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Week of  September 17-23, 2001

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

Editor's Note: Last week ArtsJournal collected more than 50 arts stories related to the terrorism acts in the United States on September 11. Stories include news, background, and artists' reaction and interpretation of the events. We've posted them on a new page at ArtsJournal which you can access here.


IS ART A GENETIC IMPULSE? "Since all human societies, past and present, so far as we know, make and respond to art, it must contribute something essential to human life. But what?" Lingua Franca 10/07/01

COMFORT IN POP CULTURE: "It used to be the Bible that got quoted in moments of enormity—and to some extent it still is, as all the prayer vigils held last week attest. But these days even the Almighty bows before pop culture's clout. In an unfathomable event, we turn to entertainment, and from the inventory of its words and images, we assemble meaning. So it's understandable that the first response to what happened last week was to seek the shelter of a show. Many people who went through this trauma felt like they were in a movie, and those who saw it from a safe distance could imagine they were having the ultimate IMAX experience." Village Voice 09/19/01


NOT DANCE ON THE CHEAP: Is Scottish National Ballet abandoning classical dance in favor of going modern because it wants to do dance on the cheap? Not at all, says the company's board chairman. Our commitment to quality remains. Scotland on Sunday 09/16/01

NORTHERN PLUCK: The UK's Northern Ballet has had a string of bad luck. "During the past three years the Leeds-based touring company has had to cope with the death of its long-time artistic director Christopher Gable, the departure of his replacement, and arson. How did it survive such a string of soap opera adversities?" The Times (UK) 09/18/01


TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL PRIZE: The film Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet wins top prize at the Toronto Film Festival. "The final press conference - usually a sit-down brunch with much applause and laughter - was a conventional press conference, attended mostly by Canadians and a few stranded travellers, and felt less like a celebration than a funeral reception." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/17/01

  • TORONTO TROUBLE: Last week's terrorism deflated the Toronto Film Festival. With transportation down, "the result was massive trouble for the festival's guest office and for major hotels. Some festival guests couldn't get to Toronto; certain films had to be cancelled because prints did not arrive; and many festival guests who were already here found themselves unable to leave town." Toronto Star 09/17/01

THE POWER OF IMAGES: "As several columnists have noted, these attacks stem in part from a disgust with the modern world, with the huge and potentially crippling cultural impact our music, our mores and, inevitably, our movies are having on the traditional ways of life these people are committed to preserve at all costs. They see our films as infecting their world, changing their children's attitudes, in ways they find abhorrent. Given all that, what can be said for film in these terrible days?" Los Angeles Times 09/17/01

NOT SO PERFECT AFTER ALL: Satellite radio has been touted as the medium's savior: convenient, marketable, and oh, that clear, digital sound! But, as it turns out, the signal has trouble reaching rural areas. And big cities. The FCC is trying to help. Nando Times (AP) 09/17/01

NY W/O TV: The World Trade Center disaster knocked 10 New York TV stations off over-the-air broadcast, because the stations' transmitters were located on the towers. "At least four will resume transmissions from the relatively remote - and shorter - Armstrong radio tower on the Palisades at Alpine, N.J. Two other stations are installing transmitters and antennas atop the already-crowded Empire State Building - the original home of New York's TV stations until the taller World Trade Center was completed in the early '70s." New York Post 09/17/01

VIOLENCE SELLS: Are American movie-makers too good at producing violence on the screen? "We have to face the question of violence as our country's cultural touchstone. If it's not our native tongue heard in the movies that we send around the globe, then it's the language we speak most ardently. The graphic image of the White House exploding in Independence Day has a frightening quality, and in hindsight, since the Bush administration has said the White House was a target of the terrorists, perhaps suggested the way to unlock the door to our national nightmares — a horror-movie symbolism that shows the power of a grand gesture." The New York Times 09/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

REALITY INTRUDES: "Now, as life begins to return to something approaching normal, Hollywood has a dilemma: Does it return to its traditional offerings of blood-and-guts movies while the country is still hurting? And another question: Will TV shows featuring terrorists and bomb threats still play? Complicating all this is the fact that business plain stinks for just about everyone in media these days." Businessweek 09/21/01

COMING OF AGE: One Hollywood producer suggests "This could be a coming of age for our nation. It depends on which way we go. I'd like to see us start looking at the process of recovery, and if entertainment has any job, it's to put this suffering in a kind of context and prepare people for what's next." Christian Science Monitor 09/21/01

INDEPENDENT FAILURE: Independent film producer Shooting Gallery was hailed as one of the most innovative, successful indie producers. Founded with $7,000 in 1991, Shooting Gallery epitomized the ethos of guerrilla filmmaking, in which hustle and chutzpah-and artistic freedom-made up for lack of financial resources." But with a string of successes and awards, how did the company lose $70 million and go bankrupt? Los Angeles Times 09/23/01


SANITIZING THE CRISIS: Clear Channel Communications, one of the world's largest media companies, has circulated a memo to its radio stations across the U.S. "suggesting" the removal of some 150 songs from station playlists in the wake of last week's attack. Program directors have been left to wonder what could possibly be objectionable about the Beatles' "Obla-Di Obla-Da" or Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World." St. Paul Pioneer Press 09/18/01

ZINMAN DEPARTS BALTIMORE IN A HUFF: "In a move that has startled Baltimore Symphony Orchestra musicians and staff, David Zinman has resigned his title of 'music director emeritus' in protest of the BSO's current artistic direction, specifically a decline in programming of works by contemporary American composers. He also has canceled previously scheduled appearances with the orchestra in March." Baltimore Sun 09/17/01

  • BUT WILL IT MATTER? Zinman's departure from Baltimore breaks a long-standing code among conductors - never speak ill of your successor. But do his charges of the dumbing down of the BSO's programming hold water, or is Zinman the one who comes out looking silly? Baltimore Sun 09/18/01

THE GRANDEST VERDI: What is the appeal of Verdi? "The appeal of Italian opera is difficult to put into words, but it has something to do with the activation of primal feelings. Operatic characters have a way of laying themselves bare, and they are never more uninhibited than at the climax of a Verdi tragedy." The New Yorker 09/17/01

TORONTO SEEKS A NEW LEADER: As the Great American Music Director Search draws to a close for most orchestras in the U.S., one of Canada's most prestigious ensembles is hoping to snare a gem from the enormous crop of promising maestros who, for one reason or another, don't show up on American radar screens. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has faced a slew of problems in the last several years, but with a renovation of their much-maligned hall, the return of their nearly-deposed principal cellist, and the potential for an exciting new stick-waver, things may be looking up. Two candidates will conduct the TSO this month. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 09/18/01

UNDERSTANDING WAGNER: Conductor Daniel Barenboim leads an examination of Wagner and politics in Chicago. "Wagner may forever remain controversial in Israel, but his music, predicated as it is on a fusion of all the art forms, is a given of Western high art. The classic status that so long eluded him is now his. His operas are basic to the international repertory, even if the world has never had more than a handful of singers equal to their almost superhuman vocal demands." Chicago Tribune 09/23/01

AIDA CANCELED: The annual Egyptian performances of Aida at the pyramids have been cancelled after tour groups called off their trips. Ironically, last year's performances also were cancelled, because "organisers said they wanted to focus resources on this year's shows, which would have coincided with the centenary of Verdi's death." BBC 09/20/01

MUSIC-AID: Musicians are out raising money for disaster relief. "Michael Jackson, for example, hopes to rustle up more than $50-million for victims of the disaster through sales of What More Can I Give, a song he wrote six months ago for his album Invincible but didn't use. He wants to record the song with a Live-Aid-like supergroup to include Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys and Mya from Destiny's Child, among others. Whitney Houston's label is rereleasing her Superbowl recording of The Star-Spangled Banner as a CD, with royalties to firefighters and police in New York." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/21/01

BEETHOVEN'S DOCTOR: A retired Melbourne gastronenterologist has spent years diagnosing Beethoven's physical maladies. He's " always had an interest in suffering, and 'Beethoven is the suffering composer par excellence.' He was attracted to the idea of applying his medical skills to Mozart and Beethoven to better understand how their health and moods affected their music." The Age (Melbourne) 09/19/01


ISAAC STERN, 81: Isaac Stern, one of the leading violinists of the mid-20th Century and one of the most powerful voices in the music world, has died. He was a founding member of the National Endowment for the Arts and spurred the drive to save Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball. Washington Post 09/23/01

SAYING THE WRONG THING: Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen said in a German radio interview Monday that last week's attacks on the World Trade Center were "the greatest work of art imaginable for the whole cosmos. Minds achieving something in an act that we couldn't even dream of in music, people rehearsing like mad for 10 years, preparing fanatically for a concert, and then dying, just imagine what happened there." The comments didn't play well; four concerts of his music that were to have formed the thematic focus of the Hamburg Music Festival this weekend were promptly canceled. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 09/19/01

  • SORRY FOR COMMENTS: Composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has apologized for comments he made comparing last week's attack on the World Trade Center to a work of art. The City of Hamburg canceled four concerts of his music this week. "Stockhausen told Hamburg officials he meant to compare the attacks to a production of the devil, Lucifer's work of art." Nando Times (AP) 09/19/01

PAVAROTTI IN COURT (AGAIN): Pavarotti goes to court to defend charges of tax evasion. "Italian prosecutors allege that Pavarotti still owes the government unpaid taxes for the period 1989 to 1995 - despite the tenor's payment of 24 billion lira in back taxes (£7.8m) in 2000." BBC 09/17/01


THE DUTY OF THE WRITER IN TIME OF CRISIS: Is it irrelevant, in a time of tragedy and horror, to try to write a novel? Many writers - John Updike, Rosellen Brown, Tim O'Brien, Joan Didion, Ward Just, Robert Stone, and Joyce Carol Oates - have been asking themselves that question. "While many temporarily questioned their work, they ended up affirming to themselves the value and purpose of what they do." The New York Times 09/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ALL OF PUSHKIN IN ENGLISH, AT LAST: Of major Russian literary figures, Alexander Pushkin is the least read outside his home country. The problem is that he is so difficult to translate. Now, after years of editorial wrangling and politicking, the final volumes are ready in the first complete edition of Pushkin's works in English. The Moscow Times 09/21/01

NO MORE SATURDAY NIGHTS: Saturday Night, created in 1887 and Canada's oldest magazine, has been put out of its misery. The magazine was shut down last week by new owners. It hadn't made money in 60 years. "The reason, say industry experts, is that a series of desperate publishers and editors squandered the franchise's name and loyal readership base. Projected losses ranged from $10-million to $12-million dollars for the magazine for this calendar year alone." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/22/01

COMFORT(?) IN NOSTRADAMUS? "Within hours of the suicide missions that toppled the World Trade Center's twin towers in New York on Sept. 11, there was a rush in Toronto's libraries on a single book - not on the Qur'an, not on the Bible, not on any historical study of the ancient struggle between followers of Islam and Christ. The book everyone wanted contains the prophetic quatrains of 16th-century visionary Nostradamus, who, according to rumours burning up the Internet, had predicted the tragedy with stunning accuracy. The prediction was later disproved." Toronto Star 09/22/01

BERYL BOMBS OUT OF BOOKER: Beryl Bainbridge has been the odds-on favorite to win this year's Booker Prize after she was listed on the prize's longlist. But the shortlist is now out and she didn't make it. Finalists include Peter Carey, Ian McEwan, Rachel Seiffert, Ali Smith, Andrew Miller, and David Mitchell made the cut. This is the first year that judges revealed the 24 books on the longlist. The Guardian (UK) 09/18/01

  • IS THE BOOKER FIXED? "There is a well-established London literary community. Rushdie doesn't get shortlisted now because he has attacked that community. That is not a good game plan if you want to win the Booker. Norman Mailer has found the same thing in the US - you have to 'be a citizen' if you want to win prizes. The real scandal is that Martin Amis has never won the prize. In fact, he has only been shortlisted once and that was for Time's Arrow, which was not one of his strongest books. That really is suspicious. He pissed people off with Dead Babies and that gets lodged in the culture. There is also the feeling that he has always looked towards America." The Guardian (UK) 09/18/01

BOOK-BOUND: Fall is usually packed in the publishing business. But this fall will be different as publishers postpone releases. "Not just personally but professionally, everyone in the business has felt repercussions from Tuesday's mayhem. Nobody would dare complain at a time like this, but sales will probably suffer as readers focus on other things for a while - among them reading's old nemesis, television. Where people are finding time to buy and read books, nonfiction is predominating, as people struggle to learn more about how this could have happened." San Francisco Chronicle 09/17/01

SHORT SHRIFT: "Canada must produce more short stories per capita than any other literary outpost in the galaxy, and the book reviewers of the nation are trembling under the weight." So enough. Enough. Let's call a ban on the genre. "The fact is our literature is at risk of becoming so small-boned, so petite, so lacking in ambition that it disappears up its own exquisite backside." Saturday Night (Canada) 09/17/01


WHEN THE TOURISTS STAY HOME: It's grim on Broadway. Shows are going bankrupt and five are closing. Six others, including several long-running productions, are on the verge of shutting down. "A show like Rent, for example, needs to bring in about $40,000 a day to meet its costs. Its sales since the attacks have ranged from $1,800 (on Sept. 11) to $14,000 (on Wednesday)." The New York Times 09/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • PAY CUTS INSTEAD OF LAYOFFS: To keep big Broadway shows from closing, theatre unions make deal with producers - "a 25 percent across-the-board pay cuts for cast and crew at five shows - Chicago, Rent, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables and The Full Monty. The cuts will be in place for four weeks beginning next week. If business does not improve, they can be renegotiated." New York Post 09/21/01
  • PRODUCERS PIN HOPES ON THE ROAD: With business so bad on Broadway, producers are hoping that touring road shows will be their "lifeline." Meanwhile, some touring productions have abandoned air travel for the ground. Chicago Tribune 09/21/01
  • THEATRE DISASTER: Broadway's "total income fell more than 60 percent from the previous week." 09/20/01
  • THEATRE IN A TIME OF TERROR: "My feeling is that at no time in our lives have we needed the theater more, and my hope is that the suffering theater community itself will take heart knowing how close it is to our own hearts. Can any of us imagine a world without theater? Only one of darkness. When the theaters went dark for two days last week, there was no choice. But the traumatized city seemed darker still. Theater has always been our eternal refuge, embrace, hope, solace and home." New York Observer 09/20/01

A WOMAN TO TAKE OVER THE ROYAL NATIONAL? There's a high-level and highly-secretive search under way for someone to succeed Trevor Nunn as artistic director of the Royal National Theater, "arguably the most important arts organisation in Britain." Given the current demands of the position, "I can't help thinking it's less likely to go to a middle-class Oxbridge-educated male than to a dynamic, persuasive female." The Irish Times 09/20/01

DON'T MESS WITH THE SHAKESPEARE: Theatre unions hate the idea, Prince Charles has expressed his displeasure, and critics are lining up in opposition to Adrian Noble's plans to restructure the Royal Shakespeare Company. "At the heart of the protest lies a total dismay at the RSC's abandonment of ensemble repertoire: the belief that you go to Stratford to see a resident company in an accumulating programme in three theatres. Until recently it was the company's core philosophy." The Guardian (UK) 09/19/01

THEATRE OF TERROR: "How a new generation of theater artists will respond to the shattering events of that day remains to be seen. Because of the long process involved in getting a work from the page to the stage, the playwrights' response will not be immediately evident. However, artistic directors are already looking at their own programming - at shows that they had already announced, as well as plays from the repertoire of world drama - for work that will give refuge, illumination and inspiration to their audiences." Hartford Courant 09/23/01


SELLING ART TO RAISE MONEY: The Church of England has decided to sell a collection of valuable paintings housed by the church in Durham since the mid-1700s. They're reported to be worth £20m. "They are works in the series Jacob And His Twelve Sons by the 17th Century Spanish painter Francesco de Zuberán, a contemporary of Velasquez and El Greco." Church officials say the sale will "raise much-needed funds, particularly for the north east." BBC 09/21/01

SAVING ANGKOR WAT: "Angkor Wat in Cambodia, said to be the world’s single largest archaeological site, is being worked on by a multi-national force of restorers. "In this free-for-all, there might well be the temptation to experiment on new techniques and chemicals, in the knowledge that there will be little monitoring of what is being done." But things are harmonious. "This is largely thanks to the efforts of UNESCO, which recognised Angkor as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and formed an International Co-ordination Committee (ICC)." The Art Newspaper 09/20/01

THE MODERN REACH FOR THE SKY: The great modernist skyscrapers weren't built just to be big. They were meant as a statement repudiating decoration and clutter. "A building should not derive meaning and character from the historical motifs that cluttered its skin, but from the direct, logical expression of its purpose and materials. This was the edict of functionalism, that—as Louis Sullivan put it—'form follows function'.” The New Criterion 09/01

ROTTEN RODIN: Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum major show of Rodin sculptures is likely to be remembered as Canada's most controversial and most frustrating exhibition of the year. Controversial because of the disputed nature of the sculptures and the show's lousyt scholarship. Frustrating because the art in this show gives no sense of its context. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/22/01

THE HORROR OF IT ALL: The last 50 years in British art have been a battle for realism. And violence. "It is no coincidence that two of the most important artists since the second world war should both dramatise extremes of violence in an attempt to heighten our awareness of our own mortality. In fact, you could argue that the most important British art of the past 50 years has been preoccupied with the subject." The Guardian (UK) 09/22/01

THE ARCHITECTURE OSCARS: What's wrong with a prize for architecture? "Like the Booker, which exists mainly to sell more books, or the Oscars, whose primary purpose is to decorate cinema posters, the Stirling Prize is mostly about marketing. The prize was dreamed up during one of those waves of self-pity to which architects are prone. What hurts is not that nobody loves them, it's that everybody ignores them. Enter the Stirling Prize, an event made to get architecture out of the ghetto. Let's get on television, let's show that we matter." The Observer (UK) 09/23/01

HOCKNEY'S HERESY: David Hockney's theory that Ingres worked from a projection of an image brought the "predictable, dismissive response: Hockney was mad, he had a bee in his bonnet. To which the artist calmly replied when we recently spent an evening discussing the subject: 'Well, I know something that they don't.' Now, with the publication of this book, he lets the rest of us in on the secret. And his contentions are pretty astounding - not merely that some artists used certain bags of tricks, but that, effectively, the photographic way of looking at the world, through optical equipment, pre-dates, by centuries, the invention of photography itself." The Telegraph (UK) 09/22/01

THAT BURNING IMAGE: What images will come to symbolize last week's World Trade Center disaster? There were too many pictures all at once. "Typically, words precede the creation of iconic images. A story is told, then a picture forms. What is an icon, after all, but art's equivalent of the word made flesh. But the word comes first. Icons illustrate existing faith and doctrine, which is often inchoate until the picture comes along and suddenly sorts out the disarray. Then, a gathering critical mass of people sees the image and collectively knows, 'That's it!' " Los Angeles Times 09/17/01

$10 MILLION IN PUBLIC ART LOST IN ATTACK: "Experts familiar with the public art displayed in and around the World Trade Center estimated its value alone at more than $10 million. Among the prized works were a bright-red 25-foot Alexander Calder sculpture on the Vesey Street overpass at Seven World Trade Center, a painted wood relief by Louise Nevelson that hung in the mezzanine of One World Trade Center, a painting by Roy Lichtenstein from his famous "Entablature" series from the 1970s in the lobby of Seven World Trade Center, and Joan Miro's "World Trade Center" tapestry from 1974." San Francisco Chronicle 09/18/01

RENEGING ON ART: A man runs up a bill of more than $1 million at Sotheby's tribal art sales, then refuses to pay the bill later. What's an auction house to do? The Art Newspaper 09/17/01

ROYAL ART HISTORY: England's Prince (and future king) William's "decision to take history of art at university has created a major dilemma for the relatively small community of academic art historians in UK universities. William will focus an unprecedented spotlight on the discipline but, in doing so, he may only reinforce the stereotypes the subject is so desperately trying to rid itself of." The Guardian (UK) 09/18/01

ANTI ART-EATING: Bugs are causing so much damage of museum collections, the British Museum is convening a major conference on what to so about the problem. "Moths, flees, booklice, woodlice and termites are among bugs that thrive on organic matter. Entire objects — even entire collections — have been lost in museums and libraries." The Times (UK) 09/17/01

NEW YORK'S OUTSIDE(R) ART: Last week's World Trade Center tragedy "has already created, virtually overnight, a new category of outsider art: the astounding impromptu shrines and individual artworks that have proliferated along New York's streets and in its parks and squares. Alternating missing-person posters with candles, flowers, flags, drawings and messages of all kinds, these accumulations bring home the enormity of the tragedy in tangles of personal detail." The New York Times 09/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ANOTHER SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM DIRECTOR QUITS: Spencer Crew, director of the National Museum of American History, is leaving to become chief executive officer of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Although he is "the fifth Smithsonian museum director to leave since Lawrence Small became secretary of the institution 21 months ago," Crew insisted his departure was "not related to the decisions or management style of Small." Washington Post 09/20/01

CONQUERING STATUE: A three-stories-high giant statue of a conquistador astride his horse is set to be erected in the Texas city of El Paso. "There's only one hitch. Don Juan de Onate is no graceful symbolic Lady Liberty welcoming the huddled masses but a real-life perpetrator of atrocities, who thought nothing of ordering his men to chop off the legs of uncooperative Indians and was eventually condemned by his own superiors for using 'excessive force'. More than four centuries after Onate forded the Rio Grande at what is now El Paso with 300 Spanish-speaking settlers hungry to make their fortunes, his name for many still has an ugly and bloody resonance." The Telegraph (UK) 09/19/01

ATLANTIS MAY HAVE BEEN RIGHT WHERE PLATO SAID IT WAS: A speculative survey of the coastline of Western Europe 19,000 years ago - when the sea level was 130 meters lower than now - shows "an ancient archipelago, with an island at the spot where Plato described Atlantis." It's just beyond the Pillars of Hercules, what we now call the Strait of Gibraltar. The New Scientist 09/19/01


BUSH NOMINATES HAMMOND TO HEAD NEA: Michael Hammond, the dean of the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, has been nominated as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. The 69-year-old Hammond is a composer, conductor, and former Rhodes scholar "whose interests include medieval, Renaissance and Southeast Asian music." He has been Dean of the Rice school since 1986. Washington Post 09/20/01

RESPONDING TO TERRORISM: Why haven't artists responded with more eloquence after last week's terrorism? "What we sorely needed was to hear from a composer, a poet, an artist who could, in an instant, release pent-up sentiments and illuminate the stricken landscape. Art, however, has lost the facility for rapid reaction or even considered response. What Picasso achieved in Guernica and Brecht in Mother Courage is no longer acceptable, or perhaps available, to painters and playwrights of the postmodern age." The Telegraph (UK) 09/19/01

TURNING ASIA-WARD: "Since the time of European settlement, Australia's cultural focus has been firmly on Europe and the United States, with a number of our most brilliant artists having arrived as refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe following World War II. But a host of new Asian-inspired drama and dance productions and exhibitions highlight the increasing influence the nearby region is having on the local arts scene." The Age (Melbourne) 09/20/01

TELLING THE TERROR STORY: "The story that has emerged is modelled, almost scene by scene, on a disaster movie. There's the clearly witnessed long shot of the attack, the confusion below, people fleeing toward the camera. Archetypal heroes (Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the firemen) emerged, as well as a foreign villain (Osama bin Laden). The scene was set for the next act, the battle between good and evil, an apocalyptic yet redemptive process. How this cultural narrative has been chosen is worth examining." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 09/22/01

IMMIGRATION SERVICE AS CULTURAL ARBITER: When artists visit the US to work they have to apply for a work visa. Yet who at the INS is deciding which artists are culturally significant and which aren't? Such decisions aren't always made thoughtfully. Studio 360 [audio file] 09/11/01