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AMC Esquire 7 – Main Theater

Video killed the radio star and Netflix killed the movie theater. America’s largest movie theater chain AMC announced this week that there is a strong possibility that it would not survive this pandemic. Our local AMC is now an octogenarian and as such, would seem ripe to succumb to COVID-19. Over the years, it has striven to remain au currant. Originally it was only a one screen show, by the time that we moved to Saint Louis, it had broaden its venue to two. Later it made that seven. Most recently, it has redecorated itself as your living room, now with wall-to-wall lay-z-boy seating. It even added a bar and in-seat wait service. We are riding out our quarantine, while sampling multiple streaming services. I can’t remember when was the last time that I went to the Esquire. It has been more than a year. Meanwhile, in that same timeframe, I have attended dozens of live performances, many of them at the Fabulous Fox Theater, which started its life as a movie theater. Video killed the radio star and Netflix killed the Esquire.

And Now This…

Last Week Tonight Stamps

A few weeks ago, comedian John Oliver had as the theme for his weekly HBO comedy show the plight of the postal service. In this episode, he explained the situation and offered a remedy of sorts for the post office’s woes—buy more stamps. After all, it is through the sale of postage that the mail service sustains itself. Leading by example, he went one better, when he advertised the sale of his own brand of vanity stamps. Who knew that vanity stamps were a thing? Not I. His show airs on Sunday, but it wasn’t until the following Thursday that I watched it. By that time, when I attempted to order a sheet of his special stamps they were already backordered, which actually tickled me pink. This being a clear demonstration of the power of liberal slacker activism.

The reason that Oliver chose the post office’s problems as his show’s subject is that the president has decided to lambast this institution, because it would be the servant of something that Trump fears, vote-by-mail balloting. Something that in this time of pandemic would allow Americans to safely use to express their political will. He claims to fear voter fraud, but disenfranchisement is his real goal. He wants to limit the vote of older, poorer, blacker Americans and aid his own reelection this November. To this end, he has been tweeting of late baseless lies about voting-by-mail and voter fraud. These lies have been accompanied by others, most pointedly involving the unfortunate death of a woman who had been working for then congressman Joe Scarborough, now of MSNBC. In his tweets, Trump dredged up twenty year old conspiracy theories, in an attempt to smear a political opponent.

What he did though was to elicit a heartfelt plea from the woman’s widower, asking Twitter, not Trump to cease and desist. The resulting kerfuffle so embarrassed the execs at Twitter that when Trump returned to the subject of his voter fraud lies, Twitter had the temerity to add an “asterisk” on to his posts. This minor recrimination of course triggered another Trumpian temper tantrum.

Never one to hold on to a thought for long, last night Trump tweeted about the ongoing civil unrest that is occurring in Minneapolis and is the direct result of the apparent murder of Floyd George, a black man, by city police officers. His tweet echoed verbatim the threat made in 1967 by former Miami police chief Walter Headley, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Obviously, Trump did not get the hint, causing Twitter to nuke that tweet for “glorifying violence.” Twitter later explained that it was in part the historical connection of that tweet’s last line that caused the company to take action.

Is there a new sheriff in twitter-town? I doubt it, but perhaps this moderating action will result is some small measure of moderation, before people get shot. I am reminded of the tale of the troll and the three Billy-goats Gruff. One-by-one, the troll threatens the three goats, only in the end to butted on down the river This week one-by-one, Scarborough, voter fraud and Minneapolis, Trump has employed his bully pulpit to threaten others. Only to learn, he is just a user. 

Set Calls

LA Wall Art

Dan called us with some grand news about his future job prospects. I am of course sworn to secrecy and cannot divulge anything about his set dressing work in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There, gone is the Navy and all of its ships, except what might someday appear on the silver screen or much more likely on a TV at home. The place is as much a factory as it ever was, but now its products are the stuff of dreams. It hosts dozens of studios that support even more shows. He told us a story about the mogul who is the place’s landlord. Driving around NYC he saw an interesting building that intrigued him as a future set and he wanted to buy it, only to be told by a production assistant that he already owned the place.

Dan has been making daily early AM set calls, where he has been building this super great [Deleted] and [Censored] set, with all of this interesting [Deleted] themed scenery. Take my word for it, it sounded fantastic. Dan reads this blog and knows me all too well. I think that I have stayed in between the lines here.

He likes the job’s money, but not its early call time. One of the perks of the job is the union contract mandated food spread. Mostly the food has been fabulous, but this week they even ran out of coffee, which could be an occupational hazard when you couple sleep deprivation with the operation of power saws.

Dan’s big news had nothing to do with any of his NYC gigs, but with a new opportunity that he has just landed back in La-La-Land. He will participate in a reality TV series as a supervising carpenter. This show is a furniture design competition, where he will monitor the contestants for safety and assist them when necessary. He might even appear on screen. This six week gig is scheduled to begin at the end of this month. He is looking forward to reconnecting with his LA friends and then maybe even making it north again to Monterey too.

Trunk Bay Beach

Snorkeler’s Eye-View of Trunk Bay Beach

We hadn’t spoken with the boys, like in forever, when last night we got calls from both of them, after some prompting on our part. They are both doing fine. They had some news to relate, but all of the really good parts, they specifically forbade me from putting on the blog. I find that these things come out in time.

Dan is working hard as a union man. This means getting up at five to answer a 6 AM call. He’s building sets for several different TV shows. Usually as a fill-in for some else who is out sick or something. He doesn’t know from one day to the next where he will be working tomorrow, but other than that fact, the amount of work is pretty steady. He seemed really tired and opened our conversation with a yawn. Those early morning set calls are really not his cup of tea. He did offer me one out. If I could find other corroborating evidence, out on the web, then I could mention something that he said. He is so into protecting the intellectual property of his employers. Well, after clearing my Deep Throat, here we go. One of the shows that he has worked is called Faces.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, this yet to be released Apple TV series will star Julianne Moore and co-star Clive Owen. JJ Abrams is producing it and Stephen King is writing the show’s scripts. They are still looking for a director. King’s involvement certainly hints at the series’ supernatural overtones. The set that Dan was working on was huge. Faces is described as “a deeply personal thriller that follows Lisey (Moore) two years following the death of her husband. The story explores a series of events that causes her to begin facing amazing realities about her husband that she had repressed and forgotten.”

Our other phone conversation was with Dave. He has settled into his new job and it being a job-job, he now has more money. He was thinking about getting a new car, but instead now is looking for a new apartment and leaving his current bohemian digs, in the attic of an East Cambridge house. This hunt is not for the faint of heart. In Boston, landlords usually command three months rent, first month’s, last month’s and a security deposit. And on top of this the frequent need to hire a broker and you are talking about four months rent or about $10K. He does have some friends, who are planning on leaving Boston and if he can snag their apartment, then he shouldn’t need to pay for a broker. It is in West Cambridge, in a more upscale neighborhood. Stay tuned for more news later.

The Angelus

The Angelus, Jean-Francois Millet, 1859

Two peasants stop to say the Angelus prayer at dusk in response to the sound of the distant church bells. They are in the midst of the potato harvest, The woman devoutly worships, the man may be turning his hat, waiting for her to finish. The Catholic Angelus prayer, commemorating the incarnation of Jesus, is said three times a day, at dawn, noon and dusk. In the countryside, this praying was a way of regulating time in the days before wristwatches. This painting is probably Millets most famous. In France, the picture became a symbol of national pride and was widely revered and reproduced. It embodied a vision of piety and devotion, fruitful land and the dignity of labor.

Anne and I celebrated Valentine’s Day together. We didn’t go out or anything special like that, but instead, I fixed us a nice dinner at home. After dinner, we exchanged cards and a few gifts. We then ended up watching the newest episode of the Outlander TV series together. It is the initial episode of Season 5, The Fiery Cross, which was suppose to drop this Sunday, but instead Starz moved its release up a few days, making it available for watching on Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen all of the previous seasons, but have read none of the books. While Anne has read all of the books and has seen almost none of the TV show.

In the past, when I have read the book and then watched the movie, I’ve always felt that cinema had cheapened the story. Most of that has to do with the two medium’s confines. There is no way that any one motion picture could ever tell a story in the same level of detail as can be told in a book. At least not in a single sitting, but with the serialized story telling that’s available now, in these big production TV series, the two mediums are on a more level playing ground.

Game of Thrones is the arch-type for this TV genre. With it, I began with the books, but switched over to the TV and I am happy that I did so. TV concluded its version of that story last year, while the print version is still outstanding.

With Outlander, the books have all been written and the TV series is just trying to catch up, but I don’t think that I’ll ever switch over to the books. On the TV, the book’s characters are fleshed out by real life actors, who pronounce the Scottish dialects much more comprehensibly than I would have ever been capable of sounding out myself. A TV series with a dozen or more hours to tell a book’s story can more than adequately cover any plot, in my humble opinion. 

Signs of Spring Global Warming

Yesterday, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow, signaling that we will have an early spring this year. While winter isn’t supposed to be immediately over then, you wouldn’t have known it with the weather. It was a brilliantly bright day that arrived after so many cloudy ones. The mercury rose to 70 °F and I kept questioning my judgement, for not having put on shorts for the day.

We went to the gardens. The orchid show was on. Always, a mid-winter treat. Its fragrance made Anne’s nose tickle, but it was too nice a day, to tarry long inside. We walked the garden’s grounds. Almost all of the Christmas decorations have been put away and with the beds all turned for winter, there was little in the way of vegetative activity going on. Still, some of the shadows from the leafless trees were interesting and if you looked closely, one could find signs of spring. Witch Hazel blossoms are always an early indicator and seeing them was no surprise, but seeing them being pollinated by honeybees on Groundhog Day is a first. Later, in the Japanese Garden one of the turtles that live in that garden’s large pond, had pulled itself out of hibernation and was sunning itself on a rock. It was the only one we saw and was probably left wondering if it had shown up too early for the Super Bowl party.

After the garden, we headed over to South Grand. Looking for a late lunch, we ended up trying a new place, at least for us, Brazilia. They were serving a buffet, which we ended up partaking of. Our waiter came by, first with a big skewer of beef and then later with skewered pineapple. Each time he would hack the food off the skewer with a machete. We ate too much. Afterwards, we walked up and down the street, window shopping. There were many new shops to see and plenty more new restaurants yet to visit. The city’s investment in this ethnically diverse neighborhood looks to be paying big dividends.

Home again, we settled in for the night. There was no need for dinner or even Super Bowl snacks, after our large late lunch. Anne watched the Super Bowl, while I watched the Outlander series. I’m all caught up now, for this show’s new season debut, later this month. That’s the news, from Saint Louis, Illinois. 😉