City of Somerville kicks off Highland Avenue Redesign Project with community forum

by Aidan O'Sullivan, 2022

Set to begin work in late 2023 and finish in 2024, the City of Somerville commenced its Highland Avenue redesign project with a public meeting on Wednesday, November 17. There is no concrete blueprint for the project to share as of now. The meeting, held on Zoom and open to all who pre-registered, previewed the motivations and vision for the project.

The meeting also gave the opportunity for community input and suggestions. This is a priority with the redesign, which is collecting parking, business, and visitor data to better inform the project. There is also a public input map on the project website where community members can provide comments and suggestions.

Aging pipes, constructed in the late 1800s - early 1900s and water quality problems were motivators for redesigning Highland. Thus, the city is coordinating the Spring Hill Sewer Separation Project and the Highland Ave Redesign Project to meet water needs as well as streetscape and mobility needs.

Potential benefits of this project include better traffic signals and patterns, better green stormwater infrastructure that will improve infiltration, and sewage, drainage, and water main repairs. It will also add protected bicycle lanes, which will require the limiting of parking to only one side of the street. However, parking will be made more efficient by focusing on rules regarding loading zones and pick up and drop off locations.

Increasing the accessibility of Somerville’s streets and sidewalks for people with mobility issues is also a focal point. All sidewalks will comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The redesign hopes to better accommodate people of all mobility levels as well as those using any type of transportation, particularly bikes and buses. In a survey of 82 people done by the project committee, 53 of them got to Highland Ave by walking, biking, or bus. While only four of these were bikers, 11 said they would prefer to bike if it was safer. Somerville welcomes a wide range of transportation methods, and the redesign project wants to improve the viability of these methods on Highland.

Somervision2040, which aims to increase the percentage of commuters without cars in Somerville to 75% by 2040, has guided the green initiative of the redesign process.

The project is headed by Brad Rawson (Somerville’s Director of Transportation & Infrastructure), Justin Schreiber (Transportation Planner - Mobility Division), Kate White (Community Outreach Coordinator - Mobility Division), and Viola Augustin (Transportation Planner/Designer - Mobility Division). The link to information about the redesign and future meetings can be found here.

Movie Review: King Richard

by Evan Zraket, 2022

King Richard, the biopic about Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams, is now in theaters. The movie centers around the story of how, through sheer determination and support, he helped his daughters become the tennis stars that they are today. This movie is a breath of fresh air as it seems like many biopics that have come out recently make the subjects of the movie feel more like fictional characters than real people, some notable examples being House of Gucci and Bohemian Rhapsody. But King Richard does not shy away from the titular character’s real life flaws, and instead embraces them to make Richard feel less like a simple movie adaptation of a real person and more like a real person that could actually exist.

One way the movie does this is by expertly employing the technique of character intention. Over the course of the movie, Richard has a very noble goal of wanting to be a supportive, loving father who provides for his children and helps them succeed. Throughout the movie, he repeatedly emphasizes to his daughters the importance of planning ahead, working hard so they don’t remain in poverty, and giving their all to whatever they are doing. Despite these noble ideals, Richard goes about achieving these goals in a flawed way. He is shown to be very proud, confrontational, and extremely stubborn and rigid. All of these flaws are what create and drive the conflict of this movie, which is less about Richard getting his daughters to play professional tennis and more about him overcoming his own shortcomings so that he does not jeopardize the plan that he has worked so hard to achieve.

The character flaws are not just unique to Richard. Every character has their shortcomings, though not to the detriment of the movie. Instead it actually makes it that much better, as it makes the characters more believable and the plot more genuine. A lot of times in movies, characters will be more animated and display stronger emotions than is considered socially acceptable. This movie is an exception. The characters in this movie behave like normal people would if they were in those situations. This understatement of the emotions helped develop the narrative, removing distractions and focusing on the dynamic between Richard, his family, and the people around him. The audience sees Richard’s undying determination slowly tearing his family apart, his realization of that, and his reconciliation with his family.

There was one scene, which was the climactic scene of the movie, where Richard and his wife completely lose their composure and have a shouting match, which I consider to be one of the best written scenes I have seen in modern cinema. While the writing was overall strong, the actors did an excellent job of bringing these characters to life and making them feel like real people.

Will Smith did an exceptional job of highlighting the positive and negative sides of Richard Williams and how those combine to make him a whole person. Jon Bernthal demonstrated how dynamic of an actor he is. Bernthal as tennis coach Rick Macci was unlike any character he has played before. His light hearted mannerisms and upbeat nature were among the many strong elements. I first saw Bernthal in one of his earlier projects, the dark and gritty show, Daredevil on Netflix (check it out if you haven’t; it is the absolutely phenomenal), so every time Macci was on screen, I said to myself “There's no way that's the same guy who played the Punisher.”

Overall I highly recommend this movie. The enjoyment is not exclusive to people who enjoy tennis, and if you don’t have time to go to a theater, you can catch it on HBO Max.

Assessing the future of the AL East after Red Sox knocked out in ALCS

by Aidan O'Sullivan, 2022

After a hard-fought six game series, the Houston Astros finally put an end to the Red Sox improbable run that took them from a projected fourth place divisional finish to one of the final four teams standing in the playoffs.

The ALCS began with an uninspiring loss for the Sox, before they blew out Houston in Games 2 and 3. For a moment, it looked like Boston had the chance to run through Houston en route to their fifth World Series of the century. Kiké Hernandez led a scorching hot offense, and Nathan Eovaldi headed a pitching staff that was good enough to support the offense.

Boston’s good fortunes shifted in Game 4. After a decisive non-strike call by Laz Diaz that capped off an overall horrific night for the home plate umpire, the Astros scored seven runs in the top of the ninth inning, and eventually won the game to tie the series at 2-2.

Unfortunately for Boston, this loss also gave the Astros all the momentum they needed to run through Boston in Games 5 and 6, clinching their third American League title in five years. The Red Sox scored a combined one run in the losses, their performance leading many to question whether their previous offensive outbursts were merely a facade. Alas, another offseason begins.

Luckily for Boston sports fans, this loss does not mean the end of Boston’s title window. In fact, it may be an indication that a new generation of young players will end Boston’s title “drought” of three years. Behind franchise cornerstones Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, the return of Chris Sale to pair with Nathan Eovaldi in the starting rotation, and a replenished farm system highlighted by Triston Casas and MLB Pipeline’s No. 9 overall prospect, Marcelo Mayer, the Red Sox may be contending for an American League East title over the next few years.

One problem: Three other teams in the AL East are also trending upward.

New York Yankees:

After a disappointing Wild Card exit, the Yankees may begin moving away from their signature lineup consisting of players with a ton of power and a ton of strikeouts, which has likely done a lot more harm than good for them. If 2021 was a wakeup call for New York to begin investing in more complete hitters, it won’t be good for the rest of the division.

Toronto Blue Jays:

The potential danger in the AL East doesn’t end with the Yankees. The Toronto Blue Jays flexed their wings in 2021, compiling 91 wins and the most home runs in the league. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. showed a rather large glimpse of his potential, Marcus Semien had a fantastic season at second base, and Robby Ray is a finalist for the American League Cy Young. Retaining both Semien and Ray in free agency will be difficult and their 14th-ranked farm system took a hit after a Trade Deadline deal for José Berríos, but the Blue Jays are here to stay.

Tampa Bay Rays:

Down in Tampa Bay, the Rays turned in another playoff run while maintaining their infamous low payroll. Wander Franco provided a preview of his talent in the four-game ALDS with Boston, amassing seven hits and two home runs. Worth noting: Tampa’s AAA, High-A, Low-A, and Florida Complex Minor League teams all finished with the best record in their respective leagues and won the championship. The AA Montgomery Biscuits lost by one run in the final game of their championship series. Of all the talent in the AL East, the Rays’ might shine the brightest. The success of their Minor League teams is a testament to that.

Baltimore Orioles:

The Baltimore Orioles pose a slightly less formidable threat to the rest of the division, at least in the foreseeable future. After a 52-win season in 2021, tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the worst record in the league by a wide margin, the Orioles enter 2022 with low hopes. It is fairly unlikely they return to the 50-win level again, but their playoff ETA could very likely be beyond 2025. It’s not all bad in Birdtown, however. Cedric Mullins had a Silver Slugger season in 2021, slashing to the tune of .291/.360/.518. Even if Mullins does not repeat this performance in 2022, it looks as though the Orioles have found their centerfielder. Their farm system also boasts the number one prospect in baseball, Adley Rutschman, and hard-throwing LHP Grayson Rodriguez (No. 8).

Whatever happens, the AL East will be a division to watch.

The Highlander Theater Company returns with Almost Maine

by Evan Zraket, 2022

play review

The Highlander Theater Company production of Almost Maine was held outside on Sunday, November 14 and Monday, November 15 and it was a pleasant surprise. Granted I do have previous experience with the company but that does not change the fact that Almost Maine was a genuinely good production.

The story, or stories, as it was a compilation of short scenes, was not sappy or cliché . While it did depict people falling in love, it also portrayed other aspects of love such as seeing an ex getting engaged, questioning whether love was being reciprocated, and recovering from heartbreak. This diversion from romantic tropes, was a breath of fresh air.

Even though some of the scenes were depressing, slow, or just strange to the point where it was hard to take it seriously, the attempt to show a more realistic side to romance and the realistically flawed characters were nice changes of pace, given that it seems that theater has become oversaturated with plays about falling in love or “finding your true self.”

One cannot discuss plays without discussing the actors on stage. There was not one scene in this play that I would say lacked chemistry between the two actors. Because of how character driven the plots of these short scenes were, it really allowed the actors to play with the interactions, making them feel less like characters trading dialogue and more like a conversation that real people would actually have. The actors also did a good job of clearly communicating their character through their actions and interactions, which, partnered with good expository writing, kept the pace of each scene going smoothly.

The final point is about the tech work. Here, there is not much to talk about. That is not to say that the tech work was inadequate. On the contrary. Technical work is meant to make the play as seamless as possible so it is also one of those jobs where if done right, people will not know a person is doing the job at all. Such was the case here.

Somerville Youth Hockey holds Try Hockey For Free Day

by Nick Cicerone, 2022

Helping out kids who want to play hockey is something that everyone on the boys team is happy to do. We all remember mornings trying to skate and having older kids and coaches help us out, so it's special when we can return the favor and help out kids who want to learn to play. For most of them, it’s the first time they have ever touched the ice. Going through that experience with them is something all of us on the high school team can relate to. Some of the kids were a little nervous but after settling in they had a good time and didn’t want to get off the ice.

Pictured at left: Members of the team help out.