Living room, Kenosha, Wisconsin
My mom’s living room in Kenosha, Wisconsin, February 27, 2023.

Another Week: Number 10

by | March 5, 2023

The photo I should have taken this week was of the conjunction between the planets Jupiter and Venus on Wednesday evening. They looked like two headlights of a vehicle just waiting — and waiting, and waiting — in the low western sky to cruise down our street.

But I had been watching the pair for weeks and was very familiar with them.

Other Wisconsinites, not so much:

WISN 12 News: Police departments inundated with 911 calls for bright lights in sky

It’s been that kind of week — when you realize we are not going to make it as a species. We are just going to watch it all slip slowly into confusion so complete that even a McDonald’s drive-thru is too much to deal with.


New bathroom scale

Our Tanita BF-682 — purchased 20 years ago because of its endorsement by Martina Hingis — finally died, so we needed a new bathroom scale. Wirecutter recommended a $20 Etekcity model, but I jumped to the $30 Etekcity ESF93 for its smartphone app synching and whatnot, declining the $80 newer model.

Daily for the past two decades, I have recorded my weight, BMI, and corresponding calorie count them in a dedicated steno book.

Instead, we now have the VeSync app on our iPhones, and it Bluetooths the numbers up from the scale. Neato.

Not only is there a nifty graph of day-to-day weight fluctuations, but there are also a dozen different data points quantifying my fat, muscle, and body water.

The one that has really caught my attention is my “metabolic age,” which has me pegged for 66 even though I don’t turn 63 until July.

Should you know of any scientific studies or generous patrons that would pay good money for 20 years of handwritten weight data, please alert me in the comments below.


To Leslie (2022)

Marc Maron has been everywhere promoting his comedy special in recent weeks. Coupled with that publicity is Maron’s acting role in To Leslie, the directorial feature debut by Michael Morris, for which Andrea Riseborough is Oscar-nominated as Best Actress with the big Academy Awards show coming up on March 12.

So on Tuesday, we rented To Leslie via Amazon Prime Video. This itself presented a quandary because there were two versions to choose from — one labeled “Drama” and the other “Drama • EPG.” Was the EPG something extra — akin to a commentary track — or was it something less, like a sanitized version?

I googled to find out, and although the search results clearly showed that I was not the first person in this dilemma, the only answer for “EPG” that came up was “electronic program guide,” which made no sense in the context of a movie — unless the movie was going to display what was airing on other channels. After a good five minutes of deliberating, we went for the unadulterated “Drama” option.

To Leslie is a character study of a woman who’s been drinking for some time. Six years ago she was a rowdy party girl in a small West Texas town who had just won $190,000 in the lottery. Now she’s beaten and broke, bouncing from place to place, taking advantage of anyone who will still have her, disappointing and pissing them off — beginning with her estranged son, now 20 years old.

Andrea Riseborough is onscreen for pretty much the whole two hours, and she does an excellent job portraying a crushed soul. Her face twinges with innumerable pangs of gaping pathos.

For me, though, the distinct behaviors of alcoholism are not quite there. If you have seen “stinking thinking” in the extreme, there are elements of it missing in this movie, so you feel sorry for the woman even though everyone else is furious at her.

Marc Maron plays a motel owner — Sweeney — whose initial impulse toward Leslie is sympathetic.

Maron has been telling the story of how his dialect coach tried to kindle his “Lubbock” accent via videos of interviews with Mac Davis late in his life. It’s a subtle twang, and Maron does not nail it here — but as Lyle Lovett famously asked, “What would you be if you didn’t even try?”

Nor does Maron truly connect on an interpersonal level. He says all the things, but whatever hopes and frustrations he must have regarding this poor, broken bird do not come across as felt feelings. His acting is a work in progress. His line dancing is kept mostly out of frame.

Allison Janney is outstanding as Nancy, a gritty old friend of Leslie’s, and a role unlike anything I have ever seen Janney do before.

Andre Royo  — beloved as “Bubbles” on The Wire — is striking as Sweeney’s gonzo business partner Royal. He instantly brings a knowing touch to a marginal character that could have been a mere cartoon.

Despite my petty quibbles, this is a worthwhile movie and an amazing debut for Michael Morris.

The lack of EPG did not bother us.


Alex Murdaugh trial coverage

Last year, we watched the three-part Low Country: The Murdaugh Dynasty on HBO Max. As streaming true crime series go, it was fine.

But this past week, Alex Murdaugh’s trial concluded, with wall-to-wall, commercial-free coverage during many of MSNBC’s daytime hours and top story status on the NBC Nightly News.

Locally, sure — this was a prominent South Carolina family and a horrible murder. But I just can’t fathom how it qualified for all this national coverage.

Hour after hour America listened to people coughing in the courtroom. Legal experts parsed the fine points of “reasonable doubt” and “circumstantial evidence” ad nauseam. Reporters described the cramped confines of the jury room. Murdaugh’s first night in prison was detailed.

Why? Out of all the murder trials in America on any given day, what made this one so nationally important?



The Naked Archaeologist

For a couple of years now, I have been nursing the three seasons of The Naked Archaeologist on Amazon Freevee. It’s a half-hour Biblical archaeology series that originally ran from 2005 to 2010 on VisionTV in Canada and History International in the U.S.

The show is hosted by Simcha Jacobovici, a “tall, tall man” and award-winning documentary filmmaker born in Israel who moved to Canada as a boy.

Jacobovici has a keen and unconventional curiosity about many different facets of Judeo-Christian history and traditions — plus a playful, irreverent sense of humor. He combines these with bushels of wacky old public-domain footage to examine some ancient mystery or another in each episode.

The vast majority of the show is shot on location in the Holy Land visiting historic sites and interviewing respected archaeologists, scholars, and local experts. The whole thing is very easygoing, matter-of-fact, and free of the usual awe and veneration that religious subjects receive on, say, The History Channel. You also get a good feel for the modern Holy Land, with its present-day sandwich shops and parking lots layered on top of historic ruins.

Saturday morning we watched Season 3, Episode 7: “Gone Fishing.”

In it, Jacobovici questions why Jesus, with his reported background as a building tradesman (tektōn in Greek), had so many fishermen among his apostles and was so well-versed in their line of work.

He then ties this into the trade routes for garum, a fermented fish sauce popular in ancient times, and the “Fisherman’s House” at Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene — possibly arriving at a headquarters and funding stream of the early Jesus movement.

The show is never contentious or conclusive. It merely makes novel connections in a lighthearted way and asks, “What if?’



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