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Week of  June 9-15, 2001

1. Special Interest
2. Dance
3. Media
4. Music
5. People
6. Publishing
7. Theatre
8. Visual Arts
9. Arts Issues
10. For Fun


BLACKLISTING THE AGED: "The latest Writers Guild statistics—compiled in 1998—find that out of the 122 prime-time TV series, 77 of them did not employ a single writer older than 50. Five years earlier, only 19 of them didn't. Over-50 writers make up one-third of guild membership, but only 5% of those writing on episodic comedies. Three years later, it can only be worse." So the over-50s are suing. Los Angeles Times 06/10/01

TRUTH ABOUT BLURBS: So who cares about Sony's made-up movie critic? Movie pr types do much worse every day. "The simplest trick in the ad man’s book is the one word quote. 'Astonishing!' 'Brilliant!' 'Thrilling!' 'Beautiful!' Invariably you are meant to assume that the ripe adjective is describing the movie itself. But it’s just as likely that it was the star’s shoes that were 'beautiful,' the book the movie was based on that was 'brilliant,' a single sequence that was 'thrilling' and a particularly egregious bit of miscasting that the critic found 'astonishing.' A good rule of thumb: any word preceded by … and followed by … is no more to be trusted than a campaign promise by our current president." MSNBC (Newsweek) 06/14/01


SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE: Dance is as much sport as art, and the toll it takes on the human body is comparable to that of any athletic endeavor. Because of this, dancers face a reality that most other performing artists never do: they will have to give up what they have trained their entire life for when their life is only half over. For many dancers, the decision to retire is the most painful one they will ever make, and the much-beloved principal dancer of the Pennsylvania Ballet has had to make it this year. He offers an inside look. Philadelphia Inquirer 06/14/01

THE ENGLISH NATIONAL'S NEW DIRECTION: After eight years of the flamboyant Derek Deane at its helm, the English National Ballet takes on Swede Matz Skooga as its new director. "Skoog is the antithesis of Deane. Soft-spoken, self-effacing and courteous, the bespectacled Swede describes himself as a team player. He talks about the philosophy of creative management as if he were leading a seminar — 'Art is where society experiments with new ideas and we have to be part of that'.” The Times (UK) 06/12/01

SIZING UP STRETTON: Ross Stretton leaves as director of the Australian Ballet as he takes over London's Royal Ballet. What does the RB have to look forward to? Among his notable achievements, he "urged dancers to tackle their work with more energy and commitment...he attracted new audiences, especially younger ballet-goers. And he encouraged Australian choreographers to make ballets with Australian themes." Sydney Morning Herald 06/15/01

BABCOCK CALLS IT QUITS IN BOSTON: The saga of Boston Ballet's troubled management continues. Jeffrey Babcock's stormy tenure as CEO of Boston Ballet came to a close yesterday, as the controversial director announced his intention to become dean of Boston University's School of the Arts. The departure leaves the embattled company without any senior management as it struggles to find a new artistic director. Boston Globe 06/13/01

NERVE TO QUIT: Deborah Bull, one of Britain's top ballerinas, says she's quitting dancing because of an escalating case of performance nerves. She'll retire into a job as artistic director of the Royal Opera House's new studio theatres. Sunday Times (UK) 06/10/01



HAS POP CULTURE LOST ITS BUZZ? Have the US TV networks lost touch with their audiences so profoundly that they're collectively unable to come up with a single new concept in which any significant number of viewers are interested? Is Viewer Apathy the cultural equivalent of Voter Apathy? More to the point, is what we see reflected in the mirror of popular culture a representation of who we really are these days, or just an image of who they think we are, or require us to be?" The Guardian (UK) 06/15/01

A CHICKEN/EGG THING: Does Hollywood's fare lead us down the path to brain rot? Or do we get the movies we want/deserve? "In short, are we living in a lively age of motion-picture pleasures - or are we witnessing what some critics call the dumbing down of American cinema?" Christian Science Monitor 06/15/01

THE ABC MESS: The Australian Broadcasting Company is in turmoil, and the blame is being laid on embattled director Jonathan Shier. Rightly so, says one critic. But who hired him? And why was someone with so little experience tapped for the job? Audiences are down, programming is a shambles and staff are deserting. Where's the ABC board, and the government that oversees everything? Sydney Morning Herald 06/14/01

HOLLYWOOD NORTH: Toronto is awash in movie productions. "The influx of television and film production from the United States because of tax incentives and the cheap dollar has plainly altered the city's hotels and restaurants and served as an economic boon to the city of 2.5 million. But some people see a downside to the boom and wonder whether Toronto hasn't overextended itself to accommodate film and television production companies." The New York Times 06/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

JUST SHOW THEM THE MONEY: "When local television stations assemble their daily schedules, the idea in theory is to put together a lineup that will be most attractive to viewers within their community. Yet increasingly, stations appear to be falling back on a somewhat different equation, one based not on what will garner the most eyeballs but who will pay the most money." Los Angeles Times 06/12/01

THE CANNES OF TV: The international TV world is gathering in Banff, Canada. "Founded in 1979 after a decade of struggle to put in place the building blocks for a viable industry, the Banff Television Festival emerged as the place for innovation, excellence and opportunity." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/09/01


PRICING OUT THE MARKET: Attendance at Chicago Symphony concerts has been dropping for several years. Ticket prices have risen - to a top price of $185 a seat - to make up the income, and the orchestra has started a price/demand system, where ticket prices rise or fall depending on the demand. The idea isn't going over very well with some fans... Chicago Tribune 06/10/01

QUEL SCANDALE! Want to get the latest academic dish on musical dirt? The New Groves Dictionary pokes its nose into the stories behind the music. "Sex – at least sex outside conventional marriage – is now considered an essential element in biography, a defining characteristic. Academic scholarship being as trendy as hemlines, The New Grove II, as it's being called, is plugged into the zeitgeist." Dallas Morning News 06/10/01

COUNTING THE MUSIC: Recording sales used to be measured in a highly suspect fashion, open to the biases and manipulations of those in the recording business. But ten years ago Soundscan brought science to the process and completely changed the ways sales are counted. Los Angeles Times 06/09/01

ARE YOU HEARING WHAT YOU'RE HEARING? "Although it remains an issue that most venues prefer not to discuss, the use of 'electronic enhancement' is widespread. No euphemism can disguise the fact that what audiences hear is, in part, relayed through speakers." The Telegraph (UK) 06/09/01

CLIBURN WINNERS: For the first time, there are two gold medalists at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. Stanislav Ioudenitch of Uzbekistan and Olga Kern of Russia have won the 11th Van Cliburn in Fort Worth. Dallas Morning News 06/11/01

THE FEMALE BARRIER: Amazingly, American conductor Marin Alsop is the first woman to land a top job with a British orchestra - the Bournemouth Orchestra. "It's exciting and horrifying at the same time," she says. "Her horror is at the fact that it has taken until this year to appoint a woman as chief conductor of a British symphony orchestra." The Guardian (UK) 06/11/01

HOW MOZART DIED? There are about 150 theories about how Mozart may have died. The latest? A tainted pork chop. "The composer, who died in 1791, showed the symptoms of a disease caused by eating badly-cooked pork infected by a worm, an American doctor has said." BBC 06/11/01

PIRATE BOOM: A new study says that "36 per cent of the global market for recorded music is now taken by pirate recordings. Worldwide sales of pirate CDs rose from 450 million units in 1999 to 475 million in 2000." Gramophone 06/12/01

EAST MEETS WEST: For centuries, the musical traditions of Asia and Europe were so different as to defy any attempt to bring them together. But as art music struggles for survival in the West, it is often innovators from the Pacific Rim who are reinvigorating the form, bringing Eastern ideas to "classical" convention. Audiences and musicians alike are seeing the enormous potential in such cross-cultural partnerships. Andante 06/01

TOO MUCH IS NEVER ENOUGH: You probably think that you appreciate a fine stereo system as much as the next guy. You have no idea. That is, unless you are one of the select few audiophiles who has ever spent more on a home sound system than most people spend on a house. Call it a fetish, call it a subculture, call it insane overkill - these enthusiasts live to find the perfect sound. Washington Post 06/13/01

DUMBING DOWN JAZZ: "The annual downpour of summer jazz across North America is a reminder of how little attention this continent's first distinctive contribution to world culture gets in the other three seasons. The bucketload of funky, swingin' but barely improvisational music on offer makes you wonder how well we remember what jazz is, or was." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/14/01

  • CLAP TRAP: "Perhaps the weirdest thing about jazz concerts is the clapping. Back in the smoky past, someone was overcome by enthusiasm for a solo, and at its conclusion applauded vigorously, despite the music still being in full swing. Enthusiasm being as contagious as measles, others emulated the outburst, until the exception became the rule and it was mandatory to clap solos. Now they are clapped regardless of merit." Sydney Morning Herald 06/14/01

OH, NO, WHAT ARE THEY DOING HERE? Microsoft and its "MSN Music" service have struck a deal with a major music encoding company, and appear to be poised to make their download service as indispensable as all of Microsoft's other products. Meanwhile, added its millionth song to its online library, and introduced a new premium service. Wired & Nando Times (AP) 06/14/01

YOUNGEST CONCERTMASTER: After months of speculation, Washington's National Symphony has picked a new concertmaster. She's Nurit Bar-Josef, 26, "currently the assistant concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She will become one of the youngest players in this country to be concertmaster of a major orchestra." Washington Post 06/15/01


SOMETHING'S SOAPY HERE: A month ago a young Canadian theatre director disappeared on a trip to New York. This week he mysteriously walked off a plane from Lisbon in New York, claiming to have no memories of the past three weeks. "It's been so bizarre. You think amnesia and everyone laughs and thinks of Days Of Our Lives. We were so ecstatic to find out he was alive." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 06/14/01

MEL BROOKS, AS YOU'VE FREQUENTLY HEARD HIM BEFORE: In the unlikely event that you haven't heard Mel Brooks talk about The Producers, his recent interview with Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air in online. His modesty is at best elusive, but his humor is not. [.ra format; requires free player from RealAudio] Fresh Air (NPR) 06/13/01

STILL FIDDLING ON THE ROOF: Zero Mostel was the first, but Theo Bickel is the one who endures. He's been playing the lead in Fiddler on the Roof semi-regularly for 34 years, some 1700 performances. Not surprisingly, Theo and Tevye have a lot in common. Boston Herald 06/11/01

WOODY ALLEN IN COURT AGAIN: Woody Allen is suing a long time friend and financier of his movies, claiming she owes him profits from eight of his projects from the 1990s. The New York Times 06/11/01 (one-time registration required for access)


APPEALING TO A HIGHER READER: Conventional wisdom is that intellectual books don't sell well. Yet Louis Menand's tome The Metaphysical Club documenting the lives and influence of William James, John Dewey, Charles Sanders Peirce and Oliver Wendell Holmes, has quickly hit the best-seller lists, selling out its first U.S. printing of 25,000, and is well into its second run. The Globe & Mail (AP) (Canada) 06/15/01

INTELLECTUAL FAILURE: The Australian Review of Books was a noble experiment to appeal to Australian intellectuals. But that it failed is "all too indicative of what is wrong with the intellectual-literary-artistic scene in Australia. It is dominated by politics and partisan hatreds, as well as irrational obsessions with figures like Rupert Murdoch. Sydney Morning Herald 06/14/01

THE CRITICS REVIEWED: Three critics with reputations for being tough reviewers have their own books coming out - and one can see other critics polishing up their critical responses. The new authors will just have to suck it up if the reviews are harsh. "To be reviewed harshly is painful. If you are a critic you are expected to shut up if it happens to you." The New York Times 06/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

READING BERLIN: Berlin's first International Festival of Literature opens with 100 writers from around the world. "The program ambitiously sets out to present the literatures of the world as comprehensively as possible, with the underlying hope that quantity will automatically translate into quality at some point." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/13/01

THE MARRIAGE OF NAPSTER AND E-BOOKS: Audio books are going high-tech. In place of that box full of cassettes, now there's a direct download to your MP3 player. "The thing has no moving parts. You can throw it against a wall and it still works. It's far superior to buying or renting or ordering it by mail, and maybe having to pack it up and send it back. And it's cheaper, too." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 06/12/01

FEED STARVES WITH SUCK: Two eminent web publications - Feed and Suck - shut down operations Friday as the internet shakeout of content sites continues. Suck was known for its irreverence, Feed - often linked to here on ArtsJournal - for its thoughtful consideration of ideas. 06/08/01

BUYING IN TO THE NEW YORKER: So what does it take to get your writing in The New Yorker magazine? How about a little cash up front? "According to the May 8 edition of the industry e–newsletter PW Daily, to follow in the footsteps of Nabokov, Cheever, Updike and Salinger all you have to do is 'ante up a premium ad fee. That's what it will take to buy an advertorial excerpt in the pages normally reserved for the superliterati'." Mobylives 06/11/01

SERIAL WRITING: Fifteen prominent Irish writers collaborate on a novel, each contributing a chapter to the project. It's not a great book, but "the committee approach adopted in Yeats Is Dead! capitalises on something which many of us have secretly known for some time: most contemporary Irish novelists are best appreciated in small doses." The Sunday Times (UK) 06/10/01

AN ORIGINAL AS RAW MATERIAL: There is a long tradition of artists appropriating characters or ideas out of other artists' work and enlarging, expanding or retelling the work from a different perspective. So how is novelist Alice Randall's retake of Gone with the Wind any different? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/09/01


WHAT'S NEW IN MOSCOW: "Throughout the 1990's, a time when Russian culture, society and politics were in turmoil, Russian directors largely ignored contemporary plays and retreated to the stability and familiarity of the classics." Now a contemporary play - hated by critics but a major hit with audiences, looks like a signal that contemporary theatre is reviving in Russia. The New York Times 06/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THEATRE OLYMPICS: "which originated in 1995 in Delphi, Greece, and continued in Shizuoka, Japan, in 1999 before coming to Moscow this spring — is bigger than ever. Nearly 150 productions from 35 countries as far-flung from Russia's capital as Colombia and Australia are being presented during the 70-day extravaganza." The New York Times 06/09/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PERSONAL STRUGGLES: The sudden resignation of Connecticut's Long Wharf Theatre artistic director Doug Hughes is a sign of the changing power structures in the American regional theatre movement... Hartford Courant 06/10/01

  • SEASON CRUMBLES: With Hughes gone, some actors pull out of the upcoming season. Now four of next season's eight plays are out of the lineup. Hartford Courant 06/10/01

SHORT (OF CASH) VIC: London's Young Vic theatre asked for £6 million from the Lottery fund but got only £250,000. "We really have a crisis. The building is falling down. It was built in 1970 as a series of breeze blocks on top of each other, a temporary structure. We have to spend £80,000 each year on repairs just to keep the building open. We had been led to believe we would get more." The Independent (UK) 06/13/01

BOUNCED FROM BROADWAY: The Bells are Ringing closed on Broadway last weekend, but 18 members of the company have complained that their checks bounced. "In a business where many deals are still made with a handshake and a good name is perhaps an entrepreneur's most valuable asset, this is shaping up as a public relations nightmare for the producers." The New York Times 06/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)


PERCENT FOR WHAT? Since 1979 the City of Chicago may have spent $15 million on its Percent for Art program. Or maybe it didn't. The Public Art Program apparently hasn't kept records of how much it has collected or what it has commissioned. Most alarming is the director's explanation of his accounting: "It's the city. We juggle money all the time." Chicago Tribune 06/13/01

GERMANY RETURNS ART TO GREECE: Germany is returning some of the art in its museums to Greece, which has been fighting to get it back. "Berlin’s Pergamon museum will send Greece ten sections of the Philippeion monument, built between 338 and 336 BC. Germany will also help restore the monument at Olympia, the sanctuary and site of the Olympic Games." The Times (UK) 06/14/01

WORLD'S BIGGEST ART FAIR: The art world is in Basel this week. "Once a year, for a week, this quaint little city in the corner of Switzerland becomes a fondue pot of culture. All the big dealers dip in as it plays host to the world’s biggest modern and contemporary art fair. The scene is truly international and so is the language — which is money. Behind the schmoozing and smiles, you see the glint of the hard sell." The Times (UK) 06/15/01

AND IT WON'T EVEN KILL YOU: Jam a bunch of quarters in the slot, pull the knob, and reach into the dispenser for a refreshing (if habit-forming) pack of... art? Yes, art - step right up and meet the Art*o*mat, a converted cigarette machine that dispenses pocket-sized pieces of art for the consumer on the go. Coming soon to a museum, grocery store, or laundromat near you. Washington Post 06/14/01

VISUALIZE FRANCE: A new French government study of the visual arts world warns that "French contemporary artists are being pushed out of the world market because of stifling state patronage, a lack of private collectors and a failure of imagination." The Times (UK) 06/13/01

ART THAT DICTATES ART: Frank Gehry's influence on museum design is to elevate buildings to the level of showy pieces of art. But what of the art inside? The new architecture dictates the art by the nature of its strong personalities. And surely that isn't good for art... The New Republic 06/13/01


  • VENICE BIENNALE OPENS: "From the almost 300 artists showing in this 49th Biennale - 130 chosen by Szeeman, and 156 by curators in each of the 63 countries represented at the festival - you get about a half-century's worth of styles, ideas and notions about what good art can be." Washington Post 06/10/01
  • THE OVERCROWDED BIENNALE: The Venice Biennale is up in full cacophony. "As elsewhere in Venice, the crowd is now the problem more than ever. Has the Biennale grown too big? The gardens in Castello, its historic heart and home, have no more space for national pavilions. The ancient Arsenale, with its sprawl of disused yards and workshops, fill up as every new space becomes available. Meanwhile the Biennale spreads ever more widely through the city." Financial Times 06/12/01
  • MODEL EXPERIENCE: "Fine painting, fascinating video, acres of photographs, a sculpture or two and plenty of self-indulgence - the Venice Biennale offers a perfect snapshot of the art world today." The Telegraph (UK) 06/13/01
  • NOT PLEASANT: over-crowded, under-inspired — and over-run with little golden turtles. The Times (UK) 06/13/01
  • BIENNALE WINNERS: A list of artists winning prizes at this year's Biennale. ARTForum 06/10/01

LET THERE BE LIGHT: A new exhibit produced jointly by museums in Amsterdam and Pittsburgh examines the role of light, both natural and artificial, in art history. The curators contend that the direction of visual art was changed forever by the development of gas and electric lights, and make a direct link between the oft-competing worlds of science and art. The New York Times 06/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TATE-HATER: Hilton Kramer laments the Tate Museum and the toll of success. "This ill-conceived project clearly represents the spirit of the age, which in art and in life is besotted with an appetite for destroying what is good by enlarging it to a scale of extinction. It puts us on notice that in the twenty-first century we shall need no wars to devastate our monuments to the past. Our cultural bureaucrats have shown themselves to be fully capable of performing the task for us." New Criterion 06/01

REMAKING LONDON: London's mayor's beliefs about his city's future can be summarized as "either London buckles down and starts building skyscrapers with the abandon of a Shanghai or a Hong Kong or else Britain heads for the economic third division." In his drive to remake the capital, he considers the preservationist English Heritage "the biggest threat to London's future since the Luftwaffe." The Observer (UK) 06/10/01


PROTECTING NATIONAL CULTURES: Canada lays out a new plan to protect national cultures. "The centrepiece of the plan is the International Network on Cultural Policy, a working group of culture ministers from 46 countries who will meet in September in Switzerland with the intention of creating an international 'instrument' to govern trade in cultural products. It will remove cultural industries, including television and film, from the purview of the World Trade Organization." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 06/11/01

LOOKING A GIFT HORSE... Two years ago a "textbook-printing magnate announced that he would provide funding - eventually totaling $100 million - for the construction of an arts complex on a mostly city-owned block downtown." A great and generous deal. But one that has its detractors, suspicious of a private project with no public oversight. Metropolis 06/01

BOLSHOI'S TOP MAN RESIGNS: "The Bolshoi theatre's artistic director has handed in his resignation - only nine months after being brought in to restore the institution's flagging fortunes. Gennady Rozhdestvensky announced he was leaving after critics mauled the Bolshoi's production of Sergei Prokoviev's opera The Player." BBC 06/14/01

SMITH OUT AS CULTURE MINISTER: Energetic British culture minister Chris Smith is replaced in a post-election Tony Blair cabinet shakeup. Smith's transgression? "The main reason that Smith had to go was that he had done his job too fast, and too well. So much so that the rumour mills went into overgrind, predicting that his department was to be abolished." The Telegraph (UK) 06/14/01

BLAME THE OLD WHITE MALES: The chair of the Australia Council lets the establishment have it on her way out of the job. In a farewell speech at the National Press Club, Margaret Seares warned that "as long as the leaders of Australia were predominantly older white Anglo-Celtic men, vital decisions on the arts would probably never be implemented." Canberra Times 06/14/01

THE ARTISTS TAKE SIDES: Workers at Canada's National Gallery have been on strike for more than a month, with no end in sight. With negotiations stalled and the two sides at an apparent impasse, several prominent Canadian artists with connections to the gallery are placing themselves squarely in the workers' corner, designing and creating picket signs for the strikers. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/14/01

FOR A MORE CREATIVE CANADA: "Was I hallucinating, or did I read last week about a proposed commission to study creativity? I hope I was hallucinating. What's next - a commission to count the grains of sand on Long Beach? To seek the Canadian identity in the entrails of native animals?" The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 06/13/01

HOUSTON ARTS GROUPS HARD-HIT BY FLOODS: The Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Grand Opera, the Alley Theater, the Houston Ballet, and other organizations in the downtown arts district have suffered extensive losses from week-end flooding. Apparently hardest-hit was the Houston Symphony, where "thousands of musical scores and several irreplaceable instruments were among the casualties in Jones Hall. Three Steinway concert grand pianos with an estimated replacement value of $250,000 were ruined." Dallas Morning News & Houston Chronicle 06/12/01

GERMAN ART INITIATIVE: Germany's culture minister proposes a new national culture foundation with the aim of promoting contemporary art. "He has repeatedly warned against the threat of 'a discrepancy between repertoire and innovation' in Germany, and condemned the increasing ossification of cultural politics, with its emphasis on supporting institutions rather than periodically promoting specific projects in the short-term." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 06/12/01

GETTING THE PUBLIC INVOLVED IN ARTS: Arts institutions all want public participation in their programs. A new study from the RAND corporation "looks at the process by which individuals become involved in the arts and attempts to identify ways in which arts institutions can most effectively influence this process." [.pdf document; requires free reader from Adobe Systems] RAND Corporation 06/01

DID TOM STOPPARD ATTACK ART? Playwright Tom Stoppard recently gave a speech, and it was widely reported in the British press that he had denounced modern art, attacking Tracey Emin. But did he? "I had used my speech to suggest that a fault line in the history of art had been crossed when it had become unnecessary for an artist to make anything, when the thought, the inspiration itself, had come to constitute the achievement, and I would have been pleased to see this phenomenon get an airing in the column inches that were devoted instead to parading the death of shorthand." The Telegraph (UK) 06/15/01



NAMING RIGHTS: A book without a title is...well, something pretty hard to sell. But choosing that right title - and hoping it hasn't been used by someone else in the meantime - is a tricky business. Poets & Writers 06/01

CHOCOLATE, RAW OYSTERS, AND GUSTAV KLIMT? "According to a study by the Institute of Psychoanalytical Psychiatry, published in Rome last week, a visit to an art museum -- or even a church -- can get those erotic feelings flowing. The study of 2,000 museum goers this spring concluded the lush flesh exhibited in Renaissance, Baroque and classical masterpieces left at least one-fifth of art lovers so excited they had a 'fleeting but intense erotic adventure' with a stranger." Ottawa Citizen 06/14/01