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Rumilluminations March and April, 2016
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Tue, March 01 2016 - 9:33 pm

April 30, 2016 
Pittsburgh, PA

A relative here is feeling the Bern and if Sanders is not on the ballot come November he won't vote at all.

I say he who will not choose the lesser of two evils will be greeted with the greater.

I hope not too many feel like he does.

I read a wonderful article today (shared on Facebook from that says that places that elect women to political office find that their girls are empowered by the examples these successful women offer and achieve more. The boys are hurt not at all by this more even balance between the sexes.

This knowledge makes me even less tolerant of the attitude of my young acquaintance. If he can't vote for his ideal candidate he should vote in the way that promotes equality.

This actually would support one of his goals, only in a different respect than the financial equity for which he is aiming.

April 29, 2016
Pittsburgh, PA

Here's more about Marietta, Ohio, a town of two rivers.

We parked on Putnam Street near Front and walked across the bridge over the Muskingum River into Harmar. Since it was a very gray day we just walked around a few blocks enjoying the quiet feel of the place and the old houses. We walked back on the pedestrian bridge that is no longer used by trains but seemed to come in handy to squirrels.

Marietta possesses some really cool old buildings, some with wealthier detail than that offered by Madison, Indiana, a town with more acreage of historic buildings. We saw one art deco building and even a house with what looked like art deco gingerbread, although how authentic that was to the period I could not say.

There still seems to be a good amount of money there.

I must pause here to enthuse about the Microtel and Suites by Wyndham in Marietta. Sure, it has a lousy location near I77, and getting in and out of the driveway is tricky when traffic is busy but it is new, clean, energy conscious and relatively quiet. The bed was great and I slept better than I usually do at home.

Add to that the very reasonable price (total $69 something) and the best and freshest motel breakfast we have encountered in years, and you have motivation for a return visit.

Marietta is indeed a town we would like to visit again.

On our way from Marietta to Pittsburgh we stopped for lunch at the Tamarind Savoring India Restaurant in Heidelberg, Pennsylvania. It wasn't a buffet day, but the special was like a mini-buffet with a variety of chutney and curries. Add to that rice pancakes (dosas) stuffed with onion for a fabulous and filling meal for two. We shared. My partner warned them I don't like my chai sweetened so it was the perfect beverage for a cloudy chilly day.

April 27, 2016 
Marietta, OH

Here we are in the oldest permanent settlement in the old Nothwest Territories.

Our GPS got us here in what may have been the quickest route from Athens, Ohio where we lunched, but it is hard to believe since we got here via a two dollar trip across a bridge to West Virginia and had to cross the Ohio River again to get to our hotel a mile and a half from the center of town.

Once the trip got obviously squirrelly I bothered to look at the map. We could have had a much more direct trip by taking a scenic route. Sure it might have taken more time, but we much prefer the byways. I must confess, though, that we had a dogwood-blossom laden trip through Southern Ohio. Beautiful! Hillsides of trees in full bloom.

The GPS is definitely a wonderful contrivance. Never trust it, though. It will do its best to drive you onto the nearest Interstate whether or not that is in your own best interest not to mention your deepest desires.

Another drawback to the GPS is that two-way arguments about which way to go can turn into three-way arguments about which way to go, and believe me that GPS will not shut up unless you gag it.

At least if you add a good ol' road map you have got a four way argument (or as my parents used to say, "discussion.") Since I'm usually the navigator that's two votes for me and only one apiece for my partner and the GPS.

I win! Never, ever, trust the GPS over yourself and a map. Unless, of course, your only consideration is time. And if that is so, poor you.

More on downtown Marietta tomorrow!

April 26, 2016 
Madison, IN

*The Loneliness of the Long-distance Runner  Another great film by the director of A Taste of Honey. Such a character, this young anti-hero!

April 25, 2016 
Madison, IN

I haven't been writing much here lately. Maybe it is because I haven't been alone much.

Maybe I am watching too many movies.

Maybe it is Facebook's fault - I react, vent and write in little squibbles so the inspiration and motivation for writing is diluted and dissipated.

Or maybe, just maybe I'm just plain old discouraged and disgusted by events. American politics and the resurgence of blatant racism and religious bigotry, horrible treatment of women in all kinds of religious sects and illegal havens - the April Fool in me just can't seem to compete with the stunning recognition of the reality of events.

Or maybe it's Facebook's fault. I can, potentially, yak 24 hours a day.

Or maybe I'm watching too many movies.

Never alone? I'm almost always alone.

Ironic, isn't it?

*The Window  Sweet and serene color film introduced with a fabulous English horn solo, followed by a duet with bassoon. Natural, quiet, moving acting. Argentinean.


*Blood and Ties  There's a mystery to be solved here, but that's not all. Unique situation, messy solution. Japanese.

*The Odd Couple  Saw this before of course, but I had forgotten what pains in the ass these characters are and also how funny!

April 23, 2016 
Madison, IN

We have seen great movies today and yesterday:

*The Danish Girl

*The Jungle Book  Disney's interpretation of Rudyard Kipling in 3D. PG and entertaining for all ages up to at least 88 years. Take your grandma!

*Reflections in a Golden Eye  takes Technicolor and makes it golden - kind of ironic. Why had we never heard of this film? Brando delivers a stunningly good performance and ditto the rest of the cast in their possibly less-demanding roles. 

*Microcosmos  A sumptuous filming of the insect world the musical background of which is sheer genius. The lead-in song, sung by the composer's children, is the first arresting piece and it goes on from there. 

April 21, 2016
Madison, IN

A week or two after an acquaintance got hit by a car, I was describing the accident to someone I had just met. She said the same exact thing happened to her, except as her husband put it, "You don't know how close you came." She was passed untouched.

Both women were crossing a street with an oncoming car going so slowly (in the case of my friend it was approaching a stop sign) that they thought the driver was aware of them.

I have heard variations on this theme here in Madison more than once before. One woman I talked to cautioned me about crossing even when the light is in your favor. That's when she got hit at the busiest intersection in town - right by the courthouse.

After hearing these stories I am no longer advising care and awareness around cars. I'm beginning to practice conscious Proactive Paranoia!

As a superpower, of course. It takes special skills and tools to defend against the bulk of a dinosaur combined with a paltry human-sized brain possibly (probably!) disorganized by distraction and or intoxicating agents.

Hmm... I'm just realizing all these incidents involved pedestrians who were women. (Down, Paranoia!)

Walk along the riverwalk. No cross streets. Just bicyclists and pedestrians, often with dogs. Ah, yes. I often step into the street to avoid canines.

Go figure.

Movies movies movies

*Kind Lady  Three of these movies are black-and-whites featuring Ethel Barrymore, and this is the only one that has her out of bed more than in! I'm not talking sex scenes.

*Concussion  Wow - required viewing, this one. Death, investigation, consequences, demonstrations of good and bad character - this film from true life has it all.
*Pinky  Hollywood would do it differently now, but this is still a significant film. Even the franchise's treatment of this woman makes me cringe now. We have come a long way - at least in our ideals.

*10,000 km  A film that could not have been made even fifteen years ago, I don't think. It explores the capabilities and limitations of computer technology in overcoming physical distance. Why, one is tempted to conclude that... but no. I wouldn't want to ruin it for you!

*Spiral Staircase  An old-school thriller and pretty damn good, too!

April 18, 2016 
Madison, IN

I was talking with a woman in one of my  exercise classes about Madison's teen suicide problem. She thought it might be related to the differential between the haves and the have-nots.

My partner was talking about how young people see their parents working so hard to get by, and feeling there is no way out of that struggle for them. College tuitions are so high.

I had a Facebook shaming experience myself today. While the haters only moderately disturbed me, it was unpleasant enough to make me realise how terribly traumatic a similar incident might be for a high school student - especially if she had to walk among those sitting in judgment upon her.

Another consideration might be the way moods and actions among the young are like a contagious disease. An obsession with death seems more and more common in our society - and this is not limited to teens.

Life ought to be more attractive than death. Organisms are programmed for survival. What are the forces moving us in the opposite direction to life?

Movies for days

*Under the Same Moon  A Mexican boy comes to the States to find his mom. Quite an adventure story - including emotional ups and downs.

*Instructions Not Included  The male lead from the above movie stars in this movie also, as an unready father. I really liked it, extravagant and silly as it was, but it would have benefited from massive cuts.

*Rising Sun  Good old-fashioned murder investigation it is not, but it is a murder investigation and a very entertaining piece of work.

April 17, 2016
Madison, IN

Here's an idea for you: maybe there is no spring ecstasy in Madison this year, and maybe it is because there have been twelve teenage suicides here since December.

Honestly? Well, that is honestly what I was told by a sponsor of an event held here last night to raise funds for the Boys' and Girls' Clubs and Out of the Shadows - funds that are meant to help prevent people from wanting to kill themselves.

A friend had told me a few days before how serious the problem is. How could I not have heard, I wondered. She speculated that it wasn't publicized because the citizens don't want Madison's image tarnished. You know what's happening, she said, by reading the obituaries about the inexplicable untimely deaths of the very young. Suicide can be inferred.

This is one of those toxic secrets that protect nobody, really. We shouldn't be able to live in blissful ignorance of so many unnecessary deaths of our young people, especially in such a small community. How is it that our children are so depressed and so hopeless?

Besides throwing money at the situation, what can we do? My plan is to try to overcome my shyness towards the younger generations and engage them in some basic conversation. Not conversation about issues, just anything to make contact.

I heard a story lately about a young man feeling desperately suicidal who walked into a convenience store and was greeted by the owner with a friendly, What do you need, boss?

He instantly felt better - empowered. It can be something that simple.

April 14, 2016
Madison, IN

Here it is only the middle of April and Spring is full sprung in Madison. If you want to see a magnificent tulip display the Lanthier Winery is the place to go in the vicinity of the river. Maybe they replanted after last year's spring flood, but they have had a lovely display of a good variety of plants in the four years since we came to Madison.

If their wines are as good as their gardens they must be quite wonderful but I confess that in spite of my good intentions I haven't bought any yet. Once or twice when I might have they were closed. (They are closed on Tuesdays, for instance. Be sure to check the hours if you want to buy.)

The gardens are open to the public during daylight hours and there is no entrance charge.

*Songcatcher  Tale of a female musicologist who finds old English ballads (among other things) in Appalachia. The story line is thank goodness not as lurid as some of the events in the songs themselves, but it's quite dramatic enough.

*Spotlight  Excellent film about the Boston Globe's breaking of a story much bigger than any of us realised when we started hearing about sexual predators among the priesthood in the late eighties. Still shocks and it ought to.

April 13, 2016 
Madison, IN

This spring has failed to woo me. I have enjoyed a whiff or two of hyacinth and viburnum. I have glorified in the offered eyefulls of blooming flowering cherries and crabapples. This April has brought me the biggest tulip blossoms I have ever seen - and the richest, most exotic. Have you seen the red ones with the every which way pointy fringe that is reminiscent of gold ornamentation on a renaissance gown?

I am beginning so think that our exercise programs, which take us away from our outdoor walks and throw us into ugly gyms, are sapping me of my spring juices.

Am I trading buoyancy of mood for buoyancy of body? Or is it the checkerboard nature of the season this year? Warm promises followed by cold snaps? Discouragement followed by blessings which don't quite compensate for previous downers?

Is everyone feeling like this?

Or am I being an April fool foolier than usual?

Well, my editor, after trying to "correct" eyefulls to eyeballs and exotic to erotic and crabapples to grapples and another half-dozen howlers (that it would have changed to bowlers if I had let it) has decided to cheer up this dismal message with some daffodil yellow.

Let it stand! Happy Spring, everyone! I'm sure we will all catch the fever eventually.

As soon as we ditch the gym.

*Amelie  Original whimsical fun. Light-hearted and warm-hearted.

*I Smile Back  The anti-non-heroine. The suffering repressed angry addict repeating - but no, I won't ruin it for you!


*Code Black  Must-see documentary about LA County Hospital emergency rooms. All wonderful virtues of these young doctors aside, it's a good argument for living in a smaller community. 

*Goodnight, Mommy  Austrian film Ich seh, ich seh which takes its time creeping you out. A good deal of thought went into this one, but it still possesses some glaring omissions that no mother would ever - well, never mind. Horror is not really my thing but heaven forbid and blah blah blah....

April 11, 2016 
Madison, IN

I had my first yoga class the other day. I don't remember anything so physically demanding since ballet - 55 years ago! A couple of times I lost balance to the point of staggering and another time I basically caved. Luckily my instructor consoled me with the welcome information that the peak of difficulty had just been passed. After that the session got easier. Whew.

That's not to say I haven't failed in any exercise program. In the last month I've tried pounding and steps classes and crashed and burned. That was because they were too fast and too loud. I couldn't hear or keep up with the instructions. Yoga is slow and controlled, much more my speed.

It's hard, but I intend to keep going with yoga; years ago a doctor told me I should.

Besides, I can't quit now. I already bought my mat!

*Unbroken  Probably even the actors in this one got post-traumatic stress syndrome. Maybe even the audience! It's that powerful.

*God's Pocket  I see a lot of movies without being shocked but this one shocked me. It's full of surprises and more than a little poetic justice.

April 10, 2016 

Today I decided I would make French bread for the first time. There's a whole-wheat recipe for it in the Tassajara Bread Book, my bread bible.

French bread uses twice as much yeast as the bread I normally make; I was surprised to see you roll it out!

That sounded like fun to me and when I finished kneading the dough I set right to work rolling it into a big rectangle. Only then did I remember - wait! It was supposed to rise twice more before I formed it into a loaf!

Having done so, however, I figured it was too late to turn back and the loaf was good-sized. The worst thing that could happen, I figured, was that the texture would be coarse. And it was.

It was highly edible, though. Instead of an egg wash you use water to "baste" twice, before baking and after baking for ten minutes at 425 degrees - a higher temperature than usual for bread. Use garlic butter to give it more shine after taking it out of the oven.

One of the great things about baking bread is that the process is very forgiving! Just nurture that yeast until it's time to bake and success will be yours.

*A Dangerous Woman  1993! What a year for Debra Winger! A great performance in a fine but not superlative film.

April 9, 2016 
Madison, IN

Yesterday I went to see a friend who had been hit by a car. She said it was great to have the outside world brought inside to her.

Well, I have to say that she gave me a piece or two of the outside world!

She told me a little about her accident and cynical as I may be I was shocked at the slipperiness of the driver involved. It will take years, she said, to get the damages sorted out and paid.

Even though she was a pedestrian she is covered by her automobile insurance company for injury by an uninsured motorist. We walk a good deal - we'll have to make sure we have the same kind of coverage!

Another unheard of undreamt-of development in the world came from my friend's granddaughter, who attends high school here in Madison. Since the kids aren't allowed to smoke in school they chew tobacco - in class! My friend said, "so of course they have to spit." I was afraid to ask where, but now of course I'm curious. If I find out I'll get back to you!

April 8, 2016 
Madison, IN

*Train wreck  We forced a derailment before fifteen minutes had passed. Nasty.

*Me and Earl and the Dying Girl  Now this is a great film! Witty and human with pathos and laughs both. Best we've seen in a while.

April 7, 2016 
Madison, IN

This morning while we were coming home from food shopping, a driver backed out of a parking space in front of the post office, ending up in our lane, nose to nose with us. Not a close call - my partner observed him with plenty of time to brake.

My partner snarled softly as we went around the next corner, "Get off your cell phone, buddy. And get rid of the cigarette while you're at it." Shaking my head.

A few days ago there was a pick-up truck in our parking lot with three large pit bulls loose in the back. As we watched, one jumped out to greet a friend walking up to the truck. The presumed owners were in the truck's cab.

Thirty feet away is a children's playground unfenced on three sides. Shaking my head.

Yesterday and today

*Kick Club  Reminds me of some of Peter Schaefer's work. Interesting but in this case too long. Really kind of a throwback for 1999. Stop beating up on the audience already!

*A Life Less Ordinary  Yeah, well, entertaining. I did laugh, but here again - too long.

*The Hateful Eight   Finding this film boorish and boring, I slept through too much and crawled away after a very few "chapters". My partner said it got "very lively" later but I suspect he meant very deadly.

*A Cool Dry Place  Straight family fare, almost. Nothing to hate or much to love, really.

April 5, 2016 
Madison, IN

Yesterday we had a wonderful morning at our friend's farm.

The first stop was the herons. Yes, April has come and so have the herons! The big stick nests that were empty last May had great blue herons sitting on them. As we drove closer several birds stood up in their nests, poised for takeoff.

Soon they were flying around. I expected them to make a racket, but they didn't, although our friend said he could hear them before we saw them.

We stood there watching several herons when I saw three white birds farther away. I started fixating on them, trying to decide if they were egrets. They must have been.

Isn't that just human nature, though, to fixate on what is more rare (at the moment) and more distant.

The heron nests were clustered in trees (sometimes ten to a tree) and too high up to see into. I didn't see any little beaks sticking up over the rims, so maybe the offspring are still in egg form. I didn't see anything that looked like feeding behavior.

Our host also took us to see a couple of old barns, including an old stone barn that had a buzzard nest in a corner on the floor. No adult was near the nest; basically litter, it had two big speckled eggs with a slightly greenish cast. We think it was the nest of a black vulture.

He also showed us a natural bridge across a creek, and told us about a system of underground caves which he always was tempted to explore. More reports of bobcat sightings in the area has given him pause.

All these were interspersed with deer and bird sightings which by themselves would have made for a joyful experience. It was the most outdoors fun we have had in quite a while topping in wildlife sightings our National Forest hike a week ago.

Coda: Ten hours after we had returned home I was lying in bed reading when I felt a little crawly motion on my very upper right leg. Then it stopped so I thought it was nothing. Again. Then I felt similar sensations on my left upper leg.

Enough! Finally I got up, pulled off my pajama bottoms and shrieked.

There was a big black quarter-inch tick on my left thigh!

Luckily and inexplicably he hadn't dug in yet and my partner removed him with tweezers.

How he had managed to lurk around my body undetected for almost twelve hours does not bear thinking about. I spent the next fifteen minutes shaking out clothes, leaving them in the empty bathtub.

I'm going to be itchy and jumpy for the next few days. I can't help it.

*Blind  A bunch of characters and scenes tossed down for us to sort out.

April 3, 2016 
Madison, IN

Duh. I finally realized why pinpoints of light at a distance wake me up but a full burning beating sun or bright light overhead won't.

I must evolutionarily come from a species of organism that was most active at dawn and dusk.

Something timid and prey, like a deer (or deer mouse!)

Or maybe I was a predator. A swift-moving silent owl comes to mind.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

I have to laugh at myself. 

April Fool, April folly!

Maybe someday when we celebrate New Years on the proper solstice date in December, January 1 will be First Fool's Day.

We will celebrate by putting icicles down people's jackets or presenting them with beautiful floral bouquets that, frozen, shatter when touched.

We will waken to a late wintry dawn and the sun will never be hot and bright overhead. No afternoon nap on New Year's Day then! It would spoil our long night's sleep.

Thought - if New Year's Day has to be celebrated on the same day all over the world, isn't the whole Southern Hemisphere subjected to a depressing discrimination?

"Happy New Year to you!"

"Yeah, here we go again - into the cold, the dark, the gloomy winter. Yeah," (savagely) "Happy New Year!"

Might make for a difference in attitude. A certain sinking feeling.

*Kill The Messenger  If they don't kill you they discredit you - a true story that you won't want to believe.

April 2, 2016 
Madison, IN

No, (sympathetically)yes! Yesyesyesyesyes(musically)yes yes-yes yes yesyesyesYESyesyesyesYesYesYesYES!



 (- Inspired by the great Robert Brezsny-)

*Dark Places  Starts off strong and then just... wallows.

April 1, 2016 
Madison, IN

No one pulled an April Fool's joke on me today. I'm relieved, actually, but it makes me feel I'm getting old.

Ha,ha,ha,ha,ha! Fancy that!

Today I went to Brown's Gymnasium for a free exercise class which is actually harder than the Silver Sneakers class I attend uptown - especially today since I tried hefting ten-pound weights in each hand (or leg, depending on the exercise.)

Hmmm... maybe someone did play me for a fool today - I myself did!

Even with the five pounds I normally work with this class would be harder, though. Instead of sets of eight, this group does sets of fifteen. It lasts one hour instead of fifty minutes and I walk there and back. That's just a few blocks, though, and I am grateful not to have to get into the car.

The class is free. Tomorrow I will try the beginning yoga class, which will cost me three dollars. If that works out for me, what a boon that will be! Yoga classes are usually expensive.

I would be a fool indeed not to take advantage of these offerings.

*Frantic  Roman Polanski thriller set in Paris. Pretty damn good! No fooling.

*Manor House  For the last week or so we've been watching a BBC production for which volunteers spent three months enacting the roles of the whole household of a wealthy Edwardian family. Fascinating both sociologically and psychologically.


*The Year Dolly Parton Was my Mom  The upset a preteen experiences when she finds out - but never mind, I don't want to ruin it for you!

March 30, 2016
Madison, IN

Yesterday we took a day's jaunt to the Hoosier National Forest southeast of Bloomington, IN. 

There's a road off Highway 446 that leads to the Charles C. Deam (Indiana's first State Forester) wilderness area. We passed a horse camp and parked in a parking lot a few miles in. A trail depicted on the map there led to an observation tower and that was the trail we took.

The morning was cold but bright, the scene still pretty wintry but not snowy. As we went downhill we began to see anemone and other spring blooms. Why were there almost no birds? I know they prefer hedgerows and savannah lands to woods, but the path was often within sight of a creek which we had to cross several times. We heard nothing but crows and a flicker and saw nothing but a flutter.

We enjoyed a wonderful hike nonetheless, but in the future I will copy the relevant parts of a map rather than rely on my memory in the absence of printed maps. We took the Axsom trail which ended at the Terrill Ridge Trail stretching east and west.

Of course we chose the wrong direction as being the most likely so we added a mile or so to our hike, but hey- it was good for us.

The observation tower was just too tempting. Maybe from up high I would see birds!

No such luck, but far to the north I saw a white dome which upon driving past Indiana University I decided must have been its observatory. At least I made one identification! Maybe I didn't even use my binoculars for that, my only excuse being that climbing that frail-looking wind-exposed metal structure was the tiniest bit disconcerting.

Walking the road back to where our car was parked, a lovely young couple we had met on the trail drove up. It's a long walk, they said, and they had driven back to offer us a ride. They were concerned about us, possibly because I had said we were looking forward to an early lunch.

This gracious offer was tempting but we turned it down out of sheer pride and stubbornness, blowing them a grateful kiss as they left us. Lunch wasn't an early one, but A Taste of India on 4th Street in Bloomington had a good buffet with the first really good mango custard I have had in years.

An ironic touch to our bird-watching efforts is that we got a good look at a clutch of four killdeer eggs being valiantly guarded by a parent not far from the gym where we work out. My partner was especially pleased - he has been trying to spy those well-defended and protectively-colored speckled treasures for four years.

Now that's an egg hunt to crow over!

March 28, 2016
Madison, IN

*My Beautiful Broken Brain  Documentary about the recovery and reconciliation of a 34-year-old stroke victim with cinematic and sound effects that attempt to convey her subjective experiences.

*Siddhartha  The story not of a lost boy from Delhi, India, but of his father. As natural as could be.

March 27, 2016 
Madison, IN

Communication up the ranks is just as important as communication down.

One is easy, the other hard.

Guess which is which; I bet you know!

Now why should that be, I wonder?

*The Best Offer   For mystery, suspense and intrigue this film is the best offer we've had lately. Beauty, too.


*The Two Mrs. Carrolls  A black and white thriller older than I am - one well worth watching, enhanced by the acting skills of two still-famous stars.

*Larry Crowne  We saw this four years ago and reading what I wrote about it then I'm surprised by my lackluster response. This time around we loved it! My only excuse is that we were personally going through a difficult time that included contemplating a move. Especially his final talk in his speech class was very clever writing indeed.

March 25, 2016 
Madison, IN

Today I thought I'd try a workout at Brown Gym but it was closed for Good Friday.  Instead I walked across the Milton-Madison Bridge. It was a chilly day, so I kept up a pretty brisk pace.

Spring is supposed to arouse all kinds of nesting instincts, but today I have some duck doings to report and they weren't pretty. I saw a male mallard on the heels of a female, trying to nip her in the tail (or thereabouts) not just once or twice but several times.

All of a sudden she turned on him with such ferocity that he took to the air and so did she. Now it was his turn to flee and she kept after him until I thought I would lose sight of them. Another duck, I thought female, had joined the line of flight; when they wheeled around and returned it dropped out and revealed itself as a male.

What kind of domestic or pecking order the quarrel represented I cannot guess but using the word pecking seems odd when we're speaking of ducks, doesn't it?

With those broad bills, it seems they couldn't really peck at all.

Well, it was a gray, nippy morning. No wonder they were in a snit!

*Scenes from a Marriage  Three hour movie adapted from a miniseries made for TV by Ingmar Bergman, it is mostly conversation. Not necessarily fun at all, its marital commentary did hold our interest enough that we would like to see Saraband, which is supposed to revisit the pair decades later. Liv Ullmann is impressive.

March 24, 2016 
Madison, IN

It's a vicious cycle: the less we know about a country (or continent!) the less we mind being out of touch with what goes on there. The more out of touch we are, the less we care. The less we care, the less coverage the media give it.

Another part of the viciousness of the cycle is the horrors that happen in any given area of the world. If a country is perceived as highly dangerous fewer people travel there. The loss of tourism or even humble travelers' dollars means more poverty and therefore more crime and the potential for more horrors which reduces the attractions of the country even further.

The 24-hour-a-day coverage given to Paris and Brussels and the minimal coverage given to Turkey and Nigeria seems unnecessarily unbalanced, but be fair: not every reporter wants to risk life and limb just so she can report. Nor can every news agency afford the extra security and compensation and travel expenses involved in covering the far reaches (of kilometers or cultures) of the world.

I am willing, however, to join my voices to those calling for more balance in news reporting.

Oh, and that goes for balance in reporting the political scene also! Please!

*Elizabethtown  Nice story, basically, but with some exceedingly silly parts and some egregiously unnecessary scenes. Sometimes less is more, they say, and this movie is a prime example. Cut, cut, cut.

March 22, 2016 
Madison, IN

A new season seems a good time for confessing errors. I wrote a piece a few weeks ago in which I said it was kind of sad that my mom's mitochondrial DNA had come to an end in her grandchildren's generation.

What was I thinking? I read a book years ago about the fact that modern day humanity began with seven women, all of whom have passed down their cytoplasmic mitochondrial DNA. It might not be, ultimately, in my mother's descendants but it is definitely extant!

So much for being sentimental about genes. It's silly anyway.

*Pawn Sacrifice  Bobby Fischer as a pawn of his madness?

March 21, 2016 
Madison, IN

Why have so many of us declared a "war on Trump?"

How would that work - in a similar way to the war on cancer and the war against drugs?

Declaring a war on anything or anyone gives it way too much power and the legitimacy conferred by recognition.

Stop waging wars! Especially against individuals. It is just too bullying, and U.S Americans just love underdogs.

Don't transform a bully into an underdog by waging a war against him.

*The Girl  A Mexico/U.S. border story which confers guilt and grace upon its protagonist.

March 20, 2016 
Madison, IN

Yesterday a friend called me on the telephone from Florida, hoping to get the inside story about our "dangerous city". Admittedly she was being a little facetious but she was surprised to find I knew nothing.

She was even more nonplussed when I told her that yes, someone had set off incendiary devices in the parking lot of the courthouse and outside a judge's residence. The courthouse is a mere quarter mile away and I knew very little. None of the people in our apartment building has said a word to us about it.

Today I Googled the incident and learned that one incendiary device was set off not at the county courthouse, but in the parking lot of city hall and the police station, a mere two blocks from where we live! This happened at one o'clock in the morning a week ago and we slept right through it.

We've also slept through the news coverage, evidently.

If we hear any more details I will duly report them, but although a spokesperson for the city said the justice system appeared to have been targeted, we're kind of thinking "Kids."

*Good Ol' Freda  Brian Epstein hired her in the beginning, when she was a Beatles fan, and what a ride she went on! Now she's telling about it. Well, some of it. Wonderful.

*Must Love Dogs  This romantic comedy is a delight - snappy and heartfelt both.


*10,000 Saints  Young people and their parents struggling to find their way. Worthwhile film.

*Blowup  Could have been a mystery but our hero too busy living his youth in the sixties.

March 18, 2016 
Madison, IN

Wow! It's almost real Spring! Spring has been popping out, then popping back in, then popping out, then scurrying back in again for weeks now.

Forget the lion and the lamb. This year, Spring has been a prairie dog.

*Magic in the Moonlight  Almost complete fun. I'll take this fantasy over certain realities any day. (Ahem - see below.)

*Heaven Knows What  The cinematography is sometimes great but you won't like what you see. The acting is good but it's intolerable.

March 17, 2016 
Madison, IN

Time for a little local color. I certainly saw it in the quilts of Margie Webb on display at the Historical Museum on First Street.

One hundred creations, some with embroidered panels or embellishments, are hanging at the museum and can be seen for no charge. They are definitely worth seeing if you are a fan of needlework.

Among the objects on display are jackets, table runners and wall hangings as well as bed coverings and throws.

Many are machine quilted rather than worked by hand. That, of course, is merely par for the course these days. The Madison Courier reports Webb as saying she used to quilt by hand, but in my first visit today I didn't see any.

Another trip is definitely in order because I haven't yet recorded my favorites for the museum. (Maybe they are having a viewer's choice for favorite.)

*The Hoax  What you can get by with in this country 101. No, hey, I didn't say get away with!

March 16, 2016
Madison, IN

Why is religion, disclaimed by so many great minds for centuries, still so prevalent amongst us today?

Freethinkers decry this fact, and I have also because of the needless suffering religion seems to cause.

What purpose can religion possibly serve in a society that depends so much on scientific reasoning and technology?

I wanted to start this nano-essay by saying:

The sole purpose of religion is to remind humans that we have an inner life.

When we neglect our inner selves - our feelings and our judgement and our need for psychological growth - we leave ourselves open to all kinds of waste and disease.

Looking at society, I sometimes feel that we risk trading religion for twelve-step societies. As a proponent of the prevention of life's ills I can't see that as a desirable trade-off.

Or am I just an aesthetics snob? A storefront church seems to me as deplorable.

Psychologists have discovered that people are most content (is happiest too dangerous a word to employ?) when they are participants in several social contexts.

Religious organizations obviously supply a social resource for many individuals, so they have the potential to help the individual in that way also by providing another circle of - hopefully - friends.

The only trouble is - this tends to focus the attention of the individual back onto the outer world and he gets swept back out into it via the very institution that is intended (I believe) to help him turn his back to it.

Of course I am talking about the social world - the natural world is a good thing to turn to for soothing the spirit and awakening the inner life.

Oh.... Right.


What was I saying?

Oh, yeah: The sole purpose of religion is to remind us that we have an inner life.

And you know what? I don't think our churches are doing a very good job of it.

*Butterfly  Film that seems tender and sweet with only a few adult lascivious touches until... well, see for yourself. I, for one, cried.

March 15, 2016  
Madison, IN

*A Brilliant Young Mind  One young math wizard's story. Perhaps something was more important - but, no. I won't ruin it for anyone. This movie is worth seeing.

March 14, 2016
Madison, IN

Unfortunately, reality TV is changing reality.

Did you laugh at reality TV, then get disgusted by it and stop watching?

Unfortunately many people weren't laughing; they were learning.

Now reality is no laughing matter.

*Cartel Land  When I was traveling in Mexico in the early seventies we traveled through Michoacan. It was my favorite state name in Mexico. I thought it sounded so cool. Now Michoacan is, evidently, dominated by brutal cartels. The only response possible to this documentary is a cry of anguish.

*Man Up  We chose this because we needed some laughs but we weren't laughing so we stopped watching.

*Hardship Loveship  This wonderful film has the most palpable, visceral feel to some of the embraces I have ever experienced, personally involving me in an unprecedented way. A very special storytelling.

March 13, 2016
Madison, IN

The other day I had the sad thought that really really really successful people got that way because they are triple r selfish.

Maybe the documentary about Steve Jobs jogged my mind in that direction. Maybe a book I'm reading about why people write about themselves.

Their selfishness in pursuing their own dream may end up benefiting mankind in huge ways. I'm not saying it's not all for the best for society as a whole.

Maybe - just maybe - they change and think about others more later in life.

But boy! Were Jobs and Einstein and Fischer and Edison really selfish. Maybe even Mother Theresa. From what is written about her you sure get the feeling she was a woman who liked her own way.

- Excerpt from Meditations of a Failure. (Pallid joke.)

*Elegy  This film sure could have been shorter and more effective as a consequence. Especially the initial situation is so worn out by now it could have been cut more. But who could leave more of the beautiful Penelope Cruz on the cutting room floor? Then I saw - the film inspired by a novel by Philip Roth! Ha, ha, ha, ha ha! No wonder.

March 12, 2016 
Madison, IN

I'm reading a novel in which the narrator is telling his son about his "begats." Most of this fictional history is talk about males, of course.

What would that make the story of the women in one's ancestry? The history of the bores?

Is that anti-female sexism? Moms are boring but Dads, begad, are begetting!

*The Lodger  Thriller telling a story about Jack the Ripper. Music and dancing are... included, but the film is not a musical. We enjoyed it.

Yesterday's flicks

*Designing Woman A long piece of fluff with some good laughs and a surprising melee at the end which, my partner said, made it all worthwhile.

*Phoenix  Recent Oscar nominee for best foreign film is quite gripping in its own quiet way, in spite of a little early incredulity on my part.

March 10, 2016
Madison, IN

This morning I took a few days' recycling to a bin I've been given permission to use a few blocks away from home. A slight misty drizzle didn't stop me and neither did it stop three young cardinals, two of them getting quite red, from fluttering and cavorting around a yard along the alley.

They made my heart glad!

I can just hear people scoffing, "That's just because you like birds so much."

No, that's why I love birds so much!

Those daffodils bobbing in the breeze sure run a close second, though.

*A Walk in the Woods  It's been years since I read it but I don't think the film is very true to the book. Maybe I am just a little peeved that my favorite minor character doesn't appear in the movie at all. A faithful rendition it may not be, but it is funny, so it's faithful in its fashion.

*My Cousin Rachel  Love/hate and suspicion in this movie taken from a Daphne Demaurier story. See a young Richard Burton in his breakout role!

March 9, 2016 
Madison, IN

Plunder wonder sole soulful source of inspiration.

Scrappy scamp stamping out outcomes by the book uncapitalized if you please the Good Book is not the only book is a bad book insofar as it purports to be the only Way.

Ultimate or pseudoultimate Truth is not the most helpful of truths. In a way you could call it the most Romantic pursuit possible and therefore a relative waste of your timeline.

Oh thoughts interrupting unfinishing altering yet still refreshing regrets not to be rejected forever.

Oh! Wisdom comes too late! 

*The Story of Temple Drake  Old movie taken from Faulkner's Sanctuary has been remade twice since but we haven't seen those versions. I liked this a great deal. If a movie can be concise, this one is.

*Jafar Panahi's Taxi  Powerful film about and depicting life in Tehran through conversations in a taxicab. You can't help but worry about all the people involved in its creation.

March 8, 2016 
Madison, IN

Celebrate Spring! Yesterday we saw our iconic symbol of spring for this year.

No, not the bright sun and balmy breezes - that was today.

No, not the crocuses that come up only to be blanketed with snow. They first showed their hardy little visages a month ago.

No, not the muscle-shirted motorcyclists trying to bring the sounds of tornadoes and April thunderclaps to our streets.

We saw woodpeckers. At first I thought I saw a red-headed woodpecker, a welcome sight. But no! It was a little too large. Could it be? We searched the trees and spotted another. Then the two flew downstream together and found the ideal rich brown dead trunk to display their crests and skinny necks as we strolled our parallel path on the walkway. They were making wood chips fly.

Spring is here! The woodpeckers pileated have me highliated!

*Casino Jack  The story of Jack Abramoff as played by the super-energetic Kevin Spacey. Wow! Two movies in one day about evil-doing and bad dealing.

*99 Homes  A hard one to watch, but we learned a lesson or two about scams against the government and us humble citizens.

Films we saw yesterday:

*A Picture of You  Sometimes the young people in movies seem like a different species, but then I remember myself young....

*Gaybe  Not much appreciated by us. The lead was definitely not simpatico!

March 6, 2016
Madison, IN

My longed-for sunny Sunday came today, complete with flickers, woodpecker, song sparrow, nuthatch, cardinals, robins, bluebird, mourning doves, ubiquitous but still-appreciated geese and, soaring overhead - a red-tailed hawk!

No mammalia other than human, not even a squirrel.

Oh, boy, and what a hike we took. All the way up the Heritage Trail to the lookout point above.

Now I am so tired I just woke up from falling asleep while writing this!

*Trainspotting  Hard core film just about as opposite to everything in the other movie we watched today as could be imagined. Well done though, and not entirely a brutal nasty piece of work.

*Little Fugitive  I was just about this kid's age when this movie came out in 1953, so in addition to the wonderful story and the naturalism with which it is told, it was for me a nostalgic blast from the past. Great film.

March 5, 2016 
Madison, IN

Gray day cloud fray water spray stream splay

Colorless light play sightless, hopeless of May.

March, Spring! Come, sunny way, Sunday

Fun day won day! 

Please us, fair way, willow sway, warm bay,

Breeze play!

Lay Winter nightless helpless whiteless

Green Spring Hurray!

*The Golden Door Highly unusual film about the departure from Sicily and journey of some peasants determined to join a family member in the New World.


*Grandma (Lily Tomlin) behaves very badly but this is a very funny film!

*Goodbye, Mr. Chips  As old as The Long Memory but completely different genre. Mr. Chips is a movie I saw as a child - always remembered the name and that it affected me. Certainly worth a viewing at any age. Oscar-winning performance here.

March 4, 2016 
Madison, IN

I'm grateful to last night's Republican debate for our genius idea about a cheaper, easier way to determine who will be our next President:

All the male candidates will have to do is drop their trousers for a photograph of their genitalia.

The ballots will be secret and consist solely of these (anonymous) photo choices.

Any female candidate will just have to bare her chest for a photo solely of her breasts.

That's all! Think of all the time and money the American people would save!

A solution most simple and er... elegant?

March 3, 2016
Madison, IN

March came in maybe like a sea lion - with thunderstorms.

Today it was like a sheep - we went on a walk and were fleecey with snow! Yeah, today March was like a wolf in sheeps' clothing.

Working out at the gym is taking the spring out of my step; hopefully it will add Spring to my mind.

I've read dancing is best for the mind. Makes me wish Madison had more dancing. Maybe I just need to search harder.

Speaking of culture in Madison, the downtown movie theatre, the Ohio, announced its closing. Sad! Today I read that a non-profit organization is buying it. Happy!

March is the perfect month for such variable fortunes. We do hope the theater can succeed in its next manifestation!

*The Long Memory  Black and white oldie which has some interesting twists and turns and a lot of mood.

*The Girl in the Book  What being messed with and betrayed - but no, I don't want to ruin this for you. Very well done.

*Capital  French financial film - anti-hero? Hero? Anti-hero? Hero? Well, we didn't go to sleep. Interesting. Reminded me of a French financial House of Cards.

March 2, 2016 
Madison, IN

Movies today and yesterday.

*Brassed Off  Good family film about a colliery band in Yorkshire that's about to lose the coal mine it is affiliated with. The movie sound track is played by the brass band that inspired the story. A little family conflict, a little romance in addition to music. It even had its tear-jerking moments.

*The Yards  One of those hard-to-watch films of mostly unnecessary suffering. Well done, though.

*The Wedding Date  Comedy that may be silly, but I enjoyed it anyway.

March 1, 2016
Madison, IN

One city we stopped in on the way to Berea was Harrodsburg, Kentucky. To get a little exercise we walked around town a little and the to the nearby Fort Harrod State park. It was closed, but the park had a huge blasted but still living tree covering part of the walkway.

There were at least three or four monster sections that looked like grotesque trunks splayed out from the original site of growth. A sign identified it as the "unofficial" largest osage orange tree in the whole country. Ha! And I thought that species fell more in the shrub or small tree category. (At least I did before we came here. Now that I think about it, we've seen some pretty big specimens in Madison.) If you Google the names of the park and tree you can see some mind-boggling images.

On the way back we stopped at the historical Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill. It being "Quiet Monday" there were no tours, but visitors are still welcome to walk around the grounds. The restaurant and a couple of craft stores were open also. There is a farm and reportedly a riverboat which we could not see because the path to the river was closed. The setting was bucolic and peaceful.

On the whole we had a delightful weekend in Kentucky, a truly beautiful state!

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