Monday, July 24, 2023

On Watching Yellowstone

I'm late to the game, of course, but when I subscribed to the streaming service to watch the Tour de France, I also gained access to Yellowstone streaming.  So I watched.

Most things have been said: it's a beautifully filmed show with good acting, good writing, and a very western soap opera take on the world.  It's also super violent.

I vaguely remember hearing at some point that there were more people "killed" in Hollywood westerns than lived in the "old west."  I don't know if that's right.  But a lot of characters were killed in Hollywood westerns, for sure.

Or, to make another comparison, I've read that, according to Wikipedia, " if Cabot Cove existed in real life, it would top the FBI's national crime statistics in numerous categories, with some analysis suggesting that the homicide rate in Cabot Cove exceeds even that of the real-life murder capital of the world.[13]"   (Source)

According to Wikipedia's page on firearm deaths (source), in 2018, there were 209 firearm deaths in Montana, and 27 of those were murders.  The others?  either suicides, or deaths that weren't considered murders (police shootings, justified shootings?).

According to the CDC, in 2018, there were 265 suicides in Montana. 

I'm suggesting that Yellowstone probably makes some people believe there's a lot more gun violence and murders in Montana than there really is.

The show really normalizes violence, with the bunkhouse men regularly killing other workers by taking them to the "train station," a remote gully off the side of some road, where they shoot the individual men and then push the bodies and gear into the ravine, with John Dutton's character explaining at one point that the area is basically extra-judicial because it's in a county with no human population and no one will ever find the bodies.

Some important real estate mogul is killed, and the murder seems to go unnoticed by the world.

That doesn't generally happen, of course.  Moguls who die get noticed.

The show does make a quick nod toward the real violence towards Native American women (see Wikipedia page on the REDress Project), violence that gets a lot less attention than murdered real estate moguls.  But that nod passes pretty quickly, and we're back to white men (mostly) shooting each other up.

It frustrates me when violence on TV is so normalized, and police are shown as always right, etc, but the violence of Yellowstone is even worse, somehow, because it makes it seem like of course, everyone who gets pissed off at someone just hauls off and punches them, or shoots them.  

(Don't get me started on the laughable fisticuffs: I gather most real life fistfights end fast with broken hand bones or a broken jaw.)  

Added later:  The most creative death is Rip's murder of a neighboring angler (who is trying to get hold of some of the Duttons' land, as is just about everyone in the show).  The angler is fly fishing, and Rip walks up to him holding a mid-sized cooler with a handle on top (a sort of extra big lunch box cooler), asking the angler if it's his, and when he gets close, Rip quickly opens it, and throws a rattlesnake at the guy's face.  It bites him, and the guy staggers out of the water, finally falling on his back.  Rip steps his boot on his chest, says something about dying soon, and the snake glides off.

But even here:  humans don't tend to lead with our faces.  We're more likely to get snake bites on feet/lower leg or hands.  So any coroner worth their salt would be suspicious.  Plus, you can't step on someone's chest out in the country, having gotten your feet wet in a little river, without leaving a footprint of dirt/mud etc.  And pretty much anyone seeing a footprint on a dead person's chest would think that it's not there by accident.  (Maybe it's supposed to take a couple of days to find the body and rain would wash it off?)

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Bench is Back

 In 2018, I did this project to make my wood bench look better.  I started with this:

I sanded and primed and painted and got this:

It looked pretty good for a while, but about two years ago, things started peeling, and now it's pretty awful.  So I've taken it apart and plan to sand tomorrow, and then repaint.  The question is, what color?  Should I go back to yellow?  (Nice and bright at least!)  Or something different?  Blue?  Green?


Tuesday, July 18, 2023

New Developments at the BardiacShack (tm)

In April or so, a friend of mine told me about an acquaintance who's going through a painful divorce and was looking for a place to stay for a couple of months during the summer.  Without a great deal of thought, I said it might work at the BardiacShack.  (The house is mostly on an upper level, with a walk out, well-finished basement with the laundry, a den sort of room, two bedrooms, and a full bathroom.  So someone can be downstairs and have a fair bit of privacy while I'm upstairs.)  A day or so later, I got a call, and we made arrangements for A to come stay for a couple of months.

It worked pretty well.  A's a thoughtful adult, pretty quiet, if a bit quirky.  And A cooks sometimes, and that was nice.  

The only wrinkle was that A began seeing B, and B is more than a bit quirky, and spent a lot of time here.  B is also quite nice, and friendly, and also likes to cook a lot.  But one of B's quirks is that their house is lived in with several adult and near adult kids and friends, and so a bit messy, messy enough that B never wanted A to see the mess.

Anyway, it was a little weird, but Sunday A and B loaded A's car and went off so that B can meet A's parents.

And now the BardiacShack is mine, and I'm even more of a "confirmed old bachelor," so to speak.

So that's one biggish thing.

The other is that a couple weeks ago a solar company contacted me, and it put the spark in me to look at other companies, too, so I've just signed a contract to get solar panels on a south facing roof.  It looks like seven or eight panels will fit there, and that would be about 120% of my electric energy, needs, so I could run air conditioning more freely if I wanted, and so on.  I talked to my financial guy, and he says the investment makes sense, even if I only stay in the house another five years, because it also adds to the resale value of the house.  And there's a tax credit, so that's also nice.

And finally, my financial guy gave my basic travel plans for next year a big thumbs up, and figured out where the money should come from (tax implications and such), and so, within a few days, I'll start planning that big adventure!

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

And Yet Another Play, Even Better!

Today I went to the Great River Shakespeare Festival production of The Winter's Tale, and it was stellar.  I so enjoyed it!  Paulina was amazing, just superb.

They did some really interesting staging.  For example, in the trial scene when Hermione dies, they covered her with a light white cloth on a big chest, the sort of chest you might imagine being used on a cruise in the 1890s.  (Chests and such were the main stage furniture.)  The scene with Antigonus and the baby followed, and when he talked about her dream, the actor stood up, covered with the white cloth (through which she could be semi-seen), and said the lines instead of Antigonus saying them.  They did that sort of thing several times, and it was effective.

The other thing:  it really stood out to me after seeing A Midsummer Night's Dream the other day, how well I could hear and understand everything these actors said, and how deep their range of emotional representation was.  They could represent anger without yelling, and then when they raised their voice, it was effective at showing greater anger.

So, if you're in the Winona area, be sure to see The Winter's Tale before it closes!

Monday, July 10, 2023

And Another Play!

Yesterday, I went to the brand new Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival's production of As You Like It, in Eau Claire, at the newish Pablo Center.  The Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival was announced a couple of years ago, but the opening was postponed, and this is the first year.  It's also had some paring, so, for example, a student production of The Tempest was on the books, but isn't happening this year.

Eau Claire's got a lively amateur theater community, and a number of locals were in this production.  The rest of the cast looked to be (from the intro paragraphs), college students and recent graduates. 

The Pablo Center is a beautiful venue, right at the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers; they've put together what they say is a replica of the Globe, but it's less a replica of the Globe than maybe something such as Blackfriars.  As you can see from the picture at the link, and from the image below:

the seating doesn't take advantage of a thrust stage, nor does it have standing room.  It's basically a pseudo Tudo backdrop to a semi-proscenium arch stage.  The lighting reflects that sensibility, so the audience's attention of fully on the stage, and there's little to no interaction between actors and audience through most of the performance.  (The exception is when the court folks join the first row of the audience to watch the guildsmen's performance.)

The performance was basically a strong student performance, a bit hard to hear clearly (I wasn't the only one who found this), but pretty solid.  Bottom was the stand out performer, and did a really lovely job.  The guildsmen's performance was especially fun, with a really creative wall part that I enjoyed a lot.

It's hard for me to think that another Shakespeare focused theater "festival" is going to be able to compete against the Guthrie in the twin cities, American Player's Theater in Spring Green, and the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona.  Ticket prices are pretty high (as they almost always are at the Pablo) for what's basically a student production, especially compared to what's available in the other venues which are fully professional productions.  On the other hand, it's always good to see new theater opportunities trying to make a go of things!

There was a fun and interesting talk after by a local Shakespearean, which I enjoyed a lot!

Saturday, July 08, 2023

I went to a play!

Ahhh, retirement!  I went to As You Like It at the Great River Shakespeare Festival in Winona, MN.  I haven't been to the GRSF for a long time, I guess, or at least hadn't blogged about it.  Then I saw Taming, and while I liked the production well enough, I guess, it reinforced my hatred of the play.

On the other hand, their production of AYLI was a delight!  Very fun romp of a production, with some wonderfully creative moments.  For example, they made a lot more of the wrestling scene (which was more mixed martial arts with kicks and punches) than usual, and every so often would go into super slow motion.  One of those times, Orlando leaned back in the way that Keanu Reeves did in The Matrix, except instead of some fancy special effects, they had another actor back to back with him which was both effective and added humor.

And every time two characters "fell in love" (not necessarily at first site, since it happened to Corin and Sylvia after she was stuck with him), everything would come to a stop, special lights and music would hit for a moment, and Voila, LOVE!

Best of all, the three main characters, Rosalind, Celia, and Orlando, were played by stellar actors, who were not only individually good, but who had really beautiful chemistry on stage together.  Celia and Rosalind just seemed to have such joy in each other; when they teased, it was fun.

If you're in the area, I highly recommend AYLI.  They're also doing The Winter's Tale and another play I don't know (Imbroglio).  I'm hoping to go to another of their plays before the season ends.

Monday, July 03, 2023

Big Basin: After the Fire

 When I was in CA recently, I visited one of my favorite places, Big Basin State Park.  I haven't been there since some cousins and I went camping there (in July 2018, when I was on sabbatical).  (It looks like I never posted pictures, though, oh well.)

In August 2020, the park burned in a huge fire (also see the wikipedia post above).  I talked to the rangers last week (well, not real rangers, they told me, but the two women who were in charge of the parking area), and they said 98% of the park was affected by the fire, but 97% of the redwoods survived.  

I was expecting to see just charred remains, which is what I've seen in previous visits to burned areas, but was pleasantly surprised to see that things were looking pretty good.

Here's a picture of the same tree, first higher, showing the growth up there, and then lower, showing that the base of the tree is damaged.  The not really rangers told me that redwoods to fine if the interior is burnt some, so long as the outer part lives.  And that's how it looked.  There were a LOT of partly burnt trees with green way up, and a bunch of little trees growing out of the root area.  The little trees looked bigger than I'd think two years or even three would grow, so I don't know if they just survived, or if they grow super fast when they're released by the extra light post fire or whatever.

At any rate, I was really happy to get a chance to visit and take a short walk, hug a tree, and smell the redwoods.

The not really rangers told me that there's no back country camping yet because all the buildings and such (like latrines) were destroyed, but that there's hope to rebuild a new visitor center and new camping infrastructure in the next couple of years.  If so, I hope I can go camping there again someday.