LIST OF ISSUES
I am glad to see Mike Davis’ “6
Remarkable Ways To Die” [The List 2004, December 24–30] includes the
“Mothman Curse.” Intriguingly, Mr. Davis did not mention the most
hauntingly reinforcing death of 2004 related to this curse — the unfortunate
passing of The Mothman Prophecies’ director Mark Pellington’s wife on
July 30, 2004.
Someone kindly correct Peter Fletcher by telling him that the
Audio Pepper Spray status he levies on the song “I Can See Clearly Now”
Spray,” December 24–30] is probably due to Johnny Nash. To associate
Jimmy Cliff with one-hit-wonder status is pretty much sacrilege.
That Greg Burk writes that Immanuel Kant lived “in the late
19th century” [“Words’
Worth,” December 24–30] would no doubt come as a surprise to that philosopher,
who died in 1804. Also surprising is the “fact” that the German Einfühlung
means “one-feeling,” since ein- here means “in,”
not “one,” as is to be expected given that this is a calque from the
Greek empatheia (I suspect Mr. Burk saw a link with something like “feeling
at one with”); the Greek en- or em- means “in.”
Further, the Greek empatheia never originally “connoted solipsism,”
a philosophical position that seems to be entirely alien to the ancient West;
it connoted “a state (of the body), a feeling,” while the cognate
adjective meant “in an emotional condition, passionate,” and, more
dully, “able to be affected” (of things) and “inflected”
(of words). Nor does the Oxford English Dictionary suggest any connection of
the English empathy with solipsism, past or present. The same is true
of the German Einfühlung. The German word (like the cognate verb
sich einfühlen) is often said to have been coined by Robert Vischer,
the late-19th-century German philosopher, and translated into English as empathy
by the English, but German-trained, psychologist Edward Titchener, who also
claimed to have coined it, and certainly was the first to use it in a scientific
context as part of a psychological theory (what came to be called “empathic
understanding”). But the German word was used to understand something different
from or alien to ourselves by the great theorist of German Romanticism Herder,
and a century later taken over by phenomenologists like Vischer as a word for
the perception of the aesthetics and symbolism of natural form.
—Professor Catherine Atherton
Departments of Philosophy and Classics, UCLA
I am disappointed with L.A. Weekly this year, politically
speaking. So much ranting in place of serious analysis. Doesn’t the paper think
being reasonable and rational, and not demonizing its opponents (which is merely
a way of avoiding answering their arguments), is a better strategy for the long
In any case, I figured the Weekly would be a little chastened
by the election results, but no. I see in the
Zeitlist issue [December 24–30], from writers such as Greg Burk, John Powers
and Doug Ireland (not to mention the hopelessly biased Web sites that were recommended,
including Juan Cole’s and the DailyKos.com), that 2005 won’t feature even a
glimmer of fairness on issues like the war in Iraq.
If L.A. Weekly continues on this path, I predict years
in the wilderness followed by years of regret as the Weekly realizes
it was on the wrong side.
DIVISION OF LABOR
I applaud Marc Cooper’s article regarding the County Federation
of Labor’s endorsement of Jim Hahn [Dissonance, “Labor’s
Dirty Move,” December 31–January 6]. As the executive director of the
Engineers and Architects Association (EAA), IUPA Local 8000, AFL-CIO, which
includes almost 9,000 members employed by the city of Los Angeles, I know firsthand
that Jim Hahn has not been a friend to labor nor to the citizens of this city.
EAA broke with the County Fed because of this endorsement, and we are working
diligently and applying the resources we have available to help Antonio Villaraigosa
become the next mayor of Los Angeles.
It appears to me that Cooper accurately deduced the reasoning
for the County Fed’s action, and I must say that I am somewhat embarrassed that
we would support Hahn at a time when he is spending taxpayer money like a drunken
sailor on leave.
EAA applauds Marc Cooper for shining light into this dark crevasse.
—Robert G. Aquino
JEWS AND GENTILES
In reference to Ernest Hardy’s film review of The Merchant
of Venice [Calendar, December 31–January 6], I strongly disagree with the
comment on Al Pacino’s “atrocious performance . . . whose laughably bad
accent and scene-chewing delivery” causes the production to “collapse.”
This is outrageous, wrong and clearly misinformed (there are stronger words
I could use). Al Pacino’s reserved and laid-back Brooklynese could not be a
better fit and contrast to the proper, high British accent used by the rest
of the cast. The Jew as outcast and underdog may have a different accent and
language that separates him from the gentile. The fact that Pacino’s character,
Shylock, is flawed and cannot make the “right decision” is Shakespeare
at his best, and Pacino pulled it off, a consummate performance with the skill
and mastery we have come to expect from him.
I find the film a masterpiece. It is most welcome in a time when
mindless drivel is the usual fare at our local theaters. We need reviewers who
are sympathetic and familiar with the classics. In each generation, we must
interpret what came before in the context of our own world.
—Jerome P. Helman, M.D.