Archive | February, 2022

Proposals for taking down trolley wire system then ‘partial-build’ bike lanes nudge forward

23 Feb

Bike Lane Games

By Tom Meek Friday, February 18, 2022

A sign taped to a municipal meeting notice warns that the city plans to “give away” Porter Square with quick-build bike lanes. Unlike with many websites, the URL on the flyer works only when https:// precedes it. (Photo: Marc Levy)

Transportation officials are moving toward removing overhead trolley wires that will allow an approach to building bike lanes that keeps more parking along Massachusetts Avenue in the northern parts of the city, representatives for the city and state said in two community meetings this week.

The MBTA held an information session virtually Tuesday on bus electrification and the North Cambridge depot redesign, drawing more than 150 attendees. Scott Hamwey, the MBTA’s director of bus modernization, said the state planned to de-electrify overhead catenary wires and switch to battery electric buses beginning in mid-March, removing the wires sometime in late 2023 or 2024. The North Cambridge depot would shut down for two years as it was turned into a bus-charging station; construction would start within the next year, Hamwey said. While just 3 percent of the fleet is electric now, the agency plans to make it fully electric by 2040.

Many in the audience argued that the current, wired buses were cleaner than the BEBs, which would be equipped with a small diesel engine cycling on and off to add warmth for riders on days cold enough that the buses’ electric heat is inadequate. The rebuilt depot would include a 5,000-gallon diesel tank on the north side of the site.

Only a small amount of the bus fleet use the overhead wires, which are deployed in only a small part of MBTA territory, and the system and buses that use it are aging and will require significant cost to upgrade and maintain, said Hamwey and senior director of vehicle engineering Bill Wolfgang.

Planning for Porter

The city showed “partial” bike-lane constructions options as part of a Wednesday presentation.

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The Worst Person in the World

11 Feb

Is it so terrible to decide what you want and act on it? (It can be.)

Norwegian director Joachim Trier rounds out his Oslo Trilogy with this engrossing tale about a young woman struggling to define herself in the world. Like the other two entries in the series, “Reprise” (2006) and “Oslo, August 31st” (2011), “The Worst Person in the World” unfolds in the same urbanscape and is an inward-focused, emotional journey. Trier’s bookend is meted into 12 neat chapters with titles such as “Cheating,” “Bobcat Wrecks Xmas” and “Oral Sex in the Age of #MeToo.” We settle in with Julie (Renate Reinsve, who pretty much is everything to the film’s success) as a med school student who switches to psychology, then decides she wants to be a photographer. She ends up working in a bookstore and, because of her passion for art and photography, meets Aksel (Anders Danielsen Lie, who starred in the other trilogy chapters), a renowned graphic novelist (think “Fritz the Cat”) with a cult following. He’s a decade or so her senior, but they become lovers and move in together. It’s a cozy, coddled existence initially, but living in Aksel’s shadow tugs on Julie’s sense of self. When she meets a young barista named Eivind (Herbert Nordrum) who’s also in a relationship, there’s an undeniable, immediate spark between the two.

How the dynamics play out within and between two couples is nothing too dramatic – certainly nothing worthy of the harsh title. One gets diagnosed with terminal cancer, another becomes an Internet for blogged pontifications about blow jobs and a third, learning that she’s a scant 3 percent indigenous (Sámi) becomes a climate change zealot. Other than that, mostly what fills the screen is the pain of longing and the uncertainty of tomorrow. There is one jarring bit in which Julie consumes hallucinogens as daddy issues manifest themselves in a unique and shocking fashion: a hurled bloody tampon. The best scene, however, and a neat trick by Trier, has Julie jogging through the streets of Oslo en route to meet Eivind, and every person, car and bird is held motionless; cyclists in mid-crank are frozen as she weaves around them, seemingly unaware or uncaring of their paused state, and it’s here that we get to measure the moral fortitude of our heroine; if Julie truly was the “Worst Person in the World,” clearly she would have stopped and pilfered cash from the wallets of some of the more well-off Oslovians.

Trier and his trilogy writing partner, Eskil Vogt, navigate time and emotional transitions seamlessly, and how the film ends is a smart, subtle twist that brings Julie’s odyssey full circle. There’s no grand drama to it, but it does feel hauntingly apt. “The Worst Person in the World” was named this week to the Academy’s list of Best International Film nominees, a loaded lot that packs more punch than the Best Picture slate.


8 Feb

Moonfall’: When you wish upon these stars, they’re B-listers you can rely on for a good ride

By Tom Meek

Friday, February 4, 2022

The title may sound like a Bond flick, but “Moonfall” is the latest disaster pic from Roland Emmerich (“2012,” “Godzilla,” “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Independence Day”) about, well, the moon crashing into the Earth. True to any disaster film formula, we embed with several diverse parties as the end of days approaches. First up, we have washed-up astronaut Brian Harper (Patrick Wilson, “Little Children”) and his former flight mate, Jocinda Fowl (Halle Berry, “Catwoman”), now head of NASA, who have to figure out why the moon is losing its orbit and heading toward Mother Earth. They’re both divorced and with kids, so the survival of humankind is extra imperative. With them as they launch off on an “Armageddon” (1998)/“Don’t Look Up” (2021)-like mission is a nerdy extrovert with IBS (a very Rickey Gervais-esque John Bradley of “Game of Thrones,” bringing the much-needed comic relief). Down on Earth, Harper’s ex-wife (Carolina Bartczak), new hubby (Michael Peña) and the divorced couple’s 18-year-old son, Sonny (Charlie Plummer), catch up with Fowl’s son (Zayn Maloney) and her nanny (Kelly Yu, who attended the Berklee College of Music).

That pretty much sets the table. The whole why the moon is falling is best left unsaid, though it does have something to do with other life forms and past moon missions – there’s a Deep Throat in the mix that conspiracy theorists should have a ball with. The fun (or not so) stuff are the tidal waves that pitch deep inland, and the intermittent disruption in the gravity field bringing chaos-inducing lifts that at least allow trapped parties to leap across a chasm. There are also some poorly behaved rednecks in a pickup truck looking out only for themselves. Much of “Moonfall” is pure cockamamie, but it moves and clicks with reason and purpose, and Wilson and Berry are hard to resist.

The funny thing about “Moonfall” is that it’s pretty much the antithesis to Adam McKay’s smug “Don’t Look Up,” in which the world has been alerted to our imminent demise and no one cares – or cares only for financial or status reasons. In Emmerich’s B-tier tear, there’s just instant mass hysteria and a stampede for the hills. It’s not as smart or daffy, nor does it have the star power of “Don’t Look Up,” yet feels more honest and real despite the steep grade of plausibility. Like Harper and Fowl pulling an old space shuttle from a museum for the mission, Emmerich’s taken what’s old and worn and made it fly again.

Jackass Forever

6 Feb

Jackass Forever’: Still not beyond trying stunts that you should never try at home

By Tom Meek

Thursday, February 3, 2022

It’s been 22 years since “Jackass” stoked the derring-do in nerdy 13-year-olds routinely ignored by the in-crowd, disinterested in sports and studies and gulping down the rebellious irreverence of “Beavis and Butthead.” The arrival of the Spike Jonze-created series about outcasts registering a strange sense of accomplishment in Darwin Award-worthy escapades was liberating to that crowed, but if you break it down, “Jackass” stunts are essentially the teen challenges you hear about on TikTok: ghost-pepper eating, cinnamon snorting, condom asphyxiation and other unwise acts of inanity that get pulled far too late off the social media platform. Led by merry prankster Johnny Knoxville, the Tab Hunter of the crew, “Jackass” goes to great lengths to discourage replication, implying the stars are professionals and reiterating this should not be tried at home. I’m not exactly sure what “professional” means here, but they’re still standing after decades of blowjobs from whale sharks, toilet bowl bombs and being beaten unconscious by a heavyweight contender in a department store. In the latest – and last? – installment, called “Jackass Forever,” you see animal trainers and medical professionals on the edges of the set ready to rush in, and there are one or two stunts that lead to hospital visits.

“Forever” is billed as a “Dickhouse” production and lives up to the moniker gloriously. The opening scene of urban chaos, a riff on “Reptilicus” or “Godzilla,” is actually a giant green penis crashing through the city; later, old pal Steve-O, full frontal, has a queen bee attached to his scrotum to lure a swarm of drones; then there’s the squished penis pingpong paddle and a “cup” challenge in which a professional boxer and hockey player take aim at the testes – grown men will wince and look away. “Jackass Forever” is not one-note, however; there are also gross-out gags that involve animal semen and a cast member who drops a runny deuce in his costume. Industrial wedgies. One with a treadmill on at full speed. Scorpion botox. And you get some fun facts along the way: Did you know that swine males can produce more than 17 ounces of semen at one time? Knoxville getting shot out of a cannon seems pretty pedestrian by comparison.

Yes, these are all grown men in their 40s and 50s, and good for them; they pick up a paycheck and have a chuckle or two for losing a tooth or breaking a wrist. (The guy who comes close to being mauled by a bear because salmon was strapped to his gonads deserves hazard pay.) It’s all dumb yuks that could go terribly wrong but don’t, at least as presented. The one positive thing “Jackass,” does in a skewed way, is empower: Besides the matinee-handsome Knoxville, most of the crew does not possess physiques that would make the cover of a health mag, but in this world they are all equals – equally as foolish, equally as brave and equally as capable. When all is said and done, as the blood is mopped up and balls gripped in groaning agony amid group guffaws, there’s a genuine air of respect and a comradely bond. I’m not sure I’d ever hold them up as role models, but do they have generational crossover appeal anyway? MTV, where it all began, feels like an eight-track these days. In one online forum a film fan – though I’d call “Jackass” more of an experience than a film – gave 10 stars to “Jackass Forever” and said he wished he was 18 so he could see it. And there you have it: pricks and poop are ageless in their appeal.