earth day

April 22, 2012

Carlin’s timeless message is…save yourSELF, the Earth can take care of itself, thank you very much.


tonight on the common

March 1, 2012

It finally happpened (on the first day of March…) – snow on Boston Common tonight! Very Currier & Ives, with the rose-tinged sky and all. Early predictions for the weather this month are calling for warm weather. Ah well…better enjoy the snow while it’s here.

inspired by downton

February 25, 2012

I have not had a TV in a dozen years.

In 1998 when life (employment) offered me the opportunity to move to Los Angeles, I took it. Never especially had a desire to go to LA,  much less set up a home there – but it was the right thing at the time and before long I happily found I didn’t actually have to live in LA (proper) to work there. I rented a small house in Burbank, around 17 miles northeast of downtown. In those pre-satellite TV days, it was a real bonus that the house came with free cable TV access.

But then the choice came, a year later when I bought a house in another area of Burbank: cable, or no cable? Even knowing that Burbank’s hilly terrain meant that NOT buying Adelphia’s service meant not having TV at all…right there, in the TV capital of the world. ABC, NBC, CBS, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, you name it…just down the street from the house, but not something I’d be able to enjoy without cable service.

I soon discovered that the only option for a cable provider in that area was Adelphia: at $75/month for basic service, which included no premium channels and not even high-speed internet (still a new thing at that time) wrapped in the deal. It would have been  $75/month for the privilege of access to ONLY the usual handful of mundane basic channels. In other words, Adelphia’s “service” was a total racket. Having arrived at the only plausible conclusion that they were crooks, I then opted for having no TV. (N0t familiar with Adelphia? Here’s why: in 2002 they went bankrupt due to…corruption. Surprise! Yeah, not really. They were crooks.)

A dozen years later I have wondered occasionally what I’ve missed. And now, working at a joint licensee TV/radio station, it’s becoming apparent that the answer is more than the annual Superbowl half-time commercials blowout, the occasional  conversation-worthy movie, or the new season of Mad Men. Every day I work with people who are involved with the TV half of our organization, but without a TV I have limited context for their conversations and the very things they do each day in their jobs.

The recent Downton Abbey  phenomenon has also made me feel some tug to get back with it and start keeping up with the latest intrigues of Lord Grantham’s world. If you think it’s big out there in the world, try working at the station that distributes it here in the US! Everyone I work with seems to watch it. Of course “Netflix it!” has been frequently offered as a solution, but there’s a certain timeliness lost in that process. Online viewing is also not an option right now – I’m sure my Comcast connection isn’t up to the challenge. (I can’t even watch YouTube videos or send email without constant buffering delays.) So the time may be coming when I’ll get legit TV again. Maybe.

Until that happens, it has been great fun to be swept up in the Downton whirlwind at the station, including the event we hosted last Thursday night: an evening of music, cuisine and fashion inspired by Downton.  The New England Brass Band joined us for a couple of sets in the Fraser Performance Studio, and presenters and models from Mass Art gave a fashion show in the auditorium. Smashing! Sherry and port flowed through the reception area in the atrium, and many folks even came in costume. Here are a few shots from the evening.

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love live music

February 20, 2012

Since taking on the new job in Boston last fall, there hasn’t much time to keep up consistently with things here.

One of the reasons why, is how much time I’m fortunate enough to spend every week enjoying the live performances happening in the station’s performance studio. We host at least one recital every week and often more than that depending on artists’ schedules and what else we have going on.

Here’s a handful of pics from recent performances. If you’re intrigued after seeing these, you can find the audio from them here.

Music is a gift. Enjoy it at every opportunity you possibly can!

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snow? what snow?

February 11, 2012

Not really feelng the love from winter this winter.

How is it possible to live in New England and count the snow pileup (from the one “storm” we’ve had so far) on less than half of one hand’s fingers?

So I went in search of the white stuff in mid-January, there was a rumor that central Mass. had seen some one week recently. That Sunday I ventured westward to go visit the Wachusett Meadow Audubon Center in Princeton. Sure enough, the further west I got the more like winter it looked. By the time I arrived, there was a good 4-5 inches on the ground. Crusty, but white nonetheless. It was a brightly sunny afternoon and in the single digits but perfect for a long walk through the woods to visit the beaver/otter pond on their land. Didn’t even need snowshoes or skis.

These are some shots from that day, along with a couple taken the morning after our one “storm” this season.

Let’s hope these won’t be the last ones this season before things start to really warm up.

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brothers quay

January 31, 2012

Since winter has decided not to come this season I’ve been finding some alternative dark comfort in the shadowy interior spaces of the quirky, unique film anthology of the Brothers Quay. Like the missing season, the palette of their movies operates within a very specific visual range- relying on shadows, shapes, texture, and contours for interest rather than color.

It would be easy to describe the Quay vision in vague terms such as “dreamscape” and “nightmarish” but those are meaningless descriptors. Since no two individuals’ dreams or nightmares are alike, who can say what a definitive one “looks like”?

Instead let’s appreciate the Brothers’ singular, incomparable aesthetic. Their work is meticulous, artful, and – at its best – unsettling.

Here are some great samples. Enjoy.

And please join me in burning some sage and doing a snow dance. It’s time we saw some already. This winter is ridiculous.

sat. night @the vets

January 21, 2012

Renee Fleming - photo by Decca/Andrew Eccles

“We can listen to this stuff in our cars, or on our computers – but isn’t it more fun together?”

That’s an understatement. Especially when coming from Renée Fleming, tonight’s guest soloist with the Rhode Island Philharmonic and its conductor, Larry Rachleff.

The occasion was the “re-introduction” of Veterans Memorial Auditorium (re-branded these days as “the VETS“), the gorgeous 62-year old performance space that will now serve both the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) and the Philharmonic.

The Auditorium has an interesting history, having begun as a Rhode Island Freemasons project in 1927 and then finally opening in 1950 after work stoppages during the Depression and the Second World War. Since then the stage has welcomed everyone Luciano Pavarotti and Tony Bennett to – tonight, making her Rhode Island debut, Ms. Fleming. She mentioned that, inspiring a chuckle from the audience when she said in her comfortable way, “it’s nice to still be able to have a debut…”

I didn’t know what the program was before arriving there tonight. It didn’t really matter, I’ve seen Fleming in concert before and I knew I wanted to be at this one regardless. So when I finally got a program and checked out the lineup I was happy to see a good mix of crowd-pleasers on there along with a couple of more unusual selections. Ravel’s song cycle Shéhérazade, for example, is a standard work among singers but much less so in the concert hall. An absolute delight to hear performed live, by artists who revel in the richness of Ravel’s orchestration and still allow its transparency to shine. The woodwinds in particular sounded lovely, with every note coming through clearly thanks in part to the acoustic paneling now enveloping the stage’s interior space. And it’s not very often a conductor breaks a baton during the performance, as Rachleff did during the program opener – nothing like the rousing Hector Berlioz Roman Carnival Overture to make that happen!

Among the more familiar works were the “jewel song” aria from Charles Gounod’s Faust, Tosca’s Vissi d’arte, and Vilja’s song from Franz Lehar’s The Merry Widow. Fleming staples, all, and wonderfully performed with great spirit, charm, and (of course) proficiency. But the real highlight for me came shortly into the second half of the program, with Antonín Dvořák’s sublime “Song to the Moon” from Rusalka. Long have I thought of this as a Fleming specialty piece, and she confirmed that connection tonight when she introduced it by calling it her “signature aria”. If there is a single particular attribute she gives to that aria, it is her warmth. Rusalka may be a water spirit but when Renée Fleming inhabits the character, Rusalka is infused with the very touch of humanity she strives for, in the opera’s story.

And then as if the concert content wasn’t enough, the night ended with three sparkling encores – another showstopper, Giaccomo Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro” (from Gianni Schicchi), and two songs from Leonard Bernstein’s Westside Story – “I Feel Pretty”, and “Somewhere”.

While the first phase of The Vets’ (now completed) renovation primarily focused on infrastructural and ‘back stage’ improvements, the next stage is said to promise more publicly visible and tangible improvements in accommodations and other areas. When that’s done we can hope that maybe Ms. Fleming will be invited to return for a reprise of tonight’s superb “re-dedication” gala performance.

a rothko kind of day

January 21, 2012

Saturday, January 21st and the city’s seeing its first serious snowfall of the season. Very strange – the delayed season this year, not the fact that we’re seeing some winter at last here.

Overnight showers have left a skiff here or there over the last month or so, but nothing like the inches that are (finally!) starting to pile up now on the apartment windowsills.

Took a drive past the nearby beach earlier today and I was struck with how the low atmosphere flattens out the layers of foreground (snowy beach, low tide beach) and background (Massachusetts Bay and sky) into a Rothko-reminiscent scene of stacked horizontal panels.

(l) Rothko's Untitled (Blue, Deep Blue, Yellow) - (r) Wollaston Beach

May there be many more days like this before spring comes.

andsnes in the house

January 13, 2012

Andsnes playing Grieg today

Earlier this week, WGBH’s Fraser Performance Studio got its very own fbook fan page. Just in time for the space to welcome one of the world’s finest pianists – Leif Ove Andsnes – for our weekly feature, Drive Time Live with Cathy Fuller.

He’s in town for this week’s performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Beethoven’s C Major Piano Concerto is on the program, the first of his mighty handful of five “piano vs. orchestra” masterpieces.

Andsnes shared some insight today on the work: “The slow movements by Beethoven – it’s not a private confession, it’s a speech to humanity. And that’s very touching, it’s a such broad feeling which is very different from Mozart or Haydn.”

Life as a touring soloist is challenging, to say the least. There are stories of notable soloists calling the front desk at their hotels just to verify the name of the city he or she is in. Who can keep track of all those time zones?

Andsnes is clear about one thing. While he could live in “any city in the world, as long as it has an airport, to be able to get around” – he’s learned a lot about himself over the years. “I’m getting more and more sure of the fact that I cannot move away from Norway. It’s a fantastic place.”

We’re glad he’s here this week. Tomorrow night’s concert is one I’ve been looking forward to for a long time!

Leif Ove Andsnes at WGBH this afternoon

radio coffeehouse

January 9, 2012

radio coffee house - milton, ma

Radio + coffee = irresistable combo. Right? Yep, at least to me.

Stopped by the Radio Coffeehouse this afternoon in Milton, MA. It was a little detour on the way to getting my new MA driver’s license at one of the area’s only RMV branch offices, in nearby Roslindale. Might as well procrastinate for a few minutes and stop off for a good cup of local java. Seriously. It’s not like a short delay in getting to the RMV could adversely impact what already promised to be a painfully time-consuming process.

I’ve been in search of a great cup of coffee since moving to MA around three months ago. Seems like a crime here, the hometown of Dunkin Donuts, to admit out loud that I don’t like their coffee. But I don’t. I really don’t. Always served much too hot, in styrofoam cups, it’s watery and flavorless and it’s not helped by the fact that they insist on fixing it up mysteriously behind the counter instead of making milk and sweeteners available for folks to do it for themselves and get the balance of ingredients just to taste. Problem is, with so very MANY DD shops around they appear to have the corner on the market and, surprisingly for such a cosmopolitan town, I’m discovering that there aren’t that many local coffee shops to be found in Boston. That’s fine, you don’t need many. You just need a few good ones.

The Radio Coffeehouse is a good one. Coffee’s fine, and the homemade cupcake with delicious (and generous!) buttercream icing hit the spot perfectly. Styrofoam cups are the standard here, too, unfortunately, and the coffee’s still fixed up behind the counter instead of by the customers themselves. But at least it’s done well, with care from the counter help to listen to the requested additions and get them right. (Creamer and a packet of sweetener: it’s not hard to get right, but you’d be surprised how often it’s messed up anyway.)

And check out the radio collection that runs the length of the shop – can’t beat that.

I’ll be back, and next time I’ll bring my own cup for them to fill.

PS – Best cup of coffee and overall experience I’ve had so far is at the Thinking Cup right next to Boston Common. Fabulous pastries too – French macaroons, mini cheesecakes, homemade Danishes…mmm…

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