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The Mojave’s Not A CULTURAL DESERT

I am writing in response to Arty Nelson’s review titled “Birth of a Notion: High Desert Test Sites realizes Andrea Zittel’s dream of an explorable, alternative art space” [May 23–29]. As a resident of Joshua Tree, one of the communities utilized in Zittel’s project, I am compelled to comment.

Reading Nelson’s review — beginning with the title of his article — one may get the impression that the High Desert Test Sites embody some new thinking about the relationship between the desert and art. But this is hardly the case. Just ask the several hundred working artists and musicians, many of them longtime residents, constantly engaged in an imaginative reshaping of self and environment that is unique to the Mojave Desert.

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I am a firm believer in the transformative power of both art and the desert. An artist myself, I came to participate in that alchemical process of light, heat, space, wind and human curiosity. I’m glad that Zittel and company have the means to introduce others to this magic. But let’s not fall into the tired colonial consciousness that asserts that “nothing was really there until we arrived to ‘discover’ it.” And let’s not add Joshua Tree to the already long list of fragile creative hot spots that were dumbed down and gentrified by an influx of weekend money from the supposedly sophisticated “big city.”

Chalk this up to sour grapes or parochialism, if you like, but I’ve been around long enough to witness the demise of communities giving birth to a juicy culture, and I love this place.

Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the high-desert art scene can begin their search with the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council at www.morongobasinarts.com. An open studio tour is scheduled for this fall.

—Catherine Svehla
Joshua Tree

REST EASY, EDDIE

I just read in your paper that Eddie Little died a couple of days ago. I’m not sure what to say. I only own about 10 books, but two of them are his! I’m just sorry he didn’t make it a little longer. I didn’t know him, don’t know if I would’ve liked him, but I know I’ll miss him! Rest easy, Eddie . . . rest easy.

—Markus Pacal
Venice

WHO’S NOT SUPPORTING WHOM?

Regarding Harold Meyerson’s column “Which Black L.A.?” [Powerlines, May 16–22], Mr. Meyerson shows a great lack of understanding in relation to black people. Black Americans are not “liberals”; they are a people concerned about these things in American society that adversely affect themselves and others because of the social history of America. Past coalitions were formed because of what the times demanded. The times are different now, and black Los Angelenos find themselves fighting for their daily bread in a city that appears less and less concerned about what happens with and to them — except at election time!

What ever happened to those members of the janitors’ union who were displaced by Latino immigrants? Were any of them or any other blacks invited to rejoin that union after 2000? Were black elected officials asked to help in the re-establishment of that union? Did Antonio Villaraigosa offer to assist blacks in L.A. in the desegregation of the food and beverage industry in this city, which is shockingly Caucasian and Latino? In every other major city in this country, this industry tends to employ people of all ethnicities. New York City and Atlanta stand out in this regard. Yet here in “ethnically diverse” L.A. it is not the case. Not to mention the large numbers of illegal immigrants openly living and working here while black Americans have the highest unemployment rates of any ethnic sector of Los Angeles.

Black Los Angelenos voted for Jim Hahn because his father did right by them and they hoped he would do the same. In the May 20 runoff election between Deron Williams and Martin Ludlow, the voters of that district cast their votes with this same mindset. Like everyone else in this city, they made their decision based on the needs of today. When looking at those black neighborhoods which were devastated in the riots following the Simi Valley verdict and seeing that they remain devastated all these years later, who is “not supporting” whom? Are L.A. liberals incapable of supporting more than one set of dark-skinned people at a time? Or is it like the janitors’ union: Black has been replaced by brown this season. Which color will be “in” for the next election season, red or yellow?

—Micah Penn
Los Angeles

P.S. Erin Aubry Kaplan’s article on the election was an excellent and insightful piece.

WHO IS THIS
BEN QUI-NONSENSE?

I have been an avid L.A. Weekly reader for over a decade; in fact, the first page I look for is Lalo’s cartoon. I have been reading your music section these past few weeks and found the writer(s) a bit biased and bitter, but after the article on Tha Row [“The Undeath of West Coast Flow,” May 9–15], I had to write to you. First, author Ben Quiñones must have been paid nicely by Suge Knight, ‰ because that’s the only way Tha Row can get any good press. I have heard Crooked Eye and he can’t freestyle for ISH!!! Don’t push crap on your readers. Hip-hop/rap is about what “integrity” the streets have for some of us. After all, it is entertainment. Now, if you don’t know, 50 Cent was dissed in your paper two weeks in a row. Who is Ben Qui-nonsense to rip on a) 50 Cent, who has recently gone platinum, who Ben refers to as “Loose Change”; b) the “white rapper,” as Ben refers to Eminem, who has become a leading force in hip-hop music; and c) Dr. Dre, who anything he touches goes at least platinum. Who is this Ben? Does he bring in readers like those guys rake in the dough?

—Frank Ordonez
Pasadena

WILDLY INACCURATE? AHEM . . .

Regarding Jennifer Hodges’ letter on my Considerable Town article [Letters, May 23–29]: Not only did I identify myself to the entire party as “Johnny Angel, an L.A. Weekly reporter covering this event,” I also re-introduced myself to Ms. Hodges after the Kerry phone call and asked her if she minded answering a few questions. I also asked her to write down her exact title, which is still in my notebook and appeared verbatim in the original copy.

And the quotes?

In her words, she said that KPFK deliberately acted as a gadfly “even when we’re wrong” because no one else would, and that their audience was (in her words) “aging hippies that don’t realize that politics has changed.”

Some “news anchor/writer” — anyone who doesn’t know that what they say will be reprinted by an identified reporter without the original vocal timbre or nuance knows nothing of the written word.

—Johnny Angel
Los Angeles

WINNING WORDS
(AND PICTURES)

Work by L.A. Weekly writers, designers and photographers is vying for honors in two contests — one local, the other national. This month the Los Angeles Press Club announced the finalists in its annual contest, among whom are several L.A. Weekly staff members and contributors. Max S. Gerber was nominated for Best Photo Essay for “The Scientists Among Us” (November 1, 2002); Howard Blume and Dennis Dockstader’s “Degrees of Deceit” (July 19, 2002) for Best Investigative/Series; Kateri Butler for Best Headline; Ella Taylor for Best Reviews and Criticism; and Erin Aubry Kaplan for Best Columnist. In addition, the “Go Food Summer Restaurant Guide” (July 19, 2002), edited by Deborah Vankin, was nominated for Best Special Section. Winners will be announced on June 21.

The L.A. Weekly is also up for three awards in the annual Association for Alternative Newspapers contest. John Powers was nominated for Best Arts Criticism; Bill Smith for Best Cover Design; and, again, Max S. Gerber for Best Photo Essay. Winners will be announced at the AAN convention in early June.

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