Talkin' Trash
Regarding Patricia Calhoun's "The Art of the Deal," in the July 12 issue:
Patricia Calhoun has a lot of nerve to even talk about anyone else's artistic taste. Her paper looks like trash, reads like trash, and is trash.

Josie Paul

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Ms. Calhoun, for your latest column. Anyone who loves the arts should pay close attention to what happens with this tier 3 funding. Given how quickly Denver City Council rolled over for the developers who want to tear down the Zeckendorf Plaza paraboloid, our arts money will not be in good hands.

K.C. Garcia

The Plains Truth
Regarding Eric Dexheimer's "High Plains Grifters," in the July 5 issue:
The article on the Colorado Farms ranch was of special interest to me because of its location. For years I traveled those lonely highways at least twice a month, sometimes by way of Colorado Springs and other times up to Limon and then down Highway 71 to Otero County, my destination. As I think back now, I remember always seeing those beautiful ranch homes out in the middle of nowhere and the $50,000 tractors and other expensive equipment just sitting idle in the middle of what seemed like fields of dry weeds.

Regardless of who was traveling with me at the time, the conversation was always the same: How in the heck do these guys out in the middle of dry grassland and dust-covered fields manage to lead this kind of lifestyle, which by all indications seemed to be a very comfortable one? Little did we know that corruption is not only going on in the big city, but now has moved out to the prairies under the guise of subsidies to ranchers. This billion-dollar subsidy to farmers is a ripoff of every taxpaying citizen of this country, especially when those benefiting are investors from other states who, according to Dexheimer's article, know nothing about farming but plenty about taking advantage of government programs. There's a title for this kind of program in which people get paid by the government for doing nothing, and it's not "subsidies." It's called welfare--in this case, welfare for the rich.

I'm wondering what the Republican-controlled House will do about this kind of abuse, since the Democrats didn't seem to notice it. Of course, since they are getting ready to cut benefits to the poor and Medicare, I guess they'll have more money to throw at wealthy farmers for doing nothing.

Alfonso Lucero

Critical Mass
The notion that contemporary popular music can exist independently of a capitalist market is a resilient one. Evidence of its resiliency can be found week after week in Michael Roberts's Backbeat section, where he's recently castigated local radio, current REM fans, KTCL's "Big Adventure" attendees and, last week, the latest incarnation of Lollapalooza ("Stick a Fork in It," June 12). In his view, all these pop-music events and industries are guilty of committing a cardinal sin in hippie ideology--the sellout. Those damn suits have killed the music again, man!

It's a familiar story--the music exists "back then" as a pure, unmediated expression of human emotion. Then, as the market grabs hold of it, its vitality is so exploited and drained that it becomes palatable only to "them"--those stupid "suckers separated from their wallets." It'd be an engaging argument if it hasn't been offered in one guise or another from Adorno and Horkheimer onward. From these folkist premises, the critical game becomes simply to identify the moment at which the market corrupts, with the critic's smug assurance that it always will.

What's even more striking than Roberts's tiresome "sellout" charges against musicians and "their art" is the contempt he shows for the audience for popular music. Again and again, the audience is massified and externalized--"5000 bodies" becoming a dim-witted, passive, undifferentiated "them"--incapable of independent thought and appreciation, unlike Roberts's "us." Interestingly, these are the same sort of audience descriptions that feminist media critics have exposed as subtly putting forth a masculine "active" media that overpowers and pacifies a feminized audience. For a progressive publication such as Westword, the cultural politics of such critical moves are shopworn at best and frankly regressive.

Instead of directing energies into an outdated critical project, let's start from the assumption that popular music is popular because of its deployment within culture and the market, not despite its presumed marketplace corruption. Once we take as a given that pop music is from its outset implicated in the market (as we all are), we can then start to question how meaning gets made in myriad dynamic, conflicted ways. We can't "sell out"--solely because we've all bought in through both our socialization and our consent. We're all lost in the supermarket; given that, it seems more productive to interrogate the ways active, differentiated groups of people cohere as audiences rather than playing pop-cultural status games over who saw R.E.M. at what moment in their rise in media coverage. Finally, only the scholars and canon-keepers care how Elvis did it in '57 or the Clash in '77. When you're eighteen, it only matters who's doing it now.

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