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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
I am writing to commend the L.A. Weekly for publishing Charles Rappleye’s article “Belated Indictments” [April 14–20], and to expand on several key issues not addressed in the article.
The decision that resulted in Officer Edward Ruiz’s 22-day suspension was not unanimous. Captain John O’Connell, one of the two sworn panel members, gave the dissenting opinion recommend – ing termination. The other sworn member, Captain Paul Marks (now retired), and the civilian member agreed on the 22-day penalty. In addition to the suspension, the LAPD removed Officer Ruiz from all law-enforcement activities involving public contact.
Mr. Victor Tyson should never have gone through the ordeal, and the case should have been dealt with immediately. Although late, justice was served, and the officers suffered the consequences of their wrongdoing. Commendable for his courage and initiative, former Deputy City Attorney Evan Freed, on the other hand, only told supervisors and failed to notify the appropriate channel: the LAPD’s management or its Internal Affairs Division. In this case, the supervisors, whom Mr. Freed notified, failed to act.
I am committed to a complete restoration of the public’s faith in the Los Angeles Police Department. Again, I challenge every entity within the criminal-justice system to perform the same type of critical self-analysis as the department did with its Board of Inquiry. Additionally, I challenge them to release their findings for public review.
—Bernard C. Parks
Chief of Police
For the past two years, I have closely followed the L.A. Weekly’s outstanding coverage of the environmental damage and dire health consequences suffered by Simi Valley residents, perpetrated by the suburban neighborhood’s local military-industrial polluter, Rocketdyne. Reporter Michael Collins has produced the most thorough coverage on the Rocketdyne scandal that I have seen. So I was thrilled to see that he is spearheading a new project, exposing the unconscionable chemical and radioactive pollution that Aerojet has inflicted upon the environment and residents of Chino Hills [“Living Next to a War Factory,” May 5–11].
Aerojet is no stranger to my neighborhood. I live above the San Gabriel Valley aquifer, now a Superfund site. (Our ground water is contaminated with nasty cancer-causing chemicals like perchlorate, thanks in great part to operations at Aerojet’s Azusa plant.) Aerojet and other companies were fined $200 million to clean up the aquifer of its “goo,” yet our illustrious right-wing Congressman David Dreier boasts of his efforts to get the federal government to pay for the cleanup; if he has his way, Aerojet won’t pay a penny. Aerojet is stalling and is facing litigation over it. This should be a warning to the Chino Hills residents that challenging this company won’t be easy. But it is absolutely necessary.
In the last two years, Rocketdyne has managed to succeed in litigation against it by using a novel legal approach: arguing that residents sick with cancer, likely from exposure to contaminants from the facility, had no legal recourse because the statute of limitations had run out. Apparently, the residents should have known about its pollution problems, since the media had been on the case since 1989. Yet the only comprehensive coverage began with Mr. Collins’ articles in 1998. Most absurd is that in all of that media exposure, Rocketdyne consistently — and shamelessly — denied that it had anything to do with heightened rates of rare cancers near its offending site.
But Aerojet won’t get off so easy. The clock started ticking when your paper’s hard-hitting article hit the stands. The residents, now suing the company, won’t have the same bogus argument used successfully against them. With any luck, justice will be served and Aerojet will get what it deserves. And I think Michael Collins and the L.A. Weekly should get what they deserve — Southern California’s gratitude for a courageous job well done and, hopefully, a Pulitzer Prize for superb investigative journalism. Thank you.
—Maria E. Hall
WHAT FREAKS? WHAT GEEKS?
Having read Robert Lloyd’s article “Too Good and Weird” [May 12–18], I must take exception to the reasons Lloyd gives for the demise of the show Freaks and Geeks. Some blame the network for not providing a “reasonable, permanent time slot” and “meaningful promotion,” while Paul Feig says the show was not given enough of a chance. Such excuses do not fly.
I tuned in because the show was heavily promoted, basking in critical acclaim as the best new show of the season. And blaming a show’s time slot doesn’t hold water when so many tape and time-shift their TV watching anyway.
The first episode was near perfect — beautifully written, acted and directed. I immediately recommended it to my friends. Unfortunately, the episodes that followed gradually went downhill. The writing and direction became sloppy and weren’t true to the vision promised in the premiere. John Francis Daley’s character as seen in the pilot was painstakingly crafted and believable, so awkward and touching that you just had to pull for him. Subsequent episodes saw him at ease with his geekiness, laughing in situations in which his character would have been much more anxious and unsure of himself. The last episode aired was truly awful, and painful to watch.
Economically the show may have been doomed by the high expectations of network TV, but what sank it creatively was the old “bait and switch,” which seems so prevalent these days. Series/season premieres and crucial episodes for sweeps periods are written and directed by the most capable. Once well-reviewed, the show is handed off to the second string, a pool of hacks ever more diluted by their best being courted by cable and other venues. Look at Roswell, with a pilot brilliantly directed by David Nutter. The show quickly lost its way after that.
Freaks and Geeks was probably at its best when Feig, Apatow and Kasdan were in control, and at its worst when the writing staff was in charge, and the young players encouraged to improvise and share their input. What actor wouldn’t have subconsciously wanted his character to be a little more at ease, a bit more self-aware?
When characters such as the peanut-plying bully and Seth Rogen’s Ken became well-rounded, human and self-aware, the show lost its focus. Let’s face it, the reality of high school is kids walking around putting on “fronts” and being totally clueless about themselves and everyone around them. That was the promise of the brilliant premiere episode. Once the hacks were in charge, the show became just as weak as every other show featuring teenagers and written by thirty somethings. These kids may not have talked like those on Dawson’s Creek, but they are just as self-aware and phony. And unwatchable.
To sustain quality takes a superhuman effort from the truly gifted, as witnessed by the magic David E. Kelly creates in whichever one of his shows has his attention (and heaven help the ones that don’t). It’s too bad the creators of Freaks and Geeks were saving their attention for those last five episodes, which might only be seen by those lucky enough to get into the Museum of Television and Radio showings. I would have liked to be there, if only to see whether I had correctly placed the blame. Is it possible Apatow, Feig and Kasdan dropped the ball? I’d like to know. Ask someone who was there.
Rancho Palos Verdes
Just writing to say how much I appreciated Robert Lloyd’s article on NBC’s ill-fated Freaks and Geeks. As a writer and the wife of an actor, I’m saddened by a harsh and, I think, self-defeating trend in network TV. I was encouraged to read that the show’s creators intend to persevere, and although the numbers crunchers aren’t about to go away, more articles like this might give them pause.
Re: Manohla Dargis’ review of Ridley Scott’s Gladiator [“Saving General Maximus,” May 5–11]. Although I can understand a filmgoer’s distaste for violence in general, Dargis’ wistful longing for easy gunplay versus realistic, consequence-bearing brutality is both cynical and childish — rather like reviewing a love story while openly longing for the porn version to hit the Pussycat Theater.
Shakespeare, Racine, Corneille, the major figures of the French and American revolutions, not to mention those of the Renaissance (to name just a few), were able to derive slightly more benefit from ancient Roman civilization than reflected in Manohla Dargis’ expectations of violence, sex and debauchery. The reason there have been so many “crummy” movies about the Romans — from Hollywood, at least — is that its knowledge and vision of that people have been as adolescent as your reviewer’s.
MAKE THAT “TASTELESS JOKES AND/OR BLATANT SEXISM”
I am very disappointed in the Weekly and Luis Reyes. In his review of the play Foursome [New Theater Releases, Calendar section, May 5–11], Reyes refers to the play as reflecting “the kind of tasteless jokes and blatant sexism for which the company has become infamous.” Whatever his opinion of this particular play, I challenge Reyes to find sexism in the majority of the plays done by the Gang in the last two years. Show me the “blatant sexism” in A Fairy Tale, Four Roses, Ugly’s First Word, Cheese, Swan Ride, Hush, Mummified Monkey and Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella. This sort of flagrant generalization has no place in intelligent criticism, and such misinformation is really harmful to a hard-working company’s reputation.
Managing Director, The Actors’ Gang
THAT WAS THEORETICAL, NOT NUCLEAR, RIGHT?
Thank you very much for Michael Simmons’ article on the Dead and Phish [“American Beauty,” April 28–May 4]. I am from Wyoming, where the same blue-haired, leather-toting sperm jockeys called “punks” seem to control the music scene. I hope to see the new millennium explode with a new psychedelic movement, led by Phish, the Disco Biscuits and music that is as spiritually significant as the Dead’s. By the way, I am not one of the media-presented “hippie” druggies; rather, I am a theoretical physicist in training at the University of Wyoming and am proud to say I use psychedelics . . .