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Familiarity breeds Excitement

It was such a “wow” moment when Peter Pan/Bonanza bus first introduced wifi service on their buses around 2010, and it was also quite glitchy. Now in 2015 I’m enjoying it without a second thought, and an expectation that it will be smooth!

The computer distracts me from the extremely familiar sights along this Boston —> Martha’s Vineyard bus ride. I was trying to determine in my head how many times I’ve taken this bus ride in my life, and would go for somewhere between 50 and 100, not as much as I might expect, but if you add in private car trips of that same route, the number might go into the thousands.

I remember feeling disappointed when the character of the final stretch of highway (I-495 and MA 25) changed around ten years ago with a switch from side of the road to overhead signs, making it seem to me less like a rural route and more like a standard American highway or freeway. There was also a time when I was a vocal pre-teen passenger and encouraged my parents to vary the route since this stretch of road seemed too boring and repetitive to me, so we’d go via Providence RI and then loop back to it, or join the road at a slightly northern point of the usual onramp in Raynham.

But in the present day, with my not based in Massachusetts life, traveling along the highway – along the whole Boston to Martha’s Vineyard route, really – is the equivalent of an eager mental checklist, and it continues to get me every time.

Exited Boston? Yep.

Turned onto Route 24? Yep.

Curved turn onto 495? Yep.

Transition to 25? Yep.

still to come: cross the Bourne Bridge, go through two rotaries, a few small towns, and one ferry ride…

Bourne Sign

One of the last highway signs before the Bourne Bridge onto Cape Cod

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Late Night in My Home City

I’ve found a conveniently located hotel in downtown Boston to kick off my Thanksgiving homecoming swing. It still tends to feel odd, when I first arrive, to be experiencing my home city on my own terms of adulthood, not rushing to a particular commitment, get-together with a friend, or traveling around with another family member. But that’s been a continually gradual adjustment since 2007 when I last lived full-time in Massachusetts.

It was a stunning moonrise in Detroit.

It was a stunning moonrise in Detroit.

The long day from Michigan to here brought many memorable little moments, and now that it’s the end of the day, I’m a bit perplexed by an aggressive theme that ran through the day … perhaps some sort of travel anxiety coming to the surface? Some examples of this included going through several yellow lights on the way into Detroit this morning, deliberately taking a small shortcut in a parking garage (and then talking back to the attendant who called me out on it), and, later, having a protracted back and forth with a car rental company – both on the phone and in person, at the same time – when they weren’t listening to the adage that “the customer is always right” and making me dance through several hoops to make a (what would be) seemingly simple change to a reservation.

Until the customer service agent at Logan Airport suddenly said “hey, you can just do it this way!” in a total coming to your senses manner, but with more than a hint of the runaround approach that car rental salespeople often employ. And I took him for his word, so I hope the result will be smooth when I see its effect on Friday.

And now a morning return to “The Family Homestead” awaits… can’t wait!

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Live Long and Prosper

This month has been unintentionally quiet on the blog front, likely a combination of my self-imposed hiatus from social media and increased workload in the second semester of Grad School 2.0.

However, upon hearing today’s sad news of actor Leonard Nimoy’s death, I remembered that some of my most inspired recent writing here has been about Star Trek. And I realized that I’m paying tribute to Nimoy this afternoon and early evening by (once again) spending some time at Detroit Metro Airport, located in none other than Romulus, Michigan.

I was honored to share a hometown with Mr. Nimoy, and one time, my dad and I even got to see him live. In the fall of 1995 Nimoy underwent a book tour for his recently released second memoir, I Am Spock, and one of the stops was the Somerville Theatre. Oddly, this remains the only time I’ve ever been inside that locally acclaimed venue, although I’ve been outside it many times since that fall night.

Nimoy introduced a special screening of the two Trek films he directed – The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home – and gave an “intermission” talk about his new book. There was a raffle of just a few autographed pictures he’d signed that night, and to our surprise, we won one of them! The picture occupied a prominent home location for a number of years, and I still have it, somewhere…

Inevitably I feel a little bit of “I should have seen Nimoy live again at that Star Trek convention, that special screening, that art opening” – especially since he had a well rounded career with lots of diversity beneath the surface. But I’m grateful to have that one special memory and to have witnessed his gradual embracing in his later years of being a strong role model for the younger generation, as seen in many tributes today.

Falling Slowly Onstage

The touring version of Once: The Musical is now in residence at Detroit’s Fisher Theatre through February 15th. Since that’s just up the street from me, I attended their first preview performance on Tuesday night.

I’d forgotten that the play originally began its dramatic life at the American Repertory Theatre (ART) back in Cambridge. It’s not surprising that the play found further success, where ART has successfully repositioned itself over the last few years (under the shrewd leadership of Diane Paulus) as a major feeder of new or reimagined stage work into the Broadway and national theatre conversation.

Of course, Once takes its story from the movie of the same name. If you’ve seen the film, you know the basic story about the Guy meeting the Girl who inspires him to refocus on his songwriting and use his songs to convey his emotions… and that doesn’t change here on the stage. The play does, however, adroitly open up the story to more of an ensemble production, with a modest band starting the experience with pre-show songs and several scenes featuring ensemble members (either in one or multiple roles) interacting with the protagonists.

The play also creatively invites the audience to come more directly into the story, in that drinks are served onstage before the start of the show and during the intermission. My friends and I enjoyed the pre-show option, and I found it to be a fresh and fun way to get into the story, standing onstage for a few minutes with fellow audience members, and then being allowed to stay there for a few more minutes while the cast came onstage and began their pre-show medley.

I can’t say that the story creates a revelatory level of dramatic depth. But I would say that the play is worth attending for its fun and fresh onstage experience, and the chance to take in some very well-done acoustic songs in a refreshingly intimate story setting.

Film Flashback to “Two Captains, One Destiny”

Man, 1994 was a great time to be a Star Trek fan.

The long – running classic franchise was arguably at its modern – era peak, with many entertainment magazines eager to devote coverage to the Enterprise’s banner year. (A particularly good example is Entertainment Weekly’s FOUR covers devoted to the franchise over the course of the year – January, May, October, and a special collector’s issue, in addition to a cover story in its sister publication TIME. )

generations teaser posterIn immediate output, the year saw Star Trek: The Next Generation completing its seven season run in syndication in May, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine settling in to a steady run in syndication – finishing its second season and going right on to its third, Star Trek: Voyager beginning filming that October and set to debut in January 1995 on the new United Paramount Network, and Star Trek Generations, a new film uniting select crew members from the Original Series and the entire crew of The Next Generation, set to hit movie theaters on November 18.

And now here we are twenty years later, and Generations will be a 20 year old movie on next Tuesday. As Picard mournfully says in the film, “time is the fire in which we burn.” But I don’t think it’s that somber of an anniversary – at least, I hope not!

Looking back, this was the event movie of the season for me, as an impressionable 10 year old and recently minted TNG fan. I talked my mom, who wasn’t the fan – parent, into attending an opening afternoon showing at the Loews in Danvers, and am sure I also talked up my anticipation throughout that week of 5th grade, so much so that one of my two homeroom teachers continued to ask me about Star Trek topics for a few years afterwards, and probably would clearly remember it if I brought the subject up to her today. My dad, the fan – parent, and I caught an encore viewing of the film a month later at the then – new General Cinema in Burlington, which would be a frequent filmgoing site for us over the next couple of years.

I’d love to see any written thoughts I might have expressed about that first screening on the opening afternoon. I do recall feeling some disappointment at the downbeat nature of the story, such as Captain Picard being an emotional wreck rather than a fearless leader for the majority of the movie. I certainly enjoyed Data’s increased presence in the storyline, as he decided to finally jump into a world with emotions, and even experiment with swearing!

The film enjoyed a solid critical and commercial reception, ultimately grossing around $75 million in grosses. I recall that its video release came on my birthday in 1995, eight months after its cinema release. The film was allegedly the first to ever feature a website as a key promotional tool.

two captains one destinyI watched the film again about a year ago and could not believe it’s slllooowww pace, which would not hold in 2014 filmmaking styles. On the other hand, it is refreshing to see the mix of CGI and model – based special effects, which has become a lost art in the current era. The story’s short shrift to the majority of the Next Generation characters is regrettably evident upon seeing it again, and became an unfortunate trend throughout the crew’s cinematic forays. Most Trekkers can’t forgive the film for its careless kick – out of Captain James T. Kirk, who is allowed an unfitting death scene near the end of the film, and seems tacked on to the narrative, again taking away from the Next Generation focus. (what might the film have been like if it did not include any Original Series cast members?)

Especially considering it was followed two years later by First Contact, the Next Generation crew’s finest cinematic hour, this film did not age well on multiple fronts. The writers voiced their retrospective opinions in a revealing interview that appeared on the internet earlier this year. Other TNG actors have noted the intensity of 1994 and the mixed blessing of finishing their series and going right on to the movie.

So Generations clearly has a place in Star Trek history, but it is remembered with mixed emotions by those involved – and perhaps by other fans who were eager to see it on the big screen but then not matched in their expectations to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Theatrical Throwback: The Year Of Magical Thinking

For this now – erratic series, this week I recall a play that attracted attention near the end of the 2000’s, but currently seems like it had its moment and will be “rediscovered” at some point down the road.

I came across Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking book in San Luis Obispo at some point in 2008, and can’t recall exactly what drew me to the story. Perhaps some wry acknowledgement of the New Yorker – Angleno’s observations from coast to coast while I was developing my own. Or an awareness of the then in – development (or recently opened?) stage version starring Vanessa Redgrave. I recall being taken with Didion’s prose and the intense story of losing both her husband (suddenly) and her daughter (gradually) over the course of a year.

I had the chance to see the stage version for myself sooner than I might have expected, at the end of a holiday trip home to Massachusetts in early 2009. A family friend and I met up at Boston’s Lyric Stage Company to catch their version of the production, starring North Shore local actress Nancy E. Carroll.

I don’t recall being especially enthralled by the production, given the downer subject matter, but I do think it was a rare example of monologue – based theatre, and a great opportunity for an actress to dive into sensitive, rich material.

Indeed, Redgrave suffered an unfortunate parallel of losing her daughter Natasha Richardson either while or soon after she was working on the play.