Wishing you a nasty Christmas
Jimmy Fowler's article titled "Holiday whores" and featuring a picture of 11-year-old Greta Sleeper in the December 17 issue is one of the worst-written criticisms of a theatrical production I have ever read. In my opinion, Mr. Fowler's article is contradictory, ill-informed, full of generalizations, and, in his own words, whorish.

He states that theater artists are whores at Christmastime for presenting works having to do with or relating to the holiday season. Does it never occur to Mr. Fowler that theater artists are people just like everyone else, and just as many non-theater people make it part of their holiday tradition to attend a "seasonal production," many theater artists make it their holiday tradition to participate in one. We don't feel like whores, Mr. Fowler; we feel like working theater artists. Isn't it rather whorish of Mr. Fowler to write this article just for the sake of being a "...cynical self-appointed intellectual"?

He goes on to criticize the Dallas Children's Theater production of Best Christmas Pageant Ever for talking down to the audience. He implies that he doesn't feel the play is challenging enough for children. What a gross generalization! What age group of children is he talking about? Doesn't Mr. Fowler realize that different works are written and produced for different age groups? He states that the best work trains kids to "...pursue that which they don't comprehend." I guess Mr. Fowler did not understand the meaning behind the play that I saw. The Herdmans in the play do exactly what Mr. Fowler is wishing children to do. They grow from being loutish brutes with no concept of the true meaning behind the holiday into feeling individuals who not only grasp the realness of the Christmas story, but teach the rest of the town as well. They learn and grow. Isn't that what Mr. Fowler wants DCT to be teaching children to strive for? I would say mission accomplished. In the performance I attended I witnessed a theater full of captivated children.

Mr. Fowler makes veiled accusations about the practitioners of theater at DCT being lazy. I would assert that Mr. Fowler is himself the lazy critic if he can't arrive for a show until 10 minutes after the curtain has gone up.

If Mr. Fowler were truly the free intellectual and nonconforming cultural watchdog he aspires to be, he would not qualify his review by stating that in order to avoid charges of injury to a child, he will only critique the adults. Isn't that contradictory to everything you are purporting to be, Mr. Fowler? And if that is the case, why do you spend the next paragraph criticizing the performance of young Crystal Griffith? He says he wishes Miss Griffith had interpreted her character of Alice more along the lines of Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here Mr. Fowler shows his ignorance of character analysis. Alice is a character that grows intellectually and emotionally through the play. Veruca never does. Veruca begins the story as a spoiled brat and ends it that way. So I guess Mr. Fowler prefers two-dimensional, cartoonish characters to three-dimensional, real ones.

Finally, Mr. Fowler states that he wishes the show had been nastier, hipper, and cannier. Why does it have to be? Can't it just be a sweet Christmas show that connects with an audience on a basic level? I tell you what, Mr. Fowler, since you seem to want it, I wish you a hipper and nastier Christmas.

Andy Long
Via e-mail

Learning costs
I read with interest your article in the November 28 issue, "Math wars." Being a Kumon instructor myself, it is great getting any kind of press to promote our system. I have to take issue with one statement in the article, though. On page 13, the writer says, "...enthusiastically endorses Kumon--despite its hefty cost."

Hefty cost? Have you checked into what other programs charge for their services? I know several private tutors who charge $40-$50 an hour, with a minimum of four hours a month. Other learning centers such as Sylvan charge a minimum of $145 for diagnostic testing (Kumon charges nothing for testing), and their monthly rate is up to three times the amount charged by the average Kumon center.

I personally pay the same amount for my child's piano lessons each month as I charge for one month of Kumon. The difference is that the piano lessons are once a week for 45 minutes. My classes are twice a week, and children spend around 30 minutes a session--or an hour a week. So Kumon is actually very inexpensive when compared with other programs and other activities children are involved in.

Describing Kumon as having a "hefty cost" is way off the mark.
Joe Breneman
Via e-mail

The "M" word
Mr. [Robert] Wilonsky's editorial comments concerning Ramon Jacquez's crusade to eliminate Goth gangs ["The road to hell," November 19] go something like this: "Goth is cool. Goth is not dangerous. Kids aren't affected by what they listen to. It's only music." This is ironic considering that Mr. Wilonsky has chosen a career based entirely on music but is all too oblivious of the power of the medium to incite emotion, thought, and action. Would said editor even have a job were music as ineffectual as he claims?

This is by no means a black-and-white issue. I have no anti-music sentiments and certainly don't blame the world's ills on pop culture alone. Often it's a matter of the chicken and the egg. Which came first, the bad kids or the bad music? (And just for the record--I'm not an old curmudgeon, but a 19-year-old sometimes pop-culture consumer.)

Certainly, parents are to blame for the lax morality in youth culture. (Yes, I know "morality" is a dirty word amongst the liberal, but it's valid here.) Many parents are lazy and self-concerned. Kids feel alienated, unloved. Bad stuff happens. This does not invalidate the evidence that certain vulgar, violent lyrics influence kids (and adults), often for the worse. The statistics are in the fashion, my man. Music has the ability to make us think, speak, act, and dress in a certain way. Can you say Beatle boots? How about mop tops or greasers? See The Wedding Singer for a refresher in music as fashion. Same with mostly nonviolent pop like, say, The Smiths (well, sometimes there's some vehement, mildly masochistic stuff in there, but you know). Who can be happy listening to "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me?" That song has the undeniable power to depress.

Not to imply that being depressed and being moved to kill are equivalent, but why is advertising and music such big business? Because we listen and we act. We buy and we consume. We lap it up, whether it be Goth crap or Celine Dion (which in either case is tragic). We are affected.

Gap marketers are certainly aware of the power of trend, music, and image to influence us to consume the product. So stop denying Manson his shock power. His lewd shtick does work on the minds of impressionable (i.e., normal) kids. Unfortunately.

Jessica Parker
Via e-mail

Would it kill you--would it absolutely put you and this rag out--if you went one goddamned week without mentioning Marilyn Manson? Oh, I do agree with the gist of your article concerning how asinine it is when law figures, teachers, and parents blame Manson, when there is clearly something a hell of a lot worse at the root of their children's problems (in the instances of children who've actually been violent). Listening to Marilyn Manson makes no one a gang member, or Satanist, or any of that crap. It simply makes you a purveyor of bad taste.

The funny part is that your column and these pundits of the anti-Goth realm are just fueling Manson's record sales and further promoting the Goth fashion world (it is mostly fashion, y'know). Robert Wilonsky, you should know better. You have written some intriguing articles over the years. Have you lost a step? This is old. Real old.

Via e-mail

Not quite yet
It has finally happened. You have written a music-oriented column that I actually agree with, Robert. After all the years of agreeing with people who say that you suck, I agree with your summation of the Dixie Chicks ["Teaching a (history) lesson," December 10]. They are the ones producing 12-amp maximum power suckage. [Editor's note: Just one problem. Zac Crain wrote the article.]

I saw the Dixie Chicks in concert when there were four, and they were good. They were like four Bill Monroes in skirts, but they were very good. Very talented and very conscious of their country-music heritage. I was most impressed with their respect for country music's roots, which is the music I grew up on.

Now, they treat their past as if it never happened. Bands abound in today's market that have done the same and paid for it (see "Ron Wood Joins Rolling Stones"), and more than likely the Chicks will rue the day. They are a blip on the radar--a sexier, more marketable blip--but a blip just the same. Their time will come and go, and perhaps Macy and Lynch will be vindicated. If they even care. I know I wouldn't if I had founded a band and was referred to in the bio as a "lineup change."

Thanks for the good read.
Via e-mail

Off base
Does Robert Wilonsky smoke crack? His article on Lyle Lovett [Music Listings, November 19] was terrible. First of all, this was a tribute album, meaning he was thanking these guys for their guidance and whatever else he may have learned from them. This to me would give Lyle every right to perform the songs how he wants, not to mention paying these guys back with royalties from record sales. I suggest that if you want to hear Guy Clark, then go buy a Guy Clark album, and we'd better not see a review from you on the Lyle show in your next issue.

Chris Watters
Via e-mail

Indeed, you sound angry
Zac [Crain], seriously...you really don't know what you're talking about. Try actually listening to Depeche Mode's albums [Music Listings, November 19] instead of getting musical info from your contrived newspaper friends. You say "The band's new ideas are only old ideas." Well, I say, please try to think before you speak.

Indeed, I may sound angry, but I'm expressing the same sentiment as you did in your article. An eye for an eye, I suppose.

Via e-mail

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