Saturday, May 19, 2007


I enjoyed our day at Coney Island last Saturday. All I did, once I replaced my broken sunglasses, was walk around looking at stuff: arcades full of games I didn't play and a pier-full of amusement park rides I didn't ride. Sunshine and our gracious hosts did ride the massive Wonder Wheel, which old signs tout as being the largest ferris wheel in the world (this list of wheels, ordered by size, doesn't mention it. Possibly, it's the largest "double wheel", though: an inner ring of cars slide to the outside when acted upon by gravity). We ate funnel cakes, pretzels, and cheese fries. Sunshine successfully played a claw game, netting a stuffed Cookie Monster on her first quarter. Some photos of these things are here, by the way. Later, we all attended the Coney Island Circus Sideshow.* After buying tickets, we waited until the next break between acts before sitting on planks to watch the show. While waiting, we were treated to a blockhead routine by the carny-man calling people in. I was surrounded by signs telling me Do Not Take Pictures, which is why I don't have an awesome shot of this man, a screwdriver sticking out of his nose and a sequined assistant by his side, wooing a squad-car full of gawking NYPD. Once the show started, Insectavora, a chaps-wearing tattooed fire-eater, hauled Sunshine up onto the stage, blindfolded her, put a balloon between her legs, and made with the bullwhip. Sunshine was not only returned to us unscathed, but she got to keep the blindfold. That's one Coney Island souvenir not just everyone comes home with. Admin note: I've cleaned and packed and am leaving town until after Memorial Day. It is unlikely this Update will see any action in the next ten days. [Cavin]

Friday, May 18, 2007


Last night Sunshine and I went out to the ten-something show of 28 Weeks Later.* The venue was some multiplex located on Lee's Highway, just west of an impenetrable knot called "Seven Corners". Of course, we entered Seven Corners knowing precisely where we wanted to go, but emerged heading south on Highway 7. Loath to fail again, I attempted to cut from one spoke-like highway to the other, using only pitch-black residential back roads, the same way a spider circumnavigates its web. Sunshine eventually spied the theater through the rear window, but we eventually arrived on time. In 28 Weeks Later, six more months have passed since the deadly outbreak of "rage virus" that threatened Cillian Murphy a couple of years ago. Its been months since the last of the infected succumbed to starvation, and the US military has cordoned-off London's Isle of Dogs to create a safe haven for healthy survivors. There are two distinct types of Zombie movies: voodoo and horde. The first is rarer, and addresses quant social concerns about abduction, somnambulism, and enslavement with trappings of colonial exoticism and class struggle thrown in for good measure. The second type is more popular, weaving satirical cross-caste memento mori together with fears of mutilation, disease, asexual replication, and death. Of this genus, there are two rather indistinct species: undead zombies and bio-zombies (the second being a literal reading of the first). 28 Weeks Later is a example of this last type, a movie that walks a fat line encompassing both its verisimilitude and metaphor while strictly adhering to apparently immutable genre conventions: the predictability of what happens hinges only on the viewer's familiarity with other, similar sequels (there's a new infection in town, but blood-vomiting zombies are still no match for the evil of regular people). [Cavin]

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Last night, before seeing a movie in Maryland, I wandered around Silver Spring looking for a place to have my sunglasses repaired. I lost the little screw out of the lens housing while taking photos from some Brighton Beach Station in New York last Saturday. There was this little sproinnng and the left lens fell onto the platform. I was subsequently blinded by the Coney Island sun until I was able to pick up a cheap replacement pair. Last Saturday we asked the MTA attendant where the nearest drugstore was, and ambled around south Brooklyn according to his guidance. We never found the large chain store he supposed was somewhere out there, but we did discover a drugstore run by a pleasant Russian who taxed his English ability telling me no, no, no when I tried to borrow or buy the necessary little screwdriver. My luck has continued in this vein. Yesterday in Silver Spring I eventually found the glasses store Google Maps led me to, only to discover it was in the lobby of an optometrist who closed at four thirty. Since it was already five thirty, I decided to eat dinner (in the shade) while waiting for my movie. Walking around a new area of Silver Spring had turned up a Cuban restaurant, a wonderfully dodgy fifties-era diner, and yet another frat Mexican place (which is where I ate). Since returning from the movie last night, I have been piecing together composite collages from the photos that I took in New York last weekend. I've managed to get a number of them online today, and they can be viewed here. One of these pictures is a panoramic view of the Coney Island amusement park, taken from some Brighton Beach Station. I took that picture without sunglasses. [Cavin]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


Tonight I went to see Madame De... (1953, and known as the Earrings of Madame De... in the US),* screened in celebration of Janus Films,* a distributor which has, through the restoration and curation of important titles, raised the watermark of available film culture in the US (Criterion* is one of the company's DVD imprints). Madame De... takes place in the late nineteenth century and relates the maturation of a French comtesse, her honorable name struck elliptic in the literary trick of the times. Materialistic and insincere, the young Madame enjoys a meaningless marriage with breezy but charming General De.... It's an arrangement to their mutual benefit: he's provided with a young belle for the balls and she is lavished with the finery assumed due pretty social aristocracy. At the beginning of the movie, she is rummaging through her loot looking for something to pawn for quick cash: a diamond earring wedding present from her husband wouldn't be difficult to part with. When the jeweler--incidentally, the man who sold the earrings in the first place--seems uncertain, the Madame feigns the vapors to bully him into capitulation. He doesn't remain in possession of the earrings long: he contacts the General, who seems more amused than annoyed to repurchase the present. He proceeds to give the earrings to a mistress leaving for Turkey where she, in turn, loses them in a shocking display of ineptitude at the roulette table. They are later bought by an Italian diplomat soon to be posted to Paris where he'll chance to meet the young Madame De..., and fall in love. This is merely the beginning of this excellent film, another fable of manners basically amounting to a screwball drama. Recommended. [Cavin]

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


We returned safely to DC shortly after two thirty this morning. Outside Union Station there was a lone taxi-stand attendee with a long line of Sunday night travelers waiting for transport home. There were, however, very few cabs. Apparently the policeman's ball was last night and the majority of the city's cabs were transporting drunken cops to and fro, totally ignoring the train station. The attendant was a thickset man with black hair and a white beard, jovially making a hash of everything by rearranging the line into discrete groups with similar geographic destinations. We ended up going all the way to Shirlington before being returned Falls Church by three thirty. Our weekend in New York was great. We were there visiting longtime friends of Sunshine's. They put us up on a succession of inflatable mattresses in their beautiful apartment in an otherwise shabby Prospect Heights tenement. During our stay, we visited three of five boroughs, ate at five restaurants, rode at least five subway lines, and saw five circus freaks. I took almost five hundred photographs.* I'd never really been to NYC before: though I had driven through several times, this was my first real tourist venture there. Here's some stuff we did: took the Staten Island ferry, ate Coney Island funnelcakes, navigated Penn Station, and visited the Strand bookstore. Union square is a circle. We went to Ground Zero. I can see why people fall in love with--or at least obsess over--the place by writing songs and books and wearing I heart t-shirts. The city is a compellingly vibrant place that is tasty, smelly and a little touchy, a kaleidoscope of society crammed into a sometimes overwhelming sensual morass. I really liked it, and I'm afraid DC will seem a little duller, now. [Cavin]