ARTS BEAT NEWSLETTER - Last Week's Top Stories

Arts Journal Home Page
PublishingTheatreVisual ArtsArts IssuesPeople

SearchContact Us


Nov 19-24
Nov 11-18
Nov 4-10

Oct 28-Nov 3
Oct 21-27
Oct 15-20
Oct 7-14

Sept 30-Oct 6
Sept 23-29
Sept 16-22
Sept 9-15
Sept 3-8

Aug 26-Sept 2
Aug 19-25
Aug 12-18
Aug 5-11

July 29-Aug 4
July 22-28
July 15-21
July 8-14
July 1-7

June 24-30
June 17-23
June 10-16
June 3-9

May 27-June 2
May 20-26
May 13-19
May 6-12

April 29-May 5
April 22-28
April 15-21
April 8-14
April 1-7

March 25-31
March 18-24
March 11-17
March 4-10

Feb 25-Mar 3
Feb 18-24
Feb 11-17

Feb 4-10

Jan 28-Feb 3
Jan 21-27
Jan 14-20
Jan 7-13

2001 archives
2000 archives

News Service Home`Services
Digest Samples
Headline Samples








Week of May 5-12, 2002

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


GOT THE BUZZ: Software writers have developed a program that performs improvised jazz that musicians can use to accompany themselves. "A team at University College London has written a program that mimics insect swarming to 'fly around' the sequence of notes the musician is playing and improvise a related tune of its own. Their software works by treating music as a type of 3D space, in which the dimensions are pitch, loudness and note duration. As the musician plays, a swarm of digital 'particles' immediately starts to buzz around the notes being played in this space - in the same way that bees behave when they are seeking out pollen." New Scientist 05/07/02

WHO CONTROLS INNOVATION: The current debate about how copyright adapts to the digital world is being won by the traditional media players at the expense of new innovators. "They've succeeded in making Washington believe this is a binary choice - between perfect protection or no protection. No one is seriously arguing for no protection. They are arguing for a balance that avoids the phenomenon we are seeing now - one where the last generation of technology controls the next generation of industry." BusinessWeek 05/06/02


GRAHAM - FORCING THE ISSUE: Dancers of the former Martha Graham Company are performing this week for the first time since the company shut down in 2000. Rights to Graham's choreography are still in dispute in the courts, and dancers say they're performing not to force the rights issue but because they want to keep the work alive. Others fear the dispute will only be further deadlocked. "This is going to impale the dance community on the horns of a dilemma. I see it as a no-win situation." Newsday 05/06/02

SAN FRANCISCO BALLET AT CROSSROADS: San Francisco Ballet is 70 years old - America's oldest dance company. The season just ending was one of pleasant surprises and surprising disappointments. With some major retirements coming up, SFB is at a crossroads. San Francisco Chronicle 05/05/02

FOOT FETISH: Chris Wheeldon is "one of the few choreographers in the world today excited by classical ballet. While his European colleagues run amok in soft-shoed philosophising and radical revisionism, Wheeldon carries the torch for classicism. He does it mostly in America, his adopted home, but he’s now back in his native Britain to make a ballet at Covent Garden." The Times 05/10/02

PORTRAIT OF THE NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR AS A YOUNG MAN: Mikko Nissinen blows into town as the new director of Boston Ballet. It's a rock star performance, meeting the staff, the dancers and the company's supporters. Can he make them forget the company's recent turbulent times? ''I'm in a great time in my life. I have a fantastic job. I'm one of the youngest directors of the major companies anywhere in the world. Isn't that great? I'm going to be around for a long time.'' Boston Globe 05/07/02

TURNING A BACK ON BALLET: Adam Cooper was a star of London's Royal Ballet. He played the grown up Billy Elliott in the movie. Then he gave up ballet for musical theatre. Why? "I felt trapped at the Royal Ballet. It is such a tiny world and there is so much snobbery. Some people think ballet is the only important form of dance, and some dance critics perpetuate that view by the kind of work they cover. But there are so many more areas of dance to explore. I very much wanted to use all of myself, not just a tiny part." The Guardian (UK) 05/07/02


ARTHOUSE BLUES: Movie attendance goes up in Britain, but audiences for arthouse films are shrinking. One solution? The government will spend £17 million on the arthouse circuit. Some complain it's too little too late. Good movies are pricey, the prime demographic of yesteryear has abandoned art films, and advertising is expensive. Maybe independent film is dying? The Guardian (UK) 05/08/02

WHY CANNES MATTERS: Cannes "has become the world's largest yearly media event, a round-the-clock cinematic billboard that in 1999 attracted 3,893 journalists, 221 TV crews, and 118 radio stations representing 81 countries. And then there are the films. For many film people, a first trip to Cannes is kind of a grail, a culmination that tells you, whether you're a journalist with a computer or a film-maker walking up the celebrated red carpet to the Palais du Festival for an evening dress-only screening, that you've arrived." The Guardian (UK) 05/10/02

DEFYING THE CENSORS: The Australian Classification Review Board banned the graphically explicit French film Baise-moi last week, even though the movie has been showing in Australian cinemas for over a month. The decision has prompted an outcry, and several cinemas are continuing to screen the film in defiance of the order. The Age (Melbourne) 05/12/02

MORE THAN JUST GAMES: Video games are quickly becoming the entertainment of choice for much of the electronic world. They make "more money than the movie business (£10.3 billion last year to the film industry’s £8.2 billion). In the UK we spend more on games than we do on videos or cinema tickets and it is expected that sales of games will soon surpass sales of music too. Despite this success, video games have spent much of the last 40 years being maligned as a low-brow form of entertainment. But now, it seems, video games may at last be about to gain at least a degree of acceptance from the art world." The Scotsman 05/08/02

WHAT'S REAL? "The quest for cinema truth has existed since the early days of Russian Kino-Pravda; but the idea flourished in the Sixties, mainly because of the advent of light- weight cameras and sound recorders, and fast film requiring minimal lighting. Modern digital cameras mean that cinema truth and its offshoot, reality television, are, in practical terms at least, more tenable than ever. And yet, paradoxically, there is nothing real about what passes for reality television today." New Statesman 05/06/02

A FILM FOR ALL SEASONS: As the "summer movie season" pushes earlier and earlier into May, many movie studios are abandoning the idea of seasons for movies. "Opening movies in what used to be regarded as the off-season is an inevitable result of the studios placing more of their bets on 'franchise' pictures - that is, pictures with sequels - and other so-called event movies that typically benefit from heavy buzz and marketing." Orange County Register (WSJ) 05/05/02


DIGITAL DOWNLOADING HELPS MUSIC SALES: A new report says that experienced digital music downloaders are 75 percent more inclined to buy music than the average online music fan. "This shows that while the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) and IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) continue to scapegoat file sharing for their problems, all reasonable analysis shows that file sharing is a net positive for the music industry." Wired 05/05/02

THE PROGRESSIVE: "Does music (or any other art) really move forward? Yes, it changes, as time moves on. But can we really call those changes progress? What would progress be, anyway? Which aspect of art would be progressing?" If you allow for the idea of progress, "then why won't sophisticates lose interest in anything earlier? Why won't Mozart sound too simple, once you've heard Brahms? Why won't Brahms himself sound too simple after we've heard Schoenberg?" NewMusicBox 05/02

NO MET FINALE FOR PAVAROTTI: Luciano Pavarotti, the 66-year-old tenor who has been rumored for some time to be winding down his career, cancelled his final scheduled appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York this weekend on less than two hours notice, saying he was ill with the flu. Met general manager Joseph Volpe reportedly pleaded with the famed tenor to at least put in an appearance before the sellout crowd, but Pavarotti refused. He had also skipped a performance earlier in the week, prompting a scathing story under the screaming headline "Fat Man Won't Sing" in the New York Post. Rising young Italian singer Salvatore Licitra stood in, to much acclaim. BBC 05/12/02 & New York Post 05/10/02

WHY NO ONE SINGS ALONG AT SYMPHONY HALL: "Classical music's advocates in the cultural marketplace must contend with the fact that the clichés of the concert hall are much more familiar than the content of the music itself. Everybody knows them: the pianist's tails draped over the piano bench, the conductor's flipping forelock, the orchestra tuning, etc. But when the music starts, I would contend that only a handful of members of the audience have any idea what to expect — or, in the case of Beethoven's Fifth, know what's coming after the first few bars." Is this a failure on the part of educators and performers, or does it speak to the enduringly complex quality of the music? Andante 05/10/02

NOT A CLUE: Last fall three of the world's largest music companies finally got online with a music download service. It's been a big bust. It doesn't offer as many songs as the free sites, it can't transfer files efficiently and there have been all sorts of glitches. And for all this you're supposed to pay. And people aren't. So now some retooling. “The first offering was too clunky and too consumer unfriendly to hold much hope for its success. So we are going to go back, and we will come out with a 2.0 product which will be more consumer friendly, easy to use. ... This is a business of trial and error.” MSNBC (WSJ) 05/08/02

DEATH BY MARGINALIZATION: Is jazz still a potent and evolving art form or has it become a museum piece? With its most popular artists sticking to old times and experimenters marginalized, jazz is none too healthy these days. Maybe the definition of what can be called jazz needs to expand. But the places to try out new jazz is shrinking... San Francisco Weekly 05/08/02

MASS BAD TASTE: Charles Spencer is all in favor of lists - especially lists that rank pop songs. But this week's Guinness Poll that ranked Bohemian Rhapsody as the best single of all time..."The poor misguided fools! How could they possibly think that such poncily portentous, sub-operatic claptrap was the greatest single of all time? Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening' indeed. For goodness sake, you deluded saps, get a grip." The Telegraph (UK) 05/10/02

CARVING OUT A LIVING AMONG THE OLD MASTERS: The conventional wisdom among string-playing musicians is that if you're not playing on an expensive old instrument, preferably Italian and at least 200 years old, you're just never going to amount to much. But today's luthiers would disagree, and some musicians are starting to come around to the idea that a new instrument can have a power and resonance that the old masters never conceived of. One rural fiddlemaker's experience with the strange and mysterious world of the violin (and viola, cello, and bass as well) may not be typical, but it says much about the future of the industry. Minneapolis Star Tribune 05/12/02

WE'RE LISTENING: A new study of who listens to classical music shows a broad listenership. "Nearly 60 percent of 2,200 adults polled at random said they have some interest in classical music, and about 27 percent make classical music a part of their lives 'pretty regularly,' according to a study commissioned by the foundation. Nationally, 17 percent said they attended some kind of classical-music concert in the previous year. About 18 percent listen to classical music on the radio daily or several times each week." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/07/02

COLOSSEUM CONCERT: Rome's Colosseum is to stage its first concert in 200 years. Ray Charles is "headlining Time for Life on 11 May, an event dedicated to promoting global harmony. He will be joined by artists from around the world including Algerian pop star Khaled and Argentina's Mercedes Sosa." BBC 05/07/02


LIVINGSTON BIDDLE, JR, 83: Livingston Biddle Jr. helped draft legislation to create the National Endowment for the Arts and was its chairman from 1971-81. "As endowment chairman, he ran interference with Congress and the public over complaints about funding of controversial subjects and combined his experience and savvy in government and the arts to increase the base of support for the arts. He helped work out relationships between federal and state art efforts, worked to keep politics out of the endowment and fought for support for minorities in the arts and for bringing arts to the handicapped." Washington Post 05/05/02

DRABINSKY RETURNS? Canadian theatre impressario Garth Drabinsky is accused of perpetrating a fraud of $100 million before his company Livent collapsed a few years ago. But that isn't stopping the dsigraced showman (who can't set foot in the US because he'd be arrested) from plotting a Broadway comeback. He plans to bring The Dresser back to New York. The New York Times 05/06/02

SUPER SLAVA: Is Mstislav Rostropovich one of the great cellists in history?  "The former music director of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., for 17 years has been awarded more than 40 honorary degrees and more than 90 major awards in 25 different countries, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Kennedy Center Honors in the United States." Christian Science Monitor 05/10/02

MURRAY ADASKIN, 96: Murray Adaskin, one of Canada's most prominent composers, has died in Victoria at the age of of 96. "Adaskin, born in Toronto to a musical family on March 26, 1906, had a distinguished and varied career that spanned most of the 20th century. One constant was a passion for Canadian culture." The Times-Colonist (Victoria) 05/08/02

DIVA DREAMS: Soprano Joan Sutherland is 75. "It's nice to be remembered. But the whole opera thing has changed from top to bottom. It has all changed. Even the way that the productions are geared. I'm glad I finished when I did. I might have done a few walkouts." Did she ever think about singing again? "Only once since 1990 has Sutherland thought to let it rip one last time. A year or two after her retirement, her husband was flying home from Canada and 'I decided to surprise him'. But after a day's strenuous vocal exercises she found herself coughing and choking. 'So then I really did give up'." The Guardian (UK) 05/08/02

EXIT INTERVIEW: Departing Lincoln Center chairman Beverly Sills says ''When I came here as chairman eight years ago I was promised that it would be a three-day week with five-hour days. It was never that, not from the first week. It was five-day, sometimes seven-day weeks, and the days sometimes went from 7:30 in the morning to 11:30 at night.'' But the worst time was probably the most recent. "In the past 18 months, Lincoln Center has seen the resignations of three successive presidents and its real estate chairman. City Opera is threatening to leave the Center altogether. Media reports have been rife with tales of tense, even screaming, board meetings (which Sills and others insist are exaggerated or false)." Boston Globe 05/06/02

SVETLANOV, DEAD AT 73: Yevgeny Svetlanov, one of Soviet Russia's most-enduring conductors, has died at the age of 73. Russian president Vladimir Putin "wrote in a message to Svetlanov's wife, Nina, that the musician's death was an 'irreplacable loss for all of our culture'." Two years ago Svetlanov was "dismissed from his post conducting the State Symphony Orchestra after Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi said he was spending too much time conducting overseas." Yahoo News (AP) 05/05/02


TOP OF THE WINDMILLS: A poll of leading international authors names Don Quixote as the best work of fiction ever. "Miguel de Cervantes's 17th-century novel about a knight crazed by reading too many romances about chivalry, who goes on a mad quest accompanied by his levelheaded servant, was comfortably ahead of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past in the poll of 100 writers from 54 countries. It eclipsed the plays of Shakespeare and works by authors from Homer to Tolstoy." The New York Times (Reuters) 05/08/02

BOOK SALES SOAR: The first quarter was a blockbuster one for the book trade. "The largest gain was in adult hardcover, where sales moved up nearly 61% over the first quarter of 2001, while children's hardcover sales had a 47.8% increase. Trade paperback sales were up almost 25% and children's paperback sales increased 31.2%. Mass market paperback sales were ahead 20.5%." Publishers Weekly 05/07/02

HARRY DELAYED? Harry Potter fans have been eagerly awaiting the September release of the next installment of the boy wizard's adventures. But JK Rowling has "still not delivered the manuscript for the book to her publishers and has refused to give any hints about when it will be ready. But unless it is completed within the next few weeks, her publishers, Bloomsbury, will fail to meet their target publication date of September this year." The Scotsman 05/08/02

READING CUTS: Several American newspapers have reduced their books coverage. And at least some of them haven't logged many complaints by readers. "I defy you to find any newspaper research that shows book sections at the top of the list of what people want to read." US News & World Reports 05/05/02

  • COLD TYPE: Canadian newspapers are making even deeper cuts in books sections than US publications. "Book pages seldom, if ever, make money. Even though newspapers pay shockingly low fees to reviewers, book pages are often a loss leader because the advertising from publishers and retailers cannot support the cost of the pages." Ryerson Review of Journalism Summer 02

FIGHTING BOOK THEFT: Each year 100 million books worth £750 million are stolen off UK bookstore shelves (true crime books are most stolen, reports one bookseller). Now some possible high tech tagging help in cutting down theft. "Unlike the acoustic magnetic tags attached to CDs, DVDs and videos, which set off an alarm unless they are deactivated before the customer leaves the shop, the tags contain a silicon chip which can carry a large amount of information and an antenna able to transmit that information to a reading device." BBC 04/30/02

IS CENSORSHIP ALL BAD? Yet another silly book flap over an attempt to ban To Kill A Mockingbird for its use of the word 'nigger' is sparking discussion at the offices of Canada's National Post. In a discussion with two editors, the paper's cultural writer puts forward the unpopular notion that "the so-called intelligentsia... are too quick to slap around ordinary people who have entirely authentic concerns about the effect of language and even ideas on their constituencies." Also, is censoring Harper Lee somehow more egregious an offense than censoring Agatha Christie? National Post (Canada) 05/10/02

YOU MEAN THERE ARE OTHER WAYS TO SELL BOOKS? One of the U.K.'s leading writers has lashed out at British booksellers who, she claims, have sacrificed diversity and range of stock for massive displays featuring guaranteed best-sellers like the Harry Potter series. One of the bookshops singled out by A.S. Byatt has responded that while it certainly makes a point of marketing the big-name titles, it also stocks fully half of all books currently available in print. BBC 05/10/02

NOT THAT ANYONE STILL CARES, BUT... A settlement has been reached between Houghton Mifflin, publisher of the Gone With the Wind parody The Wind Done Gone, and the estate of original Wind author Margaret Mitchell, nearly a year after the last court challenge ended. The original gripe was ostensibly over copyright infringement and freedom of speech, but, like most things, it turned out to really be about money. Nando Times (AP) 05/09/02

INSPIRING SALES: While some general interest publishers have been cutting back, inspirational/religious books have surged recently. "The books range from the serious Christian, Jewish and Buddhist (and lately some Muslim) works through New Age buckle-down about self-help to stuff that would embarrass P. T. Barnum. For many readers apparently, these books bring a kind of religion to those who don't want a traditional one. Whatever, secular publishers are into it heavily." The New York Times 05/09/02



RSC'S FINAL BARBICAN BOWS: The Royal Shakespeare Company has wrapped up its final performances at the Barbican Centre in London, amid much confusion and controversy over its continued presence in the UK's capital city. The decision to vacate the Barbican was made by recently resigned director Adrian Noble, and some observers suspect that the direction of the RSC will be due for reevaluation once a new management team is in place. BBC 05/12/02

GOING HOLLYWOOD: London's West End theatre scene is rivaled only by New York's Broadway in prestige, and lately London is taking a page from the Big Apple's book of ticket-selling strategy. Hollywood stars with a yearning for the 'legitimate stage' have been infesting Broadway for years now, and this season, the phenomenon of the movie-star stage play has made the leap across the pond. Certainly, stars like Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow (both of whom, it should be pointed out, can effect convincing British accents) will do great box office, but is the trend towards using Hollywood stars even remotely good for theatre? Many think not. The Guardian (UK) 05/11/02

END OF AN ERA: After 21 years playing in London, Cats, the longest-running show in West End history, is closing. "The houses were still very good, but it's an expensive show to run. There comes a point when the margins don't make sense any more." For the last show, some 150 of the show's alumni performers will take part, including the original cast. BBC 05/08/02

TONY NOMINATIONS: The musical Thoroughly Modern Millie led Tony Nominations Monday with 11. "The show, based on the 1967 movie musical of the same title, was followed by another new musical, Urinetown: The Musical and Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods, which will compete in the musical revival category. Both received 10 nominations each. For best musical, Millie and Urinetown will be competing against Mamma Mia! and Sweet Smell of Success." The New York Times 05/07/02

PSSST - WANNA HOST THE TONYS? Nathan Lane, Steve Martin, Angela Lansbury and Whoopi Goldberg have all said no to serving as host of this year's Tonys, and organizers are getting nervous. "Theater people still smart at the memory of the infamous 'hostless' Tonys three years ago, a telecast that was widely considered a fiasco. 'We're scrambling to line someone up, but so far, we're stuck'." New York Post 05/08/02


BRITISH MUSEUM CRISIS: "Annual visits to the British Museum have dropped alarmingly, it seems. For years they hovered at around 5.6 million, making the museum second in popularity only to Blackpool Pleasure Beach among free attractions. And with the completion of Foster’s Great Court, and the opening of the hallowed Reading Room to yobs like me, the figure was expected to rise to six million in time for the 250th anniversary next year. Instead it has slumped to 4.6 million. Seventy years after Ira Gershwin penned his great line, the British Museum really does seem to have lost its charm." The Times (UK) 05/08/02

CLUTTERED ATTIC: The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is the third most-visited museum in the world. But a new report says the museum is so cluttered and disorganized it needs a a complete reorganization. "As it is now, the museum does not seem to meet any obvious test of comprehensibility or coherence. Indeed, in the most basic physical sense, visitors frequently have difficulty orienting themselves. Even some curators who have spent their entire professional lives in the NMAH building get lost." Washington Post 05/08/02

A RELATIONSHIP WITH ART: "Art is glamourous, but how good a time do we really have when we are actually standing in front of a picture looking at it? If we dutifully try to look at all the pictures we are probably going to get rather bored. This is not because the pictures have nothing to offer us, but because the timing is wrong. We tend to be too polite with pictures. To have a good time looking at them we need to be a bit more imaginative in the questions we ask, we need - as with other people - to take a bit of a risk if we are going to become more intimate." The Age (Melbourne) 05/06/02

SURREAL JUDGMENT: Fifty years ago the director of the Glasgow Art Gallery spent the museum's entire annual acquisition bufdget - £8,200 - on just one painting - Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross. "It was, said everyone with a voice, a 'waste of money'. The press foamed at the mouth in condemnatory headlines. Rate-payers were incensed by the action of the GP turned art expert. Students at Glasgow School of Art petitioned for his sacking, and the eminent Augustus John derided the cost of the acquisition of a work by a living artist as 'wilfully extravagant'." Fifty years later the painting is the most-reproduced religious-themed work of the 20th Century and worth £25 million to £100 million... The Scotsman 05/05/02

HIPPER THAN THOU: Scottish artist Toby Paterson has won the Beck's Futures Prize. "The prize has been described by the Face magazine as 'a whole lot hipper' than its much-derided competitor, the Turner Prize, and is seen by some critics as the best yardstick for gauging the merits of emerging contemporary artists. A self-confessed lover of the urban environment, all of the artist’s work relates to architecture, particularly the modernist era of the 1950s." The Scotsman 05/08/02

RECORD PRICE FOR SCULPTURE: "Constantin Brancusi's 1913 gold leaf portrait "Danaide" set a world record for a sculpture sold at auction tonight, fetching $18.2 million at Christie's in the first of the major auction houses' annual spring sales." Washington Post (Reuters) 05/09/02

IS THE ART MARKET HEADED FOR A FALL? Recent auction sales have been going through the roof, thanks in large part to a few greatly sought after works. But some observers are concerned that the world of art sales could be headed for territory all too familiar to anyone who spent the last few years digging out from the NASDAQ collapse. Still, for the moment, times are good for sellers, and though they may regret it later, no one seems too concerned about the bubble market at the moment. International Herald Tribune (Paris) 05/11/02

ART WITHOUT A HOME: "Much has been said recently about the rights and wrongs of art being removed during wars from one owner or country to another. Yet the long history of such appropriations is rarely mentioned. It may be that Rome's pillage of Corinth in 146 B.C., or Venice's of Constantinople in 1204, now seem irrelevant because the spoils cannot be identified or because they have come to be associated with their new home. (The four horses of St. Mark's is a case in point). But even when we know the fate of the booty, we accept the outcome after enough time has passed: in the long run, art has no permanent home." New York Times 05/12/02

BUILDING PROTECTION: The National Park Service has a plan to protect the Washington Monument from the "evildoers." "Under the pretext of protecting the monument against truck bombs and other forms of vehicular assault (jet airplanes don't seem to have crossed its radar screen), the service has come up with a bizarre plan that could end up presenting the Mall with an unexpected new treasure, the Leaning Monument of Washington, or perhaps - even better! - with 81,120 tons of New England granite spattered all over the Mall. The service wants to replace the Jersey barriers that now surround the base of the monument with two sunken walkways, 12 feet wide and walled in stone." Washington Post 05/06/02


WHO OWNS PUBLIC ART? A Seattle artist is suing the Seattle Symphony for using a picture of his public art project in a brochure. Though public art is paid for with public money, artists generally still own the copyright. For artist Jack Mackie, the issue is less about money than how images of his work are used. Morning Edition (NPR) [RealAudio link] 05/07/02

COUCH POTATOES: A new study says Brits rarely get off the couch in their free time. "According to a survey commissioned by the European Union 70pc of people not only shun watching traditional high culture such as plays, but do not even bother to attend a football match, sing in a choir or play a musical instrument." Western Mail (Wales) 05/08/02

TOO MUCH REMEMBRANCE? "Are we in danger of 9/11 overload? Sometimes it seems as if every Off Broadway theater company, every musician, every artist wants to weigh in." Are such tributes a measure of the country's resilience and respect for the dead, or merely another example of Americans' innate belief that nothing is more important than we are? Or are real Americans sick of the whole thing, even as the media continue to try to whip the viewing/reading audience into a frenzy of grief and anger? New York Times 05/12/02

THE CLAP TRAP: "Even as we all complain that everybody talks in movie theatres these days, anecdotal evidence suggests we are becoming more deferential during live performances. Nineteenth-century audiences used to come and go at will and chat during plays and operas, while musical producers had to include loud numbers at the top of Act II to lure crowds back from the intermission. And opera buffs who liked a particular aria thought it quite permissible to interrupt a performance with persistent calls for a mid-show encore. Try that today, and you would probably be greeted with a chorus of huffy ssshhhhs and dark glares. Who invents all these rules anyway?" The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/09/02

NAJP FELLOWS ANNOUNCED: Winners of arts journalism fellowships at Columbia University for 2002/2003 include New Republic theatre critic Robert Brustein, Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell, Village Voice editor Robert Christgau, and New York Times cultural critic Margo Jefferson. NAJP 05/07/02

CULTURE'S JUST A FRILL? The state of Massachusetts is facing a budget crisis. Among the proposals to deal with it is a cut in the Massachusetts Cultural Council budget - "from just over $19 million this year to about $10 million. On a percentage basis, it is one of the largest cuts proposed for any agency in the state. The council distributes more than 7,000 grants for exhibitions, concerts, and cultural education programs. Most of the groups that receive funding from the council would face cuts of up to 50 percent next year." Boston Globe 05/08/02

THE RIGHT TO SURVIVE: Like many, American artist Lowry Burgess was outraged at the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas last year. "His despair and outrage has moved him to create what might be called conceptual art: a manifesto urging the international community to prevent such destruction from ever happening again. Burgess sat down and wrote a statement calling for international protection of sites and artifacts embodying cultural memory, not just in wartime (as guaranteed in the Hague Accords), but at all times. He's calling it the Toronto Manifesto: The Right to Historical Memory, and his goal is no less than to see it adopted internationally." Philadelphia Inquirer 05/05/02

UNDERFUNDING BY INCOMPETENCE: The government of Italy has allocated more money for arts and culture. Only one problem - it's not being spent. "A combination of incompetence and red tape have led to the absurd paradox that more money than ever is available for the arts, but 65% of the funds allocated to the cultural sphere is not being spent." The Art Newspaper 05/03/02

PLAYING WITH FREE SPEECH: Are computer games speech? One judge rules yes. Another has ruled no. If the no side is upheld "that could be a disaster for anyone who wants to see games evolve into a medium every bit as culturally relevant as movies or books. It is, of course, indisputable that the world of gaming is replete with titles that have little redeeming value, just as it is true for every other artistic medium. But as Medal of Honor and other games demonstrate, computer gaming has created a new means of conveying complex, relevant ideas. One more uninformed ruling, and the potential of this medium could be curtailed even further, by legislators with elections to win, and ideologues who've pincered it from both sides of the political spectrum. The stakes really are the future of free expression." Salon 05/06/02

10. FOR FUN 

RIGHT WAY ART: A Los Angeles artist tired of getting lost on a downtown freeway decided to alter the official sign, adding directions. He "designed, built and installed an addition to an overhead freeway sign - to exact state specifications - to help guide motorists." The alteration stayed up for 9 months until it was discovered by highway workers tipped off by a local newspaper column. "The point of the project was to show that art has a place in modern society - even on a busy, impersonal freeway. He also wanted to prove that one highly disciplined individual can make a difference." Los Angeles Times 05/09/02

EVER HEARD OF... Is it just an illusion that service in book shops is getting worse? Hmnnn... At one London bookseller, "I ask if he knows of a book called The Colour Orange by Alice Walker. 'Let's put the title in and see what comes up,' he says. There is no exact match, but there is a book with the words orange and colour in the title and then a lot of symbols. 'Could that be it?' he says and pushes the screen round. It is about metallurgy. I tell him that I think it's a novel. 'Is it possible you've got the wrong title?' he asks. I concede that it is. There follows a stumped silence." The Guardian (UK) 05/07/02

BOMBS COME IN MANY GUISES: A recent production of Mozart's Idomeneo at the Paris Opera was a bit unconventional. It featured an "Act I ballet with a dancing jellyfish attacked by Greek soldiers and then being comforted by nuzzles from a seahorse. Idomeneo's sacrifice of his son, Idamante, was foreshadowed by the simulated slaughter of a goat while dancing mermaids provided levity." And the critics? "Critical reaction was, in some quarters, incredulous. How could this happen in a major opera house? How could a conductor of Ivan Fischer's caliber have such judgment lapses as a stage director? Didn't anybody try to tell him?" Andante 05/07/02