August 4, 2013
With the day’s last rays twinkling on the water, nearly 500 people ring Patterson Park’s pool in low-slung bleachers and folding chairs, gathering for the season finale from Fluid Movement, Baltimore’s parodying water-ballet troupe. A production channeling Broadway, Esther Williams—actually a character in one act—and the camp of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, this year’s play is based on Herman Melville’s tale of whaling and obsession, Moby Dick.
“The idea came to me walking my dog on 33rd Street, near where Memorial Stadium used to be,” says producer Ted Alsedek. “I just looked at the grass and saw a crew of peg-legged men with tiny hats atop their head sinking in the green clover. It was a vision.”
In the opening number “Chowder,” set in a Nantucket tavern, the water ballet performers, costumed as carrots, spices, clams, and fish, transform the pool into an enormous soup bowl, backstroking and kicking as they are “stirred” by the ship’s cook (in chef’s hat and Speedo) twirling a giant ladle. Next, Ahab, dressed in a black unitard, very small black hat, beard, and peg leg—white ballet slipper on his good foot—makes his first appearance, singing to the tune of “You’ll Never Get Away From Me.”
Later, cheers go up when Ahab, harpoon successfully darted, is dragged into the “sea,” ultimately floating on his back, dead. Then, the zombie ghosts of the crew return, wreaking general havoc amongst the audience.
“The great thing about Moby Dick is everyone knows the story so you can have some fun,” says Alsedek. “We couldn’t just end with Ahab floating in a casket. That’s not very glamorous.”
August 6, 2013
N. Charles and 33rd Streets
For the 29th year on this date, Max Obuszewski stands at evening rush hour on N. Charles Street, holding a grainy, enlarged, black-and-white photo of Hiroshima taken after the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb. Two dozen others, including a mom toting two kids, join the quiet—other than supportive honking horns—commemoration.
Still, as Obuszewski looks around, he can’t help but wonder what happened to the anti-war, anti-nuke movement. “I took a bus to New York in June 1982 and there were a million people in Central Park for an anti-nuclear demonstration,” he says, with a good-natured laugh. “Where’d everybody go?”
Afterward, demonstrators head to the nearby Friends Meeting House where Setsuko Thurlow shares the horror she witnessed as a 13-year-old Hiroshima schoolgirl. “People walking like ghost-like figures, flesh hanging from their bones, holding their eyeballs in their hands . . . others on the ground, begging for water, stomachs bursting open.” When she’s finished, Thurlow watches a 15-minute documentary made last year by Meher Hans, then a Ridgely Middle School eighth-grader. For the project, Hans interviewed Thurlow by phone and the Hiroshima survivor now sees the short film for the first time. In the dark Friends Meeting House basement, Thurlow’s voice suddenly calls out as scenes of the rubbled, desolate city—including a lone archway and a half-steeple—pan across the screen. “That’s my church!”
August 14, 2013
Behind the junkyard and strip club, in a cramped industrial garage off Pulaski Highway filled with not just saws, gears, drill presses, and duct tape, but also a laser cutter, 3-D printer, 5-foot-robot, and laptops, Jason Morris ducks his head in the door to “oohs and aahs.” Morris, sporting new Google glasses, happily lets the guys (it’s all guys tonight except for one woman) at the Baltimore Hackerspace’s weekly open meeting try on his computerized eyewear.
“A hacker space,” founding member Miles Pekala explains, refers to a place “where you take one thing or several things and repurpose those things into something else.” It doesn’t mean breaking into CIA computers.
Hunkered at crowded tables, amidst Sam Adams bottles and Cheez-Its, collective members (pitching in $50 a month for access to tools and fellow hackers’ various expertise) mostly work on personal projects. Mark Haygood, a retired city police officer, joined almost three years ago and eventually got software help for his walking robot with George Foreman grill feet.
Meanwhile, Pekala, a research scientist, builds wheel housing for a 2.5-horsepower go-kart for an upcoming racing series in New York. “It’ll go about 30 miles per hour,” he says. “Helmets are required on the course. Most of us here weigh around 200 pounds, though, and we need to find someone lighter to drive. Somebody’s wife or girlfriend.”
Nearby, Terry Kilby tweaks his mini- drone helicopter, which he employs with a high-definition camera to shoot unique aerial images—including the mysterious face on Mt. Vernon’s Washington Monument, long-rumored to be modeled after someone other than Washington, but impossible to see from the park below.
“It doesn’t look like Washington,” confirms Kilby, bringing up the photo on his iPhone, “more like Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.”