Sunday, July 15, 2018

Week in Seven Words #415

absorbs
She's developed the habit of slipping behind her phone and not looking up. There's always something new to see, an infinite scroll.

cacophony
From the other room, we hear the eruptions of a horror movie: wild squealing growls and a rumble of strings and drums.

defective
She tells me that one of my cheeks is puffier than the other. I give her what must be a blank or bewildered look, so she repeats herself and peers at me with a semblance of concern. She's so convincing that I actually check in the mirror, but I see nothing out of the ordinary.

diverting
We hold a practice interview that fails to simulate the conditions of a real-life interview, unless the real-life interview will be filled with laughter and digressions about books and vacation ideas.

potion
The drink they order is a giant goblet of neon blue liquid.

tendresse
He displays a flat affect at work. Nothing moves him. He's there for the paycheck. But get him talking about Gary Cooper, and his eyes sparkle. His mouth trembles into a smile.

tweets
People conspiring to make each other more blockheaded.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Week in Seven Words #414

artifacts
The clouds look like archaeological findings: pottery shards and splintered spears.

carbs
Enticed by the display of fat, creamy desserts, most of them crowd into the bakery. There's no room inside for them to eat, so they savor their glistening cakes and donuts by the curb. At a convenience store on the same block, I buy an adequate granola bar.

insisting
There's so much in her life that's out of control and wildly unfair, so she finds little ways to try to reclaim power. These efforts can make her appear fussy or ungenerous.

opened
I take a photo of a couple of Minions characters posed on a front lawn, and I send it to him so that he can show it to his son. He replies to my text, and we begin a soul-baring conversation, the kind I wouldn't have expected to start with a Minions photo.

rickety
The atrium is our way station on a windy evening. We're surrounded by men mostly; they're reading newspapers or resting their eyes. When we set our salads on one of the metal tables, it shivers, as if unaccustomed to any weight.

sways
One homeowner has set up speakers on his lawn to play a jazzy version of Schubert's Ave Maria, something a fallen angel would listen to at a blues club over a Bloody Mary.

wended
The train has gone above ground. In the faint, peach-colored light of early evening, it skims past rows of old houses. A languid peace has settled over me in the nearly empty car. I could watch the rooftops slide by for an hour without feeling impatient.

Monday, July 2, 2018

New York City Sites for the Fourth of July (All Five Boroughs)

If you're visiting New York City around the Fourth of July (or want to go armchair traveling), and you're interested in American history, this is the post for you. These sites are either connected to the American Revolution or show something of NYC's colonial period.

This list is limited to sites I have visited (so you won't see a photo from the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Fort Greene, for instance). For each site, I also mention other neighborhood attractions. Enjoy!

The Bronx


Stockbridge Indian Memorial (Van Cortlandt Park)

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You'll find this memorial in the northeast part of Van Cortlandt Park. It's a tribute to a group of Native Americans, allied with the colonists, who died in August 1778 in a clash with an overwhelmingly larger number of British and Hessian troops. (Here's an article that goes into greater depth about the Stockbridge-Mohican community.)

In the neighborhood: Van Cortlandt Park is massive (one of the city's largest parks) and has golf courses, sports fields, and miles of hiking trails. The Van Cortlandt House Museum on the west side of the park dates from the 18th century, and during the Revolutionary War, both Washington and General William Howe, the commander of the British troops, made use of it. If you're in the area, you can also visit Woodlawn Cemetery, where a variety of historic figures are buried. The cemetery is close to the east side of the park.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Week in Seven Words #413

angriness
At first, his mood expands to generosity. Then it contracts to a tight anger that makes the air difficult to breathe. The anger doesn't last long. It gradually lightens into an occasional snide remark, delivered with a smile.

flickers
The dance of candlelight in a dark room.

hygiene
Images from Blue Planet play out in front of me while the dentist scrapes away at my teeth.

infectious
He clutches a handkerchief to his mouth and looks around furtively, after coughing in a way that brings to mind the expression 'patient zero.'

jerkily
During foosball, we both adopt the 'random spasm' strategy, meaning that we don't know who will hit the ball or when or where, but sometimes a goal happens anyway.

resistance
I slip back into a bad habit, but it doesn't last as long this time. I can step out of its clutches more quickly.

toddling
He's a happy, loved little boy. Helped along in his walking, he looks around to see who's watching him carry out this amazing feat.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Week in Seven Words #412

amusements
This time, the game we play is one where I try to tickle her belly, and she tries to block me. When she grows bored with it, she stands under the dining table for a while, her hand on her mom's knee.

apportion
Her younger siblings agree that she should distribute the chocolates. She slices open the box and displays the possibilities. She reads the chocolatey description of each truffle and its contents. As they crowd around, she cuts the truffles into halves and thirds for sampling.

pooled
The candles melt into a pond of rose, purple, and sea green.

reawaken
Good books reinvigorate the conversation you have with yourself and the world.

release
She's abandoning her social media accounts, one by one, to unclutter her mind and free her time.

scales
The soprano warms up her voice in the ringing acoustics of a church.

scorning
It's a grubby work of art. It shows a meanness of character, a cynicism that denies beauty.

The Fits: Control and Loss of Control in Coming of Age

Title: The Fits (2015)
Director: Anna Rose Holmer
Language: English
Rating: Not Rated


While watching this movie, it occurred to me that I could have tuned out after 20 minutes if the lighting, the tone set by the music, or some other subtle element had been different. But the energy in The Fits, and the way all the elements came together, kept me engrossed in it. I found the movie compelling and thoughtful.

There's minimal dialogue, and a sense that there's so much more that needs to be said, but instead of being spoken, it's expressed in movement. The movie is filled with energy, much of it exploding out of the main character, Toni (Royalty Hightower), as she negotiates some of her first steps into puberty.

Set largely in an inner city community center, the movie focuses on two main activities. One is boxing, which is the boys' activity, though Toni starts off the movie training in it with guidance from her older brother. The other activity is dance, which is the girls' activity. Toni increasingly becomes drawn to the dance group, hovering at their perimeter, making some friends, but remaining uneasy about her place in it and what it means for her commitment to boxing.

The 'fits' refers to a kind of seizure that sweeps through the girls, affecting only them. It's never clear what it is exactly. In the movie, it's real enough (and very eerie), and it may represent something about the female body changing in adolescence, a kind of rite of passage. Toni witnesses the girls experience it, one by one, while not feeling anything like it herself. At least not at first.

The movie sets up various contrasts. Boys and girls, the vigor of boxing and the vigor of dance (the dancing is full of precision and power and includes punching movements, making it not too alien from Toni's experience of boxing). There are contrasts between the individual and the group, and tensions between simple conformity and a real sense of belonging. Are you doing something because it's expected or because you've found it's truly what you need or want to do? There are social pressures to fit in and find the place where one belongs, while struggling with doubt and feelings of displacement.

Toni also struggles to balance control over her body with the things she can't control. Mastering dance or boxing is an expression of power and individual commitment and skill. But the discomforts of growing up and changing, the loss of control that's part of experiencing the fits, these are overwhelming. They're frightening in how they can't be stopped.

The movements are the language in this movie. Toni and other characters make declarations with their movements and claim power for themselves through movement, even when confronted with the inexplicable and overwhelming fits, which seize control of their bodies and can't be resisted.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Week in Seven Words #411

appeal
Before the clouds release their cold drizzle, he sits on the lip of an inactive fountain and sings "Stand By Me."

cutouts
Some of the leaves are wrinkly stars. Others are broad hands and tear drops. They're everywhere; above, below.

defending
They make fun of the way she talks, so I stand up for her.

solo
A grizzled man dances on roller skates by himself, the music from his radio subdued.

speckle
The leaves spatter the surface of the lake like gobs of paint. The trees lean over the water to examine the painting in progress.

steampunk
The water tower crouches at the edge of the building like a great mechanical spider about to pounce.

whey
At the post office, a long, shuffling line. Everyone has the complexion of cheese under the sickly lights.