Thanks for Brendan Bernhard's insightful and incisive response to art writing at MOCA and the Charles Ray exhibition [“English as a Foreign Language,” March 511]. But he passed over the sentence that turned me off the most. On the wall text at the beginning of the show, the first sentence reads, “Charles Ray is the most important California artist working today.”
Even if it were the role of a museum to decide who is the most important artist, for anyone to make that statement up front strikes me as presumptuous. Duchamp was ignored by France even at his death; Picasso was trashed in the '70s, and then there's van Gogh . . . Given the uncertainties, the tendency to categorically valorize some artists and hastily reject others is an unfortunate aspect of art institutions, and not something to unleash in the gallery of a major museum.
Your article, and MOCA's writing, also reminds me how strongly contemporary art has been affected by academic practice since the late '70s, and how self-conscious so many people in and out of the profession are about their command — or lack of it — of discursive writing or speaking. This has generated an atmosphere in which specialized language presents itself as a self-validating emblem whose authority often depends on a kind of bullying obfuscation, rather than on the more difficult achievement of discursive clarity.
I want to thank Brendan Bernhard for ferreting out the “stylistically impoverished,” trash-talking MOCA critics and curator. Luckily for those of us who enjoy the museum, there will be some time between the current exhibit and the next — within which MOCA can send its upper echelon back to Rhetoric 101.
The Charles Ray retrospective is an uneven survey of accessible and often comic work. Why those who've come down from their Olympian perch to explain it to us need to shadowbox language and logic to death is a mystery to me. We could chalk it all up to egghead elitism, but what is the elite even getting out of this tangle of verbiage?
Atwater Village â
With the descent of industrialization and the ravenous engulfing of formalism by the post-postmodern strategy of annihilating and manipulating the existential paradigm, one wonders why and how one would use gender to question anything. Hey! This is fun! Maybe I could get a job at MOCA, too! Thanks, Brendan, for the pie in the eye of the emperor. You know . . . the naked one.
Congratulations to Brendan Bernhard for a superb article on lousy writing. I would urge those who would write about art to remember the old maxim “Better to keep one's mouth closed and be thought a fool, rather than to open it and remove all doubt.”
I read an online article by Judith Lewis called “The Loneliness of Linux” [March 511]. Bravo. I think it is one of the most courageous and truthful looks at the rising Linux phenomenon, and reflects truly the feelings of those who are caught between the opposing forces of conforming to standards and striking out on your own. While it is true that Linux is rising in popularity, unless it succeeds in becoming the de facto standard à la Microsoft, it cannot and will not replace anything more than the boxes of a few nerds and far-out companies trying to be different.
–Puneet S. Sethi
New Delhi, India
I find it refreshing that someone has the temerity to “use” Linux. So many journalists will install Linux just to publish a couple of articles and explain what their experiences were, without ever seeking to put the OS to use. Lewis' comments on script writing and using “vi” are proof that she sought to understand the culture behind the hype. I applaud her efforts and the article.
Judith Lewis' writing is succinct and informed, and illustrates a style seldom seen in today's media: “Tell the story, don't steer the reader.”
–Colin J. Raven
Just finished Judith Lewis' story about her Linux machine. Very good. A friend of mine told me once about his company. Most of the engineers use MS Word to write documentation, proposals and such; all day long, he hears his cubemates cursing at the program. “God damn it, another #$@*! screwed-up format!” And so on. “But they keep using it,” he says, “even though they have Frame-Maker running on the Unix systems!” As for me, Windows just makes me angry: It's so slow, clumsy, unstable — GUI for dummies.
Underscoring the arcane idiosyncrasies of an old distribution of Linux without considering alternative, much simpler ways of doing the same things lessens the credibility of the author in the eyes of those who do use Linux, and gives a false impression to prospective users that even the most basic tasks, such as editing text files, will take years to learn how to do. In neither case are anyone's interests, except those in Redmond, served. I expected better from the Weekly.
–Dr. Brian J. Albright
I just read your Linux article, and it made absolutely no sense. I'm glad that people on your staff know what Linux is, but write articles about something, not about hard drives that crapped out.
Re: Michael Collins' “Crash and Burn” [March 1218]. Once again the L.A. Weekly promulgates the agenda of its principal source of advertising revenue, the tobacco industry. Now, what are some of the components of a “Prohibition-style surge in crime” arising in the region? The substance is sold legally in packs of 20 doses for just a few dollars; part of the price compensates the states for health damage caused by the substance; an additional fee funds early-childhood-development programs; the substance is banned in places where people who don't use it might be forced to ingest it against their will; federal officials fail to devote time or energy to prosecuting those selling the substance illegally. I don't really understand what all the whining is about. Marijuana smokers would absolutely love for their drug of choice to endure such a “prohibition.”
–Clifford J. Tasner
So far, anti-smoking activists have increased the tax on all forms of tobacco and banned smoking in bars. Such actions have caused tavern owners to lose business and employees to lose tips. I'd say the antismoking activists are a small-business owner's worst nightmare.
Great article by Michael Collins on cigarette smuggling and theft. Of course, this was predicted by those of us researchers who, despite being strongly antismoking, do not think that the solution lies in higher taxes and other outright punitive actions against smokers.
With higher prices and burdensome restrictions, smokers are turning to one more alternative: They are using smokeless tobacco products to reduce their exposure to health risks, and health Nazis. Our research group here at the University of Alabama at Birmingham has studied this phenomenon; a summary of our studies is available at www.dental.uab.edu/www/oralpath/FSO.html
UAB Department of Pathology
UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center
Ernest Hardy's review of Cruel Intentions went beyond criticism to name-calling. I realize that most young film actors today are ill-equipped to handle anything even approaching classical technique. However, when a review states that an actor's “natural film setting would be silent gay porn,” that begins to sound less like criticism and more like a personal matter. The need to sound witty and clever I accept, but that remark was neither, just malicious. Mediocrity may need to stand on a large pile of dung to feel taller, but this kind of thing is not worthy of Mr. Hardy, nor of your paper.
Thanks for F.X. Feeney's Stanley Kubrick obit. Like his recent piece on The Thin Red Line, it said what needed to be said.
F.X. Feeney rightly noted that Stanley Kubrick was a master cinematic technician. Unfortunately, he failed to mention that the director wasn't much of a thinker, moralist or humanist. In the last 27 years of his life, he had great technique and almost nothing to do with it. After the brilliance of Paths of Glory, Lolita, Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange, Kubrick had the power to make any movie he wanted to, and what did he give us? A heap of mediocrity. He had become obsessed with lighting and color and sound, and lost track of the human heart and soul. He turned into a pathetic version of Hal, the computer from 2001. I don't find this a cause for celebration.
I have just two questions: Exactly what kind of drugs was F.X. Feeney on when he saw 2001, and where can I get some?
As an independent who voted for Clinton, and as one who watched the Judiciary Committee hearings and the Senate trial almost in toto, I found Harold Meyerson's and Will Rogers' recent articles on James Rogan [February 1218] disingenuous and sneaky. They disparaged just about anything Representative Rogan has ever done, with a parsing and manipulation of words that would make Clinton himself proud. Hard as it might be for these writers to fathom, there are people in America who still believe in right and wrong. From what I've seen, James Rogan is one of them.
I'd like to thank the L.A. Weekly for its recognition of the late Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun [“Last Wishes,” March 1218]. Your inclusion of segments of a dissenting opinion that has become fundamental for abolitionists nationwide was both appreciated and moving. I look forward to coverage as challenging and penetrating of California's addiction to state-sanctioned murder. I wish you continued success.