A ‘Medium’ Experiment

Just a heads up: I’m currently transitioning In Case You’re Interested over to Medium.

It will have the same historic and political slant as this version of the site, plus the addition of interviews, more comic book coverage, and potentially some short fiction. We’ll see. We’ll also see how long this move to Medium lasts – could be brief or could be forever. Only time will tell!

That said, please visit my new page over at Medium. I’m still moving content over and hope to have it all together by the end of the week. Again, we’ll see.

Thank you for your support so far!

Times Square at Night, 1908-2018

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I avoided Times Square when I lived in New York. Most of the city’s residents do – the Square’s too crowded; it’s too loud and bright and far too commercial. That was my general opinion for years, and still is, more or less. But right now I’m missing it.

I didn’t come to appreciate that garish tangle of streets until last year. I returned to the city for a work trip and was put up at a hotel on 46th street and 8th avenue, not far from an AA meeting I enjoy and a few doors down from the Scientology HQ, which I didn’t even know existed. Mel Brooks was performing two buildings further east, closer to 7th avenue and the runoff of Times Square proper.

It was the perfect summer night for a stroll. The Square was as white hot bright as ever; it was chaotic and cacophonous. A replica Back to the Future DeLorean drove by and life-sized cartoon characters jostled for change as a light drizzle fell. It was past 11, but despite the hour and weather, people were still everywhere, strolling, hustling, and gawking – thousands upon thousands of the reasons I once bypassed the so-called Crossroad of the World at all costs.

Today those crossroads are quiet as the Big Apple continues battling the pandemic. As my own lockdown continues I find myself wishing I could be back in the time before, right there in Times Square’s throbbing center – and I’m sure other people do, too, even New Yorkers.

Until we can be there, here are 23 images of Times Square at night, all taken between 1908 and 2018. A lot happened in those 110 years – two world wars, a Great Depression, some recessions, HIV, 9/11, the Great Recession, a super storm, and a whole lot of other shit – and Times Square stood strong: a tinsel testament to humankind’s tenacity and audacity; a glittering epicenter for all people. It will be so again, and will be for decades to come, come hell or high water, for better and for worse. And I look forward to being in the thick of it.

Scrollable version of the slideshow below.

Continue reading

The Cat and The Corn Dog: A True Fable

 

Impatience is my most persistent character flaw. When I was younger, fantasizing about future successes, or even just eager for the latest Uncanny X-Men, my grandmother, in her no-nonsense Massachusetts accent, would advise, “Slow down, baby boy; enjoy your time now.” Her advice made me more aware of my impatience, but it didn’t diminish it; restiveness remains within me, nagging when inconvenience, real or imagined, arises.

Continue reading

What Would EM Forster Say About Anonymous’ Warning?

EM Forster’s best known for novels like A Room with a View and Howard’s End, but the English author also wrote extensively about politics and civil society, including an essay called “Anonymity: An Enquiry.” Originally published in November 1925’s The Calendar of Modern Letters, Forster’s piece seems relevant today, ahead of A Warning, the forthcoming tell-all by the anonymous White House staffer who wrote last year’s New York Times op-ed, “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.” I expected freedom of speech-loving Forster to support anonymity, full stop, but his take’s more nuanced, though perhaps not nuanced enough.

Continue reading

Soldiers Writing Letters During Wartime

“Tommy writing home after battle, 1917.”

With Veterans Day on Monday, I thought it would be nice to share some images of soldiers writing home during war time. Most of the images are from World War I, with a few from the horrific sequel, and one from 1908, before anyone knew what lay ahead.

I can’t help but wonder what these guys are writing – are they easing worried mothers’ minds, regaling a lover with tales of heroism real or imagined, or are they admitting their terror to a confidant? Whatever the subject of their letters, these images highlight  the deep need humans have to communicate and connect, even as the world crumbles around them.

For other related imagery, check out this gallery of the iconic  Tuskegee Airmen.

All images are, of course, Found in the LOC.

 

“Red Cross Worker Helps British Soldier, 1942.”

 

Image Links:

  1. “Tommy Writing Home After Battle, 1917.”
  2. “American Soldiers, Chateauroux, Oct. 1918.”
  3. “Soldiers in Texas Writing Home, April 1914.”
  4. “Military Hospital Tent, France, August 1918.”
  5. “British Soldiers with Bug Nets, Egypt, 1940.”
  6. “At ease / Signal Corps U.S.A., 1917.”
  7. “Red Cross, Chateauroux, October 31, 1918.”
  8. “Theodor Horydczak writing at desk, 1920.”
  9. “Nurse Writing for a Soldier, Neuilly, June 1918.”
  10. “A Letter Home, June 1918.”
  11. “YMCA Writing Room, Nice, 1915.”
  12. “Writing Home, Fort Hamilton, 1908.”
  13. “Writing a Letter Home, Greenville, SC, 1943.”
  14. “Red Cross Worker Helps British Soldier, 1942.”

Found in the LOC: Spooky “Spirit” Photos

“Double exposure ‘spirit’  photograph of girl standing, holding flowers, surrounded by spectral figures of three people],” G.S. Smallwood, 1905.

To celebrate Halloween, here are eight “spirit photographs” straight from the Library of Congress’ deepest, darkest crypt. Or, rather, their very convenient online database.

As Wendi Maloney explains at the Library’s blog, the general public was mystified by photography when it debuted in the mid-to-late-1800s. This meant unscrupulous rapscallions could dupe them into ghosts actually photo bombed in the afterlife. And these weren’t just gullible rubes who bought into the supernatural hype: respected folk like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were about it, too.

All this hoopla outraged Harry Houdini. The magician had made it his life’s mission to debunk spiritualist charlatans, and took a hands-on approach to the matter. Maloney writes:

“To demonstrate how easy it was to fake a photograph, Houdini had an image made in the 1920s, showing himself talking with Abraham Lincoln. He even based entire shows around debunking the claims of mediums and the entire idea of spiritualism.”

That image is included in this gallery. It did not, however, completely debunk the spirit photo business.

Related: Check out a NY Times piece I wrote a long time ago about Memento Mori: turn of the century pics people took of dead loved ones.

Working Girl 9-5, Private!

Remember a few years ago, when the female-led Ghostbusters debuted, and critics asked sexist things like “Are women funny?” and “Can women carry the box office?” It was basically the same chorus of sexist garbage we hear whenever there’s a big comedy starring a woman or women.

In response, I planned on highlighting 80s-era female-led comedies that made mad bank — proof that, yes female-led comedies can carry the box office, and have been for decades.

Here are the movies I had in mind.

  • 9-5, 1980 – Budget: $10 million; Box office: $103.3 million
  • Private Benjamin, 1980 – Budget: $15 million; Box office $69,847,348
  • Terms of Endearment, 1983 – Budget: $8 million; Box office, $108.4 million
  • Baby Boom, 1987 – Budget: $15 million; Box Office: $26 million.
  • Working Girl, 1988 – Budget: $28.6 million; Box office: $102 million

My planned conclusion was going to be something like, “Regardless of the odd flop here and there, see: Big Business and Outrageous Fortune, women had the last laugh ages ago; too bad people didn’t get the joke.” I don’t know. Maybe. It never got past the idea phase.

But while working on that Macho Catchphrase piece, I realized that the movies bulleted above, and others, were counterpoints to those violent, male ego-driven characters. Just as 70s and 80s macho men reflected a broader male anxiety, female-starring movies of the 80s showed the empowered woman taking her place where she belonged, on her terms – of endearment and otherwise. Just as the macho men were a response to real-life women’s liberation, these movies were the antithesis: flicks that showed the trials, tribulations, and potential triumphs of women tackling patriarchal systems. This wasn’t just the zeitgeist picking up and depositing subtexts, as in the macho examples; these cinematic expressions were concerted efforts to change the conversation.*

Sure, that era’s macho men and their one-liners earned more money at the box office and more fully penetrated the zeitgeist, no pun intended, but the female-led flicks had more heart, something that beats a machine gun any day, both onscreen and off.

(*Tootsie and Mr. Mom get honorable mention for their respective takes on the misogynistic realities and double standards women face every day.)