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Get ready. National Bobblehead Day is just around the corner.

Bobbleheads? Karen Given at WBUR’s Only a Game can tell you more about the history of sports bobbleheads than you ever imagined.

She says that is 2015, the San Diego Padres were the only Major League Baseball team that didn’t offer fans a game where they handed out bobblehead figures of players. “For years, the Red Sox didn’t give away bobbleheads either.

“ ‘There was a long time actually when we felt like “maybe they’re not into bobbleheads,” ‘ says Red Sox Senior Vice President of Marketing Adam Grossman. ‘But even in Boston we know that the people love them and if they love them then we’ll provide them.’ …

“The Red Sox spend months getting the facial features and tattoos and the stance on their bobbleheads just right. …

“Bobbleheads even have, get this, their own Hall of Fame.

“ ‘We sort of thought of it this way–,’ says Phil Sklar, co-founder and CEO of the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ‘if mustard deserves its own museum, bobbleheads definitely deserve their own shrine.’

“The museum doesn’t actually exist yet. Sklar and his partners are busy accumulating thousands of bobbleheads — many from private collections.”

For “the story of a business deal that would change the course of bobblehead history, [Given turns] to Todd Goldenberg of Alexander Global Promotions.  …

” ‘Malcolm Alexander, he’s our founder and former president. He’s retired now, kite skating around the world—’

“So, Alexander was trying to start a business selling promotions, and he got a meeting with the San Francisco Giants, who, you’ll remember, were trying to find a company to manufacture a promotional item that hadn’t really been made for 40 years.

“ ‘He just basically said, “What can I help you with?” and they said, “We need a bobblehead doll,” ‘ says Goldenberg. …

” ‘And Malcolm, being very cocky and very Australian said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll do it. How many do you need?” ‘ says Goldenberg. ‘And then he proceeded to leave the office and find out what a bobblehead doll was. Because even though he had just sold about a quarter of a million dollars worth of bobblehead dolls, he didn’t know what he had sold.’ ”

The rest of the story can be found at WBUR radio, here.

Photo: Karen Given/Only a Game
A Luis Tiant bobblehead doll.

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Greg Cook has a lovely story at WBUR’s “The Artery” on Boston artist Nate Swain’s Zen garden.

Swain tells the reporter, ” ‘I worked driving a tour trolley in Charlestown, and I drove over that bridge every day to go to work, and looked down … I went down there not even knowing what I wanted to do.’

“At the edge of the Charles River, near the North Washington Street Bridge, by the dock in front of the Residence Inn by Marriott on the east end of the park, he’s been assembling ‘Low Tide City’ or ‘Barnacle City.’ It’s ‘a little city’ of bricks and stones that disappears under the river and appears when the tide goes out. ‘I realized it could be an art piece about sea level change,’ he says. ‘People could watch it flood and imagine Boston could do that if sea level rises.’

“And right under the Zakim Bridge, Swain realized he could rake the existing expanse of gravel he found there into patterns, much like a traditional Zen rock garden, to create ‘Zen Under the Zakim.’ He says, ‘If you really sit there and you listen to all the noise, some of the traffic, even though it’s really noisy, it does sound like ocean waves.’ …

” ‘I try to find places where I can do art without asking permission. In Boston, there’s so much bureaucracy. There’s no room for spontaneity. … With all the bureaucracy and the permission-asking, it sucks all the energy and all the inspiration out of the art piece itself.’ …

” ‘I have this theory,’ he adds, ‘if you put something up beautiful and colorful and fun, in good taste, uplifting, it will stay and everyone will love it and no one will bat an eye.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Greg Cook
Nate Swain’s “Zen Under the Zakim” in 2015.

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Martin Del Vecchio narrates his beautiful drone shots of Gloucester, Mass.

As Greg Cook writes at WBUR’s show the Artery, drones have as many uses as human creativity can devise, some good, some not so good.

He focuses on the photography and art applications. “In April, a graffiti artist going by the name KATSU used a customized drone to (illegally) scrawl paint high up on a Manhattan billboard that had been thought inaccessible to taggers. A video posted to YouTube in March, shows a bicyclist riding high up along a cliff in (according to the post) Sedona, Arizona. People have brought back astonishing footage from flying drones into fireworks and active volcanoes.

“Video by video, drones are transforming how we see the world — and this new view is changing how we understand the world.

“ ‘It’s not a fad,’ says Randy Scott Slavin, founder of the New York City Drone Film Festival. ‘Flying cameras are here to stay for sure. Because the perspective they get is great.’ …

“[Slavin] fell for drones when he got a Phantom a few years back. ‘I would shoot everywhere I went. Every time I went on vacation, I would shoot,’ he says. ‘Before I knew it, I started showing it to some of my director friends and they were like, “Shoot for me.” ‘ ”

Helen Greiner, CEO of Massachusetts-based Drone maker CyPhy Works says, “You’re just seeing the world the way a bird sees.” More here.

Photo: Greg Cook/WBUR
As drones have become cheaper and easier to fly, many people, like Martin Del Vecchio of Gloucester, are exploring the creative possibilities.

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Gotta love MIT. There is always something crazy going on over there. And when MIT and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) ideas come together, watch out.

At WBUR radio, Fred Thys explains about a new, multidiscipline design program.

Matt “Kressy has put MIT’s first-ever integrated design and management (IDM) students in a kind of boot camp. He wanted to immerse the engineers, designers and business school students in a project where they would have to work in concert. …

“The task: build instruments from found materials. And boy did the students find materials. Mechanical engineer Maria Tafur, from Bogota, made a clarinet from a carrot. Engineer Tammy Shen, from Taipei, has made an instrument that includes glass bottles. …

“Kressy was teaching a course at the Rhode Island School of Design when he got the idea for the new IDM master’s program. He was also teaching engineers and business students at MIT — but it was the design students from RISD that caught Kressy’s attention by asking a critical question:

‘How does this product enhance our lives?’ …

“Kressy says it took 13 years for his idea for a design program to get traction at MIT. When it did, he was able to pick 18 students with completely different criteria from what MIT typically uses.

“ ‘And that rubric had crazy metrics, such as the metric love,’ Kressy says. ‘And the love metric was basically: Does this candidate have a large capacity for love and compassion? …

“ ‘When I showed the rubric to my colleagues here, let’s just say it got mixed responses,’ he says, laughing.”

To get at the love-and-compassion metric, he asked applicants to submit a portfolio indicating their efforts to make the world a better place.

You can read here about the impressive portfolios, struggles to get to MIT from poor countries, and inventive ideas for the future.”

Photo: Jesse Costa/WBUR
MIT integrated design graduate students Maria Tafur and Masakazu Nagata play their homemade instruments along with Brave Sharab, 7, on Main Street in Cambridge.

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Ken Shulman reports at WBUR’s Only a Game that skateboarding often means a lot to kids on reservations.

The story starts with an Apache artist, Doug Miles.

“Miles paints mainly on found objects: fuel cans, car hoods, panels from a trailer home. But there’s one outlier among the surfaces, a curious artifact that migrated from California to America’s inner cities to the suburbs and, finally, to the reservation: the skateboard. …

“Miles said. ‘My son needed a skateboard. I didn’t have enough money. So I painted him one. And then he rode it all around the rez. And I knew what was going to happen. I knew. So when he got home I said, “What did everybody say?” And he said, “Dad, Dad, everybody wants one.” ‘

“Today Miles’ skateboards hang in private collections and museums. Some of them sell for hundreds of dollars. But the former social worker is most proud of APACHE Skateboards — a skateboard team, shop and artist collaborative he founded on the San Carlos Reservation, about 90 miles east of Phoenix.

“Miles said that making skateboards helps his kids connect with their Apache heritage.

“We’ve been making things for centuries as native people,” he explained. …

“The San Carlos team has a thriving skate park — with colorful murals painted by Miles and his crew. The team also travels to compete against other tribes and against big city skaters. Miles said the travel is mind opening.

“ ‘The kids in the South Bronx and the other reservations and East LA, they’re just like our kids,’ he said. ‘These are all communities that are struggling. So when they meet our kids they’re really meeting themselves. And so I think it empowers kids to know that we’re struggling here, too, but we’re also making art and skateboarding and having a lot of fun in the process.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Ken Shulman/Only A Game
For some Native Americans living on Indian reservations in the American Southwest, skateboarding is more than just a recreational activity.

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Looking for an indoor sport this winter? Have you considered belt-sander racing? Bill Littlefield has been covering the unusual sport at WBUR’s  Only a Game since 2002, and as Karen Given reported recently, the sport could probably use some new blood — er, participants.

She begins by revisiting the 2002 broadcast.

” ‘Two by two, they come screaming down the 85-foot-long, waist-high wooden track, trailing rooster tails of sawdust and long, yellow extension cords that power them to the finish line.’

“That is how reporter Sean Cole began his treatise on the New England Belt Sander Racing Association,” continues Givens, “which first aired on Only A Game on April 13, 2002. But here’s the bit everyone remembers:

“NEBSRA co-founder Dave Kenyon: ‘It’s a real family event. It’s a family event with beer.’ …

“There is still beer, so there is still belt sander racing. Or is there? I went to Jamaica Plain in Boston to investigate. …

” ‘You are at the 2014 Fall Nationals Belt Sander Drag Race and Costume Ball,’ Glen Gurner tells me.

“Gurner is a woodworker and former champion of this sport. But for some reason he’s really enthusiastic about the idea that this might be the last time NEBSRA, an organization he helped found, holds a belt sander race. …

” ‘It takes a village.”

“ ‘And the village is tired?’ I ask.

“ ‘Yeah, the village is getting old.’ …

“For about 10 minutes, Kenyon fusses over the position of the crowd and a 60-pound, lithium-ion-powered sander outfitted with a motorcycle engine. It has a theoretical maximum speed of 85 miles per hour, and its name is Bruce….

“I stay long enough to watch Bruce surge to life and almost immediately slam into the spring-loaded preventer at the end of the track. It’s spectacular, but no one dies. So the crowd goes back to reminiscing about old times.

“There are other belt sander races around the country. Some even have corporate sponsors and professional crews. But NEBSRA likes to believe theirs is the first — and the best. Kenyon is proud of how far this event has come in the past quarter-century.

“ ‘It’s so much more now. It’s homecoming. This is real homecoming. People have come up to me and said, “Thank you, thank you for doing this.” That’s nice,’ Kenyon said. … ‘There’s not enough rituals in our life anymore — not enough tradition. This is what passes for tradition.’ ”

Tradition! I can almost hear Tevye singing, “Tradition!”

Photo: Jessica Coughlin/Only A Game
Two competitors get ready to race at the 2014 Fall Nationals Belt Sander Race and Costume Ball.

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I blogged about the two previous murals in Dewey Square, here, and now there is a third one. The first two were by artists who had shows at the nearby Institute for Contemporary Arts (the ICA). The new one is by an artist associated with the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA).

According to Geoff Edgers at the Boston GlobeJill Medvedow, ICA director, was not pleased that the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy chose a different museum. “Really?” she said. “It’s walking distance to the ICA.”

WBUR radio’s “The Artery” covers more of the story: “Shinique Smith, the creator of the latest work, recalls seeing pictures on the Internet of that earlier mural by the Brazilian twins Os Gemeos. Standing in the grass below her piece, she told me she thought the wall was amazing, ‘and I wanted to do something like them.’ ” More here.

In case you’re wondering, Smith didn’t stand there painting it all herself like the Os Gemeos twins who did the first mural. Instead she gave a kind of map to skilled painters from a company that does this sort of thing, translating a smaller work into a giant one.

I took four photographs of the progress.

mural-1

mural-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

mural-3

mural-4

 

 

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