Mums of dooooooooom

2011 goes on record as being the best summer of my adult life. Easily.

The Pioneer Valley and surrounding hill towns are full of farms, rivers, campgrounds, festivals, and ice cream.  Mix in a dash of Vermont, a slew of visitors, and some Lititz fireworks, and these days are just about perfect.

Which is why, though I’m a lover of fall, I was sad to see some mums today.  One of many signs that the summer is winding down.



Saturday night in Philadelphia, PA

Saturday night in Philadelphia, PA


Bad news for residents of Tuvalu, a small South Pacific nation with 11,500 people spread across nine atolls. Large parts of the country will disappear underwater later this week:

Tuvalu…will be hit Thursday and Friday by “king tides” associated with the new moon, Hilia Vavae of the Tuvalu Meteorological Office [reports]
Over the last decade, successive Tuvalu leaders have claimed their state will be the first victim of sea level rise associated with global warming. They have used the argument to claim special immigration access to New Zealand and recently were in discussion with another Pacific state, Niue, on moving their people there.

Tuvalu is a fascinating little country and the title of this gem of a movie.

Dinner parties and small kitchens

Some of the best dinner parties happened in Sassy J’s small apartment on the third floor of a Rittenhouse brownstone. The kitchen was composed of a refrigerator, an apartment-sized stove, and a sink that stood galley-style against the back wall of the living room. A microwave cart, sans microwave, provided extra counter space, and a few cabinets above the appliances housed the pantry and place settings. Anything not needed on a regular basis was banished to the adjacent “hell closet,” the door to which was opened with extreme caution and only in emergencies.

Shortly before she got married and moved to the ‘burbs, I visited Sassy J’s little urban retreat for the last time. “I won’t miss this kitchen,” she said, pointing out the signs of disrepair: chipped enamel on the stove, sagging cupboards, and rusting hardware. But no one noticed these flaws during the cozy parties; the dinners were perfect, even without comfy chairs, granite countertops, and shiny appliances.

Six or eight of us would arrive and drink wine and smell the sautéing onions and garlic. And then we’d drink more wine and seat ourselves around the folding chairs and the card table borrowed from the downstairs neighbors. And then we’d drink more wine and feast on whatever Sassy had cooked up: shrimp on rosemary sprigs, Moroccan lentils, soups, salads, sometimes a bourbon chocolate pecan pie if it wasn’t Sunday and hard to procure the bourbon. And then we’d drink more wine or coffee and sit around telling stories.

And so I resolve in 2009 to have more people over to our own tiny kitchen. We can’t seat more than six comfortably or spare the counter space for a food processor (although we do have my grandmother’s blender), but we have some wine, good recipes, and Sassy J’s old folding chairs in the basement.

Thanks to Mark Bittman, whose “So Your Kitchen is Tiny. So What?” article was the inspiration for this trip down memory lane.

Fishtown Street Movies and Miscellaneous Short Animations

On Friday night, the Scribe Video Center’s Street Movies! program came to Fishtown. Films included Shouts from the Crowd, a documentary about local jazz band Nate Wiley and the Crowd Pleasers, From the Del to the El, a story about the evolution of Fishtown, and Still Life With Animated Dogs.

The hit of the evening was Y Did Yoda Figt Count Duku, an animated Star Wars movie by Sean McBride and his 5-year-old cousin. Watch it, or I will cut you in half like a sandwich!

All of this is a sad reminder of the short films I saw at the 2005 Philadelphia Film Festival and never wrote about. So in lieu of actually writing, here are links to some of the animated goodness–only four months late.

  • My favorite was Arthur De PinsLa Revolution des Crabes. It’s about crabs who mistakenly believe that they are doomed to traverse a single path.
  • Sergey Aniskov ‘s Candy Venery.
  • April by Jiwook Kim, a pencil animation featuring an “ugly” girl whose looks cause those around her to vomit. See it in QuickTime.
  • J.J. Villard’s Chestnuts Icelolly, a strange movie about an ice-lolly loving boy and the evil villain who forces him to sell chestnuts. Somehow, the use of Crimson and Clover on the soundtrack really works. See it in QuickTime.

Those last two pieces are hosted by California Institute of the Arts; its film school has many more streams available for your viewing pleasure.

Arts pick: downward spiral

Today’s arts pick is another outdoor installation, this one representing the downward spiral of a once-useful object into a total state of degradation.

The piece, an item designed to protect and aid vision, has been debased in a myriad of ways, and the artist uses every means at his disposal to emphasize its pitiful condition. The most obvious device is the deliberate destruction of the lenses–their shattered state is clearly an indication of the subject’s current irrelevance. The artist reinforces this technique by leaving the lens fragments inside their respective frames as a bitter reminder of a time when the subject was able to fulfill its purpose.

Just as important as the trodden lenses, however, is the surrounding canvas. If the lens fragments symbolize the subject’s unfulfilled potential, the decision to set the piece in pavement highlights its resulting insignificance. The lack of contrast between the subject and canvas–notice how some components fade into the background–ensures that the piece would be almost invisible to passers-by, except for the outlining frames.

This exhibit is on display in Philadelphia, at 16th and Fairmount.

South Philly light tour

South Philly light tour

Cleaning up City Hall

Cleaning up City Hall

Saturday night in Ocean City, NJ

Saturday night in Ocean City, NJ