Last Week's Flashbacks

10 years ago
January 23, 1998 | Looking for culture on the newly named ‘Avenue of the Arts,’ Ellen Barry instead found corporations and flags.

“For those who failed to notice it, Huntington Avenue is no more. From Copley Square clear through Brigham Circle… Huntington is now ‘Avenue of the Arts,’ with the requisite flying pennants.

“Seems now, as in earlier renaissances, art sometimes disappears behind patronage. Artistic highlights of the street, as signified by colorful new banners, include a Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, and Taste of Asia. On the deep purple flags flipping in front of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Avenue celebrates artistically minded enterprises such as Forsyth Dental, the Wentworth Institute of Technology, and the YMCA, all members of the local Fenway Alliance which helped plan the project. Conspicuously flagless in this frenzy of art appreciation are the Museum School, the Huntington Theatre, and the New England Conservatory.”
20 years ago
January 22, 1988 | Mimi Coucher had somehow developed an obsessive lust for the stain on Mikhail Gorbachev’s forehead.
“It was an innocent enough desire, at first; after all, I have long yearned to wreck Gary Hart’s hair or to catch a glimpse of the tiger on George Shultz’s behind, but none of these urges ever blossomed into obsession. But that thing on your head was different. I followed it. I followed it to Washington, to state dinners and cultural events… I watched it glow a little redder when discussions became heated. At first I wondered if it was an emotional barometer… Was it your third eye, a spiritual satellite dish? Or simply a rare flower blossoming on the tundra? Mr. Gorbachev, by the end of your historic visit, that thing on your head was branded in my heart.” Read the full piece here.

25 years ago
January 25, 1983 | Owen Gleiberman pointed out the ways in which Gandhi director Richard Attenborough had softened the more disturbing bits of his film.
“...though Attenborough isn’t a calculating director, he has a sure sense of how the more fanatical elements in Gandhi’s personality could turn off the average moviegoer. Thus, we don’t find out until late in the movie, when Gandhi is already a sweet, doddering old man, that he gave up sex in his late 30s (his celibacy is made to seem a cute eccentricity). And we’re spared the steely, unyielding Gandhi — the one who could say of the raging religious conflicts that would tear his country into India and Pakistan, ‘I would rather that Hindus died without retaliation.’ The whole movie is softened. Attenborough has staged the bloodier episodes in India’s struggle for independence with a sort of tidy detachment...The 1919 Jallianawalla Bagh massacre, surely one of the most gruesome episodes in 20th-century history...cried out for a tumultuous treatment (perhaps helicopter views of the Indian citizens being mowed down), but instead Attenborough uses routine, swiveling-camera shots, and he keeps cutting away to nasty old Edward Fox ordering his men to fire.”

30 years ago
January 24, 1978 | Flora Haas found out what becomes of the Pentagon’s classified files after they are deemed disposable.

“...the Phoenix received a report that the Department of Defense was burning such documents — as a conservation measure that would reduce the expenditure for more conventional fuel. Half expecting a denial (after all, doesn’t the Pentagon deny practically everything?), we rang up Captain Bob Bowen, a Defense Department information officer.

“ ‘Yes,’ Bowen responded agreeably, that is indeed current practice. ‘Classified and unclassified documents from the Pentagon, as well as other government agencies in the DC area, are being fed into a central boiler plant, and the fuel is being used to heat the Pentagon.’

“What criteria, we asked, are used to decide that a particular document is ready for the furnace? Is it true that two tons of shredded documents equals one ton of coal? How many security guards are detailed to oversee the operation? For the answer to these and other questions, the agreeable Captain Bowen referred us to Public Affairs Officer Lieutenant Doug Gilles, who was rather less helpful about returning our calls.”

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