Sunday, September 21, 2014

Angry protective swan


In this case, a father swan swatting and hissing at the rescue worker who's trying to extract a cygnet from a fence.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Week in Seven Words #226 & 227

226

chilling
There's never sunlight on that door, only a cold, still shade.

choreography
A ballerina soars across a corrugated roof.

dodging
I can see in his expression when he knows he's gone too far, but decides to keep going anyway. He forces himself to enjoy his own rudeness, his own petty cruelty, because the alternative is to be flooded with shame.

picturesque
Oval windows frame the reflection of trees and purple flowers.

reboot
Flopping facedown on the couch: Endurance and patience have been mostly depleted - time to recharge.

uneasiness
Is laughter always a fear response? I think laughter and fear are closely linked. Even when we don't think we're laughing in relief or in nervousness, the jokes we laugh at tap into our anxieties about ourselves. We laugh at things we might become or misfortunes we narrowly avoided. We laugh in acceptance of something odd that might have been dangerous, but is merely strange and possibly wonderful.

whispery
Flower-bearing trees rustling against fire escapes.

227

brushing
He runs his hand up and down his face, as if clearing away cobwebs from his eyes.

demitasse
The smell of sweat and coffee beans. Tinny music seeping out of headphones.

disregard
I am, once again, short on compassion for myself.

immobility
He defines a happy marriage as one that hasn't ended in divorce, not seeming to realize that people may spend a lifetime together in varying states of indifference and hostility.

metro
The air quivering, a dim light in the tunnel brightening, then the racket as the train enters the subway station.

purply
Last light of day slanting onto an empty purple vase.

undisturbed
He is calm and diplomatic. Even when listening to an unreasonable request, he has the look of someone contemplating rare wisdom.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Passion Fish (1992): Rediscovering yourself after tragedy and poor decisions

Title: Passion Fish
Director: John Sayles
Language: English
Rating: R (for language)

I love the unsentimental approach to the characters in this film and the friendship that develops between them. The movie doesn't so much have a happy ending, as it has a hopeful one. The characters have grown. They're stronger, and they've found strength in their relationship with each other.

Passion Fish.jpg
Passion Fish Poster. Via Wikipedia.


May-Alice (Mary McDonnell) is a soap opera star whose career ends when she gets paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. She moves back to her old, empty family home in Louisiana, where she intends to waste away gloriously, watching TV, drinking and driving away a succession of nurses. The latest nurse to turn up at the house is Chantelle (Alfre Woodard), whose quiet, self-contained demeanor hides the fact that she's struggling with some serious problems of her own. The two women become friends, renewing their lives by making discoveries about who they can be and by helping each other. Each character has her own story arc; they develop together and independently.

Both McDonnell and Woodard are wonderful in their roles. There's also a strong cast of supporting characters, including: an outdoorsman, Rennie (David Strathairn), offering awkward, heartfelt offers of companionship; an easy-going womanizer, Sugar LeDoux (Vondie Curtis-Hall); and one of May-Alice's soap opera cast members, the elegant Rhonda (Angela Bassett), who visits her with a couple of other actresses. That visit leads to a really funny monologue, where one of the actresses describes the way she gave her all to a tiny movie role, early in her career, where she had only one line and played a woman who had been probed by an alien. (She really researched that character's motivations, and found a dozen of different ways to utter her one line about alien probing.)

Both May-Alice and Chantelle give themselves more fully to life as the movie goes by. The alternative is to blot themselves out with alcohol, drugs or hours of TV. They can either try to escape from themselves through self-destruction; or they can live with greater richness and variety of experience, within the constraints of past tragedies and poor choices. The way they open themselves up again to new relationships and experiences is inspiring to watch, particularly because it isn't portrayed in a cloying way.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Week in Seven Words #224 & 225

224

cleanse
Lungs embracing the air, holding tight to the freshness of the air beside the running water.

effused
All of the cards I come across are gushy about love and gratitude, and I wonder how many times people's feelings really match up with what they buy.

flicking
Throughout the dinner, I need to deflect nasty, passive-aggressive digs. In my mind, I pretend I'm flicking away each comment with a fork like bits of mashed potato.

hovering
They're more benevolent, because they can afford to be. Treating him well costs them nothing and gives them the pleasure of feeling above him, bestowing favors on him in angelic fashion while remaining unsullied by his human dirt.

hypocrisy
He hears many excuses and even encouragement for obnoxious behavior, so then he gets confused and frustrated when he's punished for it.

stump
His job is to sit hunched at a table and occasionally be pleasant.

surgical
Renovations on the hallway look surgical. Pipes like veins and capillaries, wires like exposed nerves.

Monday, August 25, 2014

East River Walk: Upper East Side, Randall's Island, Astoria (Queens)

I did a 15-mile walk yesterday starting from 86th street on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, going north along the East River, crossing the Triborough Bridge to Randall's Island, walking around a bit there, then continuing on the Triborough Bridge to Astoria (a neighborhood in Queens), then walking south through Astoria, mostly along the East River, and heading back into Manhattan on the Queensboro Bridge. (The walk was organized by this group.)

Here's the Triborough Bridge from the Upper East Side waterfront:

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The bridge connects Manhattan with Randall's Island and then with Queens.

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The part of Randall's Island we saw was mostly athletic fields, with some green spaces looking out over Manhattan.

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The best part of this walk was the bridge. Under it:

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Getting onto it:

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Looking over its edge:

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Six Short Stories About Different States of Mind

Title: The Balloon of William Fuerst
Author: Lowell B. Komie
Where I Read It: Legal Fictions


A short, funny story but one with a familiar pang in it, the feeling of life getting wasted on triviality. The main character is an attorney who starts to hear air escaping from his ears - "a hiss of all the useless acts." He imagines his head is a balloon, with air leaking out. How does he think he can fix the problem, without leaving a job he feels trapped in? Maybe helium is the answer! If nothing else, at least he'll sound like a new person...

Title: Bitter Grounds
Author: Neil Gaiman
Where I Read It: Fragile Things


Before reading "Bitter Grounds," I hadn't come across any zombie fic that interested me. But this story is further proof that it's never the subject matter that's the problem, but the way it's handled. Any topic can be written about in an interesting way.

This isn't a typical zombie fic. There are no rotting corpses staggering around - no brain-eating, post-apocalyptic monsters. It's more a confusing and fascinating story of escape and loss of identity, of blurred boundaries between people and between the living and the dead. It begins with a man who can't deal with his life anymore:
"In every way that counted, I was dead. Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the face and lips and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smiled and kept moving."
One day, he drives and just keeps on driving, with no particular destination or purpose. And then starts to move between different identities. Through circumstances described in the story, he steps into the shoes of an anthropology professor invited to give a talk in New Orleans about tales of undead Haitian coffee girls. Nothing in this story is as it seems, and by the end, you have to wonder who is this man, and who has he met along the way? Not sure if this is a nightmare, or if he's ripped through the fragile tissues that life's made of.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Week in Seven Words #222 & 223

222

disconnect
A couple in the park: Man and woman strolling, he pontificates, gestures broadly, makes authoritative pronouncements about things he only half-knows at best, while the woman nods, murmurs, surreptitiously checks her phone.

faerie
The enchantment of pink blossoms floating around your head.

patchy
Blonde willows and raggedy weeds by the pond.

pistons
I understand the enjoyment people get from running, but not from jogging. Running can give you a feeling of freeness. Jogging has always struck me as mechanical, like you're a machine pumping up and down.

shocked
The park is artificial, so the lakes can be drained or filled at will. The fish might be stunned out of their habitual routes and find themselves on their sides, eyeing a terrible sun.

tableau
Facing north, heads uplifted, four turtles frozen on a sunny rock.

treble
And there he is again: The half-naked man, kneeling in the tunnel and playing the violin.