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.

I love TV

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

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.

So Good

Lughnasa and the crescent Moon of the First Harvest

Our beautiful Rigel. Nine and a half.

Cool again this morning. Great sleeping. So much so that Rigel couldn’t be bothered to get up and go outside before breakfast. I had to go down and roust her. All that barking at the bunnies under the shed tired her out, I guess. Thankfully she seems to be calming down about them.

Brother Mark is back in Saudi Arabia. His employment there has taken some odd turns. He’s headed to Riyadh instead of either Arar or Qassim. As he says, Saudi can be a challenging place to work.

Uncle Mark in the Saudi desert

Today is sister Mary’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mary! She’s starting another year as a professor at the teacher’s university of Singapore.

In other family news Kate and I went on an errand run yesterday. We were out so long that the battery on her O2 concentrator died. Happened on the way home. Even with that she was not exhausted. Still upbeat. Her stamina has improved remarkably with regular, balanced nutrition. It was so good to have her with me, doing things. Today is eleven months since her bleed. September 28th, 2018.

A 75th birthday present

We stopped at Babcock Gardens and Feed in Kittredge. Investigating river rock to cover the landscape cloth I’m going to put all around our house. That’s the 5 foot ignition zone. The one and a half inch river rock covers 80 square feet per ton. We’ve got about 500 square feet, maybe a bit more. 5 tons* of rock to move. And, the woman at Babcock’s said river rock is hard to shovel. Hmm. Time for teenagers. Or, it just occurred to me, a bobcat. Course it would have to fit through our gate. Hmm, maybe not.

One odd element of wildfire mitigation is that, if you’ve done it, the firefighters are much more likely to protect your home in case of a fire. If we try, they’ll try.

*All you math folks can tell that’s only 400 square feet worth, right? Well, they only deliver 5 tons at a time. Gonna try to make that much work.

Pole Dancing

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Three aha moments. Responses to my Facebook post about ending radiation. A Bollywood epic about 21 Sikhs who held off a Pathan tribe force of 10,000. Kesari. 2015 Alexandria Class of 1965 50th reunion.

In 2015, a month and a half or so after my prostatectomy, I drove to Alexandria, Indiana for the 50th reunion of the class of 1965, my class. In Independence, Missouri I got out of the rental car, went back to get my luggage out of the trunk and promptly peed my pants, soaking a pair of jeans. Embarrassed and chagrined I got in the room holding my luggage in front of me, took those pants off and stuffed them in a wastebasket.

The first event of the reunion, at the Alexandria Historical Society, found me with that experience at front of mind. As a leader in academics and the class, you might not expect me to be nervous, feel vulnerable. I did though. It was partly the Independence (irony) moment, yes; but, it was also the knowledge that I’d traveled a much different road after high school than the vast majority of my classmates.

Many of them went to Vietnam. Dennis Sizelove died there. Richard Lawson, a close friend, died later of wounds from his war time. Mike Thomas and several others at the reunion were Vietnam vets. Only a few of us went onto college, maybe 10% out of our class of 180. I didn’t know anybody in our class with a graduate professional degree and a post-graduate school doctorate.

This was 2015, the year before an electoral Titanic took us all down with it. Somebody asked me to speak during our dinner at Norwood Bowl. It was the only venue in town large enough for our meal.

I’m on the right of the seated row. 2015, Norwood Bowl

We’re here together again. After 50 years. But not just 50 years. Most of us were together for at least 12 years before that. Let’s call it 62 years. Yet we’re here. Why? Because we still care about each other, about our town, about the memories we made.

I know we’re divided in many ways: those that stayed around, those that left. Like me. those that supported the war in Vietnam and those that didn’t. Like me. Those that found George Bush a good President, those that prefer Obama. Like me. Those that like the Colts and those that like the Vikings. Like me. I’m sure there are, too, differences over sexuality, abortion, maybe even race.

But this is what’s important. In this room we share something more important than those divisions. We share a community. We are a community. And communities don’t require everyone to believe the same. In fact, they’d be pretty boring if we did. I care about each of you not because of what you believe, but because of who you are. Even if I don’t know you well, I still care because we share a life built together over time.

I was shaking when I started. I’d chosen to lay bare the vulnerability I felt. Hard. But as I spoke, maybe 3 minutes, the vulnerability went away to be replaced by gratitude that I still knew these people. Was still alive with them.

On facebook I’ve made two posts about cancer. First, letting folks know I had it again and that I would undergo radiation treatment and a second one saying I’d finished. On the list of folks who responded and commented were many who post America love or leave it type messages, pro-Trump, anti-snowflake. They were also folks who can’t wait for the revolution. With some of them I share a love of art. With others college during the late 60’s. With others Congregation Beth Evergreen.

Each one part of a venn diagram of various communities to which I belong or belonged. And, in those communities empathy and concern, love, transcend political and religious differences. Why? Because communities do not expect everyone to share the same beliefs.

Kesari. Amazon Prime Video has many Bollywood movies. I like them. I even like the inevitable contrived dance routines and singing.

Kesari is a retelling of the battle for Saragarhi, a real 1897 encounter between 21 Sikhs who held Ft. Saragarhi and an invading force of Muslim Pathans that numbered around 10,000. It has an Alamo feel; the Sikhs fight only to slow the invaders and all of them die.

The lead character, Havlidar (or, Sgt.) Ishar Singh, rallies the Sikh’s both against the Pathan tribesmen and the occupying British, “…who see us as slaves. We can choose to die as free men.” The story remains in Indian memory because it underscored the bravery of the Sikh soldiers and, by extension, all Sikhs.

Here’s the link for this post. At the very end of the movie all but Ishar Singh and one other are dead. The Pathans have demolished a wall of the fort and will soon invade. Ishar Singh, who has had visions of his wife throughout the movie, has one as he stands alone, sword ready for the coming assault.

“Should I run? Or, should I stay?” he asks her. She smiles, “Make our community proud.”

My folks, each and everyone

Here’s the paradox of community. There are inclusive communities, usually we had no choice in belonging to them, like our families, and communities defined by exclusion, like the Sikh’s, say, or LGBTQ, or Trump supporters, or progressive Democrats. These exclusive communities can inspire us, make us feel safe among our own “kind,” but they also reinforce political divisions and make our larger communities less safe.

Pole dancing. I have no magic formula. No way to be in an exclusive community without its pitfalls. Perhaps though if we took a lesson from exotic dancers and were willing to strip ourselves bare, to see ourselves as individuals and, most important, show ourselves as individuals, to each other. Perhaps. Just perhaps.

Failure

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest


Had breakfast with Alan yesterday at the Lakeshore Cafe. Told him about the interesting failure of the bank we tried to create for the poorest of the poor. This was after a 1989 trip to Bogota where we spent a week with staff of the Fundacion Grupo Social.

This group, now a huge corporation, began with Jesuit inspired credit circles for citizens of barrio Jerusalem. In order to give small loans when these folks had no assets the Jesuits conceived of co-signing. If I wanted money to start a small business or build a home (a shack, really), you could co-sign as my guarantor. The default rate on these loans was minimal. Social cohesion is as good as a down payment. This was the start of the micro-credit idea.

We worked hard for a year to put together a Minnesota version, but a recession forced the bank that was working with us to withdraw their generous offer of two million dollars for capitalization.

Alan asked last week over breakfast what I’d done. When I told him a few things: West Bank Community Development Corporation work, Jobs Now, MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Affordable Housing Coalition), Minnesota Council of Non-Profits, I surprised myself by being eager to talk about it. Realized that with the exception of Kate and Jon a little bit, no one here in Colorado knew my Minnesota story, my second phase of family and work.

Life is so different here. No contacts. No friends of decades. Only a few places with memories, most tied to the grandkids.

The West has always been a place to start over for Americans from the humid east, guess I’m no exception. No expectations based on prior achievements or prior failures. A new person rising where the sun sets.



The Radiation Fumigation

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Not far from the Chicago Art Museum, angle across the park, head south and cross Lakeshore Drive to the triangle that contains the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium, and the Field Museum of Natural History. I used to take Joseph there when he was younger.

At the time there was an exhibition room in the Field that featured the ENIAC*, an early computer. It was huge. Seeing the computer itself, I learned the origin of the term, bug. It meant, bug. As in, a bug crawled onto one of the vacuum tubes and died. Oh. You can see how that might cause trouble. Based on my experience, it’s a wonder there wasn’t a second category of computer problems, cat.

The ENIAC and its 17,468 vacuum tubes came to me today because my radiation treatment didn’t happen. Why? Yesterday afternoon, a patient sat in a chair in the reception area. He noticed a bug. Said he’d seen them before and knew what it was. A bed bug. A bed bug! Yep, as you know, they’re back. And, they’ve made it to the Rockies.

Fumigation of the radiation. That’s happening now. Things should be back to go tomorrow. Weird, eh?

*Housed within 40 9-foot-tall cabinets, the machine contained 17,468 vacuum tubes along with 70,000 resistors, 10,000 capacitors, 1,500 relays, 6,000 manual switches, and 5 million soldered joints. Its dimensions covered 1,800 square feet (167 square meters) of floor space and weighed 30 tons, and running it consumed 160 kilowatts of electrical power. Two 20-horsepower blowers delivered cool air to keep the machine from overheating. thoughtco.com

Family Week on Shadow Mountain

Summer and the Recovery Moon

It’s family week on Shadow Mountain. Mary is here, arriving Tuesday night from Minneapolis, heading out tomorrow for Minneapolis to see her friend Debbie in Eau Claire. After a brief stop in Indiana, she heads back to London, on to Cornwall, Devon, for a memorial service. Greece for a conference. Back to England, Cambridge, for a conference with Japanese colleagues from her time in Kobe last year.

Meanwhile Mark sends missives about Bangkok. He’s been in Chinatown, Yaowarat Road, the old main street of Bangkok. I stayed there when I was in Bangkok in 2004. A fascinating place with traditional Chinese apothecaries, lots of street food on weekend nights, small, crowded lanes packed with shops selling diverse wares.

Guru, Mary’s s.o., is back in K.L., Malaysia, defending a couple of drug traffickers facing the death penalty. They’re tough on drug dealers.

Kep

The Kep, shredder extraordinaire, goes into PetSmart today for furmination. If, that is, I can find his rabies certificate. No, I know where it is. He still doesn’t like to be left. He is joyous when we return. You remembered me!

Yesterday I listened to Creedence while the Cancer Predator bobbed and weaved around my body-as Mark observed. Keith, who’s taking the radiation cure for just diagnosed prostate cancer, said, Half done! I’ll get to half some day, but not soon. Another guy, older than me, gave me a bemused smile, all radiated! We’re all on death row, hoping to commute the sentence with clean living and radioactive photons.

2014

Kate saw Gupta. He’s going to see her again in a month. No diagnosis. She’s doing so well that getting a lung biopsy done, the only way to make a definitive diagnosis, might interfere with her recovery. It’s a surgical procedure, requiring anesthesia. If she continues to improve, and I think she will, then any lung disease is not bad enough to justify the trauma of the biopsy.

Wisest of Owls

Summer and the Recovery Moon

The weather here has veered back toward seasonal norms and will continue warm to hot. Hard to say when the next snowfall might be.

Gabe found the antler. A very excited 11 year old. He went for a walk with Ruth and found another bone. A knife blade, too. He’s a bone collector. Jon says he wants a metal detector. Oh, boy.

Ruth varnished the owl house. It will get up in a tree soon. It has book jackets on it. She made it in wood arts class and gave it to me for my birthday. I told her the book jackets would assure I’d get the wisest owls. “I didn’t think of that metaphor!”

Drove down the hill last night at 9 pm to the Federal Center RTD stop. Picked up Mary at 10. The lights of Denver twinkle coming down 285, the air was warm, the sky clear. Perfect summer night. Good for a drive.

She’s going from here to Wisconsin, thence to Indianapolis, and, after that, back to London. She came through London to Indy.

Kate had a not so good day yesterday. Some random not feel good stuff. Another grocery delivery. What a mind saver.

Pattie told me my bladder was perfect yesterday. So nice to hear. Took the last of my radiation to Riders in the Storm. I did ask Nicky what was the most popular musical choice. Hmm. Let me give you the top four: classic rock, blues (pretty appropriate), classical, and new country. Interesting.

Got to thinking about why classic rock. Listening to the Doors I replayed college. Hmmm. At 72 I choose to transport myself back to when I was young and foolish. Made me wonder what musical choices are made in hospices these days? Anybody leaving this world to “I’m So Glad” by the Cream?

At rest, waiting for me

Prostate cancer tends to produce patients of a certain age. Like me. When we pass each other, we smile. A bit grimly. Yeah. You, too? The guy with the Titelist ball cap on Monday looked serious today waiting his turn on the gurney.

I’ve wondered, once or twice, what the attitude is like in breast cancer treatment centers. I imagine it as a bit more warm and fuzzy.

The Mountains Are Calling

Summer and the Recovery Moon

Yamabushi monk

Not sure exactly what’s going on here. They mention Shugendo. It’s a fourteen hundred year old tradition that has esoteric Buddhism, Taoism, and Shinto roots. They refer to themselves as Yamabushi, those who prostrate themselves on the mountain.

Master Hashino

It seems like they’re dedicated to reducing the distance between humans and mother earth. Or, perhaps better, creating awareness of that already existing intimacy, now obfuscated by so much.

Fellow travelers with me, I think.

An Important Couple of Weeks Here

Beltane                                                                   Cancer Moon

It’s another Colorado day. Blue sky, sun, a bit chilly. Mountains. Pines. Fresh air.

Mother Cabrini Shrine

Mother Cabrini Shrine

At 12:15 I head over to the Mother Cabrini Shrine where this Progoff workshop will take place. It’s about 40-50 minutes from here depending on the route. Close to Golden. Being a commuter will be a new experience for me.

Kate will be alone. My phone will be on vibrate and I enabled voice messaging. She asked me to. I actually prefer not to get voice messages. I like text or e-mail. Woke up this morning realizing I need to make a few things for her to have. Food.

Brother Mark has decided to head to Bangkok after his year in Arar, Saudi Arabia. Bangkok will be different. Humid. Also hot. But a society with a different past, a different religious inflection, Buddhist not Wahabi Muslim, a very different architectural heritage and cultural mores. I admire his having taught in Arar for the whole year. He’s going on vacation.

Mary and Mark, Andover

Mary and Mark, Andover

My sister Mary has become an international figure in her field, speaking and teaching in Finland, the Philipines, Indonesia, Greece, other places I’ve forgotten. They both traverse our planet often, going from place to place.

I’d like to write here about my boy but he’s asked me not to for opsec reasons. Operational security. Geez.

In part due to caregiving and in part due to my own spiritual journey the cancer has not dominated my life. At least not yet. The Progoff workshop will give me a chance to explore it from within and should help with residual anxiety.

The week after the workshop Kate has an appointment with her pulmonologist and later gets her actual crowns. Cue God Save the Queen. I have the axumin scan, a glaucoma check, swapping out the snow tires for all seasons, and a visit with the radiation oncologist Dr. Gilroy. By the end of that week many things will be clearer.

The air conditioner in our Rav4 will get a diagnostic shot of a gas that glows under a black light when they change the tires. After a few hundred miles I go back to see if they can find a small leak. If not, we may need to replace the air conditioning unit. Much cheaper than a new car.