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Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Carreras On A Mission It's been 16 years since tenor Jose Carreras almost died of leukemia. "His survival spurred him to work for the rest of his days for a cause - his concerts now raise money for the José Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation. This raises funds for research, including scholarships for young scientists; helps establish bone marrow transplantation centres; and supports round-the-clock information services for patients." The Independent (UK) 12/29/03

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Actor Alan Bates, 69 "Sir Alan had a long career in the theatre, cinema and television. The brooding good looks that brought him early success in John Osborne's Look Back in Anger matured into a talent for a wide range of modern and classical roles." BBC 12/28/03

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Ballard: Why I Turned Down The Queen's Honor Why did writer JG Ballard recently turn down an honor from the Queen that would have made him a Commander of the Brtitish Empire? "It goes with the whole system of hereditary privilege and rank, which should be swept away. It uses snobbery and social self-consciousness to guarantee the loyalty of large numbers of citizens who should feel their loyalty is to fellow citizens and the nation as a whole. We are a deeply class-divided society." The Guardian (UK) 12/22/03

Victor Gruen, Father Of The American Shopping Mall Victor Gruen was a German emigre who came to the United States, and created the quintessential shopping mall. "Gruen was a classic American type, the brilliant and driven immigrant who struggles to achieve wealth and influence but who yearns most of all for legitimacy. Like the immigrants who built Hollywood, Gruen combined art and commerce in new ways that captured something deep in the American psyche. His powerfully demotic designs helped pave the way for the egalitarian suburban landscape most Americans choose to live in today." OpinionJournal 12/24/03

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Still Dancing At 65 "Dudley Williams is still dancing onstage at 65. Having joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1964, Mr. Williams is the longest active member of the company, perhaps one of the longest active professional dancers anywhere." The New York Times 12/21/03

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Why Does Everyone Hate Martin Amis? Martin Amis on the acid reception his latest book has attracted: "Questions I don't mind. Then there's commentary. I seem to attract this heat. I, the book, took a weird corrosive jolt this time. It just got established you could say whatever the hell you liked. In England, I couldn't avoid reviews. I'd be walking down the street and on the newsstand it would say, up by the publication title, MARTIN AMIS IS S--T. It's like watching your child being ragged in the schoolyard. What's truly galling is when you wake up and it is in your head, when what should be in your head is what you're writing next. But if you answer back, you're accused of whining. You can't win." Newsweek 12/04/03

BBC Arts Reporter Quits After New Writing Restrictions The BBC is placing restrictions on its reporters from writing for newspaper. So ace arts correspondent Rosie Millard has quit to go write for the Sunday Times. "Millard, who is 38, married to a TV producer and the mother of three children, was already an established feature writer when she joined the BBC, and has always maintained a parallel print career: she also writes for the New Statesman. She is understood to have been upset at the prospect of having her writing curtailed or restricted." The Guardian (UK) 12/18/03

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Barenboim Apologizes (Sort Of) And Gets Prize Daniel Barenboim will be awarded Israel's Wolf Prize after all. "The education minister, Limor Livnat, had demanded that Mr. Barenboim apologize publicly for defying an unwritten Israeli ban on Wagner. Holocaust survivors still associate Wagner with the Nazis. In an interview on Tuesday with Israel Radio, Mr. Barenboim said he had no regrets about playing the work, but added, 'If people were really hurt, of course I regret this, because I don't want to harm anyone'." The New York Times (AP) 12/18/03

Assistant To A Star Being an assistant to a star is tough work. So now there's a new association of assistants to ease the bumps. "Last week, the UK Association of Celebrity Assistants (UKACA) was unveiled at a low-key launch party in Belgravia. The guests were Moneypennys to megastars and, as you might expect, they were excruciatingly well-behaved and sober. Cards were exchanged, telephone numbers swapped and everyone left by 8.45. As the PAs of celebrities, these people are used to melting into the background, which is exactly what they did." The Telegraph (UK) 12/18/03

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Oscar Peterson At 78 At 78, pianist Oscar Peterson has personified jazz piano for more than 50 years. "Personifying mainstream jazz piano isn't, however, the same thing as being the most significant pianist. Earl Hines, Erroll Garner, Tommy Flanagan and Bill Evans are merely a handful of the dozens of stylists who exceed Peterson in creativity and sheer beauty of playing. But Peterson, in his international stardom and through-the-years box office success, far eclipsed nearly all of these other stalwarts." Washington Post 12/17/03

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Rigler, Classic Arts Showcase Founder, 88 Lloyd Rigler founded Classic Arts Showcase, an "eclectic television service that distributes performing arts films at no cost to public television stations. His Classic Arts Showcase, started in 1994, shows archival and contemporary film clips from all over the world, made available via satellite to an estimated 50 million homes. With its scenes from opera, ballet and early television, it has been called MTV for classical music fans." The New York Times 12/13/03

Pavarotti's Wedding Superstar tenor Luciano Pavarotti has married his longtime girlfriend, Nicoletta Mantovani, in a star-studded ceremony in Modena, Italy. Mantovani, at 34, is exactly half Pavarotti's age, and the couple have a one-year-old daughter. The marriage took place in a theater, with the mayor of Modena presiding, and Andrea Bocelli performing the Ave Maria in front of an assemblage of celebrity guests. Chicago Sun-Times (AP) 12/14/03

Writers On The Front Lines "[Culturally] blurred lines between fiction and nonfiction are appropriate for Israeli writers like [Amos] Oz, David Grossman, and A. B. Yehoshua, who are deeply engaged peace activists as well as novelists. All three flew to Geneva two weeks ago to take part in ceremonies surrounding the signing of the Geneva Accord, a new, extragovernmental peace pact negotiated by Israeli and Palestinian civilians. For most of their careers, including the past three years, as the second Palestinian intifada has waxed and waned, these writers have been struggling to address the problems of their country while trying to find the peace and quiet necessary for their literary work." The New York Times 12/13/03

Aftermath: Robert Hughes Looks Back "Everyone is at least familiar with the horror story surrounding Robert Hughes, the renowned Australian art critic and TV talking head: the accident that left him crippled, the threat of extortion that came from some of the travellers in the other car, the dangerous driving charges that were laid, then dismissed, then reinstated, and his subsequent sentencing in a court this year." Hughes, who has written a new book on Goya, seems decidedly embittered by his experiences, and is furious with elements of the Australian press who sought to tar him as irresponsible and bigoted. He also believes that he was a victim of a judiciary run amok in provincial Western Australia. And just for the record, he believes that George W. Bush is "[leaching] any sense of democracy out" of America. In short, Hughes is not a happy man. The Age (Melbourne) 12/13/03

Friday, December 12, 2003

Frayling - The Man For The Job Christopher Frayling is the new head of Arts Council England, and he seems well suited for it. "To those who regard themselves as on the inside, Frayling is known not as a popular historian but someone who has sat on every cultural committee going and has connections stretching from, where? - South Kensington to, presumably, 10 Downing Street. He is a trustee of the V&A, chairman of the Design Council, and has previously been a member of the Arts Council, as well as, less respectably, helping to choose the contents of the Millennium Dome's faith zone. Frayling is even better connected than his predecessor in the job..." The Guardian (UK) 12/12/03

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Illinois's New Poet Laureate "When legendary wordsmith Gwendolyn Brooks died in December 2000 after more than three decades as Illinois' poet laureate, she left behind some mighty big shoes to fill. On Wednesday, following a three-year search, poet and teacher Kevin Stein replaced her. A longtime English professor at Bradley University in Peoria and the married father of two, he edged out co-finalist Rodney G. Jones of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale." Chicago Sun-Times 12/11/03

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Literary Lion Of Tulsa For nearly half a century, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko has been "a piercing voice of conscience, sometimes bitterly angry, other times overflowing with enthusiasm and hope. Many Americans see him as part Walt Whitman and part Bob Dylan; Russians know him as a wildly popular poet who embodies their country's spirit and has often screamed truths that others feared to whisper. His fame has spread far beyond his homeland, and today he is among the world's most widely admired living writers." And now he's in Tulsa... The New York Times 12/11/03

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

David Lynch: $1 Billion For World Peace Center Filmmaker David Lynch has "lent his famous name and idiosyncratic hairstyle to a project to raise $1 billion on behalf of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the Indian guru of transcendental meditation who once entranced the Beatles, and who has for the past few decades been striving to build an earthly paradise. The $1 billion is for a meditation centre big enough to hold 8,000 skilled practitioners. Lynch explains that such a critical mass of positive thinking 'broadcast' from one spot will be enough to pacify the world." The Guardian (UK) 12/09/03

Buena Vista Star Gonzalez, 84 "The Cuban pianist Ruben Gonzalez, one of the leading members of the musicians that formed the Buena Vista Social Club, has died aged 84." BBC 12/09/03

Monday, December 8, 2003

Kennedy Center Honors Comedienne Carol Burnett, country music star Loretta Lynn, soul legend James Brown, film and stage director Mike Nichols and violinist Itzhak Perlman get their Kennedy Center Honors. "In time-honored style, each was enveloped in adulation, encomiums supplied by a parade of fellow celebs." Washington Post 12/08/03

Barenboim - An Artist's Dilemma "The question of when an artist must engage in politics remains a painful, personal dilemma. It is an issue that preoccupies Daniel Barenboim, Israel’s most celebrated musician and its most vociferous critic. Barenboim has taken his opposition to Israeli policy to the front line, forming a youth orchestra from both sides of the conflict and teaching twice a year at a conservatory in Ramallah whose 800 students, he admits, are imbued with a hatred of Israel. He has been abused by Israeli politicians and pelted with vegetables in a Jerusalem restaurant. But the more he criticises Israel, the deeper his commitment grows." La Scena Musicale 12/03/03

Family Feud - Why Scotland's Most Famous Composer Shut Up James MacMillan is Scotland's most famous composer. But "over the past five years or so, the steady deterioration in the relationship between the country's most famous composer and Scottish society at large has progressed gradually and relentlessly, until now, when there is no relationship at all. Systematically, MacMillan has cut himself off from communications with the outside world.
Many of the circumstances of the decline are well-known – notorious, even – though one day there is a large footnote to be written in the history of Scottish contemporary cultural life, in order to document the whole sad, shambolic affair."
Glasgow Herald 12/08/03

Sunday, December 7, 2003

Robbins: Dissent=Patriotism Actor Tim Robbins has a new play opening in Los Angeles. He says that "being lambasted as un-American" for his outspoken views on the Iraq war has been "tough to swallow. Despite his radical rep, he actually sees his penchant for democratically sanctioned dissent as every bit as all-American as his love of baseball. He says his moral compass has always guided him toward saying and doing what he thinks is right, to speaking the truth when he sees hypocrisy in the world, and he has trouble understanding why so many people take issue with the simple logic of his frankness." San Francisco Chronicle 12/07/03

Overlooking Dali's Fascism? The 100th anniversary of Salvatore Dali's birth is coming. Vincente Navarro writes that: "The Spanish establishment, with the assistance of the Catalan establishment, wants to mobilize international support for their painter, Dali, portraying him as a "rebel," an "anti-establishment figure" who stood up to the dominant forces of art. They compare Dali with Picasso. A minor literary figure in Catalonia, Baltasar Porcel (chairman of the Dali year commission), has even said that if Picasso, "who was a Stalinist" (Porcel's term), can receive international acclaim, then Dali, who admittedly supported fascism in Spain, should receive his own homage." Counterpunch 12/07/03

Friday, December 5, 2003

Jim Wolfensohn's Birthday Party "It's good to be Jim Wolfensohn, no question about it. He runs a global institution with 10,000 employees and doles out $30 billion annually to make the world a better place. A career in investment banking made him personally rich-rich-rich. He's got friends in high places and, because he loves music, is pals with some of the world's greatest musical artists. So Wolfensohn pulled some strings for the evening. Last night's performers included Bono, cellists Yo-Yo Ma, Cho-Liang Lin and Sharon Robinson, pianist Vladimir Feltsman, violinists Jaime Laredo and Pinchas Zukerman -- and the amateur of the bunch, Wolfensohn. 'Not a bad group,' he said with a chuckle." Washington Post 12/05/03

My Family, The Wagners Gottfried Wagner, great grandson of composer Richard Wagner, has a complicated family. "As Gottfried continues to speak, it becomes apparent that Richard Wagner (who died in 1883) isn't really the source of his angst. Although he firmly believes that his operatic great-grandfather was a raving anti-Semite who harmfully influenced German thought, what Gottfried is most concerned about is his more recent relatives' involvement in 20th-century Nazi politics, and their subsequent efforts to sanitize the family name. He contends that the family was left in charge of the Bayreuth Festival after the Second World War because they successfully hoodwinked the occupying forces." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/05/03

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Mockbee Wins Architecture Gold Medal "In an era marked by celebrity architects and grand cultural projects, the American Institute of Architects has awarded its 2004 Gold Medal to Samuel Mockbee, a visionary designer and educator who devoted his career to building housing for the rural poor. The award, announced yesterday, is posthumous." Washington Post 12/05/03

Everybody Hates Martin What is it about Martin Amis that causes the British literati to shriek and howl and begin sharpening their metaphorical knives? Is it that his famous father is still casting too long a shadow? Or is it Martin's own predilection for baiting his detractors? Or is it, possibly, simple jealousy for the man's success, commingled with a passionate intellectual distaste for the vernacular style favored by Amis? In truth, it's probably a little of each. But whatever the cause, Martin Amis is a hunted man, and he doesn't seem to mind all that much. San Francisco Chronicle 12/04/03

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

News Flash: Heppner's Human When Ben Heppner made his much-anticipated return to Toronto last week, his voice faltered and he cut short his performance, causing some critics to declare that his much-touted comeback from vocal injuries is already a failure. But the reality is that many concertgoers hadn't even noticed Heppner's faltering until he apologized for it, and Kate Taylor thinks that the whole episode is being way overblown. "We continually parrot the cliché that in a live show anything can happen, but most of the time, at least from the audience's perspective, the experience is safely controlled. Heppner has reminded us that the performer is not a machine; he's a man who can have a great night -- or a bad one." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 12/03/03

  • Previously: Heppner - Back In Form After stumbling in recital in Toronto last week, Ben Heppner recovers in Vancouver, writes William Littler. "Whether he is correct in his vocal diagnosis — that he has been suffering from sheer fatigue, rather than something more serious — remains to be determined through the course of future performances. In the meantime, Canada's most important voice on the world's operatic stage appears to be on the mend and the relaxed way in which Ben Heppner bantered with his Vancouver listeners and signed post-concert autographs for a lobby full of them, suggests that its owner, at least, isn't greatly worried." Toronto Star 12/02/03
Tuesday, December 2, 2003

My Kidney For A Sax A Moldovan musician has sold his kidney to buy a saxophone. "Sergiu, 23 - who as a professional musician has toured parts of Europe - sold the kidney to a Turkish hospital for $10,000 (£5,800). He has since been able to afford the instruments to further his career in the poverty-stricken eastern European country." BBC 12/02/03

Heppner - Back In Form After stumbling in recital in Toronto last week, Ben Heppner recovers in Vancouver, writes William Littler. "Whether he is correct in his vocal diagnosis — that he has been suffering from sheer fatigue, rather than something more serious — remains to be determined through the course of future performances. In the meantime, Canada's most important voice on the world's operatic stage appears to be on the mend and the relaxed way in which Ben Heppner bantered with his Vancouver listeners and signed post-concert autographs for a lobby full of them, suggests that its owner, at least, isn't greatly worried." Toronto Star 12/02/03

  • Previously: Message To Ben Heppner: Stay Out Of Toronto! Two years ago tenor Ben Heppner had to walk offstage in the middle of a recital in Toronto because of vocal problems. He got medical attention and stopped singing. Earlier this year he resumed singing and the problems seemed gone. Then this recital in Toronto: As the concert went on, "traces of fragility in the upper third of his voice became more obvious and oppressive. He began the second half with a frank acknowledgment of his problem. He would sing on, he said, for as long as we and he could manage. But it was never the forceful high notes that went awry. It was the sustained medium-volume singing in that upper third of the voice. The sound would waver and shred, and all the sophistication and subtlety of this fine artist would count for nothing. In the end, he sang five of the nine programmed songs, with varying degrees of distress." The Globe & Mail (Canada) 11/29/03
Monday, December 1, 2003

Kremer: What Price "Perfection"? Violinist Gidon Kremer on the state of modern artistic accomplishment: "We are living in a digital age. It is a dangerous time for art when perfection is considered the highest achievement rather than some substantial statement or a profound insight." The Telegraph (UK) 12/02/03

Then There Was The Time Picasso Was Interviewed By The "E" Channel So, like, Mr. Picasso, were you like really, really excited to have the chance to finally paint "Lady with a Fan"? The New Yorker 12/01/03

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