Album of the Week: Crack-Up by Fleet Foxes


Artists:  Fleet Foxes
Album: Crack-Up
Release Date: 16 June 2017
Favorite Tracks: “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar,” “Third of May / Ōdaigahara,” and “Fool’s Errand”
Thoughts:  After a six-year absence, Seattle’s Fleet Foxes return with this brilliant collection of new tunes.  The gorgeous harmonies expected from Fleet Foxes are still here.  There’s also a lot of experimentation in crafting the songs, many of which are suites of songs that shift dramatically in tone, but not only enough to be disarming not to to annoy.  The lyrics are dense and full of allusions, so much so that songwriter Robin Pecknold annotated the songs on Genius, but  I find myself content letting the music wash over me.  Crack-Up may not be everyone, but I find it the lovely end product of pushing folk rock to its limits.

Rating: ****

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 21st


Time to turn on, tune in, and ‘cast out!

Fresh Air How Black Leaders Unwittingly Contributed To The Era Of Mass Incarceration

James Forman Jr. discusses his new book “Locking Up Our Own: Crime And Punishment In Black America”.

Best of the LeftStopping and building at the same time (Progressive Movement)

Different approaches to resisting the Trump administration and rebuilding the Democratic Party as a progressive force for good.

Verity! –  There’s Nothing “Only” About Being a Doctor

Verity is a podcast in which six smart women discuss Doctor Who and the only Doctor Who podcast I listen to so I have to share it this week in which the first woman Doctor is announced.

Finally, for Boston voters, check out WBUR Radio Boston’s mayor forums with Tito Jackson and Marty Walsh.

Song of the Week: “Get Up” by The Blow


This weeks track comes from the Olympia, Washington electro-pop duo The Blow.  “Get Up” is a spoken word rap over a simple synthesizer beat that brings 80s flashbacks and also reminds me of the dance punk band !!!.  The songwriter Khaela Maricich describes the song as being about “the feeling of my whole spirit being crushed by extreme capitalism.”  The Blow’s new album Brand New Abyss is due for release in September.

Photopost: Charles River City Splash


Yesterday I participated in the Charles River Conservancy’s annual City Splash event at the Arthur Fiedler Pier just off the Esplanade.  Jumping into Charles River may seem frightening to some, after all this is the river that inspired the song “Dirty Water.”  But this event is partly to show that decades of work and investment into cleaning the river making it one of the cleanest urban rivers in America.  I can’t tell you how exhilarating is is to drop into the river’s cool waters after a long day of work and float while looking up at the Back Bay skyline.  This was my second City Splash, and I hope to do it again, maybe even more than once a year.  The Charles River Conservancy is working to make Charles River swimming a permanent summer feature by building a swim park adjacent to North Point Park.  This wouldn’t be the first time as the North End Beach allowed residents of local tenements a place to bathe over 100 years ago (although there was probably less concern for water quality back then).

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 14


Late, but still worth listening to.  There’s a lot of terrific material this week, although to be fair several of my recommendations are repackaging previously released content, so think of this as a greatest hits package of greatest hits!

Best of the Left – The inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men

Several stories debunk the myths of poverty and ask why economists don’t ask the right questions about poverty.

Have You Heard – ‘I Quit’ – Teachers Are Leaving and They Want to Tell You Why

The stress and inequity of teaching in defunded and underesourced public schools is causing teachers to quit teaching, but some of them are prominently telling the world why they’re leaving in hopes of bringing positive change for future teachers, students, and schools.

StoryCorpsBetween June and September

Stories of Coney Island from people who kept the fun in the sun destination alive during its lowest points in the early 1990s.

Politically Re-Active – Street Heat w/ Congresswoman Barbara Lee & Linda Sarsour

Interviews with two amazing progressive leaders, both women of color, and their work fighting for social, racial, and economic justice.  I seriously had no idea that Linda Sarsour was so very Brooklyn.

BackStorySkin Deep: Whiteness in America

Slavery and segregation not only meant discriminating against black people, but also defining what it means to be white.  Three stories detail how the idea of whiteness played out in different periods of American history.

Re:SoundThe Smash the Binary Show

Three stories of the experiences of transgender persons, as well as an exploration of the “feminine” qualities of straight cis men.  I was particularly touched by the story of “The Accidental Gay Parents.”

 

 

 

Photopost: Castle Island


I’ve lived in Boston for nearly 19 years and yesterday I finally made it to Castle Island in South Boston.  We joined a group of families of my son’s baseball buddies and picked up lunch at the famous Sullivan’s (no known relation).  Along with picnicking in a cool, shady spot, there were games of bocce and pickle, and a stroll along the promenade.  Here are some photographs of the stunning views on a glorious day.  I shan’t wait 19 years to return.

 

Photopost: Up on the Roof


On Independence Day we went to the members’ party on the roof of the Museum of Science parking garage to watch the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular. The fireworks were actually a bit obstructed (damn you Royal Sonesta hotel!) but there were beautiful views of the surrounding cityscape as the sun set on the 4th of July.

Podcasts of the Week Ending July 7


Podcast of the Week returns!  Here are five podcasts from the past week that I think are worth listening to.

The Memory Palace :: The Taking of Tom Sawyer Island

That time when the counterculture Yippies attempted a hostile takeover of the land.  Disneyland to be specific.  Except only about 200 of them showed and half of them were there for a goof. What a long strange monorail trip it’s been.

Smithsonian Sidedoor :: red, white, and brew

Home brewing is a big thing these days, among a stereotypical group of white men, but has a long history in the United States among women, enslaved people, and immigrants.

WBUR The Artery :: Stacks Of Books, But Short On Cash: New England’s Public Libraries Face Funding Troubles

Libraries are used to tightening the belt financially, but in these days of Federal and state cuts they are facing unprecedented struggles.

DecodeDC :: DC History 101, Swamps and Scandals Then and Now

The history of Washington, DC, built on an actual swamp, and how the development of the city reflects the views of the ruling parties over time.

ESPN 30 for 30Yankees Suck

Here’s a new podcast based on ESPN’s successful television sports documentaries.  This episode covers the history of the notorious Red Sox fan chant and how a bunch of hardcore punks made a profitable business out of selling t-shirts emblazoned “Yankees Suck!”  Brings back good memories of late 90s Red Sox games.

 

Resistance Mixtape – Independence Day


Over the past few months I’ve been collecting songs for what I call the Resistance Mixtape.

Music can soothe and inspire.  Songs can tell stories and instruct. And most importantly music brings people together.

Here are some songs for the Resistance Mixtape for Independence Day.

Let’s begin with Paul Robeson, singing about “The House I Live In.”

Woody Guthrie’s famous response to “God Bless America” noted that even in a land where people wait in line at the relief office and signs say “No Trespassing” that the reality is that “This Land is Your Land.”

Prince & the Revolution similarly question the premise of “America the Beautiful” and whether or not the grace of God trickles down to our children.

Kim Weston sings a stirring version of the song known as “The Black National Anthem.”

Finally, the love we have for our own nation need does not mean we hate or demean other nations as we learn in the hymn “This is My Song” written by Lloyd Stone.

What other songs would you add to the mixtape?

Photopost: Metropolitan Museum of Art


I’ve posted many photos from Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, so for a change of pace here’s a sampling of the art I saw in just a teeny portion of the massive Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Photopost: New York Botanical Gardens & Chihuly


Some old photos burning a hole in my hard drive from my trip to New York City on Memorial Day weekend.  Here are some highlights from the grounds of the New York Botanical Garden and CHIHULY Night.

Song of the Week: “Hot to Trot” by Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas


 

Ok, this blog has grown moribund and I find it impossible to keep myself organized enough to create a monthly “What I’m Listening To Now” post.  So I’m bringing back “Song of the Week.”  Especially since I heard this great new song on the radio (yes, the radio!) by Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas.  The band is from Detroit, Hernandez sings in English & Spanish, and this track at least reminds a bit of the early B-52s.  Enjoy some hot music for this hot Independence Day weekend!

 

Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon 2017 #BAT2017


Once again I enjoyed riding the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon with my kids, Kay and Peter. We rode the family-friendly 10 mile route through Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Brookline.  It felt like the hills were steeper this year, but more likely I’m out of practice, and I borrowed a trailer to carry Kay so that was some extra weight.

Riders, volunteers, and sponsors raised $176,253 for all the good things Bikes Not Bombs does in Boston and international programs in  Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.  You can still contribute by sponsoring us!

 

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Previous Bike-A-Thon’s: 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Book Review: The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom by Aaron Wallace


Author: Aaron Wallace
TitleThe Thinking Fan’s Guide to Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom
Publication Info: Branford, CT : Intrepid Traveler, [2013]
Summary/Review:

This will be the last in the trio of books about Disney theme parks I’ve read recently, but it’s also the best of the bunch.  The author takes us on a tour of the Magic Kingdom and fills us in on the history, artistry, and hidden features of each attraction.  Wallace knows a lot about the thinking that went behind creating the attractions and offers insight into how people respond to them.  He also pairs each attraction with a movie to watch, and not always the most obvious one.  Some of the films aren’t even by Disney!  This is a great book on how Disney theme parks work as cultural artifacts.
Recommended books: The Disneyland Story: The Unofficial Guide to the Evolution of Walt Disney’s Dream by Sam Gennawey, The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness, Inside the Mouse: Work and Play at Disney World by The Project on Disney
Rating: ****

Book Review: Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance


Author: J. D. Vance
TitleHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis
Narrator:  J. D. Vance
Publication Info:Harper Audio, 2016
Summary/Review:

This book is being touted as offering insight into the Trump voter, but I think if you go into the book with that mindset you will be misled.  Nevertheless it is an interesting memoir of life for the self-proclaimed “hillbilly” culture of Appalachia.  Vance tells the story of his family from rural Kentucky and their migration along the “Hillbilly Highway” to a factory town in Ohio.  His community is one of strong family ties, rugged independence, and fierce patriotism.  But it is also a place of domestic violence, substance abuse, and extreme poverty.  Vance’s beloved grandmother, Mamaw, who primarily raised Vance is a key figure in the book. One of the most interesting political observations  in the book is that Mamaw could alternately support right-wing anti-government ideas and social democratic government programs.  The contradiction of these seemingly extreme viewpoints is due to the fact the established middle of both Republicans and Democrats have abandoned the ordinary working people.  Vance’s story is not typical for an Appalachian person as he joins the Marines, studies at Ohio State, gets a law degree at Yale, and now works at an investment firm in Silicon Valley. A lot of Vance’s book is the story of how he “got out” and doesn’t reflect the perspectives of those unable to “get out” or those for whom “getting out” is not an option to be desired.  With those caveats in mind, this is a good slice of life of part of our country and our people who are too often overlooked.

Recommended books: Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, and The Other America: Poverty in the United States by Michael Harrington
Rating: ***

Book Review: Jackie & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman


Author: Dan Gutman
TitleJackie & Me: A Baseball Card Adventure
Publication Info: New York : Avon Books, ©1999.
Summary/Review:

This is the second book in the Baseball Card Adventure in which Joe Stoshack uses  his power to travel through time using baseball cards to meet Jackie Robinson.  As an added wrinkle to the story, he initially arrives in 1947 as an African-American boy and directly experiences the racial animus of New York at that time.  I felt that Jackie Robinson’s character in this novel was one-dimensional, too much of a heroic martyr, although the book does offer some nice glimpses of his family life.  Meanwhile, it seems too flippant that Stosh is traveling to meet Robinson merely to write a Black History Month report for his school, and spends much of the novel trying to gather rare baseball cards to bring to the future.  The lesson of the book is how to stand up to bullies without resorting to anger, which Stosh applies in his own youth baseball games, but seems to miss out on the heart of the Jackie Robinson story in the process.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Ted & me: A Baseball Card Adventure by Dan Gutman


Author: Dan Gutman
TitleTed & me: A Baseball Card Adventure
Publication Info:  New York : Harper, c2012.
Summary/Review:

Joe Stoshack is a kid who can travel in time by touching baseball cards which take him to the time and place of the player in the photo.  In this installment of the series, the FBI learns of his ability and send an agent to convince him to go back in time to warn Franklin Roosevelt of the Pearl Harbor attack and prevent the United States entry into World War II.  The person to help Stosh on this mission is Red Sox slugger Ted Williams, an appropriately patriotic figure who gave up five seasons of his career to serve in WWII and the Korean War.  The characterization of Williams is well done since it captures a person who could be alternately an abrasive jerk and good-humored and generous.  Williams is also impulsive enough to take Stosh under his wing, and after finishing up the season in Philadelphia ensuring his .406 batting average, takes Stosh on a road trip.  There are a few stops along the way which I won’t spoil, but add to the characterization of Williams and his bond with Stosh.  Obviously, Stosh doesn’t prevent World War II, but it’s interesting to see some of the historic detail through his eyes, including a frightening encounter at an America First rally with supporters of Charles Lindbergh, something you wouldn’t expect to see in a children’s book.  It’s a good adventure for kids who are fans of baseball and American history.

Rating: ****

Sponsor Us for the 2017 Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon


On Sunday, June 4,  I will be riding with my kids Kay and Peter in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon!   The Bike-A-Thon is always a fun event and it raise money for a terrific cause. This will be our fifth time participating.

Based in Boston not far from where we live, Bikes Not Bombs serves two great purposes. First they collect and renovate bicycles to ship to developing communities in Central America, the Carribean and Africa. These bicycles help people meet crucial transportation needs with an easily maintained and environmentally friendly vehicle. Secondly, they help youth right here in Boston learn skills such as urban bike riding and bicycle repair that contributes to building their confidence and leadership skills. Please help us in our efforts by making a generous donation!

Here’s how you can help:

Read about our previous Bike-A-Thons in 2011, 20132015, and 2016.