Saturday, December 15, 2018

And I say to myself...

what a wonderful

As usual on Blogger, click any photo for a better view. 

This one's for Laura over at Coast of Illinois who got me going on one odd reason why I'm especially fond of these guys when she commented that her sad train commute needs buskers. 

Yes, a good busker is a blessing to a commute. Bad ones can be another story but I love these guys.

They play at my stop in Soho pretty regularly (sometimes together, sometimes trombone guy on his own). Funny thing is that they really won me over by their habit of sticking to their regular jazz standards right through the holiday season - NYC loves doing Christmas, and although I do love singing and hearing traditional carols, the incessant aural bombardment of pop Christmas songs in every store sometimes gets to me, especially if I'm feeling a little blue or stressed anyways which sometimes happens to me. I get nipped at by mild depression from time to time and when that happens at Christmas all the be-of-good-cheer stuff can get overwhelming and I get to  where I'd just like to crawl under the covers and stay there until December 26th if not January 2nd. Call it "Holidazed". Can't imagine what it's like for people with deeper depression - if anyone's reading this who goes through that, you have my respect and sympathy.

These guys are good and and if they wanted to, they could go with the holiday theme and do some wonderful brass arrangements of Christmas songs. I would like them and I would give them money, but there's something so refreshing about coming out of the office and walking past all the Soho shop windows pushing you to buy stuff with their holiday glitz, and then getting to the subway stairs and then hearing the strains of "Mac the Knife" drifting up to greet you and know you're getting a jazzy little hiatus from the season while you wait for the train. The first time I heard them was one of those times when my holiday spirits were wearing thin and I was just delighted to find them playing their tunes. Just the break I'd needed. I could just feel myself unwinding while I listened.

I was delighted to find them at 14th street yesterday, I'd gone to the main post office at 34th street (open all night) to put a couple of items in the mail (there some candy and there was some hair, I sure hope I got the mailing labels right!) and was switching from the C to the D here to get back to Brooklyn. I was down on the other end of the platform when I realized I was hearing "Hello Dolly". Went down to investigate 'cause the performing style sounded really familiar, and sure enough, there they were. Nice surprise, made the sort of long wait for a D train way better.

And as long as I'm posting about running errands in NYC - the Empire State Building (also on 34th St.) looked neat with its head in the clouds last night. I'm glad I had a camera along. 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Keepers of the Game - a documentary

Just a quick post tonight to share the trailer of an documentary I got to see last night at Sebago, courtesy of Steve the Paddling Chef -- long may he paddle and cook!

He's the organizer of the movie night series we enjoy at Sebago over the winter. It's a nice way to gather as a club in the off-season, when not everybody has the gear or the skills to be getting out on the water. Steve brings a crockpot full of some hearty home-made soup and gets a fire going in the woodstove, others bring other treats or drinks, we catch up for a while and then watch a movie.

Usually it's boating-themed but for this first one of the winter of 2018-2019, he had a special treat for us - a good friend and neighbor of his, Judd Ehrlich, is a director and producer of documentaries, and Steve thought we would enjoy Keepers of the Game, his film following a courageously groundbreaking girls' lacrosse team through their first season together. Here's the description from the Flatbush Pictures website (link):

Lacrosse was born in Akwesasne Mohawk Territory as a sacred game, traditionally reserved for men. Just off the reservation at Salmon River High in Fort Covington, NY an all-Native girls lacrosse team comes together, seeking to be the first Native women’s team to bring home a Section Championship. But first, they will have to overcome their crosstown rivals, Massena High. As the season comes to a head, the team is faced with increasing ambivalence in their own community and the girls must prove that the game of lacrosse is their rightful inheritance. With more than just the championship on the line, the girls fight to blaze a new path for the next generation of Native women, while still honoring their people’s tradition in a changing world.

One aspect of the story that made this film particularly resonant for me was that there's a lot of focus on how the Mohawk tribe has been reclaiming a culture that was nearly driven out of existence - so similar to the inspiring story of the Hawaiian cultural renaissance that was just beginning when I was a kid growing up in the islands and is in full flower today, and I was remembering stories I heard during Hokule'a's visit as I watched. But anyone whose heart is moved by stories of young people with the spirit and drive to excel even when an awful lot of the world (sadly, the part most of us live in) is doing everything it can to tell them that girls like them can't shine is going to love this.

I'd especially recommend it to friends with young athletes in their lives - at first I was thinking of girls and young women, but I think any sports kid will appreciate this story.

It's available on Netflix, iTunes, and on YouTube Movies. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

McCourtie Park, Somerset Township, Michigan (Summer 2017)

Backtracking to August 2017 tonight, when I made another trip to Michigan (and Indiana) for a really fantastic family event, my cousin once removed (that's your cousin's kid, right?) Shea's wedding to lovely Emily, which was held at the Potawatomie Inn in Pokagon State Park, Indiana. I'd never been to Indiana before that I know of and my first impression was really good, but I ended up having kind of a lot of fun stuff going in September and I never got around to sharing pictures.

I was reminded of visiting McCourtie Park in Somerset Township on that trip by this pretty little rustic bridge in the park where we went for the 2018 edition of Escape from Black Friday.  

It looks like branches but it's actually concrete (a variety of "faux bois", making something that's not wood look like wood for an artistic effect) and I found myself wondering if it might be by the same concrete artists who made the amazing structures in McCourtie Park. The story behind that park is that it was the grounds of the estate owned by William H.L. McCourtie, a local who was very successful in the cement business. He wanted to showcase the product that had made him rich on the estate, so he hired two craftsmen from Mexico, George Cardosa and Ralph Carona, to come to Michigan to build 17 concrete bridges across a little stream that runs through the property (plus some little benches here and there, and two chimneys (masquerading as tree trunks) for a rathskeller and garage complex that was also on the property.

Carona and Cardosa must have been incredibly creative guys and very skilled at what they did - when I went through my photos of the park tonight I decided the bridge above probably wasn't by them because although it was nice enough, next to the McCourtie Park bridges, it's pretty darned ho-hum! This bridge was, in fact, what I was picturing when my folks and my aunt Kathy were describing it when we were discussing a visit, but what's really there is SO much more fun. Definitely worth a visit if you ever find yourself in that part of Michigan. You can read more about it at the Atlas Obscura entry on the park, and here are my photos from last summer - no more writing, click on any photo for a slideshow view. The Scottie at the end was just there with a volunteer who was doing some work there, he was very friendly and too cute to leave out. Enjoy! 

Monday, December 10, 2018

December Ducky Doodle - The Famous Fancy Duck of Central Park (with review of the Harry Potter History of Magic exhibit)

So, hooray, last week I broke out the colored pencils and crayons again and produced another ducky doodle. When I shared this one on Facebook I called it the "Ardith Bondi Duckydoodle Challenge"; the inspiration for it was twofold, with the original prompt being the stunning photo below of the increasingly famous "Hot Duck" of Central Park. Seriously, I've been thinking of him as the "Fancy Duck" -- because isn't he just the fanciest duck you've ever seen? -- but apparently "Hot Duck" is getting to be his accepted nickname as his likeness spreads across media both social and traditional, to the point that if you google "Hot Duck" it will most likely auto-suggest Central Park.

He's not really supposed to be here, the best guess is that he's a pet somebody released, but he seems to have settled in just fine and posts about him are all the rage among the NYC social media set. I will most likely try to go see him at some point, I don't really have a zoom lens that will do him justice but I'll take my camera and just plan a picture-taking day in the park, and if I get to see the duck, yay. If I get to take a picture, double yay, but with so many great photos of him out there, getting the shot is not really that important (kind of like I don't worry so much about getting whale shots on the American Princess because I know Artie Raslich will almost certainly share something spectacular from the same trip).  

Ardith Bondi, the photographer who got this lovely shot of the fancy duck, is another friend I've met through Gotham Whale, the local citizen science group that researches our local marine mammals from seals on up to the humpbacks who have returned to our area with increasing frequency as our waterways (which have grown cleaner and cleaner since the Clean Water Act was enacted) support larger and larger schools of menhaden (the small oil-rich fish that is a favorite summertime food for whales). I'm not sure I've ever met Ardith in person but we're Facebook friends, I love her photos and always look forward to her postings. Click here to see more of her photography.

She'd gone to Central Park to see if she could get some fancy duck photos back at the beginning of November; she said there was a mob of people there and it was hard to get a clear shot, but her patience was rewarded with this lovely photo of the mandarin in a perfect showboat moment, fluffing out his feathers at some pesky mallards. I'd seen a few shots of him at this point but this was the one that made me think "Oh, wow, I gotta draw that duck!"

That ended up not happening until Inspiration Part 2, which was (of all the unexpected sources of inspiration ever) this year's Scholastic Trade holiday party.

Ordinarily, "inspirational" is the last adjective I would apply to a company holiday party. I'm an introvert, not an extreme one but enough so that the small talk just feels awkward. I like Scholastic's more since the company's been doing them in house for the last few years, it really helps to NOT have music blasting the way they do at the catering spaces you can rent for your company's holiday shindigs (I hate that, I'm bad enough at small talk without having it be impossible to hear what anyone says back to you), plus the food service company that runs our company cafeteria and coffee bar actually does a really good job with the food and decor, but I still just consider myself bad at company parties.

This year, though, the Trade division got an extra special treat - somebody on high decided we were going to have our party at the Harry Potter: A History of Magic exhibit at the New-York Historical society. I'd already been to see this as a fun warm-up for seeing Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Halloween, but I was delighted to have more time to go back and look over the exhibit again. The Harry Potter series is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and the exhibit was curated by the British Library in honor of that milestone. They did a wonderful job of putting together examples of real-life historical artifacts and tying them in with the world that J.K. Rowling created, and the art is plentiful and luscious -- there are Harry Potter drawings and paintings by Mary Grand Pre (the illustrator of the American editions), Kazu Kibuishi (my favorite of all the Scholastic Graphix imprint artists, who did a lovely set of covers for a 15th anniversary paperback box set), Brian Selznick (Hugo Cabret illustrator who did covers for the 20th anniversary box set), Jim Kay (illustrator of the magnificent illustrated editions that are the latest offering in the Harry Potter re-issues, just glorious stuff so far) and J.K. Rowling herself - she's quite talented on the art side too and you get to see a lot of these charming little drawings she did to help herself envision Harry's world. So those are scattered all through, and then many of the historical artifacts are also beautiful, with illuminated manuscripts and scrolls and globes and, oh, all sorts of lovely things to look at.

This did actually end up being the first time I've ever gone home from a company party hungry. Food and drinks were not allowed in the gallery, just in the lobby area. I had one drink and a couple of hor's d'oeuvres and then dove into the exhibit. By the time I came back out it was five minutes before time for us to get out and all the food was gone - but I didn't care and if I were to go back and do it again I would do the same thing. Sometimes you feed the mouth, this time I feasted my eyes and went home going "MUST ART! MUST ART!" - fixed myself a super-quick dinner (because I was ravenous, lunch had been a long time ago) and then set myself a challenge of drawing Ardith's duck in half an hour. Nothing to do with the exhibit, just been thinking of drawing him for a while so being in a drawing mood, I picked him as my subject. And the 30-minute challenge was just because with no art training, I can be really slow figuring out how to show something, but I needed to get some sleep and it was already late. I dispensed with my usual obsessing over the reflections in the water (seriously, I think I spend twice as long on the background as on the subject when I do these drawings) and pulled it off it 45 minutes and was pretty happy with it too!

So there is both a review of the Harry Potter History of Magic AND my NYC social media participant mandatory #hotduck entry! 

Friday, December 07, 2018

A Pearl Harbor post for December 7th

I was going to post about the fancy duck of Central Park today, but it is December 7th today and I've decided to re-share one of my Pearl Harbor photo posts instead. 

Photos taken during a visit to my folks in 2007. That turned out to be their last year living in the islands - TQ came along on this one and I'm so glad he had this chance to see where I'm from. 

My dad being retired Navy, we got to go on a Navy tour, which runs in much closer along the shore of Ford Island than the public trips go (this is still a working base). That's how I have the picture of the Utah Memorial, which I wanted to share along with the more familiar Arizona Memorial. Click on any photo for a better view. 
Utah Memorial (on Ford Island)

Ford Island

Arizona Memorial

Inside the memorial

Battleship Row, with the USS Missouri. The concrete platforms to which the ships were moored are marked with the names of the ships that were there that day. Click here to read more about Battleship Row on that day

Closing with a peaceful picture - outrigger practice on Pu'uloa (Hawaiian name of Pearl Harbor). 

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Flushing Meadows Corona Park to Central Park:

"I'll see your fancy duck and raise you a national emblem!"

Photo by TQ

Note: If you are not a New Yorker and/or a follower of celebrity waterfowl news, I'll explain tomorrow. If you can't wait, google "central park fancy duck". 

:D  />

teeny tiny kayak smiley, patent pending

Friday, November 30, 2018

Strand Book Binge and Event Review

So just copying a FB post-event blither here to Poor Neglected Blog - little bit off from my usual blog topics but hey, it's my blog and I'll write about a cool bookstore event if I want to! I enjoyed it so much, I went home and decided I had to write stuff down before the buzz wore off, and for some reason started in on Facebook; I think I finally posted a bit before 1 am. If I'd actually planned to write that long it probably would've been here in the first place - think it's worth sharing here, at any rate.

 The Strand Bookstore is my current favorite local independent bookstore these days, ever since the slightly closer Shakespeare & Co at NYU closed. Between working at Scholastic and living in a building that's got enough dead-tree-edition readers that the bookshelves in the laundry room is always worth a look, I get an awful lot of books for free, but every now and then when there's a specific book I want, I'm off to the Strand. I've been there a little more regularly than usual recently and just thought to follow them on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. A co-worker recently "liked" a "Let's Talk YA" event they were having, and for once the FB algorithm worked just right in showing that to me.

I was able to make it, I absolutely loved it, I'm so glad I went, and my only regret is that I didn't find out about it sooner so I could have let more of my YA fan friends know about it. 

 David Levithan's name as the moderator was what first caught my attention, as he's one of our editorial directors at Scholastic and also a great writer himself.  Turns out that this panel was something that David had originally suggested to The Strand without even really knowing which authors he could get, but this ended up being a really excellent group of folks to have sitting down and talking author stuff with each other and the audience.

Three of the authors were familiar (I'd loved Kheryn Callender's younger grade book Hurricane Child, I'd read and also thoroughly enjoyed Katrina Van Dam's Come November -- I don't think I can remember ever being quite as pissed off at a fictional parent as that book made me! -- , and an ARC of Eliot Schrefer's Orphaned, the fourth in his great ape series, is sitting on my desk at work waiting its turn as commute reading) but the other three were new to me.

It was held in the Rare Books Room, which was fun in itself, although a little dangerous. I'd never been in there before and I swear that if they'd had cocktails there to lower the inhibitions, I would've been going home with an absolutely charming (but rather expensive) little book by Ruth Kraus and Maurice Sendak, Open House for Butterflies. Fortunately cocktails and rare books are not a good combination so I was able to put the book down.

The panel was a three-stage affair - first David introduced all of the authors, the 3 already mentioned plus Jay Coles (Tyler Johnson Was Here), Sara Farizan (Here to Stay), and Alex Kahler (Runebreaker). Each author read one page (and one page only, even if it broke a sentence) from their book; Sara sang that "Let's start at the very beginning" bit from The Sound of Music and then started at Page 1, 2 of the authors had each other pick a number at random, and the others just read something that they liked.

2nd part was David asking some questions touching on things like the way each author handled their protagonists' relationships with their parents (that was really intriguing as most of the authors were pretty young and some had drawn in a very direct way on their relationships with their own parents, so it ended up being a kind of personal question that they answered with great honesty and love), and specific approaches they used for writing for a young audience. One interesting point that came up there was that as the YA genre has grown, it's reaching for a wider audience, it started out aimed at teens but the stuff that's coming out now may feature youthful characters but is good enough storytelling to appeal to grownups, too. I can certainly vouch for that, one of my favorite perks of working for Scholastic is access to a ton of free books. I don't necessarily find everything we print for YA interesting, but I've read and really enjoyed an awful lot of the stories that are available on the giveaway shelf. So much more than when I was a kid!

3rd part was the audience's turn to ask questions, and some good questions were asked. I even got over my phobia about standing up and speaking in front of people to ask the final question of the evening - somebody else had asked about authors that influenced the writers who were there tonight, and I followed that up with a question about people in their lives who'd given them the earliest confidence in their own writing abilities and sense that this was maybe something they could do "for real". Seemed like a nice question with which to wrap up the evening, and as someone who's got a creative bent, there's this blog and then I love taking pictures and drawing and painting and stuff like that (enough for the "doodles" label to exist); but never even considered taking it beyond a hobby, I'm always a bit awed by people who actually take similar leanings and grow up to do something real with 'em, and thought it would be fun to hear about who'd steered them that way early on. The stories that question elicited were so much fun, with some very humorous twists to some of them - I guess asking a bunch of storytellers to tell stories about people who helped them become storytellers was not a bad idea at all!

Came away from tonight with 6 new books I really want to read now (the 7th, as I mentioned, I'd already read). They had them all for sale there and I settled on David's Someday (got him to sign it!) and Kheryn Callender's This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story - at one point David had asked a question about dedication, and Kheryn mentioned hers, which finishes "And finally, I'm lucky for all the queer people of color who exist in the world, who inspire me and make me feel a little less alone. We're beautiful, we're magical, and we deserve epic love stories". This made me think of some friends of mine who fit that perfectly, and between that and how much I enjoyed Hurricane Child, I found myself wanting to start with that one. It was a tough call deciding what to get, though. The rest I'll definitely be hunting down around the office or library, because they all sound great!

Got those 2 and then as I was leaving I remembered I've been meaning to read Sebago friend Roger D. Hodge's family history, Texas Blood, pretty much since it came out. You get to the Rare Book Room through a separate entrance, so I left there and walked into the main shop to ask after Roger's book, and there's Michelle Obama smiling irresistably from a display table right in the front of the store.

Subway reading is covered for a while!