Boston crop

Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors: Boston, MA

That’s right, folks. It’s time for another installment of our nation’s favorite weekend road trip blog: Weekend (Ultimate) Warriors! Or, it’s summer and let’s hit the road.

But wait a minute. It’s not summer at all. In fact it’s snowing everywhere.

Buffalo logged 6 feet of snow in one day.

Alright, alright. You got me. The wife and I went to Boston a few weeks ago, before all the snow. And yes, summer was definitely over, but fall was doing fine at the time. Amazingly enough, the Boston temperature was quite warm and welcoming, if not brisk. We lucked out wicked big time.

Here’s the thing.

I’m totally obsessed with Boston. It’s sort of a nostalgia thing, which I recently swore off, I know, but the nostalgia is earned. I had never been to Boston; however, the city of clam chowdery love had played a big role in my life, once a week, for at least a year straight.

Okay. Here it comes.

In California, years ago, when I shared an apartment with some friends, we hosted “Boston Night,” every Tuesday night.

Yes, dorky. I’m aware. Boston Night. Why would random young Californians obsess over Boston?

Well, Boston movies for one. They are their own genre. And the movies are frequently wicked excellent. Boondock Saints, The Departed, Good Will Hunting, Mystic River, Fever Pitch

Maybe not Fever Pitch, but you get the idea.

Really, Boston Night was an excuse to get together. To bring people under one roof. I always loved hosting Boston Night. I’ll never forget the movies and Sam Adams, the Boston Baked Beans and clam chowder, my friends and their bad “Southie” accents. It was a good time. (more…)

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Kev & Meg

28, or, How Keva Got His Groove Back

Today is my 28th birthday. I’ll spare you the whiny existential, ontological, and anthropocentric rants that have haunted my previous birthday blog posts. Like yearbook haircuts, they are hard to look back on. Speaking of yearbooks…

I saw The Ataris the other night, here in Rochester. They are this pop-punk band from the late 90′s and early 2000s that I once obsessed over. I was in and out of a lot of relationships in high school, and it’s safe to say that The Ataris were unofficial therapists for me.

They had some MTV success back around 2005 with “In This Diary” and their cover of “Boys of Summer,” but of course, their best stuff came before that on Kung Fu Records.

Anyway, I talked to The Ataris singer, Kris, at the show. I was struck by how identical he remains, at least, to the fifteen year ago version of himself that I saw many times, singing on stage in California. He looks like a 40 year old trapped in a 20 year old body. He was very nice, I don’t mean to slight him or offend him. I just mean, when he sings, “Being grown up, isn’t half as fun as growing up, these are the best days of our lives,” I get sad because I worry he believes that, that he is holding on to something that no longer exists, and that I am helping fund this sort of delusion, by paying money at the door of some sketchy club so that he can go on pretending.

WOW. Whiny existential. Sorry. Let me get back on track.

How Keva Got His Groove Back

I have this joke with my wife that I am still in my early 20s. The joke goes, 20-27 is “early twenties” and 28 and beyond is “normal twenties.” This means, as of today, that I am officially in my twenties. (more…)

Kevin on the Web

Kevin on the Web: High Tech, Small Business & Fringe

This week, you can find my writing at three different online outlets. What the kids call, “the web.”

RocNext: Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Small Business

First, travel to Rochester’s biggest newspaper, the (Gannet owned) Democrat & Chronicle. I’m honored to join their blogging team for RocNext. RocNext is a small business and entrepreneurship blog. My first post is called “Rockstar Entrepreneurs: Beware the Narrative.”

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NEXUS-NY: “Clean Energy”

Next, hop on over to NEXUS-NY for a look at their brand new magazine called “Clean Energy.” I wrote two articles for them and I couldn’t be happier for how the issue came out. My first article is called “Pure Quantum.” In it, I feature a clean tech startup from Cornell who is manipulating and manufacturing quantum dots for the solid state lighting industry. Whew. It’s more interesting than it sounds, I promise! My second article is an interview with Dr. Stanley Whittingham. In the 1970′s, he discovered the technology which led to rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Both articles, as well as the whole magazine, can be viewed for free here.

Also, I was quite intimidated and stressed writing these dense-ish, high tech articles over summer. Seeing them in print is an accomplishment I won’t soon forget. (more…)

TV Ferguson

Police Brutality and the Black Community: the (White and Nerdy) Public Health Perspective

Earlier this year I began organizing a non-profit mentoring group which reaches out to urban youth in the Rochester community. We shuttle them to colleges and universities to discuss high school graduation, college enrollment and various other topics. While recruiting for an event on the phone, a parent asked me about transportation. We provide public bus passes, I said.

“No,” she responded.” I don’t want my child shot dead by any cop,” and she hung up.

I remember sitting by my office phone for what felt like an eternity, trying to grasp the magnitude of what I had just heard. To put it stupidly, I was shocked. I had never heard anyone speak with such transparency on such a grave matter. In an ugly moment I began to blame her. Why distrust a system designed to protect her? Doesn’t she get it? In my experience, police had always protected and served me! It made sense that the system would work for everyone else too.

But as the cold unsettling silence of the dial tone began to choke me, I realized that my limited, pampered perspective did not grant me a right to judge a fear I did not understand.

No shocker here

I grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood. Coastal California. Where nearly everyone graduates on time from suburban high schools, and the kids are not shot by cops or dealers, and the one girl who did disappear (over twenty years ago) has a large wooden reward sign still posted, reminding the town of its rarity of misfortune. We don’t fear the police. The only time you fear the police is when do something wrong: you are a criminal, you are on the highway speeding, you are drinking underage (or are indulging in some rebellious combination of the three).

I inherently trust the police. I was taught to. I now have a cousin who is a cop and he is a wonderful human being; once, I was even let off of a speeding ticket just for knowing him.

So there I am hovering over the phone in my delirious state. I think of the kids I have met and have worked with: smart, wonderful teenagers trapped in an environment that undervalues them. I realize for the first time in my life—a year removed from moving to Rochester, and after months of mentoring urban youth—that their fear was horribly real. A pervasive fear, unending. I think of all the statistics I’ve heard about and have seen, and I realize racism isn’t just an idea or an inconvenience, but that it is actively working against them, inhibiting their lives.

White culture shock. How embarrassing. It shouldn’t even be a thing, I know. But it is! The world I grew up in was an insular luxury. Truman’s Seahaven. “Fight the Power” was on MTV, and I consumed the entertainment.  Now I find my wonderful world has a bitter aftertaste of ignorance. (more…)

Kevin on the radio-2

Kevin on the Radio: WXXI’s “Connections: The Writers Panel”

Radio debut? No problem.

Today, I was asked to join “Connections with Evan Dawson” on Rochester’s WXXI. The panel consisted of Eric Grode, NY Times writer and Newhouse School adjunct professor, and Andrea Levendusky, a local freelance writer and soon to be published author.

We bulldozed through many topics (e.g., how to improve as a writer, the arguments for and against teaching cursive, what are our favorite “eggcorns“), we answered phone calls, and even shared a few laughs. Before I knew it the hour was gone. Over. Boom. Just like that. And there I was, pouting, like a child given chocolate for the first time: YOU CAN’T JUST TAKE THIS AWAY.

Anywho, I had an amazing time. Thanks to Evan Dawson for the incredible opportunity. Now… who wants to start a podcast with me? Anyone? Hello?

You can stream the broadcast here: Connections: The Writers Panel

Connections_News_Highlight (more…)

White Noise (1)

Sharing Saturation Through DeLillo’s “White Noise”

Over summer, my wife and I visited the most photographed lighthouse in the world. We didn’t question the claim’s validity. We just went with it. The lighthouse stop was part of our New Hampshire and Maine last minute road trip. It was a good trip. We slept in the car and jumped in the water and ate a lot of seafood. We were in York when we heard about it: “The most photographed lighthouse.” Just up the road, said the internet, a few miles from where you are.

So we jumped in the car and found it. Instinctively, my first thought was, Yes, this looks like a lighthouse. It’s cute, scenic, impressionable. It is all the things lighthouses are and should be.

I didn’t want to take a picture.

Rather, it seemed better to be the guy who visits “Most Photographed” type places, and doesn’t take pictures. The concept would make for a good blog. But as I stood there watching dozens of tourists snapping their film and tapping their screens—a fervent mixture of new and old technology, crunching, shaking, iPhones uploading moments through invisible data, data that I too could claim!—something crept up inside me, like a tremor, and before I knew it, there I was, unceremoniously taking a picture.

So here’s the picture:

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It wasn’t until later, while reading a novel by Don DeLillo, that the lighthouse was *uhem* illuminated once more inside my head. As I’ve come to understand, DeLillo is a cultural critic; his novels address society’s many obsessions and explores what roles these obsessions play in our lives, as well as how they define us. Death, technology, consumerism, media, crowds, for instance, these are common motifs DeLillo highlights with excellent vision and irony.

His novel, White Noise, takes a look at these motifs and addresses them in terms of family life and the suburbs (also there’s an Airborne Toxic Event). Here’s what a book cover may look like: (more…)

TNK Kaleidoscope Banner

Interview: Gar Mickelson, Kaleidoscope Community Services

I walk into 2nd Street Commons, a nondescript building in downtown Coeur d’Alene (CDA), Idaho, sandwiched between a dive bar and a closed gun shop. Once inside the first thing I realize is that I have no idea how to categorize the premises, though I try: a coffee shop without a coffee bar, a living room without a TV, a pub without the liquored smell of vomit, a church without a program. There is no schema that fits, and I love it.

People are simply scattered. They look weary, but comfortable, at ease, respite. Some folks relax on the couch while others bustle up and down hallways, in and out of the kitchen.

It is here where I meet Gar Mickelson. He wears a bright smile, gives a big hug, and introduces me to everyone. “This is my friend Kevin,” he says. And everyone I meet makes me feel like family. They, too, give hugs and handshakes.

Gar gives a tour of the facility. As we walk along I continue to meet people, a mix of volunteers and visitors. Some are cooking, cleaning, painting, hauling. The volunteers are passionate and dedicated. Because I am cynical this is all odd for me. I’m waiting for the hook, the agenda, the money making scheme, something to take me out of this fairy tale of genuine coexistence.

We walk into a new room, “Excuse the camping gear,” Gar says. “We’re holding that for someone who was forced to leave his camp site.”

“For free?” I ask. “You’re holding it for free?”

“That’s what we’re all about here, Kevin. ‘Come and be for free.’”

I really want to give Gar another hug, but that would be too weird. So instead, we head into his office, and I ask him a few questions about how Kaleidoscope Community Services started, when it started, and what the heck this place even is.

What is Kaleidoscope Community Services? What is 2nd Street Commons, and how long has the CDA location been established?

Kaleidoscope Community Services is a private, faith-based non-profit corporation based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. KCS exists to bridge the gap between community needs and community resources, and we do this in a variety of ways.

KCS opened the 2nd Street Commons at the end of January, 2014. Since that time we’ve had over 100 volunteers from 10 different churches, served almost 500 gallons of coffee, served almost 1000 meals, and have gone through approximately 6 miles of toilet paper…  (more…)

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City Whisk, the app that localizes discovery

The following story appears in the current issue of 585 Magazine (July/August ’14).

Jonathan Marcowicz is the first real explorer I’ve ever met.

We sit in a café, sip coffee, and reminisce of travel. He speaks of his past like he’s still there: a heuriger inVenice, a Chopin concert in France, serendipitous nights of intrigue in Versailles. His voice has heart; his eyes tell me all I need to know. And, really, I do know.

I tell him about an Ireland trip that changed my life. About Dingle, where the locals pointed me down a windy dirt road, past roaming sheep and old ruins, a path that led me to a drop-dead gorgeous cliff edging the endless Atlantic Ocean.

“That’s it!” he says. “Exactly.”

To Marcowicz, locals are the secret ingredients for intrepid adventure—a belief he cemented after a New Orleans New Year’s road trip.The more natives he spoke with, the more unique and engaging his expe- rience became. That’s how CityWhisk—a mobile app he cofounded with Marissa McDowell and Stacey Lampell—was born. The app offers travel itineraries from a local perspective and recently won first place in the Existing Civic App category at the 2014 AT&T Rochester Civic App Challenge.

Read more at 585Magazine.com

Netflix Playlist

2014 Netflix Halloween Playlist (3rd Annual!)

Everybody now: “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Ahhhh. Don’t you just love Halloween? I know I do.

Fall season creeps in: candy apples and carved pumpkins, cardboard tombstones and plastic costumes, counter culture and scary movies. What I really love about Halloween is that it can look different to everybody. For me, even as a kid, I grew up watching horror. Really, I’m not sure how I got away with it. Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers were as familiar to me as Mr. Rogers and Big Bird.

As I have aged I have got away from the horror genre a bit. So, now, when Halloween comes around, I enjoy packing in as many nostalgia-filled frightening flicks as I can (especially since my wife doesn’t usually watch them. Her childhood was NOT filled with grotesque, slasher movies… whatever that’s about).

Not sure what to watch this Halloween?

I made a Netflix playlist for us to enjoy. As usual it’s a mix of campy, fun, classic, horror and X-Files. I would love it if you joined me. We can discuss it on Twitter and have a ball.

So never fear (or should you? Mwahahahah). I got you covered.

Note: This list is good for either a spooky, all night marathon or spread nights before Halloween. Your pick.

Check out last year’s list too!

The Number Kevin’s 3rd Annual Netflix Halloween Playlist

paranorman2012-poster-wideParaNorman (2012)

It is always good to start out light, and I love kid-friendly Halloween movies. Monster House, Ernest Scared Stupid, for instance. ParaNorman has been on my Netflix List for quite some time. I have NOT seen it. This year, I plan on getting to it.

The Twilight Zone: Mr Garrity and the Graves (S1. E32)

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From friendly kid movie, we’ll move into classic TV shows. The Twilight Show was a favorite of mine as a child. I watched both the new and old editions (does anyone know how the newer version holds up?), as well as The Outer Limits. “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” is highly rated, and looks quite spooky: an unknown traveler who brings a small town’s deceased back from the dead.  (more…)

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Thursday Night FRINGE: “The Importance of Being Earnest” and Local Band, The Lonely Ones

Thursday night’s local music and live theatre double header at Writers & Books was among my favorite evenings at the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival. Local folk-indie-awesome band, The Lonely Ones, performed a diverse and wonderful set of original compositions, followed by the excellent, MUST SEE University of Rochester TOOP production of Oscar Wilde’s masterpiece, “The Importance of Being Earnest” which, literally, brought the lattice down.

Let’s start with Earnest.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” @ Writers and Books

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

To be clear, I will pledge my support to student productions until the day my proverbial curtains close. That said, they are usually a mixed bag of quality, plagued with director inexperience, bland overstatement, and poor (pick of the crop) acting.

I’m happy to announce that University of Rochester TOOP’s (The Opposite of People) production of “The Importance of Being Earnest” rivals some of the best theatre I’ve seen at the Fringe this year. Ian Van Fange, only a sophomore at UR, directs Oscar Wilde’s extravagantly clever script into a tight, well performed play that had the nearly sold-out audience invested from start to finish, crying with laughter. When I spoke with Van Fange, congratulating him on the wonderful production, he gave all the credit to his actors. And I can see why. His cast was certainly amazing.

Daniel Mensel (as Algernon Moncrieff) and Michael Tamburrino (as John Worthing, J.P.) are impeccable together, eliciting a contagious chemistry that never quits. These two young actors jump into Wilde’s shoes brilliantly. Were they born to play these roles? Maybe. All we know is what we can assume: Mensel and Tamburrino were born to play many more roles after this.

Photography by Todd Kelmar

Photography by Todd Kelmar

(more…)

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FRINGE Tuesday Night: “UR Diversity of Dance” and “Coffee with God”

Tuesday can be a wild card weekday. In business, it is generally known as the slowest day of sales; in art and performance, it can be the perfect night to capture an audience overwhelmed by weekend hysteria. The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival didn’t lose a beat last night. Both events had BIG turn outs, one of which sold out. FRINGE: even midweek isn’t safe anymore.

UR Diversity of Dance @ RAPA

The University of Rochester Diversity of Dance kicked off its one and only show last night at RAPA, featuring over eight diverse performances by UR groups and clubs. I saw a little bit of everything: music-less compositions, breakdancing, bellydancing, improv—even UR a cappella group After Hours came by and threw in a few heart pumping songs.

These ladies (pictured below) set the bar high for all who followed. Listed as Dance Performance Workshop (which I think is a class at UR), the ensemble merged and adapted styles, dancing to a sound score that was super interesting: a speech by motivational speaker Eric Thomas.

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UR Stylez is freestyle breakdancing club, and last night they brought the proverbial house down. A blend of “freestyle, freezes, power moves, rocks, and footwork into one unique thing,” the UR Stylez guys (and gal) hit the ground and didn’t look to stop.

I caught up with UR Stylez b-boys Noah Woolfolk, Minsoo Kim, and TinChan Lao after the show. “We could’ve gone all night if they let us.” Be on the lookout for UR Stylez around the University of Rochester for some October performances. (more…)

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FRINGE Days 3 & 4: Jay Pharaoh, “Intrepid,” and a Laptop Orchestra

The First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival continues its Tricycle tromping path throughout the city of Rochester. I’ve come to terms: as a Fringe audience member, I’m never quite sure what I’m going to see. This weekend my limits were stretched. I was witness to SNL stand up, a laptop orchestra, an hour long, prop-free, one-man show and more.

A Little Business at the Big Top

guide_photoA Little Business at the Big Top is a one man show, currently playing at the Geva Theatre and features accomplished performance actor David Gaines. He is a Fringe veteran who travels the world performing solo shows. Sans stage props, David Gaines prompts imagination. The man is pure electricity, the mime child of Steve Martin and Charlie Chaplin.

While at first, for me, the lack of dialogue and set design was a hard pill to swallow, but a few minutes into the show my brain filled in the details (like the food fight scene on Hook!), and all of a sudden the scene flooded in. I saw the circus tent, the animals, the tight rope. My imagination hasn’t seen this much action in ages. Thanks, David. It was truly magical!

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Rochester Laptop Orchestra

On the total opposite end of the technology performance spectrum was the Rochester Laptop Orchestra, hosted by Eastman and University of Rochester students. What is a laptop orchestra exactly? I’m still trying to figure that out. To the show’s detriment, composition explanations were riddled with enigmatic jargon that left me scratching my head. All this to say, I still had a really great time (even if I wasn’t always aware of what was going on).

The hosts incorporated ballerina dancing, drum circles, facial mapping, and more. Here’s a video of the orchestra creating music through genetic mapping. What were they mapping? A disease. Pretty cool stuff.

My favorite part of the performance was the facial mapping sequence: depending how the users would move their faces, piano notes would play. (more…)

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FRINGE Day 2: After Hours A Cappella and Tricycle Madness in Manhattan Square

After a dreamlike introduction, a diffident storyline, and a long journey through the crowds of Manhattan Square, Fringe Festival’s Friday night headliner, Tricycle by Circus Orange, awoke its impatient and testy audience with a spectacle filled finale, leaving them speechless and in awe.

For instance, this happened:

Courtesy of the Rochester Fringe Festival

Courtesy of the Rochester Fringe Festival

Wait. Wait. Let’s back up. There’s more to tell. Much more. Let’s start earlier in the day, shall we?

DAY 2

After Hours A Cappella at Bernunzio Uptown Music

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After Hours always puts on a great show. I’ve never been clear, however, if their sound and style can sustain audiences beyond the academic, rarefied walls of the University of Rochester.

The first thing I noticed was that the show was almost sold out. So that is good. The second thing? These undergrads are amazing. Top notch voices, diverse song selections, innovative compositions.

From “Stand by Me,” to Little Mermaid‘s “Kiss the Girl,” to “Teenage Dream,” After Hours commandingly covered a range of popular genres, feeding their captivated audience with an overflowing trick-or-treat bag of ear candy.

After the gig, I met the crew and asked the gentlemen “Why a cappella?” (more…)