Monday, May 28th, 2018

When Tim was still just a bug, he and I played a game we called “Lazybones.”  I would sit on the floor cross-legged, Tim would sit in my lap, also cross-legged, and I would begin to sing the Hoagy Carmichael song “Lazybones” with my arms wrapped around him as I rocked forward and back.  Before I got to the end of the song, I would push down with my legs, rolling onto my back and sending Tim tumbling over my head, giggling like a madman.

That was it.  That was the whole game.  I use the term “game” very loosely here.  There was just one “rule” that was understood more than it was cut in stone: I always rolled backwards before the end of the song.  Sometimes I would roll over after just two or three words, sometimes after singing a dozen words or more.  Once, I rolled over after “lazy.”  I don’t remember ever singing the whole song without rolling over, but now that I think of it, I’m sorry I didn’t try that when I had the chance.

The longer we played “Lazybones,” the more often Tim would try to straighten his legs, pushing against me to get me to roll over.  Every once in a while I’d give in, but most of the time I wouldn’t.  It was my prerogative to pick the time we tumbled backward.

“Lazybones” was one of Tim’s favorite games. He asked to play a couple times a week for years.  I never said no, because I knew that, one day, he wouldn’t ask.  I don’t remember which day that was, because I don’t want to.

lazybones | 2:47 pm CST
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Sunday, May 27th, 2018

For years, my mother had this hanging on the bathroom wall of our family’s ancestral home:

Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some absurdities and blunders no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day.  You shall begin it well and serenely. — Emerson

The quotation was printed over a photo of a golden sunset backlighting a tree on a hill.  It was hanging over the toilet, so I couldn’t help but read it to myself every single time I had a tinkle for the ten years I lived in that house, which explains how it became etched into the frontal lobes of my adolescent brain as permanently as the lyrics to the theme from Gilligan’s Island.

I carried that quotation around in my head for decades, sometimes reciting it to myself when I became so stressed I had to pause for a moment to take a deep breath, empty my mind and lungs, and sit for a few minutes to decompress.  But, I never saw it in print again until about five years ago when I stopped by a coworker’s desk to ask a question and saw this quotation on her wall:

Finish each day and be done with it.  You have done what you could.  Some absurdities and blunders no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can.  Tomorrow is a new day.  You shall begin it well and serenely, and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

That ending was like hitting a mental speed bump.  It had never occurred to me that the quotation I learned from the resale shop nicknack my mother nailed to the bathroom wall might not have been complete but, apparently, someone thought it was a dozen and one words too long and they did a quotectomy on it.  Who would be so vile as to alter the words of Emerson?

The abridged quotation is fine, I guess, but the complete quotation is much more engaging.  In a letter dated April 8, 1854, Emerson wrote to his daughter Ellen, who was away at school, telling her to prepare to come home.  “It is quite time to think of bringing you home,” he began; wrote a bit more about making arrangements with Mr. Wheeler, who was apparently her teacher; advised her to pay her debts; named a few people who were looking forward to seeing Ellen; and then, toward the end of the letter, he dropped these familiar lines:

You must finish a term & finish every day, & and be done with it. For manners, & for wise living it is a vice to remember. You have done what you could — some blunders & absurdities no doubt crept in forget them as soon as you can tomorrow is a new day.  You shall begin it well & serenely, & with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day for all that is good & fair.  It is too dear with its hopes & invitations to waste a moment on the rotten yesterdays.

Polonius couldn’t have done better.  He was practically lecturing Laertes; if he were in a cap and gown behind a lectern, he wouldn’t have looked out of place reciting his lines.  Emerson, on the other hand, casually, almost effortlessly scribbled a few dozen words to his daughter that became as iconic as, “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be.”

“Scribbled” was not meant to sound dismissive, but I honestly get the impression, by the way he sprints through the third sentence without bothering to punctuate it, that he was dashing off this letter as quickly as he could write it.

I love how freely people used ampersands back in the day they used to write letters to each other, in spite of how hard they are to make.  I’ve tried to teach my clumsy hand to make them and eventually got good enough that maybe one in ten was recognizable as an ampersand, but the rest were twisted scribbling.  I keep trying, though.

finish each day | 12:22 pm CST
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Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Fare thee well, Alan Bean, and thank you. 

It has been, and continues to be, a heartbreak to lose people who have dared to do great things.

With Alan Bean’s passing, there are just four living people who have walked on the moon:

Dave Scott & Jim Irwin, Apollo 15: July 30 to August 2, 1971

Charlie Duke, Apollo 16: April 21-24, 1972

Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Apollo 17: December 11-14, 1972

Alan Bean | 5:03 pm CST
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A little more than two months ago, B and I stopped at one of our favorite local restaurants for dinner, and when I say “favorite,” I mean we go there a lot.  They don’t know us on a first-name basis, but they know us by sight.  The guy who served us that evening has served us many times before and has never given us any reason to cast a stink eye on his service, until two months ago.

When the time came to pay the check, B left her credit card on the table, right beside her.  The waiter picked it up and brought it back to the table about five minutes later, tucked into the customary black wallet with the check.  I was sitting in the chair farthest from the aisle; B was sitting on the aisle.  The server reached over her, handed the check to me and said, “Thanks, and have a good rest of your day,” even though B’s name was on the credit card and she would have to sign for it.  I guess it’s still assumed, even by servers who live and work in the twenty-first century, that the man always gets the check.

Was B just a teensy bit cheesed off by this?  Oh, a tad.  But she didn’t trust herself to say anything about it while she was still fuming, so she let it go that night, resolving to say something to the management if they didn’t it again.

Unbelievably, it happened again last night, and this time the server was a woman.  We were at a different place this time, but still, it was a place we visit quite often.  The server was relatively new, though; we have never seen her before, although we haven’t been there in a couple weeks.  After we finished dinner, B set her credit card on a corner of the table closest to her.  The server picked it up and returned it about five minutes later, stepping past B, who once again was sitting on the aisle, to hand it to me, the man, who was sitting against the wall.  “Thanks, and have a great rest of your day,” she said to me, before leaving.

“DAYUM!” I said to B. “Dissed by a woman this time!” She was not well pleased.

How does this even happen in 2018? I mean, we’re not eating at high-end, four-star restaurants, but still, I would think that, in the interest of getting the biggest tip for the best service, the server would take the extra half-minute to look at the name on the card.  I don’t look much like a Barbara, or at least I don’t think I do.  It wouldn’t take much to figure out I’m not the one who has to sign the card, and return it to the right person.

check please | 2:42 pm CST
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Friday, May 25th, 2018

B and I got on the elevator down from the top floor of the parking garage yesterday morning; three other people got on with us.

The elevator stopped at the next floor down, where three more people got on.

And it stopped again at the next floor, where we picked up two or three more people. By this time, it was feeling a little tight in there.

When it stopped at the next floor and the doors opened, the two people waiting outside the door took a quick look inside, smiled and said, “We’ll wait.”  Everybody chuckled.

We stopped again at the next floor.  Same thing happened: Doors opened, waiting people looked in, shook their heads, doors closed.  Chuckles all around.

“It says we can hold twenty-one people,” somebody said, pointing out the official capacity on a plaque.

“I don’t think they were counting on Wisconsin people,” someone else fired back, “or any society based on cheese, beer, and bratwurst.”

capacity | 6:21 am CST
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Thursday, May 24th, 2018

This video clip from Fox & Friends yesterday is really bizarre:

Fox and Friends: Why do you think he [Kim Jong Un] agreed to this meeting?

Pete Hegseth: I think he wants a picture with the America president. The sanctions are having massive effect there, there’s no doubt.  The Chinese have put the screws to them on that, the Chines are playing a double game, absolutely.  And then I think there’s probably a point at which the guy who wants to meet with Dennis Rodman and loves NBA basketball and loves Western pop culture probably doesn’t love being the guy who has to murder his people all day long, probably wants some normalization, and let’s give it to him if we can make the world safer.

It’s not unusual for Fox & Friends to be bizarre, but making a ruthless dictator sound like he’s just an average guy with a heart of gold who is just so, so tired of having to murder people is way out there.

such a nice boy | 6:35 am CST
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Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

I hate mowing the yard.  Hate it.  Hate hate hate it.  Before last night, I thought there was no way I could possibly hate it more, but when mosquitoes are swarming me while I’m mowing, that makes it so much worse.  I got a few bites while I was mowing the front yard, but the sun was behind the house by the time I got to the back yard, throwing the yard into shadow, which is the signal for the blood-sucking zombie bugs to rise from their graves and zero in on any warm-blooded mammals foolish enough to be out after darkness begins to fall.  So if the doctors are scratching their heads over my comatose body, remind them to test for zika, west nile, and malaria.

bled | 6:27 am CST
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Monday, May 21st, 2018

It wasn’t a bad Monday, as Mondays go.  There was still a chocolate chip cookie in a knotted plastic bag on top of the file cabinet where our supervisor leaves treats for us.  She doesn’t do that so very often but, when she does, she brings the good stuff. This one was my favorite store brand, thick and packed full of chunky chocolate chips.

She bought this particular cookie last Monday or Tuesday; can’t remember exactly which day, but it had to be one of those two days, because I left town on Wednesday morning and didn’t come back until Saturday, and I know I ate at least two chocolate chip cookies from that bag.  This last cookie somehow survived the week.  That’s really unusual.  The people I work with are more ravenous than a pack of starved dogs, especially when it comes to sweets.

After I said good morning to Romona and exchanged a few pleasantries, I eyed the bag and said something like, “Thanks for saving a cookie for me.”  She wrinkled her nose and expressed some doubt that it was any good after a week.  Pfft.  It passed the sniff test, and it didn’t have any visible mold growing on it, so I took it back to my desk and wolfed it down.  Happy Monday.

Monday | 8:41 am CST
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Sunday, May 20th, 2018

Every Step You Take was released thirty-five years ago today and almost instantly pulled in a shit-ton of money for The Police.  It was the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks, the UK Singles Chart for four weeks, and the Billboard Top Tracks chart for nine weeks.  It won a Grammy for Song of the Year, and for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.  It was voted Song Of The Year in the 1983 Rolling Stone critics and readers poll.  It was the best-selling single of 1983 in the United States, and the fifth-best-selling single of the decade.

And, in an interview with BBC 2 in 2009, Sting, the song’s writer, characterized it as “… very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it’s quite the opposite. One couple told me ‘Oh we love that song; it was the main song played at our wedding!’ I thought, ‘Well, good luck.'” I loved the vibe of the song when I was a kid, probably because I was a creepy little fuck then, and only later came to realize how skeevy it sounds.

Anyway, happy birthday to song about spending way too much time thinking about, watching, following and otherwise unhealthily obsessing on an ex.

… aaannnddd now it’s stuck in my head.  Dammit.

Another Song Bites The Dust | 5:01 pm CST
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Thursday, May 17th, 2018

I wonder if anyone else feels as I do that trucks should not be allowed to pass if they can’t go at least 70 mph. Science has not invented numbers high enough to count the times I’ve been stuck behind a lumbering semi that’s barely moving faster than the truck it’s supposedly passing. I understand that truck engines are built to generate torque instead of speed, and I’m fine with trucks that can’t go faster than 60 mph uphill against the wind, as long as they stay out of the left lane!

Any vehicle in the left lane that isn’t passing a vehicle in the right lane should be immediately impounded and its driver left on the shoulder of the road, preferably with a sign hanging from his neck that reads, “Doesn’t know what ‘passing lane’ means.”  No exceptions.

Road rage | 8:11 am CST
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Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

I am Scooter’s butt-patter.

He is the kind of cat who demands that I show affection toward him by patting his butt.  Spanking it, really.  Some cats like this, I guess.  I’m not into it, but I seem to be the one in our little family he prefers to get a spanking from.  He cuddles up to B and lets her pet him the way most people pet cats: stroking his head and his back, scratching his shoulders, that kind of thing.  But from me, he wants a spanking.

He starts out by rubbing against some part of me, usually my leg, to get my attention.  Not at all unusual for a cat, right?  Most cats do something like this.  Then he’ll duck his head under my hand or my arm to get me to pet him; again, entirely within the behavioral profile of most cats.  When I start to pet him, though, he’ll almost immediately wheel around, stick his butt high in the air, and back into my hand.

It’s not that I’m unwilling because it seems like a weird kink, even though it does.  Full disclosure:  It feels weird to spank a cat as a way of saying, “I like you.”  But honestly, that’s not the problem I have with him.  It’s more than I don’t want to have to look at his butt.  Way more.  In my opinion, it’s not his most endearing feature.  No cat’s butt is.  Again, just my opinion.  Other people may think their cats have lovely butts, and that’s okay.  Others like every part of their cat.  I am not into cat butts.  And I don’t want to see them or touch them all that much, and I really don’t want to spank even just one cat butt every day.

I’ll pet him when he comes around, and even pat his butt a few times, or more than a few times if he points that thing away from me, but if he insists on shoving his butt straight at my face, I have to get up and walk away, and that’s when he starts to act out, knocking stuff on the floor, like my glasses or my phone, or jumping up where he knows he’s not supposed to go, like the dining room table or into the kitchen sink.  This has strained on our relationship to the point where I’m ready to sell him to a cosmetics lab for experimentation.  My Darling B scoffs when I suggest this, because she thinks I’m just kidding around, and I am, mostly, but there’s a teeny-tiny part of me, the part that stores the memories of looking at Scooter’s butt, I think, that would really like to trade him in for a cat that’s a little less anally fixated.

butt pat | 7:58 am CST
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Monday, May 14th, 2018

About a half-dozen of my neighbors were mowing their lawns when we got home from the office this evening.  The guilt was so overwhelming I had to consider mowing, especially because our yard looked like a wild prairie after a week of rain.  I like the look, but it doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of the neighborhood.  Someday I’m going to plow it all under and plant begonias, or hostas, or something that doesn’t need mowing.

But tonight, I got the mower out of the shed and gave the front yard its first rough cut of the season.  The first cut will never look good.  First of all, our yard is not a lawn, by which I mean it’s not just Kentucky bluegrass, or whatever the grass of choice is these days.  Our yard is a mix of grasses, flowers, vines, saplings, and whatever came fluttering down from the sky and took root.  I don’t weed & seed our yard.  I mow it about once a week, and that’s all I do to it, because I hate yard work.  I think I may have mentioned that once or twice.

Mowing tonight was particularly grueling because it was relatively hot (for Wisconsin) and muggy tonight.  And, I’m a lazy slug, so mowing the yard is like an hour of cardio to me.  But, if I’m very lucky, I won’t have to mow it again tomorrow night.  There’s no guarantee, though, after all the rain we got this past week.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see knee-high dandelions when we pull into the driveway tomorrow evening.

lawn yawn | 6:47 pm CST
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I was a huge, HUGE fan of the Irwin Allen television show “Lost In Space” back when I was a tyke.  Every kid I knew was a fan, because all the kids I knew figured it was more or less inevitable they would grow up to be astronauts.  We were all born in the sixties; of course we were going to be astronauts!  And what was Lost In Space about?  Spaceships, aliens, a talking robot, and a kid who was an astronaut!  We all eagerly and uncritically watched every episode, even the one with the talking carrot, and when it was over, we counted the minutes until next week’s episode.

Then there was the 1998 theatrical reboot starring William Hurt, Gary Oldman, and Matt LeBlanc.  I paid good money to watch that stinker.  As a grown-ass adult, I should have known better than to mess with nostalgia.

So it was with no little trepidation that I sat down to watch the first few episodes of the Netflix reboot.  It wasn’t awful.  But I have quibbles.  Just as a for instance:  In the opening scene of the first episode, as the Robinson’s space ship is about to crash, a computer voice tells them they’re at 5,000 feet and falling fast, but the display they’re looking at indicates their altitude is 5,000 meters.  It’s a little thing, but it’s such a needlessly stupid mistake that I saw that and my immediate reaction was, “Really?  Come on!”  Sort of takes away from the rest of the episode when the opening scene makes me go, “hmmm.”

And I was a little weirded out by the robot, who was not part of their crew when they left earth in this reboot.  Instead, the robot is the only apparent survivor of an alien ship that crashed on the same planet, in almost the same place, where the Robinsons crashed.  What are the odds of that, eh?  Wait, it gets better.  The robot happens to be on the same branch in the same tree Will climbs to get away from danger.  Of course they bond, because Will’s pure heart wins the robot’s loyalty, so the robot saves Will from danger and, a little while later, it saves Penny from being frozen, too, so the Robinsons accept it into their family.  Just like that!  An alien robot!  That they know nothing about!  Other than that it can melt glacial ice with a wave of its hand!  What could possibly go wrong?

And Dr. Smith is a psychopath this time around, a straight-up amoral killer, which I thought was unnecessarily dark.  I guess the show’s writers thought Smith was way too warm and fuzzy the last time around.  I’m thinking here of the comic delivery of Jonathan Harris, not Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Smith.

So I think after three episodes that I’ve had enough of this year’s gritty reboot of Lost In Space.  I may have to finally re-watch the original series again, just to cleanse my memory banks of these last two reboots.

Lost In Space – Netflix reboot | 4:59 am CST
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Friday, May 11th, 2018

My Darling B picked up a copy of 1,000 Places To See Before You Die: A Traveller’s Life List, by Patricia Schultz.  I’m assuming Ms. Schultz means these are places you must see before you die because she considers them unmissable, and not merely rando places to see at some time before you die, the distinction being, to a literalist such as myself, that the list of places to see after you die would be, literally, a blank page.  Unless you’re a believer, in which case you would have a list of 1 Place To See After You Die, the place being whatever version of heaven or hell you subscribe to.  I’m trying to be all-inclusive here.  Work with me.

The list of must-see places includes such exotic-sounding places as The Tasman Glacier, Canyon de Chelly, Kilimanjaro, the Island of Rhodes, and the Mesa Verde cliff dwellings.  Thumbing through the 970 pages of the paperback copy that B picked up, I noticed it was organized by nation, and that each of the United States was featured, so I flipped ahead until I found Wisconsin to see what Ms. Schultz considered to be the must-see places of our fair state.  Here’s what she said you absolutely must see in Wisconsin before you die:

The Apostle Islands.  Okay.  Yes.  I’ve never been, but I have seen the Lake Superior shore from nearby Ashland, and it was quite a scenic wonder.  I easily believe that Ms. Schultz considered this chain of islands off the shore of Bayfield to be a treat.

Her second pick of places to die for in Wisconsin was Canoe Bay, a swanky vacation retreat in Chetek where a night in a double room will set you back a week’s pay in the off season.  Ms. Shultz’s writeup highlights the seclusion, the nature trails, and the breakfasts in bed, and I’m sure it’s very nice, but honestly I can’t help thinking there are lots of places in Wisconsin, or really anywhere in the United States, where you could enjoy the hedonistic pleasures of a retreat like this one.  And really, is a resort with room service and a wine cellar something you would consider a place you have to see before you die?  I’m not saying I wouldn’t want to visit Canoe Bay, I’m just saying that maybe there are more scenic vistas to feast your eyes on in Wisconsin.

Then there’s Ms. Schultz’s third place she thought you had to see in Wisconsin before you die: The American Club, a “mega-golf complex” in Kohler.  A golf course.  Wait:  Not just one, but two golf courses, crammed into one resort.  You have to see this golf course.  Before you die.  Because your life would not be complete without seeing this … golf course.  I don’t know what I hate more: The idea that anyone would think they had to see a golf course before they died, or the idea that someone would tell me I had to visit a golf course before I died, lest my life feel empty and awful.

Washington Island is something you have to see before you die.  Any part of Door County is a must-see destination in Wisconsin.  The Chequamegon forest.  The Chain O’ Lakes or the Wisconsin Dells.  There are a hundred and one places in Wisconsin I would recommend that you see in Wisconsin, even if you weren’t about to die, before I would tell you that you absolutely must see a golf course.  Unless you’re one of those people for whom golf is your whole life.  And I’m not making a judgment about that; you do you.  See the golf course, if golf is your life.  But if seeing the wonders of the world is your life, any cheesehead could recommend better sights to see in Wisconsin than a golf course.  Just ask one.

just die already | 9:13 pm CST
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White House chief of staff John Kelly tells NPR:

The vast majority of the people that move illegally into the United States are … not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society.  They’re overwhelmingly rural people.  In the countries they come from, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-grade educations are kind of the norm.  They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing.  … They don’t integrate well; they don’t have skills.  They’re not bad people.  They’re coming here for a reason.  And I sympathize with the reason.  But the laws are the laws.

I hardly know where to start when trying to think of a response to racist bullshit like this.

For a start, the vast majority of people who move to the United States are doing it because they’re desperate.  Desperate to get out of a country where gang warfare threatens them or their family, desperate to climb out of poverty, desperate for something better.  I can’t think of too many other reasons that would motivate others to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles, often at great peril to their personal safety, to risk arrest crossing illegally into another country.  I don’t have a citation; I’m only using common sense to figure this out, but if John Kelly can spout his own made-up bullshit on the radio, I’m not to worried about spitballing.

“Not people that would easily assimilate” is a cute euphemism for pointing at “those people” with a smirk.

“Overwhelmingly rural people” describes a lot of people from communities in the heart of America.  I can’t believe this comment alone didn’t get Kelly buried in hate mail before the sun set.

“They don’t speak English; obviously that’s a big thing.”  As genealogist Jennifer Mendohlson pointed out today, at least two of Kelly’s ancestors lived in the United States for decades without bothering to learn to speak English.

“They don’t have skills.”  Those ancestors of Kelly were a wagon driver and a day laborer.

vast majority | 4:24 pm CST
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Thursday, May 10th, 2018

I’ve got a copy of the Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge on a shelf next to my desk at home, which I pull down and leaf through if, for instance, I’m in the middle of writing some drivel when my laptop decides it’s time to update the software without asking me. So frustrating.

Anyway, I’ve got nothing but respect for Partridge, and this dictionary is a fascinating book for word nerds, but I sometimes have my doubts there was an English-speaking person anywhere in the world who ever spoke the words or phrases in this dictionary. I’ve never come across them in any book or movie.  Just a few examples:

“call for a damper” – to break wind.  Never heard anybody say this.  Ever.

“all China to an orange” – the longest possible odds; a virtual certainty.  I’m pretty sure he made this up.

“get Jack in the orchard” – to achieve sexual intromission. I had to grab another dictionary to figure out what the slang dictionary was trying to tell me; who has ever used the word “intromission” to mean “penetration?” Nobody I ever met.

“muffin-walloper” – a scandal-loving woman delighting to meet others at a tea-table. I’ve never heard this phrase before, but I’m going to try my damndest to use it as soon and as often as possible.

that foreign language English | 6:26 am CST
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Most of the songs I ruin are songs that I like a lot, or used to like but don’t make a lot of sense to me, or sounded like great songs until I listened closely to the words.

They Call The Wind Mariah is a song I never liked in any way. I thought it was a plodding tune with dopey lyrics from the very first time I heard it, which was maybe forty years ago, and I haven’t changed my opinion one teensy-tiny little bit in all the years since. I never thought the music was all that great, and it’s one of the few songs I heard on the radio and understood all the words.  Far from helping me like the song, I disliked it more with every word I understood.  A cloyingly, wretchedly sentimental song.  And every time I hear it again I think, Dammit, I thought I was finally rid of that song from my life.  So, not a fan.

another song bites the dust | 6:24 am CST
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hedge n 1a; a fence or boundary formed by a dense row of shrubs or low trees b: BARRIER, LIMIT 2: a means of protection or defense (as against financial loss) 3: a calculatedly noncommittal statement

hedge vt 1: to enclose or protect with or as if with a hedge : ENCIRCLE 2: to hem in or obstruct with or as if with a barrier : HINDER 3: to protect oneself from losing by a counterbalancing transaction <~ a bet> ~ vi 1: to plant, form, or trim a hedge 2: to evade the risk of commitment esp. by leaving open a way of retreat : TRIM 3a: to protect oneself financially; specif: to buy or sell commodity futures as a protection against loss due to price fluctuation b: to minimize the risk of a bet  — Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary, 1969

hedge  hedge off  v.i, v.t. To be indecisive or act indecisively; specif., in gambling, to bet on one team, number, or entry and then to make a smaller bet on another or the other team, number, or entry, so as to recoup part of one’s loss if the larger bet loses; to transfer part of a bet one has to another, to reduce possible loss.  1956: “HEDGE OR HEDGE OFF — a bookmaker’s term, primarily; to hedge is to transfer part of a large bet to another bookmaker or to the mutual machines.” T. Betts, Across The Board, 316. Cr. dynamite.  — Wentworth & Flexner’s Dictionary of American Slang, 1960

hedge, a covering bet, and hedge, to bet ‘opposite’ for safety, are, despite F. & H. [Farmer & Henley’s Slang and its Analogues], ineligible, as are the figurative senses.  — Partridge’s A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 1961

hedge, n. A row of bushes or small trees planted close together to form a fence or boundary; any similar row of bushes or small trees; hence, any barrier or boundary; also, an act or a means of hedging a bet or the like. — The New Century Dictionary, 1946

hedge | 6:18 am CST
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If politicians had to work in the same tiny cubicles in featureless office buildings that government workers typically have to spend their days toiling away in, there wouldn’t be any politicians.

If politicians were bound by the ethics rules that prevent all other government workers from accepting gifts or payments for services, they wouldn’t bother being politicians.

If politicians were bound by irrevocable law to spend no more on their campaign than one dollar for each person they sought to represent, there would never be any more politicians.

Dream world | 6:17 am CST
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Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Tim was helping me clear the jetsam of our lives off the kitchen table where it tends to collect.  One of the items was an old-fashioned coffee mill I picked up at a second-hand shop for ten bucks.  I used to collect old-timey coffee making stuff until it started taking over a lot of the free space in the kitchen and dining room and wherever else I could find a spot.  I finally got rid of almost all of it, except for the coffee mill.  I kept it mostly because it was decorating the top of the china hutch.

Then the coffee mill I had been using wore out.  It wasn’t made to last.  First of all, it was almost entirely made out of plastic except for the burr, the shaft and the crank, so it was more or less inevitable that it would break long before I was ready to get a new one.  And I would never be ready to get a new one, because a coffee mill that was built to last would run me a couple hundred dollars, which is why I bought the cheap plastic one in the first place.

When I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to fix what was broken on the plastic one, though, I started thinking seriously about investing in an expensive one, because there was no way we were going to go without coffee and I figured we might as well splurge on a really good coffee mill that would stick around until we both keeled over from caffeine-induced coronaries, or the revolution began and we had to grab our go bags and head for the hills, whichever came first.

But on that particular day that the cheap plastic coffee mill broke, I had to make coffee, and I had no way to grind the beans.  Well, I had an old blade grinder, and I considered breaking it out of storage for this one-time use, but then my eye fell on the decorative coffee mill.

When I say “decorative,” I mean it looked pretty to me.  I’m not sure that anybody else would think of it as particularly decorative.  It had a body made of an unidentified blonde wood, finished in a still-shiny lacquer and a thumbnail-sized decal bearing the trade mark of a Dutch coffee nobody has heard of in decades.  It had a shiny chrome crank with a wooden knob on the end, and a chrome dome that opened with a twist.  I believe I may have thrown a tiny handful of beans into it after I brought it home, just to see if it would work, but I never used it to make an actual pot of coffee.  Until this morning.

I mean, what did I have to lose, really?  Not much.  I measured out the beans, spooned them in through the top, cleaned out the little drawer that catches the grounds, and cranked away at it until I could hear the last of the beans had gone through the burr.  Slid the drawer open again and TA-DAH!  And it made a great pot of coffee.  Been using it every morning since.

Tim doesn’t drink coffee and he might not have recognized a coffee mill even if he did.  And this isn’t the first time he’s pointed at an anachronistic appliance in our house and asked me, “What’s that?”  Back when he was just a toddler, I found a rotary phone at a second-hand store, brought it home and plugged it into the jack in the living room.  (This was back when you could still do that.)  Then I dialed the ringback number (it grieves me to realize I don’t remember that number anymore) and, when it run, Tim laughed and said it was “Neat!”  Then he asked, “What is it?”  Until then, a telephone to Tim was the push-buttoned Princess that hung on the wall in the kitchen that bleeped with an electronic sound instead of going rrringgg like a bell.  I didn’t expect there would ever be another occasion I could stump him with a gadget that was easy for me to recognize but looked like a museum exhibit to him.

 

what’s that | 5:45 am CST
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A jar I opened this morning had the slogan “Sealed for quality and freshness” printed on the lid, and I had to wonder:  Is there a demographic out there that doesn’t care about quality but demands freshness in their no-quality garbage product?

quality | 5:41 am CST
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Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Is it just me, or do the two top options mean the same thing?

expectations | 9:46 pm CST
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A white cat jumped out from behind one of the trash cans when we pulled into the driveway of Our Humble O’Bode this evening.  My Darling B said something like, “Hey, that cat looks a lot like Scooter!”  The cat ran to the front of the house and jumped through an open window into the living room, then looked back at us from the window.  It was Scooter!

Why was there an open window to the living room?  Because we changed the storm windows for screens last weekend and apparently didn’t swing the arms into the upright locked position.  I’m guessing one of the cats was sitting in the window watching chipmunks run back and forth as they always do, and when one got too close, the cat jumped at it and ran face-first into the screen, as they always do, except this time the screen swung open and the cat, after freaking out at least a tiny little bit, suddenly realized he was finally going to be able to get his claws on that goddamn chipmunk this time, and off he went!

What really surprised me was that Scooter jumped out, but Sparky didn’t.  Here I thought Sparky was our little ball of trouble, but Scooter’s the one who bolted for the outdoors while Sparky sat in the window and watched.  I suppose it’s possible Sparky went out, then came back in when he heard the cat feeder crank out some food.  That’s absolutely something Sparky would do.  “I could stay out here, having fun chasing chipmunks, or I could go back in and have all the kibble to myself.  Hmmm.  Seems like a no-brainer.”

Boo went outside, too, but she’s done that before, so I kind of expected that of her.  She doesn’t give a shit what we think she should do, and if she wants to go outside, she’s going to go outside.  She’s not going to do anything when she gets there, though.  I found her sitting in the middle of the back porch, glaring at me through the window as if to say, “Are you going to open the door for me, or what?”  Because that’s exactly how she is.

escaped | 9:01 pm CST
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Monday, May 7th, 2018

Saturday would’ve been a great day to go for a paddle in the kayak, if I’d left the house earlier, but after I had my morning coffee and read the morning news and we went to the farmer’s market, I didn’t end up leaving the house for a paddle until about half past twelve.  By that time, every goddamn powerboat in Dane County has been launched, and most of them are racing back and forth across Lake Monona as fast as their drivers can make them go.  And there’s some kind of music blaring from almost ever other boat that goes past; some boats have hundred-watt speakers mounted on a roll bar over the seats, blaring as loudly as their amplifiers can push them.  In my wildest fantasies, I roam the lake in a Fletcher-class destroyer, expertly dropping five-inch artillery shells right through the engines of the most obnoxiously-loud powerboats.

The lake is not a place of quiet contemplation at that hour of the day.  Note to self:  Go right after you make the coffee.  Put some in a travel mug and take it with you.

a Saturday kayak run | 6:44 am CST
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Yesterday the weather was perfect for a bike ride around the lake. That’s my usual cycling route and sort of a standard: It’s mostly flat, though there are some hills at the beginning and end, and it’s a little over twelve miles, ten miles being about as far as my butt can go and still feel comfortable on a bicycle seat. I had a short break in the middle when I stopped at Machinery Row bicycle shop to buy a pair of overpriced cycling gloves to replace the very old pair I can’t find. Everything seems to be overpriced at Machinery Row, but the service is very good.

Just about everybody with a bike was out on the roads yesterday.  They can’t help themselves when the weather is so good.  My route runs past about a half-dozen parks; people were stretched out on blankets in the smaller ones, some reading or sitting together with a friend, some just basking in the warm sun.  One guy was out with his cat, which sat obediently next to him.  In the larger parks the people were teamed up to play soccer or volleyball, basketball or Frisbee.

Most of the cyclists I see dress in racing togs when they’re cycling.  I do not.  I used to have a pair of cycling shorts, the kind with padding in the crotch, because I thought it would be make the longer rides more comfortable, and it did, but only as long as I was on the bike.  When I got off the bike to take a break or to visit a store, I was never unaware that I had a thick pad of chamois wedged in my crotch.  There was no way I could wear those shorts and not walk funny.  And I was always self-conscious about my ass being on display under a thin layer of skin-tight Lycra, until I started to wear a pair of street shorts over the biking shorts, which sort of defeats the purpose of wearing a breathable fabric.  I haven’t worn biking shorts in a few years but I may have to get another pair as my butt becomes bonier in my old age.

a Sunday bike ride | 6:01 am CST
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Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Ninalee Allen Craig, the woman at the center of an iconic photo by photojournalist Ruth Orkin, “American Girl in Italy,” died last Tuesday in Toronto of complications from lung cancer.

American Girl in Italy

The photo was printed in Cosmopolitan magazine as an illustration for the article, “When you travel alone…”  and under it, the caption: “Public admiration . . . shouldn’t fluster you. Ogling the ladies is a popular, harmless and flattering pastime you’ll run into in many foreign countries. The gentlemen are usually louder and more demonstrative than American men, but they mean no harm.”

Craig, who said she was “used to” this kind of “admiration” from men, laughed off suggestions they were harassing her.  She said she strode past them with her head held high, as though she were Beatrice, the woman for whom Dante descends into hell to save from Lucifer.

I’m sorry to disagree with Ms. Craig, but I have never looked at her in this photo without thinking she was terrified, and rightfully so.

Photo via The Washington Post

Ninalee Allen Craig | 6:29 pm CST
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Friday, May 4th, 2018

Today is called Star Wars Day because it’s May the Fourth, as in, “May the Fourth Be With You.”  It’s a pun that lots of people say out loud all day long and somehow they don’t get punched in the face for it.  I still don’t understand how that works. Few people can get away with making puns on any other day of the year. The popular response to practically any other pun I can think of results in no less than public shaming, and the worst puns are often met with stony silence followed by shunning that can go on for days.  The reason Star Wars gets a pass is a mystery.

may the pun be with you | 6:39 am CST
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An NPR correspondent quoting Mark Twain said yesterday, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”  I’d never heard that quote before and, looking into it now, it turns out Twain never said it. The first time the phrase was attributed to him was in 1970, the same year that John Robert Columbo’s poem “A Said Poem” was published, which ended with the quote attributed to Twain: 

“I have seen the future and it doesn’t work,” said Robert Fulford.
“If there weren’t any Poland, there wouldn’t be any Poles,” said Alfred Jarry.
“We aren’t making the film they contracted for,” said Robert Flaherty.
“History never repeats itself but it rhymes,” said Mark Twain.

There’s a very good writeup at The Quote Investigator.

history rhymes | 6:29 am CST
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Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Dinner last night was a giant pretzel and a glass of beer at the Biergarten in Olbrich Park.  It probably wasn’t the healthiest dinner I’ve ever eaten, but it was one of the most enjoyable.  I shared the pretzel with My Darling B. They weren’t kidding when they used the word “giant.” I felt stuffed after doing my best to finish off my half.  It was the opening day at the Biergarten and there were maybe a dozen customers at the various tables, with about a half-dozen staffed. I think they were expecting more people for their opening day.  

Dinner tonight was leftover mac & cheese and a few slices of Italian sausage.  I think I’d better switch to salads for the rest of the week.

Demolition of the office building we used to work in has been going on for about two weeks now.  I’ve been watching it from my window. At first, there wasn’t a lot to see, but about a week ago they knocked holes in the walls on the fourth and fifth floors, and all this week I’ve been watching a couple of pint-sized bulldozers push cubicle walls and metal shelves and every kind of office appliance out the holes into a big pile at the base of the building, where an excavator scoops the mess up and loads it into trucks.  Today they were pushing chairs and couches and heaps of ceiling tiles out through the holes. By the time they’re finished gutting it, there’ll be nothing left but bare concrete.

in the garten | 6:43 am CST
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Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Outdoor hugging starts today! (reference to the JoCo song First Of May, the clean version, in which he replaces the word “fuck” with the word “hug” and inserts ad-libs to explain lines such as, “taking each other’s pants off – becauseit’shotoutside”.  He said he made the change when his own kids grew old enough to ask embarrassing questions about his songs, and because there are an increasing number of kids on his fan cruise. The first time I heard him sing this version was on the cruise last year, but when I looked for a recording of it on YouTube I discovered he’s been singing this version since 2004!  

outdoor hugging | 7:16 am CST
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Monday, April 30th, 2018

Our office building has a multilevel parking garage.  We park in our assigned spot on level six and usually take the elevator down to the ground floor.  This morning B must have relied on muscle memory to press the button to go to the third floor; she works on the third floor of the office building.  It’s not connected to the parking garage on that level, or any level.  The Monday Monster got her good.  

third floor | 7:24 am CST
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Sunday, April 29th, 2018

The garage door failed catastrophically after I started the garage door opener as My Darling B and I stepped into the garage to go to brunch this morning.  I thought the door sounded a lot like it was being torn apart by the garage door opener, but no matter how long I gaped at it, it stayed in one piece and nothing seemed wrong with it.  Not until it was fully open did B notice the pulley on the floor at her feet. At the same time, I noticed the broken cable dangling from the corner of the door. It was the cable that helps pull the door up, and it had snapped, whipping around atop the metal garage door and flinging the pulley against the back wall (good thing B didn’t catch that with her face).  That and the cable flailing around is probably what made a noise like a thousand trash cans being dropped into an empty alley.

So fixing the garage door was one of my tasks this afternoon.  Lucky for me garage doors are surprisingly easy to fix. I bought a new cable at the local Menard’s store and installed it in about fifteen minutes by following the directions on the back of the package.  The door worked perfectly on the first try.

That left me the rest of the afternoon to do whatever I wanted, so I put the kayak on the little trailer and dragged it down to the beach at Frost Woods Park, launched it and paddled around the bay, then down the river and into Mud Lake where I took a left turn at Nine Springs Creek.  I’d taken this particular left turn last summer but got no farther than the train trestle that crosses the creek about 200 yards upstream. The water level was at least two feet lower than it was back then, though, so I could just squeak under the trestle by leaning forward and hugging the deck of the kayak.  After passing under the trestle, I could go another 300 yards upstream until the creek broadened and the water became so shallow that the kayak’s bottom scraped along the mud as I desperately tried to turn it around. And I did manage to get it headed back downstream, but not without a moment of panic that I might have to get out and drag it. 

cable snap | 7:31 am CST
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Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Last night we watched the first two episodes of season two of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu television series based on the book by Margaret Atwood.  It’s a deeply troubling story about an ultraconservative revolution that overthrows the US government and, among their other bad attributes, literally enslaves fertile women, forcing them to bear children through ritualized rape.  

The series has been flashing back to the life the main character, June, had before the overthrow. The flashbacks are almost more troubling to me than the story of what comes after, because the characters couldn’t see the overthrow coming even though the signs of increasing, radically conservative thought that pervade their society seem so obvious to the watcher, and yet I see a lot of the same signs in our real world right now that make us shake our heads and say, “What the hell?” but we do nothing about it because we deny to ourselves that it can get as bad as the ultraconservative society portrayed in the television show.  When you’re living in a dystopia, at what point do you face reality and say, that’s it, I’m out? 

dystopia | 7:37 am CST
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Thursday, April 26th, 2018

I had hoped the weather yesterday would be warm enough for me to break the kayak out of its winter cocoon and take it for a paddle around the bay while B was at yoga last night, but alas, it was a bit too chilly for that.  Temps just barely crept up into what is considered warm in Wisconsin after a long winter but not warm enough for me to wander around in shorts and a t-shirt, much less sit in a kayak in what until recently was a frozen-solid lake.  

I took a walk down to Metcalf’s grocery during my lunch hour to enjoy their Wednesday sushi special.  All the people in the courtyard outside my office window were not wearing jackets or coats, so I left the building without mine and almost immediately regretted it.  

not warm enough | 7:39 am CST
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

I think summer came to Wisconsin yesterday, and maybe if we’re very lucky it will stay for a while.  It may even stay all weekend.

Yesterday was the first day I walked around outside in shirt sleeves.  Other people were doing it when temps hit the 40s and 50s, and I may have run from the house to the car in that weather but I wasn’t walking around comfortably in it until yesterday.  Yesterday I even had my sleeves rolled up and I dawdled, even strolled as I walked around in the sunshine. Yesterday was the day I remind myself of in the middle of January when it’s so cold outside that frost builds up on the hairs in my nose.  

It was so beautifully warm outside that we enjoyed a dinner of falafel and hummus on the patio at Banzo on the east side of town, across from the park, and revelled in every moment of it. After we went home, I got my bike down out of the rafters in the garage where it hangs all winter and took a short ride around the neighborhood, not too far, because I’ve been cooped up all winter and I didn’t want to overdo it.  

And now the sun is coming up and it looks like another clear day is on its way.  It’s going to be hard to keep myself from gazing out the window at the clear blue sky all day long.

dinner on the patio | 7:42 am CST
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Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Tim went with B and I to the Comedy Club on State Street last night to see Hari Kondabolu, always a good time.  Hari’s opener was the hilarious Carmen Lagala from New York. I’ve never seen her act before but enjoyed it immensely.  The host was Greg Bach from Milwaukee, who was entertaining and occasionally funny.

Part of the price of admission is a two-drink minimum.  Fortunately most of their drinks are not very strong, but Tim ordered a martini that was at least five ounces of gin.  He got a tiny bit looped that night.

Hari | 8:18 am CST
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Thursday, April 19th, 2018

I was raking cat turds out of one of the three litter boxes in the basement when My Darling B called down the stairs to me, “Would you come up and look at the shower?”  That’s not the kind of question she asks unless she’s hollaring it, but I didn’t notice the slightest hint of panic in her voice. Her tone was more like, “Well, lookee here…,” so I didn’t immediately dash up the stairs, but I was a tad worried as I made my way to the bathroom.

When I got there, B was in her bathrobe just inside the door, waiting for me, and in her hand she held the handle that turned the shower on and off. It’s made to come off, but not without unscrewing a tiny screw in the middle of it, and anyway it didn’t come off the way it was supposed to.  It came off because B somehow torqued it hard enough to break off the brass stump that sticks out from the valve, and because she broke off the stump, there was nothing to grab hold of to close the valve. The shower was running wide-open, all hot water. I had to shut off the water to the house.  It was either that, or leave the hot water running full-blast until the plumber showed up.

Lucky for us, the plumber could pull the broken valve out and slip a new one in without too much fuss, and he didn’t even charge us too much, for a plumber.  I was expecting he’d have to tear out the wall, saw the pipes off to remove the valve, sweat new pipes on and add a new valve, and I would have been happy to pay him for that because I’ve done that before, when I was crazy enough to want to do it instead of calling a plumber.  Now that I know I never want to do that again, I don’t have any trouble handing many, many dollars over to a professional.

plumbed | 3:28 pm CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, Our Humble O'Bode
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Monday, April 16th, 2018

Michael Cohen, the man Trump calls his personal lawyer and who everybody else calls his ”fixer,” was arraigned in federal court yesterday where he named TV talking head Sean Hannity as one of his clients.  The only other client Cohen has had is Elliot Broidy, a big donor to the Republican National Committee, who secured Cohen’s legal services to pay $1.6 million in hush money to Playboy model Karen McDougal after she began pregnant with Broidy’s child.  Coincidentally, Coehn also paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about her affair with Donald Trump. So there’s a lot of speculation about what Cohen did for Sean Hannity.

Which prompted Twitter user @drskyskull to post this masterpiece: 

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape for Sean Hannity

Not a surprise
Sean doubles his lies on TV
I’m just a poor boy!
Cohen gave advice for free!

Because I’m easy come easy go
Cohen I barely know
Any way his trial goes
Doesn’t really matter to me
TOOOOO MEEEEEEE

Mama
Just lied again
Polished a big orange turd
Shilled for him with every word

MAGA had just begun
And now we’ve gone and peed it all away!
MAMA
OOOOOOOOH

Didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back on the air tomorrow
Carry on, carry on
As if I had advertisers

Too late
My time has come
Send shivers down my spine
Mueller’s calling all the time

Goodbye everybody
I’ve got to go
Heading to a place with no extradition treaty

MAMA
OOOOOOOOH
Don’t want my show to die
Don’t want to be like Bill O’Reilly!
*guitar solo*

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Michael Cohen Michael Cohen
Will you shut your fat mouth-o
Search warrants of writing
Very very frightening me

Vladimir-o Vladimir-o
Vladimir-o Vladimir-o
Vladimir-o save us all, magnifico!

I’m just a big prick and nobody loves me
He’s just a big prick broadcasting shit TV
Spare him his life from going to the pokey

Treason come treason go will you let me go?
Fuck you Sean! No! We will not let you go! (Let him go)
Fuck you Sean! We will not let you go! (Let him go)
Fuck you Sean! We will not let you go! (Let me go)

Will not let you go let me go (never)
Never let you go let me go
Never let me go ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no

Oh Robert Mueller, Robert Mueller, Robert Mueller let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
For me
For meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
*furious banjo guitar solo, Sean dances like the whitest guy ever*

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN SUBPOENA AND TAP ALL MY LINES
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN ARREST ME AND TRY ME FOR CRIMES
OH BABY, CAN’T DO THIS TO ME BABY
JUST GOTTA GET OUT JUST GOTTA GET RIGHT OUTTA HERE

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters nothing really matters on Fox TV

 

easy come, easy go | 4:41 pm CST
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Saturday, April 14th, 2018

I have to say, Spring is not going well this year. The rain that started yesterday kept on pissing down all night and this morning, but we’re pretty lucky to get nothing worse than that.  Not much farther north, they’re talking about having to shovel several inches of snow, drifting, and other unpleasantness.  I’m pretty sure if I’d looked out the window and seen snow this morning, I’d have just gone back to bed.

[Added: Spoke too soon about “nothing worse than that.” Light snow flurries began to fall after the lunch hour and continued through the afternoon, but without accumulation, thank goodness.]

not going well | 1:46 pm CST
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For years, I’ve wanted to see the science fiction film “Solaris” by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky because I’ve heard so many good things about it and because I love the book it’s based on, a sci-fi classic by Stanislaw Lem. Last night I finally got the chance, thanks to Cinematheque, a program at the University of Wisconsin that screens out-of-the-ordinary films and does it for free. The guys who chose the movies are the same guys who program the Wisconsin Film Festival. And while they were making announcements the last night or two at the WFF, they mentioned that they would be showing Solaris on Friday night. B and I stopped by last night after dinner to catch the show.

I have rarely been so disappointed by such an eagerly-awaited show. Drab and boring, one scene after another drags on for way too long. I was willing to put up with that in the opening scenes when the main character, Kris Kelvin, was wandering around the countryside to take a last look around before blasting off into space, but what was I meant to learn from watching a long, lingering shot of traffic moving through the ramps and tunnels of a sprawling megacity, followed by another long, lingering shot of traffic moving through tunnels and ramps of a sprawling megacity, followed by another long, lingering shot of traffic moving through the tunnels and ramps of a sprawling megacity, followed by another … I could do that a hundred more times and it wouldn’t be as awful as having to sit through it was.

Reviews of this movie are overwhelmingly positive, I think. I’m not entirely sure, because most reviews tend to sound like word salad:  “Tartovsky examines what it means to be human by emphasizing the interconnectedness of humanity, while simultaneously contradicting the same interconnectedness by highlighting the passive ennui and lugubriousness of modern life.”  That’s not a verbatim quote, but it’s not too unlike what I read afterwards, trying to figure out what people like about this movie. Just FYI, I still don’t know. Or rather, I did find a few reviews that weren’t totally incomprehensible, but I didn’t see the amazing and wonderful things they saw.

In plain English, Solaris is not poetry in cinematic form. Overall it is drab.  The writing is not bad but the pace is dreadfully slow. The acting was wooden and failed to get me to feel any sort of empathy for the characters.  I sat through all 166 minutes of it, hated a lot of it, resented the rest of it for wasting my time, and after sleeping on these thoughts I would only add that I never want to see it again.  In short, Tarkovsky’s Solaris is BORING and I’ve never been so relieved to get up from my seat and bolt from the theater. For the cherry on top, My Darling B agrees with me, and she’s never been wrong.  

Solaris (Tartovsky) | 9:07 am CST
Category: entertainment, movies, play
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Friday, April 13th, 2018

Yesterday was the closing day of the Wisconsin Film Festival, and the only day we saw not one, not two, but three really good movies. I’ve never rated so many films five or of five. Must be getting soft.

“Celebrating Sacred Twins In Africa” 6-minute documentary that showed some highlights of an annual celebration of twins and their mothers. 3 out of Five

“I Am Not A Witch” Shula is accused of being a witch, so she’s sent to a government-sponsored farm where witches are kept and exploited by a corrupt official. Describing it makes it sound more interesting than the experience of watching it.  One out of Five

“More Worlds Of Tomorrow” was a collection of animated shorts so quirky that My Darling B made a daring escape from the theater in the middle of one of them. “My Burden” featured dancing animals singing about how happy they will be after the burden of the futility of life is lifted from their shoulders. “The Amazing Neckbeard” showed how a cape-wearing nerd can be a hero.  “Obscurer” is a lot like a fever dream I had when I was sick in bed for three days with the flu, complete with creepy dolls, murmuring voices and unreadable graffiti. (This is the on B escaped from.) “The Tesla World Light” is a supposed letter from Tesla begging J.P. Morgan to fund Tesla’s work because he’s in live with a bird. “A Woman Apart” examines the thoughts of a sheriff who is wavering momentarily as he is poised to carry out the hanging of his friend, accused of being a witch. In “165708” a young woman gazes out across lily pads – that’s all I got from this film. “The Servant” wonders whether a frustrated artist is a cockroach and vice-versa. And in “World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden Of Other People’s Thoughts” a girl faces her future with the confidence only youth can bring after she’s confronted by her emergency backup clone.

“The Guilty” A 911 operator works against time to save a woman abducted by her ex-husband. Smart, tense movie with an unexpected twist. Five out of Five

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”  I know I’ll be stating the obvious when I say this documentary about how Fred Rogers developed his TV show is one of the most heartwarming films you could ever hope to see, but what else could I say? It’s Fred Rogers! Five out of Five

“Hearts Beat Loud” Nick Offerman plays Frank Fisher, a record shop owner who decides to close his store the summer before his daughter Sam is due to go to college. He and his daughter, played with a lot of life by Kiersey Clemons, not only have a great relationship, they also make good music together. When Frank suggests that Sam take a year off to write music and perform with him, just like he and Sam’s mother used to do, Sam has to yank him back to reality. An unexpected pleasure and a great film to end the fest on. Five out of five

WFF Day 8 | 5:32 am CST
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Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Beautiful weather again this morning: sunny and clear, 42 degrees on the thermometer, same as yesterday morning. And once again I’ll spend the day in a darkened room staring at a flickering screen. How crazy is that?

On the other hand, I’m not going to the office.

Yesterday’s films:

“Amarillo Ramp” was twenty-four minutes of abstract scenes shown while discordant music blared and garbage cans rattled in the background. I watched maybe seven minutes of it, just the opening scenes of faded store signs and desert vegetation trembling in the wind, then closed my eyes and dozed off. One out of Five.

“Rodents of Unusual Size” Nutria are an invasive species of rodent that weigh up to 20 pounds. This documentary film does an excellent job of explaining how they infest and destroy the wetlands of Louisiana, how people have gotten used to the nutria and how they deal with them, from the people who shoot every nutria they see to the people who keep nutria as pets. Apparently they’re pretty good in stew, too, if you can get past the idea that they look like big rats.  Four out of Five

“Western” A drama about the clash between rural eastern European culture and modern western European culture.    Meinhard is a German working on an infrastructure project in Bulgaria. He has no family, no friends, and is trying to work out some trauma he experienced in war.  Despite a language barrier, he strikes up a friendship with Adrian, one of the villagers. Three out of Five.

“Life and Nothing More” Regina is a single mother struggling to raise a three year old and a fourteen year old, Andrew, who’s going through a rocky, rebellious phase. This was a well-made drama that was only improved by the spectacular debut performance of the woman playing the lead role.  Four out of Five.

“Joe Frank – Somewhere Out There” Before I watched this documentary I had never heard of Joe Frank. All I know about his much-loved and celebrated radio shows I learned through this documentary. I would probably be reviled for saying this, but his odd style of ruminations about life, death, time and space reminded me of the quirky observations of Jack Handy, but without the funny punchlines. Three out of Five.

WFF Day 7 | 8:43 am CST
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

After I rolled out of bed this morning and started the morning pot of coffee brewing, I checked in to Twitter to see what’s new in the world and the first thing I see is OH MY GOD TRUMP IS GOING TO BLOW UP SYRIA!

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia,  because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

I’m not all that worried, really.  The rest of Twitter responded with “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” as if Trump hasn’t done this before.  He needs to do this every so often to “look presidential,” because nothing gets the pundits to say dumb shit like “this is the moment he finally became president” as blowing shit up.  And that’s pretty much all he’ll blow up, after he gave literally everybody in the world plenty of advance warning by tweeting it. Any soldiers, Syrian or Russian, at whatever target he agreed ahead of time to hit will be long gone.

Cynical?  Oh, a tad.  

Trump followed the “get ready” tweet with:

“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

“There is no reason for this,” I love that.  As if threatening to shoot missiles at a Russian ally wouldn’t be a good reason. And then he bats his eyes and asks, “Stop the arms race?”  Because why wouldn’t they? Aside from the aforementioned attack, of course. Sort of justifies my cynical feeling that the pyrotechnics are only there to make everyone go “Oooo! Ahhh!” and repeat the inevitable drivel that Trump is strong and bold and presidential.

get ready | 8:48 am CST
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We saw just three films yesterday, and they were not our favorite films.  That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

I think probably “Hitler’s Hollywood” was made for people who are so hardcore about film they study it the way biologists study rats or fruit flies. As an exhaustive catalogue of films, directors, and actors from the years of the Third Reich, it seemed to be a pretty good film, but the total significance of it was lost on me. Three out of Five.

“First Reformed” Ethan Hawke as a priest suffering a crisis of faith, Amanda Seyfried as the good woman who saves him with a kiss. I mean honestly, does a story get more contrived than that? One out of Five.  

“You Were Never Really Here” Joaquin Phoenix hits lots of people in the head with a hammer while trying to forget something awful that happened to him while he was a kid and also he loves his mother but she’s a little weird and he suffocates himself with plastic bags as a coping mechanism but he’s really good at hitting people in the head with a hammer and there’s lots of loud edgy music and so much blood if you like blood this is your movie and did I mention the fake suicide?  Sorry if I spoiled that but it was just more gratuitous blood and gore and didn’t mean anything, you’ll get over it. One out of Five.

WFF Day 6 | 7:49 am CST
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Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

This morning I learned I’m a man of very poor taste.  Here’s how I know: I accidentally boiled a pot of coffee this morning.  I walked away, I got distracted, and when I remembered and ran back to the kitchen, I found the pot boiling furiously.  “Well, that’ll never be drinkable,” I said to myself, and set it aside to cool while I brewed some more. When I was done brewing the new batch, I wondered to myself, “Self, don’t you wonder what that tastes like?” And I answered, “You know, Self, I kind of do.”  So I poured a bit of it into a cup, slurped it up, swished it around on my tongue, and what do you know, I liked it. Straight, black, boiled coffee. Filled up the cup and enjoyed it. I wonder how the barista at Java Cat would react if I asked her for a cup of black coffee, and added: Would you please boil it for a couple minutes?

poor taste | 8:04 am CST
Category: coffee, food & drink
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We’ve upped our game!  4 movies yesterday, starting with “Saving Brinton,” about Mike Zahs, an Iowa farmer who finds a treasure trove of silent films, magic lantern shows and other bricabrac from the era of silent movies in the basement of an Iowa farmhouse. Zahs tries to get someone to preserve them, but when no one is interested, he moves the whole collection into his house (“my wife was not too interested in having it in our house”) and bits and pieces of it on the road to put on shows across the county.  Finally he gets help from the University of Iowa, and ultimately ends up in Bologna Italy, showing one of his films, thought to be lost forever, to an appreciative crowd. Four out of Five.

“Don’t Forget Me”  An anorexic girl meets a psychotic boy. I’m not quite sure what happened after that. I liked many scenes but felt lost in others, especially in the final scenes. I liked the boy quite a lot, but the girl was churlish and bigoted and there wasn’t much at all to like about her. If she had one good quality, it was that she spoke to him honestly about her eating disorder, telling him he would just have to accept that she would always have it and would probably die from it. In the closing scene of the movie, she is planning their wedding banquet: nothing but food that is white, and lots of ice. He listens passively to her, looking trapped. Good acting, anyway, and beautifully shot. Three out of five.  

“World of Facts” I really liked this one a whole lot but I’m not sure how to explain why, even after sleeping on it.  I was fascinated by the way it used film to tell a story in a way I’ve never seen before. Lots of shots that lingered on faces or minute details that almost, but not quite, went on for too long, and many were very abstract, the kind of camera shots used in “experimental” movies that have annoyed or bored me to the point that I walked out, but in this movie they were compelling.  Dialogue was sparse – no, concise would be a better word. And there was a bar scene that every man in America should watch if they want to learn why women think men are creepy jerks. Five out of Five.

“American Animals” was a caper movie with an interesting twist: It really happened.  Not exactly a documentary, although all four of the college students who were involved in the caper were interviewed. Their motivation: they did it just for the thrill of it, which would have been typical for teenagers if they had TP’d a house, but in this case they stole rare books worth millions of dollars, with the ultimate goal of selling them to a buyer in Amsterdam.  Spoiler alert: they get caught because, duh, they’re kids. The heist is reenacted in a devastatingly comic manner that I couldn’t help liking even while I knew they were doing Bad Things . Five out of Five.

WFF Day 5 | 7:46 am CST
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Monday, April 9th, 2018

B noticed yesterday that the thermometer in the fridge was indicating sixty degrees and the food wasn’t cold, which is sort of the opposite of what you want in a refrigerator.  I’d noticed the night before that the beer I grabbed from the door wasn’t as cold as the one I’d drunk the day before that, so I’d adjusted the setting but apparently that hadn’t worked.  We’d had this problem before and I’d fixed it by using the vacuum cleaner to suck great big wads of dust out of the radiator that some genius designer wedged into the inch of space under the fridge where all the dust bunnies in the world go to die instead of on the back where all other fridges have their radiators.  That’s where it’s easier to clean them, that’s where they get more air. It’s where the radiator should be, dammit. I’d really like just one minute alone with the guy who stuck it underneath our fridge. No, three. Three minutes, coz I wouldn’t be able to strangle him in just one minute.

So once again I had to spend an hour or so flat on my front, cheek to the floor so I could see into the cramped space under the fridge as I wiggled a little extension hose attached to the vacuum, trying to suck bits of dust out from between the coils of the radiator.  When I was done, I couldn’t tell whether I’d gotten all the dust out or most of it or hardly any at all because I couldn’t really see much from where I had my head cranked around as far to the left as it would go, but I had to stop because if I spent five minutes more in that position it was going to get stuck like that, and I couldn’t go through the rest of my life explaining to everyone why I was perpetually looking over my shoulder.  

The temperature settings on the fridge go from one to seven, with seven being the coldest, so before I went to bed last night I turned them all the way down until the digital indicators showed a dash, which I took to mean that the compressor was off and it wouldn’t cool at all, but it did.  There was still frost on the cooling fins when I got up this morning to feed the whiniest cat in our bunch. I unleashed a broadside of my most powerful cusses but that alone didn’t fix the problem, so I wrestled the fridge out of its niche far enough to reach the plug, still cussing the cussiest cuss words I could think of, until I finally wiggled the plug out of the wall and the fridge went silent and dark.  Then I brewed a pot of coffee because there’s no going back to bed after my heart rate has been elevated by that much cussing.

While the coffee brewed I rigged up B’s blow dryer so it blew a steady stream of hot air into the fridge to melt the accumulated frost off the cooling fins.  I knew it was working when I had to sop up a big pool of water off the floor. I left the fridge off for about an hour after that, then plugged it back in and walked away.  Either it would work or I would be shopping for a fridge today. It worked. I get to watch movies today.

frosty | 9:28 am CST
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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Take Richard Pryor near the peak of his career, put him in a caper movie with Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, and what have you got? Well, in the case of “Blue Collar” you have probably the most tragic waste of time and talent of 1978. This movie is a manic-depressive roller-coaster that rolls from the whacky comic antics of three zany buddies to the gritty portrayal of union corruption on a factory assembly line, and like a roller coaster it never really gets anywhere. And I really DID NOT need to see Harvey Keitel in tighty-whities. One out of Five.

“Wisconsin’s Own By The Dozen” was a mixed bag of twelve short films by Wisconsin directors. You never know what you’re going to see at one of these, but there’s usually at least one film that makes attending worthwhile. In this case, I thought it was “She’s Marrying Steve,” about a woman going to the wedding of her ex. Although it was maybe just a little too quippy in one or two places, overall it was well-done and the ending was heartwarming. Among the other films, “A Voicemail” was as emotionally honest a rendering of a phone message left to say “I miss you” as you could ever hope to see. “Experiencing OCD” is a simple and declarative depiction of how one woman experiences her affliction. I’d give each of these Four out of Five. “Marieke,” a straightforward look at a Wisconsin cheesemaker, and “Outrun The Night,” an animated short that illustrated the scariness of nightfall, Three out of Five.

“Three Identical Strangers” This was a documentary so extraordinarily convoluted, you literally wouldn’t get away with making it up if you were writing fiction. Triplets separated at birth are reunited nineteen years later when one of them shows up for his first day of school at the same small technical college his brother attended the year before. A buddy puts them in touch with one another, their story makes the local paper, then a national paper picks it up, and the third brother sees the story. But that’s not the most outrageous part. Their happy reunion takes a dark turn when they learn more about the reasons the adoption agency that placed them separated them at birth in the first place. Five out of Five.

We had planned to see “Vanishing Point” as the final film of the day, but we were still suffering a 70s movie hangover headache from “Blue Collar” that was so bad we just didn’t feel we could take a chance on another one, so after “Three Identical Strangers” we hit the road, stopping at Salvatore’s pizzeria for a pie and some beer.

WFF Day 4 | 7:58 am CST
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Sunday, April 8th, 2018

We watched only four films yesterday.  It’s like we’ve already given up trying to squish as many film as we can into each day.   What kind of losers are we, eh?

The amazing Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the subject of our first documentary film of the day, “RBG.”  My Darling B had probably the most concise review: “They didn’t hit one wrong note in that whole movie.” And B had probably the most endearing reaction: she cried tears of joy through almost all of it, so heartwarming and inspiring was the story.  For myself, I can’t wait until we can buy it on DVD to watch it again. B doesn’t want to wait that long; she wants to watch it when the film fest shows it again on Wednesday. Five out of five.

“The Blood Is On The Doorstep”  In 2014, Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney shot Dontre Hamilton to death in front of more than a hundred witnesses.  Manney was apparently walking a beat when he found Hamilton sleeping on the pavement in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. Two pairs of officers had already spoken to Hamilton that morning; the second pair to be called to the scene asked the woman who called them to stop because Hamilton wasn’t doing anything wrong.  When Manney found Hamilton he asked him to get up off the ground and began to frisk him. Hamilton turned, Manney grappled him, and when the officer raised his billy club, Hamilton grabbed it and twisted it from the officer’s hand. Manney later said Hamilton struck him in the head. In his frantic radio call for help after the shooting, Manney said he didn’t know whether or not he’d been hit, and asked an officer at the scene if his brains were coming out of his head.  In photos taken of him immediately after the shooting, there were no signs of injury to Manney, other than a scratch on his thumb. Manny shot Hamilton 14 times. Four out of Five.

“Dinner With A Murderer” was everything a humorous short should be: tightly-written, well-acted, and beautifully filmed.  Four out of Five.

“Ironwood” was a comedy buddy movie sort of like “Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle,” in which a mismatched pair of college buddies go to interview for the same job and try to outdo one another while they simultaneously try to sabotage each other’s chances.  Hilarity should have ensued, but the humorous vibe of the movie never connected with me, which felt odd because virtually everyone else in the movie theater, including My Darling B, thought it was lots of laughs. Two out of Five.

“Brewmaster” was about people who love beer: love to drink it, love to talk about it, love to brew it, and love to use their enthusiasm to encourage other people to enjoy beer.  Four out of five, and not just because I’m a beer-lover.

WFF Day 3 | 7:56 am CST
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Saturday, April 7th, 2018

“12 Days” was a somber, repetitive, and apparently pointless film that gets its title from the period of time a person can be held against their will in a psychiatric ward before they must be allowed a hearing before a judge to determine if they were rightfully interred. The film opened on a scene of a slow walk down the corridor of a psych ward that went on way too long.  I mean, we were watching a full three, four minutes of an empty hallway. Maybe to establish the mood? Then they showed the first interview with no explanation and no follow-up, and then several more minutes of the slow walk down the corridor. Then the next hearing, and more hallway. Several of the people clearly needed help, such as the guy who heard voices, but the woman who wanted to die was very reasonable and the soccer star appeared to be tranquilized to the point that he was barely conscious; how is that a fair hearing?  A little more expository material would have been helpful. Although to be fair, the last fifteen or twenty minutes may have been devoted to a detailed reveal of the point of the film, but I walked out to get some fresh air. The film is over when I’ve had enough. Two out of Five.

“Under The Tree” was billed as a very dark comedy and it was SOOO DARK and a little comic so I suppose they weren’t being wilfully misleading, but I had to stretch my imagination to see the comic stuff.  I mean, I chuckled a couple of times in a “what the hell?” kind of way, but there were scenes other people in the audience were laughing at that I felt like crying over. This much tragedy is normally found only in Russian films.  A very short synopsis (spoiler warning): Two houses, alike in dignity, in fair Reykjavik where our story is set. In the one house, a recent death in the family that the matriarch is drinking her way through while the patriarch watches helplessly.  In the other, divorce and remarriage. The wine-swilling matriarch of the first house resents the new bride, apparently for no reason other than she resents everybody’s happiness, and from that resentment a series of unfortunate escalations grows until everybody lies dead in pools of their own blood.  As I said, very, VERY dark. Four out of Five.

“Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle”  Woman gets everything she ever wanted, loses everything but the kids in the economic crisis, spends the rest of her days sleeping in the library of one kid’s house among hundred of shoeboxes filled with the bricabrac of her life, pining for death and an end to her suffering.  One of her kids makes a film about how great her life was. It was billed as a film about a “mischievous” “hilarious” woman, and maybe she was, but what I got from this film was that she was a packrat with kids who put up with way too much of her nonsense. I’d let my mother in my library if that’s what it came to, but all those shoeboxes would’ve ended up piled in the yard, doused with gasoline and turned into the biggest pyre ever. Two our of five.

“Cold November” Good acting, bad cinematography, and a weak story about a life lost and coming of age.  The film focuses on Florence’s coming of age, a story told entirely in the context of her first deer hunt, which is as central to the lives of families in the Midwest as high school football is to people in Texas.  There’s another story about how her family is dealing with the death of Florence’s cousin, Sweeny, but it’s so disjointed that I never did work out how they were related until after the film when I could talk about it with others.  Way too many of the film’s scenes were shot in hand-held shakey-cam. Bring your Dramamine. Two out of Five.

“A Woman Captured” A fascinating documentary about Marish, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship by Eta, a woman who forces Marish to work day and night in her house through the simple expediency of belittling her, beating her, and making sure Marish has no money and nowhere to go.  It’s not institutional slavery, but it’s something like it. The filmmaker spent a year and a half documenting Marish’s miserable life with Eta, but also Marish’s escape and her very happy reunion with her daughter. Five out of Five.

WFF Day Two | 9:55 am CST
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