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HAND OVER THE MUSIC
OR ELSE . . .

With regards to Ben Sullivan’s article “Music
Industry Puts Troops in the Streets” [January 9–15]
, I find it interesting
[that] the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) is defending its
actions by stating, “Its investigators do not represent themselves as police,
and that the incident reports vendors are asked to sign, in which they agree
to hand over their discs, explicitly state that the forfeiture is voluntary.”

Funny, this kinda sounds similar to how Mafia guys go around to local businesses
asking for “protection” money. All voluntary, of course. All in the best interests
of the businesses in question, of course.

I hope Ben Sullivan continues to write more investigative articles about the
quasi–sovereign state status the RIAA seems to think is its right (things like
issuing subpoenas that bypass the court system, and now quasi–police raids).

Neal Stephenson was writing science fiction when he wrote Snowcrash
a number of years ago, but there’s a telling scene in the book when the mobsters
go around town wearing jackets with “MAFIA” in FBI-style lettering. Funny how
truth is stranger than fiction, or is this a case of life imitating art?

—Paul Lee
Richmond

FACELESS IN THE CROWD

Having read Robert Greene’s misguided piece [“Face
of a Protester,” January 9–15]
on the proposed ban on ski masks and protective
eyeware at demonstrations, I’m shocked that this has not come about sooner.
After the Miami riots of late last year and the Seattle WTO riots of 1999, law
enforcement needs to have the ability to control riotous crowds.

Mr. Greene seems to overlook the fact that most of the violence perpetrated
at these demonstrations/riots is by masked young anarchists and radical environmentalists,
such as those responsible for last year’s terrorist attacks in West Covina and
elsewhere in the San Gabriel Valley. We have a group of young thugs who are
using a political agenda as an excuse for violence. Mr. Greene and the ACLU
should take this into account before assailing the police and the means they
use to protect us.

—Brian Chandler
Pasadena

 

As an activist who has been protesting since the war in Vietnam, I have to
agree that the wearing of facemasks is a risk today, unlike the risks of the
past. Perhaps, since 9/11, our innocence has been lost, but the type of people
who are involved in protests usually wear masks not to protect themselves from
tear gas or rubber bullets, but to hide their identity. Since the late ’60s,
I have never been a victim of gas or rubber bullets, and feel that this is just
an excuse to allow vicious acts to take place without fear of retribution. The
wearing of masks really is used not only to intimidate the opposition, but to
hide from victims who want to identify their attacker. If you feel the need
to act in such a way, be a real grown-up, suffer the consequences and stop whining
like a baby.

—Allyson Rowen Taylor
Los Angeles

MODERN OBJECT-ION

The decorating advice Ron Meyers offers at the end of
“Thoroughly Modern
Living” [January 9–15]
was entirely sensible. I tell my customers almost
exactly the same thing — that they should surround themselves with things that
they need and like, and not be afraid to indulge in eclecticism outside of the
supervision of a licensed interior designer. I have even recommended IKEA to
my customers when it was appropriate.

Unfortunately, Mr. Meyers’ article strained to make any sort of useful critique
of the prevailing “Modernism” phenomenon. The legitimate enthusiasm for the
best objects produced in the middle of the last century hardly needs defending,
certainly no more so than the objects themselves do. That not every buyer of
an Eames plywood chair has immersed himself/herself in the true Modernist canon
does not mean that they are somehow implicated in an empty pursuit of fashion.

An Eames chair is not a cliché. Its ubiquity today is no less respectable
than its ubiquity in the 1950s. It is a completely valid object, something that
manages to be at once expressive, comfortable, experimental and beautiful. It
is precisely the fashionable who wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near an Eames
chair. I started hearing things like “If I see another Eames chair, I’ll scream”
three years ago. (By the way, I doubt that the newfound popularity of George
Nelson benches would be at all distressing to George Nelson; he was the designer-for-industry
par excellence.)

Of course there is a faddish element to all of this. Of course many people
place objects in their homes to signal to others that they have money and taste.
Of course there are those (as a dealer, I wish there were more!) who make their
homes into museums of the stuff. I think Mr. Meyers is bothered by all this.
How else to explain his use of the expression “prayed over” to describe the
attention accorded to what even he must admit are fascinating, historically
significant, beautiful things. Mr. Meyers knows we’re not talking about Bakelite
drawer pulls.

The substance of Modernism is far more widely understood today than it ever
was. Does Mr. Meyers think that the first generation of buyers of Nelson benches
and Mies van der Rohe chairs had a more genuine connection to these things than
people do today? I buy and sell ‰ the artifacts of Modernism, and I can assure
Mr. Meyers that the lovely old people who patronized Modernism at the beginning,
the “original owners” from whom I buy, were no more sincerely passionate (and,
I might add, no less driven by fashion) than are the young people to whom I
sell.

A final note, on IKEA: Whatever its considerable strengths, IKEA is not the
avatar of Bauhaus Modernism Mr. Meyers would have us believe. Without getting
into a debate over the precise nature of the Bauhaus ethic — I’ll just remind
Mr. Meyers that the handcrafting of luxurious objects for the elite was an important
part of the Bauhaus curriculum — IKEA fails most spectacularly in that an alarming
number of its cheap and cheerful products derive rather obviously from well-known
designs of the ’40s through ’60s. Whatever the Bauhaus stood for, it was not
plagiarism.

—Sam Kaufman
Sam Kaufman Gallery
Los Angeles

 

A hundred posies in praise of Ron Meyers’ “Thoroughly Modern Living,” his
thorough dissection of the vanity of contemporary style. This morning’s headlines
are reporting that upward of 30 percent of Earth’s species will likely be extinct
come 2010 as a result of global warming. As ol’ Japhy Ryder once said: “Register
your absence with the Null and Void Trust Company.” In the face of such catastrophe,
it truly is time for a rucksack revolution in America.

—John Crandell
Paradise

AN “I” FOR AN AUSSIE

I congratulate Steven Mikulan for his fair and accurate
report about my wife’s (Sue Smethurst) ordeal at LAX as a working journalist
entering the U.S. from Australia [“Coffee,
Tea or Handcuffs?,” December 19–25]
. The good news is she now has an I-visa
for foreign news media, and hopefully not only will there never be a
repeat incident, but the two of us can again holiday in the States at the end
of the year!

—Ralph Horowitz
Melbourne, Australia

BOTH SIDES OF THE FENCE

Don’t know whether Mr. Howard Blume lived in L.A. in
1973, but I did. In the December 12–18 issue [“The
Mayor Who Made L.A. Big”]
, he stated: “Sam Yorty . . . the race-baiting
reactionary Republican.” Yorty’s campaign signs (he was a Democrat, if in name
only) blared “Yorty, THE Democrat.”

—Roy Colegrove
Northridge

 


Blume responds: Yorty was indeed a registered Democrat as mayor, until near
the close of his career in 1972, when, according to his obituary, he changed
to Republican after the Dems nominated McGovern for president. So, technically,
Tom Bradley defeated a Republican Yorty in 1973.


GOOD FELLOW

L.A. Weekly film critic Ella Taylor was awarded
a fellowship with the USC Annenberg Getty/Arts Journalism Program’s “New Perspectives
for Mid-Career Arts & Culture Journalists, 2004.” The fellowship is an enrichment-and-training
program for distinguished midcareer arts reporters and editors from print, broadcast
and online journalism.


 

LA Weekly