It’s been a brutally cold, occasionally wet, often frozen winter here in my next of the woods, though a far cry from the polar vortexed permanently deep snow-covered winter of last year. It’s made for a great winter for reading…and my chapped hands found their way to three novels cold as ice, though only one, The Kept, haunts the imagination.
Things started out with a banal, arduous thud that was the literary equivalent of traipsing 100 miles uphill in three feet of snow to the top of a mountain with a horrible view. Richard Ford’s Canada is a long drawn out affair (it’s not until about 300 pages through the 500+ page tome that we actually get to Canada) that tells you exactly what happened in the very first sentence and then proceeds to elaborate on it ad nauseam in repetitive memoir style. Twin brother and sister, Dell and Bern, at age 15, are thrown into a maelstrom after their previously thought to be stable and clear-headed parents rob a bank in a pathetic act of desperation. Bern runs away, while Dell (our narrator) is shuffled off to the middle of nowhere Canada where he meets some unsavory characters and witnesses a murder. Getting to the bank robbery was painful and lacked even a modicum of suspense, and I don’t know how many times the narrator had to remind us of his naivety (while Bern was more wild and worldly) as he goes from one horribly boring existence to the next shaped by brief criminal acts and the occasional weirdo. I’ve never met more boring characters or read about more bloodless crimes. Continue reading →
Sometimes I need to take a break from writing about the pictures (as in films) by going out and taking pictures (as in very amateur photography). On a recent drive out to Doylestown, I stopped at Fonthill Castle for some photo ops.
A few Saturdays ago, a venture out to Chadds Ford, PA resulted in an impromptu visit to the Chadds Ford Antique Mall (inconveniently…I mean, conveniently located right next to the Chadds Ford Winery) where I happened upon the treasure above – an antique Remington typewriter, conspicuously priced at a “gotta have it” 35 smackers.
Now nestled at home in my study, Remi is begging for my imagination to run wild. How many previous owners were there? What has been typed on this machine…how many stories…love letters…ledgers…diaries…secrets???
I invite you to let your imaginations run wild, too, and tell me what Remi has seen…what Remi has composed…perhaps Remi is even haunted. But by what? By whom? Leave your “Remi Story” suggestions in the comments field…and see what might become…
It’s summertime! And what comes to mind more than…yup, uh-huh…graveyards!
It might be the summer doldrums for refined film buffs — and if you consider yourself party to such self-inflicted snobbery, then pray your city has been one of the selected cities for Winter’s Bone’s limited release – it’s killer good and the perfect antithesis to summer movie hell. Meanwhile every girl and woman you know is lining up for tonight’s midnight showing and about to go crazy over the latest in the Twilight Saga…dun dun dun…Eclipse! Can you hear Bonnie Tyler now? Turn around…
So, in the most tenuous of ties to the Total Eclipse of the Box Office, I have decided to post a hodge-podge collection of my daylight graveyard photography. Some of these photos have been posted before in travel logs and some have never before seen the light of day. The cemeteries visited span the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.
Ga’head, ladies, use your imagination and picture your favorite vampire or werewolf hunk amidst the trees and the stones. Or better yet…don’t. Continue reading →
This past Saturday (amidst all the crisp sunlight and gusting winds) was spent on a self-guided wine tour of Bucks County. It was our little Pennsylvania version of Sideways as we hit many of the spots along the Bucks County Wine Trail, but unlike Paul Giamatti’s character, we did drink some Merlot.
We visited five wineries in Bucks County (sorry, no pictures for this day-trip…too busy drinking)…and I’m confident in selecting Crossing Vineyards and Winery on Wrighstown Road in Washington’s Crossing as the best of the Bucks County bunch.
It was the first on our stop and features beautifully appointed grounds and interiors, warm and friendly service, a fantastic “tasting” set-up amongst the wooden barrels and giant steel drums, and most importantly…the best wine we tasted that day. The Crossing Vineyards prides itself on presenting the best possibilities of Pennsylvania wine and has won numerous awards. Their White Viognier and their Specialty Le Nouveau were the highlights for me, and I happily left with a bottle of each to take home.
Sometimes it’s good to look outside of the little bubble of film, literature (and occasionally politics) here at The ‘Spin and find a good cause to champion. Autism has become one of those things where everyone knows someone affected by it yet there is still a huge “unknown” factor and so much research that needs to be done.
If you live in the greater Philadelphia region, there’s a 5k Run for Autism Awareness being held at the beautiful Tyler State Park near Newtown, PA in scenic Bucks County on Saturday April, 17th 2010.
With fall winding down, this past Sunday was potentially the last nice day to do a day-trip of this nature. The plan was to tour the Covered Bridges of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Below are some of the photos I captured. Why so few pictures of the actual bridges, you ask? Well…we go lost thanks to lousy directions, Bucks County’s willfully eccentric and confusing system of back-roads through the hills and countryside and non-GPS friendly points of interest. The roads frequently change names, and some stop dead only to appear miles down another road and running perpendicular to their original selves. Genius! If anyone can tell me how to get to Cafferty Road from Dark Hollow Road, a small reward might be paid. If you do this tour and absolutely must see every covered bridge, my only suggestion is to kidnap an actual native of Bucks County to be your guide. Continue reading →
Walker Evans (1903-1975) was undoubtedly one of America’s greatest photographers. His black-and-white images stand as time capsules of an America now gone but still familiar. Evans is best known for his iconic images of sharecroppers hit hard by The Great Depression as part of his work for the Farm Security Administration. During my recent visit to Cooperstown, NY and the Fenimore Art Museum, I was able to see their amazing collection of Walker Evans’ photographs. I was struck most not by his most famous images from the Dust Bowl and America’s Heartland, but by his images of America’s East Coast during the same time period. His photographs of people and places spanning the hardened core of America’s original thirteen states from New York City to Atlanta captured an America that was shell-shocked but resilient, an over-developed and industrialized stretch of the Eastern Seaboard that was crumbling and decaying but populated by survivors — an America that would eventually pull through the Great Depression and produce the Greatest Generation defined by their heroic actions in World War Two.
Late spring is the perfect time of year to visit Gettysburg as the tourist and reenactment season has yet to begin and the stinking heat of summer has yet to enshroud the bucolic Pennsylvania hamlet. The popular destination can easily be reached in less than three hours from South Jersey or any point in the greater Philadelphia area. While Civil War buffs and professional ghost hunters could easily make a long weekend of it, we found that one day is perfect for a leisurely self-guided auto tour of the sprawling, picturesque and monument laden battlefield followed by a stroll through the quaint downtown area full of bed-and-breakfast establishments, restaurants, souvenir shops and haunted houses.
What struck me most about the battlefield was not only its size and scope (give yourself at least two hours for the free self-guided auto tour if you plan to make the appropriate stops) but also the meditative peacefulness that now enraptures the place where so much violence once conquered. It’s a true marvel just for the scenery let alone the history. Continue reading →
Over the years I’ve seen some great exhibits at the Philadelphia Museum of Art including the Renoir Landscapes and the recent one featuring Frida Kahlo. However, the one that will always stay with me most is the amazing Andrew Wyeth Memory & Magic exhibit. His art highly influenced some of the imagery I tried to create in The Thief Maker and continues to captivate me.
This summer I finally ventured out to the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA, which houses much of Andrew’s art as well as other painters and works from his father, N. C. Wyeth and son, Jamie Wyeth. About an hour from my neck of the woods in South Jersey and about forty minutes from Center City Philadelphia, the museum is a picturesque three-story masterpiece that cozily wraps around a lazy stretch of the Brandywine River (where kayakers can be seen gently passing by) and is situated in quaint pastures just off of Route 1. Part of the museum’s appeal beyond the beautiful setting is the level of intimacy it allows visitors to achieve with the works of the Wyeth Family, and in some cases, with actual members of the family. Guided tours by shuttle-bus take you to the N. C. Wyeth House and Studio, and to be able to see the family quarters and the working space of three generations of world-renowned artists is a unique experience few other museums can claim. Continue reading →