American Robin nesting in a crabapple tree in Racine, Wisconsin
American Robin nesting in a crabapple tree in Racine, Wisconsin, May 13, 2023.

Another Week: Number 20

by | May 14, 2023

Pictured above is the same crabapple tree featured last week, the one directly outside our kitchen window. In this shot, however, you see the American Robin that has been incubating eggs here for over a week.

Many robins have tried this exact same spot over the years, but we have never seen any succeed. The tree is in the center of our backyard. It’s a favorite of squirrels, and sometimes raccoons pass through. Both animals happily snatch eggs. Some years winds blow the nest to shreds. We are invariably left with a sad clump of fiber and a couple of sky-blue shells.

This time, though, it seems to be working. The mother-to-be flew to ground and chirped loud warnings at me the first time I got near. Now she does not fret, and sat in place while I mowed around the base of the tree on Wednesday.

As for me, I did a little work this week, plus a bunch of driving and a lot of worrying. Amy is still suffering — neck pain, migraines, hypertension. Doctors and a chiropractor are involved.

For distraction, we watch TV.


Clarkson’s Farm, Season 2

Back on February 10, Amazon Prime Video released the second season of a show we enjoyed last year — Clarkson’s Farm.

Host Jeremy Clarkson is a very famous media personality in England, especially on automotive topics. He rose to fame on the British driving show Top Gear.

In 2008, he bought a thousand-acre farm in Oxfordshire, about 65 miles northwest of London, and named it Diddly Squat. Clarkson’s Farm is a wry documentary series chronicling Clarkson’s blunders in trying to turn the farm profitable.

His Sancho Panzo in these adventures is Kaleb, a young local farm worker who knows quite a lot about agricultural methods and equipment, but very little about the modern world at large.

Jeremy Clarkson is a sarcastic curmudgeon with money in the bank, so it’s entertaining to see him outsmarted by sheep or defeated by expensive equipment or weather, or the laws of physics and government regulators. The show also offers insight into the punishing obstacle course that farmers generally must navigate in order to make a living.

Unlike many “reality” shows, Clarkson’s Farm does not come off as carefully staged or scripted. Its host’s crabbiness feels real — and Clarkson does have a history of reactionary outbursts, some of them downright disgusting.

His reported punching of a producer led to his exit from Top Gear, and his column in The Sun last December slamming Meghan Markle produced a torrential backlash and apparently ended Clarkson’s relationship with Amazon Prime Video.

We have enjoyed two episodes of the latest season with six more to go.


White House Plumbers

Monday nights bring new episodes of White House Plumbers on Max, and we have watched both installments of the five-part series released so far.

It’s a bungling buddies story, starring Woody Harrelson and Justin Theroux as E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy, the two wannabe cloak-and-dagger masterminds tasked with stopping leaks of embarrassing information during the Nixon administration.

The tale begins before the Watergate break-in, with Hunt an outcast after the Bay of Pigs fiasco and seeking one last shot at redemption via a burglary of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in Beverly Hills.

Harrelson is decent as the harried Hunt, constantly struggling to keep anything unprofessional — from his wacky 1970s family life to his laughable associates — under the surface.

Theroux, as Liddy, is more like a wacky Monty Python character, displaying a grab bag of bizarre traits — a Hitler fascination, the famous feat of hand-burning over a candle — but without enough real menace.

The whole show so far is a slapstick cascade. It’s amusing, I guess — but it would be edgier and funnier with at least some gulps of gravity and consequence. Even Veep included those.

Game of Thrones alum Lena Headey is captivating as Hunt’s wife Dorothy.


Debt ceiling showdown

As the estimated June 1st date of a U.S. debt default approaches, not enough is being made of how outrageously Republicans are behaving.

Since the beginning of the year, they have held the barest five-seat majority in the 435-vote House. Democrats still hold the U.S. Senate and the presidency.

Nevertheless, Republicans are pressing this thin advantage to the metal and insisting that President Biden must erase all of his gains — and make permanent the gains of the previous president voted out of office — or they’ll overturn the economy like spoiled children losing at The Game of Life.

Either Joe Biden agrees to hurt the country very badly and pretend he was never elected, or they’ll hurt the country even worse and cause immense suffering.

The point, of course, is to cripple Biden one way or the other ahead of the 2024 election. He’s one of the most legislatively successful presidents of the modern era, and Republicans are undeterred in their plot to replace American democracy with fascism. They are “sticking together” just like the “bundle of sticks” from which the word “fascism” is derived.

It would not be the first time fascists used a financial crisis to take power.

Most pundits still seem to expect cooler heads to somehow prevail at the last minute. I’m afraid that going over the cliff is the plan.


Jimmy O. Yang: Guess How Much?

A comedy cleanser can be nice now and then between the darker courses, and Jimmy O. Yang: Guess How Much? on Amazon Prime Video hit that spot pretty well.

We watched some of HBO’s Silicon Valley some years ago, but I don’t remember Yang. We have not seen Space Force or Love Hard on Netflix.

So for us, this special was an unfamiliar comedian doing a very familiar standup hour.

He’s likable and funny. Pretty much the whole show is based on his being Asian.

There are set-ups, there are jokes.

It runs 54 minutes.


Air (2023)

Friday night we watched Air, the new movie about the birth of Air Jordans, starring Matt Damon and directed by Ben Affleck.

We were huge Chicago Bulls fans through their golden age, and watched every game for those last seven seasons. Before that, I couldn’t tell you much about basketball — but I had a friend who knew Michael Jordan’s greatness from the moment he was drafted.

This story is about that period, and Matt Damon plays Sonny Vaccaro, a basketball talent scout for Nike who becomes one of the very few who senses it too. There’s also Michael’s mother Deloris (played here by Viola Davis) and Michael himself, shown minimally from behind and only heard saying a couple of words — the sacred treatment sometimes reserved for Jesus Christ or the President of the United States, or maybe Santa Claus.

But Nike is a third-rate shoe brand behind Converse and Addidas, so Vaccaro needs to go all in and change some minds in order to land the biggest endorsement catch in history.

Matt Damon is Matt Damon but flabbier, and he delivers a great speech as the story approaches its climax. Viola Davis is powerful and unbending as she delivers a speech of her own.

Ben Affleck, as Nike CEO Phil Knight, does a lot of brooding — much like the “sad” or “melancholy” Ben Affleck of social media fame. Jason Bateman, Marlon Wayans, Chris Messina, and others also appear.

The most interesting element to me was shoe designer Peter Moore (played by Matthew Maher) who declares, “Basketball shoes are the central preoccupation of my life.” He not only designs and names the Air Jordan, he also creates the Jumpman logo.

All in all, this is a formula movie and the formula is perfectly executed. Obstacles, deflation, elation — a last minute twist — everything happens on schedule, with snatches of 1980s songs dropped in mechanically to remind you this was the 80s and to populate a “soundtrack” album.

It’s not greatness, but it’s an enjoyable hour and 54 minutes with a couple of standout moments.



Please add your thoughts: