Give Me a Higher Love
I just read Scott Foundas’ review of The Fountain [“Love’s Labors,” Nov. 24–30], and I was grateful I had seen the movie first. I was reminded that sometimes a critic dislikes a movie because he just didn’t get it. I know Foundas thinks there was nothing to get, but I dare to differ.
Movies about spirituality are not for everyone. This film takes on that which can only be alluded to, and risks being misunderstood; however, I’m grateful that director Darren Aronofsky was willing to take that risk and create something that, though flawed, has profound things to say. The movie, to be appreciated, must be met with patience and openness and probably some familiarity with an inner life. Those three criteria alone will render this movie a box-office flop. Too bad Foundas couldn’t see past the surface to something deeper. The movie is an easy target for cynicism, but that is to dismiss it without real consideration.
Yes, it is superficially a love story (and not a very good one), but it does not end with the couple holding hands and walking into the sunset. Rather, the movie suggests a possibility in which one can recognize the ultimate ecstatic unity of all energy, and that illness, death and apparent misfortune can be a catalyst through which we can glimpse that unity in this life. The film, steeped in metaphor and symbolism, is sometimes cumbersome and comes across as a bit silly at times, but it is life-affirming and positive, as well as being a model for a spirituality that is inclusive and uplifting. I applaud Aronofsky for tackling this most important topic.
A Scene Unseen
Once again, one of L.A.’s weekly alternative newspapers does a piece on L.A.’s “underground” music scene [L.A. Music ’06 issue, Dec. 8–14]. And once again, L.A.’s ska scene is passed over.
How much bigger does a ska scene have to get in order to receive some recognition? Last month, the Toasters’ front man, Bucket Hingley, rented out the entire Knitting Factory to bring his “3 Floors of Ska” showcase to L.A., and more than 500 fans showed up. The next night, more than 700 ska fans crowded the El Rey Theatre to see the Skatalites.
And soon, two more ska shows will pack local venues. For the uninitiated: Check out Hepcat at House of Blues on December 30. For the more adventurous: Be sure to catch the Bluebeat Lounge fourth-anniversary bash at the Knitting Factory on January 6, featuring the L.A. Allstar Revue, Chris Murray Combo and more.
But don’t drag your feet. Both shows will very likely sell out.
Level the Learning Field
Regarding “The Secret of His Success” [the Dec. 8–14 article about Green Dot Public Schools founder Steve Barr]: The success of any charter or magnet school depends on the percentage of students who don’t get in and the length of the waiting list. I know. I teach in a magnet program in the much-maligned LAUSD. I do not have the “cream of the cream” (whatever that means) in my classes, even though I teach Honors and AP. But as a magnet teacher, I can always tell my students that they chose to be in my class. That in itself gives me a grand slam and a pair of loaded dice that teachers in nonmagnet programs do not have. I realize that this reality rankles Steve Barr, but the truth will out.
If we’re really going to be fair, Steve Barr should count the number of students he does not accept as part of his dropout rate. He should also stop talking “slots.” Teachers in public schools do not have that luxury. Before Steve Barr talks about “kicking LAUSD’s butt” and trashing teachers in public schools, I’d suggest the following: Let public schools in LAUSD admit students through an application and selection process with a rejection rate of about 40 to 60 percent and a waiting list of a couple hundred students.
Let LAUSD send all the students it doesn’t want to educate, as well as its totally ungovernable pupils, to Steve Barr’s Green Dot schools. Require Steve Barr to accept every student who comes to him — no excuses. In other words, let’s even the playing field. Then let’s see which school system wins out.
William Joseph Miller