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Selling Out The Kids

September 12, 1993

An advertising executive who says it's OK to "go after" children once they've reached a certain age is in the same category as any predator ("Billion Dollar Babies," by Karen Stabiner, Aug 15). When the public trust is betrayed by companies in search of profits at whatever cost, well, let the buyer beware. But when it involves children, these people should understand that there is no forgiveness on our part, that we hold grudges forever. After Beechnut was fined in 1987 for selling sugar water as apple juice, I never again bought another Beechnut product. When we heard that a television network had hired a big toy company's marketing director to run its children's programming department, we stopped watching that network entirely. Same fate for any local station that tried to palm off "The Flintstones" as educational in order to meet FCC requirements. There is no polite way to put this. These people are scum. And since our elected officials only serve to help these interests, we have to set our own standards and enforce them ourselves. JON CAVANAUGH Pasadena

Stabiner's effort to depict children's advertising as a sinister plot was unpersuasive because it kept refuting itself. Whereas TV ads are supposed to be the main reason that children choose certain brands, in Stabiner's own examples her daughter wanted Dannon Sprinklin's because her friend Annie has them in her lunch box. And another kid wanted Cheerios because "Billy eats Cheerios." And though Stabiner calls children more vulnerable to advertising because, for them, "seeing is believing," she reports elsewhere that after screening a Dannon commercial containing a mythical "Creation Station," 40 second-graders called it impossible. "They knew it wasn't real," Stabiner concedes. Finally, even though Stabiner's whole premise is that television ads create lifetime brand loyalty, she reports that not only her own daughter but most children surveyed by Dannon tend to abandon yogurt, despite the commercials. Stabiner and other do-gooders should tip their hats to this vital industry that gives out useful information about products and services and helps sustain our economy. STEPHEN F. ROHDE Los Angeles

Madison Avenue manipulates our children with mindless messages to consume, consume, consume. White supremacists teach their children to hate. At the same time, as a society, we cannot find enough money to fund the library books and services that have traditionally provided our children with the tools to acquire insights, make their own decisions and create a meaningful, hopeful future for themselves. As a society, we should be ashamed. PENNY S. MARKEY Manhattan Beach

SMALL YARDAGE "Originality by the Yard" (by Susan Heeger, Style, Aug. 1) was a pleasant change from the showcase gardens you ordinarily feature. However, not all gardeners are homeowners. I care for more than 75 potted plants on my 4-by-12-foot balcony, and I'm not unique. I'd welcome more pieces on gardeners who fight space limitations and difficult conditions to create container gardens on small balconies and patios. DIANE C. WICKES Van Nuys

Los Angeles is the garden capital of the United States, and for our preeminent newspaper to spotlight weeds, junkyard kitsch, ceramic doodads and faded plastic roses at the height of summer is so boring, stupid and jaded that you must be very embarrassed by your lack of creativity and sensitivity and the article's general hauteur. Ah, yes, a dandelion planted in an old Coke can. Notice the startling juxtaposition of form and color. Thus is beauty defined nowadays among the politically correct in Los Angeles. BRAD ROBINSON Hollywood

DIGITAL DALLYING My lip began to curl as I read about Interotica, the small step toward computer-generated exchanges with a CD-ROM-based program called "The Dream Machine" ("Cybersex," Palm Latitudes, Aug. 15). But then I scolded myself for my narrow view, realizing that this could be an answer to the burgeoning population problem. And might it not drive the "Operation Rescue" crowd even nuttier? Think of all the ramifications. RUTH PORTE San Diego

NAME-CALLING OVERDOSE "It's Bradleytown, Jake" (Palm Latitudes, Aug. 8) really hit the nail on the head about the overuse of former Mayor Tom Bradley's name on L.A. structures. The only thing the City Council hasn't given that "honor" to is one of the new subway tunnels, or a mounted statue in some park. Or how about changing the name of the Hollywood Reservoir to Lake Bradley? And how would the Raiders football team sound as the L.A. Bradleys? STEPHEN LEVI Santa Monica

A SHINING LIGHT What a gift! The luminous and illuminating piece "Seeing the Light" (by Arthur Zajonc, July 25) managed to attain the high level that your magazine and, indeed, The Times is aiming to achieve. A moment of thoughtful brilliance for our "gloom-ridden" city. DR. S. MARK DORAN Los Angeles

Thank you for having the wisdom and imagination to print Zajonc's article, perhaps the best I've read in an American newspaper. Goethe, as he lay dying, said "More light!" You and Zajonc have let in a gorgeous ray of sunshine. PETER F. NEUMEYER La Mesa

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