I am very excited to present the panel "Why D&D Is Still Awesome: A 40th Anniversary Dungeons & Dragons Tribute" at Pax East in Boston with David Ewalt and Jon Peterson on Sat April 12.
Entries in boston (8)
""Hi, I’m lit-fitness celebrity JK Rowling. If you’re busy like me, then stay tuned because I’m excited to share with you the most innovative piece of emotional and interpersonal exercise equipment ever. I’m talking about the fastest, easiest way to make lightning-fast decisions and get your empathy into its best shape ever. ... Introducing, the great American novel."
Remember the "Rock of Boston"? The Big Mattress? The Rock and Roll Rumble? The on-air hijinks, comedy, in-your-face personalities, the music? A new book called Radio Free Boston: The Rise and Fall of WBCN is out written by 'BCN disc jockey and music director Carter Alan, recalls the era when WBCN ruled the airwaves. In my story for the Boston Globe today, I was able to sit down with Alan and talk to him about the groundbreaking station, and how it will be remembered. I also spoke with some of the major players at the station -- incuding Charles Laquidara, Oedipus, Ken Shelton, Tank, Mark Parenteau, Lisa Traxler, Adam 12, Tank Juanita, Sam Kopper, Matt Siegel, and others. Bonus material: A sidebar that didn't make it into the final version of the story.
As we Boston-area residents have been recovering from the Boston Marathon bombings, the lockdown, and from our media hangovers, out gushed the words, like a fresh wound. Not spoken words, which can evaporate as soon as they are voiced. But stories, written down. This urge to participate and to tell one’s individual story humanizes pain and makes big, sweeping events human-scaled. We cope with trauma by injecting ourselves into the wider story. Sure, we’ve all experienced the flurry of hastily dashed-off texts, sent to loved ones to check in, to say, “We are safe.” But even before the dust settled on Boylston Street, I’d noticed a burst of blog posts, Facebook posts, and other personal accounts popping up on the Internet. Those longer stories that cannot be contained in a mere tweet. All these written words prove our need to find our place within the events. To be part of the story, to insert our own heart and mind into this larger narrative.
Unable to shoot straight. Weak in the knees. Apt to fall for Jedi mind tricks, and fall over at the weakest of laser blasts.
In the Lucas universe, the typical stormtrooper is portrayed as a hapless soldier in service of the Empire.
Stormtroopers don’t tend to be very yummy, either … we assume.
But this footsoldier (pictured at left) was solidly-built, very tasty, and served not only Darth Vader. He also served several hundred hungry science fiction fans.
A crew from Boston-based Amanda Oakleaf Cakes worked like crazed jawas for two weeks to complete this 6-foot, 4-inch high, edible Imperial stormtrooper.
Constructed of white cake, Rice Krispies Treats and fondant (an icing made from sugar used to decorate and sculpt pastries), it weighed 300 pounds — and was devoured this weekend at the Arisia science fiction and fantasy convention by some 600 conventioneers in just two hours.
“Everyone assumes that because it’s such a crazy cake we must be ‘cheating’ in some way, but this isn’t the case,” said head baker Amanda Oakleaf. ”All sculpted and tiered cakes you see, be they ours or others, have some type of inner structure as cake simply collapses if staked over eight inches high.”
Creating the stormtrooper wasn’t easy as cake. Much like in sculpting with clay, making this massive dessert required an interior armature to support the cake. Oakleaf and her team made one from iron pipe, wrapped in plastic for food safety purposes. Every four inches (vertically), they inserted a cardboard divider to separate layers of cake, and every eight inches they attached a masonite board, secured to the iron pipe with pipe clamps.
“This does a number of things, including making the cake incredibly sturdy, but also making it easy to slice and serve,” said Oakleaf. The arms were made of solid sugar “because they were too narrow to use cake.” The lower legs below the knees and the bottom of the head were made of Rice Krispies Treats. She said the overall percentage of Krispie was 15 percent or less; the majority of the cake was, well, cake.
“The main reason that we used Krispie at all wasn’t because we couldn’t have used cake, but rather we just wanted to get a head start and Krispies stay fresher a lot longer than the cake does. Cake is a very time sensitive medium, and that is always our biggest challenge. Once it comes out of the oven the clock is running on freshness.”
Amanda Oakleaf started her cake business with her husband Tyler Oakleaf out of their bedroom apartment in 2008. Now they’ve expanded into a storefront in Winthrop, MA (just outside Boston) and currently employ ten cake artists.
Their previous best was a 5-foot tall Dora the Explorer cake for a Food Network Challenge a few years back. “Her head was massive (3 feet wide),” Oakleaf remembered. “It ended up crashing to the ground when we moved it to the judging table when the inner support slipped out of its socket.”
For now there are no plans for other geek-themed cakes. But, there’s always the possibility of a special request.
“We are a completely custom bakery so we take the orders as they come in,” Oakleaf said. “It’s always fun, and always a challenge.”
And may the fondant be with you, always.
(photos courtesy of Amanda Oakleaf)
In the ominous opening of Martin Scorsese's movie "Shutter Island," Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, playing federal agents, take a boat out to a craggy-cliffed island off the coast of Boston.
"My friends were watching the DVD and said, 'Wow! You have an island like that?' " said Phil Rahaim, a park ranger on the Boston Harbor Islands. He had to tell them, "Not exactly."
"Shutter Island" was partly shot on an island called Peddocks, but none of the 34 real harbor islands actually look much like the movie's CG-enhanced slab of rock. Nor have any of them ever housed an insane asylum conducting experiments with psychotropic drugs.
A couple years ago I reported on a martial arts studio in suburban Boston called Guard Up. Meghan Gardner, founder of the company, had begun to offer classes in Sport Sword. She and her instructors began playing with padded swords and ''armor" cobbled together from motocross, ice hockey, and lacrosse gear. They studied medieval sword-fighting and adapted the techniques to the nonlethal world of injection-molded plastic, Velcro, and spandex. They created a series of Sport Weapon programs, such as Sport Sword and Sport Armor, as well as kids' classes like Little Knights. I went there to learn how (and wrote about my meager efforts for the Boston Globe).
Last summer, in 2008, Gardner launched her Wizards and Warriors Camp, a sort of live-action role-playing adventure for kids, which I visited during the research of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks. This year she offers a day camp and overnight camp versions of the experience, which introduces kids to the concepts of role-playing. In a solid story, the Globe recently reported on this.
What I appreciate about what Gardner is doing is not simply that she's having campers stay in costume for the entire week, solve puzzles, and go on quests. Her camp counselors are teaching values such as camaraderie, honor, compassion and courage. And, in a way, she is indoctrinating a whole new generation of gaming geeks—only these geeks are running around outside, and they are learning how to kick ass with swords.
The Museum of Science in Boston made this announcement today:
"This fall, Harry Potter fans will get the chance to step inside the famous wizard's magical world through Harry Potter: The Exhibition, which opens at the Museum of Science, Boston on October 25, 2009, at 9 a.m. Tickets are now available online at mos.org or by calling 617-723-2500, 617-589-0417 (TTY). Visitors will be able to experience dramatic displays inspired by the Hogwarts™ film sets and see the amazing craftsmanship behind authentic costumes and props from the films. Harry Potter: The Exhibition will run in Boston through February 21, 2010."
Cool stuff includes "display Harry Potter artifacts in settings inspired by film sets, including the Great Hall, Hagrid's hut, and the Gryffindor common room" and "a 500-pound, 10-foot tall chess piece"
Great news. But it raises the question: what business does a science museum have displaying movie props and special effects displays? Don't get me wrong: I love these movie magic exhibits. The MOS hosted both a Lord of the Rings and Star Wars movie show. But I wonder if, in the words of Ioannis Miaoulis, President and Director of the Museum of Science, "This exhibit will spark their curiosity and imagination, leading them to experience the excitement of discovery that's also at the heart of the Museum's science and technology exhibits and programs."
Or maybe, just maybe, it will net the museum a crapload of money. Which isn't a bad thing. But I'd rather Miaoulis just call a spade a spade and say, hey, this is going to pay the heating bills and help update our cutting-edge technology displays that date back to the 1980s.