The MassMOCA Revival

North Adams, like many towns and cities in America, has tried to revive itself by developing an arts industry. And there are signs that opening the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art has proved to be a big boost. MASS MoCA is drawing about 120,000 visitors a year, putting it in the top tier of modern art museums outside New York. There’s a little frontier spirit here; there are opportunities for people, like the early days of SoHo. You don’t want it too perfect. Artists are small business operators; each new mill building that’s renovated for artists brings about $1 million into the local economy. If a few more buildings are done it will make this a very interesting town.”

E-Books – Will They Survive?

With publishers getting out of publishing e-books, some wonder if e-publishing is dead. “E-books may find their niche with tech-savvy youth unfazed by the notion of browsing literature on a screen, and the growing legion of retirement-age readers, according to Richard Doherty, research director at Envisioneering Group. Two audiences that will benefit best are young people who loathe the idea of a library … and aging people who want the convenience of large type on demand or freedom from lugging heavy hardcover tomes. For now, e-books are an afterthought in the publishing world.”

Is US Weak And Culturally Bankrupt or Merely Asleep?

“Over the last two years, many commentators have accepted the premise that Al Qaeda attacked the United States because it believed the country was weak. Where they disagree is over the accuracy of the terrorists’ presumed perception. Was the United States, as the president implied, merely a sleeping giant which, once roused, would demonstrate a fearsome power? Or was the United States in fact tired, decadent, adrift – its military might only a hollow shell, inside of which its vaunted economy, culture, and political system were rotting? Even during the booming `90s, doubts about America’s future were widespread.”

Does America Need A New National Theatre?

A proposal for a new national theatre for the site of the World Trade Center has theatre people talking. “A sampling of theater observers and major theaters in the region suggests that while the idea of showcasing the nation’s best regional theater in New York is laudable, the creation of such a super-regional theater would be immensely complicated to fund, curate and execute. For those of us who have been around long enough, this is at least attempt six or seven to do something like this.”

Can You Do Without TV?

“A life unburdened by television is a life unbridled. Days grow longer, nights quieter. Time is no longer defined by blocks of hours but instead by ambitions. David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” seems possible. Never heard of it? Peel yourself from the tube and look it up. Square dancing, sky diving, Lamaze — the doors you assumed welded shut are now open. No pushing, friend — the line forms behind me. Of course, one doesn’t commit to such a dramatic life transformation, no matter how enriching, without certain sacrifices.”

A New Snapshot Of Diane Arbus

“During her lifetime, photographer Diane Arbus was lionized, but she was also lambasted for being exploitative. Her suicide in 1971 seemed to corroborate the caricature of her as a freaky ghoul.” In the first retrospective of her work since 1972 a “new portrait is emerging of one of the most powerful American artists of the 20th century, in the style that she favored. Uncropped.”

Music Without Flavor

These days, you can walk into a WalMart and buy a CD full of classical music carefully chosen to pair perfectly with your Sunday brunch. Or your Saturday night date. Or a quiet dinner with friends. “All of this would be funny were it not for the wasting disease it represents. Call it silence deprivation. One of the reasons music tastes less good for a lot of us these days is that it increasingly lacks beginnings and ends. It is the blank spaces that surround music that give it shape — allow it to breathe. Music not framed by the absence of music really isn’t music. Nor is music at dinner. Works of Brahms are not well served when they accompany pork chops. It is not fair to the pork chops either.”

Record Industry Should Look To Hollywood

As the recording industry continues to tilt at file-swapping windmills and bemoan falling album sales, the movie industry has embraced new technologies, packed DVDs full of low-cost “bonus materials” beloved by consumers, and made a concerted effort to make the public aware of what a great deal it is getting when it forks over $16 for a disc. So why can’t the music industry get its act together? “People listen to the average CD many more times than they watch a DVD. Yet CDs are languishing in stores and DVDs are flying off the shelves. How to see this other than sheer music industry incompetence?”