Oppressive Ghosts – The Art Of Invisible Writing

“Most ghostwriters are broke, young journalists. They do it once, for the money. Perhaps twice for the show: to see how the rich and famous live. Most never do it again, because celebrities take as much pleasure in sharing the limelight (and the profits) as journalists do in restraining their opinions. Yet as long as there are people with stories to sell and no time or no talent to tell them, the products of such precarious partnerships continue to sell.”

Fireworks or Art? An Easy Decision For One Town

Budget woes are affecting even the smallest towns in America. In tiny Susanville California, the city manager’s first crack at a $6.1 million budget included cutting the city contribution to July 4th fireworks. The town’s mayor has other ideas: “The Arts Council, they get $7,500 a year? I think fireworks is more beneficial than the arts council. They used to get much less than that before. That’s pretty generous.”

Toning Up With Ballet

More and more people are taking to ballet as a new exercise regimen. “The release of the New York City Ballet’s second workout has added to the attraction. The video, which has shifted more than 250,000 copies worldwide, has just been released in Britain. Already the tasteful images of perfectly toned, graceful yet powerful bodies have been enough to make women desert their pilates and ashtanga for a session at the barre.”

Could Big-Media Control The Internet?

Big media companies control radio and TV. Could they also control the internet? Some critics warn that they could. “The Internet could become like cable television, a pay-as-you-go service with price tags for premium channels, Cooper says. The content and service provider would favor its own content and shut out nonprofit groups and start-up sites. For example, an ISP/content provider’s search engine would display its own products first–or exclusively. Media companies clearly have their eyes on “convergence,” blending distribution across print, broadcast, and digital devices. Critics fear this means big media will silence smaller players online as well.”

Magnetic Idea – Canada’s National Theatre Festival

Does Canada need a national theatre festival? “The very undertaking both addresses some obvious lacks and points to some troubling challenges. English-Canadian theatre artists don’t tour enough, leaving pockets of dynamic activity in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto and Halifax that are largely mysterious to the other centres. Performers on Vancouver’s burgeoning small theatre scene, for example, complain they can’t find affordable venues in Toronto, to introduce their work to the country’s largest theatre centre. So, the festival program put together by artistic director Mary Vingoe is consciously transnational.”

Note To Historians: Travel, Open Your Minds!

There was a time in mid-20th Century that American historians and critics set American culture in the context of the rest of the world. “In the global contest with Soviet films and ballet companies, America’s most eminent historians and literary critics found themselves writing about the United States from a transnational perspective. They also served as guest lecturers and visiting professors overseas, confronting audiences and points of view different from the ones they were used to at home, even as they tried to spread the word about the virtues of America’s culture and civilization.” But “starting in the 1970s, it was no longer fashionable in academic circles to write about ‘America’ as a community of shared beliefs and values.” And over the next few decades, that sense of transnational perspective was replaced with more provincial perspectives.

California’s Dollars-For-Arts Protest

As a protest against California’s cuts in arts funding, arts supporters are being asked to mail the Art Council dollar bills with the names of state senators written in red on the bills. “The suggested donations would be part of a protest against Gov. Gray Davis’ proposed cuts in the council’s budget. Grappling with the state’s fiscal crisis, he has suggested trimming that budget from $22.4 million to $8.4 million.”

In Praise Of Vinyl

There’s something satisfying and human about vinyl records. “It’s really these imperfections that make records worthwhile. Vinyl can break, bend and scar. Records are organic black slabs stuffed inside sleeves as big as the music itself. LPs are also designed and organized to flip, like chapters in a book. I don’t always want to listen to hours of music. Our culture is bent on maximizing everything: Supersize that DVD with movie extras and bonus concert footage. Sometimes I just want to listen to one side of a record and then fold over my musical bookmark.”

The Super Bowl And World Cup Of Publishing

The release of the new Harry Potter installment is as big as publishing gets. “The launch of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, at midnight on Friday, is going to make the launch of an Apollo rocket look like a shamefaced sidling-away. It is the largest such event in bookselling history. Bloomsbury, JK Rowling’s publisher, is not saying exactly how big the first print run is going to be, but it has been estimated at two million in this country, 8.5 million in the States.”

Venice – Ideas, Ideas, Who’s Got The Ideas?

“There are hundreds of artists and works in the Venice Biennale, which opened to the public last Sunday. So many voices and idioms, so many fractured dialogues, so many languages. Everyone comes to Venice, but everyone comes from somewhere else. There can be no totalising critique or curatorial stance, nor any shared artistic value we can depend on. Only one thing is certain: that pain is universal.”