Saturday, October 25, 2014

New England Reflections 2014 (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LV

 The Wooster monument at Oak Cliff Cemetery Derby, Connecticut.  Many of the graves in this cemetery are arranged in family plots with a central monument that lists the names and dates of those buried there.  Small stones with initials mark the actual burial site of individual family members.  I have written about another family plot in this cemetery here.
Buried along with the Woosters in a place of honor is Harry N. Thomas, their African-American servant.  I'm in the middle of teaching The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and Up From Slavery to my seniors.  We've had some hard conversations and will be having a few more.  One goal of those conversations is to help them see that slavery may have ended in 1865, but the effects of slavery continue on in all manner of forms down to the present day.

W.E.B. Du Bois begins his magnum opus The Souls of Black Folk by saying that there is one question he continually senses in the minds of white folk but that they are too sensitive to ask: "how does it feel to be a problem?".  The rest of the book attempts in some way to answer that question.  One way that Du Bois describes it is with the image of a veil that separates every African American from the white world beyond.  Face to face with this tombstone, I bumped into the veil, but from the opposite side.

You may bury me in the East,
You may bury me in the West,
But I'll hear the trumpet sound
In a-tat morning.

Rest well Mr. Thomas,  I'll see you in that morning where there are no more veils.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

New England Reflections 2014 (Cont.): Platypus Travels Part LIV

The Church on the Green

There are two churches on Huntington Green.  I passed them nearly every day.  Neither of them are particularly grand -at least not by the standards of other churches on other greens.  I never attended either of them, but I love them each in their own special way.  I've already shown you two gems from the Episcopal church pictured above.  Let me show you the rest.
 The sky blue vault represents heaven.  The lamps you see would originally have burned whale oil but have been converted for electricity.  All these pictures were taken in natural light at about 10:30 in the morning.
 The church is not laid out in a cruciform pattern, but follows the simple "salt box" colonial architecture.  In this, as in its general austerity, Congregationalist influence is evident.  To add a little Episcopal twist, the rectangular sanctuary has been divided (by the columns that support the balcony) into three parts (representing the Trinity), as in early Christian churches.
 The knave and altar have been re-done several times.  The arch was added in the Victorian Era.  It was one of three (probably representing the Trinity), but the two arches on either side of the main arch were removed in subsequent renovations.  The altar rail, altar, and tabernacle all alert us that this is an Episcopal church.
 Here, we get a glimpse of the lectern and the stone baptistery.  The rectangular window is edged with panes of colored glass, probably from the local Tiffany factory.  More consciously modern stations of the cross can be seen on either side of the window.  Also, note the old whale oil lamp above the lectern that has been refitted for electricity.  
 This is the rear of the church with the exposed organ pipes between the red curtains.  The organ console can be seen peaking above the neoclassical balustrade to the left.  Note also the mirror hanging above the organ that allows the organist to coordinate with the priest.  The bell tower contains a set of chimes that play three hymns three time a day.  We were able to hear the twelve o'clock ringing and it was beautiful.
 The picture above and the two that follow are all views from the balcony.  In colonial times, this is where slaves and servants would have sat along with others of low station.  Notice how the large and numerous windows that are the hallmark of the high colonial style fill the church with light.

 One of two front windows that have been left in beautiful simplicity.
 Another view of the exit with symmetrical staircases leading to the balcony.
One of the staircases and two plaques commemorating the refurbishing of the organ and the addition of the bells.

A rubbing taken of the slave carvings that line the section of the balcony where they once sat.  Connecticut freed slaves under a certain age after the Revolution, but the memory of their presence has remained.

The Return of Homestar Runner: Platypus Nostalgia

Homestar Runner is back on the map with a new music video "Fisheye Lens."  This quirky little flash comic provided infinite entertainment for me and my associates in years past.  I was sad when the site finally ground to a halt half-a-decade ago.  As promised in an interview this past summer, however, the brothers chaps have vowed to make a comeback.  Their quirky first offerings seem like a good start.  Where it goes from here, only time will tell, but I'm glad to see them back in the saddle again.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Hellboy in Hell: The Platypus Reads Part CCLXXIII

After twelve issues spanning the better part of a decade, Hellboy's life on earth came to a apocalyptic end in The Storm and the Fury.  While his existence on this plain ended as was foretold, Hellboy's story is far from over.  That story continues with the launch of the brand new series Hellboy in Hell.  The collected first volume came out this summer and I was happy to stumble upon it at Barnes and Noble while I was looking for a map of Southern New England.

The original Hellboy series ended with such a resounding "bang" that I had a little trepidation upon first opening the volume.  The new series has to start at the start and build up the action from scratch.  That sort of relaunch can kill all interest in a story.  I was glad to find (and I've just finished my third reading) that this is not the case with Hellboy in Hell: The Descent.  By now, Mignola's imagined world is so thick that it can sustain our interest even when the action slows almost to a halt.  The images, the voice, and the characters are interesting in their own rights.  The images of hell are a rich blending of Dante, Milton, and Mignola's own eccentric vision.  Page after page of strange imagry emerges from the shadows, pierced by sudden stabs of fiery red, and then recede back into the abyss.  Mignola's unique story-telling voice is a pleasure to listen to as it comes out in the various characters that tell the tale.  The characters themselves are so rich, particularly Hellboy and Edward Grey, that we can merely revel in the pleasure of learning more about them while the plot builds up steam again.
All in all, while The Descent lacks the flash and epic sweep of the last three Hellboy volumes, it is definitely a work of pop-art in its own right.  I can't wait to see where Mignola will go in volume two.