Monte Belmonte Wines: Bonjour, Monsieur Touton
Aug14

Monte Belmonte Wines: Bonjour, Monsieur Touton

I ain’t gonna lie. I got into this wine writing racket for three reasons: 1) as an attempt to write off all of my alcoholic beverage purchases, which I will list as “considerable,” 2) to see my name in print, and 3) in the hopes that I would receive free wine on a regular basis. I know basically every wine purveyor in the 413 area code. Many of them have been on my radio show. I assumed if I put out the word that I would like to do a...

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The V-Spot: Help My Partner Help Me
Aug14

The V-Spot: Help My Partner Help Me

Dear Yana, I’m a queer woman in my late 20s living in the U.S., and my girlfriend lives overseas. In the 2.5 years we’ve been together, about half that time has been long distance, and about half together. We’re absolutely crazy about each other and we want to get married and have babies. The problem: we fight. A lot. The germ of our fights is almost always: I have issues with anxiety and depression and am an empath...

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Cinemadope: Art and the business of art
Aug14

Cinemadope: Art and the business of art

Like musicians and record labels, the worlds of artists and art dealers have never been quite in the same business. Despite all the often necessary crossover and interaction, there is often a nagging feeling (if our films are to be believed) that while one half of the relationship is interested in a full palette of colors, the other just wants to see green. It’s probably an unfair depiction, but one that was exacerbated by the ghastly...

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Valley Show Girl: Reliving childhood punk nostalgia with Blondie at MassMoCA
Aug09

Valley Show Girl: Reliving childhood punk nostalgia with Blondie at MassMoCA

I’d just devoured a bowlful of multi-colored Chicklet gum, then jumped up and down on the couch with my blonde pigtails smacking up against my cheeks. Blondie’s “Rapture” blared from the 80’s radio/boombox in the kitchen while my mother was either cooking or cleaning. I sang along to the lyrics, through my gum-infused sugar high. That is one of the first happy memories I can remember. Blondie has always been one of those bands...

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Stagestruck: End-of-summer shows in the Berkshires — food for fun and thought
Aug08

Stagestruck: End-of-summer shows in the Berkshires — food for fun and thought

When Shakespeare & Company first set up shop in the Berkshires, their mainstage was a greensward before a wooded glade at the Mount, Edith Wharton’s Lenox estate, with the audience seated on folding lawn chairs. That tradition has lately been revived, with outdoor performances at their present home in Lenox, as well on the grounds of the Mount, just down the road. The productions are generally the Bard’s comedies that have some...

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Stagestruck: Dancing down Hubbard Street— 40 years young
Aug03

Stagestruck: Dancing down Hubbard Street— 40 years young

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is a frequent and popular visitor to the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. This year, celebrating its 40th season, the company presents a quartet of works showcasing its history and its current 16-member troupe, one of the most technically accomplished ensembles I’ve seen. The program, running through Sunday on the Pillow’s Ted Shawn mainstage, begins with “Decadance/Chicago,” excerpts from Israeli...

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Bizarro Briefs
Aug02

Bizarro Briefs

The Early Snail Gets the Lettuce What probably seemed like the slowest race ever recently took place in Congham, England. More than 150 snails took part in the annual Snail Racing Championship with the grand prize being a silver tankard stuffed with lettuce. The snails were placed on a damp cloth marked with three concentric circles and the gastropods raced 13 inches to the outer ring. Apparently, English snail trainers take this sort...

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Stagestruck: Three in the Hills
Aug01

Stagestruck: Three in the Hills

A trio of two-character plays now running in the Hilltowns and Berkshires offer a summer-season variety of subjects, styles, and even venues – a black-box theater, a converted town hall, a church sanctuary. Pauline Productions is dedicated to “producing and creating theatre with a focus on strong roles for women onstage and behind the scenes.” The Roommate, running till Saturday on a purpose-built stage in the Ashfield Congregational...

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The Beerhunter: Invisible Flavors
Aug01

The Beerhunter: Invisible Flavors

Hermit Thrush Brewing hunts the hills for wild yeast Many brewers rely on websites, blogs, and social media to follow the latest craft beer trends. But lately Christophe Gagné, the bearded Vermont dweller who runs Hermit Thrush Brewing, seems more interested in following deer. The opportunity doesn’t arise much in downtown Brattleboro, where Gagné and his team opened their brewhouse and tasting room on High Street in 2014. There is...

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Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, Part 2 — Stratford
Jul29

Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, Part 2 — Stratford

Nowadays, Stratford-upon-Avon feels not so much like a town as a gift shop. The once-sleepy hamlet where William Shakespeare was born some 450 years ago, which he abandoned for a life on the London stage, has become a mercantile monument to Stratford’s most famous son – which must seem ironic to the “anti-Stratfordians” in the Shakespearean authorship controversy, who can’t credit the notion that an uneducated bumkin from a provincial...

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V-Spot: Are We Screwed if We Stop Screwing?
Jul29

V-Spot: Are We Screwed if We Stop Screwing?

Hi Yana! My partner and I have been dating since October and from the beginning have had really intense sexual energy for each other (like every day, sometimes multiple times). But in the last week or two it’s sort of died out for a number of reasons. I can’t help but feel unattractive to my partner when I’m ready to go and he’s not. But, at the same time, I never ever want to guilt or manipulate him into having sex. Further, as a...

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Cinemadope: ‘The Judge’ stirs the stagnant waters of the Middle Eastern judiciary
Jul29

Cinemadope: ‘The Judge’ stirs the stagnant waters of the Middle Eastern judiciary

Back in my art school days, I was always fascinated by my art history classes. Seeing our changing world reflected back at me through the lens of artistic evolution made the lives lived in the distant past seem much more like my own — less a mannered bit of historical style, and more about finding creative ways to process the issues of the time. One of the artworks that has stayed with me from those days is Judith Slaying Holofernes,...

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Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, part 1 — The Globe
Jul26

Stagestruck Abroad: Shakespeare’s Haunts, part 1 — The Globe

When I was in England earlier this month, I saw four plays at the two venues most closely associated with William Shakespeare – his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe playhouse on London’s South Bank. At the Globe, there was a gender-switching Hamlet and a time-switching Winter’s Tale, and on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s two Stratford stages, a bloody Macbeth and a revenge tragedy, The Duchess of Malfi, by Shakespeare’s...

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O Cannabis: Swapping bongs to benefit the Holyoke Creative Arts Center
Jul26

O Cannabis: Swapping bongs to benefit the Holyoke Creative Arts Center

The Great New England Marijuana Accessories Swap Meet will be “like an Antique’s Roadshow for bongs.” According to Jeff Bianchine, director of the Holyoke Creative Arts Center, which will benefit from the fundraiser event, potentially hundreds of people swapping, selling, or purchasing marijuana accessories and two appraisers of marijuana accessories available to buyers or sellers. The bong swap is slated for Aug. 26...

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Valley Show Girl: A show/album review for Body/Head
Jul26

Valley Show Girl: A show/album review for Body/Head

I have been to a handful of noise shows at The Root Cellar in downtown Greenfield and I just love the vibe. So, I gave up my usual lazy Sunday night and made my way over to check out the happenings. I sat at the bar and finally had the pleasure of ordering a Coconut Ginger Libation (so good, and I’m NOT a coconut fan). My sparkly leggings illuminated a blue tint under the neon lights at the bar. I moved over to a table set up...

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Basemental: Body/Head’s album could be a soundtrack for the end of the world … or capitalism
Jul26

Basemental: Body/Head’s album could be a soundtrack for the end of the world … or capitalism

The experimental guitar duo Body / Head — Kim Gordon and Bill Nace — released their second studio album, The Switch, earlier this month on Matador. The band’s 2013 debut, Coming Apart, skewed closer to traditional songs, at least in the abstract sense. Gordon, who, of course, played in Sonic Youth, honed her monotone-like singing over her and Nace’s guitars on that record. But, on The Switch, vocals take a back seat to more of a...

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Stagestruck Abroad: Two plays in London show theater’s unique power
Jul25

Stagestruck Abroad: Two plays in London show theater’s unique power

When I was recently in London, I saw two plays with connections to my favorite (make that favourite) British venue, the National Theatre. One was an African-American riff on a 19th-century melodrama, the other a dramatic immersion in a migrant camp on the English Channel. Though quite different in style and content, both wrestle ingeniously with wrenching issues and engage their audiences in unorthodox ways. An Octoroon has just...

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The V-Spot: How Do I Amp Up Masturbation?
Jul24

The V-Spot: How Do I Amp Up Masturbation?

Hi Yana, I’ve been single for two years now and haven’t engaged in any partnered sexual activity throughout that time. I was wondering if you have any recommendations for adding excitement for one’s masturbation practice? I recently got a new vibrator which is great and a lesbian erotica anthology that I like. Any porn collectives you are a fan of? Thanks! “Dancing” with Myself   Dear “Dancing,” A fresh, charged...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: The Rosé List at The Ashfield Lake House
Jul24

Monte Belmonte Wines: The Rosé List at The Ashfield Lake House

As an aspiring wine snob, ordering a glass of wine at a restaurant can be a risky business. Your abysmal choices may range from overly-oaked Chardonnays to mega-purple, mass produced, fruit bombs to the dreaded Pinot Grigio poured from bottles that have been open two days too long. That’s why it was a pleasant surprise when The Belmontes piled into a booth at The Ashfield Lake House and I took a look at their rosé list. The Lake House...

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Cinemadope: Christopher Robin explores what stays with us from childhood
Jul23

Cinemadope: Christopher Robin explores what stays with us from childhood

Close your eyes, and think back to the stories of your youth. It’s remarkable, how strongly they stay with us. The recent release of Morgan Neville’s Mr. Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? put a spell on me, casting me back to my own childhood — Fred Rogers and his neighborhood friends were a big part of those years — and reminding me of just how much I took from the man and his manner. Even today, I love a good zip-up...

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V-Spot: So I Looked At My BF’s Google History…
Jul18

V-Spot: So I Looked At My BF’s Google History…

Hi Yana, This is a really hard thing to write. I recently went through my partner’s phone. (Yikes I know. I wanted to know what he got for my birthday). While scrolling in the web history I found he’s been watching gay porn and Googling personal ads on Craigslist. He’s in his fifties and I’m about two decades younger than him so I’m a little bit more open about my sexuality. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the porn he’s...

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Valley Show Girl: Family Fun Day at Green River Festival
Jul17

Valley Show Girl: Family Fun Day at Green River Festival

For the past 32 years, the Green River Festival has taken over a weekend in July, spreading out over the fields at Greenfield Community College — three days filled to the brim with music, food, drinks, art, crafts, vendors, hot air balloons, and community. This year, I brought my 7-year-old son on Saturday for his first festival. In the six hours that we were there, it was a nonstop colorful ride. We parked down the street and were...

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Cinemadope: The Theme Song’s the Thing in Mission: Impossible
Jul16

Cinemadope: The Theme Song’s the Thing in Mission: Impossible

Film and television may be the land of the moving image, but it has sure given us a lot of great music over the years. Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly, quietly breathing out Moon River. Shirley Bassey’s brassy, wagging Goldfinger. The many themes and soundtracks that have become cultural touchstones: The Pink Panther. Jaws. Psycho. But while some of those melodies dig deep into our psyches — the ominous see-saw of the Jaws riff kept...

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O Cannabis: The craftsmanship of hand trimming
Jul12

O Cannabis: The craftsmanship of hand trimming

Most people, even non-cannabis smokers, could pretty easily recognize two parts of the cannabis plant: the flower, or bud, that is dried and sold for consumption, and the fan shaped leaves that are often used in advertisements. An important aspect of turning the flower of the cannabis plant into the dried bud that most people are familiar with is trimming. In order to get the bud to look how the consumer expects, cannabis growers need...

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Down to Earth: The Ocean Alongside Us
Jul11

Down to Earth: The Ocean Alongside Us

It’s summer, and with these golden months for many of us come trips to the seaside. As much as I love the Pioneer Valley, one of my regrets in choosing this home is its landlocked geography.  Out here in Western Massachusetts, the ocean can feel almost infinitely far away. I miss the swash and leap of waves on white boulders.  Breathing in a humid hang of pollen, dust, and soot blown north from New York City, I long for the bracing...

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The V-Spot: How Do I NOT Squirt, Though?
Jul10

The V-Spot: How Do I NOT Squirt, Though?

Hi Yana! I recently entered a new relationship and my new partner finally helped me cum for the very first time! Recently though we discovered that I sometimes squirt and now I’ve been absolutely terrified of cumming since I’m anxious about making a mess. My partner says he doesn’t mind, but I’m still so anxious! Any advice for relaxing so that I can re-enjoy finishing? Anxiously Orgasming   Dear Anxiously, Partnered in a new...

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Stagestruck: Exciting new ideas from well-worn material
Jul10

Stagestruck: Exciting new ideas from well-worn material

A new thriller, a boundary-breaking dance form, a classic tragedy, and a dramatic sequel, all on area stages this month, illustrate the creative urge to mold existing materials into new forms. In the Valley, Silverthorne Theater Company presents White, Black and Blue, a new play by Steve Henderson and Will Chalmus. It’s a thriller with a sense of humor, a different kind of mistaken-identity adventure involving an unlikely trio. In the...

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Monte Belmonte Wines: The brilliant 23 year old ordering bottles for ConVino
Jul10

Monte Belmonte Wines: The brilliant 23 year old ordering bottles for ConVino

“I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you remind me of Rachel Maddow.” That was my reaction after meeting Franchesca Thepenier, the 23 year old certified Sommelier and beverage director for ConVino Wine Bar in Northampton. I worked with Rachel for two years over a decade and a half ago, and it was clear then that Rachel’s brilliance was not going to be contained to our subterranean radio studio on Main Street in Northampton...

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Cinemadope: Mama Africa Miriam Makeba continues to inspire
Jul09

Cinemadope: Mama Africa Miriam Makeba continues to inspire

When the world lost Miriam Makeba in 2008, we lost a great musical and political voice. The first African musician to become a solid international star, her powerful singing crossed national divides without ever losing touch with her South African roots — no mean feat, as she was banished from the country early in life, after starring in the 1959 documentary Come Back Africa, which turned a bright light on the harsh reality of...

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Stagestruck: Compromises and Contradictions in Chester
Jul07

Stagestruck: Compromises and Contradictions in Chester

A poster hanging in the lobby at Chester Theater Company points out common roots and themes connecting Islam, Judaism and Christianity – for example, the Archangel Gabriel figures in all three religions’ core legends. It serves as prelude to the current production, which prowls around issues of faith and heritage in a fractious world. Director Kristen van Ginhoven and a superlative cast have created an arresting rendition of Ayad...

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Stagestruck: Masters of Melody, Onstage at BTG
Jul06

Stagestruck: Masters of Melody, Onstage at BTG

What happens when your music goes out of style? – when the teenagers are swooning over Elvis Presley instead of Frank Sinatra? If you’re Irving Berlin, and it’s Christmas Eve 1956, and the song at the top of the Hit Parade isn’t “White Christmas” but “Hound Dog,” you invite a couple of fellow songwriters over to your Manhattan townhouse to drink, kvetch, and reminisce. That’s the premise for Lee Kalcheim’s charming and tuneful...

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The V-Spot: Exploring kink after trauma
Jul06

The V-Spot: Exploring kink after trauma

Writer’s note: this column discusses sexual assault and trauma. Hey Yana! I’ve been seeing/having sex with this guy for a little while now. I really (really really) like him and feel super comfortable with him and we’ve had super good conversations about boundaries and consent. I tend to dissociate a bit when I start having sex with a new person, and I’ve been really open about that with him and about past trauma. (I was physically...

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Beerhunter: A Bright New Berkshires
Jul04

Beerhunter: A Bright New Berkshires

Putting shake-ups behind them, two brewers plan for the future Massachusetts has more than 120 visitable breweries, 19 of which are in the Valley. That’s a lot of taprooms to keep a Beerhunter busy around Franklin, Hampshire, and Hampden counties. Still, you can’t cover beer news in Western Mass without fully appreciating what “west” means. Berkshire County boasts five breweries. The oldest is Barrington Brewery in Great Barrington,...

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Stagestruck: Weekend Update
Jul04

Stagestruck: Weekend Update

For your consideration – four shows playing in the region this weekend, two that hark back to the ’60s/’70s and forward to tomorrow, plus a Shakespearean comedy and a jungle adventure. The Ko Festival of Performance opens its five-weekend season with The Radicalization Process, a multilayered piece from the The Hinterlands ensemble. Performances are Friday to Sunday, July 6-8, in the Holden Theater on the Amherst College campus. The...

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Wedding Belles – Gay marriage is a hot topic in this bake shop
Jul03

Wedding Belles – Gay marriage is a hot topic in this bake shop

These days, fiction can hardly keep up with real life. Take The Cake, playing at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield through July 15. It opened last month, just days after the Supreme Court upheld a Colorado baker’s refusal, on religious grounds, to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. Bekah Brunstetter’s play concerns another baker, who likewise declines to make such a cake for another such couple. It handles this hot-button...

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