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MOSTLY ALWAYS RIGHT
Re: “The Greenberg Factor” [Powerlines, September 15–21]. Harold Meyerson has it right (as usual), but not exactly. In my estimation, W. has a theme, and it is a traditional Republican theme, and it is a loser because it is right on the money — tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts. Whatever the blather about compassionate conservatism, he is rerunning the Dole campaign — invest in your own Social Security, get a rebate on your taxes, never mind that the tycoons get a stupendously bigger rebate. Not inspiring, and almost certainly the loser that the Republicans deserve.
Professor of Culture, Journalism and Sociology New York University
ASK NOT WHAT LOS ANGELES CAN DO FOR YOU . . .
Re: “What I Hate” [Best of L.A. issue, September 22–28]. Like Paul F. Tompkins, I am tired of hearing complaints about Los Angeles from people who moved here and aren’t happy. A city is what we make it, and if you want better air, I suggest you contact TreePeople (818-753-4600) and help out with a planting. If you want less traffic, get involved with transit advocates (www.exporail.com). If you want better scenery, spend a cleanup day with Heal the Bay (800–HEAL BAY) or Friends of the Los Angeles River (800–LA RIVER). As for “real people,” there are millions of them here — Ginger Varney could always find them — but you’re not likely to find them if you only sniff around “industry” hangouts, are you? Try the L.A. County Museum of Art on a Friday night. (Bet you didn’t know they had free jazz concerts on the plaza.)
But if you just want to bitch and moan, please feel free to leave and go somewhere where you’ll be happy.
NEW HIPPIES, AGING PUNKS
With “Heliocentric Worlds” [September 8–14], Brendan Mullen finally, if inadvertently, cleared up a matter that had been nagging me for well over a decade, which is: I could never understand why so many referred to the MC5 as the “godfathers of punk.” I had always considered Ig and the Stooges to be. But when I read Mullen’s encapsulation “. . . most of whom had only one honest agenda: sex, drugs and living out some mythical doof-headed ‘rock & roll’ fantasy without the musical chops or the material to pull it off,” well, that nailed it, describing nearly every punk band I’ve ever heard. I’ve always contended that punks were the New Hippies, just a good deal more retrogressed, and Mullen’s observation added another brick to the foundation, albeit coming from an angle I’d never considered.
Ol’ Brenny was on the mark when it comes to the Arkestra, although his constant need to carry the white man’s burden by denigrating the MTV vision of the “hippies” he’s been fed (and obviously bought into) was not only old, lame and tiring but, as with Dave Marsh’s similar attempts, I’m not sure black musicians are much complimented by his condescension.
In sum, although I broadly disagree with the MC5 premise, I now understand the validity of the perception. And I think Mullen could do much better than the Marsh-Hilburn school of criticism he seems to be aping; perhaps a foray into the Christgau-McKenna mindset would be to his benefit.
—Marc S. Tucker
BANGS, YOU’RE DEAD
Re: Manohla Dargis’ review of Almost Famous [“Gonna Make You Groove,” September 15–21]. As a former New York City–area rock journalist, I was deeply offended to hear that Lester Bangs has apparently been depicted in the film as some kind of avatar of integrity. By only a few years after the time in which Almost Famous is set, Bangs had become notorious for dictating opinions to his writers, e.g., “I need a rave for the Johnny Thunders album,” “Get me somebody to slam the Tull tour,” etc. I suspect that Cameron Crowe, who’s such an admirer of Billy Wilder, might have done well to take a page from the master’s book of moral courage (not to mention dramatic irony) and incorporate Bangs’ heinous flaw into the narrative of the film.
In the October 6–12 issue, the photo of the mature Charles Lloyd is by Dorothy Darr.