Sugar maple tree turning colors at Mitchell School, Racine, Wisconsin
Sugar maple tree turning colors at Mitchell School in Racine, Wisconsin, August 11, 2023.

Another Week: Number 33

by | August 13, 2023

We have arrived at the end of summer. The sugar maple at the northwest corner of Mitchell School which indicates this to me annually has begun to change colors. There is preseason football on TV. Chicago just had its Bud Billiken Parade.

Whatever we might have thought we were going to do this summer did not happen. There was no gardening, no travel, no biking, no swimming. We saw Summerfest on the news and the State Fair from Amy’s hospital window, a mile and a half away.

Amy is napping on the couch as I type. Her batteries are low, but the headaches and vomiting have considerably diminished. Her doctors are playing chess against cancer.



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Wisconsin State Fair jingle and “Warm Love”

Because I spend a lot of my time listening to MSNBC and CNN via TuneIn Radio on my phone, there are certain commercials I get to hear seventy thousand times.

The Wisconsin State Fair ran one of these this year, and its jingle was so awkward and hokey that it quickly became an earworm, playing in my head even at times when TuneIn was not. I would be lying awake in bed at 4 a.m. trying to worry about very serious things, and yet lines like “I love the fragrance of the farm in the air” kept intruding like battling bumper cars.

There was also something about the staccato melody that was very familiar. For days, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

But at last, in those pre-dawn hours, it came to me. 

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American Experience: American Oz

Tuesday afternoon, a 2021 episode of American Experience popped up in my recommendations list shortly after being posted to YouTube. American Oz is the story of L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Somehow, despite having watched the 1939 movie version of his book many dozens of times, I knew nothing about Baum beyond having once heard some fringe theory that his tale was an allegory about monetary policy.

Like American Experience generally, American Oz is outstanding. It tracks Baum’s quirky interests and his tenacity in the face of failure. It admits his vile racism while riding America’s westward expansion. It explains how the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 on Chicago’s “White City” inspired Baum’s “Emerald City.” It mentions how Baum spent summers at Macatawa, directly across Lake Michigan from me.

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Lahaina burns to the ground

Wednesday morning I woke to the news that Lahaina was on fire, along with some other areas of Maui.

We spent three separate weeks on Maui — plus another on Oahu — in the early 2000s as part of The Steve Dahl Show. Since then, I have always considered Hawaii a potential refuge as the horrors of climate change ratchet up with alarming speed.

Instead, in the blink of an eye, a beloved old town has been completely destroyed, taking some undetermined hundreds of lives in the process.

Again, as with COVID, when the danger is global, there is no safe haven.

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The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, by Jonathan Gottschall

Because it was included on a list of “Five Books That Will Help You Master Storytelling,” I read Jonathan Gottschall’s 2013 volume, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human.

It’s a quick and entertaining read, the main point of which is to make you aware of just how much of our time we all spend tracking or crafting stories in both our waking and sleeping lives.

I could begin listing examples here, but since that’s the whole purpose of the book, I won’t duplicate Gottschall’s effort.

Sprinkled among the many anecdotes are assorted theories about the purpose of our perpetual storytelling, but nothing is settled.

I can’t say I mastered — or even learned — a whole lot through this book, but I may now mentally label more stories as such in my daily life.

The end.

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Game Night (2018)

We finished watching SmartLess: On The Road this week and Amy enjoys Jason Bateman, so I thought we would check out a new-to-Hulu movie mentioned on a couple of monthly “what to watch” lists. Game Night is a 2018 comedy co-starring Rachel McAdams, Kyle Chandler, Sharon Horgan, and a creepy Jesse Plemons as the cop next door.

The plot concerns a bunch of friends who gather regularly to play various party games — Charades, Jenga, etc. — disrupted by Bateman’s brother (Kyle Chandler), who introduces a murder mystery element that becomes a bit too real (or does it?).

It’s a fast-moving, slapstick hour-and-40-minute pursuit with some decent laughs and a few twists.

Amy liked it.

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