Blogging from A to Z Challenge 2018: Theme Reveal #atozchallenge


For the third consecutive year I will be participating in the Blogging A to Z Challenge in April. The basic gist is to post something every day of the month (excepting most Sundays, but this year it includes April 1st, fool!), on something starting on each letter in the alphabet in alphabetical order.

It’s a lot of fun, and if you have a blog you should consider participating. You can sign up here: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2018/03/master-list-sign-ups.html  More information on WordPress, Twitter, and Facebook.

In 2016, I documented my home neighborhood of Jamaica Plain in Boston in JP A to Z.

Last year, I practiced using my new camera by taking an original photograph every day (yes, I failed to post a Z).

And now my theme for 2018.  I like watching documentary movies.  I have a long Netflix queue full of documentary movies.  So I’m going to watch and review a documentary every month of the challenge.  From A to Z.

 

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Science Fiction Double Feature – Vanity Edition


Last night I watched on Netflix an episode of Star Trek and an episode of The Twilight Zone back to back.  The thread that connected these two tv shows together is their guest actor, a man who shares my name, Liam Sullivan.  Despite my best efforts, he is probably the most famous Liam Sullivan of all time, known for his many appearances on television shows, particularly as a villain (albeit I’d argue he plays a sympathetic character in The Twilight Zone episode).

Sullivan is quoted as saying about his villainous roles:

“Playing truly evil people is a great way to release tension and anger and disgust with humanity. Show bad people what they really look and act like and maybe they’ll recognize themselves and change. Who knows?”

I remember seeing Liam Sullivan’s name in the credits of tv shows when I was growing up and it was a treat.  Unlike the present day when the name Liam is a frequent top ten baby name for boys, it was an unusual name outside of Ireland in the 1970s and 80s.  It’s all the more remarkable that the actor Liam Sullivan was born and named in Illinois in 1923.

In the Star Trek episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” (1968), Sullivan plays Parmen, an immortal with telekinetic powers who cruelly bullies and torments the crew of the Enterprise.  This is third season Star Trek episode so you have to look past some plot and dialogue absurdities to appreciate the actually very strong acting performances put in by both the series’ regulars and guest actors like Sullivan and Michael Dunn.  This episode is famous for the interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lieutenant Uhura.  The kiss is actually forced by Parmen in his efforts to humiliate the crew, so hey, someone named Liam Sullivan is behind one of the most famous moments in television history.

The Twilight Zone episode “The Silence” is a rare instance of the show not featuring a supernatural or extraterrestrial element, and is in fact based on an Anton Chekov story called “The Bet.”  Sullivan plays Jamie Tennyson, a young member of a gentleman’s club who talks constantly much to the irritation Colonel Archie Taylor (Franchot Tone).  Sullivan appears much younger in this show although it’s only 7 years earlier than Star Trek, and appropriately, is ruggedly handsome.  Taylor proposes a wager that Tennyson must remain silent for twelve months under observation of club members, and should he do so would win half a million dollars.  Since Sullivan doesn’t speak for much of the episode, it is remarkable how well he conveys emotions through facial expressions and movements.  This is especially true when Taylor begins to realize he may lose the bet and starts to cruelly torment Tennyson. The episode has a twist at the end as you might expect, one which I’m not sure would actually work physically, but shocking all the same.

So that’s the story of my name in lights.  Who is the most famous person that shares your name with you?  Do you feel any kinship with them?

Related post: People Who Are Not Me

Massachusetts 351


I’ve lived in Massachusetts for nearly 19 years (and in a bordering state for 15 years when I was younger), but despite it being a small state I feel that I have not seen much of Massachusetts.  I am the stereotype of the Boston urbanite who rarely ventures outside the confines of the Rt. 128 beltway and certainly never go Westa Wistah.

There are 351 cities and towns in the Bay State and with a handy list on Wikipedia, I was able to determine how many of them I’ve visited.  I left out any place I merely passed through – whether in a car, bus, train, or bike – and focus on the places I have a concrete memory of visiting.

In alphabetical order, here’s the list:

Amherst
Aquinnah
Arlington
Belchertown
Belmont
Beverly
Boston
Braintree
Brookline
Cambridge
Canton
Carver
Chelsea
Chilmark
Concord
Danvers
Dedham
Eastham
Edgartown
Essex
Everett
Falmouth
Foxborough
Framingham
Gloucester
Haverhill
Hingham
Holyoke
Hull
Ipswich
Kingston
Lexington
Lincoln
Littleton
Lowell
Malden
Manchester-by-the-Sea
Marblehead
Marlborough
Maynard
Medford
Melrose
Nantucket
Natick
Needham
New Bedford
Newburyport
Newton
North Andover
North Reading
Northampton
Norwood
Oak Bluffs
Peabody
Plymouth
Provincetown
Quincy
Reading
Revere
Rockport
Salem
Sharon
Shelburne
Somerville
Southborough
Stockbridge
Stoneham
Stoughton
Sturbridge
Tisbury
Topsfield
Wakefield
Waltham
Watertown
Wayland
Wellesley
West Tisbury
Westford
Weston
Westwood
Wilmington
Winchester
Woburn
Worcester

So there we go, 84 Massachusetts’ cities and towns, about a quarter of the total of 351.  What I’m going to do is try to make an effort to visit all 351 municipalities, take a picture of myself by a local landmark, and post it here.  I don’t know how long this will take (and I’m not even sure how one gets to Gosnold, the smallest community in Massachusetts), but I’ll do my best.

Edit on 1/11/2016: Thinking of some places I’ve been on outdoor adventures in western Massachusetts and realizing I can add a few more municipalities to the list.

Charlemont (Mohawk Trail State Forest)
Lenox (Tanglewood Music Center)
Mt. Washington (Bash Bish Falls)

There are probably others that I will add if I remember them, but this brings the list to 87!

Do you live in Massachusetts?  Tell me about your city or town? What local place should I not miss when I come to visit?

Playlist of Modern Christmas Music


Since Thanksgiving my children have enjoyed listening to an endless stream of Christmas music on the Boston radio station Magic 106.7.  I’ve been surprised that despite a 24/7 Christmas music format that the playlist of Magic 106.7 seems extremely limited.  They do not play any overtly religious songs which is not surprising as they would want to appeal to the largest audience possible.  And as Magic 106.7 has a pop “adult contemporary” radio format, I would not expect them to play any folk, traditional, or foreign language tracks either.

Nevertheless, there is a still a large body of popular Christmas music that they seem to ignore.  Tune in for an hour, or even half-an-hour and you are certain to hear some rendition of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” “Sleigh Ride,” and “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as well as Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”

I decided I would use Rdio to make a playlist of Christmas songs to see how many I could get without repeating.  I decided to set the following guidelines. I would only select “modern” Christmas and winter-themed songs, that is ones that were written to be recorded and sold to the public (roughly the 1930s to the present).  I also chose the earliest recording of the song I could find as many have obviously been recorded numerous times by multiple artists.  So far I have 105 songs, more than 5 1/2 hours of Christmas music without repeating a song, and this doesn’t even include modern interpretations of traditional Christmas carols from the 19th-century and earlier.

Check out the playlist on Rdio.  If you use Rdio, feel free to add additional tracks, and if not please feel free to make suggestions in the comments on this post.

http://rd.io/x/Rl5fvL0v6y1i/

Songs that qualify for the playlist, but are not available through Rdio:

  • “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues with Kirsty MacColl
  • “Do They Know It’s Christmas” by Band Aid
  • “Three Kings” by Robbie O’Connell
  • “Merry Xmas Everybody” by Slade
  • “Christmas Time” by Bryan Adams

Songs that qualify for the playlist, but I cannot bear to listen to:

  • “Wonderful Christmastime” by Paul McCartney
  • “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” by Elmo & Patsy

The complete playlist:

Name Artist
‘Zat You, Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong & The Commanders
(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays (1954 Version) Perry Como
2000 Miles Pretenders
A Child Is Born Oscar Peterson
A Holly Jolly Christmas Burl Ives
Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
All I Want for Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) Spike Jones
Anderson: Sleigh Ride The Boston Pops Orchestra, Arthur Fiedler *
Another Lonely Christmas Prince
Auld Lang Syne Guy Lombardo
Baby, It’s Cold Outside (78rpm Version) Dinah Shore
Back Door Santa Clarence Carter
Blue Christmas Ernest Tubb
Boogie Woogie Santa Claus Mabel Scott
Carol of the Drum Trapp Family Singers
Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) Darlene Love
Christmas Canon Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Christmas In Heaven (Monty Python Sings) Monty Python
Christmas in Hollis RUN-DMC
Christmas in Killarney Dennis Day
Christmas In New Orleans Louis Armstrong
Christmas In The Trenches John McCutcheon
Christmas Is Run-D.M.C.
Christmas Island The Andrews Sisters
Christmas Medley The Swingle Singers
Christmas Rappin’ Kurtis Blow
Christmas Song Dave Matthews Band
Christmas Time Is Here (Vocal – Album Version) Vince Guaraldi Trio
Christmas Will Soon Be Here John Gaudet & The Laurels
Christmas Wrapping The Waitresses
Do You Hear What I Hear? The Harry Simeone Chorale
Dominick the Donkey Lou Monte
Donde Esta Santa Claus? Augie Rios
Father Christmas The Kinks
Feliz Navidad José Feliciano
Frosty the Snowman (78rpm Version) Gene Autry
Gee Whiz, Its Christmas Carla Thomas
Give Love On Christmas Day (Group A Cappella Version) The Jackson 5
Happy Holiday Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) (2010 Digital Remaster) John Lennon
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Judy Garland
Here Comes Santa Claus (Right down Santa Claus Lane) Gene Autry
I Believe In Father Christmas (Album Version) Emerson, Lake & Palmer
I Don’t Intend To Spend Christmas Without You The Garlands
I Heard the Bells On Christmas Day Fred Waring And His Pennsylvanians
I Just Can’t Wait Till Christmas Teresa Brewer
I Pray On Christmas (Album Version) Harry Connick, Jr.
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus Jimmy Boyd
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas Gayla Peevey
I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday Wizzard
I’ll Be Home For Christmas Bing Crosby
I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm Dick Powell
If It Doesn’t Snow On Christmas Day (Album Version) Gene Autry
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas Perry Como
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year Andy Williams
Jingle Bell Rock Bobby Helms
Just Like Christmas Low
Last Christmas (Single Version) Wham!
Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Vaughn Monroe
Little Saint Nick The Beach Boys
Lord Of The Dance The Christmas Revels
Lumberjack Christmas / No One Can Save You From Christmases Past Sufjan Stevens
Marshmallow World Dean Martin **
Mary’s Boy Child (Remastered) Harry Belafonte
Mele Kalikimaka (Merry Christmas) Bing Crosby
Merry Christmas Baby Charles Brown, Johnny Moore, Eddie Williams
Merry Christmas Everyone (Remastered) Shakin’ Stevens
Merry Christmas from the Family Robert Earl Keen
No More Christmas Blues The Vacant Lots
Nuttin’ for Christmas Art Mooney Orchestra
Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy (Medley) (2006 Digital Remaster) Bing Crosby
Percy, The Puny Poinsettia (Album Version) Elmo & Patsy
Please Come Home for Christmas Charles Brown
River Joni Mitchell
Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree Brenda Lee
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Gene Autry
Run Rudolph Run Chuck Berry
Santa Baby Eartha Kitt
Santa Claus The Fuzztones
Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto James Brown
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Harry Reser & His Orchestra
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town The Smothers Brothers
Silver Bells Bob Hope
Sleigh Ride Andrews Sisters *
Snoopy’s Christmas The Royal Guardsmen
Someday At Christmas Stevie Wonder
Step Into Christmas Elton John
Suzy Snowflake Rosemary Clooney
Suzy Snowflake Rosemary Clooney
Swiss Christmas The Smothers Brothers
The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) (1999 – Remaster) Alvin and The Chipmunks
The Christians and The Pagans Dar Williams
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You) Nat King Cole Trio
The Closest I Can Get Sunturns
The Secret Of Christmas Ella Fitzgerald **
The Shepherd’s Carol (vocal by Kip Ledger) Charlene Lockwood
This Christmas Donny Hathaway
Twinkle (Little Christmas Lights) JD McPherson
We Need A Little Christmas Angela Lansbury (And Cast)
What Christmas Means To Me Stevie Wonder
White Christmas Bing Crosby
Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas The Staple Singers
Winter Song Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson
Winter Wonderland (feat. Joey Nash) Richard Himber and his Orchestra
Yes, There Is a Santa Claus Betty Madigan
You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch Thurl Ravenscroft

Footnotes:

* The only song repeated in this playlist is “Sleigh Ride.”  First there is the iconic orchestral rendition by The Boston Pops.  The Andrews Sisters provided one of the early vocal recordings with the song’s lyrics.

** Bing Crosby is credited as the first person to record “Marshmallow World” and “The Secret of Christmas,” but as this playlist was already heavy with Crosby’s crooning, I chose the Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald versions of these songs respectively.

Something Cool: Visited States Map Generator


The Visited States Maps Generator at the Defocus Blog allows you to create a map of US states (and Canadian provinces if you chose) that you’ve visited, color-coded by the amount of time and commitment you’ve given to each place.

Here’s the key:

Red means I’ve just passed through, maybe seen a thing or two.

Amber means I’ve at least slept there and seen a few things. I have a first-hand idea of what the state is like.

Blue means I’ve spent a good amount of time in that state.

Green means I’ve spent a lot of time in that state, weeks at a time on multiple visits – or lived there.

Here’s my map:

vsm-5dbdf88bbe40d5edf09237c8f10aedcb

I made the decision not to include states where I only changed planes at the airport (for me that would be Minnesota and Texas).  I also think that there should be a distinctive color for  states one has lived in compared to states that one has just visited a lot.  The states I’ve resided in are New Jersey, Connecticut, Virginia, and Massachusetts.  I’ve also included New York, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire in the green category because I’ve traveled to those states frequently (the first two primarily due to family living there).

What does your map look like?  Go to http://www.defocus.net/visitedstates/ and find out.

Photopost: Wake Up The Earth 2013


Spring descended on Jamaica Plain this past weekend with the annual Wake Up the Earth Festival presented by Spontaneous Celebrations. This was the 35th annual festival, an event that grew out of the “highway revolt” of the 1960s & 70s when local activists opposed the construction of highway infrastructure in Jamaica Plain & Roxbury, leading to the creation of the Southwest Corridor as a system of train lines, bike paths, and parks that we enjoy today. Ironically, some people who want to create new prioritized highway infrastructure for cars marched in this year’s parade which I guess shows that this festival takes all kinds.  The festival itself was home to many tents of activists of many causes, food, games, and musical performances.  My family and I sang a few songs with the intergenerational chorus SingPositive, JP in preparation for our concert on May 19th.  We also danced to Maaak Pelletier’s jam band the Mystical Misfits as they played Grateful Dead classics.  Finally, the potato sack slide down the hillside was great fun for everyone.

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A peace sign and yin yang grow out of the hillside at Jamaica Pond’s Sugar Bowl.
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Peace and flowers!
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The Brendan Behan quote seems appropriate to the occassion.
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Spanish banner for the festival.
DSCN1688
Here comes the parade.
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The stilt walkers always impress.
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I’m pretty sure this woman participates every year.
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The theme of the year is snakes and these folks won the Best Family Costume award.
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Hula hooping is another big highlight of the festival.
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Mobile percussion unit.
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The wolf and the lamb dance in the street.
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A rocking marching band and dancing stilt walker.

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Scholars from my son’s school march.
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Getting brassy.
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The Mystical Misfits lead the dance.

More photos from the parade and festival on Universal Hub and JP Patch.

Previously:

Photopost: Wake Up the Earth 2012


Some photos from back on May 5th when Spontaneous Celebrations presented its annual Wake Up the Earth Festival in Jamaica Plain. This year we not only watched the parade but my son and I also participated in the festival, performing with Sing Positive JP.

Here’s a sample of our chorus’ singing:

Related Posts:

Wake Up the Earth


Today, Jamaica Plain woke up the earth at the annual festival sponsored by Spontaneous Celebrations.  I took my son to soccer practice this morning and afterward we biked to Centre St to watch the parade.  Stilt-walkers, bicyclists, drummers, dancers and lots of bunnies starred in the procession. After the  parade passed, my son wanted to follow on our bike.  I got a bit frustrated with the stop & go and having to put my foot down all the time so I took a shortcut to Stony Brook.  There we were able to watch the parade arrive at the festival where all the participants formed a circle with much rhythmic drumming and swaying.  The stilt-walkers and puppets were a little scary for Peter but it was cool to feel the drumbeats reverberating in the soil.  With a storm and naptime approaching we pedaled home but enjoyed a fun morning.

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Related Posts:

Retropost: Confessions of a St. Patrick’s Day Curmudgeon


In honor of this special day let’s revisit one of my favorite posts.

While most kids look forward to Christmas, when I was a child, St. Patrick’s Day (along with Thanksgiving) was one of my favorite days of the year.  It was a big day in my family usually involving going to the parade in New York and seeing family and friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Then there was the music, the stories of St. Patrick, the history of Ireland and the Irish in America.  Growing up in a town where the dominant population was Ital … Read More

Related Posts:

Wake Up The Earth Parade


This morning we attended the parade for Jamaica Plain’s annual Wake Up The Earth Festival.   The fun started at Ferris Wheels bike shop where I brought my bike for a tune-up and while there a woman dressed as a chicken came in to get air for her bike tires.  Only in JP.

The parade was great fun.  We saw puppets, stilt-walkers, cute kids in strollers, dancers, marching bands, political activists, cute kids in costumes, and yes, chickens on bicycles.  Peter picked up some good loot: a water bottle from the Mosaic School and a handmade magic wand (made from a pipette).

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One can’t get the true sense of the Wake Up The Earth Festival without sounds and action, so here are a few short videos too.

Dancing Kids:

Dancing Man on Stilts:

Marching band:

It was fun Waking Up The Earth, and we didn’t even have to give her a Box of Joe from Dunkin’ Donuts.  Now it’s time for a good nap.

PreviouslyWake Up The Earth 2009