22.1.20

Book Face: Pharaoh Amasis of Two Egypts Holding Court in Memphis on the Nile River

I’m a high school English and Ethics teacher. Sometimes I’m tired of being a grownup so I play with the book faces in my school’s modest library. Today, I’m covering an ancient pharaoh from ancient Egypt. Also, today is National Shelfie Day.
Book Face
What’s my book 📖 face?
Standing in the @gardenschoolnyc library serving up some Egyptian Pharaoh realness as Amasis, ruler of Two Egypts - where I’m holding court in Memphis on the River Nile. Who or what am I pointing to? The god Horus has sent me a sign - a golden slipper so bright that every maiden in Egypt must try it on. P.S. Thanks @joellegarcia__ for snapping the photo for this epic Book Face photo.


21.1.20

A Moment of Clarity Waiting for the Q66 Bus in Flushing

I don’t like to wait. For buses. For people. Waiting feels like an abuse on my person. But worse than that waiting exposes the truth of it all - that I’m not important.
     Which is why people who are entitled or privileged scoff at flying coach. One has to wait. So those who can pay the extra cash do so to stave off the notion that they’re insignificant. However, there is something to be said for waiting. I was waiting for the Q66 bus. This New York City bus takes me from Flushing to home via Queen’s Northern Boulevard. Today I took the bus. I was shepherding a few students of mine back to Jackson Heights. We had spent the day in Flushing to celebrate the Lunar New Year (even though it doesn’t officially begin until Saturday). I teach teenagers who are studying in the United States on F-1 visas. 
      What that means is - among many aspects of the job - that we take trips quite often during the year. This year we decided to go to a hot pot restaurant that recently opened up in Flushing. Apparently it’s a chain popular in China. It’s situated on the ground floor of a modern boxy office building. The Mandarin teacher at my school recommended the place; she organized the trip. The dean of the upper school also came with us. He had never eaten at a hot pot restaurant so we introduced him to duck blood and ponzu sauce.
      After the meal, waiting for the Q66 bus I noticed the sign of a Modell’s Sporting Goods sign flapping in the wind. I don’t like to wait so I made of the moment something aesthetic. It’s often true that time slows down when waiting. Maybe it was the festive meal we were having. But I had this feeling that I was seeing, reaching for, experiencing beauty all around me. Time goes into slow motion. Flapping of a sign. Red lanterns hanging from the a storefront window. Ginseng for sale. The laughter of children. The feel of my wallet as I take it out, searching for a metro card. It’s an ephemeral feeling; one that lasted long enough to make me feel on par with existence. So I took a few photos. Pictures never capture how I see something with my eyes. The human eye’s depth of vision still exceeds the iPhone camera.
      I like the conversation I hear around me. I even say “Happy New Year” in Mandarin to a gentleman also waiting for the bus. He smiles. I think he must be proud of me that I know an appropriate Lunar New Year greeting. We board the bus - the students and I - and I’m pleased by how calm they are; as the bus rocks and sways, gaining speed as it crosses Flushing Bay, the world seems open with possibility and I remember the morning time. Sitting. Waiting. For the day to begin. And a teenager had said out loud “I’m bored” - it was that time before classes had begun. That moment of free time that terrifies some people because I don’t think everyone learns what exactly to do with themselves.
       It’s a skill. To stave off boredom and do. Something. And I don’t like to wait. That feeling of inactivity. Of time ticking. “Are we back at school? Yet” asks Neil - who is sitting across from me. Yes. I say. Press the button to alert the driver to stop. “But I’m scared,” he says. I press the button. I get it. He’s afraid to stop the bus. To fling himself into the next thing and the next. I get it. I tell him. And we’re off.

19.1.20

Quote on Beauty and Difference from the Classic Series of Dr. Who — "The Genesis of the Daleks" (1975)

Doctor Who and the Genesis of the Daleks.jpg"Why must we always destroy beauty? Why kill another creature because it is not in our image?" I keep the classic series of Dr. Who on replay at my house. I want to catch up on episodes I have missed — and I particularly like the Tom Baker episodes. He's the fourth incarnation of the Doctor, and he portrayed the character from 1974 to 1981 (the longest-running tenure of the role in the show's history).
The Genesis of the Daleks:     In the Terrance Dicks written chapter entitled "The Genesis of the Daleks," — the Doctor is sent back in time and space to the Dalek planet Skaro to prevent war between humans and the Dalek race from occurring in the future. The episode is an origin story of the Daleks —  a race of boxy, dangerous aliens. The Daleks have proved to be the doctor's most fearsome, persistent nemesis. With their vibrating cry of "Exterminate!" it is not a hard extrapolation that the Daleks are meant to represent the extreme version of what happens when a species goes all-out bonkers with racial superiority and hatred of difference. The Daleks annihilate difference and vouchsafe sameness in the universe. There is a twist in this episode, however, since the Doctor learns that the Daleks are the creation of a figure named Davros — a humanoid with a Dalek-shaped lower body. The Daleks are the master idea of a diabolical mastermind. Are you getting a Hitler-tingle? Well. You should.
Are Humans More Destructive or Creative as a Species?     
As per the course of a Dr. Who narrative — there is a lot of meaningful talk about what difference (and how humans deal with that which is different) means for the future of humanity. Are we more like the Daleks — whose prime directive is to kill all lifeforms, not like their own? The writers of the show make obvious nods to humanity's own track record for acting like Daleks — think of violence enacted in the name of racial superiority or the banal way in which humans become exterminators under certain conditions — think of the gas chambers that annihilated Jews, homosexuals, people of color, and other so-called dissidents — or the way guards at Guantanamo Bay tortured and debased human beings under their supervision. 
A Trenchant, Relevant Quote    
One scene in particular is a miniature of the grand themes Terrance Dicks is hashing out in the show. In a brief episode of capture, Sarah Jane Smith, one of the Doctor's classic companions, is considered for extermination. But a voice cries out. And asks a question: Why destroy beauty? Why destroy another creature because it does fit into one's own image?



(Sarah is out cold as a muto strokes her face.)SEVRIN: She's beautiful. No deformities, no imperfections.GERRILL: She is a norm. All norms are our enemies. Kill her now for what she's done to our kind.SEVRIN: No, why? Why must we always destroy beauty? Why kill another creature because it is not in our image?GERRILL: Kill her! It is the law. All norms must die. They are our enemies. And if you won't, I will.
Dr. Who "Genesis of the Daleks" Original Airdate on BBC television: March 8, 1975 / image from the BBC 

15.1.20

Photograph: That Time I Captured a Cool Perspective from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Cleveland

I took this photograph of the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Cleveland, Ohio when I was there for my mother’s heart surgery last fall. See the posts about that time further down. I like the point of view - looking up at the body and the hulk of metal machinery and the blur of the flag. I took a lot of pictures. It was wet that day. I was a sodden mess. And is it me or does the human figure in the scene look alive? As if he is not a sculpture.

11.1.20

Flash Fiction: Rocky Embankment Stream of Consciousness

     
     There's a rocky embankment that you're probably not supposed to walk on because it's filled with old age and danger. And of course, I fall flat on my face, and as I'm falling and thinking, “Oh, fudge!” When in danger, time goes in slow motion. I feel my knee pressed against the ground. It’s purple, bruised and I scratch my forearm. It’s nighttime, and I don't know how I’ll be able to climb out of this embankment. I have shorts that I wear in Summer. No pockets - so I had my wallet stuck into my shorts like a silly boy, and I had keys tucked into my shorts, and I had my phone, and everything stuck into my shorts - you know - in the lapel part of your shorts where your M matches the seam, and everything just falls into place. I don't know how I’ll be able to save my sandwich from falling into the rocks, and I had my keys, and I am like “this hurts,” and I’m stuck to the rock, and I don't know how I’ll get out. If I were injured more ... I ‘m lucky, but I'm like, “where's my phone?” I couldn't find my phone, so my phone at this moment is still lodged in the rocks of Lake Champlain. I wait till tomorrow morning to get it, but it's a big long story - the short version is I basically follow my tracks back to the rocky shores of Lake Champlain - and that's been my day so far. Now I'm back in my hotel room telling you the story on my iPad, and hopefully tomorrow morning I will wake up and locate my phone from the rocks so also what's wrong with me because there it is - I found it - inches away from where I fell. I could've walked a few meters more, and there was a path that takes you down into a depthless semigloss lake - that's safe, but “Yeah” - I don't know what’s wrong with me. 
~ transcribed at the scene.

6.1.20

Watch This Video of a Stray Dog Fed by a Subway Sandwich Employee and Tell Me How It Makes You Feel


Cute Feel-Good-About-Humans-Doing-Good Videos  
I like cute videos. Like this one. I’m happy. When I watch it. I think it’s the expectant face of the dog. They looks so forlorn yet satisfied. A Homo sapiens will feed it. They are sure. And as a watcher on the scene, my tummy is filled by witnessing the showcase of sliced deli meat and tidbits - I’m reminded of a parable. Even the dogs feed from the scraps of the master’s table. And then I’m reminded of a Rembrandt painting hanging in the Hermitage inspired by that same parable - a father’s hand on his beloved son once prodigal.
Maybe it’s because I’ve come to peace with my own need for a father. It’s primal. To want the love of a parent. And at the same time, it’s powerful to exert oneself in the world as a child without the need of one. Father. Mother. Caregiver. Licking one’s wounds grows wearisome. Feeling sorry for oneself is a bit pathetic. That’s why I like the canine in this scene. Not pathetic or stupid. Just expectant. For a bit of meat. Chosen from the master’s table.

31.12.19

Thinking About the Roman God Janus On New Year’s Eve

The Roman god Janus as depicted on an ancient coin.
New and old faces to anticipate the new year.
     The Romans had a god named Janus. He had two faces - one looking backward into the past and the other looking forward into the future. For me, the New Year represents this paradoxical view - looking forward and 👀 looking back.
To be Janus-faced is to face this contradiction.
     And this time of year it’s customary to reflect on a year gone by and to make resolve for the upcoming annual. Now whether you assert that the 2010s are for sure done with or not (yes, there is a controversy about this) - I feel like a new decade has begun (and I’m anticipating a ton of jokes about 20/20 vision and Barbara Walters).
Faces - familiar and novel - to ring in a new year.
Stray Comments On New Year’s Resolutions for 2020
  • I want to walk more. That means 10,000 steps a day.
  • Read more books this year.
  • Write every day.
  • To remember my resolutions throughout the year (but wait - I don’t recall last year’s resolutions!)

29.12.19

Christmas Season Travel Report: A Balmy Winter Day in New Orleans (And It’s My Birthday)

Drag Queen
<Why, hello!> she said. Just another balmy Winter day in NOLA.
     Today is a balmy Winter day in New Orleans. Mornings in this city feel hazy and not quite woken up. It’s a city of the nighttime and in the morning everyone’s either leaving a bar to go home or someone’s yawning and stretching, trying to come alive. Here are pictures I took of friends and me coming alive in this crescent 🌙 city. It’s also my birthday today. I’m forty years old. Or, forty years young — as we like to say it.
***

I’m traveling with two teacher friends of mine - Michelle and Lauren. They both convinced me it would be a good idea to celebrate Winter break and my birthday in New Orleans. So here we are at the Palace Café on Canal Street. 
Trio of Friends
I have two old friends from New Orleans, Tony, and André to share the day. That’s me in the middle of the photo. It’s refreshing to see familiar faces in a familiar city. I’m happy. Let me know in the comments if you can read my shirt. 

24.12.19

Christmas Eve Bonfire Along the Mississippi River Levee in St. James Parish, Louisiana

Along the Corps of Engineers engineered  Mississippi earthen levee stretching from Paulina, Lutcher, Gramercy to LaPlace, Louisiana folks have constructed wooden effigies which they properly light up on the evening before Christmas.

     People share stories, drink a beer, and get close to the heat. Kids run amok and adults are in a carefree mood. It’s Christmastime in Louisiana!
Bonfire
     Fireworks go off and the levee is set ablaze at exactly 7 o’clock on Christmas Eve.
     Standing on the slope of the earthen levee it’s possible to see the bonfires stretch out for miles.

8.12.19

Photograph: Ernie Childhood Toy Spotted at the Museum of the Moving Image

Ernie Puppet Topper Toys
I had this Ernie puppet toy growing up — it was manufactured by Topper Toys in 1972 — mine was a handme down from my older brother. I liked Ernie (better than Bert). Watching Sesame Street as a kid, Ernie was the lovable one while Bert was irascible and perennially annoyed. Ernie was definitely the better guy for me. The toy is made from rubber and polyester. What's the main idea? Toys influence a life. I felt a visceral response seeing this same toy in the Museum of the Moving Image @movingimagenyc.

3.12.19

To Thine Ownself Be True


I'm not pensive. Usually. Read what I write. Comment. Rant. Share. But, whatever you do, remember to support teachers,  writers, and artists.

28.11.19

Photograph: The Constellation Orion Hangs in the Late Autumn Nighttime Sky

"Hitch your wagon to a star."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
Fall Night Sky 🌌 in Nassau County - The constellation Orion, named after the agile Greek hunter, is easily visible in the night sky. Look for him. Also, I’m happy this photograph came out so crisp and clean.