5.22.2019

pupdate: two kids and a bemused senior





This action photography is brought to you by Allan.

Don't worry, we are not neglecting Diego. I just didn't have any good shots of him, and I wanted to get this post up.



Kai and Cookie are little devils. Kai has gotten out of the yard three times in the last four days. One minute she's in the yard, and then she's in the street. We've got ourselves a jumper. We haven't seen her do it, but it's the only way out. We're working on it.

We've known that new dogs learn from the rest of the pack. But we didn't expect it to work the other way! Cookie is not fully housetrained. Kai saw this and thought, Hey, I didn't know we were allowed to do that in here! Cool! Yup. Multiple gifts from multiple dogs.

Yesterday Cookie was running around with one of my shoes -- holding the very tip of the shoelace in her mouth with the shoe dangling just above the floor. She thought dancing away from Mommy was a great game. That was after Kai helped her steal and eat some donuts Allan had in his office.

You can have three dogs, they said. It will be fun, they said.

Ah well. Time and patience are required. We have both.

For the most part, though, Cookie has settled in and is learning fast. Kai, no longer the baby, is suddenly calm and mature (except when she's not). Diego's staples were removed, he's walking, and sometimes playing with the Littles. Mostly he looks on, bemused.

Cookie worships Diego. I haven't been able to capture it yet, but she does this thing that an omega wolf will do to the alpha wolf. While Diego is standing up, Cookie lowers herself and licks the underside of Diego's snout. (It looks like this.)

This morning when I took Cookie out -- the Littles go first, Diego prefers to wait -- Diego was up and moving around. Cookie was torn between going outside and attending to Diego. I had to put her leash on and practically drag her outside.

We've seen pack behaviour in our dogs before, but I've never seen adoration on this level. Diego reacts as dogs do: he allows Cookie to worship him. If he's resting and doesn't want to be disturbed, he will show his teeth and growl at either of his sisters.

5.20.2019

abortion without apology: the war on women, the slippery slope, and how you can fight back

Tl;dr? Learn about the National Network of Abortion Funds, and give generously.

* * * *

Right-thinking Americans and Canadians are reeling at extreme anti-abortion laws sweeping through at least a dozen states: Alabama, Missouri, and Georgia, are the worst offenders, but Ohio, North Dakota, Kentucky, Mississippi, Iowa, and others are not far behind. Most of these laws are blatantly unconstitutional, and are designed to force SCOTUS to overturn with Roe v. Wade.

These latest lethal weapons are the logical progression of the War on Women that's been going on for at least 30 years. Democrats and most liberal Americans sat idly by while anti-abortion-rights forces took over one state legislature after the next, setting up obstacle after obstacle designed to prevent access to safe, legal abortion, thereby limiting the human rights of great swaths of American women.

While all anyone could talk about was Roe v. Wade, that poorly-written law became irrelevant for millions of women. American women in all states technically had the right to obtain an abortion, just as African Americans technically had the right to vote in 1957 Mississippi. Rights without access are meaningless.

How does the right to abortion become meaningless?

Parental consent, parental notification, spousal notification, mandatory counseling, mandatory waiting periods, prohibitions against funding, prohibitions against private insurance coverage, mandatory multiple visits, mandatory hospital stays, gestational limits, practitioner refusals, disinformation about medical consequences -- all this has been going on, all over the country. In 2005 I wrote that Roe was meaningless, and it's not like I was prescient.

Of course we should be outraged by the laws recently passed in Alabama and elsewhere, but we shouldn't be at all surprised, and surely not shocked.

And of course we should be outraged at the Republicans passing these laws, but if you're not equally outraged at the Democrats, you have a lot to answer for.

One of the very best things I've seen written about this is by Rebecca Traister, writing in The Cut: "Our Fury Over Abortion Was Dismissed for Decades As Hysterical".
I have been thinking, like so many people this week, about rage. Who I’m mad at, what that anger’s good for, how what makes me maddest is the way the madness has long gone unrespected, even by those who have relied on it for their gains.

For as long as I have been a cogent adult, and actually before that, I have watched people devote their lives, their furious energies, to fighting against the steady, merciless, punitive erosion of reproductive rights. And I have watched as politicians — not just on the right, but members of my own party — and the writers and pundits who cover them, treat reproductive rights and justice advocates as if they were fantasists enacting dystopian fiction.

This week, the most aggressive abortion bans since Roe v. Wade swept through states, explicitly designed to challenge and ultimately reverse Roe at the Supreme Court level. With them has come the dawning of a broad realization — a clear, bright, detailed vision of what’s at stake, and what’s ahead. (If not, yet, full comprehension of the harm that has already been done).

As it comes into view, I am of course livid at the Republican Party that has been working toward this for decades. These right-wing ghouls — who fulminate idiotically about how women could still be allowed to get abortions before they know they are pregnant (Alabama’s Clyde Chambliss) or try to legislate the medically impossible removal of ectopic pregnancy and reimplantation into the uterus (Ohio’s John Becker) — are the stuff of unimaginably gothic horror. Ever since Roe was decided in 1973, conservatives have been laboring to roll back abortion access, with absolutely zero knowledge of or interest in how reproduction works. And all the while, those who have been trying to sound the alarm have been shooed off as silly hysterics.

Which is why I am almost as mad at many on the left, theoretically on the side of reproductive rights and justice, who have refused, somehow, to see this coming or act aggressively to forestall it. I have no small amount of rage stored for those in the Democratic Party who have relied on the engaged fury of voters committed to reproductive autonomy to elect them, at the same time that they have treated the efforts of activists trying to stave off this future as inconvenient irritants.

This includes, of course, the Democrats (notably Joe Biden) who long supported the Hyde Amendment, the legislative rider that has barred the use of federal insurance programs from paying for abortion, making reproductive health care inaccessible to poor women since 1976. During health-care reform, Barack Obama referred to Hyde as a “tradition” and questions of abortion access as “a distraction.” I’ve spent my life listening to Democrats call abortion a niche issue — and worse, one that is somehow repellent to voters, even though support for Roe is in fact among the most broadly popular positions of the Democratic Party; seven in ten Americans want abortion to remain legal, even in conservative states.

You can try to tell these Democrats this — lots of people have been trying to tell them for a while now — but it won’t matter; they will only explain to you (a furious person) that they (calm, wise, knowledgeable about politics) understand that we need a big tent and can’t have a litmus test and please be reasonable: we shouldn’t shut anyone out because of a difference on one issue. (That one issue that we shouldn’t shut people out because of is always abortion). Every single time Democrats come up with a new strategy to win purple and red areas, it is the same strategy: hey, let’s jettison abortion! (If you object to this, you will be told you are standing in the way of the greater progressive project).
There is actually some good news on this front, as the anger over Trump spurred activism in the US.  Traister:
And at the end of 2018, the Guttmacher Institute reported that 2018 was the first year since at least 2000 in which the number of state policies enacted to expand or protect abortion rights and access, and contraceptive access, outnumbered the number of state restrictions. Why? Because growing realization of what was at stake — and resulting anger and activism, pressure applied to state legislatures — led representatives to act.
If this extreme anti-woman movement disgusts and offends you, if you understand that abortion rights are human rights, if you understand that women's freedom, dignity, and personhood are at stake, please get involved. You are very late to the fight -- but not too late.

For my money, I'd leave lobbying to the organizations with the resources to do it best, such as NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood. Donate to those groups, of course. But I believe it's more important (or at least equally important) to help individual women exercise their constitutional rights and their human rights. To do that, the National Network of Abortion Funds (N-NAF) is the place to start. Join. Give. Organize.

* * * *

In Canada, whenever some Conservative raises the abortion issue by stealth, claiming to care about women or babies, make noise. These threats to our rights come up periodically, as politicians test the waters, taking the temperature of the Canadian appetite for an abortion debate. It's our job to shut that shit down.

5.17.2019

listening to joni: #8: hejira

Hejira, 1976

Front Cover
Photo by Norman Seeff; Frozen lake by Wisconsin.
Hejira snuck up on me.

I heard it was "wordy," "cold," and "cerebral" and that the music was "abstract". I didn't know what that meant, but it didn't seem good.

On the radio station I listened to as a teenager, one of the last holdouts of independent rock radio, "Song for Sharon" had heavy rotation. That's no surprise, as it's a thoroughly New York City song. I would hear it in the background, when I was driving or doing homework, and catch bits of lyrics: Staten Island, skyline, Bleecker Street, "eighteen bucks went up in smoke".

Then there was a video. No idea how or where I saw that, as MTV was still several years in the future, but the video of "Amelia" caught my imagination. Amelia Earhart is a lifelong fascination of mine; even at that age, I had a crush on her. Now it seemed that Joni, fascination numero uno, was also drawn to Earhart.

And then there was Joni's appearance in The Last Waltz. Both the movie and the music from The Last Waltz are indelibly important to me. At that "farewell" concert, Joni sang "Coyote". I didn't know the song yet, and I was... well, fascinated. (Before the song, Joni greets Robbie Robertson with a kiss... and a certain bell went off in my head. An a-ha moment in my life.)

Over time -- years and years -- I heard more and more from Hejira, and I grew to love it deeply. I have to be in the mood for it, of course. I liken it to Elvis Costello's album Blood and Chocolate -- very dense lyrically, a certain musical sameness to all the songs, incredible songwriting, and quirky. You have to be in the mood for a lot of words.

Image: Curtis Collects Vinyl
Skater: Toller Cranston
The story of how Joni wrote these songs is legendary among Joni fans, and it's difficult to say what really happened and what was embellished. You can read one version here on Wikipedia; another version is on the Joni Mitchell website from Uncut magazine.

More important to me is the deeply personal nature of these songs. We always hear that Blue is so deeply personal, how Joni bared her soul for that album. But the songs on Blue still tell stories that are also universal, or at least relateable for many people. The songs on Hejira are about a life that most listeners have not experienced -- a life on and of the road. In these songs, the road is both sanctuary and addiction. It's a place to hide and a route to self-discovery. If you think of your life as a journey, then the road can serve as metaphor. But for Joni, the road was both metaphor and reality.

As before, musical themes that were present on a previous record become dominant here. I wrote about the lack of instrument melody on Hissing -- that the melody is conveyed only by voice, and the music is rhythm only. On Hejira, Joni's guitar and the fretless bass of Jaco Pastorius form a kind of sprawling background rhythm, which Joni sings over.

This was the first time Joni worked with the legendary Pastorius. They formed a deep musical connection, and were very close friends until Jaco's terrible death in 1987.

I mentioned that I have to be in the mood to listen to Hejira. That is partly because I find the songs almost too sad to bear, especially "Amelia".
People will tell you where they've gone
They'll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know
Where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
Oh, Amelia it was just a false alarm

I wish that he was here tonight
It's so hard to obey
His sad request of me to kindly stay away
So this is how I hide the hurt
As the road leads cursed and charmed
I tell Amelia it was just a false alarm
Where some have found their paradise, others just come to harm is sung with such pathos. You can hear regret, and longing, and tremendous sadness, and also acceptance. Now Joni has found what might be a paradise, but it is so cursed and charmed, that the man must beseech her to leave him alone.

And this cursed and charmed relationship hurts so much, it causes Joni to doubt all her past loves, too.
Maybe I've never really loved
I guess that is the truth
I've spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitudes
And looking down on everything
I crashed into his arms
Amelia it was just a false alarm
Joni has "a dream to fly", but can only sleep on the "strange pillows of [her] wanderlust". The best songs on Hejira -- "Amelia," "Coyote," "Refuge of the Roads," and "Song for Sharon" --- are all about the love-vs-freedom conflict. This time out, it's a very sad tale.

"Furry Sings the Blues," about the dead remains of Beale Street, is also very good. The remaining songs are good, but second-tier for this album.

Bad critic comment of the album

Hejira received mixed reviews, and has since been called "an underappreciated masterpiece" by more than one writer. It's not surprising, though, that the big places that mattered most in terms of sales all hated it.

There are quite a few bad critic comments to choose from for this one. My picks for worst are tied: either this from the Village Voice --
Despite Joni Mitchell's reputation as a lyricist, the poetic element in her work has been a growing source of embarrassment to many listeners over the years. Less a measure of ignorance than of optimism, Mitchell's verbal pretensions are a product of her innocence -- an innocence that seems unwarranted by the crushed hopes her songs discern in everything from urban blight and stardom to motherhood and love.
-- or Dave Marsh in Rolling Stone, who dismisses the album in less than 150 words.

The album cover

Apparently some people find the photo of Joni on the front cover of Hejira pretentious. To me it's Joni as we find her: smoking, wearing a beret, looking at us with somber directness. The road is literally running through her.

The photo was taken by the South African-born photographer Norman Seeff. The background is a frozen lake in Wisconsin. On the Joni website, there are two articles from Wisconsin sources about this.

Many Joni fans have seen some of the photos of Joni skating in her black-crow garb, that were ultimately not used for the album cover. The skater on the inside cover is Toller Cranston, a Canadian Olympic figure skater.

The story of the album cover is here.

Cacti or stockings?

In "Amelia," Joni drives across the desert, then "pulled into the Cactus Tree Motel to shower off the dust".

In "Song for Sharon," Joni remembers skating, wearing "mama's nylons underneath my cowgirl jeans".

Other musicians on this album

Bass, Max Bennett
Bass, Chuck Domanico
Bass, Jaco Pastorius
Clarinet, Abe Most
Drums, John Guerin
Guitar, Larry Carlton
Harmonica, Neil Young
Horns, Chuck Findley
Horns, Tom Scott
Percussion, Bobbye Hall
Vibes, Victor Feldman

the north island report: alert bay, eagles, and our first ontario visitors (photos to follow)

When we moved to Port Hardy, I was sure that none of our Ontario friends would ever visit. It's so far away, and not an easy place to travel to. I was so happy to be wrong! Two sets of close friends have reason to be in Vancouver this year, and are adding on some Vancouver Island vacation, including staying with us for a few days. This makes me so happy!

Our friends M@ and sM were here this past week. The timing was a bit mad -- our first days with the full pack of five -- but it was also very fortuitous. Having extra hands-on help with the dogs, and extra eyes with dog experience, definitely helped us over a few speed bumps.

San Josef Bay, Holberg, and the Scarlet Ibis pub

We took our friends on a drive/hike to San Josef Bay. As long as visitors want to bother, I'll never get tired of this (although Allan is already tired of it). The road didn't seem quite as long and grueling this time, the hike is brilliant, and the beach is heavenly. If we don't want the hike, we'll try Grant's Bay, reported to be "nice, but not as nice as Sanjo", and just steps from the parking lot.

On the way out to Sanjo, we stopped to stretch our legs in the tiny hamlet of Holberg, which I wrote about here. The Scarlet Ibis Pub -- the only such establishment one sees on the road to Sanjo -- is open for the season, but was closed that day.

The host invited us in to use the washroom -- and to hear a sales pitch. She runs the whole place herself and, after 40 years, is ready to sell and retire. It's a beautiful pub, with a classic home-cooked menu, a view of an inlet, and a small living suite attached. The price is a steal for somebody. But the location... wow. 50 kms on an unpaved logging road to nowhere. According to our host, the pub does a steady business with forestry workers (loggers and replanters), about 80 locals, and the Sanjo beach crowd. But there is nothing else in the area -- no supermarket, no bank, no school.

With our guests, we also spent some time on "our" bay, the lovely paved waterfront walk in Port Hardy. We saw the usual eagles, and sM spotted a sea otter, but it was too far for a good view. Looking for something else local to do, we went to Storey's Beach, a short drive away and a favourite spot for the dogs. These trips were all sans dogs, for several reasons -- and that turned out to be a very good thing.

Eagles -- and more eagles -- on Storey's Beach

We were watching some herons and possibly an osprey, looking at shells, and whatnot, when a bald eagle swooped down to the sand. It was quickly joined by another, then another, and another. The birds were tugging and fighting over some morsel in the mud; other eagles swooping in for a better view and a try at the prize.

At one point, there were eight eagles, some on the sand and others flying low overhead. One flew off with fish guts in his talons, while three others fought over more remains.

It was an incredible sight. We were at most 50 feet away. I was concerned we were standing too close, but the birds were completely unconcerned with us.

After some time, when only one bird remained on the scene, we crept up closer. There were small pools of blood in the sand. I immediately thought of nature red of tooth and claw, from Tennyson, often used as a shorthand for the Victorian-era view of nature -- and M@ said it before I did.*

Allan and I didn't have our camera with us, but lucky for you, our friend sM -- a talented photographer -- did. I'll post a link when I have it.

First Nations experience in Alert Bay


We took the ferry from Port McNeill to Alert Bay, a mostly Indigenous community on Cormorant Island. There's a cute little main street, which I'm sure comes alive in the summer months, some hiking trails, an art gallery, and a few other minor attractions, but the principal reason to visit is the U'mista Cultural Centre.

U'mista is a small treasure trove of First Nations art, beautifully curated and displayed, and especially notable for how it was acquired. All the objects have been reclaimed and repatriated from museums and private collections. From the late 1800s until the 1950s, as part of its genocidal policies against Indigenous peoples, Canada outlawed Potlatch.

Tlingit Potlach
(Image: Sheldon Museum)
Potlatch is a ritual re-distribution of wealth, practiced by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of Canada and the US. About the Coastal peoples, you will hear it said: the wealthiest family is not the family that acquires the most, but the family that gives the most away. In a celebration of food, song, and storytelling dance that goes on for days, the wealthiest families would give food, clothing, other necessities, and also luxuries, to the rest of the community.

At Potlatch, ritual masks and robes would be worn for dances that told stories. When the ceremonies were outlawed, the Canadian government confiscated all the regalia. Indigenous scholars and activists have spent decades tracking down and attempting to acquire the stolen objects. Over the decades, too, Potlatches were held in secret, and the U'mista Centre honours the courageous individuals who were determined to keep their traditions alive.

The U'mista Centre stands beside the site of St. Michael's, one of the notorious residential schools. When the school -- which closed only in 1974 -- was demolished, survivors and families gathered for a ceremony (good article at that link).

Modern Potlatch
U'mista has information about the residential schools, which I assume many visitors wouldn't know about -- considering up until 15 or so years ago, even most Canadians (from non-Indigenous backgrounds) didn't know about them. It's incredibly painful and incredibly important to learn about. I felt like I did after visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC (although the U'mista Centre is quite small).

I have read about the residential schools, and have learned about other similar situations -- for example, in Australia, depicted in the brilliant, heartbreaking film "Rabbit Proof Fence". I thought I knew how horrifying and disgusting both the schools and the policies were. Yet, when I learned more about them in the online course I'm taking, I must say, as bad as I thought it was, it was so much worse. It's painful to contemplate these injustices, but we are obligated to bear witness.

At U'mista, there are also beautiful photographs and displays about Indigenous activists and other community leaders. In the summer, there are cultural tours and sometimes the opportunity to see dances performed. There's also a fantastic gift shop, where everything is made in Canada and Indigenous artists are credited (and, I presume, paid).

The U'mista Cultural Centre is a must-visit if you're on the North Island.

Several restaurants were not yet open for the season, but we had a delicious lunch at the Bayside Grill. Don't let the ragtag coffee-shop appearance put you off. All our food was very good, especially the Indian dishes.

Photos of eagles to follow!

* Please do not tell me that Tennyson did not originate the phrase. 1, we all have Wikipedia. 2, in the world of arts, literature, and culture, this is Tennyson's phrase. Your cooperation is appreciated.

5.10.2019

pupdate: that was fast: cookie and kai are best friends

Under a plastic chair: Cookie's safe space

It's tough to get a photo of Kai without a toy in her mouth.









I thought it would be difficult to get Cookie enough exercise...

thank you alex cora and many red sox for doing the right thing

Thank you Alex Cora, Mookie Betts, David Price, Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, Jackie Bradley Jr., Hector Velázquez, Christian Vázquez, Eduardo Núñez, and Sandy Leon! These nine players and their manager declined to attend the White House visit purporting to honour the 2018 championship team.

The Trump White House could not be bothered to spell the team's name correctly or name the actual sporting event that the team won. The World Series is the oldest professional team sports event in the United States, having been played since 1903. (The Kentucky Derby is older. Hopefully all the horses know that Trump's policies constitute a war on animals, and also boycott the visit.)

Earlier this year, the Golden State Warriors (NBA) expressed doubts about a White House visit, and the invitation was withdrawn. Ditto for the Philadelphia Eagles (NFL) after they won the 2018 Super Bowl. However, this silly headline, implying this is "nothing new", is false. Various individual players did not join their teams on White House visits. Half a team purposely not showing up is indeed new.

I appreciate the players' actions, especially those who explicitly stated why they didn't attend. In the ultra-conservative climate of professional sports, this is especially heartening.

5.09.2019

you're not going to believe this... introducing cookie!

I fell in love with Cookie the first time I saw her outside the library. I knew her current people wouldn't keep her. Yada yada yada, today she joined our pack.





Cookie is a tiny slip of a thing, smaller than Kai, and very skinny. She has not had a lick of training. We haven't had a dog starting at square one in a long time! I have no doubt that with patience, consistency, and the example of her packmates, she'll come along very quickly.

We took her home this morning, first stopping at an empty ballfield to do a bit of recall training and bonding, and to burn off some energy. She did great on the recall, until she didn't, happily trotting away to say hello to a group of students. One of the girls grabbed her leash.


Diego was very happy to meet Cookie. Kai was very serious about demonstrating her dominance, but Cookie showed no aggression. We had no idea how Kai would react, so this was nice to see.

Cookie was frightened and cowering while Diego and Kai inspected her. She hid under a chair a few times, tail tucked under her legs. But it wasn't long before she came out to play, first tentatively, and now, just a few hours later, romping around, seemingly carefree.




So... here we are.

5.07.2019

we movie to canada: wmtc annual movie awards, 2018-19 edition

Time to change things up. I've (finally) gotten tired of my silly movie award categories, and need a change.

I decided to go with a conventional one-to-five rating scale. But I wanted to use a good symbol, something other than stars (too common), thumbs-up (too cliched) or a maple leaf (too patriotic). I'm using a symbol that's very meaningful to me. (To be honest, it was between ☮ and this, but I could only get the peace sign to work in Blogger.)

Here are the movies and series I watched between the end of the 2018 World Series and 2019 Opening Day, alphabetically, rated on a scale of five.

45 Years
☮☮☮
This drama featured truly great acting, and a certain amount of tension. Ultimately, though, I didn't buy the premise. Would a lifetime marriage really founder on a revelation about feelings that occurred before the couple even met? It strained credulity.

8th Grade
☮☮☮☮
This movie perfectly captured what it feels like to be in 8th grade and an outsider, struggling to somehow be yourself and to fit in at the same time. Sweet, funny, hits all the right notes. Tremendous acting from the young Elsie Fisher. Ranks with "Show Me Love" ("Fucking Amal") as one of my favourite girl coming-of-age movies.

A Most Violent Year
☮☮
Ponderous, melodramatic, cliched immigrant-struggle/mob movie. Wasn't awful, but you've seen it all before.

Angels in America (2003)
☮☮☮☮☮
I loved this when it was first released, and it remains one of my favourite films of all-time. From the transcendence of the opening credits to the final scene in Central Park, I was gripped. Writing, acting, and directing -- all stellar. Magical realism at its best.

Beatriz at Dinner
☮☮
Why do I watch dinner-party movies? This film is an excuse to expose white male privilege and an idealized version of its opposite. Low-hanging fruit. Good politics and Salma Hayek save it from the scrap heap, but couldn't make it worth seeing.

Black Panther
☮☮
I understand that an Afrocentric superhero movie was a Big Event. But doesn't the movie also have to be good? Or are superhero movies supposed to be collections of bad acting, ridiculously cliched dialogue, and boring, predictable plotlines? Did the whole world give this movie a pass because "we need black superheroes"? Demand more.

Call Me By Your Name
☮☮
Ditto gay romance. This was too boring and cliched to watch. Good acting and visuals saved it from the bottom.

Christine (2016)
☮☮☮
This interesting movie is based on the story of Christine Chubbuck, a newscaster with the tragic distinction of being the first person to commit suicide on live television. The movie doesn't answer the biggest questions about Chubbuck, but it imagines her well, and Rebecca Hall's performance is excellent.

Dawson City Frozen Time
☮☮☮
What does a Gold Rush town in the Yukon have to do with the preservation of early film and the 1919 World Series? This is a lovely little documentary about a surprising subject. It didn't live up to the "masterpiece" hype, but it's a solid doc.

Dexter (entire series; currently watching final season)
☮☮☮☮
Despite some horrendous acting from supporting roles and some weak subplots in the early seasons, the voice-over inner life of this series's title character hooked me. Dexter's outsider observations of society, the complicated relationship between good and evil (similar to Buffy and Angel), the nature of love and family, all feel meaningful. When you find yourself rooting against someone trying to expose a serial killer and rooting hard for the killer to get away, you know something effective has taken place. Suspenseful, unpredictable, and full of the very darkest humour.

The Disaster Artist
☮☮☮
This movie about the bizarre "director" Tommy Wiseau and the worst film ever made is as hilarious and maddening as it should be. James Franco's portray of Wiseau is amazing. A lot of fun.

Drunk History
☮☮☮
We watch this for comic relief after binge-watching heavy series. It's always funny enough to bother.

Dumplin'
☮☮☮☮
A funny, warm, open-hearted coming-of-age story, and a story about love and self-acceptance. It's too perfect to be real, but on the other hand, it's a much better fantasy than any standard fairytale. I loved this movie.

Elvis the Searcher
☮☮☮☮
If you think Elvis Presley was just a weird joke -- or you think he only appropriated black music -- see this documentary. Also. if you love rock and roll, see how it was born.

The End of the Fucking World S1
☮☮☮☮
Crime caper, alienated teen edition. Darkly funny, lightly tragic, very perceptive. Where is Season 2??

Ex Libris
☮☮☮
Frederick Wiseman, a bit out of control. After one-third of this movie, we get the point; then we get it over and over and over again. But hey, it's Wiseman, and it's the New York Public Library. This means it's worth seeing.

Fargo (series)

I loved the movie, but we absolutely could not stand this show. Doesn't work as a comedy, doesn't work as a crime drama. Just... no.

First Reformed
☮☮☮☮☮
Paul Schrader's pitch-perfect screenplay and direction, and Ethan Hawke's stellar performance, make this loss-of-faith drama gripping and mesmerizing. No straightforward plot description can do this justice. Truly exceptional. For what it's worth, whoever summarized the plot for Wikipedia did not understand the ending.

The Florida Project
☮☮☮☮☮ or ☮ ?
A raw, funny, tragic look at a family disintegrating in poverty, a child's resilience, and the limits of compassion and empathy in our coldly capitalist world. A brilliant movie -- until the completely inappropriate ending. This is a five-star film marred by a unforgivably zero-star ending.

The Gates (2007)
☮☮☮☮☮
I absolutely loved The Gates, Christo and Jeanne Claude's installment in Central Park, and was so grateful to still be living in NYC when it took place. I didn't know that Albert Maysles made a film about it! The movie captures the bewildering stupidity of reactions to the project, the artists' persistence in creating it, and the astonishing beauty and power of the work itself.

The Good Place S2
☮☮☮
This was... all right. Not nearly as good as S1, and by the end, I knew the show had finished its run. Definitely no interest in S3.

He Won't Get Far On Foot
☮☮☮
This biopic of cartoonist John Callahan -- based on his memoirs of the same name (the title itself from a cartoon caption) -- never really rises above the "overcoming adversity" template of disability movies. But Joaquin Phoenix's performance and the wonderful John Callahan himself more than compensates.

How to Die in Oregon
☮☮☮☮☮
A clear-eyed, open-minded examination of dignity in dying through assisted suicide. A sad, powerful, important film. If you already support this, see it to refine your arguments. If you don't, see it, and ask yourself if your personal beliefs must apply to everyone. Also, we all die. It's not wrong to look at what we might need when it happens.

Jimmy P.
☮☮☮
What's good: Benecio del Toro's incredible performance, a non-stereotypical portrayal of a Native American, a hard look at PTSD, an uplifting but credible male friendship. What's not good: the movie is too long and kind of boring. But if you're in the mood, it's worth seeing.

Key & Peele
☮☮☮☮
We also watch this when we need a break from mayhem and murder.

Kedi
☮☮☮☮
This is a beautiful, brilliant, uplifting documentary about the street cats of Istanbul and the people who love them. It's a nearly perfect film. I deducted one ☮ for the absence of any perspective on humans' responsibility for animal sterilization.

Kills on Wheels
☮☮☮☮
A dark comedy about wheelchair-using assassins, who use the social invisibility of people with disabilities to their advantage. As unsentimental a view of disability as I've ever seen in a movie. Also funny, meaningful, clever, and very well done.

Lady Bird
☮☮☮
A lovely teen coming-of-age story. Great performance by Saoirse Ronan and always a pleasure to see Laurie Metcalfe in anything. I didn't think this movie lived up to the hype, but it was very good.

Little Dieter Needs to Fly (1997)
☮☮☮☮☮
This film introduces you to a man whose strength, resiliency, and perseverance seem superhuman, then it leaves you with more questions than answers. Yet another brilliant documentary by Werner Herzog.

Luke Cage S2

I thoroughly enjoyed the first season of Luke Cage, and was eagerly awaiting S2. Then I had to force myself to finish two episodes. Wow, was this bad. What a shame.

The Man Who Knew Infinity
☮☮☮
Formulaic, but also very interesting.

Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
☮☮☮☮☮
An amazing story about the strength and resistance of survivors -- a group of men who were sexually abused while growing up at a Catholic school for deaf children, and how they fought back. It's also a historical perspective on child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church -- which is even older and more horrible than you might imagine. Another stellar documentary from Alex Gibney. See it.

Midsomer Murders
☮☮☮
S1-S13: a bland detective, ridiculous endings, everyone is white, and all the murderers are women!
S14-19: some real improvements. A better detective whose wife is a real human being (as opposed to a prop), and a cast somewhat more representative of the UK, and at least some male perps. I don't know why I got so hooked. It isn't that good, but I'll end up watching S20 and beyond.

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
☮☮☮
An estranged family of dysfunctional adults reunites. Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and (yes) Adam Sandler are all good. Ben Stiller is barely watchable. The story is pretty interesting, plus New York City.

The Night Of (2016)
☮☮☮☮☮
A deep, searching look at a murder and its aftermath in post-9/11 New York City. Amazing writing, acting, and directing. One of the best mini-series we've seen.

Ray Donovan
☮☮☮☮
Childhood trauma playing out in adult violence, class politics, blind human need, all wrapped up in a dark, suspenseful, Hollywood crime drama. There are some issues -- plot holes, improbable subplots, too many near-death escapes -- but the characters and relationships make it all worthwhile. Jon Voight's performance alone is worth the price of admission. Overall, I found Ray Donovan gripping and addictive.

The Sense of an Ending
☮☮☮
Secrets and lies, and how the past never dies. Good movie.

Series Noire S2
☮☮☮☮
This made-in-Quebec series started off a spoof about daytime television writers -- very funny. Halfway through the first season it started deepening, and while still funny, became touching and a little sad. We waited for S2 to be available with English subtitles, then watched the whole thing from the beginning. A crime thriller, goofball comedy, and a poignant drama -- very, very good.

Shetland S1-3
☮☮☮
Another bleak northern landscape, another brooding, widower detective. Not as good as Wallander, but better than Hinterland. Includes a solid, realistic portrayal of recovery from sexual assault, and a running theme of how outsiders are treated. Quite good.

The Sopranos (entire series -- currently watching final season)
☮☮☮☮
The show that started it all, and our first time watching it. There are some sour notes -- episodes that are positively cringey -- but overall, the acting and writing are amazing. If it weren't for those clunker episodes, it would be five stars.

Spectre
☮☮☮
James Bond is usually a three-star, occasionally a two. I'm not nuts about Daniel Craig, but his Bond movies have been fun.

Star Trek Discovery (S1)
☮☮☮
Very enjoyable Star Trek prequel. Similar to Bond: standard stuff, done well enough.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
☮☮☮☮
A dark, funny, poignant redemption tale. Martin McDonagh's writing and directing, and excellent performances (especially from Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson), make this a really strong, compelling movie.

Wild, Wild Country
☮☮☮
This documentary started out very strong but ultimately was not satisfying. There are far too many questions left unexplained. Still, it's a strange and interesting bit of history.

* * * * *

In the comedy-before-bed category, I watched these.

Jane the Virgin, half of S1
☮☮☮
I watched half of one season of this show. I thought it was funny, cute, and quirky. Then it became the Latina Gilmore Girls, and I ran away.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977) (currently on S4)
☮☮☮☮
My current comedy-before-bed. All the old sitcoms that I've re-watched took a while to find their footing -- but not MTM. This show was funny from the first episode, the characters fully formed, the relationships credible. Mary's character is stronger, more feminist than I remembered. And of course it had one of the strongest ensemble sitcom casts of all time. Great show for future-star cameos, too. It's a pleasure to re-watch it.

New Girl (S1-S4)
☮☮☮
This was my comedy-before-bed for a while. It was funny, smart, and quirky, if a little girly for me. After four seasons, some marketing genius must have gotten hold of it. It totally changed focus and tanked.

* * * * *

These series sound perfect for me, but I didn't enjoy them. There was something inauthentic or overly obvious or stilted about them. I'm going to try again.

The Knick
Hell on Wheels
Peaky Blinders

5.05.2019

pupdate: diego progress report




Diego seems to be doing all right. He's able to hobble around on three legs pretty well. The incision looks good, and so far he's leaving it alone, so we don't have to make him even more uncomfortable by putting a giant cone around his giant head.

I say he seems to be all right because he's so quiet and sad. He can stand on three legs to eat his food, and he hobbles around the yard on-leash, but getting from standing up to lying down is a nightmare. It can take him 30 or 45 minutes to figure out how to lie down, or perhaps to get up the courage to try, because it's clearly painful. When he finally exhausts himself standing, he lies down with obvious difficulty.

He's got two patches of pain meds on one side of his body, and we have extra pain meds along with antiobiotics that we're giving him around the clock. But I'm not sure it's enough.

The vet sent us home with instructions for physio. The program should begin with "1, quit job"! There is no way working people have time to do all of it. It's all good stuff -- cold compresses, massage, passive range of motion exercises, short controlled walks -- but the program is totally unrealistic. We also have to find time to get Kai to the beach or a ball field for some exercise.

We are incredibly fortunate to be able to give Diego this surgery, and I fully recognize my privilege in doing so. But I cannot stand to see one of my dogs in pain. It is the worst thing in the world to me. I don't know how parents of critically ill children do it.

best of wmtc, 2018 edition

The "wmtc's greatest hits" page is now updated to include 2018. Somehow Allan continues to find highlights.