Iraq Joins “Most-Endangered” List

For the first time, the World Monuments Fund has listed an entire country as endangered. It’s Iraq, and the country joins other threatened sites from 55 countries that include a Modernist building in New York and a hut in Antarctica. “The list of 100 at-risk sites, issued by the privately financed World Monuments Fund every two years, is chosen from nominations made by a broad array of experts in archeology and the arts.”

Moscow Bookstore Closes As Corruption Increases

In 1998, Mary Duncan opened Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Moscow. The store thrived, selling English-language books. “But we didn’t survive the election of President Vladimir Putin. Within a month of his inauguration in 2000, new, slickly dressed city officials claimed our sign did not conform to proper standards, our wiring was a fire hazard and our paperwork was incomplete. Fifty-dollar fines escalated to $1,500.”

The Cynical Side Of Live 8

“It’s easy to get cynical about Live 8, the much-touted, multi-venue mega-concert aimed at raising the West’s consciousness on poverty in advance of the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland. No question the July 2 event is getting huge hype. Didja hear that Pink Floyd is getting back together for the occasion? Or that the memory of the 1985 Live Aid is being desecrated? Or that 2 million text messages in London alone — at about $4 Canadian a pop — were sent during the e-lottery for freebie tickets? Or that some of those tickets landed on eBay for up to $1,000? Yet there’s hardly been a peep about, just to name one thing, the heart-rending videos of orphans and street kids, and the effect of the crushing debt faced by many nations.”

A Bournonville Triumph

Tobi Tobias is back from Danish Ballet’s Bournonville Festival in Copenhagen. “Whatever quibbles one might have over some of the artistic choices (and I have several fairly serious ones), this Festival was a triumph simply as an event, and [director Frank] Andersen, though he has continually given ample credit to the stagers, dancers, coaches, teachers, and staff “without whom,” was the leading force in bringing it about.”

How Theatre Killed Spamalot

“The original Python was a creative force that chewed up whatever medium tried to contain it—a Broadway show in that spirit could only exist off-off-off-Broadway, under an awning somewhere and would probably never find its way to the main stage. As a Python fan, I wanted to love Spamalot, but it wouldn’t let me. It is choreographed, safe Broadway subversion, decked out in gaudy makeup, camping it up for the folks in the balcony. It replaces Python’s subtlety with glitter and shouting. Even when it’s making fun of Broadway, it’s still only Broadway.”

The Babble-izer

Too noisy where you work? Office mates talk too loud? Now there’s a gadget that scrambles voices and makes noise easier to take. “It works by electronically listening, then repeating back random bits of what it hears. The resulting sound is blurred — as if familiar voices were speaking in a foreign language I can’t quite make out. We’re hard-wired to like the way the human voice sounds. The problem isn’t sound — the problem is that the search for meaning demands attention. Noise that settles into the background can be very pleasant.”

Writers Want To Unionize “Reality” Shows

The Writers Guild of America wants to unionize workers who create TV reality shows. “Unlike a sitcom or drama, a reality show doesn’t often employ ‘writers.’ Instead, people with titles such a ‘field producer’ or ‘story producer’ make sure each episode follows a script that’s often conceived in advance. In other cases, editors have the job of finding dramatic story lines in hundreds of hours of tape. Producers might boil down 400 hours of footage to create a single 44-minute episode of a show.”

NPR Ombudsman On CPB Ombudsmen

NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says its regrettable that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting thinks it needs two ombudsmen to watchdog politics. “The appointment of the CPB ombudsmen has, indeed, accomplished something: It has sown doubts (or reinforced existing ones) among many listeners (and viewers) that there is something fundamentally wrong at NPR and PBS. But these doubts are based on impressions, innuendo and hearsay evidence. Questioning the practices of journalism is always a good thing. But declaring a priori that there is bias, as Mr. Tomlinson has, contradicts the high standards of public broadcast stewardship that CPB has always advocated.”