Archive for the ‘letters’ Category

Who Do They Think They’re Kid-ding!?

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

A few days ago I made public my frustration with the mistitling of the upcoming remake of “The Karate Kid,” and wouldn’t you know in today’s LA Times, way too much front page Calendar section play is given to what amounts to soft -‘n-puffy feature about the backstory of the production of That Movie Which I Shall Not See.

Of course I took issue with a couple points:

I guess most of your readers (“Comeback Kid,” Calendar, May 30) will just surrender to Hollywood’s incredible ability to rationalize, but not me. When Overbrook’s self-serving James Lassiter explains that the power and authority rests with the actual Chinese “people” when it comes to location shoots there, I’d like to see him apply that logic to events such as Tiananmen Square and the Sichuan earthquake. Apparently from his strange “That’s why it’s called the People’s Republic of China,” point of view  those same “people” didn’t want democracy and used their “authority” to violently massacre those who did? And I guess all those school children killed in the 2008 quake came about because the “people” didn’t want their kids getting educated in buildings that wouldn’t fall down?

The second, third and fourth letters in Lassiter’s name pretty much sum up what such a statement makes him look like.

And speaking of asses, blame for the lame title gets attributed to the original “The Karate Kid” producer Jerry Weintraub who allegedly objected to Sony’s plan to correctly title the film “The Kung Fu Kid.” I’m curious to know who said that exactly and why such a statement was run without getting a response or no comment from Weintraub.

I already wasn’t going to lay eyes on this film for the stupid title alone, but now this puff-piece on its production will leave me avoiding anything Overbrook puts its hands on — and anything under John Horn’s byline.

Will Campbell
Silver Lake

This Is How I Vent & Move On

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

In this the day afterward of the disappointing (but not unexpected) result of my traffic court appearance yesterday, I’ve been sullenly grumbly and mumbly pretty much everywhere: at my desk, in the shower, getting dressed, on my bike commute today at work, at the office, in the bathroom, on my bike commute home, and back here at my desk.

Grumble. Grumble. Grumble.

So far the animals and my beloved wife have been pretty tolerant, but at one point this morning after Susan went to work and while I was getting ready to go I woke the dogs with a start going unannounced from my subsonic grumbly mumblies and ratzafratzins into a sudden and sharp and entirely out-loud Perry Mason-esque admonishment to the judge for failing to fully consider a discrepancy in the officer’s testimony yesterday. Replete with dramatic arm wave and punctuating finger point.

In other words I’ve yet begun to get over yesterday’s courtroom defeat. Surprise: I’m lost in a sea of frustration gambling at the Shoulda-Said table in the Hindsight Casino on the deck of the USS After The Fact. Waitress! Another greyhound — this time with more hound and less grey!

Ohhhhh yeaaaaaaah: I’m dwelling.

Ratza fratzin bratza scratzin.

But there’s hope. In what’s usually a sure sign I’m emerging from my funk, I wrote the following letter to the commissioner who ruled on the case… now if I can just remember his name:

Dear Commissioner,

Given the number of people and cases you encounter on a daily basis I’m certain you won’t remember me or mine, so by way of a reintroduction I was the first to appear before you in the afternoon session of January 11 in an attempt to obtain a dismissal of the citation received in June 2009 from an LAPD officer for my alleged failure to stop at a stop sign while bicycling in Larchmont Village.

While your ruling against me was a disappointment, I appreciated the time you spent questioning us both. Your decision proved my efforts futile, but not a waste as it allowed me to finally submit publicly something I’ve known for the six months that passed since the citation’s issuance: that the officer misrepresented his location at the time and place of my reported violation.

Personally, I thought I presented a pretty compelling argument that cast a reasonable doubt upon the officer’s version of events, but I did so knowing full well that barring a surprise confession by the officer and in the absence of indisputable physical evidence or unimpeachable witness testimony that could have refuted his written and verbal statements as to his purported location, it came down to you having to choose between the word of a civilian and that of a sworn officer of the law. As such, I can understand how it can seem practically your obligation to accept the officer’s testimony over mine.

Since I’m not disputing your choice, what’s the point of this letter? It’s two-fold. First, it’s for closure; to be able to relate to you what I couldn’t after you decided my guilt – out of respect both for the process and for your decision (as well as for the bailiff’s earlier instructions that upon rendering of a verdict defendants must essentially shut up and get out or risk being held in contempt). Second, because as a dedicated and conscientious commuter cyclist – one who travels with consideration and integrity more than 6,500 miles each year across Los Angeles – it is important to promote the positives of my chosen mode of transportation and to defend it against the bias I often encounter. It’s a prejudice seen firsthand not only from many of the civilian motorists I attempt to share the road with in my daily travels but now also by those in positions of authority such as the officer involved. Regardless of the outcome, I had no choice but to appear before you to represent and to argue that I was unfairly and improperly cited. It was all about the principle, not the penalty.

I close with a humble hope. That in the future when you and your fellow commissioners find cyclist defendants with the courage and determination (and trust me it takes both) to stand before you and beside their accusers vying for a respect that seems automatically granted the officers, should they present persuasive statements that call their guilt into question, do endeavor to provide them the full consideration they deserve instead of a rationed version of it. Because the decision you make between accepting their testimony or the officers’ should always be a choice, not a foregone conclusion.

Sincerely,
William Campbell

Better Luck Next Time, Westways

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

For the little driving I do compared to my biking, call me a creature of habit: I still renew my AAA membership without fail. It’s a tradition that goes back more than a quarter of a century, but one that has become increasingly irksome to me.

One of the “perks” of membership is the subscription to “Westways,” something I’ll skim through at best — if at all. And odds are I might not have seen the article titled “Sharing The Road” in the current issue (not available on the magazine’s website)  had Susan not left the magazine open to it on my desk.

Needless to say I had some problems with one of the largest most entrenched proponents and perpetuators of car culture talking about how bikes and pedestrians and motorists could better get along. Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for promoting making the streets safer for everyone involved, but it didn’t take long for writer Peter Bohr to show a pro-car bias.

And so I wrote them and told them all about it:

I consider myself something of a AAA anomaly: a 25-plus year member the last three of which have seen me shift gears (literally) and log more than 16,000 miles as a dedicated bike commuter, while adding only 6,000 miles to my truck’s odometer. I preface with that because in those three years of me pedaling well more than twice the distance that I’ve driven around Los Angeles I’ve become increasingly disillusioned with the Auto Club’s notable lack of awareness of self-propelled modes of transport — and Peter Bohr’s article, “Sharing The Road” (January/February 2010), does little to ease my aggravation.

I can certainly admire Westways attempt to promote the important topic of shared and responsible use of the roadways by everyone — and Bohr makes some excellent points. But his pro-auto bias shows through (heck, he’s even identified as a “veteran automotive journalist”). Barely mentioning the bad crosswalk and bike lane actions of “impatient or distracted drivers,” Bohr then goes on to skewer and generalize pedestrians who  “frequently jaywalk,” bicyclists who “often ride on the wrong side of the road and ignore stops signs and traffic signals, and joggers “hooked to their iPods” who “can be oblivious to the traffic around them.”  I don’t dispute those observations, but I do find it sadly typical that Westways and Bohr would ignore the myriad specific examples of motorists’ selfish and reckless behavior — far more frequent given their numbers, and often with much more dire consequences.

Equally telling is that there’s no mention of the infamous July 2008 incident involving an enraged motorist in Mandeville Canyon who was arrested after an accident and charged with willfully causing the injuries sustained by two cyclists. In case no one there at Westways has heard of it, Dr. Chris Thompson, a former emergency room physician, was found guilty in November of multiple counts and as of this letter is awaiting sentencing of what could be up to 10 years in prison. Instead, Bohr opens the article with the far less prevalent tale of an elderly pedestrian being ticketed almost four years ago. Such a choice is veritably quaint — and surprise: there’s not an irresponsible motorist to be found!

Lastly, there’s the “Safety Tips” sidebar, the order of which left me curious as to why motorists are the last group to be listed, below cyclists and pedestrians. In fact why is an automobile magazine preaching to cyclists and pedestrians above their core readership, if at all?

I guess my bottom line is: nice try, but better luck next time (not that I’ll be holding my breath).  Westways’ heart may have been in the right place with this feature, but its perspective certainly wasn’t.

Sincerely,
Will Campbell

Dufresne’s Refrain: Alabama’s Got No Shot

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

For the last two college football seasons I’ve endured LA Times sportwriter Chris Dufresne’s snide anti-Alabama bias. Throughout the 2008 season, even though the Crimson Tide amassed a 12-0 record, he veritably — and rightly — predicted an SEC Championship mauling at the hands of the Florida Gators. Bama went on to the Sugar Bowl to lose to Utah, a source of pain for me and a source of validation and hilarity for Dufresne.

It was the same again this year. Early on he predicted another perfect regular season — not out of respect for Alabama, but out of disrespect for their schedule. In his weekly rankings, the Tide crept up slowly never rising  higher than 4th, despite always being ranked 1,2, or 3 in various national polls. And in the end, he said,  Alabama would be Sugar Bowl-bound after meeting up with the Gators and going home the SEC Championship losers once again.

Well that vindicating end came yesterday and my Tide proved Dufresne dead wrong by swamping and drowning the Gators, 32-13.

And this morning in his report does Dufresne even come close to saying “Wow!” or admitting he didn’t see that coming?

Nah. He just wonders what all the noise is about.

So I grabbed a cuppa coffee and told him why:

You ask “What’s all the screaming about?”

Well if you heard any noise coming from the Silver Lake area Saturday afternoon it was me as a Bama fan exulting, not to mention turning out the lights on the last two years of your deathlessly dismissive snark.

Sure, you’ve been saying all along that the winner of the SEC was going to play in the national championship, but you were also saying all along that it would never be Alabama. That even if they kept winning, they’d eventually meet Florida and — last verse, same as the first — repeat last year’s defeat.

It would have sincerely surprised me this morning if I’d read any sort of apology — not to Alabama, oh hell no! But to your readers for leaving them so unprepared for what happened in Georgia last night.

But of course you didn’t. Instead, in the wake of such a definitive start-to-finish upset victory the best you could admit — and probably painfully — was that the Tide “soundly defeated” the Gators. Then to make yourself feel better you had to lamely cherrypick from Nick Saban’s post-game comments and giggle about its pro tone. Finally to justify the Longhorns’ tickets to Pasadena you had to go and weakly reference our 12-10 win over Tennessee as some sort of comparison to the victory Texas squeaked by with last night.

Yawn. Of course you did.

And of course you’ll be forced to move Alabama up in your rankings this week, but any higher than one spot to No. 3 (behind TCU and Texas no doubt) and I’ll be shocked!

-Will Campbell

UPDATED (9:45 a.m.): Dufresne digests my email and comes back with — surprise! — a characteristic self-servingly obtuse response:

I should apologize that my No. 4 team, Alabama, beat my No. 2 team?

Ok, then, Im [sic] sorry.

Chris Dufresne
chris.dufresne@latimes.com
@DufresneLATimes

Loser says what?

In Search Of A Just Sentence

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

So I was pointed to this page of the Yield To Life website by a member of the Bike Writers Collective. Apparently in an attempt to minimize what has the potential to be a 10-year sentence for Dr. Christopher Thompson his defense team is gathering letters and testimonials of support for what a good guy the former emergency room physician is who was recently found guilty of multiple counts in his road rage trial that resulted from his intentional actions July 4, 2008, in Mandeville Canyon that left two cyclists seriously injured.

To bolster its argument that Thompson be sentenced according to his crimes prosecutors are interested in receiving letters from the public to submit with a coming motion that support not letting Thompson off with a slap on the wrist. And so of course I sat down and pounded the following out to the DA’s office:

It is my hope that if the court must somehow refrain from throwing the book at Dr. Christopher Thompson, at least sentence him justly.

As a dedicated commuter cyclist who annually logs more than 6,000 miles across Los Angeles, I have been subjected to all manner of dangerous and threatening behavior from motorists, be it intentional or resulting from their inattention.

I was appalled when I heard about the horrible incident in Mandeville Canyon, and given the level of disrespect I can encounter when I ride, as well as law enforcement’s seeming predilection for discounting the rights of cyclists, I have to admit I was surprised not only that Thompson was arrested and charged, but that he was ultimately found guilty of his crimes.

For every conviction such as this one there are hundreds upons hundreds of car v. bike incidents that result in nothing being done, oftentimes with the blame being attached to the cyclist as if by default. In this rare instance of the blame being rightly attached to the motorist, I consider it the obligation of the court to send a message to the public by standing Thompson up as a loathsome perpetrator of the kind of aggressive and irresponsible behavior that cannot and will not be tolerated.

Thank you for your interest and for allowing me to share my opinion.

Sincerely,
Will Campbell

I would encourage anyone who wants to see justice done waste little time writing to the attention of Mary Stone at L.A. County District Attorney’s office at the following addresses:

mstone@da.lacounty.gov

District Attorney’s Office
Attn. Mary Stone
11701 S. La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90045

I Made Good

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

A couple months ago I finally did something I’d been meaning to do for a while: subscribe to Good magazine. And when my first issue arrived titled “The Water Issue,” I dove into it, eating it up like the delectable treat it was.

One of the articles headlined “Disobey Your Thirst” featured an interview with outspoken  water policy expert Robert Glennon and right off the bat he takes swings at Los Angeles — appropriately for our weak conservation efforts and inappropriately as a “desert.”

It’s a pet peeve of mine whenever my hometown gets refered to so incorrectly as such. So of course I wrote the good editors at Good a letter why from a meteorological perspective, and with the arrival of my second issue last night found that they saw fit to print it:

Robert Glennon’s all wet. Calling Los Angeles a desert, as he did in “Disobey Your Thirst,” is the lazy perpetuation of a fallacy. Certainly there are vast areas of the less-populated northern section of Los Angeles County that are desert, but the coastal plain — and thus the greater Los Angeles basin — is not, and for exactly the reason he sites: the rainfall. Sure, in a bad year such as this one the city of Los Angeles will get 15 inches or less, but given its general Mediterranean climate that’s still far too much for it to qualify as desert. I agree with him that Los Angeles needs to impose greater water conservation restrictions, but before Glennon labels us as that “community in denial” he ought first pull his own head out of the sand and get L.A.’s geography straight.

Will Campbell
Los Angeles

The origins of  the myth of Los Angeles as being willfully built Cairo-like upon a desert biome can be traced back to Los Angeles Times Publisher Harrison Gray Otis in the early 1900s who widely publicized the falsehood in order to drive support for the Owens Valley aqueduct bonds. It’s a misconception that’s stuck ever since.

Sure, one might argue that Los Angeles would be destroyed if we quit importing the majority of our water from distant sources, yet the same could be said for San Francisco and New York, both of which import water great distances to quench their respective thirsts… or are those metropolii built on deserts, too?

Stop! Letter Time!

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

There’s a reason Letters is its own category on this blog. It doesn’t take much to get me to write one. Politicians, preachers, editors, parole boards, if I got something to say, I say it.  And in today’s episode I sat down at the keyboard this morning with issues about two articles from two very different magazines. One was about snakes and the other about vampires.

The first letter went to Time magazine. A regular feature in each issue is its “Postcard” report. It could be from anywhere. This week it was “Postcard: The Everglades” from Florida and covering the ramped-up efforts to eradicate the exploded population of Burmese pythons that have made a home in the Everglades — by some counts as many as 150,000 of them — and threaten to damage that ecological treasure’s delicate balance.

It was a good report, except that it pretty much marginalized the cause of the invasion: us. Burmese pythons didn’t just end up halfway around the world from their native home on their own.

So I called bullshit:

To the editor:

I would have been shaking my head a lot less if Tim Padgett or an editor had the sense to move the cause of Florida’s exploding Burmese python population a little higher up in “Postcard: The Everglades” (August 10). Instead the snakes get demonized for being snakes and the true culprit gets dropped in near the end of the piece as an afterthought. Padgett even qualifies it a bit by attributing the imbalance to us “in large part.” Really? As if some percentage of the pythons swam over or stowed-away from Southeast Asia?

I understand the important need to eradicate this nonnative species, but don’t dump the reasons for their invasion like a couple more snakes in the grass. The Everglades’ balance wouldn’t be so threatened if it weren’t for those Floridians who greedily breed and sell them indiscriminately to the contemptible irresponsible buyers who think little about owning the magnificent creatures and even less about throwing them away.

Will Campbell
Los Angeles

Next up was Entertainment Weekly’s Top 20 All-Time list of Vampires. A solid effort, expect them whippersnappers saw fit to snub  the undead creature in the 1929 silent classic “Nosferatu.” In fact they didn’t even have the decency to mention the name of the actor who played the creeptastic character, all the while going gaga over the bloodsuckers-come-lately in some film called “Twilight” and a TV show I’m more familiar with, “True Blood.”

So I told them that sucked:

What a disservice done in dismissing the vampire in F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu” as “merely a walking cadaver” (20 Greatest Vampires, August 7). Sure, the 1929 film lacks in the character development and pacing and thrills found in today’s modern horror cinema, and it’s some consolation to give Klaus Kinski a rightful nod in the 1979 remake. But 80 years later Max Shreck’s creepily enduring vampiric turn is still worthy our regard– as it will be 80 years from now long after memories of the bloodsuckers from “True Blood” and “Twilight” have turned to dust.

Will Campbell
Los Angeles