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January 17, 2020

Helpful Hints from joeeze*: A fingernail can substitute for a Phillips screwdriver in extremis

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The other day I was taking a shower when I noticed the Phillips screw attaching the COLD handle to the water pipe was loose (so was the one on the HOT fixture; see photos).

I stuck my thumbnail into the screwhead and much to my delight it turned the screw a number of revolutions, sufficient that the handle was no longer loose.

Same for the other one, good enough till I got out of the shower and screwed both on tightly with a Phillips-head screwdriver.

I got to thinking about why my thumbnail worked so nicely on those screws whereas in the past, trying to tighten regular slotted screws with a fingernail proved problematic.

Then the penny dropped: the curve of my thumbnail closely approximated the geometry of one of the transverse cuts in the Phillips screwhead in the top-to-bottom dimension, whereas in a slotted screw a curved nail doesn't gain nearly the purchase, as the slot is parallel to the top surface rather than being curved.

An aside: perhaps you are beginning to understand why most people find me annoying, this kind of attention to detail becoming wearisome after a while to anyone with a modicum of sanity.

But I digress.

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File under "Solve the problem with what's in the room," Edwin H. Land's wonderful advice.

*It occurred to me the other day that the inspiration for the title of this recurring feature — "Helpful Hints from joeeze" — may be unknown to the majority of boj readers.

It's a silly variation of and nod of respect to the widely syndicated newspaper column, "Helpful Hints From Heloise."

You could look it up.

January 17, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Mosfilm on YouTube


It's on — literally.

From Mike Hale's "Arts, Briefly" item in the New York Times:

For Eisenstein, you can go to Netflix and stream "Battleship Potemkin" or "Ivan the Terrible." For Dovzhenko, you can stream "Earth" at Netflix or "Arsenal" at Amazon. For Pudovkin, "Mother" is at Amazon.

But what if you're looking for a more recent, if less familiar, brand of Russian cinema? Like, say, Vitali Moskalenko's 2002 Volga river-boat comedy, "The Chinese Tea-Set." Or Emil Loteanu's 1979 adaptation of the Chekhov novella "The Shooting Party" (original title "My Tender and Affectionate Beast").

For those, you'll need to go to the YouTube channel of Mosfilm, the Russian film studio and production company. Over the last month 50 or so films from the company's library, with English subtitles, have been posted.

Determining exactly how many films are available, or what they are, takes a little work for a non-Russian-speaker, since the site is entirely in Cyrillic. With the help of your browser’s translation function and a little cross-referencing on the Internet Movie Database, it's possible to identify what you’re looking at.

There are some older, more familiar titles in the mix, like Andrei Tarkovsky's "Andrei Rublev" (1966) and "Solaris" (1972) and Mikhail Kalatozov's 1957 film "The Cranes Are Flying." Perhaps the most noteworthy director represented is Kurosawa, whose Siberian adventure "Dersu Uzala" was a Soviet-Japanese co-production.

Other films, while little known in America, have opened here and won praise, like Mr. Loteanu's "Shooting Party," which Vincent Canby of The New York Times called "a fascinating, almost intoxicating experience."

Five films will be added to the channel each week.

Kristin M. Jones wrote about the Mosfilm channel in a Wall Street Journal article from which excerpts follow.

 Karen Shakhnazarov, Mosfilm's general director and also a filmmaker, producer and screenwriter, released a statement saying in part: "For us the project with YouTube is very important and interesting. The aim is to offer users the possibility to view online legal quality video content and prevent illegal use of our films." Fifty titles were initially made available, and five more are being uploaded each week; by the end of the year, Mosfilm aims to have uploaded more than 200 movies to Mosfilm's YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/mosfilm). Many are subtitled.

What does this unprecedented access mean for Mosfilm and for film enthusiasts? One benefit is to show Western cinéastes that Soviet cinema encompasses more than Socialist Realism and groundbreaking classics.

The array of movies viewers can explore includes not only masterworks by Tarkovsky, such as his complex, dreamlike meditation on memory, "The Mirror" (1974), but also comedies, live-action and animated fantasy films, musicals, melodramas and action and adventure films. Seagull Films has shown hundreds of Mosfilm titles, many in collaboration with New York's Film Society of Lincoln Center. "It looks like a sketch of all the programs we've done," Ms. Verlotsky said, citing a string of examples. They include Mr. Shakhnazarov's perestroika-era "Zero City" (1988), a surreal allegory laced with absurdism, which screened in a series on Russian fantastic cinema. "Nine Days of One Year" (1961), Mikhail Romm's ambivalent tribute to technological progress, appeared in a retrospective of Soviet films from the 1960s. And Vladimir Motyl's folktale-western mash-up "White Sun of the Desert" (1969), a favorite among cosmonauts, recently ran in a series on Soviet "Easterns."

Watching movies online may be a radically different experience from viewing them on the big screen, but the partnership highlights the complicated forces behind the trend. And in this case there is something magical about being able to click open a treasure box of Russian and Soviet cinema on one's computer screen.

There goes the day.

January 17, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

"Parto da viola Bom Ménage" — Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso


I only happened on this wonderful painting, created by the artist in 1916 when he was 28, when I saw it on the cover of this book whose review I was reading:

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My Crack Research Team®© went to work and in just under two days came up with the goods.

Amadeo de Souza-Cardoso was a Portuguese painter, highly successful at a relatively young age, selected to participate in the influential 1913 Armory Show in the U.S. at the age of 25: seven of the eight works he had on display there were sold.

He died of Spanish flu in 1918 at the age of 30.

After his death, his work remained almost unknown until 1952, when a room dedicated to his paintings in the Municipal Museum Amadeo Souza-Cardoso in Amarante, Portugal, gained the public's attention.

His work has been the subject of two major retrospectives, the first in 1958 and more recently in 2016, at the Grand Palais in Paris.

You can see the painting featured above, oil on canvas measuring 23" x 28", at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal.

January 17, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

5 rules for living in a New York City subway tunnel


1. Always carry a flashlight.

2. Try to wait for a rainy day to look for a room. You don't want to get things all set up and then find out there is a leak.

3. Always have more than one spot.

4. Anything you need can be found in the garbage.

5. Always clean out a spot before you go dragging a carpet down there.

The five rules appeared in Sewell Chan's New York Times story about "Pitch Black," a graphic novel by Brooklyn artist Youme and Anthony Horton, "... a homeless man who used to spend most of his nights underground in nooks and crannies wedged around subway tunnels."

The article follows.

Graphic Tale of Life in Subway Tunnels

In the four years that Youme Landowne, a Brooklyn artist, has known Anthony Horton, a homeless man who used to spend most of his nights underground, in nooks and crannies wedged around subway tunnels, Ms. Landowne learned several basic rules for subterranean life. The rules are spelled out in a spare, affecting book of illustrations, "Pitch Black," published this month by Cinco Puntos Press, an independent publisher based in El Paso, Texas.

Here are some:

* Always keep a light on you.
* Try to wait for a rainy day to look for a room. You don’t want to get things all set up and then find out there is a leak and you have to start over.
* Always have more than one spot.
* Anything you need can be found in the garbage.
* Always clean out a spot before you go dragging a carpet down there. (It just makes it easier.)

Ms. Landowne, who graduated from the New School and has lived in New York City off and on for 20 years, met Mr. Horton in 2004, around the publication of her children's book, "Sélavi: a Haitian Story of Hope," based on the real experiences of street children who set up a radio station.

As the book explains — in prose set against the black and gray watercolor images — the two met on a subway station downtown and struck up an intense conversation that continued on several train rides.

Ms. Landowne, 38, is an artist and activist who grew up in Miami. Mr. Horton, 40, grew up in foster care in New York City and has struggled with homelessness and addiction. (He has a criminal record and is now serving time in prison.)

The book details the filthy and often frightening conditions in the subway tunnels and introduces the readers to a handful of colorful characters, though its focus is on the two main characters’ friendship and collaboration.

Ms. Landowne worked on the illustrations since 2004, even while spending about a year living in Laos. Mr. Horton's words inspired the text, and he is given credit as a co-author; he also made drawings used at the beginning and end of the book.

Although the book is suitable for a young audience, Ms. Landowne said in a phone interview that she hoped "Pitch Black" would inspire adults who ride the subway to notice more of their surroundings.

"I don't judge people who need a little bit of space when they're on the train," she said, "but I feel I benefit from all the stories that people share with me."

Too many riders, she said, just have their iPod earphones on. "I'm shocked by how many people on the train are tuned out," she said.

"Our memories and dreams walk beside us, informing everything we think we see," Ms. Landowne and Mr. Horton write in the book. "We are scavengers of stories. We seek hidden messages of hope and find them. We gather evidence of resistance to oppression and despair."

Fifteen years ago, a book by Jennifer Toth, "The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City" (Chicago Review Press, 1993), drew attention to the plight of homeless adults living underground, many of them suffering from substance abuse or mental illness problems. The book was criticized for geographical inaccuracies, and its depiction of large, well-organized, tribal underground societies of people who had eschewed surface life has been dismissed by many scholars as an exaggeration. Nevertheless, advocates for the homeless believe that there are adults who live semi-regularly in subway stations and tunnels, though no reliable estimate of their numbers is available.

Representatives of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs a homeless outreach program, said they had no comment on "Pitch Black."

Ms. Landowne said that Mr. Horton's time underground was mostly spent in and around subway tunnels under the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The book depicts the spaces he inhabited as dark and dangerous and life there as anything but well-organized.

Mr. Horton is no longer living underground. He is serving time at the Mid-State Correctional Facility, a medium-security state prison in Marcy, N.Y. In March, shortly before his 40th birthday, he began serving a prison sentence of 18 to 36 months for criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree. He is eligible for parole in November and could be released as early as May. State records indicate that he was also in prison from 1990 to 1991 for attempted assault and from 1999 to 2003 for assault.

In the phone interview, Ms. Landowne acknowledged that her friendship and collaboration with Mr. Horton had had its ups and downs, but pointed out that his life has been filled with struggles against addiction and despair.

Mr. Horton was not available for a phone interview, but he wrote in a letter to his publisher: "I was real glad when I received my copy of the book. I thought that it came out real good. I want to thank you for the opportunity for giving me a chance to publish my book."

"Pitch Black" is $15.95 at Amazon.

January 17, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Star Wars Galaxy's Edge Lightsaber

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From Polygon:

Here is a hack that, assuming one has the proper equipment, can save Jedi tourists to Disney's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge park quite a bit of money in the lightsaber column of their budget for professional attire.

It seems the color of the blade is determined by an RFID code — it's not something specific to the crystal itself.

So, as Riot Games' Gene Chorba pointed out, if you have an RFID read/writer, you can avail yourself of all five lightsaber colors without buying a different crystal.

The custom lightsabers at Disneyland and Disney World’s Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge run $199.99, a price we likened in comparing the purchase to "a drug deal [blended] with a religious experience."

The heart of this purchase is the Kyber crystal (below),

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which the buyer/role-player then fits into the handle of their lightsaber.

That crystal is a specific color, but what it tells the tube/lightsaber blade to emit is apparently governed by the RFID that said crystal transmits.

Your humble author has no experience with RFID readers and writers, but a cursory search reveals devices with these capabilities for $17.99 on Amazon and elsewhere.

So if you visited, or will visit, Galaxy's Edge, and splurge for the elegant weapon for a more civilized age, and then decide you'd rather turn to Sith red from your chaotic-good hipster purple, your treason shouldn't require a return trip and another $200.

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As noted, $199.99 at Disneyland and Disney World's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge.

January 17, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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