Beer Review: Saranac White IPA


Beer: Saranac White IPA
Brewer: Matt Brewing Company
Source:
12 oz. bottle
Rating:
** (6.3 of 10)
Comments: 
Surprisingly this beer pours out with a thick head and cloudy, golden body looking all the world like a hefeweizen.  It’s a hoppy beer with some spiciness but it felt understated to me.  I could have used more flavor.  Other than that, it is a cheerful beer with a fruity aroma and stands out as something unique.

Photopost: Ecotarium


My son  and I journeyed to the Ecotarium for Free Fun Fridays.  The Ecotarium is a science museum surrounded by outdoor compound including nature trails, animal exhibits, a playground, and even a train ride.  We had a great time with the only downside being that my parochial Bostonian view found the drive to Worcester a bit too long.

All aboard.
Walking on air.
A fox named Sox.
Turkeys on the prowl.

Book Review: Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel


Author: Alison Bechdel
Title: Are You My Mother? 
Publication Info: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2012)
ISBN: 9780618982509

Previously Read By the Same Author: Fun Home

Summary/Review:  The follow-up to Fun Home, Bechdel’s graphic biography of her father, this book deals with Bechdel’s complicated relationship with her mother. It’s actually about a lot more than that as center to the story is the process of Bechdel writing the story about her father and how that was troubling to her mother. Psychology is also central to the narrative as Bechdel details decades of sessions with her therapists and the book is heavily illustrated with quotes from the writing of the psychologist Donald Winnicot. My favorite aspect of Fun Home was how Bechdel worked in literary allusions into her story and that is at play here, most fantastically in she compares Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own with the plexiglass dome in Dr. Seuss’ Sleep Book. The psychology stuff is rather heavy and kind of weighs down the story that it makes it less perfect than Fun Home for me, but nevertheless an excellent examination of the human condition.

Recommended BooksTo the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Rating: ***

Book Review: City : a guidebook for the urban age by P.D. Smith


Author: P.D. Smith
Title: City : a guidebook for the urban age
Publication Info:   Bloomsbury Press (2012)
ISBN: 9781608196760

Summary/Review:  This is kind of a coffee table book for urbanists depicting humanity’s greatest invention – the city!  The book is split into bit size chapters about different aspects of the city from public parks to public transportation, from skyscrapers to the street, and from coffehouses to hotels.  The books spans history and the globe seemingly try to create a city in the pages with snapshots of what makes up the city.

Favorite Passages:

“Look above the shopfronts and you begin to sense the history of the original buildings: exposed beams, time-roughened brickwork as red-raw as abraded skin, a plaque recording a creative life spent in a building, faded lettering advertising a long-defunct product.  As you stand in the high street, to the ubiquitous CCTV cameras you are just one more figure among the crowds of shoppers, someone with time to kill and money to spend.  But as you begin to notice these traces of the past and read the urban text, the city starts to come alive. You become part of its history, more than a mere consumer of products.  You are ready to begin a journey that can take you back to the roots of civilisation itself.  It is time to start walking.” – p. 171

“Creative cities are edgy places, where conservative, traditional forces collide with new, radical ideas in a shower of brilliant sparks.  Great cities are complex, even disorderly, cosmopolitan communities.  They are certainly not the easiest or safest places in which to live (housing conditions in Athens were far from ideal).  Such cities are often overwhelming and intense environments.  But this is often why they are such creative places. After all, it’s the irritant of sand in an oyster that produces a pearl.” – p. 253

Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Doctor Who. Series 2, Volume 1, The Ripper by Tony Lee


Author: Tony Lee
Title: Doctor Who. Series 2, Volume 1, The Ripper
Publication Info: IDW Publishing (2011)
ISBN: 9781600109744
Summary/Review: The Eleventh Doctor accompanied by Amy and Rory visit Victorian Whitechapel and find themselves in the midst of the Jack the Ripper killings where the Ripper is <SPOILERS> an alien! </SPOILERS>  Another enjoyable comic adventure for Doctor Who.

Rating: **1/2

 

Book Review: Doctor Who. Volume 3, Final sacrifice by Tony Lee


Author: Tony Lee
Title: Doctor Who. Volume 3, Final sacrifice
Publication Info: IDW Publishing (2011)
ISBN: 9781600108464
Summary/Review:  The conclusion of the story begun in Fugitive and Tesseract finds the Tenth Doctor, his allies and enemies on a planet caught in endless civil war.  The actions of the Doctor will determine whether the cycle will be broken but requires confounding choices and sacrifice.  The comic format allows for a visual imagination that would not likely be convincing in a televised format but on the other hand the dialogue seems spare and simplistic.  Still, this is a great adventure and addition to the Doctor Who oeuvre.

Rating: **1/2

 

Book Review: Doctor Who. Volume 2, Tesseract by Tony Lee


Author: Tony Lee
Title: Doctor Who. Volume 2, Tesseract
Publication Info: IDW Publishing (2010)
ISBN: 9781600107566
Summary/Review: The Tenth Doctor’s adventures from Fugitive continue with his new companions Emily and Matt heading on divergent paths.  Emily becomes a stronger character driven to action while Matt consumed by jealousy is drawn to evil.  There’s also a 5D spaceship, Martha Jones and UNIT, and Greenwich Park under attack by trees. As I noted on the previous volume, the comic format allows for a visual imagination that would not likely be convincing in a televised format but on the other hand the dialogue seems spare and simplistic.

Rating: **1/2

 

Book Review: Straphanger by Taras Grescoe


Author: Taras Grescoe
Title: Straphanger
Publication Info: New York : Times Books, 2012.
ISBN: 9780805091731

Previously Read By the Same Author: The End of Elsewhere

Summary/Review:  In the previous book I’ve read by Taras Grescoe, The End of Elsewhere (one of my all-time favorite books), the author travels the world deliberately visiting the most touristed sites.  In Straphanger, Grescoe travels the world again this time taking advantage of the rapid transit metro systems of the world’s great cities.  Grescoe visits New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Paris, Copenhagen, Moscow, Tokyo, Bogotá, Portland, Vancouver, Philadelphia and Montreal taking notes of what each city’s metro system can offer to North American cities (or in the case of Phoenix an example of how not to do it).  Grescoe takes not how each city’s public transportation network is a unique representation of that city’s culture, being both of the city and shaping the city.  While not everything would work in other cities, there’s a lot of food for thought for improving public transportation networks to serve dense urban environments, which Grescoe emphasizes is increasingly becoming necessary for our urban future.  Of course, me reading this book is another example of me being in the choir being preached too, but I find that it works well both as a travelogue and as a treatise on public transit’s future.  I highly recommend this book and expect it will be on my list of favorite books for 2012.

Favorite Passages:

Kenneth Jackson: “Look,” he said, “humans are social animals.  I think the biggest fake every perpetrated is that children like, and need, big yards.  What children like are other children.  If they can have space, well, that’s fine.  But most of all, they want to be around other kids.  I think we move children to the suburbs to control the children, not to respond to something the children want.  In the city, kids might see somebody urinating in public, but they’re much more at risk in the suburbs, where they tend to die in cars.” – p. 96

“Since the Second World War, in fact, transit in most of the world’s great cities has been run by publicly owned agencies.  The argument for public ownership of transit is two-pronged.  First, that transit systems and railroads are an example of a natural monopoly, like electric utilities or sewer systems, they can optimize expenditures and increase efficiency if they are under a single management.  Second, since a decent transport system has external benefits like increasing property values and reducing congestion and pollution, it is best managed not to maximize owners’ profits, but in the public interest.” – p. 125

Recommended books: Transit Maps of the World by Mark Ovenden, Triumph of the City by Edward L. Glaeser and Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes
Rating: ****1/2

Book Review: Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín


Author: Colm Tóibín
Title: Brooklyn
Publication Info: New York : Scribner, 2009.
ISBN: 9781439138311
Summary/Review: Set in the 1950s, this novel tells the story of young Irish woman named Eilis who gets the opportunity to emigrate to New York, work in a shop, and begin studying accounting and law.  At its best, the story captures nuances of everyday life from the small kindnesses to the petty jealousy, homesickness to new love.   Unfortunately, Eilis has a problem in that she seems incapable of making decisions for herself and thus allows others to shape her life for her.  This comes to a head in the final section of the book which I found so frustrating and didn’t know if should be angry at Eilis for having no spine or angry at everyone in society who made her this way.  Nevertheless, while unsatisfying on the narrative level this is a well-written and honest novel.

Recommended books: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, ‘Tis, a Memoir by Frank McCourt, and Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann.
Rating: ***