Thursday, March 22, 2018

New movie "Isle of Dogs" from Wes Anderson

So many people I know have dogs and almost everyone I know loves dogs.  Not all of those people know or love Wes Anderson movies but they should.  He is the master at oddness in movies, strange but enticing stories, and he almost always has the same cast of characters:  Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Scarlett Johansson, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and so many more.  Witness "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" and many more.  All are wonderful but quirky and not mainstream.

His newest movie, just out today is "Isle of Dogs" and you should google it and read the New York Times review of this movie.  It sounds bleak and sad but also realistically uplifting and spirited.  In stop motion animation (or something like that) it's the story of dogs that are sequestered on a trashy island off Japan and they live a sad life.  

But there is more than that, of course, and I cannot wait to see it. Check out the trailers, just google it.  And Rotten Tomatoes has already given it more that 90% approval rating and it has hardly been released yet!  Such is the power of dogs.


The last ten years of where I have lived, and hopefully moving again.

When I add up where I have lived since 1998, it's rather daunting. I mostly feel bad for little Cooper, although he has shown remarkable resilience in the more than ten places he has lived since I rescued him at the SPCA about ten years ago. And once again, he may need to readjust his dogness, but he will like the new smells.

In 1998 I sold the Big White House in Inverness.  That was also the year my Dad died.  And the year my divorce from Assbag came through.  And the year my daughter left her husband of two years.  Whew..... what a year, right?  I had Webber then, the Wonder Dog, he didn't care where he lived as long as he had dead things to roll in. We moved into a tiny cottage without heat and without plumbing when it rained but I must say, I loved that place, I had great dinner parties there, really good sex with someone I never saw again after one memorable weekend, a lot of laughs. And from there, in the spring of 1999 I moved into another very lovely cottage in Inverness and there I stayed, and where Webber died and where Cooper came to be, for about ten years.

As I said in last night's post, I had to leave West Marin in 2010 because of the Great Economic Downturn and because I lost my job and could not find another one.  Thus began Cooper's ten year adventure of New Places to Live.

From November 2010 until June 2011 I lived with Gabe and Annie, which was lovely. I had dozens of job interviews, none which were fruitful except one in a podiatrist office and the thought of dealing with old people feet made me want to collect unemployment forever.  In June I moved, with little Cooper, to Texas for about 3+ months and lived with Jenn. We did fine, she was gone for part of the time, I did some catering, the weather was over 100 degrees every day, we had a few screaming arguments but then, on Labor Day of that year I left and drove north, up through Oklahoma, into Kansas and then veered over to Colorado, (stayed in Golden, home of Coors Beer!) and then to Wyoming and got to visit Yellowstone National Park, then to Montana (Big Sky!) which was so immense and so inspiring in some way. It was like the air was fatter there, the landscape mixed city and country and open land.  I want to go back there.

Then into Idaho where I got a call from my friend David Warnimont telling me that my other friend Margaret had broken her leg and did I want her job at a bed and breakfast place in Healdsburg.  Well, duh, I was still out of work and my unemployment was soon to end, so Cooper and I hoofed it down to NoCal and I took that job.

We stayed at Margaret's for a little bit, she had an extra vacation rental house that we could use when renters weren't there, and when it was rented Cooper and I stayed in a cheap motel or at my brother Steve's house for a night or two.  Then Margaret led me (not physically because of her broken leg and all) to a couple who had a large trailer that they were willing to rent me.  So I rented that for two months, worked in Healdsburg and in Calistoga, Cooper sometimes spent the day in the trailer, which was OK.  Finally, when I gave up the Calistoga job and worked full time at the B&B in Healdsburg, my friend  Jani from Burlingame came up and took me to lunch.

Jani was adamant that I get out of the trailer (and I was tired of sleeping over the poop tank) and just rent a place.  My hesitation about lack of jobs for the past two years was mitigated by the fact that I had a little money in the bank and could show that to a landlord so I enlisted my friend Martha to look at some places in Santa Rosa. We found one, on Benton Street. It was a small duplex but it suited me well.  (I cannot thank Jani or Martha enough for their combined encouragement and the push they provided.)

I lived on Benton for about 18 months. Then Jenn and I rented a larger (4 bedroom) house in SR and she stayed for about 15 months.  I got a roommate after Jenn left but I realized I was not good roommate material, so I found my own place, here on Slater, in SR, and I am happy here.

However, the rent is huge and I have an opportunity to move to a very tiny studio apartment in Glen Ellen, hopefully by June. This will save me so much money that I cannot turn it down. But it will mean the seventh place that Cooper will call home in less than ten years, and that doesn't count the two or three weeks in the rental house and it doesn't count the two months in the trailer.

Yes, that's a lot of moving, not just for the dog, but for me. If I add in the random places I slept and the two months in the trailer, it's ten places I have lived in less than ten years.

Sigh. But the Glen Ellen place will, I hope, last us for more than just a year or two. However, it's one more major adjustment for little Cooper. But there will be squirrels there, I am sure, and a bit of room to roam.

More on that to follow. Thanks for listening/reading this far.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Those spirits that visit us while they are dead.

A few days ago I quoted from James Lee Burke this: if there is a such a thing as wisdom, and I have serious doubts about its presence in  my life, it lies in the acceptance of .... the knowledge that those who have passed on are still with us, out there in the mist, showing us the way, sometimes uttering a word or caution from the shadows, somethings visiting us in our sleep, as bright as a candle burning inside a basement that has no windows.  

I mention this because yesterday I had lunch with my extra daughter Stacey and she talked about some things she has experienced just after burying her Grandmother. Small things to anyone who wasn't paying attention: rain stopping for the seconds it took to run to your car, not just once but several times in one afternoon, a flower from the funeral left on one of her son's car seats in the back of her car, a few other things that made it clear that her Gramma was still seeing her.

Many people believe in God. Many people do not. Not many people have belief in that middle, spirit world.  Oddly, I do. I truly believe that some of the dead carry on.  Not all of them. But some. Stacey's narrative confirmed that for me, once again.  

When my Mom was alive, I called her every Sunday. Every. Sunday.  I remember calling her from a pay phone on an island off of Sicily, from a hotel in Tunisia, many times from Paris or Rome or small towns in other cities in Europe. Now when 4:00 rolls around on Sunday afternoon, I look up expectantly because I expect her to be calling me. So I talk to her for a few minutes, just to satisfy her curiosity of where I might be on that particular Sunday.  I do believe she is listening.

There is more to say on this but right now the words are few.  

"Janesville" An American Story" by Amy Goldstein

I am aware that most people aren't going to be jonesing to read this book, but I have been to Janesville, Wisconsin, several times and there are people there that I like. Therefore, for me, it was an easy pick.  Janesville was the home of one of the General Motors auto plants that closed in 2008. Thousands of workers were laid off. This book is their story.

There is another reason this tale of economic hardship and disruption resonated with me:  in 2009, in the middle of the Great American Recession, I lost my full time job in West Marin.  I knew the economy was in bad shape but I had never worried about finding a job, I interviewed well, had a good resume, was multi-talented, and on and on.  But, like so many in Janesville and all over America, there were no jobs to be had. People with skills that far surpassed mine were also out of work, vying for the same jobs at Whole Foods and Macy's.  They got hired; many of us did not.

"Janesville" is a really good read. The author approaches the city's economic travesty via people who worked for GM and who lost their jobs. Therefore, instead of reading about corporate decisions, you read about families and how this changed their lives, how they had to adjust (and many didn't) and the toll this economic disaster took on them. There are moments of grace and honor, and moments of sadness and resolute anger.  And there are passages about Paul Ryan and his devious political schemes. Ryan is from Janesville and you might think that would have made him empathetic, but since he was one of the rich guys who didn't suffer from the plant closure, his political fortunes just kept on  rolling along.

If you are a library fan, I suggest you take this book out of the library and experience how a really nice city like Janesville bore the brunt, not only of the GM plant closure, but of the subprime mortgage fiasco as well. It's a story well told and worth reading. It's part of our American history and history is always worth investigating.


Monday, March 19, 2018

David Chang: "Ugly Delicious" on Netflix, all about the joys of food.

If you can stream Netflix, you should check out "Ugly Delicious" which is a peek into David Chang's food life, real life and restaurant life. You can google him and see where his restaurants are but this short series is about him, not so much about his commerce.

Watch the first episode and then, please, watch the second one and the third one.  He is all about the food, all about cooking, not about the glamour of it all. The second episode is about tacos, tacos around the world, how almost all cultures have food wrapped in some kind of bread, be it the crepe, white bread, tortilla, pizza dough, nan, dumpling, and on and on. How this street food has become a constant in every place in the world.

The third episode is about Thanksgiving, going back home, sucking it up, dealing with family and loving it all. There is one line in this episode that says something like this: The amount of extra cooking at Thanksgiving is part to fill the hours that could otherwise be filled with emotional connection with your family members.  Which is so true, we all often sequester ourselves in the kitchen at holidays because we do not want to have any emotional connection to those we invited to sit at our Thanksgiving table!  Which is rather perverse but very understandable.  Too much emotion, let's let that go. Just let me cook. My daughter might raise a glass to that sentiment. 

David Chang appears to be just a regular guy in this series.  He swears a lot, says fuck a lot, is irreverent and yet gets teary when he is around his Mom. He loves food, the culture of it, the preparation of it, the simplicity of it. He has a great smile and he has seductive dimples! His faith is in food, not in the preciousness of it, not in the perfection of it, just in really good food.  If you like food, even a little, watch this show. David Chang makes me laugh and makes me want to get back to my stove and cook. And I know that whatever I make, if I like it, then it's good.  "Ugly Delicious" is good watching, it will make you laugh, think and want to cook. 

I regret that I did not visit one of David Chang's restaurants when I was in NYC last year. I might need to remedy that later this year.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A movie about holograms of dead people but in a good way: " Marjorie Prime"

No one will read this given the title but I have no other way to introduce this movie...... "Marjorie Prime" is rather odd, to say the least but it's actually pretty good and worth watching, has a good cast and a good premise and is less strange than so many other movies out there right now.  Seriously, the Oscar winning movie of 2017 was about a mute woman who falls in love with a sea creature. Yes, it was a nice fairy tale but tell me how that's any different than "Marjorie Prime" which just imagines that there could be holographic people who invoke memories of the past for soon to be dead people. Seems OK to me.

And it is OK. As this film moves on, more dead people seem to appear but you don't really know that until they say something that outs them as dead.  But it is never a negative thing, all the holograms are kind and they just want to help.  Wouldn't it be nice if that could be the reality once our minds start to deteriorate?  That a clear copy of someone from our past was there to help us? 

Maybe this is a movie that resonates with my generation: we have all buried our parents (or will in the next couple of years) and don't want to be left out on the closeline to flap in the wind when our time comes. It would be nice to have a stand-in for someone we loved to help us go gently into that other goodnight. 

I liked this movie, I liked the cast, the characters and the idea that the past and the present don't have to be so far apart.  As Faulkner said "The past is not dead. It isn't even past."  That's part of what this movie tells me.

It's on Amazon Prime now. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

"The Woman in the Window" by A.J. Finn

Oh, well, gosh. This book is now on the bestseller list, and good for A.J. Finn. What a coup! A book about a crazy woman who drinks a couple of bottle of Merlot (right there you know she's crazy, right?) a night and takes a lot of prescribed drugs of all sorts and then she sees, what?  A murder take place in the house across the street from hers, on about the third floor?  Wait, did I mention she is an agoraphobic so she won't venture outside? 

What a really novel plotline, don't you think?  Is it all in her head or is it real?  On the pre-release copy I have (thanks to my bro and sis-in-law from SF) it says "it isn't paranoia if it's really happening...." and that sort of sums it up. Is it real?  Is she just a wino drug addict who has a doctor who keeps upping her meds?  A woman who has, we discover, has had an incredibly traumatic life changing event in the past year, and could that be clouding her judgement, her memories, her visions?  

OK, I did read this entire novel in about 4 hours. It shouldn't take anyone more than about 6 - 8 hours to finish the thing, so maybe two days, three if you don't have a lot of time. (I am a very fast reader of this ..... genre ..... and I was hanging out with a knifed knee, so had the time.)  It's a book you take on an airplane for a long flight and LEAVE IT THERE.  It's a book you read on the beach and LEAVE IT IN THE SAND.  It's a book you do not buy in hardcover because that is simply dumb.

Oh, my.  And it's on the bestseller list.  Sigh.  Again.  Have at it.