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BRONZE BUST OF PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA BY ARTIST MATTHEW GONZALEZ COURTESY OF THE HUTCHINS CENTER FOR AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN RESEARCH (DONATED BY THE ARTIST CARRIE MAE WEEMS) AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY MELISSA BLACKALL, COURTESY OF THE COOPER GALLERY OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ART. ©2018 DIGBOSTON IS PUBLISHED WEEKLY BY DIG MEDIA GROUP INC. NO PART OF THIS PUBLICATION CAN BE REPRODUCED WITHOUT WRITTEN CONSENT. DIG MEDIA GROUP INC. CANNOT BE HELD LIABLE FOR ANY TYPOGRAPHICAL ERRORS. ONE COPY OF DIGBOSTON IS AVAILABLE FREE TO MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS AND VISITORS EACH WEEK. ANYONE REMOVING PAPERS IN BULK WILL BE PROSECUTED ON THEFT CHARGES TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW.
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ROYALE REVEREND JUNIOR HORTON &BROWN, & HEAT THE BLASTERS BIG SANDY
I may be writing this column on Giving Tuesday, but that’s really just a neat coincidence, since I already had some news on the nonprofit front to share with you. As regular DigBoston readers know, a little more than three years ago some of us longsuffering independent media types started the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ) to boost reporting in the region. Our basic mission was to raise funds to do the kind of reporting that is rarely being done these days, particularly at the local level. In 2018 in Mass, a lot of small and community newspapers, including the Dig, are able to survive and even thrive, but more than ever we can use some extra gas in our tanks. As one of the people who has learned how to ask people for money for journalism, I am proud to say that we’ve succeeded beyond anything we initially dreamed. BINJ has raised in excess of $200,000 since 2015, and with that we have produced more than 100 features, several hundred columns, and multiple public engagement events each year. Whether you’re familiar with our work or not, I ask that you check out our new clearinghouse website, binjonline.org, which packs in almost everything that we have published through several partner outlets, from El Planeta, to the Shoestring and the Valley Advocate in Western Mass, to Worcester Magazine and, yes, DigBoston. I won’t overexplain why BINJ hasn’t had its own site until now. Basically, the reporting we do through the nonprofit isn’t a direct-to-consumer product; we’re trying to help publications, not draw traffic away from them. At the same time, in the process of loading content onto the BINJ site and rereading old features and columns it became clear that our supporters, as well as the general public, will only stand to benefit from having our output stockpiled safely in one place. When you’re perusing the critical work we have done—stories on everything from healthcare to immigration to sports—imagine for a second that we hadn’t had the opportunity to do that journalism. What if those stories, and the impact and exposure they led to, never existed? Moving forward, we hope to do much more, and we’ll need you to please consider us in this season of giving. When you help independent media, it’s like helping all your favorite causes at once. And finally, whether you can help financially or not, we can use a hand researching our latest project. Check the details below.
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Tickets for Royale, The Sinclair, and Great Scott can be purchased online at AXS.COM. No fee tickets available at The Sinclair box office Wednesdays - Saturdays 12:00 - 7:00PM FOR MORE INFORMATION AND A COMPLETE LIST OF SHOWS, VISIT BOWERYBOSTON.COM NEWS TO US
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E L B A D R O F AF FAIR HOUSING? NEWS TO US
For developers in Boston, it may pay off to blow off inclusionary building requirements BY DAN ATKINSON @_DANATKINSON_ It was another condo building rising in Southie. The development at 135 Athens Street/160 West Broadway was approved by city officials in 2014, with the promise that two of its 15 units would be affordable. The building was finished in 2017. But when the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) reviewed the completed project, it discovered the developer had sold the units that had been designated for affordable housing at market rates. Something had to be done. The solution: a fine that likely still gave developers a profit margin, and the permanent loss of planned affordable units. While investigating the 135 Athens development, BPDA officials discovered three other projects that failed to comply with agreed-to affordable housing requirements. Beyond that, the agency says it hasn’t found any other projects in violation, and it claims to now have stricter policies. But housing advocates say the BPDA’s reaction doesn’t address the crushing need for affordable space in the city and indicates a lack of concern about the problem 4
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in the first place. “Everybody was asleep at the switch,” said Steve Meacham, a housing watchdog and organizer who works with the Jamaica Plain-based nonprofit City Life/Vida Urbana. “How much does that failure represent a headlong pursuit of development at all costs?” The deal Records show that developer Leah Popielarski proposed the project in 2014 and purchased the property at 135 Athens St that year for $1.8 million through the company Black Flat LLC. The Boston Redevelopment Authority— several years before its six-figure rebranding as the BPDA—approved it through its “small project review” process for projects of 15 units or more that are smaller than 50,000 square feet. The initial plan called for 15 condos—nine onebedroom one-bath units at about 750 square feet; two two-bedroom 1.5-bath units at about 920 square feet; and four two-bedroom, two-bath units between 930 and 1220
square feet. The four-story building would also include a parking garage for 20 cars. Boston’s inclusionary development policy requires large- and medium-scale developers to create affordable units on- or off-site based on the amount of total units developed, or to contribute money to the city’s affordable housing fund for future projects. According to BPDA documents, Popielarski agreed to provide two “affordable” units—one set for a buyer at 80 percent of the city’s area median income (AMI), and another set for between 80 and 100 percent—but did not specify whether the affordable units would be one or two bedrooms. AMI, which is determined by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, varies by household— in 2017, the AMI for a two-person household in the metro Boston area was $82,7000, while for a four-person household it was $103,400. And that in turn leads to variance in the rental and condo prices for the city’s affordable housing agreements, even as the percentages in agreements negotiated by the BPDA remain the same. In 2017, when the project completed construction, the
sales price of a one-bedroom condo at 80 percent AMI was $180,000, and the sales price of that same condo at 100 percent AMI was $239,000. A two-bedroom condo at 80 percent AMI would have cost $214,000 and one at 100 percent AMI went for $277,000. Those numbers are well below what Black Flat was able to sell the units for at market rate, according to information from the Registry of Deeds. The lowest-priced unit sold for $564,000, while the highest-priced sold by Black Flat went for $825,000. Black Flat sold all 15 units between March and May 2017, according to the Suffolk County Registry of Deeds. But the last two units were not sold to homebuyers on the open market or affordable applicants—they went to Seaport Residential, another company formed by Popielarski, for $10 apiece. Seaport Residential sold those last two units at the end of June for $625,000 and $853,000. All told, the 15 units sold for $9.95 million, an average of $664,000 a unit. Leah Popielarski, the property owner and project developer, could not be reached for comment. Ryan Connelly of RMC Development, who is listed as Popielarski’s contact in BPDA documents, said he was involved in the project “at first but not any more,” and did not respond to additional requests for more information on the development or on contacting Popielarski. Discovery and fine When construction of a large project of 50,000 or more square feet is finished, the BPDA must issue a certificate of completion before the project can move forward with renting or selling units. That gives officials the ability to check in on the project’s affordable housing plans, and projects with affordable units are required to go through city channels to market those units to prospective buyers. But the 135 Athens project never submitted a marketing plan for the units it later sold at market rate. BPDA officials said they discovered the lack of affordable housing when transferring information about developments to a new database. Not filing the marketing plan and selling the units at market rate meant the project was not in compliance with its affordable housing agreement, and potentially subject to legal action. In this case, the BPDA approved a new affordable housing agreement and a settlement per which the developer will pay $600,000 to the city’s affordable housing fund—$200,000 by Nov 20, $200,000 by the end of the year, and $200,000 by the end of next March. The penalty for violating the AHA was a fine of either the minimum affordable housing contribution per unit in the development’s geographical area—for 135 Athens, $300,000 per unit—or half the differential between the BPDA’s determination of the affordable price for the units and their full market value. The first set of figures was larger, leading to the $600,000 settlement. At an October BPDA meeting, housing policy manager Tim Davis said the BPDA’s calculation of $600,000 was based on newer data than had been in place when 135 Athens was approved, increasing that payment from $425,000 and adding a “penalty.” The BPDA board approved the settlement unanimously, with member Michael Monahan saying the agency came out ahead. “In hindsight, it’s better off that they did violate it—we get more money,” Monahan said. On the other hand, considering the sale prices, one could also conclude that it was financially prudent to violate the agreement. The BPDA would have set strict limits on the sale prices of affordable units for households at 80 percent and 100 percent of AMI. Depending on whether those units were one or two bedrooms, the units combined would have sold for between $419,000 and $491,000, according to 2017 standards. Compare that to the average sale price of $664,000 for one unit of the 135 Athens project at market price, or $1.32 million for two units. Subtracting the $600,000 fine still leaves the developer with $732,000—at least $230,000 more than what the affordable units would have sold for. Also, while affordable units are usually restricted for at least 50 years when they are created, violating the affordable housing agreement created two units than can continually be flipped or resold at market rate. “It sets a terrible precedent if that’s the consequence,” said Helen Matthews, a City Life spokesperson. “It doesn’t manifest the immediate affordable housing that’s needed. It’s all part of the story of BPDA’s sloppy supervision of this issue.” BPDA spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin said the agency’s transfer of information on its developments to a new database will prevent other projects from reneging on their affordable housing commitments, and that BPDA compliance staff are checking all building permits pulled through the city’s Inspectional Services department to confirm it has affordable housing agreements. “BPDA has improved communication with the Office of Fair Housing to check during construction that developers have engaged Fair Housing regarding marketing plans,” McGilpin said in a statement. “Recent project approvals have also required that developers contact Fair Housing upon receiving building permit. … As a result of these changes, an Article 80 project with an IDP commitment does not have the ability to move forward without a completed affordable housing agreement.”
6 OUT OF EVERY 100
Latinos underrepresented at top public colleges BY ANDREA SEARS A new study shows that selective public colleges nationwide admit disproportionately low numbers of black and Latinx students, while receiving more funding per student. The study, from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, found that all 41 states that have selective public colleges fund them at higher rates per student than their open enrollment colleges. But black and Latinx students are underrepresented in almost all those publicly funded schools. According to Martin Van Der Werf, associate director of editorial and postsecondary policy at the center and co-author of the report, those findings hold true in the Bay State, where Latinx students are severely underrepresented at UMass Amherst. “Among college age young adults, 15 out of every 100 in Massachusetts is Latino,” Van Der Were said. “But in selective public colleges, only six out of every 100 students is Latino.” He said selective college admissions rely heavily on SAT scores, but those scores aren’t reliable indicators of college success. Van Der Werf contends SAT scores reflect the quality of prior schooling and parental educational attainment, factors that favor white students. And selective public college admissions mirror the unequal funding of the K-12 system. “We give more resources to the wealthier districts,” he said. “The wealthier districts produce students who do better on the tests, those students go on to selective colleges and things just don’t tend to change over time.” He said wealthier school districts tend to serve more white children. Van Der Werf said he believes selective public colleges need to take a more holistic approach to admissions. “That they accept students from a broader cross-section of the public, because these universities ought to be serving the broad cross-section of all people in that state,” he said. According to the report, 38 percent of white Americans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 23 percent of black Americans and 17 percent of Latinx Americans.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. For more reporting like this check out binjonline.org, and to help support more journalism like this visit givetobinj.org.
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Boston’s top cop should think twice before bashing the ACLU BY JASON PRAMAS @JASONPRAMAS BPD Commissioner William Gross has had a bad few days. Last week, ACLU Massachusetts sued the city of Boston for using “a system—nicknamed the ‘gang packet’—which awards points for choice of clothes and social media selfies, and [is] used to designate ‘gang affiliation’ without any accompanying allegations of criminal activity,” according a Guardian article by DigBoston contributing writer Sarah Betancourt. In response, Gross had a meltdown on his personal Facebook account—accusing the ACLU of being “paper warriors” who “turn a blind eye to ‘atrocities,’” according to the Boston Herald. His attack was weak. And it was off the wall. He said that the civil liberties organization was nowhere to be found when the BPD has done tough stuff like working in East Boston and El Salvador to find ways to bring the international MS-13 gang to heel. He then said that ACLU did not have the “‘common decency’ to call with condolences after a city cop was shot in the face.” “No ACLU when officers are shot. No ACLU when we help,” Gross continued. ACLU Mass Executive Director Carol Rose then fired back the following statement, also in the Herald: Commissioner Gross’ accusations appear to be nothing more than an attempt to divert attention from the serious issues raised by an ACLU lawsuit that seeks to uncover whether the Boston Police Department is unfairly and arbitrarily targeting people of color. … In order to make Boston a safe city for all its residents, we must meaningfully address discriminatory policing, and confront the role the gang database plays in the lives of young Black and Latinx people in our city. Naturally, I’m going to side with the ACLU on this one. Because, first, civil liberties lawyers are civil liberties lawyers and cops are cops. So, right away, Gross is off base in attacking the ACLU for doing its job. Which is to defend civil rights for all American citizens and immigrants to these shores. Including putative gang members. No surprise he’s doing that, though. When faced with a serious critique, it makes sense that 6
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he finds it easier to toss red meat to the “Blue Lives Matter”/“cops can do no wrong” crowd than to try to refute ACLU claims head on. Because he knows it’s going to be tough to win such a debate. Especially after the ACLU demonstrated that BPD PR about its being a kinder, gentler praetorian guard was less than truthful in a landmark 2015 report that “found racial disparities in the BPD’s stops-and-frisks that could not be explained by crime or other non-race factors.” Something local police, and their commissioner most of all, cannot have forgotten. Second, cops are public servants and government employees. It’s therefore up to government officials to issue formal condolences when police officers get injured or killed in the line of duty. Which officials like Mayor Marty Walsh—who publicly supported Gross as this article went to press—do all the time. Private citizens like ACLU staff can send their best wishes at such times or not. It’s neither required nor expected of them. Third, the fact that ACLU observers may be present where police are working, something that particularly irked Gross, is no surprise at all. They’re doing their jobs—which sometimes involves watching cops to make sure they’re not violating anyone’s civil liberties. While the cops are doing theirs—which all too often does result in civil liberties violations. Like tarring someone as a gang member in a database based on super sketchy criteria. And then trying to pretend that it’s no big deal. Finally, if Commissioner Gross wants to trash the ACLU on such ludicrous grounds, then he has to accept that other people—like this journalist—are going to come back at him with facts. For example, the fact that police cannot defeat gangs. Especially in the black and Latino communities under discussion in this dustup. Even assuming they want to. Which is not a good assumption, since a primary rationale for the outsized police budgets of this era is the threat of gang violence. Cops can’t stop gangs because myriad problems lead to their formation. Problems that sociologists and anthropologists and psychologists have studied exhaustively for over 100 years. Problems of family.
Problems of intergenerational networks. Problems of communication. Problems of geography. Problems of education. Problems of substance abuse. Problems of incarceration. And worst of all, the problems of structural racism and entrenched economic inequality. Racism and poverty. Problems that at their heart are problems of capitalism. A political economic system based on economic inequality… and, in these United States, on structural racism. A system propped up by increasingly militarized police forces. Whose job, before all other jobs, is to protect the rich and powerful. And to repress the poor and marginalized. For fear they should rise up and demand a better deal. As they have done on numerous occasions in American history. So, maybe Commissioner Gross should think twice before taking cheap shots at an organization whose only “failing” is trying to protect disenfranchised communities from the very police who claim they are there to do the same thing. Because he may find that the conversation moves in a direction that he doesn’t like.
Which is not a good assumption, since a primary rationale for the outsized police budgets of this era is the threat of gang violence.
Apparent Horizon—winner of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2018 Best Political Column award—is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s network director, and executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. Copyright 2018 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.
VOTE NO! OPINION
Harvard Clerical Union rep criticizes union’s contract proposal BY GEOFF CARENS Harvard University is one of the largest employers in Massachusetts, with over 18,000 employees. Thousands of Harvard’s workers are “contingent” and don’t have benefits such as health insurance or paid time off. The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) is the university’s largest union, with around 5,000 members. HU’s continuing ability to exploit contingent workers, a subject of contract negotiations with HUCTW, arguably has a negative effect on wages and living conditions in the whole region. What union members receive in their contract also helps set the standard for campus workers across the area higher education sector. Members of HUCTW vote on a contract proposal Dec 4. As an elected union representative with 25+ years’ experience, I recommend union members vote No! The proposal features low raises and strips protective language out of our contract. It will empower bosses to harass workers who are sick and lay us off faster. A huge new loophole with respect to contingent employees will help deprive them of the health insurance, paid time off, and other union benefits they need. Harvard can well afford to give its workers a fair deal. The Harvard Medical School just received a $200 million dollar gift, the largest in its history. The university’s capital campaign recently amassed nearly $10 billion—and the campaign’s goal was $6.5 billion! The richest school in the world, Harvard enjoys a massive endowment, over $37 billion. Meanwhile, the Boston area remains unaffordable for many campus workers. Boston rents increased 5.3 percent on average for a one-bedroom apartment, and 6.3 percent for a two-bedroom unit since last year. If the contract is ratified, many union members will receive raises under 3 percent for the period from Oct 1, 2018, to Sept 30, 2019, the first year covered by the new agreement. It’s estimated that a worker would need to earn $88,967 to live comfortably in Boston. The average HUCTW member earns around $30,000 less than that, and the low raises in all three years of our contract mean we will continue to lose ground. Contingent employees will do far worse. This contract was supposed to rein in Harvard’s exploitation of contingent workers, who include “less-than-halftime” or “LHT” employees who work fewer than 14 hours per week, and “temp” employees who are hired for jobs that last under three months. Under certain conditions contingent jobs are supposed to be turned into union positions with benefits. However, an enormous loophole has been inserted into the proposed union contract, which gives Harvard managers license to change the status of a worker from temp to LHT, or vice versa, rather than converting the position to a union job. This new provision means more university employees will labor at jobs that don’t even provide any meaningful benefits or even a single day off with pay. Entire sections of the contract have been rewritten for the benefit of Harvard bosses. Protective language is being cut out and dangerous new provisions inserted. Slated for removal is one of the few provisions that helps older workers when they are ill. A section of the contract under sick pay is newly headed, “When Medical Evidence May Be Required.” Four situations are listed where management can demand medical evidence if union members dare to take sick time. A new provision endangers workers who may need to be out sick for longer periods. The fact that these points will be enshrined in our contract means that more sick union members will face harassment and demands for medical documentation. With respect to discipline, some modestly IMAGE VIA HUCTW INSTAGRAM protective language is to be removed. A new provision even encourages bosses to issue verbal warnings, which can set the stage for more serious disciplinary action. When Harvard wants to lay off a union member, management has to inform the union and discuss the supposed reasons for ending the job. The new contract will state that these discussions will be ended “as efficiently and expeditiously as possible,” apparently so bosses can get back to the important business of separating workers from their salaries. There is no reason why union members should vote for a contract that shortchanges and threatens us, and inflicts further harm on our contingent co-workers. I encourage HUCTW members to reject the proposal, and tell Harvard that we deserve better! Our vote will affect working standards and conditions in the Boston area and beyond.
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HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE
Enjoy holiday tunes by DJ José Massó as you meet neighbors and colleagues at Northeastern Crossing’s third annual Holiday Open House. Guests are invited to celebrate the season by creating origami decorations as holiday ornaments or gifts. A special holiday menu will be served.
Tuesday December 11, 2018 4:30 PM- 7:00 PM 1175 Tremont Street, Roxbury FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!
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PIZZAGATE POP-UP TERMS OF SERVICE
When life gives you conspiracies, make pies with extra cheese BY HALEY HAMILTON @SAUCYLIT
BOSTON, MA MARCH 22-24
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Tickets on sale Mar. 1st, 2019
Ah, Pizzagate. How could we forget you? In case you have forgotten, during the 2016 presidential election, fake news stories ran amok and rumors spread through social media that Hillary Clinton and her campaign manager, John Podesta, were running a child-trafficking ring in the basement of Comet Ping Pong, a pizza shop in Washington, DC. How, exactly, did this come to be? During the election, Podesta’s email account was hacked, and several of his emails were published on Wikileaks. A handful of said communications were between Podesta and James Alefantis, the owner of Comet Ping Pong, who was considering hosting a fundraiser for Clinton. Simple enough, but phrases like “large cheese” and “several slices” were for some reason interpreted by desperate fringe conservatives to be code words indicating, yes, an underground sex trade complete with kill rooms and ritual sacrifice (I wish I were kidding). Two years later, Pizzagate is back—but this time it’s a good thing. Oh, and Satanism really is involved. “Pizzagate was really the satanic panic of recent times,” says Adam Dodge, the official chef of the Satanic Temple in Salem. “And so my next event is a pizza pop-up.” Dodge hosted his first independent event, the Devil’s Dinner Party, at the Satanic Temple last month to officially and publicly marry his passion for cooking with his other love. “Cooking and Satanism are about the same things,” Dodge says. “It’s about passion, it’s about romance, it’s about appreciating life and sharing that passion with others.” From 10 pm to midnight this Thursday (Nov 29), Dodge will host Pizzagate: The Witching Hour Pop-up at the Frogmore in Jamaica Plain. The premise: This amazing pizza place got death threats from strangers believing in these theories spread by Reddit, Infowars/Alex Jones and Donald Trump’s transition team member Michael T. Flynn, his designate for national security advisor, who actually tweeted that Podesta was drinking the blood and bodily fluids of his victims in satanic rituals. The promise: Tasty devilish flatbreads, evil snacks, and cocktails from [his] upcoming cookbook. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the Mass General Hospital Depression Clinical and Research Program, an acknowledgment of the mental health toll a career in the restaurant industry can take with its with long hours, lack of personal days, and highstress work environment. “It became super visible with [the death of] Anthony Bourdain, but there’s so many people in the industry who are battling mental health issues and don’t get to take mental health days, who are working overtime to keep their insurance,” Dodge says. “This is something I can do to bring people together and highlight that struggle.” Don’t worry, there will be no ritual sacrifice. “Satanists don’t hurt other people like that. We consider man to be an animal and we worship animals. Killing people is wrong. Like, that’s fairly universal, right?” It’s not quite 45’s presidency on a platter, but hey: Who doesn’t love pizza?
11.29.18 - 12.06.18
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PHOTOS BY LYNNE DONCASTER
THE MOVEMENT FEATURE
Paradise Moves tells stories without words BY LYNNE DONCASTER This is not dancing. It’s understandable if you’re confused. We’re in a dance studio, after all—barres, mirrored wall, rubbery floor, signs reminding us that street shoes aren’t allowed. There’s music, and people are moving. Over the course of 90 minutes, bodies flow through the room in endless ways—walking, leaping, skipping, jumping, crawling, spinning, rolling, slinking, dragging, carrying. Spines bend in every direction. Limbs expand to fill space, then contract to empty it. It looks like dancing, and you might recognize elements from dance—pointed toes here, an arabesque there— but this is not dancing. This is movement. What’s the difference? “Movement is the pure form of performance and expression,” says Tyler Catanella, the artistic director of Paradise Moves. “Dance implies technique, and it implies knowledge and understanding of how to do it. There are so many people that say, ‘I don’t dance,’ and I think that’s because what’s projected in dance is technical training. That’s important for the form, but it’s not the most important thing. What’s most important is the storytelling.” Paradise Moves is an ensemble that tells stories without words. Enough, an original piece about identity and mental health, premiered last year at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, and the group also organizes the annual More than Moves festival to raise money for Transition House, an agency that supports survivors of domestic violence. The Movement SLAMS are another arm of Paradise Moves, open to anyone who wants to practice telling a story through movement. Unlike the competitive poetry and story slams most people associate with the word, in this case SLAM is an acronym, standing for Storytelling, 10
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Listening and Movement. Catanella began developing the SLAM format about 10 years ago, as an undergrad at Emerson College. What began as a space for friends to loosen up and have fun moving creatively has evolved into twice-monthly workshops open to the public. At the start of every SLAM, people share why they’re there: An actor wants to experiment with a new character. Someone else wants to warm up for a flag football game later that afternoon. People say they’ve come to shake off a bad week, to have fun, for a workout, to connect with others, or simply to move freely. There are often new faces who say they have no idea what to expect, but they saw the event on Facebook and want to try something new. No dance experience is required. In fact, some dancers find the SLAM difficult at first. Andrea West, Paradise Move’s SLAM coordinator who found the group after many years of dance training, says, “I’ve always been comfortable dancing, but it took me a while to be comfortable moving, not having it be perfect, not having steps or choreography.” The movement begins with simple warmups, stretching and shaking to wake muscles, then just walking around the room. The Paradise Moves ensemble member leading the SLAM calls out directions —walk, change directions, freeze, start walking again. From there, it progresses to simple games that take people out of their heads. One week we’re asked to move as colors: How does the color green move across a room? How about red? Another week, there was a game that mixed the classic games of Charades and Telephone, with one person acting out a phrase and another interpreting it so that one person’s “I’m so happy I could die” becomes someone else’s “The rain will give you dysentery.” The second half of every SLAM is devoted to the
Circle SLAM, an improvised half-hour of movement that usually, by the end, becomes a story. There’s music, sometimes with SLAM participants contributing to the playlist. One may enter and exit the performance circle as they wish, but no one can be pulled in. It’s a place to connect and have conversations through movement, in the moment. As people enter and exit the circle, relationships and themes emerge. Simple gestures like pointing or waving at each other evolve and change meaning. Two people chase and catch each other, celebrate, move apart again. Another pair appear to fight, then a few songs later they walk calmly towards each other in chaos and hold hands in a moment of apology. Sometimes people carry each other on their backs. Some just watch from the edges. I went to several SLAMS while writing this article, each time trying to find the right words to describe an experience that is deliberately without words. I walked, ran, spun furiously, held poses, pretended to be a mouse as I scrambled on the floor. I went to one SLAM with troubles on my mind and acted out the argument I could not actually have, and afterwards I felt exhausted, the feelings compressed into a smooth pebble—not disappeared, but smaller and easier to examine. Another week I pretended to carry lit candles in tandem with a stranger, moving solemnly across the room in honor of something undefined, and felt peaceful. Each time I left the studio after a SLAM I was sweaty and breathless, but energized and happy. This is not dancing, but it feels like it. Paradise Moves Movement SLAMs are scheduled for 11.29, 12.18, 1.10.19, 1.23, and 2.7 at 8 pm at Studio 550, 550 Mass. Ave. in Cambridge. Future SLAMs will be announced on the group’s Facebook page. Admission is $10.
Open House December 8, 2018
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CURATOR DELL HAMILTON (CENTER) AT “NINE MOMENTS FOR NOW” OPENING RECEPTION PHOTO BY MELISSA BLACKALL, COURTESY OF THE COOPER GALLERY OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ART
NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW, NOW FEATURE REVIEW
Nine Moments for Now at the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Artx BY HEATHER KAPPLOW Outside, in a street-level window, set a bit back from the entrance, are five Karmimadeebora McMillan pieces, all collages and paint on wood. Four of the five pieces are part of McMillan’s Ms Merri Mack series. These reworked echoes of racist lawn ornaments, named after a children’s rhyme, playfully, subtly, and forebodingly set the tone for the rest of the show. The work in the entryway to the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery is deceptively demure. Nine of Steve Locke’s minimalist, abstract paintings line the first wall you see. The possibility exists that these nine images are the nine moments referred to in the show’s title, but even if not, they are frozen frames of trauma: Each is a reflection on the slave auction block—a theme Locke has also explored in a proposal to memorialize some of New England’s culpability in the slave trade at Faneuil Hall. This abstracted image of the auction block floats permanently into consciousness like a watermark behind everything else in the show. Walking up the ramp to the “tall” and “low” galleries is a funeral march. The walls on either side of the ramp are almost all images of mourning, so you have to move through grief to get to the rest of the art. These images span from the 1950s and ’60s (images from Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King’s funerals), through the AIDS epidemic of the 1970s and ’80s, and right up to the present (the mourning of Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and Sandra Bland). At the top of the ramp you have to choose whether to turn right or left at Carrie Mae Weems’ simple but noble bronze bust of Barack Obama. To the right is a 12
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bright area with two interactive works. Elisa Hamilton’s playful Pack Our Things has hints of Afrofuturism conceptually but also a colorful gentleness that is one of the hallmarks of her work. The piece encourages reflection on what really matters moving forward from now toward any kind of future society. Sound and a neatly set table fill the rest of the space, encouraging perusal of the recipes that Evelyn Rydz has collected via A La Mesa/To The Table and awareness of the daily rituals that allow people to retain a sense of continuity in terms of cultural identity. To the left of Obama, connection to the past and future is evoked in a more traditional, institutional way. Major African-American cultural figures such as Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes in photogravure form have been summoned from the Harvard archives to keep Obama’s bust company, each also having to opportunity to gaze on a simple, colorful lithograph of a church by Nelson Mandela. Moving down the next hallway is a study in activist poster design, including several works by Corita Kent, and then a room off of the hallway holds a few more sensorial rather than literal plays
ELISA HAMILTON’S PARTICIPATORY INSTALLATION “PACK OUR BAGS” PHOTO BY MELISSA BLACKALL, COURTESY OF THE COOPER GALLERY OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ART
PHOTO BY MELISSA BLACKALL, COURTESY OF THE COOPER GALLERY OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ART
on the show’s themes. Another large McMillan Ms Merri Mack piece; two of Tomashi Jackson’s works—one video, one still—both speaking sharply to the layering of identity; and Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons’ intense 2010 piece Sugar/Bittersweet. These towers of spears, stools, and cast sugar are an impressive part of the gallery’s permanent collection. The final few rooms of the show are perhaps the most heavy-hitting, the largest one featuring a wide range of portraits of power and strength. L’Merchie Frazier’s Ericka Huggins: Liberation Groceries, a sparkling quilted portrait of Huggins delivering a Black Panther grocery bag, is reminder of how the Panthers held communities together (and fought shame at the same time) in tough times. Chanel Thervil’s Pity Party: Selfies at the Start of the Trump Era is both simple and grand—like it should be hung over the entrance to a building but would also look at home tattooed on someone’s chest. Ekua Holmes’ 3D portraits are delicate and accusatory at the same time, incorporating furniture into their narratives in a way that lets objects stand
in for the infrastructure of structural violence. And this room also features the show’s most technical work: Joy Buolamwini’s AI, Ain’t I a Woman, which looks at the way technology erases the presence of strong black women. An unexpected treat was Buolamwini’s live, impromptu performance of the piece’s text at the opening. Dell Hamilton, Nine Moments for Now’s curator, is a prolific artist in her own right, as well as a long-standing laborer in service of preserving African-American culture in the Boston area. This exhibition is no exception in that the bulk of the artists featured, though doing world-class work, are local or have strong local connections. Each artist, many of whom couldn’t be included in this review, gets a full-page biography in the show’s comprehensive exhibition guide, which also includes a multipage reading list for those committed to learning more. Hamilton’s undertaking here is ambitious, and for the most part, highly successful. It bases itself in political scientist Colin Crouch’s notion of a “post-democracy”—a moment where all of the machinery of democracy operates but doesn’t produce effective results. Nine Moments for Now may well be a portrait of how the hollow version of democracy came to replace the earnest one. But it’s also documentation of nuanced, and infinitely creative, ongoing activism (as persistence in artmaking). You can’t just go with a friend to this show and kill some time before a movie. You’ve got to dig in for the long haul and be ready to go deep. You’ve got to spend some time here with the understanding that it’s the least you can do at this point in American history: investing your attention in absorbing reckonings with a hypervigilant experience of the present, rooted in a scraped-raw past, still infinitely tender to the touch.
>> NINE MOMENTS FOR NOW. THROUGH 1.21.19. THE ETHELBERT COOPER GALLERY OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ART, 102 MOUNT AUBURN ST., CAMBRIDGE. COOPERGALLERYHC.ORG
THREE PRINTS BY CORITA KENT, FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: A PASSION FOR THE POSSIBLE, THE CRY THAT WILL BE HEARD, LOVE YOUR BROTHER PHOTO BY MELISSA BLACKALL, COURTESY OF THE COOPER GALLERY OF AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN ART NEWS TO US
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PHOTOS BY MARC HURWITZ
FIRST LOOK: VILLAGE BAR & GRILL IN EVERETT EATS
More than simple sports bar fare in the Fermentation District BY MARC HURWITZ @HIDDENBOSTON A number of businesses that produce beer, hard cider, and spirits have sprung up in the Boston area over the past decade or so, and you can find concentrated pockets of such places here and there, including a section of Everett called the “Fermentation District” that used to be little more than a quiet residential and industrial area until not too long ago. Here you’ll find such spots as Night Shift Brewing, Short Path Distillery, Bone Up Brewing Co., and just across the Revere Beach Parkway, Down The Road Beer Co. and Artifact Cider Project, the latter of which is planning to move to Florence in the Pioneer Valley over the coming months. With all of these businesses so close together and bringing people to this part of the city, you would think that there would be plenty of restaurants and bars to go to nearby, but there really aren’t, which is why a fairly new spot (opening in the summer of 2017) called the Village Bar & Grill is in a unique position in a way as it sits right in the heart of the district, and if first impressions are any indication, it has the potential to be a pretty popular place as things continue to evolve in this area. Saying that the Village Bar & Grill is in the heart of the Fermentation District is not an understatement, as it resides in a structure attached to a warehouse that is home to Bone Up Brewing Co., is literally around the corner from Short Path Distillery, and is within sight of Night Shift Brewing about a block west, where Norman Street becomes Santilli Highway. While its space appears to be more of a commercial/ retail structure than a warehouse such as the ones that Bone Up, Short Path, and Night Shift are located in, it
has a vaguely industrial feel to it, with exposed beams and pipes along the ceiling, a hardwood floor, and plain hanging bulbs. An attractive mural that celebrates the history of Everett runs along the back wall in the dining area, while a bar stretches along the wall on the other side, and a mix of high-top and low-top tables are set up throughout the space along with a pool table toward the front windows. A few partitions help break up the rather large space, giving a bit of privacy to diners, especially along the wall with the mural. The Village Bar & Grill labels itself as a sports bar, but it feels more like your typical neighborhood eating and drinking establishment, and its menu does indeed reflect the demographics of the immediate area with a menu that has Portuguese and Brazilian influences. A real highlight here—and one that you don’t see too often at local restaurants—is a flame-grilled Portuguese chourico plate that is brought to the table on a clay roasting vessel with flames shooting out of it. The fire adds a char that gives the sausages some added flavor, and the longer it cooks, the better it tastes (within reason, of course). A few other Portuguese/Brazilian dishes include codfish cakes; littlenecks in white wine, garlic, and oil; a “village prego” sandwich that consists of a marinated Portuguese steak on a bulkie roll; tripe stew; grilled octopus; and pork with clams and fried potatoes. Being that Everett is part of “steak tip country” (Everett, Malden, and Chelsea have many, many places for tips), you would think that the steak tips here would be good, and they are indeed excellent with tender and moderately lean meat in a zesty marinade, charred
>> VILLAGE BAR & GRILL. 38 NORMAN ST., EVERETT. VILLAGEBAREVERETT.COM 14
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nicely on the outside. Another item of note is the absolutely enormous chicken parmigiana plate that comes with an excellent red sauce and plenty of cheese, and it comes with enough ziti to make a meal unto itself. Diners can also opt for a thin-crust pizza that leans a bit toward New York-style with foldable slices, with two chicken options—buffalo and BBQ—being offered for toppings. The beer list at the Village Bar & Grill is pretty impressive, which you might expect considering where it’s located, and some top beers from outside the immediate area are offered, including options from Avery, Zero Gravity, Anderson Valley, Switchback, Jack’s Abby, and Mighty Squirrel. Wine, cider, and cocktails are also available, and the latter includes a classic Brazilian drink called a caipirinha, which is made using muddled limes, sugar, and cachaca rum liquor. Even if it weren’t in the Fermentation District, the Village Bar & Grill would be considered a place of interest in part because of its mix of Portuguese and Brazilian dishes, which moves it a bit beyond your typical sports bar that focuses more on mozzarella sticks, toasted ravioli, and the like. But the fact that is located in a rather fascinating area of warehouses where lovers of alcohol can feel like kids in a candy store makes it all the more appealing, even being a destination spot of sorts because it’s one of the only full-service sit-down options in the neighborhood. The Village Bar & Grill certainly has some great potential, and the soon-to-open casino not too far to the south can only help.
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PUPPY PROBLEMS MUSIC
Why the most heartbreaking lo-fi album from Boston took so many years to make BY NINA CORCORAN @NINA_CORCORAN
Sami Martasian’s apartment always finds a way to be colder than the actual weather outside. The lower Allston apartment is one of the many that line the neighborhood at a slight tilt, the color of its wood paneling fading and the inside softened by years of college parties and annual moves. Inside, Martasian is curled up beside a space heater as we talk. As annoying as the temperature imbalance is, it never quite turns into a complaint on their tongue. That’s on par for how the musician, artist, and teacher goes about life. Martasian is more readily willing to discuss their faults than most people their age, or most people in their situation. That certainly is true in their music behind the moniker Puppy Problems. It’s not just the difficult hurdles that Martasian will recount in their artwork, but the monotonous issues, including when they stumble in telling me their age: “I’m 25, even though I told someone yesterday that I was 24 by accident.” Perhaps that explains why Martasian’s evolution into a singer-songwriter came about as if by comedic happenstance. Martasian moved to Boston in 2011 to study illustration—which later shifted to spearheading an interdisciplinary program and minoring in illustration and art history—at the Art Institute of Boston, which was later absorbed into Lesley University. During their first night living in Boston, a fellow student who played in a folk punk band introduced himself to Martasian. Upon learning they played music, he invited them to play songs at an Allston house show on Linden Street. A few days later, Martasian found themself standing in an unfamiliar basement, guitar in hand, with only two real songs to perform while a string of ska bands played. This was the scene Martasian first ran into. Next thing they knew, Martasian was playing ska shows for years, getting invites to perform and accepting despite being the black sheep of the events. Puppy Problems became indebted to
ska even though Martasian doesn’t like it one bit. Puppy Problems sounds like the bare guitarwork of Daniel Johnston or Adam Green, a logical relation given Martasian spent middle school staring at the internet to teach themself guitar chords while sick, persistent at learning even if it was difficult for their fingers. Though Martasian had yet to pick a moniker, those early days as a budding musician shine light on what was to come: an urge to do what they loved, even if they didn’t quite know how to do it. That’s part of what makes the name Puppy Problems feel like sweet revenge. It’s a middle finger to people who said only those who are born into innate talent or can buy their way into being good get to be a musician. “I started using the name back in 2014 as a way to accept myself,” says Martasian. “This was back when my mental health was in the shitter and I wasn’t very responsible for myself emotionally. Someone I knew said, ‘You know, you’re a fucked-up person because you had a bad time growing up.’ It was a really offhand comment. They went on to say I was like a dog that never got trained. I got really pissed and was mad about it for a long time. Eventually, I told myself that it’s not true, that not all of my problems are puppy problems. So I wrote a song about it and took the phrase from it.” Growing up was tough for a lot of reasons for Martasian. There were rough family issues, an unreliable financial background, and the bullies who teased them for their Armenian heritage. Even when Martasian entered college, a permanent dark cloud seemed to float above their head. During their freshman year of college, they penned a suicide note in earnest (which later was adapted into the Puppy Problems song “Wet Dreams”) and struggled to find their place in the city’s scene. But eventually, Martasian’s stamina took over, as did their love for the arts. Martasian threw themself into drawing and painting, creating work whenever possible. That led to a job in education after graduating. These days, Martasian balances roles as an after-school teacher, an art teacher, and a substitute teacher—which is as stressful as it sounds—to scrape together an income while using spare chunks of time to work on music, though that creative time is often sacrificed to pick up a last-minute job. “Working with kids is hard in a lot of ways, but especially if you want to be a musician,” says Martasian. “I can’t be like, ‘I’m going to take a week off to record!’ It really had to be that all of our recording time was structured around time I organically had off from work. That’s tough to coordinate with other people. When you work with kids, you get sick so much, and I have a lot in the past couple of years. In your first couple years of teaching, your immune system gets hit over the head with a ton of bricks. I’d be excited to have winter break, but then that time would slip away because I would be
too sick to sing. It was a strange thing to have to work around, time and sickness.” All of this adds up. The past six years have seen Martasian doing everything in their control to pursue music while still balancing the demands of life. Puppy Problems has been playing more shows, drawing flyers as art commissions, designing T-shirts for acts like Horse Jumper of Love and Black Beach, contributing to local music blog Allston Pudding, and supporting their mother whenever possible. Somewhere in between that, they’ve been upholding a social life, juggling jobs, and, eventually, forming a proper band to flesh out Puppy Problems’ songs. “I always wanted to get better at guitar. I wanted to be a shredder. That’s a goal I never accomplished,” says Martasian. “But my big goal was always to play at Great Scott, which is now a nice thing to have been able to do it. Playing with a band felt very important to me before I was in one. I started off solo. There were times I tried to collaborate with people, but where I was at as a musician prevented me because I wasn’t technical enough to do that well. Having a band and being in it felt really important to me.” The arrival of Puppy Problems’ debut album feels all the more special because of this. Sunday Feeling is the 10-song full-length Martasian has to show for all of their persistence, and Philadelphia-based record label Sleeper Records was quick to release it for a wider audience beyond Boston’s small scene. Joined by banjo player and guitarist Benjamin Rector, drummers Christine Varriale and Joel Demelo, bassist Ben Styer, and keyboardist Ethan Long, Martasian recorded the whole thing over the span of two grueling years. Those who waited patiently for it will be pleased. It’s a beautiful mix of barren folk, lo-fi ramblings, and emo-tinged musings. While the early material Martasian penned as Puppy Problems sounded like the Moldy Peaches, their debut full-length is the stripped-down equivalent of Silkworm, Beat Happening, or Slint, full of heart that’s aching as it goes. There’s a lot to say about Sunday Feeling, but it, like the best vulnerable albums out there, requires you to see yourself in each song’s reflection— something Martasian has a knack for when it comes to penning relatable lyrics. Arguably the album’s most moving number, “More Water,” doubles as its slowest. “Why am I so bad / at being someone I could like?” sings Martasian. “I should probably drink more water / I forget what I’m made of sometimes.” Self-doubt is increasingly difficult to suppress, nevermind work through, but Martasian confronts theirs as openly and painfully as possible, reminding listeners that even the people who balance the most on their plates are in the process of learning how to rebuild themselves, too. Read more online at DigBoston.com
>> SUNDAY FEELING BY PUPPY PROBLEMS IS OUT NOW VIA BANDCAMP.
MUSIC EVENTS THU 11.29
[Brighton Music Hall, 158 Brighton Ave., Allston. 8pm/18+/$23. crossroadspresents.com]
[Middlesex Lounge, 315 Mass. Ave., Cambridge. 9pm/21+/$15. middlesexlounge.us]
[Lilypad Inman, 1353 Cambridge St., Cambridge. 7pm/all ages/$10. lilypadinman.com]
[O’Brien’s Pub, 3 Harvard Ave., Allston. 8pm/21+/$8. obrienspubboston.com]
BRIGHTEST BOYS ENTER DARKER DAYS PETER BJORN AND JOHN + GEORGI KAY
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MAKE DANCING FEEL NEW AXEL BOMAN + KORNEL KOVACS
INDIE ROCK TURNED WAY UP LOUD SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE + HORSE JUMPER OF LOVE
SHOEGAZING IN THE ALLSTON SUNLIGHT LADY PILLS + BLUE RAY
ALLSTON PUDDING DECEMBER RESIDENCY: NIGHT ONE MUTUAL BENEFIT + GABI + LOONE [Great Scott, 1222 Comm. Ave., Allston. 8:30pm/18+/$15. greatscottboston.com]
MATH ROCK IN OVERDRIVE CHON + LITE
[The Sinclair, 52 Church St., Cambridge. 7pm/all ages/$35. sinclaircambridge.com]
WHEEL OF TUNES
Hiking Taipei and embarrassing drunken blackouts BY NINA CORCORAN @NINA_CORCORAN It’s almost been a decade since Cloud Nothings formed. While it may be hard to believe the Cleveland-based indie rock band is coming up on a decade of existence, it simultaneously makes sense. When frontman Dylan Baldi first began the group, its sound wallowed in indie PHOTO OF CLOUD NOTHINGS BY DANIEL TOPETE rock hooks, and it returned to similar pop sensibilities in 2016 for Life Without Sound. But every record in between those revealed their natural talent for embracing the rawness of punk. While all four members of the band—singer and guitarist Dylan Baldi, bassist TJ Duke, drummer Jayson Gerycz, and guitarist Chris Brown—are traditionally punk, so to speak, they burrow themselves in the grown with a feverishness and intensity that recalls the Jesus Lizard or Hot Snakes. So it makes sense that on Cloud Nothings’ newest record, Last Building Burning, they’ve essentially perfected the art of their sound. The sound they built their name on is back, as one could rely on it to be. The album progresses the way one’s energy would: starting off in a manic anger with “On An Edge” before slowing the pace for the 11-minute-long burner “Dissolution.” It’s familiar but still gripping—a testament to the reliable sound Cloud Nothings has carved out over the years—and will likely preface another return to pop. “On this tour, we play the whole record the whole way through and then some old songs,” says Baldi. “I’ve only just started feeling that these new songs fit with all of our other songs. It’s nice to feel like we have a set sound, where people could hear a song and know it’s by our band, but I also like messing with that. It’s why our last record was more pop stuff. The stuff that I listen to and that we all do is vastly different than when we first changed our sound. I hardly listen to bands that sound like us—fast, angry music— so it seems appropriate to keep changing with our personal tastes.” To get to know Cloud Nothings, we interviewed Dylan Baldi for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Last Building Burning as the prompt, his answers are indifferent yet vivid—qualities that will steer the band’s music when it headlines the Sinclair this Friday. 1. “On An Edge” What’s the highest distance you’ve ever climbed? When was that? You know what we did? We were in Taipei—I think it was Taipei, Taiwan?—and there was a huge temple up at the top of a gigantic staircase that goes up a mountain there. It could have just been a tower. We walked up that one day. I feel like that’s the highest I’ve ever—on my own, with my legs—gone. It was pretty insane. There were a ton of people doing it. There was a skinny but buff dude climbing up it backwards. He was doing The Exorcist crawl, except it was for exercise. He was on all fours, like leaning back doing that bridge thing you did in gym class in school. He was going up a gigantic, mileslong staircase while on all hands and feet though. It was insane. He looked like he was training or something serious. You don’t do that for fun. He must have been working towards some later goal, I feel feel like. That was also the highest I’ve ever been, too. This was back in 2015, I think. 2. “Leave Him Now” In your opinion, what’s one of the most subtle signs a partner should leave the relationship they’re in? I feel like if you stop liking the way a person smells. I’ve noticed that sometimes. When you start not liking the way they smell. Maybe that’s my own personal thing. It’s a part of me pointing out something worse to come, though. It’s a subtle thing. It starts disintegrating from there, really. Once I stop liking the smell, I think that’s a sign to take note of where you’re at. Even if it’s the same smell they’ve always smelled like, you can suddenly realize you just don’t like it. It’s a weird switch of the flip. I don’t know. This sounds weird but yeah.
VERY FUNNY SHOWS.
Seven Nights A WWk.
Read more online at DigBoston.com >> CLOUD NOTHINGS, THE COURTNEYS, WEEPING BONG BAND. FRI 11.30. THE SINCLAIR, 52 CHURCH ST., CAMBRIDGE. 8PM/18+/$20. SINCLAIRCAMBRIDGE.COM
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FRONT PORCH PUSHES THEATRICAL DIVERSITY PERFORMING ARTS
A new black-led Boston theater company prepares its inaugural season BY JUAN A. RAMIREZ @ITSNUMBERJUAN
for a lot of firsts and feels great.” A Boston stage veteran himself—this marks his 14th appearance in six years with Lyric Stage alone—Monroe finds hope in the collective’s mission to amplify these voices onstage and backstage. “Not a lot of people of color are having these opportunities onstage here,” Monroe said. “A lot of companies do colorblind and inclusive casting but, most often, the stories of persons of color themselves are not being told. We’re often involved in someone else’s story, but not a story of our own. There’s a need for this type of theater company to tell stories that are relevant to the person-of-color community.” With Parent describing their “ideal season” as comprising a musical, a reimagined classic, and a modern play, Breath & Imagination, which combines all three, makes for a perfect opening production. Their next two projects are Gardley’s Black Odyssey, a revision of Homer’s
>> BREATH & IMAGINATION. THROUGH 12.23 AT THE LYRIC STAGE. 140 CLARENDON ST., BOSTON. LYRICSTAGE.COM 18
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epic set in Gulf War-era Boston, and Catherine Bush’s interpretation of The Three Musketeers, which honors and emphasizes Alexandre Dumas’ Haitian heritage. “We are looking to demonstrate the soul and the heart, the intellect and the everyday lives of black and brown people in America,” Simmons said of their programming. “It’s slow going but we’re going to make it happen, and I have no doubt about that.” A similar sense of joyous creation and unity is felt among these three artists, who, in their quickness to heap praise on each others’ talent, reflect the goals of the Front Porch Arts Collective. “It’s a gathering place, a welcoming place,” Parent said of its name. “We want to be very clear about our mission. We want to break down racial barriers in Boston, increase diversity in the audience, onstage, backstage, in offices and in boardrooms. We want everyone to know that they’re welcome and encouraged to come.”
BREATH & IMAGINATION POSTER. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE FRONT PORCH ARTS COLLECTIVE.
The hard truth about Boston is that it’s a fairly racist city. It’s evident in its social dynamics and made painfully (in) visible in its cultural scene. At least Dawn M. Simmons, the artistic director of the city’s first black-led professional theater company in nearly a decade, thinks so. With the Front Porch Arts Collective, she and a team of “black and brown” theater artists seek to inject the city’s stages with the stories of people of color, on their own terms. “I think black, brown, and Asian artists have all felt marginalized or tokenized at some point, whether unintentionally or not,” Simmons said during a phone interview. “We’ve all come together through that because we’re all trying to make more theater. There need to be more opportunities for us to be together to tell our stories and have people see the humanizing effects of that storytelling.” Simmons first came up with the idea for the collective in 2015, during a conversation with Maurice Emmanuel Parent, another eminent black theater artist in Boston. Outlining a vision that ensured the works they produced would be inclusive, intersectional, and financially sound for the artists involved, they partnered with the Lyric Stage, Central Square Theater, and Greater Boston Stage companies for their inaugural 2018-2019 season. “It’s hard for a small, new company to get money. Funders in Boston will usually only fund projects that are well-established,” Simmons said. “These companies effectively turned over their budget to us so that we could take the shows and the artists working on them, and really drive the artistic product. You’ll see our season within the seasons of these three companies, which is amazing.” Following a 2017-2018 reading series centered around the work of Marcus Gardley, their first official production will be Daniel Beaty’s Breath & Imagination at the Lyric Stage Company. Directed by Parent, the “play with music” traces the career of Roland Hayes, arguably the first world-renowned black classical singer. “As part of our mission to support local artists of color, we’re reimagining how Roland Hayes not only thrived, but excelled, at an art form that was not made with him in mind,” Parent said over the phone. “He found success in the form but he never denied his blackness, for lack of a better term. It was unique for him to unite the sounds of spirituals and gospel to the classical world. He would always sing spirituals as part of his concerts, since spirituals are the classics of black people.” This being Parent’s directorial debut, he finds parallels between the collective’s goal to include diverse voices and his approach to the production. Speaking about what precedent the production will set for the rest of the company’s works, he defers to the material and artists around him. “I think it’s less about creating a stamp and more about the work that we want to create in our space,” Parent said. “It’s a different satisfaction knowing that you are setting up a world and leading the artists to do their best. You have to respect the artistry of everyone at the table but also give them what they need to set them on the journey you think the piece needs to take.” Despite being a gifted musical theater actor himself, Parent opted to provide another actor the opportunity to showcase their talent. Davron S. Monroe, an actor and classically trained opera singer, was chosen to portray Hayes, who became a Boston legend, himself, through numerous local engagements and a main residence in Brookline. “It’s a wonderful feeling, being able to tell the story of someone who looks like me,” Monroe said during a phone conversation. “Being able to tell his story, in his city and have it be with a person-of-color theater company makes
Saturday • December 15 2:00 PM - 4:30 PM
Art by Barrington Edwards
Grove Hall Branch of the Boston Public Library 41 Geneva Ave • Dorchester 02121
Comics In Color is a safe space where you can come and nerd out about illustrated stories by and about people of color.
THIS MONTH! • Featured Guest: Michelle Abreu
Michelle is an Illustrator and comic book artist with two comic series, Novengard & The Lamb of the Altar, which can be found on AbreuIllustration.com.
Into the Spiderverse
• All-levels comics making activity • Samples of POC Comics • SNACKS! All are welcome but this is an event focused on comics by and about people of color.
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ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT
INTERVIEW WITH ASAD HAIDER BOOKS
Author of Mistaken Identity: Anti-Racism and the Struggle Against White Supremacy BY DANIEL KAUFFMAN Asad Haider is a founding editor of Viewpoint magazine and author of a new book, Mistaken Identity: Anti-Racism and the Struggle Against White Supremacy. He is speaking with Ben Tarnoff on the topic “What is to be done?” this Thursday (Nov 29) at the Lilypad in Cambridge’s Inman Square at 7 pm. DigBoston caught up with Haider to chat with him about his book and his views on contemporary politics. Mistaken Identity tries to rework the concept of “identity politics” by interrogating the figures who birthed the term with very different intentions than its modern day inheritors. Could you briefly speak to what people get right and wrong about those figures? I think it’s important to be very specific about political terminology. The term identity politics was advanced within a very specific political grouping and responded to very specific historical questions. The Combahee River Collective was a collection of activists who came out of various social movements in the ’60s and ’70s, like the anti-war movement, the student movement, the black power movement, and the feminist movement, and they determined that while black women were participants in all these movements, they were not represented. The analysis that the Combahee River Collective had was to say that these movements were all based on dominant identities and that the marginal identities of black women had been effaced. So it was necessary to have an organization that was centered on this identity, this excluded identity, and centering the organization on this excluded identity meant disrupting all the existing forms of exclusion. That’s why their statement not only says that their politics comes out of their identities but also that winning freedom for black women means overcoming every other system of oppression and winning freedom for everybody. That’s the origin of the term, and I think that when people try to take the term and apply it to any different context at any point in history, for example to say that the civil rights movement was based on identity politics, means that the term loses all meaning. You can see why it’s so specific if you imagine another identity group advancing the idea that the most radical politics come out of their identity. For example, if a group of white men tried to make the same claim, it would be a serious problem. So it’s less about a general statement of identity and more about a specific political intervention. One thing I really admire about your writing is the way you balance rather ruthless critique with a shrewdness that maintains both compassion and pragmatism. How do you weigh the need for an ideological restructuring of the left with the fear of alienating key members of the movement? This is a very important question, because I’m often asked, “Why criticize the term identity politics instead of calling for the term to be redefined?” Well, I think that we can’t just assign meanings to words according to our wishes. There is a real historical process extending 40 years after the initial appearance of the Combahee River Collective Statement, and there are real historical and political processes that have transformed the meaning of the term. One of the really crucial transformations is that the term has been appropriated by mainstream liberalism. That’s something you see now if you turn on the TV. You’ll see this term being thrown around all over the place with all kinds of presumed meanings. So the reason I don’t call for some kind of redefinition or return to the origins is first that there are these historical changes that we have to confront, that we can’t just ignore, but also that words themselves have effects on the way we think and the 11.29.18 - 12.06.18
Could you talk about your first encounter with the left radical tradition and maybe what you wish you had read or discovered earlier in your career as a thinker and writer? I remember in my schooling often coming across the claim that communism was a good idea, but that it didn’t work in practice. I thought this made no sense epistemologically. How can something be a good idea and then not work in practice? If that’s the case, then it’s a bad idea. So I went to the library and picked up the Communist Manifesto and was very surprised to find that there was no description of communism, but instead an analysis of class society which I had come across nowhere else. It was completely convincing in explaining the vast scale of inequality that I had seen in the world, especially having spent some of my childhood in Pakistan. It explained this inequality not as an aberration, but as an effect of a particular system, which was capitalism, and it called for this system to be overthrown. I was totally convinced by this, and became even more convinced when I picked up the autobiography of Huey Newton. Up to that point I had thought about society primarily in terms of race and racism, both in terms of my own experience of racism and my interest in the movements within the US that challenged racism. When I saw that one of the core anti-racist organization in US history totally aligned itself with Marxism, this was all I needed to be fully convinced.
In terms of what I wish I had encountered earlier, I think that’s hard to even begin to answer. At that time there was not a lot on the internet, and there were not that many books available in the bookstores, let alone in my public library. There was a lot of material that now is important to me that had not been translated into English, and at the time I couldn’t read other languages. So I think what I was missing would definitely be the whole scope of what we have available now, and the kind of research that’s since been published. For example, I read the autobiographies of a few different members of the Black Panther Party, but the kind of histories that we now have were not available then. So I think it’s a very broad scope of material that we now have access to but that would have been really exciting if it existed for me as a young person. But for example, without access to the French and Italian Marxist theory that I now spend time writing about, I was reduced to just reading about the Frankfurt School, which I now don’t find so useful. The theme of your talk is what is to be done. Some critics of your recent book suggest that it is a useful negative critique of left strategy but ultimately fails to offer a concrete positive platform for change. Is there any merit to this critique? To what extent do movements demand a spontaneous coalescence and to what extent are they a result of centralized planning and the guidance of theory? I won’t respond in terms of an assessment of my book,
way we act. If we try to understand every social relation having to do with race or gender in terms of the category of identity, that has a particular effect on the way we understand them, and I think it has a misleading effect. That is, I believe that we are missing the fact that race is a structural and material phenomenon, an institutional phenomenon. If we start from an identity, which is about our own lived experience, our belonging to particular groups, and the way we are recognized and want to be recognized, then I think we miss this structural aspect of race. Our lived experience of race is the effect of this structure. That’s why I try to retain some level of specificity about these words. When working on the theoretical side of things we need to be precise and not make conceptual compromises. It may be that when using political rhetoric, to talk about the legacy of the Combahee River Collective, it’s worthwhile to demonstrate that identity politics could mean something else, that it once had an emancipatory meaning, and I totally understand that, but I think that when we’re dealing with terms theoretically we need precision.
but in terms of a more general claim that a book about these issues should provide a platform. I think this is completely wrongheaded. It is not the place of academics writing books to dictate platforms or programs to movements. Programs should be generated within movements through deliberation, open discussion, and practical action. These are the bases for generating programs. To simply write an article or a book that externally imposes a program first of all is an anti-democratic mode of operating—a bureaucratic mode of operating—and second it’s an ineffective mode of operating because it doesn’t respond to the actual capacities and constituent elements of an organization. So I think that this idea that we want the solution in a book is wrong. What do the midterms portend? Will progressives be able to beat back the icy grip of the Pelosis and Schumers of Congress? Even if they do, will their strategy, in its current manifestation, be enough to stop Trump 2020? Well, the Democrats are constantly trying to reduce expectations for their abysmal performance. We already had the disaster of the Trump election, which displayed enormous incompetence on the side of Democrats. Now there’s this idea that because they won the absolute minimum that was expected of them, control of the House, that this means they satisfied their goals. But the goal was to have a total sweep, to totally put Trump on the defensive, which they should have easily achieved. I mean, it’s ridiculous that they did not manage to achieve this. But in terms of the possibility of progressive challenges to the existing politics of the Democrats I think it’s something to be very cautious about. I’m not opposed to participation in electoral politics in principle but one has to understand its limits and what it actually is useful for achieving. It’s useful in the sense that you can come into contact with a huge portion of the population which still understands elections as the primary form of politics. Because that’s what is permitted in this society. And to reach this population can be very meaningful. There was an important aspect of this in the Sanders campaign. But at the same time participation in elections reinforces the ideology that politics is all about choosing people to represent you, and deferring any participation in decision-making or any control over your own life to somebody else who is part of these institutions that are totally structured around the exclusion of the majority of the population. This is a dangerous ideology, one that is intrinsically opposed to any kind of politics which demands greater participation and greater control over our own lives. So how do you participate in electoral politics without capitulating to this political ideology? Well, the important thing is that there has to be autonomous organization outside of the state, which can then apply pressure to the state. It can also apply pressure to progressive politicians, who without this pressure will become absorbed into the parliamentary machine and will have as their primary goal reproducing their own position within the state apparatus. Without external autonomous organization this is not going to happen. What I’m concerned about is when the enthusiasm for particular politicians leads to sort of absorbing organizational efforts into that politician’s campaign rather than maintaining the necessary autonomy. Boston is a progressive college town with what some might say are too many colleges. Are colleges, especially private universities, actually an important base for movement building or are they a distraction from the real battlegrounds of social change? Either way, what advice would you give to current students trying to organize in 2018? The whole kind of uniquely American drama about “cultural Marxism,” about the liberal university and political correctness and all of that, is kind of a false antagonism. You have the extreme right and then you have the liberals in the university who are slinging these words against each other, but really neither of them challenge the structure of society which surrounds the university. Of course, liberal ideologies exist in universities to some extent. They correspond, for example, to contemporary identity politics. But contrary to the fantasies of the extreme right, these are not oppositional modes of thinking. They are completely internal to the mainstream ideologies of society, and that’s not surprising because universities are what Althusser called “ideological state apparatus.” They ensure people operate according to the dominant ideology, and they reproduce the conditions for this particular social system that we find ourselves in. I think that when you recognize that, you can take a kind of dispassionate view about the university. A lot of people who are responding to this right-wing discourse are tempted to defend the university as a site of free expression, or as a site of the generation of progressive ideas. Clearly, however, the university is the site where ideology is produced, and what we can do there politically is engage in ideological struggle. If you find yourself located in the university, it’s important not to mistake it for the rest of society. When you’re located in the university you can try to introduce ideas which challenge the existing system, and you can potentially develop these ideas and disseminate them to the general public in a way that can break out of the ivory tower, break oppositional ideas out of this space in which they’re confined. Unfortunately, this is not the general practice among academics. We tend to specialize and become more and more technical and speak mainly to each other. But it is possible to begin to speak outside the university and to extend the ideological struggle beyond its current limits.
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SHAKE THAT MOODY SAVAGE LOVE
BY DAN SAVAGE @FAKEDANSAVAGE | MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET
I’m a 30-year-old, Asian American, hetero-flexible cis woman. I’m also newly diagnosed with bipolar II. I’m on medication—the doctor is trying to figure that out—but no talk therapy for right now, as my last therapist wasn’t great and I haven’t managed to find a new one. My question for you is regarding the relationship between bipolar and kink. One of the common symptoms of the manic stage of bipolar is “risky sex.” I equate risk with “likely to blow up one’s personal or professional life” and have always answered “no” to that question when asked by doctors. I’ve had the occasional hookup, but otherwise I’ve consistently had sex in the context of closed, monogamous relationships, i.e., the opposite of risky sex. However, it recently occurred to me that I’m fairly kinky (BDSM, role-play). Nothing I’d consider a varsity-level kink, but what do I know? I have out-there fantasies that are varsity level, but I’ve never done them. Am I just bipolar and kinky? Are the two related somehow? Should I be concerned that I’ll go into a manic state and start enacting (or trying to enact) some of the varsity-level fantasies in my head? Kinky And Bipolar P.S. I asked my doctor this via e-mail, but I haven’t heard back yet and have no idea how sex-positive he is. So I thought I’d get a second opinion. P.P.S. I’m currently manic enough that it’s hard for me to edit, so there may be weird/ confusing shit in my letter. Sorry for that! “I’d like to congratulate KAB for seeking help and for the work she’s doing to get stable,” said Ellen Forney, author of Rock Steady: Brilliant Advice from My Bipolar Life, an award-winning self-help guide to maintaining stability, and the best-selling graphic memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo & Me. “I’d also like to welcome KAB to BIPOLAR! Toot! Toot! Confetti!” The specific manic-stage symptom you’re concerned about—engaging in super risky sex—is called “hypersexuality,” and it’s what happens when the extremely poor judgment match meets the supercharged libido gas. “But it’s only ‘hypersexuality’ when it gets in the way of a reasonably wellfunctioning life,” said Forney. “Picture masturbating all day instead of going to work, or having relationship-wrecking affairs or unprotected sex with strangers.” If your diagnosis is correct and you have bipolar II and not bipolar I, KAB, you may be less susceptible to out-of-control hypersexuality. “Strictly speaking, a bipolar II diagnosis means she cycles between ‘hypomania’ (mild mania) and depression,” said Forney, “so her highs aren’t going to be as acute as they would be for someone diagnosed with bipolar I, where hypersexuality can really get dangerous.” Forney warns that misdiagnoses are not uncommon where bipolar is concerned, so you might want to get your diagnosis confirmed. But your long-standing kinks all by themselves—varsity and otherwise—aren’t necessarily related to your condition, KAB, and so long as they’re safely expressed and explored, you aren’t doing anything unreasonably risky or wrong. “Kinky sex in itself doesn’t count as symptom-worthy risky sex—no matter what her doctor e-mails back,” said Forney. “Like for anyone else, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with feeling uninhibited enough to pursue varsity-level kinks, so long as they’re not putting her or anyone else in danger. Ultimately, KAB’s goal is to be stable enough to trust her judgment. For now, she might weigh the risks while she’s feeling stable, so she can make some levelheaded decisions about what might or might not be too risky.” Forney also recommends having a discussion with your partners and friends about what your limits are—a discussion you’ll want to have when you’re not horny or manic or both. “That way, her partners and friends can help her recognize if she’s crossing her own lines,” said Forney. “And realizing that she’s suddenly tempted to cross her own lines could be a signal to her that she’s getting hypomanic and needs to take steps to stabilize—steps like getting better sleep, adjusting her meds, and others I explore in Rock Steady!” P.S. If your doctor won’t answer your sex questions—or only gives you unhelpful, sex-negative, kink-shaming answers—find yourself a new doctor. P.P.S. There are letters I have to read three times before I can figure out what the fuck is going on. Your letter was as lucid as it was charming. P.P.P.S. Therapists across the country are recommending Rock Steady to their patients with mood disorders, and Forney won a Media Partner Award from the National Alliance for Mental Illness for her work on Rock Steady and Marbles. If you haven’t already, KAB, please pick up Forney’s books. You’ll benefit from her insights, her advice, and her coping strategies. And thanks to Forney’s art and sense of humor, both books are a delight to read
COMEDY EVENTS THU 11.29 - SAT 12.01
DAN SODER @ LAUGH BOSTON
Dan Soder is a New York City based comedian and actor who’s best known as ‘Mafee’ on the hit series Billions on Showtime. His special The Standups is now streaming on Netflix. In 2016, his first hour-long stand-up special, Not Special, premiered on Comedy Central. Other credits include: Comedy Central’s Half Hour, Conan, Inside Amy Schumer, and @midnight. Dan also hosts Sirius XM’s The Bonfire with Big Jay Oakerson, every Monday through Thursday at 6pm EST on Comedy Central Radio.
425 SUMMER ST., BOSTON | VARIOUS | $25 FRI 11.30
ARTLOUNGE COMEDY @ ARTLOUNGE ARLINGTON
Featuring: Anthony Scibelli, Brian Agosta, Dangerfield, Ethan Marsh, Etrane Martinez, Jeff Smith, Kathleen DeMarle, & Kim Margolis. Hosted by Laura Burns
1346 MASS AVE., ARLINGTON| 7:30PM | $10 FRI 11.30 - SAT 12.01
THIS WEEKEND @ NICK’S COMEDY STOP Friday: Mike Whitman & friends. Saturday: Orlando Baxter (CONAN, NBC)
100 WARRENTON ST., BOSTON | 8PM | $20 SUN 12.02
EUGENE MIRMAN & FRIENDS @ THE COMEDY STUDIO
Eugene Mirman hosts an informal night of comedy with friends or comedians he’s seen a few times and enjoyed. He’ll try some new bits, answer any questions you have about life, and afterwards everyone can hang out and have a nice time. Featuring special guests Larry Murphy (Teddy from Bob’s Burgers), comic-in-residence Tooky Kavanagh, local comedian Alex La & MORE
1 BOW MARKET WAY #23, SOMERVILLE | 8PM | $15 SUN 12.02
LIQUID COURAGE COMEDY @ SLUMBREW
Featuring: Ethan Diamond, Brett Johnson, Dom Smith, Kathleen DeMarle, Logan O’Brien, Zack Russell, Mike Settlow, & Jonathan Tilson Hosted by Kendra Dawson
15 WARD ST., SOMERVILLE | 8PM | $5 MON 12.03 - TUE 12.04
MCGREEVY’S COMEDY NIGHT @ MCGREEVY’S BOSTON Hosted by Brian Higginbottom
911 BOYLSTON ST., BOSTON | 8PM | FREE Lineup & shows to change without notice. For more info on everything Boston Comedy visit BostonComedyShows. com Bios & writeups pulled from various sources, including from the clubs & comics…
RUTHERFORD BY DON KUSS DONKUSS@DIGBOSTON.COM
In the Lovecast studios… Stormy Daniels!: savagelovecast. com.
“SPEAK THE $#!%! UP LADY, I CAN’T HEAR YOU” 22
11.29.18 - 12.06.18
WHAT'S FOR BREAKFAST BY PATT KELLEY PATTKELLEY.COM
HEADLINING THIS WEEK!
Showtime’s Billions, Netflix’s The Standups Thursday - Saturday
COMING SOON Rodney Perry
Special Engagement: Sun, Dec 2
The Tonight Show, Comedy Central Presents Dec 6-8
THE WAY WE WEREN’T BY PAT FALCO ILLFALCO.COM
The Howard Stern Show, Last Comic Standing Dec 13-15 Comics 2 Cure Presents: Donnell Rawlings Fri, Dec 14
FX, truTV, The Mindy Project Dec 21 + 22
OUR VALUED CUSTOMERS BY TIM CHAMBERLAIN OURVC.NET
Special Engagement: Weds, Dec 26 617.72.LAUGH | laughboston.com 425 Summer Street at the Westin Hotel in Boston’s Seaport District NEWS TO US
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FEATURE: NINE MOMENTS FOR NOW. We're Boston's only weekly alternative newspaper. #news #nightlife #music #art #film #food #comics digboston...
Published on Nov 28, 2018
FEATURE: NINE MOMENTS FOR NOW. We're Boston's only weekly alternative newspaper. #news #nightlife #music #art #film #food #comics digboston...