This blog is called New Cambridge Observer–so I guess I should jump into the fray over last week’s arrest of  Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates by Cambridge Police Sergeant  James M. Crowley.   

Gates, 58, who is black and walks with a cane,  had gotten out of a cab in front of his home on Ware St, couldn’t find his house keys and, while he and the cab driver were breaking into the house in broad daylight,  someone called the police.

To begin with,  I can’t understand why anyone would impugn the intentions of  the woman who called the police :  911 tapes reveal that she said she wasn’t sure if it was a break-in and that she doesn’t mention race.

I CAN understand why Crowley would insist that Gates  come outside after showing proof that he lived there;  it’s possible, tho unlikely, that someone inside the home was dangerous,  in trouble, or pressuring the owner, in some way.

I can also understand why Gates would be upset: no doubt the incident triggered memories of his own and others’ experiences of deep racial prejudice between white cops and black men.  I can also understand why Gates would  lash out verbally, and why his resistance would trigger the officer’s reflexive  response to an unruly citizen: handcuffs and arrest.

It’s harder for me to understand why President Obama lost his usual cool and say the officer reacted “stupidly” but I’m glad that he  backed off and invited both parties to the White House to discuss the matter over  a beer.

A friend rightly points out that, rather than just let things go each of the parties took the extra step: calling the police; demanding to come inside, pushing back, jumping into a local fray.  My friend suggests that behind all that is fear: of break-ins, of losing hard-won respect and status, of  loosing criminals into the community, of criticism–in a time of war and heightened economic stress.

All true.

But now, news commentators are questioning everyone’s motives. This morning, one of them questioned Obama’s choice of drink for today’s powwow and called  him a racist who hates whites;  another (is it politically correct to mention that her skin appeared to be dark?) that Obama is a “racial opportunist ” whose administration is corrupt, and that he used the term “stupidly” to draw attention away from his difficulties in getting health reform through Congress.

This epiode has often been called a “teachable moment.”  Might I suggest that it’s a moment that has gone on too long? We get it. It’s a moment whose time has passed.

Let me know what you think!

–Anita Harris
New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA, as is, which focuses on issues related to media, public relations, and HarrisCom clients–such as health, science, technology and the environment.  All entries are copyrighted by Anita M. Harris, the author.


A lovely, eclectic show called “Float”  at the Clark Gallery,  145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, MA, exhibits works on nautical themes by 24 artists.

Pieces range from a model wooden ship, c. 1900 by an unattributed  artist  to  Wendy Jean Hyde’s video installation showing a polar bear swimming back  and forth on a large plasma screen.

A few of my other  favorites included:


Rebecca Kincaid’s  oil, fabric & mixed media painting “Winter Sailor,” armstrongewhiteout12367209089711 Chris Armstrong’s  oil on alumninum  “Whiteout,”

and Patricia Burleson’s Springmelt 6,. It’s an 18″x24″x18″  “boat” composed of wire, lace, bones, shredded tire, vine buttons, found metal and wood including saw blad, barbed wire, springs, strainers, whisk, scissors, sticks spoon and found objects including purse, balls, harmonic, baseball glove, clothes, pins nail clippers and fan.

I was impressed by Rob Napier’s tiny model ships, and  by Jerry Beck’s “The Dreams of Small fish (from his Secret Art of Loon Park, Oaracle Series).

My friend Mark H. noticed the playful spelling of “oaracle,”which makes sense because the work is a floor-to-ceiling=sized  oar (136x15x3″). Its shaft is a 3” clear acryllic tube filled with dried, shellacked fish and mushrooms.

It’s a fun show; I wish I could write up every piece but you can see them at the gallery through April 30 or view more photos online.


New Cambridge Observer is a publication of  the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

As a graduating  PhD, Robert Langer, now Institute Professor at MIT, was having trouble finding work.

As he told the Health Innovators Group of Combined Jewish Philanthropies on Friday, most of his classmates took jobs with oil companies but  he knew that wasn’t for him.  Having helped found an alternative high school in Cambridge, he  applied for 50 or 60 jobs in curriculum development, but no one wrote him back. Then he tried medical schools and hospitals, but “they didn’t write back, either.”  Finally, someone  in his lab told him that someone at Children’s Hospital sometimes hired “unusual people.”

That “someone” was Judah Folkman, who, in 1974,  was beginning to work on angiogenesis, which involved the idea that cutting the blood flow to tumors could halt  their growth.  The possibility  intrigued Langer, who  was hired–but made a rather inauspicious start.

As a post doc, he spent half of his time scraping meat off of cow bones delivered from a South Boston slaughterhouse. He   discovered 200 methods that didn’t work;. He  faced  hostile scientists who told him they didn’t believe anything he said, and,  as time went on,  was denied many patents by officers who were were unwilling to accept his proof.

It took until 2002 for  the first angiogenisis drug to gain FDA approved.  By then, Bob, who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, was MIT’s most prolific inventor and a University Professor who had helped found many companies and   inspired countless students–who now run departments, labs, and companies of their own.

I’ve known Bob since the 7th grade…and was in the 8th-grade English class  in which, he tells people , he was so shy that he froze during a public speaking exercise, and got an F.  We both went to Cornell, where, he’s told me, he found that he learned more studying on his own (and playing bridge) than going to class.  And I remember sitting in a pizza parlor with him in  1982, watching as he diagrammed  his ideas on a mechanism for “slow release” for pharmaceuticals–on a napkin.

Despite his success, a recent writeup in Nature,  and much  excitement about possible “pharmacies on a chip,”,  a stem cell device to help individuals with spinal cord injuries,  and an adhesive for heart surgery based on the sticky-stuff that allows gekkos to climb up walls, Bob  remains the same old Bob, who sometimes gets  ideas for new devices, materials and methods  from television and magazine magazines.    He’s still down-to-earth, supportive, and even funny.   (Did  you know that the most  surgical devices are invented by doctors who use household materials to fit their operating needs…which is why the “stretchiness” material used in artificial heart is the same stuff used in ladies’ girdles? )

So- for job hunters out there the message is simple but profound. Believe in yourself and your ideas, treat people kindly, and  keep on going.

Great talk, Bob. Once again, bravo.


New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

Heads and Tales Review

February 18, 2009

Hatry photo, Menard Gallery Heads and Tales

Hatry photo, Menard Gallery Heads and Tales

If Heide Hatry’s provocative photographic show—Heads and Tales–at the Peirre Menard Gallery, (10 Arrow St. in Cambridge) is meant to shock: it does. In fact, for a few moments,  it made me fear for the mental health of the artist, who has (beautifully–even lovingly)  photographed her sculptures portraying female victims of violent death.

Hatry, who grew up in Germany and moved to New York City in 2003,  sculpted life-sized female mannequins from clay and covered them with untreated pigskin (a cold wet sample of which is available in the gallery with the notice: “please touch”). She added raw meat for the lips and fresh pig eyes—and in some cases, flies, safety pins, and other props—creating, according to the gallery writeup, “the illusion of life where there is none”.

Hatry then photographed the mannequins—some enlarged to 20”x 30”, others more life-size, at 12” x 18”.

Viewed from afar, the photographs appear lifelike, but close up, you realize the subjects are constructs—adding physical and intellectual layers to the artist’s statements on the horrifying situations faced by many women—and on photography’s role in bringing the inanimate to life.

Hatry’s “views” are further emphasized by accompanying tales about the “women’s” lives (and deaths) as imagined by 27 writers—some of them well known feminists.

The show is well-conceived and displayed, which makes its subject matter all the more disturbing.

The exhibit, which opened Feb 13, 2009, will run through March 15. It corresponds with the release of Hatry’s book, Heads and Tales, and with readings, book signings and the premiere of a play.


New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

No Valentine for Microsoft

February 15, 2009

On Valentine’s night,  I spent two hours chatting with one of my new tech support friends, in India.  Eventually, he determined that the huge icons on my desktop were not caused by a previously diagnosed corrupted user account or Vista–that my computer—a bad hard drive–was to blame.

The next morning, Walt, from a list serve I subscribe to, suggested a two-click fix.

If you need to create PDF files, you can try PDFCreator — open source and free.  Much cheaper than Adobe Pro 9.  In fact, the only real good reason to get Adobe Acrobat Pro anymore is if you want to use their review, annotation, and editing tools.  For PDF creation, PDFCreator works great, and evidently FoxIt is the better reader.

If your icons are large because of a setting, then try the following —

Both solutions worked.

Later, my Indian tech support friend  emailed to tell me that he was glad to have resolved my issue, was closing the case, and that it was a pleasure serving me.(Having previously spent 64 hours trying to resolve MS issues, I was remarkably patient, it I do say so myself).

Still, much as I appreciated the companionship on  Valentine’s night, I’m afraid the relationship just isn’t working out.  It’s not easy to break up with Microsoft…but, clearly, that’s something I need to do.

Comments (and lawyers!) welcome!


New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

After spending Friday night in jail,  today,  street artist Shepard Fairey was arraigned today in Boston for allegedly  pasting “Andre The Giant” graffiti near an entrance to the Massachusetts Turnpike and the Boston University bridge across the Charles River–nine years ago.   Fairey also countersued the Associated Press–who  sued him last week   for basing his now famous Obama “Hope” poster on a copyrighted  AP photograph.

Having seen the poster at Fairey’s opening at the Institute of Contemporary Art last week, I agree with him that the poster significantly transformed the photo (actually, I think, improved it and turned it into art)  and, thus, does not violate copyright law.  What’s more, Fairey has not sold the work–and, while he might have enhanced (and now harmed) his reputation by distributing it for free, he did not directly use it for financial gain.

The “tagging” of public places and ensuing  arrests are part and parcel of Fairey’s art.   He  and his work present a provocative and humorous challenge to authority; the bruhaha  publicizes Fairey’s image and images,  delights upstarts, and, I suppose, infuriates the powers that be. It also  promises to enlarge the coffers of Fairey,of the ICA (whose director,  Jill Medvedow recently sent out an email of support on Fairey’s behalf)  and, especially, of the lawyers.

Still,  with the world  going to rack and ruin, it’s nice to know that some people are making money– and  fun to have a new set of old issues to focus on.


New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.

Shepard Fairey and poster

Shepard Fairey and poster

Kudos to Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art for mounting a spectacular 20-year restrospective of Shepard Fairey’s work–which opened for members on Feb. 4, 2009.

Entitled  “Supply and Demand,”  the show, which runs through August 16, 2009,  includes some 200 stickers, posters, portraits, and murals, including the now iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster which has found its way all over the world.

The show  traces Fairy’s work  to the 1980s when, as a teenager in Charleston, South Carolina, he was attracted to counter-cultures like skateboarding and punk rock–and their stickers–and began making his own.

As a student at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1988,  Fairey instructed a friend in making a paper cut stencil using an image of Andre the Giant, who a popular figure in the World Wrestling Federation, am  ICA handout explains.  The two then paired the face with the phrase “Andre the Giant has a posse,”  and over the next six years, produced more than a million hand-printed and cut stickers, which Fairey sent to friends who posted them all over the US.

(On a huge campaign billboard, he also used one to cover the face of then-Providence mayor Buddy Cianci, who says sheepishly in an accompanying video that this disturbed him because it was defacing property. It’s all the funnier in hindsight, knowing that Cianci was later jailed on corruption charges).

Toward the end of the 1990s,  Fairey started to challenge what the ICA calls the “corporate advertising machine…He asks  us to consider whether the so-called ‘public space’ is really public.

“Most advertising takes an ‘in your face’ approach to sell or influence consumers. Fairey’s Obey giant campaign–which features the word “obey” and other slogans [on a variety of images ]sells nothing but its mysterious imagery, ambiguity and underground appeal  has made passers-by worldwide question the visual noise that crowds our streets”–as well as the insidious advertising messages used to command us.

One large room features portraits–some of which  incorporate the “obey” command.  One print portrays George W. Bush as a vampire, with blood running out of his mouth.  Other portraits feature musicians, guerilla leaders, gang members,  Muslim women, and additional political leaders.

A highlight is  Fairey’s iconic “Hope” portrait of Barack Obama, which “has spread like a virus on TV, in print and online, on t-shirts and buttons, and guerilla-style on streets all over the globe.”

The poster seems particularly poignant with Obama, now in his third week as President,   facing not only a terrible economic situation and two wars, but also the disintegration of a seemingly promising leadership team whose members betrayed him and us for personal greed.

The exhibit, co-curated by guest curator Pedro Alonzo and Emily Moore Bouillet, former assistant curator at the ICA, and sponsored by Levi-Strauss culminates with a set of four stunning, intricately designed,  murals.

Commissioned by the ICA, the murals, along with  the other components and the exhibit as a whole  are inspirational.

Not only do they each  convey provocative messages about individuals’ relationship to power and commerce,  but they  embody and communicate  an individual’s ability to  follow his creative instincts and passion to achieve artistic and, ironically,  commercial success.


Having arrived on time for the opening, I didn’t have to wait in line–but in a lovely wine reception on the second floor, was told that people who  got there early had to stand outside in the cold until the official opening time. in leaving, at around 8 PM, I had to cut around long, winding lines of people in the lobby who were waiting to sign in.

My only beef  was the lack of beef…the wine was fine, but my companion, Mark H. and I would have appreciated a few chips to go along with it.  Next time, I’ll definitely arrive on time–and eat before I go.


New Cambridge Observer is a publication of the Harris Communications Group of Cambridge, MA.