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Rumilluminations February 2017
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Wed, February 01 2017 - 5:29 pm

February 28, 2017
Madison IN

Last day of February, yippee! Always glad to see the end of February, although this year February was very kind to us indeed. I need to catch up with movie reporting, though.

*Hacksaw Ridge True story about a young conscientious objector who displays miraculous courage and luck saving soldiers caught in an all-but-impossible action. Even watching this is hard, but the character is inspiring.

*Light Between Oceans  One weak moment on the part of a lighthouse keeper leads to lifelong consequences. A good amount of natural beauty in this film, including human.

February 27, 2017
Madison IN

Fledgling fevers fling fires from florid faces. Flailing forms fall forward, furs flying. Floating forms flow flatly, fixedly for forest fortresses. Flaccid February fades, forcing failing flowers forward finding March.

Maybe March means more mildness; maybe more madness. Mud may make March's meaning. Misty mornings mourning mounting mayhem may mark monthly matings much maligned mentally. More measure might maintain moderation. Maids marble muslins. Men must mosey!

February flies. March meanders.

February 26, 2017
Madison IN

The Mardi Gras accident in New Orleans which injured 28 people has me looking at the big relief displayed when there are no fatalities in a different light.

Of course it is wonderful (in more ways than one) if there are no deaths when something horrible happens. But before we take a big sigh of relief, let's find out the nature of the injuries requiring at least a visit to the hospital suffered by almost two dozen people. Broken bones, possible lost limbs? Internal injuries? The amount of suffering incurred is enormous.

When I hear about something like this, I don't say, "but nobody died," then shrug it off. I start wondering. Sometimes after an accident people think they are okay at first, when they are not. Others receive life-changing injuries. Will we hear more about these damages later?

Or are non-deaths non-news?

We are so jaded!

February 24, 2017
Madison IN

Spring flower sightings continue - vinca and a miniature purple Dutch Iris today and wonderful Hellebore yesterday. What survived the hailstorm we had twenty minutes ago, I don't know. That includes our automobile. I guess we'll find out tomorrow morning.

The evening of the same day I had my walk-off-the-Heritage-Trail fall, I went to the Ruler Store for a few groceries and on my way downstairs (outside if full public view, if anyone cared to watch) did a reprise I had recently watched of what looked like a surveillance tape of an alcoholic falling into a stair railing, staggering to the other side, and practically (or actually) falling downstairs.

When watching the video I imagined the man drunk and found it amusing. When it was I providing the show it was just about as crazy embarrassing amusing, but I wasn't drunk. Maybe the poor guy in the video wasn't, either. Maybe he was just an off-balance, vertiginous senior. Like myself.

(My editor has taken to red underlining some of my words. Well, forgive me but I think I know more words than "It" does. And why the hell does it underline the numbers in dates?? Would have me spell them out?)

Rent time is coming up early, as always in February. Makes me grouchy.

February 23, 2017
Madison IN

*Manchester by the Sea  Beautifully told story of a young man who has a history that is a secret to us at the beginning of the film. Some really great a acting in this one.

February 21, 2017
Madison IN

Yesterday it was big orange crocuses and miniature daffodils. Today I saw a lawn sprinkled with pale lavender crocuses and a forsythia tentatively starting to bloom.

Spring isn't exactly bustin' out all over, but it sure is pokin' up its little pixie head.

I must have Spring fever myself, because I was so fondly fixation on a fluffy gray bird breast atop a bare branch that I fell off the Heritage Trail. Actually, I fell on it, both knees and hands and even my left cheek and chin. I couldn't believe even my head bit the asphalt!

Of course I blamed the trail for curving out from under me. It has a way of doing that, I have noticed. Thank God I hadn't been drinking, although who knows - maybe the Irish coffee I indulged in day before yesterday was still affecting me.

My solution and formula for never twisting my ankle off the trail again is easy. Henceforth I will try to stay in the center of the trail at all times. Then even if I wander off course a step or two I won't leave the pavement.

It sounds like a good plan to me. Sure, I may have to modify my behavior to make way for dogs, bicyclists and other pedestrians. Today, however there was nary a one of those. You'd think it were five a.m. on a five-below-zero-degree day with a foot of snow.

Luckily I needed no assistance.

I am also grateful that no massacre of vultures descended in sync with my fall to offer their services performing clean-up duty.

I don't know where they were this morning, but I must be in pretty good health!

February 19, 2017
Madison IN

*American Pastoral  You can't tell a movie from its title. This film really angered me, especially one character. Do you know why?

February 18, 2017
Madison IN

Spring is persisting here more than a month before the date of its official entrance.

The crocuses that were pathetic and struggling weeks ago are quite prosperous-looking now although still petite, but something much more sensational has made an early vernal appearance.

A whole small yard full of garden escapee takeovers are under the light shade of woods along an alley between home and Brown Gym.

They are low-blooming little bulb flowers but they are bright yellow and early-blooming with the added attraction that I had never seen them before this year. When I first spied them Friday morning they looked like little yellow balls above ruffs of green leaves but now the six petals (or sepals but they look like petals?) have opened to show who they really are - winter aconite.

How exciting for this flower-lover to see something completely new to me at this time of year!

On a stroll through the woods of Clifty Falls State Park today I thought we just might see some early wildflowers but we saw nary a one. Just too early for the native plants to bloom, I guess.

Still, it did our souls good to see so many trees and rocks and paths, brown though they are in the cloudy light of today.

*Miss You Already is a film about two lifelong friends who face a challenge greater than most of us must at an early age. Maybe it makes it all the worse that their lives had been so good. I must say, though, that an industry that does such a good job at portraying war wounds and horror effects is lousy at portraying childbirth. Honestly, what is it with you people? Can't be bothered with the reality of pushing during a contraction? Are all of you actresses childless or experienced only at undergoing Caesarian sections? I don't get it, and I'm getting tired of waiting to see you folks get it right.

February 17, 2017
Madison IN

*The Forgotten  Persistence or psychosis? I'm not sure they should have entitled this movie the way they did. We had seen it before but forgot.

*Convicted  This should be required viewing for every young person just so they can see - but no. How can I say what I want to say without ruining it for you? This is a well-acted part portraying incredible persistence on the part of a loving sister. Wow. Her friend is an admirable character as well.

*The Seven-Year Itch  Film holds up viewed on a high-def TV but somehow I didn't experience it as quite so absolutely charming as I did when I first saw it on an older, smaller screen a decade or two ago. Still... Marilyn Monroe is it!

*Cameraperson  Film memoir of a person behind the camera for numerous documentaries, including footage from Wyoming, Bosnia, Darfur, Afghanistan, the Bronx and other places, including her parent's home. Arresting.

February 16, 2017
Madison IN

As a result of my intense interest in allowing horses without papers to enter a world to which they are genetically entitled I had the wonderful original thought that others carried to fruition ten years ago. A horse genome project! How cool is that?

So cool that it has been done. Oh, and guess what kind of horse was the very first to be sequenced? One guess.

Qualification to be a track racer had nothing at all to do with it, of course. It is all about understanding disease and other noble purposes which I forget right now.

And really, amazingly enough, those reasons are certainly valid. It turns out horse chromosomes are very syntenic with ours. In other words, some of our traits can be found on the same chromosomes as those of horse chromosomes. Studying horses, who suffer some of the same ailments we suffer (like allergies and arthritis) can help in understanding what is going on in us humans.

Much more so, it turns out, than studying dogs, who have less in common with we humans. What do you know, centaurs have some scientific validity to them! Cool.

I don't know why dogs are so much more intimate with humans. Opposites attract, I guess.

In case you didn't guess what breed of horse was the first to be sequenced, it was, of course, the thoroughbred. Her name is Twilight.

Whether this has revolutionized the process for determining eligibility for entering races like the Kentucky Derby I don't know.

But why should it matter? Why should racism prevail in the horse-racing world? 

I think horse contests should be more like the Olympics. Maybe the requirements of privilege should be thrown out and other criteria should be employed.

Such as, for instance, speed.

February 15, 2017
Madison IN

I woke up this morning thinking of horses without thoroughbred papers.

Of course! Horses could now be proved to have the right DNA to be racing if the genome of horses were to be mapped as the humans' has been.

Certainly the owners of racehorses would be rich enough to make this happen. Is horse DNA being mapped already? Same for dogs, cows, pigs etc. but do any of them involve such big money?

Well, and what do you know, there is an equine genome project here in the states. I don't know yet what it has learned. Another day! 

February 14, 2017
Madison IN

"Happy Thanksgiving!"

That was what I called out to the exercise class I was volunteer-"leading" this morning.

If that was a Freudian slip it was a pretty positive one! It has not been my feeling every Valentine's Day of my life.

Things are pretty good around here. My partner and I have agreed to do nothing to celebrate the day besides being glad we're here, enjoying our little apartment, our little town, and our lives together.

Can't complain! And that makes for a pretty

"Happy Valentine's Day!"

May you all have a Happy Thanksgiving, too!

(And, whew! Aren't you thankful this is February and not November?)

February 11, 2017
Madison, IN

The last couple of days have been like May. I walked along the river and saw driftwood that looked like a Henry Moore sculpture of a man making love to an ecstatic woman.

Other amazing shapes were a piece of tree trunk that looked like one of those big cylindrical bales of hay and inverted trunk-root junctions and a smooth golden tree trunk with the roots spreading out like a sunburst.

I'm surprised no artist picked up that stuff overnight. If I had a yard and a pick-up I would have.

Abigail's Party  Film from a Mike Leigh play, so sixties-early-seventies. This kind of thing was so shocking then, I guess, but now...? I was torn between horrid fascination and boredom. It made me restless. Tempted to read Facebook at the same time.


Lions for Lambs  Lots and lots of dialogue in this film and stymied action. I may have seen this film before and am just as paralyzed by moral confusion as I might have been the first time. Sigh.

February 10, 2017
Madison IN

A week or two ago, Saturday Night Live was advertising that its whole show (or close to it) was going to be about our new President. I said to my partner, "I want to be part of this audience - help make the numbers as big as possible. Should we just go to bed and wake up for Saturday Night Live? I'm always waking up anyway."

My partner, who is no fan of strict routine, agreed that it might be fun.

I probably slept more lightly than usual and when show-time came, I told my partner it was time, yippee! Well, he was dead to the world and I wasn't about to wake him, so I watched the entire show by myself.

It was funny, for sure, but I was most struck by the musical entertainment for the show.

The singer, Alessia Cara, sang a song about/to someone who wanted to be beautiful but had scars. She wanted to communicate, as far as I could tell, that her friend was beautiful, that her scars were part of her beauty. No matter how she was, she was beautiful, and of course she was singing that message to us all. A beautiful message.

And yet, she quoted her friend as saying, "Beauty is pain," (pain is beauty?) and I find that disturbing - maybe because of its possible truth. I have often wondered if I find people with problems more beautiful than those without, and if that makes me sick.

More  than that, though, it worries me that young women will think it is okay if someone gives them pain because it will make them more beautiful. It worries me a little to encourage even a little the idea that suffering is a good thing.

Doesn't life provide us suffering enough without our romanticizing it or thinking it will make us better people or at the very least make us more beautiful?

I listened to Alessia's song again before I wrote this, but I may have gotten her message wrong. If so, I apologize.

Much better song than I would have expected from SNL! Interesting lyrics. Ladies and gentlemen, Alessia Cara!

The skits? The SNL skits?

Oh. They were funny, but I won't be getting out of bed for Saturday Night Live again soon.

It interrupts my beauty sleep.

February 8, 2017
Madison IN

Recently Vice President Pence told pro-life marchers in Washington D.C., "Life is winning in America" because Trump has become President and his politics advocate defunding Planned Parenthood and rolling back pro-choice legislation.

"Life is winning in America."

Tell that to the parents, wives and children of the veterans of the armed forces who have committed suicide in this country, whose numbers are at an all-time high.

Tell that to the parents of the teenagers who are killing themselves in Pence's state of Indiana, which as of 2015 had the highest rate of teenagers considering suicide in the country, and was only second of all states in the per capita rate of successful teen suicides, according to a Fox online news report.

Suicides aside, Indiana babies are 25% more likely to die within their first year of life than the national average, the same source reports.

Even if all the analyst cares about is money, suicides cost Indianans dearly. In an article posted by the Indianapolis Business Journal dated April 25, 2016, suicides were reported as costing the state over one million dollars each on the average, calculated on the basis of medical and work losses. The article ranks Indiana 26th in the nation based on data from 2014.

Citing the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the article states that poisoning, suffocation and guns are the leading causes of deaths by suicide, followed by cutting and piercing, drowning, and motor vehicles.

This is on my mind because yesterday I heard about yet another young adult suicide in Madison.

I heard about it not because the whole is a-buzz with the news. Except for a fundraiser I attended a year ago, I have heard very little about our problem with death. It is one of our nation's shameful secrets.

Not to worry though, "Life is winning in America," and with those words Mike Pence joins Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and Steve Bannon as high-level promulgators of alternative facts.

February 7, 2017
Madison IN

Like spring here the first week of February! 

After a walk down Heritage Trail on Sunday which left me marvelling at its deadness in spite of mild weather, yesterday birds seemed a-twitter with spring. It gave me hope, but the general state of downward bird populations has me profoundly depressed.

Maybe the sight of the winter landscape is usually softened for us by snow. We have experienced little of that this season.

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir and their well-meaning fellow conservationists really made a mistake in nomenclature when they called our wild areas national and state parks, because that is how the people of this country have treated them - like city parks.

It's a tragedy.

This afternoon I saw white crocuses in a neighbor's yard, small compensation, pathetic and small as they are.

Still, you have to give them credit for being bold for cold!

February 6, 2017
Madison IN

*Breaking and Entering  Engrossing film about complex social relations in a London neighborhood. Definitely worth seeing but not cut quite tightly enough.


*XXY  An unusual child makes some hard decisions about life. A coming-of-age story with a twist. So well done!

February 3, 2017
Madison IN

Politics this year: Oh, the horror.

Our self-medication for a Trump antidote is comedy specials on Netflix. We've seen some great ones. Maybe at some point I will have watched enough of them to start comparing and contrasting but not yet. One thing I can say is that at least three of the comics have talked about the animal adoption ad with Sarah McClachlan singing. Well, that's not surprising, I guess, given that the ad is so long and depressing. I will never watch that again.

I've seen so few movies in recent weeks that when we started watching them again I was slow to get back with the commenting program. (We've seen more TV series - all of Homicide: Life on the Streets, the quality of which was up and down. I hope real police forces don't have this much dysfunctionality in them! Also the British Paranoid was pretty good. Australian The Code even better.)

*Singing in the Rain  Good fun and all-time greatest dance routine in the movies.

*Across the Universe  I just couldn't get interested. Beatles songs accompanying scenes instead of dialogue doesn't cut it with me.

*Unthinkable  Well it really was, but I'm pretty sure you will not fall asleep during this movie.

*Samaritan Just as unthinkable as the other film, actually. These were both rough Samuel L. Jackson movies, but the nastiness in this one is on a more venal personal scale.

February 2, 2017
Madison IN

So yes, I'm kind of obsessing about the middle these days. Maybe the poem that says, "the center cannot hold" is haunting me a little.

What started me on this preoccupation, though, was a Facebook discussion about laws affecting bicyclists. Bicyclists! Everybody's dumping on bicyclists!

Bicyclists are in the lower middle of the pedestrian/motorized transportation continuum so, like middle children, they are fair game for everyone.

Pedestrians: I hate cars, but at least you can see them coming! Bicyclists are scofflaws! Those bicyclists come up on you silently and spin you around and startle you. Sure, more automobiles actually kill people, but....

Motorists: Oh, yeah, pedestrians are a real drag, but at least you can see them crawling along - and they scatter like chickens when you speed up or veer in their direction. Those #@€&% bicyclists act like they own their 4 square inches of road and unpredictably dart around as if we were the ones who are the bad guys! They don't buy gas so they don't pay gas taxes so they shouldn't be able to use the road! And they act as if they were the only ones who could get hurt if we ran into them. My insurance rates would go up. They act as if they were wearing cloaks that made them invisible!

Bicyclists: Pant, pant, pant, pant... whoosh!

February 1, 2017
Madison IN

Wondering about polarization in the United States today, has it been exacerbated by the Internet.

I'm willing to believe it.

What about other possible causes, though?

If it is true that the middle class is diminishing in numbers that would help explain polarization. A vast spectrum of income earners would seem obviously less prone to divide themselves into "us" and "them" and certainly be more difficult to classify.

The word average means less and less to me these days, though. "Median" seems a lot more meaningful. The more people clustered near the "median" income level the better, I bet. A high percentage of people in that group would constitute a genuine middle class.

I'm wondering, though, about considerations I haven't heard talked about at all - for instance, family size.

Having only two children allows for unending polarization if things are not going well. With three or more children, there are possibilities for negotiation, shifting allegiances, and bargaining skills education that just don't exist in families with only two children.

Of course sheer family size is not the only consideration. The siblings have to be of more or less the same age to count as siblings. Too many years between siblings isolates them too much to really be considered equals.

Could bigger families with more children cut down on polarization in our larger social groups?

The richer families get, the fewer children they tend to have. What would this tendency result in? More polarization amongst those in power?

Oh, I see so many possibilities for statistical studies in the politics of polarization!

Thus begins for me funky February, my unfavorite month.

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