Sunday, March 17, 2013

Elegy for a Phoenix...

It seems crazy, but The Boston Phoenix has abruptly shut down and scattered it's staff to the winds sans severance. Sad. And a serious blow to arts, culture and investigative journalism here in the Boston are, perhaps, dare I say it? a mortal blow. By way of full disclosure let me add that my first published by-line in Boston was a co-written article on vampire movies for The Boston Phoenix in 1991. My long suffering collaborator and I snarked it up for 650 words divided a small sum between us and were off on an improbable adventure as local freelance film writers...we had a good run in part because The Phoenix gave us a good solid shove in the right direction. It is a publication that was vitally necessary and exactly what if anything will replace it cannot be predicted with confidence. In the past twenty years or so, I've had a rueful front row seat on the decline and fall of paper-driven news media in Boston. Hell I started this obscure little blog in 2004 specifically as an outlet for my own admittedly marginal arts writing as a response to the obliteration of the local freelance market. It has been a process that has worked from the "outside in", relentlessly snuffing marginal paper-publications (exp "The Boston Comic News") until at least the inner ring has been penetrated and The Phoenix has gone for the terminal dirt nap. Of course the internet made all this happen, but then the internet is a thing that is viewed, it is not really read at least not in depth...and it is the act of reading that is enduring strength of all the dailies and weeklies out there, even the blustery old Boston Herald. Moreover a host of able reporters and reviewers have all been put out on the streets at a time when their skills have never ever been more needed but the cash value of those skills has never been lower. I'm gonna miss the Phoenix, it was always a good harbinger when Channel Zero could rate a positive mention in those paper pages. Boston's arts scene comes in for too little coverage as it is, the Phoenix always tried to dig down a little deeper than say The Globe (whose idea of cutting edge seems to stop at the "goings on" at the A.R.T.). This is bad news all around for anyone trying to do anything new and different in da Hub. Moreover trimmers and porch-climbers on Beacon Hill and elsewhere sleep a little sounder tonight without The Phoenix looking over their shoulders. That mah frenz is "change", and at the moment it is a Bad Thing at least until we can collectively harness it and set it to work in service of a better agenda.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Pick of the Week...

Hands down the King Hu retrospective at the Harvard Film Archive. Haven't seen the like since the MFA was screening serious Hong Kong Action cinema back in the late 1990's. Hu is one of those rare directors with the innate gift for revitalizing tumbledown genres, he did for Chinese Medieval Swordfighting movies what John Ford did for the American Western. In other words made it something dramatic, some adult driven without sacrificing the visceral pleasures raw physical conflict. Some of his work is a bit of slog, but keep in mind this is the filmography that single handedly educated Tsui Hark, John Woo and many many other Chinese Film-makers desperate to upgrade the national cinema. So this is a rare opportunity, don't miss it, hell if it proves successful maybe the HFA will revisit Hong Kong down the line and start educating some American Film-makers.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester Ma

(allegedly the only museum in North America dedicated solely to armor and weaponry) is closing as of December 2013. The Worcester Art Museum is taking over the Higgins' Collection...Although it has been alleged by certain parties that the WAM is taking title to only 250 pieces out of a total inventory of two thousand. The balance of the Higgins' Collection is allegedly going to be auctioned off by Sotheby's, certain high dollar value items have supposedly turned up in catalogues and the closure of the Museum was only formally announced as of Friday 3/8/2013. Who profits from this almighty sell off of museum quality weaponry and armor? What of the Higgins Museum's Endowment? Where is that going? By the way, the Higgins' Endowment is allegedly larger than the available endowment of the Worcester Art Museum.... Maybe I'm all stupid like, I am certainly not any species of "citizen journalist" but an allegedly insolvent specialty museum in Worcester is sudddenly gonna become a veritable cataract of cash, I'd like to know where that money is going thats all. Someone please, prove my suspicions wrong, feel free to patronize me, I'm all ears.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

"Ideology is Destiny"

Never moreso than in a "scientifically socialist" Marxist-Leninist State. The purpose of ideology in such nations is threefold, depict to the masses the coming communist eschaton of peace & plenty, explain in Marxist Leninist terms just why said ideology does not "rule the world" and act as a cost effective means of controlling the masses (see Jacques Ellul's "Propaganda" for more on that aspect). autarchy, the promulgation of a completely internally self sufficient economy exerts a powerful fascination for Totalitarian Nation States of all ideological brands. At various times dictators as diverse as Juan Peron, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Adolf Hitler Mao ZeDong and Fidel Castro have all made autarchy the central focus of their respective regimes. Autarchy is potentially inflationary and can be ruinously wasteful of public/private resources, tyrants tend to opt for it for strategic military reasons & out of the naive' belief that they can bend the economy to their will they way they have dominated the world of ideas and gotten a stranglehold on mass opinion. Joseph Stalin invented all this virtually single handedly, after a long ruinous civil war in Russia, the death of Lenin, another long ideological civil war with Leon Trotsky and slow realization that the USSR was internationally isolated to a dangerous degree....Stalin proclaimed "Socialism in One Country". Ironically, he stole the idea from his hated rival Leon Trotsky. "Socialism in One Country" literally meant that the Communist Party of the Soviet Union was now hell bent to create overnight the very industrial working in whose name the party allegedly ruled! "Socialism in One Country" was bumptious, wasteful and based entirely on the genocidal expropriation of peasantry. But as pure ideology it was a slam-dunk, it lavishly illustrated the coming socialist utopia, neatly explained while "the international balance of forces" did not yet favor said utopia and kept the helots in line...And what the hell, Stalin died in bed while most of the above listed tyrants and dictators swung by their heels in end. This was a fact not lost on the Kim Clan, the Ruling Family in Marxist Leninist North Korea, whose proclaimed doctrine of "Juche" (literally "self reliance") mixes Confucianism and Stalinism in a heady brew that asserts a motivated Marxist North Korean can do anything! In short it is autarchy designed to keep the usual suspects safely in control of the nation, no more no less. Lash the masses on to dig marginally uneconomic iron mines under appalling conditions, because that is North Korea asserting control over it's own Marxist Leninist Destiny! Like I said, heady stuff. So it is will some mirth that Channel Zeroscreen Jim Finn's 2010 mockumentary "The Juche Idea" this Friday Night at 8pm in the micro cinema of the Somerville Theater. Mixing together eye-popping archival footage with deadpan re-enactments, Finn has created a complex docu-fiction that is equally thought-provoking & entertaining. In "The Juche Idea", a sympathetic South Korean filmmaker visits a North Korean artists' colony to bring Juche ideas into the 21st century. She ends up producing hilariously stilted shorts, including a nonsensical sci-fi story and the enigmatic "Dentures of Imperialism." "The Juche Idea" is both sardonic satire and historical excavation, an exuberant collage that reveals the absurdity at the heart of Kim-Jong-il's regime. Friday March 8th at 8pm (Sharp!) The Somerville Theatre, Micro-Cinema 55 Davis Square Somerville Ma 617 625 5700 In Korea and Bulgarian, Subtitled in English Admission $7.50 "Steeped in the obsolete language of revolutionary art, Mr. Finn's meticulous, deadpan mockumentaries often play like unearthed artifacts from an alternate universe..." —Dennis Lim, THE NEW YORK TIMES Tell yer friends, we are at it again!