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A Family Valued

At this time I write to you to congratulate Celeste Fremon and your publication for having what it takes to tell a story the way it was. I myself just thought this story [the Weekly’s seven-part "American Family" series, which concluded in the December 31, 2004—January 6, 2005, issue] would portray the Aguilar family like every other family struggling to get their lives together after gang life and one member being in prison. The beautiful thing is how you see this woman struggling to make sure her family learns from her mistakes. She gives her all not only for her kids but her husband. A lot of women would have given up on their man in this situation. What surprises me is that rogue cops of this LAPD precinct are still working and are protected by their shield to lie. I believe when officers take their oath, part of that is to protect and serve. My prayers go out to the Aguilar family. I thank the Weekly and Celeste Fremon for telling it like it is — a fantastic body of work. And to the Aguilar family, as long as you continue to do right by your family, you will always be ahead, y que dios los bendiga.

—Richard X. BernalCamarillo

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No — Thank You

Good job on Steve Mikulan’s reporting on the Robert Blake trial. I look forward to future installments.

Thank you to all the dedicated and talented people who put together the paper every week. In a world that seems to want to feed us a government-approved version of our news, L.A. Weekly is a vital and important part of living in Los Angeles.

—Valerie FarnumSherman Oaks

The Kesey Charisma

I read with interest and nostalgia Michael Hoinski’s "The Day-Glo Effect" [December 31, 2004–January 6, 2005]. I first met Ken Kesey in 1965, at the home of a fabulous modern-dance teacher, Chloe Scott, whose classes featured live electronic music by Lou Harrison and whose students included not only Kesey and his group, but Stewart Brand, who had begun to work on the first Whole Earth Catalogue; Jerry Garcia and members of the Grateful Dead; the poet, writer and essayist Wendell Berry; and Dick Alpert — long before he evolved into Baba Ram Das. I was a young, newly married and transported writer/photographer from New York City; I had no understanding of anything drug-related, but I knew that these people possessed wonderful energy. Indeed, Kesey was incredibly charismatic, and like so many others, I fell under his spell. I subsequently made trips to his farm in Springfield, Oregon, where my consciousness expanded and I also managed to teach Kesey, Babbs, Hassler and the others something about what it meant to be Jewish. The "country bumpkin" aspect of the early Kesey remained a core part of his charm — he had not known anything about Judaism before I attempted to give him a crash course. He would refer to me (warmly) as "Bruce, the Jew," and we actually had lengthy discussions on the Old vs. the New Testament. The details of our encounters remain part of my "book," but I am always happy to read tales of his magic, and in this case to learn that Zane, whom I knew when he was in utero, has taken on the task of preserving the legacy.

—Ruth Kramer ZionyLos Feliz

Nobody Likes Being Stereotyped

James Adomian’s diatribe against things Turkish [Letters, January 14–20] and any public figures who say anything nice about or to Turkey (such as Oliver Stone’s apology for Midnight Express or Paul Krassner’s article about the apology) is most annoying, if understandable, since Adomian is an Armenian surname. I have at least one Jewish friend who thinks the Germans are evil, so I "get" that instinct to demonize a historic enemy oppressor. (Adomian’s reference to Turkey as "the devil" surely qualifies as demonization.) Part of the reason my Jewish friend is able to viscerally hate all Germans is because his experience of Germany and its history is so narrow — it runs from Kristallnacht to Auschwitz. Period.

In that context, the effect of Stone’s film (and the appreciation for his apology) should not be underestimated. It often seemed to me in my college days that most Americans knew only two things about Turkey: the Armenian genocide and Midnight Express. The former was, of course, a vital fact. The latter was an effective hyperbolic film that, without any other sense of Turkish people or society, inadvertently functioned as a devastating piece of agitprop. (And, apparently, the portrayal wasn’t even quite true — the judges were moved almost to tears by the sentence, but their hands were tied by the law. Sympathy and the rule of law. Imagine that.)

Imagine if the only thing the rest of the world ever thought of when they thought of America was the Native American ethnic cleansings/genocide, and that the only current snapshot of America was Jeffrey Dahmer (the famous cannibal), and you see how this distorts the image: "Americans eat people, you know. They stick ’em in the freezer and cook ’em up for dinner. Unredeemable barbarians." If Americans had to explain that we prefer beef every time we met a foreigner because of Oliver Stone, we might appreciate an apology, too. Nobody likes being stereotyped.

—Michael MartinsonLos Angeles

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