27 June 2022

A Few of the Films I've Seen Lately, Some of Which I Loved Greatly


Shake, rattle and roll,
Baz Luhrmann’s biopic, Elvis (2022) Luhrmann. A basketball player starts the game smoking hot, hitting threes from impossible distances, flashing by defenders for theatrical dunks and making dazzling behind-the-back no-look passes. He’s in a zone and is an absolute joy to watch. As the game wears on he continues to play well though without the dazzle. By game’s end he’s given an excellent overall performance though people are still talking about that first period display. That, for me, was Elvis. Clocking in at two hours and thirty-nine minutes it was bound to slow down, even producing a yawn or two towards the end, but the overall effect was extremely satisfying. Elvis is highlighted by its two leads, Austin Turner in the title role and Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker both of whom give bravura performances. Elvis glosses over the real Presley’s cultural appropriation of African-American music and style but despite this wart is to be credited for giving a kaleidoscopic view of the U.S. from the early fifties through the mid seventies. Funny thing for me is that I never really liked Elvis Presley and after seeing the film I still don’t. 

Miscast, Overly Melodramatic but Beautiful, La belle et la bête (1946) Cocteau. A thirty-three year old woman (Josette Day) who could pass for forty, should not be playing Belle, a role for someone between eighteen and twenty-two. Jean Marais, the director’s lover, was also miscast as the beast — actually he was fine as the beast, but once he made the transformation to prince (oops! Spoiler) he’s all wrong. This version of Beauty and the Beast is a feast for the eyes and worth a gander for that alone. But Cocteau was not one for half measures nor even full measures, he always went for one and half. The melodrama here is over wrought approaching bad soap opera level. I still admire the film, but the flaws are big sore thumbs.

The Most Fascinating Chess Game Ever Filmed, The Seventh Seal (1957) Bergman. Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is generally regarded as one of the greatest films of all time. I certainly feel it is, as evidenced by the fact that is in my all-time top ten. More than that it is an iconic film that is instantly recognizable to people who’ve never seen it. It was an influential picture which stamped Bergman as an important director. Max Von Sydow making his first of many appearances in Bergman films, stars as the knight, Antonius Block, returning from the crusades, only to have to fend off Death (as personified by a man in black) in a chess match. This he does while roaming the countryside with his squire. They encounter a three-person acting troupe (reduced to two as Death pays one of their members a call — no chess match here). What better time to contemplate life and its wonders than when pursued by death. As Samuel Johnson said, a forthcoming death “concentrates (the) mind wonderfully.” For a film about dying, The Seventh Seal is wonderfully optimistic with scenes of lightness and rascally fun. Yet it takes it theme seriously and its ability to ease viewers into musing about morality is unmatched in cinema. Seventh Seal is also notable for some of the finest cinema photography ever committed to celluloid (credit Gunnar Fischer, who shot many of Bergman’s film before Sven Nykvist took over). Bergman's framing of scenes and shots is masterful throughout. 

Once Upon a Great film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) Tarantino. I believe this was my fifth viewing of what is becoming for me a classic film. I like everything about it but perhaps mostly the uncanny recreation of California in 1969. I’m writing a book set in the Sixties so my brain spends a lot of time back then and OUATIH along with the next film I’m going to mention, are very much of the time. In my latest viewing I took particular note of the manner in which co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt shone in their respective roles, calling upon their many years of experience to give their characters depth. Margot Robbie is similarly important as she brings a kittenish charm and fun into her role as Sharon Tate, making Ms. Tate's murder seem all the more tragic. Indeed the entire supporting cast is wonderful, particularly the legendary Al Pacino and on the opposite end of the age scale, Julia Butters (sixty-nine years his junior). I also fell in love with Margaret Qualley as Pussycat. Meow.

Gentrification circa 1970 in The Landlord (1970) Ashby. It was an underrated film when it hit theaters (I saw it way back then) and is an underrated film today. One supposes it will never get its due, which is a pity. Beau Bridges plays the scion of a wealthy, conservative family who buys a tenement in a Black section of Brooklyn aiming to convert into his own dream house. But the best laid plans…. He falls for not one but two African American women, the problem is that one he impregnates is married and lives in the apartment with her (justifiably) angry husband. So yeah, complications ensued. More importantly our young hero learns lessons aplenty, as does his adventurous mother who deigns to visit the apartment. It’s all very Sixties as few films can claim to be, wonderfully capturing the zeitgeist. There is much wackiness amid the morals and it all makes for great fun and a memorable film. Hal Ashby's directorial debut.

Enjoying different perspectives through film, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022) Hyde. I haven’t spent a lot of time wondering about the sex lives of sixty something widows. But I got some insight into the topic from this delightful new film starring Emma Thompson as a woman who hires a male escort in hopes of enjoying the kind of sexual adventures she was denied in marriage. Topping her list of to-dos is achieving her first orgasm, but she also longs to both perform and receive oral sex. Not your usual cinematic fare. Most of the film takes place in a hotel room and features Ms. Thompson talking with her co-star the appropriately young and handsome (not to mention charming and polite) Daryl McCormack. The encounters push the boundaries of your typical male escort/widow encounters, not through any sexual gymnastics, but in the depth of conversations in which they engage which in their way go further than the sex does (though there's plenty of that too). It is in many ways a weighty film but easy to take given the charming co-stars and an excellent screenplay by Katy Brand. Envelopes are pushed, lessons are learned and viewers are entertained.

22 June 2022

When All Hope is Lost, An Imagined Conversation

 


“You been following the testimony in these January six hearings?”

“Honestly, I stay as far away from that crap as I possibly can.”

“Why’s that?”

“Come on, you know nothing’s gonna come of it, Trump’s never gonna see a second of jail time, nothing’s gonna change, he’ll probably run in ’24 and maybe win.”

“Aren’t you the cynic.”

“Realist, Bobby, I’m a fucking realist.”

“You really think these investigations will come to nothing?”

“You really think they’ll come to anything?”

“I have to believe that, Nick, I really do, otherwise we all might as well just give up.”

“Look, the deck is stacked, it always has been only before it wasn’t so obvious.”

“Whattaya mean?”

“The rich and powerful are going to protect their own, that’s the whole point of the Republican Party and has been for a long time. They’re around to feed the monster, the corporations and they use poor saps who thinks guns are more important than human lives to vote 'em in. They use the evangelicals, they use scare tactics. They’ve got all these dumb idiots afraid of the gays, the immigrants, Blacks, Jews, you name it. These idiots vote against their own best interests out of fear. Look at how many people still support Trump after all the shit he did. Those are some dumb motherfuckers, Tommy and there’s lots of ‘em. No chance you can beat these people.”

“But Biden won.”

“Yeah and look what they’ve done to the poor old bastard. He can barely get anything done. The Republicans have enough pull in the Senate, especially since they’ve got the bought and paid for Joe Manchin siding with him, plus the Supreme Court —”

“Oh God, the Supreme Court. What a fucking disaster that is.”

“That was Trump’s legacy right there. Fucking up the country not for just the four years he was in office but maybe for decades to come.”

“That was a terrible blow to the country.”

“And that Thomas clown and his nutcase wife. They’ve got to go. Minimum he should be kicked off the court and she should go to jail.”

“She was in on the coup.”

“No doubt about it.”

“What a bunch of slimy bastards.”

“Seriously, what has happened to this country?”

“Two things: the bad guys got worse and they started winning."

“I remember in the good old days disagreeing with Republicans, now they’re fucking evil.”

“Yeah and who’d it start with? Reagan, Nixon, Goldwater, George W? They’d turned rotten long before Trump came along he just amplified their sicker messages.”

“Remember when there was compromise and bi-partisanship?”

“Seems like centuries ago.”

“What’s it all going to come to?”

“Well, climate change is going to do a lot of damage.”

“You mean a lot more damage.”

“Yeah it’s not in the future anymore, it’s here.”

“You think we’ll wind up being a fascist country?”

“We’re not far from it. Look at how reactionaries are banning books and words and lessons and how they’re starting to try to control elections. Rights are going to be reversed.”

“Yeah, starting with abortions.”

“No abortions but plenty of guns.”

“Fucking assault rifles for everyone.”

“We’ve got more mass shootings to come.”

“And in response thoughts and prayers and maybe, maybe tweaking a law or two, but nothing meaningful will happen.”

“Yeah it’s all the shits.”

“I don’t know what to be optimistic about. The mid-terms are likely to be a real disaster.”

“Crazy times. Ugly times.”

“So what can we do?”

“Sign petitions, send emails, donate to campaigns, vote, maybe join a march, put up a sign.”

“In other words nothing that’ll make a bit of difference.”

“Exactly.”

“Another round?”

"Sure thing."

“Waitress, two more beers, please.”

19 June 2022

Remembering My Father on Father's Day

My father, in the middle, with his grandchildren

Father's Day means a lot to me for two reasons: one its a reminder of the wonderful daughters I am father to. My pride and joy in these two young ladies is unbound. The other reason is that it reminds me what a great father I had.

Aimo Johannes Hourula (1916-2008) was the first of eight children (seven of whom survived well into adulthood) born in northern rural Finland to Saimi and Otto Hourula. He had to quit school in his mid teens to help support the family. He worked in a mill. Aimo joined the army in the immediate aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Finland in 1939 in what became known as The Winter War. The Finns fought bravely and did so much damage to the invading army that though overwhelmed by sheer numbers, they gained the satisfaction of denying the Soviets all the land they sought.

After the war my father joined the merchant marines set on seeing the world. His timing wasn't perfect as World War II had begun. Twice he was on ships that were strafed by Nazi planes and he was at the helm of a ship sunk by a Japanese submarine in the Indian Ocean.

He had long stays in Australia and Argentina in both cases because he had found a female companion. Aimo also spent a lot of New York where he worked assiduously to learn English. Eventually he joined the U.S. Army and was thus granted U.S. Citizenship. 

In 1945 he met Gertrude Kurki, a student at Columbia University. Gertie was born in San Francisco and raised in Berkeley by Finnish parents. The couple had a whirlwind romance that culminated in marriage in late December of '45.

They subsequently switched coasts and settled in Berkeley. By this time my father had taken up carpentry. Here his timing was perfect for a building boom was sweeping the country and the Bay Area was a particular beneficiary. 

My brother, Robert, was born in 1947 and yours truly appeared on the scene seven years later. 

Aimo was a great success as a carpenter, working steadily and highly regarded. He was also a member in good standing of Finnish organizations like the Finnish Brotherhood in Berkeley.  He was an avid outdoorsman, enjoying hunting and fishing and a regular at various sports events. Aimo Hourula liked nothing more than a good party and for that matter social gatherings of any sort. He was a humble man who enjoyed the company of people.

But to me -- and here I am clearly biased -- it was as a father that he excelled. The number one requirement for being a parent is loving your child or children and no sons were ever more loved by their Dad than my brother and I. He took me to pro and college football games, major league baseball, pro and college basketball, ice hockey, boxing and track and field. He also encouraged my sports career. He would take me to a nearby field and hit fly balls to me, he would play basketball with me and once I started doing well in soccer he drove me to all my practices and never missed any of my games.

As a parent Aimo had to negotiate through difficult times. I was a teenager in Berkeley during the Sixties. I was rebellious, wanted to grow my hair long; I experimented with drugs and alcohol and participated in demonstrations on the Cal campus. My father was a Democrat and a touch to the left of center but he wasn't having any of my radicalism. We continued to love one another despite the ongoing cultural wars we were engaged in. I got angry at him at times but never lost an iota of respect for him. It was his belief in me that kept me from going too far with drugs.

There was also the matter of my mother's growing insanity. Dad had been living the American dream and it fell apart around him when Mom's paranoid schizophrenia became too much to bear. Aimo was crushed but responded by being more protective of me and making sure that the damage I suffered was minimized.

Dad was fun. He listened to me. Shared stories. Encouraged me. He was a nice man with a lot of friends who was well-respected, even admired, by co-workers and fellow members of he Finnish-American community. People would come up to me at large Finnish gatherings and tell me they were friends with my Dad and how long they'd known him.

I was enormously proud of my Dad and throughout his life was convinced that I had the greatest Dad in the world. Mind you, I know better than anyone that he was not perfect. Some of his foibles, some of his stinging comments, some of his biases still rankle today. But they overshadowed by what a kind and loving man he was. I learned a lot from him about being honest, enjoying life, being a responsible, caring father, sharing stories, treating everyone equally and maintaining a positive outlook no matter what. He was not only a good Dad when I was young but continued to be as became a young man, then an adult. He was always proud of me, even over a minor accomplishment.

Not surprisingly he was also a terrific grandfather, well-loved by the next generation.

I still miss him.

15 June 2022

I Answer Question About the Sixties Such as: When Did They Start and End (I even change my mind about something mid-paragraph)


When did the Sixties end? Of course the literal answer is December 31, 1969 but that’s not what people are looking for when making this query. The end of the Sixties as a social and political movement, as a special feeling, as a phenomenon is what people are seeking. One common answer is at Woodstock in August of 1969 because it felt like the culmination of the movement. But to others Woodstock was a true manifestation of the Sixties, and the end came four months later at Altamont when the Hells Angels killed a man while the Rolling Stones performed on stage. I’m of the firm opinion that one can’t entertain any date before then. Others contend that the Sixties ended with Watergate. This begs the question: when exactly? On the night of the burglary? When the existence of the tapes were revealed? When it became obvious that Nixon was culpable? When Nixon resigned? For me, none of the above. Speaking of Nixon, did the Sixties end with his resounding re-election in November 1972? Or how about with the end of U.S. involvement in Vietnam, a war that did so much to define the Sixties? Some folks point to the break up of the Beatles, who can be credited as co-creators of the Sixties. This would place the end in April, 1970. A few scholars put forth 1973 as the year it ended citing not only the end of the Vietnam war but Watergate dominating the headlines, the Civil Rights movement winding down —  appearing at the time to have been a resounding success — and finally there were the oil and energy crises. As for me I don’t ascribe a particular date, instead I see it as being when conservatives started wearing their hair long, people in the youth movement took nine to five jobs and all that was left of the protest movement was the Weather Underground bombings and the antics of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Okay I've changed my mind, the Sixties ended with the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by the SLA on February 4, 1974. That's when the spirit of the Sixties turned upside down.

How about this, less frequently posed question: When did the Sixties begin? Surely not simply on January 1, 1960. I’m going to make this one simple, I have three candidates: August 28, 1963 with the March on Washington, The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964 and the start of the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley on September 14, 1964. I’ll give the nod to the Beatles which means that for me the Sixties latest just five days short of ten years, from 2/9/64 to 2/4/74.

What is the definition of a hippie? This is a question for which the dictionary will not suffice. If you talk to fifty people you’ll get fifty different definitions. Let’s look at the myriad qualifications that some (not all) people have. Long hair, beards for men. Unshaven legs and armpits for women. Causal attire. Sandals. A reticence to bathe. The constant use of marijuana. The regular use of psychedelics. Hitch hiking or driving a van or hippie bus. Unemployment. Living hand to mouth. Living in a commune or cooperative house. Opposition to the Vietnam War. The use of slang terms such as far out, bummer, dig, mellow, spaced out etc. Not attending school. Eschewing organized sports in favor of throwing a frisbee. Liberal consumption of wine but less use of hard liquor. Wearing beads. Dancing freely and often. Not religious though perhaps having beliefs in the occult. Into meditation. Use of the word “into” as in the previous sentence. Disdain for the police in particular and authority figures in general. Advocating “free love” and thus not monogamous. A lover of nature. Feeling a kinship with Native American tribes. Tolerant and accepting of all races, colors and nationalities. Love of rock music and perhaps a devotee of the Grateful Dead. Gentle, non-violent people happy to share anything and everything. Very few people would have qualified on all the above accounts, but many would tick most boxes. 

Are there hippies today? No. Hippies were a phenomenon particular to a time period. There are, admittedly people who adhere to many hippie practice, of course one has to agree on what those practices were and as previously noted, few people do.

What people symbolized the Sixties? That’s a long list so I’ll narrow it down to the most important figures. All four of the Beatles, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, Bob Dylan, Tom Hayden, Huey Newton, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Eldridge Cleaver, Mario Savio, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Angela Davis, Mick Jagger, Bill Graham, Joan Baez, Bernardine Dohrn, Muhammad Ali, Brian Wilson, Andy Warhol, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Allen Ginsberg.  There were also people who negatively informed the Sixties such as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Richard Daly, Charles Manson, Lyndon Johnson, General William Westmoreland, Bull Connor and George Wallace.

Didn’t the Sixties ultimately fail to affect lasting change? On the contrary. Looking at the political scene in the years after we see the national victory of Regan brand conservatism,  followed by GW Bush and invasion of Iraq and later Trump and the war on truth so the Sixties would appear to have failed -- badly. However the Sixties gave us: the environmental movement, the women’s right movement, gay liberation a softening of drug laws especially with the legalization of marijuana, more sensitivity to marginalized groups, greater inclusion, sensitivity in the language we use and how people are depicted and represented. The Civil Rights Movement was one of the seminal eras of U.S. history. However most of the positive changes coming out of the Sixties can be seen in our culture, fashions, music, films all changed dramatically during and in the immediate aftermath of the Sixties. 

What was the "spirit of the Sixties?" A belief in the masses, that the people were inherently good and that institutions were not to be trusted. Beliefs in peace, racial equality and social justice. It was about anti-imperialism and fighting rapacious capitalistic practices. The Sixties were about individual expression, the group consciousness. Making love not war. An end to oppression and oppressive laws and regulations. Power being decimated among the people, not entrenched in governments and certainly not held by corporations and the super rich. It was about being true to yourself and accepting others. It was against consumerism, materialism and greed. It was about honoring all cultures. It was a grand and noble experiment that still lives within those of us who experienced it. 

12 June 2022

I Check in With Myself, Offer Teaching Advice and Rail About Words

Is this next for me?

Time to check in with me.

How’ve I been?

In searching for a one-word answer I have come up with the following: okay.

On the one hand there’s the depression which, as the kids would say, totally sucks. On the other hand there’s the usual: good physical health, family, writing and teaching. So it’s kind of a wash. I strung together three days without depression recently and was impressed by how good it can feel to be alive. Then the depression returned like an invading army, sacking and pillaging my brain leaving a wasteland of pain and angst. I wondered if it were possible to feel good again. 

It’s been established that I’m medication-resistant and more recently I’ve learned that transcranial magnetic stimulation wears off after a few months. I don’t know what’s next. I know some people have had success with psychedelics and indeed I read a book about it by Michael Pollan called How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence. But as I suffer acute panic syndrome I’m evidently not a candidate for such treatment. I’ve been looking into returning to therapy but have little optimism that it’ll make a wit of difference. So I’m in a kind of purgatory.

Depression is always aggravated by thoughts of death. Mine is somewhere down the road and I can’t wrap my mind around. A total cessation of being seems a cruel way to end one’s existence. I’d like to know about an after life or reincarnation but am not gullible enough to believe the tall tales many religions peddle. I suppose the wise thing to do is to accept the inevitable and prepare for it -- but that still seems so gloomy.

I’ve had great success recently with living in the moment. Much pain comes from looking back on past mistakes and wrong roads taken. A little bit of reflection is good for learning from mistakes just as happy memories can give one a shot of dopamine. But dwelling on ii only is not only fruitless but a contributor to depression. Besides it’s not like I’m living alone in squalor suffering major ailments. I’ve done all right and have been extraordinarily lucky.

Teaching has helped. For one thing the depression is forgotten once class starts and in most cases continues to stay away until an hour or so after the teaching day is done. Like most people I enjoy feeling productive. I also enjoy helping my chargers learn the lingo. I further enjoy those bi-weekly paychecks. One of the aspects of teaching I enjoy is creating lessons and I’ve grown to love making tests, particularly grammar exams. I’m unabashed in saying I’m good at both.

Teaching advice: adjust your lessons on the fly according to the needs of the students. Don’t stick rigidly to what you had prepared if students are struggling with a concept or if you note their failure to understand something along the edges of what you were discussing. Also if something is clearly too easy for them, move along, you don’t want risk boring them. Call audibles, adjust, be flexible.

There’s an accrediting organization that wants to see a lesson plan before they observe a class and they expect the teacher to be doing whatever is on the lesson plan. These are people who know nothing about teaching. A classroom is not an assembly line. It is an organic, living entity which changes as and when needed. That’s part of the excitement of a classroom experience, every day, every class is different, a good teacher knows that and not only adjusts accordingly but is part of the excitement; she or he responds to the students’ needs which is the great trick and fun of teaching.

So I know a little about that.

I read that San Francisco city offices are going to remove the word chief from job titles. You can guess why. Even I think this is ridiculous. I swear some people are looking for ways to be offended. But go ahead let’s continuing eliminating words, terms and idioms, parse English down to the bare bones. We’re also going to need to ban a lot of movies, books, plays and TV shows. The worst thing that can happen in the modern world is for someone to be “offended.” It’s enough to aggravate my depression.

But I don’t dwell on the word police. I’m more concerned with real abusive language and the intent behind it and the damage done. I’ve recently read of coaches and directors verbally abusing young athletes, dancers and actors. This is intolerable. A certain toughness can be in order but one can be stern without causing trauma. We should be banning bullies from any position in which they supervise young people. Period.

That’s it folks. Another blog post. Another recitation of my woes and joys. It’s where I’m at, dudes.

09 June 2022

I Have a Lot of Questions

Do fish want towels?

Do people who work tirelessly really never get tired?

Why don’t Brits say “by jove” anymore?

Have you ever met a married couple whose birthdays are on the same day? 

You hear about people barking up the tree but never hear that someone was barking up the correct tree. Why is that?

What ever happened to bygones? People were always letting bygones be bygones but now bygones have gone. Why?

Do Republican politicians have any shame at all?

In Beijing do people go out for Chinese food? Or do they say, let’s go out for food?

Does it bother anyone else that cumulous clouds sounds too much like cunnilingus clouds?

When someone says “it is what it is” do they honestly think they’re being profound?

Don’t you think sloths need a re-brand? Mustn't it suck to be named after one of the seven deadly sins?

Did anyone else think that a cocktail was a specific kind of drink when they were a kid?

Why doesn’t God have a website?

Do fish ever feel like toweling off?

Why do math teachers make kids solve problems? Isn’t it tough enough being in school?

Who was the first person put on hold?

If money can’t be happiness, can you trade for it?

Have two people named Andy ever hiked together in the Andes?

Why don’t airlines serve watermelon?

When are we going to have restaurants for dogs?

Why the hell can’t a rolling stone gather moss if it wants to?

If “break a leg” means good luck than does “go in good health” mean bad luck?

When did women’s libbers become feminists?

Why does the military get whatever it wants but schools struggle to get basic supplies?

Why do people get drawn to nature shows as they grow older?

Wouldn’t the Almighty get more recruits if she/he made an occasional appearance?

Where did Archie, Veronica, Betty and Jughead go to college?

If that's the last straw, why not just order more straws?



04 June 2022

Not Intimidated by a Blank Page I Expound on Numerous Topics Such as Einbinder, Murphy, Meetings, Evil and Nice Things

Hannah Einbinder

You’re not so tough when you’re not blank anymore. Only a few seconds ago you were the stark, desolate blank page, white and ominous, mocking me because I couldn’t put anything on you. Now words have appeared and more are coming. No, blank page, you can’t intimidate me. 

If I was significantly younger I’d have a huge crush on the actress and comedian, Hannah Einbinder who co-stars along with Jean Smart in the delightful HBO Max comedy, Hacks. She’s smart, witty and — don’t you love it — quirky. I don’t imagine she's regarded as conventionally beautiful but I find her incredibly attractive. Primarily because she's interesting bordering on fascinating. It's impossible to think that her character on the show doesn't resemble her in many ways -- especially if you've watched her stand-up and seen her interviewed. Ms. Einbinder has the delicate combination of vulnerable and tough, a 21st century version of Mary Tyler Moore. In her late twenties, she’s very much a woman of her generation which practically requires that she be bi-sexual. Straight is too conventional and gay is too limiting. She plays off Ms. Smart beautifully and can have a fine career as a comic actress (maybe even taking on serious roles) and is a proven stand up. Sigh.

I watched a film called Murphy’s Romance (1985) Ritt on the Criterion Channel last night. Within the first minute I knew exactly what kind of picture it was going to be and how it was going to make me feel. It starts with Sally Field  driving a truck down a highway to the strains of a Carole King song, David Sanborn’s saxophone accompanying. I could tell it would be a cozy feel-good film, especially as I already knew that James Garner co-starred. Summary: a single mom moves to a new town, struggles to get established (boarding and training horses) and not incidentally she finds love. Of course her ex-husband shows up to gum up the works and of course he's a jerk. For all it’s predictability, I enjoyed the film. It was what I needed in the moment. Garner has an easy charm and non-threatening ruggedness. He played the wise older man to perfection. Field is incapable of giving a bad performance. Not every movie needs to be thought-provoking or intellectually inspiring. Some can be a cozy pair of slippers that you put on for a couple of hours.

You ever sit through a work meeting that lasts twice as long as it needs to? Yeah, who hasn’t. Endured one yesterday. The worst part of it was that it wrapped up and some idiot asked a stupid question that extended matters for several minutes. Then when everything seemed settled and it was time to go the same genius asked an even stupider question which led to another discussion that lasted several more excruciating minutes. It should not surprise you to learn that the same moron had still another question and it was the dumbest of the lot. After a few more minutes were dedicated to this query his brain couldn’t manage to conjure another and we were at last on our way. All of this on a Friday when intelligent people want to get out the door and embark on their weekend. Fuck meetings. Teachers are forced to spend far too much time in them.

There are indictments, lawsuits, investigations, hearings and charges aplenty against a variety of Republican miscreants, most of them directed at former president Trumpy. There are also heavily-financed political campaigns targeting the worst of the Republican senators and governors. Many Democrats are inspired and determined and see the walls of conservatism about to tumble down. Justice will prevail. I wish I could share their optimism. Despite the various laws that Trumpy has violated he’s yet to stand trial and I doubt he’ll ever spend a second in jail. At best he’ll be saddled with a few hefty fines here and there that’ll be mere pin pricks to his fat ass. The loathsome governors of Texas and Florida will face stiff challenges as will some of the worst of the Republican senators and congressmen but all will doubtless hold their seats. Gerrymandering and voter suppression methods — not to mention the stupidity of  many American voters — are going to tip the balance to evil. I admire those fighting the good fight but the deck is stacked. Yes, it always had been but the bad guys are even worse than ever.

I should close on a cheerier note. So here goes: toddlers laughing, puppies, long hugs, your favorite music, pizza, settling in with a good book, Seinfeld re-runs, a morning walk, a cup of tea.