Archive for March, 2007

Interview: Aleksandar Nikolic

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Photo: BeltangoWhen Aleksandar Nikolic first listened to the music of Astor Piazzolla as a student at the classical Music Academy in Bratislava, Slovakia, his passion for this newfound music led him to devote his career to tango. Aleksandar plays both the accordion and its close cousin, the bandoneón, and is a founding member of Beltango, a tango quintet based in Belgrade. He is also the President of the Belgrade Tango Association, which every September organizes the Belgrade Tango Festival.

In his first visit to the world capital of tango as a participant in the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, Aleksandar talks with us about his passion for tango, the Belgrade Tango Fest, and Beltango’s participation in Tango Camp 2007.

 Interview: Aleksandar Nikolic [9:55m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Celebrating Inventions

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Alessandro Volta
Photo by Historia de una

In our daily news feature this week, we brought you the story of the 10th birthday celebration for weblogs — that’s right, it appears that the weblog is now 10 years old. Well, sort of.

Here’s an invention that is completely ubiquitous in our daily world — over 100 million blogs and counting — yet it’s not clear who actually should be credited with its invention.

CNET offers three candidates for creating what we think of as a blog: posts sorted by date; most recent post at the top; previous posts archived with easy access; and, an invitation to easily post your own response or comment that then appears with the original blog post.

There is Dave Winer, a real pioneer for developing blogs, tools such as RSS, and podcasting. (Dave, where would we be without you?) His Scripting News launched on April 1, 1997.

Then there is the controversial Jorn Barger, who claims to have created the term “web log” in December 1997. Although you will find a lot of people who challenge Jorn on a lot of his claims, this one goes relatively unchallenged.

CNET’s final candidate for worthy mention is Justin Hall, who the New York Times Magazine crowned the “founding father of personal blogging.” Justin began to post a personal diary on, in January 1994, while he was a student at Swarthmore College. Justin is not seeking this credit, though. He subscribes to the spontaneous appearance theory — people from different places and in different ways arriving at a similar point.

Rebecca Blood weighs in on her history of weblogs to keep the history, and revisionist history, alive.

So, as you toast the blog’s birthday, here’s a way to keep the toast going: take a look around your daily offline life to celebrate these inventors for making each day as fun as a blog. (Was Gérard Depardieu really the inventor of the toaster?)

  • Adolphe Sax, saxophone: in other words, no Adolphe, no jazz.
  • Lars Magnus Ericsson, handheld micro telephone: will his picture be on the iPhone?
  • Edwin Howard Armstrong, inventor of FM Radio: can you imagine a world with only AM?
  • László Bíró, ballpoint pen: how would we be able to write a number on our hand?
  • Chester Greenwood, earmuffs: well, someone had to come up with the practical, but dorky, look.
  • Nils Bohlin, inventor of the 3-point seat belt: now you know whose name to use in vain, and to thank.
  • Richard Drew, masking tape: where would US Homeland Security and Tom Ridge be without him?
  • Gleb Kotelnikov, knapsack parachute: I know this is going to come in handy one of these days.
  • Ralph Baer, inventor of home console for video games: what would the kids be doing all the time?
  • Arthur Wynne, crossword puzzle: now you know an answer to a question sure to appear.
  • Neil Arnott, inventor of the water bed: enough said.
  • Alessandro Volta, battery: how many times a day do you rely on a battery?
  • Percy Spencer, microwave oven: the world wouldn’t have fast food — well, maybe Percy should be held accountable.

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Erica Pazur

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

Photo: Erica PazurErica Pazur studied at the School of Performing Arts in Buenos Aires and at the National University Institute of the Arts (IUNA). Her training includes musical theater, improvisation, melodrama and clown and buffoon acting techniques. In 2006 her clown skit “The Music Stand” was presented at multiple Austrian international festivals, including the opening peformance of the Festival der Traume in Innsbruck. She also acted in the 38th edition of the International Encounters for Cultural Diversity, and has just been invited to participate in the 2007 International Theater Festival of Sibiu in Romania. Four of her short plays were presented at the Theater Festival of the Punilla Valley, which takes place every summer in the province of Córdoba, Argentina.

In this interview Erica talks about her clown, buffoon and melodrama skits, and about how she created her musical short play “The Box”, which is based on the myth of Pandora’s Box, with music composed by a Greek musician.

 Interview: Erica Pazur [11:30m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Virtue in Virtual?

Monday, March 19th, 2007

Winsor McCay - Gertie the Dinosaur

We have lived through method acting, underwater acting, space acting. Now is it ‘virtual acting’?

Artists and academics from Bradley University in Illinois, University of Central Florida, and University of Waterloo in Canada are so proud of their recent accomplishment of bringing together a performance using the Internet onstage (covered in a story in this week’s Festival News) — they thought they were plowing new territory.

Using the latest technology on stage to bring together distant actors and actions is at least as old as using the telegraph in live performances of the 1840s. (No coincidence: Same time period as P.T. Barnum’s museum of “500,000 natural and artificial curiosities.”)

One of the most interesting combinations of theatre with the latest technology was created by Stanislaw Igancy Witkiewicz (Witkacy) for his 1923 play, The Crazy Locomotive, (SZALONA LOKOMOTYWA) with theatre and film. Witkacy was hardly a techie. An amazing artist of theatre, paintings, and novels, Witkacy believed that theatre was “last refuge of individual existence.”

Our own Ruben Puentedura has been collaborating with choreographer Cathy Weis since 1997 to create “Live Internet Performance Structures” (LIPS), with artists in NYC, Vermont, Macedonia, and the Czech Republic. Although the work is at the high end of technique, imagination, and cultural exchange, the technology is at the low end. They have used off-the-shelf mid- to low-range computer and video equipment, and ISDN bandwidth (not even DSL or cable modem range) to pull it all off.

There is a bit of irony in the recent live-via-the-internet production: They produced Elmer Rice’s The Adding Machine. The play gives a pretty glum picture of anything that dehumanizes our experience.

Where the intersection of technology and performance can become really interesting is in the revelation: How does one use today’s tools to reveal what is most ancient in a live performance — the human experience of an actor and an audience sharing an intimate space, together.

Is “virtual acting” a fad or the newest frontier?

Every new trend in performance confronts a choice of two roads: one of a new fashion; or one of a connection to something essential. Don’t you think that the road that is harder to travel creates the more memorable journey?

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Michael Fields

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

Photo: Michael FieldsDirector, performer, author, master teacher — Michael Fields has taken on these roles and many more over the years. He is a founding member and the Producing Artistic Director of the Dell’Arte Company, an internationally recognized Master Teacher of Physical Performance Styles, and Producing Director for the Mad River Festival. He also chairs the California State Summer School for the Arts Theatre Department. He has co-authored 14 Dell’Arte productions, and directed many other productions nationally and internationally. As a member of the Dell’Arte performing ensemble, he has been a recipient of San Francisco Critics Circle, San Diego Critics Circle and Los Angeles Drama-Logue awards. He has served as president of ITI/USA, and as a Theatre Communications Group board member.

Michael talks with us about the origins of Dell’Arte and the Mad River Festival, and how they have evolved over the years.

 Interview: Michael Fields [13:53m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Money, It’s a Gas

Monday, March 12th, 2007

Photo by Evoke — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

Pink Floyd’s song Money might be the perfect anthem for the fight against a US Copyright Office rule change that appears to target independent webcasters, a.k.a. internet radio.

A government committee is hearing a lot of sound about the proposed performance royalty payment structure which would essentially shut down these music webcasters.

Every song has two copyrights attached: one is owned by the song writer or music publisher; the second is the “performance copyright” that is owned by the recording artist or, more likely, the artist’s record company.

All radio stations, including satellite and webcasters, pay royalties to the first category — song writers/music publishers — through organizations such as ASCAP or BMI.

Traditionally, radio stations in the US have not paid performance copyrights because broadcasters have argued that airplay is a promotional tool for the record companies that enhances their sales. (The record industry has always more than agreed — payola, anyone?)

However, since 1995 the record industry has been pushing the government to recognize that there is a difference between access to a song on the radio (analog) and on the web (digital). The latter is better for copying which hurts, rather than helps, sales. So, webcasters should be responsible for the performance royalties to be set by the US government.

No doubt cd sales are down, worldwide. No doubt iTunes commands 75% of all digital music sales. No doubt the iPod accounts for around 80% of all digital music devices. Should we doubt that independent webcasters might be helping sales? Should we doubt that this legislation would very much favor the large media companies that also stream on the web?

For those broadcasting solely on the web the US Copyright Office wants performance royalty fees to be based on the number of people listening, as opposed to the current system of royalty based solely on a percentage of revenue.

What would be the difference? According to Ann’s favorite webcasting station, Radio Paradise, their payment would jump from 12% of their revenue to 125% of revenue — in other words, they are out of business.

From their calculations, under the new rules a site with 1,000 listeners would owe $134,000 in royalties during 2007, plus $98,000 in back payments for 2006. In 2008 the fee would be $171,000 and $220,000 in 2009.

Webcasters already operate under rules designed to prevent digital copying: They are not allowed to announce upcoming songs; They are not allowed to play more than 2 consecutive songs by the same artist; They are not allowed to play more than 4 songs over a 3-hour period by the same artist; They are not allowed to offer portable recording devices. None of these restrictions is true for traditional radio companies. (Remember, “Is it Live or Is it Memorex?”)

Is this the sound of government bias against the small-time webcaster in favor of the larger multi-platform company?

To participate in a campaign to keep independent webcasters in the pink, as opposed to red, check out Bill Goldsmith’s “View from Paradise.”

To learn more about the process, check out Kurt Hanson’s Radio and Internet Newsletter.

To make art, let’s get The Buggles to do a rewrite: strike “video,” add “internet.”

- Bill Reichblum

Interview: Ethan Zuckerman

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Photo: Ethan ZuckermanEthan Zuckerman has been dedicated to the creation of online spaces for dialogue since his work in the founding of Tripod, one of the pioneering web communities. In 2000, he founded Geekcorps, a non-profit technology volunteer corps, which pairs skilled volunteers from US and European high tech companies with businesses in emerging nations. Since 2003, he has been a fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. He is also the cofounder (with Rebecca MacKinnon) of Global Voices Online, a non-profit global citizens’ media project, based upon an international network of bloggers.

Ethan talks with us about how different voices from all over the globe are coming together online around common themes and goals.

 Interview: Ethan Zuckerman [10:52m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

Cultural Diplomacy: Listen

Monday, March 5th, 2007

Pere Lachaise - Vivant DenonYou know that political leaders are really making a mess of things when they feel the need to turn to artists to do their jobs.

Demos, the British think-tank closely allied with UK’s Blair and the Labour party, has issued a call to arms for “Cultural Diplomacy.” The report, written by Kirsten Bound, Rachel Briggs, John Holden, Samuel Jones, covers everything from the PGO (penetrating glimpse of the obvious) on how artistic works help build bridges between cultures to the old-time radical notion of culture not-by-but-for the government.

Example of a PGO: “Culture has a vital role to play in international relations.”

Example of old-time radical not-by-but-for government: “The UK must find ways to incentivise our cultural institutions to conduct work that contributes towards the UK’s international priorities.”

They are not talking about The Diplomats. Nor is the group proposing creating dual careers such as those of Rubens or Baron Dominique Vivant Denon. The former now known more for his artistic product, the latter earning a beautiful artistic monument for his accomplishments.

They are creating an atmosphere where cultural groups are “incentivised” by the British Foreign Office to follow, promote, and articulate government policy. (Here’s another PGO - beware of anyone who uses the term “incentivise.”)

Needless to say, this has created a lot more heat than Demos’ ideas on the “third way” for good politics. Writing in The Independent, Tiffany Jenkins legitimately asks, “Why Should Artists be Agents for the Government?”

Of course, the strongest way to create a genuine meeting between diverse cultures, nationalistic attitudes, or religious beliefs, is through the honesty of artistic expression. How often have each of us had incredible moments of understanding and connection through a work on the stage, in a film, in a book, in a song, or through the simple act of telling a story.

However, the necessary component to this mutuality is honesty. That’s the problem with Demos’ recommendations. Once a work of art, or the artist, is perceived as a product of government bureaucracy the expression loses its immediacy, and its integrity.

Demos is not responding to a new cold-war kind of initiative where the battles take place as much in the cafes as they do in the presidential palaces.

Demos is responding to a new kind of desperation for understanding, for contact.

A few years ago, Joan Channick, a colleague in the world of theatre creation and international exchange, wrote a response to a cultural surge from the Bush administration:

There is a fundamental difference between the official approach to cultural diplomacy—where the emphasis is on the diplomacy, and culture is merely a tool or, worse, a weapon—and the approach taken by artists. Artists engage in cross-cultural exchange not to proselytize about their own values but rather to understand different cultural traditions, to find new sources of imaginative inspiration, to discover other methods and ways of working and to exchange ideas with people whose world views differ from their own. They want to be influenced rather than to influence.

So here’s my unsolicited advice to Secretary Rice: Listen to artists, who have been working internationally for all these years—collaborating artist-to-artist and artist-to-audience—finding shared values, mutual respect and understanding in the midst of difference. They are the true cultural diplomats—emphasis on the cultural.

Note Joan’s advice: Listen to the artists. That’s a lot better way to begin a relationship than telling them what to do.

- Bill Reichblum