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Week of  December 17-23, 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


MERRY CHRISTMAS MUSIC: Sure there are classic Christmas carols. But there are many more pop Christmas songs, and most of them are an acquired taste of one sort or another. Here's a pretty comprehensive list that includes the sentimental to the simpering to the downright taseless. National Post 12/21/01

WORD COUNTS: Word counts can tell a reader plenty about a piece of writing - like the cultural context, the tone, the hidden meaning. Any writer who overuses "very" for example, is probably over-enthusiastic. Computer word counting has made this kind of analysis of any text, easy for anyone. Sydney Morning Herald 12/17/01


ABT CUTS PROGRAM TO CUT COSTS: American Ballet Theatre has canceled a planned Stravinsky program for the end of the season. "We're looking at the potential of a 5 to 10 percent problem on a $30 million budget. It's primarily a result of the recession that already existed before Sept. 11, but it's certainly been heightened since that time. The postponement of the program will save Ballet Theater about $400,000." The New York Times 12/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

WHO OWNS DANCE? "The Martha Graham Dance Company sits in an unfortunate limbo, having already discontinued performances for more than a year and a half. The oracular high priestess of modern dance could scarcely have foreseen that a bitter battle over the rights to her legacy would end up in federal court." The New York Times 12/22/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CHILL IN THE AIR: Seems there's an English dancers' union rule that says dancers don't have to perform if the temperature in a theatre is below 19 degrees centigrade. Saturday the theatre in Liverpool was packed with kids for an afternoon performance by the English National Ballet, when, just a few minutes before the curtain was due to go up, dancers canceled the performance. Why? The temperature backstage was 18 degrees. Liverpool Daily Post 12/18/01

TAKING THE BULL BY THE HORNS: "Alberta Ballet is not dancing around the issue of its first deficit in more than a decade. It has appointed Larry Clausen, a Calgary businessman with a penchant for restoring the health of financially troubled companies, as its new board chair." Calgary Herald 12/18/01


RECORD YEAR FOR MOVIES: Hollywood has already surpassed its biggest grossing year - last year's record $7.7 billion. "We're definitely going to surpass $8 billion - it's just a matter of by how much." BBC 12/19/01

  • THE BILLION DOLLAR CLUB: Think it was a bad year for movies? Think again. Three Hollywood movie studies each made more than a billion dollars this year. "Buena Vista International, a unit of entertainment giant Walt Disney Co has joined fellow studios Warner Bros and Universal in hitting the coveted target, marking the first time since 1999 that three studios have hit the billion mark." Sydney Morning Herald (AFP) 12/20/01

VALENTI'S (NOT-SO-VEILED) THREAT: Motion picture industry lobbyist Jack Valenti took his campaign for new forms of digital copyright protection to a government-organized technodweeb seminar this week, warning that if new forms of encryption are not voluntarily developed for the predicted influx of broadband video content, he and his pals in Congress will not hesitate to force the issue. Wired 12/18/01

AWARDS SEASON GETS GOING: The Golden Globe nominations help clarify the Oscar field. "The competition for best dramatic film pits A Beautiful Mind, Ron Howard's adaptation of the story of a brilliant but schizophrenic mathematician, which earned six nominations, against Peter Jackson's epic adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring; Todd Field's intense In the Bedroom, about a middle- aged couple torn apart by the murder of their son; David Lynch's nightmarish and enigmatic Mulholland Drive; and Joel Coen's black- and-white neo-noir The Man Who Wasn't There." The New York Times 12/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NOT TO MENTION THE PRICE OF REAL ACTORS: Animation used to take time: each frame was a separate work of art, and 7200 of them were needed for a five minute film. But with computer techniques, the task has been considerably quickened and simplified. Add to that an audience willing to accept a less-polished look, and suddenly there's a rush of animated films showing up on line, at festivals, and in theaters. Wired 12/20/01

CULTURE WIRE: All over Europe, new cultural centers devoted to digital art are coming into being. "We want to bring digital art and its creation to a wider audience, as well as provide a suitable base for artists-in-residence to use the Cube as a type of personal studio. We also want to function as a sort of creative launching-pad for artists to explore new forms of artistic expression using digital technologies." Wired 12/17/01


ST. LOUIS REPRIEVE: In September the St. Louis Symphony said it had to raise "$29 million in stopgap funding - $20 million to be raised in the form of pledges by Dec. 31, 2001, and the entire $29 million in hand by next spring" or the orchestra would have to be shut down. With December 31 only a little more than a week away, the orchestra has raised $25 million in pledges. Riverfront Times 12/19/01

SIZE MATTERS: "Are physical attributes in opera really irrelevant? If one regards the art merely as a concert in costume, looks cannot matter. If one regards opera as a fusion of music and drama, suspension of disbelief does." Financial Times 12/22/01

BEETHOVEN'S VIOLA PLAYS AGAIN: After more than 100 years of silence, Beethoven's viola, "the viola the composer played while still an adolescent, probably between 1787 and 1792, in the court orchestra of Elector Maximilian Franz of Bonn," has been played in concert again. "After Beethoven's departure from the orchestra, the viola became the property of Franz Anton Ries, who was also a member of the orchestra as well as Beethoven's violin teacher. It later turned up in America and finally found its way back to Bonn after World War I as part of Ries' estate." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/19/01

IMPERIAL SALE: The Bosendorfer piano company has been sold to an Austrian bank. "Boesendorfer and Steinway are considered the Rolls-Royces of pianos. Among the hundreds of virtuosi and composers associated with Boesendorfer since the first handmade instrument was assembled in the early 19th century have been Anton Rubinstein, Johannes Brahms and Bela Bartok." Nando Times (AP) 12/21/01

INDUSTRY ON THE ROPES: "The music industry is powered by four crucial engines: record labels, radio, the touring industry and retail record stores. And they are all sputtering with a grim array of problems. Napster is hobbled, but music swapping online remains a gleeful pleasure for millions of computer users who have lost interest in actually paying for CDs. Venerable record chains like Tower Records have been on the verge of going out of business. The alternative-rock/country/rap explosion of the 1990s is over, and few new acts are selling - even as consumers are turning up their noses at superstar perennials, too. Major labels have been battered by losses and layoffs, radio station owners are wallowing in an advertising recession, and the concert business lost millions of ticket buyers in just the last year." Salon 12/19/01

DUMB AND DUMBER: "For all the political homilies we hear about raising educational standards, the role of culture in education is under attack from a murderous anti-elitist virus and a secondary infection of multi-cultural confusions. Anything that cannot instantly be grasped by the innocent ear is banned as exclusive. Music in school is modelled on McDonald's: it is cheap, mass-produced and sensorily unchallenging." The Telegraph (UK) 12/19/01

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS... New York City Opera wants a new home out of the Lincoln Center redevelopment plan. But building a new theatre on the campus isn't likely to happen, what with the objections of others (and you know who you are...). If the company stays in its current home and renovates, it stands to lose the support of its biggest backer. But if it moves elsewhere in the city, costs go up and... The New York Times 12/19/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ASSESSING THE KIMMEL: With opening weekend behind them, the folks behind Philadelphia's imposing new Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts are reading the initial reviews, and beginning the years-long process of accommodating a new hall to its tenants. But reviews were wildly mixed, and the local perception seemed often at odds with that of out-of-town critics. The overall report card seems to indicate a promising future for Verizon Hall, but much acoustical tweaking will be needed. Philadelphia Inquirer 12/18/01

  • For all Kimmel stories and reviews see here

THE HOUSE THAT WYNTON BUILT: Jazz at Lincoln Center has a new $115 million home rising at Columbus Circle. Wynton Marsalis is its driving force, its inspiration and its fundraiser. "Yet you wonder how long Wynton can stay in the window of the jazz temple he's building over on Columbus Circle, and what might happen without him. 'They've painted themselves into a corner at Lincoln Center, pushing Wynton so far out front,' says one prominent jazz critic. 'He's very good, but he's not Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington rolled up into one, as they'd have you believe'." New York Magazine 12/17/01

PATRIOTIC ROYALTIES: The Florida Orchestra has sued Arista Records to collect royalty payments from Whitney Houston's SuperBowl performance of the Star Spangled Banner. The orchestra accompanied Houston and "since Sept. 11, the royalties could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for the nonprofit orchestra, which cut its budget by $600,000 this year to $7.6 million and forced musicians to take a pay cut." Nando Times (AP) 12/17/01

NO VOICE BEFORE ITS TIME: Young singers are often tempted to take on desirable operatic roles before their voices are ready. Those who push ahead can ruin their voices. Those who hold out until their voices have settled can sing well into later life. But how to judge when the time is right? The Times (UK) 12/18/01


DOESN'T PLAY NICE WITH OTHERS: Despite the PR, there's very little "classical" about violinist Vanessa-Mae. "It seems she prefers to use her instrument to engage in mock fights with the others on stage - guitar, bass, keyboards and drums - just like a child attacking its playmates with a wooden sword in the sandbox. In the sandbox, there is always one child who must have its way; otherwise it starts to scream. Here, that child is the sometimes almost unbearable Vanessa-Mae." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/21/01

THE SINGING COP: "If Verdi were to write a new opera, it might run like this: A young man loves to sing, but at first he doesn't succeed. Then he joins the police, where he sings the national anthem. Thanks to his great voice and the mayor's patronage, - he cuts a CD and gets to study with Placido Domingo. But Verdi can put his pen down - it's true." The Christian Science Monitor 12/19/01


DO BOOKS COST TOO MUCH? "Across the country this holiday season, recession-minded book buyers are suffering a wave of sticker shock. Cover prices have crossed thresholds over the last two years, and the big bookstore chains and online retailers have pulled back from previously widespread discounts. More shoppers face prices like $35 for hardcover nonfiction, $26 or more for a hardcover novel, $15 or more for upscale paperbacks. Customers show signs of resistance." The New York Times 12/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE FEARLESS BARRY TROTTER: Writer Michael Gerber has written a parody of the Harry Potter marketing machine called Barry Trotter and the Unauthorised Parody. "The book is a dig at Warner Bros' enormous marketing campaign for the recent blockbusting film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, and what Gerber regards as their excessively zealous control of the Harry Potter brand. 'I got really annoyed when I heard about Warner Bros shutting down kids' Potter websites,' he said. 'Their behaviour seemed mean-spirited and overbearing, not to mention silly. Potter fans have a very intense, personal relationship with the books, and I don't think that's something you can disregard, just because you've purchased the rights'." The Guardian (UK) 12/19/01

KID LIT WAS DIFFERENT A GENERATION AGO: With the emergence of JK Rowling, and the resurgence of JRR Tolkien, it's easy to assume that magic and fantasy have always been staples of children's literature. But 35 years ago, Gore Vidal was complaining that "the librarians who dominate the juvenile market tend to be brisk tweedy ladies whose interests are mechanical rather than imaginative. Never so happy as when changing a fan belt, they quite naturally want to communicate their joy in practical matters to the young. The result has been a depressing literature of how-to-do things while works of invention are sternly rejected." New York Review of Books 12/03/64

1 SONNET, 3 COUPLETS, AND A BUCKET O' VERSE TO GO: What's that? You say you'd love to spend your days sucking down verse after verse of cool, refreshing poetry, but simply haven't the time, what with the conference calls, the board meetings, and all? Well, now you can have it all, with Poem-Me, the fabulous new British poetry service which delivers daily helpings of "thought-provoking" poesy right to your very own cell phone! Don't wait another minute - order now! BBC 12/18/01


THE COWARDLY WEST END? Playwright Martin McDonagh's The Lieutenant of Inishmore, "a brutal satire on terrorism and undoubtedly the best and most talked about new play of 2001, has still not been given a West End transfer, despite opening to ecstatic reviews at Stratford in May." McDonagh says it's because West End theatres are cowardly about presenting controversial work since September 11. The Guardian (UK) 12/22/01

KUSHNER AND KABUL: Tony Kushner's play Homebody/ Kabul is the most awaited play of the year. "Homebody/ Kabul, directed by Declan Donnellan, is Mr. Kushner's first major work since the lightning bolt that is Angels in America struck nearly a decade ago. As a whole, this tale of cultural quest still has its own journey to make before reaching the level of Angels (which went through many years of gestation before reaching Broadway). But it definitely has the potential to get there." The New York Times 12/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • For all Homebody/Kabul reviews, look here

WEST END THEATRE STRIKE? London's theatre workers have voted by a margin of 99.7 percent to reject their latest contract offer and voted 98 percent to authorize a strike. "The average hourly rate in the West End is 6.33, and many earn much less." BBC 12/19/01

THEATRE-AID: Some 150,000 tickets to New York cultural events are being donated to families who lost relatives in the World Trade Center. And "the League of American Theaters and Producers, backed by $1 million from New York State, is to deliver 3.4 million coupon booklets offering discounts on Broadway tickets, Midtown hotels, parking garages and theater district restaurants. The goal was to keep a flow of local audiences pouring into the theater district as the number of national and international tourists has dropped. A recent survey by the league found that since Sept. 11, half the Broadway audience has come from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, compared with about 43 percent last season. Over all, Broadway sales this season are about 85 percent of what they were last season." The New York Times 12/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A MIDDLE-EAST BARD: An English Shakespeare company takes Hamlet and Twelfth Night to the United Arab Emirates. But it's hardly a cross-cultural experience. The production is staged in the Dubai Ritz Carlton for the (mostly) American and Brit tourists. And there aren't even many of them - tourism in the Middle East being what it is post-9-11. The Independent (UK) 12/19/01

NEA RELEASES SOME HELD-UP GRANT MONEY: "After holding back its initial approval, the National Endowment for the Arts has decided to give the Berkeley Repertory Theater a $60,000 grant for a production of Tony Kushner's new play on Afghanistan. The endowment's acting chairman held up two grants last month at the very last step in the approval process, a move that generated discussion about the NEA's procedures and the artists' work... Officials at the NEA have steadfastly refused to discuss the rationale behind the scrutiny since the acting chairman's action became public almost three weeks ago." Washington Post 12/19/01

WILLY-WORLD: Developers have unveiled plans for a new Shakespeare theme park in Stratford-on-Avon. "Details of the multimillion pound plan to build Shakespeare's World, which would cover a 30-acre site and would target tourists and daytripping families, have been circulated this month to surprised Stratford councillors." The Observer (UK) 12/16/01


HERMITAGE MASTERWORKS, SOLD FOR A SONG: Some countries lose their art to pillaging armies. It was different in Russia, where the treasures of the Hermitage were sold off by the Soviet government. "Our country has been thoroughly taken to the cleaners. Only pitiful crumbs remain of the cultural heritage we once had. Look at the lists of works sold in the 1920s, look at the artists in those lists. Almost any item from those lists, offered at auction today, would create a sensation. But they were sold off for nothing." The Moscow Times 12/21/01

ARTISTS ON ART THAT MOVES THEM: For the past 15 months, Martin Gayford has been interviewing artists about the influence of specific works of art on their own work. "As I look back through the columns at what the artists have actually said, a few patterns emerge. The art of the 20th century has proved by far the most popular - chosen 30 times out of a possible 65 - followed by that of the 17th century (11), the 15th (seven), the 19th (six) and the 16th (five). The 18th, and 14th centuries each scored two, as did the ancient world. The most popular artists were Picasso, Rubens, Van Gogh, Matisse and - surprisingly - Delacroix, each covered twice. No one chose Michelangelo, Raphael, Degas, Poussin, Breugel, Ingres, Goya and a number of other great masters." The Telegraph (UK) 12/22/01

ART/NOT-ART: Why get upset about things called 'art' when they seem so 'not-art'? "You can hardly call something 'not art' when the only reason you heard about it was that an art gallery funded and displayed it and an art critic wrote about it in the art section of a newspaper. The battle is over: It's already art, whether you like it or not. As soon as the question of its artness even occurs, it is part of a discussion that is inherently artistic; it is, henceforth, irrevocably and perpetually a part of the history of art. People said certain Impressionist works weren't art, and now even Canadian Alliance members buy posters of them for their living rooms. You can't get away from it." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/22/01

TINY QUEEN WITH LOTS OF PERSONALITY: Lucien Freud has painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth. It's small - 6 inches by 9 inches. "The painting is not an official commission but a gift from Freud to the Queen. (This is a grand gesture which has a precedent, Freud notes, in the jazz suite that Duke Ellington wrote for the Queen, having a single record pressed and delivered to Buckingham Place.)" The Telegraph (UK) 12/21/01

  • THEY ARE NOT AMUSED: The critics have taken a look at Lucien Freud's new portrait of The Queen. Many don't like it. Some really don't like it. Among the comments: "extremely unflattering" (The Daily Telegraph); "The chin has what can only be described as a six-o'clock shadow, and the neck would not disgrace a rugby prop forward" (The Times); "Freud should be locked in the Tower for this" (The Sun); and perhaps most to the point, from the editor of The British Art Journal, "It makes her look like one of the royal corgis who has suffered a stroke." BBC 12/21/01

WAS BACON BLACKMAILED? Artist Francis Bacon's estate is suing the Marlborough Gallery, accusing it of blackmailing Bacon into not switching to another gallery when he wanted to. The estate "believes that Bacon was not paid properly by his long-time dealer for many of his pictures" and that the claim against Marlborough could be worth more than 100 million The Art Newspaper 12/18/01

APPROPRIATING ABORIGINAL: Over the past 30 years Australian Aboriginal art has become wildly popular. But "indigenous designs created over thousands of years were being used to decorate furniture and furnishings, clothing and carpets, doonas and desks. Ignoring copyright law, companies were stealing the patterns and shapes Aborigines had been creating for thousands of years." One researcher has fought to preserve the rights of Aboriginal artists. The Age (Melbourne) 12/19/01

AN OKAY LEAN: The leaning tower of Pisa was reopened to tourists over the weekend after 12 years of efforts to stabilize it. "The tower lurches vertiginously towards the cathedral museum, despite restoration work that has reduced its lean by 44cm and which, experts say, should make it safe for the next 200 years." The Guardian (UK) 12/16/01

BUILDING BOOM: Across the American South, dozens of new museums are being built. "This boom is based partly on the desire of many Southerners to bring more fine art to their communities. Although some museums here have superior collections that are languishing in storage for lack of display space, directors of some others are still uncertain what they will hang on their new walls." The New York Times 12/18/01 (one-time registration required for access)

EVERYBODY'S GOT A NEW PROJECT: Besides the highly publicized announcement of a new Rem Koolhaas-designed LA County Museum, two other American museums have recently announced big new projects - a 100,000-square-foot $79 million addition to the Virginia Museum of Art, and a $170 million addition to the Cleveland Museum. The Art Newspaper 12/14/01

AUSTRALIA'S MOST WANTED: Who are Australia's most collectable artists? Some big names didn't make the list... Sydney Morning Herald 12/17/01


GOOD YEAR FOR AUSSIE ARTS: Despite an economic slowdown and a drop in tourism after September 11, 2001 was a terrific year for Australian arts groups. Ticket sales and subscriptions were up, box office was good, and most of the country's arts institutions are optimistic."The best result of all was achieved by the Melbourne Festival. The largest spring event staged reported record boxoffice returns of $3.5 million last month." The Age (Melbourne) 12/21/01

NEA RELEASES SOME HELD-UP GRANT MONEY: "After holding back its initial approval, the National Endowment for the Arts has decided to give the Berkeley Repertory Theater a $60,000 grant for a production of Tony Kushner's new play on Afghanistan. The endowment's acting chairman held up two grants last month at the very last step in the approval process, a move that generated discussion about the NEA's procedures and the artists' work... Officials at the NEA have steadfastly refused to discuss the rationale behind the scrutiny since the acting chairman's action became public almost three weeks ago." Washington Post 12/19/01

NEWSFLASH - CALIFORNIANS WANT CULTURE: "The California Arts Council will release today the results of a statewide public opinion survey that indicates that California residents endorse government support for the arts and are willing to pay for it. The survey, the first of its kind for the state arts agency, indicates that 78% of Californians are willing to pay $5 more in state taxes if the money goes to the arts." Los Angeles Times 12/18/01

  • CALIFORNIA LOVES THE ARTS: A survey on interest in the arts in California shows that 78 percent would be willing to tax themselves an extra $5 a year to support the arts (the state currently spends $1 a year on arts). Among the other findings: "83 percent of those surveyed attended a performing or visual arts event at least once in the past year, and 31 percent attended four or more performances a year." Sacramento Bee 12/19/01

NYT CHANGING ARTS COVERAGE? New York Times Arts & Leisure editor John Rockwell has announced he's stepping down from the job. Rockwell says Howell Raines, the Times new editor, wants to change the paper's cultural coverage. "I found out Howell Raines wanted to take this section in a new direction which, I might add, is perfectly within his rights as executive editor. Howell wants to take it more in a populist direction, more popular culture'." New York Observer (second item) 12/19/01

THE GIRLS' EDGE: A new study has established that "girls have higher reading skills than boys, have more confidence in their ability to learn and, when taught together with other girls, even catch up in math where males still appear to have an advantage. Nevertheless, the political activists and their organizations, which spend most of their time concocting calls for action, are not satisfied with the girls: No matter how well educated they are, girls still tend to choose 'typical female careers or fields of study in disproportionate numbers,' according to the study." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 12/16/01

WOMEN FOR PEACE: Why have there been so few women Nobel Peace Prize winners? "One group of individuals the Nobel Peace Prize has consistently under-rewarded is women, and, strangely, this has never been a controversial element of the prize. The discrepancy is jarring. During the 100-year history of the Nobel Peace Prize, 109 prizes have been awarded. Ten have been to women. Women - under-represented in the democratic or anti-democratic regimes that choose to wage wars - are also under-represented in the garnering of plaudits for peace." The Guardian (UK) 12/16/01

10. FOR FUN 

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A Canadian actor picked to be in the movie Matrix II who overstayed her visa in Australia was detained in jail while her case was processed. She didn't enjoy the experience: "It was just terrible. I was in jail with prostitutes and people that had been fruit pickers." She's been banned from the country for the next six months and will likely have to give up her role in the movie. National Post 12/20/01

NOT QUITE PICASSO: The State Museum in Ankara, Turkey, may have to close its Picasso room. At least four of its eight "Picasso" paintings are fake. They're copies of Picasso originals owned by the Hermitage Museum, whose director says, "Not only are they copies, but they are very bad copies. The originals are here with us at the Hermitage where they have always been." online.ei 12/19/01