Imagine giant creatures being propelled along the strand by wind power. Their many legs move in response to the power of the wind. These are Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest. At one reach, a bit risible, and at another, a meditation on how evolution might go under other circumstances. I had seen video clips of Jansen’s creations online for several years and wondered what their actual scale and construction were like.
My opportunity to see strandbeest in person came when the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, hosted an exhibit of Jansen’s strandbeest. Strandbeest are large articulated constructions, almost too large to be contained in an exhibit area. Jansen designed them to move about on the beach powered by the wind. In a museum setting, people provide the energy to move them about.
Periodically I like to watch the clips I recorded at the exhibit and the construction details. I enjoy thinking about what might happen if a herd of strandbeest suddenly appeared on a Massachusetts beach one day, moving in the wind and striding about.
Panic? I imagine the scene from a horrible 1950s Sci-Fi movie as beachgoers scramble to leave the beach, hauling little children in their wake and abandoning tubs of beer and food…screaming. Hmmm, I’ve been watching too many old movies, I guess.
It’s one of my favorite brags. I am not retired. I run a small access television organization full-time and am not retired. Yes, I do not labor as hard as I once did at other jobs, but I still supervise my small crew, handle technology upgrades and ensure the station automation is working. And yes, I do enjoy my job. However, whenever I check in for lab work or visit a specialist, they all assume that being seventy-six, I am retired. So I make a point of having it changed to employed. But the next time I visit, it’s back to retired. It’s like I should know my place in the scheme of things, cease all toil, and do what is bureaucratically convenient.
Just today, our Town’s annual census form was returned to us; we had forgotten to sign it. But what was this? My employment status had been changed by the infamous “powers that be” from employed to retired. So I crossed out the handwritten notation with my note – ” employed!!!!”
I may not be retired at seventy-six, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be a cranky old cuss when I want to be: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
I am a gadget fan, but despite being a fair craftsman, I never inherited the mechanical skills for taking things apart and putting them together that my father possessed. But I love to watch them whirr, turn and do something on the tabletop. I am continuously tempted by mechanical toys meant for my cat or dog – it’s a toss-up as to who is most entertained by them.
The other night I was having a conversation with one of my sons. He’d found a website with numerous kits for gizmos. Whatchamacallits. and gadgets. We spent a half-hour touring the site and appreciating the goodies on sale there.
I recalled Tom Paxton’s song The Marvelous Toy this morning.
When he had time to sire this bunch I don’t know. But they seem to be identical to the “cute” Gray Menace, my cat from 1969 until he ascended to cat heaven in the mid ’80’s.
Shot in 1980 these adorable kittens haven’t come into the menace part of their inheritance, yet, just the cuteness stuff. But like their ancestor Clancy AKA the Gray Menace soon the desire for O negative blood will appear and mayhem ensue.
If I need a remembrance of what he looked like when young and still innocent I just have to watch this commercial
I learned early on to always beware the quiet one. In any group of students, there was usually one that stood out by not standing out. They were never the ones to initiate a ruction, fight, or quarrel. Nobody was likely to finger them in a lineup and say, ” that’s the one officer!” Growing up, this person tended to be me. I was held back in school several times as the family moved from Washinton Heights to Long Island to another place on Long Island and back to Washington Heights. Being perpetually behind someone’s curriculum eight ball made it hard for me to catch up and excel. Also, being the new kid, I attracted attention that I did not want. So I hid.
I was encouraged to teach a media and television production workshop to seventh and eighth-graders about seventeen years ago. Several times a week, I’d truck a pile of video equipment into a middle school to encourage the kids to produce TV. It was supposed to be part of an “enriched education” project. I would get the best students. But, remembering the quiet ones, I insisted that only students who were interested and voluntarily signed up would be allowed in the program. I’d been thrust into too many “it’ll be good for you” situations. On a practical level, I didn’t want to be facing a bunch of sullen draftees eager to topple another shibboleth of education.. From the outset, I created the program to be a holistic, hands-on experience; there were classes but balanced with playing with the toys. The toys were professional camcorders, tripods, sliders, and even a small jib crane. Rather than some reduced feature computer editing software, they learned to use the current professional editing suite on an iMac computer. I was pretty amazed at how thorough an education in the area the students could absorb. Editing and lighting seemed to be where my quiet ones landed. The more unruly loved scriptwriting and acting. After fourteen years, the program ended; it had been a terrific run. Every student departed with, at minimum, a good understanding of how modern media got created. Several students went on to film and video programs at college, became Youtube creators and musicians. Through them, I had the opportunity to play with areas of television that were beyond my documentarian roots. For example, the students produced great commercials, did the video for an entire fictitious political campaign, and delved into creating a soap opera. Working with me all the way were the quiet students who mastered editing, lighting, and storyboarding. Much like any professional team, you need a mix of personalities and aptitudes to be successful.
Back a long time ago I really was a practicing ethnographer. Recently I was asked to repost an old documentary that I did in the 1980’s. Unfortunately that one is lost, but a shorter version that I did in 2003 remains. So I am posting it here for a different audience. Warning: it was shot in standard definition, and the video is not wonderful by today’s standards.
The reason I still like the video has nothing to do with my efforts. It’s the wonderful people of the Society of Saints Cosmas and Damien, and the residents of East Cambridge. Most people who visit a saints festival never get past the carnival games, and food vendors. This video was meant to be an eleven minute entree past that into the world of those who venerate the saints, and unabashedly have a wonderful time while doing it.
I was standing watching the waves roll in at Rockport. Last night had been stormy, and the waves were long rollers sweeping in from the Atlantic. From where I stood, there was no land between Europe and me. That much water is both exciting and daunting. For me, fall starts with the shift of prevailing winds out of the soft southwesterly of summer into more unsettled patterns. It’s a season of change. For the landlocked, the features they notice most are the cooler evenings and leaves turning. But I’d maintain that the grey waters, persistent lines of rolling waves, and the wet spume are better markers. Now is the best time to walk the tide line. Following the storm, tides bring in kelp, driftwood, sea glass, and old wreckage bits. All are on display. The worn bits of sea glass provide proof that given time, the sea will wear everything down. Find a warm berth in some shoreside cafe, get a mug of coffee, and watch the inevitable.
You must be logged in to post a comment.