Boston Harborfest / Independence Day Weekend Walking Tours


What better way to celebrate our nation’s birthday in Boston than by attending Harborfest, watching the Fourth of July Pops concert and fireworks, taking Boston By Foot Walking tours!

I’ll be leading three Boston By Foot walking tours this weekend, and there are many more tours on the calendar.

Saturday, July 2nd, 2:00-3:30 pm – Come to where land meets water in Boston on the Historic Waterfront Tour.  Meets at 290 Congress Street by Fort Point Channel:

Boston has a great seafaring heritage. Ocean trade and its related industries had a major impact on the growth of Boston and the shape and character of its waterfront.

This tour includes the beginnings of Long Wharf as the grand entry into Boston, and the genesis of its Financial District, the lore of clipper ships and the China Trade, and classic 19th century Boston granite wharf buildings such as Commercial Wharf, Lewis Wharf, and Union Wharf.

Today’s waterfront is a vibrant mix of hotels, restaurants, residences, and recreational spaces, from Atlantic Wharf on the Fort Point Channel to Battery Wharf in the North End.

Take in the spectacular views of Boston Harbor as we wind our way among the wharves old and new.

Sunday, July 3, 3:00-4:30 pm – Learn about the life of the Boston-born printer, scientist, politician, and founder on the Benjamin Franklin: Son of Boston Tour.  Meets at the corner of Washington and School Streets near the Irish Famine Memorial:

Celebrate and learn about the life of Benjamin Franklin by walking among the sites of his homes and haunts in Colonial Boston.

In his day, Benjamin Franklin was America’s greatest scientist, inventor, diplomat, humorist, statesman, and entrepreneur. Ben was born in Boston, came of age in Philadelphia, and was the darling of Paris. From his many inventions, creations of civic, philanthropic, and educational institutions, to his roles in the founding of America, his legacy is immeasurable.

Monday, July 4, 11:00 am – 12:30 pm – Celebrate Independence Day on Boston By Foot’s flagship tour of the city’s historic core, Heart of the Freedom Trail.  Meets by the Samuel Adams statue in front of Faneuil Hall.  Note: Get downtown early before the tour and see a parade from City Hall Plaza to the Old State House stepping off at 9:00 am, followed by the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Old State House at 10:00 am!

The perfect introduction to the history of Boston!

This walking tour of the Freedom Trail in downtown Boston begins with the city’s establishment in 1630. The story of Boston unfolds through an exploration of the city’s architecture spanning more than three centuries. Beginning with the Puritan settlement, the tour continues through the American Revolution and the growth of commercial Boston and concludes with a discussion of modern development.

This historic walk features many of the downtown Freedom Trail sites, including the Old State House, Faneuil Hall, King’s Chapel, the Old South Meeting House and the site of the first public school in America.

From the protests of Samuel Adams and James Otis to the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, to the liberation of Boston in 1776 by General Washington and his army, the Heart of The Freedom Trail takes you to the sites and tells the stories that led to American independence.

Join us downtown and experience the world famous Freedom Trail with Boston By Foot!

My future walking tour schedule:

July 7: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

July 14: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

July 15:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

July 21:  Jamaica Plain – 6pm

July 28: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 4: The Dark Side of Boston  – 6pm

August 11: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 18: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 25: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 26:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

August 26:  Road to Revolution – 1pm

Favorite Songs of 2016 … so far


Wednesdays are now my music blogging day.  While I’ve enjoyed writing my Music Discoveries series, I’ve found it hard to find the time to give a fair listen to all of a bands album in just one week.  So, starting in July, I’m going to post music discoveries on the first and third Wednesdays (and on the fifth Wednesday if there are that many Wednesdays in a month).  On the second Wednesday, I’m going to extend my music criticism writing to reviewing a recently released album, called simply enough Album of the Month, similar to Song of the Week.  The fourth Wednesday will be a music wildcard, probably a list, much like I’m posting today!

And today’s list simply shares some of my favorite songs released so far in 2016.  I usually wait until the end of the year, but it’s been a great six months of music already.

 

“Atomic Number” by case/lang/veirs

“Changes” by Charles Bradley

“Freedom” by Beyoncé

“Hold Up” by Beyoncé

Can’t find anything to embed for these two tracks, but seriously, if you don’t have Lemonade already, get it now!

“The Hood Ain’t the Same” by Draze

“The Ism” by Digitalism

“Kinsumba” by Konono N°1

“Mighty (feat. JFTH)” by Caravan Palace

“Papa Loko (Se Van)” by Ram

youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYAh2CGKepk

“Quiet” by Erik Blood

“Sangria” by Céu

youtube=http://youtu.be/lccHvxSun3w

“Transe Animal” by Prana Vibes

“Wave of History” by Downtown Boys

“The Werewolf” by Paul Simon

What are your favorite songs of the year so far?

Movie Review: Zootopia (2016)


Title: Zootopia
Release Date: March 4, 2016
Director:   Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Summary/Review:

Set in a world of anthropomorphic mammals where predator and prey have agreed to live together, Zootopia is a comic, animated film that smartly takes on issues of inequality that appear ripped from the headlines touching upon women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, and prejudice against Islamic peoples.  The story is about Judy Hopps, a country rabbit who comes to the big city as the first rabbit on the police force.  Made unwelcome by her police chief, Judy ends up working with a hustler, a fox named Nick, to investigate the disappearance and apparent reversion to wildness of several predators.  The movie has fun with the clichés of police procedurals and revels in exploring the fantastical world of a city made up of different mammalian habitats.  It’s a funny and clever movie, and enjoyable for old and young alike.

Rating: ****

Book Review: A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn


Author: Howard Zinn
TitleA People’s History of the United States
Narrator: Jeff Zinn
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2009)
Other Books Read By Same Author: A People’s History of American Empire and Marx in Soho
Summary/Review:

This is a powerful “alternate” history of the United States that I’ve long intended to read but only just got around to (I get intimidated by thick books so I went for the audiobook).  Zinn presents many of the familiar stories of American history, but from the point of view of those who don’t often get into the history books – Native Americans, blacks, women, and other marginalized groups.  Wars are stories not of patriotism and national unity but of an average rank and file often at odds with the leadership and demonstrating this through desertion and revolt.  Wars in general have seen much protest, from the Revolution where the goals of the leaders were quite different from the common agitators to the mass opposition to the War in Vietnam. From the earliest days of the American colonies there is also a divide between the elites who hold the wealth and power and the common people that comes out in many class and labor conflicts.  Zinn discusses unheralded unity – such as blacks and poor whites working together for progressive farmers’ movements in the South – as well as divisions within the many movements for Civil Rights and equality.

At times the attitude of the author is too far left-wing for even me to handle, but largely I find this book an instructive look at American history that informs a lot of where we are today.  This book is so full of detail that it’s worth reading again, and the many works Zinn cites could make for a lifetime of additional reading.

Recommended booksLies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer, Eyes on the Prize by Juan Williams, How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev, A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit,  A people’s history of the American Revolution : how common people shaped the fight for independence by Ray Raphael,  A People’s History of the New Boston by Jim Vrabel, The Radicalism of the American Revolution by Gordon S. Wood, The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap by Stephanie Coontz, The whites of their eyes : the Tea Party’s revolution and the battle over American history by Jill Lepore,  and A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico by Amy S. Greenberg,
Rating: ****1/2

 

 

 

Book Review: Who Was Davy Crockett? by Gail Herman


Author: Gail Herman
Title:  Who Was Davy Crockett? 
Publication Info:  Grosset & Dunlap (2013)
Summary/Review:

I read this children’s biography to my son.  I actually knew very little about Davy Crockett (who as we learn in the biography preferred to be called David) so it was interesting to read a book that focused on the facts of his life rather than the legend.  We learned that he was a man who moved around quite a bit on the Western frontier of Tennessee, enjoyed hunting bears, served in U.S. Congress, and died fighting at the Alamo.  It was all very interesting although the book does soft-pedal the severity of his involvement with “Indian removal,” slavery, and the anti-Mexican prejudice of the Texas liberation fight.  On the other hand, it doesn’t ignore these issues.  So we’re presented with a story of a complex man who’s life may be more interesting than the folk tales he inspired.
Rating: ***

Podcast of the Week: Mike Matheny’s Manifesto on Fresh Air


I was impressed listening to former big league catcher and current MLB manager Mike Matheny discuss the culture of youth sports, the subject of his new book The Matheny Manifesto.  He also had some fascinating stories of his major league experience and concussions.  It actually made me like a St. Louis Cardinal!

http://freshairnpr.npr.libsynfusion.com/-silence-on-the-sidelines-an-mlb-insiders-manifesto-on-youth-sports

 

Song of the Week: “Stadium Pow Wow” by A Tribe Called Red


I believe A Tribe Called Red becomes my first third time Song of the Week honoree with this post.  But I can’t resist the Ottawa, Ontario groups mix of electronic dance music with traditional First Nations chanting and drumming.  And on “Stadium Pow Wow” they’ve somehow turned this unique blend into a jock jam!  The video is spectacular as well.

Beer Review: Avery Ellie’s Brown Ale


Beer: Ellie’s Brown Ale
Brewer:  Avery Brewing Company
Source: Draft
Rating:  **** (8.1 of 10)
Comments: Enjoyed a pint of this Colorado craft brew at Bella Luna on Father’s Day.  No surprise given the name, but this is a chestnut-brown ale with a buff head.  It offers a sweet caramel aroma and creamy malts are prominent in the flavor, with a roasted coffee finish.  Lots of lacing on the glass.  This is yummy good stuff.

 

 

Movie Review: Heima (2007)


Title:  Heima
Release Date:  5 October 2007
Director: Dean DeBlois
Rating: ****

Review:

Not your average concert film.  Sigur Rós returns to Iceland after a world tour (the title means “At Home”) and conducts a thank you tour of their island nation.  The band performs in community halls, an abandoned factory, on hillsides, and on a dam where protestors are encamped.  The cinematography and the editing are so gorgeous, pairing the music with the Icelandic landscape and the people in the audience (you get the sense that a good portion of the Icelandic population appear in this film). A local choir, brass band, and traditional chanter join in the performance to add to the Icelandic cultural milleiu.   It’s really a movie one can immerse oneself in and get a sense of a country’s national identity.

 

Music Discoveries: Sigur Rós


Icelandic band Sigur Rós is known for their soundscapes, mimimalists arrangements, overlay of instruments, reverb, and ethereal vocals of band leaderJón Þór Birgisson, known as Jonsi.  I became aware of the band about a decade ago and Ágætis byrjun is one of my all-time favorite albums, but I was less familiar with their other work.  So now I’ve listened to two decades of Sigur Rós’ recordings and I have to say I like this band all the more.  Their genre of post-rock, whatever that means, is something that appeals to me. And as someone who has trouble paying attention to lyrics, how lovely is it to have a band that sometimes sings in made up words where the emotion is more important than their meaning.

On this day that Iceland’s football team advances in the Euro 2016 tournament, how better to celebrate than by going through an album-by-album review of Sigur Rós’ catalogue.

AlbumVon
Release date: June 1997
Favorite tracks:  “Sigur Rós,”  “Hún Jörð …,”  “Von,” and “Syndir Guðs (Opinberun frelsarans)”
Thoughts:  This debut album features the expected dreamy soundscapes overlaid with ethereal vocals, but that is not all it has to offer.  From the spooky opening track, more sound collage than music to the propulsive drums and fuzz guitar of  “Hún Jörð …” there’s a lot to chew on.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumÁgætis byrjun
Release date: 12 June 1999
Favorite tracks: “Svefn-g-englar,” “Starálfur,” “Ný batterí,” “Olsen Olsen,” and “Ágætis byrjun”
Thoughts:  A masterpiece.  Just a gift of music and beauty to the world. I have a particular fondness for the title track since it was playing in the delivery room when my daughter was born.  A Good Beginning, indeed!
Rating: *****


Album( )
Release date: 28 October 2002
Favorite tracks: “Untitled 1” and “Untitled 7”
Thoughts: This is a minimally titled album with minimally titled songs, but not made with minimal effort.  The first four tracks are more cheerful, while the last four are more sorrowful.  All of the songs are performed by Jonsi in the made-up language of Vonlenska (called “Hopelandic” in English).  It’s a concept album that holds together well even if the concept is more of a feeling than something concrete
Rating: ***1/2


Album: Takk…
Release date: 12 December 2005
Favorite tracks: “Glósóli,” “Hoppípolla,” “Sæglópur, ” and  “Svo hljótt”
Thoughts: Sigur Rós songs are known for their orchestral arrangements and slow builds, but that seems even more true on this album.  So it’s know surprise that several of these songs were used as promotional music.  This sounds like the soundtrack to a movie in your head.  Lovely and immersive.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumHvarf/Heim
Release date: 5 November 2007
Favorite tracks:  “Hljómalind”
Thoughts: This compilation is half recordings of previously unreleased songs and half a live set of acoustic performances from the documentary Heima. The first half is nice but you can tell that they’re outtakes.  The second half is lovely although the tracks sound surprisingly “perfect” for a live performance.
Rating: ***


AlbumMeð suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Release date: 20 June 2008
Favorite tracks:  “Gobbledigook,” “Festival,” “Ára bátur,” and “All Alright.”
Thoughts: A departure of sorts as this album is more guitar-driven and folk-inflected indie rock than the spare and orchestral sounds of their previous works.  There’s also a song in English, a slow, sad song in English.
Rating: ***


AlbumInni
Release date: 7 November 2011
Thoughts: Another live recording accompanying a concert film, this two-disc set captures songs from all of Sigur Rós career up to this point.
Rating: ***1/2


AlbumValtari
Release date: 23 May 2012
Favorite tracks:”Varúð” and “Fjögur píanó”
Thoughts: Sigur Rós steps back from the pop sensibilities of the previous album, reverting to soundscapes that are even quieter and more restrained than their earlier recordings, if that can be believed.  It’s beautiful stuff, but can also be too much of a good thing.
 Rating:


AlbumKveikur
Release date: 12 June 2013
Favorite tracks:  “Brennisteinn”
Thoughts: More aggressive than earlier work, the soundscapes that so often are accompanied by visuals of Iceland’s scenic beauty, this is the harsh side of nature – icy winds, crashing waves, and jagged rocks.  And there’s quite a bit of change among tracks so it’s clear where one ends and the next begins.
Rating: ***


There’s my thoughts on Sigur Rós and I hope to hear more from them in the future.

Music Discoveries continues in two weeks when I will get down and give it up for Parliament/Funkadelic.