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  • MIXED MESSAGES: Okay, so "The Grinch" movie is a hit. But isn't it ironic that the very message of the original Dr. Seuss story - that Christmas isn't about stuff - has been subverted by the movie's marketers? "For weeks now, merchandising tie-ins to the film have contributed to that acquisitiveness, emphasizing to the public that Christmas does, indeed, come from a store." Hartford Courant 11/19/00

  • WHERE THE MONEY IS: It's become fashionable to deride the big money in art. "But what's so special about art? People seldom climb into pulpits to lament that commodity broking, or insurance, or even interior decoration has become 'too money orientated'. Why is it that art alone is polluted by the appearance of cash in more than moderate quantities? And what, for that matter, is so very awful about largish rewards being handed out even for 'silly' works of art? More tragic things happen in the world than foolish artists getting undeservedly enriched." The Telegraph (London) 11/25/00

  • HOW WE MAKE CULTURE: Is there such a thing as "the culture?" "In some ways our thinking about nature on the one hand and 'the culture' on the other has undergone a reversal within a matter of decades. It used to be that the cultural aspect of ordinary reality was, by definition, the part most amenable to human transformation, whereas the natural aspect was seen as having a dynamic of its own, which was largely out of our hands. 'The culture' is today the more fearsome realm, or at any rate the more convenient scapegoat, and the notion that we have only limited influence over it appears to be widespread." The Atlantic 11/00
  • AN "INFORMATION MAP OF THE WORLD": New online encyclopedias turn to users as contributors, hoping to create real-time maps of all of current human knowledge. One site has 60,000 contributors from 90 countries. "These sites appear at a time in the Internet's history when its utopian ideals linger as tenuously as the fun money investors doled out over the past two years." The Standard 11/20/00



  • DRIVING EDWARD VILLELLA: In the 15 years since he founded it, Edward Villella has turned Miami City Ballet into a respectable, successful company. "But Villella, though exhausted by years of overwork and in failing health - he has a bleeding ulcer and underwent his third major hip operation last May - keeps pushing toward new peaks. It's almost as if the closer he gets to the mountaintop, the harder he drives himself - and the more frustrated he becomes at not reaching it." Miami Herald 11/19/00
  • CONTRACTING TO DANCE: The Australian Ballet postpones a major work and schedules it for the opening of its 2001 season, then discovers its contract to perform the work has run out. "The contract, believed to date from 1986, stipulated that for 10 years the Australian Ballet had the rights to stage the work in-house, that is, without a repetiteur. After that, a new contract would need to be renegotiated and a repetiteur flown out to re-stage the work." Sydney Morning Herald 11/20/00



  • FILM ON THE VERGE OF A NEW ERA: "Recent breakthroughs in technology have made it possible to capture movies using high-definition digital video cameras with fidelity akin to that of 35-millimeter film and to project them digitally in theaters with no loss of image quality." What will that do to the art form? New York Times 11/26/00 (one-time registration required for access)

  • RUN AWAY TO CANADA: Last year about $10 billion in movie production business left Hollywood for elsewhere. About 80 percent of it ended up in Canada. And with a threatened writers' strike in California, the number of "runaway" productions should increase next year. Say the Canadians: "People are showing up here with work and asking us to do it. I don't know how that is runaway production if a producer has $3. 5 million to make a movie of the week and he comes here and suddenly has $4.5 million." San Francisco Chronicle 11/26/00

  • HITCHCOCK AND ART: A new show in Montreal ponders Alfred Hitchcock's ties to the other arts. "The general idea is that Hitchcock has a great culture in literature but also in art, and sometimes he transposes to cinema some of the solutions that have been found by surrealist and symbolist artists." CBC 11/21/00

  • HOLLYWOOD POWER RANKINGS: Who are the movies' most powerful figures? The Hollywood Reporter poll ranks the most influential people in the industry. "The nebulous concept that is 'power' is given a vivid, if indirect, illumination; and 'power' is such an important by-product in Hollywood. It's not merely the power to make profitable movies, which in turn generate more power, but power as trophy, which is very important to the industry's amour propre." The Age (Guardian) 11/20/00
  • THE PROBLEM WITH ART MOVIES: "Despite the diminishing profits of art house movies - once known as "independent" films, now usually called 'niche' or 'specialty' or 'low-budget' - a tidal wave of them continues to flood the market. The result is that very few ever find an audience, no matter how good they are." Washington Post 11/20/00

Plus: So far this year's Oscar race is lacking much buzz ~ A record 46 films have been entered in the Best Foreign Picture Oscar category. 



  • TOO CLOSE TO HOME: It's another month-and-a-half before Ken Burns' new 19-hour documentary on jazz is scheduled to be broadcast. But already the critics are lining up to take shots. Burns says he's not fazed: "I'm prepared for the criticism, I care about it...but I didn't make this film for the jazzerati." Chicago Tribune 11/26/00
  • WAGNER ON ITS OWN TIME: It's a staple of aesthetics that great art should have no dispensable parts, no padding or extra material. Wagner's operas are filled with lots of dispensable bits that, paradoxically, can't be dispensed with. One paces oneself during Wagner, expecting events and reactions at a fundamentally different rate. And this pacing produces part of the hypnotic effect: anticipation and relief are extended, heightening the effect of both." Washington Post 11/24/00
  • SO MUCH FOR THE NAPSTER THREAT: This year four recordings have sold 1 million copies in their first week of release. In the previous history of the music inductry, only two albums ever generated those kinds of initial sales. "Why the sudden increase of records achieving what not long ago was considered an impossible dream? Part of the answer is the overall growth of the music business, which soared from sales of $7.5 billion in the U.S. in 1990 to $14.5 billion last year, according to the Recording Industry Assn. of America. But mostly it's marketing." Los Angeles Times 11/21/00
  • BOCELLI GAINING ON THE CRITICS: "Andrea Bocelli's fans have snapped up the new recording despite mixed reviews in the press. Some writers think the recording is an abomination, even in principle; others, including this listener, have heard sophisticated musical impulses and genuine feeling in his singing. Internet opera chat groups have turned nasty, with some lambasting Bocelli as a pop singer who has no business defiling the temples of operatic art. The fact is, however, that Bocelli became a pop singer wholly by accident, and all his life he has wanted to sing opera." Boston Globe 11/24/00
  • HIP-HOPPING ALONG: "Born three decades ago on the streets of the Bronx, condemned by the establishment for its encouragement of violence and misogyny, hip-hop has survived to become a major component of American and world culture and a billion-dollar industry." Chicago Tribune 11/24/00
  • AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB: Why would anyone want the job of running London's Royal Opera House? The place has run through five directors in as many years. The board is feisty and meddlesome, and the public isn't so well disposed towards the company. "What that leaves for the ROH chief executive is little more than shuffling schedules and making sure the floors are swept. Most people who want to run an opera house do so with a view to having some influence on what happens on stage - inserting a fancied singer here, a favourite ballet there." The Telegraph (London) 11/22/00
  • LAMENTING A BRILLIANT PARTNERSHIP: Arthur Sullivan was made famous and very rich by his collaboration with William Gilbert. And the musical plays they wrote are still performed 100 years after Sullivan's death (the anniversary of which is this week). So why did he die believing he had wasted his life and cursing his partner? The Times (London) 11/21/00

Plus: The Scottish Opera is a financial mess and not getting help ~ The Beatles' "Yesterday" has been named by Rolling Stone and MTV as the most popular song since 1963 ~ Singer Charlotte Church and her manager settle in the middle of their court battle.



  • REM KOOLHAAS: "His architecture is bracing and unsettling and even though nothing he has done yet has had the same popular impact as Frank Gehry's Guggenheim, he is clearly going to be the next big thing." The Observer (London) 11/26/00

  • STILL STANDING: Arthur Miller is about to open another play on Broadway. And he's about to turn 85. "Over the years, the critics have been all over the lot when it comes to judging Miller's work. But in 1984, the critics and the public began re-examining Miller. And most of them liked what they found. So when he accepted the Tony for 'Death of a Salesman' last year, it wasn't without a sense of well-earned, well-honed, irony - a sense that he's been one of the victims in 'The Crucible' who finally got the chance to put his torturers on trial." Boston Globe 11/26/00

  • DEATH BY DIFFERENT INFECTION: "For decades, it has been widely assumed that Oscar Wilde died from syphilis, acquired as an Oxford undergraduate, although this notion has been questioned over the years. Research published today by two medical experts, in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of Wilde's death, says a chronic ear infection that spread to his brain was responsible for the death." Glasgow Herald 11/24/00

  • THE UNPREPOSSESSING NOBEL WRITER: Just who is Gao Xingjian, the Chinese writer who won the 2000 Nobel for literature? "Mr. Gao has 18 plays, 4 works of literary criticism and 5 books of fiction to his name, but his entire oeuvre has been banned on the Chinese mainland since 1985, while his best-known novel, 'Soul Mountain,' a lyrical account of a long journey through the Chinese backlands, has so far been published only in Taiwan, Sweden, France and Australia." New York Times 11/20/00 (one-time registration required for access)

  • ART OF EDITING: "Robert Gottlieb's near-legendary status in the publishing world owes much to sheer anomaly. Running Simon & Schuster, and then Knopf, he had just two interests: the books he edited and the books he balanced (''What people forget about Bob,' says Charles McGrath, editor of The New York Times Book Review and Gottlieb's deputy at the New Yorker, 'he was a terrific businessman'). Boston Globe 11/21/00



  • THE FUTURE OF LIBRARIES: With all these commercial online reference services, will librarians become obsolete? 'We know that libraries can provide authoritative information, both online and offline.' And we feel that the only thing stopping us is the fact that patrons aren't coming to the library much anymore.' A new project is attempting to make the library an even more vital research source than ever before." Wired 11/24/00
  • A MATTER OF CREDIT: A Montreal novelist has come forward to charge that she co-wrote the book that won this year's Governor General award for non-fiction and was promised recognition she didn't receive. Nega Mezlekia, author of Notes From the Hyena's Belly, denies the claim. "I hired her because I was worried about the formal aspects of my work. She would try and change things, but I don't think she was doing it out of spite, but because she didn't understand the book. She didn't have a sense of humour. She was always telling me that the book will never see the light of day." National Post (Canada) 11/24/00
  • TIS THE SEASON TO SLANDER: It seems everyone has a hero to debunk these days, as biographies of famous figures pour out of publishing houses this fall. "Most of the personages currently exposed have little in common except the compulsion or determination of their biographers to manhandle or mishandle them." New York Times 11/23/00 (one-time registration required for access)
  • SEE YOU IN THE FUNNY PAGES...ER, GRAPHIC NOVELS: Comic books (or "graphic novels" as they're now being called) are hot. "More than a few of these works not only tap into a burgeoning post-20th-century self-referential nostalgia, they also manage brilliantly to bridge the ever-widening chasm between visual and print generations. Thus, the ascendancy of the graphic novel becomes less about economics and more about the intertwined abstractions of demographics and esthetics. A fusion of styles and fascinations has facilitated the maturation of the comic book into a smart, funny, haunting work of literature with effects." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 11/21/00
  • WORDS AND MEANING: "Though the enterprise of literary criticism is a vast and infinitely complicated one, it all begins in a very familiar and basic experience. I read a text, perhaps Shakespeare's Sonnet 94 ("They that have power to hurt and will do none"), find a deep pleasure in doing so, and want to explain my experience to others, sometimes enabling one of them to find the same kind of experience. I believe that I understand Shakespeare's poem, and I want to test my understanding against other people's views, perhaps even to enrich it as I deepen my insights in response to theirs." Philosophy and Literature 10/00



  • THE COST OF "RESTORATION": The Shubert company, Broadway's biggest and richest landlord, has announced it will add a $1.25 "facilities charge" to the cost of every ticket for shows opening after January 1. The company says it needs the money for preservation and maintenance of its theatres. The company stands to make as much as $1,900 for each performance or $60,000 per month per theatre. New York Post 11/24/00

  • LEARNING FROM THE MASTERS: "Compared to other art forms, theatre has been slow to tap into the vast reserves of experience and expertise within its senior ranks. There's a long-standing tradition of musical virtuosi having regular teaching assignments in between performances; whereas, as Peter Hall has observed, theatre 'tends to be divided into two distinct camps: busy professionals and those who teach'." A program in London's West End tries to change that. The Independent (London) 11/24/00

  • MANHATTAN ON BROADWAY: One of New York's most venerable non-profit theatres makes a play to take over the deteriorating Biltmore Theatre on Broadway. "The Biltmore would make Manhattan Theater Club productions Tony-eligible, which brings national exposure and a potential boost to ticket sales. The Biltmore will allow the theater club to have an orchestra pit for the first time, and fly space for scenery. New York Times 11/22/00 (one-time registration required for access)

  • THE WHIFF OF FLOP IN THE AIR: A few short months ago, "Seussical" the musical looked like the season's sure-fire hit on Broadway. But when it opens next week "it arrives a wounded animal, bloodied by brutal out-of-town notices and months of backstage gossip, with the moniker 'troubled' clinging to its hide like a tick. It has a new director, set designer and costume designer, and an entirely new physical production. Its book has been substantially revised, and its budget has soared from $8.5 million to $10.5 million." New York Post 11/22/00
  • THE REPLACEMENTS: What happens when a hit show has to replace its star? The New York Post follows around an actor preparing to step in to "Cabaret." New York Post 11/26/00

Plus: Agatha Christie's "Moustrap approaches its 20,000th performance in London ~ Trevor Nunn says he won't seek a new term as head of London's National Theatre when his contract expires in 2002 ~ Al Pacino might be the first of some Hollywood stars to appear onstage at London's Old Vic ~ A small-city tour "Sound of Music" couldn't make an agreement with Equity, the actors' union. So it went non-union and began the tour.



  • STOLEN PAINTING RETURNED: Washington's National Gallery is returning a painting to the heir of a collector from whom the painting was stolen by the Nazis. "The painting, 'Still Life with Fruit and Game' by Flemish artist Frans Snyders, depicts a large basket of colorful fruit on a red tablecloth, surrounded by dead game, including birds and a small deer." New York Times 11/20/00 (one-time registration required for access)

  • ALL ABOUT CONTEXT: The Museum of Modern Art's new temporary digs outside Manhattan promise to change the context of the art and the experience of seeing it. New York Times 11/26/00 (one-time registration required for access)

  • IN DEFENSE OF THE "DIFFICULT": In a televised lecture (excerpted here) on the state of contemporary art, Tate Modern Director Nicholas Serota champions work that is transgressive and beyond immediate understanding. "For me, the undoubted shock, even disgust, provoked by the work is part of its appeal. Art should be transgressive. Life is not all sweet." The Independent (London) 11/23/00

  • CAPITOL PLAN: A $265 million plan to expand the US Capitol building in Washington is taking shape. The large 588,000 suqre-foot addition will be underground. "The Capitol Visitor Center, containing auditoriums, a museum-size exhibition hall and space for future congressional use as well as the usual visitor facilities, will be the biggest and most significant addition to the Capitol in nearly a century and a half." Washington Post 11/22/00

  • PT BARNUM OF ART: In the first half of the 20th Century Chick Austin brought a showman's touch to American art. "Not only did Austin promote artists like Picasso, Balthus, Mondrian and Dali when they were virtually unknown in the United States, but he also amassed an important collection of masterworks (especially Baroque painting, Dutch still lifes and Poussin) on view at the Atheneum to this day. Alfred Barr, the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art, told Austin: 'You did things sooner and more brilliantly than any one'." New York Observer 11/22/00

  • SWISS BANKS AND THE HOLOCAUST: Swiss banks plan to distribute $1.25 billion in reparations to Holocaust survivors. "Until just recently, Swiss bankers were demanding impossible-to-produce death certificates and other documentation before they would pay out claims." But many of the survivors or their heirs are contesting the settlement. New Jersey Online 11/20/00

Plus: Restoration of Michelangelo's "Moses" is being done live over the internet ~ Some of America's ealiest paintings - believed to be 1,100 years old - are discovered in a cave in Wisconsin ~ A member of Hitler's art team says art for Hitler's private museum was all obtained legally and none of it was stolen ~ Attorneys representing the 100,000 plaintiffs who sued Sotheby's and Christie's for price fixing stand to make $27 million for their work after negotiating a $512 million settlement ~ Controversy over bones believed to be Giotto's continues ~ Chagall's hometown in Belarus finally honors the artist ~ Archeologists who rescued the Turkish town of Zeugma, a 2,000-year-old Roman garrison on the banks of the Euphrates,from floodwaters last summer are now calling Zeugma, a "second Pompeii." An artist creates work for a Palm Pilot. But is it art?



  • REASONABLE PROTECTIONS: "Citing 'significant legal limitations' and 'substantial and unsettled constitutional questions,' FTC Chairman Robert Pitofsky concluded that the agency would face considerable difficulties bringing cases against Hollywood under existing federal trade laws." Los Angeles Times 11/22/00
  • CONSIDER THE ARTIST MANAGER: Artists have no problem with paying managers commission when they [the artists] aren't earning money but as soon as they do, some of them become resentful, forgetting the blood, sweat and tears you have put in over the formative years. Every manager dreams of discovering and nurturing that talent, not out of vanity but through entrepreneurial ambition. They have careers to pursue, but people seem to think they are doing it for fun." The Observer (London) 11/26/00
  • THE POLITICS OF ART: There's a federal election going on in Canada, but none of the candidates or parties seems to want to talk about culture or the arts, a $22 billion industry in which the government has some major investments. Ottawa Citizen 11/24/00
  • IF THE SELLER PROFITS FROM OUR WORK, SO SHOULD WE: Australian artists want a percentage of the sales price when their work is sold at auction. To reinforce the "request" they've announced a 12 month moratorium on allowing images of their work to be reproduced in auction catalogues unless the auction house pays a five percent copyright fee. The Age (Melbourne) 11/22/00
  • NEW ARTS COMPLEX FOR DALLAS: Dallas unveils plans to build a $250 million performing arts center downtown. "The latest plan calls for a 2000-seat lyric theater for the Dallas Opera and other musical groups, and an 800-seat theater to replace the temporary Dallas Theater Center stage on Flora Street." Dallas Morning News 11/22/00
  • BRITAIN'S LOTTERY WINNINGS: Britain's lottery funding for the arts has recently come under fire for some of its dodgier projects. But "for the first time since the great days of Victorian self-confidence, Britain has been pouring money into what you might call cultural assets. Museums, galleries, stadiums, botanical gardens, new and refurbished public buildings have been popping up all over the country. The idea behind the National Lottery was that it would finance all those good things that often get squeezed out of government budgets." The Economist 11/16/00




  • BETTER THAN SEX: The music revolution is here. “ 'MP3' — the most commonly used format for downloading music from the Internet — has now overtaken 'sex' as the most frequently searched term online." The Times (London) 11/24/00
  • BEATLEMANIA: "Nearly 40 years after the original John, Paul, George and Ringo began their popularity is such that there are now some 2,000 Beatle tribute bands – lookalikes, soundalikes or just plain wannabelikes – all touting for gigs." The Independent (London) 11/20/00
  • THE REVIEWER-PROOF SCROOGE: It's "Christmas Carol" time of year again. "Oh, please, Father Christmas, put a stake in its heart! Put it on a boat to Hong Kong! Give those annoyingly noble Cratchits a winning lottery ticket and let them have all the oranges they want! Cook their geese, flame their puddings, and please, burn their chestnuts into ashes." Washington Post 11/26/00
  • MICHELANGELO'S ANATOMY: Scholars have argued for years over the unusual misshapen appearance of the left breast of Michelangelo's marble statue 'Night'. Experts have agreed that its unusual appearance is intentional and not due to an error but art historians and plastic surgeons have argued that it reflects the artist's supposed lack of interest in, or unfamiliarity with, the nude female figure. Now, experts propose that Michelangelo deliberately set out to portray a woman with breast cancer." The Independent (London) 11/26/00
  • IT'D BE DIFFERENT IF IT WAS GREAT ARCHITECTURE: It will cost $1.5 billion to repair New York's crumbling Lincoln Center. So instead, why not just tear it down and start over? "It’s time to start thinking hard about tearing down Lincoln Center and building up a new, much better one—an architectural masterpiece that will signal New York City’s miraculous recovery over the last decade and its renewed confidence that it will be the capital of the twenty-first century as it has been of the twentieth." City Journal 11/00