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Week of August 19-25, 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 PERILS OF CROWD PLEASERS: The just-closed Andy Warhol show at LA's Museum of Contemporary Art was a big, money-making success. But are such shows healthy for museums? "Tourist-oriented blockbusters represent a tear in the art museum fabric. While the general public is being seduced, the art public is abandoned. The Andy Warhol Retrospective was pitched toward anyone who'd ever been to the movies. What's the harm in that? Nothing in the short term. For an art museum, it's quick cash. The risk is slow-motion suicide. The general public is where the fast action is, but it certainly won't stick around for the long haul. Lose the art public through attrition, though, and you might as well close up shop." Los Angeles Times 08/20/02

THE COMMERCIAL NONPROFIT: Cleveland's Playhouse Square, with 10,000 seats, is America's second-largest performing arts center, after Manhattan's Lincoln Center. "But it's also a rare case of a flourishing nonprofit arts foundation that earns its own keep - taking just a smidgen of government aid and private donations." The secret? The theaters are part of a complex of "nontheater assets, including a hotel and office buildings. The entire package is valued at $124 million, with only $54 million in debt." The commercial properties help to "pay for the arts and help revitalize a grimy section of the city." Yahoo! (Forbes) 08/19/02


WHAT BECOMES A CLASSIC? "Just what makes a ballet a classic? Consider what happens, or doesn't happen, in certain productions of supposed classics. We often don't know what ballet's classics really are choreographically. Company directors claim to revere the classics. Stars long to dance them. Audiences flock to see them. But what is it that they are seeing or dancing? The choreography for many works has eroded. Some scenes have been altered, some have been omitted and others have been added." The New York Times 08/25/02

WHY WE DANCE: Dance is one of the most basic arts. Millions of people dance. So "why do many people still find dance, the friendliest art, so mysterious when they encounter it on a concert stage? Perhaps the problem is communication. When we see another human body, we expect it to look familiar. We also expect to read with ease the physical signals that other people's bodies send us. Yet choreographers - the artists who make concert dances - give the body an exceptional appearance." Newark Star-Ledger 08/23/02

ROCKETTES SETTLE: Radio City Music Hall has made a settlement with its Rockettes, averting a strike. The Hall will buy out 41 of the veteran dancers for $2 million - between $30,000 and $120,000 per dancer, depending on length of service. "It's not the price the Rockettes wanted, but in the context of the negotiations, it was a reasonable price." The New York Times 08/22/02

BAD MOVES: New York Magazine miscalculated when it fired dance critic Tobi Tobias. But the magazine has been cutting back on space for its other critics, and some might worry other cutbacks are in the works. "Eliminating a major voice from an important venue—either for budgetary reasons or to bring in someone trendier—is not merely a dance-world scandal, it’s a dark comment on the priorities of today’s journalism." New York Observer [low down in the column] 08/21/02

DECLINING DISCOURSE ON DANCE: What's happening to dance criticism? There's less and less of it. Major publications around the US have been cutting back on dance coverage. The latest to go is New York Magazine's esteemed Toby Tobias, who was recently let go from the magazine. Orange County Register 08/18/02


IS CITIZEN KANE BEST? A recent poll of film critics and directors named Citizen Kane as the top movie of all time. No movies of the past 20 years made the top ten. "Does this gap indicate a widespread belief that the cinema is in decline? To an extent. Certainly, the rapid ascent of films to the canon in the '50s and '60s reflects the feeling of many cinema lovers of the day that they were living through exciting times. A more convincing explanation for the aging of the canon is simply that film criticism has become institutionalized over the course of the last three decades." Slate 08/20/02

EUROPE'S MOVIE BOOM: Movie box office is up in Europe, just as it is in the US. "European film fans spent 5.6bn euros (£3.6bn) on more than one billion cinema tickets in 2001, according to a report. More than three-quarters of European cinema admissions were in just five countries - the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. But smaller countries saw the biggest growth." BBC 08/20/02

THE ART OF DIGITAL: "Without most moviegoers’ noticing, digital technologies have been slowly supplanting film-based processes that have been used since the 1920s." But most movies still use film, and superimposing heady new digital effects is a delicate balancing of color and tone. Technology Review 08/16/02

FREE RADIO THAT MAKES MONEY: What if your radio spewed out all the music you wanted, there was no talking and no commercials? And it was free? A service now delivered to satellite TV subscribers does this. And it even makes money. Do traditional radio station employees need to fear for their jobs? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/24/02

HOLLYWOOD GOES TO CHINA: Forget Canada, "foreign film-makers are discovering that China is a good place to make movies. And just as makers of everything from washing machines to wigs learned before them, lower costs are a big draw. Shooting a movie here can cost half, even a third, of what it might back home, industry executives say, with savings on everything from crew salaries and construction of sets to catering fees. Far Eastern Economic Review 08/29/02

MEXICAN MOVIE RECORD: The Catholic Church has strongly condemned the Mexican movie El Crimen del padre Amaro. But in its opening weekend, director Carlos Carrera's film broke Mexican box office records and "earned 31 million pesos ($5-million) and reached an audience of 863,000 people in 365 movie theatres throughout Mexico." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/22/02

WHAT RIGHT DO YOU HAVE? The digital revolution has created a demand for content. And Hollywood would love to cash in. But finding and clearing rights to many shows is a mind-numbingly difficult and mundane chore. "The hodgepodge of record-keeping systems makes it difficult to track even pedestrian deals with video chains and broadcast and cable networks. Newfangled electronic distribution deals with Internet outfits and cell phone makers will add another layer of complexity." Forbes 08/21/02

THE DYING SOAPS: Soap operas have long been a staple of daytime TV. But the form is ailing. Ratings are falling away quickly. "The whole soap genre looks like a dinosaur, and it's dying like one. It keeps lumbering forward in a space- age, Internet- savvy world, looking like an art form frozen in time, so stuffy in content, so staid in appearance, so establishment in form. There is a contingent of young people who get hooked on soaps in college, so there always is a chance for a new audience. But each year, the audience gets older and smaller. I have no doubt that soaps are an endangered species." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/20/02


ENTERTAININGLY OUTRAGEOUS: One of the hottest shows at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival is Jerry Springer: The Opera. Critics love it, and crowds line up each night to buy tickets. The show "features a chorus line of dancing Ku Klux Klansmen and an all-singing cast of adulterous spouses, strippers, crack addicts and transsexuals. 'You think it's going to be some sort of knockabout burlesque, but it starts to affect you emotionally'." Nando Times (AP) 08/20/02

RECIPE FOR REFORM: How does classical music - with its formal dress, gilded halls and stiff traditions, appeal to a less-formal world? "Of course, all the fine arts are elitist, if by that term we mean intellectual, complex, sophisticated. Although the fine arts can also be engrossing, visceral and deeply entertaining, you have to bring your brain to classical music, a requisite that makes it suspicious to some. America has always had an annoying strain of anti-intellectualism. When the perception of elitism keeps people away from high culture, it's a serious problem." Classical music has been experimenting - and needs to experiment more - with ways to draw listeners in. The New York Times 08/25/02

THE SMART SIDE OF CANCELING: Los Angeles Opera's cancellation of a Kirov production of Prokofiev's War and Peace for lack of money could be a sign of the company's inner turmoil. But perhaps not. "As I wrote at the end of last season, L.A. Opera has a reputation for chaos, and the upside of that may be an ability to think on its feet and turn on a dime. L.A. Opera's decision to import Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk from the Kirov in place of War and Peace is brilliant." Los Angeles Times 08/24/02

  • L.A. OPERA CANCELS VILAR-BACKED PRODUCTION: The Los Angeles Opera has canceled an ambitious $3 million production of Prokofiev's War and Peace after the cost of presenting the Kirov Opera production rose by $600,000 more than expected. Patron Alberto Vilar had pledged $1 million for the production, but when the company asked him to kick in the extra money and move up the payment on his $1 million gift, he declined. So the production was canceled and replaced by Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. Los Angeles Times 08/23/02

NEWTON VS. THE BEASTIE BOYS: Flutist James Newton found out the Beastie Boys had used a 6-second sample of his playing on a recording without paying him - or even letting him know. He sued and lost - the law says only that the composer and the original record label must give their permission for a sample, not the performer. "Composers are nervously keeping an eye on the case, wondering what kind of precedent it will set if the ruling is upheld." Washington Post 08/22/02

RECORDING COMPANIES ON THE ATTACK: Major recording companies ask a US federal court to force ISP Verizon to turn over information about one of the company's customers. The recording industry believes the customer is trading copyrighted music files. So far, Verizon refuses to turn over the information. "Verizon finds itself on a slippery slope. ISPs promise users to protect their identities, but entertainment companies are increasingly putting pressure on Congress and the Justice Department to crack down on people illegally sharing songs and movies." Wired 08/21/02

  • COUNTERFEIT CD BUST: Philippine police seize counterfeit CDs worth $20 million. "The US has put pressure on countries like the Philippines to crack down on gangs running pirate operations, saying more investment and technology would be attracted if they did. Fake music CDs sell on the streets of Manila for between $0.40 (25p) and $1.20 (80p) each." BBC 08/21/02

CLONE ME AN OPERA: San Francisco Opera has a plan to encourage non-traditional storylines as subjects for opera. One "recently commissioned one-act opera follows the exploits of a scientist who clones herself three times and also genetically engineers a human to incorporate the best genes from every animal on Earth." Wired 08/20/02

VOLUME MISCOUNT: Are today's orchestras too loud? "Orchestras have become much, much louder since the 18th century. And the process has gathered pace dramatically since the Second World War. We have reached the point where brass instruments exceed permitted industrial noise levels. Orchestral players are advised, or instructed, to wear earplugs, and with good reason. Musicians are being deafened by music. It is an absurd situation." London Evening Standard 08/21/02

COVENT GARDEN'S NEW MAN: Forty-two-year-old Anthony Pappano debuts as director of London's Royal Opera on Sept. 6. On first encounter, writes Hugh Canning, his "frankness and honesty were certainly a breath of fresh air for journalists used to stonewalling and party lines from previous Royal Opera supremos. (Haitink rarely said anything at press conferences, but looked almost permanently glum, to the point that such encounters with the newshounds either took place in his absence or were dropped altogether in favor of a general press release in his later years at Covent Garden)." Andante 08/22/02

INFLICTING MUSIC: Cambridge scientists drugged mice in an experiment - injecting half with salt, the other half with methamphetamine, then blasted loud music at them to gauge their reaction. "The music was either from dance act The Prodigy or Bach's Violin Concerto in A Minor, both of which have a similar tempo. Animals injected with salt fell asleep with the music. But the sound dramatically affected the drugged mice, causing them to suffer more speed-induced brain damage than normal. They appeared to 'jiggle backwards and forwards' as the music pounded in their ears." The researchers have been reprimanded for cruelty to animals. Sydney Morning Herald 08/20/02 

CAPTURED BY THE MUSIC: Background music is everywhere. But who picks it? And why? "What started out as a simple idea — spend a day actually listening to the music that plays in shops, restaurants and bars — has plunged me into a strange and complex netherworld of secretly encoded CDs, shadowy music programmers, involuntary behavioural modification and ruthless record company promotion. In addition, the unceasing soundtrack of light, R&B-influenced pop and mild-mannered rock is sending me slightly barmy." The Age (Melbourne) 08/18/02

MUSIC LABELS ON THE ATTACK: Major recording companies have escalated their war against music file traders. A group of major record labels have sued internet service providers to block access to a website they claim allows people to copy music. It demanded that internet providers including AT&T, Cable & Wireless, Sprint and WorldCom block access to" BBC 08/18/02

MORE SHOWBIZ THAN MUSIC: Music critic John von Rhein despairs of some of the lapses in musical taste he has heard recently. "This nation really does appear to be suffering from a musical illiteracy greater than at any time in the three decades I have been attending concerts. That illiteracy can be observed on both sides of the stage and flourishes most insidiously in the citadels of managerial power. The classical music business, faced with a famously shrinking and aging public as well as a diminished pool of bankable superstars, has been slowly turning serious music into just another branch of show biz." Chicago Tribune 08/18/02


WRITING OVER REWARDS: Charles Webb had a big success with his novel The Graduate back in 1962. "With its subversive rejection of materialism and middle-class mores, The Graduate captured the nascent mood of rebellion that was to sweep through the 1960s. But somewhere along the way, Webb's urge to write was swamped by his urge to reject material rewards and disappear. They were set for life. They found this oppressive." So Webb and his wife gave away all their money to live in poverty... The Age (Melbourne) 08/19/02

ONE HELLUVA PRISON CAREER SO FAR: Jail isn't turning out too bad for Jeffrey Archer, the disgraced novelist and former MP, currently serving a four year prison term. Last week he signed a three book deal work millions of pounds. Now he's got himself a new day job - working at a theatre in the town of Lincoln. He started this week, and drove himself to his work-release job in his BMW. "It is still being discussed what he is doing but he will not be writing plays for the theatre." The Guardian (UK) 08/20/02

TOO MUCH PERCUSSION: Composer Ned Rorem has always been an outspoken contrarian. As he turns 80, none of that public persona has changed. "The quality of his recent output suggests that these pieces are likely to be those for which he's most remembered. Yet Rorem wonders if it matters: 'I feel we've got about 10 more years and the whole world will blow up,' he said one recent afternoon, sitting in a park here. 'Or at best, we'll end up loving each other in the most mediocre way, and the music you and I like will be in the remote past'." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/25/02


WHO BOUGHT WHAT WHEN: A group of publishing associations wants to know how much snooping the US government has done on book sales information. "Section 215 of the Patriot Act [passed last fall] grants the FBI the ability to demand that any person or business immediately turn over records of books purchased or borrowed by anyone suspected of involvement with 'international terrorism' or 'clandestine activities.' The act includes a 'gag order,' preventing a bookstore or library from discussing of the matter with anyone or announcing the matter to the press. A bookstore may phone its attorney at the time of the request, but it can be done only as an afterthought, as the information must be supplied to the FBI immediately, or the employee risks arrest." Publishers Weekly 08/22/02

POETS QUIT OVER RACISM CHARGES: More than 100 poets are boycotting Chicago's largest annual poetry reading. The festival's poetry coordinator quit after the Bucktown Arts Festival director "ordered him to ban poets who were the targets of hecklers" at another festival last month. "The problem is that all 'those' poets are primarily black and Latino," charges C.J. Laity, the poetry coordinator. So Laity quit, and so did 100 of the poets, forcing cancellation of the event. Chicago Sun-Times 08/23/02

A BOY AND HIS (IRREPLACEABLE) TOY: Jim Irsay - owner of an Elvis guitar and the NFL's Indianapolis Colts - bought the manuscript of Jack Karouac's On the Road last year. And scolars and historians are dismayed. "Whether he's stubbing out cigarettes just inches away from his fragile and irreplaceable draft of On the Road or fondly recalling how he gave reporters the finger after buying the manuscript, or stripping down to a tie, an artfully placed guitar and little else in the course of a photo shoot, Irsay is, depending how you look at it, either a party permanently in progress or an accident waiting to happen. 'To me, it's already got this mystical aura to it. And it would be really cool to add to that. And I think I have the capabilities and the creative thinking to do that in a way that's viewed as fun, but universally viewed as safe and respectful." Baltimore Sun 08/24/02

NEW LIFE FOR LINGUA FRANCA? Is Lingua Franca about to be revived? "Jeffrey Kittay, a former professor of French who created the magazine in 1990 but had to discontinue it after last November's issue, when his major backer withdrew financing, said he had made a bid to buy the magazine's assets from the bankruptcy court." The New York Times 08/19/02

BOOKER FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: "Jon McGregor's first novel, If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, yesterday catapulted him on to this year's Booker longlist, alongside Anita Brookner, William Trevor, Michael Frayn, Zadie Smith, and 25 other writers. The field was picked from an original entry of 130 books. From it a shortlist will be chosen next month." The Guardian (UK) 08/20/02

TALK TALK TALK TALK TALK... "Literary theories from formalism to Marxism to postmodernism are all pretty much agreed on the fact that the author, once he or she has put the final full stop on the final redraft, becomes irrelevant. What a writer intended to say is unimportant. What the book actually does say is all that matters. Odd, then, that every year thousands of people pay good money to listen to authors talk about their work, their motivations, hobbies, influences, tastes in music, and — a question guaranteed to produce a shudder of horror in even the most gregarious festival guest — where they get their ideas from." The Age (Melbourne) 08/19/02

CAN'T TELL A BOOK BY ITS PUBLISHER: Do readers care who published the book they're thinking of buying? A new study says not at all. "Readers simply don't pay any mind to who has published a book. If they do think about publishers at all, they don't think of them as part of the creative process of book production, merely as making money from it. It wasn't always so. In the past, many imprints won great loyalty and affection from readers." London Evening Standard 08/19/02


ONE IS BETTER THAN TWO? Cleveland's two major professional theatres are both in financial trouble. "With corporations leaving town, foundations losing money in the stock market and box-office receipts trending ever downward, prospects look bleak. With the encouragement of people and organizations who give money to the arts, the two nonprofit companies are talking about merging." The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 08/25/02

FREE AT LAST: Jon Jory was one of the most influential figures in American theatre as head of the Actor's Theatre of Louisville and director of the Humana Festival of new plays. Two years after leaving Louisville, does he miss it? "I miss walking out onto an empty stage and thinking 'I can do anything I want here' — of course, you can't, really, but you can at least walk into the theater and think that. But I don't miss the raising of the money and the kind of insoluble problems of every artistic director's day. And I don't miss the inhuman aspects of bossing people around." St. Paul Pioneer Press 08/23/02

HIGH PRICE OF SAFETY: Ticket prices for the Edinburgh Fringe have gone up. David Stenhouse argues that higher rices inhibit risk-taking on the part of audiences. "In the economics of the fringe, most acts are penny shares. The majority are likely to fall without trace, but a few will turn out to be theatrical Microsofts. The current market favours the gilts and bond issues which have a steady return. It may be fiscally prudent, but it’s not what the fringe was set up to do, and in the next few years it will have to change." The Times (UK) 08/21/02

ENOUGH WITH THE AMERICANS ALREADY: Hollywood stars are hot in London's West End. They draw big crowds to the theatre. But a British actors union is attacking London's National Theatre for hiring too many Americans. "What brought this to a head is that we have production at the National where three of the four leads are foreign artists. It is a showcase for British talent and this is the straw that has broken the camel's back." BBC 08/23/02

RECORD FRINGE: Attendance at this year's Minnesota 10-day Fringe Festival climbed to a record 32,000 and earned a surplus - enabling organizers to pay down their deficit. The Minnesota Fringe is the largest fringe festival in the US. The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 08/20/02

A PLACE OF HIS OWN: The Kennedy Center's Stephen Sondheim festival renewed appreciation for this rich body of work. Sondheim insists that his shows are shows, but they've never sustained commercial Broadway runs. So they've been taken up "by regional theaters and schools, and by Europe, where the opera houses are small and the unlikelihood of competition from commercial productions encourages the American producers to relinquish the rights. Maybe what we and Mr. Sondheim need is a summer festival in a plausible theater devoted to the best in operas and musical theater, irrespective of genre. We need to hear the best in musical theater, old and new, no matter the derivation of the particular work or the amount of dialogue or the singing style." The New York Times 08/18/02


GREATER ALEXANDER: Plans have been unveiled to carve a giant likeness of Alexander the Great on a mountain in Northern Greece. "The planned 240 foot image will be comparable to the carved faces of American Presidents on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and cost nearly £200 million. Supporters believe that the sculpture of the general, whose empire stretched from Greece to India, will bring in the tourists and assist the local economy." The Times (UK) 08/22/02

  • ALEXANDER THE MONSTROSITY: Environmental opponents of the plan have "vowed to go to court to stop the 30-million euro project, while the Greek Culture Ministry has warned that it will not allow work to begin as scheduled in November. The plan, from a group of Greek-Americans, would see a rock outcrop on Mount Kerdylio in the northern province of Macedonia changed into a massive monument to the fourth-century BC empire-builder. Environmentalists fear it will spoil the landscape and harm the area, while archaeologists have called the project a 'monstrosity' that they say could threaten a nearby ancient theatre and a Byzantine church." BBC 08/22/02

DRESDEN ADDS UP FLOOD DAMAGES: Dresden art officials are counting up damages in last week's floods. "Some 20,000 artworks were evacuated during three large operations. Thousands of the figures and castings that were saved now lie strewn around wherever space is available in both the painting section and in the antiquity hall of the gallery. Transportation damages were only minimal. Of the four thousand paintings that were housed in the 'old masters' storage area only 25 large-size paintings received moisture damage. But the Zwinger Palace gallery's restoration workshop completely emerged in water and the entire technical infrastructure has been destroyed." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/23/02

STOLEN TITIAN FOUND: Police in London have recovered a stolen 16th-Century painting by Titian worth more than £5 million. The painting was recovered without its frame in a small plastic carrier bag. BBC 08/23/02

HIDDEN COLLECTION: The British Museum has acquired an important textile collection from Afghanistan, but it may be years before anyone will see it. The British Museum "has one of the finest collections in the world, of more than 18,000 textiles, ranging in size from tiny scraps of embroidery to vast carpets and entire tents, but it has been closed for years, and the plans for a new display and study centre and open store have collapsed in the museum's dire financial situation. The plight of the collection has been causing concern to international textile experts. Although cataloguing, research and conservation work has continued, it has been impossible to display them - not only to the public but even to visiting scholars." The Guardian (UK) 08/22/02

WHOLESALE LOOTING AND WASTE: Looting of Afghanistan's cultural treasures hasn't stopped with the overthrow of the Taliban - it has excalated. "The theft in the valley of Jam is only the most obvious evidence of a general destruction of Afghanistan's cultural heritage. But the pillaging of Jam is a recent, post-Taliban phenomenon. The chaos that followed the 1989 Soviet withdrawal kept antiquity traders away from the valley, and the Taliban had protected it as an Islamic site. Now, with a measure of order restored but with a lack of control from Kabul, looting is in full season. The demand for these objects and the money for the excavations come primarily from dealers and collectors in Japan, Britain and the United States. But there have also been reports of American servicemen buying antiquities from villagers. Items from Jam are already being offered on the art market in London, described as Seljuk or Persian to conceal their Afghan origin." The New York Times 08/25/02

NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION: You have your experts, we have ours. They don't agree - so what to do in the case of the painting Massacre of the Innocents, sold last month as being by Peter Paul Rubens? With Rubens' name attached, the picture was worth £50 million at auction. Without it - let's just say the value drops. Experts have come forward to dispute its authenticity. So if experts disagree, will science help? Not necessarily. So maybe the courts? A footnote - isn't it still the same painting, no matter who painted it? The Telegraph (UK) 08/21/02

CELEBRATION OF INDIAN CULTURE: Santa Fe's popular annual Indian Market "takes its name from two intense days of selling Indian art at outdoor booths around this city's plaza, but it has blossomed into a weeklong celebration of Indian culture with museum exhibitions, benefit auctions, gallery openings, music and even a film festival. 'You can no longer put Indian art off to the side. I think it has just gotten too good'." The New York Times 08/22/02

RISKY PLAN FOR FORBIDDEN CITY: A Chinese magazine has exposed plans by caretakers of Beijing's Forbidden City to build a three-story museum structure underneath the Forbidden City. The new structure would allow the display of thousands of artifacts currently locked away in storage. But critics charge the plan will endanger the palace. "The palace compound is built on a foundation of crisscrossing bricks and clay originally intended to keep the 'earth dragon' at bay (to limit damage from the earthquakes that occasionally strike Beijing) and to allow rainwater to dissipate. Tampering with the foundation would only put the structure at risk – and without good reason, critics say." The Independent (UK) 08/19/02

PARTYGOERS BREAK CHIHULY GLASS: Partygoers at Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory smash a $70,000 piece of Dale Chihuly glass art. "The work was a recent addition to the Chihuly in the Park: A Garden of Glass exhibit, which features 30 originals from the Tacoma, Wash.-based artist. The event has attracted more than 450,000 people since opening in November and has been so popular it has been extended twice." Chicago Tribune 08/19/02

SCIENCE AS ART (EVEN IF IT'S WRONG): "Bioart is becoming a force in the creative world. A glowing bunny made the front page of newspapers across the country two years ago, and installations that require biohazard committee approval are increasingly common at universities and art galleries." But often artists' interpretations of the science their work is about, is superficial and just plain wrong. Wired 08/19/02

PAINTER OF BLIGHT: Owners of ten of Thomas Kinkade's galleries across the country are suing Kinkade's company, claiming it has "saturated the market with Kinkade's works and sold them on QVC cable television, undercutting 'exclusive' galleries. Once devout followers of 'the painter of light,' now are saying that the business end of Kinkade's empire has a dark side. The Star-Tribune (Minneapolis) 08/18/02

AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH: Pepsi and Coke are in trouble with the Indian government. It seems that in their zeal to promote the soft drinks as the world's drinks of choice, the companies' franchisees in India painted ads for the drinks all over Himalayas. Literally. On the rocks. The Indian court was told "the advertisements had been plastered on an entire mountain side from the village of Kothi to Rallah waterfalls to Beas Kund, a stretch of about 56 kilometres. Coke said it was not sure if it would pay the clean-up cost." BBC 08/15/02


ALL OUT WAR: The US government is preparing an assault on digital file traders. "Washington lawmakers have been crafting bills that would give the entertainment industry the go-ahead to identify individual users, disrupt file-trading services and prosecute anyone suspected of digital piracy. The fear and loathing focused at the file-trading community is reminiscent of 1990, just before the Secret Service and the FBI conducted raids in order to smash the loosely affiliated hacker organizations around the country." Wired 08/22/02

SHRINKING ENDOWMENTS: The shrinking stock market has reduced the value of foundation endowments. "Nine of the 10 largest private foundations' assets, in the first half of this year, fell by a cumulative $8.3 billion. And that was before the market took a steep dive this summer." That's leading some foundations to consider reducing their grants to the arts. ALSO: many arts groups' endowments have also gone down, reducing the support that can be drawn from them. Backstage 08/22/02

SLASH AND BURN: Massachusetts' cuts in its state arts funding of 62 percent from $19.1 million to $7.3 million is "one of the deepest cuts in the country, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies." What are the consequences? State arts officials don't know specifics yet, but "Massachusetts will likely feel its cultural and economic muscles atrophy." Boston Globe 08/22/02

GET ME A COP: Why make a law to ban cell phones in theatres? Because asking nicely hasn't worked. "The warnings might as well have been in Esperanto, because inevitably, at some point during the first act, a cellphone goes off with its incessant beeps, or worse, with a tinkling rendition of Take Me Out to the Ball Game or the 1812 Overture. Heads are turned in the general direction of the sound, and the tsk-tsks start to drown out the ringing. Sometimes the culprits sheepishly dig deep into their purses, but often the cannier boobs do nothing and look around at their neighbors, just as annoyed as if they were the offender, a strategy no doubt also used when flatulance is the issue." Hartford Courant 08/18/02

10. FOR FUN 

RENT FOR DISPLACING THE HOMELESS? Activists in Vancouver, Canada have sent film production companies a letter demanding that the companies compensate street people who the companies chase out while filming on location. "Sex trade workers must be compensated for displacement they experience at your hands in the same manner you would compensate a business if you were to use their locale during operating hours. The same must hold true for homeless people you push from beneath a bridge or doorway and drug users you move from a park." Nando Times (AP) 08/22/02

SOMEONE LIKE PUTIN: A song about Russian President Vladimir Putin is getting massive airplay in Moscow. But the band that recorded it doesn't seem to exist, and there's no recording of the song for sale in stores. Someone Like Putin, by a band called Singing Together, "features a female lead singer complaining that her adolescent boyfriend fights and drinks. So she leaves him and looks for someone else: someone like Putin. A search of Moscow's record shops, markets and kiosks failed to turn up CDs or cassettes of the song. There have been no videos, concerts, or articles in the music press about the band." Ottawa Citizen 08/23/02

WANTED - CAVE DWELLERS (IT'S FOR ART): Some 150 people have applied to live in a cave for two days as part of an English public art project "which aims to recreate the 18th century fashion, fuelled in part by the poets Alexander Pope and Thomas Gray, for landowners to have a hermit living in some picturesque corner of their estates. 'We want to explore the nature of solitude and whether that has any resonance to anyone in the 21st century. Within what looks like a bit of fun, people will consider ideas that go back to Rousseau and Pope. It's a philosophical critique of the world in which we live'." The Guardian (UK) 08/20/02