Sleepwalkin' with Lee P.
Gosh! A cross between Nelson Mandela and Tiger Woods, eh? [ The Insider, "Caution: He's Got a Volcano in His Belly," by Tim Fleck, June 5]. That would engender a vision of a prescient champion. I'm afraid all I can summon up with regard to Lee Brown is a droning somnambulist. Disregarding his incredibly effective stint as drug czar, I wait with bated breath for another institutionalized bureaucrat to be mayor of our soon to be revitalized, multi-ballpark metropolis. Am I harboring false hopes? After all, who could be more caring than Bob, a man dedicated to the theory that our taxes are secondarily ours and primarily his developer friends' and sport franchisees'?
I would infer from your article on Michael Ray Charles ["The Art of Darkness," by Shaila Dewan, June 12] that his art tends to create an element of anger or confusion. That energy might have a more productive result if some of those same people were angry because there is no African-American museum in one of the largest cities in this country, or if they were angry because of the lack of support that Charles and other artists have received during their exhibitions at the African-American owned gallery, Barnes-Blackman, or if they were angry because of the good-old-boy network that continues to exclude females and ethnic minorities. With respect to that dumb, unintelligent comment from New York dealer Tony Shafrazi, maybe the letter I intend to write will allow him to view into the mirror of racism reflected in his statement and the vision of Michael's work.
E. L. Foney
Mighty White of Ya
The first picture of Michael Ray Charles's I ever saw, at the Glassell years ago, showed a little baby doll floating in a barren zone. It was so miserably sad, and provoked such shame. As a white man, I know there's no way I could ever feel the depth of pain that racism causes Mr. Charles. But let me tell you something about the way rich white Houstonians think, and how they view and use his recent works of art. I've seen it hanging in some local swankiendas, alongside Mexican crucifix art, and Earth Goddess art, and Asian calligraphic art. In this context, this art advertises the really "deep feelings" for minorities that some of these people, who employ minorities at minimum wage or less, feel they should articulate.
But do they walk the walk? Do the Houston rich agitate for a higher minimum wage? No. Do they cry out against Harris County's execution rate, the highest per capita in the world? No. Do they care enough about poor black and brown and pink babies to act to help their parents raise them decently, so they won't end up in prison? Hell no.
Mr. Charles shouldn't be fooled by all the honeyed courtesy and bright Texas smiles of his patrons. I can count on one hand the members of the Houston rich who give a damn about any ideas more important than their money, and how to get more money, and how to insure that they're going to keep the money they have. You won't see any Equal Opportunity Pain on those fancy walls, no pictures of hook-nosed, gold-clutching Jews, no paintings of alcoholic WASPs molesting their daughters. That would just hurt too much. But you see, Mr. Charles, your work is on their walls because your pain just doesn't signify to them. All this "outsider art" they buy is like the boxing scene in the first chapter of Ellison's Invisible Man. And just because they don't electrify the rug to give you a shock when you pick up their gold nowadays, don't think that they're not laughing at you all the same.
Aside to Ms. Dewan: It's not remotely cool to use the "P" word, the "S" word or the "M" word to describe racist stereotypes of black people. Just the same way it's not remotely acceptable to use the "B" or "C" words when you talk about women, or the "W" word when you talk about people who live on the Indian subcontinent. These hatred words diminish anyone that uses them, and I know that you are more compassionate than the use of these terms shows.
The assertion in Jorge Ferragut's letter in the June 12 issue ["Castro No! Austin No!"] that tens of thousands have been killed at the hands of the Cuban government is, to be blunt, a fabrication designed to mislead the American public and lend support to the U.S. government's inhumane policy toward Cuba.
Cuba does have capital punishment, but in fact rarely invokes it. More people have been put to death by the state of Texas this month than have been executed by Cuba in the past decade. And Cuba has far fewer people in jail per capita than does the U.S., which leads the world's industrialized nations in that regard.
I have recently returned from an academic conference in Cuba, where I had the opportunity to speak with people from all walks of life. A number of them openly criticized their government's policies both in public meetings and privately, hardly the sign of a repressive society. But they were united in their determination to resist being dominated by the U.S. and in their opposition to the U.S. embargo which has brought much hardship to the Cuban people. Children die in Cuba due to the lack of life-saving medicine which the embargo prevents from getting there.
Cuba is not a perfect society. But the glass house in which we live is itself in need of much repair. It is high time for the U.S. to end its cruel embargo, recognize Cuba's sovereign right to self-determination and attend to our own problems. Perhaps through interaction as equals both societies can learn from each other and help make the world a better place.
Where to start with Mr. Ferragut's letter to the Press? How about with the "Cuban Holocaust?" I am so sick of people tacking on "Holocaust" so loosely. Not getting into the political differences, let's just do the numbers: The Holocaust wiped out 6 million Jews, while Ferragut's "Cuban Holocaust" wiped out "tens of thousands" of Cubans. Numerically, there is a huge discrepancy. If Cuba were to lose 6 million people, it would lose more than half of its 1993 population, which still doesn't match up to the two out of every three European Jews killed ratio in the Holocaust. The point is not to say that "tens of thousands of lives" aren't worthy (my family has people in those numbers) -- just don't flippantly go around using Holocaust to try to make a point.
Next, Ferragut seems to forget that the ineffective laws against trade with Cuba do not include a ban upon cultural exchanges, such as Cubanismo or Roy Hargrove's Crisol. Since there was nothing illegal, the organizations that pulled these scheduled shows should be held accountable for their brazen acts of cowardly censorship.
What annoys people such as Ferragut is not so much the music but the fact that, to them, any reminder that Castro is still in power is unbearable. The policies many Cuban-Americans have pushed through have done nothing to decay Castro's power (and many believe they have actually enhanced it), yet like a guy who can't get over that high school breakup, they grasp at any pathetic straw they can get their hands on. "That'll teach her to break up with me." Para de comer mierda and move on.
But Where's the Highchair?
This past Sunday, my husband, my ten-month-old and I ventured out to Cafe Piquet, the Press's June 12 restaurant pick [Cafe, "Cuban Comfort," by Mitchell J. Shields] for a first Father's Day celebration. After a brief walk to our designated table, filled with delicate aromas and sights of delicious comidas, the waiter had nothing to offer for our child but one plastic booster chair -- a barely safe device for patrons three and older.
Much to our disappointment, we could not stay, as my son would not appreciate sitting on my lap for an hour's worth of good food any more than I would. And so we crossed the street, returning to the familiar atmosphere of Cafe Miami for a very enjoyable meal complete with a friendly wait staff and about a half-dozen highchairs from which to choose.
We still wish to try Cafe Piquet, and we are known to be devoted patrons of Houston's best unknowns, but the cashier made it clear to us that they have no intention of investing in such a family-friendly item, explaining that there was no room. Cozy though it may be, this hole in the wall was by no means cramped.
If a family restaurant wants to generate business from families, a couple of $20 high- chairs from the corner restaurant supply store just might invite the following so sought after by Mr. Piquet himself.
Read and Learn
I thoroughly enjoyed the Liviya Compean feature [Music, "A Family Affair," by Marlo Cobb, May 29]. I've been following this band for a while, but never knew they had such an interesting story.
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