Thursday, September 5, 2019

Past, Present, Future and Dying

It's age, I suppose, the enigma that forces you to take stock of the past, to dwell on the present and try and outwit the future. Whatever it is, it is powerful. And disturbing and hopeful and depressing and so much more, all at once. There is nothing new about this thought process, nothing new at all, but still, it creeps up on you and pounces, scraping at your heart and soul like a tiger hungry for fame.

A colleague of mine, an amazing young woman, mid 20's, was very seriously injured in a car crash on Monday morning on her way to work. While I hate to admit it, we don't always look at life too closely until some tragedy occurs and then we think "What if?" and "What now?" and so many more "whats and hows and whys."  We should be looking at life a lot more closely ALL THE TIME.  Fucking shit happens and we are NEVER prepared for it, but of course, no one can be prepared for all the fucking shit that happens, especially the accidental variety, but still. We should be thinking about life and love and loss and everything else a lot more often than we actually do.

Even if there were no car accidents, no surprising deaths, no trips to the vet, to the ER, to the police station, to a lawyer's office, to the confessional, even if one's life seemed benign and happy, there is no logical reason to believe those accidents, deaths, vet bills, cop statements, excuses to the priest aren't going to happen and take their toll. They are going to happen. Get ready. Complacency is a menace. 

My Mom would have been 99 years old this year, last month to be exact.  My daughter is 46 years old, my son is 42. I am 69 years old. These are numbers that are not insignificant.  That hooded guy in the black robe with the scythe is waiting in the wings for all of us. While I no longer need to worry about my Mom, thank goodness, I continue to worry about my kids. And my siblings and my friends, my dog, everyone's dogs, everyone's safety and health. 

I say all of this not to be a doomsayer. Not to be the portent of gloom or doom. I say all of this out loud because life is so precarious and precious**, so whimsical and so dangerous that we all need to be aware of that whimsy and danger and love each minute of grace and safety that we occasionally enjoy while, at the same time, be aware of its fleeting existence. In other words, let's all be more grateful and more present and let's all reach out with kindness more often than we do now and let's all acknowledge, even to oneself, that everything we have and love can be shut down in one instant. And therefore appreciate everything we have and love even more.

I love you all. Be careful out there.


** how interesting that those two words, precarious and precious are exactly the same except for that "ar" in the middle. Hmmm.....


Tuesday, August 27, 2019

"Chances Are..." by Richard Russo

Russo is one of my favorite fiction writers. We are about the same age and following his work these past 20+ years has been, at times, like looking in a mirror of experiences and life adventures.  This new novel has three guys in their late 60's, college pals, meeting up for a weekend in Martha's Vineyard, ghosts of the past shadowing them every minute and from every corner.

Maybe it's because these three men, Lincoln (somewhat successful real estate guy) and Teddy (the soft, emotional, unfocused one) and Mickey (motorcycle riding softie) reminded me of men I once knew, sort of still know, always wanted to know..... that caused me to really fall for this story. It is not without its flaws, of course. The paths the guys take, the rationale with which they justified their crazy actions, the unrequited love they have for their lost communal girlfriend Jacy, none of it works in real life. But it all works in Russo's hands. He makes you care about these people, flaws and all, negative nuances, every pimple is shown and yet we accept all of it because, goddammit, we like these people. They are our age (well, my age) and they still hum the same songs I do. 

And more than those songs, they still in their souls believe in righteousness and love, kindness and revenge. And in John Fogerty and Led Zeppelin and the Stones.

I really liked this story. It gets tied up too neatly at the end but I knew that would happen after I read 25 pages. Russo is good at characters, at making the reader respond to those characters. Situational ethics loom large here at times, but I sort of think that is part of our (my) generation as well.  "If you can do a bad thing to save a good person, if you can tell a small lie to avoid a large catastrophe, is it justified?"

If you are over the age of 50, I think you will identify with Lincoln, Teddy, Mickey and Jacy. If you are wise and under 50, the same. But hey, I could be wrong and everyone, of every age could hate it. Probably not.

For me, two thumbs up. Put it on your library list.


Friday, August 23, 2019

"Once Upon a Time ...... in Hollywood" Tarantino's newest film

Having seen all but two of Quentin Tarantino's movies, I consider myself a fan of his work. Yes, his movies are usually bloody and seemingly unnecessarily so but they are movies, not real life. "Pulp Fiction" remains on my top ten best movie lists of all time, perhaps even in the top five of that list. Sometimes the violence is so over-the-top cinematically that it becomes almost funny, an exaggeration of violence that seems mocking at times.

But "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" has no blood and guts until the end and even then it seems somehow relevant to the rest of the movie, albeit in a twisted way. The basic plot is about two aging film "stars", one a B-list actor and the other a stunt man. We get an idea of their relationship from the first take and it just gets better and more personal from there. Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt are so well suited to their roles that I cannot imagine anyone else but them as Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth, respectively.  As he usually does, Tarantino has small cameo and bit parts for so many amazing actors: Bruce Dern, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant and many more.  Plus the movie has one of the best movie dogs ever, a pit bull named Brandy.  And other plus:  there is a scene in which Brad Pitt takes off his shirt.  Oh, need I say more?

Yes, there is the side story of Sharon Tate and her friends at her house in the Hollywood Hills, but in true Tarantino style, that story is a bit warped.  I will say no more.

"OUATIH" takes place in 1969, the same year as Woodstock. The detail to that era is incredible: cars, buildings, movie marquees, TV shows, cultural references. Tarantino's tongue-in-cheek humor abounds in subtle ways. There are time shifting scenes, but not as much as in "Pulp Fiction" but enough to keep you paying attention. There are dozens of mentions of movies of that year and clips of several, some doctored to have DiCaprio's character Rick Dalton holding a starring role.

I loved this movie. Steve and I came out of the theater laughing, a tribute to Tarantino and the entire cast, to the writing, editing and the real-life absurdity of the entire thing.  I understand that many people don't like Quentin Tarantino's movies and I get that. But this movie is like a love song to the 1960's and since that's my generation, I thank him for that love song.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood poster.png

Thursday, August 22, 2019

"Woodstock" documentary on Netflix, made by PBS

For my generation, 1968-1969 defined us, solidified us and made us, in many ways, who we still are today. Starting early in 1968, the TET offensive was a blow to the South Vietnamese and to the US forces in Vietnam, exacerbating the anti war sentiment in the US. In April, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis was a shocking and brutal blow not just to the Civil Rights Movement but to everyone who fought for justice.  Then, the almost inconceivable assassination of Robert Kennedy in June in Los Angeles threw many into despair for our political structure and our nation. By the time of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August of 1968, the country was so divided about so many things, in retrospect the violence in the streets of Chicago should have been easily predicted.

In January of 1969, Richard Nixon was sworn in as President and the Vietnam War continued. The generation born in the 1950's, the Baby Boomers as they would be called, adamantly opposed the war, hated Nixon and felt disenfranchised from the rest of the country, from politics and from what they called "The Establishment."

Early in 1969 a couple of guys from the East Coast decided to produce a huge rock concert, something outdoors, and they planned to sell enough tickets to make a bundle of money. After their original venue fell through less than a month before the festival was to start, they scrambled and found Yasgur's farm in New York. Tickets had been sold, performers had been booked, there was no way the concert could not go on.

This documentary is a pleasure to watch. Not just because of the history of the concert/festival  but the footage of how it actually happened, how people from thousands of miles away converged on this property for the music and the camaraderie and the love, it is all here and it is amazingly fun to watch. I knew a bit about Woodstock (I was 19 years old, after all) but there are so many points made that I was unaware of:  the townspeople gathered up everything in their pantries, made sandwiches for the kids because at one point there was no food left. The military flew in Hueys with dozens of doctors to help those at the festival who needed medical help. The Hog Farm Commune cooked buckets and buckets of rice and corn for the masses and gave it away. It was the first time Crosby, Stills and Nash ever played together. And more. Hearing and watching Jimi Hendrix play the national anthem that sounds, even today, like bombs falling and like exploding grenades while at the same time sounding like the national anthem is still mesmerizing.

Seriously, if you are of the Baby Boom generation, or if you are not, watch this. It will renew your love of music, kindness, cooperation, peace and love, and I mean that honestly. There is doubt in my mind that anyone of any age could pull off such a celebration of peace, love, music, decency and kindness now. Sadly, our world is so different now than it was 50 years ago. Even with all the murder, trauma, hate and political discord in that era, it is worse now.

Woodstock was amazing. As one participant said, "It stopped the clock for three days."  Check it out.

Woodstock 1969 Poster

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Martin Scorsese

Who cannot admire Martin Scorsese's body of work even if one does not admire his movies? I am a huge fan, of course, because I love movies. Scorsese has directed and produced  so many vast, huge films but he has also made one of my favorite small movies, "Hugo" about an orphan who lives in a train station in Paris and who knows how to fix clocks. If you haven't seen it, please find it and watch it. It is charming, lovely, moving and very good.

But many of Scorsese's movies are tough and brutal. Some are lovely and beautiful and lyrical but those do not pop to the top of one's mind when thinking of his films. "Gangs of New York" and "Casino" and "Raging Bull" and "Taxi Driver" and "Goodfellas" and on and on. But along with those we have "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore" and "The Color of Money" with the incredible Paul Newman. How about "You Can Count on Me" with Laura Linney?  Or the amazing documentary "The Last Waltz."

Scorsese is releasing a new movie in the next week or so, which should be interesting. It is the first movie he has made with Al Pacino, surprisingly. 

That's all, just walking through a history of one man's portfolio of films. It's quite the journey.

Hugo Poster

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Birthdays, kids, acknowledged and not

It's odd, but I have often posted notes on or around August 10 about Jenn's birthday and yet I have seldom posted notes around April 16, Gabe's birthday. Why is that?  Part of it is because Jenn always makes a Thing about her B-day and has a party or at least a celebration that involves many people. Gabe does not, or at least not that I know of.  

Jenn and Gabe are so different in many ways and yet I know they are connected to each other in so many layers that I have no knowledge of.  (Sorry, that's a bad sentence in many ways but I simply cannot fix it right now.) They talk to each other more often than I know and for that I rejoice. To me they see the world in different ways but that just might be my Mom vision. Their kaleidoscopic views might  be more in sync than I know. 

There were two toddlers at Autocamp today that reminded me of Jenn and Gabe. Both kids were under the age of two but I could see that they were smart, adventurous, charming and soon to be trouble. Independent and yet reliant, in good ways. I was charmed by both of them. 

No wonder..... I have been mesmerized by both of my children since the moment they were born and it has never stopped. Charming, adventurous, smart and winsome. It doesn't get better than that. Not to mention generous, kind and helpful and loving.  YAY!!! 


Sunday, August 4, 2019

"Knock Down the House" on Netflix

Ah, where to begin? We all feel, we all know and we all accept that we have little power over the political scene right now. We want change but we cannot make it happen. We are all pissed off but what to do? Plus, the complacency of the American people is rampant.... "can't fix it, just have to wait for it to change, nothin I can do."

Watch this documentary. Watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) begin her run for office in New York with just a handful of unpaid staff and paper flyers she hands out. Watch her take on one of the most powerful Democrats in the U.S. in a fair fight with no political backing or funding.  Watch her stand up and argue and fight and watch her win.

And watch three other women with equally strong agendas fight their hard, heartfelt fights and lose.

But it's the change that might be coming, if the American voters can see their way to support women, men, anyone who is not backed by lobbyists, by corporate sponsors, by millionaires. We need women, men, people of different races and mixed genders and those who are disenfranchised.  This documentary gives a tiny bit of hope to those of us who still cry out for change and for less homogenized candidates. 

The women who ran for office fought against issues that are never going to disappear: jobs, health care, race, drugs and treatment, wages, discrimination.  These women have risked their jobs and their lives to change things and these women, like every single person in our world, deserve to be heard.

This documentary is less than two hours long. Please watch it. And then please take some action, even if it's to convince yourself to register to vote and then vote. Or convince just one other person to do the same.  We need voters and we need voices. Complacency means nothing. Action means everything. 

In the last election, the number of people who did not vote was staggering. In 2020, if every person who voted in the last election could convince one non-voter to actually vote, the outcome of the next election could be substantially different. Keep that in mind.  And keep in mind people like AOC, who can make a difference in the political spectrum if she (they) just have voting supporters.

Peace out.