Why Do You Like “Rings” So Much?

Why is Lord of the Rings so popular? An academic study is underway to find out. “Deploying 13 languages on the internet, researchers from universities in 20 countries are asking a series of questions of fans in an attempt to pin down the attractions of fantasy fiction. The questions are targeted exclusively at admirers of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy, including posers like “Where and when is Middle Earth to you?” which would baffle the uninitiated. The study is being publicised in almost every country, from China to Colombia, to search out national variations in response to the books and films.”

Winn: Breaking Out Of The Basic Newspaper Arts Review

A panel at the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors in St. Petersburg, Fla got to talking about the state of arts coverage in daily newspapers. Steven Winn – arts writer at the San Francisco Chronicle: “Over the years, I felt a kind of creeping alienation. No one but a critic attends the theater 150 times a year. I was becoming, gradually and inexorably, self referential. I wrote about theater in terms of other theater, because that was what I was living.”

Good Marketing, Or A Legacy Diminished?

The Montreal Symphony Orchestra is currently marketing the heck out of a new Christmas CD it recorded with Quebec singer Bruno Pelletier. To date, the disc has sold over 100,000 copies, which has Arthur Kaptainis despairing for the orchestra’s reputation. “Pelletier is a voiceless wonder in the Helmut Lotti tradition. Splashy arrangements by Simon Leclerc cannot disguise the ghastly mediocrity of Pelletier’s singing, which is not even reliably in tune… If there is a musical equivalent of blasphemy in Quebec, this is surely it.”

Human Creativity vs. Human Crisis

“Are we as a species really on the razor’s edge between salvation and destruction? How does this impact the creative spirit of our generation?” Ben Tripp has had these and other fairly weighty questions on his mind of late, especially as the world appears to have settled into a near-permanent state of Global Crisis, which makes it fairly hard to concentrate on such niceties as Art. Still, we know from past experience that “the springs and freshets of Art will bubble up to wet the stoniest ground, if you must put it that way. But are all great works accomplished in the face of hardship, or can I get a massage?”

Whatever Happened To Using A Couple of AAs?

Apple iPod users are, let’s face it, a bit over-the-top in their love of the device, which is, let’s face it, just a jukebox with a long memory. Still, many iPod users claim they couldn’t live without theirs, which has caused some consternation of late, because as it turns out, the rechargable battery packs that power the little boxes of joy can run down after a year or so. No problem, you say? Just pick up a replacement pack, you say? Good thought, but Apple doesn’t actually sell replacements, and the company has been telling users to shell out $300-$500 for a whole new iPod when their batteries run down. One jilted user was so angry that he’s made a film about Apple’s betrayal.

Is The Pen Mightier Than The Playstation?

You can hardly turn around these days without encountering some public scold decrying the influence of violent movies, video games, and television shows on the behavior of the public at large. At the same time, you rarely hear anyone threatening to slap warning labels on books, lest any susceptible souls take them seriously. But literature has long influenced some of the world’s most notorious crackpots, (the Aum Shinrikyo cult took some of its ideas from an Isaac Asimov novel,) and such notorious terrorists as Timothy McVeigh are known to have worshipped at the altar of a terrifying book of hate called The Turner Diaries, not at the game console of Grand Theft Auto.

Pop Opera Comes Full Circle

When Bugs Bunny first appeared in a cartoon as the protagonist of a spoof of The Barber of Seville, the public roared with laughter, but classical purists rolled their eyes at what they saw as the bastardization of Great Art. Decades later, with classical music becoming an endangered art form, and pop culture occupying an ever more important role in society, the Vancouver Opera is using the cartoon to promote their more traditional performances. “You might call this missionary work. From a company with a million-dollar debt, teetering a few years ago on the brink of bankruptcy, Vancouver Opera has transformed itself into a debt-free, community-conscious, grassroots purveyor of an art form once associated with social elitism and a disdain for everything Bugs Bunny stood for.”

The Once And Future Toronto?

There was a time when Toronto was one of the world’s intellectual centers, writes Philip Marchand, a gathering place for the study of what used to be called “arts and letters,” and there are those who believe it can be again. But as Canada embarks on a supposed ‘new direction’ under Prime Minister Paul Martin, one has to wonder about the priorities of the new PM and his countrymen. With the University of Toronto deemphasizing many of its less ‘glamorous’ departments and the country as a whole seemingly under-interested in the pursuit of studied thought for its own sake, can Toronto really be on the intellectual comeback trail?

Court Ruling Stuns Record Industry

In a surprise ruling, a U.S. federal appeals court has told the recording industry in no uncertain terms that it does not have the right to demand the names and addresses of subscribers from the nation’s internet service providers (ISPs). A lower court had previously upheld the industry’s demand that Verizon and other ISPs release the names of their subscribers, and paved the way for nearly 400 lawsuits against users suspected of illegal file-trading. The ruling doesn’t mean that the industry must cease suing online pirates, but it will make such actions much more complicated.

Reasonable Faith, Or Faith In Reason?

The 21st century’s great intellectual conflict seems to be coming into focus, and it is a battle between Reason, the logic-based truth of scientists and academics; and Faith, the popular notion that truth is as much what we believe as what we can prove. The battle could be seen as a conflict between East and West, but those lines are blurring daily. It could be perceived as a battle between Left and Right, with the American right now teeming with evangelical Christians, and the left with secular intellectuals, but that leaves out the complicating factors of what is shaping up to be a truly global debate. “It is a conflict between competing certainties: between followers of Faith, who know because they believe, and followers of Reason, who believe because they know.”