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The Boston Phoenix has been covering the trends and events that shape our times since 1966. These selections, culled from our back files, were compiled by Ian Sands.


January 12, 2001 | Chris Wright came to grips with his gambling addiction. | "It’s not easy to say these words. I — am — an — addict. A screw-up. A sucker. A sicko. I cannot be trusted. I need help. I cannot help myself. These were a few of the topics kicked around recently when my wife and my father came at me with a sort of mini-intervention — like a surprise party, but with self-help books instead of balloons. There were cups of tea involved, a lot of whys and how could yous. There was talk of ‘healing’ and ‘support.’ It would have been laughable if it weren’t so final. See, I didn’t want to stop. Didn’t even want to think about it. But I didn’t have much choice in the matter. I’m an addict, and addicts don’t choose."

JOHN Q. COLUMNIST | 10 years ago | January 12, 1996 | Dan Kennedy discussed the "People’s Voice," the civic-journalism project being run by the Globe, public radio station WBUR, and WABU-TV. | "Certainly the ‘People’s Voice’ series has produced much of value. For instance, Globe columnist David Nyhan says the project crystallized for him the sense that people feel their ‘fingernails are slipping down the blackboard of the American economy. You never go wrong listening to that kind of stuff.’ Adds Don MacGillis, who’s coordinating the Globe’s part in the project: ‘The idea is to do a much more bottom-up approach to things.’

"But too often ‘The People’s Voice’ is instructive in a pedantic, take-your-medicine sort of way. And when the views of citizens who are misinformed or just plain whining are presented for public consumption, the result is something like talk radio, only duller.

" ‘I won’t be snide, but essentially I think the Globe hasn’t yet learned how to make these potentially important kinds of pieces readable,’ says Herald columnist Wayne Woodlief. Adds Channel 56’s Jon Keller, who writes an every-other-Monday column for the Globe. ‘I don’t give a good goddamn about what the citizens of Derry have to say. I care about what they do. Hopefully, if I’m doing my job right, I’m covering issues that will matter to them.’ "

GROSS INDECENCY | 15 years ago | January 11, 1991 | Caroline Knapp composed an open letter to Bret Easton Ellis, author of American Psycho. | "You really are something, Bret. I mean, not everyone can imagine what it’s like to skin someone alive. And not everyone has the guts to actually sit down and write about it, thereby illuminating the rest of us to the potential uses of kitchen implements. Truly inspiring prose!

"Which is why I feel so badly about the response your book is getting. I mean, this whole hue and cry (people are saying that the book is ‘disgusting,’ that the violence is ‘gratuitous’) obviously comes from people who are beneath you, intelligence-wise, and who don’t understand the fact that you, Bret Easton Ellis, have an inordinately long and pretentious name — oops! What I meant to say was, they obviously don’t understand that you have the right to say as many vile, disgusting, morally reprehensible things as you want because you are obviously superior and more talented than the rest of us, even though you’re only 26."

SLOW TRAIN ’A-COMING | 20 years ago

January 14, 1986 | Jim Schuh discussed the progress of the T under the command of Jane F. Daly, deputy general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. | "For the nearly five years that Daly and her boss, general manager James F. O’Leary, have been running the system, the MBTA’s two longest and most traveled lines — the Red and the Green — have been its most palsied. The Orange and Blue lines have far fewer problems — and far fewer riders. Recognizing the deficiencies is simple — any rider knows that the Red and Green Lines malfunction with annoying regularity. Rectifying them is a vastly complex, time-consuming enterprise.

"Although it may not seem so to commuters — who are still confronted with delays and breakdowns far too often — the MBTA has made advances in recent years. For example, trains and buses come far closer to meeting schedules than they did during the late ’70s and early ’80s. But the improvements have been slow in coming and, in many cases, are merely stopgap measures that don’t heal true ailments."

WORD JUNKIE | 25 years ago | January 13, 1981 | Kit Rachlis considered New Yorker writer A.J. Liebling’s fondness for his profession. | "It was the style in which it was all done, the gusto. Reading Liebling, you feel in the presence of someone who’s enjoying himself so much that he can’t imagine doing anything else. According to Raymond Sokolov’s recent biography of Liebling, Wayward Reporter, this was a journalist who suffered from writer’s block only twice: at the beginning of his New Yorker career, when he had difficulty making the transition from newspaper to magazine-length pieces (‘...like running a mile in a series of hundred-yard dashes,’ Liebling once said of his early New Yorker efforts); and at the end of his career, when he was suffering from nephritis, liver disorders, and gout, among other things. Liebling’s most famous quote is his boast that he could ‘write faster than anybody who can write better and write better than anybody who can write faster.’ Apparently, nobody challenged him at the New Yorker, where Liebling was the loudest writer that sanatorium of silent sufferers has ever indulged. According to Sokolov, while everyone else was contemplating effective methods of suicide, Liebling could be heard humming with glee at the typewriter, chuckling at lines that particularly pleased him."

WRONG IMPRESSION | 30 years ago | January 13, 1976 | Clif Garboden discussed the work of African-American photographer James Van DerZee. | "It’s difficult to criticize any form of historic photography, what with all the ready excuses — limited technology and other things — to be taken into consideration, and in Van DerZee’s case, I think the difficulty has resulted in people’s doing him a great disservice by romanticizing his career. Van DerZee was a good studio photographer who happened to be black. White studio photographers, even today, take horrible photographs, and white customers buy them and put them on their mantels. Van DerZee’s most contrived, soppy double exposures are still better than most schlock studio work. Because they’re different — that is, black — they are automatically more fascinating to us than corresponding pictures from familiar cultures. The black customers who paid Van DerZee to take their photographs treated them as commonplace. We cannot."

CONTROLLED EXPERIMENT | 35 years agoJanuary 12, 1971 | Steve Sorenson criticized the production that went into a television broadcast of a quadraphonic concert featuring the Chambers Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, and Boz Scaggs. | "Such effects as fades, dissolves and color distortions, which require lab work in movies, can be done easily during the broadcast or taping of a TV show, as can split screens and multiple images. During this show, called ‘Calebration’ for no apparent reason, there were a few dissolves, and even a few double images, although at least one was always in realistic color. Remember the really fine monochromatic Beatles photos of a few years ago? There were a few shots like that. Oh yes, there was a light show by Joshua Lights. Now a light show is to television what a painted backdrop is to the movies. So instead of exploiting the infant technology of television, the producers gave us the pallid psychedelic ghost."

Where are they now?

Chris Wright is managing editor of Communicate Magazine in Dubai. Dan Kennedy is a frequent contributor to the Boston Phoenix and a visiting assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University. The late Caroline Knapp was the author of several books, including Appetites: Why Women Want. Kit Rachlis is editor-in-chief of Los Angeles Magazine. Clif Garboden is managing editor of the Boston Phoenix.

Issue Date: January 13 - 19, 2006
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