In one of the most unintentionally funny episodes of the original “Star Trek,” a male character referred to women as “givers of pain and delight.” The same could be said of the Artifice email box.

The delightful side is truly that. We opened correspondence this week to discover Mobile Symphony Orchestra (MSO) Music Director Scott Speck has signed a three-year contract to extend his time at MSO.

Speck joined the organization in 2000 as its initial full-time music director. Apropos, since the Azalea City’s first full-time professional orchestra in permanent residence had only been in existence for three years at that time, its first concert season being 1998.

Since then, MSO has seen its own pain and delight. While attendance at its nine annual shows — six traditional, three “pops” — have been inconsistent of late, they’ve had some glorious high notes. Discounting last month’s light-saber battle with Darth Vader, they’ve shared the stage with luminaries such as Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell and Evelyn Glennie.

“Scott’s talent, intelligence and charisma combine to create just the right chemistry for making live symphonic music of the highest order. He brings out the best in musicians,” MSO Board Chair David Quittmeyer said in the press release.

Speck’s term has also seen the MSO move into the Larkins Music Center at 257 Dauphin St. Since 2002, it’s inhabited the facility along with Mobile Opera.

“The Mobile Symphony is the cultural jewel of the Gulf Coast, a groundbreaking example for non-profit organizations everywhere and one of my greatest joys,” Speck said in the release. “What an honor and a treat to work month after month with such thoroughly talented and dedicated musicians, board and staff. We have all grown immensely over the past decade and I see a beautiful path forward together.”

Other related news you might not have heard in the last couple of months is a name associated with MSO who has shifted locations downtown. Diana Brewer, who became MSO’s director of marketing and public relations in February 2012, has moved to a similar slot at a new institution. Brewer now holds that position at the GulfQuest Maritime Museum. According to her LinkedIn profile, she assumed those duties last month.

Some may recall Brewer filled in as acting CEO for MSO when Gregg Gustafson was ushered out in February 2013. Only with the organization for a year at that point, she filled those duties until longtime MSO board member and officer Celia Mann Baehr became CEO in March 2014.

GulfQuest will need Brewer’s experience and community relationships. The museum has come under repeated fire over the past few years as its budget has swelled past expectations while a succession of setbacks have delayed its debut.

Brewer sent her own delightful invitation to the Artifice mailbox for a first-hand look at the facility. Admittedly, open skepticism about the museum has graced this space before fueled by many things, including the projected attendance numbers that seem “fudged’ in the least … unless you feel the museum really will see 4,807.69 visitors per week.

The noted mailbox pain comes chiefly in the form of something from stats-aggregator WalletHub. For the unaware, the site bills itself as “a one-stop destination for all the tools and information consumers and small business owners need to make better financial decisions and save money.”

Their new spam boasted a ranking of 150 U.S. cities as to which were best for starting careers. They penciled Mobile in at slot 142.

The methodology and categories were spelled out. They used 19 metrics and input from 23 academics at institutions of higher learning across the nation.

Of the nine categories, Mobile finished barely above average in only two: housing affordability and cost of living. The rest were too dismal to repeat.

What caught the Artifice eye was Mobile’s worst-performing category. Apparently we ranked 133rd in “Number of Arts, Leisure and Recreational Establishments per 100,000.”

I know we appear to struggle for arts support at times, but this has to be askew. The parameter as stated would seem to favor us.
They only counted populations within city limits, which works to our advantage. We have an abundance of museums for a town this size.

Near downtown alone there’s the U.S.S. Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, the Gulf Coast Exploreum, the History Museum of Mobile/Fort Conde, the soon-to-open GulfQuest Maritime Museum, the Conde-Charlotte Museum House, the Carnival Museum, the National African American Archives and Museum, and Oakleigh Museum House just over on Broad Street. In Midtown you have the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, the Mobile Medical Museum and the Carlen House near historic Murphy High School. Then of course, there’s the Mobile Museum of Art in West Mobile.

That’s 13 museums. Mobile’s population per the 2010 census is 195,111. The math is obvious at six museums per 100,000.

That’s not counting galleries, bookstores or theaters, both live and film. And if “leisure” is part of the evaluation, then we might factor in restaurants and bars, too.

Add in how much of our recreation isn’t contained in a building due to the popularity of outdoor activities and it doesn’t seem right. Certainly Mobile isn’t behind 132 other U.S. cities by that measure.

One group’s opinion; no biggie, right? Until you consider there were lots of other mailboxes like mine into which this zapped for some lousy P.R.

Thanks, WalletHub. I guess a little pain goes a long way.