Thursday, November 1, 2007

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At least experimentally, #1 Bus is now to be found at

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Monday, August 27, 2007

The end of summer in Central Square.

First the foreign students and the athletes arrive. Then the first
year students. There are fewer parking spaces. MIT starts early and
we're in that happy period when packets of new arrivals zip around the
02139 internet, discovering Hi Fi Pizza and Economy Hardware. The
comic element includes the short-lived, but long-planned back to school
outfits. A number of the affluent East Asian female students dress up
for the first few days until the pointlessness of it settles in. A lot
of the new MIT guys have Space Camp t-shirts. It is a real place in
Huntsville, Alabama run by NASA. And there are also Nebraska Young
Scholar shirts and other goodies from weekend programs and summer
schools. The arrogant few wear austere shirts that say "Science." You
are supposed to know that "Science" means Bronx High School of. I once
saw a kid wearing a Science varsity jacket. On his sleeve it said
"Math Team." I was afraid.

If you've been out of town then you should know Toscanini's is open
from 8AM to 11 PM. Every day. On Saturday and Sunday we serve
Thalia's Large Breakfast, but not this weekend. Because of the Labor
Day holiday we're going to Rhode Island to visit Dunkin Donut
prototypes. One of my favorite chefs is Stan Frankenthaler and he is
DD's very own Ferran Adria. New things are supposed to be coming our
way and you can visit a few stores and see the future.

The last time I checked DD's coffee cost more than Starbucks, and
wasn't as good. And while the new owners are planning to make billions
Dunkin' Donuts doesn't let you tip their workers. Maybe the investment
groups are just going to divide all the money they get and share it
with all those hourly workers.

You can get Toscanini's delivered if you call Cinderella's Pizza. 617
576-0280. The number of flavors they have is limited but their drivers
are heroic. We also sell to Nantucket Ice Cream on Straight Wharf, and
The Nut House in Provincetown. Provincetown also has the very nice
Angel Food and they sell our pints. We sell to most Whole Foods in New
England, including Portland, Maine. We sell to both Formaggio's. We
sell to Serene Chocolate near Harvard Square and we sell to Serenade
Chocolate in South Station. We sell to the two Biscuits and buy our
weekday baked goods from their main store at the intersection of Beacon
Street and Washington Street.

This is Sam Mehr's last week before returning to Rochester NY. He
studies at Eastman. He just made a wicked good Spicy Plum Sorbet.
Martin Gonzalez is not going back to Berklee. He's working on several
ice creams with pistachio nuts and a better Cinnamon. David Dow has
spent most of August playing with bourbon and black pepper. The
results have been good.

I spent part of the summer hang-gliding. It was a good vacation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

WBUR reports on Mass. Avenue construction

OMG. A very good report on Cambridge's Little Dig or Big Fuckup or
whatever the ongoing comedy may be called. This article understates
the delays. After years of sidewalk supervising I'm still confused
about whether there are two projects or one project, and whether any of
these projects is actually a city project.

I think there are or were two projects: reconstructing Mass. Avenue,
and rebuiliding the intersection of Mass. Avenue and Main Street, which
is Lafayette Square. The Lafayette Square project is certainly ten
years old. A single wonderful construction company is in charge the
entire craziness.

Construction Delays Drag Out
By Monica Brady-Myerov

Listen to story (Real Audio)

Jordy Yager
BOSTON, Mass - August 23, 2007 - Host Intro: Ahhh the sounds of summer.

(sound of trucks)

Summer construction that it. As the summer comes to an end,
construction on roads, bridges and sidewalks just seems to keep going
on and on. While we've been paying attention to falling bridges and
leaking tunnels, there's another problem on Massachusetts roads and
highways: Construction is taking forever.

Almost half the highway projects now under construction in this state
are behind schedule. Things have gotten so bad, even the state now
concedes that construction is taking much, much too long. Next month a
new state task force will start trying to find ways to speed things up.
WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Orange construction barrels line parts of
Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge from Central Square to the Charles
River. Work to repave the road, redo the sidewalks and add trees
started three years ago this fall, when MIT professor Fred Moavenzedah
greeted a new class of freshmen. They're now about to become seniors,
but the Mass. Ave. project is only three-quarters complete. The delay
rankles Moanvenzedah, who runs MIT's Center for Construction Research
and Education.

FRED MOAVENZEDAH: This paving of this street could have been done in
less than 6 months rather than 3 years. Because it is a job that is
rather repetitious and they could have done it in 6 months if they had
put sufficient man power and equipment, day in day out night in night

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: The delays with repaving Mass Ave. are typical. A
WBUR analysis of Mass Highway statistics on its own website show that
43% of the road and highway projects in the construction phase are not
on time. And cost overruns on many projects cost taxpayers $30 million
dollars a year.

LOUISA PAIEWONSKY: We know that construction delays cost us money

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Highway Commissioner Louisa Paiewonsky.

LOUISA PAIEWONSKY: But I think it's fair to say while there are often
good reasons for construction delays including environmental, or work
permit restrictions or utility delays that doesn't mean we find that

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: The delays have gotten so bad that the new
transportation secretary is creating a construction streamlining task
force to ask designers, engineers and contractors how to get things
moving faster.

Excuses about the weather and the need to keep roads open while work is
being done don't account for all the problems, according to
construction experts. First, the cash flow is constantly interrupted,
says John Pourbaix executive director of Construction Industries of
Massachusetts, which represents construction companies.

JOHN POURBAIX: The state can't afford to pay the overtime. They are
putting contracts on limited budget that you can only perform so much
work over a period of time or contracts are stopped because they are
burning thru cash a little quicker than they had anticipated.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: In 2006 then Governor Mitt Romney didn't file a
transportation bond bill so as many as a hundred construction projects
stopped. This can drag projects out for years. The biggest project
underway now is the $300 million dollar reconstruction and widening of
nearly 14 miles of Route 128. It includes replacing 22 bridges. Many
parts are behind schedule including work at the 128/95 south
interchange in Canton and the overpass on Route 1 in Dedham.

Often contributing to delays is the way contracts are awarded. They go
to the lowest bidder. But Professor Moavenzedah says the low bids are
often unrealistic.

FRED MOAVENZEDAH: These contractors reduce the cost to bare bone in
order to get the job so obviously you expect some delays or cost over
runs or complication in the future.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Like going out of business. That happened with the
contractor paving Mass Ave. who was also working on two highway
overpasses on 128 and repaving Route 9. The highway department doesn't
see hiring the low bidder as a problem.

The state also doesn't give any incentive for work to be completed
early something John Pourbaix of Construction Industries says could
make projects go faster.

JOHN POURBAIX: Our industry would be delighted to see incentives. We
certainly have penalties. END CUT HERE

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: But Pourbaix says the contractors are seldom
penalized for delays because it's not their fault if they come across a
problem that wasn't in the design. On most projects, the state hires
one firm to design the project and another to build it. Commissioner
Paiewonsky wants more focus on the design.

LOUISA PAIEWONSKY: Often construction delays are caused years before in
the design process so we are doing an internal exercise looking at
whether we are investing enough in the design phase, whether we are
being comprehensives enough in the design scope.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: But what some construction industry experts say is
really holding back progress is the antiquated nature of the
road-building industry itself. Barry Patner is a construction lawyer in
New York City who wrote a forthcoming book on the industry. He says
that because construction companies are small and they don't have the
money to invest in new technologies.

BARRY PATNER: The construction industry amongst all industries in
America is the lowest spending industry in terms of IT spending for
technology and has the lowest per worker productivity of any industry
in the U.S.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Such low worker output could mean millions of
wasted dollars in Massachusetts, which has a back log of a staggering
$8 billion dollars in maintenance projects. And it means more
frustrated drivers like these, who were trying to navigate their way
through Kenmore Square. The subway and bus stop reconstruction is ten
months behind schedule it's already taken longer to rebuild than it
took to construct the entire original subway line.

VOXPOP: #1 Construction is truly a pain.
#2 It's pretty much a shame there's are no bike lanes and there is all
this construction going on right before students move in you can't even
ride your car down it forget a bike.
#3 We're from out of town and the last time we were here it was the
same way and it was horrible.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: The highway department hopes its streamlining task
force will find ways to complete projects 10 to 20 percent faster.

For WBRU I'm Monica Brady-Myerov

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Los Angeles Mango Mania,1,4686502.story?

From the Los Angeles Times

Mango mania
Direct from India, the luscious fruit makes its Southern California
debut. Oh, the crowds! Oh, the sticker shock!
By Shuji Sakai
Special to The Times

June 6, 2007

IT may be the most highly anticipated produce debut ever: Mangoes from
India, banned from importation until the U.S. and India reached a trade
agreement last year, have finally hit stores in Southern California.

Why all the excitement?

The mango, in India, is revered for its flavor and texture. "It's
luscious, it's satiny, it's smooth and velvety, and has the most
elegant mixture of sweet with a little sour that you can possibly hope
to find," says Madhur Jaffrey, author of "Climbing the Mango Trees: A
Memoir of a Childhood in India" and other Indian cookbooks.

Though hundreds of mango varieties are grown in India, only three —
Alphonso, Kesar and Banganpalli — will be available in the U.S. this
season. Alphonsos and Kesars were the first to arrive.

Alphonsos, smallish and golden-yellow, are amazingly sweet and
succulent, with floral aromas and a creamy, fiber-free texture. Los
Angeles-based produce wholesaler Melissa's received a shipment the
first week of May, says Robert S. Schueller, director of public
relations for the firm. Although Melissa's distributed them to
retailers in Texas, Pennsylvania and New York, L.A. retailers didn't
bite, Schueller says, thanks to their high price — they sell for $35
for a case of 12.

"We're at the peak of mango season," he says. "You can buy a dozen
mangos of the Ataulfo variety for less than 10 bucks, so most retailers
look at the price and say, 'Oh, it's probably not worth it.' In a
market where you can get two mangos for a dollar, and these are costing
$4 or $5 apiece, it depends on where your priorities are."

Mexican-grown Ataulfo mangos — the only fiberless variety besides the
Indian ones — are available nine months of the year, he says.

But the high price doesn't seem to be deterring Indian mango
aficionados. Devraj Kerai, owner of Pioneer Cash & Carry, a grocery in
Artesia's Little India district, says he wanted to be the first to
carry Indian mangoes in the region. He received 110 cases of Kesars (12
per case) on May 11, he says, and he sold out in three hours. (Since
then he has received three more shipments of Alphonsos and Kesars,
pre-selling them, with a waiting list.)

When I arrived at Pioneer that first day, there was a huge yellow and
orange banner that screamed, "Indian Mangoes Now Available," and the
scene around the mango display was like a scrum. That's not surprising
to anyone who knows Indian culture.

"Mangos are an essential part of every Indian's growing up," says
Jaffrey. "Every party for graduations has mangoes, because that's also
the time of the mango. The minute someone graduates, mangoes are sent,
placed in a bucket of ice (the quickest way to cool a lot of them), and
everyone sits around in a celebratory mood.

"At all our weddings, like a Jewish chuppa, we have a canopy, a mandap,
that the couple stands under. The canopy is made of mango leaves, the
most auspicious of leaves, and you are surrounded by their blessings."

Still, eyes popped when Pioneer customers learned how expensive the
mangoes were. A few snapped up cases, quickly ferrying them away.
Others took a more cautious approach. One couple bought a single fruit
for $3.50 and returned moments later to indulge in just one more. They
had eaten the first one behind the store and couldn't resist buying

Besides the price issue, mango devotees should consider that all
Indian-grown mangoes exported to the U.S. are irradiated. The reason
for the long ban was that they can harbor a pest — the mango seed
weevil — but the weevil is killed with low levels of irradiation.
"Irradiation is recognized as a safe and effective way of providing
insect quarantine treatment," says Christine Bruhn, an expert on
irradiation and director of the Center for Consumer Research at UC
Davis, but the procedure remains controversial.

In any case, I didn't let it bother me: I couldn't wait to taste one.
The Kesars, a bit larger than the Alphonsos, are still green when ripe,
with only a touch of yellowing, if any.

As I peeled the skin down the side of the fruit, a fabulous perfume
wafted up: lime blossom, citrus and spice. I filleted the two "cheeks"
away from the flat oval pit. The flesh was gorgeous, a beautiful, deep
saffron color. ("Kesar" means saffron in Hindi.) I sliced, and tasted.

The flesh was silky and ripe, with a texture almost like tofu. It was
amazingly sweet and deeply flavored, with funky tropical notes and a
touch of bright lime and a gorgeous finish. Not wanting to miss a bit,
I slurped the rest of the fruit over the sink.

Kesars will be available only through late June, and they're not easy
to find: The only stores carrying them in Southern California are a
number of Indian groceries; meanwhile, Melissa's is selling them online
($55 per case, plus shipping).

Banganpallis, grown in the south of India, are on their way says
Pioneer's Kerai; he expects to have them this week.

So are Indian mangoes worth the steep price tag? For Schueller, it's a
close call. His favorite, he says, is the green Keittmango, grown next
to the Salton Sea in the Coachella Valley; they'll come into season in
July. "The Indian mangoes are just as good," he says, "but the price is
so high."

But for me, it was the best $35 I've spent all year.



A wide world of flavor, texture and color

Indian mango varieties

Though there are hundreds of mango varieties grown in India, only three
are available in the U.S.

Alphonso: Sweet, soft-fleshed and nearly fiberless, with golden yellow
skin that may be blushed with red, this variety is well known
throughout India. Harvested from March to June.

Kesar: Small to medium-size, it has a green skin that doesn't
necessarily change color when fully ripe. Check for ripeness with a
delicate squeeze. It takes its name from the Hindi word for saffron,
due to its spicy perfume and orange flesh. It is picked from May to
June in its northern home state of Gujarat.

Banganpalli: Large, oval, and golden yellow, with a distinct aroma.
Peeling its thin, smooth skin reveals a firm, meaty, fiberless, sweet
yellow flesh. Harvested in southern India from April to June.


Mango varieties widely available in the U.S.

Tommy Atkins: Growers favor this large, colorful variety (its "blush"
is mostly red) for good looks, a long shelf life and a fibrous flesh,
which helps it endure global transit. Comparing apples to mangoes, this
Red Delicious of the mango world has only fair flavor but is widely
available through most of the year.

Haden: A descendant of the Tommy Atkins, this yellow-orange to red
fruit is medium to large in size and known for its high sweetness and
moderate fiber. It's available October through June.

Kent: Large, with a greenish yellow skin and a bit of red blush, it has
rich sweetness and nearly no fiber. Available October through April
from South America.

Ataulfo: This small mango has a bright yellow skin and sweet, soft
buttery flesh, and very little seed fiber. It's sometimes called a
Manila or Mexican mango and is also sold under the brand name
Champagne. Available in the spring through early summer; now is peak

Keitt: Harvested green before full maturity, this very large fruit,
developed in Florida, can be used for Asian green mango recipes. It can
also be left to ripen to orange-yellow, for full-on eat-out-of-hand
flavor. The season is May through September.

— Shuji Sakai

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Good things from the LA Times

The LA Times is a big fat paper, about which someone once joked that
"It seems to be edited with a shovel." True but the good stuff is very
good. The Food Section on Wednesday is wonderful and the revived West
Magazine is not as good as it once was but its better than an airline


Bomb Mots
Dan Neil

May 6, 2007

Richard "Mack" Machowicz speaks softly and carries a big laser-guided,
over-the-horizon, armor-penetrating stick. Machowicz is the host of
Discovery Channel's "Future Weapons," a breathless hour of gun love in
which Mack—former Navy SEAL and a keen advocate of peace through
superior firepower—pulls the trigger on some of the most fearsome
hardware ever procured by the Pentagon.

In one episode, he ventilates the night with the fire-spitting 40mm
cannon aboard an AC-130 Spectre gunship. On another, Mack visits with
the men behind the Massive Ordinance Air Blast device (MOAB), a
21,000-pound, mushroom-cloud-forming super-bomb that is the largest
conventional weapon in the Air Force arsenal, thus earning it the
nickname Mother Of All Bombs.

It was the MOAB segment that stayed my remote-control hand. While I'm
no authority on the laws of armed conflict, it seemed to me a weapon
with a lethal blast radius of 400 feet is a tad, well, indiscriminate.
Perhaps glorifying this pseudo-nuke was in some sense ethically

"You can't put it down to the weapon," says Machowicz when I reached
him by phone. "Any weapon is unethical if used improperly." The MOAB
was designed primarily as a psychological weapon, Machowicz says. Also,
the MOAB provides an alternative to battlefield nukes. "Not a good
alternative, but an alternative," he says. The show—promoted as part of
what Discovery calls its "Manday" lineup on Mondays—typically has four
segments, each featuring a high-tech weapon system and each, ideally,
ending in an incandescent gout of destruction that makes you ever so
glad you're not a jihadist in Warizistan. A season-one segment featured
the world's most powerful cluster bomb. Misplace your Jane's Defense
Weekly? That's the CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW), which can rain
down molten copper over 600,000 square feet. Another segment explored
ground-penetrating thermobaric weapons, which are an extremely
unpleasant variety of incinerating fuel-air explosive that can be used
to—if I may paraphrase President Bush—smoke them out of their holes.

Who is "they"? Well, who have you got?

"The world is full of bad people, evil people," said Machowicz.
"People who are fundamentally inconsiderate of their actions." Ah,

Cable TV has always had more than a whiff of cordite. Following
Clausewitz's maxim that all history is, at base, military history, the
History Channel offers a steady diet of armed conflict: "Dogfights of
the Middle East," "Man Moment Machine: Patton and the Desperate Tank
Attack," are a couple of current titles. In a charming confluence of
life and art, R. Lee Ermey—a former Marine drill instructor cast as the
martinet in "Full Metal Jacket"—hosts his own show of weapons past,
present and future, called "Mail Call." If that's not enough gear, guns
and guts for you, flip to the Military Channel. They're always storming
the beaches of Normandy and Tarawa over there.

God knows I love to see things blow up. A proper gentleman's education
cannot be considered complete unless he has, at some point, shot a
watermelon with a high-powered rifle. But I have a major problem with a
lot of this programming, the first being its clinical and morally
vacant fascination in killing. You know that familiar wing-camera
footage of white-orange napalm blooming in the jungle canopy in
Vietnam? There are people under there. At the other end of every smart
bomb is some poor dumb bastard who is about to be blown to bits. When I
hear some narrator crow about America's precision bombing, I just
cringe. There is nothing precise about a 1,000-pound bomb.

I had a similar reaction to media coverage of the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency's Grand Challenge, DARPA's annual open
competition for auto- nomous ground vehicles. How many people
registered that this was a program to develop robotic weapons? Did
anybody even see "The Terminator"?

It's not about the necessity of armed conflict, or morality of a
particular weapon. All of that is, as they say in the military, above
my pay grade. It's about making glib entertainment out of mechanized
death. You couldn't blame a visitor from another country watching this
program and concluding that Americans have slipped into a nutty
late-Roman fascism.

Mack disagrees. The effect of this technology is, he says, to make
warfare less destructive, to limit collateral damage, to protect our
own forces, and in some cases—such as the Long Range Acoustic Device
(LRAD), a focused sound weapon—to find non-lethal means to achieve
military objectives. "It's about how much responsibility you are trying
to take for the battlefield."

A whisper-voiced bulldog of a man with a head as smooth as an ROTC
drill team helmet, Mack seems like a decent sort of guy. I pressed him
as to whether he thought perhaps his show is just a televised front
porch for the military-industrial complex. He does, after all, have
some amazing access, and he never seems to have met a gold-plated
weapons system he doesn't like.

Good propaganda fools the people who see it. Great propaganda fools
the people who make it.

Copyright 2007 Los Angeles Times

Saturday, March 31, 2007

From our English gardening columnist.

Grow-your-own Viagra craze hits Britain's garden centres
By David Randall
The Independent
Published: 01 April 2007

A chance discovery by a Berkshire allotment-holder that a plant widely
available in garden centres has the same effect on men as Viagra has
been confirmed by experts at one of the world's leading botanical

The plant is winter-flowering heather, and botanists at the Royal
Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, many of them heather experts who have
recognised the source of its active ingredient, now expect it to be the
next must-have plant in British gardens. Demand is already high.
Nurseries and garden centres in some areas are having trouble finding
sufficient supplies as word spreads of the plant's unexpected

A spokesman for Wyevale Garden Centres, which has 106 UK branches,
said: "At first, it was just a trickle of inquiries, but now stores are
virtually being besieged each weekend. We have had men buying dozens of
the plants and, at one store in Croydon, there were men old enough to
know better fighting over the last remaining trays."

The latest gardening craze was triggered by a discovery by a
55-year-old furniture restorer, Michael Ford, on his allotment. He was
always experimenting with drinks made from different plants and one day
he tried an infusion from his winter-flowering heather. He said: "The
effect was almost immediate. I had to stay in my potting shed for an
hour or so before I could decently walk down the street."

He then contacted the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, famous for
their work with the heather family, to see if they could offer an
explanation. They could. Botanist Alan Bennell said: "This first
surfaced when East European chemists reported finding a Viagra-type
chemical in the floral tissues of winter-flowering heaths. They were
able to isolate measurable amounts of material that is an analogue of
the active principle in Viagra."

Winter-flowering heather, he explained, belongs to the genus Erica, a
close relative of our own native heather. He said: "As yet, the active
ingredient has not been found in these British forms, but it is proving
to be most concentrated in many of the widely available hybrids sold as
winter-flowering heather in garden centres. Particularly potent are
forms of Erica carnea, the Alpine heather, whose range extends into the

"The work of these biochemists and physiologists - much of it disrupted
and lost during the ravages of war - is now coming to light."

From the limited amount of information available, it is suggested the
Viagra-analogue is best extracted by steeping the detached small
flowers in neat alcohol. An infusion of about 20g of flowers in 100ml
of fluid liberates the active principle. A quality full-strength vodka
(at least 40 per cent) is also effective. Mr Bennell added: "There is
some confusion whether oral consumption or topical application is more

But not everyone is happy about this new discovery. One woman shopping
at a Wyvales in Dorking yesterday said: "It's amazing. My husband has
never shown any interest in gardening before, but now he's out there
night and day fussing over his heathers. Frankly, I preferred it when
he left the garden to me and wasn't so frisky."

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Jeffrey Steingarten likes chocolate mice

Jeffrey Steingarten writes about food in Vogue. He knows more, and is
capable of learning more about most things than anyone might think
possible. His most famous book is a collection called The Man Who Ate
Everything. In the February issue of Vogue he says that the best
chocolate bonbons are made by L.A. Burdick. In fact he specifically
says that they are better than the ones made by the much more famous
and much more expensive Maison du Chocolate in Manhattan. Burdick's is
located in Walpole, N.H. and on Brattle Street. I still think that
their various hot chocolates are excessive. But this is a great

Boston is suddenly full of good chocolate places. Every Thursday night
at Mariposa Bakery in Central Square, Taza Chocolate has a chocolate
cafe. The hours are from 730PM to 1130PM. Mariposa is at 424 Mass.
Ave. next to Economy Hardware. Taza also has a handsome website

Some people say that the best chocolates are at Gary's, in Watertown.
Gary's is at 1076 Belmont St. and Watertown is full of unlikely sources
of great food.

Captain Sandy Francis of the Cambridge Fire Dept. opened Serene
Chocolate at 1105 Mass. Ave. His store is a half flight down from the
street and sells a great collection of domestic and imported
chocolates. He also sells Toscanini's ice creams.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The essential Cambridge political website.

Cambridge is a big little town. Once I was told that it is the largest
city in the United States without a daily newspaper. To be sure
everybody reads the Globe but the Globe doesn't pay much attention to
Cambridge. Quincy has a five day a week paper. Cambridge's only daily
is the Harvard Crimson, and if you're interested in Cambridge life its
a good idea to read the Crimson. Its also a good idea to read Robert
Winters' website, which is cleverly to be found at
Winters ran for council once and spends the rest of the time teaching
math and writing about local politics. Famously he once said that "it
is mathematically impossible for Central Square to become Harvard
Square so long as Harvard Square exists." This did not conclude the
endless argument about gentrification but it should have retired the
hysterical claim that Central Square was becoming Harvard Square.

This column also appeared in The Alewife, North Cambridge's excellent
weekly. The column might be read the way you'd read Howie Carr.

Robert Windows

January 09, 2007

Cambridge Ideas by Robert Winters

Fine Feathered Nests

Even before the year 2006 began, word leaked out from Cambridge city
councillors that a deal was in the works to grant some councillors
their own personal aides in exchange for their votes to make Ken Reeves
mayor. The plan at that time was for Reeves to appoint certain
councillors to chair several Council committees and to use this to
justify the supposed need for personal staff.

Robert Winters

Sure enough, when the committee appointments were made, new co-chairs
were created where there had been none, and the councillors appointed
by the mayor to chair some committees made no sense at all. Soon after,
each councillor was given the option of receiving a personal aide
courtesy of the newly anointed mayor.

By the end of the year, this city council had accomplished less than
any in the history of the city. At year's end, there were precisely
zero Council committee meetings scheduled and little for the
councillors to do.

In truth, 2006 was a year during which some councillors measured their
new offices, others measured their chances at getting elected to new
offices, and the rest measured how many more years of incumbency they
needed in order to max out their pensions.

It was a year to take care Number One, and no one did so with greater
extravagance than his royal highness, the mayor, Mr. Reeves. While all
other departments kept their budgets close to the levels of the
previous year, Reeves submitted a budget 54% higher than the previous
mayor. The main increase was the inclusion of personal "research
assistants" for each councillor - all paid out of the Mayor's budget to
complete the deal that made Reeves mayor.

It's important to understand several things about these "research
assistants." First, they don't do any research. In fact, nobody knows
what they do other than free up time for councillors to seek
reelection. Second, they are, for the most part, affiliated with the
political campaigns of the incumbents - just like almost everyone who
works in the mayor's office. For this reason, their salaries are
effectively campaign contributions paid out of city tax revenue. Third,
since they're provided by the Mayor's Office, it's important that
councillors make nice to the Mayor if they want to get their personal
coat-holder, letter-answerer, and car-parker.

When the Mayor's Office budget was submitted last spring, only one
councillor, Craig Kelley, had the gonads to pull that budget to allow
discussion. Unfortunately, when it came time to ask questions, the new
councillor declared that the budget was going to pass anyway, so there
was no point in asking questions. Wrong, very wrong.

By the time December rolled around, we discovered that our wandering
mayor had not only used up his $20,500 annual travel budget in less
that half a year, but there was now an appropriation request for an
additional $19,750 for travel expenses. The appropriation passed
without discussion.

What this all means is that this Cambridge City Council unanimously
believes in the principle that "you have to go along to get along."

In most political settings, there are two parties in play. No matter
what you call them, it's basically a balance between those who are in
control and those who would like to be in control. Those on the outside
play a vital role in requiring those in power to justify their actions
and expenditures. We really don't have that in City Hall any more.
Everyone's an insider. Last term, we could always count on David Maher
to point out the lack of garments on the king.

The only time anything is challenged now is when there is some
political gain to be had - all in the noble cause of incumbency

I've been closely following local government in Cambridge for two
decades now and I've never felt as little affinity with any group of
nine councillors as I do right now (with the sole exception of Michael
Sullivan who was recently elected as Middlesex County Clerk  of
Courts). Most of them put their own self-interest well ahead of the
taxpayers' interest. Half of them are focused more on their next job
than their current job.

Because Cambridge can always permit another large development project
to cover any added costs, this Council rarely has to be concerned about
any blowback from an unnecessary expense, especially the expense of
feathering their own nests.

What we could all use now are some good men and women who are willing
to run for local office and to challenge the incumbents. This can be a
daunting task. We don't usually get more than a few credible
challengers brave enough to give it a try. The campaign finance
reporting requirements are a pain (unless you fudge the numbers, like
the mayor), fundraising is awkward and time-consuming, and it's likely
that you'll catch some abuse from somewhere before it's all said and

Any new candidate has to get up to speed on a lot of issues in order to
avoid embarrassment, but there are many people who will be happy to
lend you a hand. Candidacy is one of the best ways to learn about local
government. There's a better than even chance that you won't get
elected. Nonetheless, we could really use you. Think about it! The year
2007 could be a great year to clean house at City Hall.

There are now a lot of people in Cambridge who would love to oust some
incumbents. They would love nothing more than to have their choice of
credible hallengers to support and to give their Number 1 vote next
November. The School Committee race could also use some competition. If
you have loftier goals, there are also several Massachusetts House and
Senate seats that could use new occupants in 2008.

Asking someone to become a candidate for public office is a lot to ask.
Consider yourself asked.

January 09, 2007 in Robert Winters | Permalink

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Mark Mooradian is everyone's favorite vendor. He is positively
evangelical about tea. He will be discussing and demonstrating a wide
variety of teas at Toscanini's in Central Square. This is one of the
best ways to spend a chilly winter evening.
Tea Party
with Mark Mooradian
Mr. Tea@TheBigTable
899 Main St.
Central Square, Cambridge
We Ja 24 2007
Green Tea ice cream.
Matte Lattes. Honey Cardamom Lattes.
Learn about tea : black tea, red tea, green tea, white tea,
oolong tea, frost tea, tissines. Sample tea and ask questions.
Mark will be introducing two new teas:
Armenian Mint Mate,
Pu Erh Ginger Licorice.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bob Lefsetz on the radio. For your own good.


Howdy all,

Wow. What a shit week last week. I would blame it on that lull between
Christmas and the first releases of the new year. But, If you look at
the Billboard Top 200, there is not a bunch of stuff there to drive
anyone into the stores. Especially ours.

The coming 60 days have some releases that are dreams for us. All
independent. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Bloc Party, The Shins and Arcade
Fire are all on deck and there is much excitement, yes even for
physical goods.

What concerns me and what I think is a root problem for our  industry
is radio. As great as the new Shins record is (and it is great), you
can't hear it on any mainstream radio anywhere in most parts of the US.
Same with the other three titles. This is the new stuff that ought to
be promoted. All I get is Nickelback and Hinder mixed in with 15 year
old Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots. Not very exciting. Not knocking
the two current bands dominating radio because I know they have an
audience. I am just saying that radio has become this ultra dull
lifeless thing that I rarely turn on.

I can hear you now saying "Don, you caveman, no one listens to the
radio. Everyone hears about new music on the internet". Well, that is
just not 100% true. A nice chunk of people hear about new music on the
internet (obviously). But frankly, many people are just too damn busy
to spend non-work time in front of their computers. Some are lucky
enough to get to stream KEXP at work but most are blocked.

As I have said before, I keep on top of everything by sticking my dial
on "Left of Center" on Sirius. In my opinion, there should be a station
like this in every market. For those who have not made the leap into
satellite radio. For those who get sun and don't live on the internet.
In other words, the majority of people out there. The people who would
be purchasing music but just can't get turned on.

My kids don't turn on their radio any more. It sucks too bad they say.
What is terrible is that no matter how many ways people have to get
turned on to new music these days, what they really need is a filter.
Unfortunately, the biggest filter out there, the one in every car on
the road, is blocking the best stuff from the air.

Coalition of Independent Music Stores Top 200 for Week Ending 01-14-07

 33 U2|U218 SINGLES
 85 TOOL|10000 DAYS

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Winnie Yang's hungry life:

Winnie Yang is smarter than you and eats more than you and travels more
than you. Her blog is entertaining.

Gettin' my art on in Berlin
Published November 30th, 2006 music , art , travel , food ,
articles , winnie 1 Comment

The local paper published an ever-so-timely article on the museum scene
in Germany's capital. I was there this past weekend and while I didn't
make a point of going to the Bode, I did discover two very, very cool
institutions that have made it onto my list of favorite museums of all

7. Jüdisches Museum - Berlin
8. Hamburger Bahnhof

It's remarkable how much museums have changed in my (albeit short)
lifetime. Or maybe just in the past decade. I guess if you want to see
the old-school methodology for exhibit and information display, you
might go to the Egyptian Museum in Turin. But the Jüdisches Museum
ranks right up there with the Terrorháza (admittedly also in theme) in
terms of innovative exhibits. The latter is probably more tactile or
interactive, but the former gives you all kinds of personal narrative
to make the exhibit ("Home and Exile: Jewish Emigration from Germany
since 1933?) really hit home. I also like that they inundate you with
so much information, so much evidence of the difficulties, the
nightmares and tragedies that these emigrants had to deal with that you
emerge from the museum feeling you've had the shit kicked out of you.
That's what museums should do to you.

The Hamburger Bahnhof is similar in the visceral sense, but I more
marvelled at the physical space and use of this former train station.
The Hamburger is one of many modern art museums in Berlin (I also went
to the Neue Nationalgalerie, which, while designed by architecture
demi-god Mies van der Rohe, has a very institutional (read: gym-like)
feel. I'm not into the short screen-wall things they've hung stuff on
on the main floor. Modern art needs telescoping, swooping spaces. Or at
least that's what I've been cultivated to think anyway. Short walls =
short shrift.) They have some really great installations there right
now. Definitely a must-see.

This is the Altes Museum, which I didn't actually step inside, but I
like what they had to say out front.

Anyway, what I ate in Berlin:

Most of my time was spent in the Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, which are
very, very cool neighborhoods. Mitte/parts of the PB are sort of like
the Lower East Side/East Village/Williamsburg. In fact, much of Berlin
reminded me of Williamsburg. I'll even go so far as to claim that
Berlin IS the Williamsburg of Europe. Other parts of PB are almost like
the Upper East Side or St.-Germain-des-Prés.

Just up the street from where I was staying is the famed W Imbiss that
was mentioned recently in the NYT piece on Berlin street food. I don't
know if Gordon W was actually ever there the two times I ate there, but
there were definitely plenty of ex-pats hanging around both behind and
in front of the counter. I had

the avocado-chipotle naan pizza. With sprouts and arugula, as you can
see. Naan is excellent at this place. Berlin is like NYC in terms of
food — you're not necessarily going to find anything spectacular that's
'local' per se, other than bratwurst and currywurst, but there are many
places that specialize in that sort of neo-continental student fare of,
like, carbohydrate + spreadable item (+ cheese when appropriate; +
greens when you're in an area riddled with hipsters or yuppies).
Basically variations on burritos, pizza, bagels, etc. Even better when
it comes with a mango lassi! W's are excellent.

A few blocks further north, I stumbled upon one of those little
boutique/coffeeshops that's so hot these days. Misses Marbles, this one
is called, and they have some delicious kirsch-streusel-torte:

and really nice, really expensive tote bags.

Berlin, you're A-OK. I'll be seeing you soon, you can bet on that.

Random notes:
I caught Donizetti's "L'elisir d'amore" at the Staatsoper, and it has
to be one of my favorite operas yet. Clever, funny and just plain fun.
I spent half the time trying to tease some kind of meaning out of the
German subtitles and understood maybe 5% of the Italian they were
singing in, but I still thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I think I've
commented on this before, but in Europe, operagoers skew on the young

A list I made after finally getting from Milan to Berlin:
Metropolitana di Milano
Bad/infrequent signage
Well-designed signs everywhere, where they ought to be
Ticket machines from 1970s
New ticket machines
Inscrutable instructions for ticket purchase
Clear instructions in 8 languages
Where are the maps?
Maps everywhere
Where's the train official?
Train official very helpful and right where he should be
Where's the train?
Train ETAs electronically updated by the minute

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

From our observant Anthropology Correspondent: Underwhelmed at the ICA Member's Party

A month after the fact, so don’t file this under news.

File under: Would Bostonians Dress Up For Their Own Funerals?

The Location:
The waterfront. The new Institute of Contemporary Art.
Wood. Glass. Water. At last, a destination-worthy new building in Boston. When I read that City Hall recoiled from the brick-free design I almost wept: WTF-weeping. I’d like to copyright that: WTFWping.

Thank goodness for Kairos Shen at the Boston Redevelopment Authority who, according to The Globe helped “calm concerns in City Hall that the project was too adventurous architecturally for the city.”

City Hall, left to their own stingy aesthetics, would allow Cleveland (Cleveland!) to architecturally lap us.

The Event:
The members’ reception for the first art museum in open in Boston in over 100 years. Boston’s Cultural Event of the Season (NOT the signing of Daisuke Matsuzaka).

The Scene:
Underwhelming (My opinion while in a good mood).
Pathetic (My opinion in a bad mood).
Let me be clear – this is a critique of the party scene, not the Diller Scofidio + Renfro building or the theater space (can’t WAIT to see a dance performance there), or the opening exhibit, uneven with a few pieces I loved, among them: Cornelia Parker’s “Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson)”, Chiho Aohsima’s hilarious lobby installation “The Divine Gas” , and a mesmerizing piece – don’t know title or artist – of a perception-altering, horizonless red void.

The party was called for 7pm-midnight. My friend Cynthia and I arrived sometime after 9pm, to avoid the expected earlier crush. So we arrived, hungry, just before the halfway mark. All the savory food was gone. Bad planning.

Only dessert remained. Dessert is overstating it. Let’s say, sugary snacks. Here’s what was served:
• Bowls of candy: m&ms, gummy Swedish fish, Skittles (I am not making this up)
• Chocolate-dipped marshmallows on wooden skewers. (?????!)
• Fancy pretzel logs dipped in chocolate and nuts (this was adding insult to injury because I’m allergic to nuts.)
• Maybe there were cookies. I can’t remember. I was so hungry I double-fisted the Skittles and m&ms and staggered off with one of my two allocated pink cocktails.

Let’s recap: The Members’ Party.
Members: People who on good faith bought memberships to a museum that had not yet opened, and which opened three months late (as of yet – they have not offered to extend our memberships).
Swedish Fish??

The Fashion, and Lack Thereof:
I spent an hour getting dressed. I am not a fashion whore, but, Cultural Event of the Season. I felt obliged to represent.

My outfit: Grey deconstructed skirt with subtle sideways fishtail; deep v-neck, snug, black, Victorian-style blouse; knee-high lace up black boots with instep buckle, AND rhinestone floral brooch at the waist with swagged chain linked up to large kilt pin. Vintage black handbag. Cascading curls. Very Dark Lipstick.

Kind of Fabulous Punk Victorian.

Most other female attendees’outfits:
Anne Taylor dresses
Black or navy velvet
And the uniform of thirty-something women: Short black skirts, knee-high black boots, topped with basic sweaters (!). In NYC, women wear this to the office.

A few attendees, especially the gay men, were decked out. Also architects. Cynthia and I, resting our tired feet in the theater’s orange stadium seating, argued over the team loyalties of a handsome young man in a beautiful suit, fantastic two-toned shoes and a scarf (an accessory scarf, not an inclement weather scarf). Cynthia insisted gay, because of the scarf (we’re in BOSTON, after all). I disagreed. We decided to chat him up, purely for research’s sake. He was an architect, which I figured decided the issue (Not Necessarily Gay). Cynthia was not convinced. But I had more evidence:
1. He did not comment our on noticeably fabulous outfits.
2. I admired his shoes and he felt obliged to provide an excuse for why he was wearing such fantastic shoes.

Definitely Not Gay.

-- Sari

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mr. Tea

899 Main St.
Central Square, Cambridge
We Ja 24 2007

On We Ja 24, at our store in Central Square, Mark Mooradian will talk
about tea and share old and new flavors.
Learn about tea : black tea, red tea, green tea, white tea, oolong
tea, frost tea, tissines. Tea is a vast world with a long history.
Mark is the Prince Henry the Navigator of this world. Mark sells tea
to all of Boston's best restaurants, Legal Sea Foods and places as far
away as Chez Panisse.

Mark will be introducing two new teas:
Armenian Mint Mate,
Pu Erh Ginger Licorice.
Its free.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

No trans fats. Never had 'em. Never will.

Starbucks announced that it is eliminating trans fats from its baked
goods. It might be better for Starbucks to eliminate baked goods.

Toscanini's gets baked goods from Toscanini's & Sons and Petsi's
Bakery. Both are on Beacon Street, the strange street that runs out of
Inman Square and almost reaches Porter Square. Neither place has ever
used trans-fats. T&Sons makes a fabulous vegan chocolate cupcake and I
also like Petsi's scones on the weekend.

Two years ago my sister and I went to the Fancy Foods Show in
Manhattan. Mimi was working for Tiny Trapeze, the confectionary
company that Whole Foods later purchased. The Fancy Foods show is a
great place for Foodies. There are entire aisles for countries like
France and Belgium and other aisles for regions like Tuscany. Most of
the food is delicious.

There is also a percentage of low-end junk food. This year the most
popular new items were barbeque sauces. Again. When you go to Fancy
Foods shows the most popular "other" items are either bizarre potato
chips or barbeque sauces. If you make a barbeque flavored potato chip
named after a geographic resort area like Cape May, Cape Cod, or Cape
Anne then you can come to every show.

The Tiny Trapeze booth was next to a sprawling setup for a commercial
bakery that supplied most of the Starbucks in the Northeast. Their
bakery was in The Bronx. The show opened on Friday. Thursday night
everyone set up their booths, but this guy was also taking the time to
slice up his samples. I asked him if it wasn't a little early to open
and divide all these baked goods. "Oh no," he said, "they'll last a
week under any circumstances." He was a cheerful sweet man but I
resolved never to eat anything at Starbucks.

Long ago Boston had Coffee Connection and Coffee Connection had a some
pretty good food to eat. They had a chocolate fudge brownie that was
outstanding. When Starbucks bought out Coffee Connecftion they began
to systemize their baked goods. Local bakeries like Bond and Burkhardt
would be hired to provide food for all the regional cafes. But things
went steadily downhill. I know some people like Starbucks' little
cookies but everything else went out the window. After the Fancy Foods
show I knew that it was hopeless. You were never going to find a
chocolate croissant with a little extra chocolate inside. You would
find chocolate croissants that your family could store in their shelter
along with sixty gallons of water for each household member. Now
Starbucks sells sandwiches and salads and is moving into breakfast.

I think Starbucks does a number of things well. I don't care for the
coffee but one could argue about that. The food is a lost cause. I'd
try to sell more books and records and videos. They do those things
reasonably well.

Monday, January 8, 2007

...and Yaphet Kotto as Q Riley

The Globe and Da Heral' both reported an arrest made by Boston's new
police commissioner, and his driver. The both reported without comment
that the driver was named Q Riley. Where does this come from? Are
there other cops with wonderful new names? In France the government
approves the names of all children so you don't have any Moon Unit
Leotard's. Or is Riley the first Burmese cop in a city once dominated
by the Irish? Curious minds want to know.

"For example, minutes after a 20-year-old Hyde Park man was fatally
shot Sunday near South Station, Davis was leaving the scene when he and
his driver spotted the Mercedes for which police had just broadcast an
alert. His driver, Q Riley, blocked the car and detained the driver
until officers arrived. Davis yesterday confirmed the incident, saying
he acted as Riley's backup."

The best place to start a musical argument:

I think that Bob Lefsetz wrote his own blurb. Doesn't John Updike
write his, too. This disinhibited blog is at its best when the author
is making coherent and surprising arguments about music, the music
industry, and the future of both. Its interesting when he's just

Who is Bob Lefsetz

Bob Lefsetz is the author of "The Lefsetz Letter." Famous for being
beholden to no one and speaking the truth, Lefsetz addresses the issues
that are at the core of the music business: downloading, copy
protection, pricing and the music itself.

His intense brilliance captivates readers from Steven Tyler to Rick
Nielsen to Bryan Adams to Quincy Jones to EVERYBODY who's in the music

Never boring, always entertaining, Bob's insights are fueled by his
stint as an entertainment business attorney, majordomo of Sanctuary
Music's American division and consultancies to major labels.

"The Lefsetz Letter" has been publishing for the past 20 years. First
as hard copy, most recently as an email newsletter and now, for the
first time, in blog form.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Jen Deaderick has always had her opinions. A few of them can be found
at her blog, "Brookline is My Baby" at the above url.

for Gus...

A list of my favorite movie endings (that I can think of at this late

Broadcast News: How many romance movies end with neither guy getting
the girl and everyone being kind of okay with it. It's a great
illustration of what it's like to look back in a crazy period of time
in a life. Excellent! And it doesn't come off as smarmy or
self-important. Because James L. Brooks is fabulous. (Mary Tyler Moore
Show: another great ending)

The Graduate: An obvious choice, but still great. I guess I like
ambiguous endings to romances. The more I see that movie the more I
identify with Mrs. Robinson (I'm a year older than she was supposed to
be in the movie!). In the end, on the bus, the kids start to realize
what she already knows: life just goes on. There's all this excitement
sometimes, but then it just keeps going. Until, of course, it doesn't. 

40 Year Old Virgin: I'm not going to give it away, but it's great

Okay, Gus, see, this is why I don't do these things. I'm already in the
realm of local paper puff piece, or one of those annoying Salon
articles. I type this stuff out, and it just seems too obvious. 

Classic play ending: Hedda Gabler. Just see the thing. Really. Or read
it, at least. It's a stylized ending, but that doesn't make it any less

Wouldn't this been more fun to talk about over some cool tea at the Big
Table? Why do I have to be another person with an opinion on line?
Okay, I'll keep going.

It Happened One Night has a great, satisfying, well-crafted ending. The
whole damn thing is so well written and well made that I don't know why
anyone thought another movie ever had to be made. But, again, life goes

Of course, Some Like It Hot has a great ending, but who doesn't know

I love the end of Mary Poppins. Let's go fly a kite! And why not???

The Apartment has a pretty good ending. Or is it a little cutesy? I'm
not sure. It's feels like a bit of a bow to propriety, or to the need
for a happy ending. But it still has a little of the ambiguity that I
like. And, come on, it's Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon. It does have
a really great, classic beginning, that movie. But that's another blog

Okay, I've done my bit. I'm going to bed. To hell with the lot of you!

Friday, January 5, 2007

Harvard Square Keeps Getting Better and Better

Haven't you thought to yourself that what Harvard Square really needs
is another bank or two, maybe even a Citibank. Dreams can come true.
The building that once house HMV music will soon have a great big
Citibank. Thank God that people from Manhattan will be able to find
their favorite bank. Wainwright Bank will also share the ground floor
of the building, because as we all know banks like banks as neighbors.
EMS will move upstairs. Citibank is allegedly paying $150 per square

The Square keeps changing. Years ago it wasn't much different from
Cushing Square in Belmont. Then for a decade it was full of bookstores
and cafes and music stores. Paperback Booksmith was open 24 hours a
day and the Harvard Coop music department was headquarters for the
youth of New England. Wordsworth closed. The Architecture Book Store
above Cafe Pamplona is gone, as is the St. Thomas More bookstore, Asia
Books, Moore and McIntyre, Starr Bookstore, the Bookshelf on Church
St., Mandrake Books on Story Street, and the Harvard Law School Book
Annex. The music stores grew into two superstores -Tower and HMV- and
then imploded. Maybe The Coop music department will revive. Bailey's
closed, Brigham's closed, Uncle Ira's closed, Fred's Ice Cream closed
and so did the strange ice cream store on Mt. Auburn store where they
would use the microwave to make a frappe. Cellphone stores looked like
a good threat for a while but the one on Church St. and Brattle closed.
Allegedly Harvard Real Estate rented that space with the intention of
renting it to a cool food store like Dean & DeLuca or an uncool food
store like Trader Joe's. If we move to a cashless society then all
these banks will disappear in a Darwinian ... plop.

Its Not Free

Its not free. It costs $8. And its part of The Film Series With the
Strangest Name: Swiss Films with Rhythm. Accordion Tribe is playing
at the MFA on Th Ja 11 at 815PM. I saw it last year. The musicians
are charming obsessives. If you have traveled through Europe and been
amused by the persistence of the accordion this is the film for you.
Both the music and the cinematography are excellent.

Accordion Tribe by Stefan Schwietert (2004, 87 min.). Slovenian
American accordionist Guy Klusevic had a dream: to gather a group of
accordion greats—Maria Kalaniemi from Finland, Sweden's mad scientist
Lars Holmer, fellow Slovenian Bratco Babic, and the elfin Austrian Otto
Lechner— and make music together. Follow this unlikely quintet, the
Accordion Tribe, on tour through picturesque European
countrysides—practicing, performing, and attempting to return their
instrument to worldwide recognition as a powerhouse of emotions. In
English and German with English subtitles. This series is made
possible with assistance from Pro Helvetia–Swiss Arts Council, Swiss
Roots–Cultural Offshoots, and co-presented by the Consulate of
Switzerland, Boston.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Other places

Toscanini's is sold at most New England Whole Foods and both
Formaggio's. The Lyceum in Salem, Ma. uses our ice creams in their
desserts. If you want ice cream after leaving a show at The Middle
East you can get pints at Central Convenience. The ultimate
convenience is to order pints from Cinderella's pizza. They deliver in
Boston, Cambridge, Brookline and Somerville. (617) 576-0280. Soon
we'll be back in the MIT Student Center at LaVerde's. Taste of Newton
sells our ice cream and so do several City Convenience Stores. If you
like shellfish go to B&G Oysters in the South End. They shuck our ice

Breakfast@TheBigTable resumes at 10AM on Saturday

Thalia of Pennsylvania, our weekend breakfast chef has been working on
a new menu and will prepare things on Friday so that Saturday and
Sunday will begin happily.

New to the menu:

Corneal pancakes with breakfast sausage patties, Grade B Vermont syrup
and whipped butter

Brioche French Toast a la Orange Rhum Banana with whipped butter and
Grade B Vermont syrup

Irish Oatmeal with fresh apple slices, raising, raisins, and sugar in
the raw.

Most everything else is back, including the Crunchy Monsieur ham and
cheese sandwich, the creamy egg sandwich, the Applewood bacon and the
lemon curd.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

College Basketball

There is an argument made during beer commercials that college
basketball is better than professional basketball because the games
mean more to the college players. Professional basketball players may
be more talented but they know they're going to be paid whatever
happens; they play too many games and the travel schedule is

This is similar to my feelings about student concerts at the New
England Conservatory, Boston's Division 1 Music Power. The concerts
are free and NEC's Jordan Hall is a beautiful surprise that is one
block from Symphony Hall. A stairway takes you abruptly up from the
sidewalk, into a small lobby, another foyer and then into one of
Boston's best secret spaces. Jordan Hall looks like a concert hall in
the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the audience is casual but very
involved with the music.

On Su Ja 21 Karen Gomyo will play at 8PM. Her fall concert was
altogether amazing, ending with tango music written by Astor Piazzola.
This is free and that is the final charm of Jordan Hall. Maybe you'd
hesitate to spend $20 to $50 for an unfamiliar event but to see someone
like Karen Gomyo for free is why you live in the city.

Cambridge Parking Rules

MIT doesn't really start until Tu Fe 6, although some of the geniuses
are in town for Independent Activity Period. String theory, charm
school and very scientific courses about wine.

Harvard students come back for reading period and exams, then return
home. Classes resume on We Ja 31.

UMass. resumes classes on Ja 27.

2006 Hype in Review

Basic Instinct 2 did $5,000,000 in domestic grosses. Despite several
weeks of hype that plainly did not convince anyone to leave the
comforts of their home. Sharon Stone returns to her career as a
product shill in Europe and a favorite of fashion editors in the US.

Outkast's Idlewild was everywhere before it opened. No one went after
it opened. The domestic gross was $12,000,000.

Also Madonna didn't work out for Versace and Sex in the City star, and
Dee Snyder look-alike Sarah Jane Parker still doesn't work for The Gap.

Other people's Ten Best Movies for 2006

This year was unusual because there were not, as is common, fifteen to
twenty movies that might be plausibly listed on anyone's list of the
Ten Best Movies.

Colin Covert of the Minnesota Star-Tribune doesn't like these lists but
he did mention the following films.
1. Borat
2. United 93
3. The Departed
4. The Descent
5. Thank You for Smoking
6. Half Nelson
7. The Devil Wears Prada
8. V for Vendetta
9 A Prarie Home Companion

Ruthie Stein reviews movies for the SF Chronicle.


1. Little Miss Sunshine
2. The Queen
3. The Departed
4. Little Children
5. Babel
6. Dreamgirls
7. Pan's Labrynith
8. The Painted Veil
9. Notes on a Scandal
10. The Lives of Others

Ella Taylor writes for LA Weekly.

1. Army of Shadows (1969's French Resistance movie by Jean Pierre
2. Old Joy
3. The Queen
4. Iraq in Fragments
Our Brand is Crisis
5. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
6. Family Law
7. Venus
49 Up
8. Lassie
Monster House
9. Fateless
10. Borat

Scott Foundas also writes for LA Weekly

1. Army of Shadows
2. Flags of Our Fathers
Letters From Iwo Jima
3. United 93
4. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
5. L'Inturus
Inland Empire
6. Happy Feet
7. Climates
Miami Vice
8. Children of Men
9. A Prairie Home Companion
10. Talladega Nights
Jackass Number 2

Monday, January 1, 2007

Weekend Sports in the NYTimes

The Shallow Section of the Sunday NYTimes continues to offer its own
view of life in the big city. On Ja 2 07 the Times featured a small
roster of 15 weddings. No black people. No Hispanics. No South
Asians. One homosexual couple. Hispanics are the most invisible of
New Yorkers. They rarely appear in the Sunday Styles section despite
being the city's largest ethnic group. Otherwise this was a pretty
boring collection of couplings. As the Leonard Koppett of wedding news
the only statistic that emerges from this week's reports is that 7 of
the 30 people involved went to law school or were going to law school.

Was this part of the paper ever interesting? There's an unsurprising
piece about happy nerds at Google and two stories about those darn baby
Two heirs to a cosmetic fortune are featured in a fashion piece that
threatens the Wall of Separation between editorial and advertising.
Maybe they're friends of someone who writes for the paper as a regular
reader might often suspect when reading this part of the Times. Is
there any other reason for the short feature about two astrologers from
Detroit? There is a scary picture of Suzanne Bartsch in an article
about losing expensive jewelry at an expensive beach. Maybe she did a
favor for someone?

The ThursdayStyles section is utterly hopeless, but what the
SundayStyles wants to do is not so bad: create a cast of characters
and types that suggest what the hip parts of the city are like, sort of
Lake Wobegon on the Hudson. British newspapers are very good at this.
The Times is not.

"I am not a mime."

Before she became famous and completely fabulous in The Dresden Dolls,
Amanda Palmer worked as a street performer in Harvard Square. She was
the Eight Foot Tall Bride, towering over everyone in front of Holyoke
Center, looking Kabuki-weird-and-white. In a recent conversation about
whatever decline is happening in Harvard Square she said, "Mimes are
the canaries in the coal mine. When I talk to street performers they
want to work around Quincy Market. Harvard Square is not a good place
because there aren't that many people."