Letters to the editor

Xpress, you, um, suck

Suck me if I seem to be an unhip prude-ster, but your Jan. 14 cover uses a word that I find offensive.

The word “suck” is a common word in every way, and I like to imagine that cultured folks and media can avoid its use.

Imagine reading a New York Times headline: “Yankee Manager Says Boston Sucks,” or “Nabisco Disses FDA,” or “Exxon Indicates It Will, Like, F**k Things Up Early Next Quarter.”

— Catherine Wheel
Asheville

[Ed. Note: You’re right, of course. That would really, well, you know.]

Airing out air-quality concerns

It was interesting to see who showed up Thursday night [Jan. 8] in Canton for a public hearing [put on by the state’s Division of Air Quality] regarding Blue Ridge Paper Products’ pending application for a Title V air-pollution permit. In the historic Colonial Theater, citizens had the privilege, in some cases, and the opportunity, in others, to hear many voices address the issue of [just] how important dangerously toxic (is that redundant?) emission levels are compared to the economic viability of a business and its circle of dependents.

The reasonable and scientifically weighty statements of several of our local and regional environmental advocates — Linda Block, Avram Friedman and Scott Gollwitzer, among others — seemed idealistic compared with the chest-thumping of the BRPP spokespersons and their friends in the Canton business community.

Yet at no time did the speakers urging stricter air-quality standards for the paper company denigrate the past efforts of Champion, and then Blue Ridge, to take steps toward a greener operation, or fail to make respectful reference to the needs of the employee-owners of the paper plant for their jobs. But they did not cave on the ideal of clean air either.

— Sherill Knight
Asheville

[Ed. Note: The employee-owned Blue Ridge Paper Products (formerly Champion International) is applying for a Title V operating permit as required under 1990 amendments to the federal Clean Air Act. The Asheville-based company employs 1,300 people in Haywood County; its Canton mill makes paper for envelopes and milk cartons.]

All hyped up

After reading [Steve Shanafelt’s] “Here Comes the Hype,” Mr. Shanafelt, now you’ve pissed me off. So, the feeling is mutual. Your article [Xpress, Jan. 7] was not only offensive, it was petty.

You attributed the word “discovered” in your opening paragraph to me, as though it were a quote. Absolutely untrue. I ponder the difference between a lie and a writer’s artistic license. “I discovered” is not a phrase I have ever used. I live in New York, not L.A., and grew up in a two-stoplight town in South Carolina. I can only assume that you re-read Mike Benzie’s article [“Meehan and DrugMoney on Cusp of Big Time”] from the Citizen-Times last [Feb. 18]. He used the word “discovered” where I was concerned.

I believe that genuine enthusiasm is contagious; hype is empty. I would make a lousy record executive. The first time someone signed a band I didn’t like, I would be incapable of faking my way through the schmooze. Hell, I sometimes still have trouble distinguishing between the truth and my opinion. Your article makes it pretty clear I’m not alone in that department.

You asked me to call you under the guise of needing information about an article about DrugMoney. Why did we bother discussing the disparity between a major label — which has virtually nothing to do with music, and a band’s career is most likely over if the first single doesn’t equal platinum potential — and an indie , [which] can’t afford things like tour support, [such that] bands have to figure out how to buy a van to get from Point A to B, figure out whose sofa to sleep on in a town full of strangers where they just played in front of six people and lost money for the privilege, and now need to figure out how to scrape together enough gas money to get to the next town so they can do it all over again? Why did we bother discussing why Hybrid [Recordings, DrugMoney’s label] is the perfect life in-between? Why did we bother talking at all?

For the purposes of this letter, I did some math. According to my calculations, I’ve made $122 a month working more or less full time for DrugMoney. And that was before expenses. Yeah. Expect the suits to bumrush any day now.

If you knew more people involved in the music business, perhaps you’d understand that there are a lot of us who do it because of how passionately we feel about the music. To see financial success in management is as unlikely as me seeing Mars colonized in my lifetime. Have you ever taken that kind of risk?

Some of us actually do believe that it still boils down to the music. This article would lead me to believe that you feel the only options for bands are obscurity or hype. That’s a pretty narrow perspective. Why plant petty, poisonous seeds when you’re in the position to nurture, to inspire, to motivate?

If fate unfolds so that Asheville becomes the next Minneapolis/Athens/Seattle/Omaha, wouldn’t that just suck? If it does, it’s because people there — those who are the scene — will make it happen, not because of the lemming mentality that does tend to be a justifiable stereotype among record execs. That’s yesteryear’s model. Go ask [successful Nebraska indie label] Saddle Creek, and then give Asheville bands and people some credit.

Thankfully, like a rich chocolate mousse after a limp, boiled hotdog, Frank Rabey’s [accompanying “Exploding Pop”] review of MTN CTY JNK was just what the doctor ordered to prevent any lingering psychic poisoning I might have ingested earlier. It wasn’t just that he liked the record (though I can’t deny that tends to make me biased), it was the wonderfully thoughtful way he conveyed those feelings.

Careful, Frank. I’d hate to hear you were accused of hype simply for relaying your enthusiasm so eloquently. But thank you for being willing to do so.

— Leslie Aldredge
Manager, DrugMoney
New York City

[Ed. Note: Steve Shanafelt responds:

“I’ve always been good at discovering these bands before anyone else does,” Aldredge told me during a brief phone conversation in December. And her words, I thought, elegantly summed up the kinds of conversations I had been having about DrugMoney ever since they started getting noticed outside of Asheville. Everyone seems to have a story about their “discovery” of the group, myself included, and Aldredge is no exception.

I see a mentality at work around DrugMoney that seems like the first stages of a hype machine being constructed — something that could both drive them to the national stage, or grind them down to bits. As a follower of the local music scene that DrugMoney came out of, this deeply concerns me. Will the pressure turn them into diamonds, or dust?

Are those, as Aldredge suggests, the only two options I see? Of course not. But they are the new parameters that have been set for a local band — something that would never have happened before the stakes were raised so high by DrugMoney’s potential success.

And even if, as Aldredge claims, she didn’t say the dreaded word “discovered” in reference to the band, she’s very much the person responsible for making DrugMoney’s presence known to the music industry, the national media and the public. Whether she would have it that way or not, she “discovered” band leader Fisher Meehan playing an opening gig at Vincent’s Ear in late 2002, and she briefly competed with another would-be manager who was at that same show. Too, she was instrumental in getting DrugMoney signed, and aided greatly in the orchestration of the media barrage that I suspect she’s very much hoping they’ll receive.

But do I doubt she loves the music? Of course not.]

Hard, Cold Mountain reality

How could they do this to Cold Mountain?!

I mean, really. A movie that is based on a novel that takes liberties with the source material. I’m shocked! A movie based on a novel that is shot in a location other than where the novel is set. An outrage!

Of course, I am experiencing a little dissonance here given that there was that movie of that James Fenimore Cooper novel that was set rather north of the Mason-Dixon line, but was shot in Western North Carolina — and if it actually was a story based on relations between European settlers and native peoples in this area, would have been called The Last of the Cherokees rather than The Last of the Mohicans.

It’s the movies, people!

— Bob Wilson
Asheville

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