saturday in boston

I feel great. What a fantastic trip!

I attended an interesting panel this morning on teaching eighteenth-century poetry. It was packed: about 40 audience members. While some commentators willfully misrepresent what what the majority of literary scholars are up to–which allows the usual handwringers to decry our field–anyone actually paying attention knows what the real score is. Check out the ASECS 2004 program for yourself. (Note that ASECS is interdisciplinary, so the program features a variety of humanities fields.)

After lunch with Vika, I walked the streets of Boston for about four and a half hours. Chinatown seems bigger and nicer than D.C.’s, but not as big as New York’s or San Francisco’s. The Granary Burial Ground is where one finds the graves of Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Benjamin Franklin’s parents, and several prominent Bostonians of the colonial era. The Boston Atheneum is mostly for members only, but they had a public exhibit entitled The Literature of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which I perused; you can even buy the book if you like.

Boston Common is one of the oldest public parks in the country, founded in the seventeenth-century. The Unitarian Universalist Headquarters, across the street from the Park, featured giant rainbow flags and a huge banner reading, “Civil Marriage is a Civil Right.” Adjacent to the park is Boston Public Garden, the first public garden in America. You can find a “Make Way for Ducklings” statue there, a tribute to Robert McCloskey’s book of the same name. (There were also real ducks there, apparently independent of any publications.)

MIT is a short walk across the Charles River over the Harvard Bridge. I wandered the campus and spent a few minutes outside of a pianist’s practice space as he rehearsed some beautiful music. The Frank Gehry-designed Stata Center, which will house a number of different departments when it is completed, is impressive, but I have to admit that Gehry’s stuff has started to take on the air of schtick to me. The Liszt Visual Arts Center featured some of the coolest work I’ve seen in a long time. “Listening Post,” by Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin, was beautiful, eerie, and captivating; a brief piece on the work appeared in NY Times when the work was at the Whitney. What the Times does not make clear, however, is that the language processed by the piece is pulled live from the Internet. (See this write-up, too.) The wall plaque explains that “[‘Listening Post’] continuously samples texts from thousands of chat rooms and other online public discussion forums.” So you, dear reader, could be part of this exhibit and not even know it.

Walking back towards the river again, I stopped to watch a hawk glide above me to perch on top of a church spire. I stood on the sidewalk, looking up for a few minutes. Then I noticed a woman standing a few feet away from me, with her camera out, watching me, perhaps wondering what I was looking at. The hawk watching the squirrels, me watching the hawk, the woman watching me. I started walked along the sidewalk. The hawk flew along above me, stopping in a tree. Squirrels began making their warning noises to each other. I turned around and the woman was still there, a block away, apparently still watching me.

A nice burrito and a smoothie from a place on Newbury Street, and then back at the hotel. My flight leaves at 5:50 a.m. tomorrow. Yikes!

And so to bed.

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3 thoughts on “saturday in boston

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