USC Annenberg Online Journalism ReviewUSC

Stop the Presses, Aspen Online, Smashes and Duds

Stop the Presses

Believe it or not, some people don't watch "The Sopranos."

That's the apparently newsworthy revelation provided by a lengthy article in Sunday's Boston Globe.  Although lots of people talk about the hit HBO show, not everyone watches it, says Globe staffer Renee Graham.  The intrepid reporter actually tracks down some members of this hitherto-unknown non-Sopranos-watching underground movement.  "I've seen a few of the shows, but I'm not willing to pay more to get it," says a woman discovered doing Christmas shopping.  ''It's just a way for people to get together and talk,'' adds a man caught sipping a latte. 

Graham's next hard-hitting article, "Not Everyone Loves Krispy Kreme," can be expected any day now.


Aspen Online

The hippest art magazine of the 1960s is now one of the coolest sites on the Web.

"Published 10 times between 1965 and 1971, Aspen billed itself as the first three-dimensional magazine," writes Matthew Mirapaul in The New York Times.  Each issue arrived in a specially designed box filled with an assortment of individually printed essays and articles, postcards, posters, audio recordings on plastic flexidiscs and 8-millimeter films.  Even more remarkable than the magazine's format was its list of contributors, which included Andy Warhol, Lou Reed, John Cage, Marshall McLuhan, Roland Barthes, John and Yoko, William S. Burroughs and dozens of other prominent cultural figures of the day.

For the last three decades, Aspen could be seen only in museum libraries and flea markets, notes Mirapaul.  Now, however, San Francisco bookseller Andrew Stafford has posted nine of the ten issues online (the tenth is due soon).  The handsomely laid out site, with its text, video and audio components, is fascinating, if a little overwhelming.  I spent a couple of hours checking it out, and I've barely scratched the surface.

"Will trade a $49 blue dress ... for phone calls."  Aspen host site UbuWeb offers a compendium of bizarre found objects, including a series of ads featuring surreal barter offers.  (Click on "Introduction," then "The Free Jack Ads.")


Smashes and Duds

Two big-budget Broadway musicals opened this week -- and drew vastly different critical responses. 

Australian director Baz Luhrmann's updated staging of Puccini's "La Boheme" won generally rapturous reviews.  The show is "an enchanted mixture of self-conscious artistry and emotional richness," cheers New York Times critic Ben Brantley; it has a "quicksilver sexual pulse and a sophisticated core of emotional realism" says Peter Marks in The Washington Post; it "looks and sounds like a hit," adds New York Post critic Clive Barnes.

On the other hand, "Dance of the Vampires," a campy adaptation of the film "The Fearless Vampire Killers," provoked violent outpourings of disdainful invective and proved once again that pans are more fun to read.  The "spectacularly idiotic" show "will appeal only to the most die-hard lovers of inadvertent camp -- provided they bring plenty of Excedrin and don't eat too much beforehand," writes Elysa Gardner in USA Today.   " ... There are moments that climb into the stratosphere of legendary badness," agrees Brantley.  "The overall effect is of a desperately protracted skit from a summer replacement variety show of the late 1960s," he adds later.   


Short Takes

No More Peaceful, Easy Feeling
Rocker Don Henley is being sued by longtime Eagles bandmate Don Felder, writes Jeff Leeds in the Los Angeles Times.

Indoor Downpour
The malfunctioning sprinkler system that soaked the members of the Philadelphia Orchestra may have damaged some valuable instruments, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

America's Akhmatova
Dinitia Smith profiles Ruth Stone, the unsentimental 87-year-old "poet's poet" who recently won the National Book Award, for The New York Times.

My Audience Is Me
Los Angeles Magazine offers a lengthy profile of actor, filmmaker and radio satirist Harry Shearer.

How Do You Work the Camera?
Musician Robyn Hitchcock offers rambling "Diary" entries, this week in Slate.

He Made Housecalls
A Santa Monica doctor who prescribed addictive drugs to Winona Ryder and other celebrities has lost his license, report Kristina Sauerwein and Joe Mathews in the Los Angeles Times.

A Sad Story
Visitors to a Berlin arts center mistook a suicide victim's immobility for an act of performance art, notes Reuters.

Muppets For Sale
The Jim Henson Company has been sold and resold since its founder's death in 1990, writes Matt Wells in The Guardian.

Invasion and Inspiration
The upcoming Robert Altman film "The Company" is a collaboration between the filmmakers and the Joffrey Ballet, writes Sid Smith in the Chicago Tribune.

Walking On Air
Popular Science offers intriguing photos of wind-powered walking sculptures by Dutch artist Theo Jansen.

Parthenon Carved By a Guy Named Phil
A gullible Belgian newspaper has reprinted a ridiculous story from a satiric art news site, chuckles Fiachra Gibbon in The Guardian.

Want more links? The Spike Report regularly follows links from these useful daily Weblogs: Jim Romenesko's MediaNews and The Obscure Store offer highlights in the areas of news, features and media gossip; Arts Journal and Arts & Letters Daily cover the arts and culture beat; the Utne Web Watch Daily cherry-picks the alternative press; E-Media Tidbits and the UK Guardian weblog find consistently interesting selections; Metafilter, Boing Boing and Eliot Gelwan's Follow Me Here offer an eclectic mix of political, technical, scientific and general-interest items.

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