"Mardi Gras Inc. has turned our groovy, happy neighborhood event into a bloated, neutered, corporate-sponsored gross-out."

Week of January 4, 2006

Feature, December 21, 2006

Mardi Gross Let's call the whole thing off: Thank you for Chad Garrison's astute portrayal of Mardi Gras Inc. in the article "Party Nazis." I'm still not sure how this nonprofit organization got to its present place, but I do know that more and more people in Soulard are wishing they would leave. And it's worthwhile to note that many of the disgruntled business owners, like many of the area's residents, are afraid to speak out against this poodle dog of the liquor industry.

Please tell the excise commissioner that he's wrong to compare Soulard's Mardi Gras to Fair St. Louis and the Big Muddy Festival. Neither of those events take place in neighborhoods where people live and small businesses operate the whole year long. Furthermore, those festivals exist to celebrate music and culture; they offer a little something beyond institutionalized binge drinking. Better perhaps to look at St. Patrick's Day in Dogtown (note the larger, alternative event simultaneously held downtown) or Hill Day (where, once the annual festival started "getting out of hand," the neighborhood decided to begin under-promoting it). And tell the president of the Soulard Business Association that while his prostitution analogy is perhaps a bit more apt, most of us in Soulard are really not interested in that line of work, thank you very much. And believe me, if we were, we'd be expecting a whole lot more than the paltry contributions that Mardi Gras Inc. has made to Soulard. It's unbelievable (fascist, as the RFT would suggest) that here in Soulard, neighborhood bars are supposed to dress according to the dictates of Anheuser-Busch, Captain Morgan, Southern Comfort or the mega-corporate liquor sponsor of the year. Mardi Gras Inc. has turned our groovy, happy neighborhood event into a bloated, neutered, corporate-sponsored gross-out. I wish that they and all their guests would hold this year's event downtown, or in a cow field, or anywhere besides my neighborhood. Then maybe those of us left behind could get back to having a community party. We haven't forgotten what Mardi Gras in Soulard was like before the corporatocracy took over. We remember when lots of children came to visit the neighborhood and watch the parade, and our friends would come down and together we'd walk to a local bar to hear some blues or bayou music, and the bartenders were free to mix our drinks however we liked.
Kate Berger, St. Louis

Rotations, December 21, 2006

Proud Mary Reflect upon this: I am a 31-year-old black woman who has followed Mary J. Blige's career since inception. I have loved, respected, revered and honored Ms. Blige for the last thirteen-plus years of my life. I never miss a Mary show, and I have bought (and will continue to buy) every album that she has ever released, including Reflections. I feel that this album was not only necessary, but an answer to my prayers. What Dan LeRoy got twisted in his article is the fact that we as Mary fans follow her not because of her struggle, but because of her willingness to share her experiences with us. She remains poised as well as lady-like in everything that she does. Maybe if she got "butt-ass" naked on stage and in her videos, critics like yourself would swoon over her. Well, sorry, I am confident that Mary will remain the "realest" chick in the game, greatest hits album (in your opinion) or not.
Kenesha Houston, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Feature, December 7, 2006 Highway to Hills Not everyone says "sprinkle cheese": I just wanted to weigh in a bit about Ben Westhoff's article "Hillbilly Noir," Daniel Woodrell and, by association, West Plains, Missouri. Having been raised in suburban Los Angeles until the age of fifteen and then crassly uprooted to Mountain View, Missouri (an even smaller town roughly 25 miles north of West Plains), I understand the area, its appearance and its contradictions. I think your article, as well as the Woodrell novel Tomato Red (the only piece of his body of work I've read thus far), tend to over exaggerate the very real meth-addled hillbilly archetype and the backwoods cultural landscape of the place.

Sure, some of the people in the Ozarks say things like "sprinkle cheese," but I lived there for eight years and I never once heard a person mention someone's "front name" (though I often heard "front room" for living room). I realize both novelists and journalists need angles for their various stories, but I read Westhoff's (quite interesting) article, just as I did Woodrell's book, with "bullshit" on my mind. This isn't to say that they were not good pieces of writing. I enjoyed them both; I simply feel that both works take an extremely myopic view of an area and a people in order to "blow the minds" of those who like to see themselves as somehow cultured, clean and educated. The biggest waving of the bullshit flag came when Woodrell suggested that he needed to deny the fact that he went to college. I graduated from college and am about to receive a master's degree and, while many in the Ozarks view my years working toward this goal as somehow wasted, no one is shocked, amazed or alienated by me because of them. There is no social stigma around gaining a degree at the age of 27 and then dropping out of graduate school. While this may not be common in the Ozarks, it certainly falls within the range of normal. West Plains is home to many schoolteachers, lawyers, doctors and professionals of all sorts. The margins of the New Yorker are dominated by writers who are just as simple-minded and one-dimensional as a Texaco clerk in West Plains. They simply subscribe to a different set of values. That said, I never thought I would defend the Ozarks. It's a pretty insane place to spend your teenage years.
Danny O'Malley, St. Louis

Keep It Down!, November 30, 2006

A Real Dick Just nuke it: Malcolm Gay should nuke the spotted dick in the microwave. It melts the sugar, the currants get all plump and juicy, and you put a little ice cream on top. Now tell me that's not some great dick!
Mark Stone, New York, New York
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