Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bridgewater Triangle Premiere

Just as the Mapparium in Boston is the perfect date venue for us (a globe in a library), so too was the world premiere of The Bridgewater Triangle the perfect date event for this librarian-geographer couple. Not only does it include our adopted home town in its title, but it also features maps and books throughout, with at least one direct mention of a library. And of course, attending the premiere was almost mandatory for purposes of this life-long blog project, which after all seeks to cover -- eventually -- all Bridgewater-related phenomena, in this world or any other.

As I mentioned in Isosceles or Scaline back in March we were both intrigued and skeptical about this film, but when we learned about its premiere, we bought our tickets right away. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work. We do not watch a lot of film or television about the paranormal, and most of what we have seen either takes itself far too seriously or suffers from laughable production values, or both.

The Bridgewater Triangle avoids both of these tendencies; it really is presented as a documentary about modern folklore, rather than an investigation of the phenomena themselves. Throughout the film, the focus is on the stories as stories, though of course some are sensationalized a bit and the case is steadily built that "something" might be a common cause of all the strange creatures and occurrences that arise from these stories.
The film begins with a map, and then with the words of author Loren Coleman, who coined the term "Bridgewater Triangle" in his landmark cryptozoology tome Mysterious America back in 1983 (there is also a new expanded version). When he first started researching the folklore of paranormal events in North America, he noticed that many of the stories did emerge from the Hockomock Swamp (the largest wetland in New England -- spooky in folklore but vital in ecology and water-supply protection) and areas to its south. He eventually identified a roughly triangular region encompassing some 200 square miles and all or part of about a dozen towns. From among the possible names for this region, Bridgewater suggested itself because when he first heard about the Hockomock Swamp, he associated it with Bridgewater, and he quickly learned that there were three such towns, in a small triangle of their own. (As I explained in one of this blog's earliest posts, "The Bridgewaters" have been thought of as a trio since North Bridgewater was renamed Brockton in 1874.)

In the Q&A afterward --  for Mr. Coleman was one of many paranormal investigators on hand for the event -- he further explained that he just has a knack for places, events and phenomena names that get attention, and Bridgewater Triangle is just the best-known of several examples. At this point, he claims that it is the third most-cited paranormal Triangle on Earth, after the Bermuda Triangle and Devil's Triangle in Japan, exactly opposite the Bermuda Triangle in terms of longitude, but at the same latitude north of the equator. (That term "Devil's Triangle" can also be used as a synonym for the Bermuda Triangle or to refer to an area of particularly twisty highways in Tennessee.)

An interesting aspect of the documentary is the frequent reference to the violent history of conflict between Native Americans and English Settlers in the region, which was most brutally experienced during the King Philip's War of 1675-1676, in which 500 English and 3,000 Wampanoag were killed. Some see that violence as the cause of subsequent disturbances, citing an "Indian Curse," while others see the war itself as evidence of dark forces that have affected the region for millennia.

The film also mentioned quite a few Wampanoag - Algonquin names, including Nunckatessett. This happens to be the name of a trail project James is working on with students and others in the region, with the intention of bringing people closer to the land throughout The Bridgewaters (more to come on this project as it unfolds -- the Nunckatessett Greenway is a developing part of the Bay Circuit Trail).

We have learned over the years that university bureaucracies can be almost as mysterious as the Triangle and as impenetrable as the Hockomock swamp. The location of the world premiere provides an excellent example. The film opened to an enthusiastic crowd of 500 people in the main auditorium at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. That campus is near the triangle but not in it, and certainly does not bear its name, but it was the only campus whose bureaucracy the producers could navigate in time to release the film.

Fortunately, they did eventually find the right connection, and The Bridgewater Triangle will be coming "home" to Bridgewater very soon. We plan to see it again!

Bridgewater Triangle @ Bridgewater
October 28, 7:30pm
Horace Mann Auditorium
Bridgewater State University

Tickets $8/person
Students and children free

For tickets call the Box Office at 508-531-1321 or email

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Swimming to Bridgewater

(With apologies to the late, great Spalding Gray.)

As part of one of our other life-long blogging projects, we recently re-watched the 1990 film Mermaids, starring Winona Ryder and some other people.

We had watched the film before -- years ago -- and had forgotten an obvious link to this project. Our daughter -- who is quite the young geographer/librarian -- had remembered this scene from early in the film:

Yes, that is soap on Cher's finger, as her character cannot wait to get her hands on an atlas to begin locational analysis for her family's next departure from love and lust gone wrong. The scale of this map is small, so that viewers will not notice that their destination in Eastport, Massachusetts is entirely fictional.

Using a more detailed (larger-scale) map, hand-model Pam shows where the Flax family is really headed. Although the on-screen credits thank only the people of Rockport, Massachusetts, IMDb lists a half-dozen towns in which "Eastport" was created. It is a composite of idealized New England scenes, and although we have been in every one of the the towns shown, almost nothing was familiar to us, except possibly the lake at Borderlands Park in Easton.

View Mermaids in a larger map

The name of the fictional town -- Eastport -- and the heavy use of the real town of Rockport both suggest a more nautical location than the one indicated by the soapy finger of Mrs. Flax. The plot of the film is not affected, though, as the mermaids of the title barely get their flippers wet.

A bit of fiction is included in the location credits themselves. Although many town names in Massachusetts begin with the cardinal directions, the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts include a solitary Easton. It is all very lovely, but local belief is that North Easton is the better half. Something like 85 percent of Eastonians claim residence.

The "before" picture for this film is Big Lake, Texas, and although we have been all around that state, we have not yet had the pleasure of taking in Big Lake.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bridgewater at Carvel Beach


Prior to our recent trip to Maryland, I (Pam) "Googled" Bridgewater Maryland to see what would come up, and found a link for Bridgewater at Carvel Beach, a new-ish subdivision in Anne Arundel County, whose website might lead one to believe that it is located in an area that is perhaps less industrial than this picture  indicates. We took this photo -- it is not an angle that would be featured in the brochure!
The material in the foreground is actually a good thing. To protect the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland actually enforces very stringent requirements to control erosion from active construction sites. Massachusetts has similar requirements, but nobody seems to know or care how to use them.
The smoke stacks at Wagner Station make it look more like it belongs in the opening credits of The Simpsons. Aside from this view, we found that everything possible was being done to distance the development from its surroundings.

View Larger Map

The development is much smaller than we imagined -- only 35 units at the end of a local street -- and was mostly sold out when we arrived. Read more about the development in the faux news article placed in the Baltimore Sun. We did talk to a Realtor who was representing the development; she was on the verge of selling the model home (a McHenry style).

One thing about building thousands of homes -- the builders have time to figure out what really works for kitchen layouts. This kitchen feels more spacious than ours, though it is smaller, and it was actually designed, so that we can imagine cooking and entertaining very effectively in this space.
We walked through the house and found it to be spacious, but without all the extra (and in our opinion, unnecessary) rooms. For instance, the main entrance opened to an open living/dining area and an adjacent kitchen with no additional dining space. There was no separate family room, although it did have a finished basement. There were a lot of bedrooms (five), more than most families would need, but this would not be the case without the optional third floor. The landscaping of the home had the same look as just about every other house built in the country since the late 1990s -- low-maintenance foundation plantings with a bit of color and a lot of lawn chemicals.

The decor was pure Model Home, also known as "Unique, Like Everyone Else" -- full of items to "personalize" spaces in a generic way. Admittedly, a geography-theme pillow worked its magic on me (James), even though it is not really that geographic and was probably made under deplorable conditions.

If my sales resistance gives out -- and my recent nautical bent makes this a real question -- we do not have to buy the whole house. I can cause an identical bit of individual expression to be sent my way with the click of a few buttons.

New housing developments are designed on templates both for economies of scale in construction and for ease of resale. Selling a home depends on people being able to envision staying in it long-term and at the same time being able to sell it themselves. The monotony is broken up slightly with palettes of choices in various kinds of building finishes. In the basement of a model home, the masonry equivalent of fabric swatches allow buyers to choose bricks that range from red to reddish and stonework across a similar spectrum.
The people who prepare model homes are detail-oriented. The "boy" room had a baseball bat in the closet, and the "girl" room was pink, down to the backpack!

It looks like they are also in cahoots with the wedding-industrial complex.
At this point in the Bridgewaters project, we have seen a range of realities. It was interesting to see the name invoked to sell a bit of fantasy in an otherwise gritty neighborhood.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Isosceles or Scalene?

A student recently shared this trailer for a documentary about the Bridgewater Triangle phenomenon that Pam described earlier in this project. As an active member of the community and follower of local news, it is surprising that I had not heard of the film yet, even though the trailer is six months old, and that I do not recognize any of the people who speak in this clip. I assume that the trailer is part of a fund-raising effort in support of a film not yet complete, but if so, it does not make a direct appeal.

The YouTube account that posted the video appears to be that of a small production company, but no "Trailer 2" is as yet available. The producers and commentators, in fact, seem to be as elusive as the phenomena they are pursuing. I have to confess a certain skepticism of the entire enterprise, though I do admire the inclusion of a stylized locator map in the closing frames (oops -- Spoiler Alert!) that employs a very pleasing color scheme.

Watch the clip to make a comparison with this more detailed map from Cryptmundo.
Click to enlarge.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bridgewater Film Festival - North

During our trip to Bridgewater, New Jersey we learned that the Bridgewater Commons Mall was one of the filming locations for North a goofy movie of the "cute kid (North) seeks new parents" genre. We had seen this film a long time ago, but only barely remembered it, so we knew we needed to see it again in order to blog about it. It turned out to be more difficult than we expected. The film was not available on Netflix, or even, apparently on DVD, and I wound up requesting a VHS copy through interlibrary loan.

The choice of the Bridgewater Mall seems to have been due to its completely generic look. It really could have been anywhere, and since we never learn where North really lived before going on his quest, this would seem appropriate. The use of stereotypical hyperbole in the rest of the film make clear what his destinations were while searching for new parents - Hawaii, Alaska, France, Texas, etc.

In a bit of a subtle allusion, North stops briefly in Amish country while he considers life without electricity, Kelly McGillis (of Witness) plays his would-be mother here.

A completely predictable ending, but good family fare.

We Band of Angels

Bridgewater, Massachusetts' One Book One Community Steering Committee has chosen Elizabeth Norman's book about nurses imprisoned by the Japanese during World War II as its Community Read for Fall 2013. This book has a strong connection to the town as the story of Helen "Cassie" Cassiani, whose hometown was Bridgewater, is one that is told in this work. Coincidentally, as I was finishing reading this last week, I spotted this obituary for Mildred Dalton in the New York Times. Dalton was the last survivor of the imprisoned nurses. Interestingly, the obituary also mentions Bridgewater, New Jersey.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

See You in the Funny Papers, Bridgewater

Jim Meddick's Monty comic of July 4, 2012
One one level, this comic is about a child prodigy with a financial bent, along the lines of the Alex P. Keaton character played by Michael J. Fox. On another level, it is part of our collection of obscure connections to the place name Bridgewater. On yet another level, it is a reference -- on Independence Day -- to the political power of those for whom manipulating markets is both a sport and a livelihood.

A quick search for David McCormick reveals that in addition to his position as co-CEO of the Bridgewater Associates hedge-fund, he is a fellow at the Aspen Institute and a former Under Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is part of the revolving door among think tanks, financial institutions, and government agencies that ensure that policy never threatens the interests of the 0.01 Percent.

His partner at Bridgewater Associates finds the phrase "hedge fund" distasteful and Fortune -- in its fawning profile of the company -- seems to agree. By leveraging its financial bets at a ratio of "only" four-to-one, it is considered more staid than its peers. More careful and conservative than Mitt Romney and Baine Capital, McCormick and Bridgewater manage to make even more money. Bridgewater is able to charge its clients hefty fees because its dispassionate (i.e., amoral) investment algorithms provide protection against the fluctuations inherent in a market economy -- fluctuations that affect only the 99 percent.