Lost in Boston Wednesday through Friday

I returned from my trip to Boston late yesterday evening, and it was a wonderful trip! Very refreshing. Just what I needed after a long academic year. I’ll get the official, professional stuff out of the way first: I think that my paper went fairly well. My paper on Robert Greenwald’s Uncovered felt a little non-topical, especially to the extent that the film itself is a little disappointing, but that may provide a path for thinking about the ephemerality of the political/topical documentary. The panel itself was excellent. The panel coordinators did a terrific job of assembling a nice survey of papers on documentary film, although one panelist took the opportunity to comment on the Abu Ghraib torture images (specifically focusing on the New Yorker article). We then went to a nice Indian restaurant across from Northeastern University (I didn’t catch the name) where we made plans to pursue the ideas discussed in the panel further. I attended one other panel that afternoon, but decided to take George’s advice and take advantage of my time in Boston.

Because I wanted to do CSA as cheaply as possible, I stayed in the dorm provided by the university (at something like $40 a night). Soon after I arrived on Wednesday, I met my roommate for the weekend, Adam, and we met up with another person from the conference who once lived in Boston. She gave us a nice walking tour of the area around Northeastern that evening, pointing out the Fens, the Museum of Fine Arts, and about twenty colleges.

Thursday, I gave my paper, and then I decided to go exploring. I found my way back to Fenway Park and decided to buy a camera and take a few pictures, including one shot of a really nice woman who was painting a portrait of Fenway. Later that evening, I took George’s advice and went to Legal Sea Foods for dinner. It happened to be prom night in Boston, so it was entertaining to see all of the local high school kids in their prom night-best running around the Prudential Center shops. I had the wood-grilled salmon fillet with cajun spices (here’s the menu in PDF), which was very tasty, with a side of fries and greens. After dinner, Adam and I wandered Boston for a while before finishing up with a drink at one of Northeastern’s college bars.

Friday, Adam and I started by taking the T (Boston’s subway/rail system) up to Cambridge, where we spent the morning wandering around Harvard’s campus and taking a few pictures. Soon after lunch, we went in different directions so I could walk down Freedom Trail (which he had done earlier) and wander around Beacon Hill. I spent a little time in Boston Common, which was fairly crowded for a weekday due to the unusually warm temperatures. I walked about half the Freedom Trail and decided to cut back and go by MIT to see the List Visual Arts Center based on George’s recommendation. Unfortunately, the exhibit George described was already gone, and my reaction to the two exhibits currently on display was somewhat ambivalent. Marjetica Potrc’s “Urgent Architecture,” which consisted of a collage of architecture based on her research on temporary structures in Caracas, West Palm Beach, and the West Bank, was fairly compelling. The other exhibit, Artur Zmijewski’s “Selected Works” included videos that “challenge moral codes against displaying ‘defective’ human beings.” Zmijewski’s efforts to challenge these norms were mostly interesting, especially two videos of a choir of deaf children singing a Bach sonata. I was more disturbed by a video of nude men and women playing tag, which we later learn was filmed partially in a basement and partially in a gas chamber. As I write about my experiences at the List, I realize that these works did challenge me, but I’m not sure I’ve come to any conclusion about them.

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