By: Esther Powell
Posted on: Sun, July 03 2016 - 8:48 am
July 25, 2016
Haven't see the Democratic Convention on TV but did see Michelle Obama's speech on Facebook. Now she has inspired me. Maybe I will even do a little canvassing in support of Hillary Clinton as I did for Barack Obama in Valparaiso in 2008.
Maybe. Maybe I can even help get her into our Collective Unconscious in a powerfully good way. Hmmm...the Great Mother?
*The Guardian Kind of interesting to see the kind of training Coast Guard recruits get. Some highly dramatic rescue scenes are gripping for sure. I don't understand, however, this new vogue for over-long films and I don't like it.
*Looking for Mr. Goodbar When I used to shelve books at the public library I used to see this title staring out at me and thought it salacious. Finally, almost forty years later, I see the movie and yeah, it is salacious, but more. Glad I saw the movie, but even more glad I never read the book.
July 24, 2016
This morning I saw a vulture sitting on the dumpster. This is a little unusual but not unheard-of. He was just hanging out there, then turned toward our end of the dumpster and with its long white legs stepped daintily towards the edge.
Wait a minute! A vulture - dainty? For the first time I imagined a vulture being female, possibly with feminine airs.
My mind was musing on the idea, wandering a little. All of a sudden, from behind a parked car burst the vulture, flying, and a cat.
The simper was a stalk, I guess, and though I feared for what I thought at first was a black kitten, more morning light revealed the feline as a grown cat.
The cat won the power struggle. When I got distracted by coffeemaking the cat was stretched out alongside the dumpster - king of the urban jungle.
*The Heiress Wow, I would say something about Henry James's characters, but this is certainly a film worth not spoiling. If you don't like old films, please reconsider. This one might convert you.
*Family Fever begins and ends well enough, but it, like the male leads, would do well to lose a little around the middle.
July 23, 2016
We took a hike up the old Hatcher Hill Road (our little in-city miniature Clifty Falls I have mentioned in the past) for the first time in months. Luckily we were home by shortly after ten, because early as we walked, we were wet with sweat by the time we reached the top of the hill.
There wasn't much water at the maximum flow point of the Crooked Creek waterfall, and none at all where some rivulets may often be found on the other side of the road, but it was still green, shady and quiet. South of the cemetery, along Walnut Street, we saw white-flowering teasel being enjoyed by a zebra swallowtail butterfly and another even larger one I've never seen before. What do you know, it was a giant swallowtail. No wonder it's so named - I think it is the biggest butterfly I've ever seen in the wild in the U.S.
*Ilo Ilo This film, though maybe exaggerated in ways, is so real that the viewer just knows that one of the makers was probably the boy. Well, it was the director's story, and the tale is about life in Singapore in the nineteen-nineties.
*The Spanish Prisoner Unreal and improbable but entertaining none-the-less. Not what you might expect from the title.
July 22, 2016
One reason I have begun to fear a Trump presidency is obvious: he got the nomination. Eeeeeee!
Another reason, though, is that for better or worse he seems to have caught Americans' imagination. I have twice dreamed about Trump - the first time years ago, the second time last night. Why? I have no idea, but he got in there. He got into my dreams.
The dreams weren't positive, particularly but neither were they nightmares. He wasn't President in them, but he was present.
What the hell is that about? I don't remember dreaming about Hillary Clinton.
Somehow Trump has access to the collective unconscious, and I don't know why.
*This Is Where I Leave You An adult family comedy. Pretty good - belly laughs included.
*Eye in the Sky Practically nothing but tension in this one. Which means, of course, that it's a gripping drama. Well done, dammit.
July 21, 2016
We are in the throes of summer heat here in Madison. We tend to go out early and with air conditioning it's easy to forget how hot it is outside.
The river has been looking beautiful and different every day these last few days. A few days ago it was gray, yesterday seemed bright gorgeous blue, and today a swimming blend of blue and green almost as brilliant as the hills and sky.
Of course it probably changes from hour to hour.
This evening I caught a hint of orange through the shades and threw open the door to see the sunset. A blast of air as fiery as the sky entered the room, reminding me that we are hardly experiencing summer at all!
*The Irish Pub Very sweet documentary about traditional Irish Pub life, including an awesome musical group that has been meeting every Thursday night (but two) for forty-six years!
*The Witch After a few minutes of this one I decided not to subject myself to any more of its nastiness, but my partner wanted to give it a chance and watch it to the end. He wishes he hadn't - it didn't give him anything he needed.
July 19, 2016
Our second full day at Rocky Mountain National Park we took the shuttle to the Glacier Gorge and hiked a mini-hike eight-tenths of a mile or so up to Alberta Falls. This was for me the most charming part of our visit. The woodlands were magical, the twists and turns of the river falls and rapids fascinating.
There a ground squirrel or two of unusual and subtle coloration was rummaging unafraid by the edge of the path. Just as in a fairy tale, though, this story had a villain. My partner and I came upon a couple of boys in their mid-teens, one of whom was holding a rock larger than the chipmunk. Jos saw him bring the rock down furtively as if to hide the fact that he was going to try to crush the little animal. I was a few feet behind Jos. I saw the guilty yet arrogant laugh of the kid and the way he tried to downplay and conceal the rock without success and for one split-second felt a little threatened myself.
After we passed safely by I still felt worried about the people above us on the trail where those two boys were headed. We never did hear anything more from them.
Instead of going back on the shuttle we decided to hike back to our campground, according to the sign only 3.8 miles away. We had water, snacks and the rest of the day. Why not? It was probably mostly downhill anyway.
We weren't always sure which way to go, especially around Sprague Lake, which had parking lots, paths and a bridge or two. Parts of the hike were wasteland, I guess thanks to the pine beetles.
Since our walk did turn out to be downhill and we had a relatively cool day that almost five-mile walk was one of our easiest of the whole trip.
I just hope the local fauna escaped the evil intent of the villain of this piece. In a place like a National Park where even the stones are supposed to be protected it is even more shocking to encounter such ill will toward the innocent.
*Separate Lies This was well-done, and once I got over the disappointment that the film wasn't going to be a classic mystery I was able to enjoy the surprises. That's saying quite a bit coming from me - no enjoyer of psychological thrillers.
*The Family Fang We almost stopped watching after a few minutes of this, so twisted it was - but so glad we didn't! Nicole Kidman sucked me right in - along with, of course - the mystery!
July 18, 2016
So I owe you a report about Rocky Mountain National Park. N is for negative, P positive.
The most popular campgrounds were full when we got to the park in the a.m. or close to it. We decided to try Glacier Basin. There were quite a few empty campsites but the ranger on duty gave us an assignment. N. Never before in my camping experience has my party been deprived of the opportunity of choosing our own site. The site she gave us, though, was great. P It had trees on it - many did not.
Obviously the scenery in the park is fabulous no matter which way you look. P. Alas, pine beetles have killed off many pines, creating forests of the dead and wastelands in spots. N. This is a problem that the Service and I'm sure the Department of the Interior are trying hard to solve, but I am willing to bet lack of funding is a huge hurdle.
The employees of the campground were, for the most part barely civil. N. There were two good ones of the five or so we encountered during our three-day stay.
If you want to hike around some of the more popular areas like Bear Lake there is insufficient parking, but that's okay with me. Who wants big parking lots in the supposed-to-be wild? A free shuttle bus service is provided for visitors to reach popular hiking areas. P.
As we walked toward the parking lot for the shuttle we saw one pull away. A young woman waiting at the shelter said she was in the lot walking towards the stop when the bus pulled away empty. This N would be for neutral, except the next bus was scheduled to leave a half-hour later and it left late after packing in everyone waiting (almost filling the bus) with a later-arriving teen group like sardines in the aisles. The kids had to take off their backpacks to be sufficiently slim to be jammed in. N.
I sardonically joked to one of the lads, "What do you expect in the big city?" And he laughed good-naturally. They were on a cross-country trip visiting national parks - lucky group!
Arriving at Bear Lake we decided to hike to Bierstadt Lake on the advice of a campground neighbor and it was as lovely as promised P although the time of day she recommended especially was long past. We would have had to be up before dawn.
We got very thirsty on our hike, drank copiously and worried about people we saw that seemed unprepared for the heat and dry air they were about to encounter. One pair had no water at all and refused the offer of an extra bottle. I bet they regretted it.
Due maybe to the numbers of people on the trail we didn't see much wildlife except a woodpecker new to me - a large Western species.
More tomorrow about Rocky Mountain National Park.
* Straight Outta Compton Too, too long and I'm overdosing from too much testosterone. Still, we're glad we saw it - it gives us a perspective we did not have before. It's too bad, though, that these guys' expression of their truth didn't give voices to the women. At least, not in the movie version of their experiences.
*Noise (Australian, 2007) Well, hell, I have tinnitus too, and could understand no more than one or two words of the average spoken line in this too-long film. No subtitles available for some reason. But, hey, my partner and I must be living proof that 70% of communication is body language, because we did get the gist. I liked the film better than he did; neither of us liked it much.
*The Fields of Elah This profoundly disturbing film was well-done and must have taken a lot of courage to make. Well, have Tommy Lee Jones or Susan Sarandon ever disappointed? The only trouble is, now I'm kind of afraid to go outside.
July 16, 2016
Too much to comment on in the world. Is the news of what is happening out there, good as well as bad, going to be completely co-opted by full several-day coverage of the latest atrocity?
We are speechless. What else is there to say about the daily horrors? Somehow we must manage to save some part of our brains for attention to the good that really is almost everywhere.
*Suffragettes Well, yes the film is depressing and about a difficult poor time but does it even have to be visually so dingy and gray-brown? It was only okay.
*Even Cowgirls Get the Blues Whew I usually don't read reviews before I write about movies but I stumbled across some this time, trying to find the name of a Native American actress in it. This film doesn't deserve such harshness. We've been okay with movies that weren't as interesting by far. Maybe it was due to disappointed high expectations of the critics. I too was a little discontent with the film's failure to deliver some messages and scenes and settings that would have worked just fine on the screen. But hey - I read the book thirty years ago.
July 13, 2016
Went back to the gym today for the first time in seven weeks. It wasn't so bad, but I definitely am not going 4+ times a week like I was before we left for vacation. No wonder I was depressed.
Another depressing thing? TV news, which we've also suffered much less exposure to in the last couple of months.
My partner has put his finger on the problem. Instead of just giving us the facts as known up to date of a variety of different news items from all over the world, the stations pick a recent story to obsess over and turn it into a theme and variations, the variations being a plethora of talking heads speculating on the causes, possible facts, meaning and consequences of whatever the news.
"Instead of the messenger delivering the news, the messenger has become the news. In place of just giving us the meager known facts and letting us draw our own conclusions, they are telling us what we should think about the news."
Hmmm... seems to me he has a point.
*Clandestine Childhood Wow. Another film taken from the real-life experience of a live individual, in this case the director, Benjamin Avila. I am hard-put to consider this kind of film as entertainment. It is more like a history lesson or a really hard-to-get morality play. What the hell did we just see, anyway? One child's experience - and I won't detract from your experience of it by saying any more than that. (Even previews give away too much, darn 'em.)
July 10, 2016
We decided to pretend we were camping again for a couple of hours this morning. We went to Clifty Falls State Park and hiked trail #5. We remembered hiking up the stairs to the Lilly parking area during a really long long-ago hike with no fondness, so this time we parked at the top and started by walking downstairs.
Clifty Falls is an awesome place with, well cliffs and falls. Today we didn't hike in the right places to see falling water but the creek was burbling nicely. It was great to walk up to the north end of trail five and take the road back to the car.
We kept it short and sweet today - we want to keep ourselves going back for more!
I was really excited to see cake rock on the map. I sent an old postcard of cake rock to a family member but never saw it in real life. Next time!
*J. Edgar Hoover's story told from (almost completely) his point of view. I was most impressed by information imparted at almost the very beginning - the fact that he helped organize - but no, I won't ruin the film for you!
*A.C.O.D. Adult Children of Divorce - most amazing that this idea wasn't cinemized decades ago! The streaming blurb called it "dark" but we didn't think so! Then again, neither of us is A.C.O.D. Alas, my adult children are. Dark? I guess you'd have to ask them.
July 9, 2016
It occurred to me that cosy mysteries are really senseless because they cater to the sensibilities of a bizarre fictional audience that is seemingly mortally offended by relatively superficial elements like obscene language while willing to submerge itself in reading about the greatest offense of all - murder!
Only I guess the audience isn't fictional at all. Since the library shelves are full of novels combining sweet desserts with (presumably) just desserts and murder investigations with romance (faugh!) the audience must be real.
We have to believe in it, just as we unwillingly must believe in the reality of torture - which, come to think of it, is also the reality experienced while reading a saccharine middle-American cosy.
I avoid them like the plague - and diet soda.
*James White Emotionally rough film putting it's young protagonist through life tests that would be a challenge for someone decades older. We thought it very well done.
*The Big Short I still don't quite understand how our heroes managed not to go down with the firms they dealt with but I guess it was about timing. Interesting to see the process of the crash from a different point of view than I had in the past. Every time I see a film about the crash I understand it a little better, I think. It has affected us all, of course, like 9/11, but I had no stake in what was going on at the time.
*True Detective Wow this started out really good and was really interesting, then somewhere around episode six or seven became increasingly improbable and just too much and too long. Too bad. P.S. Just found out there were other episodes. This is the one with Woody Harrelson.
July 7, 2016
We spent our last day of our epic travels (barring yesterday's drive home) indulging me in a walk down memory lane. Almost fifty years ago on an ecology field trip I saw a charming little town in beautiful green hills in northern Illinois. I always wanted to go back to Galena, Illinois, but I never did - until day before yesterday.
Of course it didn't seem the same. During the school year it wasn't loaded with tourists; of course in July it is! Really jammed with tourists - and probably a lot more of them these days. When I was in Galena before we took a tangential non-stop by-pass. This time we parked along the narrow one-way (in spite of having been widened, we were told) main street and gawked at all the little shops and the old houses and churches up on the surrounding high hills.
We had lunch at an tasteless-looking place with some promising looking salads on the menu - Durty Gurty and sat down to possibly the best cup of coffee I've ever had in a restaurant. Yes, it was really fresh and strong! Lunch was good, too, and overgenerous. I finished my salad at dinnertime in the motel.
After seeing Galena, through which a river runs (I hadn't known) we went to look at the Mississippi Palisades State Park campground, which is huge. The views of the Mississippi River are just as impressive as I remembered, but I didn't see the hillsides full of waist-high cinnamon fern I remembered from the past (of course they wouldn't be waist-high in July, but are they even there any more? We didn't explore long enough to find out.)
If we had camped out we might have seen more, but truth be told we were burned out with camping and headed out with promises to return, camp and hike. (Sounds as if we made a good decision - we learned later the region had severe storms that night.)
Mount Carroll, my old college town, was our next destination. I wanted my partner to see where I'd spent some pretty formative years. He enjoyed seeing the campus but was saddened by the decrepitude of many of the old buildings. Shimer College, sadly, vacated the campus decades ago.
It would be an ideal place to give to a few hundred refugees to repair, rehabilitate, and occupy. Any multimillionaires interested in the project? I can imagine a foreign crafts market might give poor old Mount Carroll an economic shot in the arm. And Mount Carroll deserves it, I think.
The tales of our travels are not over, of course. I promised to report on the Rocky Mountain National Park. Sometime within the next week or so I will.
* Coming Home This film about a family during and after the cultural revolution in China is affecting but overlong. It and some other foreign films I have seen lately have frustrated me mightily in the failure of the characters to try to persuade one another and establish their common past through words. Are most people really this nonverbal - in this case, teachers? I don't buy it. Maybe I am so verbal that I just don't get how nonverbal many other people are. I still call this a good film, though.
July 6, 2016
Kruger State Park had plenty of spaces left for the night of the third - a relief for my partner, who did not trust my high confidence that this would be the case. The surprise came for me when everyone left! I guess I imagined more folks trying to protect their beloved pets from firecracker trauma. Evidently there are more people than not who would rather be watching fireworks in a community. Of course, part of the reason we were in a state forest was because we did not want to reserve a site in a Minnesota State Park sight unseen.
What the Kruger State forest had to offer was trails through a variety of habitats and a couple of lovely overlooks that are well worth the hikes to get to them. I have to say, though, that sometimes thrashing along unused portions of trails reminded me of Bryson's experiences on the Appalachian Trail.
Noteworthy experiences included our startling of a turkey that exploded from cover about three feet from my partner as we tried to negotiate a path over a scrubby dead tree in the path. The startle was mutual!
The bird life we encountered in Minnesota has been the most prolific of any state we have visited, perhaps because of timing with regards to migration. At Zippel Bay we heard distant loons in the night - at Kruger we heard whippoorwills up close and personal. A woodpecker with a distinctive rattatat tat tat tat I have never noticed before is something I look forward to researching when we get home.
At Zippel Bay I had a close encounter with a woodpecker that flew right at me when I was in the vault toilet clearing. I don't know if it was accidental or if he was trying to keep me away from a nearby mate, but I sincerely hope for his sake he wasn't trying to excavate a nest hole in the back of the tin can recycling bin where I first spotted him!
My partner also had a close bird encounter or two in Minnesota. A Zippel Bay robin, the loudest-calling and most aggressive songster robin we've ever heard, tried to keep other birds out of his fruit trees and buzzed my overinquisitive partner for good measure.
Reminds me of a character in Mary McCarthy's Birds of America who reports feeling stalked when he walks out in nature. I'm feeling as if there's an escalation going on!
At any rate, after (is it really six weeks?) on the road we're about camped out.
All the admonitions in public bathrooms telling employees they MUST wash their hands amuse me. Lucky people! We all GET to wash our hands with convenient soap and running (often warm!) water.
At any rate, the admonitions seem not to be working with the general public. I don't know whether the unprecedented number of women I have seen walking out of bathroom doors without even swerving towards the sink means they are using hand sanitizer in their cars, but if they are, they are protecting themselves from our microbes with no regard for our rights for protection from theirs.
It has been the camping trip of a lifetime for us and hopefully not the last. We plan to be back at home tomorrow night if all goes well. Er, actually I mean tonight. I'd better try to get some more shuteye.
July 3, 2016
Gee, I could swear I've heard of this town before, but the association is lost in the sands of time. We've not seen it it, anyway, exce
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