Roadside tractor, Chia, Colombia

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Two Blue Pick-Ups

Two movies on the Fourth of July. What's more All-American that? An afternoon showing at Film Fourm of Les Blank's documentary about Leon Russell, A Poem is a Naked Person. Shot in 1972-74, and only now released, it's really more of a brilliant and shaggy scrapbook of those times. The trailer gives you a good taste of what's in store. In typical Les Blank style, the opening credits are handled by signs nailed on a tree (probably around the studio in Oklahoma Russell is building) and on the door of a blue pick-up.


Did you get the message from the girl in white at the very end? (Good story on Leon Russell and the genesis for the film on Oklahoma-themed blog Center for Open Secrets.)
The second feature, streaming via Netflix, was An American Journey: In Robert Frank's Footsteps. A French filmmaker recounts the making of Frank's iconic work The Americans. Not a perfect doc, by any means, its best parts are the filmmaker tracking down subjects and locations for some of the photos in the book. Finding the boy standing beneath the flag at the Jay, New York, Fourth of July parade (above) or standing in the window of the Butte hotel room from which Frank took his photo looking out over bleak rooftops and streets.

In South Carolina, a local guy points out where the disused butcher shop still exists behind some more modern buildings. "The barber shop?" the fillmmaker asks, hoping to shoot the one Frank did. "No, the butcher shop." "What happened to the barber shop?" "It's gone," the guide answers. He smiles, "Nothing we can do about that."

They may be filler, but I also enjoyed the footage driving on those roads Frank travelled sixty years ago. [Note: The staff of BTB hits the road for a week or so tomorrow. Until then, keep on truckin'.]

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Signs of the Times - Southern Edition

Two photographs in today's Times, neither in the news section, say a lot about this summer and America's changing social mores.

ArtsBeat reports that the TV Land network has cancelled reruns of The Dukes of Hazzard. According to the Times, "The spokesman for the network would not confirm why the show was withdrawn, but the move follows last week's decision by Warner Bros. to halt production on toys of the General Lee [above], the famous car in the show that prominently displays a Confederate battle flag."
(Photo: Michael Stravato, The New York Times)
A story the Business Day section, describes how ExxonMobil has begun, after years of resistance, to publicly support its L.G.B.T. employees. A interesting as the ExxonMobil marchers and banners in the photo from the Houston L.G.B.T. parade above, is the Fox Network (!) convertible celebrating its "Divas" Whitney and Reba and providing a vehicle for divas of the drag persuasion.

Too bad Daisy Dukes couldn't be on the right side of history as well . . .

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Boats, Trucks, and Travel Lifts

In case you thought we'd forgotten our summer series....
A walk along the Belfast, Maine, waterfront takes you through the Front Street Shipyard. Boats of many types and eras in the water and on land. And one soon to be in the air. On the right is the Italian-made Cimolai MPH 440-62 travel lift, capable of transporting, dry docking, and launching boats up to 440 tons.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Signs of Maine

After a week in Maine, BTB is back on the job. Here are a few signs we saw on our vacation Down East. Outside the Georgetown General Store on Rte 127:

Road painters take a break in Popham Village:

And our favorite, from the bulletin board in front of Percy's Store in Popham Village, Phippsburg:
Both working!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rite Place, Wrong Time

Delivery trucks are the bane of drivers on narrow streets. Still once and a while it's nice to contemplate their stolid qualities.

I was briefly stuck behind this Rite Aid truck in Woodside the other day. It made me wonder about the Rite Aid logo. Red, white and blue. Sure. The shape? A shield I suppose. If so, this one's been nicked in battle. You ought to see the other guy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hare, Hare Krishna

From pushcarts to this cart...


The Hare Krishna Festival parade. Seen and heard from the CUNY Graduate Center Library, second floor of the old B. Altman's building at Fifth Ave. and 34th St.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pickle Barrels, Piano Stools, and Pea Shooters

Before food trucks lined New York City streets, there were pushcarts....

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill, first published in 1964, was reissued last year by the New York Review Children's Collection. The novel has an interesting timeframe: The narrator (Jean Merrill), writing in 2036, recounts the events of 10 years earlier, when pushcart peddlers stood up to the massive trucks taking over New York City streets. The illustrations, which I have remembered since childhood, are by Ronni Selbert.

The Pushcart War started on the afternoon of March 15, 2026, when a truck ran down a pushcart belonging to a flower peddler. Daffodils were scattered all over the street. The pushcart was flattened, and the owner of the pushcart was pitched headfirst into a pickle barrel. . . .
      It was near the corner of Sixth Avenue and 17th Street in New York City that the trouble occurred. Mack was trying to park his truck. He had a load of piano stools to deliver, and the space in which he was hoping to park was not quite big enough.
      When Mack saw that he could not get his truck into the space by the curb, he yelled at Morris the Florist to move his pushcart. Morris' cart was parked just ahead of Mack.
      Morris had been parked in this spot for half an hour, and he was doing good business. So he paid no attention to Mack.
      Mack pounded on his horn.
      Morris looked up then. "Why should I move?" Morris asked. "I'm in business here."

I decided to check out "ground zero" for the Pushcart War. There were no traces of the "Daffodil Massacre" on the corner of Sixth Ave. and 17th St. You more likely to see a Citibiker than a "Mighty Mammoth" (the juggernauts against whom the peddlers struggled, most often with peashooters). Not a pushcart in sight.

We have just over 10 years until the Pushcart War breaks out. How about dedicating one wall enclosing the parking lot to a mural reproducing one of Ronni Selbert's illustrations? That would be an appropriate memorial before the fact.