Thursday, March 26, 2009

Given what I know about that rock

Last night we saw John Vanderslice and John Darnielle (a.k.a. The Mountain Goats) at the Somerville Theatre. I would have been happy to see either one play solo at this venue -- hell, I'd see almost anyone at this venue -- but to have them both together, playing acoustic, was pretty cool.

Vanderslice started us off with a set of passionately rendered acoustic versions of his heavily-produced, moody paeans to lost lovers and lost rabbits, then Darnielle took the stage. After he had played the songs he wanted to play and began taking requests from the audience, it became apparent that many of the audience members were superfans determined to hear the most obscure items from his sizable catalogue. Luckily they made some excellent requests, from the angry and hilarious divorce epic "No Children" ("I hope you die! I hope we both die!") to the encore performance of "This Year", whose chorus, "I am gonna make it / through this year / if it kills me" clearly resonated with our recession-battered audience.

An early highlight was Darnielle's performance of Ace of Base's "The Sign", which my Bostonist colleague Christine described as "less a cover than an annotated critical edition, the original text broken up with observations and footnotes and questions." Before he began to play, Darnielle confessed. "I love this song ... I had to stop playing it after a while, because it gets to the point where, 10 years into the relationship, you have to stop having sex four times a day." (As someone who listened to that entire cassette over and over again almost nonstop the year that it came out, I completely understand this emotion. This early and repeated exposure to Ace of Base may explain my generation's current fixation with Swedish rockers, actually.)

But the other memorable moment of the night was when an audience member requested his little-known ditty "Beach House." Peep the lyrics:

I get letters telling me since I moved away
you've taken to hanging out on that rock about a mile from shore
Given what I know about that rock, mainly that it's populated by seals
I strongly suggest to you that you not hang out there anymore

'Cause the seal is a wily and a vicious creature
and the seal will bite you if you give him half a chance
Yeah the seal has a mind set on violence
and the seal is the sworn enemy of man

Now when I say that the seal is vicious I use the term advisedly
according to Webster's 9th New Collegiate, definition 4b.
Which states that vicious means marked by ferocity
and offers as a synonym...savage

'Cause the seal is a vicious and a wily creature
and the seal has a mind full of evil designs
and the seal will harm you and laugh about it
Yeah the seal is not a creature you want to toy with
Yeah the seal is not a creature you want to toy with
Yeah. Did I also mention that he and Vanderslice are creating a tour EP called "Moon Colony Bloodbath" about astronauts who harvest organs on the moon? No? Well, Christine did. Good thing the official writeup was her responsibility.

If you're wondering where the connection to food is in all this, well, don't worry. There is one. You see, in my favorite cookbook, I Like Food, Food Tastes Good, which contains essays and recipes written by members of indie bands, Darnielle has contributed an essay, and I kept thinking about it as he played. His recipe is for something vaguely Indian (I will dig it up after I unpack all my cookbooks). In the book, he rhapsodizes about the wonders of clarified butter and the joys of eating real food when not on the road. And despite all of his angry songs and his sardonic sense of humor, he is nothing but earnestly sweet in his essay. "When I get home from tour," he says, "I look forward to cooking for my wife more than almost anything."

The moral of the story being this: John Darnielle is a slightly schlubby former psychiatric nurse whose lyrics concern mostly adolescent angst and evil stepfathers and seal-related paranoia. So if John Darnielle can find domestic bliss and become a rock god and learn to cook with ghee, there is hope for all of us.

(Photos courtesy of Christine Fernsebner Eslao for Bostonist)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bostonist: BOND Helps Answer the Eternal Question: Where to Eat in the Financial District?

Here at Go2 Media, we work hard, but when 11:59pm rolls around, talk turns from APIs and queries and deadlines to LUNCH. Last summer, a group of us organized a monthlong "Lunch Challenge", during which we attempted to try a new restaurant every day. Luckily, the Financial District is lousy with lunch spots, and we discovered a few new favorites, like the Boston Kebab House and Trattoria Andiamo (née Boston Deli Deluxe).

Usually, we gravitate toward places that provide a great value for the money and a variety of choices to satisfy our diverse group of coworkers, from Jack, our meat-loving Puerto Rican project manager, to Richard, our vegan ex-rocker engineer from Scotland. But sometimes, we splurge.

Last week, Jessie (who normally hunkers down over a can of soup re-heated in the kitchen) joined me on a jaunt to BOND, the Langham Hotel's new space. I am a fan of the folks at the Langham - I profiled their wonderful pastry chef, Trena Costello, last summer, and they were kind enough to host one of my students at their Chocolate Bar last year for my 826 food writing workshop. (The photo for the subsequent Globe article about our workshop was taken at the Langham.) So I was excited to visit again -- if only for another taste of Trena's intricate chocolate desserts (and yes, we left with extras in a to-go box).

The meal we shared with Julie Shamrock, the hotel's communications manager, only served to underscore my already positive impression of the place. Our food was tasty, locally-sourced, and reasonably-priced (though as I note for full disclosure it was comped for us). And despite BOND's highfalutin' decor, the staff kept things casual and unpretentious - which to me is the most wonderful and forward-thinking thing about this establishment. I ended up writing about our visit on Bostonist - the full piece is here.

For friends who work in the Financial District - do you know of any other noteworthy deals or lunch spots not mentioned in this piece? I'd love to know about them!

(Photo credit: Robert Rollend, courtesy of the Langham Hotel)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My friends, Part 2

A few months ago, it seemed as though my friends were making headlines right and left for their mad style. Nowadays, it's their professional accomplishments that are making an impact on our fair city. I've been particularly grateful for my friends lately, as I've been going through some difficult personal stuff (hence the dearth of articles), and I thought now was a good time to share the love.

Some shoutouts:


Andrew Phelps moved here last year to work for WBUR, our local NPR affiliate. An accomplished journalist from San Diego (and a very funny guy), he has taken on the immense responsibility of re-inventing the station's Web site and bringing it into the new millenium.

His colleague, Ken George (@kengeorge), is the one behind Public Radio Kitchen, which has been making a stir in the Boston food writing world. I am hoping Andrew's other projects will continue to build upon this admirable move toward building and maintaining a community of WBUR readers and listeners around a common interest.

Based on the work he's done for his own snazzy website, I'm expecting big things. Because what he really needs right now is more pressure. If you'd like to give Andrew some feedback on what you'd like to see on the new WBUR site, you can send him a tweet at @andrewphelps.

Christine Liu, my dear friend and the new editor of Boston Citysearch, has been toiling away to make sure that the local site is updated with the most recent restaurant and boutique openings, that their high-profile relaunch (recently covered in the New York Times) continues to go swimmingly, and that Citysearch's new hipster spinoff "lookbooks" (Mopshots, LuckyToes, and Three Buck Bites, among others) gain traction. Since most of us have at least a passing interest in hair, shoes, food, or all of the above, I'm betting you'll dig these -- and perhaps even become a contributor. If you're interested in writing about food specifically, you can apply here.


Lissa Harris, my fellow feminista and former Dig editor, has started a blog called WomenDO! Its goal: to catalogue and roundly mock silly, sexist-slanting fluff pieces in the mainstream media. I am grateful to her for giving me an outlet for the anger I feel when I read yet another piece about women bowlers or women soccer players where the reporter is surprised to find that the fairer sex is capable of, well, anything.

Harris goes by the alias Samuel Johnson on her blog in honor of the 18th century author, who famously told his friend (who had just seen a woman preacher speak at a Quaker meeting): "Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

Harris uses this phrase often in her analysis, as this is a common angle for lazy writers to take when writing a "Women Do" story: the news is not that the woman in question is a particularly notable firefighter or tattoo artist, but that she is a firefighter in the first place. Shocking!

Harris and I believe that in this day and age, there are more important things for our remaining paid journalists to write about -- like, oh, say, the deficit, or the two wars we're fighting, or the fact that a bakery in Brooklyn is serving fried Cadbury eggs for Easter. Important, useful things like that.
However, our country's paid journalists insist on writing about the dangers of "sexting" instead, so I am both pleased and sorry to report that Harris has been able to find plenty of material to critique on the blog so far. So my hope is that one day, with the help of The Onion, Jezebel, and Sarah Haskins, we will be able to mock bad trend reporting (and its evil twin, sexist advertising) into submission.

To read about what makes a WomenDo story different from a regular news story, click here. To send Harris a hot tip, email womendoblank [at] gmail [dot] com.


Tyler Balliet and Morgan First, who were profiled on Beyond Boston Chic in my last friends roundup, are more than just a hipster power couple. Together, they run The Second Glass, an online wine publication for people who like their vino without the obligatory splash of pretentiousness. Tyler conceived the idea a few years back, when he was working part-time at a liquor store on Newbury Street and constantly found himself answering basic questions about wine (i.e. "What does Burgundy mean?") and recommending bottles for under $10.

"There was no publication for these people, nothing below Wine Spectator," he told me recently.

So Balliet, who comes from a long line of entrepreneurs and designers, seized his opening and quit his day job. His girlfriend Morgan, herself an entrepreneur (her business, MAP Boston, is now up for sale), now manages the PR and community for The Second Glass.

This unstoppable team is now working on one of the most ambitious wine events Boston's ever seen: the Wine Riot, scheduled to hit the Cyclorama later this April. The weekend-long event will include a VIP tasting, a panel on sustainable and biodynamic wines, and a "Global Twitter Tasting" on Friday (500 tickets available), and two mass tastings on Saturday (1,000 tickets available per session). There'll be music, food (from Savant Project and Sel de la Terre, mmm), and lots of exhibitors. They're hoping to use the money and awareness raised by the event to expand the business to other cities.

I'll likely be blogging the entire event for Bostonist, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you're interested in volunteering for Wine Riot and getting in free (versus paying $45-65), click here. If you'd rather roll VIP and avoid slaving away in the wine trenches, hit for tickets. (Photos from


Eko has been working hard in the office and at home to keep us sane and thoroughly snuggled. He deserves the biggest shoutout -- and some biscuits.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I Can Haz $1 Cheezburger?

I'm sorry, I had to do it. These internet memes, they are taking over my writing. I promise that in person I can and do converse like an adult.

So I wrote about 2 new cheap eats aggregators this week: one's local, and one is national.

First, there was Hubeats, which rounds up meal deals around Boston. (Click to enlarge screen shot) There were a few on here that surprised even me. Five dollar boar chili specials at K.O. Prime, anyone?

Bostonist: "Phoenix Media Launches Cheap Eats Aggregator Hubeats"

I believe Hubeats is where my buddy Christine Liu found the deals we investigated for the second site,, a new spinoff site for Citysearch, where she is the Boston editor.

Our research involved eating tiny grilled cheese sandwiches made with Velveeta at Great Bay, which was charming because Great Bay, a fine establishment famed for its fresh seafood, is not normally known for espousing low prices or artificial cheese products. Luckily, Christine knew the bartender, Jonathan (Christine knows every bartender, ever) so we received an extra plate of $1 tater tots for our trouble, AND a $5 plate of fish tacos. Viva la recession!

Bostonist: "Three Buck Bites Launches (With the Help of Boston Bloggers)"