TV Review: The Race Underground (2017)


Title The Race Underground
Release Date: 31 January 2017
Director: Michael Rossi
Summary/Review:

The American Experience documentary adapts a portion of the book by Doug Most relating to Boston’s effort to create America’s first subway.  As a Boston partisan myself, why not leave out the portion of the book about New York City, even if they built a far more extensive subway system very swiftly after Boston’s first tunnel opened?  Kidding aside, it is a dramatic figure focusing on key figures such as Frank J. Sprague, who invented the electric trolley car, and Henry Melville Whitney, who consolidated the trolley lines into the West End Street Railway Company and persuaded city officials to approve the first tunnel.  There are challenges along the way including negative popular opinion, graves of Revolutionary War era soldiers, and an explosion, but the subway is completed and convinces the doubters.  The documentary is well-illustrated with photographs and vintage film, and is a delight to watch.
Rating: ***

 

Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders


Another week, another protest, although it feels as if I should be marching in a demonstration daily.

This time is was the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Massachusetts’ Protest Against the Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders in Boston’s Copley Square.

Here on the steps of Boston’s most architecturally renown Christian church, Massachusetts’ political leaders and religious leaders of different faith traditions (including my friend Reverend Laura Everett) spoke of our promise to love and defend our Muslim neighbors and welcome immigrants and refugees of all backgrounds.

This all happened steps away from where two immigrant brothers detonated bombs that murdered three and wounded hundreds, purportedly in the defense of Islam.  The 25,000 people who marched today know that banning Muslims and rejecting refugees does nothing to protect us from attacks like the one on Boylston Street, and if anything further fan the flames of hatred.

“Let’s be clear: Donald Trump’s order has nothing to do with security. Little girls who flee murderers are not a threat to the United States. Elderly grandparents in airports are not a threat to the United States.

“No, this order is not about terrorist threats. This order is about religious tests, and the United States does not impose religious tests—period.” – Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Photos from the Boston Women’s March for America


Last Saturday, with my family, church community, numerous friends I met along the way, and around 125,000 other people, I participated in Boston Women’s March for America.

I’ve been First Night and the Fourth of July celebrations in Boston.

I’ve been to the Boston Marathon and Red Sox victory parades.

And I’ve never seen that many people in the same place.

Estimates place attendance around 125,000 people. We were in the back of the crown on Boston Common, and couldn’t hear much of anything from the politicians who addressed the crowd. Once the march began, it was more of a shuffle as everyone was stuck shoulder and shoulder, and could only move an inch at a time.

But none of that mattered because this was also the friendliest crowd I’ve ever seen in Boston too. I mean, Boston is a grumpy place and Bostonians generally don’t react well to sharing their personal space with others.

But on this day we filled the Common and overflowed into surrounding streets. It was awe-inspiring. And while every person had a different sign, a different reason for showing up for the march, I’ve never felt such unity.

Upcoming Protests and Rallies in Boston Area


Here’s a list of gatherings in the Boston area where you can make your voice heard on a variety of issues at risk in our current political environment. Please share the list and attend as many events as you can.

Saturday, January 14th:

Sunday, January 15th:

Monday, January 16th:

Thursday, January 19th

Friday, January 20th

Saturday, January 21st

If you know of any events not listed, let me know and I will update.

Also call or write your members of Congress and Massachusetts state government on the issues that matter to you.

The “We’re His Problem Now” Calling Sheet provides tips, scripts, contact information, and calls to action.

Harpoon UFO Pumpkin


Beer: UFO Pumpkin
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: Can
Rating:  **** (8.4 of 10)
Comments:

I am fond of Harpoons UnFiltered Offering (UFO).  I am fond of spicy pumpkin beers.  So opening this can of delight made my autumn, beer wise.  It’s a beautiful orange beer with a foamy head.  The aroma is full of spice which also infuses that flavor, balanced with sweet malts.  Delicious!

 

From the same brewery:

Beer Review: Harpoon Flannel Friday


Beer: Flannel Friday
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: 12 oz. bottle
Rating: ** (6.3 of 10)
Comments: Another autumnal beer, amber in color without much head or carbonation.  The beer offers floral and caramel notes and tastes mildly hoppy with some sweet citrus. Seems like an okay beer for the season, but it doesn’t excite me much.

From the same brewery:

Beer Review: Harpoon Octoberfest


Beer: Octoberfest
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: Can
Rating: ** (6.7 of 10)
Comments:

A copper-colored beer that pours out with light carbonation and a thick head.  It offers a toffee aroma and a flavor of roasted grain, caramel, and mild hops on the aftertaste.  The head evaporates swiftly making the beer look flat.  It’s drinkable, inoffensive.  A good beer for a crisp autumn day.

Note: I previously reviewed this beer on draft and had a more favorable opinion.

From the Same Brewer:

Vote NO on Massachusetts Question #2, UPDATE


Last night I witnessed the Boston School Committee vote unanimously in favor of a resolution to oppose the Massachusetts ballot question #2 which proposes to expand charter schools in the Commonwealth by 12 every year for perpetuity while offering no additional education funding.  The Boston School Committee is one of 164 school committees (and counting) across Massachusetts who have come out against question #2.  None has come out in favor of it.  While the BSC is appointed by the elected mayor of Boston, the rest of these school committees are directly elected representatives of the people.  They join other elected officials in city councils (including Boston), Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and even  Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a strong supporter of charter schools, in voicing the people’s’ opposition to this reckless initiative.  The point is not that charter schools are bad – their value for good or evil is not relevant to this debate – but that the fiscal irresponsibility of introducing 12 new schools each year with no funding will devastate municipal budgets and ultimately harm all children regardless of where they go to school. Please join them in standing up to the big-money interests campaigning for this measure by voting No on #2 on November 8th (and then getting together on November 9th to fight for better funding for all of our schools). Remember to tell your friends and if you want to get more involved you can volunteer with Save our Public Schools and/or make a donation.

Here’s an updated list of articles. opinion pieces, and videos expressing the urgency of voting No on 2. The first post listed is the best, concise summary if you’re short on time, but they’re all worth reading and sharing with your friends and on social media.


 

Photopost: Boston Harbor at Sunset


Last week, my daughter Kay was invited to go on a Pirate Cruise with her friends. My son Peter didn’t want to go on a pirate ship, but he did want to go on a boat, so we rode the ferry from Long Wharf to Charlestown and back. We even passed the pirate ship, and the surprisingly friendly crew just waved instead of board and pillaging the ferry.

Beer Review: Harpoon Trippel


Beer: Trippel
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: Bottle
Rating: ** (6.9 of 10)
Comments:  Harpoon’s version of a Belgian Trappist ale is golden, a bit cloudy, and effervescent.  The aroma is clove and musty grains.  The taste is a mix of bananas, apricots, and spices.  The beer leaves not lacing and the head evaporates quickly as does the bubbles.  It’s an okay beer, but seems like it should do more to live up to its Trappist heritage.

Harpoon Sticke Alt


Beer: Sticke Alt
Brewer: Harpoon Brewery
Source: Bottle
Rating: *** (7 of 10)
Comments: Another product of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series celebrates a recent trip of staff to Germany. This beer is a reddish-brown with lots of carbonation looking all the world like a root beer. The aroma is sweet too, chocolate with some fruity hops. The flavor is chocolate too, but the hop bitterness makes it a dark chocolate rather than a sweet chocolate. A nice treat.

Boston By Foot Jamaica Plain Walking Tour 7/21 @ 6 PM


Next week, Thursday July 21 at 6 pm, I will be one of the guides leading the Boston By Foot walking tour of Jamaica Plain. Yes, two of my favorite things – historic walking tours of Boston and my home neighborhood – will come together for ONE NIGHT ONLY!

Regular readers of this blog will remember the Jamaica Plain A to Z experiment, and many sites mentioned in the A to Z will be on the tour.  Here is the full description of the tour.

Jamaica Plain is one of the smaller neighborhoods of Boston, with an unusually big history. JP (as it usually called by locals) encompasses only 3.07 square miles but offers a tremendously rich and varied narrative.

Settled by Puritans in the 1630s and attracting wealthy Bostonians to build summer estates on the Jamaica Pond in the 18th century, JP was transformed in the 19th century by transportation. It became a “streetcar suburb” and earned the nickname “The Eden of America.”

Come along to see one of the oldest houses in Jamaica Plain used as a military hospital at the start of the American Revolution, a selection of very impressive Victorian houses, and part of the Emerald Necklace park system.

On this walking tour you will discover why Jamaica Plain is so well-loved by its residents.

Here is the remainder of my 2016 schedule.  I don’t expect to be adding any other tours this year, so if you want to see me, make sure to come out for one of these tours!

July 14: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

July 15:  Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

July 15:  Road to Revolution – 1pm

July 21:  Jamaica Plain – 6pm

July 28: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

August 4: The Dark Side of Boston  – 6pm

August 5: Boston by Little Feet – 10 am

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

September 9: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

September 26: Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

September 27: Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

September 28: Heart of the Freedom Trail – 11am

September 30: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

October 14: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

October 28:  The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

November 11: The Dark Side of Boston – 6pm

Beer Review: Beer Works Zwickel Stick


Beer: Zwickel Stick
Brewer: Beer Works
Source: Cask conditioned
Rating: *** (7.9 of 10)
Comments: This cask conditioned German unfiltered lager was on tap at the Boston Beer Works on Canal Street on Independence Day weekend.  It’s a honey colored beer with a finger-width head.  The aroma is mildly grainy and grassy, while the flavor is sweet up front and creamy, followed by a grain aftertaste.  The head remains for sometime and the beer has a sticky mouthfeel.  While this is a German-style beer it reminded me of being in an English pub.

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

Book Review: A History of Boston in 50 Artifacts by Joseph M. Bagley


Author: Joseph M. Bagley
TitleA History of Boston in 50 Artifacts
Publication Info:  Hanover ; London : University Press of New England, [2016]
Summary/Review:

A few years ago I listened to the brilliant podcast series A History of the World in 100 Objects presented by the BBC and the British Museum.  Joseph Bagley also listened to this podcast while he was at work and since he’s the city archaeologist of Boston it inspired him to write this book.  Bagley selected 50 objects and broke them down into 5 time periods: Native American Shawmut peninsula before colonization, 17th century Puritan Boston, 18th century growing Boston, Revolutionary Boston, and 200 years as an independent city from the 1780s-1980s.  The artifacts come from several significant archaeological sites including the Katherine Nanny Naylor Privy in the North End, the Three Cranes Tavern in Charlestown, Boston Common, the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill, along the Big Dig construction site, and Brook Farm in West Roxbury.  My favorite artifacts include weaving by the Massachusett, a bowling ball from a time when the Puritans forbade such things, vaginal syringes from Ann Street brothels, a Hebrew prayer-book (at the African Meeting House!), a Red Sox pin, and children’s toys.  Each artifact tells a story and from them Bagley draws a bigger picture of the people in that time and place.  Together the 50 artifacts tell an intriguing history of Boston and is a brilliant introduction to archaeology as well as advocating for the importance of archaeology programs in local governments.  This book is a must read, especially if you have any interest in archaeology or Boston history.

Favorite Passages:

“Archaeology, as we archaeologists describe it, is simply the study of the human past through the artifacts that people leave behind.  One important thing missing from this definition is a cutoff date – the coin dropped today is already part of the archaeological record.  When I encounter people who doubt this fact, I always remind them that archaeology is not about the stuff, it’s about the story.  We may know more about the story of daily life now because we live in the “now” and can see how many things interconnect in someone’s life, but over time, these connections break down and the meanings behind various aspects of the past are lost.” – p. 173

Recommended BooksRubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage by William L. Rathje, In Small Things Forgotten: An Archaeology of Early American Life by James Deetz, and Highway to the Past: The Archaeology of Boston’s Big Dig by Ann-Eliza H. Lewis

Rating: ****1/2

2016 Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon is Sunday, June 19th!


So, the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon was rained out on June 5th so we’ll be riding on the rain date of June 19th instead.  This means I have one more chance to encourage you to sign up and ride or to support the ride of me and my son Peter.  So far we’ve received $463 in donations for Bikes Not Bombs.  It would be awesome if we could get to $500 or more!

Here’s my original appeal:

On Sunday, June 5,  I will be riding with my 8-year-old son Peter in the Bikes Not Bombs Bike-A-Thon!   The Bike-A-Thon is always a fun event and it raise money for a terrific cause. This will be our fourth time participating.

Peter with his 2015 Bike-A-Thon finisher’s medal.

Based in Boston not far from where we live, Bikes Not Bombs serves two great purposes. First they collect and renovate bicycles to ship to developing communities in Central America, the Carribean and Africa. These bicycles help people meet crucial transportation needs with an easily maintained and environmentally friendly vehicle. Secondly, they help youth right here in Boston learn skills such as urban bike riding and bicycle repair that contributes to building their confidence and leadership skills. Please help us in our efforts by making a generous donation!

Here’s how you can help:

Read about our previous Bike-A-Thons in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

Photopost: A Visit to the MFA, part seven


Another visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. This time I focused on exploring the galleries of the Art of the Americas wing on Level G and Level 1 (I already saw the 20th century art on Level 3 on my first visit).  These galleries contain largely art of the United States from colonial times to the mid-1800s.  There is also a few good galleries of pre-Columbian art from Mesoamerica and a gallery of North American Native Peoples.  The latter gallery mixes art from centuries ago with 20th and 21st century works by Native American artists which makes for interesting comparison and contrast of art motifs over time, but I also wonder why they don’t display them in the 20th century or contemporary galleries like the European and United States works. The remainder of the galleries included a delightful mix of United States decorative arts, architecture, portraiture, landscapes, sculpture, and ship’s models arranged over time and sometimes thematically.  Then I visited the Japanese Garden outside, a beautiful and peaceful place to finish the day.

 

Previous visits: