Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-15-2022: Patio Ready for Family Dinner, All-Class Reunion Meeting, Light Family Dinner in the Cool Air

1. Ron came over this afternoon and put the finishing touches on the patio and he declared the concrete sufficiently cured for us to put our patio furniture back on it.  He and I did just that. 

I had volunteered to host family dinner tonight so we could "break in" the patio and I was elated with Ron's assessment that the patio was party ready.

2. At 6:30 tonight, Carol, Paul, Christy, and I attended the August meeting of the All-Class Reunion general committee. Turnout for previous meetings hadn't been good. I was part of that problem. I hadn't been to one of these meetings while working on the KHS Class of '72 50 year reunion. If more people didn't step forward tonight to help out, chances are good the 2023 KHS All-Class Reunion would have been canceled. 

To everyone's delight and relief, over twenty-five people attended tonight's meeting. Lori Sawyer called the meeting to order and before long we marched through the agenda, mostly focusing on calling for volunteers to head up different committees.

As a result, most of the committees have a chair. A tentative schedule for reunion events is taking shape. 

The meeting was a great success and we'll be getting the word out that the All-Class Reunion will happen on July 21, 22, and 23, 2023.

3. Christy, Carol, and Paul came over to the new patio after the meeting. I mixed some cocktails. Gibbs, Riley, and Cleo played in the yard. I had set up a card table and it was buffet central. I set out cheese, crackers, cashews, and apple slices along with a pasta salad. I combined parts of the Persian tomato/cucumber salad recipe I made last Monday with parts of the recipe Tomato Bruschetta Sauce pasta dish I made two weeks ago and created a hybrid pasta salad. Carol and Paul brought a chuck roast with taco seasoning and tortillas along with condiments and I set out a bottle of red and one of white wine.  For dessert, Christy brought really delicious Haagen Dazs ice cream bars. 

The air had cooled considerably as we dug into our meal, making it very comfortable to be out on the patio. We had a lot to talk about having just been to the reunion meeting. We also discussed some family and Kellogg history and because Carol and Paul had just watched The Godfather, we talked about what a sensational movie it is. 

We even talked a little bit about my favorite movie and television actor, Eve Arden. I confessed my admiration for her work and the affection I have felt for her that reaches back over sixty years. 

Monday, August 15, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-14-2022: Adding Some Distance, Debbie Had Fun in Oakridge, *Anatomy of a Murder* Unsettled Me

1. Gibbs and I added some distance to our morning walk today -- not a lot -- but we walked back to the bottom of the hill along Mission Ave and made out way to the 4-way stop just south of the hospital. We crossed the street, walked in front of Subway, Sam's, and the nursing home and when we got as far as the church, we crossed the street and returned home. We'll keep doing this, especially in the cool of the morning -- adding steps, adding distance. Our warmer evening walks will be shorter. 

2. It heartened me to talk with Debbie this afternoon and learn she had fun performing with her friends at the 3 Legged Crane in Oakridge. Some kind of a street fair was going on and the great swamp rock band Etouffe was playing outside, drawing most of the people who were out and about, but Debbie seemed unaffected by playing for a small audience in the pub. She got to make music. She did it with longtime friends. She had fun. It was all good.

3. The movie Anatomy of a Murder (1959) runs for about two hours and forty-five minutes. It's been on my mind for a few weeks, and I've been waiting for just the right afternoon to watch it. I tend to watch shorter movies in the evening. 

So, my studies at Vizio University broadened and deepened today. For me, it wasn't really wondering how the trial that dominated this story would turn out that I found absorbing. No, it was enjoying James Stewart develop his character, attorney Paul Biegler, and the relationships that developed between Biegler and his associate, the capable alcoholic attorney, Parnell McCarthy (played by Arthur O'Connell), the killer he defended, Lt. Frederick Manion (Ben Gazzara), and the killer's wife, Laura (Lee Remick). 

As a bonus, Paul Biegler's secretary, Maida Rutledge was played loyally, sardonically, intelligently, and perfectly by my favorite, Eve Arden! I swear, no one in the world of movies can deliver lines better than Eve Arden. I loved every second she was on screen and I loved listening to her every word.

The movie's location is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the district attorney feels a bit overwhelmed prosecuting this case on his own, especially against Paul Biegler who is the ex-DA, so he recruits an attorney, Claude Dancer, played brilliantly by George C. Scott, to help him.

Shot masterfully in black and white, accompanied by a superb musical score performed by Duke Ellington and his band, this movie also features a bold screenplay that not only infused its grave subject matter with warmth and humor, it broke the codes of decency that had ruled movies for the previous twenty-five years or so and used words unheard in movies: rape, panties, bitch, sperm, and others, all at the insistence of director Otto Preminger, and the effect was strong, not only confronting its audience with the violence of rape, but also giving the audience, in my opinion, a sense of relief that this story would not tiptoe around the gravity of what this case involved by sanitizing the language. 

Lastly, I thought this movie was morally and ethically ambiguous. I found myself rooting for Paul Biegler in his defense of Lt. Manion, and, in the process,  caught myself question whether I really wanted to  root for a confessed murderer to be found not guilty. Paul Biegler was a fascinating character. Underneath his aw shucks country lawyer facade was a drive to win this case at all costs and the movie forced me to contemplate how many of Biegler's tactics were ethical and made me wonder just what kind of ethics govern a courtroom and a murder case. 

That I was torn by what played out morally and ethically in this movie made it all the more compelling and enjoyable. The questions the movie raised for me never got answered and it left me feeling just what my day to day life always leaves me feeling: we live in an ambiguous world where it's not always clear whether well-defined principles of right and wrong exist -- or, if they do, how much power those principles really have. 


Sunday, August 14, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-13-2022: Troxes Depart, Debbie Performs in Oakridge, *In a Lonely Place* Is a Riveting Movie

 1. The Trox's elderly dog Willy stayed upstairs with the Troxstar and Marla last night and it was difficult for him to get up and down the stairs, but he was a champ and did so with human help. He was ready to do his morning business at 5:30 this morning, so we all got up. I fixed coffee, we had some excellent early morning conversation,  and the Troxes pondered travel routes. The Troxstar and Marla ate some granola and yogurt and hit the road before eight o'clock on their way to Havre, MT. Later in the day, the Troxstar texted me that they arrived in Havre and were tired. I would be, too, after such an early start to the day. 

2. In other big news of the day, Debbie joined musical forces this evening with Peter Wilde, Laura Kemp, Katie Henry, Jeremy Wegner, and Tanya Bunson at the 3 Legged Crane in Oakridge, OR. I've heard two short videos and I've seen a handful of pictures. It sure looks like it was a good night.  I love the music Debbie and her friends make and I have great memories connected with the 3 Legged Crane (formerly the Brewers Union, Local 180). Man. I would have loved to have been in the house.

3. I had quite a stunning experience late this afternoon with Luna clinging to me in the Vizio room at Vizio University. I rented another film noir movie, one that I've read and heard much mention of over the last couple of weeks or so. In a Lonely Place (1950) features Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, Bogart as a Hollywood screenwriter and Grahame as a rarely hired actor who has recently broken up with a wealthy lover.

On the face of it, the story centers around solving the murder of a woman who worked as a hat clerk at a restaurant frequented by Dixon Steele, Bogart's character. The woman, named Mildred Atkinson (played by Martha Stewart -- not the Living Martha Stewart), agrees to come to Dixon Steele's apartment to tell him the story of a book he's been hired to turn into a screen play. He doesn't want to read it, and she had just finished it. Steele cuts short her storytelling visit out of boredom and gives her money to catch a ride home at a nearby taxi stand. Soon afterward, Mildred Atkinson is found dead, having been strangled and dumped from a car. 

Police immediately suspect Dixon Steele of the murder, but the Gloria Grahame character (Laurel Gray) provides Steele with an alibi, and, in so doing, spark of attraction ignites between her and Steele.

I won't say how this murder case works out, but I will say that the movie develops into a study of Dixon Steele and Laurel Gray, both complex characters superbly played by Bogart and Grahame. In keeping with the shadowy look of the movie, In a Lonely Place examines the dark recesses of both Dixon Steele's and Laurel Gray's psyches, their insecurities, fears, wells of anger, suspicions, even paranoia. As his name suggests, Steele is, to a degree, a hardened character, a character of limited emotional breadth or depth. And, like the color gray, Laurel Gray is, at times ambiguous, difficult to read, caught between the darkness of her world and her yearnings for light. 

It's a brilliant movie, sharply written, superbly photographed, and astutely acted. Personally, I've never seen Bogart play a role with so much complexity.  I enjoyed the great range of his performance. This movie introduced me to Gloria Grahame and her work in this movie staggered me. Her work is subtle, intelligent, alive to the demands of each moment of the story, and affecting. I can see why the film experts I've read and listened to admire her so fully. 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-12-2022: Concrete Patio, Preparing for the Troxes, A Relaxing Evening with the Troxes BONUS: A Limerick by Stu

1.  Huge day here at the little house on Little Cameron!

Ron and some of his guys arrived around 7:30 a.m. and further prepped the patio area for the cement that arrived in a cement mixer later in the morning. More of Ron's guys arrived and they moved wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of wet concrete to the back yard and shoveled one load after another into the area and worked for at least a couple of hours, or even more, getting it smoothed out and getting the drainage figured out.

2. While Ron and his crew worked on the patio, the Troxstar and Marla and their aged dog Willy headed out of Eugene early this morning, bound for Kellogg to spend the night with Gibbs, Luna, Copper, and me before continuing their cross-country trip to Massachusetts and eventually Maine.

I prepared for their arrival in all the usual ways: I laundered the sheets on their bed and made it; I vacuumed; I spiffed up the bathroom; I went to Yoke's and bought groceries and a six pack of backup beer in case we wanted more than the Troxstar himself was bringing. 

I put together a tray of cheese and lunchmeat, cut up a loaf of sourdough bread, made pasta with Tomato Bruschetta Sauce, and set out pickles, almonds, celery, and carrots. I hoped the Troxes would find light, refrigerated food satisfying after driving all day. 

They did.

3. I was very happy to see the Troxes pull into the driveway. I was slightly concerned about how Gibbs would respond to having people he doesn't know visiting, especially people with a dog.

Gibbs was a champ. 

He didn't go bonkers. He didn't bark his head off. He immediately accepted Willy and didn't hassle him, didn't try to get him to play, and didn't bark at him. It was as if Gibbs was aware of Willy's age and infirmities and practiced what we humans would call respect for one's elder.

Gibbs loved the Troxstar and Marla. He leapt onto the couch to be with them, loved the affection they shared with him, and even lay on his perch at the window so that he could do what he does with Debbie and press himself against both the Troxstar's and Marla's neck and shoulders.

Before leaving Eugene, the Troxstar wondered if he could bring any beer from Eugene to Kellogg -- like, would I like him to bring a growler of Hammerhead. I said that Hammerhead completes me and that a growler would be awesome. I was fired up to be drinking Hammerhead in Kellogg again -- that was twice in one month thanks to Oregon friends -- and when we finished the growler, the Troxstar drank a Heidelberg and I twisted the cap off of the home-brew the Troxstar had made and brought.

He purchased a book with a recipe for Rogue's Dead Guy Ale and I was very impressed with how good his home-brew tasted. I didn't expect it to be quite as malty as it is and that was a welcome surprise. 

Marla, the Troxstar, and I yakked about any number of things until around 9:00. Marla was ready at that point to call it a night and the Troxstar wanted to experience the Vizio room, so I cleaned out Luna and Copper's litter pan, moved their fish oily wet food to the bedroom, where the cats were hanging out, and brought in a second chair.

The Troxstar wondered if I'd ever watched the fast-paced, Cockney, bawdy, raunchy, booze-fueled Victorian copper mini-series The Year of the Rabbit.

I hadn't.

So we watched two episodes and, thanks in part to the beer, I was never completely sure what was going on, but I was intrigued by the pace, editing, earthiness, and innovation of the program and enjoyed watching it before we all called it a night and hit the hay. 

It brought a splendid evening to a close. 


Here's a limerick by Stu: 

Starboard refers to the right.  
Same as green, if on water at night. 
Think “port” though instead, 
Left on water shows red. 
And your “paw” from the south if you fight. 

 International Lefthander’s Day.



 

Friday, August 12, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-11-2022: Listening to John Sayles, Street Photography and *The Naked City*, Criterion Channel Extras

1. Today was one of my favorite days so far at Vizio University, one of my best ever days on the Criterion Channel. The other day, when talking with Bill and Diane about Matewan and Harlan County, USA, I noticed that Criterion Channel had posted a 6-7 minute interview with John Sayles about Harlan County, USA. I listened to Sayles today. I'd heard him and his partner, Maggie Renzi, talk about Matewan after a screening of it at the American Film Institute theater in Silver Spring, MD. I don't remember if Sayles or Renzi made reference to Harlan County, USA that night, but they sure could have.

All I can say about the Sayles' comments is that in a very short span of time he articulated precisely what makes Barbara Kopple's documentary such a stunning and vital movie and he distilled into a few sentences what makes any well made documentary such a thrilling experience to watch. 

2. When I lived in and had more ready access to more densely populated places like Eugene, Portland, New York City, and Washington D.C., I loved giving street photography a whirl. 

Today, I watched The Naked City (1948), a police procedural filmed very much in the style of the Italian Neo-Realists. Very little of the movie was shot in a studio. The vast majority of the movie's shots were street photographs, filmed on location in a wide variety of places in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Watching this movie reminded me of street films I watched at MOMA in Manhattan back in 2019 and at one of the Washington, DC museums back in 2012. 

The Naked City made me think that this is what an Law and Order would look like if filmed around 1947 and if the entire episode were devoted to work of the detectives. Like the television show, The Naked City, using an approach never tried before over the course of a 90+ minutes movie, took its viewers into an actual tenement building, the real city morgue, an Astoria row house, Manhattan apartments, a boxing gym and many other places rarely, if ever, seen on a movie screen. Viewers jumped rope with children, sat at diner counters, visited any number of businesses, jumped into the East River, shopped at markets, and participated in any number of everyday aspects of New York City life.

The cinematography in The Naked City thrilled me. All of these street scenes, all of the movie's street photography, gave the murder mystery the movie's plot focuses on depth and excitement. 

3. After finishing the movie, I listen to two very different talks on video in the Criterion Channel collection by James Sanders and Dana Polan and a short documentary film looking at the making of The Naked City by Bruce Goldstein's. I was particularly fascinated by Sanders. He partnered with Ric Burns in the making of the great documentary series, New York, and his grasp of the city's geography, architecture, and history was stimulating and illuminating. Polan presented a reading of the movie focused largely on the tension between the filmmakers' progressive political vision and their more conservative exploration of law and order and masculinity in the movie. Goldstein's short documentary was a tour of many of the locations featured in the movie, how they have and haven't changed, and included some fun behind the scenes stories about the making of The Naked City.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-10-2022: Exercising Gibbs, I Watched *Mildred Pierce*, *Adventures in Moviegoing* on The Criterion Channel

1. I'm happy to report that walking Gibbs in the morning and again later in the day is good for both of us. The walks help Gibbs be more settled in the house and it seems much less urgent for him to go out back and do his business or to run around. The best part, for me, and possibly our neighbors (who do not complain, by the way), is that Gibbs isn't barking his head off in the back yard and isn't engaging in bark-a-thons with other neighboring dogs. I welcome things being quieter and it helps me be more accepting of Gibbs barking at the mail deliverer and at passersby. Here's the thing, though: if Gibbs sacks out for a while after going on a walk, he's much less likely to notice the people (and their dogs!) walking in front of the house. 

2. I returned to Vizio University today and watched Mildred Pierce (1945). After it ended and after I read some other people's reflections on the movie, including a very insightful essay that Imogen Sara Smith wrote for Criterion, I thought a lot about how much I enjoy movies that bend and go outside genre expectations. The look, the lighting, the shadows, the ubiquitous darkness of Mildred Pierce and the fact that it's a murder story all place this movie squarely in the world of film noir. The genius of Mildred Pierce, though, is that it's a story about a woman's determination to succeed on her own in the world of business, without a man, and it's a story about a mother's devotion to her daughters, hardly what one would expect in a film noir. In addition, Mildred Pierce explores social class, upward mobility, the cost of ambition, and the hard-boiled realities of the world of business. 

Mildred Pierce does not feature, like so many noir movies, a hard-boiled detective. The mendacious femme fatale of this story is a surprise, a twist in the story I don't remember seeing in any other noir movies.

Joan Crawford plays the role of Mildred Pierce beautifully. The role demands that we see Mildred Pierce as steely in her resolve, unrelenting in her devotion to her daughters, vulnerable, a complex portrayal of a strong woman, but flawed. It's the first time I've watched Joan Crawford in a movie and her performance staggered me with its intelligence, depth, and many dimensions.

The movie also featured Eve Arden in a supporting role. I've loved Eve Arden ever since I was a little kid and watched her on the television series Our Miss Brooks (I had to have watched it in reruns after it went off the air in 1956) and in another show, The Mothers-in-Law. Eve Arden's wit and delivery, her flawless sense of comic timing, and her deep voice have always attracted me to her and made me laugh. I loved her in Mildred Pierce in her role as Mildred's original business mentor and then her business manager. I only wished she'd been on screen even more than she was.

3.  One of my favorite features of subscribing to The Criterion Channel is watching all the different people interviewed about their experience with loving movies and listening to their comments on a handful of their favorite films from the Criterion Collection. The series is called Adventures in Moviegoing

Tonight I listened to the entire interview with Sofia Coppola and listened to her talk about a handful of movies and then I listened to Guillermo del Toro and the brothers Josh and Bennie Safdie talk about favorite movies of theirs. I was particularly interested in what del Toro had to say about Blood Simple and the Safdie brothers' comments on The Naked City and In a Lonely Place convinced me that these will be the next two movies I'll watch at Vizio University. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-09-2022: Walking Gibbs, Afternoon in CdA, Bill Davie Reads Gary Snyder

 1. Gibbs can be energetic, especially in the morning. With insistent barking, he demands to have someone (right now, me!) throw one of his toys and he retrieves it, brings it back, and this goes on for a while. Gibbs can also be barky in the back yard, which, to me, is a problem if he goes out as early as 6:00 a.m. to do his business. 

I decided to find out today if taking Gibbs for a walk, first thing, before I do anything else, might help tire him out a little bit and give him a chance to take care of his business somewhere other than the back yard. In fact, this morning, I walked him twice, once before my usual morning routine (coffee, word puzzles, blogging) and again afterward. 

This morning walking is a good idea both for Gibbs and me and my guess is that as Gibbs and I develop this routine, our walks will get longer over time and I'll get back to increasing my number of steps per day. 

2. I've had a personal business situation hanging over my head for a while and after much deliberation combined with some procrastination, I initiated a process today that, I hope, will begin to take care of it. 

Once I did all I could with that, I leapt in the Sube and drove to CdA to take care of a few things. 

I dropped off an item to be returned to Amazon at the UPS Store. I used a card entitling me to a free car wash at Hippo and spiffed up the exterior of the Sube. I went to Supercuts and got a hair cut. 

I then buzzed over to Daft Badger and ordered a pint of Mosaic IPA, a single hop beer. I ordered the slow cooked pork taco lunch special of the week and it came with a bowl of chicken and black bean soup, seasoned Southwest style. I was the only patron sitting at the bar and as I finished my lunch, one of the servers, Mark, struck up a conversation and we talked about how both us happened to land in North Idaho in the past few years and about other places we've lived. He was a great guy and our conversation made a satisfying lunch even more enjoyable. 

After lunch, I decided to see how things were over at Outpost, formerly known as Slate Creek. I like this taproom a lot, primarily because it's small, neighborly, and draws people it's fun to listen to talk to each other. I ordered one of Outpost's own beers, an IPA, and, I'm sorry to say, it was disappointing. This one less than stellar beer, however, would not keep me from coming back. Their guest taps were awesome, the environment of the Outpost was enjoyable, and I find the place very relaxing.

I finished my beer, buzzed up to Costco, filled my gas tank, and bought a few food items and headed on back to Kellogg, bringing a low key, uneventful, but very satisfying trip to CdA to a close. 

3. Back home, I got settled in, and soon Bill Davie's live broadcast of Poetry Break came on Facebook. Early on, Bill read a favorite poet of mine, Lisel Mueller, and after reading some of his own work, he focused on Gary Snyder for most of the program's hour.

Bill talked a bit about Gary Snyder giving a reading, in 1983, at Spokane's Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC). 

I went to that reading. Snyder had just published his book called Axe Handles and I remember the poem "Axe Handles" having a strong impact on me that night. My memory of what month that reading took place is blurry to me and I'd love to find out. It would help me clarify whom I attended that reading with. Mostly I remember Snyder's quiet command of the room and that his reading attracted more people I thought of as living close to the land than I'd ever seen in one place at one time in Spokane. I loved it. It was one of the few times when I was in Spokane between 1982-84 that I felt like I was back in Eugene and I remember being uplifted by that feeling. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-08-2022: New Windshield, Persian Cucumber Tomato Salad, Family /Molly's Birthday Dinner

 1. Debbie and I decided not to live any longer with the cracks in the Sube's windshield and today was the big day to have the windshield replaced at Shoshone Glass. I dropped off the car and walked to The Beanery (formerly the Bean) and relaxed with a cup of coffee and a plain toasted bagel with cream cheese. After lounging for a while, I strolled over to Yoke's, picked up my medicine, and sat for a while in the Yoke's dining area and read a copy of The Inlander. I decided to saunter back to Shoshone Glass about twenty minutes earlier than when I thought the car would be ready and, lo and behold, the car was ready early. Awesome! I paid up and drove home. 

2. Back home, I looked up the recipe Carol assigned to me for tonight's family/Molly's birthday dinner. My job was to make a Persian salad and I realized that it's just the kind of salad I most enjoy eating, but that I rarely think to make. All it required of me was to chop up a couple of cucumbers and a few green onions (the recipe calls for red onion, but for family dinner the only raw onion we use is green). The recipe also called for a pound of tomatoes. Well, several years ago I read a Cook's review of canned diced tomatoes that freed me up because it said that when fresh tomatoes aren't that good from the store, canned tomatoes are better. So, instead of buying fresh (possibly tasteless) tomatoes, I drained a can of dice tomatoes. 

To the tomatoes, cucumbers, and green onion I added fresh chopped herbs: cilantro, basil, and mint. Suddenly it occurred to me that oranges might work in this salad and I did a little reading and found recipes for salads from Morocco that combine tomatoes and oranges. All right! I decided I'd try it out and peeled two oranges and cut the segments in half and added them. 

I let these ingredients sit in the fridge for a couple of hours and just before leaving the house to go to Carol and Paul's, I made the vinaigrette. It was ultra simple, the juice of two limes and some olive oil with salt and pepper. I put the vinaigrette on the salad when I arrived at Carol and Paul's. 

I'm happy to report that everyone enjoyed the salad and that my decisions to used canned tomatoes and to include oranges both were successful. 

3. Tonight was family dinner and Molly's birthday. When I arrived, Carol, Paul, Christy, and Molly were seated on the patio under the protective parachute and a cooling slushy style lime mojito was in a glass at my place at the table. Carol also put together a platter of crackers served with spinach and artichoke dip.

We all settled into conversation as Paul prepared our meal, delicious thin strips of London broil and grilled zucchini and summer squash discs. We served up our plates, chose from between Pinot Gris or Pinotage wine, and dug in. The thin slices of meat, tender vegetables, and the salad were, to my taste, perfect hot weather food. Everything was light and very flavorful. 

Molly opened her birthday gifts and then we enjoyed the chocolate cake Christy baked for Molly's birthday. I so hoped the cake would be feathery and more semi-sweet than sugary sweet and, WOW!, it was. I loved how, at the end of this meal, I felt comfortable and satisfied because the food wasn't rich or creamy, but light and refreshing and the cake rounded out our dinner superbly. 

I tend not to eat much during heat waves and this meal fit perfectly with my hot weather culinary desires. 

Monday, August 8, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-07-2022: Talking About Work on ZOOM, Enjoying Speech Patterns Not My Own, Another Scorsese Documentary

1. Bridgit, Diane, Bill and I talked about a lot of different topics today in our ZOOM meeting. Diane is very happy already as a newly retired person especially since she has more time and energy to have fun cooking. I was fascinated to learn (or learn again) that Diane and Bill both work two days a week at a naturopathic practice fairly near where they live, helping out the two doctors with checking in patients and doing clerical work. Diane is a highly talented organizer and is helping the two doctors get their business running more smoothly. 

Bridgit updated us on how the early days of her challenging new job as a supervisor are going and it turns out that, more than she originally knew, she got hired into a situation that needs repair and so she will be exercising her talents as a fixer. 

Talking about work and jobs, including the news that Debbie accepted a position at Pinehurst Elementary, got us talking about labor unions and movies about labor. Diane played a five minute clip from John Sayles' 1987 movie, Matewan, featuring Chris Cooper's monologue to his fellow miners about the merits of union organizing. Afterward, I talked up the great 1976 documentary, Harlan County, USA and mentioned that on the Criterion Channel catalog there's a short interview with John Sayles talking about Harlan County, USA.

2. I didn't come into our ZOOM time together expecting to defend the habit of speech I began to notice over thirty years ago in which people speak declarative sentences with their voices rising up near the sentence's end, as if they were asking a question. Diane played a video of Taylor Mali performing a poem that urges people (I'd say especially young people) to speak declaratively, not to use that upswing, as if the upswing suggested a lack of confidence or self-doubt or a lack of conviction or certainty. 

From the get go, starting, I think, either in my early days teaching at LCC or possibly when I was involved in an activist group back in the mid-1980s, I enjoyed hearing this way of speaking -- and still do -- even though I don't practice it. Others I worked with didn't enjoy it -- in fact, it grated on some of my colleagues. I don't know, maybe I related this speaking sentences as if they were questions to being around young people at WOW Hall and I associated this practice with jam band music. I think my enjoyment had to do with my affection for my students and that I enjoyed their ways of doing things that were theirs, not mine, and I decided to let it make me happy. 

Hard to say. But it was fun today when this came up and that poem actually triggered a lot of great memories of teaching, working with a lot of people younger than me in the classroom and the theater, and, of course, all those shows at WOW Hall.

3. For ZOOMing today, I mixed myself a couple of fresh squeezed tangerine juice and gin screwdrivers. When we ended our discussion, I needed some time to let the effects of the gin wear off. Once I felt more clear-headed again, I started watching another Martin Scorsese documentary. I've already watched his movie about the impact Italian movies had on him as a young man, but he was watching movies made in the USA, too, and in 1995 he released a documentary about three hours long entitled, A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies.

I found this movie over at Internet Archives and, as I might have expected, in the early part of the movie I watched tonight, Scorsese discusses and shows clips from a variety of movies from his youth that I'm unfamiliar with. It's time to get out my Vizio University notebook and start jotting down more titles! 

More important than the titles, though, are Scorsese's comments about what excited him about these movies -- and it wasn't just the story. From an early age, Scorsese was highly receptive to panorama, vivid colors, how directors and cinematographers framed different shots, and how all of these more technical aspects of the movie helped tell the picture's story. 

As I listen to Scorsese talk about, say, the vivid colors in King Vidor's western, Duel in the Sun (and others), my mind travels frequently to Scorsese's period movie, Age of Innocence (1993). As I remember, Age of Innocence opens in an opera house during a production of an opera. In listening to Scorsese talk about movies, he often refers to movies featuring bold colors and heightened passions as being "operatic" and I remember as Age of Innocence opened in the plush theater with wealthy New Yorkers dressed in spectacular costumes and the camera's motion intensified the action on the stage that I found the pageantry on the screen more arresting than the story that was developing. Now, as I listen to Scorsese talk about movies he loved in his youth, I'm seeing how the ways he was struck dumb by cinematic pageantry clearly influenced the kinds of visual effects he brought into being as a director. 

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Three Beautiful Things 08-06-2022: I Watched *Out of the Past* Twice, Returning to *Visions of Light*, The Copper-Luna-Gibbs Challenge!

1. Late Friday evening, I started to watch the film noir classic movie, Out of the Past (1947). I got about half way into it before falling asleep and so I picked it up again this morning. Especially in the second half of the movie, with several characters double and triple (at least) crossing each other, the plot gets convoluted (not unusual in film noir) and when the movie concluded, I decided to watch it a second time right away and see if I could sort it all out better. 

I did! I admired how this movie portrayed murkiness, the darkness of deception and greed, how the evil in this movie created a vortex next to impossible for its characters to escape.

In fact, similar to other movies on the Vizio University screening list these past couple of weeks (The Gunfighter, High Noon, High Sierra), Out of the Past tells a story about the inescapability of the past, exploring the troubling ways in which the past continues to live on in the present and shape the future.  The past is never over. It's never behind us. There are no fresh starts. In this movie, Robert Mitchum plays a private detective who entangles himself in a job for a gambling kingpin (played by Kirk Douglas) and, try as he might, to free himself from the work he did for this ruthless operator, he can't.  I'll leave it at that except to say that Mitchum's original job for the Kirk Douglas character was to track down a woman who had shot him and stolen money from him. Mitchum's character finds her (she's played superbly by Jane Greer), they become physically (romantically?) involved, and it grows into another entanglement that he tries to escape. 

2. These black and white film noir movies I've been watching are gorgeously photographed. The cinematographers in these movies create interplay between light and shadow that correlates to the murky situations of these movies, the way moral light and dark intersect, the way that we, as viewers, can feel we've been relegated to the shadows of understanding, especially when we aren't at all sure we know exactly what's going on.

Last week, one of my favorite movies about filmmaking arrived on my front porch. I ordered Visions of Light, a documentary produced by the American Film Institute that came out in 1992 and explores the history and evolution of cinematography from 1895-1990. 

I had watched this documentary multiple times before it landed on my front porch, but it had been a few years. It's a brilliant movie, especially for someone like me. I have a long history of watching movies as if they were works of literature, as if they were novels, and I need all the educating I can find to help me watch movies as works of photography (and sound).  I need help appreciating not only story structure and character development and the questions about life that arise out of these stories, but also how movies are shot, how lighting and focus and camera movement and other features of cinematography are at work, guiding how I see what's on the screen and affecting my experience with the movie.

Visions of Light has helped me more in expanding my movie viewing experience than anything else. 

3. Debbie and I decided a while back that when she travels to Eugene, I will stay home and take care of Gibbs, Luna, and Copper. 

This arrangement worked in the spring and it's working now in August.

The chief challenge of being alone with Gibbs, Luna, and Copper is that they can't be in the same room at the same time. Gibbs isn't mean to Luna and Copper, but he barks at them unrelentingly and chases them. Copper and Luna don't like being barked at and chased! 

So, Copper and Luna spend much of their time either in the Vizio room or the bedroom. 

Recently, I've been spending quite a bit of time in the living room writing and watching movies and other presentations related to movies on my MacBook.

Today, however, I left Gibbs alone in the living room and retired to the Vizio room to watch Out of the Past

I found out instantly that I'd spent way too much time apart from Luna!

She leapt on to my lap, climbed up my chest, and dug her claws into my clothing as if to say, "Hey, buddy, I'm not going anywhere and neither are you."

I held Luna close, stroked her from her head to her tail repeatedly and could feel her body tremble with gratitude that I was giving her the attention she so deeply desired. 

Copper doesn't jump on my lap, but shows his appreciation of my presence by moving closer to me.

Essentially, I spent the entire afternoon with Luna and Copper. Eventually, Luna had had enough of pinning me in my chair and she alternated between jumping onto the floor and then back up with me in my Vizio viewing chair. 

On occasion, I checked up on Gibbs. Earlier in the morning we'd had a pretty good session of me throwing his toys so Gibbs can retrieving them and burn off a lot of energy. By the time I disappeared into the Vizio room, he was content to rest on the ottoman, love seat, and our pale green stuffed chair.

I know Luna and Copper miss being with me at night, but everything works better if Gibbs sleeps on my bed at night. I close the bedroom door so that Copper and Luna can roam around the living room and kitchen and they seem content to find comfortable places to sleep at night. In the morning, I delay bringing Gibbs out of the bedroom as long as I can so that Luna and Copper can enjoy time with me in the living room before Gibbs comes out and they return to being behind a closed door.

In a perfect world, all three would be in the living room together, the canine lying with the felines, but we aren't there yet. In the meantime, I'll just continue to do all I can to keep Gibbs, Luna, and Copper separated and content.