administrative decisions. Too often the result is that insiders can use unwitting board members to advance the private interests that encircle these public institutions. Of course the public can cry out to elected officials to put pressure on these boards, but in the end the board members are not accountable to voters.

As our community debates the future of an airport authority at MIA, one hopes the public will consider the numerous failed authorities of Miami's past and decide to demand reform from elected officials instead of accepting diminished voter control of public institutions.

Tom David

Miami

Every Penny Counts

Especially when they're going to a good cause like Humberto's devirgination: After reading Lee Williams's letter about Humberto Guida and his "BuzzIn" column ("Manhood Awaits," January 29), I want to be the first to pledge $3.17 toward a hooker for Humberto. That is how much I have in rolls of pennies in a jar on my dresser. I was saving for a bike, but this is more important.

I would like to say, however, that I thought Lee Williams had moved to New York City and that we were rid of him forever. Alas, I tithe on Sundays and this is what I get. So much for the power of God, huh?

If you ask me, I think Lee Williams has a crush. He sure spends a lot of time writing about how bad Humberto Guida's column is. Yeah, it's a little trite. But it looks like a plush gig to me, at least from a writer's standpoint. (I've dabbled some in my home city of Portland, Oregon.) Williams is gay, isn't he? If not, he's certainly latent.

Note to Guida: Son, stay off the dope. I could barely make out what you were trying to say in this week's "BuzzIn."

Once we get another 99 people to pledge the large sum that I have -- we're after quality here -- then Humberto, you only have to remember one thing: You're not paying her to sleep with you. You're paying her to get up, get dressed quietly, and leave.

Shane Oliver

Miami Beach

Let Me Try Again

This is what I meant to say about belly dance: This is in response to Tamalyn Dallal's letter ("Musty Old Letter Slings Mud," January 22) and to clarify my previous comments regarding Rebecca Wakefield's article "In the Belly of the Best" (December 4).

My chief complaint was that a somewhat comprehensive look at Miami's belly-dance scene included only selectcomments on the approach and presentation of other community members. For example, I wished to have seen more information about local musicians such as Fatahi. And what about Artemis, who I hear is a historian of the dance and its origins? What about Kira and Kahreen, who have been performing in South Florida for more than 25 years? What about Gigi Fayed, Samay, Myriam Eli, and Maja, who teach and perform? What about their dance history, awards, companies, workshops, their observations and aspirations for the community's future? Why weren't at least a few hundred words devoted to each of these topics in the 4000-word article?

I'm sorry that Ms. Dallal feels I offended her, but one can read between the lines and ask why. My intention was to point out what was missing, and I hope readers can see where other professionals lie. By the way, "In the Belly of the Best" is on permanent archive at www.miaminewtimes.com if anyone is interested. In my opinion, the readers' opinions greatly matter.

Barbara Lang

Miami

Letting Her Try Even Once Was Too Much

Her belly-dance comments were, after all, ludicrous and deplorable:As the former opinion editor of UM's Miami Hurricane, I welcomed all letters, however complimentary or critical they might be, but always under the condition that they be thoughtful, well-argued, and free of unwarranted personal attacks on another's reputation. These are simple guidelines that most editors follow. But after reading the original letter from Barbara Lang ("Bellyache," January 15), it seems the editor of New Times would prefer a mud pit to an open marketplace of ideas.

After suffering through Ms. Lang's childlike lament against Rebecca Wakefield's article "In the Belly of the Best," it was reasonable to deduce that she never actually read the story in its entirety. Had she taken the time to read it through in a nonjudgmental manner, she would have found an unbiased, well-researched article full of illumination on the often misunderstood world of belly dance.

Ms. Lang made her anger (and blatant envy) over the amount of space devoted to Tamalyn Dallal and the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange quite obvious, so it seems necessary to remind her that the article was about belly dance in South Florida. Thousands of dancers have received their training at the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, and Tamalyn Dallal is known around the world as an incredible teacher with a knack for producing superb dancers. She has transformed the dance landscape of Miami. Nearly all the top dancers in town have studied with her, so it's no surprise Ms. Wakefield focused a good amount of attention on her.

But for Ms. Lang to insinuate that the article was a promotional tool was ludicrous. Many other local teachers were mentioned. (Incidentally the highly respected reputations of the teaching staff of the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange render promotional tools useless.) As a well-traveled belly-dance student, I have studied with countless teachers in several countries and I have yet to meet a teacher more dedicated to her students and to preserving this precious art form than Tamalyn Dallal. I won't even waste print space responding to Ms. Lang's accusations of Tamalyn "scathing the reputations of other dancers." Anyone who has studied with her knows how preposterous this is. She is always embracing and embodying the sisterhood of belly dancing, and continuously encouraging her students to study with a plethora of teachers.

This letter is not intended to be a defense of Tamalyn. Clearly a woman who is known around the world for her mastery of teaching needs no defense. Instead it is meant to deplore Barbara Lang for her inaccurate and nonsensical personal attack. Nowhere in the original article did Tamalyn "mudsling" or badmouth another dancer. Acting as a true lady (which Ms. Lang obviously knows little about), Tamalyn benevolently gives credit to all students who share her passion for this beloved dance.

Jackie Lalita

Miami

It All Came Out in the Wash

And Overtown never looked better: Congratulations to Rebecca Wakefield on her article about Overtown as seen from the vantage point of Mr. Lee's laundromat ("The Sociology of Suds," January 8). It was a pleasure to read -- historical, intriguing, descriptive, nonjudgmental, and poetic. A real beauty. Keep up the good work!

Edgardo Guerrero

Miami Beach

Greetings from Havana

No, Castro is not happy that I'm here: Thanks to Kirk Nielsen for his story "Exile on Main Street" (January 1). Understandably it took awhile for the paper to get into my hands here in Havana, but thankfully I was able to catch up, and with other editions of New Times as well. I read a letter by Mr. Max Benitez (January 15), who complained that my move here and my presence in Havana had been planned with the Cuban government. Max, this characterization is totally off the mark. As a citizen in limbo, someone without the proper documents to exist on this island, I can assure you I represent a headache for the authorities here.

This, however, will not stop me from seeking change and reform through nonviolent means. Hopefully, their headache will go away and they will see that I am an independent revolutionary who works for a transparent, freedom-seeking agenda that is galactic miles away from U.S. foreign policy or anyone's payroll.

I ask that you allow me to briefly expand on one aspect of Kirk Nielsen's interview with me. Just as I feel a need to unleash the creativity of Cubans here, and believe in the necessity of allowing them to share in the free-enterprise privileges that so far are only (or mostly) granted to foreigners, I also believe in responsible capitalism. I am a Social Democrat in the European vein and as such I am against neoliberal recipes -- the pillaging of our planet and the predatory economic forces that capitalize on destruction and reap the doubtful benefits of hopelessness. Additionally I am fully aware that interdependence is essential for any nation to develop and prosper in today's world. Interdependence, however, should not be reduced to the coldness of financial terminology. In the face of the world's countless problems, interdependence should be synonymous with human solidarity.

Eloy Gutiérrez-Menoyo, president

Cambio Cubano

Havana, Cuba

Tacoma, Armpit of the Pacific Northwest

Only joking! It's actually more like a sewer:Michael Sabo, in his letter from Tacoma, Washington ("Mother Nature's Way," January 1), says he thinks Miami -- and all of Florida -- sucks. He can't wait for rising ocean levels to submerge and eliminate us from the U.S. I find his comments quite amusing in light of the fact that Tacoma (to put it mildly) is an absolute dump.

I had the misfortune of visiting there for a concert while staying in Seattle. Being in Tacoma is the equivalent of being stuck in a sewer. I'm sure Mr. Sabo is at home right now, enjoying the foul smells of the waterfront, the rain, the fog.

Al Brown

Miami

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