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Week of April 1-7, 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


THE CORPORATE COPYRIGHT HUSTLE: "Can Congress repeatedly extend copyrights for decades, impoverishing the public domain, to benefit corporations and the distant descendants of individual creators? That question is now before the Supreme Court: In Eldred v. Ashcroft, it agreed to review the constitutionality of the 1998 copyright-extension law. The law has been challenged by a group of nonprofit organizations and businesses that use works in the public domain." American Prospect 04/03/02

LAND OF THE FREE AND HOME OF THE... DUMB? Is it truethat "American culture in general has an affection for dumbness?" Apparently so, and there's even a hierarchy of dumb. At the top, The Simpsons. At the bottom, almost any movie whose title includes "National Lampoon." The reason may be simple. "In this age of political correctness, gross-out humor is the only thing that offends without regard to race or creed. It's practically the only field open to humor anymore. By going into that realm, you're not going to get in trouble for being politically incorrect." Atlanta Journal-Constitution 04/05/02


ANATOMY OF A MELTDOWN: What happened to Fort Worth Dallas Ballet? The company seemed to have a lot going for it a few years ago, as it moved into the impressive new Bass Hall. Yet, the company never had a coherent artistic direction, and many say its leadership wasn't settled. Now the company has a large deficit and its artistic direction is once again "up for grabs." Dallas Morning News 04/07/02

DANCE AT 30 FRAMES/SECOND: There's "a new kind of dance-on-screen genre, a hybrid. In these experimental works, the word 'dance' expands to all manner of movement: nuns who somersault across seats on a moving train, men who wrestle like bulls in a cow pasture, and a romantic duet between a man and a large earth-moving vehicle. Over and over, its not just a person's performance, but also the camera's dance that draws in the viewer." Los Angeles Times 04/07/02

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE: The Boston Ballet has been in turmoil for the last several years, and incoming artistic director Mikko Nissinen appeared to leap right into the fray a week ago, when he fired a number of the company's top dancers. But next year's season has been announced, and a refreshing departure from the norm is in store. "The Ballet's seasons have traditionally opened with a full-length, name-brand classic, the thinking being that those are the works that are big at the box office. Not this year. The opening program features two modern masterworks along with a world premiere by Jorma Elo." Boston Globe 04/03/02

BETWEEN DANCE AND ATHLETICS: Why do we celebrate figure skaters as stars, but not our dancers? "The figure skater embodies one half of our nation's soul: the individual. Because most dancers start out in the corps, because stardom comes later and unexpectedly, if at all, the dancer evokes the other half: the community. They have distinctly opposite missions. The athlete strives for that all-or-nothing moment in the Olympics' finals. As Michelle Kwan learned so painfully, a flub that one night can wipe out all the perfection in practice. Though a dancer's career is short, until retirement, he or she always has one more night, one more performance, often seven or eight each week." Chicago Tribune 03/31/02


THE END OF WEB RADIO? "The proposed royalties, which the copyright office has until May 21 to revise or approve, have radically dimmed the prospects for the legions of entrepreneurs and hobbyists whose radio stations — from to Radio Margaritaville — have for the last two years provided free access to a startlingly wide range of music. Last week, lawyers for the Webcasters and the recording industry submitted their final comments to the copyright office, with the record labels urging the agency to increase the rate and the Webcasters pleading for a lower alternative." The New York Times 04/01/02

MYTHOLOGY OF THE YOUTH DEMOGRAPHIC: The advertising gospel has long held that: "people age 18-34 watch less television than older adults but are the most desirable to reach because their brand loyalties have yet to be established. So networks with programs that successfully appeal to this audience will be able to charge higher rates for advertising, and advertisers will be able to establish brand loyalties that will continue for a lifetime." But is this conventional wisdom true anymore? Some are beginning to question it. Chicago Tribune 04/07/02

THE NEW MOVIE EXPERIENCE: The success of the DVD format "has far outstripped expectations, and as a result of the DVD's booming popularity since its introduction in 1997, the audience's relationship to movies has changed. The home video was merely a small-screen version of a movie. The DVD is interactive - so much so that to the studios' alarm, technically sophisticated film buffs with a little determination and access to the Internet can relate to a movie in ways that were impossible only a few years ago, including moving and removing scenes and characters from a movie. The implications are profound." Los Angeles Times 04/07/02

RETHINKING CANCON: Three decades ago, Canada created a set of rules requiring all radio and television broadcasters to air a certain amount of Canadian content, in an effort to stem the rising tide of American influence. The regulations, known as CanCon, have always been controversial, but the government has stuck by them consistently, until now. The Canadian heritage minister has announced that the federal government will "take a look" at the restrictions, and while such a declaration is a long way from a promise to loosen the rules, it is the first chink in CanCon's considerable armor. Toronto Star 04/03/02

MONEY-GRAB: Web radio-casters say that new royalty fees they will have to pay for music they play will put many of them out of business. And who will get the royalty money? The artists will, say recording industry spokespeople. But first there are all those fees and expenses and charges to be deducted. Who will really benefit from the new fees? Salon 04/03/02

MUST-SEE TV? With TV networks declaring a sitcom a hit and critics writing it off, where's the truth? "The difficulty of launching new hit comedies is an old story getting older. Still, there also appears to be a disconnect between what audiences are actually embracing and more daring or critically lauded programs networks are eager to brand as hits." Los Angeles Times 04/01/02

ALL ABOUT THE DEMOGRAPHICS: Boston public television station WGBH produces fully 30% of the national programming aired on the PBS network. So a report this week that PBS is planning to 'reexamine' much of its programming with an eye towards attracting a younger audience is making waves in Beantown. "The research is part of a larger push by Pat Mitchell, who took over as PBS president and chief executive in 2000 with a plan to make programming more relevant to audiences in general and more appealing to younger viewers. Her mandate comes at a time of intense change in the television landscape, as more and more channels are emerging and many of them are broadcasting work similar to that of PBS." Boston Globe 04/04/02

NO HOFFA JOKES, PLEASE: "The powerful Teamsters Union is attempting to take over the representation of 500 transportation workers on film and TV sets in Toronto, setting the stage for a potentially heated showdown and sparking industry fears of labour unrest in the city's $1 billion, U.S. dominated movie and TV industry." Toronto Star 04/04/02


BROOKLYN PHIL SETTLEMENT: The Brooklyn Philharmonic and its musicians have settled a contract dispute. "The three-year contract calls for a wage freeze in the first year and increases in the second and third year." Andante 04/03/02

ONLY FOR A LIMITED TIME: The New Jersey Symphony has received a mind-blowing offer from a long-time subscriber. Collector Herbert Axelrod wants to outfit the orchestra's first violins with Strads and Guarneris, and also supply a particularly beautiful Strad for the principal cellist. The instruments being offered are valued at $50 million, but Axelrod is offering them to the NJSO for half price, an unprecedented discount. The catch? The orchestra must come up with the money by June 30. Boston Globe (AP) 04/04/02

TOP CLASSICAL: What is Britain's most-loved classical music? Listener's of the UK's Classic FM voted Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto on top. Bruch clocks in at No. 2. New to this year's list is John Williams' score for the Harry Potter movie... The Independent (UK) 04/02/02

WHERE THE BOYS AREN'T: "A crisis in our musical life is coming to the boil: boys just don't want to sing 'classically' any more. The great majority of youth and church choirs are now exclusively female. Most school singing classes can persuade boys only to bawl out show tunes, which give them no training in vocal technique or expressiveness." So what will become of the great English boychoirs? The Telegraph (UK) 04/03/02

SCIENCE IN THE SERVICE OF HUMANITY: A Japanese company has announced that it will soon unveil a device, intended for use in karaoke bars, which instantly gives even the most horrendous singer note-perfect pitch. The technology is in its infancy, and is not without problems (truly off-key singers may confound the machine, and the corrective process sometimes results in distortion that may throw performers off,) but the inventers say anything would be an improvement on the vocal stylings of many karaoke performers. Wired 04/03/02

WHY IT SOUNDS DIFFERENT: Why is American music different from European music? Perhaps the American variety comes from experimentation with sound, while European music started with an idea. "From such poundings on pianos and yowlings of cats American music began. Specifically, it sprang from a delight in sounds not found in 'correct' European music. Such legends, with their delight in rebelliousness and transgression, are a far cry from the origin story of European music, by which Pythagoras heard four hammers hitting an anvil in the perfect concord C, F, G, C." NewMusicBox 04/02

FROM STREET TO STAGE: "Classical music's newest sensation is the OperaBabes, two attractive young female singers whose record label, Sony Music, has earmarked them as one of its top projects of the year. Yet less than a year ago, Karen England and Rebecca Knight were busking outside the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden in London.The novelty of their approach is to give personal adaptations of classic arias and great classical orchestral works. They will, for example, almost heretically add their own lyrics to Dvorak's New World Symphony." The Independent (UK) 04/01/02

BUY AMERICAN: One reason why so many American singers, male and female, are in constant demand is that they are almost always thoroughly trained, in addition to a basic knowledge of how to use their voices, in stagecraft and in the ability to read and quickly memorise a score. Some of them are stars, others are capable youngsters on the way up. The youngsters rehearse the history of many of the stars in being ready, at the shortest possible notice, to master a difficult piece of music in order to replace an absent or indisposed singer and in having the all-round competence to find their way round an unfamiliar stage with only a resident director or two to prompt their next move from the wings. This helps to explain why some operatic occasions at - to pick one outstanding example - the Salzburg Festival seem like a club of expatriate American singers." Sydney Morning Herald 04/05/02

CONCERT AGENCY FAILING TO PAY MUSICIANS: Community Concerts Associates has long been an important promoter of young musical talent in cities across the United States. But the agency was sold in 1999, and now musicians engaged by CCA say they are having difficulty getting paid for concerts they have performed. Is CCA in danger of collapse? Andante 04/03/02  

THE WAGNERS AND THE RABBI: For years, the descendants of Richard Wagner have guarded fiercely his reputation, and refused to release documents that might in any way support what the world already knows - that the composer was a vicious anti-Semite. As a result, the family itself has gained a reputation as being close-minded and anti-Semitic, but a collection of correspondence between Wagner's son and a German rabbi may show otherwise. La Scena Musicale 04/03/02

MOONLIGHTING RUSSIANS: On a recent American tour, the Kirov Orchestra picked up a little extra freelance work. "According to, which first reported the story on its Web site, the orchestra, based in St. Petersburg, Russia, recorded the soundtrack music for an upcoming Paramount film, K-19: The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford." So? The Russian orchestra plays for less than American musicians. The American Federation of Musicians is deeply unhappy. Washington Post 04/04/02 

POPULAR LURE: Crossovers between pop music and classical work so rarely, why does anyone bother? "Good pop expresses the inexpressible; it speaks where thought collapses. It is still an unknown language. It is a little like a beaten virus. Once it's inside you, a part of it stays, perpetually infecting and protecting at once. With power like this at his fingertips, is it strange that a pop composer will occasionally take a liberty with an opera star? And with that kind of effectiveness and reach, is it strange that orchestral stars should long, by association with pop, to achieve the same infinite engagement with every individual audience member?" The Observer (UK) 03/31/02

LIKE CHARITY, PIRACY BEGINS AT HOME: Think pirate CDs and you think exotic far away places, like Marakesh, or Shanghai, or Camarillo. Camarillo? Yeah, it's in California. That's where, according the the Recording Industry of America, the Technicolor Corporation has been churning out illegal copies of CDs by 'N Sync and Celine Dion, among others. BBC 04/05/02

WHAT BECOMES A CLASSIC? "Which songs from the rock era will be the standards of the future? It's hard to even agree on the criteria. Songs that define a cultural moment, songs with an unforgettable melody, songs that the most people loved - all of those qualities contribute to a song's staying power. Or not. It's no secret how mercurial the world of pop music is. The great songwriter Nick Drake is a shadowy cult figure and ABBA is the toast of Broadway. Go figure. It's impossible to predict with any certainty what musicians will want to play, and what listeners will want to hear, a half century from now." Boston Globe 04/07/02


SILLS TO LEAVE LINCOLN CENTER: After a rocky year, Beverly Sills says she will step down as chairwoman of Lincoln Center. "Her scheduled departure comes as Lincoln Center's 11 participating arts groups are struggling to advance a $1.2 billion redevelopment project that has hit some roadblocks but that Ms. Sills insisted was still well on track." The New York Times 04/02/02

JUILLIARD LOSES A LEGEND: "Benjamin Harkarvy, director of the dance division of the Juilliard School since 1992 and an internationally respected ballet teacher, director and choreographer, died on Saturday at St. Luke's Hospital. He was 71... Before arriving at Juilliard, Mr. Harkarvy had been artistic director of important companies like the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theater, the Dutch National Ballet, the Harkness Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet. A methodical and articulate teacher, he was constantly in demand by ballet schools around the world." The New York Times 04/03/02

THE BAMBINO'S PIANO: As sports fans go, it doesn't get much more obsessive than the folks who root for the Boston Red Sox. They can quote you Ted Williams's stats from 1950, they can tell you what they had on their hot dogs the night Carlton Fisk waved it fair, and they would give one of their own limbs if it would somehow lift the "Curse of the Bambino," the mythical glass ceiling that has kept the Sox from winning the World Series since 1918. Now, one man in Massachusetts thinks he has the answer: the Sox will win once he locates, rescues, and restores the piano that Babe Ruth supposedly hurled into a Boston-area pond. (Yeah, we know, but these are desperate people. Let them try.) Boston Globe 04/03/02

EXPLOITING BERNSTEIN: Is there another modern-era composer who's been more marketed and promoted than Leonard Bernstein? His legacy has been relentlessly hawked since his death in 1990. But evidently, the Bernstein estate wants more. Gap ads. CD holders. "We'd like it exploited a little bit more. I think when people think of great music, a lot of people think of Bernstein. But he was much more. He was the American superstar of classical music, and not just classical, but Broadway and all the other things he did." Philadelphia Inquirer 04/07/02

OCTOGENARIAN ROCK CRITIC RETIRES: Jane Scott may well be the most unlikely rock 'n roll writer in the history of the genre. For the last 50 years, Scott has written, and written intelligently, about every corner of the rock world for Cleveland's Plain Dealer. Even at the beginning, she was older than most rock fans, and this week, the week she retires from her post, she turns 83. But Scott's musings on the music that changed America have stood as some of the finest music writing any newspaper has produced, and her analysis of the good, the bad, and the ugly were read as gospel not only by fans, but by many of her colleagues. The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 04/04/02


OPRAH CUTS BACK: For six years Oprah's Book Club has been a publishing world phenomenon. Last year the club was said to be responsible for sales of 12 million books. Now Oprah says she'll cut back the number of books the club will read on her popular talk show. "It has become harder and harder to find books on a monthly basis that I feel absolutely compelled to share. I will continue featuring books on the Oprah Winfrey Show when I feel they merit my heartfelt recommendation." Chicago Tribune 04/07/02

RELUCTANT GATEKEEPERS: Should American librarians be forced to monitor and censor websites that could be accessed from library computers, as a new law says? Librarians say no. "The ACLU and the American Library Association claim that blocking software is problematic for a number of reasons: It doesn't do a good job of preventing access to porn, it bans many legitimate websites, and the list of verboten sites is compiled in secret by commercial vendors." Wired 04/03/02

POETIC PROBLEMS: "Since its inauguration in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month has reorganized the way that commercial publishers and the larger independents publish poetry, drawn unprecedented media attention to the art, and has, by some lights, boosted poetry sales. Yet this year's festivities come on the heels of what has been a difficult year for many in the poetry world." Publishers Weekly 04/01/02

CENSORSHIP LAW LIKELY TO BE THROWN OUT: If the judges' comments are any indication, the Children's Internet Protection Act will likely be thrown out. The law says libraries must use filtering software on their computers to prevent children from seeing pornographic websites. But every witness testifying in the challenge to the law has said the filtering programs don't work and that they block sites that aren't pornogaphic. Wired 04/05/02

SALES R US: So you've got a publisher and a new book coming out. But your job as an author is only half over. Now you've got to go out and sell it. Today that's a full time job. Hartford Courant 04/07/02

POWER TO EDIT: "So what, then, is the value of an editor? The answer depends on the writer, and even the genre. For all writers, the editor is the author's champion within the publishing house, the person who fights the book-jacket battle, who seduces the marketing and public relations people, who sells the writer's work to the sales representatives so that, armed with the editor's ebullience, they can in turn sell the book to the stores. (The truly successful editors are also rainmakers, attracting authors who want to work with them.) Generally, nonfiction writers seek more hands-on editing than literary novelists or huge best-selling commercial novelists, whose success convinces them that they don't need much help." The New York Times 04/05/02

AUTHOR OF PROBABILITY: A group of researchers has been applying "statistical physics and computer analysis" to ancient texts in an effort to determine who wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey. "Most historians attribute the classic Greek works to the poet Homer. According to the recent study, though, Homer — if such a writer existed — likely scripted the Iliad solo. But he probably had plenty of help from other poets when creating the Odyssey" Discovery 04/04/02

PEN/FAULKNER WINNER: Ann Patchett wins the PEN/Faulkner Award, America's richest literary prize for her novel Bel Canto. "She beat National Book Award winner Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections, Karen Joy Fowler's Sister Noon, Claire Messud's The Hunters, and Manil Suri's The Death of Vishnu. Past winners have included John Edgar Wideman, EL Doctorow and Don DeLillo - last year Philip Roth won with his novel The Human Stain." BBC 04/02/02

GOING INDIE: A new study by Consumer Reports says that book-buyers are more satisfied shopping in independent bookstores than in big chain stores. The study "found that most people felt the chains or the equally giant on–line booksellers did indeed offer a better deal price–wise. Nonetheless, independent bookstores generated a higher level of customer satisfaction than even the cheapest chain retailer. In fact, independents scored 'on a par with the highest–rated stores from any survey we've done in recent years,' said the magazine." MobyLives 04/02/03

CONSPIRACY THEORY: A new French book claims that the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center is a hoax, that "the plane that smashed into the Pentagon did not exist and that the world has been duped by a murky U.S. government plot." Okay, kooks publish books all the time. But this one's got French readers intrigued - Thierry Meyssan's book, The Frightening Fraud, is "a popular read, according to booksellers, and has topped bestseller lists." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 04/01/02

RUSH TO JUDGMENT: Portland alternative weekly Willamette Week announced a writing contest, engaged some judges, then chose a winner different from who the judges picked. Now the judges are complaining, and WW arts editor (who actually chose the winner herself) explains: "I planned to use their feedback to aid me in making a final decision - and to run as comments alongside the winners when they ran in the paper. In retrospect, perhaps even calling them judges was inappropriate. Maybe Subcommittee for the Advancement of Literary License or Footsoldiers in the War Against Cliché would have been more correct..." Willamette Week 03/18/02


DISAPPEARING BLACK THEATRE: "Gone is the heyday of institutional black theater, the rich years after Ward's famous 1966 New York Times piece - American Theatre: For Whites Only? - inspired the Ford Foundation to award a $1.2 million startup grant for the NEC. Nationally, the number of black theater companies has dwindled from more than 250 in the the early 1980s to about 50; in South Florida, founder-led black theaters in Fort Lauderdale (the Vinnette Carroll Theatre) and West Palm Beach (the Quest Theatre) have vanished, leaving only the 31-year-old M Ensemble to tackle serious black theater on a consistent basis." Miami Herald 03/31/02

NON-UNION IF IT'S CHEAPER: A non-union production of The Music Man has been running into protests in the cities it plays. The actors union complains that "the Broadway show is charging Broadway ticket prices, while not paying performers Broadway salaries, but rather lower nonunion rates." Theatres that book the show say "they respect Equity and the other unions. But their primary responsibility is bringing quality product to their faithful patrons. For that reason, they'll book both Equity and non-Equity productions." Backstage 04/05/02

SHAKESPEARE WITHOUT ALL THOSE WORDS: A Georgian director is presenting a version of Hamlet that takes removes the words. "Our ambition is to go straight to the core of Shakespeare's language and capture the images within the words." Reminded that some in the audience might not get the message, director Paato Tsikurishvili had an answer ready: "I recommend that you read the play before the performance." Backstage 04/05/02

FADED PROMISE: This current Broadway season began on a note of giddy celebration. With last year's The Producers proving that there's gold and greatness to be had, a giant wave of shows was announced for the 2001-02 season. As May 1, the Tony deadline, approaches, the season limps to its conclusion, with anemic offerings in the categories of new musical, new play and musical revival." Hartford Courant 04/07/02


MORE BIENNIAL CONTROVERSY: The 25th edition of the Sao Paulo Biennial opened last week, and the critics aren't happy. Sao Paulo has always had a "historical nucleus" mixing new work with Cezannes and Magrittes or Van Goghs. But this year, the biennial has gone all-contemporary. Its curator defends the move: ''Sao Paulo has always been the only biennial among the 50 that exist worldwide to have a historic nucleus. To eliminate it is not revolutionary, it's very obvious.'' But the country's biggest weekly newsmagazine dismissed the event with a snide swipe at Jeff Koons: "The main attraction are the works of Cicciolina's ex-husband.'' Miami Herald (AP) 04/02/02

ANGKOR WAT THEME PARK? Developers have submitted plans for a sound-and-light show at Angkor Wat, with laser images and smoke effects; a 10-story yellow sightseeing balloon, to be permanently tethered next to the temple; and a scheme to provide visitors with nubbly-bottomed rubber overshoes to better scale the crumbling stonework. At nearby Phnom Bakheng temple mountain, they plan a zigzag escalator. Purists may shudder, but as Cambodia gropes its way toward a functioning economy, the Angkorian temples are about the best card the government has to play." Washington Post 04/01/02

LINKAGE - ART AND INSANITY: "For nearly 100 years, a few psychiatrists and art historians have surveyed the art of the so-called insane and come up with mostly anecdotal readings of it. The subject raises questions about the nature of the creative mind and its relationship to the world out of which it comes. How does the atypical brain experience the world we share? In what respects does art made by these individuals reflect the different realities they experience? To what extent, and in what aesthetic terms, do their works embody the fear and bewilderment they may endure?" The New York Times 03/31/02 

WHERE GOES ART: Critics are often tempted to make sweeping conclusions about the artworld as they assess the latest biennale. Here's Roberta Smith's conclusion after walking through this year's Whitney Biennial: "The biennial offers evidence that museums are moving toward a state of irrelevance as far as the contemporary-art world is concerned, showing work that is either unimaginative or ill-suited for a museum setting. This tendency may go beyond curators and directors; it reflects the changing character of boards of trustees, the people who hire and fire directors, choose architects and have a big role in setting the agendas of the institutions." The New York Times 03/31/02

STEALING JAVA: Indonesia, and in particular Java, has a rich trove of cultural artifacts. But while most countries now have controls on the removal of artifacts, Javanese treasures are being looted wholesale.  "In the cross-hairs are dozens of magnificent Hindu-Buddhist temples on the island." The Art Newspaper 03/28/02

DOES ANYONE CARE ABOUT ARCHITECTURE CRITICS? It is a curious thing that while we have book reviewers and film reviewers and theater reviewers, we do not have architecture reviewers—only critics. [Chicago Tribune architecture critic] Blair Kamin writes in the preface to his new book Why Architecture Matters that 'the very term ‘architecture critic’ may be a misnomer. We are, Kamin writes, urban critics as much as architecture critics. In this sense, then, an 'urban critic' can hardly be a 'reviewer'.” New Criterion 04/02

THE VARIABILITY OF CHROMATIC EXPERIENCE: What we see when we look at old artwork may be very different from what the artist painted. For example, "Van Gogh's Sunflowers today little resembles the way it looked when it was first completed. The chrome yellow pigment that figures heavily in the work was, at the time, a vibrant, brilliant color — in keeping with Van Gogh's more typically lurid color schemes. But over time it faded to the lusterless brown-yellow that it is today, transforming the overall feeling of the work. As for the thickness of the paint... one might as well 'lay them on ... crudely,' he wrote in a letter to his brother, because 'time will tone them down only too much'." The Atlantic Monthly 04/04/02

CONFLICTING ETHICS: The practice of archeology is changing rapidly as ethical concerns play more and more of a role.  "Archaeologists' investigations frequently pit their interests against those of other people, and the concerns of the present against the possible concerns of the future. As ethical considerations come to matter more, there has been a change in the way the public sees archaeologists, and the way archaeologists see themselves. “We went through a period when we thought ‘Hey, we're scientists, we should be the number one priority here. But most of us have now come to see it differently.” The Economist 03/29/02

ANOTHER SMITHSONIAN CASUALTY: The Smithsonian has lost yet another director. Dennis O'Connor, the undersecretary for science at the Smithsonian Institution and acting director of the National Museum for Natural History has quit. "His departure is the latest in a series of resignations from the Smithsonian's upper ranks since Lawrence Small took office as secretary of the institution 2 1/2 years ago." Washington Post 04/04/02

GAMBLING ON A MUSEUM: The Pechanga Indians in California have become rich because of their casinos. Now the tribe is looking to be known for more than its casinos. "If the tribal membership approves and the plans pan out, the tribe will build a museum here, roughly midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, and borrow thousands of artifacts from the Southwest Museum, an underfunded but widely respected institution founded by Los Angeles collectors in the early days of the 20th century. Not everybody is ready to embrace the idea. But together, the Pechangas' money and the Southwest's collection could yield one of the foremost Native American museums in the country." Los Angeles Times 04/07/02

THE IDEA OR THE WORK: Is a good idea for a museum show enough? "Don't good ideas for museum shows come from seeing great stuff? If a curator notices that a number of mediocre artists are independently making mediocre art that shares a particular image in common - Nazi paraphernalia, say - is that fair cause to organize a show? Probably not. The most obvious lesson of Mirroring Evil [at New York's Jewish Museum] is the futility of attempting to make a productive exhibition from lousy work." Los Angeles Times 04/07/02

CITY ON A HILL: The Yorkshire town of Barnsley has decided to reinvent itself as a Tuscan village. And thanks to a government initiative to revitalize towns outside of London, the village has £150 million with which to make it happen. The Guardian (UK) 04/06/02


ART AS GLOBALIZER: "The old joke about modern art used to be that you couldn't tell which way up it went. The joke about postmodern art is that you can't tell which work is which. Or where it comes from. That's because most of it is pure NY-Lon." What's a 'NY-Lon'? "A 'NY-Lon' is a postmodern art person who shuttles between New York and London, one who can afford never to return telephone calls because everyone assumes he is on the other side of the Atlantic, one whose presence in town astonishes friends so much that they invite him for dinner whenever they catch sight of him." London Evening Standard 04/02/02

GETTING CENTERED: Performing arts centers are touted as projects to rejuvenate cities. But it doesn't always turn out that way. In Dallas, "downtown's next monument could be the Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, which is being touted as both the city's cultural showpiece and the exclamation point for the Arts District. Norman Foster and Rem Koolhaas are outstanding architects, and there's an excellent chance that their designs for the opera house and theater will be stunning. But architecture alone won't produce the civic triumph the public is hoping for." Dallas Morning News 03/31/02 

TEMPORARY FUNDING: An Ontario art fund is an unusual new source of money for the arts. "Trillium is controversial not only because its annual $100-million comes from gambling (four government-run casinos were built for that purpose), but because it reflects the ideology of the province's Conservative government. Its grants to arts groups are temporary rather than permanent, and are designed to make the culture business more businesslike. To make sure it doesn't stray from the path, Trillium has been firmly politicized and brought under the control of the Premier's office." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 03/30/02

BREAKING THE CODE: Is computer code free speech? Some critics of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act are proposing that it is. They contend that the act has locked up rights to creative property and stifles innovation. "There is essentially no fair use left once the D.M.C.A. is done with it." A company that wrote and sells a program that disables copy protection for e-books, contends its program code is protected speech. The New York Times 04/02/02

REINING IN THE ARTS IN NOVA SCOTIA: "Six years ago, Nova Scotia became the last province in [Canada] to set up an arts council, borrowing the tried-and-true model of an independent Crown agency that would use peer juries to decide who gets grants. Last week, it became the first province to disband its arts council, locking the doors and firing the staff in a coup directed by Culture and Tourism Minister Rodney MacDonald. He is proposing to replace the council with his own, tamer version, setting up a new organization that will share office space and staff with the culture ministry and have two ministry bureaucrats on its 12-member board." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 04/04/02

10. FOR FUN 

ART FEW WILL SEE: Turns out some microchip designers are also closet artists. A few years ago a senior research engineer was peering through a microscope at a microscope when he thought he saw a micro-picture of Wldo the cartoon character. Since then he's found dozens more, etched on the chips by their designers. "The images include everything from chip designers' names, renderings of favorite pets, cartoon characters like Dilbert, and planes, trains, and automobiles. These images are fabricated along with the transistors and interconnects on one or more metal layers overlying a silicon wafer." Now - of course - there's a museum... IEEE Spectrum 04/02