I am writing in regard to Ben Ehrenreich’s article “Sí,
Se Puede!” [October 24–30]
. As a rider on the route that Ben writes about,
I found the article simultaneously compelling and frustrating. While he attempts
to highlight the day-to-day of the ride, he unfairly takes out his personal
frustrations on Carolina Bank-Muñoz. Carolina served as the “educational coordinator”
of her bus and as such was responsible for developing activities and facilitating
discussions that helped riders learn from one another. She was also the translator,
which accounts for the greater proportion of the time she was on the microphone
— had Ben cared to listen, he would have noted that.

Secondly, what Ehrenreich writes off as a PR attempt belittles the fact that
people boarded these buses, risking their lives and the lives of loved ones,
for social change. Two-thirds of the “staff” on the buses (i.e., the legal team,
the educational coordinators and bus monitors) were unpaid volunteers. It
is not often that you have Latinos, Asians and African-Americans, Catholics,
Muslims and Jews join together to promote change. Ehrenreich’s flippant, semi-sarcastic
remarks do a disservice to the true meaning behind the events he witnessed.

I will say this: I feel that Ehrenreich did a good job highlighting the experiences
many faced while migrating here. He humanizes the often invisible immigrant
and makes the point that we are still here, and that we matter to this city,
this state and this nation.

—Belinda Lum
Los Angeles

United We Improve

Thanks to Robert Greene for his excellent follow-up article
on the Silver Lake community’s response to increased gang activity [“Silver
Lake Fights Back,” October 24–30]
. I was especially pleased that he chose
to portray me as someone who felt it is important to take responsibility for
a misunderstanding that occurred.

Mr. Greene left unresolved just one point: Be it the Church of Scientology,
the Catholic Church or any other church, the gay, Latin, “hipster” or any ethnic
culture, we are operating on no “hidden agendas” in Silver Lake. What I have
observed to be true is that our community, since the inception of the Silver
Lake Improvement Association (a group I founded in 1989 to confront rampant
drug-dealing and gang violence), has united and remained united in furthering
the achievement of these goals: “the creation and maintenance of a clean and
safe environment and the betterment of our youth.”

And now, with the election of myself and 20 other people of diverse backgrounds
and cultures onto the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council governing board, our
community has yet another vehicle to bring constructive change. The products
of this group in the years to come will demonstrate what a community that “pulls
together” without bias can get done to improve conditions for all.

—Barbara Dakin
Los Angeles

Geography Lessons

This is a fan letter to Sam Slovick. Thanks for your story on hustling in
L.A. [“The
Geography of Hustling,” November 14–20]
. The distinctions you draw between
prostitution and hustling, your locating of some damaged something at the core
of what’s being filled up, and your straight-up telling of the story without
sentiment — wow, this is a killer combination and a fabulous way to write and

— John Harvey
Edwardsville, Illinois

With “Pals” Like These

Nikki Finke quotes my “pals” regarding me, false details
about my job as Critic-at-Large at Entertainment Weekly, and my supposed
refusal to live in L.A. as a reason for declining a TV-critic position at the
Los Angeles Times [Deadline
Hollywood, “The Queens of Hollywood,” October 31–November 6]
. Who are these
“pals”? I would like to seek them out, as I’ve always wanted one or two of those.
Also, if Finke had really spoken to “pals” or done a lick of research, she’d
know that I lived in Los Angeles for four years, when I worked for the late,
great Herald Examiner.

—Ken Tucker
New York, New York

Finke responds: Ken Tucker is not as friendless as he may think. And he
acknowledged by e-mail that I’ve been trying to reach him for months and months.


Nikki Finke doth protest too much. In her snide piece “The Queens of Hollywood,”
she seems to take great pains to second-guess the talent, the hiring — or, in
her kind words, the “settling for” — of former Salon staffer Carina Chocano
in one of the best and most influential jobs in all of TV critic-dom, Howard
Rosenberg’s recently vacated perch at the Los Angeles Times. My favorite
sideswipe is her closing lines about “Hollywood” asking whether or not Chocano
has Howard Rosenberg’s chops to “push hot button issues.” Over the years, it
seemed to be that whenever Rosenberg pushed one of his buttons, hot or otherwise,
his column, and the reader, wound up on the wrong floor.

But I digress.

Nowhere in her mean-spirited article does Finke mention that she herself was
a frequent Salon contributor at the same time that Chocano was writing for the
same magazine (133 hits when one runs Finke’s name through Salon’s search engine).

Do I detect the fermentation of sour grapes that a former colleague got a
gig that Nikki — or any entertainment writer, for that matter — might covet?
Full disclosure — and giving the new kid on the Times block a chance
to actually write something before second-guessing her talents — might be in

—Erik Nelson
Los Angeles


Finke responds: I’ve already had the pleasure of working at the L.A.
Times. And I’ve never wanted to be a TV critic.


Thank you to Nikki Finke for providing a public airing of Sean Walsh’s unethical
(if not illegal) smearing of Rhonda Miller [“Arnold’s True Lie,” November 7–13].
What a guy, eh? I hope Ms. Miller takes legal action if she can.

I heard about your article and heard Ms. Miller and Gloria Allred during an
interview on Brian ‰ Copeland’s program on KGO Radio, San Francisco.

—Catharine Liddicoat

Dig Deeper, Corporate Weekly

Why the L.A. Weekly and hundreds of other publications
around the world devote so much time to the Strokes’ crap still amazes me —
the power of the corporate monster. When I saw their first video a couple of
years ago, I thought, This has to be a joke. My 16-year-old daughter even disliked
them. Giving the Jokes two full pages again just baffles me when there are hundreds
of artists in Los Angeles alone who are much more creative and actually know
how to play their instruments. Doesn’t it make sense to give valuable editorial
space to bands that can play and have a positive message for our society?

In this week’s Weekly we have to read two writers’ takes on the Smokes
[October 31–November
. Neither of them really likes the Dopes. The reason they do sell out
shows is not because they’re good, it’s because when you have a pile of shit
to choose from, some of that shit is on top. So we have the Brokes. Since we
are in a world of follow what the media tells you to buy, they buy it.

So the Corporate Weekly, I mean the L.A. Weekly, has to suck
more ass and give the byproduct to its readers. You should do L.A. a favor and
dig a little. Don’t review something because it says RCA. If you guys really
want to hear some good music I’ll be glad to send you some.

—Carlos Garcia
Santa Monica

A Hole in the World

Just a note to pass on to Alec Hanley Bemis that he did an outstanding job
on both his remembrance of Elliott Smith and his original interview earlier
this year [A Considerable
Town, October 31–November 6].

Because he was the most important artist (musical and otherwise) of my adult
life, Elliott Smith’s death, to me, is of monumental significance. I was sad
for Kurt Cobain, Material Issue’s Jim Ellison and others, but Elliott . . .
he’s up there with John Lennon in my book.

Although I never had the privilege of meeting him in person, it comforts me
to know that I’m not the only one who feels real grief — like I’ve lost a friend.
I mean, after listening to his music, who could not feel that they knew him?

When I saw Elliott Smith play in Chicago back in 2000, he walked onstage looking
dirty and bedraggled, pockmarked and as close to a homeless person as you could
get. And then he began to sing, and play, and before my eyes he transformed
into the most beautiful man I had ever seen.

I know Elliott Smith had problems — big ones, evidently — and I don’t make
him out to be a saint. But, in addition to his talent, in addition to his genius,
he had something else; the guy wore his spirit on the outside. There’s a hole
in the world that will never be filled from this loss.

—Julia Gordon-Bramer
St. Louis, Missouri

LA Weekly