Sunday, March 27, 2005

cold photos and hot tea

Went on a photoshoot with Amber yesterday. Took Tony with us. Amber's assignment was to shoot a narrative sequence of six shots, with a beginning, climax and conclusion. Her idea was to shoot an action sequence of me and Tony doing kung-fu.

In the end, we worked out a sort of film-noir/Quinn Taylor scenario of a Deal Gone Bad, in which we met in a disgusting alley in a questionable part of town--complete with a burnt-out, torn-down building at the end of the alley, and human feces on the loading dock.

It was awfully cold, no more than forty degrees with a vicious wind howling through the alley. I wanted my costume to be sleek and minimal, so I was without hat, gloves, or coat during takes. My hands literally turned blue, and I'm surprised I don't have an earache today (I am a little dizzy, though, so perhaps I do have some swelling in the ear canal). For each frame Amber had to bracket her shots with one aperature above and below the reading--one shot lighter and one darker, in other words--so for each pose we had to freeze, so to speak, in one position while she adjusted and hit the shutter three times. "Is that three?" became the rallying cry of the day.

But we caught some terrific action shots of me laying an elbow upside Tony's head. I got to see the first five rolls of negatives, and some of them are quite good. The double bonus of it was I got to hang out with Tony in a non-classroom situation, and he fine-tuned my technique quite a bit. I'm still having trouble coordinating my feet and hands in application. Must work on that. We did push-hands practice while Amber processed the film in the darkroom.

Then we went to lunch, and hit a couple of stores in Westport, because I had been looking for a teapot. We found several in the World Market, and Amber bought me a little glazed "Brown Betty" English-style ceramic teapot, as a birthday present. Very cute. Scott even exclaimed over it when he got home. Not to be outdone, Tony bought me a copper-bottomed tea kettle for heating water. I protested I didn't need it, but Amber got indignant. Apparently she's had to bite her tongue every time she sees me heat water in the microwave.

Well. I shall be proper about it now. Oh, and the Tea Drops shop in Westport had a to-die-for white tea with peach. Got to get me some of that.

I have such lovely friends.


Anonymous said...

You do have lovely friends. If for some reason I were to drop out of your life, you would be neither alone nor lonely. I do not perceive my meager input into your affairs as icing on your cake. It amounts to no more than decoration on your frosting, if that.

I commend your research efforts into railroading in the late nineteenth century. My own personal experience with railroad cars goes no further back than 1917. While I was a switchman for Missouri Pacific in 1969, I indulged in a hobby of checking the ages of the cars. The oldest boxcar I ever saw was dated 1930; the oldest railcar I laid eyes on was an itty bitty oil tanker in use during World War I. Although I spent time walking the tops of boxcars, I don't recall seeing access ports on the top of them.
I was fascinated by trains in 1944, but since I was just two years old, I wasn't checking their dates of manufacture. I may have seen some nineteenth century cars. All I knew then was that they were big and exciting.


Holly said...

Oh good! Thanks very much for the info. I didn't *think* they had roof access, but any confirmation helps.

The main problem I've run into with researching the 19th century trains is everybody wants to talk about the engines and the luxury Pullman cars, not such mundane things as freight cars. I was lucky--and appalled--to find out how hand brakes worked.

C8H10N4HO2O2 said...

'...freeze, so to speak...'


You so such interesting things with your Saturdays.

Holly said...

Thanks. Better dead than bored.

Amber's supposed to print and hand in this assignment by next Saturday, so with luck I should have the sequence posted very soon.

Anonymous said...

Even in the days of automatic couplers and air brakes, a fellow could get messily scragged working on the railroad. I did use the handbrake on at least one occasion to slow a car or two, in order to keep them from bumping other cars too hard. As you may already know, before air brakes, the brakemen had to set the brakes of each and every car individually.
The fall of 1964, I worked at a grain elevator. A couple of days, my job entailed getting into a box car to level a load of milo. The grain was coming into the car through a pipe inserted in the side doors: no top access.

Holly said...

I've read that you could always tell a switchman by the missing fingers.... now I'm trying to remember if you had any stubby digits.

But I suppose by 1969 they had auto-couplers.

See? I knew you had something more interesting to contribute than pointing out typos.

Anonymous said...

You read right. In the nineteenth century, fellows with missing digits were chosen over those with all their fingers for employment as switchmen. The circumstance was evidence of experience.
I identify with your hero Trace. He picked up a nasty wound in the Big Fracas of the 1860's. Myself, I sustained injuries at the times of three different wars. Of course, I was thousands of miles from any combat zones when they happened. What I affectionatly refer to as My World War Two wound doesn't involve stubby digits, but two fingers of my left hand don't work right. It wasn't from messing with trains; it was playing with a washing machine motor while it was running. I like to think that it was intelligent curiosity coupled with a child's innocence.

Anonymous said...

I just did some Google research. The automatic coupler was patented as early as 1873. By the twentieth century, it was standard equipment. Your Trace and Boz stories are set at a time when the old link-and-pin couplers were still very much in use. That system was hazardous to life, limb, and the pursuit of happiness.