Bravo to Steven Mikulan for exposing local news for what it really is: trashy entertainment [“Low-Definition TV,” December 2430]. When I first moved to L.A., I was truly flabbergasted by the local news. Not only did the anchorpeople appear downright stupid, they mispronounced basic words and read grammatically incorrect copy. Also, the stories were straight out of the tabloids. One, I remember, was about a 350-pound man who had a heart attack in his house in South Carolina; the paramedics had to take off a door to get the man out. There were three minutes of footage of the poor man being carried out on the door itself. I was baffled as to why this was part of the local news show, since it didn't even occur in L.A. My confusion turned to outrage when the anchorwoman ended the story with a little chuckle. Obviously she considered humorous this story of a man undergoing humiliation in front of millions of people as he faced death.
Today's anchorpeople are hard to believe — like The Mary Tyler Moore Show's Ted Baxter. And that's the sad truth.
Steven Mikulan's story on the state of TV news in Los Angeles was most welcome. It has reached the point in my house that I leave the room when the news comes on. My favorite incident, before I stopped watching, of anchor ignorance took place one evening when we were taken to Caltech for a report from the “astrologers.” Three hundred thousand dollars per year sure doesn't buy much these days.
Overall, Steven Mikulan's evisceration of news broadcasts that cover Southern California was well done, and most deserved. However, he let the sports desks off too easy. To his credit, he did mention the replays and plays-of-the-week gimmicks and smarmy attitudes. Add those to the long features that show local sports anchors participating at local charity tournaments (Community!), and there is scant time left for actual scores. Thus, viewers are treated to scrolls that run like the Kern River, or to anchors who blurt out, almost like an afterthought, that “The Knicks, the Jazz and the Heat were also winners.” The actual scores and opponents apparently don't merit a mention, nor do the standings.
Fortunately, God created ESPN Sportscenter.
You forgot to mention how the presentation of news by anchors has also been dumbed down to a series of twitches and nods, like that of a first-grade teacher. They speak extra slowly, raise their eyebrows in punctuation, make sad or smiley faces in accordance with the content of their soundbites, and bob their heads to emphasize their point extra well for us idiot masses. They do it much like a condescending person might speak to a deaf or illiterate person.
According to local television's current keepers of the public trust, everything is fine: Birds are chirping, Viagra is available . . . Meanwhile, somebody is running from the cops while, just down the street, cops are shooting at anything that conflicts with their “crisis training.” Is it any wonder cars would speed away to avoid capture by the police? But who cares? Disney just bought a new Web-site company. Mr. Mikulan, you were much too kind.
–Johnnie Miller III
For local news, we will just have to continue to do what Americans all over the country do: read. The Times and the other local papers and weeklies are doing a good job. Kudos and thanks to all of you.
Great story on the L.A. broadcast “news” media. However, please note, KTVU broadcasts from Oakland, not San Francisco. Thank you.
Paul Ciotti's untitled cover story [December 1723] about Dr. Brown and his patients blew me away. Not since Geek Love had I been so sickened and delighted and thrilled and appalled. I have alerted everyone I know to check it out, because I think such material, its content as well as its craftsmanship, makes people better, just for reading it.
Paul Ciotti's article is fascinating precisely because of the grotesque and pathological images it conjures up. Whenever a mad â doctor and a hermaphrodite meet on an operating table, we have entered the realm of alchemy. Hermaphrodites, the dual-sex offspring of Hermes and Aphrodite, is a patron saint (or perhaps demon) of alchemists. The presence of this mythic figure signals that the opus contra naturum — aimed at more than the literal transformation of base metal to gold, but also, as Jung and Hillman have pointed out, at a deepening of soul — has begun. But the key to soul-making, so clearly lost by Dr. Brown and his patients, is the movement away from literal or monotheistic fantasies. In Ciotti's tales of sexual obsession, and above all in Dr. Brown's vision of God directing his actions, we can see the sad physical result of our culture's obsession with reality. Because our culture believes only in the real — be it science, Christ or Alan Greenspan — our fantasies have to be played out in real sex changes, the Rapture obsession of the Y2K bug, and the idiocy of initial public offerings for banal business ideas such as pets.com.
My point is that the enemy isn't Dr. Brown, but the reality principle that our culture holds to, namely that there is only one true world. We suffer, like the mad doctor's patients, because, as James Hillman says, “what we call reality” — whether defined by science, monotheism or capital — “is that which we are unconscious of as fantasy.” We need more fantasy and less fixation on reality to avoid cutting off our own figurative legs.
Marina del Rey
NOT SO SURE THAT IT'S
Concerning “The Envelope, Please” by Gary Davis [December 31January 6], I was saddened to hear you praising “George Westinghouse's” AC system, another kick at Nikola Tesla, the true inventor of AC power. Not only did Tesla invent the AC generator, he gave away his financial rights to this system to help get it up and running. Tesla was a gracious benefactor of Westinghouse and the world, but this was soon forgotten. I feel it ironic that your kudos go to George Westinghouse, the man who greatly profited by Tesla only, at a later date, to refuse Tesla a loan needed for other inventions.
DANCING ON AIR
Your Sasha Anawalt is a bracing breath of fresh air on the dance scene. It is high time the Southland spoke its own piece, sans reference to east-of-the-Hudson pundits, political or aesthetic.
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