Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Big Red and Shiny bites the dust

I was never a faithful reader of "Big Red and Shiny," but I was surprised to hear that the venerable Boston arts-scene site was closing up shop - apparently because its coder-in-chief, Matthew Nash, has simply had enough. (I can relate to that.) Its blog, Our Daily Red, will continue to operate.

Somehow it seems the Internet simply hasn't panned out for the local arts scene, has it. There are a few sites worth checking daily (like Art's and Greg's), a few that are relentlessly rah-rah, a few that mostly re-gurgitate press releases, and a lot of hit-or-miss experiments, arenas for personal venting, or outright failures (like Bill Marx's surprisingly middlebrow Arts Fuse - the poor guy just can't win for losing, can he). I know that Jenna Scherer runs (or at least used to run) a blog with a closed subscriber list - essentially a secret blog; I don't know if other print critics do the same thing.

I often feel quite isolated in this environment; I suppose I'm a little surprised that no one else locally - literally no one - has attempted long-form writing as I have, or really staked out any particular critical positions, as I have against, oh, Emily Glassberg Sands, David Mamet, Shepard Fairey, or the whole post-collegiate Parabasis crew. Instead there has developed a culture of mutual admiration societies, cliques and group-speak (if I hear the word "collaboration" one more time I might just barf), powered by ironically sweet little "I'm nobody! Who are you?" mental doodles from a zillion millennial Emily Dickinsons who are, in effect, always chasing (or hoping to chase) the almighty dollar. Indeed, sometimes it feels like the great freedom the Internet offers has been all but fled from by most of its writers. I confess sometimes I look around me at an opening, as the other reviewers take their seats, and just wonder silently, "What the hell do you people stand for?"

But that's just me.

And I suppose it's easy to see why nobody stands for anything; it gets very problematic very fast. Here at the Hub Review, we're constantly fending off nasty emails, even the occasional physical threat (and finally closed the comments as a result), and have to deal in the "real world" with crazed publicists, duplicitous arts administrators, conniving playwrights, and a host of other nice NPR supporters who are determined - and I mean quite determined - to make sure nothing really controversial, or even particularly coherent, ever surfaces on the Internet. Because that might hurt somebody's feelings. Particularly somebody who might advance somebody else's career.

So here's to Big Red and Shiny, for every time it ever made someone uncomfortable, or caused a ruckus, or kicked the comfortable where it counts. Everybody rise!