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Friday August 31

DMCA HERE TO STAY, SO FAR: Despite acknowledging concerns from libraries, politicians, and consumers, the U.S. Copyright Office has decided to let 1998's Digital Millenium Copyright Act stand as is. DMCA was the legislation that paved the way for the recording industry's assault on services like Napster, and led to new forms of digital and online copyright protection. Wired 08/30/01

Thursday August 30

ABOUT A CULTURAL FOUNDATION: Earlier this summer the German government proposed creating a new national foundation of culture. Maybe it's a good idea, but getting it to happen is about more than good ideas. It's about power, states' rights and matters of what art means. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 08/30/01

Wednesday August 29

LAUGHINGSTOCK OF EUROPE: London's South Bank Centre "has put itself almost beyond redemption. Formed by the Arts Council when Margaret Thatcher abolished its rightful owner, the Greater London Council, it has stumbled along for 15 years trying to convert a begrimed concrete caterpillar into an artistically attractive and financially efficient butterfly. The site is now on the verge of dereliction, a laughing-stock among European arts centres. Its functioning has become so slipshod that agents find it necessary to visit artists' dressing rooms before rehearsal to ensure there is a towel in the shower and that the towel has not been used by a previous occupant." The Telegraph (UK) 08/29/01

Tuesday August 28

THE DEFINITIVE CRITIC: Should a critic go back and "correct" judgments that were "wrong?" "It's not always easy for the reviewer to remember that he is (or should be) hired because he supposedly knows enough about his field to exercise informed and independent judgment. When everyone else is up there in the rooting section - 'Rah, rah for Toni Morrison!' - it can feel more than a little weird to be on the other side of the field giving the Bronx cheer. The pressures to get with the program - to sacrifice independent judgment and march with the herd - are exceedingly strong and difficult to resist." Washington Post 08/27/01

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING FESTIVAL: The Adelaide Festival is Australia's premiere arts festival. But the Adelaide has had some tough times in the past year, including an unforeseen deficit from the last festival. American Peter Sellars is artistic director for next year's edition, and says he's refocusing the event. But the festival was recently cut by a third, with Sellars justifying it by saying "the shorter period suited his integrated program." Others wonder about the impact of Australia's premiere arts event shrinking... The Age (Melbourne) 08/28/01

RECORD EDINBURGH: The Edinburgh Festival, Europe's largest, has just ended, posting record attendance this year. "A record 256,694 tickets were bought from the Fringe box office, an increase of 31 per cent on last year. Sales amounted to £1,967,863, up just under £500,00 on 2000." The Scotsman 08/27/01

  • VINTAGE EDINBURGH: Critics love to pick on Edinburgh, with its myriad quirks and blemishes. But this year is definitely a vintage edition, writes one critic. The Times (UK) 08/28/01

FANNING THE FLAMES OF BURNING MAN: Burning Man, the annual festival in the Utah desert that many thought symbolized the energy of the New Economy is underway again. But after a couple years of prodicgious growth, attendance is expected to be down this year, as the dotcom downturn cuts a swath through that economy. San Francisco Chronicle 08/28/01

SO ISLAMIC LAW FORBIDS THE INTERNET? The Taliban have banned use of the internet in Afghanistan. "The ministry is duty-bound to chase the violators of this decree and punish the violator in accordance to Sharia law. The ministry of communication is duty-bound to make the use of the Internet impossible." Nando Times 08/28/01

Monday August 27

DECIDING THE NEA: The US Congress is on its August recess, and the budget for the National Endowment for the Arts has not been passed. But "Congress' attitude toward the NEA appears to be the friendliest it's been in years, with both houses already approving budgets for the arts endowment." Backstage 08/24/01

BRITISH DROP: Fears of foot-and-mouth disease have kept tourists away from Britain in droves this summer. "The British Tourist Authority estimates that the drop in foreign holidaymakers will cost the industry up to £2.5 billion this year. Perhaps surprisingly, cities are among the worst hit. In London, a destination for almost half of all visitors from abroad, numbers are down by nearly 14 per cent," including a 10 per cent drop in theatre audiences in London's West End. New Statesman 08/27/01

WHAT KIDS THINK: A year ago the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette began running reviews of movies and music by kids on the newspaper's website. "I was not shocked to find that teen critics see things from a different perspective. What surprised me was the innate ability of some young writers to articulate complex ideas, their independence and willingness be honest in print and their maturity and dedication to the project." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/26/01

NOT SO POPULAR: What's happened to popular culture this summer? Movies aren't making a mark with audiences. Music and concert ticket sales are way down. Nothing has grabbed the popular imagination, and niches rule. Public Arts 08/24/01

Sunday August 26

MAKING SENSE OF CHANGE: "The 20th century placed a high premium on Making Things New - on innovations and shocks and determinedly eccentric perspectives - and much of that 'newness' has grown mighty old." This is not to long for a safe conservative past, but aren't we bored yet by change for the sake of change? Washington Post 08/26/01

THE ART OF HAITI: Haiti has endured decades of political instability and poverty. But the island bursts with art. “All of this triggered something. There’s art everywhere — the tap-taps, the signs. You go to a voodoo ceremony, you see it there, you see it everywhere.” MSNBC (Reuters) 08/25/01

Friday August 24

BUSH NAMES INTERIM NEA CHAIRMAN: Robert Sydney Martin will take on the job after William Ivey leaves at the end of September. "A veteran of the Bush tenure in Texas, Martin was the director and the librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission from 1995 to 1999. After that, he was a professor and interim director of the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman's University in Denton." Bush's search for a successor to Ivey continues. Washington Post 08/23/01

POWER-TRIPPING: What's the most loathsome job in the world? How about being a personal assistant to a Hollywood bigwig? "Add to these ugly and illegal activities a steady diet of screaming (a widely practiced, perfectly acceptable management technique), credit-theft and blame-delegation, and you'll understand why I'm less than surprised whenever I hear the war cries of suddenly insurgent pipsqueaks." The Guardian (UK) 08/24/01

SUPPORTING THE ARTS: New York mayor Rudy Giuliani's "decency commission" has recommended that "museums funded by the city, such as the Brooklyn Museum and the New York Public Library, should receive less money and that they should remove signs asking entering visitors for donations." Here's what the individual commissioners said... The Art Newspaper 08/24/01

Thursday August 23

BUSH NAMES INTERIM NEA CHAIRMAN: Robert Sydney Martin will take on the job after William Ivey leaves at the end of September. "A veteran of the Bush tenure in Texas, Martin was the director and the librarian of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission from 1995 to 1999. After that, he was a professor and interim director of the School of Library and Information Studies at Texas Woman's University in Denton." Bush's search for a successor to Ivey continues. Washington Post 08/23/01

ARTISTS QUITTING ISRAEL: International performers worried about the months of violence in Israel, are canceling out of concert dates. "Along with the tourists driven away by the months of violence here, a significant list of top foreign performing artists are also canceling visits, affecting the Israeli cultural scene." The New York Times 08/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

QUESTIONS OF BEAUTY: There is reported to be a new movement in art which demands "music with a melody, poetry that rhymes, paintings and sculpture that look like something, architecture with grace." What could be wrong with that? "Most obviously, there is the rather smug consensus among these new traditionalists that beauty is definable, and that their definition is the right one." Washington Post 08/23/01

ARTS CZAR STEPS DOWN: Evan Williams, Sydney's de facto arts Czar, is retiring. "Williams was the boss of the bosses of the Art Gallery of NSW, the Australian Museum, the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences (the Powerhouse), the NSW State Library, the Historic Houses Trust, the Sydney Opera House, the State Records of NSW, and the NSW Film and Television Office." Sydney Morning Herald 08/23/01

Wednesday August 22

THE ROAD TO DIVERSITY: A major London arts funder suggests that cultural diversity will play a role in its future funding plans. "The consequences can be plainly foretold. Theatre directors will be pressured in auditions to favour minority actors. A ballet troupe conducting its end-of-season cull will have to watch ethnic numbers or risk losing subsidy. Every string quartet will require a black viola player to conform with population norms, every art gallery a black madonna." The Telegraph (UK) 08/22/01

WORLD HERITAGE IDEAS: The United Nations lists some 700 cultural treasures around the world as heritage sites. "But why limit UNESCO's validating embrace to the realm of the physical? What about manifestations of human genius that may be ubiquitous but also happen to be intangible?" Like pizza, perhaps? The Atlantic 09/01

Tuesday August 21

READING THE CRITIC: So what is the critic supposed to add to an artistic experience? Martin Bernheimer thinks that "critic-haters, critic-bashers and critic-baiters have always whimpered about the eternal quest for objectivity. It's a silly quest, a futile ideal, an impossible dream." Andante 08/20/01

ANYONE WITH A WEBSITE... "In 2001, everyone’s a critic, with his own cute handle or year-end 10 Best list. The web is where traditional criticism is democratized, where the élite meet defeat at the hands of the cyber-rabble. You don’t need experience, insight or a spell- check function (Note to all websters: 'its' is a possessive, 'it’s' is a contraction), just passion and a lot of spare time." Time 08/27/01

Monday August 20

ARTS COMPARE TO FOOTBALL? In the UK "about 12.3 million people went to cultural events ranging from small community events to carnivals and music festivals last year. The figure is just short of the 12.5 million who went to Premiership football matches last season." BBC 08/20/01

REDEFINING EUROPEAN ARTS FUNDING: All across Europe - even in those places renowned as cultural hotbeds such as Austria, Germany, Italy and Russia - state funding of the arts has been declining. Arts companies have had to go hunting for other sources of funds. The Economist 08/16/01

LEAVING LONDON ALIVE: A few years ago London handed over the top jobs of three of its most important cultural icons - the Royal Opera House, South Bank and the Tate Modern - to foreigners. "Surely these high-profile international appointments were exactly the kind of acknowledgment London needed as the new centre of the arts world - the capital of Tony Blair's creative Britain? But now, within two and a half years, all three appointees have unexpectedly rejected their London roles. What went wrong?" The Observer (UK) 08/19/01

CULTURAL COST OF DEMOCRACY: "In the 10 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its ruling Communist Party, Russian culture has been limping along, surviving such indignities as shrunken budgets, distressed buildings and the onslaught of Western mass culture. In the scramble to survive, many cultural institutions have had to find commercial partners and, as Mr. Rozhdestvensky argued, dumb down their offerings in order to get audiences. Concert halls are booked with over-hyped, over-priced rock performers; imitation Broadway musicals, starring pop stars, play to sellout crowds. Film studios that once turned out prize-winning movies now churn out video clips and television cop shows." But is it all bad news? The New York Times 08/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday August 19

HOW TO END: "While great endings have always been the exception, not the rule, they seem on the verge of extinction in today's pop-culture marketplace. That's because great endings require a lot of things that aren't fashionable in this age of flash and spectacle. They're the culmination of ideas and emotions, of things that take time and energy, skill and inspiration to create. In other words, there are no shortcuts." Dallas Morning News 08/19/01

Thursday August 16

I WANNA SEE MICKEY. IN COURT: The owners of the commercial rights to Winnie the Pooh (acquired in 1926) are suing Walt Disney for $35 million. That's how much they say Disney has short-changed them on sales of computer software, VCRs, and DVDs. Disney says the original agreement did not cover those materials. International Herald Tribune 08/16/01

Tuesday August 14

ALL-ME ON DEMAND: Is technology making us narrow? "As a result of the Internet and other technological developments, many people are increasingly engaged in a process of 'personalization' that limits their exposure to topics and points of view of their own choosing. They filter in, and they also filter out, with unprecedented powers of precision." Boston Review 08/01

EMBRACING THE UGLY: "Ugliness is in the air, on the air, on the screen, trudging down the street, the runway, corroding advertising, art, design, music. It's the anti-aesthetic aesthetic. What is causing this ethos of awful? Those old bugaboos: boredom, a jaded consumer culture, and an overwhelming paucity of fresh ideas." Philadelphia Inquirer 08/14/01

Monday August 13

RICH GET RICHER: "Of nearly 950 arts and cultural groups in the Bay Area, just eight accounted for half the private contributions and government grants reported on tax returns filed in 1999, according to a Chronicle analysis of tax data compiled by the National Center for Charitable Statistics." San Francisco Chronicle 08/12/01

WHAT IS BEAUTIFUL? Everywhere there is a return to beauty - good-looking architecture, nice-sounding music, paintings that don't seek to assault you. So what exactly is beauty? A learned appreciation, or something more scientifically based? Prospect 08/01

Sunday August 12

THE YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY: The "Year of the Artist" just came to an end in the UK. Never heard of it? Hmnnn. A project of numerous arts boards and the Arts Council, it cost millions of pounds and "its premise was to increase support for individual artists, which meant sending out a lot of expensive blue-and-green press releases, flinging some cash around and encouraging companies to employ jugglers to keep the staff amused." Sunday Times (UK) 08/12/01

OF GLOBAL HOMOGENEITY: "Of all cities today, Vienna may offer the best vantage point for observing the impact of cultural tourism on the older urban centers. The city is now barely a husk of the world capital it was a century ago, when its artists and intellectuals and its polyglot population made Vienna the supreme embodiment of cosmopolitanism in modern times. But that historic backdrop makes a perfect contrast to the tourist culture of today." The New York Times 08/12/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday August 10

DAMAGE CONTROL: As the Adelaide Festival's board scrambles on damage control after a deficit was revealed and the festival's executive director and nine senior staff departed, artistic director Peter Sellars depicts a different next edition of the festival than the board is. Sydney Morning Herald 08/10/01

Thursday August 9

THE COST OF FREEBIES: It's opening night - a scene of the hip, the famous, and the free. Arts organizations give away thousands of dollars worth of free tickets to encourage high-profile people to come. After-performance parties can be lavish. Just what do the arts groups get out of such freebies? The Age (Melbourne) 08/09/01

ANGRY INVESTORS: Two hundred Australian investors in theatre, film and entertainment pojects are taking the promoters of those projects to court after the gobernment ruled that investing in the projects was a tax ruse designed to avoid taxes. Sydney Morning Herald 08/09/01

KENNEDY CENTER UNDER THE KNIFE: Washington's Kennedy Center will be a construction zone for the next few years, as the 30-year-old facility gets a long overdue major overhaul. The first stage, which gets under way this coming Monday, will be a complete re-routing of traffic in and around the center, and creation of additional parking space. Washington Post 09/09/01

GETTING BACK ON ARTS EDUCATION: "Since the 1970s, the arts have dwindled nationwide because of lack of resources. Some art teachers, unable to find employment, pursued other careers. But in the last decade, study after study has linked arts education to improved problem-solving skills and increased self-confidence. Administrators around the country started to retool their curricula accordingly." Los Angeles Times 08/09/01

Tuesday August 7

NEW SUPPORT FOR ARTISTS: The Australian government proposes new taxes on entertainment products to benefit less commercially viable artists. The government also proposes enacting a resale royalty for artists and extending copyright on artwork from 50 to 70 years after the creator's death. Sydney Morning Herald 08/07/01

ADELAIDE TURMOIL: The Adelaide Festival is in disarray after its chief executive and several senior managers resigned. Last month it was revealed that the festival's managers had considered dumping artistic director Peter Sellars' programming after the most recent festival lost $1.2 million. Sydney Morning Herald 08/07/01

BRIDGING THE GAP: Art and science would appear to require totally different mindsets, the one being fairly abstract and subjective, and the other being concrete and fairly absolute. "But now, more than 500 years after da Vinci combined artistic and scientific thought in a creative relationship, a group of Canadian academics, artists and scientists are saying it's time to follow his example. They want to encourage Canadian da Vincis to spread their wings by tearing down the artificial boundaries that separate science and art." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/07/01

THE VIRTUE OF GOOD: If you have no outstanding talent, is it worth trying to be very good at something? "Philosophers, over the past couple of thousand years, have offered two reasons for aiming at the heights of moral goodness: to improve the world and to perfect one's self. These reasons do not sit together very well." The New Yorker 08/13/01

Sunday August 5

MEET ME AT THE DEUTSCHE-TELEKOM GATE: "Can you imagine London allowing Big Ben to serve as an advertising billboard? Or Paris renting out promotional space on the Eiffel Tower? Well, that is more or less what cash-strapped Berlin has been forced to do with the legendary Brandenburg Gate. In what many regard as a blow to civic pride, the majestic archway is now draped with a shroud bearing the pink "T" logo of Deutsche Telekom, which is paying for restoration work the German capital cannot afford." National Post (Canada) 08/04/01

NEW FRONTIERS, OR JUST BAD ART? As cities around the world kick off their respective "fringe festivals," the continued rise of the "Do-It-Yourself" art movement bears some closer inspection. "Is this the golden age for creativity, or just a time when you can't tell good art from bad?" St. Paul Pioneer Press 08/05/01

TRYING TO END-RUN THOSE BLOODY AMERICANS: "The British Museum has launched a fundraising drive to keep an ancient marble sculpture of a dog in the UK. The 2nd century Roman statue, The Dog of Alcibiades, has been put up for sale by its British owner and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, has shown an interest in buying it. . . Now the British Museum is attempting to raise the £662,000 asking price by the sale deadline." BBC 08/03/01

Friday August 3

WHAT ARE WE SPENDING? How is public money being spent on the arts in the UK? A new report claims that "there has been a consistent failure to establish dependable data on subsidies, accompanied by a serious lack of analysis, which impairs both decision making and policy outcomes. 'How can we know if we’re getting value for money if the official bodies don't even know where all the money is going, where it comes from, or how it is spent'?” The Art Newspaper 07/28/01

ON THE FRINGES: The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is getting underway - 666 groups from 49 different countries are performing 1,462 shows. Ticket sales are up £200,000 over last year (as people avoid the countryside and hoof-and-mouth disease). But some involved in the festival are angry that while the Fringe is "such a powerful public event, it really gets next to no public support either in the city or from places like the Arts Council." BBC 08/03/01

Thursday August 2

NUMBING DOWN: "Doesn't anyone ever get scandalized by art any more? We live in tolerant times, but we also live in numb ones. It takes a lot more than simulated sex or a bit of nudity to bring out the pickets. Publicists are always trying to tell the world their upcoming project is 'controversial,' but mainly it's wishful thinking." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 08/02/01

UPPING THE CORPORATE FACTOR: Australian businesses sponsor sports to the tune of $282 million a year; but arts sponsorships amount to only $29.2 million. One organization is trying to help the arts catch up. Sydney Morning Herald 08/02/01

Wednesday August 1

GETTING ON THE FRONT PAGE: The recent record-setting auction of a sketch by Leonardo made front-page headlines all over the world. But the stories didn't seem to be much about anything to do with art. "Good art is difficult, slippery stuff, hard to get a handle on for even the most expert. That's why we love an occasion when we can substitute talk about something we're all at home with -- like buying and selling, or an artist's life and times, for that matter -- for real art talk. We believe that important art is the kind of thing we ought to read about in our high-class morning papers. But it can only make the news when it gets pulled out of the bog of aesthetics, into the good, crisp world of business, politics, sex or scandal." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 08/01/01

PROTESTING NEW COPYRIGHT RULES: Artists have joined computer programmers in protesting the arrest of a computer programmer who wrote a program cracking e-copy protections in Adobe software. Protesters say fair use provisions should allow copying of digital material without payment to copyright holders. CNet (Reuters) 07/31/01

PRICE-FIXING AND THE THREE TENORS: "Warner Communications Inc., a leading music distributor, will halt a promotion policy that the Federal Trade Commission alleged involved fixing prices for recordings of the opera stars, The Three Tenors." Nando Times (AP) 08/01/01