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Author Archives: KWadsworth

Hey, Wait……

I had a bit of an epiphany this morning.

A lot of the white supremacist groups claim that they are simply “expressing pride in being white”.  However – have you ever noticed that they can’t seem to do that without insulting others in the process?

Speech After Long Silence

It’s hard to blog when you think the world is going to end, and you are watching your country turn into a fascist state.

Like many, I was thrown by the escalating tension between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un, and the threat of nuclear weapons.  I think I’ve mentioned in here before that I was very young when I learned about the existance of nukes, and because of that, nuclear weapons basically became my biggest fear.  You know how when you’re a kid, you know exactly what the Monster Under Your Bed or The Thing In The Closet looks like? How you’re afraid to go into a dark room because you just know that when you turn on the light, it will be standing there, and you know in perfect detail what it is going to look like?  Starting at about age eight, my Thing In The Closet was a mushroom cloud.

And it’s hard to write when your inner child is cowering in fear that the Thing In The Closet that you thought went away has suddenly come back.

And then fear gave way to sorrow at the events in Charlottesville.  …Although, to be honest, first there was anger – which I turned into jumping on Twitter and ripping off snarky comebacks against any supporters of the Unite The Right march, and to writing to employers and teachers for any of the men who had been confirmed and identified.  But there were just so many of them, and the breadth of the ignorance they had about history, the First Amendment, and racial equality was making me feel like it was all futile and adding to the problem.

I’ve also just been low-energy in general for the past couple weeks (taking steps to fix it, I think I know what’s going on), but that plus fear and anger and sorrow has left me without much energy to do anything except for fart around on Youtube watching kitten videos.

But you know, that’s okay.  I believe that you don’t have to have to turn yourself into a total ascetic when you are trying to work towards improving the world; you can speak out against apocalypse and at the same time notice and appreciate fun and joyful things. I’m sure even the most militant of activists, one whose Facebook feeds are nothing but reposts of notices about rallies and one who spends all of their spare time making things for the next action, feels comforted and gladdened by the feeling of companionship they get from their fellows. There is always a way to step back and notice what’s good.  You can do both.  In fact, you should do both; it’s how you keep your spirit together and give your soul a chance to rest, catch its breath and get ready for the next round.

I think I’m going to start to take more notice of things each week that have pleased me like this.  Big, small, ridiculous, corny, inconsequential – it doesn’t matter.  I’ll post them at the end of the day Saturday, or on Sunday morning; I suspect that the more good I take note of and write down, the more I’m going to see.  Things like:

  • As I was running errands on Saturday, a man on a bike rode past me – and he had his two children on the oversized seat behind him, giving them a ride.  One of the kids was holding on – but the other had arms flung out wide, pretending that they were flying.

August Break Day 2 – Come Out to Play-ay…

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So I was a little worried about August 2nd’s prompt for the photo challenge (“gold”) because yesterday was a bit busy.  I was going to be going direct from work to a movie, and that didn’t afford much time for photo hunting (we will politely ignore the fact that I work in the bloody Diamond District and could have just snapped a shop window on my way to the subway, a fact which I didn’t remember until about 8:43 last night). But when I learned that the venue I was heading to had a fried chicken dinerette kind of setup in the lobby, it seemed like fate.

Because the movie I was seeing is a longtime favorite and I would not be stopped. It’s also something that will almost certainly not be showing up on my list for the Movie Crash Course – it’s the 1979 cult film The Warriors.

I hadn’t even heard of it until a few years back, when I was browsing through a breezy book about “movies inspired by real historic events”.  They went through some of the obvious ones – Silkwood, JFK, and the like – and included a couple of not-so-obvious choices (apparently The Hills Have Eyes was in part inspired by the account of a group of medieval Scottish cannibals). And apparently, this film – or, more accurately, the novel on which was based – was inspired by the ancient Greek text the Anabasis, a non-fiction account of how a team of mercenaries who had been part of a civil war in Persia ended up trapped there on the losing side, and had to fight their way back to Greece.  The Warriors, I read, moved the action to New York City, and involved a Brooklyn-based street gang getting framed for murder in the Bronx and having to make their way home.  It seemed unusually highbrow for a 70’s movie about street gangs, so I curiously looked it up.

And then during the opening scene, I saw how the movie dressed up some of these gangs.

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It was fantastically ridiculous and I was all in.

It’s a basic plot, that’s close to The Anabasis – an enigmatic gang leader named Cyrus, head of one of the most powerful groups, has invited all the gangs up to a neutral spot in the Bronx where he advocates the city’s gangs all uniting to overpower the NYPD and take the city over.  The Warriors are based in Coney Island but still travel the whole length of the city to see him.

But right when he’s won everyone over, a member of the Rogues – a chaos-loving group – shoots him and then frames The Warriors for it.

The rest of the movie follows The Warriors as they fight their way back to Coney Island, with all of the city’s other gangs and the police on their tail.

Okay, yes, this isn’t high art. But there are details I just love, like those outrageous costumes or some overwrought catchphrases. And there are even quiet and surprisigly human moments, like when the character Mercy – who starts out as a Token Woman who tags along with The Warriors out of curiosity – gives a surprisingly poignant defense when the lead Warrior, Swan, asks her why she has played her life so fast and loose.  There’s another wordless scene towards the end, when The Warriors are on a subway on the home stretch back to Coney Island; at one stop, two other teenage couples, clearly just come from their high school prom, get on and sit across from Swan and Mercy, all cuddles and giggles and hijinks.  They catch each other’s eye, and study each other; Mercy looking at the girls’ satins and silks and coiffed hair, the girls looking at Mercy’s dirty feet and torn skirt, and at Swan’s gang colors and cut cheek.  At the next stop, the couples quietly get up and move to a different car.  It’s only a couple minutes long, and there are no words spoken in it, but there are a surprising number of things said anyway.

The venue I went to knew the cult appeal of the film, and gave a local artist a chance to sell some of his original works inspired by the film; all cartoonish movie-poster-inspired things.  I also saw a guy dressed up like one of the Baseball Furies (the gangs with the ball uniforms and the Kiss makeup) posing for pictures.  But the audience watching with me was best of all.  Everyone was being quiet and respectful, if giddy, through most of the opening, maybe laughing at some of the ridiculous gang costumes.

But then we hit Cyrus’ rally speech.  About midway through, Cyrus tries to engage the crowd by shouting “Can you dig it!” at them three times.  The first time through, someone in the audience chimed in, then more people the second time – which gave license to all of us to round things off with the final Caaaaaaan yoooooooooooou DIG IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!  And that set us all off on quoting favorite lines along with the film, all the way through, cheering favorite moments, finishing with an estatic chorus at the end, chiming along with the head of the Rogues goding the Warriors into a fight – “Warriorrrrrrrrrrrrrs, come out to play-ayyyyyyyyyyyyyy…..”

August Break Day 1 – Morning

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I think I started last August with a version of this picture as well – the lemon verbena on my bedroom windowsill, which is one of the first things I see when I wake up.

A year ago I had just gotten back from my second trip to Paris, and had romantic notions of using more herbs in cooking.  The French cookbooks I already had spoke of using lemon verbena in baking a lot, and I already knew I liked the scent; a sort of fresh, herbaceous lemon.  I picked this plant up last June while on a camping trip with a friend, when we’d stopped at a roadside stand for grillable vegetables. I saw it in a little cluster of 4-inch herb pots they were selling, and snapped it up.

Actually, let’s look back at how it looked a year ago today:

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Yeah.  It grows fast.  And what I didn’t know at the time is that all those baking recipes only use a couple leaves at a time, so I would be stuck making regular pruning and harvesting forays and trying to cope with the excess.  I’ve made sugar syrup, I’m going to try pesto and jelly this season; I tried candying the leaves once, but that really, really didn’t go well.

….Know any recipes with lemon verbena, actually?

August Break 2017

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I’ve only come upon a couple of blog challenges that I’ve wanted to do; this one I did last year was especially fun.

The blogger Susannah Conway started it as a “break” from trying to write blog posts every day; she decided she was just going to take pictures instead.  And people jumped on that like whoa.  Fast forward a few years – and I didn’t even know who Susannah Conway was, but this “August Break” thing sounded interesting and there I was.  The idea is simply that you take a picture every day and that’s it.

I actually did a lot more photography as a hobby some years back and have been wanting to get back into it; this would be the perfect excuse (along with my finally biting the bullet and signing up for Instagram).

Movie Crash Course: A Note From The Projectionist’s Booth

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Time and technology are funny things.

I have been trying to watch everything in chronological order, as has more or less been captured by the 1001 Movies To See Before You Die books (and more or less compiled here).  I’ve been finding most things via Netflix, but many of the older films, most of which are in the public domain, I’ve been finding on Youtube.  Which is a boon – instead of random cat videos and clips of the kids from Stranger Things designing Pop-tart flavors or whatever, you can delve into cinema history for totally free.  There is a little of “you get what you pay for”, to be sure – the print quality isn’t always ideal, and sometimes the person who uploaded it has chosen their own music (the upload I found of Les Vampires had this super-monotonous electronic “creepy” music in a continuous loop that got occasionally annoying).

However, because some of these films are classics and are critically revered, sometimes they get a serious film-historian makeover, either because someone’s found some extra footage they thought they’d lost or someone’s restored the print or something like that.  And when that happens…it goes out of the public domain, and comes down from Youtube.  But that is also no guarantee that Netflix has it.  And after 20 movies, I’ve just run into that problem (which explains the delay in here).

I really was looking forward to the next film after Sherlock Jr. – it’s The Great White Silence, a sort of found-footage documentary from the tragic British Terra Nova expedition of 1913, when Robert Scott made an attempt to reach the South Pole first; only to be narrowly beaten by Norwegian Roald Amundsen. Scott’s team all perished during the return to base camp.  However, filmmaker Herbert Ponting was on hand to record the team embarking upon their trip, but Scott had him stay behind – and so he and his footage survived. The footage became Great White Silence in 1924, ten years after the tragedy, but the wound was still a little too fresh, and the public avoided the film and it sort of lapsed into obscurity until 2011, when it got restored and presented as a historic document.  Netflix doesn’t seem to have a copy, and all the Youtube links I see refer me to questionable web sites in obscure Baltic langauges where I can “downlode free streaming 100% free okay”.  No thanks.

I’m running into a similar problem with the next film after that – and to add insult to injury, the next film is Greed, an Erich Von Stroeheim four-hour epic.  Youtube does have a paid-viewing option for only a couple bucks, but…again, it’s an Erich Von Stroeheim four-hour epic.

The weather is supposed to be a little bleak this weekend, so I may just suck it up and watch Greed, and see if I can find a similar pay-per-view approach to Great White Silence.  But I may have to skip these and come back to them later; there’s too many other films waiting.

I’m In The Money

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So I grew up in New England, and we tend not to talk about money all that much.  Especially if we’re having money difficulty; we go all stoic and stiff-upper-lip and try to “make do and mend”, resorting to repairing things that break instead of buying new or waiting for sales or reverse-engineering our own solutions.  Or just going without.  This is the kind of approach that can be carried too far, of course – there have been times that I have been almost pathologically afraid to spend money on myself.  Also, all the frugality in the world isn’t going to help you if you’re just plain not making enough money to begin with.

That latter state was my lot for the past couple years.  But – the new job has fixed that, and then some.  And it’s taken a couple weeks to sink in, but….I’m starting to get into it.

Now, I’m not going totally bugnuts, buying up entire racks of shoes or renting a yacht to go to Martha’s Vineyard just for lunch or anything like that. I’ve maybe spent more than I should on books, but the bulk of the money I got from my first paycheck went either to paying down some debt, starting a nest egg, or finally getting some long-needed house stuff. (Hellooooooooo, replacement window blinds! Welcome, stash of bulbs! Hi there, no-longer-threadbare pillowcases!)

When it comes to things I’ve been buying sheerly for pleasure, they’ve actually been comparatively modest: a couple yards of fabric to go towards a quilt I’ve been working on (yes, I’m making an actual quilt), a couple pounds of candle wax to round out the candlemaking stash Niki gave me (rather than buying the actual pre-made candles, which was getting costly), or a couple of utterly gorgeous French cookbooks (I make no excuse because I don’t need one dammit).  Or going to the occasional movie.  Or just going out for ice cream or dinner or lunch.

Or actually paying people back.  The thing that saddened me most about being so cash-poor for so long is that my friends have had to cover me more times than not – never anything big, just a couple extra bucks here, an extra five there, whenever we went out.  Or even the convenience move – if a group of us were gathering for a movie run, it would always be someone else who’d say “I’ll pick up the tickets and y’all can just owe me.”  It would always be someone else saying “what the hell, I can put dinner on my card and y’all can just owe me the cash.”  We usually settled up, I told myself, but it would always be someone else making that initial convenience step.

Tonight I am seeing a movie with a few friends; we were planning our attack this morning, and in the middle of the discussion I popped over to the movie theater site and just got our three tickets without even thinking.  “I got our tickets,” I emailed back, “so we can all just meet there.”

“Oh, great! Thanks!”

And the feeling I get simply because I am able to do that – and may even be able to cover them for a car to get them home after – is a feeling that I have been missing for a long time.