She Had California Covered

Daniel Hernandez used to work at the L.A. Times, so you’d think he could have found a more informed source than the one he quoted in his article about Janet Clayton leaving her job as assistant managing editor in charge of California coverage [“Putting Out the Cigar,” September 14-20]. It’s no wonder his insider wanted to remain anonymous after delivering howlers like this: “History will show [former editors] John Carroll and Dean Baquet were the worst things to happen to this paper.” The unnamed source went on to dismiss Clayton’s three years as California editor, saying she’d accomplished “nothing.”

During those three years, California-section reporters won two Pulitzer Prizes and were finalists for another. Coverage of immigration and the region’s numerous ethnic communities was greatly increased. A steady stream of investigative stories exposed, among many other things, systemic problems at the Getty, failings in the state’s conservator system, and the inadequacies of organ-transplant programs in California. State and local-government reporters produced a stream of hard-hitting stories about the governor, the mayor, the city attorney and other elected officials. And many more California stories made their way onto Page 1 each day. That’s nothing?

Sue Horton

Deputy California editor/?enterprise, L.A. Times

Playa Vista Project Falls Flat

If Steve Soboroff, the president of Playa Capital, thinks the average workingman can afford to plunk down $3,000 a month to live in his proposed Village at Playa Vista, either he is not very sober or he is horribly out of touch with the lives of the working class [“Playa Vista Quicksand,” September 21-27].

Either way, you couldn’t get me, a permanent member of the working class, to live in Soboroff’s high-rise development — not even if you paid me $3,000 a month. The reason is simple and something that everyone, including your reporter, Patrick Range McDonald, missed: earthquakes. As the title of your article suggests, all of Playa del Rey is built on a glorified version of quicksand. Should even a moderately survivable 6.5 or 6.7 earthquake strike the vicinity of Playa del Rey, all of the high-rises in the Village of Playa Vista would pancake. If you don’t believe me, check out what happened in Mexico City or even San Francisco when earthquakes struck there.

Does Los Angeles really want to be struck with an expensive search-and-rescue operation years down the road? Will Los Angeles have a morgue large enough to accommodate all the dead bodies rescuers recover from the rubble? The 2nd District Court of Appeals acted wisely. According to the principle of “best use,” which Soboroff should have learned in Economics 101, the best, as well as the sanest, use for the Ballona Wetlands is indeed a wetland.

William Joseph Miller

Los Angeles

Don’t Stomp the Music

Has Ella Taylor completely lost her sense of humor [“Help: Julie Taymor’s ’60s-set musical is a bust,” September 14-20]? What about the scene in Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe where Prudence strides across a football field singing “I Want to Hold Your Hand” as macho boys crash and grunt and tumble across the screen in front and back of her? It’s an ­unrequited-love song to the blond cheerleader she lusts after and is bittersweet-funny in a way that queer folks of all persuasions will identify with. To say that there are better films about the ’60s is to miss the point. This film is about reinterpreting very familiar Beatles songs that we’ve all grown up with and creating an environment where we’re actually listening to the words again. It happens to be set in the ’60s, but the antiwar sentiment and the take on sexuality resonate right now. Taylor says the selection is “Beatles-nice rather than Beatles-naughty?” What about “Come Together,” “I Am the Walrus” and “Happiness Is a Warm Gun”? Were we watching different movies?

But Taylor gives herself away in one telling sentence. “Musically speaking, the Fab Four took more than they gave.” Why send someone to review this musical who seems to consider herself an intellectual and doesn’t appreciate the Beatles or Julie Taymor? Also, why did the dour Scott Foundas review Hairspray, a movie he panned? Lighten up on the musicals, sourpusses. Send someone who might actually enjoy the experience.

Mark Eby


Taylor replies: In fact I love the Beatles. If Eby had read my piece carefully, he’d note that I wrote that the Beatles “took more than they gave, notably from American blues and rock & roll.

Where There’s Smoke

It’s an exquisite kind of pain to read an account of hanging out all afternoon with Sean Penn smoking cigarettes and talking about life. I can’t decide whether I really love this piece or I’m simply jealous of Joe Donnelly — and I don’t smoke. There must be hundreds, or hopefully thousands, of people like me who wish the world were more populated with humble, sharp-minded, ­introspective, pool-playing artists — instead of, well, read the latest news from Washington. I won’t say, “Sean Penn, I kiss your feet,” but that’s probably because I don’t have the humility.

Lane Barden

Los Angeles

I have always been a big fan of Sean Penn and consider him talented and interesting. It’s a damn shame he’s going to die at such a young age due to lung cancer if he doesn’t give up those cigarettes. The world will lose an artist, his wife will lose her husband and their children will have no father. You’d think a guy as smart as that would know better. (P.S.: You might mention this to your reporter also.)

Phil Shuman

Studio City


Last week’s music feature on Bright Eyes’ performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic [“Conor vs. Phil,” September 28-October 4] misstated Bing Wang’s title with the orchestra. She is the associate concertmaster for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. As well, although the feature discussed both the Bowl Orchestra and the L.A. Philharmonic Orchestra, only the latter was involved with the Bright Eyes performance. We apologize for the confusion.

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