Category Archives: What I Learned This Week

Pranks For The Memories…

This is my first birthday without Tamara, so I’ve been a little bleh. We always did something to celebrate our day. Nothing big-dinner, exchanging gifts-just happy that we made it another year.

I think about what we would have been doing now. I would have convinced her to see Get Out; we’d talk about all of the Rose types that we’ve met (and whisper about people we think are in the sunken place). And, she’d be laughing at me because-just this week-I fully got a trick that she played on me last year.

Let me explain. I tend to carry a small notepad to jot down ideas. Tamara has given me some very nice ones as gifts – metallic ones, art deco ones, etc. Last year, she got me two Dora the Explorer notebooks as a joke. At least, I thought it was just two. When I fully opened the package a few days ago, I discovered that it was actually ten notebooks with just a few sheets in each one.

dora

I definitely needed the laugh that day.

WILTW – Hidden Figures: The Secret of Hampton High School

mary_jackson_working

By NASA [Public domain]

It’s 1956. Mary Jackson is a computer at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. She wants to continue her education and get an engineering degree. Good news: The University of Virginia offers engineering courses at a local high school – Hampton High. Bad news: Hampton High is for whites only. Ms. Jackson has to petition the City of Hampton to get special permission to take the classes.

Going into the school for the first time, Mary Jackson makes a shocking discovery…

Hampton High School was a dilapidated, musty old building.
A stunned Mary Jackson wondered: was this what she and the rest of the black children in the city had been denied all these years? This rundown, antiquated place? She had just assumed that if whites had worked so hard to deny her admission to the school, it must have been a wonderland. But this? Why not combine the resources to build a beautiful school for both black and white students? Throughout the South, municipalities maintained two parallel inefficient school systems, which gave the short end of the stick to the poorest whites as well as blacks. The cruelty of racial prejudice was so often accompanied by absurdity, a tangle of arbitrary rules and distinctions that subverted the shared interest of people who had been taught to see themselves as irreconcilably different.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, p 145

 

WILTW: The Hitch In The Witch

(Disclaimer: Not a review of the new movie.)

I was excited to learn a few weeks ago that a horror movie called The Woods was actually a new Blair Witch movie in disguise.  The first lucky folks to see it walked into a film festival expecting to check out The Woods. They didn’t realize it was a new Blair Witch the movie until it started playing. When the movie was over, all of posters in the theater had been changed to Blair Witch. This kicked off the marketing machine and a franchise that people thought had died in 2000 was back.

In prepping for the revival, everyone is talking about the first 2 movies. What I learned this week is how  the success of the first Blair Witch did not trickle down to the original trio lost in the woods: Heather, Josh and Mike. A movie with a $75K budget, made $250M. They got to go on a few talk shows to promote the movie and fruit baskets.

Because the actors used their real names in the movies and those characters belong to the studio, any/all kinds of merchandising could be done without the actors getting a cut…

Heather Donahue recently wrote about the experience in The Guardian. Beyond not getting a share of the wealth, the trio got little credit for their part in making it a success:

It’s a strange thing to get no credit where credit is deeply due. By strange I mean shitty. We were supposed to be really scared, so we weren’t actors (all of us are formally trained). We improvised all dialogue from an outline, but we weren’t writers. We shot it and independently provided the impetus for many of the scenes you see in the film, but we were not directors. While this work became record-breakingly profitable, what we were was dead.

In other BW news, I didn’t realize that Blair Witch 2 – Book of Shadows started out as a decent (or at least better) film. The 1st Blair Witch was done independently and then picked up for distribution. The studio was involved with Book of Shadows from the beginning–and made a mess of it:

The whole Exploring Series done by GoodBadFlicks is pretty good.

Well, I’m off to the movies.

WILTW: Werewolves In Cabot Cove

murdershewrote5

What I Learned This Week: Many of the guest stars in the Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble episode of Murder, She Wrote (1989) were also featured in 80s horror films.

I used to watch this show with my grandmother on, I think, Sunday nights. She recognized many of the stars and I was proud of myself when I started figuring out who did it before Jessica did.

Watching the series now as an adult (via Netflix), I’m picking up on lots of themes that were over my head. For example, there are quite a few episodes that feature a younger man/older woman romance. Also, what’s interesting to me is how Cabot Cove changes through the series. It goes from being a quiet coastal town to a place where rich/affluent outsiders will call you out of the blue willing to pay a small fortune to buy your home.

Anywho, the series itself was just good, murderous fun. In Fire Burn, Cauldron Bubble, the ghost of a witch who had been burned at the stake has returned to Cabot Cove. Also, the author of a book about that witch is in town to drum up publicity. Hmmm, I wonder if these two events are connected…

Guest stars include:
Brad Dourif (Child’s Play)
Roddy McDowell (Fright Night / Fright Night 2)
Christopher Stone & Dee Wallace Stone (The Howling)
Russell Nype (The Stuff)
John York (Night of The Creeps)
There are probably more that I didn’t catch.

Here’s a clip showcasing Brad Dourif:

 

WILTW: Bad Science Reporting

If you are trying to eat better, one giant obstacle is sorting through all of the “information” that’s about. Low fat? Low salt? High fat, low carb? High carb, low protein? Protein, no carbs? Red wine and dark chocolate are a winning combo? Meat protein over plant protein? Vegan? And it goes on and on and on…

How can this be? Thousands and thousands of scientific studies floating about–conflicting left, right and sideways. How can you separate the good studies from the bad one? How can you tell which ones are really significant?

If you have any faith in news media to help straighten it all out…nope.

What I learned this (last) week: there’s a good chance that the journalists working on the science section/segment of whatever news media you consume are regurgitating press releases and study summaries rather than actually investigating and reporting.

John Bohannon purposely did a flawed study, submitted the paper to a scientific journal and newspapers across the world just repeated his “findings” despite the red flags.

It was, in fact, a fairly typical study for the field of diet research. Which is to say: It was terrible science. The results are meaningless, and the health claims that the media blasted out to millions of people around the world are utterly unfounded.

You can read his whole confession: I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here’s How.

Once the major news media reports on a health study, smaller outlets, bloggers, etc pick it up–everyone remixing or rewriting the same thing–with few people casting a critical eye on the actual study itself.

Fortunately, there is an organization/website dedicated to actually reviewing science news stories and science news press releases. HealthNewsReviews reviews the big news stories of the week and scores them based on 10 reasonable criteria, including whether or not the article is exaggerating a study’s conclusions. Even when a story passes on a criteria level, HNR still points out if readers should be weary.

For example, here’s the HNR review of an NPR story on headaches and migraines.

HNR doesn’t cover every news story. What it means is that readers of science news, especially in regards to diet/nutrition/medicine/health, have to take even articles from reputable news outlets with a grain of salt. Or, if you prefer, a pinch of chocolate.

Dark Chocolate & Caramel Fudge (with sea salt!)

Dark Chocolate & Caramel Fudge (with sea salt!)

WILTW: Shine On!

drsleep Stephen King has written a sequel to The Shining called Doctor Sleep.

A middle aged Dan Torrance has to use what’s left of his Shining abilities to save a young girl from a tribe of old, vampire-like being who travel the US in RVs and wear lots of polyester.

Yes, I will be pre-ordering this 544 page hardcover novel – even though it won’t be published until September. (I may have to pre-order King’s new Hardcase Crime mystery – Joyland – too.)

I. Am. Here. For. This.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros may travel into the past and do a prequel: The Overlook Hotel

You have seen The Shining–right?

montcaine

Another book I’m looking forward to is Sidney Poitier’s Montaro Caine, which comes out in May.

Random House is categorizing this novel as Fiction – Visionary & Metaphysical:

A baby is born with a coin in her hand. An orphan crafts a mysterious wooden object. The CEO of a large corporation finds himself under extraordinary pressure at work and at home. And on a remote hilltop on a Caribbean island, a medicine man seems to understand the meaning of all these events and to hold the key to the future.

WILTW: Something About Him

I visited the Museum of Sex today and saw a pair of boots that reminded me of a certain cartoon character:

20130301-215820.jpg hugehim

Him wears Ballet Boots. Those things look painful! No wonder he’s so angry.

MoSex was fun and educational. The exhibits covered everything from what people are really searching for on the internet (in terms of sex) and the sex lives of animals.

There was also a “street art” exhibit that included a wall of all of your favorite cartoon characters–each with a penis growing out of the forehead. Scooby, Winnie The Pooh, The Kool Aid Man (oh yeah!), etc. My favorite?

20130301-232601.jpg

WILTW: Graze is Good

grazebox

Sign up with Graze.com and for $5 a week a box featuring four healthy snacks shows up in your mailbox. You don’t pick out which snacks you will get directly; however, you get to rate the things you’ve tried and that affects how often it will show up in the future. Also, if you have dietary restrictions, etc you can check off the appropriate boxes and will get snacks within your range.

A potential draw back is that the boxes are coming from the UK and being delivered via USPS-so you aren’t given a tracking number to chart the journey of the box to your place. Also, these are snacks, so it’s basically 1 serving. This is not a draw back, but I don’t want to give the impression that it’s super-sized portions. Slip one of these suckers in your lunch bag for a midday treat.

To sign up with Graze, you need an invitation code. If you are interested, drop me a line and I’ll send a code your way.

 

 

WILTW: Clementine Hunter

Clementine Hunter1997-1988

Clementine Hunter
1886-1988

This week, we went to see:
Zinnias – The Life of Clementine Hunter at Montclair State
Concept, Direction, Set and Light Design by Robert Wilson
Libretto and Music Composition by Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon
Book by Jacqueline Woodson

It was a wonderful, 90 minute opera about the life of the folk artist Clementine Hunter–and prompted me to learn more about her. Unfortunately, because she was illiterate, she didn’t write down her own story. What’s known about her life comes from recollections/interpretations of the people who knew her. (FYI – her name is pronounced Clemen-teen.]

So, you will have some articles that say Clementine Hunter didn’t start painting until after she met Francois Mignon; he saw the spark of an artist in her and suggested she paint.

Another popular story is that she had already been painting before she met Francois. She used old brushes and paints left behind by Alberta Kinsey, an artist who had been staying at the plantation, to create her own works.

Here was the shocker for me–Clementine Hunter was the victim of a forger: Mr. William Toye.

William Toy

William Toye

Toye and his wife were caught in the 70s and in the 90’s trying to pass off fake Hunters to unsuspecting buyers/auction houses. Both times, charges dropped. Not even a fine paid!

Naturally, they tried again in the new millennium. Working with an art dealer in New Orleans, they again began putting phoney Hunter paintings on the market. This time, the FBI decided not to let them slide. They raided the house and everything. Unfortunately, because Toye was 79 when he was finally prosecuted, there was no jail time included n the punishment. As he left the court room, Toye tried to assault photographers with his cane.

More about Clementine Hunter:
Clementine Hunter’s First Oil Painting – History and documentation of an important work of folk art.
Black Women In America Clementine Hunter – blog post
Clementine Hunter; History of Forgery by Tommy Whitehead – video (sound isn’t the best. I also find his description of her problematic. In talking about how great her talent was as an artist, he basically describes her as someone who “didn’t know what art was”. I suppose he means she wasn’t classically trained–she was self taught–but there’s just something about that phrasing…)
FBI Investigation of Clementine Hunter Forgeries by William Toye – Video of FBI agent explaining the operation to bring down the forger.

WILTW: Vichyssoise (Pardon Moi?)

Yesterday, I took a cooking class at The Culinary Conference Center: Soups And More. This was a very hands-on class where everyone got an apron, a hat and chopped/diced/rolled/stirred or whatever was needed. In 4 hours, Executive Chef Rick Low guided us through seven recipes: turkey consomme, acorn squash-pear puree, vichyssoise, spinach and cheese stromboli, grilled flat bread, herb compound butter and bruschetta.

Vichyssoise

Vichyssoise

Flat Bread & Bruschetta

Flat Bread & Bruschetta

Turkey Consomme

Turkey Consomme

Acorn Squash - Pear Puree

Acorn Squash – Pear Puree

No pics of the stromboli, but it was great. We made so much food and got to take some home.

The Culinary Conference Center offers cooking classes throughout the year; I’ll definitely go back.

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