A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT
All of us at Friends of the Los Angeles River salute Steve Chapple for his bravery in accomplishing the first recorded descent of the wild Los Angeles ["Taming the Wild Trickle," March 511] with the help of his intrepid tour guide, gray-water veteran (and FoLAR board member) Denis Schure; and we want to thank the Weekly for sponsoring this epochal adventure. However, we thought it was important to clear up a pair of inaccurate impressions.
Chapple implies that our organization is somehow naive or uninformed about water-quality problems in the Los Angeles River sys-
tem, when nothing could be further from the truth. In addition to our annual Gran Limpieza, the great Los Angeles River cleanup that removes 25 to 30 tons of garbage from the river (this year's, our 10th, will be held on Thursday and Saturday, April 22 and 24), FoLAR is about to launch Riverkeepers, a volunteer-based project that will establish a water-quality monitoring program along every mile of the Los Angeles River.
Perhaps because Chapple spent his three days on and in the Los Angeles River, he missed many of the greenway improvements that have already made the banks of the river, at least where it flows through northeast L.A., a far more pleasant place than it has been since the river was channelized by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. NorthEast Trees has planted at least 8,000 sycamores, oaks, willows and other native trees along the banks and, with the help of the Trust for Public Land, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and Los Angeles County, built better than half a dozen neighborhood pocket parks. The city of Los Angeles has nearly completed the first five miles of a riverside commuter bikeway that will one day stretch from the San Gabriel Mountains to San Pedro Bay. On Earth Day, FoLAR will dedicate the Heron Gate at Fletcher Drive. Designed by sculptor Brett Goldstone, this monumental wrought-steel entrance to the river greenway is only the first to replace the rusting chainlink fences that for decades have warned people away from the river instead of welcoming them.
The era when the Los Angeles River was a no man's land is over, but it's still the city's best-kept secret.
Friends of the Los Angeles River
Love that L.A. River story! It has the sweet taste of adventure -- which is what, in my family, we call "an inconvenience rightly perceived" -- and hostile locals even, like Deliverance!
--Earle W. Cummings
Elk Grove, California
FORGIVE? FORGET IT!
Re: "The Unforgiving" [March 511]. Abraham Polonsky's anger at Elia Kazan as "a creep who snitched on his friends" is staggeringly hypocritical. Mr. Polonsky was a supporter (by his own admission) of Mao and Stalin, and was therefore in league with two totalitarian societies that punished the most minor ideological dissent with horrendous cruelties. Both demanded that children "snitch" on parents, husbands on wives, co-workers and friends and acquaintances on each other, the end result being a lifetime lost to torture, slavery and starvation in a gulag or laogai, or a bullet in the back of the head in the Lubyanka Prison. If Mr. Polonsky had been fortunate enough to have seen his ideological mentors win the Cold War, would he have hesitated to "snitch" on Mr. Kazan and other "enemies of the state" before Stalin's NKVD or Mao's Red Guard?
Fuck you, Polonsky, and the horse you rode in on! Elia Kazan is a patriot who believed that he was taking a stand in defense of his country. With the passage of time, things get hazy, and to the misinformed, you Communists start to take on a warm, cuddly image: poor, misunderstood ideologues, huddled over coffee, engaged in polemical discussion. Forgotten is the fact that the Communist Party advocated and worked to effect the violent overthrow of our government. Of course, it was no more successful in this than it was in holding on to its Soviet Socialist Republic. But as an avowed Communist and supporter of Mao and Stalin, you shouldn't have been blacklisted -- you should have been jailed and deported.
In a salute to the Industry on the occasion of its annual orgy of vapid self-congratulations, I call for a moment of repose in which all who lay claim to rationality may contemplate the clearest utterance I have encountered regarding its darkest days. The list of survivors of the blacklist grows smaller. In their honor, I quote James Agee, from the pages of The Nation, â December 27, 1947:
For the nothing that it is worth, I cannot imagine how any self-respecting man could, under such circumstances, hold Congress otherwise than in contempt; such contempt naturally extends to include those who, with such eager and prissy abjectness, hastened to disown these men -- thereby reducing the hopes of every honest man in Hollywood from a desperately achieved two percent to sub-zero.
This description fits Kazan like a glove and flawlessly characterizes the nature of his dishonorable act. This is no time for sentimentality, but rather for a hard-eyed stare into that history of which Kazan is emblematic. Of course the man deserves his award. His films have enriched my life and millions of others. But of what should the statuette be made, so that it can survive the fires of hell, where I can only hope the bastard is headed?
--Stuart M. Chandler
THE CHIRRING STRINGS, THE STABBING CHEST PAINS
Alan Rich's review "Change of Heart, Loss of Heart" [March 511] gives an accurate portrayal of Hillary Hahn's exceptional rendition of that tired warhorse the Brahms Violin Concerto, but, through no fault of the conductor (since he was a last-minute replacement), Shostakovich's 15th Symphony was butchered beyond recognition. Perhaps if Mr. Rich were more familiar with the piece he would have noticed the mountain of mistakes, missed entrances, timid playing -- not to mention the hack, smarmy, "Brahmsian" interpretations of this caustic, nervous Russian masterpiece. The L.A. Phil played like frightened schoolchildren sight-reading after just learning how to hold their instruments. Maybe that's why people were leaving. My heart was reborn thanks to the Brahms. And then the Shostakovich gave me a heart attack.
I am 8 years old. I had my family read F.X. Feeney's review of Baby Geniuses [New Releases, March 1218] to me. What I don't think he understands is this movie is not meant to make him laugh, it is meant to make kids laugh. I don't care which actor looks good or bad, and I don't care about the director. All I care about is having fun at the movies. I went with three other boys my age, and we all liked it! A lot! Maybe F.X. Feeney is just too old to understand.
A suggestion: Send a kid to review a kids' movie.
--Sam Eaton and his friends
Otis, Axel and Oliver
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