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After pressuring a New York radio station to remove a blog post critical of Peter Gelb's work as general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, Gelb has now put the squeeze on a publication more directly under his influence: Opera News, published by what was the formerly more-or-less independent Metropolitan Opera Guild, a fundraising affiliate. Gelb has packed the Guild with his own flunkies, and is now emboldened to pressure Opera News to stop running reviews of Met productions--reviews that have been increasingly negative during Gelb's tenure. The last straw was apparently a scathing editorial by one of the magazine's editors, declaring that “The public is becoming more dispirited each season by the pretentious and woefully misguided, misdirected productions foisted on them.”

Not since the time of an earlier reform-minded, control-freak general director, Rudolf Bing, has there been such rampant abuse of power and influence at the Met. Clearly, Gelb's artistic instincts have failed him more often than not, and his recent efforts to strangle justified criticism suggest that he believes the public is so stupid that if nobody points out Gelb's bungling, the audience won't notice it.

Gelb has initiated several important and, yes, successful programs at the Met, most noticeably the international movie-theater simulcasts. But, from what educated critics have been saying, fewer and fewer Met productions are worth seeing, and several of them haven't even been worth hearing. Now Gelb has become a further embarrassment to the institution through his manipulation of the media.

Peter Gelb should be fired immediately.

UPDATE: Within 24 hours of the news breaking, Gelb admits "I made a mistake" and backs down. He should still be given the boot.



Transportation maintenance operations at all levels of government in Arizona has been severely curtailed in the last decade because the Legislature has used the dedicated transportation fund to plug budget deficits.

The state House Transportation Committee estimated during the recently ended legislative session that money swept from the Highway User Revenue Fund, known as HURF, has added up to $1.5 billion in the last 10 years.

Efforts to protect the funds from being swept again this year fell short, and an estimated $182 million was taken away to help operate the Department of Public Safety and the Motor Vehicle Division.

The fund is made up of revenues from the state's 18-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax, a business-use fuel tax and registration and licensing for vehicles.

When the gasoline tax was originally introduced in Arizona in 1921, it was 1 cent a gallon, and the split was 75 percent for counties and 25 percent for the state.

The latest formula has 50.5 percent going to the state highway fund, 27.5 percent to cities and towns, 3 percent to cities over 300,000 in population and 19 percent to counties.

Friday's Arizona Week will bring the big picture of what the funding shifts have wrought. We will talk with representatives of local governments, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and lawmakers.


Active wildfires this week in Arizona have consumed more than 22,000 acres of grasslands and forest, and officials across numerous agencies are worried that it will get much worse.

An early prediction that this will be a quieter season than last year -- which included Arizona's biggest ever wildfire, the 540,000-acre Wallow Fire in the White Mountains -- has yet to be proven or disproven.

But of course more than 1,200 firefighters are on the lines, land managers are taking steps to minimize human-caused fires and researchers are quietly wringing their hands over whether we've learned from our past land and forest management policy mistakes and whether it matters at all because of climate change.

We'll give it all an aring on Friday's Arizona Week, with these interviews:

-- Heidi Schewel, information officer for the Coronado National Forest.

-- Don Falk, a professor in the University of Arizona School of Natural Resources and the Environment. His research focuses on fire history and fire ecology.

-- Gene Beaudoin, Tucson District forester with the Arizona Department of Forestry. The department has just imposed fire restrictions on all state lands, including state parks.

-- Shaun McKinnon, environmental reporter for the Arizona Republic. He has covered Arizona wildfires for several years, including the record breaking fires of last year.

Plus an update on the latest wildfires in the state.


Well, here's one of those optimistic studies that's contraindicated simply by looking around you in a theater or concert-hall lobby: According to the data, people who read or go to cultural events have a lower body-mass index than all those idiots who aren't like you and me.

Hmm. What I notice in American theaters and on the street is that, whether Haves or Have-Nots, what at least a third of people across the board have is avoirdupois.

One thing to be wary of in this study is that most of the subjects were Europeans--people who spend a lot more time walking in the normal course of the day than do Americans, and who have rather different diets. Furthermore, the connection is stronger in Western Europe than Eastern Europe. Still, the study does find a distinction between the average body-mass indexes of the cultural elite and the hoi polloi.

Still, the analysis is interesting. One of the basic assumptions is that people interested in culture are well-educated. "More highly educated people tend to both read more and weigh less. Perhaps knowledge gained from schooling gives insight into the importance of proper weight for good health. In addition, mastering difficult coursework in college can help build confidence in one’s ability to reach difficult goals–including managing weight."

The author further reasons that "Perhaps the key is that groups sharing similar intellectual and cultural interests likely also share common lifestyles for health. It makes sense that members of a social network will share many ideals, and some of those ideals may relate to health and body weight."

In other words, it's that tried-and-true technique from junior high: peer pressure.

Here's the full article from the journal Sociology of Health and Illness. I suggest you read it while listening to classical music.



National Public Radio reported Thursday morning on a new study of college graduates and the job market. It's not a pretty picture.

Arizona Week will explore the topic Friday with a series of interviews with college career placement specialists, an economist and graduating seniors. We'll also speak with a University of Arizona official about the debt students are taking with them when they graduate.

On the program:

-- State economic analyst Aruna Murthy, discussing the employment market for young people.

-- Elaine Stover, career services director at Arizona State University, discussing the opportunities for ASU's Class of 2012.

-- Eileen McGarry, career services director at the University of Arizona, discussing the same for UA's graduates.

-- Melissa Vito, UA vice president for student affairs, discussing student debt carried forth after graduation.

-- UA Class of 2012 graduates Chelsy McHone and Timothy James Venne, discussing their strategies for employment after graduation.

Friday, 8:30 p.m. MST on PBS-HD6, or streamed at


I write this post a few minutes after having aired a 1947 recording of Franz Lehár conducting his own Merry Widow Overture. We don't have many "historical" (old mono) recordings in the library, the assumption being that listeners have a low tolerance for the compromised sonics. But I wonder if that's true.

I remember the little argument that arose at a 1980s conference of the Association of Music Personnel in Public Radio when Victor Ledin, who was then affiliated with a San Francisco Radio station, gave a little speech about how we should be playing more recordings--particularly piano recordings, his specialty--from before the stereo era. The playing styles back then were quite different, and each performer tended to have far greater individuality than most of the pianists being recorded by the major labels in the '80s. Somebody then countered that the average radio listener wouldn't be listening closely enough to discern the artistic differences; all that's likely to be perceived would be the surface noise and limited frequency range of recordings transferred from scratchy old 78s.

In the case of the Lehár recordings from the 1940s, there's no surface noise to contend with; Europe had entered the tape era a few years before, and, at worst, there's a bit of tape hiss in the background (but hardly any in this particular remastering). The frequency range, though, does lack the extreme lows and some of the highs of modern recordings, so if you're paying just a little attention, you can tell the difference.

But how many radio listeners are paying attention?

I suspect most people have the radio on in the background as the move from room to room doing various things, or they turn it on in the car, where many sonic infelicities are masked by road and motor noise. Under such conditions, would they notice that it's a 1947 recording?

Now, they probably do notice when we play one of the classic 1930s Artur Schnabel recordings of Beethoven sonatas, which, being drawn from 78s, are more crackly and muffled. But does a competent mono recording from the tape era (starting around World War II, at least in Germany) cause radio listeners to notice anything different? Are radio listeners listening that closely?

And if they're not, that raises another question: Even with modern recordings, will they notice many differences in performance quality or interpretation? Is there any point in a radio station owning more than one recording of anything?

Let me know.


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