Four Books in My Bed – 18 Oct 2018

6:47 am

The darkness outside makes me think of night, yet it is the break of day.  I went to my bed to smooth things out and retrieved four books near the western wall. 

‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle’ by Washington Irving, ‘The Red Badge of Courage’ by Stephen Craane, ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ by Jonathan Swift, ‘Ivanhoe’ by Walter Scott are the four books that were nestled among the jostled covers and the red body pillow. 

The books are now piled on my desk in front of me, or, to the right and at my elbow.  They are the Great Illustrated Classics versions that have a simplified abridged and retold text and an illustration on every facing page.  I love the series.  I love the black and white line drawing illustrations by Pablo Marcos studios.  Pablo Marcos was an comic book artist whose work was widely seen in mainstream comic books in the 1970’s.  

Great I 06Great I 02

Great I 01

I find it interesting to see how the artist graphically depicts the scenes that are illustrated.  The written story is like a Cliff Notes plot summary with little charm.  But the drawings can be delightful.  I come back to these books again and again and find pleasure when I open to any page.  I have the books near me when something is loading on the laptop, or when Youtube has a long commercial that I mute and let play so Youtube can get there advertising money.   I catch up on the classics. 

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I first remember the Great Illustrated Classics coming to may attention when my sister gave my son a set of about a dozen books from the series that were printed in a small pocket size paperback.  Like a book snob that I was then I turned my nose up at the lowbrow retelling of the stories, but I had a guilty pleasure in looking at the pictures.  I was a stage then as a twenty-something who read ‘serious’ books that I should be reading books that didn’t have any pictures. 

Great I 05

But, I love pictures.  I love line drawings.  So I couldn’t keep away.  I often carried the little books with me to read on the subway train or on a bus.  The simple retellings gave me a chance to review books I’d already read, and think about them again. 

About ten years ago I saw the books online from the publisher in two large sets.  One for boys, and one for girls.  I ordered both sets and have an almost complete set of the Great Illustrated Classics – at least the great books section.  I still bring these picture books with me when I’m on the subway and copy the pictures to practice my own drawing, and to get inside the artists head through imitation. 

I like being able to find the text of a classic work, say ‘Ivanhoe’ by Walter Scott.  I look the text up on Project Gutenberg display it on my 17″ laptop screen with large type, and I might also look up an audio reading of the text on Librivox.  So I have picture books, story readers, large print text….all I need is a lunchbox with the stories heroes pictured. 

books

Who wants yesterday’s papers? Remembering Alt Weekly – The Boston Phoenix – RIP

 

Alt Weekly – Boston Phoenix – One Year Gone 

PhoenixLogoW-540x368
After 47-years as a newspaper aimed at an alternative audience to the major news outlets, the Phoenix folded in March 2013.
 End comes for Boston Phoenix, alternative voice since the ’60s ( 15 March 2013 )

In a poignant signal of a fast-changing media landscape, The Boston Phoenix sent out a short and simple tweet Thursday afternoon: “Thank you Boston. Good night and good luck.” With that terse dispatch, the groundbreaking Boston alternative weekly, which only six months ago reinvented itself from tabloid newspaper into glossy magazine, put a final punctuation mark on its 47-year history. Its current issue, dated March 15, 2013 will be its last.

New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean, one of many prominent journalists whose careers started at the Boston Phoenix, said: “It’s like finding out your college has gone bankrupt and is gone. I am a child of the alt-weekly world, and I feel like it has played such an important role in journalism as we know it today.”

Employees at the Phoenix were told of the closing by owner and publisher Stephen M. Mindich Thursday at what evolved into a tearful, emotional meeting. It is expected that about 40 employees will be let go within the week and another 10 or so soon after, according to executive editor Peter Kadzis, who described the general reaction among Phoenix staffers as “shell-shocked.” Several people were crying during the meeting, according to one person who was there.

Employees will not get any severance pay.phoenix-lead
“We’ll get paid for this week and if we’re owed vacation time, but no severance,” said staff writer Chris Faraone. “It’s sad, but also not. It’s not an anger thing. Everyone’s really proud. We went as hard as you could to the end.”

The Phoenix established its alternative reputation in the 1970s through its coverage of the local arts scene, especially rock music and movies, as well as with aggressive media criticism and coverage of local and national politics. Its target audience, even after its recent shift to a glossy magazine, never shifted: young, educated, active both socially and politically, and childless. You were more likely to find a sex column than a parenting one in the Phoenix.

Sister publications in Providence and Portland, Maine, will stay in business, but WFNX.com, the Phoenix Media/Communication Corp.’s online radio station, will not continue in its present form, its fate to be decided shortly. The company’s custom publishing unit and MassWeb Printing operation, based in Auburn, will remain open.

…………..

The long, slow decline of alt-weeklies
By Jack Shafer
March 15, 2013

Alternative weekly colossus Boston Phoenix cracked and fell yesterday, ceasing publication after 47 years. According to a Phoenix executive quoted in the obituary in today’s Boston Globe, the alternative weekly was losing more than $1 million a year, and a format switch last fall from newsprint to glossy had failed to attract the sort of national advertising it desired.

Once one of the leading alt-weeklies in the nation, the dead paper leaves behind $1.2 million in debt and roughly $500,000 in assets. The fact that its owner didn’t — or couldn’t — sell the publication to cover some of its debt signals the illness of the greater alternative weekly market. Like its daily newspaper counterpart, the alt-weekly has enjoyed a terrible half-decade of plummeting revenues, circulation and page counts in the 100-plus markets currently served. One large chain that owned papers in Chicago, Washington, Atlanta, Charlotte and elsewhere filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and was eventually spun apart, but that financial disaster was as much about clueless proprietors overleveraging themselves as it was the decay of the alt-weekly business model.

The formula, pioneered by the Village Voice in the 1950s, finessed by the Phoenix in the 1960s and perfected by the Chicago Reader, the Phoenix New Times and others in the 1970s, became such a cinch that know-nothing bar owners and recent college graduates (or dropouts!) eventually made millions off it. Some papers, like the Phoenix New Times, built immense chains from the links they forged and acquired. The formula connected underserved readers with overcharged advertisers in both compact, urban settings like New York and Washington and sunbelt expanses like Phoenix and Dallas. In 2005, the two largest alt-weekly chains, anchored respectively by the Phoenix New Times and the Voice, combined to create a company valued by the participants at $400 million, with annual revenues of $180 million. Newspapers started in bar booths had become big business, but like many of the daily newspaper merger and acquisition deals going down during same period, this deal also proved too rich.

Many former alt-weekly editors would like to persuade you that their cutting take on city politics and the arts combined with their dedication to the feature form won readers. Actually, it was the whole gestalt that made the publications work. Comprehensive listings paired with club and concert ads to both entertain and help readers plan their week. Classified ads, especially the personals, often provided better reading than the journalistic fare in the front of the book. No better venue for apartment rentals existed; even people who had long-term leases used the housing ads to fantasize. Even the display ads, purchased mostly by local retailers and service providers, were useful to readers.

In most cities — and eventually in all — the alt-weekly was priced at zero for readers, prefiguring the free-media feast of the Web, and these publications became cultural signifiers. Bob Roth, one of my bosses when I edited Washington City Paper (1985-1995), told me to watch people as they picked it up from a street box and walk away with it: Almost to a one, they would hold it in their hands or fold it under their arms as if to display the paper’s flag so onlookers would know they were City Paper people, whatever that meant.

The alt-weekly collapse came in spurts over the last decade, as a market shift destroyed whole advertising sectors. Craigslist destroyed the classifieds — housing, for sale, services (sex and otherwise), et al. — and the lucrative personals and matches ads fled for the Web, too. Depending on the paper, classifieds had amounted to anywhere between 20 percent to 50 percent of revenues. Now, that money is mostly gone.

Mostly gone, too, is record-company advertising. Before that business was disrupted, the labels would give record stores — remember them? — big bags of “co-op” money to advertise the new releases, and even reissues! Video stores — remember them? — were big advertisers, too. Amazon has helped to clean out whole categories of retailing that once advertised in alt-weeklies, such as electronics, books, music and cameras. Big-box stores have displaced many of the indie retailers that long provided advertising backbone. And while Hollywood still places ads, it’s nothing compared to the heyday. To give you a sense of how precipitous the drop, the smallest edition Washington City Paper printed in 2006 contained 112 pages, with 128-pagers and 136-pagers being the most common. In 2012, the page counts ordinarily ranged between 56 and 72.

These retail shifts have made it harder for publishers to distribute their weeklies. Before Tower Records went under, a paper could drop thousands of copies a week at the store’s many locations, and the stacks would disappear in a day or two. The video stores that once distributed them? Gone. Borders Books? Gone. What’s equally alarming is that some surviving retailers now say they’d rather use that tiny space by the door or bathroom where the newspaper rack once stood to sell their own goods.

The advertising shift from newsprint to Web is mirrored by a cultural shift. In my mind, the alt-weekly remains the perfect boredom-alleviation device. Waiting for a subway train? Pull one from your bag and it will entertain you. Your girlfriend is late for your date? The paper will keep you occupied. That beer and bag of nuts not distracting from life’s troubles as you mope on a barstool? The alt-weekly saves the day again.

But even a human fossil must concede that the smartphone trumps the alt-weekly as a boredom killer. How does a wedge of newsprint compete with an affordable messaging device that ferries games, social media apps, calendars, news, feature films, scores, coupons and a library’s worth of music and reading material? Ask a young person his opinion and he’ll tell you that nothing says “geezer” like a newspaper, be it daily or alt-weekly.

What’s changed, and what probably convinced the Phoenix to exit, is that the papers are no longer a 30 percent (or higher) margin business, and that lost business is not returning. Publishers who hope to survive will have to content themselves with 10 percent margins. They will have to work harder to maintain advertising categories where they still have a comparative advertising advantage, such as food and restaurants, which usually require a face-to-face meeting between an ad representative and an owner to make a sale.

It’s a cliché, but I’ll toss it out there anyway: Every newspaper and website needs to compete in the events business. The smarter papers are already there, and if they’re lucky they’ll hit the jackpot the Austin Chronicle has with its decades-old SXSW business. And it doesn’t require much insight to urge alt-weekly publishers to continue building out their Web components.

If this sounds like a campaign for every alt-weekly to slip itself inside a noose like the Phoenix tied for itself, I apologize. Even in their diminished state, these papers still break news, publish terrific features, drive the politicians at City Hall nuts, cover the arts smartly, and do well most of the things they did well before the commercial decline. They just don’t do as much of it. So, pour yourself a drink and spend some time with an alt-weekly this weekend. You’ll rue the day they vanish.

by Steve Annear

Former Phoenix Reporters Launch Online Alt-Weekly ( http://www.fvckthemedia.com/issue29/frontpage ) With The Phoenix long gone, and the red boxes that once held it obsolete from city streets, three former staff members of the historic alt-weekly have launched an online supplement “inspired by the spirit” of the “recently defunct” magazine.

“The Media,” headed by Phoenix Assistant Music Editor Liz Pelly, with help from one of the weekly’s former designers, hopes to put back in place coverage of the alternative arts, culture, music and news, along with grassroots activism, that was lost with the Phoenix’s farewell. According to the alt-weekly’s mission statement: “The Media aims to bridge the gap between underground presses and mainstream media. Our contributors are often embedded in the communities they cover, but seasoned and skeptical enough to keep the writing balanced, critical, and fair.”

The site was launched within a month of the idea’s conception, and was designed by Faye Orlove, who used to be a production artist at the paper-turned-glossy magazine. Orlove’s brother stepped up to help the duo put the actual website together after they figured out how they wanted it to look, which in the end, they decided, should be like a newspaper. From there, they started putting together editorial content. The online publication says of its choice in aesthetic that they wanted “our content to resonate on its own merit, free of frivolity and flash, and grounded by a homepage that’s striking in its radical simplicity.”

In its debut issue, “The Media” focuses on what was lost when The Phoenix finally folded, but also includes articles about the marijuana industry, and a feature on singer-songwriter Laura Stevenson. Aside from that, there is also some insight in regards to the aftermath of the Boston bombings from former Phoenix Editor-in-Chief Carly Carioli.

Pelly says she is glad there will be a place for writers to submit their work, and hopes down the line they will be able to conjure up some cash and possibly launch fundraising efforts in order to pay contributors. She admits that the online publication won’t ever replace what the Phoenix offered, but the magazine closing shop is what drove the group to launch the site. Pelly says the break from writing for work, and strictly writing because she wants to, has been refreshing, however. “I have been working in the professional journalism world for so long, it just feels almost like less of a burden to do something not for work or for your job, and just because you really want to be doing it,” she says. “I’m also obsessed with the way that it looks and the design of it…and hopefully people will think it’s a viable publication. Sometimes with a lot of news sites, things can be really distracting and conflicting.” When asked what she hopes people take from the new site, Pelly says she would like to see it become a successful medium that people can pitch to, which will also be community supported. “I hope it will also reach beyond being a Boston publication, too,” she says.

Fellow writers have already started reaching out to the “staff,” offering up shared space for the team to meet and discuss future issues of “The Media,” according to contributor and former Phoenix staff writer ArielShearer. “I hadn’t considered shared space. It’s all happening really fast, and I don’t know what happens next, but it would be great to have space for editorial meetings.”

by Jim Romesko

Where Boston Phoenix journalists landed

Former Boston Phoenix executive editor Peter Kadzis says of the gray day that the 47-year-old weekly paper closed: “At the moment — and still in retrospect — it had a dream-like quality. There was that pull between the unconscious (can this really be happening?) and the conscious (yes, it is!). There were a few tears. A lot of sniffles. A general feeling of numbness.”

He recalls writer Chris Faraone lighting a strong joint — “that provided a flash of levity” — and then about a dozen staffers heading to the An Tua Nua bar for drinks. The rest of the day “was pretty depressing,” says Faraone. “I think I was there [at the bar] last, and that was probably like 7 or 8 at night. The great detail, of course, is that An Tua Nua just closed too. Like a fucking plague over there.”

The Phoenix folded on March 14, five months ago tomorrow. Here’s what some of the alt-weekly’s staffers are doing now and their thoughts on the paper’s demise.

Carly Carioli, who was editor-in-chief, writes:

My two biggest concerns in the aftermath of the Phoenix closing were 1) to give the editorial staff a way of communicating directly with each other outside of the paper; and 2) to do everything possible to help people get new gigs. As a group, we quickly put together a google doc where we all shared job openings, contacts, headhunters, and agencies. It was a real collective networking effort, and I think there were at least a few jobs that came directly out of that.

That Google doc was titled “FUck you we used to be the Phoenix.” (Yes, it’s FU, not Fu.) “It was also immensely helpful to have a network of Phoenix alumni to turn to,” says Carioli. “There were dozens of friends and strangers who reached out or responded to cold-calls on behalf of our staffers. Some were in a position to offer freelance assignments, others were able to give tips on unlisted job. There was a long-ago former art director who ended up hiring two of our best people.”

He adds: “I was one of the very lucky ones — I was talking to potential employers within 24 hours of the announcement that we were closing. And ultimately I started at [the Globe’s] Boston.com the day after I left the Phoenix.” In late July he resigned and joined Boston magazine as executive editor./CONTINUES

A few of the journalists decided to start new ventures – or revive old projects – after the Phoenix folded. “It took about 36 hours after the final Phoenix ‘send-off’ for me to start getting itchy,” says Michael Marotta, “so I took an old blog off a Blogger platform, which I had named Vanyaland, and started posting there again. It was created around 2008 to give me a proper outlet from the Boston Herald, where I was (frustrated) at the time and wanted to ramble about music and trashy reality TV.”

The site was reborn in May — it now has seven contributors who once freelanced for the Phoenix — and “the response has been huge,” says Marotta.
( http://hereandsphere.com/ )
Did he consider working “a regular job” after his time at the Phoenix?

Not really. I flirted with a certain big company, but my heart was never really into it and the fit definitely wasn’t right. I’m past the point where I ever want to work for someone else, and in 2013 there’s really no need to. Independent online media, at least concerning music, has more credibility in this city right now than the traditional dinosaurs. Their attempts to “get younger” are just facsimiles of what the blogs and indie websites are already doing. Marotta notes that “a lot has happened to Boston – and the world – since mid-March [and] it breaks my heart a little bit that the Phoenix isn’t around to filter through the bullshit and tell it like it is. But I think anyone that has ever worked for the Boston Phoenix always considers themselves a part of it, and that spirit lives on in how they approach and execute their work, regardless of where they are or who they are working for.”

A week after the Phoenix closed, S.I. Rosenbaum interviewed for a “content provider.” She thought it was a freelance copyediting position, but the company offered her a fulltime job. She took it “and was promptly totally miserable.” It wasn’t the company’s fault, she says.

“It was just a huge shock after the Phoenix newsroom. I couldn’t deal with the civility, the stable personalities, the swank office furniture, or with no longer being part of a journalistic operation. People were telling me to get used to it, that journalism jobs were over, that I should be happy editing content for Home Depot.” But she ignored them and started looking for a better job. “I called up New York Mag, Texas Monthly, and Boston magazine. TM never got back to me, but NYMag was interested, and so was BoMag. They were interested enough that I gave notice at the content company and never looked back. “In the end, BoMag made me the first offer, and a very good one. By that time the bombings had happened, and I was more than happy to stay in my hometown what looks to be the newsiest era Boston has had in decades. I have the chance to shape coverage about the city I love, and the freedom to do longform journalism – not to mention the ability to make rent every month. I’m thrilled.”

She adds: “At the Phoenix we were earning so little, and working under such bare-bones conditions, that the work itself had to be our main compensation. If we weren’t having fun making our magazine the way we wanted to, working on projects that made us happy, there was no point to being there at all. And that’s not something I’m willing to give up now that I’m being paid a living wage.”

David Bernstein also landed at Boston magazine, as a contributing editor. (He does some work for WGBH, too.) About two weeks after the Phoenix folded, Bernstein was the first to report – on his personal blog – that Boston Mayor Tom Menino wouldn’t run for re-election.

“I was a fairly valuable brand” – especially after breaking the Menino news – and it became clear it would be a huge political year, “so, several outlets, including BoMag and GBH, reached out to have conversations with me.” He signed with both.

There was something special about working at the Phoenix, feeling that you were part of putting out something that you could at some level feel was valuable and important, and upholding a certain tradition. And, although I tend to keep mostly to myself when I work — whether on staff or as a freelancer/”contributor — I like being around smart, incisive, clever people who are engaged in the world, which was always the case at the Phoenix.

I asked about the city missing its alt-weekly.

“Boston without the Phoenix? A disengaged and disconnected media wasteland of conformity and pandering, where the occasional talented journalist toils futilely within deadening constraints before succumbing to the lure of a PR job that pays the bills. But that’s probably a slightly too pessimistic view. Slightly.”

I asked former Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy — he left the paper to teach in 2005 — the same question. “The effect of its demise has been incalculable,” he says. “Its absence after the Boston Marathon bombing and, now, during the first wide-open Boston mayoral campaign in 20 years is a terrible loss. The Boston Globe is about to be sold, and the Phoenix’s take would have been definitive. I don’t know how you make up for it. The era of the big-city alt-weekly seems to have passed.”

Former executive editor Kadzis, now a WGBH News regular contributor, adds: “The demise of the Boston Phoenix has left a hole in the city’s media fabric, but Phoenix talent is still enriching the scene. It’s just not concentrated in a single place.”

I was at the Phoenix just shy of 25 years, so leaving there felt a bit like leaving home when I was in my early 20s: equal parts exciting and scary. What I miss are my colleagues: the crazy driven salespeople, the cooler-than-cool graphic designers, the writers who constantly second guess themselves to make sure they got things right, and the know-it-all copy editors who are truly the unsung heroes of our business.

Jacqueline Houton started as managing editor of The Improper Bostonian six days after The Phoenix folded. (She had been M.E. there, too.) “I just felt extremely lucky to land something so soon,” she says. “I applied for one other position and was asked in for an interview, but by that point I’d already accepted the position at the Improper.”

What Houton misses about the Phoenix: “The muckraking spirit, the creative freedom, and the incredibly talented, weird, and wonderful team.”

“When most people lose their jobs, even they don’t give a shit,” says former Phoenix staff writer Chris Faraone. “When we lost our jobs, everyone from you to the New Yorker had something to say about the situation. It seems a bit overblown – no doubt. But the place really was that special.

“Money was always tight, so we wouldn’t always be able to bring in freelancers and interns who we wanted there full-time, but they stuck around anyway, and in a lot of cases became part of the family. I’m one of those people, as I started freelancing hip-hop articles for the paper about six months before coming on as a staff writer.”

About 10 minutes after word got out that the Phoenix was closing, Faraone got a text from the owner of Dig Boston; he wanted to talk about Faraone’s next move. (He started his career there — when it was called Weekly Dig — in 2004.)

“I decided that it’s best to stay mostly independent for now, but to also work with the Dig to develop young writers, and to keep the alt spirit alive locally.” The Dig has published his series on City of Somerville corruption, which he started working on with other journalists last September. “So far, our work has yielded some significant results,” he says. He was asked to write the Dig’s cover story after the Boston Marathon bombing. “I didn’t even have to think about it; less than 24 hours later, I filed this story, flashing back between my experience in NY on 9/11, and what I saw in Boston following the marathon attack. Coincidentally, the Dig had picked up some Phoenix ad dollars, and was bringing back a feature well after years of not having one. My bombing story wound up marking the return of long form to the paper.” He also wrote about the Marathon bombing for the American Prospect and Racialicious and put his work into an ebook titled “Heartbreak Hell.”

“It’s sold pretty well on Kindle, even charting a few times, but more importantly it’s been read tens of thousands of times in this kickass free format that I did with help from a few friends. Looks great on any device.” He’s also working his next book, “I Killed Breitbart.”

Longtime arts editor Jon Garelick says that since the Phoenix closed, “I’ve just been trying to get a new work rhythm going where I’m freelancing and also looking for work.” He notes that “the Globe has been really responsive to my pitches” and “I’m now doing work for people who used to work for me and still like me, which is nice.” Freelancing has kept him busy, but “it’s very isolating. You’ve got to remind yourself to leave the house once in a while otherwise you won’t go out. …I’d be happy to fully employed again.”

…………Phoenix 2

Peter Kadzis gave me this information:

“Kristen Goodfriend, the overall art and design director, is working/consulting with the Portland and Providence Phoenixes to train them on maximizing editorial design. Lindy Raso, the receptionist and general go-to person, is now the office manager at The Weekly Dig. …Staffer Alexandra Cavallo is at Metro Boston. …. Kevin Banks, deputy art director, and Shaula Clark, managing editor, are at The Pohly Company. Liz Pelly, the assistant music editor, has started an online alternative paper, The Media.”
Re: Alt Weekly – Boston Phoenix – One Year Gone
by Susan Orlean
Sorln (nospam) msn.com (unverified) 11 Feb 2014
I attended the University of Michigan, but I got my real education at alternative newsweeklies. That’s where I learned to write, to report, and to think of myself as a journalist; that’s where I grew up. Even now, many years out from my last newsweekly job, which was at the Boston Phoenix, I still think of myself as a product of the alt-weekly world. And it was a wonderful world. We didn’t make much money, but we made up for that by enjoying a certain amount of freedom in what we wrote and how we wrote about it, and by having the conviction that we were doing something a little better than what was being done at conventional newspapers. In many cases, that arrogance was unearned, but the sense of mission and adventure was real. We could write ten thousand words about amyl nitrate (which I actually did) or cults or Hmong refugees or corruption if we felt the story was good. Everyone was young (or youngish). We were excited about being writers or editors. Working at an alternative newsweekly felt mischievous and disruptive and nimble, and it was as close to feeling like I was in a rock band as I’ll probably ever get.

When I went to work at the Phoenix, in 1982, its offices were in a ratty old building at the end of the otherwise glamorous Newbury Street in Boston’s Back Bay. I don’t mean ratty in a figurative sense, either: there were rat traps tucked into most of the corners and nooks, and they weren’t ironic. The office had all the polish and orderliness of a very bad yard sale late in the afternoon. Everyone was shaggy. There were, as one would expect in a roiling workplace full of young folk, a million desperate romances and personal dramas and the like, but everyone was also very serious about the work. Back then, the Boston Globe seemed stuffy and self-important, and the Phoenix set itself up as the scrappy anti-Globe, more tuned into street culture and the arts; funnier, looser, cooler. I did stories on a crazy array of subjects: how Miami had been reborn, how much I loved giving parties, Ginsu knives, and a music festival in Jamaica. Of course, many of us secretly hoped that a big paper like the Globe might scoop us up, eventually. I interviewed for a job there not long after I started working at the Phoenix, and the editor who met with me warned me that the paper, as a rule, didn’t hire from alternative newsweeklies since we didn’t have a work ethic and didn’t understand how to behave in a professional way—as if we were drinking beer and getting high all day and still managing to put out a pretty good newspaper every week. I didn’t get the job, of course, but I realized then that our silly nose-thumbing at the Globe was equalled only by its silly nose-thumbing at us.

It was so much fun. And it was inspiring. By the time I arrived, the Phoenix had already graduated a whole bunch of writers who had gone on to become big deals at bigger publications, and there were staff writers who were winning awards and recognition. The paper was big and fat, and we all assumed (and resented) that the Phoenix’s owner, Stephen Mindich, had gotten rich from the profits. The Phoenix, more than almost any other alternative newsweekly, seemed like it could practically print money, since Boston had such a large population of college students, a perfect audience for what we were doing. For a while, that seemed to be true. The Phoenix bought a radio station, and then some other newsweeklies, and moved into ratless offices near Fenway Park, and appeared to just roll merrily along. Yes, much of the profits probably came from the skanky sex-service ads in the back of the magazine, but that’s business. The Globe editor who had lectured me about work ethic notwithstanding, the Phoenix continued to launch writers into good jobs at magazines and newspapers. While some newsweeklies drifted more into being arts calendars, the Phoenix, like the Village Voice, was one of the papers that kept doing harder journalism in addition to its significant arts coverage—which won the paper a Pulitzer, awarded to Lloyd Schwartz for criticism—and seemed to manage it well.

For the longest time, when journalism students would ask me how to get started as writers, I would tell them to go to work for an alternative newsweekly. Better than graduate school, in my opinion, I’d say, and more fun than a conventional job at a conventional publication. Now, as the ranks of alternative newsweeklies thin out, I’m not sure what I’ll tell them. The thing that I learned at the Phoenix, which I feel is essential for a writer to learn, is to be enterprising. I’ve never worked on staff at a regular newspaper, and I imagine you learn lots of valuable lessons from their tradition and stature, but what I loved about being at a place like the Phoenix was the sense that we were sort of making it up as we went along. The Phoenix felt like a handmade thing, and that made me feel like I ought to be inventive with my story ideas and my thinking and my writing, even if it didn’t always turn out perfectly. A conventional job would have had health insurance, but working somewhere where I was encouraged to write a story about Ginsu knives not only made me who I am as a writer but in many ways made me mature as a person: it was up to me to figure things out. I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I hadn’t had that experience.

The recession, Craigslist, the Internet, newsprint prices—who knows what finally did in the Phoenix? I suppose I shouldn’t have been shocked when I heard the news yesterday that it was shutting down, given the last ten years of bad news about print publications, but boy, was I surprised nonetheless. It feels like my college has suddenly announced that it has gone out of business. Now the liquidators will come in and pick through the remains, putting price tags on the beat-up desks and dented wastebaskets, and this experience that defined me and meant something to so many people—readers and writers, especially when we were young and turning into our adult selves—will live on only as a Wikipedia stub. Farewell, Boston Phoenix, and thanks. http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/03/memories-of-the-p

by G.B.

Phoenix staffers knew that something was up. At 8:08pm that Wednesday, business staffer Rachael Mindich sent an ominous all-staff email that suggested some big and terrible impending news:
Join us in the Boston editorial space outside the conference room tomorrow afternoon at 2pm for a town hall meeting, during which important information relevant to all PM/CG staff members will be discussed. For those of you who are located outside of the Boston office, we ask that you call in on our conference line to be part of the discussion.
But nobody was expecting the guillotine. I certainly wasn’t. As a longtime Phoenix reader and part-time Boston resident, I’m shocked and disconsolate. The Phoenix is and was one of the best alt-weeklies in the country. From its smart reporting on state and local politics to its tough, nuanced coverage of social justice issues, the Phoenix consistently exemplified the best of the alternative press. Staff writer Chris Faraone’s you-are-there coverage of the Occupy movement was honest, unsentimental, and indispensable; during last year’s presidential campaign, political writer David S. Bernstein offered valuable insight into the Romney cotillion. The paper’s departments were memorable, too—David Thorpe’s loopy The Big Hurt music column; Robert Nadeau’s authoritative restaurant reviews; Barry Thompson’s “Meet the Mayor” series of interviews with various local Foursquare “mayors;” the tenacious local arts coverage. All were lively and occasionally brilliant; all will be missed.

That’s not to say that the paper was flawless. No publication is. But, from my perspective, the Phoenix’s successes far outnumbered its failures. More to the point, the Phoenix was a legitimately independent weekly in a space largely dominated by conglomerate corporate media. While other alt-weeklies across the country were acquired by national chains, the Phoenix remained resolutely rooted in New England. (The Boston Phoenix had two sister papers in Providence, RI, and Portland, ME, both of which will continue to publish.) Now, the only true alt-weekly in Boston is the wisecracking Weekly Dig, which has a huge opportunity if it plays its cards right. (Many current Phoenix staffers began their careers at the Dig.)

The signs were there that the Phoenix was having financial problems. Last year, its parent company, Phoenix Media/Communications Group, shuttered the weekly’s affiliate FM radio station, WFNX, turning it into a Web-only station, WFNX.com, which is also closing down. Around the same time, the Phoenix transitioned to a glossy magazine format, in a move designed to court national advertising dollars. At first, I thought the move was distasteful. Later, I thought it was brilliant. Apparently it wasn’t enough.

Some worried that the switch to the glossy format meant that the stories were going to get shorter and dumber, but that didn’t really happen. Lately, the Phoenix had been leading the way on climate-change coverage, regularly running forceful, impassioned cover stories by Wen Stephenson, the former journalist turned climate activist. Two weeks ago, Chris Faraone wrote a tremendous 10,000-word cover story about a young ex-GOP operative named Nadia Naffe and how she was betrayed by James O’Keefe and harassed by Andrew Breitbart. It was a prime example of the sort of reporting that made the Phoenix great: gimlet-eyed, deeply reported, and unafraid.
In an email this afternoon, Faraone noted that he “couldn’t be prouder to be one of the last writers to hold down the long tradition of badass reporting at the Phoenix.” (See my 2011 profile of Faraone for more on what he means by this.)

“On the much sadder side,” he continued, “my true concern is for the disparate and vulnerable people who have for so long relied on the alternative press to keep their issues in play, and to trumpet their all-too-often ignored voices. They’ve lost the most today. Them and everyone who has ever rushed to a red Phoenix street box first thing on a Thursday to feel the pulse of this city.”

That pulse will beat slower for a long time to come.

by Christopher M
 

Full disclosure: I worked for the PMCG (but not the Phoenix itself, it was a company called TPI) back in 99-01 taking personal ads, running refunds, supervising the call center, and doing various bits of backend programming for a salary that amounted to being kicked in the balls and flipped a shiny coin as my assailant sauntered on. Still, I had many great memories. But this is not the time.

One of the first things I did upon moving to Boston in January of 98 was to grab a copy of the Phoenix in the lobby of my college. It was free for us (even though you used to have to pay for it). I was amazed by what they were printing. This was nothing like journalism back in Amish country: Music reviews, social events, scathing articles. . SWEAR WORDS! ZOMG! I got hooked. I made sure to grab a copy every week when they showed up. In fact, this lead to the one act of petty larceny in my life. I didn’t know that the phoenix wasn’t just a free paper so I grabbed one on the way out the door of Tower Records. When I got back I saw the price at the top, felt so bad I went back and tried to pay. The cashier just looked at me like I was nuts and turned her back.

Ah, the memories.

It’s odd to write this, since there was a rift after I “left”. I never held a grudge, but picking you up seemed odd somehow, like seeing an old girlfriend who never gave you back all your stuff and still owed you $200 for that month you covered the rest of her rent, but now that you’ve passed I can say that I honestly have nothing but good memories.

Boston Phoenix, you kept me in the know about what was up for years. You gave me reasons to laugh at things that weren’t funny, not laugh at things that should have been, and a list of shows I needed to sneak into or weasel my way onto a list for as long as I can remember. I hope that in the years to come people remember you as fondly as I.

by James Parker

The Boston Phoenix Set Me Free

“Consider yourself off the leash,” he said. I was moaning about editors to my new editor, Lance Gould, in his office at the Boston Phoenix. Editors had been messing me around my whole life, I told him—neutering my style, rejecting my ideas, making me explain myself, fucking up my thing. Bloody editors… Gripe, grumble… I fumed and fidgeted in the crappy chair. And yet here he was, this kind man, this editor, regarding me with eyes of understanding and telling me that I was FREE. Was it a dream?

It feels rather dream-like today, now that the Phoenix is kaput. I received the news of the paper’s closing, last week, the way I receive most bad news—which is to say, I barely received it at all. It bounced numbly off my heart. Doink! But now I’m thinking about it, and beginning to feel it.

I was a staff writer at the Phoenix for 18 months, 2007-2008. Free? I was practically feral. I wrote much too fast and much too frequently about whatever took my interest. Poems, weekly. A column about reality tv, also weekly. (My secret plan was to turn it into a column about bullriding. This never happened. But it could have.) In the name of the Phoenix I interviewed—how about this for a journalistic coup—a man who hadn’t written a biography of GG Allin, the most horrible punk rock frontman ever; in the name of the Phoenix I accompanied a Wildlife Removal Specialist as he tore embedded raccoons from one suburban loft-space after another; in the name of Phoenix I went into a men’s prison and watched a priest lead a group of convicts through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

And I loved my colleagues. The muse of the Phoenix, as I came to know her, hovered in the space between the groovy young buggers who were coming up and the old-school eminences who wouldn’t quit. At this higher level, scholarship abounded. Jeffrey Gantz, Penguin Classics translator of The Mabinogion and ardent—in fact incandescent—Chelsea fan, rushed between cubicles like the White Rabbit, a hand to his forehead. He knew everything. Jon Garelick would lend his exquisite jazzman’s ear to your prose, tell you where you’d gone out of tune. The great Clif Garboden sat hunched in his special managing-editor’s alcove at the back of the third floor, with torrents of copy churning beneath his ironic eye: from time to time he would bark an oath at his computer, or exhale in a shuddering, Job-like manner. (I’m quoting here from something I wrote for the paper after his death. Hope you don’t mind, Clif.) It was a uniquely supportive environment, an accidental ecology in which—if you were the least bit accidental yourself—you could thrive.

These days, whenever an assignment begins to cramp me up, I pretend I’m doing it for the Phoenix: instant relief.

My fellow staff writers were delightful. I marveled at the gumshoe tenacity of political reporter David Bernstein, and the fact that—on a diet of pizza, cigarettes, and noisy phonecalls—he somehow preserved the complexion of an athletic schoolgirl. I annoyed Sharon Steel by throwing bits of paper at her. I slipped out for surreptitious pints with Adam Reilly. Mike Miliard helped me, endlessly.

So I was free, and the paper was free. It was flung out onto the street for whoever wanted it, whoever happened to be passing—not for some technocrat in Peets, pecking out a URL. It was a loose transaction, and it kept you loose. Even the leaking sordor from the “Adult Services” section, I confess, I found helpful. Trash and fecundity are neighbors, after all. These days, whenever an assignment begins to cramp me up, I pretend I’m doing it for the Phoenix: instant relief.

All a dream, all a dream… I can see Pat D pushing around his enormous dustbin as if, rather than putting things into it, he might produce things from out of it—ingots or rayguns or shrunken heads. I can hear the hacking and rumbling of Killing Joke’s Jaz Coleman, on the line from Prague, fantastically intoxicated: “I don’t like human beings, I think they’re parasites, they’re fucking parasites.” Eheu fugaces labuntur anni. About the industry, journalism, the Internet, the row of grinning skulls where all the good writers used to be, I have nothing useful to say: I share in what I assume to be the general state of dazed apprehension. Not so long ago, many things were possible for a lucky writer. As of last week—this is how it feels—they are a little less possible.
Re: Alt Weekly – Boston Phoenix – One Year Gone
by Chris Radant
frtny (nospam) msn.com (unverified) 14 Feb 2014
Modified: 04:16:19 AM
A look back at some of its greatest stories.

Home for the Holidays
Chris Radant • November 1990

On heading home for Thanksgiving.
“Grazing began extra early on Thanksgiving morning. My brothers arrived with assorted girlfriends, wives and children. And there were fried eggs, pancakes, ‘crew-sonts,’ fudge cookies, and sticks of butter disguised as every manner of food. Mom made us go look at the long icicles coming off the corners of the shed. The kids bounced up and down. Dad recited in-flight emergency procedures. And on TV, the Johnny Mann Singers sang, ‘Y’gotta have heart,’ as only they can. Dad repeated his complaint about uncle Freddy repeating his stories. Mom told everyone about the oozing lesion of somebody we didn’t know. The question, ‘Is Disneyland more fun than Busch Gardens?’ was tossed out for debate. Dad went outside to look at the sky and missed Mom’s brief history of nasty gashes suffered in our family.”

The Strange Case of Audrey Santo
Ellen Barry • December 1997

A comatose from Worcester, Mass., is the catalyst for a string of miracles and becomes a tourist attraction.
“Her name is increasingly well known in the circle of people who follow miracles. ‘She’s new. I think she just became popular in the last year or so,’ says Jim Drzymala, administrator of the ‘Apparitions of Jesus and Mary’ Web page. Those who can’t jump the line by virtue of chronic disease take what ancillary contact they can get; once a year, on the anniversary of her near-drowning, Audrey is wheeled into a local church to receive the faithful. Last year, as Audrey lay in her tiara on a stretcher, this Mass attracted upward of 5000 people—a crowd so large, and so unexpected, that ‘the police could not respond appropriately,’ according to city councilor Wayne Griffin.
“Every time the story appears, it ratchets up the level of public enthusiasm. Audrey’s Life and The Story of Little Audrey Santo have become so popular that one fan recently asked Audrey’s dermatologist, who appears in the video, for an autograph. Channel 7, which has run several spots on the phenomenon, has reported as many as 250 phone calls after a broadcast. And when the Boston Herald ran a story about Audrey last month, the accompanying photograph showed a plaque with a contact number for the Santo family friend and representative Mary Cormier. The story ran on a Monday. Over the next two days, according to Cormier, 700 people called that number.”

Seattle Was a Riot
Jason Gay • December 1999
What really happened at the World Trade Organization protests.
“Meanwhile, the police are watching. There are more than 500 police officers on the scene, most them arranged around the outskirts of the Washington Trade and Convention Center, where the majority of WTO events are scheduled to take place. Almost all of these officers are decked head to toe in black riot gear—helmets and gas masks and baseball-catcher-style knee pads and arm pads and chest protectors—and carry crowd-dispersal weapons such as pepper spray, tear gas, and rubber-pellet guns. At one intersection, a group mans a small armored vehicle nicknamed the ‘Peacemaker.’

“It’s easy to see that a situation’s developing. The protesters are everywhere; the delegates are shut out of their meetings; many of them, including the US representative to the WTO, Charlene Barshefsky, can’t even get out of their hotels. What’s more, the big protest—the labor march, with more than 30,000 people—hasn’t even started yet. It’s not even nine o’clock in the morning, and authorities are losing control of the city.

“Soon after, the tear gas comes. It’s a surreal moment. When gassing first occurs, I’m standing about 100 yards from the intersection, and people near me pause and stare momentarily, as if they’re not sure whether it’s gas or a stray, low-flying cloud. It’s almost as if the crowd is saying to itself: That didn’t just happen in America in 1999, did it?”

Cardinal Sin
Kristin Lombardi • March 2001

Cardinal Bernard Law knew as early as 1984 John Geoghan was molesting children. The priest would not be defrocked for 14 years.
“Law, a high-ranking official within the Catholic Church, is one of just eight cardinals in the United States. His boss is Pope John Paul II. As head of the fourth-largest diocese in the country, Law wields substantial power. He is a senior member of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), a canonical body that makes high-level recommendations for the American Catholic hierarchy on pastoral practices, interreligious affairs, and government policy. One Boston attorney who handles clergy sexual-abuse cases says that ‘suing Law is almost like suing the pope.’
“Still, those familiar with the scope of Geoghan’s behavior are surprised it’s taken so long for Law to face legal action. ‘This has been a dirty little secret the Church has desperately tried to keep quiet,’ charges Stephen Lyons, a Boston attorney. Lyons is best known for defending David and Ginger Twitchell, the Christian Science couple whose child died after receiving inadequate medical care. But he has earned national recognition for his legal work involving clergy sexual abuse. He has successfully litigated more than six lawsuits against the Boston archdiocese and other dioceses nationwide, and says he’s ‘well aware’ of evidence implicating the cardinal—evidence that he cannot reveal because of confidentiality orders. (Lyons has never handled a Geoghan case, nor has he handled a lawsuit against the cardinal.) ‘As far as I’m concerned,’ Lyons says, ‘it’s extraordinary Law hasn’t been named a defendant [in the Geoghan cases] before.’ ”

Did He Murder His Mother?
David S. Bernstein • April 2005

The jury made a mistake when it convicted Abdul Raheem.
“The state medical examiner was never allowed to enter the crime scene—another peculiar aspect of the investigation. That examiner, Alexander Chirkov, testified that he came to the crime scene the first evening and stood waiting outside the house for half an hour, but was sent away. Chirkov performed the autopsy at 10 a.m. the next morning in his lab, a delay, he testified, that denied him access to information that could have allowed him to pinpoint the time of death, and perhaps to discover other important information.
“Then, too, there was the loss of the rape kit. A rape kit, a standard part of an investigation of a female victim—especially a naked one—includes swabs from the body, material from beneath the fingernails, and other potential physical evidence. This was, in fact, the only potential source of DNA evidence taken from on or around the body. Yet detectives did not ask to have the kit processed for months, and when they finally did they found that it had been ‘accidentally destroyed’ at the office of the chief medical examiner (CME), according to a report submitted by Coleman. (Chirkov, who no longer works for the CME’s office, did not return calls from the Phoenix seeking comment.)”

A Weed Grows In Boston
Valerie Vande Panne • December 2009

What’s a suburban soccer mom who was once fervently anti-drug doing running a business growing and selling pot?
“From the outside, we could have been on Wisteria Lane. But none of their neighbor’s houses are visible through the trees that surround Mary and Joey’s abode.
“We walk into a neat, clean, sparse home. There are no pit bulls, no guns, no security cameras. No henchmen, no gangsta rap blaring. No heavily tattooed and pierced punks or hippies. It is, in fact, the exact opposite: a quaint residence, quintessentially suburban, with a bowl of plastic fruit on the dining-room table, pictures of their happy family on the walls, house plants in the windows, and a bird feeder in the backyard. Smokey, the house cat, lolls in the living room.
“That living room has a few EZ chairs and a long, wrap-around couch — replete with built-in cup holders — where a ‘trimmer’ is stationed with a marijuana-filled TV tray. He’s using a little pair of scissors to cut the leaves (the “trim”) off the buds (the desirable part of the plant for sale to consumers). MTV’s For the Love of Ray J plays quietly on the television. (‘In order to keep the trimmers trimming,’ she advises, noting how they can get easily distracted, ‘it has to be reality television. It can’t be sports.’)
” ‘We pay our trimmers $20 an hour, plus food,’ explains Mary, gesturing to the composed laborer. ‘We can’t offer them health insurance, though. Most of our trimmers are unemployed otherwise.’ One of them, it turns out, is a former chef who’s had a hard time finding work in the global depression.”
The Trials of Nadia Naffe
Chris Faraone • February 2013

Naffe, a young Republican, entered the belly of the political beast—and was nearly eaten.
“After a long cruise through wooded Westwood, O’Keefe pulled up to Naffe’s accommodations for the night: a two-story barn on the property of an upscale suburban home. Naffe says details of their destination were not made clear on the ride, but it didn’t take long once they arrived for her to realize that she was inside Project Veritas headquarters. There were awards on the wall with O’Keefe’s engraved name on them; equipment from the RV in Los Angeles was set up on a desk. With contributions pouring in, O’Keefe had invested thousands on computers and surveillance equipment. His renovated barn was a full-service bunker for waging war against liberals.
“O’Keefe sat in his editing cockpit and began to play the NYU recordings. Strangely, Naffe says, there were also candles lit around the room. She sipped a beer, and asked again about O’Keefe’s grudge against Seife. She also asked when he planned to leave so she could have privacy. After the long train ride, she was eager to shower and get to bed early. But Naffe says O’Keefe made several excuses for why he needed to stay—to watch a football game, to use his ‘stuff.’ Then she turned her attention to a phone call with another guy, and the conversation flipped completely. O’Keefe stormed out, and peeled off. That’s when Naffe says that she began feeling woozy, as if she’d been drugged.”

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/longform/2013/03/rip_boston_phoenix_s

by Scott Timberg

How the Village Voice and other alt-weeklies lost their voice in 2013 http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/28/how-the-village-voicean

The papers — which documented parts of cities that other media missed — suffered major blows this year

LOS ANGELES — There was something else there, but you couldn’t see it. There were notes coming from somewhere — maybe adding up to a melody — but you couldn’t quite hear them. Growing up in and around this sprawling, elusive city in the 1970s and ’80s, Lynell George would see things, hear things, that never showed up in the daily press.

“I didn’t always find my city in the newspapers,” says George, who grew up black in racially mixed neighborhoods and was so inspired by the city and its contradictions that she decided to become a writer who’d decode L.A.’s sense of place. She was tired of reading about the wealthy Westside, Hollywood deal-making and society ladies in Beverly Hills. “Sometimes there were just little glimpses,” she says, of something else.

Documenting the city — its racial and ethnic fault lines, the brilliant corners of its music scene, its overlooked literary life — was something, George realized, she could tackle more effectively as a journalist for alternative newsweeklies rather than a novelist. She’d spent years driving to Book Soup, a store on Sunset Boulevard, to pick up the Village Voice and read Greg Tate on black culture or Guy Trebay on the Bronx’s crack epidemic or to Venice’s Rose Cafe or Tower Records to pick up LA Weekly. “I wanted it on Thursday; I couldn’t wait,” she says. “If you didn’t get it, it was gone. I wanted to be part of that conversation.”

Talk to readers and writers about the heyday of the alternative press and you hear stories like this. For all the good memories, though, 2013 has been a rough year for alt-weeklies. The Boston Phoenix, among the oldest and most storied, collapsed in March, putting about 50 employees out of work, just six months after an optimistic move to glossy stock; the paper was losing roughly $1 million a year. Susan Orlean, a New Yorker writer who, like Joe Klein, Janet Maslin and David Denby, worked for the Phoenix early on, compares it to the disappearance of her alma mater. “I am a child of the alt-weekly world,” she says, “and I feel like it has played such an important role in journalism as we know it today.” The New Haven Advocate was folded, along with two other weeklies, into The Hartford Courant this month after a year that saw heavy layoffs. In May, the two top editors of The Village Voice resigned rather than cut a quarter of the staff.

The troubles are not confined to the northeast: The LA Weekly, whose issues typically offer less than half the pages they did a decade ago, recently announced substantial cuts in its theater coverage, to which the paper had a three-decade commitment. Most places, page counts and staff sizes are way down.

Some of the causes of the alt-press meltdown are more complex than those of daily newspapers, which have been felled primarily by the Internet and corporate overreach. But the results are at least as tumultuous.

None of this sad trajectory was clear to Lynell George back when she became — in a chaotic office in Silverlake, a gritty gay neighborhood not yet declared cool — an LA Weekly intern in the late ’80s and a staff writer in the early ’90s. A tattooed performance artist manned the front desk, and pompadoured staffers in pegged jeans would arrive with guitars in preparation for after-work gigs. “You didn’t know what you’d come into in the morning — I loved that. It reflected the music scene, the art scene.” And “alternative,” she realized, meant asking, “‘What’s really going on?’ And to come at it in a different way.”

Despite its association with the counterculture, the alternative press had its origins in the Eisenhower era — in the Red Scare, in fact. Though mainstream culture circa 1955 was sleepy and reactionary, Norman Mailer, who helped found The Village Voice that year out of a Greenwich Avenue apartment, wrote that the paper would “give a little speed to that moral and sexual revolution which is yet to come upon us.” Dan Wolf, another founder, described the era as one in which “the vulgarities of McCarthyism had withered the possibilities of a true dialogue between people.”

Mailer’s column for the Voice, the novelist wrote a few years later, gave him the kind of opportunity that would have made Jack Kerouac swoon: “Drawing upon hash, lush, Harlem, Spanish wife, Marxist culture, three novels, victory, disaster, and draw, the General looked over his terrain and found it a fair one, the Village a seed-ground for the opinions of America, a crossroads between the small town and the mass media.” Avant-garde filmmaker Jonas Mekas became the paper’s film critic, urbanist Jane Jacobs wrote important pieces on the destruction of lower Manhattan neighborhoods, Nat Hentoff chronicled jazz and politics, Robert Christgau helped invent rock criticism.

The Voice surged from its initial print run of 2,500 copies (sold, originally, at 5 cents apiece) to 150,000 readers by 1970. By that point, the paper had company: What began as a music-heavy publication in 1966, Boston After Dark would become the more comprehensive Boston Phoenix, and in 1970, anti-war students at Arizona State founded the first New Times paper to protest the Kent State killings. The year after, the Chicago Reader was inaugurated by a group of college friends, and the following year, the first of the Creative Loafing papers, which would spread across the South, began in Atlanta.

These papers inherited varying degrees of the Voice’s political edge, emphasis on hipness and personal style, and pugnacity toward the mainstream. When LA Weekly rolled out its first issue in 1978, Jay Levin, one of its founders, wrote, “the smog in L.A. was so bad that much of the year you could barely see the hookers on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue.”

Before long, the Weekly had dug into the cozy relationship between government regulators and polluters and turned out 40 stories on smog and the people responsible for it. This was the paper’s mission: “We would challenge all the official stories.” (Today, now that L.A.’s smog problem has improved, you can see the hookers clearly.)

Alt-weeklies thrived in conservative and conventional times. “The Reagan years were in some ways the alternative press’s glory years,” says Tom Carson, who wrote for the Voice and LA Weekly from 1977 to 1999. “We knew we were a playing an adversary role. Peggy Noonan was right: It was a revolution, destroying what was left of the New Deal, making this into a very different country. And we were the only ones calling (Reagan) on it, besides a few scattered op-ed columnists.”

At a time when corporate rock thrived and the blockbuster culture was gearing up — Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were no longer mavericks, Phil Collins and hair metal raced up the charts — and the president refused to utter the name of a plague killing thousands of gay men, the lines were clearly drawn. The alternative press knew which side it was on.

Though sometimes dismissed as hippie rags, alt-weeklies exerted an influence on mainstream, straight dailies. “The alternative press should get credit for pushing the daily press to cover culture and the arts,” says Doug McLennan, a former Seattle Weekly staffer who now runs ArtsJournal.com.

But the influence went the other way, too: By the ’90s, with the first popular Democratic president in three decades, corporate studios starting indie-film wings and “alternative rock” albums shooting up the charts, the lines became more blurred: Alternative weeklies and mainstream papers were harder to tell apart.

Manohla Dargis was writing for The Village Voice when she saw a New York Times story on the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and realized that things had changed. Cultural shifts, and an interest in youth and fringe culture by the mainstream press, meant that alt papers were losing their distinctiveness. And without a Republican White House, alt-weeklies were losing their political edge.

“When you take away the politics — if you don’t have an editor with a very aggressive political agenda — all the other coverage is up for grabs,” says Dargis. “Mainstream journalists started to cover that stuff. Mainstream papers started to poach, and some writers were comfortable in both worlds. Why shouldn’t they be?

“People like Greg Tate and C. Carr were never going to work for the mainstream press.” But Dargis says she realized that the terms had shifted, and by 2002, as film editor at LA Weekly, she was tired of toiling for alt-press wages. “I could stay there or make twice as much money in the mainstream. I couldn’t say ‘f—‘ anymore, but maybe I could make a living.” She is now a movie critic for The New York Times.

In terms of circulation and revenues, the ’90s seemed like a good time for alternative weeklies. But the seeds of demise had been planted. It wasn’t just what social critic Thomas Frank has called “the conquest of cool” or the pressures that pushed the Voice, for instance, to stop charging for its publication in 1996. It was a wily company from Arizona.

New Times began opening new alt-weeklies and aggressively acquiring existing ones in the ’90s, and their model emphasized investigative reporting but not progressive politics. In 2005, New Times, led by founder Michael Lacey, bought the Voice, LA Weekly and other papers and renamed itself Village Voice Media. At the original Voice, jazz critic Gary Giddins, photographer Sylvia Plachy, Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Jules Feiffer and senior editor and gay-rights crusader Richard Goldstein were pushed out before New Times arrived; writers Hentoff, J. Hoberman, Christgau, Michael Musto and James Ridgeway after. From ’05 to ’07, the Voice cycled through five top editors. LA Weekly was cannibalized, too. For those writers left, it was a culture shock.

“I got out in the nick of time,” says Carson, the former LA Weekly and Village Voice employee, who now reviews movies for GQ. “I could not have survived the New Times era. They seemed motivated by hatred of everything the alternative press stood for — the left-wing politics, the countercultural sensibility, the value placed on intellectualism. These guys were just aggressively demolishing everything that weeklies were good for.”

Of course, Craigslist and the Internet consumed much of the advertising that both alternative and mainstream papers depended on and altered the whole landscape. “These retail shifts have made it harder for publishers to distribute their weeklies,” wrote press critic Jack Shafer, a onetime alt-weekly editor in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. “Before Tower Records went under, a paper could drop thousands of copies a week at the store’s many locations, and the stacks would disappear in a day or two. The video stores that once distributed them? Gone.” Instead of opening an alt-weekly as you waited for your subway car or girlfriend, he says, young folks now pull out their cell phones.

“The alternative press comes at a very specific point in American history, and its demise does, too,” says Dargis. “People are going to look at it as completely a technological issue, which is totally reductive. By the time the Internet arrives, the alternative press had already given it up. It had lost its mission.”

A journalism career’s start

As it happens, I am not a disinterested observer in these questions. I became a journalist largely because of the alternative press. As a left-leaning, college-radio-loving teenager in a moderately conservative Reagan-era suburb in Maryland, I found the Voice while working at a bookstore: From its political engagement to its underground music coverage to J. Hoberman’s ability to make broader sense of mainstream films, this was a world I’d suspected existed but had never quite found before that.

By the latter ’90s, when I was in my late 20s, I was editing a film section and writing about culture for New Times’ L.A. paper, New Times Los Angeles, which the company formed after it bought two smaller weeklies and, in my boss’s phrase, “machine-gunned the staff.” I was told over and over again by my bosses about what a bunch of lazy, pontificating hippies sat across town at the Weekly, even as I blushed at the quality of their arts coverage. At New Times I met a very sharp bunch of journalists, but a business model clearly built on the promiscuous use of job termination. (I was fired once, then rehired.) They weren’t quite right-wing — more macho libertarian, with a bullying streak — but when Sarah Palin broke out and began to run down coastal “elites,” I felt like I was back in a Monday editorial meeting.

For all the emphasis on reporting — the implication being that columns, essays or reviews were somehow unmanly — it was a film critic, Peter Rainer, who earned a Pulitzer finalist spot during my time there. Jonathan Gold, who worked for LA Weekly until last year, won his Pulitzer as a food critic.

But what seemed strange about the New Times crowd is that sometimes they were right. And sometimes they were right on important things, as when the paper helped break a scandal in which the Los Angeles Times secretly shared profits with an advertiser.

It was sad, then, when the company shut New Times Los Angeles, in 2002. I had decamped to the Los Angeles Times by then, and I watched with amazement as New Times swaggered back to town, took over the Weekly and started butchering. (Two longtime New Times editors told me the alt-press troubles come from the economy and the Internet and not anything the company did and declined to speak on the record. Similarly, the Association of American Newsmedia has said the Boston Phoenix’s closing and other turmoil is not a sign of a larger decline.)

New Times’ owners killed my old paper’s online archive, so most of what we wrote disappeared. They later dumped almost all of the Weekly’s archive of old papers, which contained what one scribe called “the secret history of L.A.” They moved the paper from a gritty, almost-hip location on Sunset Boulevard to a freeway-adjacent corporate box that former staffers liken to an Ikea set down in Siberia. Joe Donnelly, a gifted editor hired by one “Weekly” regime, fired by another, is not alone in thinking the owners ruined the paper. (Disclosure: I’ve worked with several people in this story, including Donnelly.)

In 2012, Lacey split to take control of Backpage, an online classified service heavy on escort services that has been linked to underage prostitution. (New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof has called it “Where Pimps Peddle Their Goods.”) He has compared his departure to Backpage to his youthful protest over the Kent State dead and to Grove Press’s Barney Rosset’s fight to publish D.H. Lawrence.

What’s the significance of all this for people who read weeklies rather than write for them? Los Angeles, which had three alt-weeklies in the ’80s and ’90s — including an LA Weekly with fact-checkers, researchers and a large writing staff — now has just one, with a skeleton staff and fewer than 100 pages of copy. (Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell” comic, a precursor to “The Simpsons,” ran in one of the papers New Times killed, the Los Angeles Reader.)

Over the years, alternative papers have paid attention to neglected issues and unjustly obscure rock bands. The members of the Pixies met through the classified pages in The Boston Phoenix. Giddins’s jazz writing in the Voice remains as daring and clear as a Charlie Parker solo; Ridgeway’s work on neo-Nazis and militias has no peer. LA Weekly helped document parts of its city that would literally explode in the ’92 riots, and then documented the carnage, in words and pictures, better than any other outlet. Even the New Times papers have published an enormous number of gutsy investigative stories on crony politicians, corrupt sheriffs, kids victimized in foster care and vile religious cults. “Yes, we’re under tremendous pressure in the digital age, like everyone in the media,” says Sarah Fenske, editor of LA Weekly, before naming stories that make her proud to be in the business. She cites a piece about lawyer Carmen Trutanich, whom she calls “one of the biggest bullies in L.A. politics”; one on accusations of exploitation of would-be filmmakers on YouTube; and a third arguing that an epidemic of hit-and-run accidents has been ignored by the police.

“What factory that we’d once hear about dumping toxic chemicals are we not hearing about anymore?” asks Ted Drozdowski, a onetime Boston Phoenix editor. “There are less watchdogs, which is why we hear less barking.”

When those papers go down, or cut pages and staff, those stories disappear and those writers find another way to pay the rent. But it’s not just what we don’t see; it’s the way seeing itself has changed. “When the Voice was in muckraking mode,” says Carson, “and we’d go after some shitty landlord or some awful politico, that story was on the cover, and it was all over the place. Today, you can see that story online and you may be the only person reading it. A physical paper is a physical presence — and you’d see it all over the city.”

Breaking Brexit: England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity – by George Galloway – 17 Oct 2018

Breaking Brexit: England's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity – by George Galloway
The chickens of Britain’s Irish problem are coming home to roost & making a ‘hard Brexit’ whereby the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal – a frightening possibility to London and what is left of the ‘big capital’.

Though that’s not the worst that could happen to Theresa May and her threadbare government over the next days and weeks.

It’s unlikely that the current House of Commons will have a majority for a “No Deal” Brexit, but then it is not required too. The Article 50 clock is ticking and when the time is up it is up. Brexit without a deal doesn’t require an affirmative vote in Parliament, it is the default position.

A full-blown crisis would then ensue of course, but that wouldn’t stop Brexit.

In a rational state a general election would then be called to elect a government with the confidence of the people to deal with the crisis. But that too is not automatically possible.

Under the fixed-term parliament act – brought in by David Cameron, the author of the Brexit referendum – the next election is in 2022 – unless 2/3 of the parliament vote for one. On the principle that turkeys seldom vote for Christmas that number seems unattainable.

There is another way an election can happen – if the House passes a vote of no-confidence in the government, and (a crucial caveat) the Queen is not persuaded that a new prime minister who can command a majority in the existing House can be found – she may dissolve parliament and call new elections.

Such a no-confidence motion could pass – so tight is the parliamentary arithmetic it might only take a couple of taxis full of Tory supporting MPs to be late for the vote and, hey, its lost.

Or the Democratic Unionist Party – the collection of Creationists cranks, homophobes, Catholic-haters, sectarians, and bigots on which Mrs May clings to power every other day of the week – could withdraw their support and bring the House down.

Mind you they are mindful that to do so might put Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn – literally the antithesis (they’d say the anti-Christ) of everything they stand for into Downing St. But Samson brought the House down upon himself and so might they.

It is kismet on a truly remarkable scale.

Centuries of British imperial domination of Ireland partially ended nearly a hundred years ago with the victory of the Irish republican war of independence. But not completely. Desperate for the strategic advantage (in those days) of one of Ireland’s famous Four Green Fields to call their own, to save imperial face (Ireland had struck after all the first great blow to the British Empire which at its height held a third of the world in its bondage) and to avoid having to fight the mainly Scottish Settlers it had planted there centuries before and who were threatening to resist Irish Independence, the British withdrew to a wholly artificial creation they called “Northern Ireland.”

It wasn’t as it happened all of the north – that would have risked one day a Catholic majority – it wasn’t even all of Ulster (which is often used wrongly as the name of the “Province” which remains in Britain) it was a carefully gerrymandered entity in which it was thought the Protestant pro-British majority would endure forever. Though just to be on the safe side the Catholics within it were made explicitly second class citizens, without civil and voting rights, policed by a blatantly sectarian auxiliary force – the B-Specials who would become a byword for brutality.

Unforeseen by the British and their allies the 1960s wave of civil rights and the struggles of Black people in America swept across the Atlantic and broke on the Irish coast in 1968 with great civil rights marches under the slogan “One man One Vote“. When the peaceful marches were put down with savage indeed civil-war levels of violence the scene was set for decades of all-out war between Irish Republicans and the British Occupiers assisted by their “Northern Irish” comprador. It would be a war like none other as civil wars usually are.

Unforeseen too was that the gerrymandering would ultimately unravel. As a result of the Irish Catholic birth rate (as someone from that stock I have five children, which would have been regarded as merely average in Ireland back then) and the steady outflow of middle-class educated Northern Irish Protestants seeking a more relaxed life for their own families elsewhere, the sectarian balance which was supposed to “Keep Ulster British” forever now has almost half of its citizens from Catholic backgrounds who overwhelmingly look to Dublin (and the US in fact) rather than London.

The DUP may keep the British government in power but they now represent less than 30% of the voters of Northern Ireland.

Worse, in the Brexit referendum the majority of all voters voted to remain in the European Union opening up an existential crisis in the province with now a clear majority preferring to leave Britain if the price of staying is to leave the EU.

Mrs May’s party to give it its Sunday name is the Conservative and Unionist Party. It now faces Hobson’s choice. Give up the Union by agreeing with EU demands that the border between Brexit Britain and the EU must be down the middle of the Irish Sea, or give up Brexit by remaining in the Customs Union and the Single Market leaving BRINO or Brexit in Name Only.

Until today I was unsure how the Conservatives would break. But like a veteran Kremlinologist who could tell who was up and who was down in the old Soviet Union by watching the body language on the reviewing stand. I, who spent nearly 30 years on the British Parliament benches, was watching the mood music and the body language as closely as I was listening to the words. By the end I was in no doubt. It was the end of the Tory-DUP unholy alliance. The beginning of the end of “Northern Ireland”. And maybe the end of Theresa May too.

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Afghanistan: Women Candidates Face Murderous Attacks From Islamic Right Wingers – 22 Killed At Woman’s Election Rally – by Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Rupam Jain (Reuters) 16 Oct 2018

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, speaks among her supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

By Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Rupam Jain

KABUL (Reuters) – More female candidates than ever are set to contest Afghanistan’s upcoming parliamentary election, braving violence and opposition from social conservatives in a campaign seen as a test of the war-torn nation’s democratic institutions.

“Elections in my country are not just about victory or defeat,” said Dewa Niazai, a 26 year-old candidate from the eastern province of Nangarhar, who holds a degree in computer science from India. “It is about launching a small-scale war. I can get killed, injured or abducted.”

Niazai is one of the 417 women candidates contesting seats across the country, despite deadly suicide attacks on election rallies and offices apparently aimed at forcing voters to boycott the vote scheduled for Oct. 20.

She says she wants to be a voice for uneducated women who are not represented in parliament and to defend girls’ rights to education – Islamic State has blown up several girls’ schools in her Nangarhar constituency.

The growing involvement of women has been welcomed by the United Nations and other international bodies, which see the elections as a vital step in building trust in democratic processes.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, arrives for a speech to her supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Campaigning is fraught with risks regardless of gender. Nine candidates, including one woman, have been killed in separate attacks. Another two have been abducted, and four others have been wounded by hardline Islamist militants, election officials said.

Last week a blast at an election rally of a woman candidate in the northeastern province of Takhar killed 22 people and wounded 35.

Afghan volunteers transport an injured man on a stretcher to a hospital following a bomb attack on a campaign rally in Afghanistan's northeastern Takhar province, Oct. 13, 2018.

(Afghan volunteers transport an injured man on a stretcher to a hospital following a bomb attack on a campaign rally in Afghanistan’s northeastern Takhar province, Oct. 13, 2018.)

Nazifa Yousuf Bek, the female candidate, was standing about 10 meters away when the explosion occurred. “My supporters were waiting to listen to my speech but in a few seconds I was surrounded by their bodies,” the 32-year-old teacher told Reuters. “I am shaken but I am also determined to continue the election campaign. This is my responsibility.”

Afgh 2.png

(Female Afghan parliamentary candidate Dewa Niazai in front of one of her campaign signs in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, 3 Oct 2018 )

Afghan Woman

INSECURITY AND HARASSMENT

For women, there are additional challenges, said Maria Bashir, Afghanistan’s first female prosecutor from Herat province, who like other women candidates interviewed by Reuters had until recently never seriously contemplated entering politics.

“In comparison with male candidates, women have more problems in the election race … insecurity and harassment inhibit women’s mobility and justify family restrictions,” she said.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, speaks among her supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018.  REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

Echoing other women candidates who spoke to Reuters, Bashir says she is standing for election after growing dismayed with the direction of the country, starting with the failure of the government to improve security or safeguard women’s rights.

Unable to hold open rallies because of security concerns, Bashir invites voters to attend political discussions at her home, and travels around the city at night to distribute publicity pamphlets and encourage voters to cast their ballot.

Sabri Andar, the only female candidate with disabilities, is contesting a seat in Kabul. She said her main focus would be on ensuring rights legislation was not ignored.

“Laws about equality exist on paper but they are yet to implemented,” she said. “As a lawmaker I want to ensure we practice what is written in our constitution.”

Women’s rights advocates say that, despite the heavy emphasis placed on promoting equality by international donors, age-old scourges such as child marriage or the murder of women by family members in so-called “honor killings” remain rife. Afghan girls still routinely receive less schooling than boys.

SOCIAL TABOOS

Under the constitution written after the austere rule of the Taliban was ended by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, at least 68 of the 250 seats in the lower house of parliament are reserved for women. The quota means that Afghanistan fares better in a simple measure of female representation in the legislature than some Western nations – 28 percent of seats in the lower house are currently held by women, 8 points higher than the U.S. Congress.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Suhaila Sahar, waves to supporters during an election campaign in Kabul, Afghanistan October 8, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

But female candidates campaigning in their constituencies say Afghanistan’s patriarchal culture means they face a battle to be heard even if they win.

“We are trained to dress in a way that is acceptable to men, we talk in a way that does not anger men and, in politics, we are expected to appease them to stay relevant,” said Masooda Jalal, a former minister of women’s affairs.

As well as facing sexual harassment, a regular problem that is rarely discussed openly because of strict social taboos, many women MPs complain they are not taken seriously by their male counterparts.

Women in positions of authority said they were often perceived as puppets who can procure funds from international aid groups committed to promoting gender equality.

Female Afghan parliamentary election candidate, Dewa Niazai, sits at her office during an election campaign in Jalalabad, Afghanistan October 3, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

Rights group activists in Kabul said more than three dozen bills drafted to strengthen the existing laws to safeguard the rights of millions of Afghan women were pending before the parliament but have not been allotted time for debate.

Nasrullah Stanekzai, a political science professor at Kabul University and a former legal advisor to President Ashraf Ghani said ethnic, religious, political and financial loyalties of female candidate limit their role.

Election posters of parliamentary candidates are installed on a street while a boy walks past in Jalalabad, Afghanistan October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Parwiz

“Females candidates win elections with the help of powerful male politicians who in turn expects them to work as stooges in the parliament, rarely allowing them to have an independent opinion,” said Stanekzai.

(Additional reporting by Storay Karimi in Herat, Ahmad Sultan in Jalalabad; Writing by Rupam Jain; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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Related Story – Up to 74 School Girls Were Hospitalized After Poison Gas Attack by Islamists -2013https://archive.is/4BlHD

Since the 2001 ousting of the Taliban, which banned education for women and girls, girls have returned to schools, especially in Kabul

Russian Novel 1921 – White Tsarist General Blamed Jewish Socialists for the Red Revolution – by Mark Boden (Russia Insider) 17 Oct 2018

” … (A) bitter attack on what it considers the core of the Russian revolution, — the Jewish International.”

“One thing is certain, (it) will surely take Its place as one of the most Important books on the war, and one of the great books of the century.”

“The first part of the book is filled with the spirit that makes monarchy possible; and an American, even if he does not sympathize, gets an insight into the meaning to a devoted subject of the worship of a sovereign.”

 

Friends recently told us about this monumental 800 page novel which they praised effusively as a ripping good story and a thrilling read about the adventures of a Tsarist officer before, during, and after the revolution.

It is primarily a monumental adventure story and detailed tableaux of Russia at the time. A theme running through the story is the conviction of most of the Russian elite that Jewish propaganda played an enormous role in causing the revolution.

The book was a bestseller in England, Germany, and the US when it appeared in the 20s. It is available on Amazon, and can be download in PDF format from the internet.

We found some old American reviews from 1926, including one from The New York Times, of all places, which we reproduce below, together with the Translator’s Preface, and the Introduction to the book.

Interesting to see how diverse the American media landscape was back then.

From the reviews below:

“It is as good as Zola; It is as good as Dumaspere and fils, and all the lot of them put together.”

“It is rather the very personal, very vivid and graphic account by an eye-witness of the things which really did happen at the Imperial Court (even the names of most of the persons are real : nothing has been hidden), of the intimate life of the officers of the Guards, of the soldiers and people, of the coming Revolution; but chiefly of the glittering life in high quarters.”


Great Russian Novel (The Forum, May 1924)

It is a curious anomaly that despite the praise for all things Russian that assails us on every side, perhaps the greatest contemporary Russian novel has, except for a few brief notices, almost escaped the public eye. There are perhaps two reasons for this: first its great length, and secondly its bitter attack on what it considers the core of the Russian revolution, — the Jewish international.

Yet FROM THE TWO-HEADED EAGLE TO THE RED FLAG, by General Krassnoff (Brentano) will surely take its place beside the novels of Dostoevski and Tolstoi as a picture of Russia and Russian life of today. Beginning in 1894, the year in which the ill-fated Nicholas assumed imperial power, the story (divided into four volumes) brings us up to 1921.

What a picture it shows! First the pomp and panoply of court and society circles, with its background of festering wrongs; then the period of war, when Russia stood side by side with the Allies, — the disintegration of the army by German and Jewish propaganda, followed by Bolshevism with all its horrors and, lastly, the pathetic attempts of the White Armies to regain their power.

Out of it all comes a clear mental picture of how the Revolution came about, of how a great country, by means of a few clever, insidious propagandists, who know exactly what they want and how to get it is turned overnight into a ghastly writhing chaos.

Perhaps if those among us who anticipate business dealings with the Bolsheviks would read this book, they might hesitate before signing up with a bunch of murderers whose word means no more than their deeds.


Russia’s Red Flag (The Forum, September 1926)

It Is hard to form an estimate of a book like this. The canvas is so Double Eagle gigantic, the subject from a drawing still so terribly topical. The Interminable serial is still unfolding, chapters are still coming to abrupt conclusions at tense moments, and the unexpected Is still happening all the time.

One thing is certain, General Krassnoff’s story in two volumes of nearly five hundred pages each will surely take Its place as one of the most Important books on the war, and one of the great books of the century.

In writing It Krassnoff, who saw the whole thing, In the days before the war, all through the war and through the revolution, had access to unlimited material. Moreover, with Russia swept and reswept by tornadoes of change, as a result of which, in thousands of cases, nothing at all was left of the old order, General Krassnoff has felt himself under no obligations to observe those unwritten laws of biographical writing which will restrain an author from using actual names and easily Identified material too freely.

And so the novel though centring around the scion of a noble Russian family, is really a story of Russia, over a period of twenty years or so; with every character, — from the Czar to Trotsky, and from Rasputin to Kerensky, faithfully delineated.

In the course of his varied experiences, innumerable biographies, most of them terrible and shot through with tragedy must have come Krassnoff’s way. He had material enough to write a dozen books of this description, and so In the days of his exile in a distant Cossack village when he had fled from the face of the Soviet, and, later on, at Batumi he simply selected and martialed the facts he had at hand in such quantity. He has done it with incomparable skill, and has produced a quite incomparable book.

Those who read It may think that at times it teems too much with horror. They will be reminded, again and again, of such books as Zola’s Debacle; they will accuse the writer of almost fiendish invention In describing some of the seldom alluded to horrors of a campaign. But those whose business it was, through the great war, to struggle through the blue books and yellow books and the red books of the various combatants and read the descriptions of atrocities committed by their opponents, will see that, here again, Krassnoff had not to appeal to his imagination.

One point that emerges with extraordinary clarity from the story is the fact that, In spite of all the change that has swept over Russia, the fundamental polity of the Empire remains unchanged. The tyranny of the Czars has been exchanged for the tyranny of the Soviet; the tyranny of the noble for the tyranny of the Commissar; the tyranny of the private employer for the tyranny of the State; while, in its outlook on the world, the historic Slavic advance in all directions “to the greater glory of the Little Father” willed two hundred years ago by Peter the Great, has simply been replaced by a Soviet advance in all directions for the “liberation of the proletariat”.

The effect, both national and international, is the same.

HUGH A. STUDDERT KENNEDY.


From the New York Times, May, 1926



A Panorama of Russia FROM DOUBLE EAGLE TO RED FLAG. By P. N. KRASSNOFF. With an introduction by William Gerhardi. (Translated from the second Russian edition by Erik Law-Gisiko). In two volumes. New York: Duffield & Co. 1926. $7.50. Reviewed by MALCOLM W . DAVIS

THE SATURDAY REVIEW OF LITERATURE, APRIL 24, 1926

THIS is not simply another book about Russia. It is literally a book of Russia, that only a Russian could have written. In the sweeping panorama of this novel, the Empire of the Tsars, the court and the army before the war, the war itself, and then the revolution, the chaotic period of the Provisional Government under Kerensky, the rise of the Soviets and the establishment of the Bolshevist dictatorship, are recreated as they were known by a former Ataman of the Don Cossacks. It is not a special case, but a story from the life of a people. Yet it is more than fiction,—or rather, perhaps, what fiction should aim to achieve, a commentary on life more telling than any other sort of study.

These two volumes offer more than a compelling narrative. They offer a better explanation than ten volumes of political discussion of why things happened as they did in Russia. In the original it caused an immense amount of argument among Russians. But it is less a book to argue about than to receive as one man’s account of life as he saw it. Much of the material is obviously autobiographical.

The hero of General Krassnoff’s story is Sablin, and you follow him from his youth as an officer in the Tsar’s favorite guard regiment to his death, in the grip of the Soviet secret service, at the hands of his own son. Around him throng an amazing array of the people of Russia,—soldiers and officers, peasants, prostitutes, the Tsar and Tsaritsa and their children, Rasputin the monk and his degenerate followers of the court, Grand Dukes and Duchesses, student revolutionaries and Red Commissars.

You are taken to army reviews, carousals, court functions, to the fighting front, to Soviet prisons, to Communist meetings. In the midst is Sablin, always struggling with the mystery of living as he follows his career; and when he is dead, Russia goes on past his body, callous, indifferent, absorbed in its own turbulent and passionate existence of which he has been a victim. The whole of his life is there, in all its fine and gross aspects. His story is told directly without affectation of style, with the naive Slavic sophistication which accepts and depicts everything.—not in order to shock or sneer, nor in a self-conscious effort to be frank, but because things are as they are. It is a book full of a curious wistful wisdom.

The explanation of the Russian revolution embodied in it consists less in what it tells of the sufferings of the people than in what it reveals of the minds of their former rulers. Naturally, General Krassnoff sees from the point of Tiew of a Cossack officer; and despite the breadth and depth of the author’s thought, to complete the account of Russia we should need another novel from the pen of a peasant soldier. The first part of the book is filled with the spirit that makes monarchy possible; and an American, even if he does not sympathize, gets an insight into the meaning to a devoted subject of the worship of a sovereign. Superficially considered, the conclusion from the book might be seen to be that all the trouble in Russia could have been avoided if the officers had been a little more the soldiers.

But an upheaval like the revolution can not be attributed easily to the fact that Russian officers used to strike their orderlies or that probably few soldiers in the world ever were more brutally driven than Russian privates. And it is to be doubted whether General Krassnoff intended to suggest such an inference.

The deeper causes which he exposes are two-fold, —one the real inability of the old superiors to perceive and understand the lives and aspirations of the people, much less to enter into them and advance them, and the other the impulsive and passionate nature of the Russians themselves, a strange blend of mystical idealism and crude sensuality.

So comprehended, the movement of life in Russia appears as inevitable as the rising of a tide whipped by a storm. It is so that it is seen through the experience of General Krassnoff’s hero. It is a book for any reader who cares to know what Russia has been and is and is likely to be.


From the novel:

TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE

BEFORE presenting the translation of General Krassnoff’s book “From Double Eagle to Red Flag” to the English-speaking public, the translators would like to introduce the author and his work.

The well-known Russian writer Kouprin expresses his opinion of this book in the Paris newspaper “La Cause Commune” in the following terms:

“General Krassnoff has much to narrate. He has witnessed and himself taken part in many events during these terrible years, events so horrible and great, gruesome and heroic, that they would have sufficed for at least ten ordinary lives . And one must admit, judging by the first volume, that the author describes vividly and with real talent all the facts he is acquainted with and the events he has personally witnessed and experienced.”

The author has had indeed exceptional opportunities for observation. A Don Cossack by birth, he began his military career as a Lieutenant in the Atamansky Guard Cossack regiment at St. Petersburg, and soon became known as a dashing cavalry officer and sportsman, and as a writer on military subjects. During the Japanese war he was at the front as a military correspondent. On his return he served in various parts of European Russia and in Siberia . The Great War found him in command of a Cossack cavalry regiment in Poland, at the head of which he won by a brilliant charge his St . George’s cross . He successively commanded a cavalry brigade, a division and the famous 3rd Cavalry Corps.

When the Bolshevik revolution broke out, General Krassnoff left the North and reached the Don region after many adventures and narrow escapes . In the spring of 1918 the Don Cossacks rose against the Bolshevik rule, and the Don Parliament in its first session elected General Krassnoff Ataman of the Don . He filled this post during nine months. The situation he had to face was an extremely difficult one. The Region had suffered greatly from the anarchical rule of the Bolsheviks, but in spite of this he organized a regular Don army and freed the whole of the Don Region. In the spring of 1919 he resigned under the pressure of influences foreign to the Cossacks and left South Russia. He lived for some time at Batoum, where he continued to work on the first volume of his book, which he had begun while living in seclusion in a distant Cossack village before his election as Ataman.

During his full and interesting life General Krassnoff has had the opportunity of coming into closest touch with the various classes of Russian society, and of meeting the most prominent and interesting personalities of the time. We believe that he has succeeded in giving an exact picture of the events which preceded and caused the Revolution, as well as of the chaos of ideas in Russia during the tragic reign of the Emperor Nicholas II, which was the chief cause of the terrible catastrophe . “General Krassnoff tells us in his book many straight-forward and painful truths,” writes Kouprin.

It is necessary to note, that because of this, his book has already provoked indignation in certain circles . We would like to emphasize once more, that the chief interest of the book consists in its being a vivid picture of the mentality of various classes of society of the period, which led to the fall of one of the greatest Empires of the world . It is most valuable as an historical chronicle of its time . The book was originally published in Russia in four volumes, the first of which embraced the period from 1894 till the beginning of the Great War, the second described the war itself and the first months of the revolution up to the seizing of power by the Bolsheviks, the third, entitled “The Martyrs” dealt with the Civil war, and the fourth described life under the rule of the Bolsheviks . We trust that the translation of this book into English will help many to gain a clearer insight into the events of the past few years in Russia.


INTRODUCTION

There is a notion abroad that a preface must needs be unreservedly laudatory. An unhealthy delusion! A preface should, for the most part, be critical and explanative. Here is a book, a provocative document that cannot be launched into a complacent Anglo-Saxon world without some sort of an explanation. Then let me attempt one. “From Double Eagle to Red Flag” was born of the debris of Imperial Russia, conceived in the shadow of Leo Tolstoy’s historical narrative, by a Russian General with exceptional opportunities, an expert on his subject (and that is what makes it so interesting), possessed of keen observation and uncommon literary skill. It is, in the nature of things, monumental; not unlike the London Albert Memorial. And withal the book has a stark, a naked, a terrible fascination. I confess I could not put it down .

What is its hold? Some will say it is art : the grandiose, leisurely novel dealing with Russian reality true to type : “War and Peace” brought up to date. Others will say it’s photography. Others again, that it is Victor Hugo at his best. Never mind what they say-start at the beginning, read twenty pages, and you will not stop till you have come to the end.

This, say what you will, is an achievement o f which the author, the meditative Don Cossack General, Peter Krassnoff, may be justly proud. I venture to prophesy a large public for this epic historical novel covering a quarter of a century – our quarter. And who will deny historical magnitude to our days?

Oh, the great Russian soul! Oh, the colossal Russian mind! It is overwhelming. It is like some gigantic machine of marvelous design and construction – with a hitch that prevents it from working; like a born orator, with an impediment in his speech. Russia will not change. There will arise some new Peter the Great, who will conceive a new plan, let us say, for electrifying the whole of Russia, with a stroke of the pen. On the margin of the ministerial report he will write the words : “Electrify Russia at once .” And the contractors will duly bribe the authorities and supply rotten material, get rich, and’the scheme will be crippled at birth.

In this lies the humor and genius of the race. It needed a Chekhov to see it, a Chekhov who seemed a little weary of people knocking at the window of his bedroom at about half past two in the morning, anxious for a “soul-to-soul” talk . A Chekhov who walked a little outside and beside life. Here you get it all-the unashamed, frank, childish account of it, with a perfect absence of guile, by a nice, well-meaning military gentleman who indeed has never stepped outside it. An officer who is trying to tell you how different it would have been had the other officers of the Guards been a little different to the soldiers. I don’t know.

I have a sneaking feeling that it becomes so gross and low-brow a thing as an army to have low-brow ruffians to direct it. If the officers turned philosophers, poets, or scholars, they might find themselves questioning their objective and losing interest in their work. You may entirely disregard, as I do, the political implications of this book and still feel its relative truth, as I feel it.

The General has been moderate and honest-to the full capacity of his own interpretation of these terms. And who can be more! There runs through his work a doleful note, a sense of frustration and melancholy at the emptiness of “la gloire”- together with a slight irritation at the constant delay of its coming. You read and feel sorry.

A new Tolstoy! A new Dostoevski! No, no; spare us that. It is rather the very personal, very vivid and graphic account by an eye-witness of the things which really did happen at the Imperial Court (even the names of most of the persons are real : nothing has been hidden), of the intimate life of the officers of the Guards, of the soldiers and people, of the coming Revolution; but chiefly of the glittering life in high quarters.

The central figure is the leisured aristocrat, Sablin, the dashing young guardsman par Excellence, whose life is involved, from the time of his seduction by a demi-mondaine to the day of his death at the hand of his own son. The Emperor and Empress of Russia walk the pages again and again, looking, for all the world, thoroughly alive. The Russian Army stands before you in all its gregarious variety ; the military manaouvres are painted to the life. Court functions, balls, grand dukes and foreign ambassadors, funerals, banquets, coronations, dissipations, all the resplendid regimental displays. What pomp! What descriptions! Well done, General! Moreover, there is Rasputin.

There are intrigues, love of the sacred and profane variety . . .  It is as good as Zola; It is as good as Dumaspere and fils, and all the lot of them put together . -William Gerhardi.

………………..

https://russia-insider.com/en/acclaimed-1926-novel-tsarist-general-blames-jews-revolution-double-eagle-red-flag-krasnoff/ri25061


American Media Seeks to Poison US-Russian Cooperation in Space – by Gunnar Ulson (New Eastern Outlook) 15 Oct 2018

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After a string of suspicious incidents involving Russia’s venerable Soyuz rocket system, several prominent American newspapers have attempted to poison the last remaining area of significant cooperation between Russia and the United States.

This includes the Washington Post which has placed itself at the center of Washington and Wall Street’s anti-Russian campaign. Its article, “Astronauts make harrowing escape, but Russian rocket failure roils NASA,” would claim:

A Russian Soyuz rocket malfunctioned two minutes after liftoff Thursday on a mission to the International Space Station, triggering an automatic abort command that forced the two-member crew — an American and a Russian — to make a harrowing parachute landing in their capsule, 200 miles from the launch site in the steppes of Kazakhstan.

The Post would further state:

Thursday’s launch failure came at a dicey moment in the US-Russia space partnership. The two nations have been congenial 250 miles above the Earth’s surface even when events on the ground, such as the Russian annexation of Crimea or the interference of Russia in the 2016 election, have stoked tensions. 

But the United States and Russia have been at odds over the cause of a small hole discovered in August on the Soyuz module — Soyuz MS-09 — currently docked at the space station. Moscow says the hole, now repaired, was the result of deliberate drilling and has suggested sabotage, while the US space agency said this week that investigators will determine the cause.

For NASA itself, it has expressed full confidence in the Russian space program and indicated no desire whatsoever to end its cooperation with its Russian counterparts.

The Guardian in its article, “‘We will fly again’: Nasa to keep using Russia’s Soyuz despite failure,” would explain:

Nasa’s chief has praised the Russian space programme and said that he expected a new crew to go to the International Space Station in December, despite a rocket failure. 

Jim Bridenstine spoke to reporters at the US embassy in Moscow a day after a Soyuz rocket failure forced Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague to make an emergency landing shortly after takeoff in Kazakhstan. The pair escaped unharmed.

The Guardian would further elaborate:

“I fully anticipate that we will fly again on a Soyuz rocket and I have no reason to believe at this point that it will not be on schedule,” the Nasa administrator said.

It was the first such incident in Russia’s post-Soviet history – an unprecedented setback for the country’s space industry.

Space travel is notoriously challenging and both incidents could just be unlucky coincidences. It is also entirely possible that quality control within Russia is lagging and needs to be reexamined and reorganized. Even for NASA, episodes of lax quality control and complacency have caused launch failures including that of the space shuttle Challenger.

Papers like the Washington Post, attempting to shoehorn the incident into the much larger adversarial narrative it has invested itself into and aimed at Moscow could indicate merely the cynical leveraging of an otherwise string of unfortunate accidents.

However, US-Russian cooperation remains a serious and prominent contradiction to those in Washington attempting to portray Russia as a threat to global peace and stability. After all, if Russia is so untrustworthy and truly involved in all that it is accused of by Washington, why does Washington still entrust the lives of NASA astronauts to the Russian Federation?

US-Russian Cooperation in Space Represents the Best of Both Nations 

Space truly is the final frontier, and in more ways than one. It was one of the first areas of cooperation between the US and the Soviet Union and is one of the last areas of cooperation between the United States and Russia today. America’s NASA and Russia’s Roscosmos have proven the height of achievements possible when the US and Russia are able to set aside their differences and move forward together.

The International Space Station represents the pinnacle of human aerospace technology, a permanent homestead in Earth orbit that has been occupied by astronauts and cosmonauts continuously for nearly 20 years. The experience earned on the ISS will be used to further extend humanity’s foothold into space, possibly even making us a multiplanetary species.

The ISS would not have been possible without US-Russian cooperation. It was the US space shuttle that ferried many of the largest modules into space, but Russian components and experience with previous space stations that laid the foundation for the ISS’ construction. It is a Russian and American crew that maintain the majority of the ISS’ systems and primarily Russian and American unmanned spacecraft that resupply those living aboard ISS.

Since the US space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011, Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft has been the only means of sending astronauts and cosmonauts into space.

Beyond the ISS, US aerospace companies have long purchased Russian rocket engines to be fitted to their launch systems. This included United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rockets which used the Russian-built RD-180 engine.

Cutting the Last String of Cooperation?

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Facts regarding US-Russian cooperation in space have become a point of contention as US rhetoric and aggression aimed at Russia has grown with the expansion of NATO eastward toward Russia’s borders and a campaign of destabilization and wars aimed at nations all along Russia’s spheres of influence in the Middle East and across Eurasia.

Several attempts have been made to target Russia’s aerospace industry with sanctions, including attempts at banning the sale of the RD-180 engine. Sanctions elsewhere placed upon Russia seek to generally degrade Russia’s economy, a move that may inevitably degrade Russia’s industrial capacity including its aerospace sector.

The recent incidents surrounding an otherwise premier launch system, the Soyuz, could represent a number of things.

It could represent a simple and correctable lapse in quality control. It could represent the impact of US sanctions aimed at indirectly undermining Russia’s capabilities in all areas (and thus indirectly jeopardizing the lives of American astronauts). It could also represent a concerted effort to sabotage, humiliate, and force the cancellation of US-Russian cooperation in space.

All of these possibilities must be kept in mind until evidence emerges and investigations begin yielding results.

It is clear that not everyone in the United States shares some in Washington’s enthusiasm in targeting and destroying Russia economically as well as its prestigious reputation regarding its accomplishments in space. But it is also clear that those who do are willing to do anything to further poison US-Russian relations and further isolate and place pressure on Moscow.

This includes sabotage at worst, and cynically leveraging simple accidents to poison US-Russian relations instead of contributing toward solutions that allow both nations to move forward together with the best both peoples have to offer.

Either way, it highlights the true root of current and ongoing US-Russian tensions, not the American and Russian people themselves, including the consummate professionals that make up both nations’ space programs, but those lurking in political and media circles with a long track record of promoting war, discord and tensions for shallow, political objectives, because no matter how grand the aspirations of these malign actors may be, they pale in comparison to what the US and Russia have already proven possible in space, together.

Gunnar Ulson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

Hungary Takes Accreditation and Government Funds Away form ‘Gender Studies’ (AFP) 16 Oct 2018

Admiral Gender Studies

(Star Wars – Vice Admiral Gender Studies)

Budapest (AFP) – A prestigious Hungarian university on Tuesday blasted a government decree that removes government funding and recognition of gender studies courses as a “major infringement” on academic freedom.

The decree, signed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban and in force since Saturday, dropped the subject from a list of masters degree programmes entitled to official accreditation and financial support.

Institutions are also now barred from launching new courses in the discipline, although students who have already begun courses may complete their studies, according to the decree.

“This is a major infringement on academic freedom and university autonomy,” said the Budapest-based Central European University (CEU) in a statement.

“Eliminating this programme will be a significant loss to the Hungarian scholarly community and for democratically-minded public policy,” said the CEU, one of only two universities in Hungary that offered gender studies degrees.

The decree is seen by critics as the latest attack by Orban’s right-wing government on both university independence and political opponents of its socially conservative policies.

Orban’s tough rhetoric and anti-immigration measures alarm critics but have bolstered his populist support at home and won him praise from other hardline European leaders.

In June a magazine owned by a close ally of Orban published a list of researchers at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, accusing them of working on “gay rights and gender science”.

Orban’s deputy Zsolt Semjen said later gender studies “has no business (being taught) in universities,” because it is “an ideology not a science”.

Labour market demand for gender studies graduates was also “close to zero,” as “no-one wants to employ a gender-ologist,” Semjen said.

The CEU, where gender studies has been taught for over two decades, is also embroiled in a bitter administrative dispute that the university says could drive it out of the Hungarian capital, its home since 1993.

A higher education law placing tough new requirements on foreign universities which passed last year was also seen by critics as targeting the CEU, founded by liberal US billionaire George Soros.

Attracting students from over 100 countries and also offering US-accredited programmes, the university has long been seen by Orban as a hostile bastion of liberalism.