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Weekend, February 16, 17


Words And Writing - Now In 3D! "For a decade, scientists and engineers have used virtual reality and other so-called 'immersive technologies' to help them visualize complex designs and natural phenomena. A project underway at Brown University is taking that concept a step further by exploring how these 3-D computerized environments could expand our understanding of the written word." The man in charge of the project is Robert Coover, who began his examination of what he calls 'The Cave' of virtual environments years ago, with actions as simple and revolutionary as imbedding hyperlinks in his text. Now, the experiment has expanded to include audio, virtual reality, and other innovations so far afield from traditional 'writing' as to seem more like a video game than a novel. Wired 02/15/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 8:15 am

A Tale of Two Orwells A real, old-fashioned literary spat is developing on the pages of two of America's most respected magazines, and the focus of the debate is George Orwell, the cynical cuss who penned Animal Farm and 1984 and coined the term "Cold War." In the blue corner, arguing for Orwell's continuing relevance in the age of George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein, is professional agitator Chris Hitchens, backed up by The New Republic's literary editor, Leon Wieseltier. And in the red corner, arguing that Orwell wasn't nearly as prescient and sagelike as he is often given credit for, is Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Louis Menand. Let's get ready to grumblllllllle! Los Angeles Times 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 1:22 pm

Visual Arts

From The People Who Brought You Crappy Radio The explosion of 'blockbuster' museum exhibits designed to draw in thousands upon thousands of art lovers has been well-documented. But what you may not know is that, more often than ever, the museum experience is little more than a bought-and-paid-for package distributed to your local gallery by giant for-profit corporations like the omnipresent Clear Channel. "Just as it changed Broadway theater roadshows and the concert business, so Clear Channel is changing the economics -- some would say the soul -- of a museum culture that traditionally has built its own shows or borrowed them from peers. It's making some institutions look too much like theaters for hire. And it's a trend that has many old-line museum people worried." Chicago Tribune 02/16/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 9:03 am

Melbourne May Lose Fair The 15-year-old Melbourne Art Fair, one of Australia's largest and most successful showcases of contemporary art, is in danger of being cancelled due to lack of funds. The problem is partly one of perception: the fair's wild success over the past decade is seen as proof by many that it no longer requires public funding, but the truth is that the fair's budget is quite tight, and disruptions to regular revenue streams could prove deadly. Such a disruption is currently underway in the form of an impasse on the city council, which has chosen not to make its usual contribution to the event. The Age (Melbourne) 02/17/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 8:23 am

Decision Time At Ground Zero "The time has come to make a fateful choice about the future of the devastated place in Lower Manhattan where the World Trade Center towers used to stand." So says Benjamin Forgey, in making his official endorsement of Daniel Libeskind's haunting yet elegant proposal. The New York authorities won't issue their final decision for a few weeks yet, but Forgey says that while both finalists have created worthy (if flawed) designs, the Libeskind proposal "opens a path. It foresees meaningful public spaces shaped by moving architecture." Washington Post 02/15/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 7:52 am


The 21st Century Comes To The BSO The Boston Symphony Orchestra has launched what it is calling an online conservatory on its web site, with features designed to draw in tech-savvy younger audiences, and make the old music the BSO plays relevant to a modern audience. So how did they do? Three tech experts give the orchestra high marks for the effort, but say the content and style have a long way to go. Still, the project may be the beginning of a new movement designed to drag symphony orchestras into the Internet era. Boston Globe 02/16/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 8:45 am

The Case Of The Disappearing Diva Sopranos are famous for their temperamental nature, of course, and these days, few are surprised when a big star storms off in a huff or refuses to take the stage until some detail or other is attended to. But soprano Sumi Jo managed to shock even the hardened pros at Opera Australia this week, when she left not only the company, but the continent, in the middle of a run of performances of Lucia di Lammermoor. The singer, who is pregnant, reportedly returned home to Rome on doctor's orders, but did so without informing the company, the director, or even her own manager. Opera Australia execs found out when Sumi Jo's hotel phoned up to tell them she'd checked out. The Age (Melbourne) 02/14/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 8:29 am

Scrapping Over Hector "The 200th anniversary of the birth of arguably France's greatest composer Hector Berlioz has sparked a row over his final resting place. His devotees are divided over whether his remains should be moved to the Pantheon in Paris. The committee organising a year of celebrations and concerts to mark the bicentenary wants the highpoint to be the transfer of his body in a state ceremony on 21 June - France's annual Fete de la Musique, or Music Day. But it is met with unexpectedly harsh opposition from many of the composer's own fans, as well as from critics who say Berlioz was a right-winger with no place in France's Republican Valhalla." BBC 02/16/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 8:08 am

Nouveau Riche or Never Better? Surprisingly, the Metropolitan Opera still holds a lowly position in the minds of many old-school European opera fans, who look at the New York institution as little more than a plaything for ultrarich Manhattanites. But if such views were once at least founded in truth, they have little to do with what the Met has become in modern times. True, money is still a big factor in its success, as it is for any opera company not subsidized by a government (as all those old-school European operations are,) but fiscal largesse aside, many critics now believe that the Met offers the best, most consistent operatic product to be found anywhere in the world. Toronto Star 02/15/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 7:46 am

Exodus In Colorado Soon, it seems, there will be nothing left of the Colorado Springs Symphony but the name, a board, and a whole lot of questions. In the last month, the symphony has filed for bankruptcy, seen its music director resign in protest of that action, and gotten a judge to void its contract with its musicians. Now, the CSS's associate conductor has resigned as well, taking some nasty shots at the board on his way out the door. Denver Post 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 12:58 pm

  • Previously: Why The Colorado Springs Symphony Fell Apart How did the Colorado Springs Symphony get to the edge of bankrupcty and see its musicians revolt and start their own orchestra? Management of the orchestra says it was a "downturn in the economy, lack of a sustainable donor base and low market demand." Musicians say it's been poor management and a string of questionable decisions... Colordao Springs Independent 02/12/03

Arts Issues

Christo Hits Another NYC Roadblock Cities are governed not only by mayors and councils, but by community groups and boards large and small, each determined to preserve their own little piece of political turf. This can make speedy decision-making quite a headache, which the artist Christo is finding out as he attempts to secure permission to mount a major installation in New York's Central Park. While most of the legal hurdles facing the project have been cleared, there is mounting opposition in upper-class neighborhoods adjoining the park. The objection doesn't seem to be to the art itself, but to the way in which the proposal was presented. In other words, no one asked the Upper East Side if it was okay. The New York Times 02/16/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 9:40 am

Making Repatriation Personal The movement pushing on governments and museums to return art and artifacts looted by the Third Reich to their original owners has picked up steam in recent years, and a number of high-profile repatriations have occurred. But to Anne Webber, who runs the Commission for Looted Art, the recent successes are merely the tip of the iceberg. Her organization is currently working on over 100 cases of appropriated art, with plenty more waiting in the wings. Asked why it has taken so long for this cause to be taken up, Webber replies that the families have been trying to regain their possessions for decades, but "for a long time there was no one to help them." The Telegraph (UK) 02/15/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 9:23 am


Blurring Lines And Making Enemies Tan Dun is one of the most successful composers of his generation, and recently, he has become one of the most controversial as well. "Some hear the sound of the future in the mingling of East and West and high art and popular culture in his work. Others hear pretentiousness, vulgarity, and cultural opportunism." The reaction may be somewhat akin to the backlash that greeted singer Paul Simon when he began appropriating African melodies for use in his own American-style folk-rock tunes. The debate is over where the line is drawn between sampling of artistic influences and outright theft of culture. Boston Globe 02/16/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 8:36 am

The Collector Behind The Curtain So who is Joey Tanenbaum, the art collector who this week announced a massive donation of 211 works of 19th-century art to an Ontario gallery? And what motivates the collector to spend so much of his time and money acquiring such very specific pieces? Well, the short answer is that he's a gregarious, talkative 71-year-old real estate magnate from Toronto, "a man who loves to tell stories, so it should be no surprise that he has a deep feeling for the narrative power of art, the very quality that relegated the French academic painters to the dust bin of history." The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 1:15 pm

  • Previously: Hamilton Gets Tanenbaum Collection "Real-estate and steel magnate Joey Tanenbaum and his wife Toby have announced an immense donation of 211 European 19th-century works to the Art Gallery of Hamilton, a gift that will make the Southern Ontario city a destination for scholars of the period." The collection is valued at as much as CAN$90 million, and includes works by Gustave Doré, Jean Léon Gérôme, and Eugene Carrière. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/12/03

Shoot First, Do Your Research Later. Or Never. "Only last fall, the National Rifle Association was beside itself with joy as Michael Bellesiles, the professorial darling of the gun-control crowd, went down in flames after being caught faking his research. Now the proverbial shoe is on the other academic foot: John R. Lott Jr., a point man for the pro-gun set whose resume has noted positions on the faculties of the University of Chicago's law school, Stanford University and Yale, stands accused of the same scholarly crime." Chicago Tribune 02/14/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 12:54 pm

  • Previously: Bellesiles Stripped of Prize Historian Michael Bellesiles has been vilified by the political right, ostracized by his colleagues, and forced out of his professorship since charges of falsified research in his controversial book on America's "gun culture" hit the front pages several months back. Now, Columbia University is stripping Bellesiles of the prestigious Bancroft Prize it awarded him when the book was originally published. For the record, Bellesiles continues to stand by his research. Washington Post (AP) 12/14/02


Jesus Christ, Superstar Say you belong to a church that just isn't packing 'em in the pews these days. And say you feel the need to do something about this, and that you're not averse to a little modernization of services. What do you do? Well, if you're a New Yorker, you apparently import some Broadway people to sing a few show tunes, and watch the attendance soar! No, seriously, a church actually did this. And a Methodist church, to boot! Not everyone is a fan (particularly those who note that the practice seems to draw a large number of gay men to the services,) but the pastor in charge calls it a miracle. The New York Times 02/16/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 9:34 am

About-Face For Taper's Egan "The [Los Angeles-based] Mark Taper Forum's producing director, Robert Egan, known for fostering new plays and emerging writers, said Friday that he has changed his mind about running ACT Theatre, a major regional company in Seattle, because a worsening fiscal crisis there has nullified the adventurous artistic plans that made him want the job in the first place." ACT ran a $500,000 deficit in 2002, and is making plans to trim as much as $2 million from its 2003-04 budget. ACT's board has released Egan from his obligations to the company. Los Angeles Times 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 1:36 pm

Changing Sides Susan Trausch has been a newspaper writer for three decades, and a playwright for, um, about 5 minutes now. "Someday when I grow up, I may be a playwright. Right now I'm an apprentice, a journalist in transition who has taken theater-as-a-second-language classes at adult education centers over the past eight years." Along her journey from one side of the critical glass to the other, Trausch has gained a new respect for collaboration, broad thought, and most of all, ambiguity. Boston Globe 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 12:48 pm


Writers On Writing, For Writers There has never been any shortage of writers willing to hold forth about what good writing is, and how one might go about it. Two new installments in the writers-on-writing genre have recently appeared, penned by Norman Mailer and Pierre Berton. The advice they give, and the style in which it is presented, has Philip Marchand wondering why it is that so many writers seem to disagree on nearly every facet of the subject. Is writing a science or an art? Is it work or play? And do we write for ourselves, or for our readers? Great minds think nothing alike. Toronto Star 02/15/03
Posted: 02/16/2003 7:31 am


Who's Afraid Of (Hollywood's) Virginia Woolf? The Hours, Hollywood's adaptation of Michael Cunningham's novel about Virginia Woolf, is drawing criticism from literary historians who feel the Oscar-nominated film, starring a nearly unrecognizable Nicole Kidman, unfairly portrays Woolf as an ugly, suicidal misfit. Oh, and that nose, according to these offended experts, is just way off. The New York Times 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 1:54 pm

Ararat Cleans Up At Genies Atom Egoyan's controversial film about Turkish genocide in the early 20th century scored big at the Genie Awards, Canada's answer to the Oscars. Ararat, which was praised by critics and well-received by the public, took home five Genies, including best picture. Best director went to David Cronenberg for his latest creepy drama, Spider. National Post (Canada) 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 1:42 pm

Dumbing Down Canadian Radio? The venerable Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is coming under heavy fire these days for a slew of programming changes at Radio One that critics say represent nothing more than a naked attempt to 'dumb down' the network's content and grab more listeners from desirable demographics. The newly created Sounds Like Canada has been a profound disappointment, to the extent that its popular host has left the show, at least temporarily. The motivation for the changes at CBC may be a basic desire for the network to better reflect Canada's diversity of cultures, but what does it benefit the company to gain a few new listeners, and lose all the old ones, not to mention a few broadcast standards in the process? The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 02/15/03
Posted: 02/15/2003 1:08 pm

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