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RIGHT MATTERS, WRONG DATA

Johannesburg matters to be sure, but Dean Kuipers, in “Why
Johannesburg Matters” [August 23–29]
, blows it trying to explain why. He
gets the big reason wrong, focusing entirely on the specific conflict between
the WTO and Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) — an item not even
on the agenda at Johannesburg. The real reason Johannesburg is important is
the across-the-board attempt there by the business community and free-market
ideologues to hijack the concept of ecologically sustainable development in
all U.N. and international programs. Kuipers also does readers a disservice
by dishing up numerous factual errors. Bush Sr. did not send only “minor representatives”
to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992; he attended himself. The Kyoto Protocol on
Climate and the Montreal Protocol on Ozone were not initiated at Rio. The Framework
Convention on Climate Change was, and the U.S. signed it. It is false that there
is an “absence of a meaningful world court.” It is called the International
Court of Justice and is prepared to handle environmental claims between nations.
It is false that “there has been no way to resolve” the conflicts between the
WTO and MEAs. They will be resolved by politics and international law, as are
other disputes. Smart-ass, hipster journalists like Kuipers can give some good
bite to these disputes, but only if they get their facts right.


—Robert Benson
Professor of International

Environmental Law,
Loyola Law School
Los Angeles

 

MANCUNIANS AND MYTHMAKERS

I was floored to see the blurred, larger-than-life photo of Joy Division vocalist
Ian Curtis on the cover of your issue in homage to the deceased band and their
irreverent mentor Tony Wilson
[cover stories, August 16–22]
. Twenty years ago, a friend and I huddled
in amazement over a mythical shot of the troubled singer, his face glowing amidst
impenetrable darkness. To see the Weekly dedicate a cover to this relatively
obscure rock prophet some 20 years subsequent to his untimely death is touching
at the least. I’d like to offer just a few corrections to the accompanying articles.

First, in John Payne’s personal essay “New Dawn Fades,” Payne is correct in
noting the tremendous maturity the band displayed on its second LP, Closer,
one of the truly amazing and beautiful rock collections of that or any other
decade. However, “These Days” was not the album’s final song, as Payne states;
rather, it was “Decades,” a moving tribute to lost Manchester youth punctuated
by the sad refrain “Here are the young men/well where have they been” and whose
lush synths spring from the jarring syncopation of the preceding number, “The
Eternal.” “These Days” was the B-side to the 7-inch single “Love Will Tear Us
Apart,” which was released on the same day as Closer, posthumous to Ian’s
suicide.

Second, in Ron Stringer’s introduction to Brendan Mullen’s interview of Factory
records chief Tony Wilson, he states that the “remnants of Joy Division would
re-form as New Order Ceremony.” The surviving members of Joy Division became
simply New Order, bringing along with them drummer Stephen Morris’ girlfriend,
Gillian Gilbert. “Ceremony” was the new band’s first single, a pensively optimistic,
musically stirring number accompanied on the B-side by the haunting, tensely
atmospheric “In a Lonely Place.” Both of these songs were written by Joy Division
and resoundingly show that Curtis’ stark, poetic brilliance was far from being
exhausted.

—John Tyler
Highland Park

I enjoyed Brendan Bernhard’s review of 24 Hour Party People, in which
he discusses Tony Wilson’s fabled career, except for one comment he makes at
the end. He writes, “The famous contract he signed with his bands, written in
his own blood and granting them total artistic freedom (he never owned the rights
to their music), was at once an act of genius and of jaw-dropping folly.”

What folly? The fact that Wilson ensured that Joy Division and these other
bands are known to this day, that he is still living what is apparently a great
life and is now being celebrated in this major film, seems to me to indicate
otherwise. As an artist who hopes to get my work ensconced in this culture in
some way that doesn’t demand I forfeit my rights to it or twist my personality
beyond recognition, I want to ask Bernhard:

Isn’t the fact that most producers don’t sign such contracts part of
the acquisitiveness that is so terribly wrong with our culture? Yes, we’re in
a very conservative period in history. But for Christ’s sake, lad, don’t make
it worse.

—Nate Scoble
Los Angeles

FAT ELVIS, HANDSOME ELVIS, ONE KING

In John Powers’ “Devil’s
Bargains” [August 23–29]
, he states, “All these years later, I’m still not
sure what it says about our national psyche that we voted to put the drug-

addled Fat Elvis on our stamp rather than the young, handsome, charismatic Thin
Elvis who anyone in their right mind would rather be.” Huh? I remember buying
stamps with the handsome young Elvis. A lot of people do — they were one of
the biggest-selling stamps in U.S. history. And I read online that “Fans voted
851,200 to 277,723 for a 1950s-era Elvis, over an older 1970s Elvis” (Source:
AP/ Reuters, June 4, 1992). Thus, I think the article serves better to illuminate
the author’s psyche than its easy-target subject matter.

—Colombene
Los Angeles

 

PALATIAL

Re: “The Decadence of Decay”
[A Considerable Town, August 23–29].

Matthew Duersten writes that he “can’t see what the preservationists see”
in the downtown Palace Theater, the oldest vaudeville theater/movie palace in
Los Angeles. But like so many others, he seems to be lacking the vision it takes
to see what could be made of them while also preserving what little history
we have here. I find the column to be especially disheartening when thinking
that if more people are now thinking like Duersten, we might not have places
like the Wiltern Theater, the Egyptian, the Orpheum or the El Capitan brought
back to their glory and renewed use. It’s about more than just looking at layers
of old paint in a building, but sometimes you just have to show people what
once was in order to get them to see what can be again.

—Marsha Stevenson
Culver City

 

REGISTER, PLEASE

I refer to Alan Rich’s review of singer Thomas Quasthoff’s performance
at the Hollywood Bowl [“The
Sound of Silence,” August 23–29]
. Unlike Pavarotti, Domingo, Fleming, et
al., Quasthoff is not a quickly recognizable name — at least not to this reader.
Nowhere in his review does Rich tell the ignorant reader into which voice category
Quasthoff falls. From the review, I couldn’t tell if he was a basso profundo
or the last of the red-hot castrati. One would have to deduce from the repertoire
he sang what he is.

At least Rich did mention that Lilli Paasikivi is a mezzo-soprano. Please,
Alan, less space to retreaders such as Luciano Berio, and more for the subject
of the review.

—Angelo S. Laiacona
Los Angeles


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