Roxbury Highlands Tour – August 30 at 2 PM


Join me and several other talented Boston By Foot walking tour guides as we lead a special Tour of the Month of Roxbury Highlands.  The tour begins at 2 pm on Sunday, August 30 at Roxbury Crossing station on the MBTA Orange Line.

Practical vinyl siding side-by-side with full-on restoration to Victorian era.

We start in the Stony Brook valley and work our way uphill and through history to the top of Fort Hill, passing through Roxbury’s colonial town center at Eliot Square along the way.  Learn how Roxbury went from early colonial settlement to strategic military location to bucolic suburb to immigration destination to one of Boston’s densest neighborhoods.  See Roxbury Highlands continue to transform with ongoing restoration and new construction.

Photo of Alvah Kittredge house from 2007, you won’t believe what it looks like now!

The full description of the tour is on the Boston By Foot website where you can also pre-order tickets!

The Roxbury Highlands tour explores a remarkable neighborhood. Our tour travels through the center of colonial Roxbury:  Eliot Square, where the First Church proudly stands as the oldest wooden church in Boston. The Highlands flourished in the mid-19th century as a garden suburb with many pear and apple orchards.  There was even an apple named after the area – the Roxbury Russet.  We will see wonderful Greek Revival and Victorian houses along our route and discuss some of the amazing individuals who called this area home including Edward Everett Hale – author of The Man Without a Country, and Louis Prang – who printed the first Christmas cards in America.   Finally, we finish on top of the hill at the Roxbury Standpipe, in a lovely park which occupies the location of the Roxbury High Fort. Come explore with us!

More photos from the 2007 tour to whet your whistle for Sunday.

Beer Review: Cambridge Brewing Bo-Steam-Ian Lager


Beer: Bo-Steam-ian Lager
Brewer: Cambridge Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.6 of 10)
Comments: An interesting blend of beers bringing together the Czech pilsner with the California-style steam beer.  The beer has a rich golden color with a bit of haziness, but not much head. The aroma is an earthy bread crust.  The taste is reminiscent of sweet pasty but with a spicy, fruity tang. There’s just enough hops bitterness for balance, but not enough to overwhelm the beer. The beer has a medium mouthfeel and leaves behind a light lacing.  This is a well-crafted and tasty experiment.

Beer Review: Berkshire Hoosac Tunnel Amber


Beer: Hoosac Tunnel Amber
Brewer: Berkshire Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating: *** (7.1 of 10)
Comments:

This amber ale is a comforting cloudy copper brown. The aromas include a biscuit scent with hints of fruit.  The taste is bready with a peppery finish and a sweet caramel aftertaste.  It’s a well-balanced brew that fills the mouth with flavor.  My kind of beer.

Movie Review: Cars 2 (2011)


Title: Cars 2
Release Date: 2011
Director:  John Lasseter, Brad Lewis
Production Co:  Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios
Country: United States
Language: English
Genre: Animation | Family | Comedy
Rating: 5 of 10

I had low expectations for this movie since Cars is my least favorite of the Pixar films and the premise for this one sounded, well, …. dumb.  But my daughter wanted to watch it and even after she fell asleep in my lap, I kept watching.  Lightning McQueen, the main character  (car-actor?) of the first movie is barely in a supporting role this time as his friend Mater the Tow Truck takes the central role.  Mater feels out-of-place on a world tour of grand prix races and finds himself caught up in international espionage.  It’s basically a remake of Bill Murray’s The Man Who Knew Too Little, with an unsophisticated character stumbling around and successfully outwitting the baddies.  And it’s funny and it’s got heart and it’s got some clever bits.  I don’t know if kids actually get all the machinations of the complex plot, but hey, if they get a good nap out of it and Dad still finds it watchable, that’s not a bad thing.

Book Review: First Family by Joseph Ellis


Author: Joseph J. Ellis
Title:  First Family
Narrator: Kimberly Farr
Publication Info: Random House Audio (2010), Edition: Unabridged
Previously Read by Same Author: American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams, and Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation
Summary/Review:

Historian Joseph Ellis explores the relationship of Abigail and John Adams, and how it was effected by the Revolutionary Era, not to mention the effect they had on fomenting revolution.  The main source for this history is their voluminous correspondence which shows that they saw one another as intellectual equals discussing the issues of the day, but also demonstrated a romantic attachment.  While Abigail is the more grounded of the two balancing John’s fiery personality, there are instances where Abigail seems more extreme, such as her support of going to war with France during John’s presidency or her approval of the Alien & Sedition Acts.  Since the book relies so heavily on correspondence, there is more material for the times that they were apart than when they were together and obviously not writing one another.  For the later years after John’s presidency, Ellis relies on the pair’s correspondence with other individuals (including the famed letters to and from Thomas Jefferson), but it loses the intimacy of the earlier parts of the book.  Ellis may have done better to pare the book down just to the years where correspondence between Abigail and John exists rather than attempt the story of their entire lives, but that’s a minor quibble.  This book paints a human portrait of the “venerable” couple from the time of the nation’s birth.
Recommended books: John Adams by David McCullough and Revolutionaries by Jack Rakove.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Reviews: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson


Author: Erik Larson
TitleIn the Garden of the Beast
Narrator: Stephen Hoye
Publication Info: New York : Random House Audio : Books on Tape, p2011.
Books Read by Same AuthorThe Devil in the White City and Isaac’s Storm

Summary/Review:

This history and biography book explores the rise of the Third Reich from the perspective of one American family.  Specifically that is the family of William E. Dodd, appointed to be ambassador to Germany by Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Dodd and his adult daughter Martha are the main characters of the book.  Dodd initially is supportive of Hitler and shares in some antisemitic beliefs.  Martha, recently separated from her husband, enjoys the social life of Berlin and liaisons with several men including Soviet intelligence operative Boris Vinogradov.  Over time the Dodd’s became more aware of the violence and oppression of the Nazi state, and the ambassador begins to become more vocal in calling on the United States to oppose Hitler’s regime (which in isolationist America proves to be an unpopular stance).  This is an uncomfortable book to read.  The Dodd’s are not very likable people, but then they’re contrasted with Nazis.  No one comes off looking good.  Still this is an interesting glimpse into a troubling time in history.
Rating: ***

Book Reviews: The Left-Handed Hummingbird by Kate Orman


Author: Kate Orman
Title:The Left-Handed Hummingbird
Publication Info: London : Doctor Who Books, 1993.
Summary/Review:

This Doctor Who novel is epic in scope from contemporary Mexico to the Aztec empire to hippie London in the 60s to the John Lennon assassination to the sinking of Titanic. And yet, this may be the most internal story for the Doctor and his companions.  Their relationship is strained, especially the Doctor and Ace since she’s become something of soldier during her absence from the TARDIS. Worse yet, the Doctor faces an antagonist manifest as an Aztec god who is altering history.  The Doctor’s usual strategy of manipulating people and events fail and we see him at his most defeated. This novel is good in that it’s a rare story that’s set in Latin America in both precolonial and contemporary settings.  The only downside is that like Timewyrm: Exodus  it credits some historical acts of human evil to extraterrestrial influence.  This was the first novel by Kate Orman, who was also the first woman and first Australian to write for the Doctor Who line, and it’s a pretty remarkable achievement in how it reimagines what a Doctor Who story can be.
Favorite Passages:

“Has it ever occurred to you that the reason the sacrifices are made is to dispose of foreign warriors taken captive in battle – and to cause more and more battles to be fought?’”

“‘It’s already written in the book of history,’ he continued. ‘Painted in the records. Nothing I can do or say is going to change it. But there’s something else here, something that isn’t in the book, or wasn’t the last time I visited. Things have changed. Something’s wrong. Someone’s interfering. I need to find a way to read between the lines…’”

“‘Time travel,’ said Bernice, ‘is like banging your head on a brick wall. Only someone keeps moving the bricks.’”

Rating: ***1/2