Thursday, April 30, 2009

I love Spring

According to the Mass Dept. of Agriculture's list, Somerville's farmer's markets are starting up soon. The one in Union Square opens May 27 and runs through November, and Davis Square runs from June to October.

I went with some friends to Bread & Company's grand opening event the other night. They were serving appetizers, wine, desserts, and cocktails featuring Western Massachusetts-distilled liquors. I had a glass of wine in my hand or I would have ordered a Dark & Stormy; a reason to go back. The space now has a clean and streamlined decor, very anti-Bickford's. The food was so-so; somewhat underseasoned. Bread & Comany is open for brunch on the weekends, and it will definitely be worth trying in that capacity. They've got it set up for a few outdoor tables, too, for dining al fresco in the warm weather.

Some pictures I took on my walk in Spring Hill the other day:

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

IKEA and ultrafine particles

When I heard that IKEA was coming to Assembly Square back in 2003, the first thing I thought about was the increased traffic and pollution it would bring with it, especially on the weekends. I've been against the idea from the beginning, not only for those reasons, but also because I have no love for big box stores and their impact on local economies. To anyone who believes that these types of establishments are assets to their communities, I recommend the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.

This past week, The Boston Globe (as well as the Somerville Journal) reported that a group of scientists will begin a study on the effect of ultrafine particles released into the air by combustion engines in high traffic areas, such as the neighborhoods abutting Mystic Ave. and 93 in the area of Assembly Square. Ultrafine particles are microscopic pollutants that have been correlated with increased incidences of heart and lung disease among people living within 300 feet and downwind of heavily used highways. Somerville residents have requested that the Tufts Community Research Center perform the study based on anecdotal evidence showing high rates of cardiovascular and pulmonary disease among those living in the Nunnery Grounds neighborhood. If their suspicions prove valid, and the already high volume of traffic actually increases with the opening of IKEA, then the situation becomes one of sacrificing lives for cheap goods. I'm curious to see whether IKEA will be allowed to begin construction before this study is complete; if the health risks will be rationalized by focusing on job creation and increased commerce.

In a town that's been shifting strongly away from the corporate mentality, with residents supporting independent local businesses, and getting furniture and other goods through craigslist, freecycle, thrift stores, yard sales, flea markets, and community swaps, building an IKEA doesn't reflect the prevailing Somerville zeitgeist. Going forward, I hope awareness of the health risks posed by increased traffic in the Assembly Square area will play an important part in any future decisions made about IKEA.

The Museum of Science will host a free public forum on the issue of vehicular pollution on Sunday, May 3, at 7pm. Advance registration is required. Call 617-589-4250 or email

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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A chicken in every pot, a Somerville Scout in every mailbox

Today, a stack of a new quarterly publication entitled the Somerville Scout showed up in the lobby of my building. With print media on the approximate evolutionary trajectory of the pterodactyl, it's an odd time to launch a magazine. The editorial conceit of this one is "scouting the best of where to go and what to do in Somerville," and the mission statement reads "Somerville Scout seeks to inspire its readers to enjoy all Somerville has to offer." Actually, it's an advertising vehicle for local businesses, which is a good thing if it gets people to support them, but I can't help feeling manipulated as a reader.

Somerville Scout's content is fairly stale, consisting mainly of news that other publications like the Somerville Journal and Somerville News have already covered, plus lists of upcoming events and performances at Somerville venues, and a few profiles of local business owners. The obvious flaws in the quarterly publication schedule are that by the time the next issue rolls around, the news content is going to three months staler and any changes to the event listings will be lost. The only thing that will still be "fresh" is the ad content, which brings me back to the manipulation factor.

Don't get me wrong; I thoroughly support local businesses and urge others to do so whenever possible. I also applaud the chutzpah it takes for anyone to undertake the launch of a new magazine the same week the New York Times is threatening to shut down publication of the Boston Globe. I sincerely hope the Somerville Scout achieves its misleadingly worded aim and does bring more folks through the doors of our local business establishments. I just wish there was a greater percentage of worthwhile content between the ads. I guess we'll just have to see what issue #2 brings.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

Center for Arts at The Armory Dedication Ceremony

Tonight an important milestone in Somerville history will take place when the old armory officially becomes The Center for Arts at The Armory. The event will be marked with a tour of the beautifully redesigned interior of the space, an art show, dedication speeches from Mayor Joe Curtatone and Senator Pat Jehlen, even a youth drumline performance. There will be refreshments served and a chance to meet the visual artists (including me!) participating in the Center's inaugural show.

Oddly, there's an "inter-faith" blessing planned that includes only representatives of two Christian sects. I'm not sure why it was deemed necessary to bring a religious element into the mix, but considering Somerville's diversity, a rabbi and an imam would probably have been appropriate as well. Personally, I'd just as soon leave god out of it; I'm a rank secularist and I'd like to see religion left in the churches, synagogues and mosques, and out of the arts. Art provides a spirituality of its own that shouldn't need to compete with religion in its own space.

At any rate, Joseph and Nabil of The Middle East and Zuzu, have done an outstanding job with turning the Armory into a valuable space for Somerville artists and art appreciators alike. I think it's going to have a large role in the art community here in Somerville, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops.

Details of tonight's Dedication Ceremony:

5:00 - 5:45 PM
Building Tour

5:45 - 6:15 PM
Welcome and Master of Ceremonies
Robert Claycomb, Armory Neighborhood Advisory Committee Member

An Interfaith Building Blessing
Father Thomas Corcoran, St. Catherine´s Parish
Reverend Doctor Richard R. Buckner, III, Church of the Holy Spirit

Mayoral Dedication and Citation
Mayor Joseph Curtatone

Legislative Citation
Senator Patricia Jehlen
Representative Carl Sciortino
Representative Denise Provost

Aldermanic Citation
Alderman Sean O´Donovan, Ward Five

Youth Music Performance Drumline
A Percussion Group of 10 Somerville High School Students
Directed by Brian O´Neil and Nick Dalessandro, Somerville High School Music Department

A Community Reading Led by Robert Smyth, Armory Neighborhood Advisory Committee Member

6:15 - 7:00 PM
Armory ART Start!
Reception in the Armory Café
Meet the artists who participated in our first exhibit.
Also see before and after images of the Armory and bring your own photos and stories!

We want to be a good neighbor. We encourage you to take public transportation, bike, car pool or walk to the Armory. If you do decide to drive, please use our parking lot behind the Armory located at 191 Highland Avenue or the overflow lot located at 112 Central Street (before the bridge as you head towards Medford Street).

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