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TELL ME WHAT’D HE SAY?
Howard Blume’s article “Tempting Belmont” [April 7–13] ignored the fact that the Belmont Learning Complex is wrong for the students and for the taxpayers. It is unacceptable to build gigantic, two-story structures with retail outlets on the first floor and classrooms on the upper level for 5,000 students. We need small neighborhood schools, not “factories” or retail outlets for our youth. Belmont’s tasteless, mindless, factory-style design appears to have come from the “Ray Charles School of Architecture,” which was planned to benefit vested interests, not students!
The Board of Education’s majority had no choice but to emphasize the health and safety of children, teachers and administrators and shut down the $200 million-plus bureaucratic Belmont boondoggle. The board must not yield to reckless political agendas, nor be bullied by downtown law firms and high-powered lobbyists into reversing its wise decision to stop Belmont for other locations. Environmental hazards and an inferior learning environment are too big a price for our students and taxpayers to pay.
It is also critical that taxpayers find out who is responsible for this fiscal and toxic fiasco. The first shoe has been wisely dropped. It is imperative that the second shoe be dropped with a full grand jury investigation into this catastrophe.
According to the school district’s inspector general, Don Mullinax, there’s probable cause to believe that at least five state laws were violated by the school board regarding Belmont. District staff knew these laws were being violated, yet failed to inform the board. It is also vital that the grand jury explore how the property was acquired.
While the district’s “culture of finger pointing,” “backside covering” and buck passing leaves even Mullinax asking, “Who is in charge of this project?,” the district attorney, who is in charge of criminal investigations, has failed to aggressively pursue this fiasco. It is time to act! Our own Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved two motions requesting a full investigation.
Now, the Los Angeles Unified School District has the opportunity to focus on affordable, family-student-friendly neighborhood schools which are cost-effective in meeting our children’s needs.
—Michael D. Antonovich
Supervisor, 5th District
The Generations of 1877
In “Street vs. Suite” by Harold Meyerson [April 7–13], the president of Local 1877 is quoted as estimating that “between 98 and 99 percent” of membership in his union is “immigrant.” In the same article, it is noted that, in the mid-’80s, “almost all” of the existing unionized janitors were replaced by immigrants. Now this same group of immigrants is unionized, and fighting to protect their own wages. Doesn’t anyone see the irony in this?
The janitors, like all working people, deserve any benefits they’re able to secure for themselves. However, some sort of tribute is owed to the previous generation of union janitors that many current members of Local 1877 (wittingly or not) themselves helped to undermine.
KISS KISS GANG BANG
I’ve just read Evan Wright’s story “Scenes From My Life in Porn” [March 31–April 6] on the Net. What a smart, touching, beautifully crafted piece. I kept expecting it to roll into some easy homily, and it just never did. Thanks for printing the work of this wise, gifted writer.
Re: Evan Wright’s “Scenes From My Life in Porn.” Wow. What a hard-hitting, thought-provoking piece. When Evan came aboard as entertainment editor of Hustler magazine, it was my lot as executive editor of the Hustler Erotic Video Guide to “show him the ropes” and guide him through the world of adult entertainment. Truth be told, he was a pretty slow learner, but that’s another story.
Evan makes the assertion in his article that he had “achieved rank on the list of the Top 50 most influential people in the adult industry. Granted, I had written that list myself . . . but deception and lies are the essence of pornography.” Apparently, deception and lies are also the essence of Mr. Wright’s style of journalism. I wrote the Top 50 list he refers to in his story.
Hey, Evan, I may be a pornographer and, as such, I’m sure the work I do as a writer is beneath your contempt, but at least I’ve never had to resort to taking credit for another writer’s work. What’s that feel like?
—Michael Louis Albo
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
Further checking with the author and Mr. Albo reveals that while Mr. Albo did, indeed, write the original “Most Influential People in a Porn” list, Evan Wright edited and rewrote significant portions of the list — adding his own name to it — prior to its publication in the January 1999 issue of Hustler.
Evan Wright is very keen, and probably wholly justified, in depicting the Jasmin St. Claire gangbang as a tawdry, thoroughly unpleasant spectacle. This being the case, I’d just like to assert that Club magazine was most definitely not among the “esteemed magazines” covering the event, and anybody who told Evan such was probably jerkin’ his gherkin. There are two reasons for our not being there: For one thing, one of our strictest legal parameters rules out the depiction, especially the pictorial representation, of gangbangs in any form. But the main reason is that we would not touch such a cheesy, crass, nasty stunt with a 50-foot dildo. Watching a distinctly unappealing performer being periodically pelted with regular-guy jism is not our idea of fun and not the kind of thing we’d promote; a general respect for our subjects is one of the things that sets Club apart from, and above, Hustler magazine (we’ve never felt the need to “legitimize” our magazine with incredibly poor-quality campus-rag-standard satire either). Having trawled through Evan’s gory litany of depression and therapy and squalor, I can’t help thinking that his porno odyssey wouldn’t have been half so wretched if he’d been working for us. We have a great time! He should send me a C.V. I’ll give it due consideration — as long as he makes sure he gets his facts right.
Deputy Editor, Club magazine
Evan Wright’s “Scenes From My Life in Porn” was great! I have friends in The Biz (as they like to call it), and his reportage struck me as very right on. While not everyone in porn is a dirtbag or a freak, the industry is a magnet for the odd and the idiotic who, like the butchers and tanners in Buddhist Japan, are driven to create their own little world, in which they incestuously gossip, fornicate, and congratulate themselves on how cool and cutting-edge they are, at the same time that they suffer a lonely and even tortured exclusion from “normal” life. For me, as a spectator, it has made for fascinating, repulsive and often tiresome people-watching. Nevertheless, as a microcosm on the fringes of everyday society at the same time that the triumph of so-called “free enterprise” has made the world safe for porn, the convergence of sex and capitalism remains fascinating for what it reveals about the economic forces that shape our world and our self-understanding, about the power of human vanity and delusion (among producers and consumers both), and about what passes for satisfaction, happiness and intimacy in the world at large.
Good for Evan Wright, intellectual giant, who abruptly ended his career in porn “not because of any sort of moral awakening, but because I found a better job.” God, would it kill you to display just an inch of depth? Why do I find it hard to believe that this experience had no effect on you — else, wherefore the thousands of words you’ve written on the subject? The story, while very interesting, reads about as 2-D as a Hustler pictorial.
New York, New York
I am disturbed by the increasing amount of nudity and explicit sexuality in your newspaper. Take, for example, this week’s feature article “Scenes From My Life in Porn,” with a headline graphic of multiple exposed breasts while describing in grossly explicit detail the writer’s experiences as a Hustler magazine employee at a “gangbang” where a woman has sex with over 100 men.
What concerns me most is the fact that your newspaper is freely and readily available to children all over the city. If you are going to continue to plumb the depths of depravity in the guise of news reporting, could you at least put “R-rated” stickers on your papers before you disseminate them on our city’s street corners?
In “Size Matters” [April 7–13], Ben Ehrenreich cites research showing that class-size reduction has resulted in an increase in emergency-credentialed teachers in the inner city, but he cites no research showing that instruction from new teachers results in lower achievement by inner-city students. The fact is, there is no research indicating this. Ehrenreich might have mentioned Kelso and Bennett-Kew elementary schools in Inglewood, which have a high proportion of emergency-credentialed teachers, but scored as high as, or higher than, many affluent suburban schools on the state’s recent Academic Performance Index. High expectations from the principals and teachers is the only explanation anyone has come up with. In other words, nobody told the new teachers they weren’t good.
Ehrenreich might also have considered that over 90 percent of L.A.’s low-performing schools are implementing the Open Court reading program at grade levels K–2, which involves many more hours of training in reading instruction than colleges of education ever offered. Studies are showing that new teachers are more amenable to the rigors of Open Court than veteran teachers.
And, finally, Ehrenreich might have pondered that many of today’s veteran teachers were part of the huge wave of emergency-credentialed hires in the early ’80s. Those new teachers held the system together then, with much less training than new teachers have today.
Not surprisingly, “Size Matters” blamed the wrong culprit for why California has a serious problem educating its young folk. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that between 1997 and 2007, California will account for half the total increase in U.S. school enrollment. No wonder our state educational system can’t keep up. This is but one manifestation of California’s horrendously rapid rate of population increase. Sprawl, traffic congestion, loss of farmland and general environmental destruction are other examples.
In the next 25 years or so, when California’s population is projected to surpass the 50 million mark, there will be more people per square mile in California than currently live in China. This is the same China that, careless about its high rate of population growth, belatedly saw the light and desperately, and not very successfully, has tried to institute a one-child-per-family policy. Indeed, China’s population continues to grow rapidly. But at least China finally understands, whereas the L.A. Times, the L.A. Weekly and all the rest of our shortsighted, agenda-driven media still have not learned how to count.
Should we maintain business as usual, California’s population will continue to rise like a rocket even as it soars past the 50 million mark. For those who truly care about California’s distressing educational situation, there is one essential component to any solution: We must insist that the U.S. government rationalize U.S. immigration policies so that the total immigration level is not much different than the level of emigration.
Physics & Astronomy Department, UCLA
string ‘em from the yard arm!
Re: “Pandora’s Box” by Karen Heyman [March 31–April 6]. I am organizing a group called Artists Against Piracy. We are producing a series of public-service announcements to educate Internet users that, when they trade MP3s, it is the artist who suffers the most. People think they are stealing from the RIAA, but they fail to recognize that they are undermining the artist’s ability to make a living. Being in favor of new technology should not mean that we have to tolerate theft.
While I agree with Heyman that Napster is a networking revolution, blowing apart the client-server structure of the Internet, and I agree it has the potential to improve the quality of connectivity, I must take her to task for some of her misconceptions regarding this issue. The idea that the My.MP3.com and Napster lawsuits are over consumer rights — new technology versus the old, monolithic record industry — is the product of a propaganda campaign serving the interests of these companies (MP3.com and Napster). The more they can deflect the consumers’ perceptions away from the fact that they are stealing from the artist who created the music, and that the music has value, the larger their user bases get and the more investor capital can be raised. All the press generated by this issue is spun by Napster’s and MP3.com’s PR departments, as is Ms. Heyman’s attitude. The artists have not yet found a voice in the press.
Who do you think you are championing here? The artists? Believe me, we don’t see the pirates as liberators. The music buyers? Is $15 for a CD really so unfair? Do you have any idea what costs that $15 is recouping? Recording, marketing and touring in support of an album release can cost $2 million or more. Without album sales, you can forget about hearing music from the artists you like. Yes, the artists are angry at the injustices of the major-label system, and we were very excited about the promise of the Internet (that we could market our music on our own terms directly to our fans), but now the Internet companies have hijacked our work and have undermined our ability to make a living. If you are a fan of Fiona Apple’s, robbing her is not the way to show your appreciation.
Next time you write an article on this issue, I sincerely hope you include the voice of the artists, who are the true victims of the piracy.
Artists Against Piracy