There Is Always One…

There Is Always One…

When taking group pictures there is invariably one in the group who is not posing sweetly. To them I say, go ahead and make my day. The four of us, Anne, Dan, Dave and I took Puck to the dog park, giving Maren a wee bit of a break. Years ago, on this holiday weekend, we were passed on the highway by an aging Volvo station wagon that had white shoe polish sign, painted on its back window with the message, “4 days with the FAM, Send Booze!” We have often wondered since, if that message was ever erased upon arrival, but I expect not. Not that that’s the situation here.

Anyway, at the dog park, it was all Puck, all of the time. The weather is nice today, sunny and warmish (50 °F). So, the dog park was chock-a-block full of other dogs, with their people. Puck was pretty much consumed with chasing balls and sniffing butts, dog heaven. We took a break from the dog portion of the park and walked a trail around a reservoir. Its water level was very low. The water had dropped enough to expose the remains of old stone walls, from ancient Pilgrim farms. Once our walk was done, we rejoined the furry fray and Puck got some running. Sometimes she was chasing other dogs and other times she was the one being chased. Puck is napping, mission accomplished!

In-between these little forays outside, most of our time is spent huddling around the full screen hearth/TV. FIFA’s World Cup soccer is playing from when we arise, until the mid-afternoon, when I guess it gets too late in Qatar, over on the other side of the world. The football highlight of this holiday weekend was yesterday’s 0-0 draw between England and the US. The hype for this game was already in overdrive and quickly accelerated to hyperdrive, before the first foot touched a ball. These two teams have only faced each other three times in World Cup play. There was yesterday’s draw and in their next previous meet that game was also a draw. They first met in 1950, when the upstart US team actually beat the heavily favored England. Saint Louis had a role in that win, because a sizable portion of the US team were of Italian descent and came from the Hill, the Saint Louis Italian neighborhood. 

The Golden Door

Statue of Liberty Hanukkah Menorah

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it—George Santayana

Ken Burns’ new documentary, The U.S. and the Holocaust, premiered this week on PBS. This three-part, six-hour series will remain available for free streaming through mid-October. It tells the story of the plight of Europe’s Jews, from the rise of Hitler’s Nazism, through the end of World War II. As the show’s title implies, special emphasis is placed upon America’s reaction to the Holocaust. The inclusion of this Smithsonian menorah’s photo seemed so appropriate for this post, since Lady Liberty stood as symbolic guardian of America’s golden door. Through a mixture of apathy, ignorance, antisemitism and white supremacy, America made the Holocaust so much worse than it would otherwise have been and America seems on the verge of repeating those same mistakes again now. When Burns recount’s American reaction to the Holocaust, the historical parallels between then and now seem scarily similar and begs the question, are we headed there again, to Déjà Vu, all over again?

One Ringy-dingy

Nashville’s Eye of Sauron

Last Thursday, the first two episodes of Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power dropped. They represent the opening foray in what will be a multiyear project. Jeff Bezos is rumored to have spent $465M for this show’s first season of eight episodes alone. With each episode coming in at just over an hour that comes to almost a million dollars a minute, making this show, TV’s most expensive to produce, ever. This series is a prequel to the more familiar The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but due to the magic spells cast by the Tolkien estate’s wizardly licensing lawyers it is only based upon six appendences that appear at the end of the original trilogy. That’s a lot of money to bet on what is only a periphery set of writings. Rings of Power is Amazon’s bid for its very own Game of Thrones franchise, which itself has just begun airing its own prequel. With a whole new cast, Rings still has a few familiar characters. Galadriel and Elrond have already appeared, but for the most part the series’ characters are all new. Two episodes are hardly enough to judge an enterprise of this magnitude, but what I’ve seen so far sure is shiny.

In the first episode, Galadriel and her party of elves are ambushed by an ice troll. She kicks that troll’s ass, but that battle only served to spawn an army of Internet trolls. Chief among whom is Elon Musk. Reigniting his feud with Bezos, Musk complained that in Rings of Power, “Tolkien is turning in his grave, almost every male character so far is a coward, a jerk or both. Only Galadriel is brave, smart and nice.” It is for his ilk that Amazon turned off comments on their website for this series. The cast of Rings is quite multicultural, which serves only to inflame the racist hate that such a move engenders. Who is to say what color dwarves and halflings are? I remember from my old D&D days that there were even dark elves in that Tolkienesque landscape. Just because Peter Jackson in his Lord of the Rings movies cast only white actors, doesn’t mean that is how it has to be.

This post has been a little bit inside baseball, rather than explicitly about the finished product, but as I said before, two episodes is too little material to form an accurate judgement. I must say that I like what I have seen so far. Far better than the Thrones prequel. Spending almost a half-billion buys you quite the shiny product. Only, time will tell us just how precious that product really is.

Ghosts, Spirits and a Full Moon

Yesterday’s Full Moon
Blithe Spirit Poster

Yesterday, it rained most of the day, but we still got out. We went to the Maplewood-Richmond Heights high school and saw their production of Blithe Spirit. After the play, exiting the school’s auditorium, I saw the full moon shining through the remaining clouds. This Noël Coward play first debuted in London during 1941 and has since been made into several movies that are available for streaming. It is a comedy about death and ghosts that debuted during the horrors of the Blitz. The play is set at the English country home of a gentlemen author, Charles, who is researching his next book on the occult. He and his wife Ruth have invited over another couple and the French occultist Monsieur Arcati for a séance. The result of this ceremony is the accidental recalling from the spirit world of the ghost of Charles’s first wife, Elvira. Only Charles (and the audience) can see or hear Elvira, but she can make her presence known to the rest of the cast by “levitating” objects. Needless to say, Ruth is not amused by the presences of her predecessor and much comedy and conflict ensues. I was amazed at the production values in this high school play and we both highly enjoyed the show.

Ghosts Poster

Before Noël Coward wrote Blithe Spirit, while he was searching for a play’s idea involving ghosts, his first thoughts centered on an old house, haunted by specters from different centuries, with the comedy arising from their conflicting attitudes, but he could not get the plot to work. Because the evening’s play began at seven, we got home before ten. It was too early for bed; besides I was still to wound up from the theater. On YouTube, I began watching trailers from the different movie treatments of the play that have been shot over the years. Losing my soul once more to YouTube, I kept drilling down until I found a trailer for the BBC production of the comedy series Ghosts (HBO) that is based upon a young couple who inherits an old house, haunted by specters from different centuries.

Like with the hit comedy series The Office, this British original now has an American transplant that began on CBS but has since been picked up for streaming (Hulu). When the young couple first arrive at the mansion the ghosts are curious, until they learn that the couple’s plans include turning their home into a hotel. With their eternal peace endangered, the ghosts declare war on the couple and one of their number pushes the woman out of an upstairs window. She survives, but this near-death experience then allows her to both see and hear the ghosts. We’ve binged most of the first season and seen the relationship between the living and the dead evolve from “gorilla” warfare to an unsteady truce. This is exemplified in the episode where in order to raise some much-needed cash, the young couple rents out the mansion to a movie company that is filming a period drama. Let’s just say that the ghosts go full Hollywood.

Bigbug

Bigbug

Bigbug is Netflix’s new today futuristic farce created by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Jeunet of Amélie fame. Set in the not-too-distant future, humans have their every want met by households full of mechanical servants. These loyal domestic robots wait on their human masters and obey their every command until one day they don’t and in the name of security trap this particular household in an unwilling lockdown. This featured family has a ditsy wife, her randy suitor, her boorish ex-husband and his younger-model fiancée, plus a nosey neighbor and two teenagers. Both the characters and the house’s décor are rather cartoonish, a cast that would be right at home in a murder mystery or a bedroom farce. At first, the humans are portrayed as not particularly sympathetic or smart and the household robots are not much better, as the movie develops most of both kinds of characters become more likeable. What at first appears to be a malfunction or if you will a bug in the system, morphs into a larger drama when a militaristic breed of big, bad androids, the Yonyx, finally arrive at the house.

Orange White Barrel Season

Orange White Barrel Season

We walked yesterday and the roads are much improved from the day before, mostly bare pavement. The weather was generally much better than it had been also. The schools relented too, instead of another day of remote learning, the kids got a snow day. It’s not like we get snows like this very much anymore and giving the children a chance to enjoy the snow seemed like a good thing. 2019 was the last time we got this much snow, so three years. Pictured are the results of one enterprising snow shoveler’s effort. The sidewalk in front of this hose had been cleared, by first shoveling the snow into a plastic garbage barrel, packing it down, then dumping the barrel upside-down and then repeat.

Last year, we signed up for Direct TV, originally so Anne could watch TV even when the weather was not good. It turns out that one of the many channels that it provides is an Olympics channel. This allows us to watch the games 24/7 commercials free. Lots of curling on so far. I’ve noticed that except for the racecourses there isn’t any snow there. The winter Olympics may someday cease to be feasible anymore. That would be a shame.