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Week of  February 4-10, 2002

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


STANDARD-ISSUE TASTE? The tastemakers of yesteryear helped blaze a way through art. But have the special feelings for art these people had become too commonplace? "Does there inevitably come a point, when more and more individuals have a feeling for art, at which all those feelings become standard-issue feelings? There are certainly a good many people working in our museums and arts organizations who seem to believe that this is the case. They regard the public not as a group of individuals but as a monstrous abstraction - as a mirage. The very idea of the tastemaker may now be a paradox. We may be entering a time when what we must celebrate is the individuality, the privacy, even the loneliness of taste. To affirm the solitariness of taste may be the best way, right now, to celebrate the things we love." The New Republic 02/01/02

BEHIND THE AVANT GARDE (THERE ARE PROBLEMS): The term "avant garde" was big in the 1960s. We still persist in calling anything new or even a bit unusual avant garde. But "through sloppy and overzealous use, the term has become problematic: Its attempts to describe work that challenges theatrical conventions too often end up reinforcing them." The New Republic 01/28/02

HOW MONA GOT HER SMILE: In 2000, 85 percent of Italians asked what was the most famous painting in the world answered the Mona Lisa. But fame didn't come all at once to Leonardo's masterpiece. For a couple hundred years she was considered just another painting in the Louvre. Building a legend takes time, a series of cultural building blocks that help create an aura. Washington Post 02/07/02

TIME BEFORE DIGITAL: "There was a time - fast disappearing - when tape was wound, reels of film spooled, and images produced by the physical movement of materials. Etchings were carved in stone, lead and ink scratched on to paper, and silver oxide shifted on photographic plates. Matter was displaced so that ideas and images would place themselves in our minds. As we enter a new millennium, we are in the process of losing our biblical attachment to an entire form of communication: the graven image. From the carved tablets of the Ten Commandments, to walls of stone hieroglyphs, to the boxes of ancient magnetic tapes that Krapp lugs on to his desk, there was a physical cumbersomeness to these archives that related to their human origins. They were expressly handmade. They couldn't betray their origins. They were touching, because they were made to be touched. Their exchange required a physical transfer." The Guardian (UK) 02/07/02


DANCE DOESN'T STUNT GROWTH: A new study finds that, contrary to popular perception, "there is no evidence to show that rigorous exercise affects a young ballerina’s growth or delays sexual maturity." The Scotsman 02/07/02

MEANING TO DANCE: Is expressing the same as communicating? "Dance is not a universal language. Movement is human, yes, but dance is more specific and has numerous dialects that are like foreign languages to many people. We can’t assume that through our dancing we will communicate with others." Dance Current 02/02

PIRATE DANCE: "Most of the great dance performances telecast in our lifetimes can't be bought or borrowed, and probably never will be until their copyrights lapse. If you taped them off the air, great, and if you can afford to visit archives in New York, Paris, Copenhagen and other dance capitals to view company collections, even better. Otherwise, your choice is to do without or to join the unholy ranks of dance video outlaws." It's a thriving subculture. Los Angeles Times 02/10/02

REINVENTING LES GRANDS: Montreal's Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal is one of Canada's premiere dance companies. But two years ago it was awash in debt and on the downside of a decade of shrinking audiences. But the company's new director decided to reinvent - transforming a repertory stuffed with modern abstract classics, to one featuring new works with strong narratives. Cheering audiences suggest the strategy is working. The New York Times 02/10/02

THE ONCE AND FUTURE KIROV: "The Kirov Ballet is to get modern new premises that will alter the pre-Revolutionary architectural landscape of the former Imperial capital of St Petersburg... Yesterday a design by Eric Owen Moss, a Los Angeles-based architect, was presented in the Kremlin. Ultimately, President Putin will decide whether his home town will make the jump from the architecture of the 18th century to that of the 21st. If he favours the project, he will face tough opposition from St Petersburg’s snobbish cultural elite, its hardened Soviet architects and city planners." The Times (UK) 02/07/02


WHY AMERICAN TV "STINKS": American network television is bad and getting worse, says Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the founders of Dreamworks Studios. Speaking at the World Economic Forum last week in New York "Katzenberg blamed the ownership structures of the networks — and their quest for greater profits — for how bad their programming is." Toronto Star 02/06/02

STUFFING THE BALLOT BOX LEGALLY: Politicians and Oscar-award nominees have something in common: well-established rules about what they can and cannot do to win votes. They also have something else in common: a penchant for loopholes. The New York Times 02/06/02

HANDICAPPING THE OSCARS: "No matter what the critics think, the Oscars mean more to people - inside and outside show biz - than any other entertainment award. The Academy Awards may not recognize everyone's favorite films and performances, but they at least tend to honor the highest meeting point of critical and popular tastes." Chicago Tribune 02/10/02

HEADING NORTH: American film workers are increasingly upset about the number of productions leaving the US for Canada. "The U.S. Center for Entertainment Industry Data and Research estimated that, between 1998 and 2000 (the last year for which figures are available), cumulative budgets of features shot in Canada more than doubled to over $1-billion (U.S.). In the same period, feature spending within the United States shrunk by over $500-million to $3.37-billion. The centre also pointed out that in 2000, 37 U.S. movies were shot in Canada, compared with 18 the previous year, and 23 in 1998." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/06/02

GETTING IN TOUCH WITH THE BBC: Is the BBC out of touch with its audiences? Greg Dyke, the corporation's general director, thinks so. So he's launched a plan to "urgently address the fact that young people and ethnic minorities feel that the BBC is out of touch, and get rid of the image of it concentrating on south east England." BBC 02/07/02

BRITNEY BEAT PATRIOTS (ON TV, AT LEAST): What did viewers most want to see on Sunday's Superbowl TV broadcast? Tivo, the device that enables viewers to do their own instant replay, "used its technology to analyze which football plays or TV ads its subscribers chose to view again or to see in slow motion. TiVo viewers did more instant replays of Super Bowl commercials than of the game itself, and the Pepsi ads featuring Spears were the MVP." Nando Times (AP) 02/04/02

THE SECRETIVE CENSOR: Two years ago Australia passed a law to censor internet sites that put up "overly sexually explicit or violent" material. Has the law been a success? Hard to know, since getting regulators to even say what they've censored hasn't been possible...Wired 02/03/02


TITLE TRADEOFFS: Some call supertitles at the opera one of the biggest advances in the artform in the past 50 years. But there are tradeoffs. "Over the course of more than four hours of dense, nonrepeating dialogue, the compulsive reader at War and Peace will be scanning some 1,000 captions, each conveying a potentially vital piece of information. For each, we sacrifice, say, two seconds' attention to the stage, which adds up through the evening to a whopping 33 minutes. How to sort out the costs and benefits of these constant illuminations and distractions?" The New York Times 02/10/02

THE MOST EXCITING ORCHESTRA IN AMERICA? In the past seven years, Michael Tilson Thomas has turned the San Francisco Symphony into one of the most talke about orchestras in America. "The charged chemistry among maestro, players and community undoubtedly owes much to the nature and size of the city and the Bay Area, and it may be hard to replicate elsewhere. Still, it becomes all the more striking now that several other major American orchestras have lined up their next music directors. In large part, those orchestras were seeking expertise in contemporary and American programming like that Mr. Thomas has long demonstrated." The New York Times 02/10/02

JAZZ IN THE TEMPLE OF CULTURE: Chicago's Symphony Center, home to the Chicago Symphony, has embraced America's popular classical music - jazz. "The hall is embracing jazz more ardently than ever. Should the audiences stay large and the programming continue to blossom, Symphony Center could become the most important institution in Chicago for promoting jazz performance and intellectual inquiry." Chicago Tribune 02/10/02

THE ORCHESTRA DEBATE: A debate is under way about what kind of leadership American orchestras need, how active they should be in programming new music, and whether they have lost their sense of artistic mission. Behind the debate lurks a more fundamental question: has the symphony orchestra become marginal to US culture?" Some say the orchestral world has never been healthier, though. A recent survey by the American Symphony Orchestra League revealed that "far from dipping, audiences between 1990 and 2000 rose from 22 million to 34 million." Financial Times 02/08/02

NO MORE EMPTY SEATS: Armed with a new music director and a desire to dig its way out of artistic and financial mediocrity, the Liverpool Philharmonic has been scoring new support. The latest comes from the Liverpool Council, which increased its support almost 500 percent - from £165,000 to £800,000 a year. The money comes with a catch though. The orchestra must adopt a "no empty seats" policy and give away any tickets remaining on the day before a performance to people who can't afford them. Liverpool Echo 02/06/02

SOMETHING WE ALL KNEW: ''I do think that the best producers and editors are musical people. There is a musicality to a good program. It has a pace; it picks up and slows down. Musicians have a good sense of timing and of pacing, of how long something should go.'' Boston Globe 02/07/02

THE MUSICAL MEMORIAL: The New York Philharmonic is commissioning a piece of music to open next season with a memorial to the World Trade Center. Will this be a significant musical memorial? "The odds, it seems to me, are low that the music will be up to the occasion — that a composer, asked to interpret in tones a calamity mere months after it has happened, will have the clarity and the inner urge to write just the piece we need." 02/06/02

NATIONALISM TO A REGGAE BEAT? Worried that French school children increasingly don't know the French national anthem, the government compiled a CD with dozens of versions of the Marseillaise, and is sending copies to every school in France. Along with traditional versions, there's also a reggae version, an arabic version, and a samba version. "The aim of the project is to make children better understand their history and heritage," says culture minister Jack Lang. The Globe & Mail (Reuters) (Canada) 02/07/02

PARIS - AN OPERA BARGAIN: So you're an opera fan and you live in London where going to see the opera is an expensive proposition. The budget alternative? Take the Eurostar to Paris, catch some first rate productions and stay in a "homey" hotel. The whole trip will cost you less than a ticket for the Royal Opera (and the experience might even be better). Really. Truly. The Times (UK) 02/05/02

BUDGET CRUNCH IN BALTIMORE: "Rising costs, an economy that made grants and donations hard to come by and a stock market that pummeled endowments have all converged to put the [Baltimore Symphony Orchestra] in a tight financial spot. Even though the BSO is making more money than it spends, the tight times ended up squeezing out the symphony's 147-person chorus last month... Wall Street's dismal 2001 took its toll. The symphony's endowment investments lost more than $9 million in value in 2001 compared with an almost $15 million profit from those investments a year earlier." Baltimore Business Journal 02/01/02

FIGHT OVER CD's: CD-maker Philips and the big recording companies are in a fight over copy protection. Recording companies want to embed "errors" into CD's that help prevent them from being copied. Philips, which helped determine technical standards for CD technology, says it won't go along. The fight could "hasten the death" of the 20-year-old format. Wired 02/04/02

LA SCALA PERFORMANCES CANCELED: As investigations begin as to why a glass panel crashed into the seats at La Scala's temporary home, more performances are canceled and the blaming begins. Andante 02/02/02

WHERE ARE THE WOMEN? Why are there no women in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra? "While historically big band leaders have hired (and fired) their side musicians at will, these band leaders were private employers, neither accountable to others nor the beneficiaries of public funding and support. That is not the case with the LCJO. The absence of women now and throughout the band's history, indicates that a different, more contemporary, hiring process is necessary if women are ever to become members of the ensemble." 02/02


WHO'S WHO OF SHAKESPEARE: Who was Shakespeare? The question is a hot one right now. The leading contender? Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. "In 2000, a Massachusetts scholar successfully defended a dissertation based on the premise that de Vere wrote the Shakespeare canon. Hailed as a Rosetta stone of Oxford theory, the 500-page doctoral thesis discusses, among other things, the history of Oxford's life as reflected in the plays, and correspondences between the works of Shakespeare and verses de Vere marked in his copy of the Geneva Bible." The New York Times 02/10/02

NORMAN MAILER'S LITERARY HEIR: No such animal. "You get very selfish about writing as you get older," he says. "You've got only so much energy and you want to save it for your own work. I'm much more interested in being able to do my own work than bringing a wonderful new writer into existence. Because my feeling is that if he or she is truly a wonderful new writer, they're going to come into existence on their own." The Guardian (UK) 02/05/02

PINTER ILL: Playwright Harold Pinter has been diagnosed with cancer. "The 71-year-old was diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus last month and is undergoing chemotherapy." The Guardian (UK) 02/01/02

VONK STOPS CONCERT: St. Louis Symphony conductor Hans Vonk stopped his musicians in mid-performance Friday night and had to be helped off the stage. "Vonk, 60, revealed last month that he was suffering from a relapse of Guillain-Barre syndrome. He resumed conducting Friday after a break of about 45 minutes." St. Louis Post-Distpatch 02/02/02


WANNA READ A GOOD FIGHT? When it comes to slinging words and hurling phrases, lightning adjectival jabs and roundhouse predicates, a roomful (or a pageful) of cantankerous poets is where you'll find world-class vituperation. Look at what broke out after one poet won the Eliot Prize, and another complained about it. The Guardian (UK) 02/02/02

A NEW E-PUBLISHING PLAN: A company called Chapter-A-Day is trying to hook readers on buying its books by e-mailing them the first parts of a book over several days. For free. But if you get hooked, you've got to buy the rest of the book. Some 90,000 people have signed up for the daily installments. And sales are good. Wired 02/05/02

FRANZEN IN 4,934 PAGES: A booklover takes Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections with him to Europe as an e-book. Prepared to be skeptical of reading on a little screen (The Corrections measures out in 4,934 pages in e-form) he finds all sorts of advantages to e-reading. Publishers Weekly 01/31/02

SPIKE-BOZZLE? TOO BAD WE LOST THAT ONE: You don't know what Eurocreep is? How about bed-blocking, or MVVD? Don't feel bad. They're brand new words this year; dictionary editors are still trying to figure them out. For comparison, consider words that were new a century ago. Several from the 1902 list are still in use - cryogenic, suitcase, floosie. And several are not, such as spike-bozzle and maffick. The Guardian (UK) 02/04/02

THE LIBRARY PROBLEM: Libraries are having difficulty getting people through their doors, as more and more research is done online. "Ironically, although library visits nationwide are on the decline, library resources are being used now more than ever, librarians and students say. The new digital library gives students and faculty 24-hour access to databases and catalogs from nearly anywhere in the world. Users, who can search through years of materials with the click of a mouse, are swamping librarians with e-mailed reference questions." San Francisco Chronicle 02/10/02

WON'T YOU BE MY POET... "California's newly established poet laureate program has run into a problem. Not enough poets - just seven - have thrown their hats into the ring as nominees for the two-year office that was established last year to promote poetry in the state. 'I wouldn't say we're in a panic,' said Adam Gottlieb, spokesman for the California Arts Council, 'but we're close'." Sacramento Bee 02/06/02

OF COPYRIGHTS, HOBBITS, AND PARODY: How far do copyrights extend, anyway? Does an author own not only the sequence of words in his/her work, but the characters and events as well? Almost a year after the controversy over a parody sequel to Gone With the Wind, another legal storm is brewing over a companion book to J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy. Coincidentally, Houghton Mifflin, the publisher which defended the Wind parody, is the group suing the author of The Lord of the Rings Diary. Boston Globe 02/07/02

A POEM AS LOVELY AS A... "The Academy of American Poets yesterday named Tree Swenson its executive director, succeeding William Wadsworth, whose departure after a dispute with the organization's board last fall provoked angry protests from some prominent poets. Ms. Swenson, 50, is the director of programs for the Massachusetts Cultural Council. From 1972 to 1992, she was co-founder, executive director and publisher of Copper Canyon Press in Port Townsend, Wash., which became an important nonprofit poetry publisher." The New York Times 02/08/02


REGIONAL THEATRE REVIVAL: While London's West End may still be suffering for ticketbuyers, an unexpected theatre revival is happening elsewhere in England. "In a resurrection of which even Lazarus would have been proud, audiences have begun to return in their thousands to theatres which only two years ago were being written off as embarrassing anachronisms." And those audiences are younger too... The Guardian (UK) 02/04/02

QUESTIONING COPENHAGEN: Playwright Michael Frayn's popular Tony-award-winning play Copenhagen, about a meeting between physiicists Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg may have to be revised. A Danish institute has released a series of correspondence between the two that calls into question elements of the play. "The release of this material - mostly drafts of unsent letters that the Danish physicist Neils Bohr wrote to German physicist Werner Heisenberg - was not scheduled to occur until 2012, 50 years after Bohr's death. But the controversy and debate triggered by Frayn's play, which was first produced in 1998, convinced the archive's overseers that now was the moment to present more information." Chicago Sun-Times 02/07/02

WHAT HAPPENS BETWEEN WHAT HAPPENS ON STAGE: "People have always come to the theatre to flirt, to politic, to talk, to traduce, to gossip, to fight, to face out social disgrace or to enjoy it. Whether it's Athens or Jacobean London, or 17th-century Paris, or late 19th-century Moscow, showtime is not just about what the actors do to the audience; it's more about what the audience do to each other. You sometimes get the impression, from the past, that the shows were a rather unnecessary distraction from the main event." New Statesman 02/04/02

BROADWAY IS BACK: Following one of the roughest periods in memory, when tourists stayed away from New York in droves fearing terrorist attack and some shows closed, Broadway is bouncing back. And now 2002 is promising to be a busy year. True, there are not as many splashy new musicals as in some recent years, and plays and one-person shows seem to be the most popular additions to the Great White Way, but the most important component - the audience - seems to be returning. Dallas Morning News 02/05/02

SCIENCE ON STAGE: "Science is sexy, and not just in the media-friendly, zeitgeist-riding sense of the word. Now Broadway and Hollywood are getting in on the act." But can a drama do a good job at conveying complex scientific ideas? The Telegraph (UK) 02/10/02

THE MAKING OF SECOND CITY: Chicago is a great theatre town. But it didn't get that way all at once. The Chicago Tribune's longtime theatre critic Richard Christiansen traces what made Chicago theatre great. Chicago Tribune 02/10/02

KATE'S WEST END WIN: The flashy revival of Kiss Me Kate has won London's West End Critics Circle Theatre Award for best musical. Humble Boy, written by Charlotte Jones, won the best new play award. BBC 02/05/02

NEW BIALYSTOCK AND BLOOM: March 17 will be the last performance of The Producers for Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick. Both men turned down substantial increases to continue, Lane citing his health and Broderick, film commitments. British actor Henry Goodman will replace Lane; no final decision has been made yet on a replacement for Broderick. The New York Times 02/06/02


BROKEN LOUVRE: The Louvre Museum is a mess, says a new French government audit report. The museum "does not know how many paintings it has, how many staff it employs, or how much time they spend on the job, the report says. It blames the mess on the fact that two-thirds of the 1,800 staff are civil servants. It says the museum is strapped for cash because the state takes nearly half its earnings." The Guardian (UK) 02/01/02

NO 9/11 IMPACT: Despite anecdotal evidence, a survey of 134 American museums by the US Association of Art Museum Directors shows that 80 percent have had no drop in attendance since September 11. The Art Newspaper 02/01/02

MOST-VISITED: What show drew the most visitors last year? "Vermeer and the Delft school at the Metropolitan Museum in New York was the most highly viewed show last year with 8,033 visitors a day (554,287 total)." In second place, Jacqueline Kennedy: the White House years at the Metropolitan Museum. The Art Newspaper ranks the most-visited art exhibitions worldwide. The Art Newspaper 02/01/02

DONOR TAKES BACK $38 MILLION FROM SMITHSONIAN: Catherine Reynolds, who last year announced a donation of $38 million to the Smithsonian for an exhibit on "individual achievement" at the National Museum of American History, has canceled the gift. The idea had been loudly protested by curators at the museum, who questioned Reynolds' involvement with the project and questioned whether the "Smithsonian hierarchy was putting fundraising ahead of scholarly integrity." Reynolds said, in taking back the offer, that the criticism had changed her mind. "Apparently, the basic philosophy for the exhibit - 'the power of the individual to make a difference' - is the antithesis of that espoused by many within the Smithsonian bureaucracy." Washington Post 02/05/02

DON'T TOUCH THAT LEONARDO: Experts have ruled that restoration of the Ufizzi's The Adoration of the Magi, Leonardo da Vinci's unfinished masterpiece, would damage the painting and shouldn't be carried out. "Critics of the proposed restoration, which was to have begun last spring, see the decision as a moral victory and a personal vindication. More than 30 Renaissance scholars signed a petition just before the work was to begin, pleading that the painting, commissioned in 1481, was far too fragile to be overhauled." The New York Times 02/05/02

WEARING DOWN BRITISH CATHEDRALS: British cathedrals get more than 19 million visitors a year. But the crush of tourists is damaging the buildings, says a new study. But "although heritage groups are naturally concerned about the negative impact of tourism, the religious community is much more tolerant, arguing that cathedrals are part of living religion and some wear and tear is inevitable." The Art Newspaper 02/02/02

HOW MONA GOT HER SMILE: In 2000, 85 percent of Italians asked what was the most famous painting in the world answered the Mona Lisa. But fame didn't come all at once to Leonardo's masterpiece. For a couple hundred years she was considered just another painting in the Louvre. Building a legend takes time, a series of cultural building blocks that help create an aura. Washington Post 02/07/02

CRITIC HUGHES TO DIRECT VENICE BIENNALE? The Venice Biennale president and the Biennale committee unexpectedly resigned last week. That should clear the way for Time Magazine critic Robert Hughes to be director of the visual arts show (he's reportedly been asked and says he's interested). Meanwhile, director Martin Scorsese, who was asked to direct the biennale's film exhibition, has declined the invitation. The Age (Melbourne) 02/05/02

THE IRRELEVANCE OF A FORMER TEMPLE OF THE AVANT GARDE: Time was when London's Institute for Contemporary Art was a hotbed of creative tension and outrageous experimentation. No longer - "It has become more of a drinking club with a cinema." When the ICA's chairman got removed last week for denigrating the current state of the "avant garde" more than few observers wondered that the ICA still had any relevance in a discussion of contemporary art... The Observer (UK) 02/10/02

  • WRONG MAN, WRONG ROLE: Why did the ICA have someone like Ivan Massow as its chairman in the first place? "Inviting a publicity-seeking self-made millionaire whose views are so out of sympathy with the anti-establishment iconoclasm the ICA supposedly represents is patently absurd. With the best will in the world, a fox-hunting ex-Tory candidate for Mayor of London who once wrote 'there's something about old buildings that makes me want to own and restore them' was never likely to be a convincing champion of the avant-garde." The Observer (UK) 02/10/02

REATTRIBUTING THE MASTERS: Berlin's Kupferstichkabinett Museum has a prestigious collection of 15th Century Dutch drawings. The museum has recently taken a hard new look at its collection and decided on some surprising reattributions. Interestingly, in the process, copies and copyists are finally getting some new respect. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 02/09/02

MAYBE HE COULD'VE SOLD 'EM TO THE BRITISH MUSEUM: Antiquities dealer Frederick Schultz is on trial in New York, accused of trying to sell stolen property belonging to the Egyptian government. The larger subtext of the trial is the desire of international regulators to shut down the segment of the antiquities trade that operates like a cross between Indiana Jones and the characters in The Maltese Falcon, appropriating objects in dubious legal circumstances and reselling them for huge profit. NPR's Morning Edition (RealAudio file) 02/07/02


AN END TO DECENCY: Ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani's "Decency Commission," set up after the mayor objected to an art exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, finally came up with a report. But that report will likely never see the light of day now that Giuliani is out as mayor and Michael Bloomberg is running the city. Says Bloomberg: "I am opposed to government censorship of any kind. I don't think government should be in the business of telling museums what is art or what they should exhibit." Nando Times (UPI) 02/08/02

COPYWRONG: Last week a judge ruled that the new Austin Powers movie couldn't use the name "Goldmember" because it infringes on MGM's James Bond copyright. "The Goldmember affair - which riled MGM because it parodies the 1964 Bond film Goldfinger in which Sean Connery uncovers a plot to contaminate the Fort Knox gold reserve - is just one in a long line of copyright battles that continue to erupt over the ownership of everything from book and movie titles to acronyms, initials, images, even single words or catch phrases." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 02/09/02

BUSH ASKS FOR MORE ARTS/HUMANITIES MONEY: "As part of its fiscal 2003 budget proposal, the Bush administration yesterday requested an increase of $9 million for the Smithsonian for a total of $528 million, an all-time high in its federal appropriation." Bush also asked for $2 million increases for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. This would be the fifth year in a row the NEA has had a budget boost. Washington Post 02/05/02

THE BEST WE CAN BE: For a long time we humans have believed that humankind would always continue to evolve, to get better and better. Look at all the improvements in our species in the past few hundred years. But a scientist says we may have peaked - that this is the best it gets, that it's all downhill from here... The Observer (UK) 02/03/02

RESTORING AFGHANISTAN'S CULTURE: UNESCO has made the reconstruction and preservation of Afghan heritage the focus of "International Year of Cultural Heritage - 2002." "The immediate priority is the formation of a cultural policy by the Afghan government, revival of Kabul museum and the reconstruction of Islamic cultural heritage in Herat city." Asia Times 02/06/02

INDEPENDENT ANALYSIS OR LAZINESS? Some critics decline to do independent research into the subject they are reviewing, claiming some invisible line between critic and journalist. But the "rigid segregation of the critic and the work has always seemed both precious and limiting to me. It suggests both a haughty distance from the thinking, breathing creator and a fear that the critic's pristine sensors might be blunted or corrupted by deigning to talk with artists about their work. Being able to engage in spirited discourse, rather than unthinking boosterism or jealous sniping, is the first sign of a mature cultural society." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/05/02

10. FOR FUN 

NAME THAT TUNE: Ah, pity those who cannot carry a tune. Not a happy condition. "There is nothing quite so vulnerable as a person caught up in a lyric impulse. The singing-impaired are forever being brought up short in one. When the singing-impaired chime in, they may notice a sudden strained silence. Or just a sudden loss of afflatus in the music about them. (The singing-impaired can tell.)" The Atlantic 02/82

GROSS-OUT: Terry Gross, known as one of America's more thoughtful broadcast interviewers, invited Gene Simmons of the band Kiss on her show. The exchange got a bit heated - not your typical public radio exchange: Gross: "I'd like to think the personality you presented on our show today is a persona that you've affected as a member of Kiss, but that you're not nearly as obnoxious when you're at home or with friends." Simmons: "Fair enough, and I'd like to think that the boring lady who's talking to me now is a lot sexier and more interesting than the one's who's doing NPR, studious and reserved." New York Post 02/06/02