By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
I'm not quite sure who said it, but whoever stated that "ignorance is bliss" definitely knew what they were talking about, and they must have had Christina Rees in mind when they said it.
Anybody who could walk away from a Richard Diebenkorn exhibit ["Empty beach," March 26] feeling perplexed because she didn't find the bathtub, towel rack, beach scene, shoreline, sand, trees, water, and "recognizable layouts" in a series of highly subjective, personal paintings and then have the unmitigated gall to call one of America's foremost contemporary painters "dull" has about as much business writing art critiques as the N.E.A. has delegating national morals.
How do you explain people like this? Maybe she got hit in the head by a flying chair at a recent taping of a Jerry Springer episode. Maybe her mother bathed her in pools of DDT as a child. Maybe she's a "Dallas Debutante" whose silicone breasts are slowly relocating to her cranium with each passing beat of her heart. Perhaps it's a combination of all of the above, but more than likely, the answer lies in one simple concept. The only thing in life that's free these days is people's opinions. And man oh man, do they ever love to give them! You can ask anybody their opinion on anything, and they will gladly start spouting off like some hyperactive humpback whale in the heated throes of passion simply because it makes them feel like they've "enriched" our lives by enlightening us with their valuable knowledge and keen insights.
What we so often forget is to consider the source. Easily 98 percent of the time these opinions are rooted in improvisational bullshit, as is evident in Ms. Rees' attempt to cover for the fact that she couldn't think of anything intelligent to say about Diebenkorn's paintings, so she opted to take us all on a 20th-century art history lesson that sounds like it was culled from some outdated, third-generation Cliffs Notes.
It's a given that Dallas is considered a cultural wasteland, but if it expects to become anything greater than a string of liquor stores and topless bars strung along a series of litter-ridden, pock-marked cow trails, people are going to have to kick off their spurs and chaps and get in step with the rest of the world. Perhaps one place to start would be by making sure that only those with qualitative opinions should take the podium.
Sure, it's OK to hate abstract art--didn't it make you feel better to read that it's called "positive reinforcement" and was intended as justification to all those millions of people who are desperately seeking bathtubs in a swirl of Cadmium Yellow and just don't get it? But let us not forget that it is also OK to despise people who try to mask their ignorance by authoritatively dismissing cultural icons as "lacking universality."
I for one propose that perhaps it's not Richard Diebenkorn that is lacking in universality, but instead Ms. Rees who appears to have about as much sensitivity and cultural acumen as a used toothpick sitting on a Sonic parking lot, and seems to be better qualified to be taking urine samples at the Fort Worth Stockyard Show.
Give me more "meditative stuff"--I desperately need it to soothe the anguished pain I feel from being buried in the mire of ignorant close-mindedness.
Boys will be boys
As a committed reader and supporter of the Dallas Observer, I've come to "know" Laura Miller, Rose Farley, Thomas Korosec, Miriam Rozen, Mark Stuertz, and Robert Wilonsky. They are among the finest investigative reporters one could find anywhere--and the awards they've collectively earned confirm it. Thus, the pain I felt when I read Christine Biederman's article on "The Jones boys" [April 2]. She is no Miller, et al. It seemed like a fluff piece, but are they really that preppy-boy clean?
Was their case truly one of "sexual harassment" or was it a nail-the-president, get millions of bucks in free media publicity and get-ready-to-collect big bucks in future cases as a result? They undoubtedly knew that harassment involves repeated actions of inappropriate, obnoxious, offensive, and unwanted behavior. If they are not repeated toward or against the same individual, the behavior may be inappropriate, but it is not harassment.
We live in a society in which, in spite of the "feminist revolution," some old standards still hold: Men make the first move. Men are still the ones who risk rejection every time they try to meet a woman who attracts them. They are the ones with "lines" ranging from the comedic to the sexually suggestive to the patently offensive. Each time they use it, they either "score"--though not necessarily sexually--or they "crash." But is that first attempt a case of sexual harassment? If so, almost every guy who uses a sexually implicit or explicit "line" in a bar, at a dance, convention, etc., to pick up a woman is guilty!
If Paula Jones and President Clinton truly met in that hotel room, with no witnesses to verify what truly occurred, then it's his word against hers. In any case, whatever allegedly happened was never repeated, and her job was never at risk. At the same time, a climate exists in this country with regard to sexual harassment that has brought about a fervor reminiscent of the Salem witch trial: The woman can accuse, and the man is condemned until proven innocent. Lives and reputations have been destroyed--by the media--in the process. In the past, the woman's background could be investigated to see whether she had a pattern of sexual behavior that might have a bearing on the charges. This is no longer the case, so, in effect, President Clinton must defend himself with one hand legally tied behind his back, so to speak. Biederman says there are six witnesses "who, three years after the sexual harassment occurred, say that Jones told them her story--of President Clinton dropping his trousers and asking her to 'kiss it'--in detail, within minutes or days of the time it happened." How many minutes? How many days? Six? Six hundred? What are the names of the witnesses, or is this a Kafkaesque trial? Biederman neglects to mention that, at one time, Paula Jones was said to be able to identify "it." What happened to that story? Are "the Jones Boys" going to let that get by them? Biederman does not mention that, in order to get the most media coverage for their client--and their firm--"the Jones Boys" probably sucked up to every form of media exposure they could get and expounded on just about everything they thought they could get away with.
Biederman says "the Jones Boys" filed a plea claiming that the president "sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, and/or committed oral sex with a 21-year-old White House intern." Are those facts or allegations? More to the point, what bearing do they have on the Paula Jones case other than to use the media to commingle an irrelevancy to further hound and hurt the president?
Biederman said that, in depositions from both Paula Jones and her co-worker friend, Pamela Blackard, they insist that then-Governor Clinton was "leering" at Jones. Did Biederman read the deposition? Did it really say "leering"? Exactly how different is a "leer" from an ordinary facial expression? Did the president's eyes pop out? Hos nose twitch? Drooling or frothing from the mouth? Eyebrows leap upward? A visible "glint" in his eyes? Was Pamela Blackard there to witness this "leering," or was she taking Paula Jones' word?
Did "the Jones Boys" help Paula Jones change her version of her meeting with the president so as to enhance the sexual harassment argument in the second telling? If so, did Biederman ask "the Jones Boys" for clarification? An editorial in The Washington Post has "...Jones' lawyers scrounging for damaging tidbits--some supported, some not--with which to further damage Mr. Clinton's reputation." I believe it got to the point that the judge told "the Jones Boys" to stop their trial-by-media (my term) techniques. Now that the judge has dismissed the case, do you think "the Jones Boys" will cash in their chips? It's doubtful: The publicity they have freely gotten has been worth millions, and their cash boxes will soon runneth over! Hallelujah, sayeth the treasurer!
The media, probably with some gratuitous assistance from "the Jones Boys," have unmercifully scoured every nook and cranny of President Clinton's past in search of every woman he has ever met with as governor and president to see if there was anything sexual to be found. The public has been inundated with allegations by radio, newspapers, magazines, and TV. Even Jay Leno has, for all intents and purposes, found the president guilty and holds him up to ridicule every night. Now, that's harassment.
In my opinion, if you want an example of legalized sleaze--no, make that two examples--could they, conceivably, be found right here in Dallas: Bickel & Brewer and "the Jones Boys"? One wonders if any of them can spell the words "ethics" and "integrity," but then, the love of money can buy almost anything.
Dr. Sydney Kay
The unintended but hilariously poor timing of Ms. Biederman's article is exceeded only by her misplaced indignation as a champion of bimbo outrage.
I think ya'll hit the poor boy a little too hard ["God help him," April 2]. Come on, now--how can anyone not remember Vanilla Ice from the '80s? He wasn't the best thing since sliced bread, but his presence in Dallas sure does bring back memories of times long since gone.
He is just like any of the other shitty '80s acts who seem to come around again and again...Information Society, Flock of Seagulls, etc. Another in the long line of sparks that faded into nothingness.
It will be a cold day in hell before I buy another of his CDs, but I have to admit that I break out the Ice Ice Baby every few months when I need a reminder of my younger years.
Where credit is due
While visiting Dallas the weekend of March 21-22, I was fortunate in attending the final performance of The Only Thing Worse You Could Have Told Me, a production of Plano Repertory Theatre presented at the Swiss Avenue Theatre Center.
I have been very active in the theater community in Houston for over 30 years as an actor, director, producer, and reviewer. In your March 19 issue, there was a review of this production written by Jimmy Fowler ["Gay is great"]. While I agree with the extraordinary praise given to Terry Martin (the actor in this one-man play), I take great exception to his omission of the director. Any "critic" of the theater should have the knowledge to understand that a director, in most cases and certainly in this one, can have a powerful impact on a production.
To omit Mark D. Fleischer, the artistic director of Plano Repertory Theatre, who did a superlative job in directing Mr. Martin, renders Mr. Fowler's review incomplete, unprofessional, and unpublishable.