“Weapons Of Singing Destruction”

Arab music videos are sexy and alluring. But they’re also controversial in the Arab world. “This is a direct challenge to the forces of traditional Arab culture, which in many places remains an environment of constricted, traditional, and narrowly defined identities, often subsumed in group identities that hinge on differences with, and antagonism toward, other groups. Many Arab observers of these videos recognize the nature of that challenge, which is why one critic calls these videos ‘weapons of singing destruction’.”

When Google Meets Amazon

Amazon’s new searchable book service has been widely praised. But Google looks like it’s trying to get into the act too. “For the last few months, Google has been courting publishers, hoping to convince them to turn over book content that could be used in Google’s database, say people close to the discussions. How that content would be presented is not clear, but it would likely not be provided in excerpted passages to customers, as it is on Amazon. Instead, the material would go into a database that Google spiders would comb, then turning up relevant links. If a user clicks through, they would be sent to a separate page that contains a book abstract and the opportunity to buy the title.”

Dead On

Unable to gain traction in New York galleries, artist Patricia Cronin created a sculpture for a cemetary north of Manhattan. “At Woodlawn, often called ‘America’s Père Lachaise,’ or ‘our most prestigious cemetery for men and women of accomplishment,’ Cronin’s strategy of not fitting in turns fascinating. Cronin’s is now the third most visited grave site at Woodlawn, behind only Miles Davis and Duke Ellington.”

Seat Of Power: Running Two Of Britain’s Most Innovative Theatres

In another life, Michael Grandage – who is artistic director of London’s Donmar Warehouse and associate director of the Sheffield Crucible – might have “made an excellent soccer manager – but he is better off where he is. He’s not only programming two thriving theatres in London and Sheffield. He has also proved that it is possible to be preoccupied by power without being corrupted by it.”

That’s No Way To Balance A Budget

“The Museum of North Arizona has elected a new board of trustees and named an acting director after revelations that the former director and trustees had sold 21 weavings and paintings from the permanent collection to help pay for the institution’s operating expenses caused an uproar among museum members.” Worse, the sale of the objects netted the museum far less than what the objects were actually worth, according to a museum donor who spearheaded the protest against the board’s actions. The new acting director of the museum is Max Oelschlaeger, who says that his top two priorities will be to shore up the museum’s finances, and find a permanent director.

Kaiser Gets A Surprise For His 50th

Michael Kaiser, president of Washington’s Kennedy Center and recently the foremost star of the arts management world, does not surprise easily. But somehow, his friends and supporters managed to pull off a massive surprise party for Kaiser’s 50th birthday this week. “The entertainment was provided by Barbara Cook, Harolyn Blackwell, Patti LuPone and dancers from the Alvin Ailey troupe and American Ballet Theatre. The 136 guests included [Stephen] Sondheim, Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, and lots of other A-list political, business and diplomatic bigwigs.”

The Right To Withhold Your Name

As a rule, newspaper readers don’t pay a lot of attention to bylines. So a ‘byline strike,’ when it occurs, is the sort of semi-private protest which doesn’t raise many eyebrows, except within the industry. Still, when journalists at the Montreal Gazette withheld their bylines two years ago, they were ordered to reinstate them by the paper’s corporate owner, CanWest Global, and forbidden from talking to other journalists about the issue. Yesterday, a Quebec tribunal ruled that journalists have an absolute legal right to withhold their bylines, and though the ruling may go unnoticed by most Canadians, Antonio Zerbisias says that everyone who prizes independent thought should be celebrating.

Crime & Punishment & Bungling & Retribution

Canadian author Stephen Williams claims that he is being persecuted by Ontario authorities for the act of having written a couple of books about infamous Canadian serial killers and the botched police investigation which allowed them to go uncaptured for so long, and which will allow one of them to shortly be released from prison. The authorities insist that the 97 charges which they have laid against Williams are legit, in reaction to his accidental posting of two banned victims’ names on his web site. Lynn Coady says that it’s about time that the public got outraged on the author’s behalf.

Butting Heads In Birmingham

Peter Thomas, the concertmaster of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra has resigned from his position, and will leave the highly-regarded orchestra in March 2004, reportedly as a result of ongoing artistic conflicts with CBSO music director Sakari Oramo. “Regular CBSO concertgoers will have noticed the two men have not appeared on stage together for months… Ironically, Mr Thomas flew to Europe in 1997 with former chief executive Edward Smith to persuade an initially hesitant Mr Oramo to replace Sir Simon Rattle in Birmingham.”