What Happened To Korea’s “Age Of Culture?”

When he came to power last February, South Korea’s new President Roh Moo-hyun declared that the 21st Century would be the age of culture and that he would help make it happen. But “like so many other quotes taken from the outspoken chief of nation, the depth of commitment to actually materializing his rhetoric remains questionable, at least after the administration’s unproductive first 10-months of hollow debates, confusions and scarce achievements in cultural policies.”

Orchestras – Back To The Past (And Stuck There)

Why must orchestras present such a formal presence? “No wonder young people find this museum approach such a turn-off. Linked to the earthen rigidity of most mainstream concert programming, and the general predictability of the repertoire, the majority of weekly orchestral offerings in the Usher Hall or the Royal Concert Hall can have as much pull as a traditional Church of Scotland service. Come to think of it, the audience profile in both cases is about the same – elderly and growing thin on the ground. Surely it’s time to freshen things up, bring our orchestras into the modern age and apply the creative touch to more than just the sound of the music.”

Dismissing The Hobbit (But He’s Still Around)

Some critics are hailing the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy as a great masterpiece. But as books, the Tolkien project failed to impress literary critics of the time. “The Lord of the Rings must be one of the most comprehensively dismissed trilogies ever written. Critics have queued up since its publication nearly 50 years ago to denounce it. But JRR Tolkien’s story has outlived one generation of critics, and will certainly outlive another.”

Library Riles Patrons Over Plans To Sell Treasure

The Providence Athenaeum library in Rhode Island is 250 years old, “a vestige of the days when America’s settlers created private lending libraries because public ones had yet to be invented.” But the Athenaeum has often spent more money than it has taken in, and “with a drop in stock market returns, the board decided to sell off the prize of its collection, a complete poster-size folio of Audubon’s ‘Birds of America,’ valued at as much as $7 million. Now the birds are at the center of a raucous battle between the people who run the library and the people who use it.”

NY City Opera Leadership Changes Horses

The 80-year-old chairman of New York City Opera, Irwin Schneiderman, is stepping down from the job. He’s “leaving at a crucial moment for City Opera, which desperately wants a home of its own, having shared the New York State Theater for 38 years with the New York City Ballet. The company has long complained that the theater was acoustically unfit for opera.”

How Sadaam Rebuilt Baghdad

Sadaam Hussein remade Baghdad. “Like other dictators of the past, Hussein saw himself as a great arbiter of taste, an architectural patron cast in the mold of a Cosimo di Medici. He was a familiar figure in architectural circles and on construction sites, where he would often sketch out his ideas on scraps of paper. The competitions Hussein sponsored attracted some of the world’s most celebrated architects. His aim, he often claimed, was to reestablish Baghdad as one of the world’s great architectural capitals.”