Do something.



The Female Plato goin’ her own way
S. Fleming


From the Elections Phone Bank

Dear S.,

Yesterday, I handled 77 calls in 7 hours. I spoke to a teacher looking for voter registration resources for her disabled students, to a homelessness advocate looking for instructions on how to run a registration drive with her clients, and to a 78 year old who’d never registered before but thought now was the time. Someone told me I was doing a terrible job, and someone else called me a hero.

Today, I go in for training on how to close a ballot dropbox on election day. E. is afraid for my safety, but I want to know how to do it.



T. Johnson, Whittler

BaD: How old were you when you made your first spoon?
Johnson: I think around 9 or 10.
B: What made you want to make a spoon?
J: Instead of just whittling a stick down into a twig, I wanted to actually create something useful, neat, and productive.
B: You had these thoughts as a 9-10 year old?
J: I was a weird kid.
B: Hey, me too. What tools did you use for that first spoon? What wood?
J: For my first spoon I just found a balsa wood blank at the beach at Lincoln Park and I used my Swiss army knife for the whole carving. As you can imagine, it was very rough. I didn’t even sand it.
B: How did you feel making it?
J: Pretty good. I was curious and finding a way to explore.
B: Kids start and quit things all the time. How come you stuck with it?
J: From that point on, I saw a piece of wood as what it could become, rather than what it was. I would see a certain piece of wood and get inspired randomly. Like many of my interests, my work was not constant, but rather would become part of my life—off and on again, whenever I got a burst of inspiration. I enjoy making anything, so when I found myself to not be too bad at creating spoons, I wanted to stick with it and improve in any way I could.
B: Do you have (or have you ever had) an “ideal” spoon in mind toward which you work(ed)?
J: Honestly anything that could possibly function as a spoon is my ideal spoon. I just draw out a random design in the moment and as long as it ends up being smooth and in one piece I’m happy.
B: What makes a beautiful spoon?
J: I think all the spoons I make are beautiful. I guess just any spoon that I was inspired enough to finish is worth being called beautiful. The sandpaper and oil finish definitely help though.
B: Do you have a favorite spoon maker whose work inspires you?
J: I don’t know anyone else who carves spoons to look up to. As far as technique goes, I just kinda make things up as I go. Maybe not the most productive way to go about it, but I like feeling accomplished when things work out for me.

Utensil set, by T. Johnson.

B: Are you a spoon carver, spoon maker, or something else?
J: I often say I am a spoon carver, but maybe a woodworker or whittler is a better description because I carve other utensils as well and would love to get more into other aspects of woodworking as I come across more tools.
B: You’re a freshman in college; you have other engrossing interests. Why do you keep woodworking?
J: My interests are diverse. Woodworking is something I can do when it is dark and I am in one place, which is different than most of my other interests. I can calmly run away to my workspace for hours and relax, with my focus on making something spectacular.
B: Is it true you don’t sell your spoons?
J: I don’t sell my spoons. I feel as though each one, although completely capable of being used, is more of an art piece. For this reason, I either keep them for myself or give them away as gifts. Being able to give someone a handmade, heartfelt gift makes my heart happy.

Sculptures by T. Johnson.

B: Any thoughts for someone who’s considering spoon carving?
J: Take your time. Don’t be discouraged. If you get stuck, don’t be afraid to look for resources online, or a mentor to teach you how to move forward. Always be proud at what you do get done, because you made something!

Movie Review

The Straight Story (1999)
E. Lundegaard

Early in The Straight Story, director David Lynch clues us in on what kind of movie we're about to watch.

Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth) of Iowa, hearing that his estranged brother has suffered a stroke, wants—needs—to visit him in nearby Wisconsin, but has no way to get there. His driver's license's been revoked because of his failing eyesight, and he's too stubborn to accept the help of others. As he tells his daughter, Rose (Sissy Spacek), he needs to do this his way. So he decides to drive the 300+ miles...on a lawn mower. As he sets out on the right-hand side of a long stretch of American highway, the camera pans up towards the sky, holds there, then pans back down again. It's a common film technique used to signify the passing of time, and in most films Straight would be far along the road by then. But here he's gone maybe ten feet. Lynch's message is clear. It takes a long fucking time to get to Wisconsin on a lawn mower.

The Straight Story is all about slowness. Straight is enfeebled. He needs two canes to get around. He moves slowly. He talks slowly, too. But there's wisdom in his words, and there's beauty in the world when you slow down to notice it. Not spectacular beauty, but flat, Midwestern beauty. Straight spends a lot of time looking up at the stars and the camera follows his gaze. At times Lynch seems like a genius for how simply he can evoke the most complex emotions. In an early scene, Rose, Straight's fortyish, mentally-impaired daughter, is staring out the window on an evening that has just turned to dusk, in a summer that's about to turn to fall. We see what she's looking at: a stuttering lawn sprinkler. Suddenly a big, brightly-colored ball rolls near the sprinkler. A young barefoot boy comes along and picks it up and then stands there. It's a beautiful scene, in part because it allows the audience to imprint their own emotions onto it. Only later, halfway through the film, do we find out what Spacek's character was probably feeling, and then only as an aside; but, for such a small moment, it adds considerable weight and depth to the film.

When was the last time we saw a film that had so many old people in it? Old people acting like old people? The early scenes between Straight and his friends are choice.

Straight's journey, and the people he meets along the way, are a metaphor for the life cycle. He first runs into a teen runaway and some bicyclists (youth). This is followed by a couple (middle-age), a contemporary who reminisces with him about World War II (old age), and a priest in a graveyard (death). Finally, Straight crosses a river to meet his brother. When they do get together, Straight's mode of transportation suddenly makes sense. Reconciliation might not have been possible without it.

D. Gholston builds a spice rack from bamboo, cedar, and copper nails. By C. Hudak and S. Miller.

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