waterskiing on Brown's Lake, Burlington, Wisconsin, September 29, 2023
Late afternoon waterskiing on Brown’s Lake in Burlington, Wisconsin, Friday, September 29, 2023

Another Week: Number 40

by | October 1, 2023

Rabbit, rabbit.

We continue to ride the fluctuations. Amy’s appetite for solid food has waned. Vomiting lurks after any small bite. Her latest cytology test turned up one single cancer cell, breaking the run of three negative results in a row. Her walking is weak and requires a cane, and sitting all day in our living room isn’t improving either of us.

Weatherwise, Friday was a truly gorgeous day, so I had the idea to drive out to Brown’s Lake with our camping chairs and walk the couple hundred yards from the parking lot to the water’s edge — then sit there in the gentle breeze, with a few leaves falling, and waves lapping now and then in the wake of the occasional passing boat.

It was a pretty perfect hour or so. We observed, we laughed, and I played two “Harvest Moon” tunes on my phone a couple of hours before this year’s Harvest Moon rose.

On Saturday, just one trip to the bathroom exhausted Amy, so she stayed in bed with the windows open until midafternoon while kids played and lawns were mowed outside.

Running errands alone, I waited for an hour in the line of cars at our city’s no-charge disposal event, where I dropped off a 27-inch color TV that we inherited from Amy’s dad after he died twenty-four Setptembers ago.


Frank (2014)

This movie — Frank— has been sitting in our Hulu stuff for maybe a couple of years. The giant, papier-mâché head always seemed a little intriguing and fairly troubling at the same time. But Peak TV is over, we’re scrounging, and the film has a 92% Tomatometer score. So Sunday night, we finally bit.

Domhnall Gleeson stars as an aspiring songwriter who joins a band that plays experimental music, led by Frank (Michael Fassbender), who wears the cumbersome mask day and night.

There are extended recording sessions at a remote cabin in Ireland. There is a social-media-driven invitation to perform at South by Southwest. There are personal conflicts within the band.

Maggie Gyllenhaal is another band member, Clara, who is extremely moody and hostile.

Supposedly, Frank is a dark comedy — which is one of our favorite forms of comedy.

If it is, we didn’t get it. It did not make us laugh. We didn’t enjoy it. When it was over, we exchanged raised eyebrows and moved on.


When We Were Kings (1996)

I have wanted to see this since it came out, but we didn’t catch it in the theaters, it never stood out at the video stores, and I didn’t know it was streaming on Max until a recent JustWatch search.

When We Were Kings, of course, documents the 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight championship boxing match between George Foreman and Muhammad Ali.

This is an outstanding, Oscar-winning film that took Leon Gast 22 years to complete. It is wonderfully edited, features insightful commentary from the likes of Norman Mailer and George Plimpton, and may be the very best encapsulation of Muhammad Ali’s public persona that has ever been made.

I’m glad we finally caught it.


Savior Complex

This three-part documentary series on Max is complicated and overly long. It tells an interesting story that has no satisfying conclusion. I can’t necessarily recommend it, but I’m not sorry we watched it.

It concerns Renee Bach, an evangelical Christian missionary who started a nonprofit organization — Serving His Children — in Uganda in 2009 aimed at rejuvenating malnourished children. At this facility, Bach provided medical care  to these kids despite having zero formal medical training. Instead, she relied heavily on God to guide her therapies. Nevertheless, 105 of the already unwell children eventually died.

Eventually an activist group — No White Saviors — began raising the alarm about Bach (as well as their own profile) via social media. Meanwhile, a Ugandan human rights attorney, Primah Kwagala, began investigating the organization and Christian lawyer David Gibbs III began representing Bach.

The problem with this series — like many of these multipart streaming docuseries — is that its storytelling loses the thread, wanders back and forth over previously covered ground, and sometimes zones out completely with prolonged scenes of horse grooming accompanied by somber music while additional elements are saved for coming episodes.

Many questions are raised by this significant story, but few are definitively answered in Savior Complex. A more organized, one-hour presentation would have been better.


CNN Max: Live news from CNN without cable

Little by little, TV news organizations are stepping into streaming like bathers braving a chilly lake. The big three broadcast networks all have streaming platforms, often padded with a playlist of prerecorded news modules.

So far, the only offering I regularly watch is the first hour of Hallie Jackson Now at 4 p.m. Central, usually on the NBC News Roku app. It may be the best hour of news anywhere.

This week, however, CNN returned to streaming for the first time since its CNN+ disaster, which lasted all of April 2022.

Wednesday evening, I noticed huge banners on Max plugging CNN’s primetime lineup, but I would rather listen to MSNBC on TuneIn than watch Anderson Cooper or Kaitlan Collins.

On weekday mornings, however, MSNBC’s lineup has deteriorated. So Thursday morning I clicked on CNN Max to find Jim Acosta hosting a couple of hours of CNN Newsroom and making a huge deal out of not wearing a necktie because apparently streaming is where “the kids” get their news.

I’m 63, but thanks. I used to watch lots of cable news back when my job required it, but I can’t rationalize the monthly expense of cable anymore just for two channels.

Despite Acosta’s uncertainty (he proposed explaining to people “how to find us,”  even though anyone listening had already found him), it was great to have live news available once again, supplied by one of the most capable outfits in the world.

Better yet, at 10 a.m. Central, CNN Max airs State of the Race with Kasie Hunt, a one-hour political roundup hosted by one of the truest political journalists working these days. Hunt should have been given all of Chuck Todd’s jobs at NBC News. Instead, she got detoured in the CNN+ fiasco, but it’s good to see her rising once again.

The transition from HBO Max to just Max has been bumpy, but it has given Amy a lot more home makeover content, and now there are hours of live news for me. Both additions make us more likely to renew our Max subscription when it runs out next spring.



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