30 August 2007


I moved from Milwaukee to Boston ten years ago today. To celebrate, here's a decade in snapshots I've taken:

1997: Winchester Path, Brookline Hills
Accustomed to the Midwest's homogeneous street grids, Boston's spaghetti-tangled layout both challenged and captivated me. I was awestruck the first time I came across this pedestrian hillside walkway. This was taken on a brisk Thanksgiving Day hike when I really had nothing better to do (except maybe renting movies). Thanks to the sun's position, it's the only self-portrait here.

1998: Revere Beach
Only I would take the Blue Line outbound to its terminus on a not particularly warm November Saturday afternoon to go to the beach and explore. Luckily for me, the sky was a magnificent blend of hues and textures--plus, I had the place practically all to myself.

1999: Aldie Street, Lower Allston
Another gorgeous, otherworldly sky. I remember a few instances over the years where I just had to run home to my apartment, grab my camera, and rush back out again to capture the remnants of a sunset in all of its glory before it would irrevocably fade away.

2000: Bussey Hill, Arnold Arboretum
Now I live within spitting distance of this place, but for many years, it involved much more effort to get there. Consequently, I take this vista (looking out towards the Blue Hills) for granted until those increasingly rare occasions when I see it in person.

2001: Deluxe Town Diner, Watertown
How I ended up living in the suburbs for two years isn't terribly complicated, but not compelling enough to get into here. However, this refurbished vintage diner in my then neighborhood was a godsend; it remains one of my favorite haunts in the whole area and the only place I know where one can get real maple syrup at no extra charge.

2002: EarthFest, The Esplanade
Spring always feels more vibrant here than it did where I grew up. As with Autumn (curiously not as dynamic as back home), every year I try to capture the world in flux. This was taken at a free radio station-sponsored concert headlined by Bonnie Raitt; I love how the people strewn all over the grass almost seem like a natural part of the landscape at this distance.

2003: Belmont Street, Cambridge
Over two feet of snow fell the day before my birthday that year. I strolled through my nearly deserted neighborhood, taking pictures of sidewalks and snowbanks, crouched down in an effort to get an accurate sense of just how much precipitation the storm left in its wake.

2004: The Public Gardens
I view this now and immediately feel warm and serene. Cities can be tough, irritating places to live in and just deal with, but once in awhile you can sense their beauty and poetry.

2005: Jamaica Pond
I moved to Jamaica Plain over two years prior to this photo, and the place it was taken at contributes greatly to why I feel so home in that part of town. I'll visit The Pond any time of year and usually see something in a way I haven't previously. This shot is from late Autumn; I think it proves that trees don't necessarily need fauna to appear interesting.

2006: The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge
Having just missed a commuter rail train at North Station, I had two hours to kill. So, I ambled through Charlestown and the North End and got a few shots of something that wasn't there ten years ago. It's no Golden Gate, but it's mightier than the Hoan. I like how it gives Boston some much-needed drama (aesthetically, of course--it has more than it needs in the attitudinal sense).

2007: Winchester Path, Brookline Hills
I couldn't resist going back to where I started. Of course it's not an exact replica, this being August. But it's comforting to know it's still within my grasp (I currently work about a ten-minute walk away from it). Like Boston itself, it also still hasn't lost its charm.

15 August 2007


It's easy for most of us to forget what it feels like to be a child, especially if you don't work with children or aren't a parent. Bradley Beesley and Sarah Price's straightforward but affecting documentary unerringly captures the nostalgic warmth and pure sense of discovery of those pre-teen (and early teenaged) years. It also honestly depicts how naturally vulnerable and bewildered children occasionally are whether they're struggling to make friends or simply feeling homesick.

Recorded over one summer at the Swift Nature Camp in northern Wisconsin, the film dutifully illustrates all the familiar rituals of a prototypical spell at camp, from arts and crafts and nature hikes to talent shows and roasting marshmallows to a burnt crisp over an open fire. We meet many campers, but the film focuses on a select few, like roly-poly Cameron, whose anti-social behavior gradually spirals out of control, or loner Holly, whose cute, curious obsession with chickadees is far more significant than it first appears. Throughout a season of canoeing trips, bedtime stories, first crushes and plastic bowls of lime jell-o, some of the kids make friends and grow in character and have the times of their lives; others don't.

While not exactly revelatory filmmaking, after years of slasher pics, sex comedies and agenda-centric docs, this is as close to an authentic look at the culture of summer camps that we're ever likely to get. Refreshingly, there is a minimum (if not complete lack) of mugging for the camera from these kids, and this makes a huge difference. Beesley and Price's real accomplishment is in how genuine and unaffected their subjects appear—it's what endears them and the film to us.

09 August 2007


I had some time to kill the other night before meeting up with a friend in Fort Point Channel (for an outdoor screening of this), so I explored the Boston waterfront, which I haven't walked through much lately.

Quincy Marketplace swarmed by tourists, though you'd never know it at this angle.

In nearly ten years, I can't remember walking across the old Northern Ave. bridge before.

I think I prefer the Boston Harbor Hotel from a comfortable distance.

Last time I was this close to the new ICA, it was way too frigid out to take any pix.

Lobotomized giddiness over the prospect of eclectic cuisine, or PODS?

Same town, different bridge.

01 August 2007


In celebration of the publication of Marooned (a generational sequel to the rock-crit classic Stranded), here are ten albums I'd love to take with me to a desert island (in the order they came to mind):

The Avalanches - SINCE I LEFT YOU
Belle and Sebastian - IF YOU'RE FEELING SINISTER
Sam Phillips - A BOOT AND A SHOE
The Go-Betweens -OCEANS APART
Calexico - FEAST OF WIRE

If you take a glance at my 100 favorite albums from three years ago, you'll notice that the top ten is radically different from this one. Has my taste in music fluctuated that much? Well, the earlier list is full of records I've listened to so obsessively that I feel I rarely need to hear them. Taking the desert island concept literally, I'm already somewhat sick of 'em, so I can't imagine what hell on earth would emerge if I was permanently stuck with 'em.

So, why these ten?

Well, the Saint Etienne, Go-Betweens and Sam Phillips albums, all released in the past three years, are there because they flawlessly encapsulate the great qualities of each artist’s oeuvre while also pushing them further than they previously dared to.

Though much older, the Brian Eno (and, to a lesser extent) Kate Bush albums are also recent discoveries; the intricate, adventurous worlds they contain ensure hours and hours of detecting all the unforeseen nuances within.

Ivy, Belle and Sebastian and The Avalanches were on the original top ten (and XTC in the top 20); perhaps they remain because I haven’t gotten to know them as well as this one or that one.

As for the Calexico album, I needed a tenth disc and could’ve easily put one by Tori Amos, Stew or Sufjan Stevens in its place. It wins out because of its sonic diversity, its flow, and the fact that it would make an apt soundtrack for a harsh, endless, isolated landscape.

And, if I bent the rules and snuck in five additional greatest hits albums, they would be Pet Shop Boys’ DISCOGRAPHY, The Smiths BEST… I, Kirsty MacColl’s GALORE, ABBA GOLD, and Saint Etienne’s SMASH THE SYSTEM: SINGLES AND MORE. Because what are the chances of being stuck on a desert island, anyway?