More Things I Have Done in Boston

Concert at the Hatch Shell

Hatch Shell at night
The Hatch Shell is an awesome sound shell sitting right beside the Charles river in the center of Boston. During the summer, various Orchestras (of which Boston seems to have dozens) put on free concerts on midweek evenings attended by fairly large crowds.

The music was great. The worst part of the evening was the people around us that would just.not.shut.up. The best part was the Bill Oddie impersonator (besocked and besandaled, naturally) who went around furiously but silently shushing them. It didn’t work, but was very entertaining to watch.

Twelfth Night in the Park

Also midweek and in a (different) park, a spirited performance of Twelfth Night. A tale of mistaken identity, cross dressing, and wacky hijinks that wouldn’t be out of place in the particularly well-written episode of Threes Company. This is one of the comedies, so everyone ends up married at the end instead of dead. Hurrah!

Ferry to Provincetown

South of Boston is a peninsula jutting out into Atlantic Ocean called Cape Cod, which is basically Boston’s summer residence. It seems just about everyone decamps down to The Cape for weeks at a time. At the very tip lies Provincetown, a coastal resort town.

We took a ferry from Boston, which is a nice 90 minute trip in itself. Or, in the this case because the ferry broke down, a nice 150 minute trip. But we did get to see a whale on the way.

Provincetown has a reputation for being a magnet for gay people. I can’t see why.

Provincetown Main Street

Seaman's Bank, Provincetown

The town itself is really nice, with a very lively main street filled with cool bars and eateries alongside art galleries that actually contain interesting stuff. It is a total tourist trap, but the sort of tourist trap that other tourist traps aspire to be. The homosexual agenda line items regarding making a nice town have all been ticked off in Provincetown.
Provincetown Shore at Sunset
Being right at the end of Cape Cod, Provincetown is surrounded by beaches and dunes. A excellently maintained and only slightly hilly bike track wends around the sights. Even with a ferry-imposed delay, Provincetown was well worth visiting.

The Freedom Trail, Various Wildlife Refuges, and Three Pieces of Performance Art

This entry is just a collection of random stuff I have experienced recently. In no particular order:

The Freedom Trail

Bunker Hill MonumentThe Freedom Trail is a self-guided walk that winds through central Boston, passing various sites of historical interest on the way. Boston is very proud of its history, being the site of the American Revolution (boo hiss) and the abolitionist movement (better late than never) and its role in the American civil war (hooray).

About 40% of the sites on the trail are connected to Paul Revere, I was pretty sick of hearing about him by the end.

At the end of The Freedom Trail is the Bunker Hill Monument. Technically (and confusingly) not on Bunker Hill, the monument commemorates The Battle of Bunker Hill (which was also not actually on Bunker Hill). In any case, you can climb to the top of the monument (294 steps!) for a cramped, hot, and majestic view of the city. This picture is looking vaguely west along the Charles River in the background.
Boston from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument

4th of July

The fourth of July is one of the important holidays, and one Boston celebrates with gusto. The public celebration was brought forward one day because of the bad weather forecast for the 4th, so I went down to the Charles River Esplanade to see how things were done. It was basically like Symphony Under the Stars in Auckland but with more security (and armed police wandering around). We were treated to various patriotic songs by the Boston Pops Orchestra and some hits from a Beach Boy. The crowd had a very lucky escape when Joey McIntyre couldn’t make the rescheduled event.

I learnt that nobody really knows the words to the America national anthem, and fewer people actually have the range to sing it. I also learnt that Americans get annoyed if you sing the correct lyrics My Country, Tis of Thee, which more properly begin “God save our gracious Queen.”

The concert was cut short due to the encroaching rain, and we were treated to the best fireworks display I have seen. It must have been visible from most of the city. The best part were the shells that exploded into reasonable attempts at a giant smily faces.

5 minutes after the fireworks ended, the thunder storm took over the skies. Boston gets proper summer storms, the lightning lasted for over an hour and for a while you could almost read by it, so frequent were the flashes.

Sharknado

I don’t really have much to say about this. Sharknado is a (terrible) made-for-TV film that became a minor hit a while ago. This was a special presentation by the guys behind Mystery Science Theatre 3000 which consisted of them playing the film in its entirety, but making jokes over the top. Despite being fairly inept, Sharknado is quite entertaining, and with added jokes makes for a good evening’s entertainment.

My only other observation is that in America, a small coke at the theatre is approximately 1 litres worth.

The Phantom of the Opera

The tragic story of a hideous man who sits backstage playing the keyboard all-the-while lusting over a beautiful actress he will never have. Wherever does Andrew Lloyd Webber get his ideas from? </old joke>

This was a lavish production, with pyrotechnics and all sorts of stage trickery. It turns out I had completely misinterpreted the story, so the ending was a complete surprise to me. The Boston Opera house is pretty amazing just by itself. It is a little like the Civic is Auckland but about twice the size. This photo doesn’t really do it justice.
Boston Opera House (from the cheap seats)

Ipswich River and Great Meadows Lake Wildlife Sanctuaries

Finally some photos from two wildlife sanctuaries I have visited in the last few weeks.

Beaver Dam at Ipswich Wildlife RefugeThis is a beaver dam (the pile of sticks, not the bridge – beavers are neat but not that good at building). I have seen several of these constructions in various parks, but no beavers as yet.

Lillypads at Ipswich River ReserveThis pond was absolutely filled with turtles of various sizes. American ponds seem a lot more alive than back in New Zealand, with frogs, insects and small mammals all vying for space. The lilypads are nice as well.

Triple Feature – All Three Transformers Films

Red Letter Media is a company that produces humorous film reviews. I have linked to these guys before, when they released the amazing takedown of The Phantom Menace.

Here is something different. A little film called Transformers 4 : Age of Extinction is coming out soon, and what better way to celebrate this milestone than to watch the first three films? Simultaneously.

Personally, I have only seen the first Transformers. It was terrible.

Epic Rap Battles of History

My current obsession is the Epic Rap Battles of History youtube channel. What could have been a stupid idea is redeemed by clever editing, well produced music, and just a whiff of actual research. They also somehow managed to get some pretty big guest names to play some of the characters.

They also show clear signs of improving with each season. Season 3 is currently being released, but they already have a large back-catelogue of good material.

Here is my favorite so far:

Some others I like:
Hulk Hogan vs Kim Jong-il
Bruce Lee vs Clint Eastwood
Gandhi vs Martin Luther King Jr.
Mozart vs Skrillex
And finally, Rasputin vs Stalin, quite possibly the best summary of Russian history since Boney M.

Laura’s Tower and Ice Glen

There are only so many days of summer, and in Massachusetts you really have to make the most of the non-freezing months. Last weekend I went out to Stockbridge in the region called The Berkshires in the Western part of the state, about 2 hours away by car. I was hoping for a change of scenery but the whole of New England seems to pretty much look the same. Nevertheless The Berkshires have their charms.

Laura's Tower - Stockbridge, MAThe region is mostly rural, dotted with small towns trying very hard to be quaint. Norman Rockwell lived in Stockbridge so you know what to expect. On this warm summer’s day it reminded me a little of Hawkes Bay.

At Stockbridge I went to see Laura’s Tower and the Ice Glen, both located on the same hill. I had heard that Laura’s Tower affords fantastic views over New England, but it is disappointing short and I literally could not see the forests for the trees. Perhaps the view is better in winter when the trees die back a little, but I wouldn’t want to climb up that ladder in the cold.

On the other hand, the Ice Glen more than lived up to its name. A narrow valley of broken granite chunks, it somehow still has crannies filled with ice on a hot June afternoon. The cool air in the glen was very welcome after the climb up the hill, and the moist soil is home to all sorts of interesting mushrooms and creepy crawlies to uncover.
Ice Glen trail, Stockbridge MA
Fungus on tree, Ice Glen, Stockbridge MA