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Week of  June 30-July 7, 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


BIG IS BEAUTIFUL: If someone had described today's book superstores 20 years ago, most book lovers would have thought it was a vision of utopia - long hours, tons of books, comfortable surroundings. So "why, then, the chorus of disapproval from the cultural elite? Why the characterization, spread by a vocal group of critics, of the chain bookstores as a sort of intellectual McDonald's, a symbol of the dumbing-down and standardization of American life?" The Atlantic 07/01

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY OF ART SCHOOLS: Trying to force something as fluid as art into a rigid curriculum is often a losing proposition, but nearly every successful artist these days has attended an art school. "Art has always been a difficult fit with school because making new art does not conform to objective criteria that schools can readily test and evaluate. That's one reason most art schools are Bad art schools. They emphasize technique because technique fits the demands of pedagogy and testing for the typical academic curriculum." Los Angeles Times 07/08/01

WHAT'S WRONG WITH TODAY'S FICTION: BR Myers writes in the current Atlantic Monthly that stars of the contemporary writing establishment have lost their way [the piece is not online]. Critic Jonathan Yardley heartily agrees: "Myers looks back, as I too most certainly do, 'to a time when authors had more to say than 'I'm a writer!'; when the novel wasn't just a 300-page caption for the photograph on the inside jacket.' He notes with dismay the disdain in which such fiction is now held in proper literary circles, where the pretentious display of self-consciously 'writerly' prose is valued while plot, narrative and character are scorned." Washington Post 07/02/01

MURAL IMPERATIVE: Graffiti sprayers in Los Angeles used to stick to fences and walls for their canvases. But LA is home to more than 2,500 murals, and taggers have discovered authorities take much longer to wipe away their work if they paint over top of a mural. The state transportation agency is trying to figure out new ways of removing the paint without damaging the murals underneath. Sacramento Bee 06/27/01


SIZING UP A DIFFICULT SITUATION: "In the wake of executive director Gray Montague's sudden departure from the Pittsburgh Dance Council, the board acted swiftly to hire Paul Organisak, a Pittsburgh native and former associate director of development at the contemporary dance presenting organization. As of yesterday [Organisak] was trying to get 'a sense of where we are' by looking over the finances and strategic plan before taking over the reins July 16." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 06/30/01



ACTORS/PRODUCERS SETTLE: Actors and Hollywood producers reach a contract agreement, avoiding a strike. Terms were not immediately available. Nando Times (AP) 07/04/01

BBC INCREASES BUDGET: Despite - or perhaps because of - a drop in audience share, BBC has pledged an additional £67 million for drama, entertainment, and factual programming in the coming year. It's part of an overall 20% increase, the largest in BBC history. BBC 07/04/01

UNDUE INFLUENCE: Movie fans in Los Angeles are suing movie studios for "bribing" critics. "The lawsuits allege that the studios are engaging in fraud and unfair and deceptive business practices by using the glowing reviews about their films in advertisements without letting the public know that the reviewers may have received goodies or travel and meal accommodations in connection to attending the film screening." 07/02/01

VIDEO ON DEMAND, BUT DON'T DEMAND JUST YET: "If [video on demand] takes off with consumers, it could well be the biggest billion-dollar bonanza since videocassettes and VCRs in the 1980s. And yet, ironically, the major Hollywood studios - which have much to gain from VOD's success - are using their clout to thwart VOD's market launch." National Post (Canada) 07/03/01

SELLING IT DOOR TO DOOR: Movie studios have slowly been adjusting the way they advertise their product to the younger generation in recent years, trying to take advantage of new technologies to hawk their old-tech movies. But one of the most successful new marketing methods could not be more low-tech: teams of streetwise salesman, selling a movie one-on-one in the clubs and dance halls frequented my Hollywood's favorite demographic set. Los Angeles Times 07/06/01

DIGITAL DELAYS: While the U.S. government continues to threaten American television stations with license revocation if deadlines for conversion to digital technology are not met, the BBC is facing the opposite problem in the U.K. Britain's dominant broadcaster is set to roll out an array of new digital services, but the government is demanding more information on the proposals before approving the plan. BBC 07/05/01

NATIONAL PUBLIC WHAT? National Public Radio is 30 years old. But what are we celebrating? "Poor NPR. Emasculated, lost its nuts, and at such a young age. They say it happened sometime in the '90s, when Congress insisted that NPR become self-supporting. But that's not it." Salon 07/02/01

  • AWWW QWITCHERBEEFIN: "This is the same kind of elitist baloney I have heard for years, and I feel sorry for the glass-half-empty crowd that has taken on the supposed spiritual demise of public radio." Fact is, public radio is thriving. Salon 07/02/01

JUST SAY WHOA: The White House has stopped a program by its drug office that paid American TV networks to insert anti-drug messages into the plotlines of popular TV sitcoms and dramas. Salon 07/02/01



BARENBOIM DEFIES WAGNER TABOO: Conductor Daniel Barenboim shocked concertgoers in Jerusalem by leading the Israeli Philharmonic in a surprise encore from "Tristan and Isolde." BBC 07/08/01

  • MAYOR THREATENS BARENBOIM BAN: "[Jerusalem] Mayor Ehud Olmert said the city will have to re-examine its relations with world-renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim after he performed the music of Richard Wagner, Adolf Hitler's favorite composer, at the Israel Festival on Saturday night. 'What Barenboim did was brazen, arrogant, uncivilized and insensitive,' Olmert told Israel's army radio." Nando Times (AP) 07/08/01

AND HE WANTED THIS JOB? "The backstage drama at the Bolshoi saw the arrival this week of a young musical director whose mission is to drag the theatre out of the crisis that has shattered its reputation. . . A traumatic season has already seen the brutal dismissal of one of his predecessors and the enraged resignation of another. Now Alexander Vedernikov has the job of restoring the pride of Russia's most famous institution in the performing arts." The Guardian 07/06/01

OBVIOUSLY A STEINWAY PLOT: Baldwin, arguably the world's second-most prominent manufacturer of pianos, is in bankruptcy court, attempting to overcome years of outdated manufacturing processes, charges of recent mismanagement, and massive overstock. The company says it will rise again, but some dealers are doubtful. Dallas Morning News (AP) 07/07/01

LOOKING GOOD: Today's opera star has to look the part as well as sing it. "It's no longer enough to have a sexy, romantic voice, filled with artistry and musical allure. The visual criteria in opera have become almost as stringent as those of musical theater. Rare voice types, such as dramatic sopranos and Verdi mezzos, are allowed some leeway and some girth. But if you're a lyric mezzo or a Mozart baritone, you'd better hire a trainer, and fast." Opera News 07/01

SO MUCH FOR CLASSICAL RECORDING? "The classical record is almost played out. The five big labels that command five-sixths of world sales have lost the will to produce. The minnows that swim between their cracks have lost the means to survive. This summer, it looks as if the game is up." The Telegraph (UK) 07/04/01

PREVIN'S NEW POST: Andre Previn signs on as the Oslo Philaharmonic's new music director, replacing Mariss Jansons, who left the orchestra after 21 years. Norway Post 07/03/01

HUB OF THE JAZZ WORLD: When the hot weather sets in, Canada is the place for jazz. "Forget New York, Chicago and New Orleans; for a six-week period the cool places for the switched-on jazz fan to be are Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, Victoria, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal as the cream of the international jazz community criss-crosses the country." The Times (UK) 07/03/01

THE CONQUERING KIROV: "Even while the theatre has struggled over the past decade to survive independently of shrinking government funding, it has garnered international acclaim: critics have called the Kirov under Gergiev one of the artistic wonders of the contemporary world. Times may be hard for Russia's cultural institutions, but commentators have shown no signs of patronising the Kirov for doing so well on so little." The Guardian (UK) 07/02/01

  • BACKSTAGE BLOOEY: Is the Kirov the world's greatest opera company? Director David McVicar gets a bit of culture shock: "It's incredibly hard working there. My team and I are still trying to work out just what was so tough. There were so many contributory factors. The conditions backstage are antediluvian. The stage is a death trap. There is no backstage area to speak of, nowhere to store sets - and they're a repertoire house doing enormous productions night after night. It's crucifying for everyone involved." The Guardian (UK) 07/02/01


STAYING POWER: The 20th century was a period of intense upheaval in the music world - composers' stars rose and fell with astonishing speed as new methods of composition came into vogue and then quickly fell out of favor. Philip Glass, who came to prominence in the 1960s as the leader of the new "Minimalist" movement, should, by all rights, have been just another flash in the pan. But where others stagnated, Glass constantly adapted, and his music continues to be some of the most often heard (and appreciated) of any contemporary composer. The New York Times 07/08/01 (one-time registration required for access)

MORDECHAI RICHLER, 70: Mordechai Richler, one of Canada's best-known writers, has died of cancer. "The Quebec author of 10 novels is best known for his works on Montreal Jewish life." Ottawa Citizen (CP) 07/03/01


THE FUTURE OF BOOKS MAY BE... BOOKS: E-books, beware. There's a man out there with a machine that can print and bind and deliver a book in minutes. "The high-speed printer spits out double-sided pages in rapid succession. The sheets are clamped, glued, covered, and sheared. Watching the book move along is a bit like watching a doughnut go through a Krispy Kreme machine. In seven minutes, I am holding a finished book, its spine still warm from the hot glue. I fan the pages and giggle. 'Yeah, it's a book, a real book'."

USING NEW TECHNOLOGY TO STRENGTHEN THE OLD: "Instead of dampening the sales of books, the Internet actually has sparked interest, through the expansion of online book clubs and chat rooms. These clubs are fast becoming the author's - and publisher's - best friend, by combining the old-fashioned notion of word-of-mouth with high technology." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 07/02/01

YOU GOTTA START SOMEPLACE. MIGHT AS WELL BE THE TOP: Nell Freudenberger got a job at The New Yorker. The magazine published one of her stories. Now she's juggling six-figure offers for a collection of her stories. Her only problem seems to be that, so far, the published story is the only one she's written. 07/03/01

OF E-LOANS AND INCENTIVES: A number of American public libraries have begun lending e-books. "The services may be every bibliophile's dream, but publishing houses worry that the lending programs will cannibalize their revenue and destroy financial incentives for popular writers. Why would people want to pay for an e-book when they could borrow one free just as easily?" Washington Post 07/04/01

MEASURING BOOK SALES: A new more accurate measure of book sales is coming. That's good, right? Maybe - but it's likely to turn the book business on its ear. For example, romance novels, which don't make it onto the Bestseller lists now, are likely to come roaring up as a category. And other categories...Sure you want to hear this? 07/03/01


MY FAIR SICKNESS: One of the stars of London's My Fair Lady has actually performed her role less often than her understudy in the past few months. Even the understudy's understudy has had a few turns on the boards. Now some critics are suggesting big-ticket shows ought to give partial refunds when a star is missing. The Independent (UK) 06/30/01

STATE OF INDIANA V. GAY CHRIST: "A group hoping to block performances of a college play featuring a gay Christ-like character filed a lawsuit in federal court Thursday. The play features a character named Joshua who is growing up gay in modern-day Texas. The story parallels parts of the Gospels, and some of the 12 other male characters bear the names of Christ's disciples." Nando Times (AP) 07/05/01

A CALL FOR ELITISM: The internationally acclaimed Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada has launched a new marketing campaign designed to make itself more accessible and alluring to the general public. But the flashy posters and cleverly site-specific taglines have some longtime Stratford fans worried that such measures amount to the dumbing-down of the theatre experience. National Post (Canada) 06/30/01

ALL FRINGE IS LOCAL: Toronto's Fringe Festival is one of North America's most successful theater extravaganzas, with over 100 companies set to perform in this year's edition. But despite the festival's tendency to hail itself as a "global" event, 90% of the troupes involved are from Ontario, and the majority of those are from Toronto itself. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 07/05/01


ARTIST ROYALTIES: The European Parliament passes a law that gives artists royalties of four percent on work resold and valued at between $2,540 and $42,340 - and on a declining scale after that." But will the new law do anything to help less well-known artists? 07/03/01

REALLY OLD ART: Engravings dating back 28,000 years have been found in caves in western France. "Officials said hundreds of yards of detailed engravings in the Cussac cave depict animals - including bison, horses and rhinoceroses - and human figures." The engravings predate the Lascaux cave paintings, which were produced 18,000 years ago. New Jersey Online (AP) 07/04/01

THE SILVER LINING OF CONTROVERSY: All too often buildings get thrown up without much input from the people who are going to have to look at them. So the furor over design options for Sydney's new Museum of Contemporary Art is something to celebrate - everyday people are becoming involved with what could be a significant building. Sydney Morning Herald )7/03/01

KIDS IN THE HOUSE: A record number of children visited British museums last year. Why? Admission charges were dropped. "Since 17 of England's national museum abolished entry fees for children, attendance figures have grown steadily from just under 5m in 1998-99 to more than 6m in 2000-01." The Guardian (UK) 07/06/01

OLDING ONTO NATIVE ART: Australia's Cultural Heritage Act requires that any Aboriginal art more than twenty years old not leave the country without an export permit. This week, two such works will be auctioned off, and the high level of foreign interest has reopened the debate over whether such export restrictions help or hurt makers and purveyors of aboriginal art. The Age (Melbourne) 07/08/01

ALL ROADS LEAD TO LA? No city can dominate the art world like Paris in the late 1800s and New York in the 1900s. But Los Angeles is seeing a flood of artists moving in. "There is increasing consensus in the art world that there is more exciting new work coming from young artists in Los Angeles right now than in any other city in the world." Christian Science Monitor 07/06/01

"BLOOD SWEAT AND WORSE": Vienna opened a new museum quarter this weekend. It is 15 acres large, making it one of the ten biggest cultural sites in the world. But though the project is a major accomplishment, it was marked by more than 20 years of squabbles to make it happen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 07/01/01

THE ART OF LAS VEGAS: Why is Las Vegas interested in art? This fall the Hermitage and the Guggenheim both open Las Vegas branches. "You have 35 million people or more coming to this market per year. The gaming component, while still important, is not the driving force for tourism in this city. The driving force is other things: great hotel rooms, restaurants, retail, great night clubs, shows, etc. From our perspective itís a diversifier. It makes Las Vegas more interesting. It makes the hotel more interesting." The Art Newspaper 06/29/01

INVESTIGATING THE SMITHSONIAN: A celebrity commission has been appointed to evaluate the operations of the Smithsonian museums. The Smithsonian has been under attack for some of its director's recent policies for exhibitions. Chicago Tribune 06/30/01


ALL ABOUT THE TOOLS: "Will new media art be limited and shaped by the commercial software usually used to created it? Or by the conventional Web site and interface formats that predominate among artworks online?" MediaChannel 07/01

ENGAGING THE INTELLECT: "When was the last time a political party produced an unashamedly intellectual document which dared to use big words and invited debate and critique before decisions on priorities and how to pay for them were made?" Australia's Barry Jones has put up such a platform. So how come the media are sniggering? Sydney Morning Herald 07/05/01

AMERICA'S BEST ARTISTS: No kidding. These are the best, certified by Time magazine. The best young classical musician, Hilary Hahn; best playwright, August Wilson; best novelist, Philip Roth; best movie director, Ang Lee; best artist, Martin Puryear; best architect, Steven Holl; best actor, Sean Penn; best Broadway director, Susan Stroman. Time also lists the best rapper, best clown, best talk show host, etc. Your mileage may vary. Void where prohibited by law. CNN 07/04/01

BOUGHT AND PAID FOR: "How much corporate sponsorship is too much? As the Government stages a tactical retreat on the arts funding front, the business dollar has flown in to fill the void, funding everything from the purchase of a rare $650,000 Guadagnini violin for the Sydney Symphony Orchestra to the sponsorship of instruments, chairs, artists, performances, costumes and soloists. Sydney Morning Herald 07/03/01

THE DEVIL AND THE MILLIONAIRE: Who Wants to be a Millionaire is popular in Egypt, as it is everywhere. But now the Supreme Mufti's office in Cairo has issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling the game show sinful and a form of gambling. The fatwa quotes from a verse in the Holy Koran which calls on all Muslims to avoid gambling as an abomination and Satan's handiwork. BBC 07/02/01