Monday, August 31, 2009

Helping WGBH

I am a member of our local Boston PBS/NPR station WGBH and annually give a decent size gift to support their programming. After receiving this email today (and seeing the pledge drive during last night's showing of "Lewis"), I made an additional donation to help out the station because I enjoy their programming (and have since childhood, when I was a regular "Zoom" watcher.) In fact, considering the percentage of time that either my television or radio or both are spent tuned to WGBH, I think that it is a real bargain!

Here is the email with a link to donate if you too feel inclined to support Boston's Arts and News station.
I'm writing today with a financial update and urgent request.

Today is the last day of our fiscal year, but WGBH must still raise
$150,000 before the books slam shut at midnight.

We've cut expenses as much as possible without compromising the high
standards you expect, but in these extraordinary times, it's not
enough. We need your help.

If you intended to make a gift but haven't gotten around to it, I hope
I can count on you make an extra contribution today--above and
beyond your annual support--to help protect the independent and
commercial-free programming you rely on.

Make a special gift today at

We simply cannot wait for a better economy to pay for the programs and
services WGBH provides to New England and shares with the world.

Every dollar helps and the impact is immediate: you'll see and hear
the difference everytime you tune in to WGBH for your favorite
programs--whether it's Morning Edition, Nova, Sesame Street,
Antiques Roadshow, All Things Considered, Between the Lions,
or Nature.

Thanks for your ongoing support and your thoughtful consideration.

Daren Winckel
Director of Membership and fellow member

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Edward M. Kennedy, 1932-2009

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

I am sitting at home today on the couch with a crummy summer cold, complete with pot of tea with honey, watching the coverage on the news. They interviewed the priest who was with the Senator and the family last night, and the interviewer expressed some surprise that Senator Kennedy was a man of quiet prayer. That doesn't surprise me in the least. I think that is a huge part of being an Irish Catholic American. Your politics may be in direct conflict with the stances of the Church, but that doesn't stop you from having a deep and reverent faith.

Thank you, Senator Kennedy, for your service to the nation and the Commonwealth. I am so proud to have had you as my representative in the Senate. You and your family are in my prayers.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

"I'm not like the girls that you've known, But I believe I'm worth coming home to"

JR & I went to see Tori Amos perform last night at the Bank of America Pavilion, which I refer to by its old name, Harbor Lights. I was hoping that she would play my favorite song off of her Beekeeper album, "Sleeps with Butterflies". She didn't, but managed to play a lot of my other favorites ("Tear in Your Hand", "Bells for Her", "Space Dog", "Digital Ghost") so I was a happy camper (nothing off of Scarlet's Walk oddly.) It was a really great show, and I am so glad that we got to spend the last date of her American tour with Tori out under the stars by the water.

To make up for the lack of the song, I thought I would post some photos I took of butterflies at my parents' house recently.

Monarch butterfly and butterfly bush Butterfly and butterfly bush Butterfly and butterfly bush Monarch butterfly and butterfly bush

Monday, August 17, 2009

On the Road Again

I have been doing quite a bit of distance driving these past few weekends, most of it on my own. I have to highly recommend downloading the podcasts of NPR's "This American Life" to listen to on those long stretches of interstate. They really make the time go by quickly and are entertaining and informative. Plus, they keep you awake when you are on a dark stretch of road on a rainy evening. The one I listened to last night was called The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, and it was fascinating.

One of my more recent treks was out to Lennox, MA to visit Edith Wharton's estate, The Mount, with my book club. We had read her novella Summer, and we decided to tour her house and gardens as part of our meeting. Despite the overcast day, the rain held off until it was time to go home. It was both charming and informative (Edith got a big thumbs up, while her husband, Teddy Wharton, got the thumbs down from our group), and I think worth the time in the car.
The Mount The formal garden at the Mount
The rock garden at the Mount The Mount

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Something Straight Out of the Movies, but Better

From The New York Times:
“Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea,” Ms. Ling said in brief remarks to reporters, blinking back tears. “We feared that at any moment we could be prisoners in a hard labor camp. Then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting.

“We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton,” she said, recounting the final moments of her ordeal. “We were shocked, but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here home and free.”

And of course I am crying just reading about it and imagining this scenario. It’s like having the cavalry show up at the last minute! For more happy tears, you should watch Laura Ling's statement over on The Lede, with video from Britain's Channel 4. I will be heading to the ladies' room to fix my eye makeup.

Monday, August 3, 2009

All I Ever Wanted, All I Ever Needed is Here in My Arms

(In the event that you are reading this blog through a feed or Reader application, you may not have noticed that I changed my blog around a bit, including the name. You are now reading The Casual Observations of a Casual Observer. It is a much more accurate title for these entries, since my days of 12 cans of Diet Coke in an afternoon are long gone - thank heavens!)

On Friday afternoon, JR and I drove down (JR drove, I was the navigator) in the rain to Great Woods in Mansfield (the more these places change their names, the more inclined I am to call them by their old, non-corporate names) to see Depeche Mode in concert. Our seats were in a great spot in the first level on stage right, and we had no difficulty in seeing the band. JR commented that the last time we saw DM in concert, we were so far back, it was like watching a music video, but this time, it felt like a live performance. There is nothing like dancing in your seat, singing along to the songs while the music vibrates through your whole body.

This was my first concert experience where a large majority of the audience was openly taking pictures using digital cameras, iPhones, and the like. It was pretty distracting, especially when the house was pitch black except for all of the illuminated LCD screens in front of us. We ended up commenting, "I guess it didn't really happen if you can't FaceBook it in real time?"

It got me thinking about the whole "living your life" vs. "documenting life" quandry in which we seem to find ourselves in this digital age. (This parallels the "talking in the movies syndrome" that some people seem to find acceptable; I don't, by the by.) Personally, I was at the show to rock out to one of my favorite bands. But there were definitely people there, including the very intoxicated and obnoxious Australian men in the row front of us, who spent more time recording the show than enjoying it, and I felt that they were missing the point.

Performance is one of those things that lasts within a specific period of time and is made up of the elements that are brought by both the performer and the audience. If the audience isn't giving the performer the courtesy of its full attention, why should the performer feel obligated to do their best? Why not "phone the performance in"? Or in this case, why bother having separate concerts at all when it would be easier for the band to film one show in a studio and just broadcast it in stadiums on different dates in different towns?

DM lead singer, Dave Gahan, spent a lot of time last Friday engaging the audience, getting people to sing and clap and wave their arms around. The unity of that kind of participation can reinforce some amazing positive energy, even from a venue that wasn't sold out. I hope that will never be lost, and I hope that audiences will put away their cameras and recorders and just relearn to enjoy the show for what it is, because Facebook is never going to be able to recreate that kind of interconnectedness, no matter how many people you friend.


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