Category Archives: city

The Boston Obstacle Course

It’s like our very own Winter Olympics! And the prize is More Snow.

Obstacle #1: Walk without tripping or slipping.

caution loose bricks in sidewalk

missing bricks from sidewalk

Obstacle #2: Figure out when other obstacle course participants (walking, biking, or driving) are on the other side of a snowbank from you. Dodge them to avoid a collision, without tripping and falling.

roadside snowbank

Obstacle #3: Avoid deadly icicles.

very big icicles

Obstacle #4: Guess the object under the snow. Be specific; what kind of car is it?

cars under snow

Obstacle #5: Get to work on time via public transit. (To my knowledge no one has yet achieved this final and most difficult obstacle, but the efforts put forth to accomplish it have been, may I say, Olympian.)

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Watercolors and Quilts at the Boston MFA

I had never been a member of any museum until this year, but I did a small amount of math and figured that it would be worth it to become a member of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts if I visited the museum at least three times a year. I’ve already been twice and it’s only April, so I’m glad I joined, though I could do with less junk mail.

In January I saw the John Singer Sargent Watercolors exhibit just before it closed, and it was absolutely fantastic. I was familiar with his oil paintings of course but had no idea he’d painted so many watercolors as well (or painted so much, period. The man was a workhorse). A few of my favorite paintings from the exhibit are included in the preview slideshowVenice: Under the Rialto Bridge, Mountain Fire, and Pomegranates. I also learned in the exhibit that Sargent invented the word Intertwingles (n.) for the interchangeable, entwined forms of the female subjects of his paintings (usually his sister and niece).

This month, my mom and I went to the “Quilts and Color” exhibit. Though I plan to go back and see the Impressionism exhibit that we didn’t have time for, the quilts were really cool. It raised my feminist hackles a bit to see the names of the (male) collectors prominently, while many of the names of the (female) quilters had been lost or forgotten, but their quilts were definitely neat to look at. Here are a few I especially liked, from the more traditional to the Escher-esque:

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These photos don’t show the incredible detail of the quilts, the tiny pieces and intricate stitches; they must have taken ages to make. Then again, you couldn’t just go buy blankets at Bed, Bath, & Beyond, and you couldn’t waste time on TV or the Internet because they hadn’t been invented yet. Instead, they did something useful and beautiful.

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I wonder if the quilter gave herself headaches making this one.

Magic Eye before Magic Eye was a thing.

Magic Eye before Magic Eye was a thing.

 

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I forget the name for this type of quilt (above), but it’s the kind that’s economical because it uses all the scraps it creates. And the blue is called “Lancaster blue.”

Double Wedding Ring Quilt, c. 1940

Double Wedding Ring Quilt, c. 1940

For all the beautifully curated exhibits, the impressive permanent collection, and the excellent events (Neil Gaiman!), the thing that delights me most at the MFA is this:

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Chihuly’s “Lime Green Icicle Tower” (is that its official name? That’s what it’s called in the press release [PDF]) is 42 feet high and weighs 10,000 pounds. Originally installed for the exhibit “Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass,” and designed especially for the space, it was acquired by the museum thanks to patron contributions. And yes, that’s a lot of money to spend on art when not everyone in the world has access to clean drinking water, but…

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…it’s pretty gorgeous.

 

 

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Grown-Ups Night at the Boston Children’s Museum

Grown-Ups Night at the Boston Children’s Museum was a ton of fun. It was crowded with the inner children of mostly 20- or 30-something “grown-ups.” We played with golf balls and bubbles, saw animals, played with shapes, and climbed up and down the giant climby-toy. Why aren’t there playgrounds for grown-ups?

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How many ways can you move like a turtle?

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Handwriting Etch-A-Sketches in the kindergarten room

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Three-story awesome fun play climbing structure

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Boston skyline at night

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Top of the Hub

Restaurant Week is a great invention. (Invention? Tradition? Custom? Thing.) This year we took advantage of lunch offerings as well as dinner, and went to the Top of the Hub.

There’s a great view of Boston and all of its wonderful, nonsensical zig-zagginess. We lucked out and got a clear sunny day.

I was also surprised by how good the food was. I figured it would be kind of touristy, and they might not bother with making great food since they had a great location, but I was, thankfully, wrong.

No photos of soup/salad or main course, but here is Ben’s dessert: lime cheesecake with blood orange sauce.

And here’s mine, maple creme brulee.

So delicious. Looking forward to going back!

 

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Sunday on the Charles

Sunday was a beautiful day that we spent wandering around, looking at people’s gardens and walking along the Charles River.

A neighbor’s gorgeous red tulips.

Daffodils growing on the banks of the Charles River.

Boats on the Charles.

What I’m reading: Born Digital, John Palfrey
What I’m listening to: All This Useless Beauty, Elvis Costello; Plans, Death Cab for Cutie; Songs Without Words, Mendelssohn; Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, Mozart

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The Gravitation-Electricity Problem

Last weekend I visited the Morgan Library in New York. I never got around to going when I lived there, but I’m glad I finally went: it’s book nerd heaven. (Except that you can’t actually touch any of the books. Being trapped there forever would be book nerd hell.) It’s a library/museum where you can see everything you want to and still get through in under two hours, which is nice for those with a lower wander-around-and-look-at-stuff tolerance.

There was a neat Shakespeare exhibit with early portraits and a First Folio(!), and there was a Diary exhibit as well, which is part of the reason I was so keen to go. Many famous literary diaries are on display, from Einstein to Viriginia Woolf to E.B. White (which, in case you’re a little late to the game on this one, as I was, is not only the author of Stuart Little but is also the “White” in Strunk & White).

This is part of the transcript of an interview with White. He says, “The Journals date from about 1917 to about 1930, with a few entries of more recent date. They occupy two-thirds of a whiskey carton. How many words that would be I have no idea, but it would be an awful lot.”

It should be noted that neither the Standard nor the Metric system uses whiskey cartons as a unit of measurement, and one has to wonder: why not?

This plaque was in front of a page of Einstein’s journal. That particular page was entirely equations, but apparently on another page, he wrote, “I’ve been thinking about the gravitation-electricity problem again.” Which is, of course, exactly what I’d just written in my own journal the day before!

No, not really.

Slightly less highbrow but much more accessible to the public,the Brooklyn Public Library is getting some nice publicity from the clothing store Brooklyn Industries. I don’t know who worked out this partnership, but I am definitely in favor of “I love my public library” t-shirts.

BPL is also the Boston Public Library, so this is a multipurpose garment, unlike that Sox and Yankees gear. Go back and forth between New York and Boston with total anonymity! Library Spies Anonymous. Yup.

What I’m reading: Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl; Watchmen, Alan Moore
What I’m listening to: The Saints Go Archin’ In, compiled by Ben Apatoff

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Lincoln Center at night

Before taking off for California, I stopped in New York, because (a) that’s where the flight was taking off from, and (b) a couple of dear friends/old roommates and I have a tradition of going to see the Nutcracker at the Lincoln Center. It’s almost exactly the same every year, and we sit ridiculously high up in the nosebleed seats, and yet…we keep going. (And vowing that one of these years we’ll be sitting in the good seats. Or at least second or third ring.) What can I say? We find the Candy Canes irresistible.

No pictures of the ballet itself, of course (strictly verboten!), but there aren’t rules (that I know of) against taking pictures of the tree, or the chandelier(s), or the fountain.

And there are definitely no rules against taking pictures of the moon.

A few days later, on Christmas, I went to see the movie Black Swan, which is also about ballet, and a great deal of it takes place at Lincoln Center. The Nutcracker is as shiny-happy, feel-good (minus the bit about the many-headed Mouse King), and Christmasy as Black Swan is dark and unpredictable; it makes a lot of sense that director of Black Swan also directed Requiem for a Dream. Unlike many movies billed as “psychological thrillers,” however, this one was not all full of plot holes, though it did leave some elements (what is real, what is in the character’s head) up to audience interpretation. Beautiful, and incredibly well-acted – but not a sugarplum to be found.

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