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The references pointing readers to my Dec. 4 review of Bruce Springsteen's Tracks-the tease on the cover and then the headline and subtitle you gave to the review-were misleading. Anybody who reads the review knows it's filled with praise, so why does the cover say, "Springsteen: Irony-free and Anemic?" Nothing in the review says anything about the album being anemic. And the snideness of the headline, "No Irony, Please, We're Bruce Fans: Springsteen's new CD set has real meaning, man," wildly misrepresents the tone and substance of my piece.
God knows thinking up pithy headlines must be tough work, but accuracy ought to come first. I wouldn't be complaining, though, if these editorial decisions didn't bring up a larger issue-which is the knee-jerk snideness that characterizes so much of the Weekly's editorial presentation. I realize that, especially in Orange County, a certain sardonicism is one of those survival mechanisms you need to protect your sensibility, if not your sanity, but when it congeals into snideness and then into a house style, it gets automatic and thoughtless and self-satisfied, and who the fuck needs that? Not the Weekly, which can be-and often is-one of the few places we can turn to around here for fresh thinking.
This cooled-out snideness-which is essentially ironic distance from any kind of commitment, political, aesthetic or emotional-has played itself out as a cultural style: it's boring, it's ineffective, and it gives off a whiff of fear (usually what it protects is a soft core of belief that's afraid to reveal itself). To tell the truth, I wish there was more of an "irony-free" stance at the Weekly, a sense of passionate commitment that tries to blow past that paralyzing cool that affects so many people who are otherwise trying to do good things in this county.
-Cornel Bonca, Costa Mesa
The editor responds: Wow, Cornel, a little humor is indicated, even (or perhaps especially) where Bruce Springsteen is concerned. First, the cover line ("Irony-free and Anemic?") was a question (not a statement) intended to, you know, play on words-like "irony" equals "iron" and "anemic" equals "iron poor." And second (though we're feeling an awful lot like Bob Hope here, explaining jokes that aren't really funny), we'd point out that your own review argues (rather well, we think) that Springsteen is remarkable for his lack of irony, for his candor and earnestness-what you called his lyric "'I had a job; I had a girl' business." So that, third, in saying something like "No Irony, Please, We're Bruce Fans," we were actually praising (not condemning) Springsteen and his fans for their commitment to the romance of the everyday. But now it seems you can't even praise Springsteen fans for their idealism because-citizens of the postmodern-they, too, figure "irony-free" could only be intended ironically. So "pardon us," we're "really sorry."
SING AROUND THE CAMPFIRE
Bob Emmers' profile of Mark Massengill is a testament to everything that is good about journalism ("Special Urban Camping Issue: How to live on the streets," Nov. 27). Not only does his reportage of Massengill's daily routine have a huge impact, but his almost-reactionary critique of journalism also tags along in a subversive way. This story needs to be told and retold until everyone hears it. It reveals to the reader what he or she has always known but never been able to express: the homeless cannot be stereotyped as strictly "lazy drifters." They are human individuals with unique histories, circumstances and motives. They cannot be lumped so easily into a simple demographic, devoid of individual characteristics.
Mr. Emmers now has a solemn responsibility: to follow up with Mark Massengill in six months, a year or sooner. I hope that, journalistic integrity preserved, Emmers will introduce this suffering human being to all of the possible means of support he has at hand: support groups for parents of murdered children and the various churches, synagogues and other non-religious groups whose mission is to help people in his situation.
I have only one criticism of Emmers' piece: the story is self-revealing and needs no editorializing from the author. When Emmers states, "I do not know if you can sell your soul, but if it is possible, someone has already done it," it risks turning Pulitzer Prize-worthy material into another undergrad creative-writing essay with unnecessary reliance on a clich. Despite its probable truth, we as writers do not have the right to yank the reader out of the story into a movie of the week. I hope the author refines and re-examines this work and removes these "darlings." They subtract from the weight of its message and limit its audience, which is okay if you're writing for The Nation or The National Review. And nothing distances a jaded radical or a complacent moderate faster than trite phrases like "selling your soul."
Reading the mind-numbing gospel of the streets imbues a responsibility on us all. If we reach out and make a selfless connection with just one more person, we might prevent suffering like this in our lives as well as that of others.
-Joseph F. Longtin, via e-mail
LETTER FROM GRANNY
Commie Girl: May I bring to your attention the fact that the Weekly's reading audience is not made up of only giggling 16-year-olds? If I do, will you PLEASE stop writing like it's Teen Magazine? You recently wrote about seeing X for your first time and how you were going to race out and buy one of their records. I felt a little embarrassed for you then (my first time for X was at the Golden Bear; ask some of the old, crusty people at the Weekly to tell you about that wonderful old haunt, as I'm not sure you were born yet), but in "My Life As a Glamour Cat" (Nov. 27), you refer to a 36-year-old skate veteran as "some cute old man." What the? Are you old enough to get into the clubs you write about? I just turned 34, and if someone referred to me as "some cute old woman," I'd smack 'em in the head!
You're killing me out here, little girl! If I weren't so fricking old, I'd come out and smack you on the head! You're just lucky the bones don't work like they used to!
Urrrr!!! I better take my medicine. . . .
-Leanna Bennett, Costa Mesa
REALLY BIG SHOE
Re: "Can Vans Inc. Be Rich and Radical?" (Feature, Nov. 20): "Radical," huh? I didn't think anyone could be successful using "radical" as a marketing tool. I have been skating for 13 years, and it is something I hold close to my heart. Big dollars have caused snowboarding to be overrun by the kook population, turning it into an oh-so-fashionable trend. Let's all pray that companies like Vans don't attempt to turn skating into the next in-line skating.
I know Vans was the first skateboard shoe, but who really cares? They don't even make the best skate shoes anymore. I understand that it is just business, but is anything sacred and pure and done just for the sheer exhilaration of it these days? I'm afraid of what the answer might be.
-Aaron Geddes, via e-mail
Re: Will Swaim's review of With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today (Books, Nov. 20): How's this for a bad image: Mitsubishi and Kawasaki made planes that killed thousands of Americans. And those "mechanically precise machines" that the Japanese send to the rest of the world are illegal in Japan. Check the facts: in Japan, sport bikes in any class over 250cc's can't be ridden on the street. Honda was caught red-handed smuggling cars in from Canada to avoid paying taxes or tariffs. Just ask an American farmer why it costs $40 to bring a head of lettuce into Yokohama Harbor.
Do you think they make all that shit in unregulated countries for our health? Do you want proof? Read the article about Vans shoes in that same issue. Try reading The Japan That Couldn't Say NO. The publishers did not want it translated into English so you wouldn't know how they really feel about Americans.
-Tony Shipley, Huntington Beach
After reading his David Sanborn review, let me put this simply: music critic Buddy Seigal is a dick ("This Week in Musicians' Parts," Nov. 20). His assessment of Sanborn as a "Jacuzzi-jazz-playing sellout" is insulting and disgusting. So what if Sanborn chooses to record music that's accessible to the masses? He's being real (he happens to like smooth contemporary jazz). Here's an artist who for three decades has single-handedly re-defined the role of the alto saxophone in contemporary music, with imitators in abundance. Sanborn has never considered himself to be a heavyweight jazzer; he prefers his niche as a basic blues/R&B player (check out his interviews).
Only a jazz-homo snob of the highest order like Seigal would engage in insults so infantile as to call Sanborn a "pussy." A fitting punishment would be to subject this pompous know-it-all to an endless loop of his beloved Sun Ra's music till he pukes. Trust me, that shouldn't take long!
-Ron Robbins, Lake Forest
Buddy Seigal responds: Sanborn's efforts in "re-defining the role of alto sax" has been to release a slew of albums that sound, more or less, like the theme music from Entertainment Tonight. Mr. Robbins, I'd also like you to know that I contacted Sanborn to respond directly to your proudly stupid missive, as he's a well-known fan of Sun Ra and would grimace at your slander of one of the universally acknowledged greats in jazz.
MUSIC TO OUR EARS
For a paper that puts so much emphasis on diversity, it is odd that the OC Weeklyis so narrow in its music focus. You'd think the only thing that mattered musically was alternative rock, traditional blues and jazz, or anything to do with Linda's Doll Hut. Forget contemporary jazz or any other genre-that much diversity seems too much for the OC Weekly.
-Ron Kobayashi, Orange
FAN MAIL (WE THINK)
Ever since I discovered the OC Weekly, I've looked forward to reading (much of) it each week. Everything considered, I think the Weekly is great. But after reading the letters in the Nov. 20 issue, I now realize that I have been wrong all along. You guys suck! How could I have ever enjoyed the Weekly? I doubt that I'll ever pick up your rag again!
-Harry Y. Snyder, Seal Beach
P.S. Keep giving 'em hell.
P.P.S. Keep tabs on Bob Dornan. He lost the election, but there still are a large number of fools who voted for him. Who knows what he'll be up to next? He may be a joke, but he is a sick joke.
The editors respond: Ironically, in order to keep tabs on Mr. Dornan, we named him editor of our Letters page, starting with the Nov. 20 issue.
A young, single journalist friend of mine observed that the picture of the "friendly and fun blonde" in the adult classified section of a recent OC Weekly was the same picture used in a company pamphlet advertising high-technology laser dental cleaning. In fairness, the pretty, young blond lady does have beautiful white teeth. It all goes to show that in the art and science of cleaning teeth, high-tech is not always better!
-Michael A. Glueck, Newport Beach
The editors respond: Young, single journalist friend, eh? What's he/she wearing?
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