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Week of October 15-20, 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


ART VS. APATHY: There is an increasing disconnect between people who spend their lives enmeshed in the world of art, and people who don't, and the gulf is marginalizing an entire industry. "In my experience, the art people speak only to art people, and believe, from this unrepresentative sample group, that people who read an intelligent newspaper -- sensitive people like judges or cabinet ministers or television producers -- are arguing daily with their husbands over the tea and toast about whether the paper's art critic has really understood the limitations of postpainterly abstractionism. In fact, for many if not most of my acquaintances who aren't actually artists, newspaper articles about the art world have a status only marginally higher than that of the bridge column. They are perceived as serving a niche equally small." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 10/16/02


THE NEW CLASSICS: Remakes of old ballets are an enduring tradition. But "the newest ballet remakes, created by a generation of mostly European choreographers, are different: They want audiences to remember the originals. Many of them prove daring about nudity and sex. Others put classically trained dancers through deliberately anti-classical moves to blur the line between ballet and modern dance. But the biggest change may be their sense of historical precedent. These ballets build on the past and acknowledge it every step of the way." Los Angeles Times 10/20/02

DANCING ON SCREEN: "The art of the dance film, a marriage of two art forms as old as the first moving pictures, grows more innovative by the year. No longer a simple matter of turning a camera on a stage performance, dance film and video makers borrow from music videography, from animation and computer-generated film techniques, and from stage technology to create choreography not only seen through the lens but created by contemporary audio-visual capabilities." Toronto Star 10/18/02

STAR POWER: Dance is a hard sell to a wider audience. Maybe what's needed is some compelling star personalities... The Telegraph (UK) 10/16/02


SANCTIMONY VS. SACRILEGE: The debate between Hollywood directors and the Utah company that is releasing 'edited' versions of their films with all the sex, violence, and foul language removed is fast becoming one of those hot-button issues where both sides become so absorbed in their own righteous point of view as to make compromise impossible. To the directors, the old-fashioned folks who just want to enjoy a good flick with their children are 'fascists'; and to the old-fashioned folks, those Hollywood people are one good full frontal scene from being hard-core pornographers. So where is all this headed? Federal court, of course. Los Angeles Times 10/14/02

WHAT LISTENERS WANT? These days radio is programmed by focus groups and consultants. Radio execs say that what we hear is more in tune with what listeners want than ever before. On the other hand... "radio was once regional, as different as every town. More and more, the whole country is listening to one station ... music is something that is magical, ultra-magical, and radio was an art form. Now it's something cold and different." Los Angeles Times 10/19/02

THE MOVIES YOU'LL NEVER SEE: "Every year, Hollywood studios quietly dump movies -- even ones with top stars -- that aren't worth the money to distribute in theaters. Call it Hollywood's dirty little secret. With marketing costs spiraling higher every year, studios increasingly have both economic and psychological incentives to cut their losses by keeping their stinkers in the closet." Los Angeles Times 10/16/02

FITS OF ANALYSIS: What is it about The Sopranos that critics can't resist? "Never before has a programme been subject to such extensive interpretation. "North American academics have recently published no fewer than five books about The Sopranos. The authors include psychiatrists, sociologists, literary theorists, postmodernists, post-structuralists and the other usual suspects. It's only fair to warn you that these are determined individuals who will not waste two words when a chapter will do." The Observer (UK) 10/20/02

A NOT-FOR-TV EVENT: As far as American TV news is concerned, upcoming elections might as well not be taking place. "Of 2,454 local news programs in the country's 50 largest media markets, 1,311 contained nothing at all on campaigns between Sept. 18 and Oct. 4, according to the Lear Center Local News Archive." Nando Times (AP) 10/16/02

VIDEO-ON-DEMAND GOES OFFLINE: Intertainer, the video-on-demand provider, is shutting down while it sues big entertainment companies. "The company said it cannot continue to provide movies and other programming online and on cable systems while entertainment companies raise prices and withhold programs." Nando Times (AP) 10/17/02


BRITAIN'S FAVORITE OPERA: It's Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, as voted in a Classic FM poll. "Wagner — whose work was almost exclusively operatic — is the most notable absentee, with no entries in the list which features just four composers." Andante (PA) 11/012/02

COSTLY ADVENTURE: Franz Xaver Ohnesorg's abrupt resignation as manager of the Berlin Philharmonic ended a costly adventure. Ohnesorg's big salary must still be paid through 2006, and he exposed the orchestra to a lawsuit it is likely to lose. "This is a waste of money Berlin style, and it is the clear result of a cultural policy that has its eyes more on names and insider relationships than on concepts or programs." Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10/11/02

COVENT GARDEN'S NEW MAN: Anthony Pappano is Covent Garden's new music director. It's a big and controversial position, the kind of job you have to grow into. But Pappano has confidence. "I think the house feels a new energy because I am always here and going to rehearsals and sort of going at 100 miles per hour all the time. And this opera house has needed that kind of investment." The New York Times 10/14/02

LEARNING ON THE JOB? Twenty-four-year-old Katharina Wagner, granddaughter of composer Richard Wagner, has been named by her father to succeed him running the Bayreuth festival. But in her first outing as an opera director, she's created a controversial production. "Storms of boos, alternating with bravos, buffeted the production team at the premiere. 'The reactions were very violent,' Ms. Wagner said. 'One woman said to me, `I know how Richard Wagner meant it.' That would be a real sensation if she really did'." The New York Times 10/15/02

ANOTHER ORCHESTRA GOES OUT OF BUSINESS: The troubled Calgary Philharmonic has suspended operations and filed a brief with a bankruptcy court, cancelling all concerts for at least the next 45 days and laying off 65 musicians and as many as 20 staff. Calgary's arts scene, never exactly a bustling one, is expected to suffer fallout from the CPO's slow and very public collapse over the last year or two, and many in the CPO organization seem surprised and disgusted that the city's wealthy residents didn't seem to do a lot to help when the chips were down. Calgary Herald 10/16/02

CHANGE AT THE TOP: Many of the world's top orchestras are introducing new music directors. "All this giddy change is partly coincidence; music directors come, and they go. But a new century also generates a new zeitgeist, and that surely motivates managements, some of which have gently or not-so-gently eased out aging, long-standing conductors. And these are turbulent times for classical music institutions." The question is - what does all this change mean? Los Angeles Times 10/20/02

ROCKED THE VOTE: "The music industry's engagement with politics has always ebbed and flowed. In the 1960s, when rock was part of a counter-culture, protest songs were both credible and glamorous. In the punk era, the Top 10 included a string of polemical singles by the Jam, the Clash and the Specials. Since then, thrilling music and political engagement have rarely coincided." The Guardian (UK) 10/18/02

BAZ'S BOHEME: Baz Luhrmann took two years and 3000 auditions to cast his La Boheme. It's currently playing previews in San Francisco before moving to Broadway. Visually, it's unconventional - teeming with "energy and characteristic Luhrmann colour. Luhrmann says his goal was to reinvent opera for a new generation; to bring it from its lofty level to mass audiences, in the way Puccini's art was enjoyed. The opera is sung in Italian, but with English surtitles that include such Batman-era translations as Kapow!, Thwack!and @#!&% for a mock fight scene." The Age (Melbourne) 10/18/02

JANSONS GETS CONCERTGEBOUW: The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam has named Mariss Jansons as its new chief conductor beginning with the 2004–2005 season. The only other serious contender for the post was Christian Thielemann. Andante 10/17/02

UNCOMMON CHANCES: The group Ethel is a string quartet. They play contemporary music. Often in places you don't usually find string quartets. But don't call Ethel a string quartet. It's a band. "What image does a string quartet put in your head? A dour group of people playing perfectly together in perfect harmony. That's not the path that I wanted to go down." The New York Times 10/20/02


FRIDA FETISH: Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is "currently the height of radical chic, and is likely to be even more in vogue when Julie Taymor's movie Frida, starring Salma Hayek, opens next year. But it is hard not to feel that there is something distasteful and unhealthy about the way we like our artists - particularly if they are women - to suffer. Would there be half as much interest in Kahlo's paintings if her life had been half as colourful and tragic?" The Guardian (UK) 10/14/02

MORE AMBROSE DEBATE: Some critics felt that obituaries of the historian Stephen Ambrose glossed over reports of his plagiarism, but Tim Rutten detected the opposite bias, singling out the Boston Globe as the most egregious Ambrose-basher, and pointing out that paraphrase (and footnoted paraphrase, at that) is very different from plagiarism. "All synoptic, narrative historians, which is what Ambrose was, paraphrase from other sources. If the standards laid down by his most rabid critics were applied to the four Evangelists, the three Synoptic Gospels would have to be denounced as acts of plagiarism--as would a substantial and revered part of the extant medieval corpus." Los Angeles Times 10/16/02

THE DAVE EGGERS PUZZLE: Dave Eggers' new book is being self-published and he's giving away the money earned from it. With the success of his last book he could have done anything he wanted. "He's so averse to promoting himself that it is the canniest act of self-promotion. He really doesn't care - really. But that's hard for anyone in the frenzy business to believe." Los Angeles Times 10/20/02

BUFORD TO LEAVE NYer EDITOR JOB: Bill Buford, who has been The New Yorker's fiction editor since 1994, is leaving the job to be the magazine's European correspondent. "In a way, it's going from the best editing job in town to the best writing job in town-except it's not in town." New York Observer 10/16/02

SCHAMA COMES OUT: Simon Schama is the most popular TV historian in Britain, a star who gets recognized on the street. "He is an intellectual superstar, a professor at Columbia in New York, where tickets for his lectures on art history and history are traded by touts. Last year, his colossal popularity helped sales of history books in Britain exceed, for the first time, those of cookery books, and applications to study history at university are increasing." The Telegraph (UK) 10/18/02


NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALISTS ANNOUNCED: Nominees include "You Are Not a Stranger Here," a debut story collection by Adam Haslett, "Big If," by Mark Costello; Julia Glass' "Three Junes"; Brad Watson's "The Heaven of Mercury"; and "Gorgeous Lies," by Martha McPhee, daughter of the award-winning essayist John McPhee." Nando Times (AP) 10/16/02

DO LIT PRIZES MATTER? They generate lots of publicity. But do literary prizes really make a difference to the world of letters? "Yes, say leading literary professionals, who believe such awards not only carry commercial weight, but also play an increasingly important role in connecting serious writers with readers eager for qualitative road signs in a world awash in books." Los Angeles Times 10/19/02

BOOK GLUT WARNING: Each year publishers release many of the biggest books in time for the holiday season; it is, after all, the time when most books are sold. But "this year the stream of titles from the publishing houses has become a flood, provoking booksellers to warn that some high-quality titles are at risk of being drowned." The Independent (UK) 10/17/02

BAD WAY TO CHOOSE: Lisa Jardine, the chair of the panel of judges for this year's Booker Prize says the way novels are chosen for consideration of one of the world's major literary awards is outdated and she "accused the head of the prize of having an outdated corporate agenda." She says "that the current crop of 130 books - two submitted by every publisher - was too large" and that "the judges were prevented from making the best decision by the sheer number of books they had to read." The Observer (UK) 10/20/02

THE CASE FOR N JERSEY'S POET LAUREATE: New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka is almost certain to be removed from the job because of a controversial poem he wrote about 9/11 that is being called anti-Semitic. "The issue is ultimately one of tolerance of diverse opinion. The left gave us political correctness in the early 1990’s, and now those processes of enforcing orthodoxy have been inherited by the right and the mainstream. And the heretics only happen to be talking about the most important international questions of our time." New York Observer 10/16/02

LUV ME, YA DUMMY: Who like to be insulted? And yet "publishers continue to appeal to potential book-buyers by labelling them dummies and complete idiots. And they've struck paydirt in the process." The Age (Melbourne) 10/15/02

MAKING SENSE: Is literary criticism in need of some organizing principles? "It may be that much literature makes sense in the light of the current warhorses of critical analysis: Marx, Freud, textualism, postmodernism, 'queer theory,' and so forth. But it is equally likely that a good deal of literature (just as life itself) makes more sense in the light of evolution. Accordingly, literary critics might well profit by adding Darwinian analysis to their armamentarium." Chronicle of Higher Education 10/14/02

THE HISTORICAL RECORD: Where is the intellectual rigor in today's historical fiction? "That some of today's historical novelists are talented is obvious, but equally obvious is the fact that they don't want to aggressively interrogate the historical record in any new ways, or challenge their readers' assumptions about how we imagine the past." MobyLives 10/14/02

REBUILDING THE GREAT LIBRARY: The Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed 1,500 years ago. "The original great library's collection of some 700,000 papyrus scrolls, including works by Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles represented the first time knowledge was collected and codified by scribes." Now it's been rebuilt The £130m project was initiated more than a decade ago, amid high hopes that the Biblioteca Alexandrina would recapture the spirit of the city's ancient seat of learning." But "the new library is riven with dispute over what its content should be. Egypt's fondness for censorship has meant that rows have already erupted over its book collection policy." The Guardian (UK) 10/16/02


FROM STAGE TO SCREEN: More and more stage directors are being recruited to direct movies. "Stage directors, like their film-school-bred counterparts, are storytellers who have to use visual and technical skill to advance a narrative. Hire a theater guy, and quite often you'll get somebody who is hungry for a challenge, willing to think in innovative ways - and who will know how to talk to actors." The Star-Tribune (LADN) 10/18/02

COST OF THE NEW: "Apparently, Canadian theatres love new play development. In the last decade, a veritable industry of script editing (or dramaturgy, as it's known in the trade) and workshopping has grown up on the national theatre scene, where increasingly the public is invited to watch development work." But is all the effort and expense worth it? The Globe & Mail (Canada) 10/19/02

DIGITAL THEATRE: Think of theatre as an analog experience in a digital era dominated by video? Wrong - today's theatre productions can employ an astonishing array of high-tech tools to create their magic. "Little more than a decade after a helicopter first landed onstage in the musical Miss Saigon, theatrical designers are stretching the boundaries of what is possible with a variety of new digital tools that allow them to coordinate and control dozens of independent elements - lights, sound, sets and special effects - from a keyboard." The New York Times 10/17/02

UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT: "The rumored takeover of [San Francisco's] Theatre on the Square by Broadway and touring producer Scott E. Nederlander has become fact. The 738-seat house near Union Square will change hands [later this fall]... The deal marks the end of independent producer Jonathan Reinis' 20-year run at Theatre on the Square. Reinis owns the theater's name and may retain it for other projects, including a proposed performing arts center at the UC Theatre in downtown Berkeley." San Francisco Chronicle 10/16/02

KING OF THE MUSICAL: Producer Cameron Mackintosh "likes being number one. In terms of musicals, he has been there for nigh on 20 years, colonising foreign cities with his chorus lines. For Miss Saigon alone, the figures it trails in its shadow are staggering. Performed in 15 countries and 79 cities. Translated into eight languages and winner of 29 major theatre awards. Played to 29 million - million! - people at more than 18,000 performances." The Scotsman 10/14/02

THE MUPPETS GO TO KABUL: After Afghan kids fall in love with a Muppet, creators of the puppets make new Afghan muppets and take them in a show to the war-torn country. BBC 10/15/02


IS MEXICO THE NEW CUBA? Mexico seems to be the hot place for art these days. At least that's what it seems like as planeloads of international curators descend. They're there, they say "because these artists have shown such wit, energy and international perspective - the sort of sophistication that the conventionally wise expect from art capitals like New York and Berlin. But these are artists schooled in skepticism, and some can't help but wonder: What if it's really just Mexico City's turn to be the art world's flavor of the month? Or worse, what if all this attention isn't really about art at all?" Los Angeles Times 10/20/02

JAPANESE SELL OFF ART: In the 1980s Japanese art collectors bought some of the world's most expensive and high profile art. When the country's economy tanked in the 90s, much of the high-priced art was quietly sold. "Now the Japanese recession is digging so deep that individuals and even respected museums are being forced to sell pieces acquired well before the Bubble period, including pieces officially listed as Important Art Objects." The Art Newspaper 10/15/02

COWTOWN TAKES THE STAGE: The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and its new 53,000 square-foot building will be the second largest museum devoted to art after World War II in the United States. What does it mean "when a place known as Cowtown suddenly takes the stage? After all, contemporary art is supposed to be a big-city sport, and Fort Worth is asking the world to rethink that concept." Dallas Morning News 10/20/02

COMMUNAL BUY: There's a long tradition of museums sharing exhibitions and artwork for exhibitions. Now some are also sharing ownership of artwork. "Aside from economic considerations that lead museums to collaborate, the kind of art being produced today lends itself more readily to group ownership." The New York Times 10/17/02

NAZI LOOT ONLINE: How to track down artwork stolen by Nazis in World War II? "American museums now think that the Web can help in their attempt to uncover the Nazi loot that may still be hanging on their walls. In September 2002, the American Association of Museums received a $240,000 grant from the federal Institute of Museum and Library Sciences for the creation of a Nazi-Era Provenance Internet Portal: a registry of objects in American museums of questionable ownership." Salon 10/16/02

NASTY PICTURES: The Brooklyn Museum's show of Victorian nudes "is yet another chapter in the so-called culture wars," writes Roger Kimball. "Over the past decade or so, it has become increasingly clear that this war is a battle about everything the Victorians are famous for: the 'cleanliness, hard work, strict self-discipline,' etc., that one of the people responsible for this exhibition speaks of with such contempt. Do those values, those virtues, articulate noble human aspirations? Or are they merely the repressive blind for … well, you name it: narrowness, hypocrisy, the expression of a 'white, patriarchal, capitalist, hegemonic,' blah, blah, blah?" New Criterion 10/02

BUT IS IT ARCHITECTURE? The unorthodox Gateshead Millennium bridge has won this year's Stirling Prize for Architecture. Judges for the Royal Institute of British Architects' annual prize said the "simple and incredibly elegant £22 million bridge was not only an innovative and bold engineering challenge, but also the one piece of architecture that would be remembered by people this year." The Guardian (UK) 10/14/02

FRIDA FETISH: Mexican artist Frida Kahlo is "currently the height of radical chic, and is likely to be even more in vogue when Julie Taymor's movie Frida, starring Salma Hayek, opens next year. But it is hard not to feel that there is something distasteful and unhealthy about the way we like our artists - particularly if they are women - to suffer. Would there be half as much interest in Kahlo's paintings if her life had been half as colourful and tragic?" The Guardian (UK) 10/14/02


ARGENTINA - ART IN A TIME OF CRISIS: "The Argentine economic crisis, in statistical terms at least as severe as the Great Depression, has profoundly altered the arts in this country - but not in the way one might expect. Despite the crisis, or more likely because of it, new performance and exhibition spaces have opened, artistic groups have formed and attendance at cultural events has stayed the same or increased." The American Prospect 10/16/02

THE FOUNDATION OF OUR SUPPORT: Across America charitable foundations are cutting back their grants as their endowments shrink with the stock market. The cutbacks figure to have big consequences on cultural groups that have also seen their funding from corporations and governments fall. But aren't times of economic stress precisely the times when foundations should step forward with more help, rather than less? It's a matter of giving philosophy... San Francisco Chronicle 10/18/02

SEASONAL DISORDER: Fewer Americans are buying season tickets for arts events and buying more single tickets. "This trend, exacerbated by the economic slowdown, may have enormous effects on what is presented, who attends and how performing arts groups manage their budgets. In classical music, more seats are being sold overall — 32 million attended the symphony nationwide last season, up from 27 million a decade ago — but for shorter series and on shorter notice, often through the Internet." The New York Times 10/16/02

THE SORRY PLIGHT OF THE NEA: The National Endowment for the Arts has been without a leader for ten months now. There's no sign of a replacement, though the rumored shortlist has been the same for months. Last week an internal reorganization by the acting head of the NEA caused a stir, but the agancy has so little clout these days no one's much paying attention. Chicago Tribune 10/20/02

COPYRIGHTS AND THE VOX POPULI: The Digital Millenium Copyright Act was hailed by musicians' unions and the recording industry for protecting copyrighted material, and excoriated by consumer advocates for being draconian and unreasonably restrictive on the rights of music and video buyers. The two sides could not be further apart on the issues, and now a period of 'public comment' is set to begin later this fall. There will be town meetings and solicitation of public opinion, and at the end of it all, the Librarian of Congress will rule on what sorts of exceptions exist under the DMCA. Trouble is, most observers believe that the legislation leaves no room for exceptions, regardless of what the public wants. Wired 10/16/02

AMERICA'S COPYHISTORY: American copyright law has become more and more restrictive over the years. And big corporate American copyright-holders complain about piracy of their material internationally. But historically Americans were enthusiastic pirates themselves. Back in the 19th century "American law offered copyright protection — but only to citizens and residents of the United States. The works of English authors were copied with abandon and sold cheap to an American public hungry for books. This so irritated Charles Dickens — whose Christmas Carol sold for 6 cents a copy in America, versus $2.50 in England — that he toured the United States in 1842, urging the adoption of international copyright protection as being in the long-term interest of American authors and publishers." The New York Times 10/14/02

NARROW DEFINITIONS: Does multiculturalism slot cultures into narrow categories from which it's hard to escape? In other words - should traditional native art be practiced only by natives? Or traditional Celtic craft produced only by... well, you get the point..."Please. If there is one thing we have discovered about globalization, surely it's that no culture can survive without support from outside itself." The Globe & mail (Canada) 10/15/02

WHY THE RIGHT NEEDS TO GET CULTURED: There's no denying that artists, historically, have tended towards the left side of the political spectrum, and as a result, right-of-center politicians have developed a bad habit of ignoring cultural issues completely. But "culture is now a huge earner, overtaking coal, steel and the motor industry. It is also a vital social issue as millions contend with shorter working weeks and long retirements. It cries out for a policy rethink. To ignore culture in the 21st century spells electoral suicide." London Evening Standard 10/14/02

SOUTH AFRICA ON THE MOVE: For awhile after apartheid ended in South Africa, the country's creative artists fell silent. It was if they needed to take a pause and think. But in today's South Africa, art flourishes - "there are new festivals, new production companies, one-man shows in small towns, powerful amateur productions by kids in townships that will astound you. This is the renaissance." The Guardian (UK) 10/16/02

THE VISA PROBLEM: What's the point of the Americans declining or delaying visas for prominent foreign artists? How can it be seen as anything other than an insult? "How would Americans respond if another country announced that Steven Spielberg or Bruce Springsteen would have to sit out an awards ceremony so that background checks could be completed to make sure they weren’t terrorists? Would we think that reasonable? Would we assume that no insult was intended against the United States?" 10/16/02

10. FOR FUN 

HOW ABOUT SOME UGLY PEOPLE? A researcher in Norway accuses journalists, photographers and TV producers there of "concentrating on beautiful faces and bodies and accuses the press of choosing attractive interviewees from schools or the workplace, and avoiding others. "Ugly people should be spotlighted in the media in the same way that the media wishes to emphasize persons from ethnic minorities." Aftenposten (Norway) 10/18/02

OOPS - MARTEL WINS THIS YEAR'S BOOKER - A WEEK EARLY: This year's Booker Prize winner will be announced next week. But due to a mixup on the Booker website, a notice announcing that Yann Martel has won was posted. A booker spokesperson rushes to assure one and all that the winner isn't really known yet. "The judges haven't met yet. I can guarantee that this isn't the actual result. There are six draft press releases for each of the shortlisted books and this is one of them." The Guardian (UK) 10/17/02

VANYA (AND MIKHAIL AND SERGEI) ON 42ND STREET: It was supposed to be a historic moment in post-Soviet cultural development in Russia - the first big-time Broadway musical to make it's way to Russia, complete with all the bells and whistles of a touring show in the States. It turned into a nightmare, with the American director lamenting the unwillingness of the Russian production team to take direction, with a last-minute Russian translation broadcast over headphones being the final straw.. "A character called 'Anytime Annie' in the English version had become 'Annie Spread Your Legs.' References to hookers and Viagra were littered throughout the script... One line, someone saying to a chorus girl: 'Hey Ethel -- must have been hard on your mother not having any children', was changed to: 'Hey, Ethel, too bad your mother didn't get an abortion.'" Washington Post 10/14/02