2012 Year In Review

Here we are on the last day of 2012. A year that went by fast, and looking back, it was a mix of good and bad. Now is the time I am looking through my notes to see what happened in the year expiring soon. Here’s a summary of what fun things I did, what I liked and didn’t like, and the notable things that happened in my life in 2012:

Movies: I counted them all, in 2012 I watched 83 movies, that is an average of 1.6 movies per week. During the Independent Film Festival of Boston I would see up to three movies a day, but generally I go to the movies at least once a week. It turns out this year I saw plenty of classic and old movies at the Brattle, and finally did the wise thing and acquired a Brattle membership, which saves me some money. The movies I liked best this year were ‘The Kid With A Bike’, the Belgian movie by the Dardenne brothers; ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ a documentary about the Japanese sushi master Jiro Ono; Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’; the offbeat, different ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’; the heart breaking ‘Take This Waltz’; the tough and incredibly moving ‘Oslo, August 31st’; the touching ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’; and the fascinating documentary ‘The Imposter’. A quick note to mention ‘Lincoln’ for the superb acting by Daniel Day-Lewis, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s ‘The Master’ for the visual beauty. I also liked a lot Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro in ‘Silver Linings Playbook’. The movie that creeped me out the most, made me feel extremely uncomfortable and wish I had not seen was Pedro Almodóvar’s ‘The Skin I Live In”. Oh, and I am not seeing ‘Les Miserables’ because I absolutely hate musicals.

Music: I went to 18 live shows this year. Some shows stood out, like the Radiohead show, the Mogwai show, which finally happened after two prior cancellations, and the Saint Etienne show at the Paradise, where everyone was dancing happily away. I saw the most interesting lighting and staging at the Grizzly Bear show at the Orpheum. The worst show? The Jesus and Mary Chain, no contest. The Paradise still remains the best venue in the area to see live music. I just wish it was located somewhere in Camberville. I can’t say there was a band or album this year I adored, but I did listen to some music I liked a lot, like Tanlines, Alt-J, Beach House, Lower Dens and Beach Fossils. After seeing Frank Ocean and the Dirty Projectors making everyone’s best music of the year list, I tried to listened to them, but I find them unbearable. Frank Ocean’s music is plainly boring, and the Dirty Projectors singer sounds like your friend who keeps singing along to every song he hears, and he is always off-key.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot to mention this but my favorite song this year was Japandroid’s ‘The House That Heaven Built’. Yeah.

 

Theater: Not too much theater in my life this year. I mostly went to plays my friend TMB was in, like ‘Measure For Measure’, ‘Waiting For Lefty’ and ‘Anne of the Green Gables’. I also saw an interesting production of ‘Uncle Vanya’ at the Apollinaire Theatre in Chelsea, and David Adjmi’s ‘Marie Antoinette’ at the ART, a play I found was trying too hard to be witty.

Art: I visited the ICA and the MFA a couple of times each. I liked the exhibition Degas and the Nude the best, because I really, really like drawings. Really. Also at the ICA I saw Sam Green’s live documentary ‘The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller’ with live music by Yo La Tengo. And I love Yo La Tengo.

Food, Drink: I liked Casa B in Union Square in Somerville, a space with unique and pretty cool interior design and delicious tapas. I finally made it to Santarpio’s where I discovered the best pizza in town. I also liked Strip T’s in Watertown, West Bridge, and Belly Wine Bar in Kendall Square. I was impressed by the food at the Garden at the Cellar, which might be Cambridge’s best kept secret. The food is amazing, how come I didn’t know? I also paid many visits to iYo the new frozen yogurt place in Davis Square. The square will soon be fro-yo central, as a second fro-yo place opened, and there are plans for a third. I had some very good cocktails at Stoddard’s downtown, and at Brick & Mortar in Central Square.

Travel: Nothing extraordinary travel-wise. I spent three lovely days in Provincetown, I love this happy and laid back place, and the amazing beaches. Speaking of beaches, I discovered Duxbury beach this year (the best beach area is south of the bridge), pretty much one of the best beaches around Boston (sorry, North Shore beaches, no comparison, really). I went to Greece for a couple of weeks to see family and friends, eat well and swim in the Mediterranean, and that’s always pretty neat and relaxing. I also visited my brother and his family in Germany. I finally got to meet my nephew, who is a very cute baby, and got to see my niece again, who is a very cute toddler.

Exercise: In the beginning of 2012 I found myself ten pounds overweight, and ten pounds is a lot for a person of my size. I had a hard time shedding off the extra pounds just by eating less. So, I started eating less and exercising more,  the magic combination that always works. After hating running for as long as I remember, this year I followed a 5k training program, and after eight weeks I was pleasantly surprised to see I could comfortably run 3 miles. I participated in my first 5k race in December, and completed the race in 28 minutes. I also started taking tennis classes, and I loved it. I can’t wait to start new classes again. I biked a lot, as usual, and I took a bicycle repair class at the Broadway Bicycle School.

A couple of other notable things from 2012: I refinanced my mortgage and once again discovered how inept the people who work in this business are. After twelve years of living here I finally decided to apply for citizenship, and became citizen on September 11. I voted for the first time, and was happy with the results. I got to meet Elizabeth Warren, the new senator from Massachusetts, so now I have met both Senators from MA in person. Oh, and being a citizen means I can now run for office, but don’t worry, I don’t plan to.

In 2012 I experienced some disappointments, but no reason to talk about that now. I do not have any major new year’s resolutions, but I will definitely try to do certain things different: I will try to visit places I haven’t been to before. I would love to have someone willing and able to travel with me, but I am also willing to travel by myself. I will try to read more, and after many years I have cancelled my New Yorker subscription in order to free up time to read the untouched books in my bookcase. I will try to get back to creative things I used to like, like drawing.

Above all, in 2013 I will do my best to find time for all the small and big things that make happy. Happy New Year.

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Hey Look!

It only took me four months to post these Chihuly photos on flickr! Back in May, I visited the Dale Chihuly exhibition ‘Through The Looking Glass’ at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. It was big, flashy, loud and glassy. And sometimes it was impressive. You would go in, look around, take photos, exit through the gift shop, spend money on Chihuly-approved merchandise. I did all the above with the exception of spending money. I took some photos with my other than the iPhone camera, you know, a real camera, and in typical fashion I procrastinated seemingly forever to review, edit and upload them.

So, yes, now that the exhibition is over, a month after the chaotic last days when the lines stretched all around the museum block and people waited for hours to see it, now that no one cares anymore, I have posted the photos on flickr (you can click here for the slideshow). Here are some of my favorites:

FAST Light at MIT

This past weekend of May 7 and 8 the MIT campus in Cambridge and the Charles River got illuminated by many quirky art installations. It was FAST Light, the finale of the three-month-long festival of Art + Science + Technology at MIT.  On Sunday I walked around the campus, enjoyed the scene and the neat art pieces,  and took some photos.

Liquid Archive

voltaDom

Light Drift

String Tunnels


My Year in Review

The end of the year is approaching and I haven’t compiled my end-of-the-year lists. Not that they would be interesting anyway. Nonetheless, what I would like to do is look back in the year and think about small, and maybe big things that stood out, things that made 2009 special for me. Here’s my brief review of the year.

Films: I like going to the movies a lot and I like movies, both documentaries and narrative features. Unfortunately lately it has become almost impossible to love a film. The feeling is that they don’t make great films anymore. Still, I saw 58 movies this year and some were better than others: “O’ Horten” was a Norwegian film with absurd and edgy humor & amazing cinematography. I admired the scenes, I laughed at the lines, it touched my heart; that’s what I want a movie to do to me.  Other interesting ones were “An Education” (seductive & lovely), a “A Serious Man” (always interesting and surprising) and “Everlasting Moments”, a Swedish film about a housewife turned photographer (my blog post about it is here). The guilty pleasure of the year was “(500) Days of Summer”: the critics hated it, but I enjoyed it. Best acting of the year: Christian McKay as Welles in “Me and Orson Welles”. Documentaries I liked the best: “It Might Get Loud”, “Food, Inc.”, “We Live in Public” and “La Danse”. I sort of felt that documentaries were more compelling than narratives this year.

Live Music:  This year I saw the Muffs, Andrew Bird with Loney Dear, Mogwai, A.C. Newman, The Bad Plus, The Shins with Delta Spirit, PJ Harvey & John Parish, the Flaming Lips with Explosions in the Sky, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill, The Psychedelic Furs, Neko Case, Sonic Youth and the Feelies. I also saw a handful of local bands, and was glad to discover Arms & Sleepers, and the Motion Sick. I saw the Muffs at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, and at Southpaw in Brooklyn, which was a pretty awesome venue. I wish Boston had a venue like Southpaw, on the small side, with plenty of character and good sound.

A very interesting show combining both film and music was Split/Signal at the Armory, a new arts center in Somerville. The silent short movies shown were accompanied by live bands, and it was a pretty neat event.

Music: I’m so old-fashioned, I still buy CDs. I won’t bore you with what I listened to, but only with what was in heavy rotation this year: the amazing compilation “Dark Was the Night”. Also Andrew Bird’s “Noble Beast”, Arms and Sleepers’ “Matador” and Florence + the Machine’s “Lungs”.

Theatre: I managed to see some plays this year: Boeing Boeing  (on Broadway), Endgame, Fool for Love, the Superheroine Monologues, A Winter’s Tale (by a local theatre group in a church basement), Picasso at the Lapin Agile, Orfeo’s Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged), the Comedy of Errors (Shakespeare on the Common), Fences, the Big Broadcast War of Worlds, and Sleep No More. Sleep No More was unlike anything I’d seen before, an interactive deconstructed Macbeth set in an abandoned school. I loved it, it was a unique experience and I’m going to see it again tomorrow for the second time.

Art: In my two trips to New York City back in January, I saw Pipilotti Rist’s video installation “Pour Your Body Out” at MoMA, the William Eggleston and Alexander Calder exhibitions at the Whitney and the Kandisky one at the Guggenheim. Here in Boston I saw the Shepard Fairey exhibition at the ICA twice and wrote about it here , Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese at the MFA, which was exceptional, and I really liked the Dutch Seascapes at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Dining: I am a person who doesn’t cook and food really does not matter to me that much. Having said that I eat out quite often and I can tell when I had a good dining experience or a bad one. My best dining this year was at Craigie on Main. Everything was delicious, the service was superb and if I was rich I guess I would eat there more often. The worst dining experience of the year was at Addis Red Sea in Cambridge and I wrote about it here. The weirdest dining (more like non-dining) moment was when we attempted to have brunch at the West Side Lounge: The place was pretty much empty. We walked in, the host showed us to our table, and we looked at the menu. When we were ready to order nobody was coming. We were looking towards the host, the bartender, the three waitresses, did not get their attention, they didn’t acknowledge us.  Did I mention that there was just us and one other table in the whole place?! The employees were chatting with each other, and seemed to intentionally ignore us. I thought I was in a candid camera kind of a show. Really strange and rude. If they didn’t want to serve us, they shouldn’t have seated us. So after waiting for about 5 minutes in vain for somebody to take our order, we decided to leave. And as we were leaving the waitress who was by the door, didn’t even bother to say anything. I don’t think I’m going to the West Side Lounge again any time soon.

A couple of other interesting things happened this year: I went to Greece for vacation for two weeks and it was pretty awesome, I took figure drawing classes, and video shooting and editing classes at the Cambridge Community TV. I was part of the team that created a short documentary about the Out of the Blue gallery in Central Square. I liked the experience. Oh yes, I also got a new laptop, an iPhone and got addicted to Twitter.

All things considered, 2009 was good to me. Despite the tough economic times I was able to enjoy the things I like doing.  There were some moments where I felt my job was threatened, and some more tough times could be ahead. I don’t want to be a pessimist though. Biking and yoga gave me a little bit of energy. I also tried to be somewhat creative with drawing, photography and writing, and hopefully this will continue in the new year. I have no real new year’s resolutions, just a hope that the good things will continue and I’ll be content.

Masks

On Friday I went to the opening reception for the exhibition “Masks – The Magic of Transformation” at the Belmont Gallery of Art. My drawing teacher Eric Bornstein curated the show that featured masks created by him, Deborah Coconis, Katja Esser and Lucrecia Novoa, as well as photography by Richard A. Chase. It was an amazing and pretty impressive show. An awful lot amount of detail and I’m suspecting lots of hours of work went into the creation of these masks. Good timing for the show I’d say since we are around the Mardi Gras / Carnival period. The show runs until March 20, 2009 and I definitely recommend a visit.

 

 

 

I snapped many more photos, you can see them here.

Shepard Fairey at the ICA

First I have to say that Shepard Fairey’s exhibition at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art was better and more impressive than I expected it to be. The current exhibit at the ICA, “Supply and Demand”, is his first solo museum exhibition, it is expansive and pretty interesting. I think he is a very good graphic designer, capable of producing posters  and street art that is eye-catching, and occasionally witty. The references in his work are obvious: Warhol, Lichtenstein, posters of the Works Progress Administration (yes, Public Works rule), propaganda posters of the Hitler era, China and Russia, along with repeating patterns found on bank notes, buildings, newspapers, books etc etc.  The majority of the posters featured known faces and icons, from Warhol and Johnny Cash, to former and current Presidents, activists, musicians. I noticed repeated use of Joe Strummer’s face, and I would really like to know what Chomsky thought of the use of his image.

As I said Fairey is a very good graphic designer: his work is eye-catching, pretty geometric, with words and phrases that feel complementary to the image. Sometimes the collages feel overcrowded, which is the reason I didn’t like the Capitalism Good/Bad side posters, although I did enjoy the line “Freedom of the press is guaranteed to those who own one”. If I was thirteen Fairey would have been my favorite artist: pairing cool imagery with tongue-in-cheek one liners, presenting one as anti-establishment activist, while appropriately worshipping punk musicians…

The famous “Obama HOPE” poster is far more interesting up close: Obama’s image is pasted onto a collage of newspapers and it is feels less two-dimensional than it does on the computer screen. Of course this poster got so huge, that the Associated Press felt compelled to ask for credit and compensation for the copyrighted photo used on the poster, which was taken by Mannie Garcia, while on assignment for the AP. Garcia believes that heowns the copyright, and Fairey believes that his use of the photo is within the legal definition of fair use. This is what Garcia told the NYTimes:

I don’t condone people taking things, just because they can, off the Internet. But in this case I think it’s a very unique situation. If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it’s had.

Exactly right. Garcia took this photo back in 2006 at the National Press Club in Washington at an event about Darfur. Obama seats next to George Clooney and is listening to the conservative Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas. Obama looks like he’s spacing out a little bit, like he’s thinking of something else. Then, Fairey took this photo, saw the potential in the lifted chin, manipulated the image while adding some simply cool graphics, and then added the word HOPE beneath, and right there it was when the plain photo transcended into a symbol. So, no, I do not think that Shepard plagiarized; he did appropriate the image, and then created something bigger. Of course he could have asked Garcia for permission, but right, why bother…

Also I did not like this accompanying description to the “Obama HOPE” poster at the exhibition:

Fairey renders Obama with his face slightly lifted, gazing into the distance with resolute optimism.

Uh, no, actually Fairey does NOT render Obama with his face slightly lifted, Obama is like that in the original photo that Garcia took. Who at the ICA wrote that stuff? The curator? That’s just blatantly wrong…

Anyway, Fairey is very much involved in marketing and the art of “selling stuff”. So capitalism has worked pretty well for him financially. Of course I read on the exhibition brochure that “Fairey and other street artists exploit the same system they are fighting against, generating profitable art and design to fund their less politically correct initiatives on city streets” (whatever that might be). Still I find it rather ironic when he tries to exude a sense of anti-establishment, anti-capitalism in his work, and when I see Bank of America, Levi’s, Hood and Karmaloop sponsoring his exhibition. “Supply and Demand” all right…