The Half Of It

Density Hourglasses

“Gravity is matter’s response to loneliness.”

The Half Of It, new on Netflix, is a delightful Rom-Com with a twist. Written and directed by Alice Wu, it stars Ellie Chu (Leah Lewis) as a shy and lonely, straight-A high school senior, who is isolated in backwater Squahamish, WA. Living down by the railroad tracks, with her widowed signalman father, has earned her the derisive nickname Ellie Choo-Choo. Treated as a foreigner in the only place she has even known leads to her mercenary practice of penning their essays for cash, “Ten dollars for three pages.” “If you don’t get an A, then you don’t pay.” 

She is only a minor character, Ellie’s English teacher Mrs. Geselschap (Becky Ann Baker), but she steals every scene that she is in, as in this bit of dialogue, where she discloses to Ellie that she knows all about her paper writing business.

Mrs. Geselschap: Six different takes on Plato. Impressive.
Ellie Chu: Just the one.
Mrs. Geselschap: That’s what I tell the bartender.
Ellie Chu: How come you never turn me in?
Mrs. Geselschap: And have to read the actual essays they’d write?

She sees a spark in Ellie and tries to convince her to attend Grinnell College in the fall, where she too had graduated. Ellie will have none of it, explaining her intentions to remain in Squahamish, attend a local second rate institution and care for her father. This leads to an exchange between the two about the merits of Grinnell, Hell-quahamish and what constitues success in life that cuminates with Geselschap telling Ellie, “Everyone fears God in this town. But do you know who God fears? The Teachers’ Union.”

Enter Paul Munsky (Daniel Diemer), a school jock who asks for Ellie’s help in writing a love letter to fellow classmate Aster Flores (Alexxis Lemire). What evolves is a real Cyrano de Bergerac love triangle. Initially, she rejects his request, “Get a thesaurus. Use spell-check. Good luck, Romeo.” Eventually though they team up to win Aster’s heart. What begins with written letters, soon moves on to texting, allowing Ellie to in real time save Paul and Aster’s first and very nearly last date, “In love, one always starts by deceiving oneself, it ends by deceiving others. That is what the world calls a romance.”

No love triangle can remain stable for long and this one eventually has its Jerry Springer moment that lays a hilarious Easter egg of sorts, but not before its two initial bonds are joined by others. Aster and Ellie share a conversation and a jump cut sequence where they collaborate on a graffiti wall mural. Aster tells Ellie that, “The difference between a good painting and a great painting is typically five strokes. And those strokes are usually the boldest strokes in the painting.” To which Ellie eventually responds with, “Love is being willing to ruin your good painting for the chance at a great one.” High school is a time in life that is full of great opportunity and to paraphrase Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks, great opportunity gives birth to great moments. This film is full of great moments and I hope you soon have the opportunity to enjoy it too. 

Blow the Man Down

Fisherman’s Wharf

The reviews are in and they look pretty good. Critics have described the movie as ‘darkly funny’, ‘Maine by way of Fargo‘, comparing it favorably to the Coen Brother’s classic and as a ‘splendid Downeast noir’ At ninety minutes, this low-budget independent film enjoys the benefit of little competition on its opening weekend. Anne and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the film and not simply because of our familial connection with the project. Our son Dan is the credited set dresser for the film. One of his most notable contributions was the design and construction of a plywood sign of a lobsterman dubbed Captain Dick. In the opening fifteen minutes it is destroyed in a car crash, but by Dan’s telling that scene was filmed near the end of filming. Anyway, we found this short little movie to be quite captivating and it certainly took our minds off of things.

Man Down is a murder mystery set in the fictional Maine fishing village of Easter Cove. As a mystery, it is not as much about who-done-it, but rather, do they get away with it. Except for a Greek chorus of rubber clad fisherman and a few other two-dimensional male characters, most of the cast is female. The two Connolly sisters are the leads. We first meet them as they host their mother’s funeral, but a quartet of AARP eligible women do much of the show’s heavy lifting and give the show much of its gravitas. Try it, you’ll like it.

Peasant Girl with a Straw Hat

Peasant Girl with a Straw Hat, Camille Pissarro, 1881

Camille Pissarro frequently engaged with Millet-like peasant subjects, as seen in this portrait of a young girl. She calls to mind Millet’s own images of resting shepherdesses. Influenced by Millet, Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas, now a part of the American Virgin Islands. Once grown, he left the island and eventually moved to France. There as an artist, he grew to prominence and became a leader of the Impressionist movement. On St. Thomas, he is still considered an honored native son.

It is a very rainy first day of spring today. No workmen on the street, because of that. The radar map shows a mass of green and yellow Oobleck passing over us, with flood warning boxes following in its wake. A walk in the late afternoon might be possible, but I’m just hoping that the rain lets up enough for me to go out and get the paper, which is probably just soggy pulp by now. We walked yesterday, but it took two attempts. On the first try, we only got a couple blocks, when the rain started again. I had thought that it has finished. Later, we did get our walk in together. There were not that many people out-and-about.

Yesterday, Anne went to gyro, or rather gyro came to us. They’ve closed the studio, but now offer virtual classes via the tele-conferencing app Zoom. I sat out this week’s session, but plan on participating next week, with Anne in our living room. As we adjust to the new normal, adaptation like this is necessary. In this regard, Anne is better situated than I am. She has her many crafts to occupy herself with. One of her yarn stores even offered a virtual knitting circle using Zoom. Currently, she is into quilting and after finishing a baby quilt, has started a new type of quilt. She has ordered most of her supplies for this project online for later delivery, but there were some items that she needed right away. We broke our quarantine and drove to the fabric store, where she was treated to curbside delivery. I brought the hand sanitizer. 

As we all hunker down, quarantining ourselves from one another (I hope), We are always on the lookout for new diversions. A big one will drop tomorrow on Amazon Prime. The movie that Dan worked on, will be available for streaming. Blow the Man Down is set in Maine, where it was filmed two years ago. Here is its trailer and a recent New York Times review. In the trailer, if you look closely there is a brief shot of a plywood lobsterman sign that Dan made. If you watch the movie, be sure to watch the credits too and see Dan’s name written there.

Little Lamb, Who Made Thee?


Punxsutawney Phil was as good as his word. March has come in like a lamb and this week’s forecast is full of early spring weather. The crocuses are out, the trees are budding and the zoysia is beginning to turn green again. Today was nice enough to entice Anne and I to go for a bicycle ride, but you know what they say about March. In like a lamb and out like a lion or in this case a tiger. Tiger burning bright in the sinew of the night. Apologies to William Blake.

Anne and I took advantage of this warm spell and got out on our bikes. We rode in Forest Park, with most of Saint Louis. On the way back home, we stopped off at Kaldi’s on DeMun, for a latte and a smoothie and to soak up some more sun. 

Spoiler Alert! This week, Knives Out director Rian Johnson released a major spoiler, not just about his most recent murder mystery, but outing all TV shows and movies. He divulged a show business trade secret that will allow anyone to pick out the bad guy, from any line up. Apparently, Apple has no problem with its products appearing on screen, so long as they are portrayed in a favorable light. You can take this to mean that only the good guys can be seen with an iPhone or a Mac Book. Anyone sporting an Android or a PC is automatically suspect and should be given a wide berth.


Buttoned-Up Hermit Crab Close-Up

Poop patrol, that’s what my week has been all about. You see, this week I had another colonoscopy. Don’t worry, it was completely routine and I am as clean as a whistle. There was not even a single Hermit crab found, where the sun never shines. As in the past, it is the prep that is worse than the actual event.

First there are the days of restrictive diet. I try to eat a high fiber diet, but fiber is exactly what is not allowed. I called it my Trump diet, all cheeseburgers and fries, no salad, no vegetables. Coincidently, Ronny Jackson, former Whitehouse physician came out with his own tell all book this week. You remember this guy, after his first presidential physical, he announced that Trump was the most perfect physical specimen that he had ever examined. Instead, Jackson now says that Trump is, brace yourself, obese. He is so fat… How fat is he? He is so fat that they had to hide his ice cream at night. He eats no vegetables. Prompting Jackson to blend cauliflower rice into his mash potatoes.

Anyway, enough of them, back to me. On colonoscopy eve, I took the prep, not just any prep though, but super prep. It really cleaned me out. I had weighed myself both before and after and contrary to what some people think, my weight loss was only 1%. Consequently, through empirical evidence, I can declare that I am not full of it, even though my eyes may be brown.

Finally, the day-of-days dawned. By sun up, I was installed on my gurney. The assembly line that was this center’s medicine, operated with factory efficiency. The last that I remember, before going under, was watching the screen that was displaying my vitals, turning blurry. When I awoke, Anne was sitting by my side. The doctor came by to give us the good news and that he would be seeing me in another seven years and then I was whisked out the door. It all happened with such clockwork efficiency that I had to wonder what that future medical center would look like. Would the bevy of nurses and med techs still be there or would their jobs be automated and would they all be replaced with robutts? 

Pink Flamingo Trio

Pink Flamingo Trio

Two years ago, Dan traveled to Maine and participated in the making of a movie there. The movie, Blow the Man Down, is about two sisters, who while grieving for the loss of their mother, suddenly find they have a crime to cover up, leading them deep into the underbelly of their salty Maine fishing village. On IMDb, Dan is credited as a set dresser for the film. It debuted at the Tribeca film festival last year and was later snapped up by Amazon. I have been watching and waiting for its release and today was rewarded when I read that it will drop on Prime March 20th. His most notable contribution occurs near the end of the movie. He built a giant cutout plywood lobsterman sign, such as would roadside advertise a Maine lobster shack. In the movie, a car crashes into it and it falls down on the vehicle. He was especially proud of a mechanism that he created that made the scene repeatable, like for second takes. I was amazed at how long it took this show to come out, but I’m sure that it will be worth the wait, especially any scenes that involve Captain Dick, which is the lobsterman’s nickname. I don’t normally watch the credits, but I’ll be sure to see this film’s.