Maybe Nikki Tesfai’s heart is in the right place. Maybe she does just have bad business sense, as Jeffrey Anderson indicates in “Is the Saint of South L.A. for Real?” [May 21–27]. But why is it difficult for her to pay people what she owes them and then, when haggling with them for what is rightfully theirs, give them a fraction of it while there is still “plenty” in her bank account? And why does it not seem to matter to her defenders that she got degrees from schools that do not exist? Here’s a tip for you, Nikki: If you sell your Mercedes-Benz, you can probably pay back at least one of the people you owe. Or can you not part with the luxury of your free American lifestyle?

—Meredith Meyer
Los Angeles


John Powers’ article on Michael Moore [“Please, Sir, I Want Some Moore,” May 28–June 3] opines that Moore rehashes known facts and fails to cover new ground. The fact that a good percentage of Americans still support Bush indicates that millions of them are either unaware of what Bush has done or are in denial. Moore’s movie will be news to them, and hopefully the Bush poll numbers will fall drastically. Not everyone knows what John Powers knows, especially in America, land of censored and corporate-controlled news.

—Kevin Crowley
Gig Harbor, Washington


Michael Moore might not be the best documentarian of all time. Michael Moore might not be the persona he presents in his movies. Michael Moore might even be a bit of a hypocrite. But what makes Michael Moore an invaluable filmmaker and author is his courage in pointing out the wrongs that are only whispered about in fringe publications with relatively small readerships. There is no other figure in American media these days who fearlessly steps up to the podium and — even when it may not be a socially acceptable moment — states: “This is wrong! You are being lied to!”

Whether or not people agree with Moore’s politics and opinions, his statements cause topics to get discussed. They get people worked up. And some of those people may actually get off of their behinds and do something about what is making them angry.

So, rather than take potshots at Moore for his attempts to make some money (hasn’t he worked for it?), Powers and other film critics should applaud him for his willingness to be such a large target. By the way, it’s Michael Moore’s films that have led to the recent renaissance in documentary filmmaking — just one more reason not to slag him off.

—L. Alper
Denver, Colorado


It is with a good deal of curiosity that I pen this retort to John Powers’ “Please, Sir, I Want Some Moore.” Despite Powers’ otherwise incisive critical acumen, he seems blissfully unaware of a number of facts in his haste to please unmentioned conservative taskmasters. It’s disingenuous to assert that Moore was holding out for a better deal, and that this might somehow trump Eisner’s refusal to honor a pre-existing contract, in fealty to the Bush dynasty. Insinuating that Moore abuses labor is equally cowardly, especially when the allegation isn’t backed by its intimated proofs. Furthermore, to actually suggest that Cannes should become ever more Hollywood is fairly incredible: It should, he’s saying, be increasingly more servile to the needs of film’s grotesquely rampant American capitalisms than art, in sync with all the Hollywood mummeries (Oscars, Grammys, etc.).

Powers also expresses mild astonishment at Tarantino’s self-selling habitude. He needn’t. Those of us who knew “Trant” when he was head elf down here at Manhattan Beach’s now long-defunct Video Archives (which he bought out the very nanosecond he hit the big time), have long understood just what would occur when La Quentin enrooted up north. But Powers is right in at least one respect — Tarantino indeed has wretched fancies. Perhaps someone should warn him about the consequences of serving 300 masters.

—Marc S. Tucker
Manhattan Beach


John Powers replies: Michael Moore's defenders fall into Bush Culture's bad habit of seeing everything in black and white. For the record, I praised Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 (while suggesting that his campaign for the film indulged silly European fantasies that he's beleaguered in America) and did not remotely suggest that Cannes ought to be “more servile” to Hollywood capitalism.


Erin Aubry Kaplan’s account of her experience with school desegregation [“Freedom Rider,” May 21–27] serves as a valuable rebuttal to “stereotype threat,” the latest explanation of black achievement in school. The awareness that one’s performance can fulfill a negative view about one’s group affects achievement adversely, especially when it involves intellectual ability.

At least that’s what researchers are finding in their investigation of the persistent black achievement gap.

Although nearly 100 peer-reviewed articles demonstrate the devastating consequences that stereotype threat causes, Kaplan’s record at all the schools she attended — particularly at largely white Loyola — proves that the phenomenon is not as predictive as researchers conclude. It may be that she was inoculated because of her family’s strong emphasis on the importance of education and the legacy that her older siblings provided. It would be interesting to hear more from her on this subject. What she relates will, of course, be labeled anecdotal evidence, but it is nonetheless compelling.

—Walt Gardner
Los Angeles

Walt Gardner taught for 28 years in the LAUSD.


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