This is a LONG post with lots of photos, so start after the fold. Continue reading Fall 2018 North American Festival Tour wrap-up
I brought my Brompton to Philadelphia so I wouldn’t need to get in a car between the station and my hotel (in fact I made it all the way to Philly without getting in a car at all, by riding the Brompton 80 miles to the train station). But I also wanted to ride the Schuylkill River Trail, and Friday that’s what I did. It did not disappoint! I would have taken more photos, but I was enjoying myself too much to dismount every time I saw another scenic opportunity. I recommend riding it yourself if you can; it is very pretty.
Last week I took a break from pushing pixels to have a life, and that life included a trip to Philadelphia. My departure station was Crawfordsville, IN. Since it was a nice day and winds were favorable, I rode the whole 80 miles on my Brompton folding bike, which I’d planned to take to Philly with me anyway. I’d really been neglecting the Brompton this Summer, as my back prefers recumbents. But it’s still a sweet bike, and with frequent breaks for back stretches, I made it without damaging myself.
It was very hot. We found a country cemetery (Ingram Hill Cemetery, outside Harrisburg IL) on a hill at the last minute. It had shade trees as well as open spaces, and a beautiful view. The great hills of Shawnee National Forest rose in the distance. A huge storm cloud hovered in the east. We’d been anxious that morning about clouds; the radar showed scattered rainstorms. There were other clouds around the horizon, but over our cemetery was all clear.
The eclipse was in progress by the time we got there. We wouldn’t have guessed; it was bright and hot. My weather app said “feels like 104F.” Just sitting in ____’s non-air-conditioned car was exhausting enough for me to break open my emergency electrolyte drink. We sat under a tree and walked out from time to time to gaze at the eclipse-in-progress with our Schnuck’s mylar-and-cardboard glasses. I pressed mine over my sunglasses and saw a fat crescent gradually get slimmer.
After a while everything looked the same, except I could take off my sunglasses. There was a puzzling, “is it getting dimmer? I can’t tell” period. Then we could tell: it was getting dimmer. Soon the quality of light was similar to late in the day, except it was coming from directly overhead. The shadows weren’t long, as you’d expect. The crescent was very slim now. We marveled at how bright the sun still was in spite of being mostly covered.
My eyes felt confused, like my irises were twitching open and closed trying to find the right level. The light was from overhead, but got dimmer and dimmer. ____ said it was like moonlight, only warmer and brighter.
Then, suddenly, it got dark. Not “very” dark, not night-time dark; just-after-sunset dark. The clouds on the horizon glowed pink and orange. Overhead was dark blue. We couldn’t see any stars or planets, whether because our eyes hadn’t adjusted, or because a mid-day eclipse with the sun at its zenith doesn’t darken the sky enough, we still don’t know. The corona was exactly like the pictures, except brighter. It was white-hot bright. The moon was a black disc. It looked like an eye in the sky.
Per other accounts, I kept saying “oh my god” as I looked around the
Every day I unconsciously (and occasionally consciously) orient myself to the rays of the sun. It’s like sensing gravity: gravity is always “down,” whether you’re consciously paying attention or not. Sunlight is always coming from the sun, its qualities – strength, color, direction – always indicating where the sun is. The eclipse gave every indication the sun was setting, but it was directly overhead. It was wonderfully disorienting, as if gravity itself shifted and we were floating.
Then the shadow passed and it was suddenly brighter again, though very dim for mid-day. We put our eclipse glasses on again and saw the thinnest crescent, but that was enough to change everything back to day. The shadows returned, and soon the regular mid-day chorus of birds and insects did too. We marveled, stunned and delighted and moved, at what we had just seen.
Gradually we felt the temperature rise. We’d barely noticed the oppressive heat subside, until it came back. We chatted with some of the local people who had taken in the eclipse at the cemetery near us. Fortunately no one blared music, and although we weren’t completely alone, we had a lot of space to ourselves.
Then we drove home.
I have done it, and it is paved. Some parts are terrifying, but at least there’s no gravel. Let’s begin:
1. This is the way cyclists from Urbana get to Kickapoo State Park. County Rd 1700 N is quiet and pleasant and even scenic in places.
2. Continuing to Kickapoo. There’s a bridge here that’s closed to cars, but you can walk your bike over it. You can also walk your velomobile over it, though it’s a bit trickier.
Flying to New York last week I had this amazing view of Central Illinois farmland. It was early in the season and nothing was growing in the fields yet, but they were no longer frozen. The land was unobscured by snow, ice, or crops. I noticed the naked fields were mottled, and it dawned on me I was seeing underground rivers – not unlike veins you can see under the skin – along with the obvious surface rivers. Humans parcel the land along even grid lines, and when I ride my bike through the countryside I tend to think of the land that way too. But seeing these complex, chaotic patterns underneath reminded me just how puny, idiotic, and clueless about nature modern humans really are.
I also got this nice shot of downtown Manhattan from the plane, because the lady in the window seat was asleep:
Manhattan had grown a new tower since I’d seen it last. Or maybe it was just happy to see me.
I really want to visit your country in early to mid October. A festival in Sweden has invited me to speak around October 14-16, and would like to make a stopover before or after or both. I am greatly intrigued by Iceland’s Modern Media Initiative*. Might there be some way I could speak at a university there, or at least meet Icelanders involved with media reform and free speech issues?
*P.S. OK, not just the Modern Media Initiative. I’m also intrigued by your giant thermal pools.
Boy have I been remiss in posting news. First item: I spent last weekend in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, attending the Betty Boop Festival.
There I learned about the fascinating subculture of Betty Boop collectors. Betty was big in Japan in the 1930’s – I had no idea. I wish there were pictures of Japanese Betty collectibles online I could share with you, but there aren’t; maybe Betty collectors are all cagey due to the intense licensing restrictions that surround the character.
I also learned more about animation legend Grim Natwick, who grew up in Wisconsin Rapids before moving to LA and changing cultural history.
I met a lot of people including Madison filmmaker Robert Lughai, who blogged this Boop Festival report with photos. I also met the venerable Maggie Thompson of the venerable Comic Buyer’s Guide, who shares her Boop Festival report.
The next day, July 21, I’m returning to Santa Cruz for a screening of Sita at the Nickelodeon!
Meanwhile the Cartoon Art Museum is having an exhibit of my work, Before Sita Sang the Blues: Spotlight on Nina Paley.
I’ll be hanging around until early August. So if anyone in the Bay Area wants to hire me for speaking, now’s the time to save big!
Here’s me presenting the latest Sita Sings the Blues Free Distribution Report at Power to the Pixel‘s Cross-Media Film Forum in London, October 14. I was actually very sick, had a terrible sore throat, and had kept quiet all morning to save my voice for this. Apparently I did a good job compensating – hooray for performance adrenaline! But my throat hurts just looking at it.
Because I’m in France:
I’ll be in Europe until October 17 (on which date I will be speaking at MoMA!) so I may be virtually non-existent online. Or not, depending on how many free wireless connections are available and how well my netbook holds up.
Again, I’m gonna be in:
Have fun while I’m away! Don’t burn the house down!