By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Letters may be edited for clarity and length. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or mail to Letters to the Editor, c/o OC Weekly, 1666 N. Main St., Ste. 500, Santa Ana, CA 92701. Or fax to (714) 550-5908.
MISTY, WATERCOLORED MEMORIES
The following letters are in regard to the Dec. 28 feature, "What a Blast!"—in which our staff writers took a stroll down memory lane and recounted all the fun they had last year covering our scandalous county.
Your articles on Mike Carona are all very well-written, and my family and I commend you for your editorial integrity and fearless perspective on the facts [R. Scott Moxley's "A Tale of Two Tapes"]. I want you to continue to apply pressure, get the sheriff to resign [Editor's note: Hey, it worked!], and publish additional articles on his lack of integrity, credibility and trust. I represent hundreds of schoolteachers in Orange County, and we all unanimously agree: The sheriff must go. I have worked in this county for 40 years and am amazed that, to this day, he can still hold office and act as if nothing he did was wrong. I hope he serves a stiff sentence for lying to those who trusted him most, the citizens of Orange County. Please continue your articles. We support you and pray for your strength to bring the facts to the public about Mike Carona.
Gustavo's columns are always a hoot and very enjoyable, this one especially [Gustavo Arellano's "Tod and Me"]. His irreverence is so refreshing, though I'm thinking the Kool-Aid drinkers in OC consider him blasphemous and are seething. Goody! By the way, shouldn't that be "Tod and I"?
I would hope that in attempting to uncover all the problems at Capistrano Unified School District, you will present an accurate view of what the regulatory process is as it pertains to site acquisition and approval [Daffodil J. Altan's "The Real Portables of South County"]. Before presenting an overly simplified commentary designed to incite, rather than inform, an illustration of how public-school construction vs. modernization is funded at the state level is also necessary if you are to present an unbiased view of CUSD's ongoing problems. You might also delve into the motives behind the recall effort. The early recall supporters had an issue with school boundaries as opposed to any misgivings about facilities management and construction. While violation of the Brown Act is regrettably wrong, if you have ever attended a CUSD board meeting, you might have an appreciation for the board's attempt to get something done given the furor presented by parents angry at having to send their child to "that" school.
SOME DINERS NEED A XANAX
Your This Hole-In-The-Wall Life entry [Gustavo Arellano's Nov. 16 review of an article by LA Times journalist My-Thuan Tran and Vietnamese food in Little Saigon] is clearly a sensationalist commentary that amounts to little more than an advertisement at best and an irresponsible, exaggerated hit-piece at worst. Normally, writers of your muckraking caliber would drop the context out of a quote, but you actually left it in. Thanks for doing half the job for me.
When a journalist writes an opinion attributed to "some diners," they actually mean it is the opinion of SOME diners. As in: Your articles mean jack shit to some diners. I happen to know for a fact that some diners don't give a shit about what you say. Don't blame me; blame some diners. And don't blame My-Thuan Tran; blame some diners. Didn't they teach you that in Journalism 101? Or maybe OC Weekly just doesn't care about how they write anymore. These are not the so-called nightmares of My-Thuan Tran, but rather the nightmares of some diners. Don't insult your readers' intelligence by misinterpreting a quote and leaving the context in at the same time. You end up looking like an ass. And you will get your ass handed to you the next time you write an opinion attributed to "some diners" who don't agree with what you believe.
Then there is the matter of the actual content of this description. If you were actually Vietnamese, you most definitely would not be offended by such an unflattering description. Most Vietnamese restaurants are objectively dirty, low-tech, basic eateries. I don't see you arguing with that. I don't know of any Vietnamese-Americans who would argue with that, so what's wrong with the description? I grew up eating at quite possibly every ratty Vietnamese restaurant, and I can tell you the following:
1. Dirty is separate from tasty. If a restaurant is too dirty or too cheap, it doesn't matter how tasty that restaurant is. My parents have turned down many a restaurant because of how "do" (dirty) it is. They are not making a judgment of how the food actually tastes there. This is as true to the Vietnamese in Little Saigon, where dirty could be a turn-off, as it is to the Vietnamese in the real Saigon, where dirty could actually be life-threatening. Try expounding the virtues of dirty in Vietnam, where dirty sometimes means artificial "preservation" of meats by the lethal addition of formaldehyde, but damned if that beef doesn't taste swell. Dirty is dirty at best. Dirty is deadly at worst, but dirty does not relate to tasty. My-Thuan Tran makes no such assertion, but some diners might. You might, too.
2. You argue that gentrification does not necessitate enhanced taste, but neither does gentrification necessitate a loss of taste. Case in point: Brodard is a clean, well-run operation, but it is also universally accepted as the champion of their signature spring rolls (cuon nem nuong). There is a reason why you have to wait more than an hour during lunchtime for a seat here. That's because these spring rolls are only second to cuon nem nuong in Saigon. Oh, but it's not a hole in the wall! It's not cramped! It doesn't reek of fish sauce! It costs a lot more than many other places serving spring rolls! Oh, no, a contradiction! Guess you shouldn't go, in case your head explodes. . . . Don't be a snobby jackass who pretends to know a thing or two about cheap Vietnamese grub. Acting the opposite of some diners who prefer nicer environments doesn't make you any better than "some diners." In the end, you're just the same as some diners, trying to find a relationship between service and taste, be it directly or inversely proportional.
3. Bun bo hue is served at any number of restaurants in Little Saigon. In fact, Quan Hy sells it, too. By morphing your article from an attack piece on a journalist to an advertisement for Bun Bo Hue #1, you have irresponsibly shaped the debate as if My-Thuan Tran is against bun bo hue as a dish. She might as well be against any cultural dish that might be served in any hole-in-the-wall restaurant. She must also hate Banh Beo. And pho. And oh, I don't know, any dish served at any restaurant you would like to advertise for. Again, don't insult your readers' intelligence. Write about restaurants like Bun Bo Hue #1. That's your job. But don't snub other journalists who happen to report on SOME DINERS and the bigger picture.
A true fan of any kind of food, Vietnamese or otherwise, judges on the taste itself, regardless of the quality of presentation, or lack thereof. Some diners care about that presentation; you do not. Fine. But don't let either case bias you against writing about good food. That's your job. Do it right. Leave the bigger picture of reporting on the opinions of some diners, the business of food and the welfare of the Vietnamese community to others more eminently capable of journalism.
In last week's review of The Cut, we said the play Cleansed was penned by Mark Ravenhill when it was actually written by Sarah Kane. Also, critic Stacy Davies called the plays Some Explicit Polaroids and Cleansed "gory" when she really meant "gritty." The Weekly regrets the errors.