October 21, 2023: Autumn in our rainy backyard, Racine, Wisconsin.
October 21, 2023: Autumn in our rainy backyard, Racine, Wisconsin.

Another Week: Number 43

by | October 22, 2023

Amy was an outpatient this week — back home from Froedtert’s Center for Advanced Care. but back up to Froedtert on Monday for chemo and Tuesday for an echocardiogram and an injection to help restore her mysteriously low platelets. The echo was to make sure the edema in her legs and feet is not a symptom of heart problems, and those results were good.

Wednesday she had an in-home physical therapy assessment.

Mainly, we need her platelets to recover so she has more strength, and we want the edema to clear up. Her physician assistant recommends plenty of protein to help with this, but Amy is barely able to stomach any food at all.

When not driving back and forth to Wauwatosa, we mostly sit in the living room. Stair climbs are a team sport, with me clutching her gait belt and following her every step.


Desperately Seeking Soulmate: Escaping Twin Flames Universe

Amy loves a good cult show, but this three-part docuseries on Amazon Prime Video is not good, and not even that much of a cult.

The core belief in this realm is that everyone has a “twin flame” — a super-soulmate, match-made-in-heaven that they are predestined to be with.

So naturally, a pair of dimwitted YouTube influencers built an expensive online training course around helping you find and pair with your twin flame, and they made enough money from this scheme to build themselves a big house outside of Traverse City, Michigan.

The dude of this couple is a wannabe messiah with ever-changing but often Jesus-esque hairstyles who lamely asserts his power by using the best hypnotic gaze he can approximate, and by citing the revelations he receives from the generic “God.”

Sadly, this amateur act does attract followers. Not content to merely take their money, the dude also starts toying with his believers’ fragile psyches by declaring whom they must pair with — and which genders they must adopt in doing so.

Meanwhile, a journalist from Vanity Fair starts investigating this couple and even moves in with them in the big Michigan house, with her reporting also providing the basis for this docuseries.

This sounds potentially interesting on paper, but as a show to sit and watch, this series is as draining as lounging in an unmade bed until 1 p.m. on an otherwise beautiful Saturday. It’s not funny. It’s not shocking. Nothing much happens. It’s just an empty and pathetic waste of time.


We Don’t Talk About Leonard

A much better docuseries is the three-part We Don’t Talk About Leonard collaboration between ProPublica and On The Media.

The podcast profiles Leonard Leo, the conservative legal activist who is gradually turning the US Supreme Court as well as various state supreme courts into a vast puppet show aligned with his personal political preferences. He’s the mystery man who supplied the lists of acceptable names from which Donald Trump chose his Supreme Court nominees.

Leonard Leo has also been very involved in Wisconsin.

My most attentive podcast-listening time usually comes while mowing our lawn or shoveling snow. This well-produced and alarming series kept my adrenaline flowing.



Renfield (2023)

In trying to fill Amy’s request for scary movies as Halloween approaches, I thought Renfield — currently streaming on Max — had potential. We both loved Nicholas Hoult in the now sadly canceled The Great, and we recently enjoyed the classic 1931 Dracula movie which popularized the insect-eating Renfield character. Also, this new take stars Nicolas Cage as Dracula, which had to be fun — right?

Eh, not so much.

Cage’s Count Dracula is more decaying fangs and gross special effects than character. Hoult’s Renfield is a handful of references to Dwight Frye’s 1931 portrayal: the haircut, the insect-eating, and being torn between his conscience and his dark master.

The film is mostly a firehose of gratuitous punchlines, the same familiar special effects that all modern horror movies use, and the racket of the explosive violence that erupts continuously. It’s an over-the-top cartoon with the thinnest of plots and little heart.

Still, it wasn’t horrible. It provoked a few snorts, and the visuals were mildly compelling, so I’d rate it as an even 50 percent.


The Insurrectionist Next Door (2023)

This documentary, currently streaming on Max, is a pretty straightforward exercise: Documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi — who happens to be the daughter of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — visits various people charged in the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, one after another, and bluntly asks them what they were thinking.

All of her subjects are, to some extent, specimens from The Island of Misfit Patriots. Some of their stories make you roll your eyes — like the guy whose ankle bracelet interferes with his parkour. Others break your heart.

At least one does both — a young woman who attended the Capitol insurrection with her uncle simply to get out of the house, barely even knowing where she was, and then allegedly commemorated that anniversary by getting drunk, driving the wrong way, and killing a young mother in a crash.

Going into this, I expected that listening to these people might bring me closer to understanding things from their point of view and that some of them might now understand how wrong they were.

Except for one inmate who now expresses some regret, neither really happened. Still, it was a fascinating and well-paced hour and a quarter.



The Descent (2005)

My search for scary movies  led to a recent Mashable list of “The 20 scariest movies streaming for free.” Number 1 on that last was a 2005 film called The Descent, currently streaming on Max.

It’s a British movie filmed in the United Kingdom about six British women who go on an adventure down into a previously unexplored cave. For whatever reason, the cave is supposedly in North Carolina.

Down in the cave, horror happens.

As is the case with many modern horror movies, the horror is not exactly scary, it’s just extreme unpleasantness — violence, injuries, blood, death, monsters, screaming — that becomes increasingly loud and disgusting as the hour and 40 minutes pass.

In this one, even though the women are in a cave with zero light, we glimpse everything in flickering red haze thanks to their endless supply of road flares, which somehow do not choke them with sulfur fumes.

The Descent was pointless and noisy, and we will not be watching the 2009 sequel.



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