Gonzalo: What About the Cubans Who Can't Play Piano?
Judy Cantor's piece on pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba ("The Quiet Cuban," October 9) was very well-done. I have not heard him play but I am sure he is a gem.
As I read the article I thought of the night he played the Gusman Center: protesters outside, people inside eagerly awaiting the artist's entrance, then the star finally appearing and playing "Imagine." I too imagined thousands of young Cubans on an island where their dreams go nowhere, frustrated perhaps because they may not have the talent (or the connections) of Gonzalo Rubalcaba to get them out of their desperation.
I respect the talents artists have been blessed with, and I respect their hard work. But just as Michelangelo fought with the church, I would expect an artist, if not politically involved, to have some kind of belief. I mean, I don't like the Ku Klux Klan; that's some kind of belief.
Everyone must know there are people like me who have been in exile for 35 years, who have suffered, and we just won't ever tolerate the idea that our exile has no meaning. We simply can't do it. We will not forget!
Gonzalo: Priority #1 = $$$
The title "The Quiet Cuban," although not the intent of Judy Cantor's article about Gonzalo Rubalcaba, did not target the real issue: Rubalcaba's silence about the tragedy of the Cuban people trapped for 38 years under a dictator never before seen in the Western world.
Rubalcaba seems clear as to his priorities: getting U.S. dollars. He is going to have his cake and eat it too. Castro will give him the royal treatment reserved for the chosen ones, while the other 11 million Cubans lack bare necessities.
"The Quiet Cuban" also showed the intolerance of Cubans in Miami, though the article failed to address the fact that the not-so-quiet Cubans are expressing their right to criticize those covering up for Castro and his gang, who have forced 11 million people to also be "quiet Cubans."
Gonzalo: The True Quiet Cubans Are Those Left Behind
Ms. Cantor's fixation with Cuban musicians who reside in Cuba and her disdain for anti-Castro activists is very troubling. The true "quiet Cubans" are those silenced by death and oppression under Castro's rule. I think there could be no sane argument against that. Of course Cuban exiles who live in Miami (or anywhere else) will protest appearances by an artist based in Cuba. These protesters, which she so demeans, have had homes, businesses, and lives of friends and family members taken from them by the totalitarian regime headed by Fidel Castro.
Again, I find it extremely troubling, because if Mr. Rubalcaba were a white South African who refused to speak out against apartheid, or a German who refused to denounce the crimes of Nazism, you would not be so flippant when describing the protesters at the concert.
This is not about politics or music. Mr. Rubalcaba can play where he pleases. This is about lives both lost in the past and being destroyed as we speak. So Gonzalito can play wherever he pleases, but those who feel that his silence regarding the murderous tyrant borders on complicity (count me among them) reserve the right to protest his appearances, or those of any other accomplices in this, the land of supposed freedom for all.
Natacha and the Woodpecker's Rump
The articles written by Kirk Semple and Jim DeFede concerning Dade County commissioners Natacha Millan ("Temporarily Grounded?" October 9) and Javier Souto ("The Rational, Eloquent, and Persuasive Mr. Souto," October 2) epitomize what happens when the Third World takes over Dade County politics. While Commissioner Souto appears to be completely clueless, Commissioner Millan seems hell-bent on making all of Dade County look like the environmental hellhole called Hialeah. Her statement "Show me an economic development motor and show me a bird, and I'm going to choose the economic development motor" sounds typical of her mentality. She represents Hialeah, an area not really known for its nature preserves but more for development run amuck.
It seems the majority of the Third Worlders on the Dade County Commission disdain everything that does not involve development. And they still refer to themselves as exiles, in the self-deluded belief they will one day go back to Cuba -- if Castro gets run over by a truck or dies of old age, since none of those exiles is making any attempt to assassinate him.
The question this poses for the community at large is obvious: Where do their loyalties lie? Why should they care about environmental issues? Cubans, who compose nearly 60 percent of all Hispanics in Dade, dominate the government, the media, the school system, and more. If they think of themselves as exiles, what does that say for commitment? Can public servants be sensitive to the public good if they are here only temporarily?
In 1986 ivory-billed woodpeckers (long feared extinct) were discovered in the highlands of eastern Cuba. Much to their credit, Cuban authorities at the highest levels agreed to shift a major north-south highway already under construction that would have crossed the ivory-bill area. This is a clear sign that Cubans in Cuba are deeply aware of conservation matters. One can only predict what will happen if, or when, the Latin Builders Association and the likes of Natacha Millan set foot on Cuban soil. Show Natacha Millan an ivory-billed woodpecker and an economic development motor and I guess the world can kiss the woodpecker's ass goodbye.
Get Your Bureaucratic Nose Outta Stiltsville
With regard to Kirk Semple's fine article about Stiltsville entitled "Preserve Our Pilings" (October 2), my own personal opinion is that the federal government is once again sticking its nose where it doesn't belong.
If any of these owners wish to sell their dwellings to the federal government, that would be up to them, of course. Our country, after 221 years, still has hundreds of thousands of people living with poverty, a lack of educational training (the basic three Rs), and a deteriorating infrastructure -- to name but a few of our nation's problems.
Someone -- I'm not sure who -- should give our federal government some direction and priorities. At the present time, it's out of control and needs to quit wasting taxpayers' money.
Don't Have Anything Nice to Say? Write for New Times
Regarding John Floyd's "Sickly Sweet Baby James" (September 4) about James Taylor, and Ben Greenman's "Arc of a Moron" (September 11) about Steve Winwood: What is the deal with these music reviewers? Other than unbridled meanness, are any related credentials needed? And how young are these feckless people who are so eager to publish their striking maladjustment alongside their unrelenting ignorance? How did they achieve such utter disrespect, like some adolescent drunk on the smug and fatuous?
As a 30-year veteran musician -- trained in garage bands, at conservatory, in music school, and on the road -- I see in them no real music knowledge. Do they play or compose? Have they had any training, formal or on the street? Have they even a vague sense of how musicians live and work, usually doing our very best, even (especially) when we too know it falls short?
What are their contributions? Do they spend countless hours in daily practice, year after year, refining skills and developing ideas? Have they any clue how nasty the business of music is? Have these brats ever put their all into something only to have it publicly, maliciously, derided? And not by learnedness but rather by the uninformed opinion of some empty-handed wretch. The recent fad among so many "people's rags" to proudly publish the meanest, basest attack, however meritless, bodes ill for many of us. I'll bet I'm not alone in moving New Times toward the bottom of the integrity charts for printing such vitriolic drivel. Shame on all of you.
I dare any of these jokers to come out and do what we do -- and be good, and consistent, and survive.
Leave the Criticizing to Critics
This is a letter I have been wanting to write for quite a while, but the recent crop of letters in response to John Floyd's article about James Taylor finally provided me with the impetus.
First up: If letter writer R. Rene Patenaude wants a newspaper or magazine that kisses up to all the musical acts it reviews, then let him go shell out a few bucks for Rolling Stone instead of taking on one of our free ones from Miami that says things he doesn't like. Rene, suppose you were the critic: Would you like everything you heard? If you didn't like it, would you give it a good review anyway? Is that what you would call journalism? I would not.
As a musician, I think James Taylor got what he deserved. He is a weepy, depressing man who writes weepy, depressing songs. His fan base can only consist of depressed people who feel better after hearing his songs. So what if he kicked a heroin habit and had people in his family pass away? We all have our troubles, Rene, but we don't get bad reviews in free newspapers, or any sympathy at all. That is my opinion, Rene. It doesn't mean that James Taylor is inarguably no good.
People who criticize all the time but accomplish nothing are more a waste than the paper Rene wastes by taking a copy of New Times. Besides being a musician, I also am a special educator who volunteers many hours to help retarded children, so I put my money where my mouth is. I guess that makes me a teacher, which means, according to Rene, I "can't do." Rene, you can't even write a letter without lapsing into cliches because you don't have an original thought in your head.
I teach because I love to help people. And I "can do," because teaching retarded children is "doing." I also hold a plumber's license and can fix almost anything. And as a musician, I can actually play James Taylor's songs (should the mood ever strike me). You, Rene, are an anachronism, because you are criticizing people who criticize.
I also defend Jen Karetnick, because she tells it like it is. What is wrong with saying that a hamburger tasted of an unclean grill? That is her job.
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And last but not least, I want to thank the contributors to the "Calendar" page for their well-written and informative features.
Owing to a copy-editing error, early on in last week's cover story "Dumb Luck" the alleged victim "Erica" was misidentified as the former sister-in-law of accused rapist Bernardo Paz. As became clear later in the article, the girl was -- and still is -- Paz's sister-in-law.