One Year

It has been a year. While no one can really comprehend all that has been last during our pandemic year, there is some optimism that the world will at least partially reset. If only it were that simple.

But what kind of world will it be? Will it be a world where social injustice is met with with activism? Will the fast world of McDonald’s be replaced by home cooking? Will the interest in home gardening sustain itself? Will positive change really happen? Will the movies ever be the same again? How will we interact as people? How will work at our jobs? Will we have jobs?Will people finally give up listening to REO Speedwagon?

I cannot answer those questions, but bringing them up helps our society face them and built something better. Sadly, I fear we will all just forget everything we learned and struggled through and go back to what was. That would be disappointing. I want to believe that a better world will emerge, but I have doubts.

As someone who is social by nature I find it odd that I don’t miss gathering in large groups. I miss concerts to an extent and going to the pictures. Man I miss going to the movies. But overall, I am fine just staying in and reading my books, listening to music or watching tv.

This “time off” has made me enjoy taking long walks, sitting on my pack porch and doing more and more cooking. I also am less concerned about having stuff. This has resulting in a massive decluttering which has been therapeutic in that it has made more open space for the apartment.

The cooking has been interesting. I’ve learned t make a lot more Indian, Thai, Korean and Mediterranean dishes that I like. I’ve spent a lot more time in international grocery stores which has bene interesting in that there is often a discovery in every aisle. Like kimchee, which will sit in the fridge forever and it is always filling, or various Indian sauces which will always give things a spicy edge and provide flavor. Oh, and cauliflower rice is the bomb.

On the flip side, I’ve had to learn a lot about cleaning products, hand sanitizers and applications for bleach.

While I never injected myself with bleach, I did do some floor mopping and surface cleaning with it to such an extent that the smell never got on my nerves. Looking back, that crazy scramble for hand sanitizer, latex gloves and Clorox Wipes was a theater of the absurd. Everyone became obsessed with it. It got a little out of hand.

Separation Nation remains in full effect. Over the last year I have seen a few of my friends here and there as they stopped by to visit social distantly and say hello. But, generally, I haven’t seen many of them for over a year. That’s weird. It also is kind of freeing though in that this distance and isolation really has helped a lot of people discover who their real friends are.

Having been vaccinated now I feel obligated to help others get their appointments. I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now and it has been very rewarding. It has underscored my hope that all of this makes people care abut their neighbors and fellow human beings. I suspect it will not since Americans are, by nature, stupid and selfish.

So the best advice. can offer is to pay it forward, any way you can. We need more empathy in our world right now and even more in the future. Empathy and giving up REO Speedwagon will lead the way.

I still plan on doing social distancing and masking up. I don’t really think I am going to change my routine up all that much.

For me, I really have enjoyed the weekly Zoom get togethers I have with friends in other places. it’s been nice to have social interaction and a sense of camaraderie. It also has introduced me to lots of crazy things like Korean TV shows, new recipes and an appreciation for new authors and bands.

I also have made it through the year by doing a weekly online board gaming night and that has been a lot of fun. It keeps the brain working and I get to some friends! It is interesting how board gaming was able to pivot to new formats during all of this. I also am doing word search puzzles which keeps the noggin’ sharp.

Had the pandemic not come I doubt I would have discovered so much new music. Thankfully, The Wants, The Reds, Pinks & Purples, The 1981, Phoebe Bridgers and Swansea Sound have been around to keep me company. I also have really enjoyed rediscovering Telex, Felt, The Jazz Butcher and The Close Lobsters.

I also have listened to more jazz than I used to and watched more streaming symphony concerts than I had previously. I still hate Phil Collins.

There also is a cool app called Radio Garden that lets you hear radio from around the world. I have listened to stations in Madagascar, Liechtenstein and places like that. It is interesting to hear what Western music is played where. For example there’s a lot of contemporary country getting played in Triesen, Liechtenstein.

I also have written more. I have had a lot of time. Two of the outlets I contributed to regularly folded and I had to scramble for fresh freelance work Luckily, I was able to interview John Doe, Tim Burgess (The Charlatans), Kathy Valentine (The Go-Go’s) and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads. Those were all fun! I also did a few reviews of streaming theater events and films.

Not being able to travel sucks. I don’t miss flying, airports or packing. But, I do miss seeing people I normally see when I travel. Even though I have gotten my jabs I still am in no rush to get on a plane. I can wait.

I mentioned before that I missed movies. That may have been off base in that I did still watch them at home. However, because streaming was insanely off the hook this year, I found a lot of good TV and films. I also got media credentials for the Vienna Shorts Film Festival and Slamdance which allowed me to see some really different, cool stuff.

Slamdance was pretty great. they had a really good selection of short films and they had some feature stuff that was really evocative. Trammel was my favorite short film. It’s about a guy whose only real communication with the outside world is through visits with his local pharmacy technician. It is sweet funny and has a lovely melancholy to it.

CODE NAME: Nagasaki is an emotional documentary about family, self-discovery and alienation. Marius and Fredrik are two friends who live in Norway and pretty much hang 24/7. Driven by a passion for movies and filmmaking they decide make a film about Marius’ quest to find and meet his long lost Japanese mother.

Seeking out a mom who left him decades earlier does not come without some intense drama and the film has that in spades as Marius weighs his every move with careful deliberation. The emotional distance between the two is heartbreaking and as the movie plays out these feeling of solitude and separation become further amplified.

It looks fantastic. Mixing black and white and animation, this powerful piece of cinema was named the fest’s best documentary film.

I also enjoyed the gritty minimalism of No Trace (Null Trace), another example of the exciting things filmmakers are doing in Quebec right now. shot in black and white it looks amazing.

Set in a dystopian future, the plot is sparse but centers on a callous smuggler whose hardened by life attitude shows cracks after she guides a young woman and her child across the border to safety. Unaware that their lives are inescapably linked their journey and struggle for survival is emotionally tense and compelling.

Director Simon Lavoie is a master of visual storytelling and I really liked how the narrative evolved with barely a spoken word. This will probably go into wide release.

Grimy Brit films were represented at Slamdance with A Brixton Tale, a film that takes on a lot of issues in a compact amount of time. Class status, exploitation, love and the art world collide in a movie filled with unsavory characters who just want to survive.

Speaking of gritty…. I watched Trainspotting again. The film has just turned 20 and it is still really enjoyable. Well as enjoyable as a film about heroin addiction can be.

Two decades on, the acting still stands out and the soundtrack perfectly frames everything. It doesn’t sound dated at all. In fact, I had forgotten about how good the Blur song in it was.

Upon seeing it, it made me miss Edinburgh. It’s an interesting flick too in that it calls out a lot of striking societal issues which have been careful been woven into the film. Robert Carlyle is a force of energy, Jonny Lee Miller is cool as a cucumber and Ewan MacGregor shines in his breakout film. I am curious to see how Ewen Bremmer plays Alan McGee in that biopic he is doing.

It is pretty cool that Perseverance is on Mars. JPL did some amazing things to get that project going and their efforts did a lot to lift the nation’s spirits.

It was amazing to watch the landing and see all the data come in over the last few weeks. Isn’t it amazing what science can do?

Here’s one last thing! There is furniture news! I have some new DVD shelves and bookshelves. It’s helped with the massive declutter in terms or organization and storage.

Anyway the adjustment into a person who is going back out into the world is Underway. Hopefully when it happens in a few weeks things won’t seem as desolate or sad or weird. I am not holding out hope. But it will be nice to not have as much of the worrying.

Bleach In Our Time

So, I have spent a lot of time this past week learning about bleach. How to distill it, what not to mix it with, how to clean with it and how to use it to kill every germ around.

My earliest memories of bleach are my parents. My mom was a nurse and always mentioned how it could kill anything. My dad was in the Navy and reminded me to respect it and not go overboard with. He also told me not to let it touch my hands, not to breath it in etc…

But beyond that it was an afterthought. Not anymore!

If that was not enough, having been laid off at my main job, I accepted a technical writing assignment for a dental client. I have a few pieces in the hopper to do but the first one, was of course, about dental crowns and teeth whitening. What do you do for teeth whitening you ask? You basically bleach your teeth. There you go. It is everywhere.

Each day has been an adventure in getting projects done. At this point it is mostly decluttering and organizing music. I have a massive ‘to do’ and ‘to watch’ list.

One of the things I am doing to pass time is look at my collection of art books and coffee table books. I do not have a lot of them and I generally get most of them second hand since they are outrageously priced new. Anyway, I was looking through a book on Art Deco and it helped pass some time.

In case you do not know and because I want to seem cool (not really) here’s a quick summary thing. I know a bunch of my art friends will correct me but oh well.

Art Deco was introduced in Paris (isn’t everything) in 1925 where it captivated the International Exhibition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. It was a hybrid of sorts of engineering and art that became a big deal in the 1920s and 1930s.

But where this is going to is that this past September I had a friend of mine take me to see her and her husband’s place in Boulder Colorado. One of the big things I wanted to do there was see their court house building. It is on Pearl Street (a really nice area btw) and has some amazing Art Deco fixtures, design and architecture going on.

Built in 1933 it is also a terrific WPA building. The combination of that style with the Art Deco makes it pretty great.

This is one of the first things you see when you go in. it is a really nice overlook with the original lighting fixtures above it.
The front hallway. It’s pretty sleek.
Upstairs hallway by office.
Tucked away in a corner hallway. they use this door each day to lock access.

In front of the courthouse is a really nice fountain, donated by The Lion’s club in 1935. The building has some terrific landscaping around it as well.

When I travel I try to see Art Deco buildings as much as I can. So far, Chicago, New York, Paris and Prague are the best places I have seen it on a large scale. I know there is some cool stuff in Minneapolis.

St. Louis has a lot of great examples of it as well, but sadly a lot of great stuff is gone too. The Civil Courts Building downtown is great as is the Jewel Box in Forest Park.

While in Boulder, I also wanted to see the house used for the exterior shot for Mork & Mindy. I am that nerdy. As an aside, that show got stupid when they had their kid. Even though Jonathan Winters was great, it was a stupid idea.

If there is a video anywhere of Jonathan Winters physically beating the crap out of rich Little please show it to me. I would love t see it.

I was delighted that no one came out and chased me away with a shotgun.

When writing about teeth whitening is the high point of your day you really are a square. Just saying.’

Here is another announcement about the stupid. I am not sure what the girl upstairs does, but she is loud and has a lot of company. She cannot talk on a phone quietly and she has no ability to do simple things quietly. It’s like Paul Bunyan is coming in and out of the building each time she comes and goes. She has cackle that is shrill and she cannot greet her cat without everyone in 10 miles hearing it. My UPS driver noted he could hear her getting out his truck, even with the motor running. I will gladly put up with all of this if she just stayed the hell inside. Now, I have to wipe down the stair railing and doorknobs to the laundry room every day. But personality wise, she is very nice so I should be nicer.

In appliance news, the refrigerator and freezer are really doing their thing. They are pretty full with stuff. I wish I had a massive freezer like some people are getting right now, although for the life of me I cannot imagine putting that much meat in it.

I have been cooking more which is terrific fun. Digging around in the pantry I came upon a bottle of Bayou Fireball I got as a gift.

It is from Louisiana where they do not mess around with kind of stuff. It’s pretty much hot sauce, guns and LSU football. I wish more people in Louisiana liked Fats Domino, but that is not the point here.

Bayou Fireball is a pepper based sauce that uses minced garlic, cayenne and habanero peppers to bring the heat. In addition to the flavor what makes it great is that you don’t need to use a ton of it to get results.

Its big claim to fame is that NASA astronauts love it. So as a hot sauce, I guess you can say it is ‘out of this world.’ It certainly is much better than the stuff they use at Chipotle. Speaking of which, they need to bring back Tomatillo.

I hate to harp on this but, again, the kids are not alright. In fact they are morons. Sometimes I wish I could summon George Raft to give them a good what for.

My hands are beat to all giddy. I have been moisturizing them, using bag balm and other stuff but it still is a real annoying thing. Whenever I see Vaseline I think of the Flaming Lips song, She Don’t Use Jelly. I could have lived without that earworm.

Today I hope to finish a novel and read some magazines I had squirreled away. My sleep cycle is pretty much shot to heck these days so naps are terrific. I am also on a narrative film screening committee for a film festival which means I am going to watch a movie or two later today.

Days of Thunder is on later and I have never seen it.

I hated Top Gun so I have low expectations. Thus is my life. Hope yours is better.