Richmond PAC Fight Getting Ugly

An ongoing feud between the mayor of Richmond, Virginia and backers of a new performing arts center ratcheted up several notches this week when representatives of the PAC attempted to deliver a check for $2 million to the city. Under the terms of a 2004 agreement between the city and the PAC, the land on which the center is to be built will revert to city control in 2007 if a building permit is not secured by that time, unless the PAC chooses to pay the city $2 million. PAC officials decided to exercise that clause early, after months of wrangling with the mayor and other opponents of the project. But the mayor directed the city to refuse the check, and declared the entire 2004 agreement void, saying that PAC leaders were trying to buy the land well below market value.

A Spectacle of Theatrical Boxes

Rachel Whiteread’s new installation of 14,000 white boxes in Tate Modern’s massive Turbine Hall was one of the most anticipated new works of art to hit London this year. Of course, no one knew what it would look like until yesterday, but hey, buzz is buzz. Still, Whiteread was deeply worried that the simplicity of the design would cause the notoriously fickle British arts press to jump on her, and is well aware that a backlash could still happen. “I don’t think it’s going to be like a room full of cardboard boxes. It’s going to be a room, I would imagine, full of light and space and built elements, and you’ll figure out what they are, but it might take a bit of time to do that. It’s going to be a spectacle, and theatrical, and it has to be.”

Tate Britain’s New Love For Shutterbugs

“London’s Tate Gallery used to be famous for its perverse refusal to collect or exhibit photography. Photography could only darken its doors as an auxiliary medium… All that has changed, probably in a deliberate attempt to stake a position in the shifting balance of power as Britain’s photographic institutions finally edge painfully towards sorting themselves out. There are new photographic museums afoot in Britain (not a moment too soon) and Tate wants a piece of the action. Its record on photography has been dreadful. Now it is performing a spectacular volte-face.”

What To Do With The CBC?

In the wake of the weeks-long CBC lockout, some bold proposals to reform Canada’s public broadcasting system are being floated by insiders and outsiders alike. Some observers even want to blow up the CBC and start fresh. But such dramatic changes could create as many problems as theyr solve, and when it comes down to it, Canadians are unlikely to embrace a wholesale change to the country’s largest broadcast institution.

Great (And Possibly Unfair) Expectations

The subtext of the debate surrounding Marin Alsop’s appointment to lead the Baltimore Symphony goes well beyond the orchestra’s internal politics. At the heart of the issue is the groundbreaking nature of the appointment, and the desperate hope on the part of many that Alsop will blaze a trail for future female conductors to follow. But Peter Dobrin suggests that such hopes may be unfair, both to Alsop and those who will come after her. If a new Brahms recording is any indication, the BSO “is getting neither a master nor an incompetent, neither a revelationist nor charlatan. What if Alsop turns out to be – dare we say it – merely a good conductor? Or a very good conductor?”

This American TV Show?

Ira Glass’s popular public radio program, This American Life, is getting a tryout as a television show on the cable network Showtime. If it gets picked up, which seems likely, Glass and his crew would produce 10 hourlong episodes while continuing to turn out the radio version, albeit on a reduced schedule.

The Year Of The Gay Character (Yes, Again)

Gay characters have been prominently featured in Hollywood films for years, of course, but this season, there’s a distinctly different angle being played up. Gone are the gay sidekick, the wingman, the effeminate comic relief, and in their place is a slew of complete dramatic characters whose lives and loves are just as much of interest as any heterosexual protagonist. Oh, and did we mention that they’re all being played by straight people?

Vonnegut: The End Is Probably Near

Kurt Vonnegut has never been exactly a cheery sort, and at 82, the celebrated author is the very picture of a curmudgeon. “He speaks repeatedly of having finished his life’s work and of the surprise of being still alive. And death is coming not just to him; in person and in the slim new volume of his collected recent essays entitled A Man Without a Country, Vonnegut pronounces a requiem for the Earth itself, saying the world is going to come to an end sooner or later, but most probably sooner.”

The Pop Culture Explosion

There was a time, not so very long ago, when it was possible, even easy, to be conversant in the language of popular culture without a great deal of effort. There was a lot out there, sure, but most Americans could keep up with the steady stream of hit movies, recordings, and books deemed to be the foundation of modern life. “But that foundation is buckling under the sheer weight of all the things that now qualify as pop culture — and all the new technologies that deliver them to finely calibrated consumer niches. Today the national water cooler bubbles with competing monologues rather than inclusive dialogues… The proliferation has been so fast and so dizzying that even people who study popular culture for a living find it hard to keep up.”