Putting Business Before Books?

“Peter Olson, the C.E.O. of Random House, has no use for the sentimental yearnings of the book-publishing elite. They whipped him when he crudely fired Ann Godoff, but he’s in a different publishing business than they are, the only one he thinks can survive… In January, when Olson fired Godoff, editor in chief and publisher of the Random House Adult Trade Group division, many in the insular publishing world felt that Olson’s love of books was trumped by his crude business tactics… By firing Godoff, by stating plainly that he was in the book business, Olson was not so much revolutionizing the industry as giving vent to what it has long and carefully repressed. Book publishing has always been a mix of high and low, but the business side of the industry has been de-emphasized.”

Hunt: We Must Never Negotiate With Art-Wielding Aristocrats

As the British public waits for the UK’s heritage lottery fund to make up its mind about whether it will try to purchase an important Raphael painting which is in danger of being sold to an American musuem, Tristram Hunt is wondering why exactly the government continues to play a game it can’t win. “There is a long, ignoble tradition in this country of wealthy aristocrats blackmailing the state for cultural funds… The priority for the NHMF must be to look after the broader public heritage – not just ‘British’ art, which could produce some very uninspiring galleries, but art which speaks to a national or regional identity.”

The Map Pirates

“Armed with nothing more than pencil sharpeners and baggy jumpers, Melvin Perry and Peter Bellwood plundered unsuspecting libraries across Europe, razoring thousands of priceless maps from medieval atlases.” How they did it, and why, is a fascinating and horrifying tale of grossly inadequate museum security, crooked dealers, and simple human greed.

No Pencils Required

The future of animation is here, and it is computer-generated. This is no surprise, of course: CG movies have been cleaning up at the box office ever since Toy Story, and cutting-edge companies like Pixar Animation have upped the technology ante considerably in recent years. But for those who were still hoping that old-school line animation and CG technology might be able to coexist in Hollywood, the current goings-on at Disney will be quite disheartening. “The company, whose very name is synonymous with cartoon castles and ink-and-paint dwarves, is going digital.”

Why Most Companies Just Do Aida Every Year

“Presenting a new opera always comes with higher costs and higher risks than showcasing the tried-and-true. Even though the opera combines the familiar history of China’s Cultural Revolution with fictionalized events, Madame Mao remains an unknown quantity. The production, which employs eight dancers and elaborate costumes, has a budget of $1.5 million, half again as much as the Santa Fe Opera average.”

Land of 10,000… Theaters?

A national gathering of theater critics took place in Minnesota recently, and Celia Baker came away from her week in the Land of 10,000 Lakes wondering why more American metropolises can’t be like the Twin Cities. “More than 2 million seats were sold by Twin City theaters in 2000, equal to the combined season attendance of the Minnesota Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves. More theater tickets per capita are sold in the Twin Cities than any other place in the United States outside of New York City… The area’s cultural life helps lure business to the area, and many large corporations with headquarters in the Twin Cities are generous in funding arts programs and the buildings that house them.”

Hopefully, He’s A Better Singer Than He Was A GM

Over the years, fans of the Boston Red Sox have become accustomed to watching their players bolt Beantown, and take up a bat for the hated New York Yankees. But former team general manager Dan Duquette may be the first Red Sox to land on a stage with the Bronx Bombers. Duquette (who was fired by the Red Sox last year during an ownership shuffle,) is scheduled to appear in a Western Massachusetts production of the Broadway musical, Damn Yankees, portraying the manager of the Washington Senators. The show will go on in an actual ballpark in Pittsfield, and yes, Duquette will be singing.

Docs Get Their Due

The documentary is suddenly big business in the film industry, and filmmakers specializing in the form, who couldn’t even get a meeting in Hollywood a decade ago, are enjoying unprecedented success. Part of the reason for the new popularity of the form is financial, of course – documentaries are much cheaper to make than feature films – but it is also true that there are simply a lot of great docs getting made these days. “It would be easier to put together a list of 10 good documentaries for the year than it would be to come up with a list of 10 good fictional movies.”

It Just Ain’t Culturally Significant Until It’s In The Dictionary

“Artistic expression has a special meaning for lexicographers at Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Every decade or so as they prepare an overhauled edition, they decide which new words from the world of culture, among other domains, are suitable for inclusion.” Among the words making the cut in this year’s revision: ‘burn,’ as in burning a song onto a CD; ‘gangsta,’ being the preferred hip-hop pronunciation of an already-common word; ‘zine,’ a homemade magazine; and ‘soukous,’ which you’ll just have to look up.

All Music Is Local, And It May Just Be Ethnic, Too

One of the biggest challenges of programming an orchestra’s season is finding a reliable way to gauge the interest’s of a local audience. Even in an industry so dominated by a “standard repertoire,” the tastes of concertgoers vary widely from city to city, and what goes over brilliantly in New York may well flop 100 miles down the road in Philadelphia. “Theories abound about what formulates and maintains local taste – theories nearly as disputable as they are defendable. The collective consciousness of any community isn’t all that collective and is constantly shifting. The theory that seems to carry the most weight is ethnicity.”