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I went to the Silent Movie Theater
last week, where I encountered the group of protesters that are the basis for Justin Clark’s article “Birth of a Protest” [A Considerable Town,
August 13–19]. Don’t the protesters and theater owners know that if we ignore the past we cannot learn from it? That to not show The Birth of a Nation is more racist than to show it? That self-censorship is slow death in a rotting grave? That it is cowardly to run away from a threat rather than properly address it? That I will never go to the Silent Movie Theater again unless they present a Birth of a Nation/
Intolerance double-bill for free?

—Philip Laszlow


I had pretty much given up on film critics at the L.A. Weekly and, for that matter, critics everywhere, but then I read a review by Scott Foundas, and for the first time in years I felt there was someone who was actually responding to the movie they saw and not to potential perks the studio was offering, or some sense of being perceived as indie, or whatever sad-ass reasons critics end up losing the plot and getting endlessly lost in the hype. After reading Foundas’ article on the new Exorcist film [“Hell Hath No Fury,” August 13–19], I again find him capable, insightful and thorough — and he doesn’t lose the plot. He can straight-up write. It’s a pleasure to read someone who actually cares about films. Try to keep him.

—Paul Quinn
Los Angeles

I want to let Scott Foundas know that he wrote one of the most intelligent, comprehensive and extraordinarily eloquent articles that I have ever read about a film being made in contemporary Hollywood. As a student at the American Film Institute who knows a lot about the film business, and has been following the Exorcist saga, I appreciate how much research and knowledge he put into the article. It’s refreshing to know that some people out there in the journalism world still have a unique point of view.

—Lucas Tanner
Los Angeles


In “Thinking Outside the Big Box” [August 13–19], Robert Greene asserts that Wal-Mart stores are evil because they harm neighborhoods and pay lower wages. This claim would be reasonable if it were not based on a gross misreading of basic economics. Wal-Mart might have lower wages; however, the price of goods is also lower at Wal-Mart stores. The alleged lower wage has the same purchasing power. Also, employees are not forced to pay a “tax” into a union that they may not want to join. If Wal-Marts are so terrible, why do people continue to shop there? Low prices? Let the free market work; let consumers decide which businesses they choose to frequent.

—Brian Dear
Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri


With Gabriel Rotello’s help, David Ehrenstein gets the controversy surrounding the book Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men exactly backward in his article “Time of Misery” [July 30–August 5]. While Rotello argues for sexual repression as a means of lowering HIV transmission rates, the gay community successfully achieved its historical — and astronomical — drop in infections only by exploiting the sex-celebrating aspect of gay culture. In those long-gone days, gay men were largely at ease talking about their kinkiest, sleaziest behaviors, so it was easy to reach large numbers of them with safe-sex methods they would actually use. Critics of Sexual Ecology were terrified that if we simply reversed course on our most effective strategy, as Rotello suggested, gay sex would go underground and transmission rates would rise. And that’s what happened — sexual openness is dead and infections are up.

What’s the next strategy? Well, the prevention program with the most impressive numbers, San Francisco’s Stop AIDS Project, does it the old-fashioned way — through sex-positive engagement. And the response? The government has threatened its funding for “promoting” sex. That’s just the cultural shift Rotello argued for. But I doubt even he’s happy about it.

—Dudley Saunders
West Hollywood

Ehrenstein replies: What “drop in infections”? They’re sky high!


It is gratifying to see L.A. Weekly recognize the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park and for Judith Lewis to draw attention to the danger it is in [“What’s Killing Joshua Tree National Park,” July 9–15]. Now if the Weekly could only take the respect it gives to Mother Nature and extend it to human nature by refraining from devoting its back pages to marketing women.

Aldo Leopold is quoted in Lewis’ article as saying, “We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.” The same mentality is behind our society’s continued disrespect for the humanity of every woman. L.A. Weekly has a role in this — by classifying women along with real estate and cars as a source of ad revenue. (By the way, when clients are solicited for sex workers, it’s called pimping.)

The argument for defending the commodification of women is that women possess the right to sell themselves. Yup, it’s a free country. And L.A. Weekly has the freedom to determine what ideas it chooses to promulgate and products it chooses to sell. Apparently, the Weekly chooses to be part of the problem by marketing the women in its back pages as subservient sluts with all the dignity of circus animals. How did the Weekly come to draw the line between respecting nature and respecting a gender?

Lewis’ article on the conservation of Joshua Tree quotes a biologist emphasizing the “importance of connectivity” in saving the land. We need to remember that those women for sale are our sisters, mothers, daughters — as deserving, inspiring and fragile as anything else in this world.

—Ellen Winkler
Santa Monica

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