Category Archives: events

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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Opening Day at King Richard’s Faire

As much as it kills me to spell “Faire” with that “e” on the end…

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…we spent a day at King Richard’s Faire in Carver, MA, and it was great. It would not have occurred to me to go on my own, but it turns out the husband is kind of a fan of Renaissance Fairs (though he didn’t dress up), and since we couldn’t get down to any of the big ones in PA this summer, he allowed that this was a decent substitute.

To my surprise, everything was set up in a forest rather than an open field, so we were able to be in the shade for most of the day. Also, the first person we met when we entered was a tall man who walked around with a pewter tankard on his head. He had superb balance – we saw him later in the day and it was still there (and he wasn’t using velcro, and we never saw him spill).

It was my first-ever Renaissance Fair and I enjoyed it. Because look:

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Jousting! For real! Well, not really for real, but there were knights (guys) in armor on horses, so even if the outcome was rigged and the falls were staged, it was still pretty cool to see.

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You don’t see this every day. Unless you’re in the habit of watching A Knight’s Tale on a daily basis.

In addition to the knights, there was a parade (including a girl on a pony with a unicorn horn affixed to its forehead, or as my friend said, “The happiest girl in the entire world”), games, people in costumes, turkey legs and mead for sale, bawdy wenches (seriously, don’t make eye contact unless you want to become part of the performance), a sad magician, and an impressive balancing act.

Oh! And baby tigers.

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Because why? Who knows! But when there are baby tigers, the “why” is less important that the “awww.” And the awe.

Here’s one about the pummel the other:

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So that was our day at the fair. It was a nice adventure, even if we didn’t see these guys or this guy.

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Never take me anywhere but here

A best friend and Riot Fest were my twin reasons for visiting Toronto this weekend, and it was a perfect trip.

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I spent most of Saturday and Sunday morning wandering the city with my best friend from college: we went to the beach, a bookstore, and out for amazing Thai food. Sunday afternoon I met up with another friend* at Riot Fest in (at?) Fort York. I skipped the first band but got there in time to see The Flatliners (above), a band I hadn’t heard of before I saw the lineup for this show, but I really like them now. They’re from Ontario and have apparently been around since 2002.

Next up was Best Coast. Objectively, they’re a good band; subjectively, I didn’t like them much. Next was Dinosaur Jr.:

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The vocals were way down for some reason, so it was hard to hear the singer. I haven’t listened to much of their music until the past few days, and then only their most recent album (and they’ve been around since 1984), but their real fans seemed to enjoy the set. (I did too, but I only recognized a few songs.) Edited to add: Dinosaur Jr. played a great cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” (Thanks to Ben Apatoff for reminding me.) It must be a popular song to cover – I saw the Bouncing Souls do a version in the early 2000s. I loved it both times. 

Here I should say that the timing of the show was absolutely precise: the set changes were quick, bands went on the minute they were scheduled to and left the stage on time (except The Replacements, who had an encore and went ten minutes over, but who on earth would complain about that?).

After Dinosaur Jr. was Rocket From the Crypt, all in matching outfits, and with some of the strangest banter I’ve ever heard. (“Who likes shrimp cocktail? Make some noise!”)

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I’m sure there are better photos out there for those who are interested.

Another nice thing the concert organizers did was to have a water refill station just inside the entrance. You couldn’t bring unsealed bottles in, but you could refill water bottles there throughout the day. Since it was in the low 80s/high 70s and we were standing in the sun all afternoon, this was great.

After RFTC it was time for the first of the final three bands, The Weakerthans. This is a band I’ve been listening to ever since a friend put “Pamphleteer” (from Left and Leaving, 2000) on a mix for me my first year of college. Though they probably wouldn’t make my all-time top ten list, in a way they are my perfect band, because the lyrics are clever, funny, precise, touching and storylike, and audible over the rest of the music (which is also excellent and not to be downplayed). As soon as I got my ticket for this show, I bought their live album, Live at the Burton Cummings Theatre (2010) and listening to it repeatedly. (Along with many songs from Reconstruction Site, it includes “Civil Twilight,” “Tournament of Hearts,” and “Left and Leaving.)

weakerthans1Lead singer John Sampson came out first for a solo version of “One Great City!” (Later, he put on a Winnipeg hat. The way the stage was set up, the bands were facing directly into the sunset.)

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“Benediction”

I loved every minute of their set, and they played every song I hoped to hear (with the exception of “Civil Twilight”).

Next up, Iggy Pop and the Stooges. They did not disappoint. Iggy came out shirtless, with abs visible from fifty yards away (though probably too small in this photo to tell):

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He sang with manic energy, though he wasn’t quite as insane as I was expecting after watching Henry Rollins talk about opening for him several years ago (video footage from Live At Luna Park, about 20 minutes and well worth it). I knew perhaps half of the songs; I really enjoyed “Search And Destroy” and “The Passenger.” Shockingly, the crowd was fairly calm; everyone was enjoying it, and there were mosh pits here and there, but altogether there was very little shoving or jostling; it was the most polite, considerate punk concert audience I’ve ever been in. (Thank you, Canada.)

After Mr. Pop, we made our way as far forward as we could (about 3-4 rows from the front) to wait for The Replacements to come on. We agreed that we wouldn’t quite believe it until we saw them up there, but they arrived on time and opened with “Takin a Ride.”

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By then it was approaching full dark, and I must commend the lighting guy (or lighting lady, or lighting persons), because it was perfect: coordinated with the music but basically unobtrusive. Never once did they flash strobes at the audience or zoom spotlights wildly around or do anything clever with disco balls or star-shaped lights.

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The high point of the set, for me, was in the second half when they played “Little Mascara” and “Left of the Dial” (from Timfollowed by “Alex Chilton” (from Pleased to Meet Me). Three of my favorites, in a row; I couldn’t have asked for better. I also liked “Favorite Thing,” “Color Me Impressed,” “Kiss Me On the Bus,” “Androgynous” (even though Paul Westerberg forgot the words), “I Will Dare,” “Merry Go Round,” “Can’t Hardly Wait,” and “Bastards of Young.”

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Yet another Canadians-are-nice anecdote: about halfway through the set, I saw a security guard leaning over the barrier to pour sips from a bottle of water into people’s mouths. He was so careful, and the crowd was so non-jostle-y, that I don’t think any was spilled.

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I have to do it: even though they didn’t play “Unsatisfied,” I think everyone there was satisfied, if not ecstatic. It was well worth the trip.

A better photo, videos, and the complete setlist can be found from a Pitchfork post that went up less than an hour after the show ended. Edited to add: Replacements write-ups can also be found at Rolling Stone and Spin (includes video).

*Edited to add (9/7/13): Read his (much better) write-up of the Replacements’ set here: The Replacements at Riot Fest.

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All photos in this post licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

 

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Craft Boston

A few weekends ago I went with some friends to Craft Boston, “a show of contemporary Art, Craft & Design presented by the Society of Arts and Crafts” down at the Seaport World Trade Center. It reminded me a little bit of the holiday fair in Union Square in New York, except it was (1) indoors, (2) much quieter, (3) higher quality things, and (4)  much more expensive.

So we window-shopped, or whatever the equivalent is where there aren’t any windows. A few of my favorite things:

From Purple Sage Pottery, a mug in a beautiful deep blue glaze:

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From Liz Proffetty Ceramics, more mugs (and other pieces) with glazes reminiscent of landscapes. I had to go back and have a last lingering look at these before we left; I think they were my favorite pieces we saw all day, and the only thing that kept me from buying even just one mug is how many mugs we already have in the house. (They’re a good thing to collect…up to a point.) Beautiful, though:

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From Stephanie Young at Calmwater Designs, these glowing lamps:

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From Michael Michaud Designs, delicate jewelry fashioned to resemble berries, flowers, and leaves. The dogwood, cherry blossom, and pussy willow designs are beautiful, but what first caught my eye were these raspberry earrings:

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I also took a card from Liz Norkus Design, but couldn’t find on her site the piece I thought I saw in her booth: a necklace that looked like it was made from joined twigs sprouting tiny pearl buds. However, on the Craft Boston site, there are photos of a few of her pieces, and these earrings are closest to the necklace I saw:

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I saw similar designs by Elise Moran:

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The Steampunk Industrial booth was fun to explore – it can perhaps best be described as rusty, whimsical, glowing, and giving off something of a mad genius/time travel vibe:

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We were also all very taken with the creations from ArtHead Studio, from the “JunkYard Dogs” made of scrap metal to the “reTweets” to “The Odd World of the Littles,” which reminded me a little bit of Joseph Cornell, if he had been a bit more humorous.

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All in all, it was a really nice afternoon out. I rarely go into Boston even though it’s so close, and it was nice to see physical, tactile art in so many forms: wood, fabric, glass, metal, and more.

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Sudo gets a bath

For a dog who hates rain, she did okay in the bath. Still, her attitude could best be summed up as “I would prefer not to.”

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I think she somehow made her eyes bigger so she could look even more pathetic.

petting“It’s okay, I forgive you.”

ignore“Or do I?”

sudosnugglesShe was only somewhat consoled when we dried her off with every towel in the house and covered her with a fleece blanket.

sudosnuggles2“Never make me do that again.”

 

 

 

 

 

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This Time of Year

In the past month-plus, I’ve seen two great concerts (three, if you count watching the Rolling Stones’ December 15th show on pay-per-view). One was Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan at the Garden before Thanksgiving, and the other was the Mighty Mighty Bosstones at the House of Blues on December 29, one of the Hometown Throwdown shows (link to Globe review).

bosstones-12-29-12Bosstones shows, like Reel Big Fish shows, tend to be incredibly fun, happy, high-energy shows; they don’t disappoint, and they didn’t this time either. The set was preceded by a pared-down but lively version of “Riot on Broad Street” (one of my favorite songs, from Pay Attention) and it was a great set all the way through.

Naturally, they played “This Time of Year” (“this time of year, it gets me / and it never lets me / act like I don’t care”), while foam “snow” floated down from the ceiling. (“This Time of Year” is positive about the holidays, unlike “Jump Through the Hoops,” which they didn’t play:  “holidays have got to be the worst / I’ve seen so many, I’ve got it well rehearsed…holidays are not for me, chop down the tree / they’ve got to be the worst”).

They played a good mix of old and new songs, obscure and popular: “Kinder Words” and “Toxic Toast” from Question the Answers, at least four songs from Let’s Face It (including “Rascal King” and “The Impression That I Get”), “Don’t Worry Desmond Dekker” from Medium Rare. They also played a fantastic cover of The Clash’s “Rudie Can’t Fail,” which I never expected to hear live.

All in all, a great show. And after the foam snow inside, there was real snow outside – at least six inches of it. Which means…sledding!

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Mark Knopfler, Bob Dylan, and the Karma Sweatshirt

On November 18, I saw Bob Dylan at the Garden, with Mark Knopfler opening. Before that week, all I knew about Mark Knopfler was that he did the soundtrack for The Princess Bride (my all-time favorite movie, closely followed by Empire Records, High Fidelity, Snatch, and Love Actually. And Sliding Doors). A few days before the show, a friend of mine told me that Mark Knopfler had been in the band Dire Straits; the only song of theirs I knew was Romeo & Juliet, featured in the above-mentioned Empire Records. I really liked that song, but for some reason had never hunted down more of the band’s music.

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So I was not prepared to be TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY by Mark Knopfler and his band of multi-instrumentalists. I know I’m late to the party on this one, but wow. Wow. I listen to a lot of music, but narrowly: punk, ’90s alternative rock, the Beatles and the Stones and the Who and the Clash. Knopfler’s music seems somehow more musical: more instruments, more styles, more influences – American folk, Irish and Scottish ballads, stuff I don’t normally hear much of.

It’s the kind of music that inspires movement – not a mosh pit, but at least some standing, swaying, clapping, maybe a twirl or two. But no: the audience remained in their seats as if they were glued to them. WTF? (It’s still weird to me to go to concerts where there are seats at all.) All right, though, this was the opening band, probably not who most of the audience was there to see. They’ll stand up when Dylan comes on, surely.

Knopfler-11-18-12 Or, you know, not. (As my Latin teacher used to say, “Don’t call me Shirley!”) Granted, it wasn’t a set designed to be rousing: the stage design was minimal, the lighting was minimal (which was fine with me; any lighting person who uses strobes, or flashes lights over the audience instead of the band, earns my immediate and violent dislike). It felt like a living room, or a street corner, or a pub, and the setlist started out pretty mellow, too: “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Tangled Up in Blue,” “Early Roman Kings,” “Trying to Get to Heaven,” “Visions of Johanna.”

But still: it’s BOB DYLAN. If he is going to play music for you, you should at least stand up to listen to it. It’s disrespectful and lazy not to. Sure, the audience was mostly older folks – people who grew up listening to Dylan – but they got to the venue on their own steam. (I didn’t see anyone in a wheelchair; most people seemed to have full use of their legs.) To be fair, there was one woman who occasionally stood up – during both the Knopfler and Dylan sets – and seemed like she was genuinely enjoying the music. (Not that you can’t enjoy music sitting down. As many people were demonstrating.) She might have felt like standing the whole time, and only the silent pressure of thousands of eyes made her sit during some songs; I’m only guessing.

But then Dylan starts playing “Like a Rolling Stone.” And I cannot sit down for that. (At this point, I would like to rescind a comment I made earlier this year to the effect of preferring the Stones’ version of the song over the original.) So it’s this one other woman and me, and farther back a small handful of others, and I’m thinking it’s a good thing I went to Hampshire, because Hampshire is all about being in the minority that goes against the flow, but damn if this isn’t a good song, and that really is Bob Dylan up there, holy shit, and then…did someone just kick my foot?

Dylan-11-18-12Why yes. The man seated behind me – the man who, if he had been seated in front of me, I would not have been able to see over, because he was at least 6’2″ – was kicking my foot. You realize we can’t see, he said. Could you sit down, he asked. “Could you stand up?” I asked back. “It’s Bob Dylan.” That’s about as confrontational as I get with strangers, and I could feel the adrenalin, but NO, I was NOT going to sit down. In my experience, if you are at a concert where there are seats, and the person in front of you stands up, the way you deal with that is by standing up also. (Is my experience out of the ordinary? Any other 5’5″ rebels out there want to weigh in?)

With great reluctance, I sat down after the song ended, but I was still pretty pissed. I tried not to let it ruin my experience, and focused on enjoying the music. Dylan closed with “All Along the Watchtower” and a version of “Blowin’ in the Wind” that was much more alive and appealing than the recorded one, which can sound a little droning and repetitive. And karma’s real, y’all, because the man behind me left his brand-new concert sweatshirt behind. Finders keepers.

 

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