All posts by healy24yang

Spear, er, Phaser Carriers of Star Trek, Part 1

We all know about the main supporting cast of Star Trek.  Lt. Uhura, LtCorridor. Sulu, Ensign Checkov, Nurse Chapel, Yeoman Rand, and Mr. Scott were all regular players with important roles in the action of the original series.  However, the show also created a sense of verisimilitude with another level of players, supernumeraries.  These spear, or phaser, carriers may not have had lines (though many did) but they appeared in multiple episodes as crew members, thereby creating continuity.  Sometimes, though, that continuity might have been set askew by outfitting them in different uniforms and occasionally having them show up as aliens or civilians filling out the background.  After working my way through the series this year, I thought it would be fun to create a run down on the cast supporting the supporting cast.
mbenga4My first entry is Dr. M’Benga (Booker Bradshaw).  This sawbones made such an impression that many people, myself included, were surprised to realize that he only appeared in two episodes.  In “A Private Little War,” his background interning in a Vulcan ward provided him with the knowledge that in order to bring Mr. Spock out of a healing trance, the first officer needed a good sock in the kisser.  Poor Nurse Chapel, following Dr. M’Benga’s instructions, ended up in a tussle with Scotty, who didn’t understand why she was smacking Spock around.  Fortunately, Dr. M’Benga arrived on the scene to slap Mr. Spock back to consciousness.

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We might wonder if Mr. Spock thought the good doctor had been a little too good with his rough prescription. In “That Which Survives,” SpockDSCN5500 verbally slices down the doctor for being a bit too cheery about pronouncing he has no idea why a crewman had died from having every cell in his body exploded.  Then again, when crewman are dropping left and right (some not even in red shirts!), maybe a playful attitude about your ignorance deserves a cool comeuppance.
Even after the series ended, Dr. M’Benga’s popularity in the Star Trek universe lived on.  He has been a major character in Star Trek novels and some non-canonical works.  Everybody and his brother has a first name for him.  Memory Alpha provides a nice bio of the character with more details. Actor Booker Bradshaw has the intriguing background of graduating from Harvard University, studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and acting as talent manager for The Supremes (IMDB and Find a Grave)!
Palmer1Lt. Palmer (Elizabeth Rogers):  Uhura has to sleep sometime!  So, in two episodes, we find Lt. Palmer taking over for her at the communications panel:  “The Doomsday Machine” and “The Way to Eden.”  With her blonde beehive and patrician features, Palmer8Palmer remains stoic and efficient in times of adversity, be it an omnivorous space Hoover, a nutso commodore commandeering the Enterprise, or really obnoxious space hippies.  She must be fairly high in Communications, because she’s the only member of the department who, like Uhura, knew how to repair the Communications equipment.  Enterprise GRRRLS do science!

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In one Star Trek short story, her first name was revealed to be Elizabeth – a tip of the hat to the actress who played her.  In at least one of the appearances, Palmer replaced Uhura because Nichelle Nichols had a singing commitment to fulfill.  Reports differ as to which episode this was, but Rogers herself said that she was used as “an instant ‘threat’ replacement.” This last statement is according to Wikkipedia, which I am loathe to quote because they’re frequently soooo wrong about stuff; however, the writer of the article did cite These Are the Voyages, Season Two as the source.
Rogers is an interesting actress. On Star Trek, she also voiced “The DSCN5585Companion” in “Metamorphosis.”  If you watch much sixties or seventies TV, you are likely to see her in a guest-starring role.  Further, she was a friend of producer Irwin Allen and played in The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure.  I didn’t catch her in the second film (though I’ll be sure to look for her next time), but I remember her in The T.I.  She’s the first one to ride the captain’s chair across the cable strung between two skyscrapers – and she’s screaming all the way! Planet-devouring doomsday weapons and pain-in-the-ass space hippies are nothing to her – but heights? That’s another matter!  Memory Alpha and Memory Beta are solid sources for more information on the character and the actress.
 
Farrell8Mr. John Farrell (Jim Goodwin)  Like Dr. M’Benga, Mr. Farrell only appeared in a limited number of episodes.  Three to be exact.  Usually, he was navigator, though the gold-shirted young officer with reddish hair and slightly protruding eyes did take a turn at Uhura’s console in “Miri.”  This installment of “Phaser Carriers,” we just seem to keep catching our girl Nyota off-shift! We discover that Farrell’s first name is John Farrell5when Sulu refers to him as “Johnny-O” after they both have been knocked off kilter by the hormone-stimulating drugs of “Mud’s Women.”  In this episode, poor also John Farrell gets schnoockered out of a communicator by one of Mudd’s gals, Magda.  Interestingly, according to Memory Alpha and The Lost Redshirt sites, some dialogue cut from the scene reveals that Farrell had a girlfriend and was thinking of growing a mustache! Anyway, he’s not doing too well in the formal inquiry of Harcourt Fenton Mudd and his hotties, is he?

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Also like M’Benga, Mr. Farrell made it into Star Trek short-story adaptations of episodes and other fiction.  Though Farrell was scheduled for more appearances, his character was replaced in “Charlie X” and “The Naked Time.”  Hmm, if it had been Farrell instead of Riley who’d been infected with the inhibition-freeing virus, maybe we would have discovered what his girl friend’s name was, with him singing, “I’ll take you home…?”  James Goodwin, who played Farrell, was friends with associate producer John D.F. Black, so when Black left the series, our actor’s connection disappeared – and so did Farrell.  Interesting to other New Englanders, Goodwin was from Boston and passed away at  fifty years young in Beverly, Mass.  There’s great detail on the character at Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, IMDB, and at the tale end of Tales of the Unknown Redshirt.

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Images:   author’s screen shots from original episodes (no copyright infringement intended, informational and educational use only)
Memory Alpha, Memory Beta, Tales of the Unknown Redshirt

Hillside Cemetery, A Dunwich Kind of Place

Well, here I go trying to create a new blog with WordPress’s Godawful new editor.  Forgive me if this comes out crappy.  It’s taken me forever to figure out how to switch back and forth between html editor and visual-nothing is clearly labeled or explained.  I know this format is much uglier than the one I had previously.  We’re all at the mercy of tasteless, unimaginative, homogenizing forces.
DSCN5809Anyway, let’s move on to a more enjoyable descent into darkness.   Here’s a DSCN5834last gasp at wintry images with Part 2 of my report on the Hillside Cemetery of North Adams.  Across the street from the original portion of the graveyard, lonely mountains rise up to close you you in and the rest of the world out on this grey day.

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This is the newer portion of Hillside, and much more on an actualDSCN5812 hillside.  With the rolling slopes here, the graves, mostly 19th century,  tilt and are almost upended  as the ground has settled and shifted over the years-or is someone or something trying to push out?

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DSCN5865And those slopes are pretty darned high, too, with gravestones and monuments, bleakly, implacably towering upward from an earth  both browned by autumn and frosted by snow.

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This cemetery has it’s share of intriguing, impressive statuary, but theDSCN5850 brutal western Massachusetts winds, rain,DSCN5826 and snow have not been kind to them, gradually wearing them down to softened blurs in many cases.  The dove embracing this shrouded cross has lost its distinctive features and  now softly merges into the cross’s drapery.  The child and the lamb, representing her innocence, have melted into the seat of broken rocks symbolizing her life cut too short, too soon.    A DSCN5819relief that should have preserved a woman’s identity in endurable stone for eternity has blurred her features into  gentle vagueness.  Even her identity in the form of name, family, and birth and death dates have been smoothed away to soft whiteness.    A book of life’s secrets DSCN5830has subsumed its truths into a creamy blank of pages melted together, marked only by the stain of mold and decay.  Or might this be an edition of the Necronomicon?
DSCN5832Of course there are also still striking images of angels and symbolic broken columns, some standing relentless against nature’s assault by winds, weather, and  devouring by lichen and mold.  DSCN5854
Some are  less successful than others in resisting the assaulting elements, but are no less beautiful.DSCN5859
There was only one large mausoleum in this portion of the cemetery-butDSCN5837 it is impressive, especially for the art deco angel guarding the resting bodies of the family beneath.  There’s a wonderful starkness in its rising near the crest of the rolling hill, the dark tree grasping hungry branches at the sky beyond it.
And here is a closeup of the angel.  Regard the myriad layers of feathers creating a shield of wings behind its head, seeming both like a peacock’s tail in full extension and a wall of tongues of flames.

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The day had been cold, but not bitterly so.  The ground betrayed the tracks of deer, racoon, and perhaps more predatory mammals.  It was an isolated spot where no human seemed to have ventured to grieve or pay veneration for a very long time.  In fact, this day this cemetery seemed like a place lost to time, to  human connections.  Thank goodness I saw this cute guy and not some colour out of space.

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Continue reading Hillside Cemetery, A Dunwich Kind of Place

Celtic Crosses, Funerary Statues in a Winter Cemetery

As winter, we hope, is wrapping up and March approaches, I thought I’d post a couple of last minute winter visits to some of the local cemeteries to show you some of their lovely funerary work.  Last December, when we were first treated to snow-and when snow still seemed like a treat-, I took some neat shots in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Worcester.  I was particularly struck by not only the statuary but some reliefs and some Celtic crosses.
First, check out some of the neat  reliefs.  This one is graced with a stone head of Christ looking lovingly down at a stone chalice of His blood.  The Celtic cross also has the austere yet graceful petals of flowers carved upon it.  The vivid French blue of the winter sky bespeaks the crispness of the day.

 

There are many styles of Celtic Crosses rising out of the snow and winter-browned grass of this cemetery.  Many also are adorned with striking, symbolic carvings.  Others may  hold statuary.  This Celtic cross particularly caught my eyes, with it’s intricate  interlocking designs along its body and its distinctive symbolic figures at the top.  The snow beautifully reflects the cool purity of the sky’s winter blue.

 

A closer study of the figures in the upper central section of the cross reveals the creatures symbolizing the four gospel writers on each branch of the cross, with the knot of eternity and the Infinite in the center and praying angels at the very top,  From the top and moving clockwise, you have the winged ox/calf (Luke), the man (Matthew), the griffin/lion (Mark), and the eagle (John)- their wings and halos signifying their divine nature.

You can additionally see Celtic crosses and other monuments honoring priests in the cemetery.

 

 

 

 

The statuary is also quite striking in the winter light.  Here, a woman clings to a cross for salvation or for comfort at her losses.  The stone is weathered smooth, the statue almost featureless.  Perhaps a comment on the  transitoriness of life.

 

 

 

A time-smoothed lamb, couched within the limited protection of this monument further testifies to the relentless passage of time over even the young whom parents see as embodying a kind of immortality. It’s posture is not even terribly peaceful, seeming to indicate tightening oneself up in fear or cold.  Maybe both.

 

 

 

Then, there is this triumphant angel-who seems to be wearing a bustle in the height of 1880s fashion.  Her broken wing unintentionally testifies to the limits of human commemorations.

 

Still, when I tried to capture her face with  a shot from the front, the glow of the sun created this divine image that perhaps suggests that true immortality and enlightenment come from beyond this earth, transcending the capability of our mortal vision.  Ya think?

 

Winter Birds at Chez Yang

We’ve been seeing some wonderful birds this winter in our yard at our feeders.  Let me share some of them with you, starting from December.  This first set of pictures were taken that month, before and after the snow started.  I have  pictures here of some old friends and some new-like this Downy Woodpecker.  Do you think someone should tell her that bugs don’t live in concrete or vinyl siding-or does she know something that I don’t?
We also see plenty of our old standbys, the Chickadees and the Titmice.  They like to come and dine about 9:30 in the morning and about 4-5:00 in the afternoon-with an occasional snack or two throughout the day.  The Titmice are one of Yang’s favorites, and he likes to call them “little faces.”  With their big, expressive eyes, you can understand why. In this picture we have one of the cute chickadees.
One of my favorite birds is one of the first signs of winter:  the Slate-Colored Junco.  That’s the name they went by when I was first birding; however, I’ve noticed them now called “Dark-Eyed Juncos.”  Maybe they all invested in brown contacts.  I love their blue-grey coloring (though some are more brownish) and  their white tails that flash when the fly away, as they give a call that sounds like castanets.  We have large numbers of them in my yard, which it just fine with me.
These two Juncos don’t look to happy to meet.
“Who You lookin’ at?”
“No, who YOU lookin’ at?!”
The Goldfinches haven’t flown away until the spring.  They’ve just changed their sprightly spring plumage for heavy winter coats.  One fellow appeared to have a white cap of feathers, even with his winter color.  So, I dubbed him Whitecap.  Original, aren’t I?  However, closer viewing of him through these photos shows that his cap is more light yellow than white.  Nevertheless, he’s staying “Whitecap,” as Slightly Light Yellow Cap” is way too much of a mouthful.
Here’s another nice shot of Whitecap, with a Goldfinch pal (in the upper left corner) who apparently thinks he’s a bat.  I’ve got to stop watching Forever Knight when these guys are in the windows.

Here’s another one of Snowcap, after he was reading up on Edward Taylor and thought he ought to go out and starting preaching to Juncos.  Of course, if Snowie believes in predestination, that suggests that even other species can be saved.

 

 

I particularly like this picture because it includes so many:  Juncos, Goldfinches, and another of my favorites, the Carolina Wren, on the left.  She doesn’t quite look like a wren because she doesn’t have her little bum cocked in the air, but her long beak and white eye-stripe give her away. We have at least one pair who come to my feeders.  They’ve been around the house for several years, but it’s only the past three or four that I’ve seen them year round, and so frequently in the winter.  I often hear them in the trees of the woods behind my house and across the street.  I named this pair, Carolina and Carey.  Additionally, note the Goldfinch coming in out of inter-dimensional travel in the upper middle of the photo.
We also had an unexpected visitor on our suet feeder.  Regard this handsome Mockingbird.  Usually I don’t see them in the winter.  However, I  was informed that they don’t travel south, but hide out in deep woods during the cold months.  Apparently this guy didn’t get the memo about hiding out. He or she comes to see us just about every day to chow down on the suet.  I know these birds tend to be highly aggressive, but this one really doesn’t seem to mind sharing.

 

Now, there’s one last interesting addition to our flocks:  Mr. Cooper, as in Cooper’s Hawk.  This guy showed up low on the Canadian Maple in our back yard, right outside my living room window.  The first time I saw him was in mid-January, when I couldn’t get any good shots.  Then, this week, he popped by and I was lucky, getting these three pix.  Now I definitely know what caused the splash of blood and feathers on the snow near the tree last week.  Still, he does leave alone the little birds-hardly worth consideration as hors d’ouevres?  Anyway, click on the photos to get a good look at him-or her.

Anyway, now I think I understand  why White Ears (named for these white tufts in his ears) has been keeping a low profile recently.

 

 

Forever Supreme: Mary Wilson Passes But Her Spirit Will Always Shine in Our Hearts.

Those of you who know me, know what a tremendous Supremes fan I am. So, you can imagine my sadness at the recent passing of Mary Wilson, one of the groups founding members.  Mary was such an extraordinary woman.  In addition to that delicious smoky alto of hers putting feeling and power into so much music, she contributed tremendously to making the world a better place.  She and her fellow Supremes helped break down racial barriers in the 1960s and ’70s, she gave herself generously to help others through her work to protect the rights of recording artists, drew on her own experience as an abused spouse to encourage and support others in the same situation, helped at-risk young people here and abroad, acted as good will ambassador for the U.S., and supported the efforts of the Humpty-Dumpty Institute against the use of landmines.
Mary also helped so many people around her on a personal level to believe in themselves and follow their dreams to become the people they wanted to be.  She loved her children and grandchild. And she was wonderful with her fans, never treating them as beneath her.  She welcomed everyone with sincerity, graciousness, and humor.  You knew she was just as happy to see you as you were to meet her.  She had a sense of humor about herself and could tease in a way that was fun.  And she loved life, especially these last years, still singing and performing to delighted audiences, competing on on Dancing with the Stars, publishing a delightful book on the Supremes’ magnificant gowns and the stories behind them, starting her own YouTube channel, and even announcing the cd re-release of  her solo album with new and never before released material.  We’ll miss her joy and warmth, but we’ll carry her in  our hearts for all the love she gave us.  I think these lines from “Nature Boy” sum up her bond with us perfectly:  “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to  love and to  be loved in return.”
Here’s Mary sharing her philosophy of life with us in a fairly recent release: “Life’s Been Good to Me.”

 

Dancing with the Stars Photo: https://dancingwiththestars.fandom.com/wiki/Mary_Wilson

Other Photos shared from web sites Mary Wilson of the Supremes:  New Ways but Love Stays; Motown 1970:  Not Just Another Record Company;  Seventies Supremes,

If you feel your rights have been infringed by the posting of any of these photos, please contact me and I will remove them.  Photos posted for personal or educational reasons.  No profit is derived from this post.

In the Bleak Midwinter: Hillside Cemetery

Just before the New Year, after a late December snow, Yang and I seized the occasion of some slightly warmer weather to take a walk in the Hillside Cemetery of North Adams, Mass. This cemetery is notable for more than one reason. First, it is split in half by Route 2. Second, its sloping grounds (more on one side than the other) create an eerie, desolate, even Lovecraftian, ambience. Those grounds are dotted with beautiful, if weather-worn, monuments. There is so much to remark, that I intend to split my blog into two parts: one for each side of Route 2.
This first blog focuses on the older section, which, though clearly on a hillside, presents far fewer and less abrupt rolling hills. It’s also the smaller of the two. Nevertheless, this shot reveals your legs will get a more than adequate workout hiking up these slopes. No matter which side of the highway you’re on, you see that you are encompassed by the Berkshires.
This white, colonaded mausoleum  is particularly interesting. You can see that it belongs to a family who must have been rather important in the town, perhaps even into the twentieth century. If you come closer, you can perceive the ironwork gate to the building has been sculpted into the graceful form of a woman. She faces away from this world into the next, for which the the mausoleum proves a portal,  Her form clings to the door and is curved with sorrow. The forsythia wreath wrapped over her right hand suggests that members of that family are still in the town, or at least are close enough to visit the grave. I was also struck by the beautiful Tiffany window that was part of the mausoleum.

 

 

 

 

 

Interestingly, the natural and the artistic worlds came to mirror each other in this portion of the Hillside Cemetery. I was much taken with this hewn from stone monument of the traditional broken tree, symbolizing growing life cut off. Age and weathering had buffed and grey-whitened this monument into a kind of soft purity. The burnt green and tawny grass, though muted colors, still provided a notable contrast to the stone. And then nature offered it’s own version of this monument in the blasted yet weather smoothed form of this ancient dead tree, its edges also rising  jaggedly toward the sky. Yet perhaps the actual tree was not quite such a symbol of life cut off, for it would be the perfect place for owls, woodpeckers, and squirrels to make home-though not all together! While all around the mountains hold us in.

 

There were  plenty of other intriguing monuments and carvings. I loved this contemplative, if not quite grieving, woman set on high. Bitter western Massachusetts winters had softened her sorrowing expression, but her posture, the thoughtful cock of her head, told the tale of her loss and reflections on it.

 

The relief on this tombstone of an anchor perhaps reveals that an adventurer on the seas had retired to the inner realms of New England to find his final rest. Check out the picture of the tomb itself and then the closeup of the relief.

 

 

This red rock column fascinated me, as well: so graceful and predominant on the slope. And those slopes were rolling to say the least! I’m glad we didn’t roll back down them. A close up also reveals a significant relief on the column: the inverted torch symbolizing death.

 

Here are more pictures to give you a sense of the sometimes steep, sometimes rolling grounds, all encompassed by the greys and faded browns of wintry Berkshires before snow would come to predominate. It’s an old place, a deserted place (even with Route 2 running by). An apt setting for a Lovecraft novel or short story-but not quite as apt as the part of the graveyard across the road. That photo blog is for another day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return of the Eiders, or You Get Down from a Duck

Every year, Yang and I make a pilgrimage to the Cape to check out the migrating ducks.  Usually we make the trip in mid-January or early February, not far from my birthday.  This year, we went on January 15th, and we weren’t disappointed.  We saw ruddy ducks, hooded and rust-breasted mergansers, a red-throated loon, swans, etc.  However, at first I was a little let down because I didn’t see the annual flock of eiders bobbing on ocean waves.  That  disappointment disappeared as we moved further along the beach trail.
Yang and I saw some dark specks floating on rough seas not far from a jetty.  The sun was in our eyes at first, so even with binoculars, we weren’t sure what we were seeing.  Then, we got out to a place with better lighting, and there they were:  my pals the eider ducks!  I’m not sure if we are going to that jetty to see them  every year or if they’re returning to get a peek at us!  Anyway, it was a delight to watch them  carried up and down by the waves, even swimming into a little cove of the jetty.  As you can see, we were able to get pretty close.
A couple of duck were giving us the once over in these shots!  Right in the center of the picture.

Especially interesting, I had never noticed that the males have a white stripe down the back of the black feathers on their heads.  I’d also never noticed  the greenish/yellowish/grey patch at the bottom of that black cap, either.  Click on the photos here to get a closer look.  Every year it’s something new.  Do you think they noticed something different about Yang and I this year?
Significance of the subtitle:  Remember the old joke?  “How do you get down from and elephant?  You don’t.  You get down from a duck.”  Eider down, right?

 

Enjoy the ducks in motion:

Christmas Noir II: Beyond Tomorrow

This year, my subject for Christmas noir is Beyond Tomorrow  (1940), an intriguing little dark fairy tale.  Well, aren’t most fairy tales dark somewhere along the line?  Edward Sutherland’s film starts with three “fairy godfathers,” wealthy old gents and business partners.  One Christmas Eve, on a whim ˗˗ and out of loneliness ˗˗ each puts his business card into a separate wallet with ten dollars and tosses it out the window of their mansion onto the snowy Manhattan sidewalk below.  All to see who will return the wallets and perhaps become a new friend to replace the old ones that one partner points out have disappeared into death.
Indeed, fate seems to reward them.  The first wallet is nabbed by a jaded socialite, who keeps it while carelessly tossing the ten bucks  to her chauffeur.  They dodge a bullet missing this brittle babe.  The other wallets are returned by two who promise to fulfill the old men’s wishes for rejuvenating friendship.  The first is Jim Houston, a polite, young, down-on-his-luck cowboy, stranded after a rodeo at Madison Square Garden.   The second is a Jean Lawrence, a sweetly pretty but pert and practical young woman who works and lives at a children’s clinic run by “The Wayne Foundation” (Bruce’s parents?).  Fate scores big for the old guys, as the young people share their lives and open up all kinds of opportunities for fun and giving, especially working with children.  Why the whole set up even earns the approval of the sensitive, spiritual elderly housekeeper (played by who better than Maria Ouspenskaya?)   Of course, the young people brought together by their godfathers fall in love and plan to marry.
A merry Christmas movie, right?  Full of jingle bells, holly wreaths, caroling children, and glittering lights and ornaments.  Um, not exactly.  Characters, plot twists, mise en scène, and lighting combine to create a noir ambience.  Early on, the film does present a cherubic Charles Winniger, as Michael, bursting into a business meeting of his partners at home on Christmas Eve. Laden with presents and releasing overworked secretaries for the holiday, Michael is a kind of redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge.  Yet all this fun and cheer is threaded with dark elements.  There are intimations of something sinister in the past of the crotchety partner George Melton.  The other partner, Chad Chadwick, casts longing glances at photos of a wife and a son long lost to death.  Dear friends scheduled to visit for Christmas Eve have canceled out, leading the men to reflect that those they love are mostly dead and gone.
Even the advent of the fresh, kind, and honest Jean and James is overshadowed, literally, by a noir mood.  Sutherland does use bright filler lighting for the Christmas Eve dinner, but that moment is brief.   When old and new friends and servants Madame Tanya and Josef come to the window to listen to a Christmas band, though inside the window frame  is fairly bright, the area surrounding that square of light, the outside world, is darkly shadowed, even the strolling musicians.  The band is brought inside to play for a comradely sing along, yet shadows encroach on the firelight holding the people.   When James sings a love song, though he and Jean exchange tender looks, the shadows insistently fringe their medium close ups, with soft focus further creating an eerie  effect.  Even the love song, “I Dream of Jeanie” emphasizes longing rather than communion, conveying the effervescence of happiness in a noir world.
Throughout the film, noirish night undermines stability, comfort, and humor.  Jean and Jim’s romantic walk home and funny encounter with a mounted policeman and his sergeant occur in small pools of soft-focus light with darkness shrouding most of the frame.  Jim’s later proposal to Jean, though the two laugh playfully, is not in a sunny Central Park but in a dark, shadowy, late night walk there, only faintly illuminated by narrow key lighting on their mostly shadowed faces and the faint glow of a street lamp.  Such imagery  would not be  out of place in the hauntingly sinister streets of Val Lewton’s eerie New York in The Seventh Victim or The Cat Woman
Later, when the femme fatale lures away Jim as he becomes a successful radio star, they meet in a bright apartment.  Yet through the slits of partially open blinds between them pour in the black  night , with intermittent points of light from skscraper windows piercing in on them like intrusive, glaring eyes. It is the noir world that forms the apex of this triangle, predominating and binding the humans together  beneath in tragedy and corruption.
Elsewhere, Sutherland uses darkness and mise en scène to signal that alienation and tragedy inevitably supplant good fortune.  The reporter getting the story he will spread of Jim’s and Jean’s inheritance from Michael is framed in front of  the two (all three in medium closeup) a black silhouette before and between them, almost blotting them out with his black fedora and his black trench coat.  He looms between them and between them and their future  like Death incarnate.  Even the godfathers and their magical influence are at crucial moments overwhelmed by noir ‘s fateful darkness. 
The afterlife is given the noir treatment as well.  Isolated and alone, like many a noir anti-hero, Melton is drawn into and swallowed  by a photo- negative of inky, roiling clouds after his death, predicated by his dark past. Michael’s call to the beyond, though promising peace and happiness, is portrayed disconcertingly:  bright, thin rays against a black sky striking earth from a mass of black clouds.  The friendliness of the angelic voice calling him is unsettlingly undermined by this nightmare image of the divine- all in the surrounding darkness of Lewtonesque city night.
The plot twists imbue Beyond Tomorrow with the same noir vision as the lighting and setting, sometimes even in conjunction.  Just when the godfathers and the young folk seem happy, hopeful, and excited to live, where many a Christmas movie ends, the business partners are killed in a plane crash.  The signal of their deaths merges this ironic turn with dark imagery to create noir ambience. The lovers’ joy as Jean accepts Jim’s humorously inadvertent marriage proposal is undercut for the audience by unseen newsies’ growing cacophony of “Extra” surging insistently out of the shadowed night surrounding the unwitting lovers, hinting that a dreadful turn is emerging from the darkness. It more clearly emerges as the scen closes with a closeup of a headline proclaiming the three godfathers’ deaths.
Other expectations of “comfort and joy” are obliterated with noir’s relentlessly disconcerting unexpectedness.  The three godfathers return as ghosts and settle in their old study to preside over those they love, comforted by Mme. Tanya’s sense of their presence.  However, just when we and they start to get comfortable with this cozy turn, they are one by one called to leave by a darkening of the screen and a mysterious higher power, two to pain and sacrifice. 
In another noir reversal, Michael’s final godfatherly act in life to leave the young friends some dough to make their lives easier and their dreams come true turns out to be exactly the curse Melton warns him it would be – foreshadowed by the reporter’s ominous depiction darkly splitting the lovers.  The news story on the couple’s luck leads to Jim becoming a radio star who deserts Jean under the spell of Arlene Terry, whose fatale ways with her former husband drive him to shoot Arlene, Jim, and himself.  Just when we become comfortable in our security, happiness, love, and fellowship are all battered by the darkness of the world outside us, and also by the darkness within even the best of us that will reach for that darkness without.
There are happy endings in the film, but not without pain, disillusionment, falls from grace, and even death.  Madame Tanya is proved right in her observation that the power and prestige of being royalty in old Russia is nothing compared with the joy of loving and serving others. Loving sacrifices are rewarded; friendship even redeems Melton’s soul from roiling clouds of bitterness and despair.  And yet, Melton’s sadly cynical recognition of human weakness in the face of the darkness outside and within imbues this Christmas film with a noir outlook:  “To be born innocent is natural.  To die pure is a gift.”  No one dies pure in Sutherland’s film.

 

Keystone Arch Bridges Trail

The Saturday after the elections, to get away from all the stress, Yang and I took a four-mile hike on the Keystone Arch Bridges Trail. It was something! The trail leads through woods in Chester to one of the oldest set of stone railroad bridges in the country. And some of these bridges are still in use! Here is the first of these arched granite bridges that we saw, one that is still used. We just missed the train going over it.
To get to the other arch bridges, you have to do some hiking through the forests. The paths run along the river and then up and down some semi-tough slopes. However, the work is certainly worth it. There were some cool views of woods, streams, and rock formations.

 

Before we got to the other bridges, we came across some interesting abandoned or ruined structures. We could see this tower piercing through the denuded trees not too far off to the right of the trail as we started. I’m not sure what it is, so if anyone has an idea, let me know. We would have investigated on the way back – there was a drive off the trail – but we were really bushed.
I don’t know what this rock wall was originally. A foundation? A pen? A border demarcation? Can’t tell you. Cool, though, isn’t it?

 

 

We were able to check out two of the abandoned bridges. These were built around 1840, using blue-stone granite. This part of the line was eventually abandoned along with the bridges because in following the river, the rails had to take too sharp a curve for the speed of the trains. Disaster prevailed. To get to this bridge, we walked along where the old rail bed was, between high walls of rock that had been blasted and dug out in the early/mid-1800s. At the bridge, the tunnel of rock opened into a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. There was still some color in the trees, so I could just imagine how gorgeous the vista would have been even a week earlier.
In this shot, you can see the handsome Yang sitting near the edge-I made sure his insurance was paid up before the hike. Click on the picture and look below him to the right to see the river. Above that, note the rest of the mountains to get an idea of how high up we are. To the left, you can see the path that came out of the rail bed we walked up between walls of rock.
This picture can give you an even better idea of how high up the bridge is. It’s taken on the same side of the bridge as the shot of Yang above, but from the other end of the bridge. Click on the picture and notice the tiny patches of blue at the bottom, on the river bank. Those tiny things are two people! Pretty far down, huh? The acoustics are darned good, though. We could hear those two girls laughing and joking as if they were right there on the bridge with us.
Here’s a shot of the other abandoned bridge, also on the same line. Though I didn’t get a picture of the surrounding hills, the view of them from here was also impressive, even with fall’s glory of color having passed. This trail is certainly worth a return trip at almost any time of year-well, maybe not through winter snows!
Click here for more information on the Keystone Arch Bridges Trail.

 

 

Hope Cemetery

The beautiful colors of fall have fallen now.  November is a month of greys, maroons, and browns, of  naked grey branches stark against the sky.  So, I thought you might enjoy a last look at the earlier glories of October, resplendent in my photos from the Hope Cemetery of Worcester, Mass.  Let’s start with this lovely line of sugar maples turning into flame.

 

Yang loves to see contrasting colors, and this phenomena is often on display early in the foliage season, when some trees, still bright green, form a gorgeous contrast with the flame of their more precocious brethren.

 

 

 

 

In the cemetery, the lovely autumn colors often form a striking contrast with the white or grey of wonderfully sculpted monuments in relief or freestanding statuary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, there is this mausoleum haloed by the green being subsumed by peach and lemony yellow leaves.

The statuary itself is a pleasure to view.  I was particularly taken by this one of a mother comforting her child.  Does it bespeak the death of an actual mother who would have guided her daughter heavenward or does it tell a story of the mother guiding her daughter from beyond the vale?  Perhaps both mother and daughter are now attaining spiritual heights together in the next world?
It does seem that the opening gates on this tomb stone bespeak the gates of the death opening onto eternal life.

Other symbolic monuments include the  tree stump representing a life cut short.

 

There is the book of life.

 

The book of life for a Mason.
The sad, kneeling, lost child, its form melted away by time and the elements, the stone from which it was carved as transient as human life.
Yet this relief’s portrait reinforces the bond of parent and child through life and death and afterlife.

 

 

 

Perhaps most intriguing as a symbol of life springing from death was this natural image.  We found an old, battered, on its last roots deciduous tree hosting, providing shelter and sustenance, for a baby pine tree.  How unlikely that these two should come together and grow together.  Who knows how long either will last, but they do create an unexpected surge of life.