“Wilson’s case was pivotal, not simply because he won it in the end but because of what it led to—the exposure of a torture ring.” —John Conroy, November 29

Andrew Wilson Is No Poster Boy

It is beyond my comprehension how reporter John Conroy picked cop killer Andrew Wilson as the poster boy for sympathy in the Jon Burge torture allegation case [“The Persistence of Andrew Wilson,” November 29]. In the name of fair and balanced reporting maybe Conroy should have interviewed the families of William Fahey and Richard O’Brien, the two police officers the Wilson brothers murdered in cold blood. Maybe Conroy could have asked them if they still weep for them at Christmas, on children’s graduation days, birthdays, and on the anniversary of their death. John Conroy chose to ignore that part of the Andrew Wilson case.

Andrew Wilson is dead now. And if there is a heaven and hell, I have no doubt where Wilson’s soul now resides.

Tony LaMantia

N. Albany

Dirty Torture Haters

To John Conroy,

Haha, asshole! Your favorite cop killer is dead, what lame bullshit are you going to come up with now? You and your paper are a bunch of dirty, filthy communist fucks. Real assholes, that’s you! You hippie types got what you deserved from the CPD at the ’68 Democrat convention. And also, at Kent State.



The Critic Under Review

Mr. Rosenbaum,

In your review of No Country for Old Men, you gave the film one star in what was effectively a pan that conceded the film had “redeeming facets,” yet in the “Critic’s Choice” section of the current issue of Film Comment, you award the Coens’ film four stars. You were very nearly alone among major American film critics in actually criticizing No Country, while now it seems you’ve joined the consensus. What gives?

Also, your capsule review of Redacted seemed ambivalent but more positive than negative, albeit with significant reservations. In FC, you give that film two stars.

I’m just curious if you’ve had a change of heart on either or both of these movies, or if there’s some other explanation for this incongruity.

Josh Timmermann

Victoria, BC

Jonathan Rosenbaum replies:

The simple answer is that I have changes of heart (and mind) all the time. I even thought of making No Country for Old Men a Critic’s Choice when I gave it one star, but then my editor and I agreed that this would have led to confusion. For me, it’s the artificial stars and other rating systems that are screwed up (by virtue of being simpleminded and consumerist), which my shifts in evaluation, both quite conscious, were intended to reflect. The alternative is to stop thinking about films once we affix grades to them—something that I sometimes do but am not especially proud of.

The fact that Film Comment uses five stars while the Reader uses only four only adds to the muddle. So if I had to give a star rating now to either Redacted or No Country, both would come closer to my present position than picking one over the other. I guess this is because for me, movies are like life—i.e., complex.

Chicago Second to None

“Receptor City”? We used to be called “Second City” [The Business by Deanna Isaacs, November 29].

[New Yorker critic Peter] Schjeldahl simply perpetuates the myth (sadly believed by too many artists and writers, not to mention audiences) that New York is where it’s at, the place to go to to really make it.

The fact is that New York simply has “more of” everything but not by any means the “quality” of everything. Broadway is chiefly a rerun of musical comedies and rank commercial productions (the strike could have gone on forever as far as I’m concerned). The good theater in Chicago (which I think is a terrific place for actors and playwrights) is off-Loop, as in New York it is off-Broadway. We grow our talent in Chicago, we don’t have to import it.

James T. Farrell, Saul Bellow, Stuart Dybek, G. Brooks, Lisel Mueller, Studs Terkel, David Mamet, Jeffrey Sweet, Jim Dine, the whole Chicago Imagist school, etc, the Chicago Symphony, the Chicago school of architecture, and on and on and on.

It is the pomposity of provincial critics like Schjeldahl who ignore the tremendous creativity in Chicago and other regions of the country and confine their narrow critical sights to whatever shows up in New York under some silly assumption it must be good if it got there at all.

Once that bias is exposed for the fraud that it is, arts everywhere will be much better off and we will see, hear, and read what the country has to offer rather than one overbloated, overhyped, and overrated island on the east coast, a cultural balloon waiting to explode from the hot air of its biased critics.

Hugh Giblin

Durham, North Carolina

(the body that is, the soul is still in Chicago)

Mixing Alkalis and Acids

I do not know what type of soil is best for apple trees, but I do know that soil with a pH value between 5.6 and 7 is not alkaline (as stated in your cover article [“Bad Apples” by Martha Bayne, November 22]), it is acidic. Alkaline soil has pH values above 7.

Joshua Telser

Associate Professor of Chemistry

Roosevelt University

Martha Bayne replies:

Mr. Telser is correct. I apologize for the error.

From OurOnline Readers

I used to think the very best undergrad education any student could undergo to eventually become a damn fine reporter was a liberal arts degree to help develop some critical thinking skills. After that, skimming a basic j-school textbook on news writing techniques couldn’t hurt. Today I’d add learning how to get a decent shot with a digital camera and maybe shoot some digital video—skills that could be had during a long afternoon. That’s about it—unless the student would rather be an editor than a reporter—then they need to add HTML skills and programs like Quark, etc. Despite today’s reporter relying more on technology than ever before, and despite what students and professors like to tell each other, journalism is still not a profession—never has been. As [Michael] Miner mentioned [Hot Type, November 22], it’s a trade. I think any discussion on the proper mission of j-schools, pricey Medill in particular, misses the larger point, which is—they’re not necessary and never have been. So, on to more important matters: is it true Amtrak’s Southwest Chief no longer serves free coffee in the sleeping cars?