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Bike safety

26 Oct

Flowers in Porter Square for cyclist killed by truck yesterday morning.

Sadly, this is the second time in a little over three months that I’m writing about the hazardous state of cycling in Cambridge, Boston and the surrounding areas – now after the death of Bernard Lavins, 60, who was dragged under an 18-wheeler in Porter Square this week. In June, Amanda Phillips was doored in Inman Square and killed by a passing lawn service truck. Both came after the conclusion of Bike Month, when I submitted a passionate callout of municipalities for their slack and slow response to perilous hot zones outlined in letters submitted to the respective transportation departments requesting their attention before something tragic happened. Continue reading

Almost up a creek while paddling the waters of Disney

15 Sep

Published in the Boston Globe


Signs warn of alligators and snakes near Seven Seas Lagoon.

Signs warn of alligators and snakes near Seven Seas Lagoon.

Vacation resorts — those destinations you leverage your life savings for so the family can relax and have fun without sweating the pressures of daily life — include safety and security as part of the package, right? Such was the likely expectation of the family from Nebraska whose 2-year-old son was killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian Resort earlier this summer. The attack, which took place on an idyllic swath of beach on the manmade Seven Seas Lagoon, occurred as the family took in one of the resort’s family movie night offerings. For me the news was extra chilling, as just weeks earlier, my wife and 6-year-old daughter sat on that very beach watching “The Force Awakens.” Eerier still was the realization that a misadventure of mine two years earlier had given me a glimmer into the dangers that lurked in Walt’s waters.

I’ll be the first to testify to the structural beauty of the stately Grand Floridian and its limitless amenities, but those foreboding “no swimming” signs along the beaches gave me pause the very first time I passed them by. There was no footnote or qualification, just a red slash through a silhouetted swimmer. I assumed the water was polluted. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Continue reading

Wiener-Dog, Todd Solondz Interview

7 Jul

‘Wiener-Dog’ — A Comedy Of Despair About Mortality And A Dachshund

A still from Todd Solondz's latest film "Wiener-Dog." (Courtesy IFC Films)closemore

Indie auteur Todd Solondz, whose latest dark comedy “Wiener-Dog” opens Friday, has always made films his way — on his own terms — plumbing moral and ethical realms that would make most cringe. If he sounds like something of a maverick or self-starter, on paper he is, but in the flesh he casts a very different image.

To begin with, Solondz, who cites Andy Warhol and John Waters as influences, is a mild reflective sort and willing to collaborate for the sake of art. He’s quite humble too. After eight features he points out, “I am very fortunate I am still able to get films made,” referring to the struggle many directors face trying to garner enough funding to make independent film.  Continue reading

Bad Cycle

5 Jun
bike lane with trash can blockage
Installing bike lanes isn’t a cure-all for bicycling infrastructure, and they have problems of their own. (Photo: Marino Pascal)

May was Bike Month, the month we celebrate all who crank through the urban landscape reducing traffic, helping save the environment and promoting a healthy lifestyle. But besides some flag waving, what do Bike Months really accomplish? Do more people saddle up the steel steed, do motorists become more sympathetic and aware of cyclists, are the roads somehow suddenly safer? Unfortunately no – it merely underscores the lip service municipalities and agencies put forth when they could better serve the biking community and public safety by putting real dollars into infrastructure, policy and traffic law changes.

Opinion boxFor me, the month began with great optimism. I sent letters to transportation heads in Boston and Cambridge outlining 10 unnecessary hazards to bikers in each city where immediate improvement could be had. I ride a 15-mile round trip every day from Porter Square to the very end of the Seaport, and had hoped that, given the month, documenting these persistent areas of peril (unclassifiable on the wonderful, but limitedSeeClickFix app) might garner some attention and thought from those with the power to enact change.

What happened was fairly emblematic of bureaucracy, and embosses the truth that we don’t value cycling as much as we say we do. From Boston I got a cricket concerto (though the canyons of potholes I flagged by South Station did get filled within days). Separately, a call toBoston Bikes – a municipal department opened in 2007 – to ask about bike rack policies and safe passage around or through Boston Common turned out to be a frustrating do-nothing back-and-forth. At no time during the conversation did the young rep mention Boston Bikes doing something, anything; she just directed me to take up issues elsewhere at City Hall, or to use an app. It was disappointingly clear that she cared little about cycling and wasn’t in touch with the state of the roads or traffic conditions, let alone the community she served.  Continue reading

More Snow, Please

14 Mar

Please Let There Be More, One Bostonian’s Plea for Snow

Boston needs more snow. Please let it snow. This isn’t a plea, it’s an imperative, a must, a necessity, a demand.

Sure we’re all burnt out by cabin fever, parking anxiety and T shutdown woes, but we’ve come too far to have nothing to show for it. We’re at 100+, just a scant few inches from the all-time Boston snowfall record. To have arrived at such a precipice of double-cutting distinction, we’ve endured arctic cold 30 degrees below the seasonal average, fought the space saver fight in close quarters, had roofs cave in and lived through it. To not make the record now would be to run the Boston Marathon and drop out at Mass Ave and Boylston. It would be akin to the Patriots’ perfect season going up in smoke to David Tyree and the Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

There’s no two-finger, helmet pinning catch to thwart the residents of the Hub, all we need is for mother nature to finish the job, to cap off the season of our displeasure with a final dusting or two, an angry, yet liberating icing atop our high-towered, multi-layered cake of misery. The winter of 2015 has truly tried Boston’s patience, mettle and sense of neighborly civility. We’ve been so laden that the snow farms that amassed in the Seaport and Danehy Park out in Cambridge grew so tall and Brobdingnag that the ceaselessly laboring bulldozers and backhoes seeking to shift the bane of our obstructed roadways to Babel aspiring heights looked like matchbox miniatures left strewn about a playground sandpit. It didn’t help either that the T, the backbone of Boston’s commerce, came to an utter standstill, further stranding and isolating the snowbound and the weary, and to add insult to injury, the T’s helmswoman threw in the towel when it was time to roll up the sleeves and get the city moving again.  Continue reading

subUrbia, then and now

27 Oct

The Rick-trospective: subUrbia

A salute to Richard Linklater’s body of work, one film at a time

The Rick-trospective: <i>subUrbia</i>

In honor of the November 7 release of Paste Movies Editor Michael Dunaway’s documentary 21 Years: Richard Linklater (in which Paste is the media partner), we’re going through the indie master’s entire oeuvre in order, film by amazing film.

Richard Linklater’s always been something of a modern day documentarian, dredging that banal everyday which is formed by technology and culture, and unearthing the explorative, self-reflecting fossils of the individual adrift in the societal sea. Linklater’s first few movies, Slacker and Dazed and Confused, were tales of youth and the young muddling about—full of ennui, little forward motion and unpromising future prospects. Granted, Before Sunrise hit theaters in 1995, but it’s subUrbia, released a year later, that’s the apt conclusion to what one might call Linklater’s Austin slacker trilogy.

subUrbia, however, was not penned by Linklater, but playwright, social satirist andLaw & Order regular, Eric Bogosian. Linklater’s transposition from Bogosian’s Woburn, Mass., roots and New Jersey set, to sleepy Burnfield, Texas, a neighborhood of Austin where five young people occupy the limbo after high school by loitering outside a convenience store, drinking and grousing about the ruts they’ve become stuck in, aligns seamlessly with where Dazed and Confused left off. As any of the five would have it, the American Dream that evades them has been hijacked by the Pakistani couple who own and operate the store as a stepping stone to higher education and a happy white-collar existence. Continue reading

Of Boys, Beer and Young Women

26 Jul

I was mostly irate at the school for its purported mishandling of the sexual assault case (the article, with its point being that colleges are ill-prepared to handle such complaints, took the administration to task for a poor investigation, dismissing the complaint and accordingly, discouraging the victim from filing criminal charges), an ire that was further inflamed by President Mark D. Gearan’s perfunct and seemingly insensitive letter to alumni and parents, that coldly stated that the school had followed procedure and does not condone sexual assault. Upon receiving that email and a Boston area alumni “Happy Hour” notice within the same hour, I swore I’d never give another dime to the school (not that I gave a lot, but I contributed a small tithe annually). My long held pride in having attended the school had given way to shame.   Continue reading

Women Who Prey

18 Apr

Film Review Under the Skin

Much will be said about the women and their use of sex as a means to an end in Lars von Trier’s two part Nymphomaniac and Jonathan Glazer’s alluring new film,Under the Skin. Sex in both endeavors is a must; an addiction in the former and a tool for sustenance in the latter. But in both cases the women are driven by something beyond their control and as a result, they prey.

Joe (played by Charlotte Gainsbourg, with Stacy Martin as the young incarnation), the insatiable protagonist in von Trier’s pandering provocation, embarks on her first hunt aboard a train wearing gleefully self-described “fuck me” garb. She’s looking to achieve a series of bathroom conquests and baits the men, packed like sardines into cramped traveling compartments, with fluttering doe-like eyes as she requests help in finding the washroom, and later, for her crowing achievement, settles on a more stately married man in first class. He is so morally affixed and committed that to break that bond will yield the greatest conquest and the most points in an ongoing game of sexual one-upmanship with a fellow train cruiser. After swaying the reluctant mark,  he passively empties himself into her mouth. The man is changed, drained, and emotionally shaken from the transgression he consciously wished no part of until mid-ejaculation. For Joe the act is simply a tally notch, a big bull buffalo on the savanna that her sleek apex feline sussed out, isolated, and brought down. How the man returns to his wife, or if his life is disrupted from the interlude, is of no concern.

In the wild, the act of predation is cold, calculating and necessary. There is nothing civil or remorseful about it. While Joe does it to feed her id or inner dysfunction, Scarlett Johansson’s intoxicating incarnation in Under the Skin, largely nameless but identified as Laura in the credits, does it out of rote need. She’s not of our world but something supernatural, a celestial traveler who has been transfigured to look like us, and on something of a farming mission to harvest human flesh for her ilk. The urgency of her assignment renders palpable and strong as she patrols the streets of Glasgow in an austere white van asking for directions (uncannily similar to Joe’s locomotive panderings).  Continue reading


23 May
Published in the Huffington Post on 5/22/2013

Social networks are wonderful tools that can spark and foster friendships. They can also disable them too, especially when it comes to politics and ideology and two opposing egos get in too deep to acknowledge the commonality that joined them in life and the World Wide Web in the first place.

Such was the bitter lesson I learned in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shooting. I had made a post stating that the best place people could send contributions to benefit the victims and the town of Newtown was through the United Way of Western Connecticut. It was what the town’s website had expressed and there were reports that the gifts and the hodgepodge of contributions that were pouring in through other means were choking the relief efforts.

So my ‘friend,’ someone I had known for over a decade through work, countered with a post that Newtown was too wealthy and that he was going to make his charitable contributions elsewhere.   Continue reading

Trying to get back to normal in Beantown

23 Apr

Returning to normal isn’t so easy

By Tom Meek
April 22, 2013

New Hampshire State Police bring a military-style vehicle to Watertown during a search for bombing suspects. (Photo: Sally Vargas)

New Hampshire State Police bring a military-style vehicle to Watertown during a search for bombing suspects. (Photo: Sally Vargas)

With the spectacular apprehension of bombing suspect No. 2 (Dzhokhar Tsarnaev) Friday evening, Boston, Cambridge, Watertown and the surrounding areas can breathe a little easier. As expected, a pall of paranoia and unease is a given, and questions linger that perhaps we won’t have the answers to for months. So in the aftermath of five days of mayhem, we try to make sense of the senseless.

At the base of it all is the why. How could someone who lived here among us, shook our hands, smiled at us, went to school with us, smoked weed with us, married us, competed alongside us, had children with us, shamelessly and maliciously and with intent kill innocent people, including an 8-year-old boy with a sweet spot for ice cream?

Shocking and unconscionable, yes, but why, after pulling such a heinous and cowardly act did the two bombing suspects hang around town? Did they assume going about their business as usual was a good cover, or was there more to come?        Continue reading