Amy Czerniec in neuro-opthalmologist's examination room, Froedtert Hospital Vision Services, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin
Amy Czerniec in neuro-opthalmologist’s examination room, Froedtert Hospital Vision Services, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, September 15, 2023.

Another Week: Number 38

by | September 17, 2023

We continue to scurry through our cancer Habitrail — up and down the interstate, parking garages, elevators, and corridors — sometimes with a cane, other times with a wheelchair. Four of our five weekdays included appointments at Froedtert.

We sit together in our car, in waiting areas, in exam rooms, and in our living room. We are met by astonishingly thoughtful and focused professionals — doctors, nurses, techs — all trying to outmaneuver Amy’s cancer and its symptoms.

Methotrexate did not produce a negative cytology result, so thiotepa replaced it in late August. This week, with still no improvement, discussions and planning for radiation began. Its chances of clearing the cancer are fifty-fifty.

Then, late on Thursday morning, a glimmer: A negative test result at last. If this keeps up, radiation may be put on hold.

Thanks for crossing your fingers along with us.


Green Bay Packers 38, Chicago Bears 20

I was raised in Kenosha, Wisconsin where I idolized Dick Butkus and Gayle Sayers under the tutelage of my dad, a Chicagoan who had attended Chicago Bears vs. Chicago Cardinals games at Wrigley Field in his younger days.

All the other kids I grew up with wore green and gold and worshipped Bart Starr.

None of the current players on the Bears or Packers teams can really understand what their two games opposite each other each year really mean on a primal level — and that’s the level where I appreciate football. I don’t know from the 46 defense or fantasy leagues. I do watch the games, and I can at least tell when things are clicking or not clicking, even if I can’t tell exactly why.

The last game the Chicago Bears won was on October 24, 2022. Ten losses after that, the season ended, and things were finally going to get fixed. For eight months, stories about draft picks, training camp, and preseason games fluttered through my Google News feed. Stuff was being addressed, probably. Things were going to be different this time.


In Sunday afternoon’s opening game against the Packers, from the minute the Bears took the field, everything looked as bad or worse than it did last winter.


Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (2015)

On Monday, during Amy’s chemotherapy infusion, we watched Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words on my laptop. The 2015 documentary features plenty of Bergan’s own home movie clips and voiced readings from her diaries — as well as input from her children Pia Lindström, Roberto Ingmar Rossellini, and twins Ingrid and Isabella Rossellini.

I have seen a number of Bergman’s movies, but knew nothing of her personal life. As shown here, she was a bit of a hummingbird, moving from nation to nation and lover to lover and constantly pursuing acting roles  but spending less time with family and her kids, who were often living on another continent.

Her lifestyle created a huge public scandal, and she was effectively cancelled from America for years.

Director Stig Björkman skips back and forth in time a bit, and while he does note Bergman’s movie milestones, her acting work gets little scrutiny. Her final role as Golda Meir in a TV miniseries is barely mentioned, and her struggle with breast cancer at the same time is only briefly noted.

The film did give me an impression of Ingrid Bergman as a person. Daughter Isabella Rossellini explained that she behaved more like a friend than a mother — and watching this, Amy noted that since Bergman’s own mother had died when she was just two-and-a-half, she had no example of mothering to follow.


Shiva Baby (2020)

This movie is an exercise in anxiety to begin with — then, unbeknownst to us, a technical glitch made it even more uncomfortable.

Ever since ditching its HBO identity, the Max platform’s Roku app has been crap. For example, it forgets some of the episodes you’ve already watched, jumps to episodes our of order, and loses your place when you pause playback.

Tuesday night Max sprang a new one on us. As we started watching Shiva Baby, the movie’s framing was remarkably unconventional. Things were cut off. They were not centered. It was just very peculiar. We assumed it was an artistic choice.

But no, the Max app was displaying the movie at a size bigger than our 4K screen. We were not seeing the full frame, but only a letterboxed portion of it. Only later, when this happened again to a second title, did I comprehend this glitch and learn how to fix it by going into Roku’s Expert Picture Settings (not adjusting them at all; simply opening the settings fixes the problem).

Despite this weird anomaly, the movie was compelling. Rachel Sennott plays Danielle, a bisexual young Jewish woman who is currently dependant on a male sex partner for financial support. Now she must attend a shiva along with her parents, her former girlfriend (Molly Gordon who we know as “Claire Bear” in The Bear), and the guy who’s paying her for sex.

The whole gathering is wonderfully cramped and claustrophobic, and things gradually get wound tighter and tighter over the hour and 18 minutes.

It was really good — but not so good that we’ll watch it again, correctly-sized.


Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap: Every Song Tells a Story (2014)

Remember how extraordinary the Springsteen on Broadway show was in 2017? Back in 2014, Randy Bachman released a video documenting a similar show that he’d reportedly been doing on and off for about ten years.

Filmed at the Pantages Playhouse Theatre in downtown Winnipeg, Randy Bachman’s Vinyl Tap: Every Song Tells a Story is an hour and 26 minutes of the Canadian rock and roll legend alternating stories and songs, Behind the Music-style, with the help of drummer Marc LaFrance, guitarist Brent Howard Knudsen, and bassist Mick Dalla-Vee.

We hear how “American Woman” was born after Bachman’s guitar string broke during a show at a curling rink – and how “Takin’ Care of Business” grew out of accompanying a blind recording engineer as he navigated New York City.

The line between the life of an ordinary working person and worldwide recognition can be amazingly thin, and Bachman has spent a lifetime crossing it, back and forth, repeatedly. His recollection here is warm, good-humored, and expert.

The film is currently streaming free with commercials on The Roku Channel.


By Design: The Joe Caroff Story (2022)

For another example of how creative people absorb influences, then combine and reshuffle them to produce iconic new works, we watched By Design: The Joe Caroff Story Saturday night on Max.

Joe Caroff is the graphic designer behind many of the most familiar posters, logos, and title sequences used to brand and promote major Hollywood movies for over 45 years, beginning in the early 1960s. West Side Story, the 007 gun logo for the James Bond franchise, and the logo for Woody Allen’s Manhattan are just a few of his creations.

After a segment on his biographical background and introducing his wife, the rest of this 52-minute documentary flips though project after project, explaining how each one came to be.

Inspiring stuff.



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