Spring Cleaning

I tried to tidy up Panorama of the Mountains a bit, and I think I was moderately successful in reducing some clutter. I took away About in the sidebar since it was duplicated in the tabs up top, and I also moved the Utilities up there since they are of little use to anyone but me. Another big change was to sort all the links in my blogroll into categories. It wasn’t easy as one word rarely describes a blog and many of them fit in multiple categories. But now folks looking for library blogs won’t have to sift through baseball blogs and vice versa.

Speaking of the blogroll, I’ve added some new links:

With baseball season underway I’ve started reading several more baseball blogs and surprisingly none of them are exclusively Mets-related. The Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling, already one of the most accessible and fan-friendly ballplayers around, now has an official blog called 38 Pitches. More great baseball insights may be found at The Pinetar Rag and Yard Work.

Another fun discovery about blogging and reading blogs is seeing the stories folks from the Boston area are posting. These new blogs include Auntie Scotch Raves, Bachelor in Porter Square, Bradley’s Almanac (which focuses on the Boston music scene), The City Record and Boston News-Letter (fantastic history blog), Isak (literature and social justice), Lost in Boston, and Shutterscript (stunning photography). I’m humbled to be among such interesting and talented neighbors.

I found several good “fact of the day” type of reference blogs, since I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff. These include Britannica Blog, Infoplease Editors’ Blog, Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day, ResourceShelf, and World Almanac.

My news and politics resources grow with Buzzflash and Democracy Now!

Fr. Ben Hawley, SJ of The Good News blog now has two more spiritually-based blogs, Did God Find You Today and Living the Eucharist in Our Daily Lives.

Bike Commuters and Green Streets join my growing collection of blogs regarding bicycling, transit, urban planning, and green cities.

Some of my favorite newly-discovered blogs take a quirky theme and post photos and stories about them each day. Blogs that fall in this genre include Secret Fun Blog (retro culture), Shorpy – The One-Hundred-Year-Old Photo Blog (gorgeous high-resolution photos of urban and industrial scenes from 60-100 years ago), Strange Maps (self-explanatory), and Truly Awful Stuff (ditto). Well they’re kind of too arcane to describe well so check them out!

Of course, I hope to make Panorama of the Mountains a great blog visited by many, so if you like what you see (or don’t) drop in and leave a comment.

Movie Review: Dark Days

Legends are told about the Mole People who live in tunnels under New York City with fantastic and sensational details such as rival clans of Mole People who dine on rats and may even have taken on mole-like features. British filmmaker Marc Singer’s film Dark Days takes a more humanistic approach to documenting the lives of actual inhabitants of a shanty town in an abandoned railroad tunnel on Manhattan’s West Side. Over several years he got to know the very human people who found shelter underground. This stark black & white film is in many ways their own story as the homeless worked as Singer’s crew in filming, and the film is itself a serious of vignettes mainly with two people talking very naturally about their lives. While some parts seem a bit staged — such as one woman who never turns her back to the camera, even when talking to someone behind her — for the most part it is a peak into the lives of the tunnel community.

What strikes me is how their lives appear to be normal in many ways. They live in simple huts of wood and plasterboard which are so well maintained that they could be small apartments in New York. They have stoves, fans, and televisions. One man says they have everything but running water, but even that can be improvised as one man displays by taking a cold shower under a leaky pipe. The residents of the tunnel keep pets. One man shows the pen full of puppies he’s bred, another shows photos of various dogs and rodents he’s kept as pets. They go to work and they go shopping. Of course work means salvaging fully functional electronic goods discarded by the privileged and reselling them. Shopping means searching trash for food, including an entire bag full of fresh doughnuts outside of a bakery. We learn that Kosher stores are the best because they don’t mix the foods with coffee grounds.

Of course, this is not a normal life. Singer lets the camera tell the story, scanning over mounds of trash within the tunnel. I can’t even imagine what the stench is like in there. Surging over the trash are packs of large and hungry rats, a constant source of distress to even the most experienced tunnel dweller. And in case you forget what the tunnel was built for, Singer captures the frequent passing of Amtrak trains, bells clanging, perilously close to some of the shanties. This is a hard life, a dark life both literally and figuratively, where people have gained some security but at a great cost. Over all of this is the scourge of drugs and addiction.

Unexpectedly, this movie has a happy ending. In a cruel and officious manner, Amtrak officials and armed police inform the tunnel residents they are being evicted because Amtrak has plans to reopen the tunnel. Yet through the intervention of Singer and the Coalition for the Homeless, all the subjects of the film are able to secure subsidized housing. The final scenes show the formerly homeless moving into their new apartments, looking happier than we’ve seen them, and hopefully a bright future in front of them. I think it’s no accident that as the film ends we see one of the men standing by a window, the sunlight that was absent for the entire movie flooding over him.

Mets-Phillies Series Roundup

I don’t have too much to say about these games because I wasn’t able to watch them. The Phillies won on Wednesday 2-5, and the Mets came back yesterday to win 5-3. So the Phillies limp home after a 2-7 start, their worst in decades. The Mets welcome the hapless Nationals for a weekend series starting tonight. I should bite my tongue though because the Nats have a nasty habit of spoiling things for the Mets going back to their Expos days.

Mike’s Mets brings you a summary of Tom Glavine’s 292nd win and Faith and Fear in Flushing lets us know that you can never have too much David Wright.

Players of the game (I award up to ten points, maximum of 6 points to one player, distributed among the Mets players who had the biggest impact in the game):

April 11, 2007:

  • Beltran .50
  • Reyes 2.5
  • Sele 2.5
  • Smith 1.5
  • Valentin 1.5

April 12 2007:

  • Alou 3
  • Glavine 1.5
  • Reyes 3
  • Smith 1
  • Wagner .50
  • Wright 1

Friday Sillies: Velcro & Alka-Seltzer

When we were kids, my sister & I liked to stay up late and watch TV. One of our favorites was the original Late Night With David Letterman on NBC (which was on right before every rebellious child’s favorite show NBC News Overnight with Linda Ellerbee). Unlike today’s show where Dave pretty much just interviews celebrity guests, the show back then was more madcap with lots of skits and stunts. Much of what David Letterman and his crew did was pretty innovative for TV of the early 80’s and damn funny.

Here are two famous bits where Dave wears a suit of Velcro and a suit of Alka-Selzer. I feel like I saw these when they were first broadcast, but since neither of the dates is in the summer, I probably saw them in reruns.

Sadly I was not able to find some memorable nuggets like Dave throwing medical gloves filled with butterscotch pudding off a five-story building or Dave roaming around Byram, Connecticut looking for a place that sells bone saws, but these were a good trip down memory lane.

Franklin Park Spring Clean-up

On Saturday April 7, I participated in the Annual Spring Clean-up at Franklin Park along with the Boston Cares’ BOOYAH and the Franklin Park Coalition. Along with some eager youth from the Madison Park High School I picked up trash and pulled out invasive weeds and roots (and I managed despite all precaution to give myself poison ivy). We got a lot done but it seemed to be a drop in the buck compared to the park on the whole.

Luckily, most of the interior of Franklin Park is in good shape and actually quite beautiful. Due to it’s proximity to some of Boston’s poorer neighborhoods the park is something of a neglected gem. I took the opportunity to stroll around and take some photos of the startlingly natural areas that feel miles away from Boston urbanity.

A few of my favorite photos are below and the full album is online at Othemts.com.