Mary Holbrow

Cambridge MA
I'm a retired journalist, mother of 5, grandmother, birdwatcher, garden lover. I live in Cambridgeport, work as a free-lance editor.
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Recently posted by mholbrow

July 11, 2011 - 5:06pm by Mary Holbrow    Last week I asked Gerry Wolf – founder of Cambridge’s two 1369 Coffee Houses – what kinds of businesses join Cambridge Local First. His answer: “All the cool ones.” Wolf was one of the first area business people to join Cambridge Local First, which started up here in 2005. The mission:  to underline the importance of locally owned, independent businesses in the area economy. This week the organization marks its sixth anniversary on Thursday, July 14. Everybody with an interest in local enterprise is invited to the potluck celebration at 19 Hilliard Street, Harvard Square from 7 to 9 p.m. The city now has about 300 Local First businesses. In 1993 Wolf opened the first 1369 Coffee House at 1369 Cambridge Street, home of the former 1369 Jazz Club on Inman Square. The next year he started a second 1369 Coffee House on Central Square, at 757 Mass Avenue (photo, above). It’s a family business as well as a local one – Wolf’s nephew Josh Gerber has since become the owner of both places, and he serves with Wolf on the Local First Steering Committee. As I talked with Wolf, we surveyed the busy scene in the Central Square shop. It was... read more
June 18, 2011 - 10:43pm The dramatic bamboo installation behind Ruth Crocker (photo, above) leads into the World Association of Flower Arrangers (WAFA) international show at the Seaport World Trade Center. Crocker, a Cambridge resident, is WAFA's president. The setting was designed by Gail Emmons, Scott Job and Michael Emmons. “This is a wonderful opportunity for people from all over the world to mingle and share their interest in flower arrangement and design,” Ruth Crocker says. This Glorious Earth is the theme of the show, which opened June 15 and runs through Sunday, June 19. For details see “It’s so exciting to be part of it,” Crocker said. “Our organization was founded thirty years ago, and the U.S. has been a member for ten years. This is the first time we have been the host country.” Saturday morning’s featured presentation was titled “America’s Firsts." For this event, floral demonstrations illustrating American inventions were given by U.S. designers Lee La Pointe, Julia Clevett, Jane Godshalk, and Massachusetts floral designers Natasha Tobin, Julie Lapham and Tony Todesco. Photo, left: Tony Todesco of Stow, Massachusetts created a floral interpretation of the Panama Canal... read more
May 30, 2011 - 4:45pm The oil painting shown above -- Officers at Camp Benton, Maryland, 1861, by Winslow Homer -- is part of the current Civil War exhibit at the Boston Public Library. Two of the officers are identified as Lt. Col. Francis Winthrop Palfrey and Captain William Francis Bartlett of the 20th Massachusetts Regiment, commonly called the Harvard Regiment. (*Photo courtesy of Boston Public Library) A major exhibit titled “Torn in Two: The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War” is currently on display at the Boston Public Library. In that war American states, politicians, families and friends took up arms against each other over issues that included slavery, states' rights, and conflicts between agrarian and industrial societies. Here in Cambridge some of the controversy underlying the Civil War lives on. It centers around Harvard’s Memorial Hall, which was built to honor students and graduates of Harvard who died for the Union cause. The names of the Harvard men -- 136 of them -- appear on a series of white marble tablets lining the hushed, shadowy interior. Memorial Hall (photo below), located at 45 Quincy Street, was built between 1870 and 1877. It is a striking reminder of that... read more
May 19, 2011 - 8:00pm Photo: Dr. Heinrich Gugerli discussed the 2000-Watt Society* with guests at a Climate Change Week* event at the Cambridge Main Library on Tuesday, May 17. The 2000-Watt Society is an initiative developed by the city of Zürich to encourage sustainable energy use worldwide. “I met Heinrich Gugerli last year at an international energy conference in Leipzig,” Vice-Mayor Henrietta Davis said at the May 17 presentation titled “Smarter Living: The 2000-Watt Society” at the Cambridge Main Library. “I thought the 2000-watt plan he described was a great idea, and I invited him to come to Cambridge and share it with us.” This week Dr. Gugerli and his team came from Zürich, Switzerland as ambassadors for the 2000-Watt Society, which invites people with concerns about global warming to join in protecting the planet by cutting back on energy use and carbon emissions. The event at the library was sponsored by swissnex Boston*, the agency that represents Swiss education, research, innovation, art and design programs internationally. During the program Gugerli spoke briefly about the 2000-watt project to about 100 guests in the auditorium. Later, during the reception, he led a tour of an... read more
April 19, 2011 - 10:22am Photo: DCR Senior Planner Dan Driscoll discussed current and proposed improvements to Magazine Beach at the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association Meeting April 13.    Magazine Beach was useful back at the beginning of the 19th century because of its isolation. It was part of a salt marsh along the Charles River at the southern tip of Cambridgeport. The slight elevation known as Captain’s Island offered a safe, remote spot for storing gunpowder and explosives. The Commonwealth bought the property for that purpose in 1818. Now, almost two centuries later, Magazine Beach is anything but isolated. A city-owned recreation area serving an extended urban population, it’s also a place whose future requires long-range plans and cooperative efforts involving city and state agencies, philanthropic organizations and the public. About 60 people attended a Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association (CNA) April 13 to hear plans for revitalization of the 15-acre park. The meeting was held in the cafeteria of the Morse School on Granite Street. Photo: Before the meeting Charles Sullivan (center left, dark jacket), Executive Director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, led about 15 people on a... read more
April 19, 2011 - 12:38am Photo: Volunteers Carolyn Ofria (left) and Kate Gilbert studied On The Rise’s 1995-2011 timeline poster display at the organization’s Second Annual Community Meeting and Luncheon April 5 at Christ Church, Cambridge. “I was homeless myself for awhile, when I was young,” Carolyn Ofria said. She was one of some 40 guests—staff, board members, volunteers and program participants—at On The Rise’s Second Annual Community Meeting and Luncheon at Christ Church, Garden Street on April 5. Ofria was looking at a series of timeline posters showing how On The Rise developed after it began in 1995 as a graduate student’s project to assist homeless women in Cambridge. Although Ofria’s experience of homelessness is in the past, she knows what a difference the program can make. “Now I’m looking for opportunities to give back,” she said enthusiastically. “I love everything On The Rise does.” Her recent activities there have included participation in service days and a Moving Home collection drive for a recently housed woman. Located at 341 Broadway, On The Rise ( is a day program that assists some 350 women each year in Cambridge and Greater Boston. Many are living on the... read more
April 19, 2011 - 12:12am More than twenty protesters representing several organizations gathered in front of the Main Post Office at 5 p.m. on Monday, April 18--"Tax Day"--to advocate for economic reform that would be achieved by cutting military spending. Behind them was a visual aid: a giant check from Uncle Sam for $170,000,000,000 (One Hundred Seventy Billion Dollars). Proposed payee: The People of the United States. Passers-by had attached notes to the check with suggestions for civic uses for the money. For the camera (see video below), Vicky Steinitz summarized the position of Cambridge United for Justice and Peace (, one of the sponsoring organizations. Behind her John Maher and other demonstrators can be seen handing out brochures. Maher's brochure was from the Campaign to Fund Our Communities: Reduce Military Spending 25% ( "There's some support in Washington for the 25 percent solution," Maher said. "Representative Barney Frank has been working with our committee." Among the demonstrators working alongside Steinitz and Maher shortly after the demonstration began at 5 p.m. were Polly Allen, Jai Wilson, Brenda Steinberg, and Steve Morr-... read more
April 16, 2011 - 9:56pm Rich Emmel bent over to retrieve a crumpled newspaper from the brush along the shore of the Charles River at Magazine Beach in Cambridgeport.   A passing Canada goose eyed him as he stashed the soggy page in his collection bag. “I wonder if there’s some way we could organize the geese to help with the cleanup,” Emmel said. “Maybe they could learn to pick things up and put them in piles.” It was 9:30 a.m. on Earth Day -- Saturday, April 16. A couple of dozen volunteers were already on the job, sprucing up the grounds at Magazine Beach in honor of the 12th annual Charles River Earth Day Cleanup. Emmel surveyed the narrow band of trash along the water's edge -- bottlecaps, scraps of styrofoam, broken plastic forks. “It’s impossible to get it all,” Emmel said. “I’m taking the bigger pieces, plus things like broken glass, that people might cut their feet on.” The Earth Day project involved sites along the shore from Hopkinton to Boston. It was coordinated by several groups interested in environmental and river issues, including the Charles River Watershed Association, the office of Senator Steven Tolman (2nd Suffolk and Middlesex District), the Charles River Conservancy, The... read more
April 12, 2011 - 12:13pm A panel discussion titled "Creating and Sustaining Citizen Journalism" drew an overflow crowd at the National Conference for Media Reform at the Seaport World Trade Center on Friday, April 8 in Boston. The moderator of the session was Colin Rhinesmith (at left in photo), CCTV's former Community Media and Technology Manager. He is currently an Information in Society Fellow at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Nicole Belanger (second from right), Colin's successor with CCTV and NeighborMedia, was one of the five panelists. The number of attendees at the packed session looked to be about 70 - 80--hard to tell exactly, as some were sitting on the floor or standing out of sight. NM correspondent Siobhan Bredin couldn't get into this crowded session, but she was at the conference and posted a report at The panelists discussed innovative citizen journalism programs across the nation--how they got started, how they functioned and what made them unique. In addition to NeighborMedia, the programs in the spotlight were The UpTake, based St. Paul, Minnesota and represented by Jason Barnett (second from left in the photo); Oakland Local of... read more
March 22, 2011 - 11:06am Review by Mary Holbrow     As Tod Machover's new opera Death and the Powers opens, we meet a team of robots who are puzzled by the way humans talk about death. The robots are getting ready to enact a ritual drama involving four humans from long ago, back in the Organic Age—humans who were absorbed for all eternity into the vast information System of which the bot team is a part.   Photo by Paula Aguilera:  Robots conferring with Miranda (soprano Sara Heaton) and Nicholas (tenor Hal Cazalet). The robots hum and flash and weave, nodding their winsome triangular faces as they speculate about what “death” might have meant back in that era. The term doesn’t correspond to anything in their files. Is it a form of waste? Is it an excessive cost? A form of entropy? Or is it merely data rearranged? The robots hand over the job of interpreting the idea to the four humans they represent—Simon Powers, a legendary entrepreneur (played by James Maddalena, baritone); his daughter Miranda (soprano Sara Heaton); his “third and final wife” Evvy (soprano Emily Albrink); and his protégé Nicholas (tenor Hal Cazalet). The four are reembodied by the System, a set of gigantic moving cabinets that... read more