Letters for September 13-19, 2007
Where Has All the
Norman seems to be doing a solo act: Damn fine work again ("Return to Sender," Bob Norman, August 30). Is Norman the last reporter in South Florida with the nose, tenacity, and taste for digging? Seems that way. I must admit, I dropped my Herald subscription several years back, so I might be missing something there. And these days, I pretty much just scan headlines and read the horoscopes in the Sun-Sentinel. Perhaps I'm painting with a broad brush when I wonder aloud what the hell happened to all the good, hard-nosed reporting that once was the trademark of South Florida journalism. There was a time when a reporter didn't even need to carry the title of investigative reporter... All the good reporters, and there were many, were by nature diggers, regardless of where the digging might lead. Norman seems pretty much alone in continuing that tradition and doing so consistently. Keep it up.
Via the Internet
No Good Deed Unpunished
How come nobody's writing about this? I wanted to thank you for writing about an issue that never gets any press here in South Florida ("Norm, Norm, and NORML," Tailpipe, August 30). I was associate director of the Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana (CAMM). We started a medical marijuana referendum in Florida in 1997, and I was on a board of eight people, including Norm Kent and two federal medical marijuana recipients.
I had been an activist for many years and am a founding member of the University of Miami's Hemp Awareness Council. With CAMM, I began a Florida referendum. It was an involved process, forming a PAC and making the referendum legally binding, which meant a haircut and lots of trips to Tallahassee.
Anyway, I was up to the task. One of the federal marijuana recipients (a longtime Hollywood resident who, by the way, receives 300 joints a month from the federal government — no misprint!) and I embarked on a 67-county tour. Five days a week, we were on every local news show, in every newspaper, etc. We would have a news conference in the county seat to announce our referendum. My fellow organizer would smoke a joint (a legal, federally supplied one) on the courthouse steps, and all hell would break loose. Keep in mind, we started in Pensacola and snaked our way through the Panhandle. We had a lot more supporters than not. The Miami Herald did a poll saying 67 percent of Florida voters would vote for a medical marijuana referendum.
This, of course, was in the pre-9/11 climate. Anyway, we made our way to Broward County, where CAMM's office was located. I ended up being beaten by five cops, who kicked me and smashed my head into the pavement, charging me with assault!? That was 2000, the year of the hanging chads. We saw firsthand the dastardly deeds at the polls. Anyway, I was on house arrest for a year.
Why will no paper mention medical marijuana or anything to do with the dying fucking patients I had to deal with?
Truth will out. Twelve states have since passed MM legislation. I am still on probation and working at a medical school.
Via the Internet
One Down, One to Go
Shaq, do we have a job for you! Last month, in a response to a piece by Tailpipe about the lowly prospects of local professional sports teams ("R.I.P. Jocks," July 5), I suggested that Shaquille O'Neal live out his fantasy and run for sheriff of Broward County, which would help the Miami Heat with cap room (about $20 million per year for an over-the-hill has-been) and would rid Broward of, in my opinion, one of the most unethical and corrupt politicians of all time, Sheriff Ken Jenne. So far, I'm half-right — Jenne copped a plea and probably will go to jail on corruption charges. Now, after Shaq's divorce, maybe the Heat can cut him or trade him. Then: Mission accomplished.
Fade to Black
After B.B., there's nobody: It's true that African-Americans have abandoned the blues for the most part ("Blacks and the Blues," Jonathan Cunningham, July 5). Jazz is in the same boat along with a bunch of music loosely categorized as R&B. (Not the modern version, which stole a name it has no business using. It has neither rhythm, except for that obnoxious and cloying hip-hop robot beat, nor blues.)
Still, if you head down to Clarksdale, Mississippi, or anywhere along the old chitlin circuit, you will find a rural base for what is called "soul blues." It's just what blues evolved into as whites went with guitar shredders like Johnny Winter and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Blacks of a certain age are still into singers! It's all about the voice and how the instruments interact.
When I look at the rich heritage of African-Americans, it makes me want to scream that they don't support the practitioners and innovators of jazz, blues, and classic R&B. It's the richest vein of music I know. It encompasses gospel, blues, funk, jazz, country, and soul. Soul itself is endless in its permutations. I hear the echoes of it in the late Charlie Rich's voice and piano. Whites can play it, but the giants are almost always African-American.
I have chatted with many blues men and women. Guys like Phillip Walker will tell you that little kids in Sweden know the matrix numbers of his early recordings while most Americans don't have the first idea who he is. Once the last mainstream blues man, B.B. King, dies, whatever chance the blues has to be passed on will go with him.
It's just about gone, and we are much the poorer for it. It could become like New Orleans jazz, which survives as a live music only in the karaoke of what became known as "Dixieland" music. The spark is gone; only the cliché is left behind to indicate the enormousness of Louis Armstrong's contribution.
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