Exposing Ourselves

There’s a time-honored way to test whether a container is airtight: Coat it in soap and submerge it in water. The pressure will cause the air to escape, and you can see where the leaks and weak points are by following the bubbles.

COVID has put our entire society — in fact, the entire globe — deep underwater, subjecting all our institutions to remarkable pressure. The resulting social bubbles have been plentiful, and have revealed long-standing problems. These simmering issues would have come to the surface sooner or later, but by putting everything to the test at the same time, we have revealed which of our pre-pandemic institutions and practices were most precarious.

Where are the most noticeable leaks? Here is this author’s highly subjective take on the issues that have blown the biggest bubbles. There isn’t room to go in-depth here, just to summarize America’s top fractures.

Education

Turns out, the most valued function of our school system is its role as babysitter. Educators were faced with that brutal revelation, as the need to get children out of the house — for the mental health, but also economic productivity of care-givers — seemed to outweigh concerns about immunological safety or actual education. Homeschooling had a huge boost, and many new homeschoolers realized that it’s harder than it looks. A school teacher friend of mine told me, “I learned this year that America doesn’t love its children. It just wants them out of the house.” There are many great teachers in the system, and many great kids, who deserve more. And that starts with defining the mission of education. If it’s really childcare, then let’s acknowledge and deal with that and figure out a new way to approach educating as well. This is an entire industry that just got a reboot. Let’s make the most of it.

Policing

I was raised in the ‘70s, when children (well, suburban ones, anyway) were trained, “If you’re ever in trouble, find a police officer.” They were portrayed as friendly do-gooders; the smiling guys on “CHIPS” would stop to rescue a kitten trapped in a tree. The kids I know today run from cops, thinking they’ll be shot or choked. That old-time rosey picture was never really true — and the modern one certainly doesn’t tell the full story either — but the current perception that the police are essentially at war is a perfect example of a conflict that became more openly evident amid the added emotional stress of a pandemic. Frustrations that have been there likely forever found new enthusiasm for expression in a landscape that seemed, for a while, to be the end of the world. The bottom line is that we need to find a way to protect our public and enforce laws, without it feeling like our police have declared war on their own citizens. Right now, there’s a wide-ranging mandate for reform, which can be acted upon on a region-by-region basis. It’s a lot of work, but now is the time when such efforts can be taken seriously, if we apply our collective will to not recreating the status quo. 

Race relations

Is anyone really surprised that this tension was simmering beneath the surface, waiting to force itself out like in a modern Pompei? Our country has generally acknowledged how broken it is on this matter for centuries, and in the do-or-die atmosphere of the last year, it’s become clear that there is a long way to go from where we are, and that issues of race are among our most hot-button issues. This is not something like education or healthcare where we can just tear down a system and try to put in a new one. these festering, multi-generational issues will need a prolonged, multi-generational repair plan.

Healthcare 

We’ve all known these systems are horribly broken, but this crisis tested them most directly. Interestingly, it turns out that proper high-level motivation can produce effective results. High-level motivation, a sense of communal crisis, and funding enabled different parts of the system to develop and distribute vaccines countrywide. But there are front-line workers who will need years to get over the stress they’ve incurred this past year. Our healthcare system stood the test, proving that issues like equity and access, if not actually solved, are within our power to address if we really want to.

Social media 

Too much time on your hands? Start obsessing over your favorite conspiracy or those idiots who just don’t see your point of view. Under a crisis, everyone who knows how to fix the world seemed to become even more vocal and move further than ever from the center. Social media is horribly broken, but getting attention for it. There’s also a generation working its way up that will be able to bring appropriate knowledge and experience to the problems social media has created. They won’t be able to fix human nature. But they will be able to counter it with some serious coding.

Equity

Record growth in the stock market. Record unemployment at the same time. Conventional wisdom about what makes a healthy economy was upended this past year. The day-to-day economic confidence of your average person seems to have nothing to do with the meta-level indicators of prosperity. When times were good, the gap between rich and poor was growing. Now, in tough times, that gap is growing even more. How do we balance those books? This disconnect may be the most real challenge ahead of American society. We’ve seen very clearly that the fortunes of the folks on the ground level and the folks in the high towers are not as connected as we’ve been led to believe. They may not be connected at all. The idea from trickle-down days that what’s good for one segment is good for the other seems to have crashed and burned in a really obvious way. Now what? Is there a way to tie together success for the few and success for the many? The bubbles escaping this leak are merging with and carrying almost all the others.

I’m not saying society doesn’t have other urgent problems. From food allergies to modern mental health to environmental policy, there are many more rising crises in our world. But these are the ones that have bubbled to the top when the world went truly nuts, the ones that might have simmered below the surface without the added catalyst that brought them to the top as our significant problem children.

So, what do we do about it? We’ve proven that we can change the world in a remarkably short time when we’re collectively motivated. We can take from the chaos of the last year a meta-level to-do list identifying the things that most need to be fixed. 

Knowing your enemy is half the battle — or acknowledging a problem openly is the first step to fixing it (choose whether you follow Sun Tzu or AA). We have shown, throughout history, that when we are collectively motivated, whether to go to the moon, to win a war or to take on a monster virus, our society can take on tremendous odds and persevere. Now is a chance to rebuild with an eye on what we want these societal constructs to be. They’ve been fractured. Their bureaucratic and societal momentum has been interrupted. Their flaws have been wildly exposed. Let’s not let the approaching “return to normal” be a return to some of our dysfunction as well. It might be comforting to just go back to the way everything was, warts and all. But that would be a tragic waste of the unprecedented opportunities this experience has presented us, to tear down some detritus and make a “better new normal.” Let’s not plug the leaks. Let’s make some new, less leaky stuff!

Stay tuned for our podcast series delving into each of these topics with local and national experts.




Fashion Revolution Map






True to Form: Local artist is a creativity machine

Nick Bauta wanted to do large-scale vacuum-formed plastic parts for some ambitious immersive design projects. But there were no facilities with the right machinery in our area. So he built his own.

Vacuum forming takes sheets of plastic material, quickly superheats them to make the material malleable (but not so hot that it becomes liquid), and wraps it around a shape, stencil or other crafted form to create a 3-dimensional plastic shape that’s replicable, durable and also has some give to it. A lot of the artisanship goes into creating the forms, which have to work within the constraints of the material and the process. “You can’t have any undercuts,” Bauta explains, gesturing to shape out imaginary pieces with his hands. “And sometimes you need to make multiple pieces, and plan out how they will fit together.”

Bauta, a RISD grad, already had experience with machinery, metal and electrical systems. He’s one of the founders of The Steel Yard and his art exhibit of robotic dragons was covered in these pages a few years ago.

Eager to demonstrate his contraption, Bauta winds his large, athletic frame through a hodge-podge of eccentrically shaped art projects of all sizes in his workshop that looks like a refugee from an upcoming Disney version of Frankenstein-meets-the-Dark-Crystal.

“This is the back end,” he explains, reaching the device. “I just have to wire it back up.” It has the homemade mad-scientist feel imbued in the rest of the space, all hidden within an unassuming abandoned mill building in Olneyville. Bauta pulls out and sticks in power cables from what looks like an old-time switchboard. The vacuum forming machine he has built has all its guts on display — a deliberate choice, it turns out, so he can continually adjust and fine tune its performance.

“It took a little while to make this,” he confides. “I was already working with the material, and I found myself wanting to make more clear things. It’s not as cool as glass, but I was trying to find other ways to bring art into forms that are more permanent, less expendable. And unlike glass, this lasts and is relatively cheap. As a metalworker, I’m always improving and learning how to make things better and better.” He’s applied that philosophy to the building of the vacuum former. “Now I still have to try to make it look sexy. But the real beauty is you can make almost anything with this.”

Bauta uses recyclable plastic, and recycles his own discards and trimmings. “This plastic is highly recyclable. The problem with plastic comes when people don’t recycle it,” he explains. “Plastic is an absolutely incredible invention, but it gets a bad rap because so much of what we make from it is single use, and then irresponsibly discarded. But it can be used to make beautiful, long-lasting, artistic objects.”

His rig is not the sort of contraption you can learn how to make from YouTube videos. “Actually, there are good YouTube videos if you want to build one that’s smaller,” Bauta says. “But you can’t just scale up — things work differently at this size.” He could have bought something from overseas, “But then I wouldn’t really know how it worked, how to adjust it or how to fix it.”

With an 8’ x 4’ bed, it’s the largest independent unit of its kind in New England (as far as we know). Recent projects have included a giant transparent flower to adorn the roof of a new eatery in Newport, and several rooms in the game-oriented action park TimeZone in Lincoln (see story page below) as well as a line of lampshades.

“We were amazed to find a resource like this so close by,” says Pieter Martens of TimeZone. “We found so many talented artists here locally, and it was really great to see them create the touchable, tactile art that makes up our action park. We gave them a lot of artistic freedom, but of course the project had a lot of practical constraints. Seeing these artists create within those parameters was really impressive,” he says.

“It’s a beautiful tool for thinking about things — even things on a very large scale — and then figuring out how to create backwards to get your desired result,” Bauta says of working on these large-scale projects. He worked with artists from The Reliquarium in Lincoln, which created many of the TimeZone rooms, and they combined his forms with carpentry, supporting wires, 3D renders and even soundscapes. “It’s quite a process,” says Bauta.

The machine opens up to reveal a large flat surface — like a hibernation pod in any good sci-fi movie. A shape is placed on the bed — Bauta demonstrates using a wooden model for a giant flower leaf, and fills in some dead space with a heavy, giant old metal gear. He chooses a plastic sheet of the right color and density, and places it in the machine. Then the machine closes and heats, like a giant pants press, while vacuuming the oxygen out of the set up. The plastic wraps tightly around the forms, until he pulls a release and the shapes cool and harden. “Sometimes you get something crazy, if an air-pocket formed, or if my timing was off. But usually, you can make the same form over and over. You can paint or finish the forms after they come out, too.”

Bauta removes the plastic and uses a blade to cut the shapes free. “When we get in a rhythm, we can easily do 10 of these an hour.” He holds up a giant, semi-transparent leaf, grown from the seeds of a new art form.

Look for some of Nick Bauta’s work at The Steel Yard, 27 Sims Ave, PVD, at TimeZone, in the R1 Entertainment Center at 100 Higginson Ave, Lincoln, or at Stoneacre Garden, 151 Swinburne Row, Newport.




Poor Oversight: DoH drops the ball on optometrist accused of sexual assault

“He had an obvious erection, and just started grinding on me. There was nothing ambiguous about it.” This is not how you would expect someone to describe their last visit to their optometrist. Yet this woman, who has asked to have her identity withheld, has. She describes the most vulnerable part of an eye exam – equipment that makes you feel confined, stuck with peripheral vision cut off and sight-impairing eye drops making everything fuzzy. And then being taken advantage of by a person you trusted.

She’s one of a number of women who found one another online, through their similar reviews of their experiences with West Side MD Dr. Paul DeCesare, of DeCesare Eyecare. Many of these reviews were removed recently without explanation from sites like CareDash and Healthgrades. A couple are still visible on Yelp, and have reappeared on other sites.

What is more alarming in the realm of disappearing complaints is that at least three were filed with the Department of Health (DoH) over the last few years. Motif was able to track down three official complainants (We’ll call them A, B and C for this article). All three said they had found other women with similar experiences through online review sites, but we were unable to contact them all. Two of the three we spoke with provided us with copies of their official complaint paperwork, filed with the DoH. Both described attending hearings, and they each said they felt the hearings were conducted with little sensitivity, and both subsequently received basic notices saying that “an internal investigation has been conducted, and no disciplinary action was taken.” There was no further information or indication of why there was no censure — nor recommendations for further action. One appeal was denied on the grounds that there was no new evidence.

Dr. DeCesare has been practicing for more than 47 years in Providence. He is a past president of the RI Optometric Association, and served on the board of examiners — the same board that was asked to assess complaints against him — for a decade. He operates from offices on Broadway, and focuses on family practice with his colleague Dr. Cassandra Oliveira, who joined the practice in 2016.

While the police handle any criminal complaints against doctors, the Department of Health has its own internal adjudication system to handle ethics, malpractice and competency complaints. There are hundreds of reprimands and a few other disciplinary actions that can be found on the DoH site from the last several years, spanning most medical specialities as well as nurses, pharmacists, barbers and nail salons.

According to Joseph Wendelken, spokesperson for RIDoH, “If we get a complaint regarding a boundary violation or issue of sexual harassment here is the usual process:

  1. Complaint is reviewed at Team Review Tuesdays at 11am
  2. Every complaint is screened daily so if a complaint was particularly serious it would be opened that day
  3. Notice is sent to the physician that a complaint has been opened for investigation
  4. It is common for the complainant in a matter like this to be interviewed
  5. After we get a response, the case is presented to the Investigative Committee for their review and decision. It is common for the Investigative Committee to interview the physician and if appropriate, the complainant
  6. If the above situation were considered to present an immediate danger to the public, the Director of Health is notified for consideration of applicable usage of her emergency powers.”

We asked the DoH for any complaints filed against Dr. DeCesare. They declined to provide that information. We filed a public records request and were informed that complaints are not considered public record unless disciplinary action is taken. The DoH has not taken disciplinary action against this doctor, so an unknown number of complaints against him are locked away (when disciplinary action is taken, the action can be viewed publicly at health.ri.gov/lists/disciplinaryactions).

We also requested police records on complaints filed against Dr. DeCesare. The Providence Police declined to disclose anything on the basis that it might jeopardize an ongoing investigation (before you jump to any conclusions from that response, you should know that this is the response the Providence Police have given to every open records request we have filed with them — over a dozen on various different cases over the years. It’s really just their way of telling the press to go get a lawyer if we want anything).

We asked an independent practicing optometrist about sensitivity to this sort of issue. He also wished to remain anonymous, but told us, “That’s why I always leave the exam room door open. It’s not an issue that’s really come up, but you want people to feel comfortable.” He told us that doctors don’t receive any special training regarding sexual misconduct or sensitivity. They do receive special training on how to interact with children, with elderly patients, patients on the autism spectrum and patients who are prone to fainting when something comes too close to their eyes (a rare but real disorder). Each of these presents unique challenges, but training on generally or sexually appropriate behavior is not something that’s available. Or, in his opinion, should need to be. “There’s an element of common sense you should have. That’s just not okay.”

The women who had bad experiences tell similar tales, with different levels of escalation. One review still on HealthGrades says, “I visited Dr. Paul DeCesare several years ago and he made me feel very uncomfortable. He repeatedly called me condescending pet names like ‘sweetie,’ ‘honey,’ ‘young lady’ (I was nearly 30 at the time, not 5 years old), while at the same time touching me constantly for no reason. I’ve been going to eye doctors for about 20 years and this definitely went beyond the normal intimacy of a typical visit. Stay away from this guy.”

On Yelp, there are three reviews with a similar theme. One of the reviewers is not a frequent Yelper, but the other two are verified and have put up reviews on many different topics. 

From HM: “The staff at the front was nice but the doctor was super creepy and I wanted to leave but was afraid to.

“He kept calling me ‘sweetie,’ ‘babe,’ ‘baby,’ ‘honey’ etc …  But worst of all he kept touching me constantly. He rubbed my thigh with his hand, pressed his crotch against my legs repeatedly, held my hands and pressed his face against mine. I’m not new to seeing optometrists, I get that there is a level of closeness that needs to happen during an eye exam, but this was way over the top.”

And from Barbara S: “I was a patient here for a couple of years with no incident and liked going to this office. Until my last exam when Dr. Paul suddenly, deliberately, with no provocation and staring at me, assaulted me while I was in the exam chair. I was shocked, and pinned behind all the equipment and didn’t know what to do and said nothing at the time.

“Upon searching Yelp for … a new doctor, I discovered two other women who have had this experience with him!”

In some cases (A and C), the women who posted negative comments were asked by the practice to remove them, and some comments were removed from other review sites. It was through these comments that the women were able to reach out, connect, share their stories and gather the resolve to file formal complaints, first with the Department of Health, then with the police.

“There’s a reason people keep getting away with this behavior,” said complainant A. “I didn’t know how to report it, and couldn’t really find that information online or by Googling. I called a lot of different places and got a lot of wrong info along the way. I called Day One, and some other advocacy groups, and was told they couldn’t advise me because it was a legal matter.” Calls to the Providence police were misdirected or unanswered. “You hear no, no and no and you do give up. Honestly, at first, I didn’t even realize second degree sexual assault was a crime. I was going to just find another doctor. But I saw the other statements online. That moment was a game changer for me. I wasn’t alone, and I had to wonder how long this sort of thing had been going on, and for how much longer.”

But even the process of how to report it and to whom isn’t a clear one. “I didn’t know the attorney general would take on something like this. I thought I had to hire a lawyer,” says A. “I finally walked into the police station and asked the officer at the door for help — the one who runs people through the metal detector. Because the established channels didn’t seem to work. He brought me to the right detective.”

The DoH expressed no intention to change how complaints of this sort are handled. Disciplinary action could include, “license suspension or revocation, public reprimand, consent order or probation, provided adequate evidence is obtained to support the complaint,” but in these cases they found no grounds for any disciplinary action (both women received the same form letter). One complainant appealed the decision and was told, “Through board management and legal counsel, we conducted a thorough review of the above complaint, previously filed by you with RIDoH, as well as the additional message you recently submitted. Pursuant to this subsequent review, we found (i) sufficiently credible information was presented to support the Board’s prior decision and (ii) no new information was presented that could have materially affected the decision.”

Each complainant received a number of messages, and came in for hearings. “It was disgusting how they treated us, versus how they treated him,” said one complainant. One who saw into the file room where complaints are stored described it as a mess, with piles of papers everywhere. The DoH declined to allow a Motif reporter into that room, because the building is on lockdown for COVID, but they did say that due to the pandemic, “everything is handled differently in that department now.”

“Situations involving sexual assault can be different,” says Sarah DeCataldo of Sojourner House, which offers training to law enforcement, members of the medical community and Brown Medical School. “Common practice experts are not necessarily experts in this kind of trauma, and often benefit from being reminded that what’s routine to them in assessing these situations is not routine for victims, who do not go through this every day.”  

Complainant A went to the Providence Police Department, which found enough merit in the case to bring criminal charges for second degree sexual assault on February 7, 2019. Since then, the case has been in the court system, where it has had 10 pre-trial hearings, often filing for continuances (and, naturally, it has been delayed for COVID).

“I was going to just move on, but every time I would pass that building, I would think about the other patients. The first time patient, who might go through something like what I did,” complainant B says.

“I wake up in sweat, flashing back on that visit many times. It should not be allowed to continue,” adds complainant A.

If you have a similar situation, you can report it to the Attorney General of Rhode Island’s office, which has a sex crimes division, at 401-274-4400. Drs. Decesare and Oliviera did not immediately respond to requests for comment. When we reached out, we were told they were with patients.




High Quality: RI tests the waters of cannabis testing

Since the legalization of compassion centers for medical marijuana patients in Rhode Island in 2013, there has been a law on the books requiring that cannabis products be tested in state. That’s all the law says, leaving the hows, whens and wherefores up to the Department of Business Regulation (DBR) and Department of Health (DoH) to specify. Regulations were developed, but never required. That’s changing this year.

Previously, without any specifics about how to test or what to test for, the practice of testing was really on the honor code. The compassion centers were testing – although it’s unclear how often or for what – to satisfy their own internal quality control requirements. What’s changing is that they’ll now be held to a common standard and report to the DBR beginning on January 14 (any cannabis that flowers from Jan 14 onward will require testing). It’s good news for patients, and good news for the two RI labs approved by the state to run these tests.

Testing is used to confirm the potency that might be listed on any given product. It’s also important for detecting contaminants such as pesticides, metals that leech into grows through bad soil, and the most common contaminant in grown product, mold, which can reduce potency and be dangerous in its own right.

So far, there are only two labs that have passed the variety of requirements to be approved to test cannabis in RI, Green Peaks Analytical (GPA), the first to be certified, and East Coast Labs (ECL), both of Warwick. “Every state is different, so we go to our DoH with any questions. Regardless of what any other state is doing, RI wants it their way,” explains Melissa Manamon, technical director and quality assurance coordinator for GPA, a division of RI Analytical Laboratories.

Both labs have been testing at the request of growers and dispensaries for years, but without any formal mandate. Both were finally certified in the last quarter of 2020, after multi-year application processes. Both the DBR and the DoH need to approve each facility, and each agency has its own process and requirements. “Our main testing licensing is through the DoH, but we also report to the DBR. It’s been a two-year process,” says Manamon.

“It’s been a long, involved process,” says Kimberlee Witkop of ECL. “We’re very excited to have received our license and to move forward, helping the community put more faith in the quality of the products they’re getting.”

Marijuana is still a schedule 1 drug, a fact that seems more and more ridiculous with each passing year. As a result, the DBR’s requirements are mostly geared toward security — making sure there’s no point at which a sample (typically a very small amount) could be diverted or stolen. The DoH focuses on regulating the testing itself and determining criteria for what is acceptable. “It’s not pass/fail analysis,” says Manamon. “We test for potency — the result is a percentage. Just knowing the plant and the common problems one expects to see in these sorts of facilities, it will really be about the microbial purity – detecting heavy metals, mold, salmonella, e. Coli, things like that.”

While testing will be required for products sold in dispensaries, some dispensaries may push the testing requirements back onto growers. In either event, labs will be sending technicians on-site to do some of the testing in quarantine areas designated by the operation being tested. That will also provide the opportunity to inspect the facility and environment.

Paul Perrotti, president of GPA, has long had the vision of providing this sort of testing. “He is very excited about it. People have been using it [cannabis] for so many years now, and there’s never been any certification. He’s very excited to see that problem solved,” says Manamon.

“I am extremely proud of our team who really dug deep to make sure our facility is compliant to all regulations at the highest level. It was a tough and challenging process to finally obtain our license that has taken nearly a year of our time,” said Henry Mu, partner and CFO at ECL. “After years of providing cannabis testing services in RI, ECL is now officially a part of the cannabis community. That license represents years of working to forge a relationship with the DoH and DBR and lobbying for mandatory testing, which is now being implemented,” adds Matthew Madison, ECL founder and CEO. “We believe it’s not medical marijuana until it’s tested marijuana.”

The state expects to have a publicly accessible database of test results, a “Medical Marijuana Program Tracking System,” at an unspecified future date. For now, if you’d like to see the full rules and regulations around testing, you can find that here: rules.sos.ri.gov/regulations/part/230-80-05-1




The Real Deal

Rhode Island media lost a heavyweight in early 2021 with the passing of long-time TV news investigative reporter Bill Rappleye, who succumbed to brain cancer last week. Bill left a mark on RI journalism that will affect generations, setting an example as the political reporter for Channel 10. He was a distinctive combination of respectful and hard-hitting; always reporting the facts, but unafraid to express his own opinion. In those opinions, he would champion the everyman and look out for the average Rhode Islander. He took his role to heart as the guy who needed to get comprehensible answers on behalf of the person on the street, from the people in charge. You couldn’t intimidate Rapp, and if he felt he wasn’t getting answers he would keep asking until he did (getting kicked out of more than a couple of press conferences along the way). His constant energy and enthusiasm were contagious and could not be daunted.

Rapp consulted with Motif on a regular basis, and was always generous with advice and guidance. He loved what he did, approached his job with a great sense of humor and a sense of responsibility, and if you wandered about Providence in the last 20 years, you were sure to run into him doing a live report at some point. He probably asked you for a quote at the time. He loved man-on-the-street pieces. He also truly enjoyed catching wrong-doers “with their hands in the cookie jar,” and calling them out. Although he could always simplify a topic – that’s part of the job – he had a joyous appreciation for complexity and relished any chance to dive into a meaty topic.

I remember him being extremely excited when, at one point in his tenure at Channel 10, they gave him free reign to run his own after-broadcast online show. He did it with a web cam at his news desk, internet only. It had no budget, received no promotion, he wasn’t paid extra for it and almost no one watched. But he didn’t care about any of that – it was an opportunity to go in-depth, on any topic he felt mattered, with experts he picked and could talk to for an extra hour, an almost unheard of indulgence for an on-air reporter. It wasn’t talk radio – it was a real exercise of the mind exploring difficult topics, and that was pure joy for him.

It’s no surprise that most every politician in the state has expressed their admiration and condolences on one social medium or another in the past few days. He was respected, even by the people he often put on the spot.

Bill is survived by five daughters, Georgia, Anika, Chesley, Karma and Layla, as well as a full career’s worth of hard scrabble video clips and reports and an exceptional collection of fedoras. We will miss you, Rapp.




One Hell of a Film at Barnaby Castle

“Let’s throw a par- … I mean, a movie,” decided Kaitlyn Frolich, head spook at Barnaby Castle.

Barnaby Castle — the grandiose, gothic mansion on Broadway in Providence that has gathered national attention at times for its ornate, baroque interior design and history dating back to the industrial revolution — including acclaim as a murder house — normally throws one heck of a shindig to raise money for restorations, right around this spooky time of year.

This year, of course, COVID’s reality is even scarier than Barnaby’s fantasies, so the famous West Side fete won’t be happening. Instead, the party planners are trying their hand at something new. “We’ve never been involved in something like this — but there are so many talented people around Providence who have, and who are generous with their time, volunteering to help restore this historic site,” says Frolich. The concept pays homage to anthologies like “Tales from the Crypt,” with Frolich herself in the role of grande dame / narrator / party hostess. All the shorts — there will be six or seven — are written by local authors and will be shot during September and October in the Castle. Local actors and filmmakers will be operating on a skeleton-crew basis in honor of quarantine. The whole project is a joint venture involving Barnaby Castle and its residents, the Spectrum Theater Ensemble, Red Fork Empire, Death Drop Gorgeous Films, Motif magazine and New York’s Venezuelan Film Festival, among others.

“I hope we’ll be able to creep some people out, and make some laugh. We’re already having a great time pulling this together,” says Frolich.

You can download the film in real time when it’s launched on Sat, Oct 24. The $15 charge will go to benefit the renovations at Barnaby Castle (all participants are working for free). fb.com/barnabycastlepvd




Motif x RI ComicCon Cosplay Contest

Miss Comic Con? Or Halloween? Both? Or just love to cosplay?

Motif to the rescue! Teaming up with RI Comic Con, which would normally happen at the beginning of November, we’re holding a virtual cosplay contest. Get your best cosplay on, take a selfie, show us your craftsmanship and win prizes from Motif and RI Comic Con.

There will be two top-level divisions for you to choose from: Casual and Professional.

Casual

Casual (novice and journeyman) – We’re defining Casual cosplay as a costume created out of purchased pieces that have been manipulated in some way. Sewing or constructing pieces from scratch is not a requirement. Submit up to three photos, along with your name and age. Please include yourself in the costume. Here’s an example: Extra points if you can name the video game that served as inspiration (use the comments below)

Professional

Professional (master and professional) – We’re defining Professional cosplay as a costume that has been sewn or constructed at least 70% from scratch. Submit at least three photos, along with your name and age. Please include yourself in costume, detail shots, and examples of stitch work or construction. Here’s an example:

Subcategories will be decided by our panel of judges, based in part on what is submitted. They’ll include best: Overall, group cosplay, couple cosplay, twist on a classic, innovative, craftsmanship, stitching, true to character, steampunk, superhero, sci-fi, horror, anime, mash-up, and amusing. All entries will be considered for all subcategories.

Submissions are due no later than Sunday, November 3, 2020, at midnight. Winners will be announced on Saturday, November 7, 2020.

Awards include Comic Con merch (tshirts, bags) and passes to 2021’s RI Comic Con for best overall and select judges picks.




Supporting Portland: Protesters gathered in PVD Saturday night

Protesters gathered in front of the Providence Public Safety Complex on Saturday night, with law enforcement in riot gear standing a block away. One hundred and fifty mostly young people came out to protest police brutality and called to defund the police. 

The rally’s original intent was to show solidarity with the city of Portland, Oregon. Portland has been the epicenter of massive demonstrations in the past few weeks, with protesters clashing with police. In response, President Donald Trump sent unwanted federal border patrol agents into the city. Last night’s march in Providence was also spurred by the arrest of two counter-protesters, Najeli Rodriguez and Jonas Pierre, on Thursday night. The two were counter-protesters at a cancelled “Defend, not Defund” rally in Providence that was in support of law enforcement.

Around 8:45pm, protesters marched down Broad Street toward South Providence before circling back to Classical High School where the march ended. Protesters commonly wore black t-shirts and face masks or bandanas. Police were armed in riot gear, with plastic sticks and shields.

The march, while mostly peaceful, was punctuated by small acts of violence. Police driving their cruisers played chicken with a line of demonstrators, who sat down in front of the vehicles. The response of the police was to roll rapidly toward them, as if to hit them, before breaking sharply. No one was hit. In another incident, protesters surrounded a van, alleging law enforcement had pulled one of their own inside. Different protesters threw water bottles and glass bottles at police. Overall, police report they arrested five people in total at the march.

Protesters used bicyclists as spotters during the march. They rode in front and behind, communicating with marchers on police movement. Notably, some protesters also picked up litter as they went long. For the most part, law enforcement remained a decent distance away from demonstrators. They had vehicles positioned ahead and following the protesters. 

On a few occasions, marchers stopped to link arms and briefly block traffic.  “White people, please stand in front to help protect our Black people,” was one of the repeated instructions to the crowd. Along the way, protesters consistently chanted, “Whose Streets? Our Streets!”, “Black Lives Matter!”, “No Justice, No Peace!” among others.

It was still Saturday night in Providence and the streets were far from empty during the march. People came out to watch the protesters and cheered. Drivers in their cars honked their horns in support of the protesters, making it hard to hear anything else. The people who Motif interviewed were generally supportive of the protest. “I like it a lot. I think this is great and needed,” said Rugah, one of the onlookers last night. “We need better justice.”

Additional reporting by Amanda Grafe




Providence Tours go Viral: A monumental scavenger hunt

There is a lot of history hidden throughout Providence in plain sight. The memorials, monuments or statues you may encounter in your daily travels probably pass you by without you ever noticing what they stand for or where they came from.

The Providence Tour Company normally would take you on a fun-filled amble through local history. But under coronavirus, tours have understandably been a whole different animal (the company will do private tours, on request). Founder Bradly VanDerStad wanted to find a way for people to enjoy PVD history without a group or hands-on guide. There are plenty of self guided tours online, of course, but even the least droning of voices can lull you into a gentle sense of boredom when there’s little challenge or interaction.

So Providence Tour Company developed an interactive scavenger hunt approach to bringing a little PVD history to life — a technique that’s social-distance-friendly, but entertaining enough that you’ll have fun with it long after quarantines have lifted. (We’re betting PVD history will outlast the invasion by our viral antagonists.)

Motif writers had the honor of taking the first official Scavenger Hunt, and it worked exactly as promised. There were five clues, and it took us just over two hours — 30 minutes of which were spent arguing with our GPS about what state we were in, which was no fault of the game.

Each clue involved a little figuring out, even if we were already familiar with the location. Each was also linked to an historical celebrity of local proportions. Sometimes we could identify the person, but didn’t realize there was a monument or where it was. You’re encouraged to use the internet, so all things can eventually be puzzled out there. Just make sure your phones are charged — you don’t want to be that person, going, “What does it say, what does it say?” while others thumb their phones.

We found all the puzzles engaging enough to make us talk to each other and having Googlers talk through the next clue while the driver brings the group to the current location was pretty efficient. You do have to work with your current germ circle — being in the same car is a must. We found it enjoyable with two, three or four people.

The clues were also themed to their periods in history, each doing a great job of invoking an era while staying fun and amusing. They included poems and songs and other indirect references.

Providence Tour Company emails a clue every 10 minutes; we fell behind pretty quickly (thanks GPS), but if you don’t try a side-trip to Connecticut for no reason, the pace should keep you on track. Eventually you end up with a few clues you can try to solve in any order. They all lead to landmarks; once you’ve gotten close, they’re pretty easy to identify. You take a selfie with them, and send that to the Tour Company. They give you a thumbs up or thumbs down, and there’s a point system where — like a good escape room — you can ask for hints. Bradly gets right back to you if you have any questions or concerns. We only hit him up twice, but he responded immediately and with just the right level of cryptic-but-helpful. The driving around was pretty minimal; you cover much of the city, but not the farthest flung parts, and if you know where you’re going each drive was 15 minutes or less. Surprisingly, as Rhode Islanders, we also didn’t have much trouble finding parking at each spot!

Overall, it was a really fun way to spend a few hours — especially if the weather is nice — without having to get near anyone but while still exploring a sample of the rich history of Providence (Pro tip – no matter what the internet seems to tell you, no clues take you outside of the city). And once you’re familiar with your set of landmarks, you’ll probably spend months pointing them out to others whenever you find yourself nearby.

Learn more at pvdtourco.com