In the Heart of the Sea: Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

in-the-heart-of-the-seaI think Nathaniel Philbrick puts it best in his epilogue when he says, “The Essex disaster is not a tale of adventure. It is a tragedy that happens to be one of the greatest true stories ever told.”

The story of the Essex and its 20 member crew is the subject of Philbrick’s book, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Setting the scene of culture of Nantucket, the whaling industry, and the psychology and physiology of starvation, dehydration and more, this book graphically details the harrowing plight of the seamen who were cast out in the middle of the Pacific ocean for more than 90 days. It is the story that Herman Melville’s Moby Dick is based on. And although it is based on fact, it is discomforting at times.

Whaleship Essex Route MapIt is hard for me to imagine what it’s like to be lost, let alone disconnected to our modern world. It is hard for me to even imagine being put in those circumstances. I have read The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger (which had too much technical jargon and not enough about the culture of Gloucester, Massachusetts) and Endurace: Shackleton’s Incredible Adventure about Ernest Shackleton’s voyage to Antarctica describing what it is like to be stranded at the end of the world. I am interested in exploration and sailing but it is the fact that the members of the Essex were so pushed to the brink, sucking the marrow from their former colleagues bones, that caused me to have nightmares.

I cringed when they cut open the tortoises and drank their blood. I took a moment when the first crew member (aside from Matthew Joy died) and they decided to eat him. I cried out when Owen Coffin drew his lot. The worst part for me was not that they were forced into these circumstances, but that they could have suffered less. They could have sailed west to the islands of Asia with the invisible threat of encountering cannibal tribes. Instead, they sailed southeast to Chile and were forced into cannibalism. A terrible irony.

All in all, what I enjoyed about this book were the historical and scientific facts that Philbrick seamlessly incorporated into the amazing story. I loved learning about the culture of Nantucket, the Quakerism, the dependence upon whaling, and the camaraderie.

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Critter & Guitari on F.A.T. Gold Public Access at Eyebeam

Critter and Guitari at Eyebeam with Bennett Williamson

Chris Kucinski, Bennett Williamson, and Owen Osborn at Eyebeam.

As part of Eyebeam’s current exhibition, F.A.T. Gold: Five Years of Free Art & Technology curated by Lindsay Howard and on view through April 20th, Critter & Guitari was asked to host a jam session for Public Access organized by Bennett Williamson.

In true Critter & Guitari fashion, Chris Kucinski and Owen Osborn invited their friends Devin Flynn, Ross Goldstein, Raphael Griswold, and even me to collaborate and make some new sounds. (Bennett would have also jammed with us like he did at the Experimental Television Center, but he had to operate the AV equipment.) The hour-long jam incorporated the sounds of the Pocket Piano family (including the first prototype), the Kaleidoloop family, and the Bolsa Bass along with a variety of analog instruments.

Click here to see the full live-streamed video of the jam.

All in all, the jam showed the collaborative and fun nature of the instruments and the cooperative generation in which they were created.

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Welcome to Pine Hill by Keith Miller

Welcome to Pine Hill

After a year of touring and winning countless prizes, including the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, I saw Welcome to Pine Hill, written, directed and edited by my former professor, Keith Miller.

If there was one thing I learned from Miller, it was to go with what challenges arose and work through them, to explore new territory. This film, in its creation and its narrative, does exactly that. Miller first met the star of the film, Shanon Harper, through a chance encounter, a scene that opens the film. We then follow Harper through his reformed life as an insurance claims adjuster and his diagnosis of cancer.

Throughout the film there is a beauty in the silence, in what is unsaid, much akin to a Kelly Reichardt film. Miller’s outlook, however, is that of empathy and understanding. He sees Harper as someone dealing with the circumstances, navigating heightened realities, and confronting his death. Harper eventually finds peace and the viewer is left to stew in his mortality.

All in all, from a chance encounter to a full-length film, Miller explores the many paths in life and how we should set aside our differences.

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Ovarian Cancer National Alliance

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance Zumba Class

My friend Alison Devenny, board member of the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance (OCNA) and founder of its Junior Committee, recently hosted a Zumba workout class to raise awareness about OCNA and its mission to increase public and professional understanding of ovarian cancer and to advocate for more effective diagnostics, treatments, and a cure.

Alison is an intelligent, caring, and driven woman who first got involved with OCNA when friend and mentor, Judy Abrams was looking for a way to increase the involvement of young people with the organization. Knowing that it could be a powerful tool, Alison started the Junior Committee with the charge of bringing on members of the Millennial Generation and having them be an active force within the organization. They started with a small group of young professionals with a passion for philanthropy and now have a group of 30 active members who have planned more than 15 charity events including walks, galas, shopping nights and fitness events in New York City.

Alison DevennyWith the success of the Junior Committee, Alison was asked to join the Board of Directors in 2010 as their youngest member ever. She now has the unique experience of leading the Junior Committee in New York and working as a member of the board focusing on fundraising and advocacy on a national level. Through her work, Alison says she is continually inspired by the passion and grace of the ovarian cancer survivors she meets and the community of leaders and advocates who work on the behalf of women everywhere.

All in all, I am inspired by Alison and the work she does on behalf of OCNA. I invite you to check out the Junior Committee’s website for upcoming events and ways to get involved.

Ovarian Cancer National Alliance:
Based in Washington DC, The Ovarian Cancer National Alliance is a patient-led, umbrella organization uniting ovarian cancer activists, women’s health advocates and health care professionals in the effort to increase public and professional understanding of ovarian cancer and to advocate for more effective diagnostics, treatments and a cure. Key activities include an annual national conference, a public education program targeted to women and primary care physicians, and training programs to help survivors become effective advocates and spokespeople for the disease.

Ovarian Cancer:

  • Ovarian Cancer is the deadliest gynecological cancer. There is no cure and no early detection test. There are symptoms and understanding these symptoms is a powerful tool for women to protect themselves.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013, about 22,240 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed and 15,500 women will die of ovarian cancer in the United States.
  • While the 10th most common cancer among women, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related death among women, and is the deadliest of gynecologic cancers. Mortality rates are slightly higher for Caucasian women than for African-American women.1
  • A woman’s lifetime risk of developing invasive ovarian cancer is 1 in 72.

Symptoms

  • Bloating
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full quickly
  • Urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency)

While most women will experience these symptoms at some point in their lives. Women are encouraged to consult their doctor if they experience any of the above symptoms for a period of more than two weeks.

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Meryl Tankard: The Oracle at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

Meryl Tankard’s The Oracle starring Paul White is a mastery in the limits of the human form and its relation to the mind.

With its point of departure as Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring with the score by Igor Stravinsky, Australian native, Meryl Tankard presents a multimedia and solo performance that is wildly expressive yet contained. The star, Paul White, is in control of his every movement even as he expresses desire, excitement, confusion, and despair.

The opening reveals a kaleidoscopic view at our protagonist, each angle of the body morphing into another, creating abstract forms and recognizable shapes. Then we find White center stage, repeating the undulating choreography of Nijinsky in only white briefs. He continues through many phases of choreography, with his costuming changing, with interaction to the projection behind him, with interplay with light, and finally in the nude with a white powder trailing him.

White’s body is incredible. Unlike any other male dancer I have seen before. But more than that, he has the ability to flow seamlessly through the choreography, hitting the deepest poses and maneuvering to the next with fluidity. One does not realize how challenging the movement is.

And this must be attributed to Tankard, the former ballerina and Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal dancer. Her choreography and artistic vision weave through time periods, physical limitations, and man’s need to satisfy desire.

All in all, I found myself in admiration of this piece for honoring an historic piece of dance and advancing the the medium through presentation, choreography and dancing.

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How to enjoy and/or have an existential crisis in Istanbul

Sea of Marmara, Island of Buyukada, Istanbul, Turkey

Sea of Marmara, Island of Buyukada, Istanbul, Turkey

This past New Year’s I went to Istanbul, Turkey to visit my friend, Nico. My friend, Erica, also joined in on this trip. The three of us, with our individual variations on the “quarter-life crisis” (plus my horrible cough) managed to explore one of the world’s most fascinating cities. Here is a series of photographs that captures the various moods throughout my week-long trip:

Istanbul, Turkey

Four Cool Cats in Istanbul

Dancing in a Turku bar in Istanbul until 5:30am

Hagia Sophia

Turkish cuisine

Turkish crisis

Galata Bridge, Istanbul, Turkey

How to win at backgammon in Turkey

Galata Tower and a Sea Gull

The Grand Bazaar

Maria Kucinski Istanbul

Istanbul Sunset

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Post-Sandy Reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum and Bowne & Co.

Bowne and Co Custom Print ShopLast night, I attended the reopening of the South Street Seaport Museum and the print shop, Bowne & Co. Founded in 1775, Bowne & Co. is New York’s oldest existing business under the same name and thankfully, it survived Sandy.

Bowne and Co Sandy Recovery

As I mentioned in my post about Sandy, my friend Ali Osborn is the Resident Printer at Bowne & Co. located in the South Street Seaport. The print shop filled with antique equipment was inundated with two feet of salt water. This would have been enough to damage any business, but with the thousands of historic wooden and metal type and the wooden drawers housing prints, it was a disaster.

Bowne and Co Sandy Recovery

So Ali, with the help of Assistant Printer Gideon Finck and other members of the museum staff, and volunteers, worked to recover and restore as much as they could. They had to go through more than 100 drawers, washing and drying off each individual piece of type. Then, they had to hope that the wood wouldn’t bow – otherwise, the type would be useless for printing.

Unknown Roman

Almost three months after the storm, the print shop has reopened. Returning to its normal business of custom letterpress printing orders and creating original, hand-printed cards, posters, and coasters for sale in their shop and at the South Street Seaport Museum.

Bowne and Co

It was wonderful to see the shop restored with new prints lining the walls. Many people came out to show their support of the historic company and even Mayor Mike Bloomberg stopped by, reiterating the importance of this institution in New York City.

Ali Osborn at Bowne and Co

Among the various prints on display, there were posters that said “New York,” a postcard of an art deco the New York City skyline, and a note card with a ship in a bottle. Bias aside, my favorite piece was Ali’s There, There. With delicate humor and smart sensibility, the large text sits atop various maps in this edition.

All in all, it is great to see an organization dedicated to preserving the history of this technology and furthering it as an art form.

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