Smoke from Canadian wildfires in Racine, Wisconsin, June 27, 2023
Smoke from Canadian wildfires above Webster St. in Racine, Wisconsin, June 27, 2023.

Another Week: Number 27

by | July 2, 2023

This was the week of smoke here in southeastern Wisconsin with our air quality in the red for days on end, and even hitting purple briefly.

Having already suffered the confinement of COVID quarantine and winter, we are now cornered by a heavy chemotherapy regimen plus advisories to stay indoors and avoid breathing due to the smoke from Canadian wildfires which might just pollute a good portion of the United States off and on for the whole summer.

Meanwhile, the southern U.S. has been wilting under a deadly heat wave all week, with heat indexes topping a ridiculous 120 degrees. In between, there have been killer tornadoes and a derecho.

Most average mopes have been mowing their lawns and going to Summerfest and walking their dogs as usual. Are you supposed to change your daily routines just because the environment is becoming uninhabitable? 

But there’s a minor undercurrent of people impelled to action by the weather. They’re now attacking meteorologists for “overstating, lying about or even controlling the weather.

On Wednesday, a TV meteorologist in Iowa quit his job after receiving death threats.

I quit Twitter and Facebook and Instagram more than a year ago, and I don’t regret it.


The Bear, Season 2

We were big fans of The Bear when it appeared on Hulu with very little fanfare last year. As a native son of Chicago, I love all the B-roll of L trains and the Chicago River. As a long-ago contributor to The Steve & Garry Show, I remember when Jay Leno was a hustling standup comedian who would treat the radio hosts to sandwiches from Mr. Beef on every visit. As an early fan of Anthony Bourdain and his book Kitchen Confidential, I gobbled up tales of back-of-the-house hurtling.

The Bear quickly proved to be a huge hit, and now Season 2 has arrived. We have watched four of the ten episodes so far, and the show seems to be taking a while to get its bearings. The restaurant is undergoing a complete makeover, and every part of the redesign — new menu, new interior, new staff — seems to be taking forever.

Instead of a tight story, we get lots of atmosphere, mood, character tics, and B-roll of Chicago and food prep. There’s an uncurrent of yearning and a deep affection for the culinary arts. There’s even an Atlanta-style detour to Europe. There’s just no real plot to speak of so far, four-tenths of the way in.

We’ll keep watching and hoping that something will eventually happen to these characters we like so much.


The Righteous Gemstones, Season 3

When we stumbled upon Eastbound and Down a couple of years back, it was clearly the sort of vulgar, lowbrow slapstick that we usually shun. But for some reason, we kept watching long enough for the subtle, insecure genius of Danny McBride to bean us right in the head, disabling our snobbery.

After those four seasons, we devoured two more of Vice Principals, which added Walton Goggins (beloved by us via Justified) as McBride’s rival/partner, and the hilarious Edi Patterson.

As a former daily viewer of The PTL Club, I was delighted to hear that McBride’s next series — The Righteous Gemstones — would be centered around a televangelist’s family. Like a wacky, South Carolina version of Succession, the premise features three screw-up siblings competing to take over their father’s empire.

Seasons 1 and 2 were very entertaining. Three episodes in, Season 3 is a worthy continuation.

Somehow, though, The Righteous Gemstones is just a bit too much. John Goodman seems to have about 75 percent of his heart in it, and the focus is more on expensive spectacles, sets, and stunts instead of the characters’ personality quirks.

We’ll keep watching because — even if they waterski over a shark now and then — we do love McBride, Goggins, and Patterson. 



I think we’re going to quit Apple TV+. We have two more episodes of Ted Lasso to finish and then I’ll unsubscribe.

Hijack is the last of many straws. Amy loves to see Idris Elba, so I figured this “thriller” series starring him onboard a hijacked plane looked worthwhile.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

We have seen both episodes released on Apple TV+ so far, and they were two wasted hours. There’s a plane. It has passengers, including Idris Elba. Among the passengers are also some hijackers. They soon hijack the plane. There is music that attempts to create tension. A lot of tense glances go back and forth between people.

There are no characters worth caring about. The whole production is flat and bluish and mechanical. Amy — again, a big Idris Elba fan — lamented, “The things he’s in are not always the best.”

We are parachuting out of this one.


Three Thousand Years of Longing

Discouraged by the failure of my Idris Elba selection on Apple TV+, I turned to Amazon Prime Video in hopes of redemption through yet more Idris Elba content — the 2022 movie Three Thousand Years of Longing, co-starring Tilda Swinton.

Swinton plays a narratology scholar who buys an antique bottle in Istanbul, from which she unwittingly releases a Djinn — Idris Elba, who is at first larger than a big room, but soon resizes himself and speaks with an odd accent, like that of an old ethnic man.

The two of them dance around the obligatory three wishes, instead trading stories of her previous life and his previous captivities in small containers.

The stories are not exactly riveting — but they are brought to life with outstanding visual effects which are the main value of this movie from beginning to end. The marvels that unfold before your eyes are a treat.

Amy was less disappointed with this one.


Tour de France 2023

Like running into long-lost, beloved friends, it was a tonic to hear Phil Liggett and Bob Roll calling this year’s Tour de France when I tuned in for Stage 1 early Saturday morning on NBC.

We were big cycling fans back when Superweek used to meander Wisconsin every year, and we watched every bit of Lance Armstrong’s dominance of the Tour — then soured on the whole thing as the event was marred by doping scandals.

Nevertheless, there’s something about aerial views of the hilly French countryside, whippet-thin riders crushing mountains under their pedals, and wild sprints to the finish line that make July a little more complete.

I have downloaded the official Tour de France app on my iPhone, and loaded the entire route into Google Earth. We’re all set to watch all 21 days on Peacock — probably in the afternoons after each stage is complete and we can roll the video without commercials.



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