Letters to the Editor 

Week of April 20, 2001

Home of Amazing Reporters
TO THE EDITOR: We are writing to thank you for the in-depth coverage of the child-care crisis in your April 6 issue ("Alameda County Faces a Huge Child-care Crisis"). It is always amazing to us when a reporter can understand this incredibly complex system and explain the situation accurately. Scott Michels did a great job and we commend him for this.
Arlyce Currie
Program Director, Bananas
OAKLAND

We Lost It at the Movies
TO THE EDITOR: Much of the talk around town on the closing of the UC Theatre ("7 Days," March 30) has been based on the loss of a "landmark" building and yet another Berkeley institution. Some seem happy with the change, the cheap tattered seats replaced by a magnificent new performing arts center, where the tickets will be ten times as much.

For thirty years the UC was part of my life, from The Magic Christian to Il Postino, all the cheap dates while sneaking a beer in, seeing a triple feature on holidays when everyone else was home with their families.

But we have lost much more than a building. An entire art form is disappearing, and that is taken very quietly. Once we had the experience of seeing great films the way a movie is supposed to be seen--on a real screen in the company of others, a public event. To see a movie in a house like that is an irreplaceable experience, one that in the future will not be there for most people. The movie industry, dominated by multinationals, some of which are busy selling DVD players and TV sets, has no interest in keeping Sullivan's Travels around as a 35mm negative and its prints when it can make more money digitizing it. Then it can be shown on TV. Then it will not be the same experience. Worse yet, the revival houses competed with TV and first-run films, the real bread and butter of the industry.

Some time ago the manager of the UC posted a notice asking public support to preserve 35mm movie negatives from destruction, as the industry would stop preserving them and striking new positives. The closing of the UC makes that a self-fulfilling prophecy. There's no need to preserve anything but pixels and profits. But seeing Lawrence of Arabia on a TV is like seeing the Mona Lisa on a computer screen, no matter how many pixels you have you still don't have the same experience. Renoir's famous long shots fade into the two-dimensional flatland on TV, with the dimensions of space, art, and history lost to the world. Even Sleeping Beauty will be digital.

While Berkeley still has the Pacific Film Archive, the movie palace has moved into a museum, and seeing a flick there, without popcorn, is like seeing it in a church. Most of the country will not have that.
Tom Price
BERKELEY

Plaza Sour
TO THE EDITOR: I would like to thank Sara Zaske for her story concerning the numerous and continued arts problems Jerry Brown is inflicting upon Oakland ("Cityside," April 6). Contrary to what the great Jacques Barzaghi says ("Letters," April 13), Zaske's story was an accurate and detailed account of the endless plaza sculpture debacle.

Since codirector Barzaghi is so intent on setting the record straight surrounding Zaske's article, let me help out. First off, personal attacks and innuendo have become a trademark of the Brown administration. For example, we saw the "missing heat blanket" caper and now the attempt by Brown crony Ignacio De La Fuente to take away the keys to the press room except for City Council night...anything to block or discredit City Hall reporter Sanjiv Handa. Now, we see this tactic used against Public Art Advisory Committee member (and volunteer, I might add) Scott Atthowe. Mr. Atthowe's attendance at PAAC meetings is among the highest of any committee member. He crossed the loyalty line when he dared to question CCAD staff. Staff was more dedicated to conducting business behind closed doors than informing committee members of their duties and providing direction. Atthowe's sharp questions and ability to field the torrent of policy and procedural issues is admirable and we owe him a collective thank-you instead of a public pillory.

On the other hand, Mr. Barzaghi has attended exactly one PAAC meeting and exactly two Cultural Affairs Commission meetings since he was appointed codirector. He can hardly cite anyone's "spotty attendance record" without a severe case of the giggles breaking out.

Barzaghi's off-the-wall character attack on Ms. Offer is an arrogant slap in the face of democracy. Ms. Offer, a renowned local poet and playwright, should be commended for taking her time to participate in the democratic system. Instead, she comes under siege just for voicing a contradictory opinion.

He owes both of them a public apology.

This is a key reason why artists don't usually attend more than one Cultural Affairs meeting: There is a systemic abuse of democratic principals going on at City Hall. It's disgusting when your voice is nullified and input into the decision-making process is denied over and over. The undercurrent is silent but strong: your reputation is put on the line for daring to speak up or step out of line.

On the issue of the mysterious pull quote, I intended that as an overview of the nonactivities of the Crafts and Cultural Arts Department since Mayor Brown took office, and yes, I still stand by that statement.

Oakland wasn't asking for celebrities to run its various departments. Oakland wants Mayor Brown to choose qualified candidates to run his departments over insiders and superstars. It's never a bad time to make a good decision.

The Crafts and Cultural Arts needs to hire a full-time, professionally qualified arts department director as well as a full-time public art coordinator.
Dan Fontes
VIA THE INTERNET

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