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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So. Television. The boob tube. Kill your TV. The great wasteland. Coastal elites love to hate TV. Oh, wait, that was from a Trump supporter. Anyhow, television.
Saw my first flickery images from the little box in 1952, election returns from the Eisenhower/Stevenson vote. Black and white. Dad and I stayed up until 3 am waiting for California. I watched Howdy Doody, Captain Midnight, The Cisco Kid, Sgt. Renfrew of the Royal Mounted, Sky King. This was very early for television in Alexandria, Indiana. My dad’s boss, Mr. Feemster, bought it for him because he thought a newspaper editor should have one.
In 1963 I was at home sick from school and reading Mallory’s “La Morte d’Arthur.” I watched the coverage from Dallas from the beginning. Moon landing. 9/11. Shock and awe.
We were like any television obsessed family, I imagine. Three hours a night together. Yes, I had to watch Sing Along with Mitch (follow the bouncing ball!) and Lawrence Welk. The horror.
Point is I’ve been watching TV for over 67 years. Neither proud nor ashamed of that. I’ve seen some amazing things, some awful things, but mostly schlocky episodes of dumbed down entertainment that had to appeal to families and fit within the Code of Practices for Television Broadcasters.
Several years ago Kate and I cut the cord with Comcast. Too much TV, too expensive. And, real jerks at customer service. Since then, I’ve chosen what I wanted to watch rather than adapting myself to the broadcasters schedule and tastes.
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. Those are my ABC, CBS, and NBC. Except. They have movies, lots of movies. Documentaries. TV shows. All that I can watch whenever I want. Or, not.
This is television’s golden age. The small screen has begun to compete successfully with Hollywood. There are many big name boxoffice stars now deigning to work in the used-to-be too stupid medium. Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright were among the first. Now: Orlando Bloom. Julia Roberts. Billybob Thornton. For example.
Netflix has made the key move, in my opinion. With their globe spanning ambitions they’ve funded original local television series. Marco Polo was an early one. Designated Survivor: Korea, a recent one, along with the also Korean Possessed and Strong-girl Bong-Soon. Better Than Us is a Russian cyberbot series. Not all of them will appeal to any one segment of viewers, but that’s ok for Netflix. You pick your own. Like the buffet at Country Kitchen.
I love to watch these Turkish (Protector), Korean (see above), Russian, Japanese (The Naked Director), South African (Shadow), New Zealand, Australian, Taiwanese, Thai, and most recently, Fronteras Verde, The Green Frontier, from Colombia.
Since they use local script writers, videographers, actors, and settings, there is an opportunity to see Colombian videographic tastes, the styles of Japanese and Thai actors, the streets of Johannesburg and Istanbul, the country side in Turkey. Not to mention the story ideas are ones that appeal to the particular audience in that country. All of this is a fair equivalent to travel, minus the Montezuma’s revenge and expensive plane tickets.
You may not use this golden era to travel the globe (take that flat-earthers), but I am. And I find it exhilarating.
Orion has returned. He’s visible just above the south-eastern horizon around 5 am. A friend since my time as a security guard for a cookware factory. On the midnight shift I worked alone and during the fall and winter months we became acquainted. He signals the season of inner work.
As the growing season yields its bounty, the plant world gets ready for the fallow season that will start on October 31st, Samain. The nights grow longer and cooler. On September 29th Michaelmas, the springtime of the soul. Perennials send food down to their corms, tubers, bulbs. Their leaves turn brown and die back to the ground. Annual flowers finish their summer long journey by spreading seed for the next year.
This is the Great Wheel and it repeats each year, spiraling out along earth’s orbit. Lived too, in lifetimes of birth, youth, maturity, and senescence. It is the way of the earth. For living things, the most ancientrail of all.
This is the lens through which I see my life, the one I use for comfort in difficult times, celebration, understanding.
Saw a movie yesterday, Midsommar. Its opening scene shows winter, spring, summer, and fall in a tableau. You may be aware of the naked dancing the Swedes (and others, too) enjoy at their midsommar bonfires. Well, this isn’t about that. It shows the dark side of a pagan worldview, how it can devolve into traditions every bit as dogmatic and frightening as any inquisitor. I loved this movie. Kate hated it.
Fans of Wicker Man will see Midsommar as an instant classic in the same vein. Kate said, “It made me glad I’m not Swedish.” Spoiler alert: the character named Christian does not fare well.
Kate’s going to be in the hospital one more day. They want to be sure the j-tube is working, no leaks. A gastric function test today with contrast. Like making sure all the plumbing is in order after sealing the wall. Not sure what they’ll do if they find a leak.
Today it feels like I woke up in a Truman Show simulacrum, one focused on medicine, a Grey’s Anatomy in which Kate and I are a plot thread about medical issues affecting the geriatric demographic. Maybe I’ll drive out to Littleton Adventist this morning and someone there will tear a hole in the screen separating us from the cameras and crew.
Having Kate back in the hospital has flashed forward the bleed and its long aftermath, the second bleed, the pneumothorax. On the first day she’s gone my reaction is to be self-indulgent. Eat poorly and watch a lot of TV. Yesterday was hot dogs, ice cream and several sessions of Big Mouth, a Netflix cartoon about hormonal middle-schoolers. It’s surprisingly good, recommended by Ruth. Not sure why I have this reaction, marking her absence surely, but why self-indulgence?
I suppose those are denial strategies. Eat and forget. Watch and forget. Suppress. Repress. Good thing I have this bandage stripping habit. Wouldn’t want to get stuck. My inclination these days, these third phase days, is to be more forgiving of myself. As somebody said, if your compassion does not include yourself, you are not yet (something): fully compassionate, enlightened, realistic? Ah. Looked it up. It is incomplete.
Saw Avengers: Endgame on Tuesday. This was to distract me from being pissed at Centura Health, United Health Care and whoever else dragged their feet, waiting until the day before and the day of to interfere with my planned axumin scan. It worked. I know who dies in endgame, but I won’t tell. It’s a long movie and I’m not a super fan, so I know I missed a lot of the inside jokes and things being tidied up from the multiple movies that preceded it. I did, however, come out calm. The universe had been returned to mostly normal, seder had been restored. The underlying reason we like superheroes, mysteries, thrillers.
By that evening I was sufficiently chill to sleep through the night, something I almost never do. I spoke my mind to the health “benefits” folks at Centura Health, distracted myself, got some perspective, and slept just fine. Not deep breaths or wonky meditation, but workable.
Yesterday I focused on an organ, the eye. Played space invaders for the nice man, or, as they insist on calling it, a visual field test. My field of vision is holding steady, no glaucoma encroachment. Pressures are good, the hole in my cornea is, as my ophthalmologist says, is patent. That means it’s still draining the fluid for me. Part of me, an important part, is functional and remaining so. With help from latanoprost and good surveillance.
On Friday I see the Anova Cancer Care folks. This will be a somewhat changed consult since I didn’t do the axumin scan. I plan to ask them what sort of imaging work will make their work optimal. If they believe in the axumin scan enough, I may agree to pay for it. $4,000 versus life? Not a tough call.
After lungs on Monday morning, a crowning achievement on Monday afternoon, the scan hooha on Tuesday, the glaucoma checkup yesterday, and the oncologist visit tomorrow afternoon, we’ll have finished off another very medical week. Something fun is in order for the weekend.
Simcha. I’m coming to believe that joy and gratitude may be sufficient to get us all the way through life. I don’t mean silly puffy gladness, or just saying thank you reflexively, but heart and mind illuminating joy and deeply felt gratitude.
What gives you joy? Be grateful for it. I’m gonna call this the Doris Day lifeway, worthy of emulation.
Tom Crane sent me this street poet’s work, found on Maui. I wrote him back after reading it and said we could go for an epic third phase. I meant legendary, but epic appeared anyhow. He wrote back, said he’d like that, too, but didn’t know how. I agreed. Beginner’s Mind, eh? We’d have to redefine epic, Tom replied. Yes.
And, we don’t want to get stuck in the success trap. That trap can consume the second phase, career and family, but it can be set aside in the third. So the question could be, what would a legendary third phase look like? Better than epic. Epic has that Hollywood feel, doesn’t it? Let’s forget I transmuted legendary into epic and go back to the poem.
What does an open spirit look like in the third phase? What risks might we take if we had one? What risks are particular to the third phase? To get an idea of where this might go, I looked up the Hindu sadhu. A sadhu intentionally creates a fourth phase of life.* Of course in a Minnesota winter like the last one the Jain option of wearing nothing would require modification unless the sadhu phase was to be short.
I wonder if other cultures have similar ideas? Don’t know. What I do take from the sadhu is that they have an open spirit, moving toward moksa means getting free from samsara, the worldly enmeshment that the second phase presses upon us with such vigor.
Part of a legendary third phase might involve letting go, leaving the old desires of life, shaped by education, work, and family behind. But, if they’re left behind we might be left wondering, what else is there? Those desires are the ones that motivated us, got us up in the morning, out the door coffee in hand, ready to do. The old finish line model of retirement pretended that this was as easy as buying a set of Pings, selling the house in Kenwood, and moving to a Del Webb village to drive, chip and putt. Or, head out to Margaritaville, collect umbrellas in the sand next to your beach chair. Doesn’t sound like a sadhu approach, does it?
Another image, similar to the sadhu, was the Chinese scholar who would retire from the bureaucratic life, paradigmatic of the second phase in that culture, and move into the mountains to write poetry and live amongst wildlife and forests. This is a Taoist vision, one that took over from the Confucian when either work was over or changes in the political life forced a scholar out of the court. I like this one a little better than the sadhu because I like clothes.
Wu wei: “a state of being in which our actions are…effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world” is the Taoist principle these mountain hermits follow. And, a sound one, though as I’ve written before, I’m also a “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them” sort of guy. This may be the key attitude that prevents me from fully letting go of success, of my set of Pings, that beach chair.
I’m not talking here about monastics or hermits who take to those lives, as Thomas Merton did, in the midst of their second phase. These are escapist lives, profound in their way of course, but ones that set aside the second phase much earlier. What I want to consider is the legendary third phase possible after the more traditional transition from work and raising a family.
Look forward to any ideas you might have. This preliminary look suggests some things to me. Let go. Seek spiritual liberation. Attune life to the seasons, to the natural world. Live in some seclusion from the old, second phase world.
“The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa (liberation), the fourth and final aśrama (stage of life), through meditation and contemplation of Brahman. Sādhus often wear simple clothing, such saffron-coloured clothing in Hinduism, white or nothing in Jainism, symbolising their sannyāsa (renunciation of worldly possessions).” wiki
Kate, BJ, Ruth, solar eclipse 2017 at BJs Idaho house
Glad BJ’s a true New Yorker. She saw the train as a good way to return to the airport. Saved me a couple of hours in transit. It was a good visit and I have the spritz cookies to prove it. I’ll be sending a box full of yarn to Idaho. No room in the Beacon Hotel for it, I guess.
Kate got her teeth cleaned yesterday. In addition to all her other miseries Sjogren’s, which makes her mouth very dry, does so by diminishing the natural defense against cavities, saliva. That means good news for the dentist’s income, bad news for her. As I might have said long ago, if it’s not one damned, it’s another.
Had my make sure I’ve got the technique down session at On the Move Fitness. The deadlift move was hard for my body to figure out. I had a tendency to slump my shoulders. Drive your glutes back, chest up, Dave said. Oh, I see. That advanced quadraped had me going, too. Had my hand sweeping forward when my leg came up rather than when it went back. Fixed that. Now I’m good to go for another 6-8 weeks.
Cardio wise I’m way behind my usual fitness level. Totally detrained. It will take a while to get that back, probably longer than getting my muscles into shape. No other way than through it. This paleolithic body wants to be hunting and gathering, but I’m sitting and coughing. Sigh.
Netflix provides me with some of my travel needs. How, you might ask? By funding shows that not only take place in foreign climes, but ones created and acted by folks from those same climes. (what is a clime, anyhow? ah. “a region considered with reference to its climate.” There you go.) They’re not all great, most aren’t, but they show a particular culture in situ and from within its cultural norms. Sure, they use some cliches from American and British TV, imperialism is not just about gun boats and occupying armies, but the cultural mores seep through anyhow.
Example. The Protector. This story is set in Istanbul. Its origin is a fantasy novel by Turkish author, N. Ipek Gokdel, The Strange Story of Charcoal and a Young Man. The novel itself has not been translated into English and the language of the series is Turkish, but, you know, subtitles. The settings include the Grand Bazaar, Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, and many parts of Istanbul with which I’m not familiar like Prince’s Island and residential neighborhoods.
The Protector is a figure from Istanbul’s Ottoman past, a magical figure who gains the power to stop the seven Immortals who threaten Istanbul and, by implication, the whole world. The plot draws from the era of Mehmed the Conqueror. At 21 he defeated the Byzantine’s and began the Sunni Muslim era of Turkey. A key figure in a few episodes is the architect of Suleiman the Magnificent, Mimar Sinan. The show visits mosques he designed and his tomb.
Various Turkish foods, table customs, history, family traditions, as well as story telling tropes are in every scene. It’s not a bad story line and the actors are good, not great, but good. Plus I get to see Istanbul and learn about Turkey. In this period of my life I’m more stay-at-home, so I appreciate these opportunities. Roma was another example. Genghis Khan, which I’ve not watched yet, is another. Kingdom, set in Korea, too. The long series on foods of Southern China. None of the other streaming services have this variety.
First, it’s not about gypsies. Roma is a neighborhood in Mexico City.
Second, it’s not a thriller, or a mystery, or a comedy (except perhaps of manners), or a drama. It’s not fantasy, anime, or horror. I would call it cinema verité, a slice of life, in this case a short period in the life of Cleo, an indigenous woman who serves as a maid to the deteriorating family of a physician. She and Adela, another maid, wake up the children, kiss them and love them, make meals, clean the house, and work from morning until night.
Cleo is affectionate, a para-mother, to the four children, three boys and a girl. They love her back and the relationship among them is strong enough that, despite not knowing how to swim, she wades into the Bay of Campeche to save Sofi from drowning as threatening waves break all around them.
The film is told with Cleo and her life as its center, and a good part of it covers the evolution of her pregnancy, the result of one afternoon with Fermín. Fermín’s full frontal nudity, while brandishing a staff in martial arts fashion, serves to highlight what I perceived as the strongly feminist theme. His is the only nudity in the film.
Cleo’s pregnancy ends in the birth of a dead girl. The physician moves away from his home, leaving his wife, her mother, the four kids, Cleo and Adela in the family house. After a drunken drive into the garage with the oversized, masculine body of a Ford Galaxy, the wife says to Cleo, “We’re all alone Cleo. We women are always alone.” Her mother is there, alone. Cleo and Adela are there alone.
Cleo tells Fermín that she’s late while they are at a movie. He says, “That’s good, yeah?” She looks a little bewildered, but nods. “I’m going to the bathroom.” He disappears. When she finds him much later, he’s moved back to a village and trains there. She asks him if he has a minute. He shouts at her, brandishes his staff, “It’s not mine. If you come back, I’ll beat your face in.”
Though the film consistently portrays the physician’s family, including his wife, as caring for Cleo, “We love you, Cleo, very much.” there is always the underlying dynamic of employer/employee. “Will you fire me?” Cleo asks when informing the wife of her pregnancy. “Of course not.” The story from Cleo’s point of view suggests several different times that her position could be precarious, even if the family does love her.
We don’t see films focused on servants. Especially not films that take a more or less neutral attitude toward servitude like Roma. Yes, we see the threat to Cleo, but we also see the families genuine affection for her, the children’s, too. She displays no anger at her life, nor does Adela. Her most negative emotions come after the birth of her dead girl. She sits and stares.
The black and white film, the setting in the early 1970’s, and the depiction of an infamous police riot against protesting college students give Roma the patina of a story from long ago, as if the participants were sitting around a campfire somewhere recounting that year that Cleo got pregnant. In that sense, and in its third person style, gives the viewer a distance from the events in the movie, like watching a newsreel.
This is a powerful, well-observed film. It drew me in to Cleo’s world, made me ache with her, want more for her, appreciate her love for the children, which, of course, drew a double line of irony under her unsuccessful pregnancy.