It's really not surprising to me to see Jim Mullin grapple with the far-out notion of patriotismo and decisions based on moral concerns ("The Cubanization of Xavier Suarez," March 18).

My first impression after I grudgingly finished the article was one of insult. Not my being insulted, mind you, but insulting to Mayor Suarez and Jorge Mas Canosa. It's incredible to me that Mullin cannot come to grips with the idea of Mayor Suarez making an individual decision based on what he feels is the right thing to do.

The problem some people are having is in trying to understand how a politician in Miami, accepted by the Miami Herald as mainstream, has the audacity to actually scrutinize the Herald.

It really takes a cynical mind to have to find an ulterior motive for the decision Mayor Suarez made. The easiest action for Mayor Suarez to have taken is to pander to the Herald the way every politician panders when they have something to hide and are afraid to get attacked. Since he has nothing to hide, he was able to look at the situation objectively, and he decided to take the courageous, moral road.

It will truly be a sad world when community leaders cannot make decisions without considering what the Herald's retribution may be. The Herald has become South Florida's dictator, not heroic men that have given up most of their lives for a cause like Jorge Mas Canosa.

Mullin works for a paycheck by smearing people like Mayor Suarez and Mas Canosa. I don't think that is what the founders of this country had in mind when they fought for freedom of speech.

New Times must go beyond one-sided, distorted, and insulting articles. I challenge New Times to interview all parties involved, not just those with a political axe to grind.

Jorge A. Alvarez

Rafael Navarro, in his review of the film My Cousin Vinny ("Meatball Hero Up the Wazoo," March 18), writes: "And, of course, there's good ol' Alabama racism."

There is no love lost between Alabama racism and me, but who does Navarro think he is? Mr. Spic-and-span? He complains about racism but calls me a "meatball." He's all wet. Back in Alabama they also make fun of Yankee racism.

Don't fall for it if he claims that some of his best friends are "Eye-talians."

Mario TreCoglioni

Tsk, tsk. All you people picking on Rafael Navarro. He's okay, even if he does believe there are caribou in Vietnam, not to mention in Apocalypse Now.

Maidel Barrett

I am an acting apprentice for the Education Department at the Coconut Grove Playhouse. I must admit that I read with relish the very insightful expose by Sean Rowe and Steven Almond of the evildoings of the Playhouse ("Backstage Drama," March 11). I should let you know, however, that the struggling theater community in this city has known for a long time what was revealed to your readership.

We theater people are supposed to seek truth constantly in our profession, but hastily turn our cheek when questions of our own artistic integrity come up. Therefore, "justice" in the arts is very rare. Those who can change things for the better don't want to make waves, and everybody else doesn't give a damn. For example, after gulping through the article that for weeks they knew was going to come out, the actors around me looked up from their papers and chanted methodically, "Well, at least there will be changes." But will there?

The late and great theater practitioner Peter Brook coined a word for theaters like the Coconut Grove Playhouse. That word is "deadly." However, "Backstage Drama" summarized only half of the definition of a deadly theater. Not only is the Playhouse an artistically defunct "road show" house where the talent is imported and the shows are trivial and tired, but the audience (which, by Brooks's definition, accounts for one-half of a theater's existence) is also the kind of audience that comes to see the theater for all the wrong reasons: people come out of a cultural obligation to see live theater.

The thing they don't realize is that the true essence of why we go to see theater has been long lost. Senior citizens (who, by the way, account for the majority of the box office at the Playhouse) come out to see nostalgia. Yuppie husbands come because their wives nagged them to. They don't come any more for the real reasons - that a theatrical experience should be like no other and that it should present truth; and they can't anyway, because this theater fails to give it to them. So here is our truly deadly scenario: Actors on-stage performing lies to people in the house who are there because of lies.

However, in the light of this morose portrait that I paint, there is a small but powerful fact of the Playhouse that ironically escaped your observations. In the womb of this deadly theater there is a small but strong voice for hope, and it is in the educational programs. The article, although understandably on the offensive about evildoings in the administration and the lack of artistic clout in the productions, failed to mention the activities of the only aspect of the Playhouse that has been consistently profitable since Judith Delgado took it over.

Right now, and until the beginning of May, I and six other Playhouse education employees get up in the wee hours every weekday morning and visit one of the 60 high schools or middle schools we will be touring in Dade County. We present a play written by our assistant director, Patricia Dolan Gross, that addresses two very important issues in our schools today: drug use and racial tensions. After the show, we go into classrooms and rap with the kids about the issues presented in the play.

Cost to the taxpayer: $0. We are funded mostly by the Miami Police Department - $100,000 in confiscated drug money. Earlier in the season, we toured a show for elementary school kids that taught them through song and dance how to eat right, exercise, and brush their teeth. Imagine that. Theater that addresses a very topical and specific need, and it travels to the place where it is needed. Theater that Peter Brook himself might have looked at and said, "This is alive!"

My salary is seven percent of Arnold Mittelman's. Less than minimum wage when the time is figured in. I know no one on your staff would waste their time to write about how our department tries to make a cultural difference in this community, but it's just as well. Our real audience, the kids, knows what's true, and so do I. There is justice in the arts, it just doesn't make the front page.

Matthew Isadore Geller

Kirk Semple's article "Deep Trouble" (February 26) reads like something out of Murphy's Law. "If it can go wrong, it will."

I expect that when you do anything in this life that's subject to the scrutiny of your peers, as Lawrence Allen opined, "You don't want to look like a fool." That's true enough if the cost of being a fool is less than appearing like one. Unfortunately, the price was infinitely higher in the case featured in the article.

The whole purpose of "buddy diving" is hopefully that the lame will not end up leading the blind, or vice versa. From the text, regardless of water conditions, neither neophyte, Allen nor his girlfriend Tania Figuerola, should have been in the water without a keeper. Moreover, they were of an age that should have dictated to each of them that neither was experienced enough to attempt anything more than a totally supervised submersion. Ms. Figuerola had experienced three dives in six years! She was clutching that "C" card as if it were an ultimate life saver. It wasn't. It never was so intended.

Sport diving is a safe recreation. The hundreds of thousands of active participants attest to that. The fatalities or injuries of a serious nature probably reckon scuba with skiing, and participation is likewise on a geometric progression. There are perils inherent in both, although nothing compares with running out of air at 60 feet. It would seem people willing to assume the risk must bring to the activity more than a warm and willing body. While it might be possible to standardize the responsibility of the instructor or divemaster, no one can dictate to the vagaries of the sea. Under less than perfect conditions, the weight of the sea overhead becomes a burden some will never be psychologically attuned to assimilate.

I speak with approximately 1000 hours under three of the world's oceans over a period extending back more than twenty years. In the same twenty-odd years, no one in my company has suffered more than a broken wrist, and that from a pitchin' deck and bitchin' sea.

I am sorry for Mr. Allen's loss and the loss of Ms. Figuerola's life. Maybe it could not have been averted. I think it incumbent on the instructor, more so in scuba training than anything else I can think of, to emphasize there is no substitute for experience, absolutely none at all. I also think it goes too far to lay the obligation on the divemaster or the instructor for what - on the part of the participant - is a free choice.

Bill Stern
Fort Lauderdale

I found it unfortunate that Kirk Semple appeared to have taken sides with the person most responsible for Tania Figuerola's death by drowning - her boyfriend and diving buddy, Lawrence Allen.

As scuba divers (NASDS certified) my wife and I have found ourselves in similar situations more than once, when we were first certified. Many times did I find myself low on air and had to do a surface swim back to the boat. Not once did I allow my wife to be behind me. She would always be beside me or in front, and we would constantly ask each other how we were doing. That has nothing to do with any certification course that anyone may take. It is just plain, good, old-fashioned common sense.

Did Mr. Allen and Ms. Figuerola monitor their air supply throughout their dive? Or did they first check their air so late into their dive that they were so low?

My wife and I have dived Davis's Ledge various times. It is our most frequent dive. We use this dive as one of the first ones in the season, since it's considered such an easy dive, one that is very hard to get lost on. Because of this, it is an excellent dive for a novice. Furthermore, we have made this dive with the Lady Cyana dive operators. My wife has always liked them for their safety-oriented operation and helpful attitude.

Perhaps Mr. Allen feels guilty about his girlfriend's death. It is a most terrible experience, one that I pray I never have to experience. But I certainly find that his efforts and the article are and were misdirected.

Ramon Ferran

Thanks to Greg Baker for his insight in giving Ed Stokes the credit that he deserved ("Psychic Unfair," January 29).

Ed's guitar playing was always inspired. When he played on the first Rooster Head album, it seemed he knew instinctively what we were looking for. The first time I met him was at a Psychic Fair recording session. I didn't really know anyone there, so Ed came over and introduced himself. I was really taken by his friendliness and, most of all, his sincerity. Ed was a genuine person with a huge heart, and I can only hope that the first impression I make when I meet someone new is as warm and sincere as the first impression Ed Stokes made with me.

Thanks, Ed! We will miss you big-time.
Michael Kennedy
Rooster Head


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