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Week of March 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


FORMAT LOCK: The soundtrack to the movie O Brother has sold more than 4 million copies, was one of 2001's 10 best-selling albums, the year's best-selling country album, and it won a Grammy last week for best soundtrack. A live tour of music from the movie has sold out quickly. And yet, you won't hear any of the music on American radio. Why? It has something to do with formats... Denver Post 03/04/02

SPUTTERING AT THE CHURCH OF POP CULTURE: "The first breath of cultural freedom that Afghans had enjoyed since 1995 was suffused with the stuff of commercially generated popular culture. The people seemed delighted to be able to look like they wanted to, listen to what they wanted to, watch what they wanted to, and generally enjoy themselves again. Who could complain about Afghans’ filling their lives with pleasure after being coerced for years to adhere to a harshly enforced ascetic code? The West’s liberal, anti-materialist critics, that’s who." Reason 03/02


A ROOM OF THEIR OWN: Mark Morris' new company studio complex in Brooklyn seems luxurious (Morris has a whirlpool in his office so he can sit in the tub while he's takling meetings, and the company's changing rooms "rival the ones at Yankee Stadium"). But ''The building isn't luxurious,'' Morris insists. ''It just has everything we need. It only seems fancy because other American dance troupes, except for the big ballet companies, have nothing like it.'' Boston Globe 03/10/02

APPRECIATING THE LESS-THAN-PERFECT: "Classical ballet has to a large extent remained the province of perfection, at least in New York City. Jobs are hard to come by for dancers who do not have the properly slender, elongated bodies." But who's to say that "flawed" bodies can't be wonderfully expressive? "The loud-and-proud presence of imperfection on the dance stage can be unnerving, and certainly seems to be giving the self- appointed guardians of the imperfect a new lease on life." The New York Times 03/10/02

DANCE - A TRADITION OF POVERTY: To be a classical dancer in Cambodia is to live in poverty. Even dancers at the Royal University of Fine Arts - "for everyone who performs and teaches here, art and poverty go hand in hand. Almost penniless, the dance school can barely afford to pay them, and many live second lives as shop assistants, market vendors, seamstresses and motorcycle-taxi drivers." The New York Times 03/09/02

BEATING UP THE PIT BAND: "It is widely held that ballet music is inferior to opera music, that the orchestra rarely plays its best for ballet, and that ballet music attracts the dimmer, less expensive conductors." But maybe that's the perception because of the way ballet scores are conducted. The Telegraph (UK) 03/10/02

TALL TALES OF DANCE: Last week Yana Booth was crowned Miss Great Britain 2002. Her real training though was almost two decades as the only British dancer at the Bolshoi Ballet school. So why isn't she dancing? She's tall. "In the ballet world Yana - six-foot tall and a curvy 36-26-36 - stands as much chance of making it as Barry White. Even the fact that her Bolshoi studies were sponsored by the film star Sharon Stone hasn't eased her plight. 'When I graduated I wrote to every dance company in Europe. Most of them saw my measurements on the CV and didn't even call me in for an audition. I was desperate'." The Telegraph (UK) 03/07/02


TV FOR ADULTS: The BBC's launching of a new arts channel has been controversial - who needs an "arts ghetto?" But "halfway through its first week, BBC4 looks like the best thing that has happened to television for a long time. It gives the novel impression of being a channel produced by adults for adults. True, it sometimes resembles radio with a camera in the room, but that is more daring than the brand of television in which movement and noise are valued above intelligence. If you don’t employ bells and whistles, witlessness is not an option." The Scotsman 03/09/02

SAG REELECTS GILBERT: The Screen Actors Guild has reelected Melissa Gilbert president in a special election. "Gilbert captured 21,351 of the vote to Valerie Harper's 12,613 in a record turnout for a highly publicized race. The election has been one of the nastiest battles in the history of Hollywood unions, marked by accusations and name calling involving some of the industry's best-known actors." Los Angeles Times 03/08/02

  • WHAT NEXT? "Despite an aggressive campaign, Harper, 61, was unable to convince members that her opponent allegedly was too cozy with agents, studios and others Hollywood unions at the expense of SAG. Gilbert's margin of victory far exceeded what it was in November, when she pulled in 45.3 percent of the vote compared to Harper's 39.4 percent." Los Angeles Times 03/10/02

RECORD YEAR FOR MOVIES: Hollywood had a record year at the box office in 2001. "Films including Harry Potter, Shrek and Lord of the Rings helped the box office hit a record high of $8.41 billion, well above 2000's $7.7 billion. The report by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which represents Hollywood's major movie studios, shows that films are costing less to produce." BBC 03/06/02

A FIRST - DVDs SURPASS VHS: For the first time since the DVD debuted nearly five years ago, DVD sales and rentals have outdone the more traditional videocassette format. Couple that with the fact that more than 26 million DVD players are in homes nationwide, and it's no wonder that the figures are so staggering. In 2001, DVDs generated more than $4.6 billion in sales compared to just $3.8 billion for VHS." Nando Times (Scripps Howard) 03/04/02

A RETURN TO MOVIE MUSICALS? The success of Moulin Rouge seems to be leading the way to a predictable revival of the popularity of the movie musical. Studios are looking for attractive ways to package the new round of musicals, including using actors not known for their singing (as in Rouge) and debating whether revivals of classics like Chicago or development of new, modern musicals is the best way to go. USA Today 03/08/02

TURKEY BANS FILM IT FUNDED: The Turkish Culture Ministry helped fund a movie it hoped would compete for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. But now the government has banned the movie in Turkey "on the grounds that it highlights Kurdish nationalism and portrays the Turkish police in a poor light." The Guardian (UK) 03/05/02

IS TRADITIONAL ANIMATION DEAD? "On the surface, traditional animation is in trouble: witness the continuing layoffs at Disney, cradle of this 20th century art form. Rival studios Warners and Fox are still smarting from their humiliating attempts to emulate Disney's 1994 triumph with The Lion King by setting up their own animation studios." Steve Jobs says traditional drawing is over - computers do it better. Calgary Herald 03/03/02

MOVIE TIME IN NEW YORK: New York is planning to build a $375 million movie studio complex. "The 15-story Studio City will offer more than an acre of Hollywood-style backlot on the ninth floor, with a view of the New York skyline and the Hudson River. Planned on a West Side block between 10th and 11th avenues and 44th and 45th streets, the tower will provide production studios, equipment and offices to film, television and advertising companies." Backstage (AP) 03/02/02


ARE WE ALL JUST THIEVES? "Despite a plethora of problems that have nothing to do with the Net, media executives are obsessed with the idea that their customers are shiftless pirates who want their wares for free. The world got a chance to sample this mind-set at the Grammys last week, when National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences head Michael Greene hijacked his own awards ceremony to rant Queegishly about music downloading, 'the most insidious virus in our midst.' (So much for HIV.)" Newsweek 03/11/02

WHY THE MUSIC INDUSTRY SUCKS: Last week's Grammy Awards demonstrated lots of reasons why the music industry is in such trouble. "Record executives must be among the slowest learners on the planet. Only 5 percent of major-label releases make a profit; a big company needs to sell 500,000 copies of a CD just to break even. Hmm: could any of this have to do with dumb decisions? Virgin Records bought Mariah Carey for $80 million in 2001, only to give her an extra $28 million last month to go away. Meanwhile, Sheryl Crow and Don Henley have felt compelled to found the new Recording Artists’ Coalition, an organization of high-profile performers hoping to protect musicians from their own labels." Newsweek 03/11/02

  • THE GRAMMYS WAR ON DOWNLOADERS: Recording Academy president Michael Greene would rather blame fans who download music over the internet for the industry's problems: "No question the most insidious virus in our midst is the illegal downloading of music on the Net. It goes by many names and its apologists offer a myriad of excuses. This illegal file-sharing and ripping of music files is pervasive, out of control and oh so criminal. Many of the nominees here tonight, especially the new, less-established artists, are in immediate danger of being marginalized out of our business." 02/27/02

LEARNING FROM THE PHILLY DISASTER: Was the opening of the Philadelphia Orcehstra's new concert hall a "fiasco"? The LA Times' Mark Swed says yes, and directs a warning to all those who open new halls in the future - learn from Philly's mistakes. From impatience to programming to over-long opening speeches, Philadelphia is a textbook case of how not to open a new home. Los Angeles Times 03/04/02

OVER THE EDGE: Though the Brooklyn Philharmonic has been much-praised artistically over the years, its financial operations have always been marginal. The slowing economy and September 11 only pushed the orchestra closer to the edge. Then, when the organization tried to cut costs by scaling back its concerts, the musicians revolted... "My biggest frustration is if we're not playing together as an orchestra, what are we?" The New York Times 03/05/02

BUSINESS WITH PLEASURE: When Linda Hoeschler arrived at the Minnesota-based American Composers Forum in 1996, the group was in financial and organization trouble. Thanks to a savvy business approach, the organization has grown into a national presence and "its annual budget has climbed from less than $300,000 to more than $3 million. Fifteen staff members now administer more than a dozen programs, dishing out hundreds of grants annually and providing a range of other services to a swelling membership of more than 1,400 composers." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/10/02

COPYRIGHT, COPYRIGHT, WHO'S GOT THE COPYRIGHT? A federal judge has told the record labels suing Napster "to produce documents proving they own the copyrights to 213 songs that once traded for free over the song-swapping service. It's a last grasp to limit monetary damages in a case that has slowly gone against Napster since the service went offline in July." Nando Times 02/06/02

WRECKING LA SCALA? Critics are sounding the alarm over La Scala's renovations to its venerable home. "According to architect Mario Morganti and other experts, the renovation will cause more damage to the theater than did the Allied bombing during World War II. The process, he said, will be 'more of a demolition than a restoration. Only an empty shell will survive'." Andante 03/08/02

GOING IT ALONE: The London Symphony's Grammy win last month with a recording it produced on its own, is challenging the traditional recording industry model. "To get these albums, marketed at about $8 to $9 per disc, into the hands of consumers, LSO Live employs distributors in Britain and Japan, and as of late, Harmonia Mundi U.S.A. But more significant, the orchestra is also selling the CD's directly through Internet outlets, including its own ( To date, sales of "Les Troyens" have exceeded 30,000 sets." The New York Times 03/10/02

COMPUTER MUSIC ONSTAGE: Tired of seeing sheet music fall or blow away during performances, Harry Connick Jr. bought computers for his band on which scores scroll by. Now he's received a patent for the "system and method for coordinating music display among players in an orchestra." "Oh man, it's made my life easier," Mr. Connick said. "Before, I would write out a song by hand and give it to a couple of guys in the band who are copyists and they would figure out the instrumental sections. It could take days. Now I can write a new score in the morning and everyone has it on his computer screen in the afternoon. Imagine if a Duke Ellington or a Stravinsky had had a system like that." The New York Times 03/04/02

HOMAGE A SLAVA: Mstislav Rostropovich has led an extraordinary life. He is a cellist who has not only performed some of the most important music written for the instrument in the 20th century but has also been directly involved in its creation. However, it is as a political dissident - and now almost a modern icon - on a par with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov that Rostropovich has made the most impact on the wider public consciousness." The Guardian (UK) 03/02/02


HUGHBRIS - CRITIC UNDER GLASS: Australian artist Danius Kesminas compacted the rental car Time Magazine art critic Robert Hughes was driving last year when Hughes had a car accident, sealed it in glass, and added objects meant to comment on Hughes' life. "Mr. Kesminas was able to create Hughbris by tracing the wreckage of Mr. Hughes's car to a dealer who was about to melt it down. He persuaded the dealer to swap it for three cases of beer and worked for several months to convert the scrap metal into a comment on the event." The New York Times 03/07/02

LEBRECHT LEAVES TELEGRAPH: The London Telegraph's contrarian arts columnist Norman Lebrecht is quitting the paper to jump to the Evening Standard where he's charged with making over that paper's cultural coverage. Lebrecht has written many doom and gloom stories about the state of arts business in his nine years at the Telegraph. But he says no one should think him pessimistic about art: "I have never felt more excited about the artistic future - at least for those arts that can open their eyes and master change while time remains." The Telegraph (UK) 03/06/02

ROY SITS IN PRISON: Booker Prize-winning author Arundhati Roy is is jail in India. "In a judgment furiously derided by her fellow writers, the two-judge bench said it had no alternative but to jail the 40-year-old novelist because she had shown 'no remorse or repentance'. Justice RP Sethi said her crime deserved a longer sentence but he was treating her magnanimously because she was a woman. The court fined her 2,000 rupees (£30) and warned her she would be jailed for a further three months if she failed to pay up. Last night Ms Roy, who is in New Delhi's sprawling Tihar prison, was debating whether to pay the fine or defy the court's two elderly judges by remaining behind bars." The Guardian (UK) 03/07/02

GOODWIN HITS BACK: Speaking at a Saint Paul college, embattled historian Doris Kearns Goodwin insisted that her reputation will survive the current plagiarism charges being leveled against her. While admitting that she had made grave mistakes in allowing unattributed passages to make their way into her books, she declared, "I know absolutely that I have dealt fairly and honestly with all my subjects." Minneapolis Star Tribune 03/08/02

SLATKIN STAYING AT NATIONAL: Leonard Slatkin has renewed his contract as music director of the National Symphony for three more years. By then he will have led the orchestra for 10 years. "Slatkin's present contract was set to expire at the conclusion of the 2002-2003 season." Washington Post 03/05/02


BEWARE OF TECHNOLOGY: Disney chief Michael Eisner told the Association of American Publishers that technology is one of their biggest threats. "Eisner charged that technologists have been dragging their feet in developing methods to block piracy, while they sell equipment that abets illegally copying. Eisner said that while he favors letting the private sector try to find a solution to illegally copying, the government may need to step in if technology companies do not begin addressing the issue more aggressively." Publishers Weekly 03/04/02 

THE SECOND GUTENBERG REVOLUTION: Gutenberg's Bible signaled a revolution in the dissemination of information back in the 16th century. Now it signals another. The Library of Congress, which owns one of three copies of the Bible, has started a project to "photograph, scan and digitize every binding, endsheet and page of the three-volume Bible. 'We're hoping to take digital technology as far as it goes and bring this book to life. We hope to make this book more accessible than even Gutenberg did'." Wired 03/04/02 

DEFENDING THE SELF-PUBLISHED: Why do so many critics treat self-publishing as if it were the greatest threat to an intelligent society? "The sheer magnitude and intensity of vitriol poured upon those who would dare to enter the holy realm of the published seems totally out of proportion with its object. Self-published books are truly the snuff pornography of the publishing world: universally condemned as crude, exploitative, offensive, and even dangerous, while at the same time rarely if ever seen." GoodReports 03/03/02

GATSBY IS TOPS: A new survey of top authors, critics, and actors has declared that Jay Gatsby is the greatest literary character of the 20th century, narrowly edging Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye fame. Vladimir Nabokov's Humbert Humbert makes the list as well, but, in a stunning snub, Douglas Adams's Arthur Dent is nowhere to be found. National Post (AP) 03/08/02

THE COST OF STEALING: Plagiarism isn't just about the perpetrators. The writers whose work is stolen sometimes made enormous sacrifices to get their research to the page. One historian/writer extensively plagiarized by Stephen Ambrose has spent a career of hardship researching his work for books about World War II. It's like having your life stolen. Baltimore Sun 03/10/02

  • MATHEMATICALLY PLAGIARISTIC: "John L. Casti, a science writer who teaches at the Technical University of Vienna and at the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, has been accused of lifting a substantial number of extended passages from other sources in his latest book, "Mathematical Mountaintops: The Five Most Famous Problems of All Time" (Oxford, 2001). Mr. Casti's book, written for the lay reader, describes mathematicians' explorations of complicated ideas involving maps, numbers and spaces. But along the way Mr. Casti's research apparently got a bit out of hand." The New York Times 03/09/02

ALL PART OF THE (BOOK) DEAL: "In our luminary-fascination society, the book deal is an accouterment to instant or durable celebrity, so reflexive a part of fame that when people see a new name in the news they just know a book is sure to pop up. And usually they are right. With a few notable exceptions, there is little to be said for the value of these books. Still, they have always been one of publishing's sexiest genres. People apparently are both fascinated and appalled by the large money advances they bring." The New York Times 03/07/02

DEGREES OF WRONGNESS: Let's not lump the plagiarizing transgressions of historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose together. Goodwin "admirably insists that 'professional standards for historians need never be sacrificed in popular history' and has conscientiously tried to protect her reputation. Ambrose has in effect conceded that his writing isn't scholarship—and thus has felt free to shrug off his critics." Slate 03/05/02

CHAMPIONING THE UNDERGROUND: Is the literary establishment corrupt, awarding its prizes and grants and favors to one another? The Underground Literary Alliance thinks so. The newly-formed group has been attacking what it considers injustices of the system - writers who are awarded NEA grants and then sit on panels to award other grants, wealthy recipients of awards intended to go to writers who need a basic income so they can write..."It's a kind of advocacy group to stand up for writers, and the interests of underground writers, number one, but maybe writers in general also. You do have writers organizations out there, but they revolve around writers who don't need help." MobyLives 03/05/02

BUT I THOUGHT EVERYONE BOUGHT 17,000 COPIES OF HIS OWN BOOK: David Vise wanted to promote his book. So he went on tour, appeared on TV shows, set up a web site. All the usual stuff. Then he went one step further. "Vise also bought between 16,000 and 18,000 copies of his own book from an online bookseller,, and then returned most of them in a confusing series of transactions. This unusual tactic has prompted suspicions that he was trying to manipulate bestseller lists by creating phantom sales, which Vise firmly denies." Washington Post 02/07/02


OF BRAND NAMES AND CRISES: The Royal Shakespeare Company seems to lurch from crisis to crisis. "Is something rotten in the state of Stratford? Is it a genuine company? Or is it simply an umbrella organisation trading on a brand-name and housing a number of discrete, increasingly isolated projects?" The Guardian (UK) 03/06/02

TWO QUIT ROYAL SHAKESPEARE: Controversy continues to dog the Royal Shakespeare Company. In the past week two directors have quit the company over "artistic differences." "The departure of Edward Hall, son of the RSC's founder Sir Peter Hall, follows that of the rising young star David Hunt. Both quit even before rehearsals began for five Jacobean plays which are supposed to epitomise the RSC's new appetite for adventure." The Guardian (UK) 03/06/02

ROYAL SHAKESPEARE IN DC: The UK's Royal Shakespeare Company is taking up residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington for the next five years. "Tthe residency will be underwritten by $250,000 from Prince Charles, who is president of the RSC board." Washington Post 03/05/02

THE REAL WILLY: A new documentary goes looking for the "real" Shakespeare. It's "about the so-called Marlovians, the folks who say that Marlowe was the guy, as opposed to Francis Bacon or Edward de Vere, inter alia. Or, for that matter, the rustic actor named William Shakespeare who commonly holds the laurels." Salon 03/02/02

ACTORS GET MONEY FROM LIVENT: When the Livent theatre empire went crashing into bankruptcy in 1999, it owed a lot of people a lot of money. Including actors. Now "Canadian Actors' Equity Association has cut cheques for 163 members, proceeds of a $157,200 cash settlement from the now-defunct Livent." National Post 03/06/02

MISS ME KATE: A one-woman play about actress Katherine Hepburn at Hartford Stage has attracted a lot of attention. This week Hepburn's family called the play "trash." Some critics feel that the actress's life "has been sanitized, protected and manipulated over the years and a fresh light is welcome after decades of image polishing. Others feel this is a rush to appropriate a life before its final curtain." Hartford Courant 03/10/02

WHAT ABOUT A SCOTTISH NATIONAL THEATRE? Scottish theatre is looking for a new direction. "A Scottish National Theatre is proposed. The suggested model, a commissioning body with neither a theatre building nor its own permanent company, remains a controversial one. Ultimately, like the ever-present issue of funding for Scottish drama, the future of the project lies in the hands of the politicians." The Scotsman 03/09/02


LOVING TO HATE YOU... The Whitney Biennial, the show everyone loves to hate, is open. "The biennial is, by nature, a giant version of a gallery group show, a kind of art fair with curators. So you can ask only so much of it. In its present edition, though, more than half the work is of lingering interest — a high average." The New York Times 03/08/02

STOLEN ART RETURNED TO POLAND: A year and a half ago museums all over the world struggled to get lists of art they owned of questionable provenance posted publicly. The goal was to identify any art that had been stolen by the Nazis in World War II. Most lists haven't yet turned up any claims. Now the Los Angeles County Museum of Art has identified and turned over to a Polish museum a "late medieval Persian or Mughal canopy that was looted from a Polish collection by the Nazis and has spent most of the last three decades in storage." Los Angeles Times 03/07/02

PAY PER VIEW: Though others may buy physical pieces of art, artists retain copyrights to their work. After 18 months of negotiations, Australia's auction houses have agreed to pay artists a fee whenever images of their work are used to illustrate sales of the work. "The rates range from $50 for one-eighth of a page for works estimated to fetch up to $2000, to $187.50 for a full-page illustration of higher-priced pictures." The Age (Melbourne) 03/07/02

IN A FRIGHTFUL MOOED: Some 500 fiberglass cows are set to hit the streets of London. Yes, it's the invasion of the Art Cows. Animals on Parade were "originally scheduled last summer: the sites had been found, the artists lined up - and then came foot and mouth, and the prospect of cows dressed as ballerinas prancing against a daily backdrop of reports of smouldering pyres of their real sisters. The event was cancelled." The Guardian (UK) 03/06/02

JUST LET US BUILD SOMETHING: "Being a young architect in Britain is the ultimate exercise in learning life’s hard knocks. You spend seven years at college dreaming up arty squiggles to save the world, then another 20 designing drainpipes in some enormous firm called BGTHJ, after which every last drop of youthful ambition is squeezed from you till the pips squeak. Either that or you go it alone like Eva Castro and Holger Kehne." Even then, after winning a top prize, it's still a struggle just to get someone to let you build something. The Times (UK) 03/06/02

HISTORY ON THE BLOCK? The Polaroid photography collection includes 12,000 pictures. Its historical importance makes it priceless. "But when Polaroid filed for bankruptcy in October, it owed creditors $950 million. The fate of its collection of a half-century's worth of images by more than 1,000 artists is now in the hands of a bankruptcy judge in Delaware, where Polaroid is incorporated." Photography curators are worried the collection will be broken up and sold. Boston Globe 03/10/02

GETTING HUGHES TO VENICE: The invitation to critic Robert Hughes to direct the Venice Biennale still hasn't been withdrawn, even though Hughes has publicly attacked biennale politics. "Italian dailies have speculated that the deal has not been clinched because Hughes asked too high a fee - the figure of $US700,000 has been mentioned." The Age (Melbourne) 03/05/02

  • HUGHES BLASTS BIENNALE: Last week's attack by Hughes was carried in Neal Travis' column in the New York Post: "I informed them I was pulling out yesterday. Life's too short to waste fooling around with ditherers." He complains that the Biennale is 'a shambles' at this stage and wonders whether it will even happen." New York Post 02/28/02

KILLING PUBLIC ART? Philadelphia's Percent-for-Art program, which has put hundreds of artworks on the city's streets, is being challenged. "More than four decades after the city founded the Percent for Art Program requiring developers to set aside 1 percent of their construction budget on public art, a developer is trying to get an exemption for his multimillion-dollar riverfront apartment high-rise." Nando Times (AP) 03/04/02

THE RUINS OF BAMIYAN: "One year after the Taliban destroyed two colossal, centuries-old carvings of Buddha, and several months after the last of the radical Islamic movement's operatives left the area, this former marvel of the ancient Silk Road remains a largely desolate ground zero. There are no repair crews, no guards, nothing to suggest this was a treasure considered by the United Nations as a world historical monument. The Buddhas long dominated the mountain valley below, and now so does their disfigurement." Washington Post 03/06/02

PROOF OF ART: No more taking sellers of art at their word that the work they're trying to sell isn't stolen or forged. Insurance companies have gotten into the act, and auction houses, museums and galleries are demanding proof for all claims... The Telegraph (UK) 03/04/03


TAX MONEY TO ARTS FAILS ON PROMISED RETURNS? A new Canadian study suggests that taxpayer money invested in professional sports teams and the arts do not produce the economic benefits touted by arts supporters. "The research ... leads inexorably to the conclusion that the benefits from having sporting or cultural activities are not nearly as large as their proponents argue. The multiplier effects are usually small and might even be negative in some instances. Job creation is minimal." National Post (Canada) 03/06/02

SUCCESSFUL ARTISTS SHOULD RETURN GRANTS? Two American congressmen have suggested that artists who become commercially successful should repay grants they received earlier in the careers from the National Endowment for the Arts. "NEA Acting Director Eileen B. Mason promised to consider the suggestion. 'I think it would be terrific,' she told the House Appropriation Committee's subcommittee on the Interior Department and Related Agencies." Hartford Courant (AP) 03/06/02

THE POETRY AND PHILOSOPHY OF HOMELAND DEFENSE: Bruce Cole, the new chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, believes that agency "needs to pay attention to its original mandate and establish its role as a defender of the homeland." To accomplish that, he has developed a program called "We the People" which is intended to "encourage scholars to propose programs that advance our knowledge of the events, ideas and principles that define the American nation." Washington Post 02/06/02

FUNDING TORONTO: Canada's federal government has decided to give Toronto's largest arts groups $260 million. "The long-awaited grants are seen by some as the beginning of a cultural rebirth for Canada's largest city." The arts groups have a long (and expensive) wish list for the money. National Post (Canada) 03/02/02 

THE ART OF AFGHANISTAN: You would think, form the press accounts, that Afghanistan is little more than a bombed out wreck. "I had come to Afghanistan to see what remained of the country's culture after the depredations of the Taliban and the devastation of war. And I was astonished to find, amid the bombed-out ruins of Kabul, an artistic community that was not only optimistic but exuberant. Everyone I talked to had extraordinary stories to tell about the Taliban era, but they had survived that time surprisingly well, and were taking up much where they had left off." The New York Times 03/10/02

THE BERLIN CRISIS: The city of Berlin is € 68 billion in debt - so much debt that it has to borrow extensively just to pay the interest on its debt. This has created a crisis for the city's rich cultural life. "Even today, Berlin has more museums than rainy days. Not to mention eight full-time symphony orchestras, several professional chamber music ensembles, and three opera houses. Each threat of closure or amalgamation is greeted by howls of protest; the result is that everything is slightly underfunded. Since those who work for cultural institutions are government employees and cannot be sacked, most organizations are unable to respond to requests for budget cuts simply because they have no option but to continue to pay their staff. Instead, they run up debts." Andante 03/08/02

10. FOR FUN 

SICILY - LAND OF LINCOLN? "Sicily wants to copy Mount Rushmore, one of the most important memorials to U.S. patriotism. It will not be an exact copy, of course. What business do George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt have on the Mediterranean island, after all? But the concept is being openly plagiarized." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 03/04/02

A MORE HARD-CORE ET? Australian film censors have given a tougher rating for the upcoming reissue of the movie ET than it got 20 years ago - the movie got a "G" rating then; now it gets a "PG" tag. "In reflecting contemporary community standards across all classifiable elements of the film, the supernatural themes and language could not currently be accommodated at the G level of classification. It is understandable that attitudes shift over a 20-year period. This results in some films receiving different classifications when classified now." The Age (Melbourne) 03/06/02

PUTTING YOURSELF INTO YOUR ART: Australian artist Pro Hart worries about the authenticity of his work. He believes if you buy a Hart you ought to get a Hart. So he's "signing" his work with his DNA. "Hart's DNA is harvested by scraping the inside of his mouth with a cotton bud to collect cheek cells, which are sent to a laboratory and processed before being applied to the artwork. The precise method of application to the works is secret, but the location of the DNA is put on a database with the work's particulars - the title, the size and who bought the painting - for easy identification in the future." The Age (Melbourne) 03/07/02

THAT SINKING FEELING: A 360-foot tower, "the centrepiece of Scotland's most expensive millennial attraction has been forced to close its doors for at least three months after engineers discovered it was sinking. The £10 million Glasgow tower at the science centre on the Clyde was hailed as a unique structure - the only tower in the world which turns through 360 degrees. Unfortunately, it is not unique in exhibiting that feature common to innovative building across the globe: teething troubles." The Guardian (UK) 03/06/02