Update on New Phone

Well, the Google Pixel 3 is a gorgeous phone: sleek, light, fab camera. I have yet to explore all the options. Very happy to have it.

Switching from my old phone to this one was mostly intuitive, as son Matt assured me. It was the sliver of not-intuitive that did me in. I wiped the old phone before using the authenticator app on the old phone to allow me to log into my Google-provided cell service, Project Fi. The good news is that Google has stringent security protocols. The bad news is that if an error places you outside the security wall without the key to get back in, it takes 3-5 biz day to straighten out.

I didn’t want to be without cell service for that length of time, so we did the only  solution possible: set me up with a temporary Project Fi account with a new number until my access problem is fixed. In 3-5 days, I expect to have my old number back and to be all good.

If you need to reach me during that time, you can email, or leave a comment here asking me to forward my temporary phone number. I can’t receive calls or text on the old number until it’s reactivated. If I text you from my new number, you’ll be able to respond. And you can call me on that number. But nothing for my longtime cell number until this is straightened out.

Matt is a really good teacher and problem solver. He never said, “Mom, why in the world did you wipe the phone before logging into Project Fi?” Obviously, nobody intends to create a huge problem. I greatly appreciate his working with me to solve the issue without judgment. Technology isn’t intuitive to me. But I want to try to do as much as I can, so that I can keep up as best I can. I don’t want to simply hand the new phone to Matt and say, “Please set this up for me.” I’m going to try, even when I lead myself into a really complicated dead end.

Happily, I have a working cell number, on a gorgeous new device. The temporary number thing is a slight inconvenience for anyone trying to reach me, but at the end of the day the patchwork solution is good enough.

Film Critic: First Man

Critics apparently like this film, the story of Neil Armstrong’s first step on the surface of the moon. Audiences like it less. I didn’t like it at all.

Hidden Figures, a 2016 drama that told the true story of black female mathematicians who worked at NASA during the space race — roughly the same period as First Man — offered characters with depth and nuance. First Man is a hyper masculine guy film. The only female roles are the astronaut wives who stay home chasing the children and remaining stoic when their husbands are killed in test flights. They have no depth or character at all.

2001 A Space Odyssey had gorgeous cinematography, and an epically imaginative quality to the narrative. First Man has lots of close-ups of Ryan Gosling’s terse and unemotional face, lots of clatter and banging and starkly flashing lights, and at 2hrs 21 minutes running time, a pace that constantly left me checking my FitBit to see if the film was close to being over. The movie is loud, I’ll give you that. I can’t imagine seeing it in IMax, which I guess is also a possibility. If you do that, bring ear plugs.

Film critics are already proclaiming this as an Oscar contender. I can’t imagine.

On a scale of 1-10, don’t recommend at all.

Bolt Cutters at the Gym

I had no idea the young manager of my gym would have bolt cutters under his desk. Would you?

For as long as I’ve worked out, I loop my shoelace through the ring of my locker key, then double tie a knot — has always seemed more secure to me than using the tiny pocket at the back of my gym shorts. At least I thought so until Tuesday, when I went to free up the key and found it had fallen off. I knew it had to be in the gym, but after retracing my steps, I couldn’t find it. I use a high quality ACE lock, and I knew it wouldn’t open without the key or the intervention of a bolt cutter.

I asked the manager if anyone had turned in a key, and he said “Let’s retrace your workout route one more time. If not, I have bolt cutters.” His eyes were sharper than mine, and he spotted the key on the floor in front of one of the treadmill machines. Lucky me.

But if I ever need bolt cutters, I know just who to ask. 🙂

New Season of Madame Secretary

I taped the first episode of the new season of Madame Secretary, starring Tea’ Leone, on Sunday night and have just now had a chance to watch. This is the episode where Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, and Colin Powell make cameo appearances to give support to the fictional Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord.

Always, when I see and hear Hillary, I have a huge wave of regret that American voters + Russian interference elected a bombastic bigot instead of a calm, reasoned, competent woman. But no, we can’t rewrite the past.

This episode was a shot across the bow from popular culture to the Trump administration. Other current TV dramas, like The Good Fight, unfold in a similar vein.

President Obama kept thinking the fever of enraged white privilege would break, and under his administration, it never did. If anything, that howl of rage has been stoked and sharpened by Trump’ s adept manipulation of the media and his base. But something, at some point, will have to break through. Every shot in that direction is welcome. Carry on, Secretary McCord.

Film Review: A Star is Born

Choosing to take a fourth run at an iconic Hollywood film takes moxie on the part of the director and male lead, Bradley Cooper, and confidence on the part of the female lead, Lady Gaga, that she can hold her own by comparison with her legendary predecessors: Janet Gaynor, Julie Garland, Barbra Streisand.

I’ve not followed the career of Lady Gaga, although I know in passing that her name is Stefani Germanotta and that she grew up on the upper west side of Manhattan and that she gives dynamite live shows. I’ve never seen her perform live, and I don’t know her music. This is apparently her breakout role segueing from live performance to film. Not every star of live stage can or wants to do that. Cher did — think of her roles in Silkwood, Mask, Moonstruck, and most recently, a fun part in Mama Mia II. Joan Baez never did, I think never even tried. She is a performer/activist, not a performer and actress.

And who knew Bradley Cooper could sing?

The story of A Star is Born is well known. Cooper plays a hard drinking musician on his way down, who discovers and falls in love with a waitress by day singing by night in a drag bar. Her career, launched with an onstage duet performance at his invitation, skyrockets. Tragedy follows.

Gaga is really good. For the first 2/3 of the film, we see Stefani Germanotta. For the last third, she morphs before our eyes into Gaga. Her singing is fabulous. So is Bradley Cooper’s, for that matter.

The film is a little long, a bit over 2 hours, and some of the critical reviews ding the script writing in the second half. But I found the film engrossing and emotionally wrenching, and I think you might too whether or not you  have ever heard the name Lady Gaga.

The opening scene in the drag bar is really funny, and reminds me of the time in New York that I slipped into a bar at an odd afternoon hour to get a sandwich and a glass of wine, and after ordering looked around to see that I was in the midst of all women, mostly coupled. I did get an overture or two, which I politely declined — apparently signaling to one and all that my presence at a lesbian bar was an accident, not intentional. They left me alone to enjoy my lunch, and the experience was fine. Cooper gets way more involved, finally agreeing to autograph a set of rubbery fake boobs set securely in place on the chest of their owner.

The film left me wanting to go back and find the Streisand/Kristofferson version, which I’m sure I saw but barely remember. Gaga and Cooper do the iconic film proud, easily holding their own and perhaps even exceeding the performances of some of their predecessors. I enjoyed the film very much, and think that you will too.

What Would Attack a Bluejay?

I need help from my birder friends who might know what might account for the Battle in Seattle that seems to have taken place in my back yard. I keep my concrete walkways swept, so when I went out into the yard and found bird feathers all over, I looked more closely. I think what I found was the remnants of a bluejay.

I don’t have a bird feeder, which might have provoked an altercation. I do have a bird bath. I’ve seen a gorgeous bluejay around recently; I’m afraid that these are its remains.

What might have done this? Another bluejay?  A crow, of which we have a lot in Seattle? A raccoon, which used to live in the bush that we trimmed way back to allow for the fence installation? A cat — although I can’t imagine a cat getting in here unless it could jump a six foot fence. For that matter, I can’t imagine the raccoon getting in here. Any thoughts would be really interesting. I looked on Google, and it seems that bluejays are more often the predators than victims. But there are definitely dead bird remains in my yard, and they are clearly the result of a violent battle.

What’s left is parts, nothing more.

Film Review: Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9

Michael Moore’s latest film, Fahrenheit 11/9, is a neat inversion on our memories of Fahrenheit 9/11 — his takedown of George Bush and the Iraq war. In this film Moore documents the betrayal of ordinary Americans, especially communities of color, by pretty much everyone in power, including Barack Obama, the media, liberal elites, people who fail to vote, the Electoral College, governors beholden to monied interests and of course Donald Trump. The film spends a lot of time on the lead-infused water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and then goes on to parallel the rise of Trump with the rise of Hitler.

There is a really creepy, icky segment about Trump’s sexualized relationship with his daughter, Ivanka, not just now but going back a very long time.

Rotten Tomatoes liked the film, and both Vox and Vulture reviewed it well. The film won accolades at the Toronto Film Festival. That said, the theater was practically empty, and the film is grossing poorly. These days that’s the measure of whether a film will stick around, not whether Michael Moore is still saying important things that people need to hear.

The strongest part of the film, for me, is that Moore gives voice to people who are not usually heard, including the amazing kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, striking underpaid teachers across the heartland, the immigrant doctor who treated lead poisoned kids in Flint and the public health employee who refused to falsify the test results documenting the debacle, an Iraqui war vet running for Congress whose rural Virginia district is dying, literally, from the opioid epidemic.

His parallel between the cultured, liberal society of Germany that somehow succumbed to Hitler and what’s happening our country now was sobering.

Near the end of the film the screen goes dark and there is the sound of an emergency warning — at the theater I went to, notice was given before we went in. Apparently the emergency seemed too real to people in some theaters, causing alarm.

That’s Moore’s point, exactly. The emergency that gave rise toTrump is here, and we need to be really, really alarmed.

Watching Billions

I watched Season I of Billions on Showtime, and then downgraded my cable package as I wasn’t watching much TV, so I lost access to Seasons 2 & 3. When I moved to Sara’s house I upgraded again, and after discovering and liking Succession, segued back to catch up on Billions.

Is it our rampant economic inequality that is giving rise to these shows? I have no idea, but they both have extremely good writing about the trials and tribulations of the 1%, and about how people of lesser means can get swept up and spit out as collateral damage in the 1%-er’s machinations. Billions is about an epic clash between uber-wealthy and ruthless hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod, and the nefarious U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Chuck Rhoades. There are complications, of course. Rhoades’ wife, Dr. Wendy Rhoades, works as a psychologist at Axe Capital. Axe and Rhoades are out to get each other, and their no-holds-barred clash is the stuff of tragic drama. Wendy is in the middle, and gradually emerges as every bit as competitive, ambitious and ruthless as her husband and his arch-nemesis.

I marvel at the ability of this show to evoke empathy in me for Bobby Axelrod, and utter disdain for Chuck Rhoades. Is it that we expect hedge fund managers to cut corners, trade on inside information, and manipulate the market — and so cheer when they do it well and run the table on their more conventional peers? Conversely, we expect the U.S. attorney to have some level of moral probity, and we disdain him when he’s right down there in the gutter with Axe.

Season 2 introduces Taylor Mason, a gender non-binary mathematical genius played by actual gender non-binary Asia Kate Dillon. Dillon uses the pronouns “they” and “them” when self-referencing, an adaptation that comes readily to Axe but more slowly to his hyper-masculine team of analysts and stock traders. Taylor is the first gender non-binary character in a major role on American TV, and they acquit themselves masterfully in the role.

This is the world of influence and fabulous wealth and power and privilege to which most of us have no direct access. We see the outcome, as when a Brett Kavanaugh may be allowed to skate on accusations of attempted rape and wind up sitting on the Supreme Court. But we don’t see the behind the scenes money, the influence, the power plays that make it happen. Shows like Succession and Billions offer a fictional window into this world, one that I wish didn’t ring so true.

Sounds of Life

The New York Times does some extraordinary things with OpDocs — in this case, a half hour of sounds around the world. You probably need fairly fast wifi for the documentary to play. Occasionally mine hung up, which I was able to move along by scrolling up one panel and then back down.

The documentary makes this observation: sound is one of the first things we experience in the womb, and sound is thought to be the last thing that expires at the time of our death. But in between, we are mostly a visual people. We concentrate on what we see.

This documentary offers us the chance to hear: bat sounds deep in a cave, molten lava moving toward the sea, fish and coral living around undersea reefs, lemur couples in Madagascar, rats in New York, a forest of genetically identical aspen trees swaying in the wind, a bus terminal in Lagos, Nigeria, an offshore wind farm, salt cracking on the surface of a Chilean desert — there are eleven panels all together. The experience is fascinating.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/09/21/magazine/voyages-travel-sounds-from-the-world.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

I think of times when I enter an experience mostly for the sound, like a symphony performance. I’m reminded of Archie’s first day care experience, when the infant room was staffed by Somali women who comforted and soothed the children and lulled them to sleep with rhythmic clicking sounds. I’m aware that one of the chief attractions of the villa I rent in rural Panama is that the master bedroom is only steps from the sea, and I can hear the sound of waves gently lapping on shore as I wake up.

What about you? Are there sounds that anchor you to a particular place, or a particular experience?

I think that after listening to this I’m going to be more attuned to the sounds of my day.