Monthly Archives: May 2014

Rete: Red Hook, Brooklyn by David Gatten

BY David | FILED UNDER Brooklyn, Rete
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In my hand I hold a leaf from the tree outside my window. Old hand lined now age and experience veins grown larger. Central vein on the leaf stems my palm. Outside under the tree on the playground the shrieks of children poke sounds of traffic near and far. Rumble is the distance away of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Sun is the fenders bending the sound of the city so many sounds at once un-focusing my eyes. Traffic is snarled. I am thirsty. I shut my window thick and everything goes but the light the light pounds away a second at a time, relentless. Everything is connected is a close place is passing is a light through a tree against night and sky. Make a wish a sign a cross across a great distance. That’s the sun that’s the road I take that takes me south in sun back to her.

Rete: Red Hook, Brooklyn

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Yashmak: Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn

BY Lynne Sachs | FILED UNDER Brooklyn, Places, Words, Yashmak
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From Lynne’s 2007 diary … This has definitely been a very difficult word to explore. While we are committed to using the Y version of this word yashmak for a face-covering veil, the more common words are niqab or burka. It’s a religious concept really, one that takes the sartorial gesture — much life the turban, the yarmulke, or the habit — to its most spiritual dimension. And yet, the political atmosphere of the day has transformed this simple expression of devotion into a highly charged issue of global magnitude. Post September 11, for a woman to wear a full face veil in an American city is a fearless act.

I make a date to go to a Yemenite video store to talk with a young, very hip woman in traditional Muslim dress who knows an immense amount about music and movies. We film together for an entire afternoon as I interview her about wearing a veil in New York and the challenges of being different on the street. It’s a wonderful conversation, and I feel great about the material. But, as I am heading out the door, she whispers, “Please don’t put my face on the internet.” Drat. Double drat. More work.

A few days later, I walk with my daughters from shop to shop along Atlantic Avenue’s famous block between 3rd and 4th Avenues, stopping into the mosque, various essential oil stores and then finally to a Halal butcher. When I ask if they know where I can find a shop that sells a yashmak, I am sent up the hidden stairway behind the cash register. Here? Really, here? I wonder. In a windowless room I never could have imagined before, I am allowed to run my fingers through one yashmak after another, as I listen to the friendly, hijab-dressed saleswoman explain the various forms of dress and their nuanced meanings. For the next several days, I return to the shop with my camera and am told a whole range of stories about why she is not there. On the third day, one of the butchers announces that she no longer works in the dress shop upstairs and that the owner, who was scheduled to meet me that day at 5 PM, is in Egypt.

In a case like this, I have now learned, it is never a good idea to call first. Just appear and start talking about your project and hopefully someone with power will become intrigued. At long last, I find an Islamic dress shop where I am allowed to film and ask a few questions. I speak French to the Moroccan saleswomen. They are, for the most part, quite shy about being on camera, but they are proud of their fabulous inventory and happy to allow me to photograph. I am still wondering whether a full-face veil is a symbol of oppression or liberation from the onus of making oneself beautiful in front of a far too critical public eye. When I look up the definition for the NIQAB or yashmak, I discover, for the first time, a definition on Wikipedia.com in which THE NEUTRALITY OF THIS ARTICLE IS DISPUTED.

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Umbel: Brooklyn Botanical Garden

BY Lynne Sachs | FILED UNDER Brooklyn, Umbel
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Reading the dictionary. Everyone wants to do this one day, don’t they? Like the Bible, or James Joyce’s Ulysseus, isn’t this task something we all will get around to accomplishing eventually in our lives? It’s been my role in this project to find words that resonate, surprise, and provoke the imagination. From the seemingly obscure and irrelevant to the profound and surprisingly forgotten, I have chosen words that send the imagination spinning. Umbel is probably our most botanical word, one that at first did not jump out at me, as it seemed so plant-specific, removed from any other realm of daily existence. But, simply put, I adored the sound of the word. Umbel. Umbel. Umbel. It just plain feels good on the tongue to say. Newly educated, I began to see umbrella-shaped flora all over town! Upon a bit deeper level of research, I discovered this is also the root word for umbrella? and so a lovely visual poem came to mind. I found a thriving carrot (yes, an umbel) plant one sunny day in the vegetable section of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and then patiently awaited a rainstorm in downtown Brooklyn. The sky and the earth below determined the direction and timing of my production.




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Holus Bolus: Williamsburg, Brooklyn by Heather Kramer

BY Heather | FILED UNDER Brooklyn, Holus Bolus, Places, Words
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Pigeons, perched atop a roof, staring down at the streets below as if they’d dare never venture below their elevated homes. And in fact they never do. At least the ones that neighbor me.

Three times a day their shadows fall through my window as they swoop in a circle around their building, around the sky. As if they were swimming in a school, they’d stay in close formation while covering every inch with their pattern. A mysterious man would wave a long stick and shout to them as they would fly. They’d come home when he’d stop waving (I later found out this was for exercise). It was best at dusk, for the pigeons would be pink from the setting sun and they’d paint the walls new colors with their wings.

A swarm. A cluster. A gathering of flight. All a mystery to me, until the day I went onto my own roof, and waved over to the man waving the flag.

After our shouted salutations, he agreed to let me find my way up the stairs to meet my winged neighbors. I called up from the street and he threw down a key for me. Stairs, more stairs and a ladder.

He met me with his round smile and informed me that he loved birds, he really did, he just loved them. I found my way to the coop, only to be met with the most beautiful hum. Pigeons wandered the roof, pecked at their food, fluttered about, all while making their individual coo. It was as if they sang in a choir, never leaving a silent moment.

Although not fond of the camera, they were fond of the sky and would soar at any gust of wind or sudden movement. A community of softly singing birds, all with the gift of adorning my apartment with their fluttering shadows and causing the occasional person to glance up when they were in the streets at the right moment.

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Xenogenesis: Flushing, Queens

BY Lynne Sachs | FILED UNDER Queens, Xenogenesis
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From my 2007 diary…..What a strange and deeply inspiring summer. I have been living in New York City for just about ten years, and I think it is finally becoming the kind of muse that sends my creative spirit flying. Tonight I drove to Flushing to shoot xenogenesis. Little did I know that a drive to this marvelous Asian community would lead to one of the most unusual epicurean experiences I have ever had — eating authentic Szechuan food. This region of China includes the highly pungent taste of Mala. Eating this invisible, peppery powder in our appetizers was like diving into a pool of ocean water with an electrical socket plugged into the taste buds of your tongue. What a charge!

So back to filmmaking, though in many ways such taste-defined sensations are very tied into the witnessing and thinking that comes with collecting images for our words. It’s all new and all extremely sensory. Tonight I shot in the Sago Bubble Tea Cafe because it seemed like a great place to study the radical shift in life style between generations in the Asian community in this city. Here I was able to see tables of young people gathering to drink a particularly new dessert drink, to eat French fries, to participate in a sense of community that is, to my eye, so different from that of their parents.

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Lapidary, Diamond District, Manhattan

BY Lynne Sachs | FILED UNDER Lapidary, Manhattan
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How can I possibly convince a Diamond District business owner to allow me into his stone cutting workshop to film the almost alchemical art of transforming nature’s mineral creations into high-end jewels? After a week of non-stop phone calling and perseverance, I discover that a little southern charm can occasionally take me a long way. I successfully convince a jeweler to allow me into his small workshop full of Brazilian craftsmen, only to discover that stone cutting is perhaps the noisiest art on the planet. The occupational hazards of playing the electric guitar are nothing compared to this!

Once I have finished shooting, I step into the afternoon sunlight of 47th Street and immediately notice an entirely different array of auditory sensations — equally particular to this New York City neighborhood. As long as no uniformed police officers are in sight, a steady stream of hawkers are beckoning each and every passer-by to buy a bracelet, a ring or simply an undocumented raw stone. Straight from our exotic, diamond mine to your fiance’s finger?  (Lynne Sachs)

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