October 30th: Avenue of the Arts – Boston By Foot Tour of the Month

Huntington Avenue photo courtesy of Yarian Gomez's photostream on Flickr

Come out this Sunday October 30th at 2pm for a guided walking tour of Boston’s Avenue of the Arts lead by Boston By Foot guides (including yours truly).  The tour begins in front of The Church of Christ, Scientist on Massachusetts Avenue and the cost is just $15/person.  If you become a Boston By Foot member admission is reduced to just $5 and you get lots of other benefits as well.

Have you ever wondered why so many cultural institutions dedicated to fine arts, music, education, religion, and sports are clustered in one area in Boston?  As we walk along this cultural corridor we’ll explore the history of Huntington Avenue and learn about:

  • landmarks created by two of the most remarkable women in Boston’s history: Mary Baker Eddy and Isabella Stewart Gardner
  • not one but two acoustically perfect concert halls
  • not one but two historical figures named Eben
  • the oldest artificial ice sporting arena in the world
  • Boston’s lost opera house
  • the many innovations and contributions of the YMCA
  • the site of the first World Series game
  • expansion and development at Northeastern University, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
  • and much, much more

I’m particularly proud of this tour because I originated the idea and collaborated on the research and manual writing.  So please come out and join us to learn more about this fascinating Boston district.

Huntington Avenue in 1920, courtesy of Boston Public Library's photostream on Flickr

Book Review: Bossypants by Tina Fey

Author: Tina Fey
Title: Bossypants
Publication Info: New York : Little, Brown and Co., 2011.
ISBN: 9780316056861

This is not your typical celebrity memoir, thankfully,  as the warped mind of Tina Fey pretty much deconstructs the all the conventions.  I have to admit that a lot of the humor in the book falls flat.  Yet, she does get around to the point about her life and career in clever ways.  The title refers to the frequent questioning she receives regarding what advice she can offer as a woman in charge of a tv show.  While mocking the sexism in the question that would never be asked of a man she does eventually offer some good – and funny – management advice.  It’s a fun book and a quick read, and definitely worth checking out if you like the work of Tina Fey.

Favorite Passages:
Recommended books: Nerd Do Well by Simon Pegg, Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live, as Told By Its Stars, Writers and Guests by James A. Miller, and Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” by David Bianculli .

Book Review: The Pun Also Rises by John Pollack

Author: John Pollack
Title: The Pun Also Rises
Publication Info: New York : Gotham Books, 2011.
ISBN: 9781592406234

Pollack’s short but compelling narrative examines the history, etymology, and linguistics of the much-maligned pun.  The pun has not always been held in disregard as it has in history been seen as a sign of wisdom, and even today it is harder to not pun than to pun.  Pollack explains how the pun is deceptively simple and opens a window on meaning and abstract thinking.  The book is also pretty punny – er funny – no punny was correct.
Favorite Passages:

“Punning is a virtue that most effectually promotes the end of good fellowship.” – The Moral Definition of Punning according to Thomas Sheridan’s Ars Punica. – p. 81

“In a way, the pun was humanity’s first hyperlink, a way to identify and articulate potential connections that aren’t necessarily or immediately apparent.  Punning was and remains a way to sling a verbal rope, in an instant, across vast conceptual canyons.  It is this same urge to imagine, explore and establish new connections that fuels creativity generally, and science specifically.  Not that puns are a substitute for reason, but neither is reason a substitute for imagination.  If imagination didn’t exist, what cause would reason have to set out on a given journey, to prove or disprove a given proposition?  Puns reveal a mind free to roam frontiers of possibility, without shame or fear of being wrong.” – p. 143

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Triumph of the City by Edward L. Glaeser

Author: Edward L. Glaeser
Title: Triumph of the City
Publication Info: Penguin Press HC, The (2011)
ISBN: 9781594202773

Glaesar's book is an analysis of the city as one of the great inventions of humanity and the connections the city fosters being a moving force behind human ingenuity and progress.  Cities are seen as a place with poor people living in slums yet Glaesar demonstrates that cities actually draw poor people because cities offer them opportunities to improve their lives.  Glaesar also demonstrates that cities are more environmentally friendly than suburbs.  He criticizes how government policies tend to  encourage sprawl and expensive housing.  Several cities (including my own, Boston) are cited as examples of successful cities.  If there's one thing that does make me uneasy about this book is Glaesar's uncritical support of free-market capitalism, but he does make a good point that governments should spend money to help the poor but not spend money on poor places, an important distinction.  My opinion is already biased toward cities, but I believe this book makes a great argument toward encouraging dense well-managed cities as the sustainable way to go for humanity's future.

Favorite Passages:

“The strength that comes from human collaboration is the central truth behind civilization’s success and the primary reason why cities exist.  To understand our cities and what to do about them, we must hold on to those truths and dispatch harmful myths.  We must discard the view that environmentalism means living around tree and that urbanites should always fight to preserve a city’s physical past.  We must stop idolizing home ownership which favors suburban tract homes over high-rise apartments, and stop romanticizing rural villages.  We should eschew the simplistic view that better long-distance communication will reduce our desire and need to be near one another.  Above all, we must free ourselves from our tendency to see cities as their buildings, and remember that the real city is made of flesh, not concrete.” – p. 15

Recommended books: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs, Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software by Steven Johnson, and The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream by John F Wasik.
Rating: ****