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Rumilluminations August, 2015
By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Sat, August 01 2015 - 10:06 pm

August 31, 2015

Madison, IN

When the kids were little I made almost all the family's bread. I basically followed the instructions in The Tassajara Bread Book, and never really branche d out from there. In those days I was more obsessed with piecing and quilting projects.

There were a couple of recipes for rye bread, both of which I tried and liked, but they came out light even when I used blackstrap molasses as my sweetener. I idly wondered about it, but never looked into how a darker rye was made. If I wanted pumpernickel bread I just bought it.

Now, thirty years later I'm here in a small town una ble to buy what I want without extravagance and what I consider dangerous ingestion of chemicals and sugar. Thinking I'll just make it myself.

But how to make a really dark rye? I started hearing rumors about cocoa and coffee, so I figured what the hell and put leftover coffee in my next (all rye) loaf. When I was ready to knead it was still sticky so I put a pile of unbleached white flour on the cutting board mixed with a significant amount of cocoa and voila! - I got a really dark loaf. It was good.

During the week my partner brought pumpernickel flour home so yesterday I made the loaf with a cup or two of that, and threw in some water left after boiling new potatoes - and a small onion chopped fine, maybe one-half cup or so. Who knows?

My loaf is a huge success - with us.

In fact, I think I'm going to get a slice of the beautiful black stuff right now.

*The English Teacher  I liked this. It touched me. Do I hope the real world is really like this. Maybe not, but why don't you watch this and see what you think? Part of the reason I personally enjoyed it so much is because of the furor over the ending of the play within the play. The cast did a good job, except I don't like the way one or two little scenes were handled.

Yesterday and day before:

*Stormy Monday  Very dark for its time, I suppose, and well done. Convincing? Err... maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention.

August 28, 2015                                                            Madison, IN

*Iris  Iris Apfel, that is, whose creative nuttiness for her clothing and excessive accessorizing rose to the level of art - and well-deserved, too.

*Little Voice   Strange flick, strange talent.

August 27, 2015                                                              Madison, IN

Quite a while back I read someone called film the defining (or major? I forget the exact wording) art form of the twentieth century. I accepted it at the time but now I have a question. What about TV? Would it be considered more a craft, or just a vehicle? Or did it merely appear too late in the century to represent it well?

Makes me wonder about the twenty-first century. What will be its defining art? Maybe the defining art of this century will be something that lures people away from their screens and the virtual world back into contact with real humans.

Good Lord, will it be body art - tattooing, piercings, plastic surgery, and purposeful 


Will it be the art of the robot (as opposed to robot as tool or slave?)

Or how about painting using different forms of transportation as tools? I wonder what could be done, for instance, using a helicopter? I imagine gallons of paint whipping off the blades of the propeller.

Maybe the defining art form of this century will involve mutating DNA into new, exotic and beautiful life forms - sculptures using protoplasm itself as clay.

Weird. It's obviously time to go to bed!

*Nana   Basically colorful, sensual, titillating soft pornography. There is not enough mind shown by this main character, though, to convince the viewer of her ability to mesmerize sophisticated men to ruination.

*Alice Adams  Loved it, almost brought me to tears, until the end when I literally cried tears of rage and frustration. Hollywood took the beautiful ending of this book (which I finished reading this morning) and turned it into... well I don't want to ruin Alice Adams for you. The movie already will, in spite of the wonderful Katherine Hepburn. Read the book. 

*Stage Door  Another wonderful film starring Hepburn, this one with a bevy of beauties, several whose names became quite famous later. Rapid-fire wit. Now I will have to read the play.

August 26, 2015                                                               Madison, IN

People are watching the Presidential campaign the way people watch reality TV. Come to think of it, maybe the campaign trail was a precursor to reality TV.

Guess who's the campaign clown?

*Cold Souls  Imaginative vehicle for Paul Giamatti reminds me of John Malkovitch's brain.

August 25, 2015                                                        Madison, IN

Someone declaring, "There is no doubt in my mind that..." is pretty convincing about his belief.

Sadly, this conviction does not make the belief true.

Such a statement convinces me that the person declaring it is not open to reason.

I believe that. In fact, I'm sure of it - there's no doubt in my mind!

*The Family   Exceedingly funny black comedy about a family hiding out in Normandy. No weak link at all in this cast!

* The Kid with a Bike   Another film that is just a slice of life, superbly done. My partner made the observation, though (true also of Two Days One Night) "The French filmmakers just don't cut you any slack. No comic relief whatsoever!"

August 24, 2015                                                               Madison, IN

My partner's whittle reading list:

The Cliff Notes to the Readers' Digest Condensed Complete Works: (Abridged)

Ha ha ha ha ha!

*Two Days One Night  Brilliantly done and quietly grueling.

*Twin Sisters   One European family's fallout from WWII.  Tender.

August 23, 2015                                                          Madison, IN

I have kind of painted myself into a corner when it comes to a certain political figure. I have said I wouldn't comment on him (don't want to feed the fire). I thought maybe I should refer to him by his initials (DT) but in a way that would be giving him even more status. We don't want that!

...But I so much want to laugh at him - no, I can't resist!

Ha, ha, since I won't watch DT on the news, my partner (who loves to?) reported to me on his recent rally. He told me the talking heads were pretty kind to DT, reporting that his speech was rambling, "kind of stream of consciousness."

"Hmmm... rambling... sounds like stream of unconsciousness to me!"

The more I think about it, the more I like the idea of referring to the would-be king as DT; in the U.S., DT stands for Delirium tremens, the symptoms suffered during withdrawal from an addiction. Someone suffering the delusions symptomatic of withdrawal is often described as "seeing pink elephants."

Ha, ha! Our nation has the DTs and we are seeing a pink elephant!

Oh, do I hear you saying the "pink" has no meaning?

Maybe you're right. Maybe that elephant is Reactionary Red!

August 22, 2015                                                          Madison, IN

Yesterday we went for a drive, originally intending to go to some gardens called Cathedral Gardens in Henryville. Before we even left we found out they were closed. Oh well, we would go in that direction anyway.

On the way we stumbled across Clark State Forest, touted as the oldest state forest in Indiana. Since it had a campground we decided to take a look. 

Beautiful! And sadly, very noisy what with I-65 very very close. Too bad the planners of the Interstate had to do that. Right now it is a primitive campground with vault toilets, but that's supposed to change in a year or two.

After visiting the state forest we decided to see Salem before we came home. Great courthouse, but we didn't see inside. Upon our arrival we were hungry so we went to a restaurant across the street. Christie's on the Square. 

I got the vegetable plate, which had steamed broccoli (fine), Cole slaw and green beans. Both of the latter were so sweet they tasted like desserts! I swear the two servings must have contained a quarter cup of sugar. My partner, who got the meatloaf special, said the only thing on his plate that wasn't too sweet was the macaroni and cheese. Buyers beware!

Next time we'll try the Mexican place.

*Madam Bovary  ...The most recent. It was beautiful with some excruciatingly scrumptious color combos between clothing and nature, but we couldn't help feeling the lead was miscast and not really up to the mark.

*The Score. This one was so good it almost killed us.

*Fort McCoy  Set in Wisconsin, slice of World War II America.

August 20, 2015                                                         Madison, IN

It is interesting to see the changes in style of presentation by news anchors in the last decade or so.

Some of these changes are definitely for the better. Sure, stand up more! It's better for your health (unless having to wear high heels cancels out the health benefits of standing.)

We see lots more joking around and laughing. Yeah, sure, the personal touch is refreshing and so is the lightheartedness sometimes.

What if the personal touch is really a personal touch, though?

The other day a female anchor touched her male co-anchor in a way I have never seen before. I thought, "What's up with THAT?"

Maybe it was an attempt to control (bad) but if I was the man's wife I would have really wondered what the f-- she was thinking. (Really bad.)

If I were on that job I wouldn't want anyone touching me like that. In fact, I wouldn't want it at a book club meeting!

So is it just me? Am I hopelessly old-fashioned?

Or am I just too touchy about touch?

*Our Idiot Brother   This character has trouble with middle ground, but is endearing.

*Lollilove.  Nutty and at times laugh-out loud funny, but spoofing types I don't know personally. Kind of an in joke. 

August 18, 2015                                                          Madison, IN

Mornings I can be playful discriminating didactic passionate epigrammatic concise.

By noon I'm goal-oriented and lazy, thoughtful and careless, okay for writing whatever was in my head in the morning only if I took notes ONLY if I took notes.

My brilliant post of almost every day is the proverbial fish that got away.

By nightfall I am stark raving mad not the angry kind anymore the STARK RAVING MAD KIND WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH YOU CAN'T YOU UNDERSTAND ENGLISH? but really looney and laughing - and I lie a lot.

Really I'm just fine we've had a lovely day. I just wish I could remember some of the fun fanciful random thoughts I had today so I could share them with you, Brazil and China and Egypt and Russia and Czech Republic and UK.

Even Africa is not the dark continent on my Maploco map anymore. Just Greenland.

What's up, Greenland? Seen any good movies lately?

I think that movie put me into an end-of-the-world mentality. Absolutely potty is definitely not the way to go. Thank goodness tomorrow will most probably be another day.

*Seeking a Friend for the End of the World       An interesting if not original premise -how would you spend the rest of your life if the world were coming to an end in three weeks? I hope for years and I'm still not willing to spend time learning how the Hell to stop (undo) the bold on this device.

Well, maybe, on second thought I am.

*The French Lieutenant's Woman   Fabulous on the big screen in 1981 and still fabulous now. This is the movie that should be in bold type.

August 17, 2015                                             Madison, IN                                 

Hillary Clinton saying, "I did not send or receive any emails marked 'classified'" remind you of anything?

It reminds me of her husband saying, "I never had sex with that woman."

It's sophistry.

*Being Flynn.    ...and I've had people tell me that being me is hard!

 * Switch  Wit enough to provide a lot of laughs.

August 16, 2015 (what I wrote but didn't succeed in publishing, anyway)  Ma'dison, IN

So the neighborhood is going downhill and it's even worse than I thought.

Walking by the nearby woodland yesterday, I saw the eastern portion of what had been wildwood completely denuded of everything but some scraggly grasses, weed stems, and full-grown trees. There was nothing under the trees taller than an inch.

Oh, I forgot. There was something taller still standing:

The sign saying "CONSERVATION AREA."

*Management   Only okay comedy

*Casting by   Wonderful documentary about the emergence of the career of casting director really started by Marion Dougherty. It's only in recent years I've begun to realize how important casting is. Ha! True of directors too, sounds like. 

August 15, 2015

*Kings of Pastry   Competition - no, proving field for highest level of Pastry chefdom.

*Blue Velvet   Well done but still hard to take seriously.

August 14, 2015.                                                                 Madison, IN

So the neighborhood's been going downhill. When we moved to Madison a favorite walk was to stroll along the river and through a scruffy woodland that sheltered perching and water birds, squirrels, marmots, snakes, deer and foxes.

It was neglected private property.

Then a local foundation persuaded the owners (who lived elsewhere) to donate the land so the foundation could conserve it. The first year I saw people in there clearing out deadwood, destroying wildlife habitat like crazy - perhaps inadvertently.

Earlier this summer I noticed more paths going in wide enough for golf carts. Last week a man was in there weed-whacking. A year ago the foliage would have hidden him; now the place looks more like a city park.

Most humans would probably call these changes an improvement - not I. As I said a few days ago, I am looking at the place from the wildlife point of view.

I think, if he could, the dead cedar waxwing I saw in back this morning would tweet agreement with me. The neighborhood is going downhill.

*Fed Up    As many food/health  documentaries as I have  seen, I still learn something new. Powerful message.

*Smoke Signals   Two very different young Native Americans travel together and cope with the past. Of course, we love stories.

August 13, 2015                                                                                Madison, I

So the neighborhood is going downhill. I saw a squirrel having  to confront the vultures going from a tree trunk to a telephone pole and he reminded me of a city kid trying to make his way through enemy territory.

There must have been fourteen vultures hanging around the dumpster this morning. They intimidate me!

**Haute Cuisine   This film scrumptious indeed.

*Shutter Island   Fantasy insane asylum but who cares.

August 12, 2015                                      Madison, IN

We've lived here in Madison for three years now and I have to say the neighborhood's going downhill.

Oh, I'm not talking about the people. I'm speaking for the wildlife.

There used to be quite a bit of bird life around our apartment building. The vines, weeds and shrubbery abounding within a half block of our balcony afforded nesting grounds for a few kinds of sparrows, starlings, robins, blue jays, cardinals and mockingbirds.

We would rarely look out without seeing or hearing some kind of songbird.

Oh, don't get me wrong, there are still birds out there. We have had the misfortune, however, of exchanging passerines for (shudder) vultures. 

Remember Snoopy, the dog in the Peanuts cartoon who is always pretending to be a vulture? He doesn't succeed in looking like a vulture; he just looks cute.

These vultures are not trying to be anything they are not - least of all, cute - and they are succeeding brilliantly at being themselves. They are not at all cute.

Neither are the very few squirrels that make an appearance around here these days. They look more desperate, actually, as if life has gotten more fraught.

Maybe it has - or maybe they, too, miss the songbirds.

*Spinning Plates  Brilliant documentary about restaurants in three different states. Think you've seen everything in cuisine? Think again!

*Lucky  A little country boy trying to find home in a big city in South Africa.

*Cry, the Beloved Country  Tragic story told against a giant gorgeous background.

August 11, 2015                                          Madison, IN

What's with all the "candid camera" shows about what you should do if someone in your purview is behaving badly?

Most of the people in these skits is behaving worse than I've ever seen people behave in real life, so what does this kind of social experiment teach?

It teaches me to just ignore whatever is going on because it's not real, anyway.

It's ironic. TV becomes more real, supposedly, while the "real world" becomes more staged.

*Take Care

*Today's Special

We tried to watch both of the above today and didn't get more than halfway through either of them. Stupid and boring.

August 10, 2015                                          Madison, IN

In my early twenties I had a serious relationship which had endured four years. At one point my boyfriend, perhaps afraid that I would try to trap him into matrimony (which I would never have done) made a point of saying, "If you get pregnant I won't marry you."

Within two weeks I had broken up with him and he wasn't happy about it.

Why am I telling you this ancient story?

Because right now the major political parties and the media are telling the American people, essentially, "You can't have Donald Trump for President."

My response to that is beware of the phenomenon of reverse psychology.

Beware of telling Americans they can't do something or have something, because they will rebel against any such prescription or prediction.

I for one, think Donald Trump is so unworthy of serious attention that I will not mention his name again in this blahg.

I just hope that I don't someday have to refer to a certain someone as the President for four (shudder - eight?) years.

I'd be bleeding from my heart.

*Jiro Dreams of Sushi  Divine

*Wild Canaries  This one just dumb.

*My Best Friend's Wedding  Persistent bad behavior on the part of an antiheroine.

August 9, 2015                                          Madison, IN

We chose a walk along the bridge this foggy morning and got to see myriads of dewy spider webs and more than a few spiders, too. The web's ranged in size from a few inches to a couple of feet wide.

Beautifully symmetrical, the spiderwebs glittered in the sun on our return trip.

*The Search for General Tso  If you have ever wondered who this Chinese dish was named for - well, so did the makers of this film. Going along with them on their quest is my kind of detective story.

*Renoir  Sheerly beautiful film I would love to see again - especially if I could see it on the big screen.

August 8, 2015                                            Madison, IN

We did get over to see the heronry yesterday. There were no herons present - maybe the families were off teaching the young'uns to fish, or maybe they heard us coming! There were nests, though - lots of them.

High in the sycamore trees along a creek, several to a tree, they are made of pretty good-sized sticks.

We couldn't see the inside of the nests but our Peterson guide to birds' nests has a photo of a nest lined with green leaves and containing four eggs.

I will have to do some research to see where the herons are likely to be this time of year. The very hospitable man who owns the land these nest-builders call home said the creek "since they turned loose the otters" and because of the herons.

Let's hope the wildlife hasn't eaten itself out of a habitat!

With any luck we will see some herons next April; we have a return trip planned.

Meanwhile, the lack of herons along the Ohio River in Madison does not mean they aren't here.

I still suspect the chemical spill in West Virginia is responsible for their absence.

*Hector and the search for happiness  Some great scenery, and we did like it, but I wasn't always convinced by the main character. What do I expect? The film made some good points and was entertaining. What's not to be happy about?

*A Little Help  "No!  No no no!" You want to yell at the screen. These characters need more than a little help.

August 7, 2015                                       Madison, IN

That was no debate last night.

The much-awaited "debate" among GOP presidential candidates should have been called a Q and A.

Admittedly I didn't see every second, but most of the showcase wasn't even "debate-ish."

Oh, I didn't expect much more with so many people (no teams here to justify so many participants.) Occasionally the discourse rose to close to the level of what could be defined as "debate" but not much.

So how could there be a winner? And how could Donald Trump be declared the winner?

No, sadly the real winner in this debate was the dark side of the American collective psyche trumpeted forth (forte!) by the dominant Donald. 

*360  Interweaving of international story lines and international stars in a low-key but still dramatic and compelling chain of contacts.

*Young Torless  Life in a military academy in Austria early in the last century as no school brochure would ever advertise it.


*Alfie  Well done, Jude Law!  A young blade's actions and their consequences.

August 6, 2015                                        Madison, IN

The big trouble with bliss points is that they're relative.

If you are looking for spiritual bliss the lights, music, ceremony, meditation - whatever - needs to improve, amplify or somehow become more exalting for you to reach your bliss point.

If you are in a Western congregation maybe you add stained glass windows or hire a better organist. An Eastern Buddhist might graduate from mere meditation to more meditation, fasting and other sensory deprivation.

Our society for some reason promotes sugar. The sugar high has been well documented, and food producers try to hit the consumer's sugar bliss point for any particular product. That, of course, is relative.

Unfortunately I think the relativity of bliss points applies to people as well as foodstuffs. Yours is higher than mine, and I suspect, bliss points change even for one person. The more sugar I eat, the more I want. It's enough to make one sick, and on Halloween and Easter it often does.

Chastening overindulgence aside, however, we as a society are consuming more sugar than ever.

So what, you say?

Consider my hypothesis: overindulgence in sugar and the neverending pursuit of the bliss point leads to other, more powerful addictive agents.

Instead of the high bliss point of the week being a big piece of chocolate cake, it becomes something that delivers more bliss better.


Sugar just may be the new gateway drug.

*My Old Lady  Wonderful, wonderful film. See it! We bet you will agree.

August 5, 2015                                       Madison, IN

"Use it or lose it," people say, and I am beginning to realize they aren't just talking about muscles.

Discontent with not being able to buy bread that's both healthy and yummy (let alone inexpensive) I had an epiphany. While I was living with my mother I was uncomfortable using her kitchen, so I forgot that I used to make my family four loaves at a time. I got out of the habit of both making bread and eating it.

After three years here and several loaves of $7.00 bread it finally occurred to me that I could bake my own bread again - for a fraction of the price.

It makes me have a little more compassion for the currently unemployed whose full-time working parents had no inclination to labor in the kitchen when they got home from work. Those children never learned how to cook!

My partner thinks the schools no longer offer courses in home economics, so a person in the U.S. today can attain adulthood without a clue about the pleasures and money-saving value of knowing how to make a meal.

I've made two loaves of bread now, one at a time, and the second is better than the first.

I'm making messes in the kitchen, but there is nothing like a slice of bread from a loaf straight out of the oven.

And that goes for other freshly prepared foods, too.

* The Little Foxes  Great old film about a toxic rich woman and her rascally brothers.

*Bandits  Too funny. Kate Blanchett's dance in the kitchen is just priceless.

August 4, 2015                                          Madison, IN

Just read in "The Week" about a tooth-and-nail fight between teams from the four quarters of Florence, Italy that the author considers the most brutal sport in the world.

Florence! The home of spinach dishes such as eggs Florentine and... well, other spinach dishes.

Maybe that Florentine tradition of scrappy strength is why Popeye ate what was for him the wonder food. Spinach!

*The Steel Trap  Well, maybe the title is a pun. 

*The Wrong Man   From a true story of a false arrest with all the accompanying grief and no comic relief at all - unless you think naivete is comical.

August 3, 2015                                            Madison, IN

"Silly, stupid" as Internet quizzes are, I love them. Why? 

If the psychologists are to be believed, it is because the quizzes allow us to think and talk about ourselves.

Well, I'll buy that. The next question is, is this a good or bad thing?

I maintain that this is a very good thing. Anything that promotes introspection in our current society is a step in the right direction. 

A series of questions which, when answered, yields results so far from the objective truth about yourself that even you can perceive the disjunct - that is definitely a good learning tool!

What have I learned about myself from taking the "what kind of witch are you" test? That I am Glinda, the good witch?

Me, who every few weeks would ask my children if they were asking for the Wicked Witch of the West and then, sometimes, deliver her?

No, the idea that I would be Glinda is a self-delusion of a high magnitude, unless East and West meet internally.

Which actually, come to think of it, I think they do.

Maybe trying to be like Glinda is good enough.

*  Perfect Stranger  Perfectly improbable.

August 2, 2015                                             Madison, IN

After we got back from our camping trip we saw an article (or news item) that reported that most of the people who use our wonderful park system are seniors. And do you know why that is? Because we have great childhood memories related to the parks. Give your kids the gift of a new addiction - to the out-of-doors.

Another news item we saw since says the problem is worse than just state and national parks. Even local playgrounds and playing courts go empty while kids stay home playing videogames that "exercise nothing but their thumbs."

How sad! The most fun I had as a child was playing outside with my friends unsupervised. I still miss those times, and those are (along with exploring the buildings in Stanford Village, CA) pretty much the only times from childhood I do miss.

Give your child the gift of options. Take away the electronic ones for at least a few hours a day, even if you have to talk with neighboring parents so that their kids are also free to enjoy real leisure activities that are affectable by the weather.

There's no world like the real world.

Danny Collins This is a great film, and as in so many films, the villain makes an early appearance.  The villainous act is mind-boggling, considering not a drop of blood is shed.

August 1, 2015                                             Madison, IN

One of the weirdest things about getting older is coming to realize that all the evils which, as a young'un, I thought were old evils are still alive and well and happening in multiple parts of the world today to millions of people.

That is most disturbing and discouraging.

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