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Week of July 22-28, 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


A SENSE OF PROGRESS: Why are so many people resistant to new experimental art? "In a world where experience is increasingly fragmented and isolated, art points to the unbreakable chain of human creativity, and refuses to make islands of separation out of past, present and future. New work is new energy, and we need new energy, not least to understand what we have already achieved." The Times (UK) 07/24/02

THE IRRELEVANT NEWSPAPERS: For three weeks the newspapers in Vancouver Canada have been on strike. Last time there was a strike - in 1978 - it was a disaster for the local arts community. "Ticket sales plummeted, seasons curtailed, staff reduced to handing out flyers on Granville Street, huddled in doorways like Jehovah's Witnesses. This time, arts groups hardly notice the papers are gone. Certainly part of the reason is that there are so many other sources of news. But it also "comes down to the fact that both Vancouver dailies have been cutting back on arts coverage for years (along with city hall and other time-consuming local beats), judging it more cost-efficient to publish press releases of Hollywood films, wire-service photos of female breasts, and hotel interviews in which Jamie Portman sucks up to the star du jour. Having of necessity turned to other media with their message, local artists no longer live or die at the whim of some underpaid 'critic' who would rather be covering sports or restaurants or, well, anything really." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/23/02

CULTURE SERVED UP COLD? Cultural diversity is an orthodoxy commonly preached these days. But is it a policy that deadens art? "The essence of cultural diversity, as preached by government and these organisations is 'respect' for other voices, different points of view and self-expression. We are exhorted to listen to other voices in every discussion on diversity but never to judge them. The rhetoric of diversity deems every cultural form of worth, not because of a quality intrinsic to it, but for the sake of it. This phoney respect is not earned, but derived from an external formula distinct from culture. All too often, the praise and endorsement of other cultures expresses itself alongside a total ignorance of them. This is why, despite much talk of diversity, champions of it tend to sound the same and the exhibits or productions seem to merge. We are being fed a formula for indifference." The Art Newspaper 07/20/02


STILL MOVING INTO NEW TERRITORY: Merce Cunningham is 83, and the subject of a retrospective at Lincoln Center this summer. "For all his reputation as a master producer of impenetrably difficult modern dance, Mr. Cunningham's long voyage through the art of dance has been surprisingly simple. At heart, this journey of six decades has been a matter of 'how adroitly you get one foot to the next,' as he describes his notion of rhythm." The New York Times 07/24/02

NOT READY TO CONCEDE THE POINTE: "As regulars at Covent Garden will know, the Royal Ballet is changing. Under the new artistic director Ross Stretton the company is becoming less classical and more modern, less traditional and more adventurous. Today’s ballet dancers need to be versatile, to try anything, even if it means going barefoot." That's not good news for the company's more classically inclined dancers. Dancers like Miyako Yoshida, who are not about to give up a career-long devotion to classical training. The Times (UK) 07/22/02

9/11 REQUIEM: Hopes have not been high for a Banff Centre Canadian-government-funded memorial dance to September 11 set to Verdi's Requiem. The project has seemed, to many observers, as a bit over-the-top. But the work premiered this week and "if not for the title and a brief still image at the end, Requiem 9/11 has the potential to be a nicely costumed, well-lit and beautifully danced generic expression of mankind's aspiration to triumph over evil." National Post (Canada) 07/28/02


SEX SELLS? NOT TO US...UH, UH... A new poll says that "most television viewers believe that broadcasters use sex to boost their ratings, but that it had little effect. Of those questioned, 85 per cent said programme-makers include nudity and erotic content in an attempt to persuade them to tune in.The poll, which was conducted for the Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival, which runs from August 23 to 25, also found that 83 per cent of viewers said they were not tempted to watch programmes with sex in the title." The Scotsman 07/25/02

COMMIT TO THE MACHINE? The tech industry is making overtures to the entertainment industry. Should we be worried? The industry "may well want to do the right thing by its customers - something you should not take for granted - but it's also enthusiastically building the tools that will help the entertainment cartel grab absolute control over customers' reading, viewing and listening." San Jose Mercury-News 07/22/02

THE COST OF ROYALTY: The internet's first commercial radio station has closed down, citing the cost of recently imposed music royalties. ''The bill comes out to around $3,000 a month for KPIG, which isn't a whole lot, but KPIG is basically a small-market radio station. And right now, it's not making any money from that stream.'' Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AP) 07/23/02

TV FOR THE DUMB: A new report in the UK concludes that new-style TV is breeding ignorance. It says that "the international documentary is dead, with TV preferring to show programmes involving clubbing, surfing, popular music and the sex industry. 'There is a real danger that we are becoming a fragmented society where some people will have all the international knowledge while the rest will just be consumers of advertisers'." The Scotsman 07/23/02

SONY'S FOUND NEW RELIGION - MOVIES: Since it got into the movie business in 1989, "Sony has been the butt of jokes, known as much for churning out over-the-top flops as for profligate spending that forced it to take a $3.2-billion write-off in 1994, one of the largest losses in Japanese corporate history." But that has all changed this summer. "Sony's movie lineup broke all summer records and helped rack up $1 billion in U.S. ticket sales, more than most studios make in a year. First-quarter earnings are due today, and movie profits this year are expected to make the studio second only to Sony's successful PlayStation in importance to the bottom line." Los Angeles Times 07/25/02

EH, WHO NEEDS THE 4TH AMENDMENT? Hollywood is pushing a new piece of legislation which the industry hopes will allow it to take an active role in stopping the video piracy it claims is epidemic. If passed, the law would allow studios to seek out and disable pirated copies of movies and music. Seek out? Why, yes, that does mean what you think it does: the law would allow the movie industry to hack into your computer more or less at will, and cripple your system if pirated material is found. BBC 07/26/02

BIG OR ELSE: In the new world of globalized culture and giant movie conglomerates, movies that don't have the potential for worldwide branding and profits will see little in the way of promotion from studios. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 07/27/02

DON'T NEED NO STINKIN' ACTORS: The latest thing in movies? A technology coming out of computer games. "Machinima (ma-SHIN-i-ma), a form of digital filmmaking that piggybacks on the slick graphics that are easily available from computer games and uses them to produce animated movies quickly and cheaply. Machinima movies, which range from short comedies to science-fiction epics, are produced entirely on computers, eliminating the need to buy costly equipment, rent spectacular locations or hire glamorous actors. The films are then distributed free over the Internet." The New York Times 07/22/02


WORST CONCERT SEASON SINCE 70s: This is shaping up as one of the worst years ever for the pop concert business. "Touring concerts in the first six months of 2002 generated $613 million, down more than 14 percent and $100 million from the same time period last year, according to the trade publication Billboard Boxscore. Pollstar, another industry journal, reports that about 10.6 million tickets were sold for the top 50 concert tours in North America this year, compared with 12.9 million tickets sold in 2000." Denver Post 07/25/02

WORKING AGAINST MUSIC: An archaic law in Britain requiring pubs to obtain a music license if they feature live performances is cutting down the number of clubs with music. "The difficulty for pubs is often that the cost of the licence can be up to £5,000 in some areas, a crippling extra cost for small community pubs. The result is a collapse in the number of pubs with live music, particularly pubs formerly well known among musicians for informal sessions." The Guardian (UK) 07/26/02

SOME GOOD NEWS IN ST. LOUIS: The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is doing pretty well for an ensemble which was on the verge of bankruptcy less than a year ago. The SLSO announced this week that it is more than halfway towards a $40 million fund-raising goal which would trigger a matching gift from one of the city's wealthiest families. The vast majority of the funds raised will go towards boosting the orchestra's sagging endowment, and the rest will be used to cover operating expenses and debt. St. Louis Business Journal 07/24/02

THE NEW (OLD) SALZBURG: The Salzburg Festival, as envisioned by Gerard Mortier, was an adventurous and often controversial romp through music of many eras, with a damn-the-torpedos spirit which occasionally alienated some high-profile performers. But Mortier is gone, and new festival director Peter Ruzicka has taken a decided turn towards safety and tradition. Mortier's beloved contemporary music series is dead in the water, the ultra-conservative Vienna Philharmonic has been returned to festival prominence, and Mozart and Richard Strauss will be the most prominently featured composers for the foreseeable future. Outrageous? Cowardly? Maybe. But ticket sales are up 16%. Andante 07/26/02

ENO DENIES CUTBACK REPORT: The English National Opera denies a report that it is considering drastically scaling back its operations and becoming a part time operation (see story below). A "spokeswoman said the reports were 'speculation and rumour' and called the idea of a part-time company an 'illogical scenario'. And the spokeswoman dismissed suggestions of large-scale job losses." BBC 07/26/02

MUSICIANS ALLEGE FRAUD: Musicians testified before a California state senate committee Tuesday that the recording companies "routinely underreports royalties and cheats artists of millions of dollars." One attorney charged that the companies "underpay 10 to 40 percent on every royalty and dare artists to challenge it without killing their careers." Nando Times (AP) 07/23/02

SAME OLD SAME OLD: Why does contemporary opera seem so flat? Greg Sandow writes that "if all they do is tell familiar stories in familiar ways, they carry a built-in risk of disappointing audiences. For one thing, ordinary media — movies, books, TV, and theater — already tell these stories perfectly well. What can opera add? Secondly, there's no accepted way to write an opera in our time, no common operatic language that composers all agree on. Each opera — implicitly, at least — has to explain itself. Why does it exist? Why should anybody listen to it? What does it give us that we couldn't get anywhere else?" Andante 07/19/02

SOMETHING CRUCIAL MISSING: Why is British jazz ailing? "The majority of new releases in this country are substandard, half-hearted affairs that deserve praise only in comparison to some of the real rubbish that gets out. There are two problems here. One is the general standard of musicianship, which just isn't as high as it is in America... New Statesman 07/22/02

WOULDN'T YOU LIKE TO BE A COMPOSER TOO? New music software programs have become so powerful they have put the power of professional studio setups in the hands of the average consumer. "In many ways, the explosion in the power and popularity of these programs is a parallel to the explosion of MP3s and digital distribution of music. MP3s allow artists to work around the traditional record label channels, distributing music directly to fans. Meanwhile, digital music creation tools have given aspiring artists access to tools and sounds that were found only in professional studios (at a prohibitive cost) just a few years ago." Wired 07/23/02


CHAIM POTOK, 73: Novelist Chaim Potok, who had been ill with cancer for some time, died at his home in Pennsylvania Tuesday. "Mr. Potok came to international prominence in 1967 with his debut novel, The Chosen (Simon & Schuster). Unlike the work of the novelists Philip Roth and Saul Bellow, which dealt largely with the neuroses of assimilated secular Jews, The Chosen was the first American novel to make the fervent, insular Hasidic world visible to a wide audience." The New York Times 07/24/02

ALL ABOUT THE STORIES: At 36, David McVicar is "widely ranked the hottest talent on the international opera circuit; and his special genius is for telling stories on a big scale but with clarity and focus. At a time when opera staging seems in danger of abandoning narrative responsibility in favour of interpretative fancy - the bourgeois-battering aesthetic of Figaros set on futuristic rubbish dumps and Don Giovannis on a slip-road to the M6 - McVicar has emerged as something like a champion of old-fashioned values." The Telegraph (UK) 07/23/02


WORSE THAN BAD (AND A POX ON YOU ALL IF YOU DON'T THINK SO): Critic Dale Peck's roasting review in The New Republic of Rick Moody's new book was so shocking, it's got the literary world debating critical writing. "Reactions from other book reviewers ranged from dumbfounded horror to cringing respect to something like exhilaration. What makes for good criticism? Is the literary world too polite and clubby? Can a novelist fairly review his more critically acclaimed rival? And finally, what is the effect of this kind of skirmish on literary culture at large?" Salon 07/24/02

MAGAZINE OF THE MOMENT: The Atlantic's Michael Kelly has been in charge of the magazine for two years. "With Kelly's foot on the accelerator, The Atlantic can lay plausible claim to being the magazine of the moment. It won three National Magazine Awards in May, a harvest of honors matched only by The New Yorker. The current double issue - called ''probably the best issue of any magazine published in America this year'' by The Washington Post - contains the first installment of the longest work of journalism The Atlantic has ever published: William Langewiesche's 70,000-word series on recovery efforts at the World Trade Center. Though it's still losing money, The Atlantic's circulation has climbed from 463,000 to 598,000." Boston Globe 07/25/02

TOO FAMOUS TO WRITE: A bizarre trend is developing in the fraternity of superstar fiction writers: big-time bestselling authors like Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler are employing other writers to write their books for them. This is not ghostwriting, per se - the 'real' author's name usually appears on the front cover, albeit in much smaller lettering than that spelling out the more famous name of the 'creator' - but it does seem to call into question the basic definition of an author. "In the marketing world such profit-seeking forays are known as brand extensions -- like Pepsi Twist or GapKids. In order to get away with such sleight of hand, writers need three things: a fruitful imagination, a total lack of personal style or voice, and a reputation as a rainmaker." Washington Post 07/24/02

READ AND RELEASE: That book you found at the theatre last week was left on purpose. Each book carries a note beseeching "the reader to 'read and release' and is part of a global sociology experiment. Already boasting 18,000 members in North America, the craze has begun to take hold in the UK, with more than 200 books now released across the country, proving that books and the digital age can co-exist. Part book club, part message-in-a-bottle experiment, the idea encourages people to register books on the website and then deposit them in public places, such as coffee shops and aeroplane seat pockets." The Scotsman 07/23/02

WHAT YOUR PUBLISHER WON'T TELL YOU? Authors are always complaining that publishers shut them out of the book-making process: "They don't tell you how much they are spending on promotion and advertising, don't tell you how many copies have been sold, although they send out so-called statements. They don't tell you that the editor who acquired the book, who believes in it, has one foot out the door and that your book is going to be handed off to an editor who doesn't care about it. They don't tell you that the public-relations person assigned to your book will be working with a celebrity author and will have no time for you." The New York Times 07/25/02

RETURN ON INVESTMENT: Advances to authors have been soaring. Are these books really worth millions of pound? "While the rewards may be great if a title catches fire, a book that bombs not only leaves a dent on the balance sheet, it leaves egg on the face of the publisher." London Evening Standard 07/22/02

POWER OF BOOKS (AND GOOD TEACHERS): "When I encountered Franklin Lears, I was a high-school thug. I was a football player, a brawler, who detested all things intellectual. The first time I saw this meager guy with his thick swinging briefcase, I wanted to spit on the floor. He was absurd, a joke. If you had told me that in eight months I would have decided to live my life in a way that was akin to his, I would have told you that you were crazy; I would have spit, perhaps, at you. But that is exactly what took place: I went on to become an incessant reader, a writer, a university professor." Chronicle of Higher Education 07/26/02


NOT LAUGHING IN LONDON: "Long regarded as the laughter capital of the world, London suddenly appears to be in the grip of a recession for the first time since the alternative comedy boom took off at the beginning of the 1980s. The evidence is mainly anecdotal, but a pattern has emerged: audience numbers are dropping, gigs are being cancelled, convulsions of panic rather than mirth are shaking the promoters." The Telegraph (UK) 07/28/02

GOING TO THE ANGELS: The Eureka Theatre is almost dead. In the 80s, the theatre was one of the most exciting regional theatres in America. "A core group of exciting young directors - Richard E.T. White, Tony Taccone, Richard Seyd, Oskar Eustis - made the Eureka one of the most influential midsize companies on the West Coast in the '80s, helping to introduce writers like Dario Fo and Caryl Churchill to the region. Eustis and Taccone's discovery of Tony Kushner, and commissioning of Angels in America, alone counts as a milestone in American theater." San Francisco Chronicle 07/28/02

BOYD GETS SHAKESPEARE COMPANY: Michael Boyd has been chosen as the new director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. "Boyd, an associate director of the RSC since 1996, won an Olivier Award for his production of Henry VI and has most recently been directing at London's Roundhouse Theatre." BBC 07/25/02

CENTER OF THE FRINGE: The Edinburgh Festival is about to begin, one of the largest arts gatherings in the world. And this year's event looks likely to break last year's record ticket sales. Advance box-office takings have already passed the £500,000 mark. The Scotsman 07/23/02

A NEW DAY AT THE O'NEILL: Musicians learn their craft at conservatories, actors have their pick of theater schools, and painters go to art school. But for budding playwrights, the opportunities for professional instruction are few and far between, and most writers have to learn the ropes by trial and error. For a half-century, the O'Neill Theater Center in Connecticut has aimed to provide playwrights of all levels with a chance for some serious study of the craft, away from the bright light of public and critical scrutiny. Now, with the center's founders retired, a new management team is tasked with advancing the center's mission in an era when theater in general has been suffering. Los Angeles Times 07/26/02


WORSHIPPING AT THE ALTAR OF CALVIN KLEIN: When a group of Cistercian Trappist Bohemian monks went looking for an architect to design their new monastery they found themselves admiring a Calvin Klein store in New York. So architect John Pawson got the call. "If ever there were a marriage made in heaven, this was it. What the monks learned, to their delight, is that this was the commission Pawson had been dreaming of for decades." The Guardian (UK) 07/22/02

BMA ON A DOWN CYCLE: The British Museum draws 400,000 visitors a month - a success by any standard. "But beneath its familiar exterior, the museum, Britain's most visited tourist attraction, is in turmoil. Even after several years of steep cuts, its budget deficit, growing steadily, is projected to reach almost $8 million in the next 18 months. A planned $118 million study center, once a cornerstone of the museum's long-term strategy to engage the public more directly, has been abandoned. At any given time the museum keeps more than a dozen galleries closed to the public, another way of cutting costs. Meanwhile morale there is at rock bottom." The New York Times 07/23/02

WORLD'S UGLIEST BUILDINGS: The ugliest buildings in the world? Forbes thinks it knows. These are buildings that cost a lot and should have been great - but aren't. Some are obvious - the Millennium Dome is no one's idea of great. But SFMoMA? Frank Gehry's Experience Music Project? Forbes 07/23/02

WHAT THEY COLLECT: "Of the 497 billionaires on the Forbes list of billionaires, 36 singled out by The Art Newspaper are known as major art collectors, although a good number of the others decorate their properties with pictures. When it comes to taste, 22 of the 36 collectors go for Modern and contemporary. Impressionism lags some way behind, with only 8 collectors. Clearly those with ultra financial ambitions opt for the cutting edge." The Art Newspaper 07/19/02

OLD TIME FRENZY: The biggest thing in New Hampshire each August? Antiques Week, a series of sales of American collectibles. Participants are a serious lot. "People come by the thousands. Customers line up at 2 a.m. the night before the show opens. These people are fanatics. They are so afraid they are going to miss something." The New York Times 07/26/02

LOOKING TO DIVERSIFY? Planners are trying to jam so much into whatever will replace the World Trade Center that the design proposals so far are a hodgepodge acceptable to no one. "Perhaps the real lesson for the planners of the World Trade Center site is the same lesson as that of the stock market, just a couple of blocks from the WTC site. Instead of putting all their eggs in one basket - instead of betting on all that office space - maybe the developers should look into diversification." Boston Globe 07/28/02

SFMOMA'S NEW MAN: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has been on an amazing upward trajectory in the past 15 years. Fueled by dotcom money, the museum built a new home and acquired an impressive collection. But Neal Benezra, SFMoMA's new director comes into the job at a time of newly-imposed austerity. "SFMOMA remains in relatively good financial health - it has an $80 million endowment and continues to draw big crowds to shows such as last year's Ansel Adams exhibition - but it laid off a dozen staff members in January and faces a $1 million deficit." San Francisco Chronicle 07/28/02

NATIONAL AFRICAN-AMERICAN MUSEUM: Plans are moving ahead for a National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. "One possible location for the museum is the 120-year-old Arts and Industries Building of the Smithsonian Institution, which is used for temporary exhibitions. But a new building is a possibility, despite the limited space on the Mall. The museum will be paid for by contributions from the public, said officials, who added that a preliminary cost estimate will be ready this fall." The New York Times 07/22/02


OHIO CUTS ARTS FUNDING: Ohio joined the list of American state arts agencies taking big cuts in their budgets. "Broad state cutbacks forced the council to lower its projected 2003 budget from $15.7 million to $13.3 million. The council already had had its budget reduced by 6 percent last October." The Plain Dealer 07/25/02

GETTING A BOOST: The British government has come through with an unexpected £5.2 million of funding for 49 of the country's top "non-national museums and galleries." The funding comes from the UK's Designated Museum Challenge Fund, "created in 1999 to promote collections of national and international importance." BBC 07/24/02

IDEA ECONOMY: The battle over intellectual property rights is heating up as one of the most important issues of the day. On one side are established industries seeking to protect their power bases. On the other side are those looking to build on existing ideas, processes and products. "One wonders - when we have copyright laws that provide protection for the life of the author or creator plus an additional 70 years - how much incentivizing (of other creative talent in the same field) is going on when that person has been dead and buried ... for several decades." Nando Times (AP) 07/26/02

INVEST HERE: How curious that in tough economic times that governments propose cutting arts spending. Such spending isn't a handout, it's investment in a multi-billion-dollar industry. A study commissioned by Americans for the Arts quantifies the economic return - an investment of one dollar in the arts returns $8. "When governments consider reducing their support for the arts, as is the case with the proposed cut to the California Arts Council, they are not cutting frills. They are undercutting a nonprofit industry that is a cornerstone of tourism, economic development and the revitalization of many downtowns." San Diego Union-Tribune 07/26/02

THE LATEST IN SUPERPAC: Dallas has unveiled plans for a new $250 million performing arts center. "The complex, adjacent to the Meyerson Symphony Center in the downtown Dallas Arts District, is scheduled to open in November 2007. One building will house the Dallas Theater Center in an adaptable 700- to 800-seat facility to be built directly east of the Meyerson. Across the street, a second building will contain a 2,400-seat opera house that will provide a new home for the Dallas Opera and the Dallas season of the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet." Fort Worth Star-Telegram 07/21/02

CURSE OF THE ADJUNCT PROFESSOR: "There once was an unwritten deal. If you were smart and willing to devote up to 10 of your most productive years studying for a doctorate, certain things would likely happen. A college or university somewhere would hire you. And if you did well there, there was a full-time tenured job in your future. The money wouldn't be great, but you'd be part of an academic community. You'd do research in your field. You'd live a life of the mind. Then the deal changed. Critics call it the corporatization of higher ed. Colleges prefer to call it a shift toward greater efficiency." Washington Post 07/21/02

10. FOR FUN 

PHONING IT IN: A Minneapolis web designer has produced mini movies that can be seen on cell phones. Careful though, the plots seem to involve stick figures getting decapitated... Wired 07/24/02

RING-A-DING-DING: Cell phones going off during performances is a major irritation for audience and performer alike. But one composer has written an entire symphony for an orchestra of cell phones. It's called - groan - The New Ring Cycle, and it was performed last weekend in England by the 30-piece mobile orchestra, Cheltenham SIM-phone-ya. Nuff said. BBC 07/23/02

THIS JUST IN... A Melbourne man has confounded medical experts and film critics by declaring he has completely understood David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. The movie had previously been though to be impenetrable. "What makes the Melbourne man's claim so extraordinary is that he performed this unprecedented feat of comprehension while drinking an entire bottle of spirits." The Age (Melbourne) 07/23/02