Saturday, December 15, 2018

A Blimp Is Born

As some of you may know, I am a fan of the movie Blade Runner, and have written a number of pieces (articles, fanfiction, and lyrics) and contributed to fansites, (BladeZone, KippleZone, and the Off-world News) over the years. 

This month, I've been researching about the Blade Runner blimp. And in this article, I focus on the dirigible billboard––also referred to as the Blade Runner blimp, advertising blimp, Off-world blimp, mother-blimp, or simply, the blimp––from concept to construction. And I discuss its message and what it says about the portrayal of humanity in the dystopian vision of Blade Runner. And show how its influence was translated by the fans of this film through their art, words, and music.

"A new life awaits you in the Off-world colonies! The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!"

The blimp is just one of the many things that come to mind when we think of Blade Runner. And, depending on which version of the film that we're familiar with, its message is open to speculation––but that's nothing new to the Blade Runner fandom.

The blimp represents corporate power and a capitalist commercial presence through its intrusive and inescapable adverts. And it also represents oppressive surveillance as witnessed by its spotlights as they probe into buildings and over streets and alleyways.

The blimp has been associated with the devil that comes to tempt and torment the poor souls of those left on Earth––or as angels descending into Hell to promise the chance to begin again in a new world, a chance of redemption in a place that may be considered Purgatory, in Dante's Divine Comedy.

It is futuristic, yet old; retrofitted like much of the technology and architecture in Blade Runner.

An alien life-form, programming our minds and contaminating our souls.

The promise of a new life––to begin again. Could there be such a paradise?

An advertisement for hope––for those who meet their stringent qualifications. Or an advertisement of despair––keeping those who don't qualify in their place.

However you care to interpret the blimp, I cannot imagine the dystopian world of Blade Runner without the blimp's looming presence.

A Blimp Is Born: From Concept to Screen to Fandom ~ The Blade Runner BlimpResearched, compiled, and edited by C.A. Chicoine

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Benjamin Simonds

Portrait of Col. Benjamin Simonds, by William Jennys in 1796.

Throughout the month of October, I've been researching and compiling material about Benjamin Simonds. Between field trips to Williamstown, Massachusetts, Bennington, Vermont, and Walloomsac, New York, it was like I was walking in the shadows of his footsteps. I researched through the material of my own personal library, the Williams College Sawyer Library, and, of course, online. Some of the details were conflicting, based on conjectures to fill in the blanks; they could only use what information they had available to them at the time. I am confident that, through the new data that had been shared and revealed since the publications of some of the older sources used, that I have assembled an accurate and telling portrait of Mr. Simonds. 

He was certainly someone whom I would have loved to have met and chatted with. The stories he must have had of his many adventures. As far as I know, he kept no diary. So we don't know what his daily routine was on a given day, or what he thought about this or that.

Benjamin Simonds (sometimes written Simons, Symons, and Symonds) was among the thirty captives from the siege of Fort Massachusetts in 1746. He was left ill in a hospital in Quebec at the time the surviving captives returned to Boston. He returned later in October of 1747 and was the only former captive to settle in West Hoosac (now Williamstown, MA).

He served in King George's War, the French and Indian War, and the American Revolutionary War. And he was an important figure in the original settlement and early history of Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Benjamin Simonds was assuredly a man of sound judgment and executive ability, as demonstrated through both his military service and community involvement. And, like his great-grandfather, William Simonds, and his grandfather, Joseph Simonds Sr., and his father, Joseph Simonds Jr., before him, he too was a pioneer.

Benjamin Simonds: A Colonial Pioneer, researched, compiled, and edited by C.A. Chicoine.

At the bas-relief of the Battle of Bennington, at the Bennington Battleground Historic Site in Walloomsac, New York, commemorating Col. Benjamin Simonds. 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Origin of Our Community, Revisited

In this article, I revisit a speech that I gave at the Commemoration of the 270th Anniversary of the Siege of Fort Massachusetts, on August 20, 2016—at Indian Ledge, in North Adams, Massachusetts—and expand upon it. 

I put a lot of effort into researching and creating the Friends of Fort Massachusetts website content, and I didn't want it all to be in vain. The creation of the website––to educate the visitor about this historic site, while stressing its importance to its surrounding communities––was the catalyst for the formation of the Friends of Fort Massachusetts, an all-volunteer organization, founded in 2016 by Craig A. Chicoine, Wendy Champney, and Susan Watson; seeking to preserve, improve and help maintain the historic Fort Massachusetts site. However, I had severed ties with the other founding members because of fundamental differences. It is my belief that the community at large should be informed of the options offered by the former owners of this historic site and involved in the decisions; not a select few. And although we did not lack in our vision and mission statements, I feel that there was a lack of cohesion when it came to our vision. And I believe that we needed a better-qualified president (a position I held until my resignation) to move us forward to help reach our goal. The group would later evolve, under new direction, into Save Fort Massachusetts Memorial, Inc., under the umbrella of the North Adams Historical Society. In 2017, the Golub Corporation donated the site to the City of North Adams. 

In this revisit, I wanted to present the ideas that I presented at the meetings we had during its formation, along with other ideas that I have had since. There are just as many opportunities as there are challenges for this park to receive the care and attention that it deserves. I present some of the challenges along with some suggestions and ideas for consideration and discussion.

Every historical site has an important story to tell. The story of Fort Massachusetts is a compelling, suspenseful, and inspiring story. It speaks of hope, and courage, and maintaining one's integrity in the face of adversity. It's a story of life and death and the human spirit. And it was a safe haven for the early settlers of East and West Hoosac. Despite the sickness, skirmishes, and the siege, capture and, ultimately, destruction of the first fort, they did not give up. They rebuilt. And they settled the land.

European settlement into the northern Berkshires––the western frontier––was inevitable. Where Fort Massachusetts was built is where it all began for us. The communities of Williamstown, North Adams, and Adams owe their origin to the erection of this fort.

Now that this historic site is back in public hands––the City of North Adams––it can be revitalized and a renewed interest developed. And, just as important, it will take the community, working along with the City, to give the site the attention and care that it deserves.

We must strive to preserve our historic sites, for they are some of our most tangible, authentic links to our past. There is no other historic site in the northern Berkshires more worthy of preservation than that of the site of Fort Massachusetts––the origin of our community.