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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May 21, 2011: The Rapture Snubbed Us, The PorchFest Rocked Us

Saturday May 21, 2011 was supposed to be Judgement Day. The day when the world as we know it was going to end. But it didn’t. The Rapture completely snubbed Harold Camping’s prediction. We woke up on that day happy to see that is was, in fact, a glorious day. After a week of cloudy and rainy weather we were ready to have our faces and bodies warmed up by the sun. At some point I thought that the Rapture might have happened indeed and I ended up in Heaven: the gorgeous weather and the hot shirtless guys running around were a proof of my transition. Alas, I was still bound by gravity and my own imperfections.

And that was alright. That same day PorchFest was going on around Somerville. PorchFest is a decentralized celebration where musicians play on porches. Turns out there are lots of musicians residing in Somerville, which meant that there were many little parties happening all over the city. The weather was perfect and the ideal way to check out as many porches as possible must have been to bike around the city.  Due to a late start I didn’t visit many venues, but reading the bands/musicians named I decided I had to check out The Rapture Day Ramblers. How aptly named for the day! They were playing on a porch across the street from the Nave Gallery. When we got there they had just starting playing a lovely unplugged set of bluegrass music. People starting coming by to listen. Interesting crowd, families with young children, hipsters, bikers. The guy next to me sat cross-legged on the sidewalk. He was wearing a bow-tie, button down shirt, bermuda shorts, boat shoes, and sported a modified fauxhawk. At some point he took a beer bottle and a glass out of his messenger bag and started drinking. I got a little jealous. Another guy was wearing a ‘Worcester: Paris of the Eighties’ T-shirt. The scene in Somerville was definitely rocking the Rapture.

San Pedro by Mogwai

I was looking forward to the live Mogwai show at the Paradise scheduled for April 23. Then, a couple of days ago I received an email saying that

“due to an unforeseen delay in their visa processing, Mogwai must postpone these shows: April 19 Washington, DC 9:30 Club
April 20 Philadelphia, PA Starlight Ballroom
April 21 New York, NY Webster Hall
April 22 New York, NY Webster Hall
April 23 Boston, MA Paradise Rock Club

Dates will be rescheduled for Oct TBA.”

A major bummer. Last I saw them playing live was two years ago at the Wilbur. This time I was looking forward to seeing them at the recently renovated Paradise, a small venue with superb sound. I could clearly see myself up front rocking out to the sounds of San Pedro. Well, I guess I have to wait until October. Until then, I will have to settle for some mild rocking in my office chair.

UPDATE: Mogwai rescheduled their postponed US shows and they’re playing Boston on October 1 at the House of Blues. Which, compared to the Paradise, simply sucks. FML.

Atoms For Peace – Boston, April 8, 2010

About a month ago (yes, that was ages ago, my ‘Writing‘ post below explains the problem), on April 8, I saw Atoms for Peace, who played live at the Wang Theatre in Boston. When tickets went on sale back in March it was -of course- a mad dash to get them. The CitiCenter website crashed in a minute, which I thought was a sign of a sold out show. I tweeted my frustration and, oh, new technology how much I love thee, the good man of Bradley’s Almanac offered the twitterverse a link that actually worked, thus making me $62.50 dollars lighter, yet happy that I would get to see Thom Yorke live.

The ticket pick-up system for the show was an interesting one: in order to crush scalpers, which in itself is a pretty good idea, they allowed the purchase of only two tickets per customer, and the only ticket-pick-up method was from the box office on the night of the show by showing the purchaser’s ID. A 3,600-person capacity sold-out venue made this effort sounding little crazy. I showed up 15 minutes before start time, and the lines for pick-up were quite long, spilling into Tremont Street. There were multiple lines and the pick-up was done by alphabetical order based on last name. They had these signs A-C D-F etc etc. Theater personnel kept coming around reminding people that the lines were by last name. My line of course was the longest, but I didn’t really mind missing five minutes of the Flying Lotus performance.

Waiting in line, solo, my eye caught a blonde, slightly skanky woman standing by the entrance door, she wasn’t in any line really. The look of the woman might be familiar: a once-upon-a-time rock chick, mid to late 40s, leather jacket, botoxed face. After a couple of minutes I had noticed her, a man in his 60s came out of the theater , and told her: “So I guess you have to wait in line to get the tickets, the tickets are by last name”. Sugardaddy? Who knows, who cares. She looked at the long lines and pouted, the pout of a person who feels entitled. Our line A-C was the slowest moving. At some point a guy with an extremely loud voice came out and shouted “All people with a last name beginning w/ C, you can go to this window”, a line he kept repeating it. A couple of minutes later the blonde skank appeared to my left on the C line. Mind you that the whole time a guy kept repeating “this line f for C pick up only.” So all of a sudden she looks at him and goes “What? This is for C only?” “Yes” says the guy. She looks at our long A-B line and goes “Now I have to go all the way at the back of the line and wait again?” “Yes” says the guy. She exhales frustrated and comes to me and asks “Can I just sneak in here?” and points in front of me. Please note the absence of a “please”. “I don’t think so,” I say firmly, but politely. She looks around to the other people in my line, nobody responds to her, so she turns to me and says “Wow, you’re so fucking …. cool” and starts walking to the end of the line. I mean, sure, lady, I’m cool. But it’s not a matter of being cool. It’s a matter of you feeling fucking entitled, that you can just cut in front of me for no good reason. No, you can’t. You’re so fucking dumb that you can’t even wait in the right line, and then you expect me to do something about it? Uh, no. You look perfectly fine, go back and wait again.

Anyway, I finally made it in the theater, what a magnificent place Wang is. Opulent, all golden trims, murals, chandeliers. Took some photos and then headed to my seat at mezzanine center, row D. Great seat and luckily no tall person with gigantic head in front of me, and the blond skank nowhere to be seen. Flying Lotus was spinning some great, danceable tunes, people looked happy. I had forgotten how big the Wang is, and it was already 3/4 full. He played a tune with a sample from “Avril 14th“, one of my favourite Aphex Twin melodies. The crowd dig him and he looked pretty happy himself, thanking the crowd as he left the stage.

Now, I’m pretty much certain that Radiohead is my favourite band. Although their last albums “In Rainbows” and “Hail to the Thief” have been slightly disappointing for me, I found Thom Yorke’s solo effort “The Eraser” a very good one. I like the electronica trip and Atoms for Peace was going to play his solo stuff plus some new material. Win, no?

When Atoms for Peace showed up on stage all 3,600 people went crazy. When they started playing you could feel the vibe of a huge party where everybody’s having fun and looks happy. They mainly played songs from Eraser plus some new material they are working on. Glad they played “Harrowdown Hill” one of my favourite songs from Eraser. The band was tight and solid. As you probably know Atoms for Peace is a supergroup: Thom Yorke, Flea (yes, that Flea of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers), Nigel Godrich (Radiohead producer), Joey Waronker (who has played with bands like R.E.M. & Smashing Pumpkins), and Mauro Refosco (has played with Davd Byrne & Forro in the Dark). What is great about these people is that they are multi-instrumentalists and very good at whatever instrument they play. What’s even better is that they are having fun playing together as it was evident from that night. Say what you will about Flea, his bass lines were dope. He did these awesome jam-offs with Thom, it looked and sounded way better than it sounds. Waronker and Refosco were very creative on the percussions, the sound was full and forceful. All of them were dancing, they looked so very happy.  And they weren’t the only ones being happy and dancing. I’m pretty sure I had a grin on my face all night long. And 3,500 people dancing non-stop, that’s pretty awesome. At some point I paused dancing to get my camera out, and holly shit, the mezzanine was vibrating like it was going to fall down in the orchestra. Honestly, I got a little bit worried, I turned to the guy on my left, and asked him if that was OK, he said don’t worry the balcony at the Orpheum is way worse. Great, thanks. I resumed my dancing, it made me feel better. They also played one of Radiohead’s songs dearest to my heart ‘Like Spinning Plates’. Actually it was more Thom on piano. What a lovely song…

The only slightly off-putting moment of the show was when Thom started talking about politics. He said something like “your political system is fucked up” and then mentioned that the British political system is fucked up too. Well, he might be right, but you can’t really explain this in three sentences. I’m pretty sure he has a valid reason for saying this, but three free-standing sentences without context sound like teenage aphorisms. It might have been better if he said something like ‘hey, people I wrote an essay about how fucked up our political system is, it’s on my website, check it out. ‘

Oh, anyway, I forgave Thom right away and went back to enjoying the music and the dancing, and left with a smile on my face and melodies and rhythms mashups in my head. Bliss.

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.

Split/Signal – Silent Film/Scored Live @ The Armory

Last Saturday I attended Split/Signal, an event of silent films scored live. The venue was The Center for the Arts at the Armory, a recently created art space in a former armory on Highland Ave in Somerville. It was my first time visiting the Armory and I think they did a good job with the huge space. I liked the light pouring from the windows, but it was not such a good thing for the 7pm starting time as light found its way on the projection screen…

The musicians participating in the event composed original music for the silent shorts and overall the result was very good. There was also free snacks, beer and wine. The servers went around dressed as cigarette girls, carrying the glasses in trays. After trying to block the sun coming in from the high window, the event was off to a good start.

The first short film was by Jon Cianfrani and the score was done by the duo Mike Dunkley & Todd Brozman; the used their laptops to provide the electronic music score, and it was very good. Then it was time for Black Yodel’s music and Michael Maraden’s short. I liked the compact music. After that we saw Dado Ramadani’s short with ambient mostly music played by Arms & Sleepers, and right after that Devil Music provided the soundtrack for an animated Barrett Films short. Caspian was much better than I thought they would be and I liked Bryan Deblasio’s film. Roger Miller (of the Mission of Burma) composed a very fitting score for Handcranked Productions short full of scenes of american ruins; I really liked it, both visually and acoustically. The next band on was Cul De Sac with music for VJ Dziga’s film. The event ended with music by the Books and film by Rich Remsberg. They played a longer set than the others, and they were good too.

I read some complaints about the time forthe change of set up that the bands needed between acts, but I didn’t find it excessive. It gave you some time to seek more wine or beer, or go to the loo and receive compliments for the dress you were wearing (btw I liked the nice touch of mints in the women’s bathroom), or talk about the previous act, or walk around.

I was pleasantly surprised with the superb quality of sound. And I found the event to be well produced and it was something different. It’s not too common, I think, to see “silent films scored live” these days, and I totally appreciate the idea and the implementation. I was really happy I attended. I hope the Armory hosts more cool events like this, and Split / Signal put together their next project pretty soon. 

UPDATE: See more photos here

Pale Blue Eyes

I saw “Adventureland” on Saturday. The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” is featured in the film, and it’s what’s stuck in my mind today.

Sometimes I feel so happy,
Sometimes I feel so sad.
Sometimes I feel so happy,
But mostly you just make me mad.
Baby, you just make me mad.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.

Thought of you as my mountain top
Thought of you as my peak.
Thought of you as everything,
I’ve had but couldn’t keep.
I’ve had but couldn’t keep.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.
Linger on, your pale blue eyes.