a PAW web exclusive column
What's on in Berlin? Or how about Rome?
Antonio Romero '87 brings cultural offerings to your screen
by Rob MacKay '89
studying to be a computer science engineer at Princeton, Antonio
Romero '87 took as many literature courses as he did classes related
to his major. So it's not much of a surprise that he is now freelancing
as a Web programmer while spending his creative energy and free
time on www.culturekiosque.com, a literary Internet site dedicated
to the arts he cofounded and of which he is editor-in-chief.
Begun in 1995, Culturekiosque
offers feature stories, reviews, interviews, and other information
related to six topics - art and archaeology, cooking, dance, jazz,
classical music, and film and opera. Many of the site's contributors
are journalists who work for publications such as the "Financial
Times," "Le Monde," the "International Herald Tribune," the "Wall
Street Journal Europe," and BBC "Music Magazine" and are considered
experts in their fields.
"The goal is to bring
intelligent and well-written content to an educated audience," says
Romero. "We're not recruiting random amateurs, and we definitely
don't want to be a site where any surfer can publish an opinion.
We're targeting an audience that is often overlooked by many Web
site operators seeking the largest swath of Internet traffic."
There's a decidedly
international flavor to the publication, as it runs stories in English,
French, and German and includes numerous cultural events taking
place in Europe. Romero works from his home in Silicon Valley, and
the journal's other contributors live in Paris, London, and New
The whole project is
cybernetic; there is no print version. And Culturekiosque doesn't
come out periodically. Rather a new article goes up in one of the
subject areas almost every day, and readers have access to all the
archives. Consider it a living organism of cultural data.
Romero handles technical
support and some business aspects of the site, but he seems most
excited about the film reviews that he edits and writes. With other
regulars, he's developed a large readership stemming from his stories
about Oscar-nominated films and his reviews of independent flicks.
A native New Yorker,
Romero is not afraid of confrontation, arguing in one piece, for
example, that certain characters in "The Phantom Menace" drew on
outdated, racist stereotypes. The goofy, floppy-headed Jar Jar Binks
reminded him of negative portrayals of African Americans in old
films. Meanwhile, a merchant in this 1999 prequel to "Star Wars"
was greedy, cruel, and had a big nose. The scheming aliens, he points
out, had mock Japanese accents.
"I think it's obvious
that [Director] George Lucas was drawing on the offensive images
of movies that he grew up watching and enjoying in the 1920s and
1930s," says Romero, who is working on a review of "AI" that delves
When the critical shoes
are on other feet, Culturekiosque has fared quite well. "Brill's
Content" listed it among the "Best of the Web 2000," while France
2 Television called it "Europe's cultural news site." "USA Today"
labeled it a "Hot Site," and "Travel and Leisure" said it was one
of five "Essential Travel Tips."
admits that it's hard to make money and stay intellectually pure
these days. "The Internet is going through a huge evolution, and
sites must learn how to become businesses," he says. In the near
future, Culturekiosque might charge a fee for its archives, resell
content, or become a fee-for-use site.
But that shouldn't change
the site's basic premise. "We feel passionate about having this
outlet where professionals and intellectuals can comment on things
in a way that mainstream commercial venues don't permit," says Romero.
"That's what keeps us all so devoted."
Rob MacKay, is an editor
at "Timesnewsweekly," a weekly newspaper in Queens, New York. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.