Tender Cargo: How can garments speak a person’s pain?

“What does it mean to wear one’s pain?” asks a new exhibit by textile artist Taleen Batalian at the WaterFire Arts Center though November 20. Inspired by her parent’s memories of the Armenian genocide that claimed her grandparents, Batalian developed a set of prints on fabric and some fabric designs that read almost like statues which try to embody the experiences related by her ancestors. To accompany this exhibit, she developed a runway show from some parallel universe, in which dim lighting and quadrophonic soundscapes support the slow, agonizing progress of three models in Batalian’s garb, as they traversed the length of the Waterfire Arts Center. The audience was set up on either side, much like a fashion show, but single file, facing the minimalist runway designed by Keri King. The music was developed from manipulations of Batalian’s Grandfather’s recorded musings, by audio engineer Antonio Forte.

“I thought of the movement as postures of grief. The choreography was really, ‘Go slow and sink sometimes.’ But keep moving, because to me that meant there was some hope as well. Otherwise, we would just end up on the floor the whole time,” said choreographer Heidi Henderson.

Batalian added, “It’s about shape. Shape and texture. The garments were refined based on what I saw as the dancers were wearing, but I really thought of them as garments I get to inhabit, as opposed to traditional costuming that’s meant to add to a dancer’s character.” The designs themselves came to form with “not intention, just trust.”

Waterfire Arts Center, 475 Valley St, PVD. waterfire.org through Nov 20.

Go Truck Yourself: Winter is coming!

Done, done and done… yup, my season is over. I’ve been around long enough to know rolling ice-cream in the snow just doesn’t work. I gotta tell ya though, there are a number of trucks out there despite the weather, fearlessly facing the woes of the winter season. You can bet that if they’re not serving crispy fried fingers and grilled people feet these winter warriors are freezing their nuts off. 

My friends at The Hot Potato and Farm to Sandwich tell me they survive doing mostly catering, pop-ups, breweries, and scheduled events when summer fades and turns into the cold, icy friend of Jack Frost. Die-hards like Rocket, Nanu, Incred-A-Bowl, Saugys and Reds man a small brigade of trucks who brave the snow and ice at events like The Providence Flea on Sims Ave every Sunday but I’ve done that a few times myself and can say from experience: Nope, nope, nope. If you happen to see them along with any other truck that might be out there please stop and support!

Cause you can trust and believe these people are more than “colder than a well digger’s ass,” more than a tid bit nipply, hell they are down right brass monkey baltic in there! Even with a heater, a hot grill, a highly volatile fryolator, and an Alaskan parka, the window is still open and the icy spindles of winter find their way through the floor, over the counter tops and into their bones… A day on a food truck in winter is like a day with the Snow Miser bringing on the freeze of the century and singing over the river and through the woods to the land of frostbite.

You can find lovable Eddy from Modesto out when the temperatures run around 40 degrees but you’ll be hard pressed to find a 40-degree day in Jan and Feb. I gotta give them props, these people live for this stuff. They make their living serving good food and drinks day after day, season after season hoping you’ll frequent their rolling restaurant of yumm and enjoy their delicious edible wares….

Sometimes, working outside is great, but sometimes, it really sucks… Hell, don’t take my word for it, get out there people! Support! 

And check out my blog at atomicblondeblog.com to find out more about “The Winter Trucks.” Or don’t, tell you what, how about you just “Go Truck Yourself!”

Lunar Notes: November 2022

Aries: Deep thinking and inner probing, not your usual modus operandi, keeps you subdued as you quietly mull things over. Things lighten up mid-month and your back to your usual enthusiasm. Expect delays in your commute and some onerous conversations. A sudden financial issue throws a monkey wrench in your plans. An old friend comes through for you.

Taurus: Relationships, who with and how you relate tops the agenda this month. Things you tolerated are no longer tolerable. The month begins with conversations and confrontations that can be quite intense. Folks get more rational as the energy shifts mid-month. That’s fortunate as money and shared resources enter the picture. Remain practical and cool.

Gemini: Mars retrograde in Gemini impacts your life and actions. Some things may be put on hold until January when Mars goes direct. You decide whether or not to take a particular action or to hold off until you get a better feel for things. During this period it is better to be the defender rather than the aggressor. Your thinking undergoes realignment now.

Cancer: The month begins with light-heartedness as you partake in all those activities that you so enjoy. Gradually you transition into taking care of business on a daily basis, whatever has been neglected get’s taken care of as you clear the decks. Some hidden action on your part may have a bigger impact than you anticipated.

Leo: The people in your life continue to challenge you and your perceptions of them. Some folks want to restrict you while others are not as stable and reliable as you had thought. A review of friendships and associations before you make changes is called for. Don’t be too hasty. The lively and interesting people have always been your preference.

Virgo: Like a circus juggler, you’ve got your hands full and can’t take your eye off the ball. Disparate energies come at you from all directions. Your innate talents rise to the occasion as you sort through what people are saying, what they mean and what’s it all about. Some folks are quite helpful while other are impossible to figure out.

Libra: You can’t avoid the topic of money, what is owed by you and to you. Something unexpected involving finance comes along, could be income, could be outflow. Whatever, it is a bit of a shock! The energy shifts and you find yourself so busy that you don’t have time to stew about finances. Practice practicality, deal with what you can control. 

Scorpio: You’re in for an interesting ride as the Lunar Eclipse falls across the Scorpio/Taurus axis. With Venus and Mercury riding with the Sun in Scorpio, you are able to speak your truth concisely. Expect some surprises from the folks in your life. You can’t figure out where they are coming from. They probably don’t know either. Roll with it as best you can.

Sagittarius: The contentious and cantankerous continue to plague you. It may be time to review your current relationships. The neighbors might be giving you some grief these days as well. Try not to stress as it is their “stuff” not yours. At the New Moon on Nov 23 it is time for a fresh start especially so for you since it is in your sign. Yahoo!

Capricorn: As you review and revise your daily routine you are thinking about heading in a different direction. You also thinking about diet and exercise and how you can live a healthier life. This includes the physical as well as the intellectual and spiritual aspects of your being. Ever practical you’re opening up to a wider universe.

Aquarius: Saturn in your sign reminds you of what is important and what needs to be taken care of. If you attend to what needs to be done, all well and good. If you don’t, Saturn will bite you, if he hasn’t bitten you already. With Saturn around, you have to be the adult in the room. Romance and all other fun things are under review now as you re-adjust.

Pisces: You bounce from the magical and mystical to the practical matters of life. Along the way you are having flashes of insight and light bulb moments. A good idea is to write these flashes of insight down before you forget them. Look at them in a couple of months and they may surprise you. There are some genius ideas floating around.

George Marshall, Founder of Flickers and RI International Film Festival, passes: George conveyed his love of cinema to generations of viewers and makers

The spectacle of the big screen, the joy of a story well told and heartstrings left barely intact: George Marshall loved all these things, and that was reflected throughout his life’s prominent work. Marshall was the founder and, for 40 years, the director of the Rhode Island International Film Festival. He taught film – be it to teens through KidsEye programs, or to college students at Roger Williams University and URI – for nearly as long.

Marshall passed away on November 1 at Rhode Island Hospital at the age of 68. He is survived by his husband, Larry Andrade, and by an extended family of filmmakers, students, viewers of his “Double Feature” podcast, and fans that reach around the globe.

RIIFF was truly an international event, and Marshall directly or indirectly introduced people from around the world to scrappy little Rhode Island. The festival is one of the few to nominate films for Oscar contention, a fact that routinely raises eyebrows unless you’ve been to the festival and seen the scale and intensity of the programming. It’s one of the events that lends credence to PVD’s mantle as the Creative Capital.

“RIIFF is George’s legacy,” said Shawn Quirk, long-time creative director at RIIFF. “We will honor him through it, and it will continue for many years to come.”

George left his mark on many aspiring filmmakers who went on to create cinematic greatness, hosting Oscar parties and creating interactive opportunities at festivals that spoke to smaller niches. He loved an opportunity to call attention to a less obvious or harder-to-find piece of art – to any great cinema that was at risk of being lost outside the limelight.

“George was a kind, gentle man who loved the arts, his family and friends. I consider him a brother,” said Steven Feinberg, executive director of the RI Film & Television Office. “We will miss him.”

Election Day Eclipse: Can the stars eclipse Election Day drama?

For the first time in United States history there is a total Lunar eclipse on election day. This is a Full Moon event with the Sun in Scorpio opposing Moon in Taurus. As would be expected, the horoscope set in Washington, DC reflects the intense energy surrounding this election.

The Sun, in the first house, sits between Mercury and Venus. Across the Zodiac, in the seventh house sits Moon flanked by Uranus and the Moon’s North Node. (The North Node is the point along the ecliptic where the Moon crosses from south to north.) Think of a dumbbell with Scorpio on one side and Taurus on the other.

In the fourth house, ninety degrees from the Sun/Moon axis, sits Saturn in Aquarius turning that dumbbell into a rather large T. In astrology this is called a T-square and is an aspect of great tension.

In the astrology of the collective (Mundane Astrology), the first house rules the country, its inhabitants, the general condition, and psychology of the masses. The Sun represents the President. Coincidently, the current President is a Scorpio. Mercury is the voice of the people, and rules youth and the media. Venus rules women, diplomacy, arts, culture, and money.

The seventh house represents open enemies, foreign affairs, and the conditions of women. The Moon here further emphasizes women as well as water and public needs. Uranus here, tightly bound to the Moon and Sun rules Congress and the House of Representative. Ruling progressive movements, Uranus prods us into the future.

The fourth house is the foundation, ruling land, housing and living conditions. Saturn represents the conservative side of society and opposition to the ruling party. Saturn likes law and order and can indicate a lack or need. Societal constructs and institutional boundaries belong to Saturn.

Scorpio is all about sex, death, debt, taxes, and insurance. Banks, money, and agriculture belong to Taurus and Aquarius, ruling technology, also speaking for the group upholding high ideals of freedom and brotherhood. The principles represented by all these signs and planets reflect the ongoing issues of concern during this election season.

With Uranus in the mix, pay no heed to the polls and the pundits. Uranus says, “If you can think of it, that is not it,” whatever that is. A Uranus event is like the plane to the tower, but in this instance, it is more like red state Kansas supporting abortion rights or Alaskans voting in an Indigenous woman over the red, white and blue Sarah Palin.

Uranus in hard and harsh aspect to Saturn symbolizes the clash between the liberal and conservative elements in society. The first house emphasis favors grass-roots opinions and initiatives. The Moon, though eclipsed, is strong, highlighting women and their concerns. Roe V Wade comes to mind and is prominent, but Taurus speaks to security issues, agriculture and the economy.

Here in the United States, we focus on our own country forgetting that the issues we face are global issues. Obviously, an eclipse is a global event and every head of state in the world, at this eclipse, has Uranus, the sudden and unexpected, opposing the Sun, the chief, the top dog and CEO.

In the final analysis, this election is up for grabs. The media picks and chooses what issues it wants to present and would have you believe that it is all one side or the other when, in reality it is more of a blend. The strong Scorpio energy at this eclipse indicates the underground and undercurrent in society. Abortion, guns, climate and the economy are gut-level issues. And Mercury, the voter, in Scorpio, votes from the gut. The big surprise that Uranus has in store may be what really lies beneath the surface. The media and all the internet blather fall away inside the voting booth. So, whether this election is going to be historical or hysterical, vote, because it is surely going to be interesting.

Lunar Notes: October 2022

Aries: A challenge to your independence requires a lot of conversation. You’re articulate in the way you present your point of view. In relationships, if things get too complicated you prefer going it alone. The period around the Full Moon may bring things to a head. You feel you have justice on your side. A friend offers sage advice.

Taurus: Tidy up and get things in order, you’ll need your ducks in a row when you face some financial or career decisions. Do the things that keep you calm: Your mental and emotional health are as important as your physical health. You may find a connection there. You’re the diplomat when it comes to negotiations.

Gemini: Mars in your sign brings energy and sparks your initiative. You’re more inclined to the fun things in life rather than the duties that must be performed. Don’t neglect those duties, but do enjoy doing what brings you joy. Friends engage you and open up your world to ideas and activities that broaden your horizons.

Cancer: You balance the homey stuff you love so well and your public persona. You’re out there in the limelight whether you like it or not. You do get some good reviews. Friends and acquaintances surprise you with some unexpected and unusual invitations. Take them up on their offers, you will find it exciting. 

Leo: October brings general, all-around busyness to your door with one thing after another coming up that must be dealt with. Most of it is trivial, everyday stuff that needs to be taken care of. Some among your circle are not cooperative or congenial these days. Some arguments or unexpected actions on the part of others take you by surprise.

Virgo: Your attention to detail becomes a valuable asset as you deal with budget, insurance and tax issues. While all of this is tedious and boring at times, it is necessary and needs to be done. You juggle and struggle between work and duty on one hand and wild and free on the other. Figure out a way to maintain a workable balance between the two. 

Libra: The Sun in Libra puts you in the spotlight, keeping you busy and highlighting your excellent social skills. Mercury, now direct, moves into Libra on the 10th, enhancing your verbal skills. You can speak the ugly truths in such a way that folks don’t take offense. Now is the time to have those difficult conversations. Diplomacy is the key here.

Scorpio: Quiet contemplation assists you as you delve deeply within to find your true self. You can no longer fake it, you have to be, do and act in a way that reflects the real you. The Solar Eclipse in Scorpio on the 25th pulls out some of that inner garbage that you need to get rid of. This crap no longer serves you, dump it and move on. 

Sagittarius: Seems like everyone wants to argue; everyone, that is, except you. Try and side-step these argumentative folks and seek out those who are not so angry. You can widen your social circle now and begin to enjoy convivial activities with like minded people. Shared interests are a great foundation for a long lasting relationship. Think about it. 

Capricorn: A career move may be on the agenda, but things may go much deeper than that. The question is, where are you heading? Where do you want to go? Some serious thinking about what is truly important to you is needed in order to make any decisions about your future. Annoying co-workers may provide the motivation to take a step in a new direction. 

Aquarius: You continue to mambo between what you want to do and what you are supposed to do. Responsibilities can’t be ignored but that does not mean you can’t carve out some time for the wild and crazy. Use your energy in a positive manner doing the things you love and also explore and expand your horizons. It’s a big world out there.

Pisces: Keeping to a schedule has become impossible as someone/something always comes up that requires readjustment and revising. Your commute, your neighborhood and your siblings all seem to be conspiring to keep you off guard and on your toes. Your best option is to keep an open mind and a loose schedule. Be ready for change. 

Movies Galore and Gore and More: SENE and Vortex provide on-screen thrills this month

October will see the return of New England’s SENE Fest to RI for its 14th iteration, across the multiple screening rooms of The Artists’ Exchange in Cranston from Oct 13 – 15.

Post-COVID, it’s extra exciting to consider having a bunch of filmmakers and film appreciators sit together and share a screening experience, and that’s where SENE really distinguishes itself — there’s an atmosphere of gentle but still excited community around the event, where many filmmaking collaborations have been born. While music is a traditional component of SENE, this year, “We had so many great submissions we wanted to screen, we decided to focus on the film aspect,” says co-founder Don Farias. Art by members of the Artists’ Exchange will still be available for viewing and purchasing.

SENE opens with the debut of feature-length Stay with Me by local ex-pat Marty Lang on Thursday night. The drama poignantly explores emotional obsession and mental illness. But it is mostly a festival of shorts, and that’s a good thing. Shorts are where enterprising filmmakers still get to break rules, defy expectations, subvert formulas and maybe throw in a twist or make you think about something in a whole new way. They’re the guerilla attacks of the film world — and if you don’t like the feel of one, another will be along shortly to give you a whole new experience. A curated shorts program is also difficult to find in other modern media (unless you consider the YouTube algorithm “curation.”)

This year’s curation includes a locals night, LGBTQ screening, comedy shorts, animated films, documentary shorts, sci-fi shorts, ever popular horror shorts and a free showing of shorts from the film program at Bishop Hendricken High School. In total, 115 films will be shown, with filmmakers from around the world in attendance. Screenings take place in two buildings at the Artists’ Exchange, 82 Rolfe Square, Cranston. Full schedule for Oct 13 – 15 is available at senefest.com.

Entering the Vortex

The Vortex Film Festival, Oct 15 – 23, is a production of Flickers, the same folks who produce the Oscar-nominating RI International Film Festival. It’s been going on for 20 years, in one form or another, and creates a platform for horror, fantasy and science fiction films, both features and shorts. Films are selected by Shawn Drywa and Shawn Quirk from international submissions, and they skew toward horror. “I’m an all around sci-fi and fantasy film nerd,” says Drywa, “But I do lean toward horror. Back in the day, I would go to the video store a few times a week and rent all the great not-so-great horror movies, as one did back then.”

Drywa was involved in the origin of the festival, when it was called the RI International Horror Film Fest and he was an intern at RIIFF, in the year 2000. After his internship, he wanted to stay involved in the world of horror films and stayed involved until “life happened,” and he went off to have a job and a family. A few years ago, he returned to help produce what is now called the Vortex Film Fest, and is thrilled to see it emerge from COVID.

The festival will include six or seven filmmakers doing talkbacks, including some from as far as Italy and Australia. There will also be Lovecraft walking tours of Providence conducted by the RI Historical Society.

Screenings will take place at Johnson & Wales and AS220’s Black Box Theatre, both in downcity PVD. Details and schedule at film-festival.org

Go Truck Yourself: La Birria’s Tasty Tacos

Growing up, the carnival was one of my most treasured adventures. A summertime tradition filled with fun, fright, and fantasy! My best memory of that sacred event was the food! Caramel apples, fried zucchini and Doughboys! I suppose that’s why I’ve always found food truck events to be a bit carney. Carney cool, obviously: Think drive-in movies or Coney Island (minus the tattoo-covered barker, the scary clowns and the rides, of course). You do get a few sideshow freaks though which always add to the fun! 

I’m convinced these outdoor picnic party events have become a necessity though, with COVID lockdown, social distancing and the threat of nuclear disaster, what’s better than a truck that serves you outside with beautiful open sky, live music and delicious food? I spend a lot of time around food trucks so I’m excited to tell you a little about them. The most interesting ones to me are the ones where you’re not quite sure what you’re getting. I know of a few of these strange and wondrous trucks – Lucky for you, I’m also adventurous and have tried a few of these non-traditional street eats, whose gourmet food items are truly something to go out for… I’m talking, “This sh!t is GOODAH!!!” When I say “BEST EVER,” you can trust and believe this picky little bitch is spot on with her choice of chow. 

One of my favorites is a fairly new truck… Carlos Guillen is the chef and owner of La Birria Gourmet.. You’ll find La Birria the rest of the season at Mulligans Island in Cranston on Fridays, and I believe he will be trying Broad Street for the winter season: With the sub-zero temperatures, snow-covered sidewalks and arctic winds, even your flat-top grill and fryolator full of blistering oil will strain to keep your toes from turning into pudgy little blocks of ice. I’ve tried it and wish him luck. You can also follow labirriagourmet on Instagram and Facebook, of course.

Look for the long line at the window if you happen to find him out somewhere because the street tacos are kick-ass! Chewy corn tortillas, meat, onion and cilantro. Carlos has perfected his beef taco recipe, which he calls La Birria tacos with a short rib, ribeye and flank steak combination he created using his DR heritage and Mexican food training, These savory little street tacos come with a juicy little pot of consume for dipping delight. La Birria has other menu items like empanadas, street corn and burritos with flavor that will blow your mind.

Check out the full menu: @labirria2021 or fb.com/labirria2021

Lara Sebastian is a new writer for Motif and co-owner of the Atomic Blonde Ice Cream Truck, found at many regional food truck events. You can see and learn more at atomicblondeblog.com

Ra Ra’s: Cheesy fun

I think men who can cook are sexy! Don’t care what it is, where they do it or how long it takes. Now the taste is a matter of scrutiny and I can get a bit hostile when it comes to what goes in my mouth… 

As I argue with my friend Joe about the difference between Blue and Yellow corn tortillas, I realize that one of my favorite food truck temptations is taquitos! Rolled tacos, if you will – or “a quick delicious meal I always go for when I come across the award winning taco truck RaRa’s Surf Shack…” I talk about sexy men because Joe Boisvert, the owner of said truck, can always be found on the truck cooking away and serving these amazing little packages of love. He’s one of those guys who’s been in the business since he was a youngster, from ice-cream trucks at age 18 to fry shacks with shakes in 2022.

I imagine that’s where he developed his culinary skills that create an awesome blue corn tortilla taco, yummy nachos and tantalizing taquitos. And the extra grilling he gives to cheese overflow in his Quesadillas is magical. The funky, nostalgic graphics on the truck always draw me in as well. Joe’s empire, along with RaRa’s truck, includes Axelrod’s Fry Shack in Warwick, and a brick and mortar RaRa’s Surf Shack on Pontiac Ave, in Cranston. He’s a big burly guy with a nice smile, luminescent eyes and a fair sense of taste. As you might know, he won the Favorite Taco Award at the Motif Food Truck Awards, where you (perhaps) voted.

He’s also one of the organizers of the Ocean State Food Truck Festivals so if you’d like to TRUCK YOURSELF, check out his social media @osfoodtruckfestivals.

See Lara’s blog at atomicblondblog.com to get more info, pix and maybe a recipe or 2.

All the Bright Places Review: Jennifer Niven’s first YA novel leaves an indelible mark

All the Bright Places is a book that was bound to break my heart from the first sentence. If you can relate to the touchy subjects being discussed in this story, you might be able to see yourself in its pages. This is more than a romance novel- while there are many sweet moments between the story’s protagonists, there is still tension, drama, and the battling of demons to be discovered in this complex coming of age story. 

The book starts off with two main characters, Violet and Finch, at the top of the school’s bell tower, both not planning on going back down the stairs that led them there.  Finch is hanging over the railing, shouting to his classmates, but the crowd doesn’t seem to care. Finch realizes that Violet, a cheerleader who he’s only ever seen around school, is on the other side and goes to rescue her. Their classmates do notice Violet, and since Finch doesn’t have a reputation to protect, he shouts to convince everyone that she is saving him instead of the reverse. 

After the incident, Violet tries everything to avoid Finch, while he is doing the exact opposite. When there is a project assigned in their geography class, Finch jumps at the chance to be Violet’s partner. What starts off with Violet begging to get out of the assignment ends with her trying to hold on to the moments as long as she can. 

It appears that Jennifer Niven makes sure not to waste a page on superfluous backstory or characters, and carefully crafted the story to make sure she hit every note with authenticity and delicacy. And her success in this comes from obvious sources: All the Bright Places is influenced by Niven’s own life. 

In the book’s acknowledgements, Niven mentions her own brush with tragedy. While her character Violet loses her sister and part of herself, Niven experienced something similar after losing her mother. She writes definitively: “Her unexpected death on August 28, 2014 was the single worst event of my life.” It only makes sense why the most painful moments are the ones most carefully written, and why every word she chose for her story ached. I remember reading this book for the first time and absolutely bawling my eyes out on the public bus. It hit me hard. 

It took me a while to understand why Niven wanted to share this story. She talked about how she didn’t take a break from writing even though she was burnt out from back-to-back novels. Some readers speculate that it might be to teach us that we can’t always save people, or it might be a lesson to enjoy the time we have with the people we deem our bright places. 

I don’t expect Niven to give a clear answer. Maybe everyone should think of the people that are the bright places in their life, and remind them that they are. That might be all you can do.