Letters from the Issue of January 22, 2004
Just don't bore us: One more time, hats off to Ronald Mangravite -- a tough, uncompromising, insightful, passionate, unfailingly decent, and even-handed example of that most dreaded profession: theater criticism ("Aural Sex," January 15). Even when he "reams" us theater folks, he does it with style, intelligence, and I surmise, with the best of intentions.
Every time I read his column in New Times I come away exhilarated, enlightened, and even sometimes pissed off at him. But never bored. It is clear, as some of us know, that Mangravite is crazy about theater and has no patience for mediocrity, nor does he suffer theater fools well. Good for him, good for New Times, and most of the time, good for us in theater or going to the theater in South Florida.
Rafael de Acha, artistic director
Musty Old Letter
It splattered on me and I don't like it one bit: Why would New Times print a negative and slanderous letter more than a month after publication of the article to which it referred? The letter from Barbara Lang ("Bellyache," January 15) was personal, and directed most of its negativity toward me. It was also irrelevant to the content of Rebecca Wakefield's article "In the Belly of the Best" (December 4). It was irresponsible journalism for the editor to print it.
Ms. Lang, whom I do not know and wonder if she really exists, says I "bashed" and "scathed the reputations" of other dancers (namely, my former students), which is why she implies that people should think twice about studying with me. Nowhere in the article did I speak badly of other dancers, so this is contrived nonsense. There was some mild controversy, most of which didn't include me or the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange. But people reading this letter so long after the fact are not likely to have the article on hand for reference, so they will never know that Ms. Lang's letter is trumped up.
Ms. Lang makes it sound as though the article favored my studio. Of course it did talk about the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, since it is the first and largest studio in South Florida, and it is where many of Miami's top dancers have come from. It would be imbalanced if it had been downplayed or excluded. In fact the article involved many more people than me and my studio, which Ms. Lang overlooked.
There was far more negativity, mudslinging, and malicious intent in Ms. Lang's letter than in the entire 4000-word article. Shame on you, "Barbara Lang," or whoever wrote the letter, and shame on the editors who do not screen their letters for deliberate slander.
Tamalyn Dallal, director
Mid Eastern Dance Exchange
My blessed belly-dance mentor is no drama queen: "In the Belly of the Best" was very provocatively written, in the style for which New Times has become popular, and I enjoyed reading about Hispanic women at the very top of the artful world of belly dancing in Miami. The article, however, seemed one-dimensional in its portrayal of the various women who are at the height of their craft. It was also missing, in my view, an important component, as no students like me were interviewed.
Had I been interviewed, I could have added some depth to the portrait of Hanan, who is my belly-dance instructor and whose photograph appeared on the New Times cover. For example, although there was brief mention of grants in the article, there was no in-depth treatment of those grants and no mention of the public service to which Hanan devotes herself. Instead the portrayal of Hanan left a more unfavorable impression; she was even labeled a "drama queen." While her dancing style is very dramatic, the term "drama queen" connotes a judgment of personality, and nothing could be further from the truth as far as Hanan is concerned.
Hanan devotes much of her time to bringing dance and a creative outlet through dance to women in prisons, for example. And the very program in which I participate is funded through a grant that keeps costs down. My classmates and I pay only five dollars per class. Hanan's class also has an emphasis on personal growth through creative expression. She not only teaches me the techniques and steps possible with belly dancing, but also makes reading assignments geared to unleashing pent-up creativity. She also includes art assignments in her classes. The Hanan I know is far more well-rounded and a far more beautiful woman than even the stunning vision of her captured on the front page would suggest.
And to think belly dancing was the answer: Rebecca Wakefield's "In the Belly of the Best" was a lovely article. I wish more media would give such in-depth coverage to the emerging arts. I always thought belly dancing was very beautiful, but I didn't know much about its roots or the artistic movement surrounding it.
The article educated me, and I'm sure made me and other readers more sensitive to other people's cultures. This is something we really need for the betterment of the entire community.
Arriola's Astounding Arrogance
Could a nationwide boycott be in order? Miami City Manager Joe Arriola's January 8 letter to the editor, headlined "The FTAA Was a Success but the Protesters Failed," was a regular festival of boorishness, arrogance, and official myopia. The purpose of the demonstrations against the FTAA was to protest what many believe is a predatory brand of "free" trade. It was not to spark urban uprisings or campus unrest. Moreover the protests worked well until the city and the police decided to shut them down.
Mr. Arriola also suggested that Miami is built on trade and commerce, omitting tourism -- perhaps for good reason. The union leaders who were mistreated by the police and demonized in print by the city manager ought to let their members know exactly what happened here. Perhaps a nationwide boycott would persuade the city manager and his police chief to lighten up, but I doubt it. Neither man seems the least bit willing to consider alternative views.
Michael Carlebach, director
Program in American Studies
University of Miami
Isn't the Point
The point is Miami's muddle-headed media: City Manager Arriola made several valid points in his letter, but he failed to mention the obvious: Miami media chose to focus only on good-cop-bad-cop scenarios instead of taking a tough investigative look at more daunting matters concerning the FTAA -- the presence of paid out-of-town agitators mingling with peaceful protesters, and the closed-door policy of the ministerial that kept all media coverage out and prevented any public involvement in the actual negotiating process.
How come the press never questioned why various arrestees didn't know globalization or free trade from Cheez Doodles? And since when is a blatant lack of transparency in the creation of U.S. trade policy virtually excused by the media with only minimum comment? Since when does the press accept such exclusionary tactics without jumping up and down screaming, "Foul play!" What happened to an unobstructed view, an informational venue of news coverage for the community? Sorry to say that the missed opportunity during the FTAA was suffered by Miami media.
Instead of behaving like deaf people with tunnel vision, a truly free press might have challenged the closed process in favor of direct public participation. Formal reviews might have lessened opposition by opening up the process and engaging the public in true dialogue on the pros and cons of proposed trade rules, with alternatives to allay fears of hidden deals and policies dictated by powerful economic interests. Review just might have encouraged some proactive trade policies that would promote environmental protection as well as increased commerce.
Unfortunately during the FTAA, Miami's press took the path of least resistance and concentrated on policing the police (rather than leaving the matter of constitutional violations to the ACLU) instead of acting as watchdog over governmental policies. Sadly it only serves to demonstrate that even with free speech and free press, the public forum can be manipulated, resulting in a lack of national dialogue and national consensus.
Who could have guessed that averting a possible "Battle in Seattle" in downtown Miami could sufficiently piss off pundits of varying persuasions and temperaments? Who better than a ruddy-faced, straight-talking Northeasterner to upset Miami's phony-baloney mentality and reinforce the love-hate relationship between press and police?
Only the Best to
Fight the Fires
Forget ethnicity and race -- it's about skill: I find it odd that Francisco Alvarado's article about alleged discrimination within the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department ("Burned Bridges, Careers," January 8) ignored the real discrimination: people who are skipped over as candidates for the training academy because they are not of a certain racial or ethnic group. Many academy candidates are passed over even though they scored higher than other candidates in a different racial or ethnic group. When you administer a competitive exam, you would think you'd hire according to the overall test score. Not so.
Why would you do such a thing in a competitive exam? Admitting academy recruits from racial groups is discriminatory. Taxpayers deserve the best candidates regardless of their racial or ethnic background. The whole system is set up for political correctness, not the best man or woman for the job. If you used test scores exclusively, you still would not have a perfect system, but at least everyone would have the same chance based on their abilities.
Will it ever end? Whether it's "set-aside contracts" or "special lists," this will never work. Let it be fair for all from the start.
Editor's note: Owing to a reporting error in "Burned Bridges, Careers," the rank of Miami-Dade firefighter Faye Davis was stated incorrectly. Davis holds the rank of lieutenant. New Times regrets the error.
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