Monthly Archives: May 2013

A Restful Walk

I took a walk through the Mount Auburn Cemetery today.

That’s not as weird as it sounds. It’s a landscaped cemetery; as much a park or a garden as it is a place for the dead. In general, I’ve noticed a kind of casual acceptance of cemeteries in and around Boston. Within the city itself, you can turn a corner and find yourself walking passed another secluded little graveyard tucked away in some urban corner. The city just grew around them and kept them carefully hidden away.

Anyway, Mount Auburn Cemetery.

I am not a religious man, nor a spiritual one, but I still tread lightly in a graveyard. There’s a certain respect that’s demanded by the almost uncountable memorials. So many names and dates and statues and crosses, rows on rows and, after awhile, it just becomes part of the landscape. You’re just walking in a garden that has a certain obsession with statuary. It’s quiet and peaceful and it’s an easy walk with nothing to really distract you and soon you’re deep within.

And then, midway on your walk, you stop. The only sound you hear is the wind cutting through the trees and a hawk’s cry and the cars and the people and everything else is muted. It hits you that you’re in a cemetery and no matter where you look, you are completely and utterly surrounded by reminders of the lives of people who are now gone. There is no escaping it short of sprinting down the path and down the road and out the gate, ignoring the signs that say no running (or skateboarding, for that matter).

You take a deep breath and you read a few tombstones. A major here, the tiny marble step with a single date on it, the giant cross made from celtic knots and whorls with the lion and the lamb balanced by a cross-legged man; dates and names and sometimes a brief message.

And then, gradually, that freakout ebbs away and it passes and it’s ok again. After awhile, it just is what it is. You walk the long walk out and don’t look back and go to the store and buy hot dogs and go home and let it fade away.


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Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think

Historical Subjectivity

I think I mentioned a while ago that I signed up for a few courses on Coursera, an site that has a multitude of classes available cheap as free. My first class, which started about two weeks ago, is History of Rock (Part One) taught by the University of Rochester’s Professor John Covach. So far, I’m really enjoying. This is not a class I would have ever been able to take in college because I would have been far too busy trying to cram one more comparative literature course into the semester. And, for some reason, I love seeing how any art form evolves, shifts and borrows from its past.

There’s also something to be said about watching how history unfolds from multiple different viewpoints and not just from the grand scale of politics and war. For the most part, any history class breaks everything into moments; those pivot points where it all changes. But with a class like this, or an English literature class or anything that focuses on day-to-day minutia of our past, it becomes possible to view history from a different angle.

When you view history through the lens of the culture, you can get a better idea of how those pivot points, those grand moments, are felt by people who do not make the policy decisions and do not make laws and great decrees. It’s an emotional and subjective view of history by the people who experienced. Examining how the culture (popular and sub) reacts to an event can tell you a great deal about how the people felt and thought, rather than just getting a bird’s eye view of history and sometimes it’s a good idea to dive down and examine those emotional snapshots.

Anyway, back to learning about Doo-Wop.


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Filed under Thinking and Pondering: Science, History, Analysis and Over-Think

Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness

I’ve been a big fan of Star Trek for most of my life and I’ve tagged along with the franchise through good times (Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek First Contact ) and troubled times (Voyager, Enterprise, Star Trek Insurrection). When I was kid, I loved the original series, but I love the movies more and watched Wrath of Khan so many times that I could (and, embarrassingly, still can) recite the lines along with the actors.

When they announced they were re-booting the series back in 2009 with an all new cast playing Kirk, McCoy, Spock, et all, I was cautiously optimistic. After all, nothing they did could hurt the franchise worse than anything Rick Berman did. Star Trek came out and everybody loved it and it made a ton of money and, most impressively, it made Star Trek cool.

When the sequel was announced I was more than cautiously optimistic and bounced around like a loon waiting for it to come out. To the credit of the marketing team, the trailers they released showed almost nothing of the plot. I knew next to nothing about what to expect going in. Except explosions.

And lens flares.

Star Trek Into Darkness  picks up pretty much where the first left off, with Kirk (Chris Pine) the Captain of the Enterprise and still as reckless and brash as he was in the last movie. Spock (Zachary Quinto) still doesn’t get human emotions. Uhura (Zoe Saldana) is still dating Spock. And so on.

One of the reasons why the first movie was so successful with both old and new fans is that they jettisoned decades of cumbersome backstory in order to tell new stories wit established characters, which Into Darkness continues to do. Everyone still feels very familiar, but you don’t need to have seen Spectre of the Gun to understand the multiple layers of Chekhov’s character. The classic characters have been rebuilt on the same foundations, but with enough tweaks and modifications to keep them compelling and interesting.

In fact, the plot of this movie builds upon plots of some older episodes and reintroduces a few new/old characters as well as aspects of Starfleet like Section 31, more so than Star TrekInto Darkness has a stronger villain, a more compelling plot and a tighter grasp of the characters that comes from everyone involved being more comfortable.

It’s a visually brilliant movie right from the beginning  where Kirk and McCoy (Karl Urban) run through a vivid red alien jungle chased by striking, white aliens while Spock rappels into an active volcano from a shuttle. And, if you couldn’t tell from that preceding sentence, the action is just as lively as it was in the first movie. There are ships exploding and fight scenes and disintegrations and cool warp effects. It’s a shiny, pretty movie and one that does the genre credit.

Also, spoilers: Benedict Cumberbatch is exactly who you think he is and he’s wonderful and I want to hug him and hold him and never let him go.

All in all, Star Trek Into Darkness is a funny, explosive and intense entry in the Trek series and J.J. Abrams once again proves that he was the right person for the job and it makes me want to see, more than ever, how he handles the Star Wars series.

I give it a Baker’s Dozen of bowl cuts and pointy ears.


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Filed under Pop Culturing: Movies, Books, Comic Books and Other Arts

Boston Revisited

A friend of mine is visiting for a few days and it’s reintroducing me to the city I live in.

It’s too easy to forget those places you see everyday or those places you used to go to; but once you show a newcomer those things that caused you to fall in love with your home on the first place, it becomes easy to see once again.

I’ve enjoyed traveling to our old haunts and remembering again everything that made Boston, Boston for Emily and me.

I feel a little sad that we’re already planning the day that we leave, but at least I can remember why I’ll be sad.


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Filed under Day-to-Day: What's Going On, Events, Releases and New Things

Subcultures in the Mist

As I’ve mentioned before in posts that I don’t feel like digging up, I’ve been getting involved in a new hobby. I’ll spare you the details about what this hobby entails, as I have a whole other blog for that, but I’ve thrown myself completely into the subculture that surrounds this hobby and it’s fascinating.

In every culture, there are heroes and tropes and easily identifiable figures. There are law makers and governments: figures that impose order. There are merchants and moneymakers. There are storytellers and stories to tell.

And as you go down the ladder, going into sub-cultures and sub-subcultures, you start to realize that this is true all the way down, that there are, in fact, turtles all the way down. I find it fascinating that, even in a rapidly expanding global subculture, there are still all these little hidden pockets that mirror the society at large and you can go your whole life and not know they’re there.

At times, since I’m still not fully embedded in this subculture, I feel like an observer, an intruder with a tape recorder, like Alan Lomax. There are leaders and tales of ancient history and eldars and songs and I’m there to witness it all. It’s very strange, like I’m straddling a line.

But now I think I’m making way too much of it and it’s time to move on.


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Filed under Day-to-Day: What's Going On, Events, Releases and New Things