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MOURNING BECOMES ELECTORAL
We were outraged and sickened by Erin Aubry’s “Damn the Eulogies” article [April 14–20], about the memorial service for Fifth Street Dick’s owner Richard Fulton. As a journalist and as an invited speaker, she might have taken the time to investigate Fulton’s relationship with the politicians who attended the service. It is no secret that Fulton (along with other merchants) had differences of opinion with City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas over the installation of parking meters in the Leimert Park Village parking lots a few years ago. (It must be stated here, however, that within the last year there had been a rapprochement between Ridley-Thomas and Fulton.) County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke has always been supportive in sharing resources with the Village community. Assemblyman Rod Wright, who delivered a magnificent and touching tribute, is known to have been a supporter of, and a visitor to, the coffeehouse. State Senator Kevin Murray was recently the recipient of an award from Mothers in Action and the Leimert Park Merchants Association, of which Fulton served as second vice president. Mr. Danny Bakewell, community leader and activist, and a frequent visitor to Fifth Street Dick’s, gave a stirring and beautiful elegy. Mr. Clarence Harris, 30 years a businessman in the Village, a friend of Fulton and also a frequent coffeehouse visitor, spoke as a friend and as a representative of Councilman Ridley-Thomas.
It is also obvious that Ms. Aubry is totally unaware of the process of planning a memorial service. Program protocol allows for those with prescheduled events — in this case, for community leaders — to be placed first in the program and seated in the front rows. This is done as a courtesy so that they may move in and out with as little disturbance as possible.
Ms. Aubry’s skewed point of view is incredible. We can’t believe we attended the same service. The fact is, people have come to us — as the planners of the service — to say that it was one of the most moving ceremonies they have ever attended. The written and floral tributes to Richard that were pictured in the article were given in the same spirit of love and remembrance with which we planned the memorial service.
—Jackie Ryan, Laura Hendryx, Nzinga Kimbrough, Tom Jones, Marie Goree
Michael Simmons’ review-article about the Grateful Dead [“American Beauty,” April 28–May 4] was right on the money. This is exactly what I’ve been trying to get across to so many, for so long. There’s musical genius to be found in many places, but for me, it was most often witnessed while I was watching the Dead . . . and I’ve seen a ton of live music before and after I became a fan. Thanks for publishing this beautifully written, evenhanded review.
My most enthusiastic congratulations to the music editor of the L.A. Weekly for using Michael Simmons’ piece as the lead article in that edition’s music section. Given the anti-hippie punk/post-punk dictatorship that predominates in most alternative-press music departments, it was an unexpected pleasure to read such an insightful critique of this significant retrospective collection, a project that establishes beyond argument the contribution made by the Grateful Dead to American popular music.
As a very public Deadhead (I’m the host and producer of KPFK’s psychedelic program The Music Never Stops), I’ve grown accustomed to abiding the jokes and the snipes and the unprovoked disdain that the ultrahip illuminati heap on the Dead — on their lack of concision; their rambling, meandering jams; their glassy-eyed, undiscriminating worshippers; etc. And though inured to the razzing I’ve received over the years, I remain bothered by snide dismissals of the Grateful Dead’s repertoire as essentially irrelevant Muzak for people on drugs. Simmons does a very nice job of pointing out that these guys were not merely indulging in four-hour wank fests every night. And despite the usually ignorant depiction of Dead concerts as being mostly social events for a bunch of pathetic tie-dyed losers trapped in the ’60s, I would contend that the music of the Grateful Dead never carried with it any overriding tendency toward nostalgia. They existed always and utterly in the continuous Present. Their vast repertoire of songs was constantly growing and evolving, avoiding both trendy hipness and archaic mummification. Simmons really captures this aspect of the band’s timelessness when he writes, “The ability to write and perform new songs that sounded a hundred years old was one of the great legacies of the Dead . . .” I would add that they were also capable of performing songs that were a hundred years old and making them sound brand-new.
KPFK 90.7 FM
SIR VIDIA’S OTHER SHADOW
Thank you so very much for Brendan Bernhard’s piece on V.S. Naipaul [“Going Postal,” April 21–27]. It is reassuring that the Weekly — and so soon after Carol Lynn Mithers’ equally deserved tribute to John Fante [“A Walk on the Wild Side,” April 7–13] — continues to celebrate outstanding literary work. I was privileged to work with Sir Vidia on the BBC World Service Radio System more than a quarter of a century ago, well before his knighthood, and I learned a great deal from him. For all of those college undergraduates who suffer or have suffered from being the “wrong” color in a foreign and sometimes hostile country, Naipaul offers solace and companionship, showing in his letters that he, too, went down that road before them, triumphed, and became the icon he is today.
Angela Gunn’s article on “Wares Wars” [April 21–27] shows what is wrong with legalistic America. In the long term, every existing software will become totally free and uncensorable, part of a foundation for better and better applications. It’s only a matter of time.
Advances in science must never be the exclusive property of any company or individual, and history will tell you that they aren’t. Sure, the developer of a new technology will tell you that science and technol ogy will come to a halt without patent and marketing protections — and I would agree — but these rights should be ephemeral, and the right of the consumer to express his or her opinion as to the quality of the technology should be totally unimpeded by legalese drummed up by bloodsucking Silicon Valley legal teams.
IS IT ART, OR IS IT MEMOREX?
In regard to Doug Harvey’s review of the current exhibit of Tim Ebner’s artwork [April 7–13]: I have not seen the show, am not familiar with his art, and do not know if he is deliberately employing irony or the visual equivalent of “sampling.” But his painting Untitled (Snapping Turtle), which was reproduced in the article, is a haunting image indeed. In fact, it has haunted me for over 40 years, since I was a child and first picked up Simon & Schuster’s Golden Nature Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians (my tattered copy is copyrighted 1957) and saw James Gordon Irving’s eerie snapping-turtle illustration on Page 25, which bears an uncannily exact resemblance to Ebner’s painting, down to the two fishes in the foreground.
HENCE, THE NAME OF THE STRIP
How much longer are you going to torture us with Matt Groening’s tedious “My 1969 Diary” series? Groening may find this stuff interesting, and you may be too timid to tell him the truth, but his mental masturbations are boring the hell out of the rest of us.