America, Inc.

To the Editor,

The Skinny's ramblings about AT&T using its size as a reason it can't take care of the little details (June 28) strikes home. I am dealing with letters from my bank, insurance companies, credit institutions and the like, letters that tell me if I don't want them to share information, I must take the time to reply and I must use my own envelope and stamp.

Thank you, corporate America. All these mergers would lift all boats, you said, and bring more convenience to consumers. Well, my savings account pays 2 percent; I have two choices for health care providers when I used to have five, and it costs more; cable TV rates seem to go up every six months. Pretty soon, Disney and AOL will own everything and life will really begin to suck.

--Michael Carson

Artificial Intelligence?

To the Editor,

It's time once again to check in on the levels of arrogance that film reviewer James DiGiovanna will sink to, and with his review of A.I., "Ay Robot!" (July 5), he has come close to rock bottom.

Let's start with his biggest atrocity. "Tragically, one of [Stanley Kubrick's] best pals was Steven Spielberg, who is to filmmaking what Josef Mengele was to medical care." How clever. Besides the arrogance of assuming he knows anything about Kubrick's professional relationship with Spielberg or that he can know what Kubrick would have done with A.I., DiGiovanna should know Spielberg is an American Jew and the founder of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has collected many, many interviews with Holocaust survivors. So DiGiovanna's comparison with the famous Nazi doctor is (you finish the sentence, I'm too angry).

And then there are DiGiovanna's factual errors. Stanley Kubrick was not "thwarted by production problems" that kept him from taking the Brian Aldiss short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long," and waiting 18 years to start getting the movie made. A little research would reveal Kubrick was impressed with Spielberg's ability to mix computer-generated imagery into storytelling with kids and thought perhaps Spielberg could tell A.I. better than he could.

Second among many errors, DiGiovanna has no proof "the first thing Steven Spielberg did was rename it A.I.: Artificial Intelligence." In fact, press reports and statements from Kubrick's brother-in-law suggest the title and a great deal of the story come from Kubrick's work on the story.

Third, DiGiovanna implies the "mecha" boy in the story is responsible for "imprinting" on the mother, Monica Swinton. The mother instigates the imprinting, which is just one of the many morally ambiguous events in this complex (despite what DiGiovanna says) movie.

And then we learn some things about DiGiovanna's take on life, art and intelligence. If a movie like Speilberg's E.T. has any cute kids or adds any warm and fuzzy parts to the world of the story, then it must be stupid and inartistic by definition. It hasn't occurred to DiGiovanna that perhaps Kubrick would see the point of A.I. with Spielberg as director might be the unnatural warmth of a cute and "warm" robot boy in a world where his unconditional love may be the most inhuman thing about him.

Whatever the faults of the movie, it deserves better than a man who never lets the facts get in the way of his arrogance or the truth get in the way of showing off his pseudo-intelligence and clever phrase making.

--Howard Allen

James DiGiovanna replies: Let me attempt to address the alleged "factual errors" in my review.

First, it's easy to know something about Kubrick's professional relationship with Steven Spielberg since Spielberg and the publicity machine were pretty up front about it. Citing the very interview with Kubrick's brother-in-law, Jan Harlan, that I assume Allen is referring to (from The Guardian, a London newspaper, in the Sunday, May 7, 2000 edition), Harlan notes that Kubrick and Spielberg "spoke all the time," and that there are six or seven years worth of correspondence between them regarding A.I. I'm not sure what Allen's complaint is regarding my making a comment about Spielberg and Kubrick's relationship, but it is a matter of public record.

Second, again citing the Harlan interview, there were any number of production problems that put Kubrick off the A.I. project. Kubrick made a number of starts on the film but was continually dissatisfied with the effects. Harlan notes that work with Chris Cunningham on producing a mechanical boy was a "total failure," and that later Kubrick did some test shots for the sunken city sequence, but decided to wait on the project when he saw what Industrial Light and Magic could do, saying "the longer we wait, the better."

Third, the title change: All of the press materials that I have seen, and every article on A.I. that I encountered prior to Spielberg acquiring the project, had always referred to it as A.I. The first time I saw it titled A.I.: Artificial Intelligence was well after it had gone into Steven Spielberg's hands. Perhaps Allen could cite an example of the longer title being used by Kubrick. If so, I'll gladly print a correction.

And nowhere did I say that Kubrick would not "see the point" of using Spielberg on the project. As I noted, Kubrick liked Spielberg. In fact, he was deeply impressed by Spielberg's work (again, Harlan notes this in the Guardian interview, and other press reports have mentioned how Kubrick was impressed by such Spielberg films as E.T. and Jurassic Park). I find it odd that someone of Kubrick's reserved talent would go for the kind of middlebrow schmaltz that Spielberg produced, but Kubrick had some odd tastes. He was, for example, well known for hiring awful actors to play leads in his films (Keir Dullea in 2001, Ryan O'Neal in Barry Lyndon and Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Eyes Wide Shut).

And I never said that the robot boy instigates the "imprinting," though I can see how the wording could imply that. If that ruined the review for you, sorry, but in under 900 words I really don't have the space to detail every element of the plot, nor would I want to, since that would spoil the movie.

Finally, in comparing Spielberg to Mengele I was just looking for someone who was very good at doing something very evil. If Spielberg's status as an American Jew and founder of the Shoah Visual History Project makes it impermissible for me to compare him to someone who was a member of the Nazi party (and I can see how this would be perceived as insensitive, though I hate to think that anyone is off-limits for criticism), then please accept my apologies and substitute one of the following for "Mengele": Lucretia Borgia, Attila the Hun, Josef Stalin or Lee Atwater.

Jack's Back

To the Editor,

I was saddened and horrified to read your article on downtown Tucson's return slide to the moribund, menacing and malodorous state that it had achieved in the '80s ("Downtown Downturn," June 28). Once again, the City has allowed the downtown to sink to the lowest level of appeal due to a lack of interest (or constituents for the cynical), vision and ability.

Where only seven years ago small-business owners were not only holding their own but planning for the future, now the most visible retail presence is a boutique for fetishists. Yes, they have their place in this world; but no, I do not believe they represent the highest and best that Tucson has to offer.

Not only have the retail losses been staggering, but the fact that the former a.k.a. Theatre space is being used for "artistic" purposes by a tattoo parlor is absurd. Having been instrumental in the sale/purchase of the building, I can state categorically that this use is not within the bounds of the agreement. I appreciate Caroline Reed's need to recoup her investment, but that does not change the fact that she is in violation of the substance of the agreement. The City's lack of interest in this abrogation does not surprise me at all.

Finally, before I bring on a stroke from pique, let me comment on David Wright's letter regarding tattoos and art (July 5). David, you should recall that when you declared graffiti vandalism to be art, your building was tagged immediately afterward. I just hope that your position this time does not have permanent results.

To also comment on the tattoo artist's remark that it is the world's oldest form of art, this may explain why it is normally found being practiced in context with those plying the world's oldest profession. Perhaps the answer is to bring back Tucson's red light district and concede downtown to this use (which would be historically accurate, after all). Rio Nuevo/Rojo, anyone?

--Jack McReynolds
Former Managing Director, a.k.a. Theatre
Former Managing Director, Downtown Arts & Retail Alliance
Former Director, Graffiti Abatement Project

Mangling Mongelli's

To the Editor,

What's the deal with Diza Sauers' vicious review of Mongelli's ("Pasta Disasta," July 12)? I have eaten at Mongelli's several times and found the food good, and the service to be adequate to excellent depending on when I was there.

I asked an employee where the desserts that Sauers maligned come from; he responded that they come from a local bakery, although some, such as the brownies and the cookies, are made on-site. Sauers seemed to be grasping at straws regarding the desserts, attacking the chocolate cake as "disturbingly fudgy" and belaboring the fact that the desserts weren't made there. Come on! For one thing, it's chocolate cake, and for another, most local restaurants get their desserts elsewhere and display them in a case much like the one at Mongelli's. As for the mango-raspberry cheesecake, I have eaten it in the past and found it quite enjoyable, although I must say I didn't take the unique color/texture combination as seriously as Sauers did.

In summary, Diza Sauers seems to have run down everything but the w(h)ine, although it seems she brought that herself!

--P. Jansen

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