November Letters: Playing Helen Keller…

Readers respond about blind and deaf actors, the Pew Fellowships, the Eagles, Religion good or bad, Memphis, the home as art, Hunter Gatherers, who owns antiquity, Philadelphia Orchestra programming, Fugard's Coming Home, great-grandmother's portrait, aftermath of an auto accident, Arshile Gorky at the Art Museum, the old Phillies, "The Winning Basket," sport vs. theater, Liszt and Beethoven, Horowitz and Beethoven, Barnes relocation as a done deal, Michael Moore's Capitalism, the Gorky and Kandinsky shows, films of the '50s, and Telemann vs. Bach.

On playing Helen Keller

     Re: “Who should play Helen Keller?”, by Jim Rutter—
     The magic of theater is that a person (actor, actress) plays a person who is not himself or herself. We all know many funny comedians who are crashing bores in life. This is the art of theater.
     Yes, one blind girl plays the part of Helen Keller. But no matter how great her performance, part of the magic is gone the moment the curtain goes up, because we know she is really blind.
     I am an actor and I have had polio. But I will never play a character with this problem. It is easy: I limp already. But another actor will try to act this limp, while I try to walk straight in other roles. How many times I heard, after a performance: “Wow! you didn’t limp at all during the show. Why do you limp in real life?” I am an actor, for crying out loud.
     So, Abigail Breslin is a very good little actress, and she should play Helen Keller.
Jean Blanchette
Montreal, Quebec
November 27, 2009


     Editor's note: To read more responses, click here.

Pew Fellowships— method or madness?

     Re “The Pew grants— method or madness,” by Dan Rottenberg (Editor’s Notebook)—
     I was on the panel that helped Pew set up the initial round of Fellowships; I subsequently received a Fellowship some years later, and I was recently one of a number of Fellowship recipients asked to meet with Pew about the new guidelines. Here is an excerpt from the letter I sent them subsequent to the meeting:
     "I think there are two considerations germane to the whole discussion— one logistical and one that is quite a bit more psychological/political/social in implication.
     â€œAs was clear from our discussion, the nomination process will need to cover an extraordinary variety of artistic practices. Within music alone, you will either need to find people who are knowledgeable about classical, indigenous, contemporary, jazz and “none of the above,” as well as being sufficiently familiar with both composition and performance; within media, you will need nominators who are knowledgeable about documentary, narrative, experimental, animation, installation, and new media practices. “You will also need to cover all of the ethnic, racial and chronological bases.
     â€œI submit that this can’t be done and that you’ll end up choosing a subset of possible nominators, rotating considerations from year to year and thereby returning, implicitly, to the very multi-year structure that you’re trying to avoid.
     â€œBut what is even more important, I believe, is that you are undermining the sense of agency that many of us have felt about the whole business. In subsequent conversation with many artists who have not yet been granted a fellowship, I was told, consistently, that now there will no longer be anything to be done, that one will simply have to wait to be anointed.
     â€œWhether the odds were 97 to 3 or 99 to 1, the fact is that the previous application process granted some measure of initiative to us, provoked us to think about what we’ve been doing and to formulate a philosophy. This was healthy, and it provided some symmetry to the power relationship between artists and funders.
     â€œThese new procedures will lead to logistical issues that will create an unwelcome passivity rather than a constructive sense of agency. I doubt that this latter consequence will show up in any typical assessment, but given the Pew’s long-standing and highly admirable sense of social commitment, it is paramount, don’t you think?"
     The Pew's response was courteous, certainly, but failed to address the substance of my consternations. It was a bit disheartening.
Peter Rose
Andorra, Pa.
November 25, 2009


     The Pew evidently thinks it's the MacArthur genius grant committee, operating in star chamber secrecy and selecting predictable mediocrities for its largesse. I've a better idea, not for the Pew but for Philadelphia artists: tell it to stuff its money.
     The Pew's main local activity has been its corporate-supported takeover of the Barnes Foundation, one of the most disgraceful episodes in Philadelphia's history. I've heard from many sources, in and out of town, that artists and curators who are privately appalled at the attempt to destroy the Barnes are not speaking for fear of losing Pew funding. Well, why not simply forgo it? If the price of Pew money is silence in the face of cultural vandalism, why would any self-respecting artist want it?
     By the way, I could do without Pew surveys too, with their attempt to manipulate opinion on public issues. In fact, I could do without the Pew altogether, and all the other unaccountable "philanthropies" that tell us what to think and what to create while shacking up with onerous business and political interests. Where did they ever come from in the first place, and who gave them the power to dictate our national life?
Robert Zaller
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
November 25, 2009

     Editor’s comment:
Not to worry. The point of my column was that large foundations, whether their goals are malign or benign, don’t really know what they’re doing— an inevitable consequence when an organization lacks stakeholders to hold it accountable.

The Pew giveth…

     Re: "The Pew Fellowships go top-down,” by Jonathan M. Stein—
     This is a fine evaluation of the changes Pew has initiated. It would seem the Pew Foundation, having become a “public charity,” has actually become more like a corporation for controlling who and what is considered art in the 21st Century (and where it should be located— see, for example, the Barnes Foundation).
     With all the resources at their command and a corporate frame of mind, this can't be healthy for the arts community.
Nancy Herman
Merion, Pa.
November 18, 2009


     When I received my letter from Pew a few weeks ago discussing the “improved” application process for Pew fellowships, I gave up any slim hope of ever receiving a Pew Fellowship. The new process simply reinforces the “Who do you know?” factor that is already so prevalent in the small and incestuous Philadelphia art world.
     I guess we're all meant to be thankful that the allegedly onerous task of filling out an application once every four years has been lifted from our shoulders. Phew!
James Mundie
South Philadelphia
November 20, 2009


     The blind initial selection process, whereby the known and unknown were judged side-by-side strictly on artistic merit, is hereby thrown out. Sad. Very sad. My wife, the poet Phyllis Wat, felt the same way.
Dennis Moritz
Germantown/ Philadelphia
November 18, 2009


     As a post-script to my column, the Inquirer art critic, Ed Sozanski, observed, "With the nominating and selection process now completely in the hands of establishment types, it appears that wild cards have even less chance of being recognized. The pool, in effect, has shrunk dramatically. Logrolling
and cronyism seem even more likely to influence the outcomes." See the Inquirer, Dec. 13, 2009.
Jonathan Stein
Center City/Philadelphia
December 14, 2009


     Editor's note: To read my reaction, click here.

Why I despise the Eagles

      “Why I despise the Eagles,” by Bob Ingram, was brilliant and right on the money. Loved the stuff about Andy Reid and passionless Donovan McNabb.
     I could probably tell you what Reid will say at his next press conference, because it's a broken record: "I have to put my players in a better position to make plays, etc."
     Thanks for a fun read.
Len Lear
West Mount Airy/ Philadelphia
November 22, 2009


     While I enjoyed the writing and marveled at his workmanship, I can't help but wonder what Bob Ingram has against success.
     Leonard Tose was a local whose father gave him his truck dealership. And what did he do with his fortune? He managed to gamble it away at the slots. While he was at it, the Eagles slumbered into one defeat after another. Why would Bob think Leonard was a great owner?
     And Buddy Ryan? Ryan was nothing more than a two-bit racehorse trainer who treated his athletes like claimers. He lost one game after another.
     Since the preppy Luries took over, the Eagles have experienced one winning season after another. What is there about winning that irks this writer?
     I won't defend McNabb's upchuck moment at the Super Bowl. But what are you saying about this guy, Ingram? Do you mean to imply that Rush Limbaugh was right?
     OK, we can use some new faces on the Eagles. But please, don't bring back the Santa snowballers from hell and call that gritty loyalty. I’d rather support a top-flight team than boo at a bad one. Can it be that after so many years of supporting a third-rate organization, Ingram doesn't know how to cheer?
Jackie Atkins
Northern Liberties/ Philadelphia
November 24, 2009


     I'll say one thing, Bobby— you write with your heart and soul. You say things that others think and won't say out loud. Gotta love you for it.
Arlene W. Leib
Lower Merion, Pa.
November 22, 2009


     This article, like many of Bob Ingram's, is a reminder of when I lived in New York and read Jimmy Breslin. It is gritty and so to the point that I wonder at his ability to capture the essence of character so well. What a pleasure to read him.
Dinny Zimmerman
Peterborough, N.H.
November 23, 2009

     Editor's note:
To read another reply, click here. To read my reply, click here.

Religion: Good or evil?

     Re: “Religion: Good or evil?,” by Dan Rottenberg (Editor’s Notebook)—
     Clearly stated, Dan, as always. When you say, "In a constantly evolving world, every force for good inevitably evolves into a force for evil," that sounds like the dualist mistake of seeing only two forces duking it out forever, when there's always a third behind the picture.
     The third in your picture seems to be a force that drives people— in whatever vehicle the age produces— to help other people. "Evolving," by itself, doesn't explain that; it simply describes the choice of vehicle. But why should anyone ever want to get in any of them and drive, I wonder?
     Put another way: A swinging pendulum shows that what is on one side will always end up on the other. But the swinging itself leads me to guess at gravity. The pendulum's constancy forces me to assume the existence of gears. And so forth.
     This is nowhere near an argument for religion. I only wonder if you might allow for something else behind the "every force for good."
Kile Smith
Fox Chase/ Philadelphia
November 16, 2009


     Since when did/does homophobia mean literally (or otherwise) fear of homosexuality?
     Neither the Greek nor the Latin prefix homo means "homosexuality." If either does/did, why add "sexuality"? If it does, what does the word "homosexual" mean— a homosexual homosexual? And does the word "homonym" mean a homosexual with a name? Or, is this another corruption of the language?
Andrew Kevorkian
West Philadelphia
November 18, 2009


Memphis on Broadway


     Julie Morcate’s review of Memphis was right on target. Loved the show. Even without the original rock ’n’ roll songs, the story told itself and at some level was very accurate.
Stephen Weinstein
Narberth, Pa.
November 18, 2009


The home as art

     Re “My home, my museum,” by Caroline Dunlop Millett—
     In my article, “On buying art in Philadelphia,” I chided Philadelphia Magazine not, as Ms. Millett says in her article, "for giving bad advice on how to decorate your home with art," but for giving no useful advice on this topic at all.
     It was not the intention of my article to provide helpful guidance on designing a home, as I’m not a designer. I merely wished to offer to readers that it is not always necessary to hire a designer to create an intimate personal environment that includes art— and if one does, as in all purchases of services, let the buyer beware.
     In my response to responses to my article, I enumerated some art shows, galleries, etc. where one can purchase great art for reasonable prices. Some of the places I mentioned are the same in Ms. Millett's article! So it seems that she and I are really more in agreement about art and decorating than the tone of her article suggests.
Victoria C. Skelly
Wayne, Pa.
November 19, 2009


Hunter Gatherers

     Re Jim Rutter’s review of Hunter Gatherers, by Theatre Exile—
     There are so many things wrong with this play, chief among them that it’s not funny. There are certainly comic elements that are telegraphed to be "funny" and the audience laughs at them, but I suspect it's because they just paid $25 to see a comedy and they’re trying to enjoy themselves.
     I feel sympathy for the actors, who do a fine job, given the turds they must try to polish.
Patrick Kelly
Fairmount/Philadelphia
November 22, 2009


Who owns antiquity?

     Re “Who owns antiquity?’ by Richard CarreÓ±o—
     Perhaps it is past the time for James Cuno to remove his blinders and acknowledge the 21st Century fact of globalization. Every nation is accessible to all and possesses the knowledge and means to preserve its own heritage. Cuno’s defense of Western museums’ inherent right to keep all looted artifacts on the basis that they, and only they, can best preserve and interpret them sounds like 19th- and early 20th-Century colonialism, and that is no longer acceptable.
     It is inexcusable that the British Museum has not returned to Greece the Parthenon marbles (still referred to by the British with the name of the man— Lord Elgin— who bought them from the Turks, who had temporarily taken control).
     I wonder which treasures should be returned to their country of origin by the Chicago Art Institute. Can we request an accounting?
Anne R. Fabbri
Wayne, Pa.
November 12, 2009


The Orchestra’s ‘Collections’

     Re “The Orchestra’s strange new ‘collections’,” by Steve Cohen—
     It is depressing, even in the midst of a depression, to see a great orchestra reduced to peddling itself.
     Steve Cohen quotes the Philadelphia Orchestra's brochures as offering, among other things (actually, not much else), "traditional music in a traditional format" that "will transport and transcend." I'm not sure precisely what this means, but it sounds a lot like "familiar chestnuts played on the instruments for which they were written (or modernized variants thereof) that will help dowagers pass a harmless hour or two." I guess I could find a potential reference for "transport," but "transcend" is, itself, an objectless voyage into a grammatical void.
     Who writes this ghastly stuff? More to the point, who's making up the programs?
     In a culture where John Corigliano treats the lyrics of Bob Dylan as portentously as if he were Schubert setting Goethe, I guess we needn't worry any longer about distinctions between quality and kitsch. But if the Orchestra wants to help itself, here are two suggestions: (1) hire a permanent music director, and (2) upgrade the hall.
     For better or worse, orchestras need the profile (and discipline) of a conductor they and the public can identify with. They also need the music they make to carry with clarity and resonance beyond the podium.
     I don't know of any acoustics experts (are there any? They seem to have gone out with stained-glass window makers), but I've heard a good conductor who could set at least that part of the problem to rights.
     In the meantime, let's cut the cute introductions and play the music, and let's stop telling audiences what reactions they're going to have. I prefer to be transported (or simply amused, engaged, or gratified) on my own, not cued by an advertising gimmick.
Robert Zaller
Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
November 11, 2009


Fugard’s Coming Home

     Re Dan Rottenberg’s review of Athol Fugard’s Coming Home at the Wilma—
     Though it was definitely a beautifully staged and competently performed production, it has to be said that Coming Home is not an especially good Fugard play. It is a domestic melodrama, and though it is set in more or less the present day, it relies on really tired 19th-Century devices (the country girl defiled by the big city, hidden treasure, past secrets revealed in letters). The take-away message seems to be: Stay at home, farm the land, don't follow your dreams, for the world will destroy you.
     I was left asking the question: should the inferior work of playwrights considered to be important be produced simply because they've written other, better plays?
Aaron Oster
Collingswood, N.J.
November 11, 2009


Great-grandma’s portrait


     Re “My great-grandmother grows younger,” by Reed Stevens—
     Thank you for sharing this. Beautifully written, too!
Shirley Landis VanScoyk
Honey Brook, Pa.
November 11, 2009


Aftermath of an accident


     Re “Aftermath of an accident,” by Amy Small-McKinney—
     Beautifully written, clearly the work of a poet.
Beth Kephart
Devon, Pa.
November 11, 2009


     God bless you.
Shirley Landis VanScoyk
Honey Brook, Pa.
November 12, 2009


     Editor's note: To read another response, click here.

Gorky at Art Museum

     Re “Will the real Arshile Gorky please sit down?”, by Anne R. Fabbri—
     This is one of the rare instances when I disagree with an opinion expressed in an Anne Fabbri review. I think it would be tragic if artists destroyed their early work. It is very illuminating, and often encouraging, to see the evolution of an artist's work.
     I love being able to see how an artist has struggled, and experimented, in her journey to find her own voice. Seeing the progression of work is not the same thing as knowing the personal biography of the artist, which I also think can increase the understanding and appreciation of an artist's work.
     I did enjoy the review, which obviously made me think.
Susan B. Howard
Villanova, Pa.
November 9, 2009

     Anne R. Fabbri replies:
Michelangelo and Mozart are two of the very few creative artists whose early work merits public exposure. Arshile Gorky is not in that league.

     Editor’s note: The writer is an artist.

The Phillies and my father

     Re “The Phillies and my father,” by Marge Murray—
     They broke my father's heart also. He, my grandfather and I spent many Sundays at the ballpark. Those memories will always be beautiful. Thank you so much for the fabulous article. It brought tears to my eyes.
Lois Beck
Society Hill
November 4, 2009


     I had to smile at Marge Murray's recollection of her father paying the kids to watch his car. Mine did too. It was such a part of the experience that, as a kid, I figured it happened everywhere. Decades later, here in Berkeley, I was listening to Hank Greenwald, the Giants announcer, reminisce during a dull moment about going to games at various ball parks around the country. And the thing that defined Philadelphia for him, distinct from all other cities, was the pay-offs to the locals.
Bob Levin
Berkeley, Calif.
November 4, 2009


The winning basket


Re “The winning basket—
     I imagine anyone who has played ball seriously has had moments of glory when everything works perfectly and actually seems pre-ordained, a slow-motion dance with destiny. But most of us only get small, fleeting tastes of that high level.
     Imagine the sense of loss the professional athlete, who functions at that level regularly, must feel when the curtain comes down. I'm sure that is why so many athletes un-retire with such regularity. It must be so lonely without the crowd and with a body that is that precious step slower.
     John Erlich captured that glory. Well done.
Bob Ingram
Burleigh, N.J.
November 4, 2009


Liszt and Beethoven


     In “Andre Watts plays Schubert and Liszt,” Victor L. Schermer comments that Liszt "followed the final movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony by using the sonata form within a single movement." What on earth is this supposed to mean? Please enlighten me.
Bernard Jacobson
Bremerton, Wash.
November 4, 2009

     Victor L. Schermer replies:
Beethoven incorporated the sonata-form that is typically used in the first movement of a concerto, etc., in the last movement of his Ninth Symphony. It's difficult and ponderous to incorporate that form in subsequent movements. Beethoven allowed himself that luxury: It does seem intuitively reasonable to me that there are elements of the sonata-form in the Ninth's finale, if not an exact manifestation of that form in its most classical definition. And Liszt did the same thing in his Sonata in B Minor. He also included some modulations and other changes that make it difficult to discern where one section leaves off and the other begins. Later composers have taken these liberties more freely than in Liszt's time. I'm sure there are many nuances that require more sophisticated knowledge than I possess. But I was struck by the musical effect Liszt achieved and the way that Watts interpreted it.

Sport and theater

     Re “Sports and theater: Vive la différence,” by Dan Rottenberg (Editor’s Notebook)—
     Come on— "You Gotta Have Heart," as they sang in Damn Yankees, which is an all-too appropriate play for Phillies fans. I can still see Ray Walston as the Devil and Gwen Verdon as Lola.
     There's also basketball's That Championship Season and boxing's The Great White Hope.
     I hear that the life of Vince Lombardi is Broadway bound. Plus the thought of Hockey Puck, starring Don Rickles, appeals.
     And I always thought the lives of tennis's Alice Marble and baseball's Moe Berg, both of whom were spies during World War II, would make great drama.
Joseph Glantz
Levittown, Pa.
November 9, 2009


     Re Jim Rutter’s meditation on “Sport vs. theater”—
     As a one-time radio sports announcer, I have fantasized about describing theater and music performances using play-by-play style:
     "See how Bartlett Sher is deploying the chorus here. He’s not over-shifting to the right like Zeffirelli. Now the tenor is getting set for the high note, and the crowd is on the edge of its seats. He’s hit high C 37 times in his career, five times in this venue. He’s been a bit shaky above G today, though. Will he be able to hit a C? Will he place it properly? Look at that stance! I haven’t seen anyone breathe in that way since Pavarotti at La Scala in ’92.
     "OK...he made it, but a fraction flat. Now he’s compensated and leveled it off. Looks like he’s back in mid-season form. How long can he hold the note? Our stopwatch is running and it looks like he’s heading for five seconds... Oh! He portamentoed down after 4.8, just missing the record for left-handed tenors going up against right-handed conductors. He used a shorter vibrato than Florez right there, wouldn’t you say, Sarge?"
Steve Cohen
King of Prussia, Pa.
October 29, 2009


Horowitz and Beethoven

     Re “What Horowitz taught me about Beethoven,” by Dan Coren—
     This is such a great piece of musical criticism. I found it because I was learning all I could about how bad the Appassionata is (like Coren, I figured Glenn Gould must be right). So my Google search of course produced this article, and voila! I can't believe those crazy harmonies are in there!
I'm looking for the Horowitz records now. I must say, it surprises me that Gould wouldn't have highlighted these dissonances as well, given his specific attention to polyphony and his obsession with counterpoint.
John Lanou
Washington, D.C.
November 9, 2009


Moving the Barnes: A done deal?

     Re “Moving the Barnes: A done deal,”—
     Gresham Riley counts the ways that relocation of the Barnes Foundation’s art collection is a done deal. As a founding member of the Friends of the Barnes Foundation, as a former Barnes student and teacher, and as the student who filed the unsuccessful appeal of Judge Ott's decision to approve the move, I offer the benefit of my experience in reply to Gresham Riley’s evidence.
     1. The ranks of the opposition have steadily increased in the last five years, most recently since The Art of the Steal was screened at the Toronto and New York film festivals. The Friends are receiving more inquiries than ever about what can be done to stop the move.
     2. Support for relocation has come from the three foundations behind it, the governor, the mayor, local business and tourism interests and the Philadelphia Inquirer. But who else has been supportive in the last five years and as vocal as Mr. Riley? No one.
     3. To say that no courts “are interested in the case" seems to imply that the courts have rejected the case. Actually, the one court of jurisdiction, Montgomery County Orphans' Court, has permitted no party other than the Barnes Foundation and the Pennsylvania attorney general (and Lincoln University, which withdrew after accepting $80 million in new state aid from Governor Rendell) to participate with full privilege in the hearings, or to seek re-opened hearings. Parties seeking to prove that the Barnes Foundation could survive in Merion have been shut out of the courts.
     4. In May of 2006, the Pew Foundation announced that it had raised the promised $150 million and was "exiting stage left." The next day the Barnes Foundation announced that it was beginning a new campaign, without Pew's help, to raise $50 million more. More than three years later the Barnes Foundation, by its own recent admission, has managed to raise only $6 million of that goal. The city and state are maintaining their public support, but Rendell has yet to deliver the $30 million he has promised in public funds.
     5. Yes, there are initial designs. But it took the architects two years to come up with them. How long will it take for the final designs? Meanwhile, some are saying $200 million is more likely to be the final price. Where will this money come from, and when?
     6. Contrary to what we read in the Inquirer, it was the Barnes Foundation that made life difficult for its neighbors, not vice versa.
     7. The friends of the Barnes may not elicit Dr. Riley’s sympathy, but one need only to see The Art of the Steal to learn that prominent figures like Julian Bond see us as heroes. One need only to read the press that followed the screening of the film to learn how widespread the shock is outside this region that we would contemplate "recreating" Albert Barnes's masterpiece.
     8. The current plan for the Barnes Foundation will put it on worse financial footing than it was previously. According to its own testimony in court, even if its unsupported projections for tripling annual attendance are met, it will need to raise $4.5 million every year to stay out of the red. It will likely become a perpetual beggar for public and private funds.
     If the Barnes Foundation were selling stock, would you buy it, Dr. Riley?
Jay Raymond
Jenkintown, Pa.
October 30, 2009


     If the Barnes move is a “done deal,” why do those in favor of the move have to keep saying it?
     Will Judge Ott and Attorney General Corbett— still charged with protecting the Barnes Foundation— allow the Barnes to go ahead and begin to build a structure when the money to do the job properly doesn’t yet exist? Will anyone donate money to such a foolhardy enterprise when our libraries are closing and our Orchestra is running on a skeleton staff?
Nancy Herman
Merion, Pa.
October 28, 2009


     Editor's note: To read anther response, click here.

Michael Moore’s Capitalism

     Re Robert Zaller’s review of Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story—
     What's with you guys? Again I find an article in which an author finds it necessary to diss theology, this time by dismissing "Christian charity" with a swipe at Jewish rabbis as well (Rabbi Marx, indeed!).
     I would advise you all at the Broad Street Review to hang out at with the folks at Broad Street Ministry (across from the Kimmel Center) to get a more positive experience of theology in action than any of you seem to have had yet.
Craig Tavani
Phoenixville, Pa.
October 28, 2009

     Robert Zaller replies:
Let me assure you that there is no party line at the BSR on religion or anything else. Actually, I intended to flatter rabbis by associating them with Marx, a thinker who addressed the world as it was and pulled no punches about what he saw. I do consult him frequently on matters both spiritual and temporal. Hence the honorific “rabbi.” I thought it droll that Michael Moore should have gone to the Catholic Church, the world's biggest landlord, for moral references about capitalism. I say this, counting a former Jesuit as one of my dearest friends, and a late lay brother of the Dominican order as another. Wisdom and charity are found in many places, and good works even in houses of faith. But the social justice record of organized religion is about as dismal as the Chamber of Commerce's. It was not idly spoken that the last Christian died on the cross.

     Robert Zaller writes (above), "But the social justice record of organized religion is about as dismal as the Chamber of Commerce’s."
     I'd say rather that the very term "social justice" is almost inconceivable without organized religion. Hospitals, schools at every level, and relief efforts of all types were all established— even invented— by religions. To protect orphans and widows, to feed the hungry, and to help the needy are taken as divine commands by the religious.
     Believers of all faiths will say that more can be done. But the millions upon billions of dollars given away every year to help others would seem to evoke words other than "dismal."
     Can't speak for the Chamber of Commerce.
Kile Smith
Fox Chase/Philadelphia
November 12, 2009


     Editor's note: To read my response, click here.

Gorky at the Art Museum…

     I appreciate Marilyn Macgregor's serious and insightful review of the Gorky Exhibition at the Art Museum. In an earlier review, Andrew Magravite told us in so many words that he doesn’t like Gorky's art. I'd like to direct your attention to Holland Cotter's masterful review in the New York Times of October 22. Cotter's review could serve as a template for critics not only in the visual arts but the performing arts as well.
Marc Allen
Central New Jersey
October 28, 2009


…and Kandinsky at the Guggenheim

     Re Andrew Mangravite’s review of “Kandinsky” at the Guggenheim in New York:
     Andrew Mangravite, you are an amusing guest who stayed at the party too long.
     It is astounding and wonderful to have a Gorky retrospective in Philadelphia and a Kandinsky Exhibit in New York at the same time. Neither of these shows can or should be appreciated in one visit. As soon as I began to feel "overwhelmed' at the Gorky show, I left and came back the next day to finish the viewing. You should have done the same.
Vincent Rinella
Philadelphia
October 28, 2009

     Andrew Mangravite replies:
Maybe I just didn't feel that either show was worth a second look. For the record, I liked two-thirds of what I saw at the Kandinsky retrospective; there was just too damn much of it. A careful chosen exhibition of, say, 100 paintings could have served the purpose.

‘50s films that stoked the ‘60s

     Re “The revolt of the ’60s,” by Bob Levin—
     This essay makes me wish I were older. Those are some great touchstone movies you mention. I hate to sound, consarn it, like a really old timer but it's a pity that the kind of neighborhood cinematic bonding Levin mentions is being lost to big box theaters with 20 screens in strip malls.
Chris Rodell
Latrobe, Pa.
October 28, 2009

     Bob Levin replies:
And the best thing about growing up in the '50s is... (drum roll)... we've already been exposed to swine flu.

Telemann vs. Bach

     Re Tom Purdom’s review of Tempesta di Mare and Telemann vs. Bach—
     As usual, Tom Purdom has really good ideas. He really makes you think.
William L. Clovis
Center City/Philadelphia
October 28, 2009