Issues: May 2001

Thursday May 31

THEY JUST DON’T BURY THEM LIKE THEY USED TO: It used to be that Hollywood funerals were as splashy and well-attended as major movie premieres. Not so lately. “There seems to be a feeling among families of celebrities who have died that they don’t want to see pictures of the funeral on television that evening.” Nando Times (AP) 05/30/01

Wednesday May 30

GIVING TO THE ARTS: Americans donated $11.5 billion to the arts last year, an almost 4 percent increase over the previous year. The number of major mega-gifts has increased too. The reason? The economic boom of the 90s, and a slew of dot-com billionaires. “Arts institutions haven’t seen anything like this since the robber barons of the 19th century poured money into museums and libraries.” Washington Post 05/30/01

BERLIN BASHING: Doesn’t matter how you want to describe the state of Berlin these days – it’s bad, and no solutions are in sight. “The capital is impoverished and deindustrialized, completely denuded of the economic basis it once possessed, the motor of all those metropolitan dreams. Since the fall of the Wall, Berlin has forfeited almost 300,000 industrial jobs. It is the seat of a mere five corporations listed in the major stock market indexes.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/29/01

  • Previously: BERLIN ON THE BRINK: Only a few years ago, Berlin was talking of turning itself into “the capital of Europe.” But these days, the city is mired in a financial crisis of a magnitude unseen since World War II. In the rush to cut costs, Berlin’s cultural treasures have been among the first to feel the pinch. The Guardian (London) 05/28/01

ANCIENT BRITS RIVALED GREEKS? In classic histories, the Greeks and Mediterranean peoples were portrayed as advanced, washing over the uncivilized backward northern Europeans. But one scholar says it isn’t so, and that northerners were as advanced. “The view of Stone Age Britain as backward has been skewed by our historical reliance on Greek and Roman classical texts, which were thick with prejudice and ignorant of almost anything beyond the Pillars of Hercules (Gibraltar).” The Guardian (UK) 05/30/01

Tuesday May 29

DEFENDING THE TRADITIONAL FESTIVAL: Is the traditional model of the big Australian arts festival outmoded, as some critics charge? Not at all, says one festival veteran. “Unless Australian audiences repeatedly travel across the world, and are in the right place at the right time, they will never have these artistic experiences. That is, unless they are presented with them by their local festival.” Sydney Morning Herald 05/29/01

SAYING IT RIGHT… “I must tell you how to pronounce the name of our most famous painter, the one the English call ‘Van Goff’ or ‘Van Go’. That is not how we say it and it is not how he said it either. The correct Dutch way to say it is…” The Independent (UK) 05/28/01

Monday May 28

BERLIN ON THE BRINK: Only a few years ago, Berlin was talking of turning itself into “the capital of Europe.” But these days, the city is mired in a financial crisis of a magnitude unseen since World War II. In the rush to cut costs, Berlin’s cultural treasures have been among the first to feel the pinch. The Guardian (London) 05/28/01

ISN’T IT IRONIC? In the last few years, somel pundits have declared excessive irony to be one of the elements contributing to the decline of American culture and pride. Playing the role of America’s savior is… (drum roll)… earnestness. The resulting feud is “a cultural war pitting crusaders of Truth and Beauty versus the dark forces of Deconstruction and Moral Relativism.” The New Republic 05/28/01

THE 1950s – AMERICA’S MOST MULTICULTURAL? “In the funhouse mirror of official history, the ’50s are seen as our most xenophobic decade. That is exactly wrong: then, the seemingly alien cultures of Europe and Asia held endless fascination for Americans who were either back from war service abroad, their aesthetic tastes spiced a bit, or simply tired of bland domestic fare.” Movies, books, plays, music – art from abroad was more popular then than now. Time 05/18/01

Sunday May 27

MOVING FORWARD IN PHILLY: Philadelphia’s ambitious Regional Performing Arts Center is the most-anticipated new concert hall of the last two decades, but the project has been plagued by management turnover, financial questions, and conflict between RPAC’s planners and its primary tenant, the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now, with everyone concerned facing the deadline of this fall’s planned opening, things are finally starting to run smoother, but many issues remain unresolved. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/27/01

Friday May 25

QUESTIONING THE FESTIVAL MODEL: Contrary to a previous announcement that the 2000 Adelaide Festival met its box office goals and covered its expenses, it’s now revealed that the festival lost $1 million. “The old model isn’t working,” says Peter Sellars, the festival’s current director. “The losses are endemic and it’s nobody’s fault. It’s the cultural model that needs to change.” The Age (Melbourne) 05/25/01

Thursday May 24

THE POWER OF ART: Politically, Zimbabwe is a mess. But a recent arts celebration brought out the country to participate. “Poor children from the townships came to learn photography with disposable cameras. Opera fans came for a night of arias, theatre-lovers came for Shakespeare and fringe works, and just about everyone came to hear Zimbabwe’s most popular singer Oliver Mtukudzi perform on the closing night.” Daily Mail & Guardian (South Africa) 05/23/01

REFORMS FOR ITALIAN MINISTRY OF CULTURE: “Italy’s new Prime Minister, will appoint a Culture Minister… who will preside over a ministry that has just emerged from a four-year process of reform…. The shake-up goes right to the top with the creation of a new position of secretary general.” The Art Newspaper 05/24/01

Wednesday May 23

REDRAWING THE ARTS MAP: Margaret Seares is leaving as the chairperson of the Australia Arts Council. She leaves four years in which the arts funding map has been redrawn and the council and its clients have begun to think more strategically about their operations. Sydney Morning Herald 05/23/01

Tuesday May 22

IDEAS IN PICTURES: Philosophers have traditionally dwelled in the universe of words. But a new book proposes that “philosophical themes can also be represented as artistic images, not just in texts, as has traditionally been the case. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/22/01

Monday May 21

PHONE RAGE: Readers of the Cleveland Plain Dealer are fed up with cell phones and pagers chirping in their concert halls and theatres. Readers wrote to the paper after a story on the subject to suggest solutions: “One reader pointed out that most states – but not Ohio – have laws prohibiting concealed weapons, so why not pass laws banning concealed cell phones? ‘If someone is caught with one and it goes off during a concert, ban ’em for the rest of the season’.” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/21/01

Sunday May 20

LEARNING TO BE CREATIVE: What’s wrong with today’s artists? No discipline. We’ve come to believe that the discipline of rote learning and structure is anathema to creativity. But creativity without background and knowledge and skill flops around incoherently. How about a return to traditional rigors? Mozart wouldn’t have been Mozart without it. Sunday Times (UK) 05/20/01

CONTEMPO LEAD: Vienna is about to open a new £100 million contemporary arts center – the world’s largest. It’s “the biggest investment in culture that Austria has made in more than a century. When the Museums Quartier centre for contemporary arts opens next month it will cover 60,000 square yards and turn Vienna, whose best-known cultural offspring include Gustav Klimt and Mozart, into a world centre for modern art.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/20/01

REDEMPTION THROUGH THE ARTS: Pawtucket, Rhode Island, has long been a collection of abandoned industrial buildings. But two years ago the city started an arts district to encourage the arts and revitalization of the city’s downtown. “The district comprises more than 60 blocks. Artists can waive the sales tax on art they sell there. Those who live and work in the district are also eligible for a state income-tax exclusion on any money their art generates. The city has lured two longstanding cultural institutions from Providence.” Boston Globe 05/20/01

Friday May 18

BROKE BERLIN: Berlin has major cultural ambitions, expensive cultural ambitions. But paying for them is quite another thing. Fact is Berlin doesn’t have the cash. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/18/01

GREEK LOVE: What is it about our ongoing fascination with things Greek? “How has the ancient Greek legacy gone through such dizzying changes since anSiquarians began digging up classical trophies for their collections half a millennium ago? The thing we call ‘classical Greece’ has been as fiercely fought over as the battlefield of Marathon. Look at all the ways it’s been used to reflect what we need to see of ourselves.” Financial Times 05/18/01

THOSE UNRULY CHESS CROWDS: Playing chess had become popular at the Minneapolis Public Library. But last week the library banned the game after spectators became unruly. Nando Times (AP) 05/16/01

Thursday May 17

WHEN ART MATTERED: “The volcano-like eruption of modernism seems distant, now that the Revolution has become a TV show, as the Renaissance. Its doctrines are exhausted, its once nerve-wracking fragments ensconced in museums, and the whole thing made sleepily irrelevant by the rise of mass media. But it was the Biggest Bang in the last 500 years of our cultural history, and if you lean over its crater you can still hear and feel it, the molten craziness and hurtling euphoria of that uncanny moment when for the last time High Art still mattered enough to hate.” Salon 05/16/01

THE NEXT ADELAIDE: Only a couple of days before the program for the next Adelaide Arts Festival is to be announced, the festival chooses its artistic director for the 2004 festival (one of the plum jobs in Australian arts). It’s 35-year-old Stephen Page: “My sacred religion is being indigenous and my responsibility now is to be a visionary and bring this smorgasbord of art around to this sacred ground here.” The Age (Melbourne) 05/17/01

Wednesday May 16

NO TAKEBACKS ALLOWED: In 1997 the mayor and city council of San Antonio decided to take back a grant to a controversial arts group. Now a federal judge has ruled against the city and says the grant cannot be revoked. “Once a governing body chooses to fund art, the Constitution requires that it be funded in a viewpoint-neutral manner, that is, without discriminating among recipients on the basis of their ideology.” The New York Times 05/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

FOLK ARTS FOR PROFIT: “Efforts are being made to revive the crafts of Kyrgyzstan and the other countries along the ancient Silk Road that spans Central Asia. The impetus is part reverence for tradition and part recognition that a thriving folk art industry will bring economic benefits, no small matter in former Soviet republics where half the people live below the poverty line.” The New York Times 05/16/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday May 15

“THE ERA OF HIGH-PRICED EGO AWARDS IS OVER,” said Joan Chalmers, in announcing a major change in the prestigious Chalmers Awards. For 29 years the awards – $25,000 each to thirteen winners – kept Canadian singers, playwrights, painters, poets, and other artists afloat. From now on, newly-minted Chalmers Grants will go in smaller amounts to a larger number of individuals. Toronto Star 05/15/01

Monday May 14

A LID FOR LINCOLN CENTER? New York’s Lincoln Center is planning a ten-year $1.5 million makeover. So what’s in the works? Rumors are flying that a dome to cover the central plaza is being considered, among other ideas. The New York Times 05/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ALL IN THE PLANNING: “Today, everybody needs to establish a business plan: universities, schools, theatres, orchestras, opera and dance companies. Since businesses run everything, it was felt that it would generally make for smoother sailing if everything were run like a business.” So what happens to the art? Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/14/01

Thursday May 10

BEIJING CRACKDOWN: China has issued new regulations governing what is and is not permissible for the republic’s artists. Any work deemed “bloody, violent, or erotic” by Chinese censors could result in a lengthy jail term for the artist who creates it. BBC 05/10/01

IN-COUNTRY – THE BATTLE FOR NATIONAL CULTURES: Canadian support for their own culture may seem impressive from the outside, but take away the loaded deck and what’s left? Are cultural subsidies the only way to preserve national cultures? 05/09/01

GOING CORPORATE: Art school graduates are finding themselves increasingly in demand, and not just in the waitering trade. “In a field once stigmatized as impractical, graduates in fine arts, communication design, photography, animation and interior design no longer have to worry about life as a ‘starving artist.'” Detroit Free Press 05/09/01

Wednesday May 9

POLITICAL PUZZLE: Hollywood loved Bill Clinton and Al Gore and gave Gore much money for his campaign. In return Gore attacked Hollywood for its portrayal of violence. By contrast, though Hollywood doesn’t like Bush and doesn’t support him, Bush has refrained from taking up a moralistic tone against the entertainment industry, even when his staunchest supporters would like him to. Los Angeles Times 05/06/01

FRANCHISING FOR FUN AND PROFIT: From the Guggenheim to the Bolshoi, arts groups are cloning or “franchising” their brands to grow their influence (and get cash). The Age (Melbourne) 04/09/01

Tuesday May 8

SMITHSONIAN FUROR ABATES, SOMEWHAT: The new head of the Smithsonian provoked a flurry of complaints when he announced plans to shut down some parts of the vast institution. Those complaints – from his staff, from independent scientists, and from the public – worked. The shut-down plans have been scrapped, at least for now. Washington Post 05/07/01

Sunday May 6

PROTECTING NATIONAL CULTURES: France has asked Canada to join in “the battle against the homogenizing of national cultures. The idea is that Canada, along with other G7 nations and the countries of the European Union, will move closer to the strict rules which France has already adopted to protect its film, television and book industries against U.S. pop culture. Proud France has realized that it can’t win the fight alone.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/05/01

A TALE OF TWO TOWNS: The strength of a city’s arts community has long been an important measure of quality of life. But small towns often have to scrabble for artistic leftovers, and struggle to develop a real arts scene. Two towns in New England are bucking the trend, however, and the results have been pleasantly surprising. Hartford Courant 05/06/01

Friday May 4

MET REJOINS LINCOLN CENTER: In January the Metropolitan Opera shocked its sister organizations at Lincoln Center when it declared it would pull out of a massive rebuilding effort for the multi-theatre complex. Now the Met has joined back up on the project. The New York Times 05/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

ALL IS FORGIVEN? The Canadian government’s largesse of $560 million support for the arts doesn’t hide the fact that in the past decade Canadian artists have become “a community of beggars. Even as arts leaders and politicians paid lip service to the importance of the arts, governments mercilessly slashed subsidies.” Toronto Star 05/03/01

IN THE MONEY: The Readers Digest Fund agrees to turn over $1.7 billion in assets to 13 arts institutions so they can invest the money themselves. The Met Museum alone gets $424 million. The New York Times 05/04/01 (one-time registration required for access)

DOESN’T COMPUTE: Every school in the world seems to be on the technology hunt, trying to get as many students as possible in front of computers. But one expert wonders why. “They’ve been around for so long that we should be seeing the benefit but the results just don’t seem to be there.” Sydney Morning Herald 05/04/01

FREE FRENCH MUSEUMS: Strikes by workers protesting working hours blocked Parisian museums from selling tickets Thursday, so museums let visitors in free. “A spokeswoman for the Louvre, said the strikes had already forced the museum to lose $822,000 in ticket sales. Last week alone, 250 pre-reserved group tours had to be canceled.” NJ Online (AP) 05/03/01

THE NEW CENSORSHIP: Australian censors are having a difficult time rating new entertainment forms because the amount of embedded multimedia material has ballooned. A DVD movie release, for example, can have 900 minutes worth of linked materials. How do you rate it? The Age (Melbourne) 05/04/01

THE COST OF THE FUTURE: The head of the Smithsonian has defended his controversial proposals to reorganize the institution. He says cutting programs and shifting priorities are necessary to “bring its programs into the modern day.” Washington Post 05/04/01

Thursday May 3

MORE MONEY FOR CANADIAN ARTS: “Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, carrying out a campaign pledge, announced on Wednesday an infusion of more than half a billion Canadian dollars to boost the country’s cash-strapped arts and cultural sectors…. Chretien said it was the biggest new investment in the arts in Canada in 40 years.” Not everyone is happy with the idea, however. Some arts groups think the funding is badly distributed, and some tax experts complain that it’s “welfare for cultural industries, and they question where the money is coming from in the absence of a federal budget.” (Reuters) and National Post (Candada) 05/03/01

  • RESTORING PREVIOUS CUTS: The increase in support is welcome, of course, but it must be pointed out that the extra money is something of a giveback to the arts. “Between 1990-1991 and 1997-1998, budgetary cutbacks in government spending reduced culture-related spending at the federal and provincial levels by nearly 7.8 per cent and 2.9 per cent, respectively.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/03/01

TIRED OF GIVING: A new poll in Scotland says people are fed up with bailing out the country’s cash-hungry arts groups. The poll shows “74 per cent of people are opposed to subsidising opera and ballet using taxpayers’ money, including 70 per cent of the middle class. Four out of five Scots also want the BBC television license fee abolished completely.” The Scotsman 05/03/01

THOSE DELICATE NEW YORKERS: So in sensitive New York, the mayor needs to protect residents from the big bad influence of controversial art. In London, we’d look, smile, and walk on to the next shocking thing. The Times (London) 05/03/01

  • INDECENT PROPOSAL: A member of New York mayor Rudy Giuliani’s Cultural Commission says he won’t join the mayor’s new “decency panel” because he “doesn’t believe in censorship.” New York Post 05/02/01

ART AT THE LOCAL LEVEL: Last month the British government did away with regional arts boards. A blow against the arts? Maybe not. “The regional arts boards were created in the dog days of the Thatcher cultural revolution to make it as difficult as possible for undeserving arty types to get their hands on taxpayers’ money.” The Guardian (UK) 05/02/01

THE NEXT BILBAO? Officials of Philadelphia’s Regional Performing Arts Center planned a New York “coming out” for their project last night, inviting critics from around the country to see a presentation on the center. “The New York event, which was months in the making, had been designed to position the city as the new Bilbao and the concert hall as its Guggenheim Museum,” and despite the resignation of the project’s director a couple days before, the Philadelphians stayed on message. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/03/01

  • DIFFICULT LABOR: The new arts center is plagued with problems. Money, of course, is problematic. And none of the major arts groups – the Philadelphia Orchestra included – has signed leases to perform in the hall. “Fees, of course, have been a major issue – although most groups have now accepted the fact that the arts center has reneged on its promise that rents in the two new halls would be no higher than rents paid by the groups in their current facilities.” Philadelphia Inquirer 05/03/01

Wednesday May 2

ARTS CZAR QUITS: The president of Philadelphia’s $265 million Regional Performing Arts Center currently under construction, has abruptly resigned 7 1/2 months before Philly’s answer to Lincoln Center is scheduled to open. Stephanie Naidoff is praised for bringing a lot of money into the project, but has been criticized by arts leaders for her inexperience in non-profic management. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/02/01

EASY TARGETS: Threats by US senators and the Federal Trade Commission to regulate distribution of music it deems unsuitable for young listeners has free speech advocates steaming. Why is this regulatory issue so popular when there’s no hard evidence supporting a clampdown? Village Voice 05/02/01

  • A HISTORY OF MUSIC CONTROVERSY: From Peter Paul and Mary to Stairway to Heaven to Louie Louie, politicians and parents have found something to get uptight about. Today’s “threat to society” is tomorrow’s classic – a chronology. Village Voice 05/02/01

THE FUTURE OF COPYRIGHT: Does the US Digital Millennium Copyright Law violate the First Amendment by excessively curbing the ‘fair uses’ people can make of copyrighted works? Critics say yes, and federal judges in New York seem interested in hearing arguments. The outcome of the case will have enormous implications in the trade of intellectual property. 05/02/01

FUNDRAISING DOWNTURN? How will the current economic downturn affect arts institutions? “What happens to all the ambitious capital campaigns under way? The planned exhibitions? The expansions? Fortunately, museums say, they got while the getting was good, starting their major capital campaigns while plenty of money was floating around so that now they are nearing those goals rather than just beginning to set them.” The New York Times 05/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)


Visual: May 2001

Wednesday May 31

  • “JUST CALL IT McMOMA”: Getting your museum noticed these days requires “surreal amounts of money” these days, not to mention the promotional instincts of PT Barnum. The Museum of Modern Art’s Glenn Lowry has been “resculpting” MoMA so that the museum gets its fair share (of money and attention). He has hired a crack marketing team at private-sector salaries and has chosen to oversee projects that include building a Philippe art and design Web store, and renting part of the museum’s art collection to a billionaire Japanese real estate mogul. New York Observer 05/31/00
  • HOW TO SAVE VENICE ART? Acid rain is eating the outdoor art of Venice. “Amputated arms, graffiti, and the black streaks caused by sulphur dioxide have marred the appearance of much Venetian sculpture, and everywhere there are examples such as Alessandro Vittoria’s statue of Saint Zaccaria on the central portal of the church, which remains faceless after its marble features disintegrated.” Some want to rescue the work by taking it inside and replacing it with copies. The Art Newspaper 05/31/00
  • DANCING ON THE THAMES: Architect Terry Farrell designed two of London’s most flamboyant buildings on the Thames in the 1980s – the MI6 headquarters and the redesigned Charing Cross Station – then promptly fell out of favor without a single London commission in the 90s. Now he’s got seven major London projects in the works, all for prime sites along the river, and whether or not they’re loved, they’re sure to be noticed. London Times 05/31/00
  • REPORTS OF OUR DEATH ARE… The Royal Canadian Academy of Art decided to do a millennial show and made an open call to artists. The idea might have worked 120 years ago when the Academy was formed. “Maybe it even worked 30 years ago, when the RCA’s annual exhibition finally died off. For better or worse, however, at the beginning of the 21st century it’s simply not how things work – as any truly vigorous arts organization would have understood right off. Toronto Globe and Mail 05/30/00

Tuesday May 30

  • THE REAL DICK: That maybe-Richard Diebenkorn-that wasn’t in that E-Bay auction that got everybody so excited a few weeks ago and forced a winning bid of $135,000? Well maybe it is real after all. Though the auction was nullified, experts are now looking at the painting to determine its patrimony. San Francisco Chronicle 05/30/00

Monday May 29

  • AN APPETITE FOR (FREE) ART:Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art gets a corporate grant to abolish its $12 admission charge. In the first four days since going free, attendance has doubled, and twice the museum has had to temporarily close its doors because of overcrowding. Sydney Morning Herald 05/29/00
  • THE STORY BEHIND THE PAINT: It’s been possible to tell what lies underneath the layers of paint of a painting for some time. “However, new technologies such as infra-red analysis – one of several methods used to determine the history and construction of paintings – makes the task more precise.” The technology is helping rewrite the histories of some works of art. The Age (Melbourne) 05/29/00
  • A FAKE FAKE: Fifty years ago, Australia’s most important painting – thought to be by 15th-century Flemish master Jan van Eyck –  was declared a fake by experts in Brussels who ruled it was not by van Eyck and was probably not even Flemish. The painting was taken down from the National Gallery and put away. But new research shows the experts might have been wrong and now the painting may be returned to display. The Age (Melbourne) 05/29/00
  • THE STOLEN ART PROBLEM: Theft of artwork has become a major international problem. The British government wants to do something about it. But first – just how big a problem is it? No one seems to know for sure. The Telegraph (London) 05/29/00

Sunday May 28

  • ART STARS:Britain’s hip new artists have become glamorous celebs. “This isn’t so surprising when you consider the new wealth giving a golden glow to new British art. It’s become a nice little earner.” But do they lose some their hipness by traveling in these new circles?  Sunday Times (London) 05/28/00
  • MUSEUMS AS ENTERTAINMENT: “Entertainment gets a bad rap as diversionary distraction, a shallow Pied Piper ostensibly leading us away from the serious things in life. But try telling that to Shakespeare or Bernini, who managed to make extremely entertaining art. Entertainment’s dual responsibilities are to hold interest and give pleasure. Why this should be considered a minor achievement is anybody’s guess – especially for art – although American Puritanism is one likely culprit. But art is not brain surgery, nor the answer to perennial problems like war or world hunger.” Los Angeles Times 05/28/00

Saturday May 27

  • MOMA NO-NO: Media Mogul S.I. Newhouse has been forced to give up his priuzed seat on the Museum of Modern Art board of directors (he’s been a member for 27 years). “One of the world’s most prolific art collectors, Newhouse stepped down to avoid being expelled for breaking a rule barring trustees from buying a painting from the museum. He bought a 1913 Picasso, Man with Guitar, that the museum had decided to de-acquisition to fund new buys. The picture, in the museum’s basement, was sold to an unidentified art dealer who sold it to Mr Newhouse for $10 million.” The Times (London) 05/27/00
  • NYET EXCHANGE: Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved a law banning the return of stolen WWII artwork to Germany.  “The works in question include a rare Gutenberg Bible, gold artifacts from the ancient site of Troy, a drawing by Rembrandt and paintings by Claude Monet and Henri Matisse.” Washington Post 05/27/00
  • NASA DE MEDICI: When you think of the US space agency, you think rockets, not art. But NASA has commissioned hundreds of artworks about space, and a number of them are currently touring the country. “Featured artists include Peter Max, Robert McCall, Robert Rauschenberg, Norman Rockwell, Andy Warhol and Jamie Wyeth. To give them creative fodder, NASA allows selected artists wide access to events, such as shuttle launches.” 05/25/00
  • MUSEUMS AS THEME PARK: Have museums been caught up in an infotainment vortex? “It is no longer enough to be the repository of objects and artifacts stored for presentation and posterity, presented to the public for their edification. Now museums have to engage with the public, competing with the rest of the entertainment industry for tourist dollars and leisure time. All the while maintaining their learning function.” 05/26/00
  • PUBLIC ART PROTEST: For two months neighbors of the University of Massachusetts in Boston have been protesting the pending installation of a new piece of public art. The sculpture was due to be installed this weekend, but this week someone took a sledgehammer to the work’s support piers, forcing a postponement. Boston Globe 05/27/00

Friday May 26

  • LOOT AIN’T LEGIT: The International Council of Museums has condemned the Louvre’s recent decision to exhibit two 2,000-year-old terracotta figures which were looted from Nigeria and then illegally exported by a Brussels dealer. French president Jacques Chirac has intervened to plea with Nigeria’s president to legitimize the acquisition which he hopes will have a permanent home in the Louvre’s new non-European art gallery. The Art Newspaper 05/25/00
  • FINDING FAULT: Neil MacGregor, director of London’s National Gallery, has criticized the UK government’s recent euphoria over much-publicized museum and gallery openings, including the Tate Modern. Striking at the Government’s boast that it had increased access, Mr. MacGregor said: “There may be more access; but it is access to ignorance.” The Independent 05/26/00
  • ART IN A CAN: Minneapolis has a graffiti problem. Some officials charge that the city’s arts institutions are encouraging the taggers by sponsoring spray can art. Minneapolis Star-Tribune 05/26/00 
  • A RIGHT TO BE NAKED? A university of South Florida student labored on his art exhibition for much of the semester. He built a fiberglass cave in which he proposed to live in naked for the duration of the show. Uh-uh, said the gallery director – no one can stay overnight in the museum, and besides, we don’t like the nudity thing. The artist is crying censorship. St. Petersburg Times 05/25/00 

Thursday May 25

  • CORPORATE DIVESTMENT: Sara Lee donates 52 works of art to 40 museums. It’s the largest gift to the most museums in US corporate history. ” The 52 works are described as representing ‘a concise survey of European avant-garde painting and sculpture from 1870 to 1960.’ Not much would strike a viewer as ‘avant-garde,’ most of the art having entered the mainstream years ago.” MSNBC (Newhouse) 05/23/00
  • DIRTY LAUNDRY: UK Arts Minster Alan Howarth has selected a panel of experts to examine ways to crack down on Britain’s growing black market for smuggled art and antiquities. An estimated £500 million is laundered every year through the sale of looted artifacts from the Middle East and Africa, all of which can then be legally bought and sold in the UK. Ananova 05/24/00
  • SECOND CYBER-THOUGHTS: The Tate Museum commissioned a web artist known as Harwood. “He proposed to make a mock version of the existing Tate website, to which one in three visitors to would be diverted. Clicking through the various categories of the museum’s site, visitors would be dropped into Harwood’s version produced in the same structure and design, but with ‘hacked’ artworks” – work changed digitally by the artist. The work was to debut this week, but that’s been postponed, perhaps to straighten out some reservations about the concept. The Guardian 05/25/00
  • DOME DEFENSE: Despite public outcry, shoddy attendance, and the dissenting opinions of 64 MPs, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott has defended the UK government’s decision to pump £29m into the Millennium Dome. BBC 05/25/00
  • DESIGN FOR LIVING: Israel’s architecture exhibit at the upcoming Venice Biennale attempts to answer the beguiling question: What, exactly, is a city? “In curator Hillel Schocken’s view, modern urban planning has been an utter failure; not one successful city was created in the 20th century. He proposes a new definition of the city, one that fulfills the idea of intimate anonymity.” Ha’aretz (Israel) 05/25/00
  • COSMIC SHIFT: For the first time since Washington DC’s Air and Space Museum opened in 1976, the museum is not the most popular museum ticket in town. In the battle of Smithsonians, Natural History is winning. “In the first four months of 2000, 2.3‚million people visited Air and Space. In the same span, 2.8‚million have gone through Natural History. Last month 1‚million visitors walked through Air and Space, compared with 1.3‚million at Natural History.” Washington Post 05/25/00
  • The most-stolen work of art in the world goes on display. Ananova 05/25/00 
  • BELAGIO TO CLOSE SUNDAY: The Belagio Hotel gallery will close this weekend and its art will be sold. The hotel plans to reopen the gallery later with traveling exhibitions. Las Vegas Sun 05/25/00 

Wednesday May 24

  • DULWICH DOOMED? “The most architecturally venerated of London’s art galleries,” the 18th-century Dulwich Picture Gallery has recently undergone extensive restoration thanks to £5 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. How did the revitalization affect Sir John Soane’s original collection? “It’s hard not to feel a twinge of regret, as Soane’s ghost has faded a little more with this new work. It feels normal, which it never was before.” London Evening Standard 05/24/00
  • ROCK ON THE BLOCK: New York’s art deco landmark Rockefeller Center is up for sale for an estimated $2-2.5 billion. The property includes 12 historic buildings and is home to Christie’s and NBC. Times of India  (Reuters)05/24/00
  • PORTRAITS TO THE STARS: In 1969, London’s National Portrait Gallery dropped its requirement that subjects must be dead for 10 years before being portrayed on gallery walls. Ever since, celebrities have been vying for space among the canvases. “With a television star preferred any day over a worthy politician, the gallery has veered towards the voyeurist appeal of a Madame Tussaud’s.” New York Times 05/24/00 (one-time registration required for entry)  
  • LOSE, LOSE: London’s Millennium Dome has been at the center of controversy since the day it was built. The latest stir: the Dome was given an extra £29 million from the National Lottery this week on condition that its chairman resign. He did, and then MPs protested the government’s earlier promise that no further public funds would be advanced to the Dome. The Telegraph 05/24/00
  • MARKET-MAKERS: In 1990, the now-defunct Japanese Itoman Corp. purchase some expensive artwork, “a move that caused huge damage to the trading firm” in part because the prices for the paintings were highly inflated. Last week the paintings were sold at auction and the low prices are probably deflated. The artmarket in Japan see its highs and lows. Daily Yomiuri 05/24/00

Tuesday May 23

  • WHERE’S THE MODERN IN TATE MODERN? So the opening of the Tate Modern was the art event of the century. But there are a few problems, aren’t there? “The Tate owns fewer than 700 pieces of international art – not all that many really. It wasn’t created to be a museum of world art at all – in fact, at about the time that the Museum of Modern Art was being established in New York, the Tate was turning up its nose at the work of Gaudier-Brzeska, and didn’t really start buying 20th-century international art until well after the Second World War. The consequence of this is that, although the Tate owns 38 Picassos, it also has enormous gaps in its collection.” New Statesman 05/23/00
  • WYNN TO GET BELAGIO TAX BREAKS: Casino mogul Steve Wynnis expected to benefit handsomely from major tax breaks when MGM sells off Belagio Hotel’s $200 million worth of fine art in Las Vegas. Las Vegas Sun 05/23/00 
  • ART JUMBLE: The new new thing is for museums to hang art out of its traditional chronological order. This of course has some critics and curators fuming. Not Thomas Hoving, however: I applaud the jumble-jamble approach. A work of art is an act of magical genius and it essentially doesn’t matter if it was created in the fifth decade of whatever century or is an example of the late middle mature style of whatever artist or school of painting. And it really doesn’t edify the member of the viewing public if that work is isolated within other similar works in time or space. 05/23/00

Monday May 22

  • WATERING THE SPIRIT OF ART: A pair of “guerilla artists” walked into the new Tate Modern museum and urinated in Marcel Duchamp’s “Fountain.” “The pair claimed that the purpose of their action was to ‘celebrate the spirit of modern art.’ Bemused onlookers in the room applauded, thinking that they had just seen an officially planned performance. The artists claim that after their performance, which lasted about a minute, the Tate closed the room to the public but made no attempt to apprehend them.” The Guardian 05/22/00
  • FIRE SALE: The British government is considering early plans to sell off the fantastically costly Millennium Dome at a bargain basement price. The Dome has been a popular and critical flop. The Telegraph 05/21/00 
    • BAIL OUT: Dome needs £30 million from the National Lottery to stave off bankruptcy and save the jobs of 5,000 staff. The Independent 05/22/00
  • GOLD MEDAL PERFORMANCE: Toronto-born architect Frank Gehry has won the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture, “awarded on behalf of the Queen by the Royal Institute of British Architecture, and still, despite the big bucks attached to newer international prizes, the most prestigious of its kind.” The Guardian 05/22/00
  • TROPHY PICTURES: Ireland’s booming economy has caused a surge in Ireland’s art market prices. The Telegraph (London) 05/22/00
  • ONLINE GUGGENHEIM: The Guggenheim World Empire becomes the WWW Empire. The museum “has pledged the equivalent of a real building’s budget to create the Guggenheim Virtual Museum (GVM), launched this month, on a laptop near you. Wagering that the New York-based architecture firm Asymptote can do for it in virtual space what Frank Gehry’s Bilbao did in the physical world, the Guggenheim’s commitment is not only costly but long-term: Its design and construction will be ongoing, given the fluid nature of the medium.” Architecture Magazine 05/00 

Sunday May 21 

  • PICTURE PERFECT: Who says photography has to record something real? In the late ’70s, a number of artists began “questioning the documentary capacity of photography. Instead of taking pictures of extant scenes, James Casebere built elaborate models and photographed them, presenting the prints rather than the constructions as his art. Other artists were coming up with similar strategies at the time, all departing from the tradition of straight photography and its commitment to reality.” Los Angeles Times 05/21/00

Friday May 19

  • CHILD’S P(L)AY: Damien Hirst has agreed to pay an undisclosed amount to two children’s charities to settle a copyright suit sparked by his latest work, “Hymn,” a 20ft bronze sculpture (which recently sold for £1m) that is a larger-than-life replica of a well-known child’s anatomy set. BBC 05/19/00  
  • WHY WE LIKE OUR BIG McHOUSES: Everyone, it seems, decries suburban sprawl. From the McHouse architecture to the sterile streetlife, the ‘burbs make an easy target. But “for all the scorn that’s heaped on the suburbs – and especially on subdivisions of nearly identical houses on the fringe of metropolitan areas – people like living there. And not just middle-class drones either.” Weekly Standard 05/22/00
  • VINTAGE FAKES? Some of Louise Hine’s vintage master photographs appear to have been forged. Experts are investigating. Chicago Tribune 05/19/00
  • MAN OH MANN: The governor of Virginia has objected to a slide show by photographer Sally Mann given earlier this month in a state-owned museum. In his letter to the museum’s interim director the governor wrote he was ‘shocked and dismayed that this type of exhibit occurred on state owned property.’ ” Fox News (AP) 05/19/00
  • HEY – IT’S ONLY A BUILDING: “And the opening of Tate Modern. My reaction? Stunned. Literally stunned. Suddenly, London has become the greatest city the world has to offer, the city that is positively buzzing with energy and optimism and sheer in-your-face modernity.” The Guardian 05/19/00
  • TOP OF 1000 YEARS: Four American museum curators each have a go at picking their top ten artworks of the past 1,000 years.  Two of them pick Chartres as No.1. Christian Science Monitor 05/19/00 
  • I THINK I CAN: No. 3 auctioneer Phillips comes back with another auction – and has better luck selling it after last week’s disaster. New York Times 05/19/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • SITTING ON CEREMONY: Plans to erect a statue of Franklin Delano Roosevelt sitting in a wheel chair stir controversy in Washington DC. Washington Post 05/19/00

Thursday May 18

  • TWO DONUTS ON STILTS: Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project is said to look like a cross between a spaceship and a glob of playdough – what about his plans for the new Manhattan Guggenheim? “Take two donuts with holes in them, and put them up on stilts.” Disney World, say the critics. The future, say Gehry and Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim’s director. Art Newspaper 05/18/00
  • TWO DONUTS ON STILTS: Frank Gehry’s Experience Music Project is said to look like a cross between a spaceship and a glob of playdough – what about his plans for the new Manhattan Guggenheim? “Take two donuts with holes in them, and put them up on stilts.” Disney World, say the critics. The future, say Gehry and Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim’s director. Art Newspaper 05/18/00
  • “MISS IT AND YOU’LL CURSE YOURSELF”: The Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto broke all of its attendance records this spring with a blockbuster show of Egyptian artifacts. But popular as ancient Egypt is, to get people through the door the museum hired a slick ad agency to whip up interest. Toronto Globe and Mail 05/18/00
  • POP DADDY: Richard Hamilton, whose 1956 collage “Just What Is It That Makes Today’s Homes So, So Appealing?” is considered by many to have signaled the birth of British pop art, is still at the top of his game – fascinated by all things modern and by his own paintings’ iconic status. “Perhaps that is why of all living British artists he is the one whose work gets the richest showing in the opening displays at Tate Modern.” The Guardian 05/18/00  
  • DID ALBRIGHT’S FATHER STEAL ART? A new biography revives claims that US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s father stole paintings after WWII and that the family still has them. Prague Post 05/17/00 
  • BUYING ART WITH YOUR MILLIONS: The newly-rich internet crowd gets into the contemporary art market in a big way. This week’s Christie’s sale of contemporary art was marked by record prices and spirited bidding. “It was such a young audience I thought for a moment I’d wandered into ‘Gladiator.’ “ New York Times 05/18/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • MALEVICH SALE: A somewhat overlooked sald of a Malevich painting at the Phillips auction last week signals a final end to Stalinism. New York Observer 05/18/00
  • FAILURE TO PROTECT NATIVE ARTISTS: Indian artists tell Congress that the US government is not enforcing a law designed to protect American Indian artisans from forgers said to be cutting into a $1 billion a year business. Baltimore Sun (AP) 05/18/00

Wednesday May 17

  • MONUMENT TO MUSIC: Frank Gehry’s swoopy droopy Experience Music Project (please don’t call it a museum) is opening soon in Seattle. Says Gehry: “This building is supposed to be a lot of fun. That’s what Paul Allen wanted. Fun. It’s supposed to be unusual. The (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum) in Cleveland wanted a straight-forward corporate look. Paul didn’t want that. He wanted what he called a swoopy building. Nobody has seen this before or will see it again. Nobody will build another one.” Seattle Post-Intelligencer 05/16/00
    • A BUILDING OR A METAPHOR? “Up close, the latest offering from architect Frank Gehry looks like a cross between a giant spaceship and globs of playdough.” National Post (Canada) 05/17/00
  • TRACES OF GENIUS: Scientists plan to test DNA found in smudges and fingerprints in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks and sketches to better understand the master and distinguish his work from that of his apprentices. “Vezzosi believes that the best traces can be found in ink stains on the handwritten pages of Leonardo’s notebooks, as the master himself recommended using saliva to thicken black ink.” 05/16/00
  • PICKING UP THE PIECES: At one time the top spot running Sotheby’s would have been considered a real dream job. But with scandals and investigations and uncertainties, William Ruprecht confesses that he “took a very deep breath and had a moment of hesitation” before accepting the assignment last February. After last week’s successful spring auctions, it appears some of the storm has passed. Financial Times 05/16/00
  • A REAL CIRCUS: The State of Florida decides to give control of Sarasota’s Ringling Museum (with a fine collection of Old Master paintings) to Florida State University. Now the museum’s director has resigned and the Board, University, and public are in conflict. Sarasota Herald-Tribune 05/15/00

Tuesday May 16

  • THE REAL PAINTING STARS OF LONDON: Curious that as the Tate Modern opens, virtually ignoring painting from the past 20 years, London galleries are full of it – and a lot of it is figurative and quite interesting. This is where the enduring contemporary stars of the painting world are hanging out. Financial Times 05/16/00 
  • PIANO PRESTO: Renzo Piano just might be the world’s busiest architect: For Hermès he is designing a Far East headquarters in Tokyo. In America, he is working on the Harvard Art Museum, the Chicago Art Institute, an art campus in Atlanta and a sculpture gallery in Dallas. There is a telecom HQ in Rotterdam, a Paul Klee museum in Switzerland, a trio of new concert halls in Rome, an elegant tower in Sydney nearing completion, and a pilgrimage church in southern Italy which looks set to be the religious masterpiece of millennium year. In Berlin his Potsdamer Platz, a vast development spanning a blighted area on either side of the Wall, is nearly complete. The Times (London) 05/16/00
  • SOME STRIKING MOMA WORKERS RETURN TO WORK: About 40 percent of the 250 workers striking against the Museum of Modern Art in New York over poor wages and job security have crossed the picket line, says museum management. New York Times 05/16/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • ONE SICK PUPPY: Even his admirers call Gottfried Helnwein that. “He earned his first gallery show in the 70s by driving around his native Vienna dressed in Nazi uniform, his head bandaged, fake blood trickling from his mouth. It caught the eye of an art dealer who signed him up and has remained faithful to Austria’s enfant terrible ever since.” The Guardian 05/16/00
  • A BOARD HELD ACCOUNTABLE: Leaders of Vancouver’s arts community hold a summit with the board of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The VAG has been under attack since the murky departure of of the museum’s director and some questionable actions by the board of directors. Vancouver Province 05/16/00

Monday May 15

  • LONG TERM STRATEGY:Even though last week’s auction in New York by Phillips – pushing hard to gain a toehold on Sotheby’s and Christie’s – was little short of a disaster and cost the company a great deal of money, Phillips is in to stay. “It would be a mistake to believe that it can be done quickly. It will take three to five years to reposition ourselves and grow from there. This is by no means a quick fix.” The Telegraph (London) 05/15/00
  • THE WORLD’S TALLEST YACHT’S MAST: “In the very heart of Chicago, work is about to begin on the tallest building in the world. Including its twin 450ft lightning-conducting digital communications antennae, 7 South Dearborn will be 2,000ft tall, with 108 floors.” It will be as beautiful as it is tall, as innovative as it is graceful. The Guardian 05/15/00
  • THE HISTORY OF THE WOLRD: Berlin’s answer to London’s Millennium Dome is an ambitious exhibition called “Seven Hills – Images and Signs of the 21st Century,” a celebration of humankind’s future and a catalog of its past. Die Welt 05/15/00
  • MY BODY MY ART: A number of artists are tapping into a vein of concern about what some see as runaway technology in medical science. “The debate’s over what we do with our bodies – science is catalyzing these debates – but where they play them out are culturally, personally, and legally. The artwork becomes a corporate body to mimic what happens in reality.” Wired 05/15/00
  • WILL CLICK FOR ART? Last week’s sham sale of a fake Diebenkorn over an E-Bay auction had plenty of people scratching their heads. Of course there was all the business about the speculation over the painting. And yes it was peculiar how gullible some people apparently are. But what really threw skeptics was the fact that someone would actually pay six-figures for a piece of art by clicking a mouse. Maybe the internet can sell online art after all. New York Times 05/15/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • WHEN MARY SUED SALLE: In January New York art dealer Mary Boone signed David Salle to her stable. Now she’s suing him for $1 million. Evidently “Boone promised to advance Salle $500,000, in return for which he would consign work worth at least $850,000 to her gallery. She’d pay all the promotional costs, and they’d split the sales, 60-40 in his favor.” Boone says Salle failed to deliver on the promised work. New York Daily News 05/14/00 
  • ART OF THE WEB? Last week the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art gave out a big award for online art. Did anyone care? A panel in SF talked about web art at the museum this weekend.  “Asked whether artists working on the Net need or want the collaboration of traditional art institutions, Webby-winner Michael Samyn – prefacing his response by remarking he didn’t understand the question because he is ‘a designer, not an artist’ – said ‘No.’ ” Wired 05/15/00
  • GUGGENHEIM AWARD: The Council of Europe has awarded Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum its Best Museum in Europe award. BBC 05/15/00
  • STRONG START: Australian art sales have surged in the first part of this year. Sydney Morning Herald 05/15/00
  • BUT HOW TO PAY THE TAX? Under a new Australian tax system, all small businesses (including artists) must have an Australian Business Number or face having 48.5 per cent withholding tax taken out of every payment they receive. But many aboriginal artists on the edge of the Tanami Desert in the Northern Territory operate largely outside the formal economy. “Advocates for the Aboriginal arts industry claim it is unrealistic to expect most of the estimated 18,000 Aboriginal artists who derive an income from their creative work to comply with the details of the new tax system.” Sydney Morning Herald 05/15/00

Sunday May 14

  • NEW YORK TO ARCHITECTURE – DROP DEAD: The new zoning rule overhaul put forward by NY mayor Rudy Giuliani amounts to a direct attack on the creativity of architects. Just how far can a government go with restrictions on building design before it violates constitutional principles? New York Times 05/14/00 (One-time registration required for entry)
  • NO LIBEL: A French appeals court has ruled that art historian Hector Feliciano did not commit libel for suggesting in his book about art stolen by the Nazis that the late art dealer Georges Wildenstein may have collaborated with the Nazis during World War II. Nandotimes 05/13/00
  • ART BY ANY OTHER NAME: Why must the cards labeling works of art be so vacuous? “Now, though, even the most venerable institutions have succumbed to the pull of populism: exhibitions have been dumbed down. And for this, I blame the curators and the catalogues and wall labels they provide. It is not the artists chosen that are at fault but rather the commentaries on them and quality of information supplied in the galleries.” The Telegraph (London) 05/14/00
  • THE BREAK BETWEEN ARCHITECTS AND THE REAL WORLD: Los Angeles is booming. But architects aren’t smiling. “The reason is that once again the profession’s creative elite has been relegated to the sidelines, designing scattered landmark residences while the majority of new housing remains in the hands of corporate developers. The break between the worlds of first-rate architecture and conventional home building – never close in the first place – is now a chasm.” Los Angeles Times 05/14/00
  • NEW IRISH ARCHITECTURE: Ireland didn’t produce much in the way of decent architecture in the 1980s. Most of the large civic projects were roads and bridges. “Disengaged from the infrastructural process, architects felt envious and threatened. One prominent architect nominated for an award remarked that he would hate his building to be ‘beaten by a runway’ at Dublin airport.” Now some new signs of life. Sunday Times (London) 05/14/00

Friday May 12

  • HITLER’S ART DEALER, Karl Haberstock, has been a major ongoing donor of Germany’s Municipal Art Museum in Ausburg. The museum, which has been publicly denounced by the World Jewish Congress, has finally agreed to investigate the provenance of the museum’s more questionable works and to open its archives to the public over the Internet. Wired 05/11/00 (Reuters) 
  • THE STARS COME OUT: The Tate Modern opens with a powerhouse collection of high-wattage luminaries. The Guardian 05/12/00
  • WHO GOT THE BUZZ? Artists, that’s who. “It is pointless to start flinging labels around and referring to art as the new rock ‘n’ roll or the new fashion or even the new film industry, since what actually seems to have happened is that the art world has subsumed all these things and turned them into, well, art. At the same time, the players at the centre of all the excitement, the artists themselves, have emerged as the absolute celebrities of the moment, with the (now, not so) Young British Artists attaining a kind of super-supremacy, like the super-models and rock superstars before them.” London Evening Standard 05/12/00
  • SO MUCH FOR THAT EXPERIMENT: MGM Grand has announced it will sell off its part of the $400 million worth of artwork it acquired with its purchase of the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Former owner Steve Wynn had opened a gallery in the hotel to show the art, and charged visitors admission. MGM says it will use the money to finance its acquisition of the hotel. Las Vegas Sun 05/12/00 
  • THE ART OF THE E-AUCTION: “The eBay con artists get all the attention, but what about the lesser-known eBay artists? That’s right. There is a new breed of artist using the Internet auction site as a forum for creative expression. Their work is hard to categorize; it’s a combination of conceptual art and performance art, sort of like a digital happening in cyberspace. Where else can an artist reach a potential audience of millions? What better place to make a wry comment on our materialistic consumer culture?” Boston Globe 05/12/00
  • EXPENSIVE CHALLENGE: Bernard Arnault is trying to challenge Sotheby’s and Christie’s by pumping life (and a lot of money) into No. 3 auctioneer Philips. The company debuted this week’s auction with an ambitious lineup with about $81 million in art. Less than two thirds sold, however – bringing in just $40.1 million – so Arnault will have to make up the difference himself  because of the minimum prices he guaranteed to his sellers. New York Post 05/12/00
    • CHARITY AUCTION OR SERIOUS ART SALE? “The auction began nearly an hour late, and then it started with an announcement that 3 percent of the hammer prices would go to the American Foundation for AIDS Research. Dressed in a bright orange dress with matching lipstick, the movie star Sharon Stone, campaign chairwoman for the charity, made a speech about AIDS. Throughout the evening, she wandered up and down the aisles trying to drum up excitement in the otherwise dead room.” New York Times 05/12/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • TWENTY YEARS OF MAKEOVER: In an era of rapid change in the museum world, James Wood has been director of the Arts Institute of Chicago for 20 years. “During his time, all the museum’s departments were renovated; the original beaux-arts building was restored; a wing was built; a department of architecture founded; a program of publications resumed; a constellation of conservation labs established; and curators of nearly every department were replaced.” Not to mention two decades-worth of exhibitions of art. Wood reflects on the past and future of American museums. Chicago Tribune 05/12/00
  • POST-DESERT STORM ART: Iraq’s national museum, which has been closed since the Gulf War, has finally reopened to the public. More than 10,000 artifacts are on display, including rare Sumerian and Babylonian sculpture and archeological treasure. CNN 05/11/00
  • LONGA THANKGA: The longest and largest Tibetan painting – a thankga about six football fields long – has gone on display in the Revolutionary Museum in Beijing. CNN 05/12/00
  • CONTEMPO-PLINTH: A panel decided to make the vacant plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square an ongoing showcase for contemporary art. BBC 05/12/00
  • E-MINIMALISM: It’s the digital equivalent of watching paint dry. An artist takes minimalism to the net: “On the computer screen, ‘Film Task’ appears to be a simple black square that, over eight hours, gradually turns white. Since it takes about 30 minutes for the eye to discern a change, patience is required (along with the Shockwave plug-in). A monotonous sine wave serves as the soundtrack, the only accompaniment.” New York Times 05/12/00 (one-time registration required for entry)

Thursday May 11

  • NAKED, NUDE, STARKERS: No, no, no – certainly no one would suggest that Larry Gagosian’s first exhibit in his new London gallery was cynically sensation – it was art after all, featuring an artist “who pays 23 tall, slender women to spend three hours being stared at while naked except for stilettos. The 23 women were chosen for their height their figures, pale skins and auburn hair, as well as attributes best not inquired after. For three hours they stared back dispassionately as London’s art world arrived, had a long look, and then had a free drink across the road in a bar called Strawberry Moons.” London Evening Standard 05/11/00 
  • SWEAT EQUITY: The Smithsonian’s traveling exhibition exploring American sweatshops – consisting of archival photos and a few historical artifacts, including mass-produced slave workshirts, union posters from the ’20s onward and objects seized in the infamous 1995 El Monte sweatshop raid – would have seemed to have been a natural for LA’s Museum of Tolerance. But the show wasn’t even advertised or the press notified. How come? LA Weekly 05/11/00
  • QUEEN ELIZABETH opens the eagerly-anticipated Tate Modern today. Gala parties to follow. BBC 05/11/00
    • THE GLOBAL MUSEUM SWEEPSTAKES: The cliche in art these days is that museums are the modern cathedrals. Who cares if there isn’t enough to go inside. Increasingly visitors come to experience the architecture – “an experiential encounter that competes with, and often dwarfs, our encounters with the art inside.” Thus opens the new Tate Modern. LA Weekly 05/11/00
    • SUBJECTIVE OPINION: Instead of hanging art chronologically at the new Tate Modern, curators have taken a thematic approach, jumbling eras and ages to trace themes. The Art Newspaper 05/11/00 
    • GREAT AT THE TATE: “I’ve got complaints about Tate Modern – but because they perhaps have less to do with the museum than my own un-grooviness, I’ll save them until later. Art is what counts; and the art at Tate Modern – much of it heaped up and hidden away until now in the vaults of the old Tate Gallery (now become Tate Britain) – is marvellously served.” National Post (Canada) 05/11/00
  • GOING ONCE…AH, FORGET IT: Ebay cancels the accounts of a man who was selling a painting many believed was a Diebenkorn. The online auctioeer said the man listed the work in a way that “artificially inflated the price” and accused him of “shill bidding” in which he entered bids on his own items. New York Times 05/11/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 
  • RECORD PRICE: An Emily Carr painting is auctioned for $1 million in Vancouver – a record for the artist, and the most ever paid for a piece of art at auction in Western Canada. CBC 05/11/00

Wednesday May 10

  • CON ARTIST: The man who put the purported Diebenkorn painting for sale on eBay Monday (and received a final bid of $135,805) “acknowledged yesterday that he concocted part of the story he used to describe the work and said he would be willing to let the buyer out of the sale. Far from being a married homeowner who cleaned the painting out of his garage to please his wife, he is single and has sold a raft of paintings on eBay.” New York Times 05/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 
  • $14 MILLION AN HOUR: Christie’s 20th century art auction Tuesday night had one blockbuster: a 1932 Picasso portrait of his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, that sold for $28.6 million. It took Picasso just two and a half hours to paint it. New York Times 05/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 
  • AUCTIONS AWAY FROM NEW YORK: Tonight one of Emily Carr’s best paintings goes up for auction in Vancouver. It’s expected to bring the highest price for a painting ever paid in Western Canada. How much?  Between $300,000 and $500,000. “The current record for an Emily Carr painting sold at auction was “In the Circle,” which sold in Toronto in 1987 for $297,000. The current record in Western Canada for a painting sold at auction is $231,000. And the current national auction record is Lawren Harris’ “Lake Superior III,” which sold for $1.56-million.” National Post 05/10/00
  • ART CATHEDRAL: In the time of Frank Gehry, one may begin to think an innovative new museum requires an innovative new structure to house it. But the new Tate Modern has found its home in a reused power station that has been transformed into a work of art unto its own. “With one neat sidestep Sir Nicholas Serota avoided all the controversy that would inevitably have raged had he commissioned a new building. He picked a site which makes the most of that much-underused London asset, the Thames, and has a stunningly powerful relationship with St Paul’s Cathedral.” The Telegraph 05/10/00
    • DANGER – 650,000 VOLTS: That pretty much describes the impact the new Tate Modern has. “We are trying both to create a museum of modern art and rethink what a museum of modern art is.” San Francisco Chronicle 05/10/00
    • OR THE LATEST BEHEMOTH? “What are people going to say in 100 years about all these new museums for modern art that we’re building, which seem to be getting almost as big as the Met?” New York Times 05/10/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 

Tuesday May 9

  • TIME WILL TELL: “Sinister, bleak and elitist? Or cool, beautiful and welcoming?” London’s new Tate Modern opens officially on Thursday, but three days of parties and lavish preview receptions – expected to draw 10,000 people – are already underway. And no one’s without an opinion on how the new gallery will or will not transform the city’s cultural life. The Telegraph 05/09/00  
  • “WATERSHED OF BRITISH CULTURAL LIFE”: The big bold Tate Modern “signals the importance of the art of our times, and its centrality in our culture.” The Guardian 05/09/00
  • ONLINE SALES FRENZY: A California man recently put a “‘great big wild abstract painting’ that he said was bought years ago at a garage sale in Berkeley and had a small hole inflicted by a son wielding a plastic tricycle” up for sale on eBay. Bidding started at 25 cents, and within minutes had soared to $135,805, due to speculation that it was actually a 1952 Diebenkorn. “A six-figure sale would not only be one of the highest prices paid online for art, it would also be a powerful testimony to the ability of the Internet to ignite a sales frenzy.” New York Times 05/09/00 (one-time registration required for entry) 
  • AUSTRALIAN ART BOOM: Melbourne antique dealer John Furphy was proud to announce that the Australian art market has experienced an unprecedented boom over the last three years – due in part to the growing popularity of Aboriginal “dot” paintings – with total sales doubling (to $69 million) between 1997 and 1999. The Age (Melbourne) 05/09/00  
  • GENETICALLY TESTED ART: A gallery owner in Auckland, New Zealand is using DNA testing of a few hairs trapped under the paint to verify if his painting is a genuine Gauguin. CBC 05/08/00

Monday May 8

  • DANCING WITH THE TRUTH: Most writing about Marcel Duchamp focuses on what he said or wrote. But “through most of his subsequent career, Duchamp worked harder at burnishing his persona than he ever did at creating art. And he certainly spent more time plotting ways to expand an extremely limited oeuvre than he did poring over his signature accessory, the chess board (but that’s another story).” The Idler 05/08/00
  • “PART OF A DECEPTION?” Two men say they were hired by Georgia O’Keeffe to do chores for her. “John Poling, a philosophy professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota, and Jacobo ‘Jackie’ Suazo, a retired state employee in Santa Fe, each recall being welcomed by O’Keeffe at her Albuquerque home, doing chores and, ultimately, being allowed to paint with her.” What became of the paintings is part of a tangled legacy. CNN 05/05/00
  • MAKING A MOVE IN THE PASSING LANE… The spring auctions are on this week in New York, and while Sotheby’s and Christie’s still dominate, some attention is going to No. 3, Philips, recently bought by Bernard Arnault, the “billionaire French entrepreneur and bitter rival of Christie’s proprietor François Pinault. The works to be auctioned at the American Craft Museum, away from Phillips’s own inadequate saleroom, are impressive. The auctioneer that has traditionally sold pictures of five- and six-figure values has moved into a new league.” The Telegraph (London) 05/08/00
  • AWKWARD TRANSITION: A familiar face will be absent at this week’s Sotheby’s auctions. Diana Brooks was the face of Sotheby’s as its president and chief executive before she resigned amidst widening auction house investigations in February. But “so big was her role at Sotheby’s that it was impossible for her simply to walk away, officials at the company say.” New York Times 05/08/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • THE VISION THING:How could New York not build itself Frank Gehry’s new Guggenheim in Lower Manhattan?It will have to be considered the most important new piece of architecture to be added to the cityscape since Frank Lloyd Wright’s original spiral. “The Guggenheim spiral is crotchety architecture that has generated a sentimental allegiance. But the Guggenheim plan for lower Manhattan induces dazed admiration, and a shuddering recognition of how much is still possible in today’s architecture. This is the key concept: possibility. If New York is the new Rome, it too needs its follies and risk-takers, its architecture of vision and vulgarity. If we don’t build this museum now, we’ll never forgive ourselves. And a hundred years hence, neither will anyone else.” Feed 05/05/00

Sunday May 7

  • CITY OF MURALS: Philadelphia is mural crazy, covering every blank wall it can with murals – some commissioned and painted by professional artists, but many others the cheerful product of community pride. “Last year at this time the mural count was about 1,800. Now it is 1,900, which prompts the question, how many will be enough? Has mural-painting become a bureaucratic cottage industry? Has it become so important to the city’s tourist promotion that no one will ever recognize a practical limit?” Philadelphia Inquirer 05/07/00
  • THE FASCINATING TATE: “The intense interest in this latest Tate is not just to do with the fact that it has cost £134 million, is constructed within Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s monumental Bankside power station by the iconoclastic Swiss modernists Herzog and de Meuron; and is about to open with a gruelling round of celebrity parties. Nor is it just about the negotiation with a wealthy American collector, Kent Logan, over the possible gift of a chunk of his £100m Saatchi-esque stash of contemporary art. No: it is the fact that the collection on display has been, so to speak, jumbled up.” Sunday Times 05/07/00
    • TAKING ON THE TATE: Among the building excitement about this week’s opening of the new Tate Modern in London, not all the critics are enthusiastic. “Tate Modern is a graceless, gimmicky name for a building that is Britain’s best example of fascist architecture, speaking in its modern abstract classicism of Hitler, Mussolini and Atatürk rather than the timid aspirations of Attlee in 1947, the year of its foundation.” London Evening Standard 05/05/00

Saturday May 6

  • NO EYE FOR ART: A Berlin thief named Krysztof stole a van and discovered the next day that he had pulled off one of the city’s biggest art thefts ever. Too bad. He’d gotten rid of most of it. “Chagall and Miro he had never heard of, so he sold them to a fence for the equivalent of a few hundred pounds. But some of the loot, estimated to be worth DM1.6m (£500,000), was thrown away, conscientiously sorted into the relevant bins at the city dump. A portfolio of drawings went into the paper recycling skip, the metal sculpture and engravings were discarded in the box marked ‘scrap’. Some paintings had to be cut up because they would not fit. But Krysztof enjoyed the task. He never did like post-modernism.” The Independent 05/06/00
  • A BLOODY MESS: An exhibit in London seeks to confront its audience. The piece that provoked the strongest reaction was a punching bag filled with pig’s blood hanging in a boxing ring which, one of the curators explained was meant as a comment on the sport. “Unfortunately one of the guests ignored the ‘Do Not Touch’ signs and punched it so hard it burst. Blood went everywhere, spattering the floors, the walls and even the startled bystanders, many of whom started screaming.” The Independent 05/06/00
  • WOODMAN CUSTODY: In a memorabilia dispute, the Detroit Institute of Arts is battling with the family of a Connecticut pupeteer over who gets custody of the original Howdy Doody puppet. The museum claims the puppet was promised to it, and wants to add it to its collection of puppets. The family claims the puppeteer made no such promise. Detroit News 05/06/00

Friday May 5

  • LOUVRE SHUT DOWN: Security guards at the Louvre in Paris went out on strike Thursday, forcing the museum to close. The guards struck in sympathy with cafeteria workers who have been on strike for four weeks. The museum attracts 16,000 visitors a day this time of year. The Independent 05/05/00
  • MOVING ON UP: Though it attracts a million visitors a year, London’s National Portrait Gallery has always been upstaged by its more prominent neighbor, the National Gallery. But a new makeover courtesy of an £11.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and another £4 million from private donations, has transformed the gallery into somethinjg much much more. London Times 05/05/00
  • DISCERNING TASTE: Noted architecture critic Donald Trump has come out against the Guggenheim Museum’s proposal to build a new Frank Gehry-designed branch in Lower Manhattan. “This building could potentially destroy the skyline of lower Manhattan. There are some people that equate [the design] to a junkyard,” says The Donald. New York Post 05/05/00
  • GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER: A high-profile artist has withdrawn the promise of a multi-million donation of his art collection to the Vancouver Art Gallery in the wake of leadership turmoil. CBC 05/05/00
  • DEMOCRATIC ART: The German parliament has voted to allow Hans Haacke’s controversial artwork to be installed in the Reichstag. “The work consists of a huge wooden container sunk into the floor to be filled with earth from the constituencies of the 660 members of the German parliament. Seeds from all over Germany are to be planted in the earth to produce a garden that will be left to grow wild. A neon inscription above the container will read “Der Bevölkerung” (To the people), a deliberate subversion of the words which were inscribed in bronze on the façade of the Reichstag in 1915: “Dem Deutschen Volke” (To the German people).” The Art Newspaper 05/05/00

Thursday May 4

  • UNDERSTANDING IMPRESSIONISM: In the spring of 1886, your opinion of impressionism seemed determined by whether you lived in Paris or New York: “In New York, critics aligned impressionism with cubism by emphasizing their rationalist aspects, whereas in Paris their differences as perceptualist and structuralist modes took priority.” A 21-page pamphlet entitled “Science and Philosophy in Art” was circulated at an exhibition in New York and eventually made its way back the French impressionist painters, who took it up excitedly and distributed it amongst themselves.  The writer turned out to be a 29-year-old American woman chemist, Helen Cecilia de Silver Abbott, whose particular defense of impressionism was before its time. American Art Spring 2000
  • FINDERS NOT KEEPERS: Last December, Chinese police caught seven midnight marauders digging in an area on the outskirts of Beijing.  The leader of the seven men confessed they had long suspected there was an ancient tomb in the area – sure enough, when  “archaeologists from the Beijing Cultural Relics Bureau continued the dig [they] concluded that, not only were they on the brink of uncovering a tomb, but given the initial findings it could be the resting place of a Han dynasty king.”  Time Asia 05/08/00

Wednesday May 3

  • ARTFUL BUYBACK:Failing to convince Christie’s auction house not to sell what they consider to be looted cultural treasures, Beijingers bid on the items in Hong Kong auctions to keep the artwork in China.  “We spent half an hour calling our group leaders in Europe to report the feelings of Hong Kong’s people, the attitude of Christie’s and the statement of the State Bureau of Cultural Relics. Our leaders’ decision was that if Christie’s insisted on going ahead to sell the looted treasures, we would grab them . . . and the only way was to join the bidding.” South China Morning Post 05/02/00
  • LARRY DOES LONDON: Manhattan art dealer Larry Gagosian, known as one of the brashest dealers on the art scene, is taking his larger-than-life gig to London where a new branch of his gallery will open May 9. “Gagosian has been described as “the hottest art dealer in the world,” known for persuading people to part with art they never knew they wanted to sell, and convincing others to buy it at prices they never knew they were prepared to pay.” London Evening Standard 05/03/00
  • JUST ANOTHER STATUE: Boston has not had a good record of choosing public art. Last weekend a symposium sought to identify ways to turn that record around. “More artist input, and less community involvement in dictating content and style, was a subplot that simmered without reaching a boil. The community that asks for and gets another figurative statue of a local hero is a community unaware of the world of other options – the world artists know. But ‘community involvement’ has become such a lightning rod that many people in the arts are afraid to question it. Boston Globe 05/03/00
  • ART OUTPOST: “Usually, new government buildings forage for their furnishings and decoration after the builders have left. Art is an afterthought. But in Moscow the British government specially commissioned furniture, textiles and works of art by British artists while the building was still under construction. The result is a tribute to their foresight, for if diplomacy is the art of presenting your country in the best possible light, the new embassy is itself a symbol of the achievements that have made Britain so pre-eminent in the visual arts in recent years. The Telegraph (London) 05/03/00
  • NOT TO BE UPSTAGED: London’s Royal Academy – the good folks who brought you “Sensation” are out to do it again. Just in case anyone thought the RA was going to cede the contemporary turf to the about-to-open Tate Modern, the RA announces a sure-to-shock show focused on beauty and horror. The Guardian 05/03/00

Tuesday May 2

  • PUTTING ON AIRS: A government report released today by UK Arts Minster Alan Howarth concludes that “snobbery and discrimination” by museum staffs may prevent the poor and socially disenfranchised from visiting. The report urges cultural institutions to combat social exclusion by urging staff to be less intimidating and by taking steps, like putting catalogs on the internet to reach broader, more diverse audiences. The Independent 05/02/00 
  • FOR ALL THE WORLD TO SEE: An impressive number of Japanese homeowners have hired avant-garde architects to design inventive homes with no exterior walls or made entirely from glass. “These houses are not the work of oddball individualists, but creative attempts by cutting-edge architects to redefine the management of space, light, privacy and nature in the Japanese home.” Smithsonian 05/00  
  • THE POLITICS OF ARTIFACTS: Honolulu’s Bishop Museum used to have an excellent reputation for the study of Polynesian culture. But times have changed. Recently, the museum allowed 83 ancient Hawaiian artifacts worth millions of dollars to be turned over to a Native Hawaiian organization as provided for by the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. But a dispute has erupted over whether the artifacts will be cared for properly and if the group that now has possession is actually entitled to the work. Archeology Magazine 05/00
  • DESIGNER DISCARDS: Designer Karl Lagerfeld’s astonishing collection of 18th century furniture and art objects fetched $21.7 million at Christie’s – the second-biggest sale ever for the Christie’s Monaco auction house. Times of India 05/02/00

Monday May 1

  • SELLING HERITAGE: The Chinese government tried to stop Christie’s auction house from selling two sculptures at auction in Hong Kong. The sale went ahead anyway, and the pieces were bought by a Beijing man, who says he bought them for “the Chinese people.” According to China’s State Bureau of Cultural Relics, “both sculptures came from a set of 12 bronze animal heads that adorned the Zodiac Fountain at Yuanmingyuan, or the Old Summer Palace, which was looted by British and French troops during the second Opium War in 1860.” China Times 05/01/00
  • Chinese angry at auction house over auction. New York Times 05/01/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • POWER IN KNOWLEDGE: Several projects are underway to put online records of art sales. Once, collectors had to rely on what dealers and auction houses told them about a painting’s history. Now, at the click of a button, they can do their own research and perhaps establish a partial, and sometimes a complete, provenance. The Telegraph (London) 05/01/00
  • TODAY MELBOURNE, TOMORROW… Deutscher Menzies controls the Melbourne auction business and has a leg up in Sydney. “Once the saleroom is established nationally, it will take on the big two [Sotheby’s and Christie’s] on their home turfs in London and New York. In December Menzies made a bid for the world’s third oldest auction house, the London-based Phillips. He was one of a group of shortlisted bidders but lost out to French financier Bernard Arnault, head of the luxury products group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. The Age (Melbourne) 05/01/00
  • SOMETHING TO GO INSIDE: The about-to-open Tate Modern is negotiating with San Francisco entrepreneur Kent Logan who may be “about to give part of his £100 million art collection – one of the world’s largest in private hands – to the new museum. The Guardian 05/01/00
  • MUSEUM WITH A PLAN: London’s new Tate Modern opens next week. “From the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain, examples of museums promoting urban renewal are plentiful. But for the Tate this angle proved a useful marketing tool. Having picked the site for an annex, museum officials needed to raise $214 million to convert the abandoned power plant. And they understood that a museum that promised economic and social benefits to the city would be an easier sell than art for art’s sake.”  New York Times 05/01/00 (one-time registration required for entry)
  • EARLY ARTISTS: British archeologists have found evidence that  suggests humans were producing art 350,000 to 400,000 years ago. The evidence – found in a cave in Zambia – suggests the area’s Stone Age inhabitants were producing painted art before they evolved into our species. The Independent 05/01/00
  • BOOTY EXCHANGE: On Saturday Germany and Russia met in St. Petersburg to swap art they had stolen from one another during World War II. “In exchange for the intricately inlaid chest and glistening mosaic from Peter the Great’s famed Amber Room, Russia has agreed to return 101 artworks looted from Germany by Soviet troops after World War II. A Russian law largely bans repatriating booty art, seen by Russians as compensation for an estimated several hundred thousand items destroyed or lost during the Nazi occupation.” Chicago Tribune 05/01/00
  • NO MADAME TUSSAUD’S, BUT… London’s Royal Academy show of Monet last year raked in the visitors, making it the eighth most-visited attraction in the UK. Visitor numbers at the RA leapt from 912,714 in 1998 to 1.39m last year, boosting the academy from 19th to eighth place. But before anyone gets too excited, consider that Madame Tussaud’s at No. 2 on the list logged more than twice as many visitors. BBC 05/01/01

Publishing: May 2001

Thursday May 31

WILL SUCCESS SPOIL LITERARY FANTASY?The success of fantasy novels like Harry Potter has attracted waves of new writers ready to supply fantasy product. But is success killing the magic? “Commodified fantasy takes no risks: it invents nothing, but imitates and trivializes. It proceeds by depriving the old stories of their intellectual and ethical complexity, turning their action to violence, their actors to dolls, and their truth-telling to sentimental platitude.” Slate 05/30/01

CAN YOU GET ROYALTIES FROM A DICTATOR? Canadian artist Jonathon Bowser was shocked to learn that one of his paintings was used for the cover of a romantic allegory written by Saddam Hussein. In it, Hussein “portrays himself as a benevolent king bestowing love on his people.” Says Bowser: “Where are my royalties, that’s what I want to know. A romantic allegory isn’t necessarily bad, I just would have chosen a different author.” National Post (Canada) 05/30/01

Wednesday May 30

WRITERS’ SANCTUARY: Nigeria has offered itself up as a sanctuary for writers in trouble. “To date, it has offered asylum to 32 international authors, filmmakers, composers and journalists.” CBC 05/29/01

WANT TO COLLABORATE WITH MARK TWAIN? Like most writers, Mark Twain left unpublished work. One piece is a story intended as a collaborative experiment with other writers. It went nowhere. Now the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, which owns rights to the story, has renewed the experiment, with cash prizes for those who come up with the best ending to Twain’s story. CBC 05/29/01

Tuesday May 29

BOOKS HOLDING STEADY: Compared to newspaper and magazine publishing, the book-selling business seems to be weathering the economic downturn in pretty good shape. In the first quarter of this year “bookstore sales at Barnes & Noble increased 4.3%, to $807.9 million. At Books-a-Million, total revenues rose 4.7%, to $97.5 million, but comparable-store sales were down 6.8% in the quarter, largely due to the strong performance of Pokémon products last year.” Publishers Weekly 05/28/01

DO BOOK CLUBS KILL FICTION? Blame the boring uniformity of today’s fiction on the Book Club Phenomenon. So many “literary” books tend to look so alike because publishers are thinking about whether book clubs will buy them. The Independent (UK) 05/28/01

CHARACTER ASSASSINATION: French heirs of writer Victor Hugo are furious over a new sequel to Les Miserables, Hugo’s best-known work. They’re going to court to block publication. “We do not consider this a sequel, but a rewriting. It’s not a sequel when you resurrect characters. Just because the book is in the public domain, it doesn’t mean you can do what you like with it.” The New York Times 05/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Monday May 28

WIND HITS THE PRESSES: Armed with an appeals court’s permission to publish, Houghton Mifflin is anticipating an initial print run of 25,000 for The Wind Done Gone. But the parody’s legal troubles may not be over just yet. 05/25/01

WHAT THEY’RE READING IN AUSTRALIA: In book sales for the past year, it’s just like everywhere else – Harry Potter. JK Rowling’s Harry sagas took the top four places on the bestseller list. The Age (Melbourne) 05/28/01

Sunday May 27

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND: A federal appeals court has cleared the way for publication of The Wind Done Gone, a novel that parodies, and borrows liberally from, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. The ruling reverses a lower court decision blocking publication. Nando Times (AP) 05/26/01

Thursday May 24

THE E-FUTURE: Is there an audience for e-books? “Subscription, pay-per-view, ad-supported – online publishing will only succeed when there are many business models, and publishers and users can choose the appropriate model for their needs.” Publishers Weekly 05/21/01

DUMPING AMIS AND DISSING THE NOVEL: Judges for the Samuel Johnson non-fiction award pushed Martin Amis off their short list in favor of a book about trilobites. Then they claimed that there was “huge public appetite and excitement for non-fiction at the moment which is not matched by that for the novel.” The Guardian (UK) 05/24/01

Wednesday May 23

MAYBE HE’LL MOVE THE SCROLL TO BALTIMORE: Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript for On the Road was sold at auction for $2.43 million yesterday, more than $1 million over the expected sale price. The manuscript is written on one continuous roll of paper. Oh, and the winning bidder? That would be Jim Irsay, best known as the owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. MSNBC 05/23/01

THE SATIRE DONE GONE? With the US District Court decision blocking publication of The Wind Done Gone, many professional satirists are wondering just what precedent has been set. The Court had previously allowed purveyors of parody a wide berth when it came to lifting material, but the new ruling could change everything. Hartford Courant 05/23/01

JUST PROVE IT: A site that has been tracking sales of e-published books begins to doubt the accuracy of numbers supplied by publishers. Some refuse verification of royalty payments, so now some of the formerly-best-sellers have been removed from the list. Wired 05/22/01

WRITING ON THE WALL? The legendary Writer’s Voice program at New York’s West Side YMCA, “an unusually fertile training ground for writers,” has announced it was canceling its summer programs. But a recent troubled history of management and rumor has many wondering if the program will ever resume. They worry that a “20-year-old community institution whose students and professors have included the likes of Pulitzer winner Michael Cunningham, Walter Mosley, and Sue Miller” will be lost forever. Village Voice 05/22/01

Tuesday May 22

THE CHANGING ‘WIND‘: “This Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta will rule on whether or not Judge Charles Pannell was right to ban publication of first-time novelist Alice Randall’s The Wind Done Gone, “a parody … from the slaves’ point of view” (the description is Randall’s) of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind, that had been scheduled for publication in June.” National Post (Canada) 05/22/01

Monday May 21

THE NEXT CHAPTER: Troubled Canadian book superstore Chapters is downsizing to try to solve its money woes. But “why should Chapters have its wings clipped? Just because it expanded far too rapidly? Just because it targeted and drove independent bookstores out of business? Just because it strong-armed and bullied publishers? Just because it returned books by the truckload? Just because it delayed payment of its bills until publishers and authors alike teetered on the edge of bankruptcy? Just because its doomed course – iceberg? what iceberg? – might well have dragged a sizable chunk of Canadian publishing down to the bottom with it?” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/21/01

HIT THE ROAD JACK: The manuscript of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road is to be auctioned off this week, and scholars are unhappy. “The item is unique among works of 20th-century literature because, rather than a stack of typed pages, the manuscript is a continuous 37-metre scroll of heavy tracing paper. ‘The scroll is the most important document in the entire Kerouac archives, and it shouldn’t be separated from the rest of the archives’.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/21/01

EVEN IF YOU PAY… There are lots of problems with the magazine Foreword‘s announcement it will review books for authors at a cost of $295. “It’s obvious that ForeWord won’t get much business from the publishers it claims it means to serve. See, ForeWord reviews will be worthless unless they seem objective, and so they’re going to have to be negative on occasion. Do you think publishers are going to pay for bad reviews? Big publishers don’t need to, and small publisher don’t have the money to waste.” Mobylives 05/21/01

Sunday May 20

UNRELIABLE SOURCES: Critics seem to be wrong just about as often as they’re right. From the archives of publisher Alfred A. Knopf, the reviews of readers considering what books to publish, show serious lapses in judgment. The Observer (UK) 05/20/01

Friday May 18

iPUBLISH = iHIGHWAY ROBBERY? The Writers’ Guild is warning its members to stay away from iPublish, the digital imprint of TimeWarner Books. The Guild claims that iPublish’s standard contract forces authors to give up too many rights. Wired 05/18/01

VOLCANIC VERSE: Tomaz Salamun is one of Eastern Europe’s most celebrated poets, yet he views himself as a “monster.” His bleak, sometimes violent poems reflect the harsh landscape of the wartorn region he hails from, and he seems to consider his art as much a weapon as a mode of expression. “Poetry makes a human being more human, but it can also dehumanize, like a big passion, a horrible obsession driven by laws that are beyond the human.” San Jose Mercury News (AP) 05/18/01

Thursday May 17

MISERABLES II – GAVROCHE STRIKES BACK: “Descendants of Victor Hugo, outraged by a contemporary sequel to his 1862 novel “Les Miserables,” urged France and the European Parliament on Tuesday to condemn the commercial misuse of literary classics… ‘Does anyone think someone could commission a Tenth Beethoven Symphony?’ they asked in an open letter.” Chicago Tribune 05/17/01

Wednesday May 16

BAD FOR BOOKS: It’s been a miserable few years for the Canadian book industry. “The situation, in which the industry has been hit by much heavier than usual returns – as staggeringly high as 60% in some cases – has undergone a bewildering sense of disorientation, and has experienced an agonizing feeling of betrayal, and can only get better.” Publishers Weekly 05/14/01

RULES OF LIFE: How truthful should biographies attempt to be? “It is striking that while biography itself goes in and out of fashion with critics and publishers (not long ago, it was being asserted in publishing circles that the bottom had dropped out of the biography market: popular history was all the rage), the debate over the rules or ethics of writing life stories never dies away.” New Statesman 05/14/01

WORDS OF THE AGES: Do writers get better with age? “The older an author gets, the easier it is for them to leave behind the preoccupations of their youth, to invent freely and explore with ambition. Thus the long-distance author shape-shifts in mid-career.” The Guardian (UK) 05/16/01

RECORD PRICE FOR CELINE MANUSCRIPT: The French National Library, exercising a right to match private bids, paid 11 million French francs ($1.5 million) for the hand-written first draft copy of Louis-Ferdinand Celine’s Journey to the End of the Night. It is believed to be a record for a manscript auction. Chicago Sun-Times (AP) 05/16/01

DRAT! WE GOTTA REPRINT ALL THOSE HISTORY BOOKS: There are data to suggest that Columbus actually reached the New World in 1485, on a mission from the Vatican. What about that 1492 thing? Just a return voyage, say the believers. “The story of the discovery of America is filled with misinformation. Simply, it is a great marketing operation by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain.” Discovery 05/15/01

Tuesday May 15

FIRST TIME’S A CHARM: First-time Canadian author Alistair McLeod wins the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award – literature’s richest prize at $172,000 CDN. CBC 05/14/01

Monday May 14

READING DROPOUTS: An alarming number of Americans is choosing not to read, says a new study. “We pride ourselves on being a largely literate First World country while at the same time we rush to build a visually powerful environment in which reading is not required. The results are inevitable. Aliteracy is all around. Washington Post 05/14/01

LIFE OF THE PARTY: Academics have generally distrusted writers of biographies. “Although biographers do pretty much the same thing as academics – they go to libraries, find stuff out, and then publish books about it – the two camps have always kept themselves stiffly to themselves, held apart by a barely disguised tangle of envy, suspicion and defensive superiority.” Those attitudes may be thawing. New Statesman 05/14/01

WORDS MATTER: A little book on writing, written in the 1950s, reminds that “the right words arranged in the right order can be weapons, that culture and education are political and that good, radical ideas have a curious ability to elude the spin doctors.” The Observer (UK) 05/13/01

THE FAN LIBRARIAN: With the internet, a new kind of “librarian” emerges. Fans of authors collect up everything available on their heroes. “Each is part fan, part archivist, part technician, using the resources of the Web to pay tribute to an author he or she loves. It’s a unique joining of the old fashioned with the up to the minute: for with these sites, as with creation itself, in the beginning was the word.” Boston Globe 05/14/01

Sunday May 13

A TRULY HOOPY FROOD PASSES ON: Douglas Adams, author of the sci-fi cult classic book trilogy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has died of a heart attack at age 49. There is no word on who inherits his towel. Nando Times (AP) 05/12/01

  • AND A FRIEND REMEMBERS HIM: “To his friends Douglas Adams will be remembered as a giant of a man with a kindness to match. But to his fans I think he will be seen as someone who brought wit into science fiction. With the greatest respect to Gene Roddenberry and others, that had not been done before.” The Observer (London) 05/13/01

Friday May 11

CAN’T HANG ON TO THEM: Amazon claims 32 million customers. But is it true? An analyst says the company is losing customers fast. “Amazon lost 2.3 million customers in the quarter ended March 31, while adding 3 million first-time shoppers.” Bookwire (USAToday) 05/09/01

Thursday May 10

NAME GAME: A work of art scarcely exists without a name, a title, something to call it that will place it where it’s supposed to be. So what happens when nothing comes to mind? Poets & Writers 05/01

INVISIBLE AUTHOR: “Don DeLillo is, in every way, what undergraduate literature courses dub a Major Author. Yet he is also an essentially invisible author, largely unread by and unknown to not simply the vast majority of Americans, but the vast majority of well-educated Americans, most of whom have never read one of his books and could not name even one of his many memorable characters. His situation thus represents something of a mystery.” Reason 05/01

BUYOUT: So now a website is offering authors the opportunity to buy reviews. What’s the point, wonders Alex Good. “Whether a book that does get a paid review will be any better off is doubtful. With all of the stigma that attaches to self-publishing and e-publishing, one can imagine an even more negative response to this kind of reviewing, with its obvious violation of canons of objectivity.” And do reviews make a difference, anyway? GoodReports 05/10/01

Wednesday May 9

AIM FOR THE CENTER: “A society in which literature has been relegated – like some hidden vice – to the margins of social and personal life, and transformed into something like a sectarian cult, is a society condemned to become spiritually barbaric, and even to jeopardize its freedom. I wish to offer a few arguments against the idea of literature as a luxury pastime.” The New Republic 05/08/01

PAID REVIEWS: Only about 10 percent of the some 70,000 books published annually are ever reviewed professionally. So now you can buy one. “Any publisher or author can buy a review through a website for $295. Included in the price is the right to print the review in any marketing or publicity effort, lifetime archival of the review on-site, and distribution to numerous licensees.” Wired 05/09/01

A BOOK IS A BOOK OF COURSE OF COURSE: Random House is suing e-publisher RosettaBooks for publishing electronic versions of books Random had previously published. The original contracts assigned “book rights” to Random. So do electrons constitute a book? Some heavy definitions are in order… 05/09/01

PSYCHIATRISTS, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LOVE HARRY POTTER: “The children’s book character makes mistakes, but he comes through in the end. He not only survived an abusive childhood in the home of hateful relatives, but he came out with hope and an ability to love.” Dallas Morning News 05/09/01

Tuesday May 8

THE WIND IS MISERABLES? “Call it parody, plagiarism or sequelization, once-upon-a-time-one-more-time is the idea for a spate of recent books. Of course, literary borrowing isn’t exactly new – Aeschylus borrowed from Homer; Shakespeare borrowed many plots.” Los Angeles Times 05/07/01

THE DOWNSIDE OF THE e-SLUSH PILE? Electronic publishing has held out the promise that authors can more easily get their work out to an audience. But “there has been a surprising backlash against writers being able to make their work so readily available. Many voices have been raised, saying that all this is a bad thing. A very bad thing.” Is it? Complete Review 05/01

THE RETURN OF SHORT STORIES? Why aren’t more short stories published? Publishers are convinced that short fiction, like poetry, is a refined form that is, “essentially, too snooty to attract a large audience, and they’re not going to publish any more of the stuff than is absolutely necessary to give one of their writers — or themselves — the faintest of literary veneers.” Nonetheless, are there are signs of a possible revival? 05/07/01

Monday May 7

LITTLE THINGS MATTER: Why are newspapers cutting their books sections? “Information about books is hard to come by. If one knows exactly what one is looking for, then of course it is fairly easy. But one of the great things about book review sections and magazines is that one comes across information about titles one never knew existed, or titles one had not considered in the proper light.” The Complete Review 05/01

INTERRUPTING THE CULTURE OF THE PRINTED PAGE: Just why are libraries destroying books and newspapers after preserving them electronically? The information contained on pages may thus be preserved, but such destruction is an interruption in the culture of reading pages. Are not the artifacts at least as important as the representations of them? The Idler 05/07/01

ATLANTIC CUTS BACK: Recent years have seen a slew of “old-guard” magazines being taken over by famous editors, causing long-time readers no small amount of trepidation. When Michael Kelly came to The Atlantic last year, he promised a cosmetic facelift, but no change in the historic monthly’s editorial direction. Now comes news that the July and August issues will be combined, and the worried speculation starts all over again. The New York Times 05/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday May 6

TAKING OFF ON THE WIND: Why is the parody version of Gone with the Wind in legal trouble? “Though clumsy, self-important and sometimes laughably silly, The Wind Done Gone ardently contests the romanticized view of the antebellum South set down in Gone With the Wind and proposes an Afrocentric version of history in its stead. It is both a commentary on an iconic work of fiction and a repudiation of that novel’s worldview.” There is a long literary tradition of doing this. The New York Times 05/05/01 (one-time registration required for access)

THE NEW EMPEROR: Dave Eggers is a one-man literary juggernaut. From his successful novel, to his snide, caustic, website McSweeney’s, to his own personal publishing house, Eggers has become the under-30 answer to Ted Turner: an undeniably brilliant but self-possessed mind dragging the world kicking and screaming into the next incarnation of entertainment and information, a place where the world is not entirely sure it wants to go. The New York Times 05/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

CONFLICTING INTERESTS? A reporter’s investigation and some subsequent resignations rock the Hollywood Reporter. The issue points up some of the difficulties when the industry you cover is also the industry that buys your ads. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/05/01

Friday May 4

DEUX TOO MUCH: The family of French writer Victor Hugo are trying to block publication of a book that has been dubbed “Les Miserables II.” “The novel, which has been described as a blasphemous betrayal by its critics, contains many of the characters from Hugo’s famous portrayal of social injustice in revolutionary France.” BBC 05/04/01

ACCESSIBLY RARE: Only a few scholars and wealthy collectors have access to rare manuscripts and book. They’re too fragile to be handled. “Providing access to rare books while trying to preserve them is ‘the biggest problem libraries (with special collections) have.” Digital technology may help. Wired 05/03/01

HUNDRED-MILLION HARRY: Sales of the Harry Potter books have passed the 100 million mark worldwide. Harry has been translated into 42 languages. Ottawa Citizen (AP) 05/04/01

Wednesday May 2

THINK OF IT AS PIZZA FOR YOUR BRAIN: “Last week, Cathy Kelly became the Romantic Novelist of the Year, winning £5,000 and very little respect from the critics. This is par for the course in the world of romantic fiction: you earn a lot and die unnoticed… All the genre novels have a hard time in literary circles… but special abuse is reserved for the romantic novel. It’s the junk food of the literary appetite.” The Guardian (London) 05/01/01

Tuesday May 1

A CELEBRATION OF WHAT? National Poetry Month was a real bust. All it did was focus attention on how much disrepair the art of poetry is in. Why are things so bad? “The dullness of today’s poetry has become so pervasive, such a given, that we have to force ourselves to remember that poetry is not at all dull by nature.” GoodReports 05/01/01

VOICE OF THE CITY: Twenty-five years ago, Armistead Maupin signed on with a San Francisco paper to write a daily fiction serial focusing on the lives of singles, both gay and straight, in the City by the Bay. Such openness was nearly unheard of at the time, but “Tales of the City” struck a public chord, and catapulted Maupin into the ranks of the superstar authors. San Francisco Chronicle 05/01/01

AFTER A LONG THINK: Just as the new Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism was about to go to print, it was discovered that the tome was about 300 pages too long. “After two weeks of debate and intellectual horse-trading, a new table of contents emerged. Twenty-one thinkers, including Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Elaine Showalter, vanished from the collection entirely; selections from three others were trimmed.” Chronicle of Higher Education 04/30/01

HOW TO BE GREAT: Why are the Great Books great? “It does not rest on William Bennett’s assertion that the great is great because ‘it is the best that has been thought and said.’ The greatness of the great does not and cannot rest on a question-begging platitude.” Context 04/01

CALLING ALL AUTHORS: “ is a combination publishing house, bookstore, writing school, online writing community, talent search show and lecture hall all in one. And integrating all those elements into one site has taken the better part of a year.” Wired 04/30/01


People: May 2001

Wednesday May 30
THE ART OF BEING MISHA: Mikhail Baryshnikov has “sustained injuries, primarily to his knee, that render ballet’s huge, abandoned jumps and turns impossible for him. But rather than slink off and rest on his substantial laurels, the artist who was perhaps the premier danseur of his generation has made a virtue of necessity. He’s forged a new career as a dancer, producer, and promoter of the seminal experimental work created by American postmodern pioneers in the ’60s and ’70s, and of the pieces they’re making now.” Village Voice 05/30/01

Tuesday May 29
PERLMAN FALLS: Violinist Itzhak Perlman falls onstage on his way to performing the Barber Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra. “He landed hard. Face-down on the stage between his podium and the conductor’s, his arms still in the crutches, the upturned soles of his shoes facing the audience. The applause stopped as if it’d been guillotined. And the sound—that’s what I’ll remember years from now—1,500 people in a choral gasp, then pin-drop silence.” Minnesota Public Radio 05/23/01
Monday May 28
MY NEW ARTISTIC LIFE: Michael Stone was “one of the most notorious terrorists in Northern Ireland.” But since getting out of jail he says he’s become an artist. His supporters are threatening to demonstrate against a Belfast gallery if it won’t show Stone’s work. Sunday Times (UK) 05/27/01
HARRY’S WORLD: Harry Partch has always been one of those composers whom philosophers adore and musicians fear. First of all, he insists that there are 43 distinct pitches in a single octave (rather than the standard 12.) Furthemore, he finds traditional instruments sadly lacking in the sound quality his works demand, and so he invents new ones. Constantly. Los Angeles Times 05/28/01

Friday May 25
WHAT AILS YOU: “Anyone now catching up on medical literature from the past few years can’t help being struck by the vast amount of attention devoted to intriguing cases from long ago. Investigations by modern doctors have suggested that Catherine the Great suffered from syphilis, that Kant suffered from Alzheimer’s, and that Brahms suffered from sleep apnea; that Van Gogh and Saint Teresa of Avila were afflicted with temporal-lobe epilepsy; that Chopin was felled by emphysema or cystic fibrosis; and that Mozart was done in by streptococcus, not by Salieri. The Atlantic 05/01
: Film legend Ingmar Bergman is preparing to direct his own version of Ibsen’s Ghosts at the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. The production will have a brief run in New York next year. Bergman, whose last film was more than 20 years ago, insists he’ll never direct for the screen again. CBC 05/25/01
WHAT COLOR IS YOUR CASTLE? Jeremy Irons’ is pink. Well, more like peach. Up close, its sort of terracotta. Whatever it is, his Irish neighbors don’t like it. BBC 05/24/01

Thursday May 24
DYLAN AT 60. THINGS HAVEN’T CHANGED MUCH: “His seeming discomfort with the world and his place in it help keep him a fascinating figure. Dylan has remained an embattled presence whose every move has been dissected and debated. Dylan has shown no inclination toward mellowness.” Boston Herald 05/24/01

Wednesday May 23
PERSONA NON GRATA: Betty Oliphant, the Canadian dance legend who helped to found the National Ballet School and the National Ballet of Canada, has been virtually banned from both of the institutions she brought to prominence. “Oliphant is the vivid personification of the Dylan Thomas poem advising us not to go gentle into that good night. Time has not withered her formidable mind. Neither has it softened her acid tongue.” The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/23/01

Monday May 21
SIR PETER PLAYWRIGHT: Playwright Peter Shaffer is knighted by the Queen. “A unique figure among modern dramatists, for three decades he produced a series of successful plays which tackled huge themes, making him the playwright who makes mainstream audiences think about the big ideas of their times.” The Times (UK) 05/21/01
JEROME ROBBINS, MEANY? A new 600-page biography of choreographer Jerome Robbins says he was difficult to work with and frequently screamed at dancers. So… what about the work and what it means? The New Yorker 05/21/01

Wednesday May 16
SHAKESPEARE’S PICTURE: A painting that purports to be a portrait of William Shakespeare has surfaced. “The painting appears to be authentic. Radiocarbon dating reveals it to be 340 years old, give or take 50 years. It shows a ruddy-haired, hazel-eyed young man sporting a short beard, sideburns, a hint of a mustache, and a bilateral receding hairline of fluffy sprouts.” National Review 05/15/01
Tuesday May 15
JASON MILLER, 62: Actor and playwright Jason Miller has died of a heart attack. In 1973, Miller was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist. The same year he won both a Pulitzer and a Tony for his play That Championship SeasonPhiladelphia Inquirer 05/15/01

Monday May 14
NARAYAN DEAD AT 94: “R. K. Narayan, the literary chronicler of small-town life in South India and one of the first Indians writing in English to achieve international acclaim, died yesterday in Madras, India. He was 94.” The New York Times 05/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)
MARCEAU SPEAKS: Marcel Marceaux has been named a United Nations ambassador for the aged. “I make the visible invisible and the invisible visible. People think that when we are silent, you have nothing to say. But you can make people laugh and cry through the tragedy and the comedy of life.” New York Times Magazine 05/13/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday May 13
PERRY COMO DIES: “Perry Como, the crooning baritone barber famous for his relaxed vocals, cardigan sweaters and television Christmas specials, died yesterday after a lengthy illness. He was 87.” Akron Beacon Journal (AP) 05/13/01
A TRULY HOOPY FROOD PASSES ON: Douglas Adams, author of the sci-fi cult classic book trilogy “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” has died of a heart attack at age 49. There is no word on who inherits his towel. Nando Times (AP) 05/12/01
AND A FRIEND REMEMBERS HIM: “To his friends Douglas Adams will be remembered as a giant of a man with a kindness to match. But to his fans I think he will be seen as someone who brought wit into science fiction. With the greatest respect to Gene Roddenberry and others, that had not been done before.” The Observer (London) 05/13/01

Wednesday May 9
CONDUCTOR OF THE YEAR: Pierre Boulez has been named “conductor of the year” at the annual Royal Philharmonic Society awards in London. BBC 05/09/01
A CARFUL OF FLOWERS WILL DO THAT FOR YOU: Ismail Merchant is the salesman half of the Merchant-Ivory team, which has made such movies as Room With A View and Remains of the Day. As a boy, he once went to a movie with an actress: “We arrived at the theater surrounded by people. And they were throwing marigolds on us. And we were submerged in flowers – actually submerged. I said, ‘My God, if you’re making a movie, you’re submerged in flowers!'” He’s been hooked ever since. Nando Times 05/08/01

Tuesday May 8
CALLAS, THE TEEN YEARS: Given her turbulent childhood and neurotic upbringing, it’s a wonder Maria Callas ever had a career, let alone one that lasted as long as it did. A new 670-page biography traces the Diva from age 14 to 22. The Times (UK) 05/08/01
ARNE SUCKSDORFF, 84: Swedish documentary filmmaker Arne Sucksdorff died at his home in Stockholm. He was the first Swede to win an Oscar, which he earned with his 1949 short film Rhythms of a CityNando Times (AP) 05/07/01

Sunday May 6
THE POET AND THE PEAT: Seamus Heaney could be a character in any one of a dozen stock Irish working-class plays. A son of the land, called to highbrow undertakings by an artistic power he cannot explain, Heaney is best known these days for winning the Pulitzer Prize last year for his new translation of Beowulf. But his own poetry has been called the most profound stuff being written in the English language today. Dallas Morning News 05/06/01
CROSSING THE LINE? Celebrated novelist Gore Vidal has never shied away from expressing his political views, whether they are wrapped up in one of his fictional narratives or not. But now, Vidal prepares to tangle with the status quo as never before: he has announced plans to attend the execution of terrorist Timothy McVeigh, and to do so as a sympathizer, declaring, “The boy has a sense of justice.” Nando Times (AP) 05/05/01
Friday May 4
THE CONDUCTOR WITH TWO FACES: In Boston, Keith Lockhart is conductor of the Boston Pops and known for his relaxed, informal style. In Salt Lake City, Lockhart is music director of the Utah Symphony, and a much more serious pillar of the community. The skiing is better in Utah. Boston Herald 05/04/01

Thursday May 3
IT’S TAX TIME: Pavarotti thought he’d settled his tax difficulties with the Italian government last year. But no – this week he goes to trial. “The biggest-earning opera virtuoso in history is accused of dodging £13 million between 1989-95.” He could face three years in jail. The Guardian (UK) 05/02/01
THE MARKETING OF CHARLOTTE CHURCH: The teen singing sensation is making a tour of America, and everything’s been calculated for maximum hype. Who cares if the classical world is turned off by the marketing, say her managers. “One reason she’s controversial is that she’s not really classical. I call it `popera’.” Chicago Tribune 05/03/01


Theatre: May 2001

Thursday May 31

ROOTING FOR THE UNDERDOG: It’s no secret that The Producers is going to win Tonys for everything in sight. And yet, one critic votes another for best in show. Why? I know colleagues will think I’m crazy – The Producers is a Rolls-Royce, and A Class Act is, I don’t know, a Vespa. Yet there are sentimental reasons for voting Class. New York Magazine 05/28/01

STAGE PRESENCE: A sure winner at Sunday’s Tony awards will be Betty Corwin. More than 30 years ago she thought it would be a good idea to make videotapes of stage performances, which otherwise would be lost when the show ended. Now, 4500 tapes later, she’s getting a special Tony for excellence. Boston Globe 05/31/01

Wednesday May 30

DENUDING THE RSC? There are at least a couple of things wrong with the Royal Shakespeare’s plans to restructure. “One is that the RSC may become so little a company, let alone an ensemble, that it will end up with no distinct identity at all. By renouncing its regular six months a year at the Barbican, the RSC will now have no firm London home. RSC could become a mere trademark, one that will sporadically appear on the front of the Young Vic, the Round House, a West End theatre, or even the Barbican, giving spurious credibility to what may be little more than an ad-hoc cast or summer-stock touring troupe.” The Times (UK) 05/30/01

PROTESTING PENISES: Protesters in Wales have “demanded the banning of a sold-out Australian stage show in which two men manipulate their genitalia into various shapes from a hamburger to sea anemone.” The show is in the middle of a two-month tour, and ran for five months last year in London’s West End. The Age (Melbourne) 05/30/01

Sunday May 27

UNION BLUES : “Theatre union Bectu has reacted “with horror” to the announcement that the Royal Shakespeare Company is scaling down operations at the Barbican Centre in London.” BBC 05/25/01

  • SALVAGE JOB: The Barbican’s top man defends the decision. The Observer (London) 05/27/01

FALLING STARS: The theatre world continues to wonder if anyone can save the musical. The Producers may have reinvigorated the form somewhat, but, by and large, there’s not a lot going on that we haven’t seen a hundred times before. The new breed of musicals aren’t being written for already-popular stars the way the classics were, and the dearth of quality productions has started to affect not only the Broadway stage, but the nation’s regional theatres as well. Hartford Courant 05/27/01

HARDEST JOB IN SHOW BIZ: You’re standing in the wings as the theatre darkens, and the voice of the stage manager comes over the PA, informing the audience that you will be taking the stage shortly. The audience erupts in boos. Welcome to the world of the Broadway understudy. New York Post 05/27/01

Friday May 25

TAKING STOCK OF BROADWAY: One way of taking stock of the state of Broadway is to look at the quality of plays and the health of the box office – both of which seem to be doing fine right now. Another way is to make note of the theatres – those that came into service this season, and those which disappeared forever. 05/24/01

REINVENTING SHAKESPEARE: The Royal Shakespeare Company has the prestige, but “the current structure of the RSC, where actors must commit to a lengthy contract in order to perform with the company, is a deterrent to many actors and directors.” So the RSC is restructuring, allowing “shorter contracts, bold programming of plays and better pay and conditions for actors.” BBC 05/25/01

Thursday May 24

NEW TENNESSEE WILLIAMS PLAY: The White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut is presenting the world premiere of a Tennessee Williams play this summer. “The Day on Which a Man Dies, subtitled an occidental Noh – a Westernized Japanese drama unearthed from the playwright’s papers – is “the latest piece of Williams marginalia to be unearthed from the papers of the Pulitzer-winning author.” 05/23/01

PICTURING SHAKESPEARE: “A retired Canadian engineer, telling a tale of ancient family ties, mistaken judgments and surprise revelations, has roiled the world of Shakespeare scholarship by saying he possesses a striking portrait painted in 1603 showing Shakespeare as a coy man of 39, with a full head of hair and a Mona Lisa smile.” The New York Times 05/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

NEW A.R.T. DIRECTOR: Robert Brustein is stepping down as director of American Repertory Theatre next summer. And after looking at 70 candidates, the company has chosen Robert Woodruff, a director known for his avant-garde work to replace Brustein, who is 70. The New York Times 05/24/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TAKING MUSICAL OUT OF MUSICAL THEATRE: There is only one university in Canada offering a degree in musical theatre. Make that was. The program is being discontinued and its classes rolled into the university’s acting program. It’s about the money. CBC 05/24/01

Wednesday May 23

BEST OF (OFF) BROADWAY: Thirty-four New York theatre folk pick their favorites of the off-Broadway theatre season. Village Voice 05/22/01

CHICAGO VICTORY: Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theatre has won this year’s Regional Theatre Tony award. “For theaters outside New York, this award, which is given in advance of most of the Tonys in other categories, is singularly important.” The New York Times 05/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday May 22

ODE TO THE MATINEE: “A long caravan of jokes, anecdotes and put-downs have encircled matinees, and left them identified solely as the last refuge of little old people trying to get out of the rain.” Yet there’s a certain magic to theatre in the middle of the day… New Statesman 05/21/01

A THEATRE THAT’S MAKING IT: While other arts organizations plead for money to survive, the Sydney Theatre Company posts its second annual surplus – modest ($120,161) to be sure, but still a surplus. In 1999 the company posted a record surplus of $802,666. Sydney Morning Herald 05/22/01

Monday May 21

PRODUCERS WINS: The Producers wins a record 11 Drama Desk awards in New York. The New York Times 05/21/01 (one-time registration required for access)

UNDER THE BIG TOP: When the Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua’s tent burned down last year, a replacement tent was quickly located. But it wasn’t the same. The problem? It was a (horrows!) vinyl tent. Not the same as canvas, is it? Evidently such things matter to the Chatauquans. “They try and talk you into their newfangled materials. But it’s the air in there. And the sound. Nothing else is the same.” St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/21/01

NEW SCOTTISH NATIONAL THEATRE: A new Scottish government study recommends £10 million be spent on developing a new Scottish National Theatre. The Scotsman 05/21/01

SIR PETER PLAYWRIGHT: Playwright Peter Shaffer is knighted by the Queen. “A unique figure among modern dramatists, for three decades he produced a series of successful plays which tackled huge themes, making him the playwright who makes mainstream audiences think about the big ideas of their times.” The Times (UK) 05/21/01

Sunday May 20

THE TONY AUDIENCE: Broadway’s Tony awards make for an odd broadcast. Does anyone watch them? “The show’s ratings have been so consistently disappointing that they have become a standard joke on the show itself.” The New York Times 05/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

A FEW GOOD SCORES: For some years now, the Tony category for best musical score has been something of an embarrasment “ever since Broadway was occupied by British invaders and Disney investors.” But this year there are finally some scores that have meat on their bones. The New York Times 05/20/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday May 18

IT’S GETTING UGLY OUT THERE: Unless you’re Mel Brooks, it’s a bad time to be opening a new musical on Broadway. In addition to the much-expected early closing of Seussical!, several other high-profile shows are shutting down quickly, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which lasted less than a month. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/18/01

Thursday May 17

WHAT DREAMS MAY DIE: Seussical was the most anticipated show of the current Broadway season. But the reviews were bad, business never got going full steam, and now the show is closing May 20. 05/16/01

  • LOSING BIG: The show lost $11 million, making it one of Broadway’s all-time biggest losers. The New York Times 05/17/01 (one-time registration required for access)

EWWWW: Quick, name the hottest ticket in New York. Right, The Producers. Easy one. But the second most popular show in town is just starting to generate the buzz that Mel Brooks gets when he blows his nose. And speaking of bodily excretions, the name of the show is “Urinetown,” and it’s about corporate greed, vanishing natural resources, and, well, you know… Chicago Tribune 05/17/01

Tuesday May 15

RETURN OF THE GLADIATORS: A French company has spent four years constructing a gladiators’ coliseum in which it will stage battles beginning this summer. The project includes an arena with seating for more than 6000, chariots and other antique-looking gear, and “a cast of horses, lions and tigers, as well as scores of gladiators, legionnaires and slaves. Perhaps only the French would have the Gaul to do something like this.” New Zealand Herald 05/15/01

JASON MILLER, 62: Actor and playwright Jason Miller has died of a heart attack. In 1973, Miller was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Father Damien Karras in The Exorcist. The same year he won both a Pulitzer and a Tony for his play That Championship SeasonPhiladelphia Inquirer 05/15/01

Monday May 14

YA GOTTA HAVE HART: As a playwright, director, producer, and play doctor, Moss Hart was indispensable to the theatre, “a tireless collaborator who reliably helped to mint the only currency Broadway trusts: hits.” But “directorial brilliance in the theatre is evanescent, and Hart’s plays, despite frequent and occasionally effective revivals, have been undermined by the very influence they exerted on subsequent writers for the stage, film, radio, and television.” A new biography puts Hart out front again. The New Yorker 05/14/01

Friday May 11

ALL DC’s A STAGE: Time was (and not all that long ago) that Washington DC was a cultural backwater. Then came the fabulous museums and the Kennedy Center. But somewhere along the way, a thriving theatre scene got going. The city now boasts 80 theaters staging 300-plus productions a year. Christian Science Monitor 05/11/01

A DRAMATIC CAREER: After 32 years, one of America’s finest theatre instructors is retiring. Vera Katz had her work cut out for her as a Jewish woman at predominantly black Howard University, but she won respect from students and colleagues alike with her fervent desire to learn about African-American culture, and her devotion to her craft. Washington Post 05/11/01

Thursday May 10

LETTING IT ALL HANG OUT: Nudity is so often used on stage these days, one wonders if it makes any impact. “Nudity, like any other element of theater, can be used well or badly, or even perniciously. If it’s used boldly, creatively and sensitively, it can make us think and feel, as well as look. Otherwise it will prove merely meretricious, sleazy or boring.” LA Weekly 05/11/01

Wednesday May 9

A PREVIEW OF TONYS TO COME? The New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Musical goes to The Producers. Is anyone surprised? The only real contest in the awards was for Best American Play, where the critics needed four ballots to agree on Proof as the winner. New York Post 05/09/01

THE LIVING THEATRE: Audiences and tastes keep changing, why not theatres? Seriously – why must a theatre built for one purpose stay the same even when time has passed? Shouldn’t the interiors of theatres be made to change with the times? The Guardian (UK) 05/09/01

Tuesday May 8

RUNAWAY HIT: The Producers wins 15 Tony nominations, tying the record for most nominations for a single show. Here’s the list of nominees. 05/08/01

  • RESISTANCE IS FUTILE: “[T]his year The Producers is going to sweep just about every Tony Award in sight. No clever ad campaign is going to change that… Instead, smart theater people say, the producers of the also-rans should use their ad dollars to target mainstream theatergoers, not Tony voters.” New York Post 05/08/01

THE NEW MUSICALS: Is it a new era for American musicals? There are lots of new projects and the new genre has become a hit. “But does quantity also indicate quality? Or are we simply witnessing a rat race toward the lowest common commercial denominator? Does the new work stack up against the great American classics of the 20th century?” Backstage 05/07/01

THEATRE THAT PAYS: Why shouldn’t London’s National Theatre produce popular musicals? And if they have a commercial afterlife, so much the better, says producer Cameron Mackintosh. As for the some £600,000 a year National director Trevor Nunn stands to make for directing My Fair Lady – “Why Not? He’s done an incredibly talented piece of work.”The Telegraph (UK) 05/08/01

Monday May 7

GETTING WITH THE PROGRAM: Admittedly, program books are a small part of a theatre production, but that hasn’t stopped Playbill from making a mint providing glossy, slickly produced books to local troupes around the country. Now, a Boston entrepreneur is giving Playbill some competition, and the Hub’s theatre companies are starting to take notice. Boston Herald 05/07/01

Friday May 4

WE ALREADY GAVE YOU A BUCK… The Florida State legislature cuts Miami’s Coconut Grove Theatre allocation by $500,000 (the theatre’s total budget is $5.4 million). “I have to repeat and repeat again, the theater is already receiving a substantial subsidy with its $1-per-year lease. . . . I’m sorry, but in good conscience I couldn’t allow my colleagues to give additional money to the Playhouse. They have accountability issues that still need to be attended to.” Miami Herald 05/04/01

TIMING IS EVERTHING: A flood of new shows is opening on Broadway. “The producers of Broadway shows are convinced that they have to open close to Tony time. They want that boost of publicity after the nominations, and the boost from the show itself.” MSNBC (Reuters) 05/04/01

Wednesday May 2

IT’S NOT A MUSICAL, BUT… It’s turned into a hot season for Broadway. First The Producers becomes the biggest thing to hit the street since The Lion King. Now it’s time for drama. August Wilson’s King Hedley II finally made it to Broadway and the reviews are ecstatic. “You will hear some of the finest monologues ever written for an American stage, speeches that build gritty, often brutal details into fiery patterns of insight.” The New York Times 05/02/01 (one-time registration required for access)

PRODUCERS SCORES: The Producers isn’t just popular – now it’s scooping up nominations for awards, winning 14 Drama Desk nominations yesterday, including Outstanding Musical. New York Post 05/02/01

  • BUT IT’S FOR MY DYING MOTHER… Ticket demand for The Producers is intense. The show is sold out for months, but people are calling the box office with all sorts of stories, including several “dying request” tales. New York Post 05/02/01

Tuesday May 1

GRANDPA’S LEGACY: Long before he became famous as Grandpa Walton, Will Geer was putting on Shakespeare plays in a tiny theatre high up in the Santa Monica Mountains. “The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum survives as a showcase for Shakespeare and a training ground for young actors who come to practice their craft outside and under the stars.” Dallas Morning News 05/01/01

KIDS, INCORPORATED: Children’s theatre is a tricky business, and companies that put on truly great productions without resorting to cliched slapstick or pretentious preaching are few and far between. One of the nation’s best children’s theatre companies is in Silicon Valley, and this month, it will face one of its greatest challenges: replacing the man who has made the troupe what it is today. San Jose Mercury News 05/01/01


Music: May 2001

Thursday May 31

COMING TO TERMS: ” ‘Classical music’ is a term, its composers and promoters and performers are beginning to fear, that may drive away as many potential listeners as it draws. The term presumes two unfortunately popular misconceptions: that music called ‘classical’ must depend entirely on its connection to the great (and thus, to some, hopelessly ancient) works of the Western tradition, and that listeners who want to enjoy new music should have extensive background knowledge of the canon.” The New Republic 05/30/01

JUST KEEP IT AWAY FROM THE MUSIC: The Cliburn piano competition is judged by humans – 12 of them. But in selecting the finalists, their votes were sorted, weighted, balanced, and otherwise tallied by a computer program. It’s the first time it was used at the Cliburn, and the jurors all seemed satisfied with the results. Dallas Morning News 05/31/01

THE POT AND THE KETTLE WERE ARGUING… Recording artists claim that their industry “uses unconscionable contracts and corrupt accounting tactics to rob artists of their share of earnings.” In reply, big companies claim that “Only one of 10 acts ever turns a profit… It costs about $2 to manufacture and distribute a CD, but marketing costs can run from $3 per hit CD to more than $10 for failed projects… Successful acts [refuse] to deliver follow-up albums until they extract additional advances.” Los Angeles Times 05/31/01

NO WAGNER IN ISRAEL: Conductor Daniel Barenboim had planned a performance of a Wagner opera next month at a festival in Israel. But protests have convinced him to cancel. BBC 05/31/01

A WEEK WITHOUT MUSIC: A critic proposes tuning out music for a week in July, refusing to listen to a single bar. “Our aim is to dismantle the apparatus for the music industry, to afford ourselves some peace and quiet, thus enabling us to rethink popular culture. This can only be done in total ascetic silence.” The Guardian (UK) 05/31/01

Wednesday May 30

MAAZEL CONFRONTS LEBRECHT: Lorin Maazel was going to retire, going to write an opera on Orwell’s 1984, “play the violin and appear as a guest conductor when he pleased.” Then the New York Philharmonic “drafted” him. He sits down with critic Norman Lebrecht and gets down to business: “Put yourself in my position and ask why I should be sitting down talking to you in view of the rather unpleasant things you have written about me and my earnings over the years.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/30/01

PREACHING THE IRISH: Irish pianist Barry Douglas has spent much of the 15 years since he won the Tchaikovsky Competition performing internationally. Now he’s returned to Ireland and founded an orchestra – Camerata Ireland. “They know Riverdance and The Chieftains but they simply don’t associate the more serious side of music with Ireland.” Irish Times 05/28/01

CUTTING OFF AN ARM TO SAVE THE PATIENT: The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic – Britain’s second oldest, has been addled by debt. Now its musicians have voted to accept a pay cut to keep the orchestra afloat. Other English regional orchestras may face the same prospect as orchestras try to become financially stable. The Guardian (UK) 05/30/01

Tuesday May 29

SIGNIFICANT NEW HANDEL? A choral work by Handel, discovered earlier this year, has been recorded for release in June. “The choral work, which some scholars believe may come to be regarded as significant as Handel’s Messiah, was discovered in the library of the Royal Academy of Music in March.” The Age (AP) 05/29/01

UNDUE INFLUENCE: The only way to keep music fresh is to cross fertilize from other genres. “If both pop music and ‘serious’ music are to progress, rather than endlessly recycling themselves, such cross-fertilisation must be the way forward. On both sides of the fence, people must open their minds and their ears.” The Times (UK) 05/29/01

ROBO-DJ: DJ I, Robot is a computer DJ – the “first random-access, analog robotic DJ system. It’s made up of a computer and three turntables that can mix, scratch, cut, and beat-juggle like a human disc jockey. The machine is hardly musical or expressive. It doesn’t have a collection of old records it likes to scratch up. But it can spin platters up to 800 revolutions per minute, compared to 45 RPMs by a human hand.” Wired 05/28/01

PERLMAN FALLS: Violinist Itzhak Perlman falls onstage on his way to performing the Barber Concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra. “He landed hard. Face-down on the stage between his podium and the conductor’s, his arms still in the crutches, the upturned soles of his shoes facing the audience. The applause stopped as if it’d been guillotined. And the sound—that’s what I’ll remember years from now—1,500 people in a choral gasp, then pin-drop silence.” Minnesota Public Radio 05/23/01

Monday May 28

EXCLUSIVE IVORY: “Steinway has always been a dominating presence at the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. This year, for the 11th edition of the competition, it more than dominates – it is the only piano manufacturer represented.” Dallas Morning News 05/28/01

FINALLY, ACCEPTANCE: The music world has spent much of the last century bemoaning the state of contemporary music, and blaming the decline of the industry on scapegoats like Schönberg and Boulez, whose music pushed the envelope farther than most audiences were willing to go. But the tide may finally be turning in favor of the innovators. Andante 05/28/01

UNDERGROUND MUSIC SCENE: “Deep beneath the streets of the city, from one end of Manhattan to the other, a daily symphony is playing itself out on subway platforms… The MTA holds annual auditions for musicians interested in performing as part of its Music Underground program. Passing the audition allows them a shot at the best locations and the approved use of amplifiers.” New York Post 05/28/01

HARRY’S WORLD: Harry Partch has always been one of those composers whom philosophers adore and musicians fear. First of all, he insists that there are 43 distinct pitches in a single octave (rather than the standard 12.) Furthemore, he finds traditional instruments sadly lacking in the sound quality his works demand, and so he invents new ones. Constantly. Los Angeles Times 05/28/01

Sunday May 27

CLIBURN COMMOTION: The Van Cliburn competition, currently ongoing in Fort Worth, is arguably the world’s most prestigious piano competition, and inarguably the most exhaustively covered by the press. Everything from the contestants to the caterers gets a write-up, and the press keeps a close eye on past winners. One local favorite is fighting his way back from a stroke, as this year’s hopefuls dive headlong into the frayDallas Morning News & Fort Worth Star-Telegram 05/27/01

HEALING OLD WOUNDS: This week, cellist Yo-Yo Ma will team with several Asian-American composers to present a chamber music performance designed to commemorate the victims and survivors of the various conflicts that have ravaged Asia in the last hundred years. “Hun Qia,” or “River of Souls,” is equal parts remembrance and reconciliation, according to organizers. Minneapolis Star Tribune 05/27/01

VENICE REOPENS A CLASSIC: “Venice has reopened its 322-year-old Malibran Theater, which closed 15 years ago. The restoration work uncovered decorative stucco on the theater boxes hidden for 80 years by layers of paint. The seats have been recovered with red velvet and a new velvet curtain has been installed.” (AP) 05/25/01

THE MAESTRO SPEAKS: Osmo Vänskä probably doesn’t fit most Americans’ vision of a “maestro.” Soft-spoken, thoughtful, and droll, Minnesota’s new Finnish music director-designate talks about his vision for the orchestra and his home country’s underrated influence on the musical world. Minneapolis Star Tribune 05/26/01

WAGNERIANS NEED NOT APPLY: “That this is not a golden or even a silver age of Verdi singing is almost a truism in the opera world, and there is plenty of evidence that if casting, rather than box-office appeal, determined the production of the standard works, they would be mounted much less frequently in the mammoth American opera houses.” San Francisco Chronicle 05/27/01

CELLO-PALOOZA: There is nothing that cellists like better than other cellists. Lean on one, and he or she will confess that, honestly, the orchestra would be better off if it were made up of 95 cellists wailing their hearts out. So when composer Christopher Rouse wrote a new work scored for 147 cellos, you just knew it wouldn’t take long for it to be performed. The New York Times 05/27/01 (one-time registration required for access)

TAKING AIM: The recording industry is going after Aimster, the online music service that sprang up in Napster’s wake. The major record labels contend that the “piggyback” song swapper is basically Napster with extra features, and is quite definitely illegal. Nando Times (Agence France-Presse) 05/25/01

MOVING FORWARD IN PHILLY: Philadelphia’s ambitious Regional Performing Arts Center is the most-anticipated new concert hall of the last two decades, but the project has been plagued by management turnover, financial questions, and conflict between RPAC’s planners and its primary tenant, the Philadelphia Orchestra. Now, with everyone concerned facing the deadline of this fall’s planned opening, things are finally starting to run smoother, but many issues remain unresolved. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/27/01

BEETHOVEN, ABRIDGED: Classical music broadcasters worldwide continue to trim the scope and length of the works they present, as aficionados scream and purists sigh in resignation. Even Canada’s revered CBC Radio Two has resigned itself to playing single movements during drive time, to the disgust of even its own announcers. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/26/01

Friday May 25

NEW MINNESOTA MAESTRO: The Minnesota Orchestra has named Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä, 48, as the orchestra’s 10th music director. Hopes are high for Vänskä, reportedly well-liked by the orchestra’s players, to revitalize the orchestra’s artistic fortunes, which have waned in recent years. St. Paul Pioneer Press 05/24/01

  • SWEDISH SPECIALIST: “Many of his recordings — some 50 of them, most for the Swedish label Bis — are devoted to Nordic music, a specialty that should strike a chord with the traditions of the northern Midwest.” The New York Times 05/25/01 (one-time registration required for access)
  • A FOUR-YEAR CONTRACT: “Vänskä, who is music director of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra in Finland and chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, will appear with the orchestra as guest conductor for a week this November and will do four subscription weeks during the orchestra’s 2002-03 centennial season. ” Minneapolis Star-Tribune 05/25/01

NO RECORD OF IT: The Scottish National Opera has lost its recording contract, including for a planned recording of Inés, by Scottish composer James MacMillan, commissioned by Scottish Opera in 1996. The opera has become one of the troubled company’s proudest achievements. The Scotsman 05/25/01

ATTACK ON THE NAPSTER CLONES: “Major record companies filed a lawsuit against file-sharing Web service Aimster on Thursday, asserting the company is helping customers infringe upon the copyrights of millions of sound recordings worldwide. It said the company was providing the same abilities to its customers as Napster.” San Francisco Chronicle 05/24/01

MUSIC DOWNLOADS. LEGAL, BUT NOT FREE: “The House of Blues Digital began selling over 8,000 downloadable tracks on their website after striking a deal with Rioport, which recently finalized deals with all five major labels to provide digital music downloads to third-party retailers.” Music at The House of Blues is, naturally, heavily tilted toward the blues. And “blues today suffers from an image problem. Although there are more blues CDs – new recordings and reissues – available to the public than ever before, blues isn’t frequently heard on radio.” Wired & Christian Science Monitor 05/24/01

Thursday May 24

NO THEFT HERE: Composer Tan Dun says he did not steal any of the music he used for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as alleged by Chinese composer Ning Yong. Tan “said that the professor is confusing the film’s original soundtrack with additional music chosen by director Ang Lee for the movie.” BBC 05/24/01

PIANO OLYMPICS: The Van Cliburn Piano Competition begins Friday, and the 30 contestants, looking a little dazed, were introduced to a barrage of press. This is “the most public of music competitions, a civic and media extravaganza.” Dallas Morning News 05/24/01

LEARNING LIGETI: Long a favorite of contemporary music fans, “he is one of the few major composers notable for… the sly sort of wit in which the comedian treats himself as flippantly as he treats the rest of the world. Ligeti may be the one living composer for whom ‘genius’ is not too strong a word.” The New Yorker 05/28/01

Wednesday May 23

MR OPERA: Buck for buck, Alberto Vilar is “the biggest benefactor in musical history. In four years, he has given $225 million to opera, ballet and orchestras – and there is more to come, much more, the planned gifts dropping into our conversation like paragliders into a disaster zone. His high visibility has raised concerns among guardians of operatic purity, who fear that this bumptious outsider may be exerting a malign influence on their art.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/23/01

DON’T TRUST ANYONE OVER 30: “Since 1984 the adventurous New York Youth Symphony has presented a premiere performance of a new work by a composer under 30 on every one of its programs. This means that an orchestra of students ranging in age from 12 to 22 has arguably the best record for commissioning new music of any ensemble in the United States.” The New York Times 05/23/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Tuesday May 22

CROUCHING TIGER, STOLEN MUSIC? “A Chinese mainland-based composer is planning legal action for breach of copyright after his works were allegedly used without authorization in the Oscar-winning film, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, press reports said yesterday. Ning Yong… said he had already contacted a legal firm in Guangzhou to sue Tan Dun, who won the best original score Oscar for his music in the film.” The Globe & Mail (Toronto) (AFP) 05/22/01

SO MUCH FOR THE NAPSTER EFFECT: Recorded music sales in the UK soared in the past year, despite file-trading programs like Napster. “The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has calculated that in the 12 months up to March, the value of sales went up by 10.4 per cent, while the quantity sold increased by 14 per cent to £1.014 billion, compared with £800m in 1998.” The Independent (UK) 05/21/01

  • SO MUCH FOR COOPERATION: “Last Friday, a consortium of more than 100 content and technology companies… failed to reach a consensus on a screening application that would enable media players to distinguish between secure and unsecure files. The lack of agreement means that for yet another year, portable and PC media players will continue to play both secure and unsecure music files and MP3 files.” Wired 05/22/01

WOMEN’S PHIL ON THE BRINK: The San Francisco-based Women’s Philharmonic has cancelled its entire 2001-02 concert season, citing a lack of funds. The 20-year-old organization is a powerful advocate for women in the too often male-dominated orchestral world, and that side of the Philharmonic will continue to operate. San Francisco Chronicle 05/22/01

ORIGINAL INTENT: The fad of “restoring” a long-dead composer’s works to their original, unrevised form has often yielded less-than-satisfying results, with very little of substance revealed. But a new-old version of Ralph Vaughan Williams’s London Symphony may be the exception, with the restoration of some 20 minutes of music that change the complexion of the entire work. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/22/01

RELIVING THE ICE STORM: Nearly every area has had a natural disaster that lingers in the back of residents’ minds: in San Francisco, it’s the 1987 earthquake; in northern Minnesota, the 1997 blowdown. In Quebec, it’s an ice storm that left the province crippled in 1997. A French Canadian composer has written a unique piece commemorating the terrible event and the spirit of the Quebeckers who fought through it. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/22/01

Monday May 21

SUE ‘EM, THEN BUY ‘EM: Eight months after Vivendi Universal successfully sued over copyright violation, the French multimedia giant has bought the digital music site for $372 million. BBC 05/21/01

HARRASSING THE SINGERS: Members of the Scottish National Opera chorus say they are being “verbally and mentally bullied” by the company. Scottish Opera has suffered from a series of controversies in the past year. “These are performers, these are not car mechanics. They are finely tuned instruments and if you overheat an instrument or freeze an instrument it goes out of tune. Performers are no different.” The Scotsman 05/21/01

IF YOU KNEW HARRY: Canadian composer Harry Somers (who dies two years ago) was one of the country’s best-known composers. But that doesn’t mean that many know his music. “As a country, we don’t know our own music. Normally, a piece is played in a hall for maybe 200, or even 1,000 people. Maybe it will have a single broadcast. But then its life is, for all intents and purposes, over.” Now a project to try to change that. National Post (Canada) 05/21/01

BJORK THIS: London’s Royal Opera House has been looking for ways to earn money. Now it is considering booking pop performers. “A whole range of pop stars could soon be appearing on Sunday nights, which is traditionally the night ballet and opera companies rest.” BBC 05/21/01

Sunday May 20

SCALING MOUNT CLIBURN: The Van Cliburn Piano Competition, held every four years, is set to begin this week. The world’s most important piano competition has looked in the mirror and revamped, hoping to find artists it can launch to major careers. But is that even possible anymore? Dallas Morning News 05/20/01

NEW WINNIPEG MAESTRO: The Winnipeg Symphony has chosen Russian-born conductor Andrey Boreyko, 44, as its new music director, succeeding Bramwell Tovey. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/19/01

  • CHOOSING A CONDUCTOR: The Hartford Symphony has been auditioning conductors for its music director job. Some 250 conductors applied, and 12 were featured in try-out performances. Though Hartford isn’t a major orchestra, the level of candidates was high, and it was interesting to see the individual stamp a conductor can bring to the same group of musicians. Hartford Courant 05/20/01
  • MINNESOTA GETTING CLOSE: Finnish conductor Osmo Vänska appears to be the Minnesota Orchestra’s choice as its next music director. Minneapolis Star-Tribune 05/20/01

Friday May 18

ALL ABOUT THE $, PART I: Plans to broadcast a major new Australian choral symphony are scuttled over a dispute over money. Sydney Morning Herald 05/18/01

ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, PART II: Having scuttled Napster, the music recording industry goes after its next targets – the musicians – testifying before Congress. “Thursday’s hearing focused on a dispute between songwriters and publishers, who own music rights, and the record companies and online services that need their permission in order to distribute their music.” Wired 05/18/01

  • SPEAKING OF MONEY… “Consumers are one step closer to losing alternatives when it comes to using digital media, as InterTrust unveils a new rights management service that allows developers to create secure players for the PC.” Wired 05/18/01

ALL ABOUT THE AUTHENTICITY: A singer is taking an opera company to court after they refused to allow her to play a role in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. The part of the Major General’s daughter, you see, is a virginal role, and singer Bethany Halliday is, um, well… pregnant. BBC 05/18/01

MUGGLE MUSIC: The “Harry Potter” movie due out this fall will, of course, be huge. So who better to provide the score than the man who made Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, and Superman inseperable from their respective music cues? Boston Globe 05/18/01

Thursday May 17

BARENBOIM STANDS FIRM: Most Israeli ensembles do not perform the music of Richard Wagner, due to the composer’s well-known anti-Semitism and the potential for violent protest when performances do occur. So Daniel Barenboim has been drawing considerable fire since announcing that he would conduct a Wagner opera in Jerusalem this summer. So far, Barenboim has not been swayed. BBC 05/17/01

IMPACT OF JAZZ (THE SERIES, THAT IS): Ken Burns’ Jazz documentary series has had a big impact on interest in jazz. “The traditional jazz market has seen at least $1 million more in sales since the series began. Jazz sales in the United States last autumn were roughly a little over two per cent of sales. Since the series, we’ve seen the sales go up to just over four per cent. While that might not seem like much of an increase, for the jazz world, it’s huge.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/17/01

LEAVING CINCINNATI: After 15 years, conductor Jesus Lopez-Cobos steps down as music director of the Cincinnati Orchestra. “His tenure proved to be a rocky one. Mr. Lopez-Cobos struggled to find the right programming for his new audience, while the audience dwindled. He weathered a severe financial crisis, a threatened strike and questions about his musicianship. He never became an active member of the Cincinnati community.” Cincinnati Enquirer 05/06/01

YOU’VE GOTTA HANG ON TO THOSE THINGS! What is it with Strad-playing cellists and New York City cabs? Two years after Yo-Yo Ma had to use a taxi receipt to track down his forgotten instrument, Lynn Harrell left his $4 million Stradivarius cello in the trunk of his cab this week. One sleepless night later, he got it back. Andante (UPI) 05/16/01

Wednesday May 16

THE MOZART EFFECT INDUSTRY: “That classical music somehow relaxes our brains, reorganising and clarifying thought processes and thereby promoting a firmer intellect, is a supposition that has acquired the veneer of accepted wisdom over the past decade.” Is it true? Who really knows, but there’s a whole industry grown up around promoting the idea. Sydney Morning Herald 05/16/01

LEARNING FROM THE KIROV: The Kirov’s restoration to artistic excellence in the past decade has been remarkable. Its upcoming London residency “shimmers like a private yacht in a bog-standard British pond of funding grumbles and grudged enthusiasm.” And companies in the West could learn a thing or two from the Kirov about running an artistic enterprise. The Telegraph (UK) 05/16/01

WHISTLE WHILE YOU… WELL, MAYBE NOT: There was a time when whistling was considered a sign of American individuality. Bing Crosby whistled; so did Gene Kelly and Albert Einstein. Today, “Whistling is too weird, like polka music; too idiosyncratic, like addressing envelopes on a manual typewriter.” But there’s a core group of whistlers determined to keep their music alive. Washington Post 05/16/01

MOZARTSTER? NAH. BRAHMSTER? UH-UH. BACHSTER? HMMM…With all the legal and technical maneuvering for digital distribution of pop music, what’s happening with the classics? “The Electronic Media Forum began a feasibility study that would allow the 1,800 orchestras in the United States to distribute their music online.” Wired 05/16/01

FOUND MUSIC : Emmanuel Dilhac describes himself as “a hunter of sounds.” Inspired, he says, by John Cage and Olivier Messiaen, he makes music with whatever comes to hand in nature. “His art involves a sort of reverse twist of ego. The less he has to do to make music with his instruments, the prouder he is.” International Herald Tribune 05/16/01

Tuesday May 15

PAUSING FOR SUCCESS: The Chamber Orchestra of Europe is an unusual ensemble. Founded 20 years ago, its players get together only for half of each year. “Today, the COE draws its players from 15 countries, is the resident chamber orchestra of the Philharmonie in Berlin, and plays regularly in Graz, Cologne, Paris and Vienna.” The Times (UK) 05/15/01

PLAYING ON EMPTY: By most artistic counts the Welsh National Opera has been a solid success. But now the WNO has been “sucked inexorably into trouble, and, after a decade of real-term decline in Arts Council funding, the company has been forced to run up a deficit of £1.6 million. As a result, it is now subjecting itself to a purgatorial process, administered by the Arts Council, called ‘a stabilisation programme’.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/15/01

Monday May 14

STRING SOUNDS: “There are at least a hundred full-time professional string quartets in North America, plus an untold number of amateurs. To make a living in this field, you have to be willing to play almost anywhere and at any time.” The St. Lawrence String Quartet is on the move. The New Yorker 05/14/01

Sunday May 13

MN ORCH MAY NAME VÄNSKÄ: Finnish conductor Osmo Vänskä appears to be the favorite to be the Minnesota Orchestra’s next music director, succeeding Eiji Oue. ” ‘He’s more than a leading candidate,’ said a source close to the orchestra who asked not to be identified. Vänskä, known as a Sibelius expert, made a strong impression in his debut with the Minnesota Orchestra last October.” [first item] Minneapolis Star Tribune 05/13/01

MANN ALIVE: Philadelphia’s Mann Music Center, the city’s major outdoor summer concert venue, has constantly seemed to be teetering on the edge of financial collapse. “Entering its 25th anniversary season, the Mann sports more of a history as soap opera than a history of opera. [Peter] Lane, who came on board in 1997, plans to change that, and he believes he’s already firmed the foundation by diversifying programming, funding and audience.” Philadelphia Inquirer 05/13/01

HOW TO SINK YOUR OWN CAREER: The orchestral world is full of conductors who work wonders with small, regional orchestras, yet never quite make the transition to the major leagues. The reasons can be many: orchestras that are loathe to take a chance on an unknown, musicians who take a dim view of a young hotshot come to “save” them, etc. But, says one of America’s premiere critics, the conductor’s biggest roadblock can often be his own ego. The New York Times 05/13/01 (one time registration required for access)

PHANTOM OF THE TUBE: Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber will be the first official “tube busker” in a program designed to bring music to London’s famous Underground. The good news is, all profits Lloyd Webber collects in his cello case during his performance will go to charity. The bad news is, he’ll be playing the music of his brother, Andrew. BBC 05/13/01

OPERA PACIFIC REBORN: Leading an opera company is a lot like steering an ocean liner: when you turn the wheel, you can wait a long time before the thing starts to turn. But Opera Pacific, for several years an organization on the brink, has begun to make the turn, and the credit is going mainly to its tireless artistic director. Los Angeles Times 05/13/01

SYMPHONY SPACE: For the longest time, it seemed that composers had simply decided not to write full-length symphonies any more. Orchestras commissioned short, program-opening works rather than major pieces that might put audiences off. But in the last few years, the traditional symphonic form seems to be making a comeback. Peter Maxwell Davies is the latest prominent composer to premiere a new symphony, and reaction seems to be positive. The Sunday Times of London 05/13/01

PERRY COMO DIES: “Perry Como, the crooning baritone barber famous for his relaxed vocals, cardigan sweaters and television Christmas specials, died yesterday after a lengthy illness. He was 87.” Akron Beacon Journal (AP) 05/13/01

Friday May 11

DEATH OF AN INSTRUMENT? “The symphony orchestra is no longer available to composers as an instrument of change. As a result, much of today’s most exciting music is not being created for it. It’s not that composers have lost interest in the orchestra. It’s just become prohibitively expensive.” NewMusicBox 05/01

EARLY MUSIC MUFFLED: The biggest early music organization in New York is shutting down. The five-year-old Gotham Early Music Foundation had suffered huge financial losses even as it brought many of the world’s top performers to New York venues. Andante 05/11/01

WHO’S IN CHARGE HERE? The final artistic authority in virtually every modern orchestra belongs to the music director, or principal conductor. Musicians, who are likely to spend many more years in service to their ensemble than any music director, are expected to defer in every way to the man with the baton. But why? A musician and union chief explores some alternative possibilities. Harmony 04/01 (PDF file – Adobe Reader required)

PUT DOWN YOUR COFFEE BEFORE READING THIS: “A specially-created trumpet fanfare will send Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to his death after a composer saw him as an ‘amazing, albeit misguided talent’… The title of the piece, Ave Atque Vale, can be translated as Onward Valiant Soldier or Hail and Farewell.” BBC 05/11/01

THE WAR ON PIRATES: The Recording Industry Association of America says 1.7 million pirate CDs were seized in 2000 – up 79% over the year before. This is not a victory however, but more a sign of the proliferation of illegal recordings. “Don’t think you’re going to stop it as long as there’s demand and money to be made.” BBC 05/11/01

  • THIS MAY TAKE A WHILE: Obviously, online music is here to stay, and various forces are vying to create the next industry standard in the post-Napster era. But with thousands of musicians to negotiate rights with, and so many conflicting regulations to worry about, it could be years before it all gets sorted out. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/10/01

Thursday May 10

PERLMAN’S GAMBLE: When the Detroit Symphony Orchestra announced the appointment of legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman as its new principal guest conductor, the sounds of eyes rolling in their sockets could be heard across the music world. But unlike many soloists who take up conducting as a side hobby, Perlman may be serious about learning the craft. So far, the results of the DSO’s experiment seem to be positive. Detroit News 05/10/01

WALTER’S MAHLER: Bruno Walter started out as Mahler’s assistant. But by the time his career was done, he’d become indespensible to the composer’s memory, and a first-rate conductor in his own right. A new biography explores his legacy. Performance Today, NPR 05/08/01 [Real Audio required]

SINGING THE PRAISES OF NEW MUSIC: Getting tradition-bound classical musicians to embrace new music can be like pulling teeth. But choruses have been welcoming new works with open arms, and composers are willing to take less money in exchange for better attitudes and more artistic freedom. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/10/01

WHERE ARE THE GREAT CONDUCTORS? One of the world’s most prestigious conducting competitions has concluded without awarding a first prize. Denmark’s Malko Competition for Young Conductors awarded a second prize and a “special prize,” but judges did not see any candidate worthy of the top award. Gramophone 05/09/01

JUST WHISTLING IN THE WIND? A new software application promises to help users catch music pirates on services like Napster and Gnutella. But Songbird, as the application is called, isn’t impressing many people, as program glitches and search engine limitations allow too many songs and pirates to fall through the cracks. Wired 05/10/01

Wednesday May 9

NOT GOOD ENOUGH: Violinist Nigel Kennedy has declared a holy war on the practices of English orchestras. They offer one rehearsal of a concerto before performance, clearly not enough to explore an interpretation in any detail. “I don’t think I am going to play in London with an orchestra until I can be assured that I’m getting adequate rehearsal.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/09/01

THAT BIG SOCCER BREAK: Two singers who call themselves the Opera Babes were sin ging along to recorded music in the plaza outside Covent Garden when the team that books singers for British FA Cup soccer match final heard them and booked them to sing. Singing a soccer gig was how some really famous singers became household names… The Guardian (UK) 05/09/01

STUNG: It was supposed to be a concert by Sting in front of the Great Pyramids. Add an Egyptian opening act, and it could have been one of those “occasion” events. Instead, it turned into a fiasco, a national incident, with wounded Egyptian pride and angry accusations all around. Los Angeles Times 05/06/01

CONDUCTOR OF THE YEAR: Pierre Boulez has been named “conductor of the year” at the annual Royal Philharmonic Society awards in London. BBC 05/09/01

IF IT AIN’T BROKE… The ingredients never seem to vary: the young prodigy, the Gilbert & Sullivan, the Broadway show tunes, and for a finale, The Stars and Stripes Forever. Must be opening night at the Boston Pops. Boston Herald 05/09/01

HURDLES ON THE ROAD TO FREE MUSIC: Songwriters Tom Waits, Randy Newman, and the Wilson sisters are suing for forty million dollars, alleging “that the music website illegally gives listeners access to their songs through the service.” Meanwhile, back in San Jose, Napster was announcing its newest new technology: sound fingerprinting, which can identify songs by sound characteristics, not just file names. However, “the new software did not result in any additional files being blocked during a test by The Associated Press.” BBC and USAToday (AP) 05/09/01

Tuesday May 8

CALLAS, THE TEEN YEARS: Given her turbulent childhood and neurotic upbringing, it’s a wonder Maria Callas ever had a career, let alone one that lasted as long as it did. A new 670-page biography traces the Diva from age 14 to 22. The Times (UK) 05/08/01

WHEN CRITICS KILL MUSIC: Has rock music died? No, but “a new class of music writers is on the rise – call them the rock curmudgeons. Call them dangerous.” Thay’ve stopped listening to rock – and it shows. Chronicle of Higher Education 05/07/01

WHAT WE WANT IS PATSY CLINE, THAT’S WHAT WE WANT: The Country Music Association has noticed a slight drop in record sales lately, so they’re trotting out a new slogan – “Country. Admit It. You Love It.” But that may not address the real problem. “Country music’s problem isn’t a rough-and-tumble reputation. It’s lousy music. Country music has been overrun by such pabulum-pushing singers as Faith Hill, Shania Twain, and Tim McGraw, who despite that big ol’ cowboy hat is about as country as Air Supply.” Boston Globe 05/08/01

Monday May 7

LIVING WITH MUSIC: Why is it that many art lovers’ taste in contemporary visual art is so much more developed than their sense of contemporary music? Michale Tilson Thomas and Frank Oteri wonder if contemporary music is just a more in-your-face experience. NewMusicBox 05/01

WIGMORE AT 100: London’s Wigmore Hall celebrates 100 years as one of the world’s quirkiest and most successful concert halls this month. “It is almost certainly the only venue where ailing pigeons have been brought in from the street for resuscitation by the management; where regular punters know each other by their seat and row numbers… and where an esoteric recital of The Lamentations of Jeremiah, by the baroque Bohemian Jan Zelenka, can draw a capacity audience.” New Statesman 05/07/01

LITTLE WOMEN, BIG PROJECT: The number one rule of selecting a libretto for your new opera is “keep it simple.” The form doesn’t really allow for many intricate plot twists or rambling narratives. So when composer Mark Adamo decided to adapt the Louisa May Alcott classic “Little Women” for the operatic stage, he had his work cut out for him. Los Angeles Times 05/07/01

NAPSTER LOOKS TO THE MASTER: “Beleaguered Napster, struggling to meet the demands of the courts and the music industry, is in talks with Microsoft about using the software giant’s technology to help build a secure, copyright-friendly version of its online song-swapping service.” Los Angeles Times 05/04/01

Sunday May 6

MAKING THE BEST OF IT: The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Ravinia Festival is second only to the Boston Symphony’s Tanglewood in prestige and popularity among summer concert series. But unlike Tanglewood, nestled high in the remote Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts, Ravinia is semi-urban, and the most obvious reminder of civilization is the set of train tracks running through the heart of the festival grounds. Rather than quietly resent the noise and disruption, the CSO has made it all a part of the fun, and has actually commissioned works that incorporate the thundering locomotives into the music. The New York Times 05/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • SPEAKING OF FESTIVALS, the Times is out with its annual list of the best (and all the rest) of North America’s summer classical music festivals. Organized by state. The New York Times 05/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

BIZET IN DA HOUSE, YO! This week, MTV is presenting Carmen in hip-hop form. Despite the network’s over-stylized editing, this updated (and, truth be told, barely recognizable) retelling of Bizet’s classic is the first ever attempt to draw the pop culture-saturated youth market into the world of opera, and if it achieves even a tenth of what recent Shakespeare “updates” have, the opera world may yet be grateful for the effort. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/06/01

  • OPERA MAY NOT NEED HELP: “Opera today is perceived as a luscious stew abounding in appealing ingredients. People of virtually all ages are flocking to opera houses to experience this sensory explosion… The NEA found that the largest age group was 25 to 45, while the number of 18-to-24-year-olds grew by 18 percent over the previous decade.” The Plain Dealer (Cleveland) 05/06/01

A LOT MORE THAN FIVE: For decades, the American orchestral scene has been dominated by the “Big Five” orchestras: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Cleveland. But these days, only two or three of these truly deserve to be ranked in the top five, and orchestras in several other cities have pushed their way into the upper ranks. So what will it take to get the media to pay attention to orchestras in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis? Andante 05/01

UGH, POLITICS: Nothing will get musicians and scholars arguing faster than the topic of politics in music. From Haydn to Wagner to Shostakovich, any number of composers have been said to be trying to communicate political messages through their music. But the most vexing issue is what to do when the music is as irresistible as the composer’s personal politics are reprehensible. The newest target in the debate is the unlikely Carl Orff. The New York Times 05/06/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Friday May 4

CRUMBLING BASTILLE: Paris’s Bastille Opera House, which isn’t very old, is deteriorating and in need of expensive repair. “It’s all falling apart, at great speed, so we put up the nets. The question now is, do we replace all 40,000 [slabs of exterior stone] – somewhere between 60 and 100 million francs – or do we only replace the ones that are defective, which means going up there and doing ‘tap tap!’ on each of the 40,000?” International Herald Tribune 05/03/01

THE CONDUCTOR WITH TWO FACES: In Boston, Keith Lockhart is conductor of the Boston Pops and known for his relaxed, informal style. In Salt Lake City, Lockhart is music director of the Utah Symphony, and a much more serious pillar of the community. The skiing is better in Utah. Boston Herald 05/04/01

Thursday May 3

THE NEXT BILBAO? Officials of Philadelphia’s Regional Performing Arts Center planned a New York “coming out” for their project last night, inviting critics from around the country to see a presentation on the center. “The New York event, which was months in the making, had been designed to position the city as the new Bilbao and the concert hall as its Guggenheim Museum,” and despite the resignation of the project’s director a couple days before, the Philadelphians stayed on message. Philadelphia Inquirer 05/03/01

  • DIFFICULT LABOR: The new arts center is plagued with problems. Money, of course, is problematic. And none of the major arts groups – the Philadelphia Orchestra included – has signed leases to perform in the hall. “Fees, of course, have been a major issue – although most groups have now accepted the fact that the arts center has reneged on its promise that rents in the two new halls would be no higher than rents paid by the groups in their current facilities.” Philadelphia Inquirer 05/03/01

WAGNER IN ISRAEL? PROBABLY NOT: “Some Israeli politicians are upset over plans to perform an excerpt from Richard Wagner’s opera The Valkyries. A special session of parliament was convened today to criticize the organizers of the Israel Festival Jerusalem.” Wagner’s open anti-Semitism is the reason for the decades-long informal ban on his music in Israel. CBC 05/02/01

NAPSTER, AIMSTER, WHAT’S IN A NAME? Aimster is “a Napster-like file sharing program that piggybacks on America Online’s messaging service.” Not surprisingly, the record industry wants it shut down. Not surprisingly, Aimster wants to stay in business. So it has filed a suit against the industry – “We’re asking the court for a ruling that says it would be wrong to sue us because we’re doing nothing wrong.” Meanwhile, a web-survey report says Napster use is down more than forty percent since it added song-blocking technology to comply with a court order similar to the one threatening Aimster. Still, it may all be in vain. Another young computer whiz appears to have figured out how to shut down the on-line sharing of music files. New Jersey Online (Reuters),, and Washington Post 05/03/01

IT’S TAX TIME: Pavarotti thought he’d settled his tax difficulties with the Italian government last year. But no – this week he goes to trial. “The biggest-earning opera virtuoso in history is accused of dodging £13 million between 1989-95.” He could face three years in jail. The Guardian (UK) 05/02/01

THE MARKETING OF CHARLOTTE CHURCH: The teen singing sensation is making a tour of America, and everything’s been calculated for maximum hype. Who cares if the classical world is turned off by the marketing, say her managers. “One reason she’s controversial is that she’s not really classical. I call it `popera’.” Chicago Tribune 05/03/01

Wednesday May 2

TALIBAN BAN MUSIC: The Taliban have banned all non-religious music in Afghanistan. That means only chants. “To most people, music means with musical instruments and the Taliban has banned musical instruments. Those caught in possession of musical instruments are imprisoned, fined or even beaten and their instruments are destroyed.” Chicago Tribune 05/02/01

WHY PEOPLE DON’T LIKE NEW MUSIC: It’s not because they don’t like music. “For most people, the appeal of music rests not in originality but in precisely the opposite – in the number of memories it can access. Put another way, although music is capable of reflecting as wide a spectrum of human experience as any other art form, in practice it is more limited, in that its value rests in its ability to provide an illusion of constancy in a changing world.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/02/01

BIG HURT FOR BIG MUSIC: “For all its global marketing clout and lock on the biggest stars, Big Music is actually in dire straits. Sales are plunging in the United States, the world’s most important market, and no one has yet figured out how to stop the erosion or to make serious money from on-line distribution. The dream of reaping Internet riches from vast music libraries is turning into more of a nightmare for music’s heavyweights. They have yet to provide the content or the means of delivering it effectively.” The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/02/01

END OF AN ERA? Washington’s largest classical music radio station has dropped weekly Metropolitan Opera broadcasts. The Met performances are the longest-running program on radio and are carried nationally by hundreds of stations. “But despite the strong support of a small niche audience for the art form, large commercial stations like WGMS, which has the fourth-highest listenership in the Washington area, have been moving away from opera and vocal music in general.” Washington Post 05/02/01

HARD TIMES FOR CHAMBER MUSIC: “It has never been harder since Haydn’s time to make a living as a string quartet. But the challenge is yielding a gamut of fresh ideas as quartets struggle to reinvent their genre.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/02/01

PRUDENT PROGRAMMING: The Scottish National Opera recently got a big boost in funding from the government. So why does its new season look so thin? “In every sentence he utters on the subject, Scottish Opera’s chief executive, Chris Barron, underlines the need for extreme caution in the progress of Scottish Opera following a period which has seen the near-devastation of the company in financial terms.” Glasgow Herald 05/02/01

Tuesday May 1

BATTLING FOR THE SOUL OF CLASSICAL MUSIC: Nearly everyone says how wonderful it is that ‘stylistic barriers’ are breaking down, that Radio 3 and Festival Hall audiences have much broader tastes than 20 years ago, and that impeccably highbrow musicians such as Daniel Barenboim are winning new fans by applying their virtuosic skills to (in his case) tangos and Duke Ellington. But don’t be fooled. A vicious little turf-war is going on, as the various factions tug and heave at the proprietorial rights to those troublesome words, ‘classical music’.” The Times (UK) 05/01/01

FRESH BREEZES AT GLYNDEBOURNE: After a distinctly gloomy season last year, the Glyndebourne Festival has installed new young leadership to run the festival. The change in mood is obvious already. The Telegraph (UK) 05/01/01

BRUNNHILDE PASSES ON: Famed soprano Rita Hunter, known the world over for her interpretations of the leading roles in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, has died at her home in Australia. She was 67. BBC 05/01/01

SMALL VICTORY FOR NAPSTER: The judge presiding over the Napster debacle has issued yet another ruling to clarify a previous one. The new order reiterates that the recording industry is responsible for providing Napster with a list of copyrighted songs to be removed from the song-swapping service, and that an example of piracy must be presented for each song before Napster must comply. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) (AP) 04/30/01

ONE DEAD MERGER: The proposed merger between music giants EMI and Bertelsmann has officially collapsed, much to the relief of the rest of the music industry. The merger would have created perhaps the most powerful music distribution company in the world, but the details of the joining were simply unable to be worked out. BBC 05/01/01


Media: May 2001

Thursday May 31

ACTORS UNION SAGGING: While negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and Hollywood producers seem well on the way to settlement on a new contract, peace within SAG ranks is remote. The union is torn between rival factions. 05/31/01

SCREEN GAME: Movies released in America over the Memorial Day weekend took in more than $186 million. So business is good – except if you run a movie theatre. Because of overbuilding in the past few years, “we’ve estimated one-third of North American theaters or roughly 13,000 screens need to come off-line. The bankruptcy process is going to allow that to be expedited, but it does take time.” Washington Post 05/30/01

EVER WANTED A MUPPET OF YOUR OWN? “Two years ago, EM.TV paid $680 million for the characters. But the German company’s stock has collapsed in recent weeks, and its assets have been going on the block. The Germans already sold several Muppets characters to Sesame Street Television for $180 million.” But Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog are still available, if you’re interested. New York Post 05/31/01

RING DELAYS: More delays for The Lord of the Rings movies. Sir Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf, says “he was called back to New Zealand for additional filming, and that almost all of the film’s dialogue has been re-recorded because the original sound studio was not sound-proof.” BBC 05/31/01

Wednesday May 30

WE’RE SHOCKED – THERE’S PAYOLA GOING ON? Federal agencies are investigating, and now a newspaper report details it: Radio stations are taking money to play recordings. But wait, says one promoter, you don’t understand: “The support I get from labels has no effect whatsoever on the musical decisions of the program directors at my stations. [Besides], I didn’t invent this thing. It’s standard operating procedure in the promotion business.” Los Angeles Times 05/29/01

THIS YEAR’S MARKETING GIMMICK? “Bonus” content packaged with DVD releases. Listen to the actors talk, the director, see bloopers, find out how the movie was made… But the trend is getting ridiculous – one director spews on for 105 minutes – and about a movie that was a box office dud… New York Post 05/30/01

Tuesday May 29

WHAT BECOMES A SUCCESSFUL RADIO CHANNEL? Passion, that’s what. The UK’s Radio 3 reinvents, and passion is the key ingredient. “In an age of informational overload – hundreds of CDs released each week and millions of websites – we need presenters as filters and editors we can trust.” The Telegraph (UK) 05/29/01

GRABBING CREDIT: “Outside of money, no topic generates more discussion in Hollywood than credit: whose names appear up there on the screen, how big and in what order. It was among the chief flash points in the recently concluded contract talks between writers and the major studios and networks. One result of those negotiations was that the writers, directors and others agreed to form a group to hash out all sorts of credit issues.” The New York Times 05/29/01 (one-time registration required for access)

STILL A RECORD: Hollywood reports that Pearl Habor took in $75 million over the Memorial Day weekend, making it the highest-grossing non-sequel for its first weekend. Los Angeles Times 05/29/01

  • BOMBING THE TRUTH: “Even viewed through that gaping and forgiving lens, the new breed of histortainment – pictures like last summer’s The Patriot and now Pearl Harbor – invites just one appropriate response: jaw-dropping incredulity. The Pearl Harbor filmmakers claim they’ve been historically accurate, but they’ve done The Patriot one better: They’ve rendered accuracy beside the point.” Salon 05/28/01

Monday May 28

SO IS $80 MILLION A ‘FAILURE’? It was brave talk – predicting that Pearl Harbor might top $100 million at the box office on its opening weekend. Won’t happen though. Now Disney says “it was mathematically impossible for the film to gross $100 million over four days, as some people had been predicting.” 05/27/01

FIRST TIME AT THE TOP: Film directors talk about their first-ever time in charge of a big production. “In our society every artist is an agonist; but the agon is harder for the artist who depends on others and on considerable money for the fulfillment of his work – outstandingly, the playwright, the composer, the architect, the film-maker.” The New Republic 05/25/01

Sunday May 27

BEETHOVEN, ABRIDGED: Classical music broadcasters worldwide continue to trim the scope and length of the works they present, as aficionados scream and purists sigh in resignation. Even Canada’s revered CBC Radio Two has resigned itself to playing single movements during drive time, to the disgust of even its own announcers. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/26/01

LOOKING FOR THE ‘P’ IN PUBLIC RADIO: “Public radio, once the province of obscure college FM stations and grown to cultural prominence on the back of the National Public Radio network… remains for many a salutary oasis of non-hit parade music and intelligent talk in the mostly conglomerate-controlled wasteland that is radio in general.” But is it even remotely public any more? Los Angeles Times 05/27/01

Friday May 25

WHO’LL SAY IT’S BAD? Movies are arguably the most influential artform of our age. Yet, complains Roger Ebert, “there is essentially no film criticism on national American television, except for our show, the critics on the morning programmes and on CNN. These are about the only places on American television where you might hear that a movie is bad. The other national shows essentially focus on chat, gossip, premiere sound bites, who’s in rehab, who’s getting divorced.” The Times (UK) 05/25/01

STOP-ACTION AT A PRICE: TiVo has been awarded a patent on the technology for its personal video recording device (PVRD), which allows viewers to pause live TV. Wall Street and potential advertisers Lexus and Miller Brewing are happy. Privacy advocates are not – it seems TiVo keeps track of what you watch, and reports that information back to corporate headquarters. 05/25/01

YOU WANT ME TO FLY WHAT CLASS? In the current Hollywood negotiations, the actors’ unions want more money. The producers, apparently trying to avoid a strike, say they’re not asking for any major rollbacks. However, they would like to pay less for bit actors, and make performers fly business class instead of first class. O5/25/01

Thursday May 24

ACTORS WANT – SURPRISE! – MORE MONEY: The Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists represent about 130,000 actors. Here is some of what they want from Hollywood producers. Bigger residuals from Fox. A bigger share of foreign residuals. A pay boost for guest performers on TV shows. 05/23/01

STEREOTYPE? WHAT STEREOTYPE? It arrived with bad press – complaints that it stereotyped Italians. And the sound track had to be dubbed, losing its New Jersey charm. So Italian TV hid The Sopranos away, at midnight on Wednesdays. Result? Big ratings anyway, and a new prime Saturday slot. New York Post 05/24/01

Wednesday May 23

BLACK & WHITE TV: “Although African-Americans have been a presence on television since its birth, their presence hasn’t always been a positive or representative one. Why? The answer varies depending upon whom you ask and what statistics you look at. Mostly, though, the question leads to the conclusion that TV is still considered a business that takes place in a vacuum rather than a cultural force with significant social side effects.” Salon 05/22/01

YANKEE STAY HOME: Producers who find Canada to be a cheap and attractive alternative to making their films in the U.S. are about to run smack into the Screen Actors’ Guild. SAG says that, as part of the negotiations to avoid a summer strike, it intends to curb the growth of so-called “runaway productions.” The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/23/01

Tuesday May 22

THE CASTRO SURVIVES: Even as single-screen cinemas are shutting down around the country, victims of the multiplex culture, San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre is getting a new lease on life. The longtime owners of the movie palace will be taking over the theatre’s operations this summer, and are promising extensive refurbishing, and a renewed commitment to the community. San Francisco Chronicle 05/22/01

Monday May 21

CANNES WINNER: An Italian movie The Son’s Room, a “stirring account of a happy family shattered by the death of a teenage son,” won the Cannes Film Festival top prize Sunday evening. Los Angeles Times 05/20/01

RAINING BOMBS? As film critics converge on Hawaii for the $5 million party to open the $135 million movie Pearl Harbor, word from the advance screenings isn’t good. And some wonder about the appropriateness of the lavish event. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/21/01

HOORAY FOR WELLYWOOD? Okay, so they’ve filmed the $525 million Lord of the Rings movies in New Zealand. But the country has gone a bit punch-drunk with the Hobbit. “Wellington’s mayor wants to cash in on the anticipated international hobbit craze by selling the country’s capital city as Middle Earth. He plans to create a theme-park attraction in the city where visitors can descend into the kingdom of elves, orcs and trolls long after the three films have descended to video-rental status.” The Age (Melbourne) 05/21/01

THE TROUBLE WITH KIDS’ MOVIES: What’s with these lousy new kids’ movies? “These loud extravaganzas pummel children for attention, stunning them into a sugar-rush buzz that keeps them from realizing they’re getting less for their movie buck than they deserve. Like heart. Like soul. Like a good story.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution 05/20/01

Sunday May 20

CANNES WINNER: An Italian movie The Son’s Room, a “stirring account of a happy family shattered by the death of a teenage son,” won the Cannes Film Festival top prize Sunday evening. Ottawa Citizen (AP) 05/20/01

Friday May 18

A DRY WELL? Is this a particularly bad year for movies? “The early months of any year are usually lean, but this was extraordinary. It’s probably a good thing Hollywood was preoccupied by the looming (now averted) writer’s strike; otherwise they might have had to face the fact that the industry seems in the grip of a creative crisis.” MSNBC (Newsweek) 05/18/01

FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT: It is increasingly difficult for independent filmmakers to find screens to show their work. The big studios monopolize the multiplexes, and Roger Ebert says that indies are losing the will to fight on: “I’ve been emceeing this panel for 10 years or so, and never sensed such sadness on the part of directors who have made good films and now find it difficult to get them to North American audiences.” National Post (Canada) 05/18/01

RIVETTE WOWS CANNES: “Finally, the Aha! film of the 54th Cannes film festival. As in, ‘Aha! — we have finally seen a great film.’ The work in question is Va savoir! (Who Knows!) by veteran filmmaker Jacques Rivette, who helped launch the French New Wave 40 years ago.” The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/18/01

MUGGLE MUSIC: The “Harry Potter” movie due out this fall will, of course, be huge. So who better to provide the score than the man who made Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, and Superman inseperable from their respective music cues? Boston Globe 05/18/01

WE’VE COME A LONG WAY… Despite the continued complaints about the Hollywood’s “celluloid closet,” gays and lesbians are being courted by filmmakers like never before. In fact, many see the gay audience as a huge moviegoing demographic which has the potential to make a hit out of a small, scrappy film. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/18/01

Thursday May 17

THE WHOLE STORY: Technology continues to improve the sophistication of special effects. But even the effects artists say: “When the technology drives the project, it doesn’t work out very well. It’s ideas that drive the technique.” Wired 05/16/01

HOW TO SELL HIGH-BROW: Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge is all the rage at Cannes. But will the rest of the moviegoing world buy it? “[H]ow do you sell a movie set in the decadent underworld of late 19th-century Paris, complete with wacky physical comedy and tear-jerking melodrama, set to a contemporary sound track that includes unrecognizable reworkings of songs by Madonna, Cole Porter and Nirvana?” New York Post 05/17/01

Wednesday May 16

STEVEN SPIELBERG, NO. BRUCE WILLIS, MAYBE: For the first time in more than ten years, French film giant Jean-Luc Godard has an entry in the Cannes Festival. But as usual, Goddard himself is the bigger story: He doesn’t like Steven Spielberg. Doesn’t like American films. Doesn’t much like America. Still, he’d go see a Bruce Willis movie, adding “and I can’t tell you why.” Maybe it’s the special effects – technical aspects of film are a hot topic at the festival this year. The tech and computer folks seem agreed on one point: “When the technology drives the project, it doesn’t work out very well. It’s ideas that drive the technique.” Right. Los Angeles Times & Wired 05/16/01

SALON ISN’T THERE YET: Salon magazine losses are down, but so are revenues. So is readership (slightly). The on-line magazine projected break-even this summer – now it says that won’t happen until the end of the year. 05/15/01

Tuesday May 15

NEW GOLDEN AGE FOR FILM? “It used to be said that imported films didn’t play many cities; today they don’t play many states. And yet there is hope. If you look at the movies themselves and not simply at the box office, American films are in an emerging golden age. It is possible to see inventive and even important new work every week of the year – if you live in a city with good cinemas, or have a cable system that offers Bravo, Sundance or the Independent Film Channel.” The Guardian (UK) 05/15/01

THE NEXT STAR WARS? The Lord of the Rings is the most expensive movie project ever made, costing $270 million. Of course there are those just waiting for it to fail, waiting for it to be the biggest flop in history. But the trailer is out, and the Rings website has 400 million hits on the Web site so far; and a record 1.7-million downloads of the trailer in the first weekend. Now the industry is talking Star Wars-big. The Globe & Mail (Canada) 05/15/01

HOLLYWOOD ACTORS’ STRIKE SEEMS UNLIKELY: “Although strike tensions have been deflated by the tentative settlement with writers actors nonetheless say they are determined to press for more money in several areas, with a focus on middle-income performers they believe are falling behind financially.” Los Angeles Times 05/14/01

EVEN IN FRANCE, THEY’RE SPEAKING ENGLISH: “At this year’s Cannes Film Festival, more than ever, English is the international language. That isn’t just a ploy to crack the American market…. It’s a play for markets including Scandinavia, Germany, Holland, France, Hong Kong, India and South Africa, where English is spoken by most educated filmgoers.” Chicago Sun-Times 05/14/01

WIN A LITTLE MORE, LIVE A LITTLE LONGER: “Oscar winners live nearly four years longer than either actors who were never nominated or those who were nominated and did not win. ‘Once you get the Oscar, it gives you an inner sense of peace and accomplishment that can last for your entire life, and that alters the way your body copes with stress on a day-to-day basis’.” Nando Times (AP) 05/14/01

Monday May 14

THE FIRST WEEK OF CANNES: An animated movie from Dreamworks that’s knocking the socks off everyone, a little Francis Ford Coppola retread, a gruesome French movie about people eating other people when they’re supposed to be kissing them… it’s just business as usual at the first week of Cannes. The Telegraph (UK) 05/14/01

  • REDEMPTION NOW: The most notorious American film of the 1970s, the subject of mounting gossip and ridicule during its production and a painfully intimate documentary by wife Eleanor (Hearts of Darkness) years afterward, Apocalypse Now has been reborn at Cannes.” Chicago Tribune 05/14/01

THE MULTIMEDIA FUTURE: “Three new online projects hint at how a combination of audio, video and interactivity might inspire future audiences. One project lets users create music videos on a Web site. Another turns a music video into a computer game. A third illuminates a work of classical music with pictures, sound and text.” The New York Times 05/14/01 (one-time registration required for access)

Sunday May 13

SO AMERICA DOESN’T TOTALLY SUCK: America is, of course, the world’s foremost purveyor of lowbrow culture, from the WWF to John Tesh to whatever it is that Rosie O’Donnell does. So it may come as a surprise to Americans to learn that a nation as culturally advanced as Canada might envy us a part of our vast artistic wasteland. But they do: Canada, you see, does not have NPR. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) 05/12/01

Friday May 11

AGAINST ALL ODDS: It’s hard enough to make a movie and get it noticed when you live in a bustling film town like L.A. or Toronto. But let’s say you live somewhere north of the Arctic circle in Canada, deep in Inuit territory, and you’d like the Cannes Film Festival to screen your creation. You’d better have a ten-year plan… Ottawa Citizen 05/11/01

BUT CAN JULIA ROBERTS SING? The upside of being the hotshot du jour at Cannes is that everyone will listen to anything you have to say, and they’ll do it with a straight face. Director Baz Luhrmann is taking full advantage, declaring that the movie musical is about to make a comeback. San Jose Mercury News (AP) 05/11/01

HOLDING OUT HOPE: The head of the Screen Actors Guild isn’t giving up on a strike-free summer just yet, but tough issues remain unresolved. “One of SAG’s chief concerns going into the talks is the plight of the so-called ‘middle-class’ actor — working actors who in recent years have fallen on hard times due to a phenomena known as ‘salary compression.'” 05/10/01

Thursday May 10

THE CANNES CAN: Anticipation is running high at the world’s most prestigious film festival, even among old cynics like Roger Ebert. “Last year’s festival was generally thought to be below par. This year’s is anticipated with intense excitement by the moviegoers gathering on the French Riviera. Of course, until we see the movies we won’t know for sure, but on the basis of track records, preview screenings and buzz, important films are about to be seen.” National Post (Canada) 05/10/01

  • GOTTA TALK ABOUT SOMETHING: Of course, no film festival would be complete without a good dose of controversy, gossip-mongering, and over-exposure. This time around, the focus of the Cannes grapevine is Nicole Kidman, who stars in the opening night extravaganza, “Moulin Rouge,” directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann. Ottawa Citizen 05/10/01

GUILD TO VOTE ON CONTRACT: “The heads of the Hollywood writers union agreed Tuesday to forward a tentative contract settlement to the guild’s nearly 11,000 members to vote on by June 4. The guild requires a simple majority of votes to certify the three-year pact, which negotiators recommended on Friday after a series of marathon bargaining sessions.” Nando Times (AP) 05/10/01

Wednesday May 9

CANNES DO: The Cannes Film Festival opens, this year with a distinctly arty non-Hollywood tone.”The official selection includes 22 films in competition and 24 in the non-competitive section, Un Certain Regard, which is, this year, a roll-call of unfamiliar names.” Sydney Morning Herald 05/09/01

  • CELEBRATING THE BACK END: It’s been only in the past four years that the Cannes festival has paid much attention to the technology which makes movies possible. But with direct satellite feeds to theaters, computer animation, and digital cameras – among others – ready to revolutionize the industry, the technology is hard to ignore. Wired 05/09/01

A NEW DIRECTION: In movies, the director is everything. Not so TV, where, in the early days, directors were hired “more for their ability to handle the newfangled equipment than for creativity. Interesting directors did venture into live television but… speed generally was valued over artistry.” Now, things are changing, dramatically. Washington Times 05/09/01

A CARFUL OF FLOWERS WILL DO THAT FOR YOU: Ismail Merchant is the salesman half of the Merchant-Ivory team, which has made such movies as Room With A View and Remains of the Day. As a boy, he once went to a movie with an actress: “We arrived at the theater surrounded by people. And they were throwing marigolds on us. And we were submerged in flowers – actually submerged. I said, ‘My God, if you’re making a movie, you’re submerged in flowers!'” He’s been hooked ever since. Nando Times 05/08/01

Tuesday May 8

COMING SOON, SMART AND SMARTER? It used to be that independent filmmakers could trade on the business of being smart, edgy and challenging. “But ‘too smart’, like ‘arty’, has entered the film industry lexicon as a pejorative description,” and the indies have started acting like the more conservative commercially-motivated studios. But the new cult-hit smart thriller Memento is finding an audience, and making money – so…. Los Angeles Times 05/07/01

HOW DO YOU MARKET AN ADULT FILM? “There’s no good rating for a serious movie about adult issues,” filmmakers complain. Most theaters won’t show it, and papers won’t advertise it. One answer is to edit enough controversial scenes to get an R rating. Another – which is gaining popularity among filmmakers – is to skip the ratings board and release a film with no rating at all. Rocky Mountain News 05/07/01

Monday May 7

THE ARTE OF TV: America has no similar TV channel devoted to culture. But Arte, the German-French culture channel, turned 10 last week. It has risen from its initial underdog status to become a luminous figure on Europe’s media landscape and now – having survived labor pains and sundry attacks on its young life – it is at another crossroads.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 05/06/01

THE CRUCIAL MOVIE INGREDIENT: Why are there no great New Zealand movies? “One thing everyone does agree on is that our scripts suck. In the past 20 years our actors, technicians and deal-makers have all improved radically, whereas our scripts have, at best, marked time. At worst, they have regressed.” New Zealand Herald 05/07/01

NOW IT’S THE ACTORS’ TURN: Hollywood’s writers may have settled their contract, averting a stike. But 135,000 actors represented by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists have their contract with production companies expire at midnight on June 30, and talks have yet to begin. The New York Times 05/07/01 (one-time registration required for access)

  • DEFINING THE INTERNET: One of the more complex issues facing SAG and AFTRA in their fight with Hollywood moguls is whether to insist on extra compensation if their work is to be distributed online. The Internet is a whole new media ballgame, and no one wants to be left behind in setting a payment precedent. Nando Times (AP) 05/06/01

Sunday May 6

WRITERS SETTLE: Hollywood producers and writers settle on a new contract, averting a much anticipated strike. “The agreement was valued by the Writers Guild of America and the industry’s Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers at about $41 million over three years, less than the nearly $100 million writers had hoped for.” Los Angeles Times 05/05/01

  • RELIEF ALL AROUND: “Though they had yet to learn the details of the agreement, many members of the Writers Guild of America said they were thrilled, certain that even a minimal gain was better than a strike.” Los Angeles Times 05/05/01
  • ONE DOWN, ONE TO GO… So now all the big shots in Hollywood can breathe a big sigh of relief, thank the money gods for their benevolence, and down a refreshing glass of wheat grass juice in celebration. And then it’s right back to the bargaining table: the actors union will see you now. BBC 05/06/01

VIRTUAL SUPERSTARS: Ever since movie technology started to become truly impressive, producers have used it primarily to distract viewers from either the lack of a coherent plot line or the inability of certain leading actors to, well, act. But a new wave of computer-animated films aims to use technology to create frighteningly accurate virtual facsimiles of the famous actors behind the characters’ voices. Boston Globe 05/06/01

Friday May 4

REINVENTING PUBLIC TV: American public broadcaster PBS is trying to reinvent itself. It’s essential – the network is facing increased combination from all sorts of specialty channels, and its core audience has shrunk. The changes, though, are controversial. Christian Science Monitor 05/04/01

ANOTHER WEEK IN LA: “AOL Time Warner boss Gerald Levin last year earned stock options worth $153 million, $53 million more than the entire Writers’ Guild membership is seeking over the next three years. The studio heads – none of whom earned less than $60 million last year – seem happy to endure strikes that the LA mayor’s office estimates will cost the Los Angeles economy $6 billion. And while the majors are counselling fiscal austerity, Disney is spending $5 million (a tax- deductible expense) on its Pearl Harbor premiere – to be held on a specially-converted aircraft carrier – just as it announces 4,000 layoffs, the kind of fuck-you, scorched-earth management of which Walt would heartily approve.” The Guardian (UK) 05/04/01

THE DOWNSIDE OF FILMING IN CANADA (FOR CANADIANS): The Hollywood writers strike won’t have much impact on production in Canada. But some Canadian producers are hoping for a bit of a break. “Because of government tax credits and the favourable currency exchange rate, it’s cheap to film here if you are Disney, Fox or Warner Bros., but for local producers it’s become one of the most expensive places in the world to shoot.” National Post (Canada) 05/04/01

Thursday May 3

BUY AUSSIE? Australia ponders dropping its Australian-content laws for the Australian Broadcasting Company. The quotas currently stipulate a minimum amount of Australian-produced content must be shown. Sydney Morning Herald 05/03/01

NEGOTIATING IN PUBLIC: The Writers Guild and Hollywood producers are now into the second day of negotiating past the negotiating deadline, trying to agree on a contract to keep the vast US movie machine running smoothly. Maybe one reason they can’t wrap it up is that they spend so much time leaking details and denying leaks… 05/03/01

Wednesday May 2

HOLLYWOOD TALKS CONTINUE PAST DEADLINE: The deadline for negotiations between Hollywood writers and producers was midnight, but the two sides kept on talking. They adjourned early this morning, and will resume later in the day, apparently indicating some progress has been made. However, “writers still haven’t bridged a $100 million gap in salary demands, according to sources close to negotiations.” CNN 05/02/01

WISHFUL DREAMING? With Hollywood maybe about to go on strike, and despite considerable grumbling about the quality of product the industry has recently put out, some movie execs are ultra-hyping the summer season: “This will be the biggest summer in history, no doubt. I can identify at least 10 movies off the top of my head that will gross over US$100-million.” National Post (AP) 05/02/01

Tuesday May 1

ONE LAST CHANCE: Hoping to avert an expected strike by the entertainment industry’s writers, studio representatives and Writer’s Guild negotiators went back to the bargaining table yesterday. No one is particularly optimistic. Boston Herald (AP) 05/01/01

TV’s RACIAL GAP STILL A CANYON: A new study of the racial makeup of television’s prime time programming reveals that integration is still beyond the grasp of the major networks. The lack of multiracial casts is particularly noticeable in the first hour of prime time, which is supposed to be the “family hour.” Los Angeles Times 05/01/01