Letters to the Editor: Jan. 20, 2016 

Yada yada

I was delighted to read Jack Fowler’s “Yada, yada” in Oklahoma Gazette (Visual Arts; Dec. 30, 2015) featuring Brass Bell Studios’ exhibit An Art Show About Nothing.

As a native New Yorker, fan of the show and Jewish studies professor, “The Yada Yada” holds a special place in the Seinfeld canon. The major sub-theme of this episode features Jerry’s rising obsession with Whatly’s conversion to Judaism and comedy.

Played to perfection by Bryan Cranston, who became TV’s most notorious chemistry teacher/drug lord in Breaking Bad, Cranston reels off Jewish jokes and peppers his speech with Yiddishisms. Jerry takes offense, not as a Jew, but as a comedian. But Jerry’s attempt to “out” Whatly as a fraud comes to naught.

The priest, to whom Jerry awkwardly “confesses,” thinks Whatly’s jokes are funny, while Jerry’s friends think he’s become an “Anti-Dentite.” Jerry’s comeuppance takes place in the final scene when actress Debra Messing agrees that they should get rid of all the dentists — and the gays and the Jews!

Beyond being “a show about nothing,” another oddity of Seinfeld’s success was that a show overtly featuring New York ethnic types (Jewish and Italian, especially) seemed equally funny to people in Oklahoma City as Manhattan. Of course, the local and ethnic elements were usually assumed, not developed.

“The Yada Yada” episode differs: Jerry’s own Jewishness becomes the pivot in the gag. Among the targets of ridicule (ethnic tribalism, misunderstood religious belonging, dentistry), the most central is anti-Semitism. To take a topic as pleasant as root canal and lampoon it hilariously offers clear proof of Seinfeld’s comic genius.

— Alan Levenson, Schusterman/Josey Chairman of Jewish History, Director, Schusterman Center for Judaic and Israel Studies, University of Oklahoma Norman

'Roid rage

Something has happened to the media in this country. The big corporate media practices what we called, when I was in a journalism class at OU, “advocacy journalism.”

It has devolved to become advocacy journalism on steroids.

The favored political candidate or cause is featured not only on the editorial page, but in “news” stories. The favored candidate or cause is covered fawningly on the front page or other pages above the fold. Mistakes by the anointed darlings are glossed over or left out of their coverage.

Disfavored candidates, who are not malleable members of the ruling class and the pick of wealthy donors, are not covered. Their important announcements or policy positions are hidden (maybe on the next-to-last page of the classified ads) or ignored.

You can figure out who to consider voting for by paying attention to who the corporate media does not feature or fairly cover. This is a major reason that many large daily newspapers are found today only in the dustbins of history.

The more big corporate media outlets skew and bias their coverage, the more people cancel their subscriptions and advertising.

It hastens the day that we will study these publications in history books, instead of reading them after we pick them up on our driveways in the morning.

— Tom Guild Edmond

Missing treasure

The discussion of the state’s “budget shortfall” of $900 million for the coming fiscal year has been most interesting.

I was reminded of a presentation I recently heard from state treasurer Ken Miller. His charts indicated gross receipts of nearly $12 billion for the 12-month period that ended in August. In another chart, he showed legislative appropriations of approximately $7 billion and he commented on a shortfall at that time of more than $600 million.

How does income of $12 billion, less appropriations of $7 billion, equal a shortfall of $600 million? When someone raised that question, Miller gave a muddled answer that it had something to do with sales taxes being returned to the cities. Huh?

Attempts to get this question answered by the state treasurer’s office or members of the Legislature have resulted either in no answer or words to the effect of, “It’s way too complicated for you to understand, since there is a lot of money that is received and appropriated outside the budget process.”

In other words, an unknown (to the taxpayers) amount of income, less an unknown amount of spending equals a shortfall of $900 million.

— Ethan Thomas Edmond

Corrections, clarifications

>> A Jan. 13 story about the LGBT ordinance (News, Metro, “Housing hurdle,” Laura Eastes, Oklahoma Gazette) incorrectly spelled Amanda McLain-Snipes’ last name.

>> In the Jan. 13 issue, in the table of contents, we incorrectly attributed panhandling trends to Dan Straughan, Homeless Alliance executive director. Rev. Tom Jones, president of City Rescue Mission, told the Gazette about “professional” beggars, or people who travel coast-to-coast and stop here to benefit from generous residents. Jones estimated about 90 percent of local panhandlers are not from Oklahoma.

We apologize for the errors.

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Alan Levenson

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