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ODE TO BILLY JOEL

Charles Rappleye’s
ACcount of his encounter with a street musician on the Red Line [“Hidden
L.A.: Underground Sound,” A Considerable Town, February 28–March 6]
really
struck a chord with me. I’m a born-and-bred Angeleno, but I was fortunate enough
to have had the opportunity to spend most of my formative student days getting
a taste of life in other world capitals. Foreign languages and cultural quirks
aside, one common thread in any great cosmopolitan center, be it London, Paris,
Tokyo, Hong Kong or Sydney, is the entertainment you see in the subways. Guitar
players are standard fare, but I’ve also seen accordion players, jugglers, magicians,
and even actors putting on a puppet show behind two people holding a curtain.
Though such entertainments often are not technically legal, the local police
usually turn a blind eye to anybody who has any talent at all, knowing that
such artistic expression adds to the charm and character of the city, and also
because these impromptu performers are a favorite of locals and tourists alike.


I’ve also seen the police harassing street musicians, flower vendors, pantomimes
and sketch artists in tourist areas, where they are most appreciated and needed.
Because of the film industry, L.A. has some of the best local talent around.
Let them perform (and for free yet)! I went to Hollywood & Highland last
Friday evening and noticed all the balloon-tying clowns, yo-yo trick artists
and breakdancers had already been chased away by the cops. With absolutely no
street life (i.e., character) in the area, I got bored after about 10 minutes
and left — and every single penny I took to Hollywood & Highland that night
came right back home with me.

Please, let the people of L.A. express themselves freely, or our town will
never be as inviting a place to live in or visit as San Francisco, Paris or
New York. Street performers and vendors add character and vibrancy to our city,
something that L.A. desperately lacks. Crumbles the clown, Juanita the flower
lady and the guy strumming “Allentown” on the subway are not criminals;
they are the pulse and lifeblood of the great city of Los Angeles.

—Roberto Velazquez-Woo
Duarte

WHERE THERE’S A WAY, THERE’S A WILL

I can always count ON Marc Cooper to almost, but not quite, grasp the big
picture, which is perhaps why I find him so infuriating. In “Headlong
Into a Tar Pit” [Dissonance, February 14–20]
, he correctly chides the anti-war
movement for its refusal to recognize that Saddam Hussein is evil, rather than
just “a bad guy.” What he doesn’t get, however, is that when he demands “the
introduction of . . . permanent international human-rights monitors . . . the
freezing of financial assets of anyone connected to the ruling crust, and, last
but not least, a call for the convening of a Bosnia-style international tribunal
that would indict and try Saddam and the hundreds of other vulture henchmen
who compose his execrable regime,” he’s assuming that these events will just
come to pass without a sustained application of American firepower. Just out
of curiosity, does Mr. Cooper think that the Peace Fairy waved her wand and
Slobodan Milosevic got a sudden urge to trade in his presidential palace for
a prison cell? We had to bomb him out of power, after a sustained round of debate
from our European “allies” which produced several years of intense hand wringing,
but nothing that actually saved any lives.

—Mike Harris
Venice

ON AND OFF THE MENU

Re: John Powers’ “Shock
and Awe” [On, February 28– March 6]
. Is it really propaganda, or is it just
liberals who can’t admit that it’s being told like it is? Finally someone has
had the intestinal fortitude and good sense to stand up to the arrogant French.
But the House cafeterias shouldn’t stop with freedom fries and freedom toast.
From now on, our representatives should be dining on Wounded Knee white asparagus
with peppered .balsamic glaze, duck l’agent orange, My Lai Maine lobster, Patrice
Lumumba pâté de foie gras, Pinochet porcini-crusted sweetbreads with spring
onion relish and roasted bell pepper coulis — and let them eat death by depleted-uranium
chocolate cake.

—Jim Westerholm
La Crescenta

 

THE KEY TO LONGEVITY

Re: Paul Malcolm’s review of the documentary film Fidel
[New
Film Releases, March 7–13]
. Hello! Earth to unreconstructed com-symp: Has
it ever occurred to Paul Malcolm that perhaps Mr. Castro has survived so many
U.S. presidents chiefly due to the fact that we hold elections every four years?
Thanks for the glowing review of the loved-by-the-left dictator Fidel. What
next, a boot-licking look at the handsome devil Saddam Hussein in his private
life as a harem studmaster? Give me a break.

—Jack Bishop
Pasadena

nice work if you can get it

Re: “The Reformers
Are Dead, Long Live the Reformers” [March 14–20]
. Howard Blume has a better
understanding of school politics than many education policy makers. Given current
student values, the restrooms will not be clean if the janitor is assigned to
a single restroom for the total of his/her eight-hour shift.

—John Steward
Former Compton
School Board member
Aliso Viejo

 

As a faithful reader of L.A.’s premier periodical, I was profoundly disappointed
that the Weekly could not see through the wool of deceit that had been
pulled over your very own bright eyes when you endorsed Caprice Young for school
board. As the race went on, Young (and her politician backers) dug her own grave.
From the beginning, she offered no plan, took credit for LAUSD improvements
(by educators and state laws) that preceded the seat bought for her, and so
on. The fact that she advertised that Jon Lauritzen failed to win an Assembly
seat showed us only that he is not a very good politician.

You are right: A good metaphor works. “Clumsy” or not, it suggested what we
need in schools: not just clean bathrooms, but classrooms in the process of
reform (started by Dr. Ruben Zacarias). If you start with improvement in bathrooms,
maybe improvement in classrooms will follow.

—Mary Lou Preston
North Hollywood

 

HOORAY FOR BOLLYWOOD

I’m writing about “Planet
Bollywood” [cover story, March 7–13]
. I thought David Chute did an excellent
job. However, Helen danced to “Mera naam chin chin chu” in Shakti Samantha’s
Howrah Bridge. It was her first film. Also, in the lyrics to the song
from Raj Kapoor’s pic, it’s “Yeh Patloon,” not “Meh”; somebody must have translated
wrong for Mr. Chute.

—Shalini Dore
Monrovia

 

I really enjoyed the “Planet Bollywood” article, and I thought it would be
nice to let other readers know that all these great movies can be seen at a
multiplex just outside of L.A., called the Naz8, in Cerritos. I’ve only been
there once, but it was a great experience, and I really recommend it for anyone
who wants to get the full effect of Bollywood on the big screen (and samosas
served at the snack counter!).

—Jeremy Daniel
Los Angeles

CORRECTION

In last week’s article “Made
in the USA,”
the corporate headquarters of two of the many companies with
alleged past ties to Iraq’s weapons program were incorrectly identified. Sigma-Aldrich
is based in St. Louis; ConocoPhillips is based in Houston.