ALL MIKULAN, ALL THE TIME
Steven Mikulan’s piece about L.A. before dawn [“Hurry
Sunrise,” December 14–20] was exquisite. Rare is the journalist nowadays
who’ll give us an experience rather than a medley of clichés. Well done!
The Hollywood-by-night story was a lovely idea, but overwritten. And why didn’t
Steven Mikulan talk to anybody? As a consequence, the story failed to get behind
the images with which we are all familiar. Good effort, though.
Re: Steven Mikulan’s piece “The
Gloves Come Off” [December 7–13]:
1) The military is doing more than we see on TV, and it involves greater risk
than a sore lower back. The fact that Mr. Mikulan can’t see it suggests that
operational security is working to some extent.
2) The problem with the al Qaeda prisoners after the fall of Kanduz was best
summed up by historian John Keegan: “Large-scale surrender on the battlefield,
even between sovereign states within the framework of international law, is
always fraught with difficulty. In this case neither party to the conflict,
the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, is sovereign and neither is bound by
the Geneva Convention or the normal rules of warfare.”
3) Is the Northern Alliance our “proxy army” or are we their “proxy air force”?
That depends on who ends up with the country.
In the course of their year-end list making [December
28–January 3], the Weekly’s writers twice lionized Christopher Hitchens
and dismissed Alexander Cockburn and Noam Chomsky for their respective stances
on the U.S. war on terrorism. Steven Mikulan, in “War Diary: Collateral Damage,”
and John Powers, in “On: The Crash of Civilizations,” paint Hitchens as “the
second coming of George Orwell” (Powers) and “the reasonable leftist who knows
the difference between imperialism and self-defense” (Mikulan). More reasonable
leftists have noticed that, in fact, Hitchens has rather hysterically sought
to reframe the concerns of his opponents in order to make them appear unreasonable.
The arguments of Chomsky and Cockburn have not differed substantially from the
analysis of no less reasonable a personage than L.A. Times staff writer
David Lamb, who quietly opined in the January 6 edition of that paper that Islam’s
millions “hate U.S. policies they see as based on arrogance, self-interest,
military aggressiveness and a willingness to inflict harm on Muslims in the
Middle East, and, now, Afghanistan.” These are fertile fields for the growth
of terrorism, both in terms of new recruits and financial support for Osama
bin Laden and his theocratic fascists. Mr. Hitchens has become the darling of
the New Right due to his determined failure to grasp this point.
Things 2001 & Beyond” [December 28–January 3]. I agree with all but
one of John Payne’s list of tiresome annoyances. Item number 20, however, does
perplex me: “White people trying to act black — a perennial favorite. It makes
me sick.” As in Elvis singing Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog” or Leiber &
Stoller (Jewish kids from Brooklyn) writing it? Or Jagger’s double negatives
in “can’t get no satisfaction”? Could Coltrane cover Rodgers and Hart’s “My
Favorite Things,” or is that trying to act white? Or is it white suburban kids
listening to hip-hop and calling each other “nigga” that makes him sick? Was
it acceptable for Hendrix to try to act like Dylan? I’m sure Dylan picked up
a lot of Lonnie Johnson’s mannerisms, as well as his guitar licks, back in the
’60s. Where you gonna draw your line in cross-cultural influences?
I’m a lot older than Eminem, but probably fit into Payne’s “makes you sick”
category. People either think I’m from abroad or from the South. Abroad because
I was raised in Chicago by Irish (grandparents, aunts, uncles) as well as black
folks (favorite baby sitter), and that rubs off, and the South (read: black
talk) ’cause I was a 15-year-old musician hanging in the blues bars and R&B
venues and was declared a “bad nigga” or “blue-eyes soul brotha” by Junior Wells,
Left Dizz and Mighty Joe Young.
Mixing standard English with “street talk” is American, yo.
Re: “John Payne’s 20 Superior Discs” [“The
Year in Music,” December 28–January 3]. Thanks, John, for mentioning Holger
Czukay’s Linear City. I was involved in that unique project, and I think
it’s a great piece.
An article about the Jewish Defense League, “Three
Guys and a Megaphone” (January 11–17), misidentified the city where a massacre
of Muslim worshippers took place. The attack occurred in Hebron. Also, parts
of two sentences about recent JDL activities were deleted. It should have read:
“The JDL also lobbies to roll back gun control and to win freedom for convicted
Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. This fall, Rubin pursued litigation to prevent
the Burbank City Council from opening its gatherings with a sectarian prayer.”