Letters for December 2 

Readers sound off on Chevron, KPFA, green tech in Berkeley, and more.

Page 2 of 4

By and large, Pacifica's "democracy" has produced equally unappealing and unrepresentative factions: In Los Angeles, one is organizing pickets of station fund-raisers, while its opposition is running a candidate who accuses KPFK's staff of "organized censorship of 911-related issues"; In New York, one group has scuttled most WBAI meetings with organized disruption, while a member of its opposition has burned Pacifica's bridges to Noam Chomsky by using his name and image in deceptive campaign mailers.

That's not to say there aren't some diamonds in the rough — but the level-headed, productive board members are generally the exception, and generally don't last. The business of keeping Pacifica healthy gets lost in the constant internal warfare. And, unfortunately, defenders of the status quo seem to think democracy means purging whoever doesn't agree with you. Witness Grace Aaron, chair of the Pacifica National Board: her response to my critiques was to talk to your reporter about a "movement" to recall me from KPFA's board, then threaten me with disciplinary action for mentioning the fact that she's a Scientologist.

I think I hope that kind of petty authoritarianism does not represent the majority of KPFA's listeners. I don't think it's what anyone wanted from the movement that took to the streets ten years ago to defend KPFA from a different authoritarian regime. But it's what we've been left with and it's a system that's long overdue for reform.

Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Staff Representative, KPFA Local Station Board, Berkeley

"Not-So-Tiny Kushner," Theater, 11/4

Hack Theater Review

I used to think that the East Bay Area was somewhat underserved in local media, lacking the media equivalent of the Chronicle to provide reviews, previews, and entertainment selections. However, Rachel Swan's piece has suggested me to we are not somewhat underserved, but are, rather, phenomenally underserved, for a region lacking in media outlets is better off than one who has media outlets that appear to be aggressively misleading reviews of local entertainment options. My issue is not with the opinions presented, it's with an underlying obvious lack of comprehension and understanding of the very media which Swan reviews that belies what can only be a breathtaking lack of commitment to journalistic standards.

I read your review of Tiny Kushner shortly before watching the same production at Berkeley Rep, the review seemed a little off, having never seen the production, simply by giving credit to the playwright for, directorial decisions. Now, I'm aware that the state of journalism as print media is collapsing in the late aughts is not where it once was, but, one would hope, that the dedicated weekly for the East Bay could afford to hire a freelance theatre reviewer who understands the subtle difference between writing and direction, and then implements these differences by reading a playbill to give credit where it's due (the staging and blocking choices should be credited to Tony Taccone, the director, and not to Tony Kushner, the playwright). Having met both men in the real world, I'd have little difficulty telling them apart. Having a degree in Dramatic Arts and a career in lighting design, I understand their different roles, but I can understand that such a commitment may be less than important to a publication which chooses to eschew copyeditors, or not credit those people tasked with such duties.I'll also note that when I walk into a show where the set is as full of content and shape as that one was and used video as an extensive design element, I was surprised, not that Berkeley Rep or Taccone would choose such a production design, but that such elements didn't even warrant a backwards glance or briefest bullet point discussion in Swan's review. Her completely missing such a key element of theatre criticism makes me wonder if she is not better suited to following a police or sports beat where a simple statement of who said and did what with a disregard for specifics of space and its use may be acceptable as the locations are well defined (like the fifty-yard line) or kept brief (as in a police blotter).

In fact, on repeated instances as I watched the show, as it occurred, and compared it to the show I'd read reviewed, I found myself wondering if Swan and I had seen the same production. I'm going to avoid criticizing her aggressive mischaracterizations of clear dialogue about feelings as psychobabble, or that a character quoting someone offstage when they insult someone else as being the same as that first character spewing insults. Such mistakes are common in the field of hack journalism. I'm also not going to go into her nonsensical request that the final one-act "Only we who Guard the Mystery Shall be Unhappy," should have "applied the Dostoyevsky in a more interesting way." For the brief use of the text provided the final line of the production, and the invocation of the author was used in a criticism of the forty-third president, by comparing him to Satan.I'd also like to note that ignoring a criticism of the Iraq war by noting that the war "shifted to Afghanistan and Pakistan." Ms. Swan should be aware that there are still American soldiers dying in Iraq, and the bombing of Iraq has been going on consistently throughout the Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, but perhaps her staggering lack of interest in national foreign policy should be unsurprising, given that her beat appears to be arts, and she spends minimal time paying any attention to those. I will likely continue to peruse your periodical for information and events, but, as long as Swan remains a theatre editor, I will avoid seeking anything other than dates and times, for fear of being lectured about theatre by someone almost wholly unqualified to perform the most basic aspects of their job responsibilities.


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