Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Week in Seven Words #540

This covers the week of 5/24/20 - 5/30/20.

arboreal
Trees heavy with leaves cast silky shadows.

disclosed
There's a story behind each name on the monument, and sometimes you stand next to someone who knows one or two of those names and stories.

divertissement
A man is making giant bubbles with two big sticks and a cord. The wind conditions aren't favorable, and the bubbles don't float for long. Beside him, another man is meditating in a standing pose with two dogs curled at his feet.

helplessly
A metal plank rises from the river and rests against the boardwalk. A mother duck and her ducklings are scrambling up it, headed for land. Only one duckling remains in the water, swimming back and forth beneath the slope of the plank. It hears its family above, but doesn't know how to get to them.

reminded
We meet up for the first time in months and sit several feet apart on benches in the park. After the expected conversation about the pandemic, we try to switch to another topic. At that moment, a golf cart covered with roses passes us, a speaker mounted on its roof playing a looped message about how important it is to wash your hands. 

scrapes
The Scrabble board has seen rough use. Many of its colors are rubbed out, and some of the letter tiles have almost turned into blanks. And you can't have more than two blanks.

unthinkingly
It's perverse the way people cheer on or excuse the looting from the safety of their comfortable homes. Their own livelihood and years of labor aren't threatened. To them, the looting is a spectacle, a show they're enjoying before they get bored and switch channels.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Week in Seven Words #539

This covers the week of 5/17/20 - 5/23/20.

acquainting
I hear about them secondhand, and I'm happy they're doing well. I don't feel an urge to see them. Social distancing has clarified a few things about relationships – the friends I'm closer to, and the acquaintances I'm fine with sending pleasant wishes to from a distance.

careening
Bike riders and pedestrians shouldn't be sharing a narrow path.

conquest
Rats extend their shadowy empire to heavy shrubs, parked cars, defenseless basements. 

fuels
One assignment this week is a deep dive into the energy industry. Fascinating how much technology goes into producing fuel.

lawyers
One lawyer has a special kind of smarminess. It fills his eyes like oil. The other lawyer is sedate and detached, as if half his mind is on other cases or personal concerns.

mechanical
One jogger lets out huge stiff bursts of air, as if he's a machine pumping across the park.

muzzled
Children peddle around furiously on bikes and tricycles. Their eyes are bright above their masks.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Week in Seven Words #538

This covers the week of 5/10/20 - 5/16/20.

aquatic
A delightful amount of turtles in one pond. They cluster around a wooden dock. Another pond has no fish or turtles; it's ringed with azaleas. The liquid voice of a stream emerges from it.

celebrate
A rich pomegranate wine.

composition
Different kinds of music in the park: a troubadour, a jazz musician accompanied by honking geese, a student violinist struggling through Bach.

enfolded
I've never explored this part of the park. It's a nature sanctuary enclosed with a fence. The gates aren't always open. Now they admit us to mulchy paths, frilled with undergrowth, and trees that soften traffic noise. One path takes us to a rock overlooking a large pond. Beyond the water, the buildings seem distant.

fountains
There are multiple fountains in these gardens, each with its own character. One is boastful and grand. Another is shy and invites you to quietly sit beside it in the shade. A third is playful, in perpetual frolic.

misgivings
I don't know if I'm in the right frame of mind to help her, but I'd feel terribly guilty if I didn't.

sliding
I'm on a video conferencing call with a cluster of people, and I need to remind myself to keep my face visible. My inclination to slide off-screen is nearly overpowering.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Week in Seven Words #537

This covers the week of 5/3/20 - 5/9/20.

blocked
On our walk, we head to an art museum in the hopes of seeing into it from the outside. From what I remember, it has some large windows. We find them shuttered.

converging
Multiple sources of stress converge into a tension headache.

permute
Our walks are limited to a relatively small radius, so we're getting inventive about places to visit, new combinations of paths to take.

ripping
A rending wind pushes us down the street. It sends up a swirl of litter. The tulips are half bald, the cherry blossoms cast to the ground.

springtime
Clean air and the colors of tulips and azaleas. One path is pink with fallen cherry blossoms, a lush carpet that will soon get trampled into the mud.

unreadable
The large turtle is very still, as if it's one with the rock formation on which it's sunning. The stillness of the moment breaks with the noise of an airplane. It's writing something across the crisp blue sky, but the letters are too blurry to read.

zeroing
Police hand out citations to people who aren't wearing masks.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Week in Seven Words #536

This covers the week of 4/26/20 - 5/2/20.

beset
Pulses of weariness and despair.

breaks
Two brisk walks in one day. Lots of screen time in between.

flutters
A puddle filled with pink blossoms and shivering birds.

glassy
New construction all looks the same to me: sleek rectangles with large windows and little artistry.

insomnia
It's no use asking my brain why it's woken me up in the middle of the night. Maybe it wants me to admire the shadowy room, and the way the light creeps over the walls.

patrolling
A flock of police officers on bikes. Black masks are stretched over their mouths and noses. They're on the lookout for legal violations, which these days include picnics and outdoor birthday parties.

screens
She tells me that the schools aren't giving grades. Regardless of grades, are the students learning anything from their sessions of screen time? Debatable.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Week in Seven Words #535

This covers the week of 4/19/20 - 4/25/20.

affability
The dog is brisk and friendly as always. Ready to take off on a walk, sniff the larger world, investigate fascinating stains on sidewalks.

discouraged
In a more densely wooded part of the park, I keep an eye out for bird feeders. There were several in one spot the year before, creating the sense of a town square for birds, a plaza with restaurants. But it seems that no one has put up feeders this year. The joke is that even the birds need to socially distance.

feebly
A "we're all in this together" hope-inducing message displayed on an empty theater.

flames
Tulips in fiery colors are breathtaking.

obscured
It's satisfying, the way the path curves along the lake, and you can't see too far ahead.

rudderless
There's little sense of competency at the helm. I had been plugged into the news, but now I wonder if it's worth it. I don't think I'm learning much.

untenanted
The streets are largely empty of traffic. Granted, it's easier to go on a walk this way. And the air is cleaner. But the emptiness is eerie, as if civilization has retreated slightly.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Three Movies Showing the Grubby, Treacherous Side of Human Nature

Title: 5 Fingers (1952)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Language: English (with bits of other languages, like German)
Rating: Unrated


This movie is an excellent espionage thriller. The main character isn't a hero, and I wasn't rooting for him to succeed, but I still found the story gripping, with all the twists, the double-crossing and mistrust and bitterness and greed. Also, James Mason's performance is wonderful.

Mason's character, Ulysses Diello, works for the British ambassador in Turkey during WWII. I won't tell you what his job is, because finding out as you watch the movie will probably give you more enjoyment. It's a job that has taught him how to maintain a neutral expression, regardless of his personal feelings. And he'll need this quality to pull off his nefarious plan, which is to sell some confidential information to the Nazis and then flee with the cash to start a new life elsewhere.

Does he achieve his hoped for ending, a life of luxury? Even if you're guessing that no, he doesn't, it's worth watching how it doesn't happen. 

Title: The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
Director: Peter Yates
Language: English
Rating: R


This movie ends with both a whimper and a bang. 

Eddie Coyle (Robert Mitchum) supplies weapons to bank robbers. He's also in contact with the feds, who want information about the higher-level gangsters he works with, part of an organized crime network in Massachusetts. Eddie is low on the organized crime totem pole, and he's in danger of going to jail for the rest of his life.

One thing I like about this movie is that it shows the sordid nature of crime. In other movies, criminal life often gets depicted as slick and daring. Here, it's a grubby world where people play against each other in the dark and scurry around to survive.

The shabbiness of Eddie's world also comes across in the shabby 70s atmosphere of coffee and pie in grubby diners, and cheap suits, and a gun dealer's loud yellow car.

The bank robberies in the movie are ugly and suspenseful. There's a real horror in them (starting with the masks the robbers wear), while at the same time everything about them is so shoddy and disgusting. Again, I like how there's no glamor given to crime.

Title: Pitfall (1948)
Director: André De Toth
Language: English
Rating: Not rated

This is a merciless sort of movie. The lead character, John Forbes (Dick Powell), gets to drive away at the end with his loyal wife, but it isn't a "happy ending." The outcomes for some of the characters show a lack of justice.

Forbes has a steady job and a loving wife and son. The movie gives a wry intelligence to his wife that makes the early depiction of their home life a little more interesting, and not just saccharine. But Forbes is bored of his life and – in the course of his work in insurance – starts an affair with a model, Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott). 

Mona is initially unaware of the fact that Forbes is married. Had she known, she wouldn't have started up with him. A surprising thing about Mona is that she isn't a conniving femme fatale. She isn't really a bad person at all, especially compared to the men around her. She attracts the attention of multiple distasteful men, including the dishonest Forbes, and – much worse – J.B. MacDonald (Raymond Burr), a private detective.

MacDonald is a gross, creepy stalker who's willing to coerce a woman into a sexual relationship. In a scene that's deeply uncomfortable, he shows up at Mona's workplace where she models clothes and has her try on different dresses while watching. Basically marking her as his property.

At the end, after various scenes of blackmail and violence, Forbes gets to coast back into his outwardly picture-perfect life. How does he live with what he's done? The ending has a bitter taste, but it's probably the ending best suited for this bleak movie.