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RIGHT MATTERS, WRONG DATA

Johannesburg matters to be sure, but Dean Kuipers, in “Why Johannesburg Matters” [August 23–29], blows it trying to explain why. He gets the big reason wrong, focusing entirely on the specific conflict between the WTO and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) — an item not even on the agenda at Johannesburg. The real reason Johannesburg is important is the across-the-board attempt there by the business community and free-market ideologues to hijack the concept of ecologically sustainable development in all U.N. and international programs. Kuipers also does readers a disservice by dishing up numerous factual errors. Bush Sr. did not send only “minor representatives” to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992; he attended himself. The Kyoto Protocol on Climate and the Montreal Protocol on Ozone were not initiated at Rio. The Framework Convention on Climate Change was, and the U.S. signed it. It is false that there is an “absence of a meaningful world court.” It is called the International Court of Justice and is prepared to handle environmental claims between nations. It is false that “there has been no way to resolve” the conflicts between the WTO and MEAs. They will be resolved by politics and international law, as are other disputes. Smart-ass, hipster journalists like Kuipers can give some good bite to these disputes, but only if they get their facts right.

—Robert Benson
Professor of International
Environmental Law,
Loyola Law School
Los Angeles

 

MANCUNIANS AND MYTHMAKERS

I was floored to see the blurred, larger-than-life photo of Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis on the cover of your issue in homage to the deceased band and their irreverent mentor Tony Wilson [cover stories, August 16–22]. Twenty years ago, a friend and I huddled in amazement over a mythical shot of the troubled singer, his face glowing amidst impenetrable darkness. To see the Weekly dedicate a cover to this relatively obscure rock prophet some 20 years subsequent to his untimely death is touching at the least. I’d like to offer just a few corrections to the accompanying articles.

First, in John Payne’s personal essay “New Dawn Fades,” Payne is correct in noting the tremendous maturity the band displayed on its second LP, Closer, one of the truly amazing and beautiful rock collections of that or any other decade. However, “These Days” was not the album’s final song, as Payne states; rather, it was “Decades,” a moving tribute to lost Manchester youth punctuated by the sad refrain “Here are the young men/well where have they been” and whose lush synths spring from the jarring syncopation of the preceding number, “The Eternal.” “These Days” was the B-side to the 7-inch single “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which was released on the same day as Closer, posthumous to Ian’s suicide.

Second, in Ron Stringer’s introduction to Brendan Mullen’s interview of Factory records chief Tony Wilson, he states that the “remnants of Joy Division would re-form as New Order Ceremony.” The surviving members of Joy Division became simply New Order, bringing along with them drummer Stephen Morris’ girlfriend, Gillian Gilbert. “Ceremony” was the new band’s first single, a pensively optimistic, musically stirring number accompanied on the B-side by the haunting, tensely atmospheric “In a Lonely Place.” Both of these songs were written by Joy Division and resoundingly show that Curtis’ stark, poetic brilliance was far from being exhausted.

—John Tyler
Highland Park

I enjoyed Brendan Bernhard’s review of 24 Hour Party People, in which he discusses Tony Wilson’s fabled career, except for one comment he makes at the end. He writes, “The famous contract he signed with his bands, written in his own blood and granting them total artistic freedom (he never owned the rights to their music), was at once an act of genius and of jaw-dropping folly.”

What folly? The fact that Wilson ensured that Joy Division and these other bands are known to this day, that he is still living what is apparently a great life and is now being celebrated in this major film, seems to me to indicate otherwise. As an artist who hopes to get my work ensconced in this culture in some way that doesn’t demand I forfeit my rights to it or twist my personality beyond recognition, I want to ask Bernhard:
Isn’t the fact that most producers don’t sign such contracts part of the acquisitiveness that is so terribly wrong with our culture? Yes, we’re in a very conservative period in history. But for Christ’s sake, lad, don’t make it worse.

—Nate Scoble
Los Angeles

FAT ELVIS, HANDSOME ELVIS, ONE KING

In John Powers’ “Devil’s Bargains” [August 23–29], he states, “All these years later, I’m still not sure what it says about our national psyche that we voted to put the drug-
addled Fat Elvis on our stamp rather than the young, handsome, charismatic Thin Elvis who anyone in their right mind would rather be.” Huh? I remember buying stamps with the handsome young Elvis. A lot of people do — they were one of the biggest-selling stamps in U.S. history. And I read online that “Fans voted 851,200 to 277,723 for a 1950s-era Elvis, over an older 1970s Elvis” (Source: AP/ Reuters, June 4, 1992). Thus, I think the article serves better to illuminate the author’s psyche than its easy-target subject matter.

—Colombene
Los Angeles

 

PALATIAL

Re: “The Decadence of Decay” [A Considerable Town, August 23–29].

Matthew Duersten writes that he “can’t see what the preservationists see” in the downtown Palace Theater, the oldest vaudeville theater/movie palace in Los Angeles. But like so many others, he seems to be lacking the vision it takes to see what could be made of them while also preserving what little history we have here. I find the column to be especially disheartening when thinking that if more people are now thinking like Duersten, we might not have places like the Wiltern Theater, the Egyptian, the Orpheum or the El Capitan brought back to their glory and renewed use. It’s about more than just looking at layers of old paint in a building, but sometimes you just have to show people what once was in order to get them to see what can be again.

—Marsha Stevenson
Culver City

 

REGISTER, PLEASE

I refer to Alan Rich’s review of singer Thomas Quasthoff’s performance at the Hollywood Bowl [“The Sound of Silence,” August 23–29]. Unlike Pavarotti, Domingo, Fleming, et al., Quasthoff is not a quickly recognizable name — at least not to this reader. Nowhere in his review does Rich tell the ignorant reader into which voice category Quasthoff falls. From the review, I couldn’t tell if he was a basso profundo or the last of the red-hot castrati. One would have to deduce from the repertoire he sang what he is.

At least Rich did mention that Lilli Paasikivi is a mezzo-soprano. Please, Alan, less space to retreaders such as Luciano Berio, and more for the subject of the review.

—Angelo S. Laiacona
Los Angeles

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