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Setting Times stories to music: From the Ramones to the Pogues

October 12, 2013|By Kari Howard
  • Longtime Dodgers announcer Jaime Jarrin, left, is greeted by former Dodgers Manager Joe Torre on the field before Game 4 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
Longtime Dodgers announcer Jaime Jarrin, left, is greeted by former Dodgers… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

This week, two young reporters debuted in Great Reads: Andrew Khouri and Chris Megerian (see Tuesday and Thursday below).

And that got me to thinking of music debuts. Which band had the most impressive first album?

Anyone who knows me will guess my favorite: the Stone Roses. The 1989 release might be the only perfect album out of the thousands I own, and that's even without the additional song on the U.S. release, "Fool's Gold." A poll in the Observer newspaper labeled it the best British album of all time.

Of course, their second -- and final -- album, "Second Coming," isn't as universally loved. One of my favorite bits in the movie "Shaun of the Dead" has some fun with that. Two of the characters are using their vinyl as weapons against zombies (don't ask). As they squabble over  which albums to sacrifice, one picks up "Second Coming." The other says, defensively, "I like it."

Andrew and Chris, I'm confident that no "Second Coming" jinx awaits you.

Anyway, in these roundups of the week gone by, I’d like to offer the first paragraphs of each Great Read (or, as they’re known in print, Column One) -- maybe they’ll buy your eye and you can settle in for a good weekend read. And you’ll also get the songs that inspired me while editing the stories, or reading them later if my fellow editor Millie Quan ushered them through. A story-song combo!

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Monday’s Great Read:

Do childhood rapes by her father excuse her crimes?

The rapes started when Tatiana Thibes was a child.

Her father's sexual assaults became more frequent as she grew older and were accompanied by beatings and torture, she recounted in court years later. He used surveillance cameras, she said, to keep her a prisoner at home. When he was arrested for stabbing her in the chest, an investigation revealed through DNA testing that he had fathered her three children.

After her father was sentenced to life in prison, Thibes spoke of overcoming her 19-year ordeal by becoming a therapist to help other victims of sex abuse.

But four years later, the 33-year-old recently appeared in the same downtown Los Angeles courthouse where she once testified against her father, this time as a defendant.

Thibes has been in court for multiple hearings while judges and prosecutors decide what punishment she deserves. She could be sentenced to prison after her conviction last year for helping three gang members burglarize homes in Tujunga. (The Times generally withholds the name of sex crime victims, but Thibes wanted her name used.)

"I know I messed up. I feel like I let a lot of people down. I'm ashamed," Thibes said in a recent phone interview from jail.

Cases like Thibes' are a thorny challenge for the criminal justice system, one that judges and prosecutors routinely wrestle with: How should the courts punish serious offenders who have themselves endured difficult or abusive upbringings? The prosecutor who tried her burglary case said he feels torn as his office considers an appropriate sentence.

#storysongs combo: "Punishment Fits the Crime," by the Ramones. Just looking at the photo of the band in the video makes me smile.

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Tuesday's Great Read:

Does Satan worship lower a Las Vegas mansion's value?

They came to the Las Vegas mansion in waves, chasing tales of ghosts and murder. Some came to gawk or snap photos in front of its black metal gate. Others came to worship Satan. Thrill seekers broke in and drew pentagrams and carved upside-down crosses throughout the house.

The vandals came after "Ghost Adventures" featured the mansion on an episode that warned of a "nasty, evil spirit" that lurked inside. The homeowner fumed and sued. He wanted the Travel Channel show to pay damages.

But how do you calculate the effect that demons have on property value?

You ask Randall Bell.

The 54-year-old Laguna Beach resident is a doom-and-gloom real estate appraiser. He has carved out a singular niche, fielding calls from governments, big businesses, crime victims and international media, all seeking insight into the worth of stigmatized properties.

His caseload is ripped from the headlines: Nicole Brown Simpson's Brentwood condo; the Rancho Santa Fe mansion where 39 Heaven's Gate cult members committed suicide; JonBenet Ramsey's house in Colorado; the World Trade Center site; properties damaged in the Rodney King riots and by Hurricane Katrina.

#storysongs combo: "This House Is a Circus," by Arctic Monkeys. Warning: just a tiny bit of Anglo-Saxon language in this (but with the northern England accent, you might miss it.)

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Wednesday's Great Read:

A nurse who is healing patients and himself

He was riding in his aunt's sedan, a kid in elementary school, watching senior citizens walk in and out of the Lynwood retirement home where his mother worked. Then she emerged in scrubs.

That's it.

David Fuentes holds on tightly to that simple memory: his mother at work. It's easier than recalling many other parts of his childhood — "a blur," as he calls it.

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