Watch and Learn

Winter and the Future Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Alan is back from the Bahamas. Our regular breakfasts. Rabbi Jamie’s clear explanation about Judaism as a vehicle for mystical consciousness. Our Thursday afternoon mussar class. A lot of good friends in that one. MVP tonight. Friends there, too.

Got the new vegetable chopper. Ready for the next round of Israeli salad or pico de gallo.

I’m on episode 73 out of the 80 in the final season of Resurrection: Ertugrul. That means I’ve watched a whole lot of episodes. I’ve enjoyed the storylines, the immersion in an imagined Turkic tribal culture, and the sets, costumes. Are the plot holes in it big enough to swing a sword through without hitting anything? Oh, yeah. Is some of it melodramatic? Hmm. Yes. But as a story of a people committed to a cause, suffering for it, and succeeding, a good one.

Read a NYT article yesterday about M.B.Z., Mohammed bin-Zayed, ruler of the United Arab Emirates. His father, Zayed, was a pluralist and a believer in a tolerant, peaceful Islam. He opposed Islamists of all stripes. Mohammed, after a flirtation with Islamists, experienced 9/11 and converted to his father’s opinion.

MBZ sounds like a contemporary Erugrul. He has a particular perspective on Islam and has put his Emirates resources behind it. He fought the Islamists in the UAE, finding those who collabarated with bin Laden, three of the attackers were Emiratis. He had 200 Emiratis arrested and about 1,600 hundred foreigners.

He has lifted up women and the poor. He has fought in other nations for a more tolerant form of Islam. His troops are in Libya right now and have been a major force in Yemen.

Though the Saudi state is, as the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said, “…the mother and father of political Islam.”, MBZ mentors MBS, Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince accused of ordering Khashoggi’s death. MBZ wants to temper the Wahhabi stream of Islam, the one married to the founding of the Saudi state and radical in its political ideas. Wahhabi funded madrasa around the Middle East and elsewhere in the Islamic world spread its violent propensities.

Resurrection: Ertugrul showcases the Islamic love of a strong leader, a Prophet, a Caliph, an Emperor who loves his people and will do whatever it takes to keep them safe and prosperous. MBZ, like Ertugrul, has an affiliation for Sufi’s and is a Sunni.

Americans, as democrats (small d) and individualists, children of the Enlightenment, will find both Ertugrul and MBZ, and MBS for that matter, suffocating. Like the clan chieftain he was Ertugrul relied on the leaders of his tribe, beys, for authority in decision making. They met in council and debated issues before the Bey, bey of the whole Kayi tribe, Ertugrul in the later episodes, made a final decision.

The councils were advisory, though. The Bey’s decision was the one that mattered. Same with MBZ and MBS. There’s a lot paternalism and patriarchy running through Resurrection: Ertugrul and the worlds of MBZ and MBS.

Autocrats. Much like Egypt, Syria, Iran. Erdogan in Turkey. Some benevolent. Some not. I suspect much of Resurrection comes from contemporary fantasies for a return to the noble Caliphate of Harun al-Rashid. It certainly glorifies the mujaheddin, the warrior of jihad, of Allah’s Holy War. And it glorifies the strong central authority figure, Ertugrul. It could be seen as propaganda for Islamist extremists though I don’t believe that’s its intent.

I’ll miss the antics of Bamsi, the ax of Turgut, the strong swordarm and wisdom of Ertugrul. Finishing this week. Wow.

400 episodes down, 50 or so to go

Winter and the Future Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Kate. Always Kate. The last quarter Future Moon with Mars. Mars. Kim Stanley Robinson and his excellent trilogy: Red, Green, Blue Mars. New hips. Old hips. Brother Mark and the others who teach ESL around the globe. Sushi Win. Evergreen. Shadow Mountain again.

Kate took me out last night to Sushi Win. A thank you dinner after a tough week. Appreciated. Better rested this am. Not fully back, but a long nap yesterday morning helped. By tomorrow or Monday.

The winds were howling, bending the lodgepoles, testing their carefully evolved capacity to withstand the winds without breaking. The aspen, with no leaves, just let the air move through their branches.

Big winds mean changing weather and it’s much cooler here today, 12 this morning. Though. Friend Tom Crane said it was -2 yesterday on the shores of The lake. Snow coming, enough to cover the gopher holes. Conifer doesn’t measure up to Minnesota winter standards except in snow totals. Much, much more snow here. But it goes away. Solar snow shovel.

What do the animals do during the big winds? Hunker down, I suppose. Wind chill affects them, too, though not as much as us hairless apes. Kep seemed unfazed by it, running around outside last night for some time after we got back from Sushi Win.

I’m on the 50th episode of the 5th season of Resurrection: Ertugrul. Yes, it has soapy operatic threads and I enjoy them, too. Will Ibilge ever find a place in Ertugrul’s heart? Etrugrul’s wiliness, Bamsi’s double swords, Turgut’s ax, the battles. I like those, too. The narrative speed varies between fast and slow. Fast when battles or chases or rug weaving or eleventh century medicine dominates, slow when Islamic scholars or imams explain, say, the various names of Allah.

A narrative from the perspective of Islam privileges how Islam works positively in the lives of Turks. I find this fascinating and it’s what’s really glued me to this series. Resurrection weaves Islam together with Turkic tribal traditions and creates a rule bound world where duty and tribal loyalty supersede all.

Some of it makes me squirm, but that’s good. The unquestioned greatness of Allah in matters of war, family, love, justice gives the characters strength and confidence. The main characters share this worldview. The plot gains tension from the firmness of their beliefs.

In an episode yesterday Ertugrul and his Kayi alps (Turkic tribal soldiers, fierce warriors) rode into Sogut, a town and bazaar that Ertugrul established. He and his alps had conquered Sogut and the land around it in battle after a proclamation of Sultan Aladdin identified it as their territory. The Kayi tribes blue and white flag had hung everywhere Sogut.

Another tribe, the Umuro─člu, get Sogut from an ally, Mongol field commander. They put up their yellow flags and take down all the Kayi flags. A Turkic tribal tradition, however, privileges lands taken by the sword over those gained through political means. This means Ertugrul and the Kayis own Sogut.

When Ertugrul takes all of the Umuro─člu flags down, a swords out, lots of glaring battle ensues. Ertugrul admits his actions may cause trouble for everybody, but he’s defending his honor, defined by tradition.

Not for everybody I know, but it has fascinated me since October. Getting close to the end. But. Showing on Turkish TV now is Resurrection: Osman. Fortunately for my time, this is its first year and it won’t be on Netflix until the full season is over. Only one season to watch instead of 5.

Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

Cancer on my mind

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Those who discovered and manufacture lupron. The makers of the Cyberknife and those involved in radiation therapy. Dr. Gilroy, Pattie, Camela, Nicky, all those who took care of me then. Dr. Eigner. Anna Willis. Shelley, the lupron lady from Georgia. And a second time on the clear PSA.

Yes, cancer is on my mind this morning. At eleven I have my third lupron injection. Not sure about half-lives, but this will kick me back up into therapeutic range. Which means, a chance of mood swings and scattered hot flashes followed by continuing sarcopenia. Inner weather influenced by true chemtrails.

With the recent PSA I’m more sanguine, that much more willing to put up with the side effects. If I have another clear one in March, that will be my last lupron injection, setting me up for the critical PSA in June. It should tell the tale of the radiation. Did it burn out the fire that had kindled?

No, cancer is not all consuming. Most of the time I don’t think about it though it’s always lurking in the background, skulking like a thug in a dark alley.

In other medical news my bandages are off and Kate takes out my stitches today. A week ago this evening. We have become that much more vigilant. Doors closed, intercom calls to check on Kep’s location before moving Murdoch.

Kate felt good enough last night that she wanted to go out to eat. She felt cooped up in the house. A good sign. She has the psychic reserve to realize a need to get out. We went to Brook’s Tavern. Sort of tired of it, but it’s close.

There was some poignancy, realizing how little we get out together now. Also a realization that eating out has lost a lot of its luster. Too much of a production and the food’s not as good as I can make at home. IMHO. At least at Brook’s.

Resurrection: Ertugrul. Wow. This is a really long commitment. I’m on episode 84 of season 4. There is a season 5, too. Which I’ll watch. I’m a completist here. Why would I do this?

Fascination. Religion is so much at the core of this show: Islam, the good religion of the Turks. Christianity, a bad religion when it consists of Crusaders and Knights Templar, tolerable when its villagers, merchants, craftspeople. Paganism for the Mongols, portrayed as crude, barbaric, bloody, mystical. Definitely bad. Representing the polytheists who assaulted Mohamed in Mecca, I think.

I find it very interesting to watch the writer’s portrayal of Islam, how it effects daily life, political life, inner life. I don’t have much experience of Muslims living their lives. A bit, but nothing like the insight available in these shows. The history may be somewhat fanciful, the characters sometimes stereotypical (though there’s a lesson in stereotypes, too), but Islam is treated respectfully and fully.

More on all this when I read Season 5, the end. Sometime in the not too distant future. In shallah.

Only 200+ Episodes Left

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: the inventor(s) of pho. SeoAh and I had pho in Evergreen last night. Trees lit with Christmas lights down Black Mountain/Brook Forest Drive. (though. Mule deer bucks sometimes get their racks tangled in these lights.) The snow that graces our yard, Black Mountain, the road to Evergreen. The cold, too.

3:30 pm. The sun has disappeared behind Black Mountain yet still lights up a cold blue sky.

It’s the Holiday Walk in Evergreen tonight. The touristy part of town will close their chunk of Hwy 74 for wandering carolers, Christmas tree lighters, stores with holiday cider and hot chocolate. SeoAh and I will travel past it to the Pho place near King Sooper’s in Evergreen. SeoAh loves pho. So do I.

Exercised. Read more about tzedekah, the Jewish equivalent of zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam.

4:30 am. Orion’s shoulders and head and bow have a misty cover this morning, but his boots and his loyal dog showed above Black Mountain. Headed west again, he’s a bit like Sisyphus, always chasing the hare that stays in sight, but can never be caught. The gratitude moon has reached the waxed gibbous stage, well more than half lit but not quite full. Its light surprised me by creating a shadow to follow my path as I got the mail.

Continuing my journey toward the creation of the Ottoman Empire with Resurrection: Ertugrul. This one and a few others like it have a huge Muslim following, as you might imagine. The deeper I get into it, I’m now in season 3, probably 200 episodes or so, the more it worries me.

Though the story has me hooked, obviously, the depiction of jihad, of Islam as the only way, of the daring lengths to which its warriors will go has me thinking of current day mujaheddin. They may (almost certainly do) see themselves in the depictions of Ertugrul and the Turkmen fighting Mongols and Christians. The unrelenting chants of allahu akbar (God is Great.) and death to infidels feel like propaganda. And, are probably received in that way.

The golden age of television has introduced us to writers, actors, locations, and narratives from many different cultures. I watch Korean and other East Asian dramas as well as Bollywood movies. This is a chance to peek behind the national/cultural psyche of these locales. I relish it.

In Resurrection’s case it has helped me understand some of the media that informs and influences Muslims. This show has powerful resonance, drawing us in not only to the lives and travails of its characters, but also showcasing a certain violent devotion not new to Islam. As I’ve written before, television now allows us some of the best parts of travel, not through travel shows, but through the unfiltered presentation of material deemed congenial to a particular culture.

Only 200 some episodes to go.

I & We

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Joe’s visit. Annie’s visit. Seoah’s staying on. Murdoch’s staying on. The engineers who designed our Rav4’s. The laborers who assembled them. Deb and Dave at On the Move Fitness who prepare my workouts every six to eight weeks. The oxygen concentrators that make it possible for Kate and me to live up here.

I’ve mentioned the Turkish TV series Resurrection (see the post for Oct. 21). It’s a long one, well over 400 episodes. A huge work of historical fiction, a novel on the small screen. It holds my attention, though I imagine many would stop watching over its persistent Muslim bias against non-Muslims, its more than occasional violence, and its often laughable translations. Immersion in it and our several years at Congregation Beth Evergreen have combined to make me reconsider individualism.

As an American, as a confirmed existentialist, as an ex-Christian, as a phenomonologist, as a thinker, as an introvert, the individual has always loomed bigger to me than the collective. The notion of a hermetic life. Yes. The life of a scholar hidden in the library. Yes. The life of a novelist obscured by working alone. Yes. Even a move to a mountain home far away from 40 years of friendship and memories. Yes.

The tribal life of frequent, intimate contact with many others has not been mine. Growing up among the 5,000 or so souls in Alexandria, Indiana had its similarities, but we were not bonded by shared purposes, traditions, and genetics. We were a loose collection of families and individuals who shared a common marketplace and a school system. Beyond that we divided into different Christian denominations, extended families, and had no intrinsic loyalty to a lifetime with the folks in town.

The Christian ministry experience is more complicated and I don’t want to go into much depth about it here, but the rise of Protestantism enhanced individualist tendencies as it clambered out of Catholicism in tune with the Enlightenment. Being, say, a Presbyterian is not the same (tribally) as being even a Catholic, and it’s very far from being a Jew or a Muslim.

Beyond those two, a small town childhood and the odd life of an ordained clergy, I’ve followed the path of developing my potential, getting analysis for my psyche’s troubles, and eschewing joining. Love of family and of my Woolly friends, though both dear to me, is not a tribal experience. And, they’ve been enough. More than enough, satisfying.

But. My first taste of tribalism’s benefits came in the year after 9/11, when my ignorance of Islam came into sharp relief. I read the Koran, the whole thing, over Ramadan, fasting during the day and reading it in the segments suggested. I read a lot of other things, too. Volumes of history. Poetry. Works by famous Muslim scholars. Lots of reading. What was the caliphate? What were the five pillars? How did Islam grow and spread so rapidly?

After attending a three day conference on Islam at the University of Minnesota, I went to a break the Ramadan fast event at Dar Al-Farooq mosque near the U. The congregants welcomed me warmly. I sat against the back wall as the men prayed. The women were downstairs. A small boy came over to me, smiled, sat in my lap, and asked, “Are you a kafir?” An unbeliever? Yes, I said. I was. His eyes got big.

The meal was good, eaten on the same floor where the prayers had been offered, covered in clear plastic sheeting. Afterward a group of men talked to me, took me to a library, offered me books to take home, answered questions. It was a warm and inviting experience.

Resurrection shows the same warmth in the Kayi and Dodurga tribes. Their lives are for each other, with each other. They also fight, intrigue, and betray. But the benefits of a tribal identity and life are obvious.

At Beth Evergreen the sense of tribal identity probably doesn’t occur to most congregants. It’s just there. They know the holidays, some of the rituals, know what a b’nei mitzvah is, maybe have some knowledge of Hebrew. Islam permeates the tribal life in Resurrection, but observance is a good deal more casual in this Reconstructionist synagogue.

Think of this. When they read the Torah, it’s a book by and about their ancestors. Yes, maybe its more myth than fiat, but it’s still about the development of the Jewish world and the Jewish worldview. While eating in the Sukkah, they recapitulate a harvest festival celebrated centuries before the common era, by their ancestors, in the promised land. See that? I slipped in promised land. Well, it was promised to them, their ancestors.

On a more immediate basis the caring among members of the congregation, as expressed by the Mitzvah committee, the e-mails and phone calls we’ve gotten over Kate’s illness and mine, the connections outside of the synagogue among members, like my breakfasts with Alan for example and Kate’s time with her friend Jamie, evidence a degree of intimacy and community I never found in a Christian church. I’m sure there are some that have it, I’ve not experienced it.

In rereading this I noticed the theys and theirs in the paragraphs above. I’m not a Jew, nor do I want to become one. But, I love these people and they are my people. I’m not of them in the formal sense, however.

Instead of leaning toward individualism, I may be standing up straight, inclined toward Self and community in somewhat equal parts. That’s still not the tribal modality. In that case the collective overwhelms the individual and their needs. Not gonna be me.

And yet.

what was i thinking

Fall and the 1% crescent moon

Grocery stores got jammed up yesterday. A guy posted a photograph of twenty people in line for the self-checkout. The other checkout lanes were backed up, too. Storm coming. Another 8-12 inches for us and lots of what Coloradans (and, increasingly, me) call cold. We’ve even got a -1 in the forecast for a Wednesday low. Of course it is only October.

Thought I was gonna do some outside work. What was I thinking? Friday wore me out. Got my work out done. Had some lunch. Nap. Woke up around 3:30. Made a light supper after some time in the loft. That, plus three episodes of Resurrection, and my day was done. I’ve hit episode number 50, over half way through the first year’s 93.

Resurrection

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Went out for the paper with some anticipation. The Orionid meteor shower peaks in the early morning hours. So I stood looking, gazing above Orion’s shoulder. Getting cold. It’s 21 degrees. And looking. Still looking. Nope.

Oh, well. Got a good view of Orion and the waning Sukkot moon. A few clouds diffused the moon light to the east, otherwise the sky was clear.

I know, Minnesotans. Getting cold at twenty one degrees? Remember I’ve lived here almost 5 years. I came out for the closing on Samain of 2014 and we moved in on the Winter Solstice of that year. Gonna have to invalidate my winter passport for no longer meeting Gopher State citizenship requirements.

Yesterday, when I planned to continue mitigation, there were wind gusts of sixty mph, sustained winds of twenty-five to thirty. Lends too much uncertainty to felling for this amateur, plus it was only 30 yesterday so the wind chill was nippy. Instead I cut up cardboard, read the parsha for November 23rd, talked to Kate.

In the evening I continued watching my forever series, Resurrection. It’s in season 5 this year. I’m on episode 27 of the first year. There 66 more episodes in year 1. How they count episodes is a bit confusing, but there seem to be around 400 or so through year 5. This is the story of Ertugrul, the father of Usman who founded the Ottoman empire.

It has rough spots. Like early scenes where horses descend a hill in what are obviously tire tracks. A spy is caught peering around a tree with limbs cut off with a chain saw. It took a while for the actors to get into their roles and some of the early dialogue was wooden. But if you allow for that and enjoy historical drama this Netflix series will grab your attention.

All of the heroes are Muslim and the arch villains are Knights Templar, Roman Catholic priests and cardinals, and Christian rulers. If you watch any of the terrorist inspired TV shows on now, the villains are Muslim and the heroes Western police or military. It’s worthwhile to see our own history through the eyes of others who saw it differently.

Yesterday was quieter. The winds howled, upping the fire danger, clouds kept the sky a gray-white. Both Kate and I were tired from yesterday so a slow day was just fine.

I Recommend

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Three high quality but very different offerings on TV right now. On Hulu, the least strange show of the three: Veronica Mars 4th season. The first three seasons ended in 2007, so number four is set 12 years later. The show’s first three seasons are also on Hulu, which paid for the late addition.

characters in the 3rd season of Veronica Mars

If you never met Veronica, you’ve missed an iconic character in American television. Smart mouthed, brave, petite, beautiful, and brainy, she’s first in high school solving the problems of students at Neptune High. (California) In the third season she’s in college. Ditto. By season number four she has a Stanford law degree, but chooses to return to Neptune to work as private investigator with her father, Keith.

Four stars out of five. Four only because I like things a little stranger. So, a biased ranking. (But, aren’t they all?)

Amazon Prime Video put up Carnival Row on August 29th, so it’s brand new. Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne star. A British production, it’s loaded with character actors you might have seen on BBC shows and has a fascinating set complete with monorails, gritty streets, and an overall Victorianesque tone.

There’s been a long war between the fae with their human allies and the Pact, a mysterious and brutal enemy to both. There are pixies with wings, trotters with rams horns on their heads, lots of Midsummer Night’s Dream references (this is a British show after all), and yet another take on zenophobia. This last is a bit disappointing though I get it as an of the moment plot device. Disappointing, btw, in its overuse, not in its broader significance.

High production values, great cast, an edgy plot. Four and a half stars. Right now. I’ve not finished it so I may go up to five or down to four when I’m done.

As I said in yesterday’s post, Netflix has taken the biggest chances by funding shows and limited series from a diverse collection of nationalities and story telling traditions. My recent and so far all time favorite is Frontera Verde, the Green Frontier, made by Colombians and filmed in and near Leticia, Colombia’s southern most point. Leticia is the capital of the department of Amazonas, and borders Brazil’s state of the same name.

A detective from Bogota is sent to Leiticia to investigate the murder of four missionaries in the jungle. Helena Poveda was born in the jungle near Leticia, but sent to Bogota as a young girl and has not returned until this trip. The murder of the missionaries, from Edens Church, and the solution to them, does make this a mystery.

Solving the murders is a vehicle that takes us into the botanical mystery that is the Amazonian jungle and the lives of those indigenous communities who live there. The old days of rubber plantations, the current threats of rogue loggers and a secretive group intent on penetrating the mystical center of the jungle for their own purpose provide the villainy.

The story telling has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez inflection, magical realism often taking the story in surprising directions. Early on a hand, covered in black pigment, comes to rest on a root and the root glows and pulses. This is Yua, the eternal slave, and a guardian of the jungle. Ushe is his long time companion, both many decades older than they appear. Ushe’s murder, discovered by Elena while investigating the killing of the missionaries, is the central plot line though it takes a long time for that to become evident.

I love the undercurrents here. An indigenous detective has to choose between his police duties and his community, the Nai. Elena discovers the true depth of her home coming. “The jungle is in your heart,” says the indigenous detective’s grandfather to her. Yua and Ushe navigate the jungle’s essence, sometimes using magic, other times their knowledge of the communities, other times their vast botanical lore. Edens Church has a much different belief system than its predecessor, an order of Catholic nuns.

Ushe and Yua

The videography is wonderful. A slim boat travels quickly up the wide, brown Amazon. Ushe and Yua meet in a cosmic space held together by mother jungle. The jungle itself is by turns claustrophobic, vast, and alive.

I realized last night that by an odd coincidence Colombia is the foreign country I have visited most. Three times. Once in 1989, Bogota. Once in the 1990’s with Kate, Cartagena. And once in 2011, Santa Marta. Long before any of those trips I had found Marquez and his Hundred Years of Solitude.

Santa Marta, Colombia 10/23/2011

With those trips to Colombia, our two transits of the Panama Canal, and the 7 week cruise we took around Latin America in 2011, I feel I’ve had a modest immersion in the often strange world of this continent where the Portugese and Spanish ran headlong into indigenous communities. Might be why I like this so much.

I’ve begun a second watching of Frontera Verde, something I almost never do. It’s mixture of indigenous magic and shamanism with contemporary problems of the “earth’s lungs,” as the Amazon is often referred to in the stories about its many fires, makes it compelling to me.

Five stars. Good acting, wonderful landscapes, strange plotlines. Another world brought to life. Compelling.