ROCK & ROLL VALUES
Russel Swensen’s appalling, morally torpid write-up of
the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players [Live
in L.A., July 11–17] was the most offensive and despicable thing I have
ever read in your fine publication. A reviewer is entitled to his opinion —
Mr. Swensen apparently feels that the Slideshow Players’ productions are offensive
to the ordinary, often deceased people they feature in their songs and on their
found-art slides. Still, no matter what his opinion of an act, shouldn’t a journalist
strive for some sense of decorum while judging the performance on its own merits?
Mr. Swensen did neither. Instead he harassed the band, badgering the drummer,
9-year-old Rachel Trachtenburg, to “show her tits” and later bragged of repeating
the affront to her father while the band performed. What a colossal asshole
Mr. Swensen is! I invite him to repeat his performance at a future TFSP show,
where I’ll be happy to introduce his teeth to the back of his throat in a properly
awestruck, somber fashion.
Your newspaper and radio station KXLU have had a long and good working relationship
together. Every DJ on our station reads our concert calendar on air, which ends
with “For more information, please check the L.A. Weekly.” After looking
at your July 11-17 issue, I was ashamed that we had directed the people of Los
Angeles to your publication. The object of my — and the station’s — disgust
was the decision to print such an offensive review of the Trachtenburg Family
Slideshow Players. Russel Swensen was way out of line. He is so far up on his
existential horse, using flowery language, he failed to write a review with
any substance, and instead decided to just venture into the realm of the offensive.
The Trachtenburg Family buy slides from people who no longer want them. They
sing songs about what the people are doing in the slides. I fail to see how
that “is worse than distasteful in regard to the human condition: immoral, an
insult to whatever exists.” Furthermore, I do not understand how Swensen feels
that it warrants his behavior at the concert. At no time should anyone be treated
the way he treated the Trachtenburgs.
Printing this was a poor judgment call on the part of your paper, and it displays
even worse judgment on the part of Mr. Swensen. If I was in the bar that night,
I would have taken on him, his Salvadoran friends who wanted to “throw down”
and any others who would even dream of saying something like that to a defenseless
little girl. It sickens me that our listeners were directed by us to your publication,
and to this article. I hope that you will use better judgment in the future.
If articles of this nature continue to be printed in the Weekly, we will
have to sever a long-standing relationship.
KXLU General Manager
It is extremely difficult to understand how a paper with an editor could let
such mean and unwarranted remarks make it into print. Russel Swensen seems to
be one of those reporters who still harbors rock-star fantasies and holds himself
up as an arbiter of “rock & roll values.” It is unfortunate that he needs
to display this adolescent bravado at the expense of a young girl’s self-image.
I wonder if he would have said the same thing if the drummer had been a grown
woman or man. Swensen needs to step out from behind his defense of “rock &
roll values.” Sexism is sexism, whatever key you play it in.
THE EDITOR REPLIES: Due to an editing error, the writer’s remarks appear to
have been directed at the Trachtenburg Family’s young drummer, when in fact
they were spoken privately out of earshot of the 9-year-old girl. Contrary to
the impression given by the article, the L.A. Weekly does not condone
abusive, sexual language directed at children.
In reference to Ben Ehrenreich’s article on non-lethal
weapons in crowd/riot control [“Weapons
of Mass Compliance,” July 4–10], he’s way off base. After seeing the Seattle
WTO rioting in 1999, I feel the need is great for law-enforcement to have tools
to control out-of-control mobs. There’s an element in this country that uses
political demonstrations as a cover for rioting; Seattle ’99 showed that we
need to give our police and others in law enforcement the means to combat this
form of terrorism. The use of non-lethal weapons to control rioters is necessary
to protect lives and property from the violent, anti-capitalist mobs we saw
in Seattle, in San Francisco and in other cities during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
We live in dangerous times, and those who protect us need our backing, not irresponsible
writers attacking them.
In “You Gotta
Fight for Your Rights” [On, July 4–10], John Powers mentions that Supreme
Court Justice Antonin Scalia believes that we enjoy civil rights in excess of
the minimal level assured by the Constitution. Apparently one of these excesses
is the right to vote directly for presidential candidates, or at least for their
electors. Buried in the Supremes’ decision in Bush v. Gore is the statement
that “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for
electors for the president of the United States.”
The Supreme Court seems to believe that if a state legislature decided to
rescind popular elections for presidential electors, that would be okay.
Thanks for the Weekly’s July 4–10 series on the threats to civil liberties
from the USA PATRIOT Act and other government actions. One correction: The article
on library-patron surveillance by the FBI said that the Department of Justice
admitted to around 50 requests to libraries so far. However, the University
of Illinois is keeping tabs on such requests to public libraries in the U.S.
and has found that more than 545 libraries have been asked for records since
9/11, and that 178 libraries received FBI visits in the first year after 9/11.
Christoper Lisotta wrote in “In
Search of Gay Leaders” [June 27–July 3] that “Joel Wachs left L.A. in a
huff after losing the 2001 mayoral race.” Joel left L.A. for a job he was thrilled
about that pays better than any municipality and involves no voters, among other
benefits. He was in high spirits as he moved. Maybe emerging leaders note such
unintended slights and wonder, “Why bother?”
HEAVY METAL, LIGHT RAIL
Regarding Celeste Fremon’s “Market
Massacre” [July 18–24, online edition only]. Russell Weller should be sent
to jail to pay for his stupidity and for all the grief that he inflicted on
so many families, for the death of innocent people who were out to have a good
time, and for the great expense he caused to the city. I was shocked by the
fact that he was set free, instead of being punished as he deserved.
Regarding the tragedy at the Santa Monica farmers market (where we’ve shopped
for 20 years): Getting incompetent drivers off the streets is important, but
it’s also impossible so long as public transportation in greater L.A. is so
lousy. We must drive, no matter how we may wish otherwise. If we still
had our old-time, 1,200-mile light-rail system, how many such tragedies would
SOCCER FANS AND NORMAL PEOPLE
Thanks for Brendan Bernhard’s article on David Beckham
June 27–July 3]. I couldn’t believe it when The New York Times, NPR
and CBS ran stories on the then-proposed Beckham transfer. As a football — or
soccer, if we must — fan living in the U.S., I’m used to having to go to the
Internet to get news. I would add that it is also possible that the American
press gave attention to a soccer story because there is a group of die-hard
soccer fans living among all of the “normal” people, and since Manchester United
is the most popular club worldwide, there are plenty of Man U fans in the U.S.
Since you recently added a Style page, why not a permanent weekly Sports feature?
Your O.C. counterpart has one, but I’d like to read about something besides
the Angels for a change.
The photograph of the Metro Gold Line station on the
first page of Calendar (Good Times, July 25–31) was taken by John Weiskopf.