2017 Year in Review: Memorable Events


I started a tradition back in 1996 of making a list of the most memorable events of the year.  My definition of memorable can include both the positive and the negative, but generally it’s the good things that make the list.  That first list in 1996 had exactly twenty items, so I’ve made the list a top twenty every year since.

Here is my 22nd annual list.

January to March – Photography Course: I began to learn how to put my DSLR camera to use.

January 21st – Boston Women’s March: We live in frightening times, but it was inspiring to join 125,000 other people on the Boston Common who believe in making our country a better place.

February 20-25 – Florida: Vacationed in the Sunshine State with stops at Walt Disney World, spring training, the beach, and the Everglades

March 24-25 – New England Archivists Spring Meeting: I presented at a conference for the first time.  It was also memorable because I was horribly sick that weekend too.

April 14-16 – Easter in New York: Took the kids to visit their Nana in the City, featuring stops at a chocolate museum, Coney Island, Pelham Bay Park, and the Bronx Zoo.

April – September 24 – Youth Baseball:  My daughter played he first year in teeball and my son’s team had a thrilling season winning their division championship.  Then he played in the Mayor’s Cup. And his team even appeared on NESN Clubhouse.

May 2 – November 7 – Tito Jackson for Mayor: My first time actively participating in a political campaign.  I gathered signatures, stood out with placards, and marched in the Wake Up and the Earth and Pride Parades.  I wish I could’ve done more, but mostly I wish Tito won the election. Still, got to meet an inspiring group of people with a positive vision for Boston’s future.

May 27-29 – Memorial Day in New York: Visited with my mother in New York sans children and we explored the Chihuly exhibits at the New York Botanical Garden, visited Lower Manhattan, and took in the art at the Metropolitan Museum.

June 4 – Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon: Riding with my kids in this annual event is always memorable.

June 18 – Father’s Day at Canobie Lake: I was feted with roller coasters and log flume rides.

June 26 – 3rd Grade Freedom Trail Trip: Chaperoned my son’s class tour of the Freedom Trail where the kids themselves presented on each of the sites.

July 15 – Castle Island: A beautiful summer day with friends and breezes off the Boston Harbor.

July 18 – City Splash: I swam in the Charles River and loved it.

July 28-30 – Tully Lake Campground: camping in Massachusetts, featuring a bird watching walk and disc golf.

August 13-19 – Wildwood Camp: My son went away to sleepaway camp for the first time!

August 21 – Solar Eclipse: Joined a crowd in Arnold Arboretum to watch the sun (mostly) disappear.

August 27 – SoWa Tour BBF Guide of the Month: Researched, wrote, and lead a tour of this evolving South End neighborhood.

September 1-5 – Mount Desert Island: A magical weekend at Acadia National Park and environs.

November 22-26 – Thanksgiving: Another weekend in New York, featuring the Thanksgiving Day Parade a visit to Wave Hill, and a concert by the New York Philharmonic.

Five Questions with Besty Rosenblatt Rosso:  Did you know that I appeared on a podcast.

Just a note here to remind myself of a 20th and final memorable event that wouldn’t be prudent to publish publicly.

Previously:

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Books


Here’s my annual list of my ten favorite books read in the year.  As always, this is merely the best books I read this year and not necessarily books published in 2016.  For previous years see 2016201520142013201220112010200920082007 and 2006. You may also want to check out My Favorite Books of All Time or see Every Book I’ve Ever Read cataloged in Library Thing.

In alphabetical order:

And, here is every book I read this year with rankings.  (A) is for audiobook.

The books are rated on a scale from 1 to 5 stars with links to summary reviews.

Here’s a thumbnail of what the ratings mean:

  • 5 stars – all-time classic (I’m very stingy with these)
  • 4 stars – a particularly interesting, well-written, or important book
  • 3 stars – a good book from start to finish
  • 2 stars – not a good book on the whole but has some good parts
  • 1 star or less – basically a bad book with no redeeming values

January

February

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Songs


Here are 20 of my favorite songs of 2017. For previous year-end lists of previous years check out my lists for 20162015,  201420132012,  2011,  2010  and  2009.

In no particular order

“Blue Mountain Road” by Florist

“Memories are Now” by Jesca Hoop

“You Would Have to Lose Your Mind” by Barr Brothers

“Cherry Blossom: by ALA.NI 

“Drinkee” by Sofi Tukker

“Every Day’s the Weekend” by Alex Lahey

“Witness” by  Benjamin Booker (feat. Mavis Staples)

“I Give You Power” by Arcade Fire (feat. Mavis Staples)

“Quiet” by Milck 

“Work” by  Charlotte Day Wilson

“Familiar” by Agnes Obel

“Cryin’ in the Streets” by Zeshan B

“Venus Fly” by Grimes (feat. Janelle Monae) – technically this song is from 2015, but the video of this most important collaboration came out this year bringing due attention to the song.

“Hot to Trot” by  Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas

“Modafinil Blues” by Matthew Dear

“The Underside of Power” by Algiers 

“A Wall” by Downtown Boys

“Future Politics” by Austra

“Learning to Lose” by Margo Price (feat. Willie Nelson)

“Straight Boy” by Shamir

 

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Podcast Episodes


I’m trying something new here. If you read this site regularly, you know I’m obsessed with listening to podcasts. So I’m making a list of my favorite podcast episodes of 2017. But before that I’m going to list my 10 favorite podcasts, the ones that always fill me with delight when I see that they’ve downloaded into my podcatcher:

Okay, so here are some of the great episodes that you should make time to listen to:

And of course, my first and only appearance on a podcast:

2017 Year in Review: Favorite Albums


This has been a challenging year in music as there have been few things that have jumped out at me as being all-time classics, much less favorites for 2017.  To add to the struggle a lot of artists that I’ve counted on to produce great music put out new albums this year including Beck, Björk, Blitzen Trapper, Flaming Lips, Gorrillaz, The New Pornographers, Shamir, St. Vincent, and The xx.  What should’ve been a bumper crop of music was dissapointing, and while I would not say that any of these artists’ albums were bad, I believe that could have done better.  I don’t know, maybe I’m missing the great music of 2017, and if that is the case please direct to me to those great tunes ASAP.

Nevertheless, her are six albums from 2017 that I loved, with links to the original reviews.  Check them out!

ArtistRun the Jewels 
AlbumRun the Jewels 3  

ArtistAustra
Album:  Future Politics

ArtistPeter Mulvey
AlbumAre You Listening 

Artists:  Fleet Foxes
Album: Crack-Up 

ArtistAlgiers
AlbumThe Underside of Power 

ArtistDowntown Boys
AlbumCost of Living 

Previously:

Photopost: Battleship Cove


On a chilly day with light snow and battleship gray skies, my children and I kicked off the holiday break with a visit to Battleship Cove in Fall River, MA.  The museum his home to the World War II era US ships USS Massachusetts, USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., and the submarine USS Lionfish, as well as the Soviet/East German corvette Hiddensee, all afloat on the Taunton River.  Turns out that one child really enjoyed Battleship Cove and one adamantly did not so we did not get to explore it as thoroughly as we might have hoped.

 

 

 

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)


TitleStar Wars: The Last Jedi
Release Date: December 15, 2017
Director: Rian Johnson
Production Company: Lucasfilm Ltd./Walt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Summary/Review:

This will be a spoiler-filled review, so consider yourself warned if that kind of thing troubles you.

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The Last Jedi is a movie that that defies all expectations a Star Wars film, or action-adventure films in general, deliberately undermining genre tropes again and again. Whatever movie you expected to see after watching The Force Awakens, or what you imagined about what would happen to the Rebellion after defeating the Empire when you watched the original trilogy when you were younger, or what you may have read in the extended universe books, or even what you saw in the trailer for The Last Jedi, this is not the movie you were expecting.

This movie feels like a spiritual sequel to Rogue One, as again and again we see people sacrifice themselves to save the Resistance, yet those sacrifices end up being ineffective and it is an open question whether the Resistance can survive the loss of so many lives. We see the Resistance begin with a large fleet and finish with just a handful of people aboard the Millennium Falcon. The First Order suffers heavy casualties too – losing Supreme Leader Snoke, Captain Phasma, and at least two enormous ships – but they seem unaffected, relentlessly continuing pursuit under the monomaniacal leadership of Kylo Ren.

The movie is steeped in failure.  Rey fails to convince Luke to join the Resistance.  Rey fails to convert Kylo Ren and Kylo Ren fails to convert Rey.  Vice Admiral Holdo, after being vindicated for her plan to rescue the fleet against the Poe’s mutiny, sees that plan fail too due to DJ’s treachery.  One of the major subplots of The Last Jedi, where Finn and Rose go to the casino at Canto Blight to get a codebreaker (and end up with DJ) turns out to be a MacGuffin ending in complete failure.  Albeit, the whole sequence is valuable because I live Finn and Rose and their blossoming friendship, and the scenes at Canto Blight introduce a part of the Star Wars galaxy we’ve never seen before, the disgusting inequality at the root of all these wars.  As Yoda says, “The greatest teacher, failure is.”

While much of the ongoing saga of Star Wars is steeped in the greatness of the Jedi, and the Skywalker family in particular, as wielders of the force, this film challenges the notion of the great hero entirely. Kylo Ren bluntly informs Rey that she doesn’t come from anyone special, her parents were ordinary people, and I believe he’s telling the truth.  The most egregious flaw of The Phantom Menace, that certain people have midichlorians that make them more sensitive to the Force, is condemned as a heresy against the Force which flows throw all living beings.  Once again, Rogue One is the model here.  Success does not come from waiting for a great hero but by ordinary people working together. Even when Luke Skywalker finally makes his stand against Kylo Ren and the First Order forces, it is not the heroic moment we’re expecting. But it’s the heroic moment we need, as does the Resistance.  Rose Tico says it best “This is how we’ll win. Not fighting what we hate … saving what we love.”

If there’s one major flaw to this movie is that it runs too long.  Not that there’s anything I could suggest that could be cut out. It almost feels as if this story could be made into an entire tv series, expanding on the great characters and deep themes.

I’ll have to see The Last Jedi again – preferable when I’m not with children who need to visit the bathroom frequently – but I think this a movie that will reward repeat viewings.  I like a movie that makes me think, and The Last Jedi is an action-adventure space opera that deeply considers the realities of the human condition in an imaginary galaxy far, far away.  That, for me, is filmmaking that puts The Last Jedi among the best of Star Wars movies and the best of films.

Some stray things I loved/admired from The Last Jedi:

  • Chewbacca becoming the perfect father figure for Rey
  • Admiral Ackbar died tragically as result of … a trap
  • Rose Tico is no one’s depiction of an action hero, but she’s awesome in every way
  • R2-D2 guilt-tripping Luke with the old hologram of Leia
  • Sassy dead Yoda living up his afterlife by teasing Luke for his dramatics
  • Laura Dern as Admiral Hold is fascinating in a relatively brief appearance. In of the great ways that The Last Jedi undermines our expectations, we identify with the “hero” Poe in his mutiny against what we’re lead to believe is Holdo as Captain Queeg, only to realize with Poe that she was right all along
  • Another great misdirection is Supreme Commander Snoke, built up to be the next big bad, but ending up to be a deformed creature lounging in a Hugh Hefner robe who gets cut down in his arrogance.
  • Seeing Gwendolyn Christie’s blue eye through the crack of Captain Phasma’s helmet just once before she plummeted to her death
  • The allusion to Hardware Wars. Just beautiful
  • There’s a lot of humor in this film that is not distracting but builds on the movies themes and characterization (unlike the cheap gags in the prequel trilogy)
  • Bite me, porg haters.  They’re hardly in the movie at all, and dammit they’re cute!
  • So many stunning visuals – Paige Tico in the bomber, Skellig Michael, Snoke’s chamber, the salt planet Crait
  • Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac all impressed in The Force Awakens and really knock it out of the park in The Last Jedi. One disappointment is that there’s very little time with Rey and Finn or Finn and Poe on screen together.  I hope the three of them get to team up for the next film
  • Luke and Leia’s reunion.  Perfect played and filmed.  It breaks my heart that neither Luke nor Leia will be in the next film (albeit Mark Hamill may return as a force ghost).
  • I don’t envy the filmmakers having to find someway to explain Leia’s absence in the next film. There doesn’t seem to be any good options that will be respectful to Carrie Fisher and Leia’s character.

Rating: ****1/2

Related posts:

 

Podcasts of the Week Ending December 23


The final Podcasts of the Week post is all Christmas content.

StoryCorps :: Cynical Santa

This story is from 1990 and it’s hard to imagine that there could be a Cynical Santa in today’s New York, at least at Rockefeller Center.

Tiny Desk :: Hanson for the Holidays

Hanson is a band of brothers who had big pop hits in the 1990s and I hadn’t thought of them since, but I heard this concert of Christmas music and … I liked it.

Tiny Desk :: The Big Tiny Desk Holiday Special

If Hanson wasn’t enough, here’s a collection of holiday music concerts from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Polyphonic Spree, and Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, among others.

Irish and Celtic Music Podcast :: Joy on Your Celtic Christmas Day

If you prefer your holiday music with a Celtic flair.

Sound Opinions :: The Sound Opinions Holiday Spectacular 2017

A collection of arcane holiday tunes collected by Andy Cirzan called Snowbound Soliloquies.

#open


For Advent this year I’m participating in the #AdventWord project from Anglican Communion’s Global Advent Calendar with a daily meditation on the word for the day.

If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. – James 2:15-17

Open our hearts.

Open our minds.

Open our homes.

Open our wallets.

Song of the Week: “It’s Xmas (and Everyone is Miserable) by The Dirty Sidewalks


The seasonally appropriate final song of the week for 2017 is “It’s Xmas (and Everyone is Miserable” by The Dirty Sidewalks.  Hey, part of a healthy holiday season is acknowledging your feelings, even the dark ones.

Merry Christmas to all, even if you’re miserable.