Thursday, April 12, 2018

Ready Player One and Short Takes on Blockers

       The Kids Are Alright (eventually)

                                            Reviews by Ken Burke

                 Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg)
                           
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): The world of 2045 has evolved into a miserable place (except for the rich) so most of the populace spends as much time as possible absorbed into the vast Virtual Reality experience of the OASIS where our hero, Parzival (the avatar of Ohio teenager Wade Watts), is on a quest to conquer 3 challenges that will then unlock a door where he’ll receive a Golden Egg bequeathing enormous wealth and full control of the OASIS, as specified by its eccentric founder, James Halliday, who died a few years prior.  Working with a team of 4 other avatar buddies, including dynamic female Art3mis (Samantha Cook in the sordid real world), Parzival uses the library archives of Halliday to find essential clues in his difficult goal of acquiring the 3 keys necessary to win this fast-moving, all-absorbing game he’s within, all the while being opposed by oppressive CEO Nolan Sorrento who wants all of this treasure for himself.  You’ll just have to see the movie, read the book it's adapted from, or—much easier—consult the spoiler-filled-details below if you're interested in what happens next, but you at least need to watch the trailer to get a sense of the visually-dazzling-computer-based-graphics in this entertainment extravaganza.  In truth, for me the structure was a bit too flamboyant for the mildly-delivered-payoff; however, I realize that in both age and fascination with the cyberworld already too complex on the Internet for a septuagenarian like me I’m not a central member of the target audience.  Still, if you want a great diversionary audiovisual ride for a couple of hours, Ready Player One can be a lot of fun to watch along with attempting to catch the dozens of pop-culture-references embedded in its many scenes.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)


If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
                  
What Happens: We’re in 2045 Columbus, OH where much of this overpopulated city (just like the rest of Earth) looks desolate, epitomized by our protagonist, 18-year-old Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), orphaned but living with his aunt in a stack of old trailers piled high on metal scaffolding, seemingly with no future to look forward to in this miserable world.  However, Wade doesn’t spend much time in the actual environment he inhabits; instead, he—and seemingly most of the planet’s population—lose themselves in the amazing counter-existence of the OASIS, a massive Virtual Reality cluster of video games where you can accumulate digital currency by accomplishing various tasks which then allow you to purchase items to enhance your actions (and successes) in this alternative VR experience where virtually anything you could imagine will be found somewhere in its vast resources; however, you can also find yourself indebted to Innovative Online Industries (IOI), makers of the VR technology, if you should lose your stash.  Players don’t come into this environment as themselves, though; instead, they create avatars with chosen names and physical characteristics—Wade is Parzival, blonder and slimmer than his actual appearance, often aided in his adventures by Aech (voice of Lena Waithe, connected to a huge robot-like-character who’s a master mechanic) along with his Asian buddies Daito (Win Morisaki) and Sho (Philip Zhao).  OASIS activities took a major turn away from the standard daily routine of escapism and minor-wealth-accumulation, though, with the death 5 years ago of oddball reclusive OASIS creator James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who left behind a video challenge that anyone who can accomplish the tasks of meeting 3 trials, thereby gaining 3 keys along with vital clues, will be able to find a hidden Golden Egg which will bequeath to the winner $500 billion plus sole ownership of the entire OASIS.

 As a ferocious Gunter (short for “egg hunter”), Parzival’s determined to conquer this quest, along the way gaining the respect and friendship (soon a romantic attraction) with Art3mis (Olivia Cooke), a female adventurer who makes Tomb Raider's (Roar Uthaug) Lara Croft look like a middle-aged-bank-clerk.  The first challenge is an auto race into a virtual Manhattan, but the entrance is guarded by King Kong (the OASIS is crammed with pop culture references, far too many for me to recognize, let alone recount here* except for Parzival racing around in a DeLorean car in a clear reference to the Back to the Future trilogy (Robert Zemeckis; 1985, 1989, 1990)—with a great majority of the trivia elements scattered throughout the OASIS being 1980s memorabilia (seemingly a passion of Halliday’s based on a time when he was more satisfied with his life before a falling out with original partner Ogden Morrow [Simon Pegg] partly over Halliday’s shyness, inhibiting him from following through on his strong attraction to Kira [Perdita Weeks], who eventually married Morrow), although Spielberg consciously refused to include anything he directed but accepted the DeLorean because he only co-executive-produced those Back to the Futures.  However, Parzival and Art3mis explore the OASIS Halliday library where they can watch video simulations of events in the inventor’s life, helping them find strategies to gain access to those vital 3 keys, constantly trying to stay ahead of a small army of Sixers (so-called due to their 6-digit identification numbers), avatars of those indebted to IOI, sent out on their own quest by victory-obsessed IOI CEO Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn).

*If you like, you can watch Easter Egg explanation sites #1 (7:54 video with 138 references noted) and #2 (a 34:17 video claiming to explore over 300 such “buried treasures,” but, honestly, I didn’t invest that much time in seeing what this one has to offer, despite having been delighted in other such investigations by Erik Voss;someday soon with some time to spare I'll give it a complete look).

 Parzival and Art3mis’ first victory—eluding the mighty Kong—comes via understanding the meaning within the OASIS of an old Halliday statement leading our heroes to a subterranean road into NYC, gaining them a clue as to how to acquire the next key.  Wade’s growing interest in Art3mis proves to be dangerous because by revealing his real name to her that info is intercepted by a grim bounty hunter, i-ROk (T.J. Miller), passing it on to Sorrento who meets Wade in the real world, makes him a generous offer to join IOI but the kid refuses.  In retaliation, Sorrento sends his deadly henchwoman F’Nale Zandor (Hannah John-Kamen) to attack Wade’s trailer stack, killing Aunt Alice in the process although the intended target wasn’t home at the time.  Instead, he's taken by Art3mis’ friends to her real-life, corporate-opposition-hideout where she’s revealed to him as Samantha Cook, a bit shy about her appearance although its of no consequence to smitten Wade.*

*How these characters completely lose themselves into Virtual Reality is purely fictional (so far), but if you’re interested in exploring tangible aspects of scientific research into out-of-body-experiences, VR, and the merge of these into something called Virtual Embodiment (much like a primitive version of the OASIS) here’s a lengthy article from Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker on exactly that topic.  I thank my frequent film-going-companion, Michaele O’Leary, for passing this info on to me.

 Another visit to the Halliday archives leads to figuring out a clue involving Kira (along with Parzival winning a bet with the Curator, who gives him winnings of a quarter) leading them to a recreation of The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) where after surviving meetings with those creepy little Grady twins, the murderous ghost in the bathtub, and the bloody elevator shaft among other horrors our group of intrepid warriors (calling themselves the High Five) gain access to the second key/clue, telling them the final unlocking must occur in Castle Anorak on Planet Doom which has now been sealed off by Sorrento’s avatar using a magic force field to protect the many Sixers inside this huge globe who’ve been assigned the task of solving the third mysteryin the Atari roomwhere eventually it’s learned the old “Adventure” game must be played but the winners keep being destroyed rather than gaining access to that all-important-key.  ⇒Earlier Art3mis allowed herself to be captured so Parzival could escape, so she’s now one of the enslaved-debt-workers, but communicating by remote audio with Parzival (who’s now called forth all the vast OASIS players to rally with him in his quest to enter Castle Anorak, with a huge battle occurring between them [aided by the Iron Giant] and the IOI army [plus the mighty Mechagodzilla]she escapes her captivity, manages to unlock the barrier allowing Parzival to enter the castle* whereupon Sorrento destroys all inhabitants, including Parzival who survives because that Curator quarter grants him an extra life.⇐

*Sort of like the ploy of Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness) shutting down the tractor beam so that the Millennium Falcon could escape from the Death Star in the original Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977).

 ⇒Parzival solves the third mystery by finding the “Adventure” game’s own Easter Egg within its structure rather than winning its programmed challenge (because Halliday was more interested in discoveries than rules).  Upon unlocking a gate with his final key (entering what resembles the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica), Parzival passes another test by not signing an offered contract, then meets Halliday’s avatar (seen previously as the game’s Anorak) who gives him the long-sought OASIS Golden Egg, with Wade having also survived attacks onto Aech's van in the real world (we learned awhile back “he’s” actually a Black woman named Helen) from F’Nale (in a manner reminding me of real-world-intrusions on the dreamscapes of Inception [Christopher Nolan, 2010] which almost ruined that intricate plot), ultimately leaving us with some ambiguity as to whether Halliday’s really dead or not.  All of this wraps up with Sorrento and Zandor arrested (she could have fired on the 4 inhabitants of the van but chose not to as her previous blind loyalty to her boss faded), the other High Five members sharing Wade’s victory (thanks to their vital help in getting him through the various trials) by taking over OASIS while eliminating the endured-servitude-policy of IOI but then shutting down OASIS on Tuesdays and Thursdays to force people to deal with their own actual lives to some degree, and, finally, a growing romance between Wade and Samantha.⇐

So What? How you respond to Ready Player One might depend on: (1) how invested you are in video games (which aren’t that interesting to me, especially the ones based on non-stop-violence where your sole objective is to kill every attacker coming at you from all sides or the ones where you’re driving at break-neck-speed through some series of obstacles; I dabbled a bit during the 1970s-‘80s in the primitive versions of Pong and Pac-Man but never got into anything more sophisticated so I’m a complete Luddite where such technology’s concerned); (2) how much you care about pop-culture-citations, especially from the 1980s (I have a passing interest in such unnecessary knowledge—I once won a game of Trivial Pursuit by luck of the dice-roll in getting to 12 landings in a row where I knew the correct answers—but I’m much better with/more attached to ephemera from the 1960s-‘70s, such as Parzival and Art3mis at the Distracted Globe nightclub recreating a dance routine from Saturday Night Fever [John Badham, 1977], although essentially in mid-air rather than on a crowded dance floor; when searching for something to listen to on my local radio stations I sometimes turn to an “all 80s all the time” option but it’s usually not my preference [except for the occasional Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, or Elton John tunes], although non-Sirius-satellite-stations for my demographic don’t seem to exist anymore as Baby Boomers have largely been abandoned as a target audience except for medical products); (3) fascination with role-playing in a cyberspace location (I’m not even swayed by the constant branding-of-self that drives many social media platforms of the Internet having never indulged in Twitter, Instagram, or the like, mostly using Facebook—even before its current problems—just as a means of promoting this blog, although it's fascinating to see such things as beautiful photos of Scotland where a friend’s now touring [but I don’t need to know what anyone’s having for lunch or dessert, no matter how much it costs]).  So, while I’m impressed with the technological mastery demonstrated in Ready Player One I can’t say the constant adrenaline-rush of this movie's structure was truly all that appealing to me.

 In fact, when watching this movie, then thinking further about it, I’m reminding of when I first got into graduate school in 1970 with one of my classes being 8mm filmmaking.  For one of my projects I edited together some footage of obvious metaphors about lustful human sexuality (a churning cement mixer, the phallic U. of Texas at Austin main building tower) in response to a bitter breakup with a girlfriend of the time (if I’d been Congressional-testimony-star Mark Zuckerberg I might have invented a multi-billion-dollar industry in response to such an event; in my case I made a lousy little film since disappeared into the wastebasket of irrelevance) that my instructor said looked like I’d constructed a freight train to carry a teacup worth of message.  I felt insulted at the time (although I now easily agree) but wonder if Spielberg ought to be burdened with a similar evaluation for … Player One.  Yet, he could counter with the financial response to his latest work, a $395.2 million worldwide haul ($98.1 million of it from domestic [U.S.-Canada] venues) after only 2 weeks in release which clearly shows broad audience acceptance.  (By chance, a couple of days after our screening my wife, Nina, and I were at brunch sitting next to a woman and her young son who was reading the Ernest Cline novel [2011] this movie’s adapted from; he’s enjoying the book quite a bit but his Mom’s concerned whether the cinematic version would be appropriate for a 9-year-old, given it’s rated PG-13 [probably for the intensity of the action in the speedster, … Shining, and final battle scenes, reminiscent of the huge army clashes in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King {Peter Jackson, 2003} or The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies {Jackson, 2014}].  As we told her then, with my elaboration now, children [and teenagers, along with anyone else still seeing themselves in the mindset of such age groups] are the perfect audience for this overdrive-story, which largely left me in the dust).  There are useful social messages here about perseverance in the face of mounting adversity—as well as forcing yourself away from the seduction of the digital world (challenging people in our actual existence who are being constantly drawn into images and snarky remarks on their smartphones)—but it’s like climbing through the multiple layers of an exhausting video game (appropriate for this content, I must admit) to finally arrive at such enlightening-wisdom.

Bottom Line Final Comments: “These days reality is a bummer” says Wade in his introductory voice-over narration, which clearly sums up what Ready Player One’s all about, encouraging the global escape into the OASIS, even as critical response for Spielberg’s been notably better than that attitude with some reviewers praising this filmmaker for his amazing array of digital imagery, effectively returning to his successful-thrill-ride-roots of fare like Jaws (1974), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)—and its sequels—Jurassic Park (1993), Minority Report (2002)although compared to how high-energy each of those movies are … Player One’s more like a constant severe-drop/high-loop roller coaster in its visual intensity, with certain segments such as the initial race against King Kong just seeming to go on forever while the critical consensus is more reserved with 74% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, a 64% average score at Metacritic (more details in the Related Links section farther below) despite Spielberg’s impressive résumé overall, with directorial Oscar wins for Schindler’s List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998).  For those who are somewhat less-impressed with … Player One (expecting more than our enthusiastic colleagues) perhaps Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly says it best (in perfect tune with the ‘80s references permeating this movie, using Michael Jackson to make his point): “[…] Ready Player One is pure Thriller until you eventually look at your watch [140 min. running time] and want to Beat It.”* 

*If you’d like to explore other memorable lines (or clusters of dialogue) you can click through this site of "Movie Lines That Were Never Meant for the Final Cut" about notable on-screen-quotes improvised rather than being part of their original scripts.  I don’t know how many of them are contained here as I stopped clicking after 70, even as there seem to be many more to be explored.

 It's hard for me to top that pithy EW comment (accordingly, Nashawaty writes for an enormous national [actually, international, I'm sure] magazine/website while I don’t—although I’m still very proud of my global cluster of readers, about 41,000 of you over the last month according to the Google accountants [although I’ve gotten up to around 80,000 at recent times, with my ongoing thanks to all of my worldwide readers, regular or cursory]), so I’ll just conclude my Ready Player One comments via a short focus on my usual wrap-up-tactic of a final reference from the perspective of the aural arts with my Musical Metaphor, this time taken directly from the first song played under this movie’s extensive credits, Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “You Make My Dreams (Come True)” (from their 1980 album Voices) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EErSKhC0 CZs (official music video for the song), but to truly honor Ready …’s 1980s vibe here's another version possibly from a 1983 concert at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre (but a reply to this video says that performance wasn’t until 1985, so this one’s supposedly at Montreal’s Forum in 1983; does anybody out there have confirmation from an actual attendance?) featuring Hall’s big hair from that long-lost-era while the lyrics embrace Wade’s passion for Samantha even on nights “when bad dreams become a screamer […] ‘cause I ain’t the way you found me And I’ll never be the same.”
                 
(goal was) SHORT TAKES (but almost as long as the review above)
(please note that a few spoilers also appear here)
                
                                Blockers (Kay Cannon)
                  
As 3 teenage girls approach prom night (followed by graduation, then who knows what after high school) they make a pact to lose their virginity, even though for 2 of them it’ll be arbitrary-choice-guys rather than invested boyfriends; through an untended open laptop their parents learn of the plan, then rush to stop them, leading to crude sex-and-bodily-functions-laughs.

Here’s the trailer:


 But this is a Red Band trailer with R-rated language and activities intact so if you’d like something just a little bit more sanitized (although that means you might not want to watch the actual movie because it’s full of such raunchiness) here’s another trailer that’s slightly-less-direct on Blockers’ content (obviously these were shown only prior to other R-rated movies as they're blunt in content):


        Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
             
 Much is being made of how Blockers (which refers to sex-inhibiting-parents, or “cock blockers,” an intention you can surmise from the poster or even the title in the trailer with a rooster featured prominently in each [although it was removed from broadcast TV ads], allowing the pun to elude some censorship of what the title fully implies) is a female-oriented-version of such male-focused-fare as seen in American Pie (Chris and Paul Weitz, 1999) or others of that ilk (Superbad [Greg Mottola, 2007]) where the focus is on boys ending their teenage years with getting laid, not necessarily as the result of romance but just for the thrill of acquiring that aspect of coming (so to speak) adulthood* (although that’s not always the on-screen-goal of finishing high school—either because the story’s set in a time where restrain on the part of both sexes often resulted in nothing more than longing desires in such tales as American Graffiti [George Lucas, 1973] set in 1962 or in post-“cultural revolution”-times where booze, weed, and probable-sex are part of the landscape, such as in Dazed and Confused [Richard Linklater, 1993] set in 1976).  This current movie’s about how 3 teen girls—Julie (Kathryn Newton), Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), and Sam(antha) (Gideon Adlon)—close friends since childhood make a similar pact, although Julie’s the only one with a boyfriend (Austin [Graham Phillips]) at the moment while Sam’s challenge is bit more difficult because despite feigning interest in Chad (Jimmy Bellinger)  ⇒she knows she’s a lesbian, even though she’s come out to no one else yet⇐  (Kayla simply puts the moves on her chemistry lab partner, Connor [Miles Robbins], who's an attractive-enough-convenience).  Critical response to this actively-R-material has been quite positive (82% positive reviews at RT, 69% average at usually-more-reserved MC; more details below) with a hearty worldwide audience response of $32.6 million ($20.6 million domestically) in its debut weekend, although that pales in comparison to the intense horror movie, A Quiet Place (John Krasinski), also debuting but with a global total of $75.3 million ($54.4 million of that from domestic theaters), a film not yet on my nightmare-avoidance-agenda.

*You can read a bit more here on what director Cannon says regarding such gender-specific-stuff.

 In addition to the focus shifting to self-determined-female-sexuality a further wrinkle in Blockers’ plot is the active presence of parents not as peripheral characters but as active, obsessed guardians of the gate (again, so to speak) but for different reasons:  Julie’s mother, Lisa (Leslie Mann—with an extensive career, possibly best known for The 40-Year-Old Virgin [Judd Apatow, 2005] and 17 Again [Burr Steers, 2007]), doesn’t want her daughter to end up a single mom like herself who never finished college but was abandoned by her lover during pregnancy as he ran off to follow a rock band (other tensions will arise over Julie’s acceptance to UCLA where she intends to go rather than much-closer U. of Chicago where Mom can hover in more easily); Kayla’s Dad, Mitchell (John Cena—known both for various movies in recent years as well as being a frequent World Wrestling Entertainment champ) still sees his daughter as a precious, protected child (despite Mom Marcie’s [Sarayu Blue] attitude their daughter’s old enough to make her own decisions); Sam’s Dad, Hunter (Ike Barninholtz—with a substantial career of his own but to me he looks [at least on screen here] so much like Marc Wahlberg I had difficulty seeing past the resemblance [see the above photo, then go here to decide for yourself how myopic I may be]) has long been out of her life, divorced from Mom Brenda (June Diane Raphael), but instinctively understands Sam’s sexual reality.  Once these parents discover their offsprings’ plans (due to Julie’s laptop left open at home) via Hunter’s decoding of the girls’ emoji-laden-texts, it’s all absurd physical comedy in attempts to locate the kids, then put a stop to their prom-night-plans (although hedonistic Hunter’s ironically the most sincere of their bunch, as he doesn’t want Sam to force herself to act hetero if that’s not who she is).  Along the way Mitchell accepts a beer-chugging-challenge but it’s through his butt rather than his throat (with more hilarity—if that’s how you see all this stuff—as he spews it back into Hunter’s face in a panic as cops arrive to break up this huge-underage-party), Lisa attempts to drive like Vin Diesel only to end up in a ditch perpendicular to the ground,* followed by ending up under Julie and Austin’s bed in a hotel room, quietly-but-difficultly-slipping-out so as not to be discovered.

*Director Cannon provides some insights into her approach to Blockers in this anatomy of a scene (a short video [1:15], explaining the “blocking” of the scene where the parents first wrestle with each other in their attempt to get into a car in pursuit of preventing their daughters intentions).

 By the conclusion of all this horniness, counter-intentions, alcohol and drug overindulgence (Connor laces everything with chemical enhancements leading to the whole teen crew—and their limo driver for the night [Hunter’s gift], Rudy [Colton Dunn]—throwing up [as well as the kids being stoned for awhile]), Chad’s premature ejaculation (preserving Sam’s virginity, allowing her to later connect with Angelica [Ramona Young]), along with Austin’s parents making love all over their house then texting their son about it, Lisa’s acceptance of her daughter’s need for independence (they fight but later reconcile) and Mitchell’s acceptance of Kayla more as a young woman than his little girl,  ⇒we end up with Julie having made love with Austin, worked it out with Lisa to go to UCLA (being driven there by Kayla, Sam, and whichever guy(s) was (were) in the car (probably Connor; maybe Angelica too, couldn’t tell); Kayla making her own decision on prom night not to have sex yet (maybe in a couple of days, though, when she’s gotten a chance to know Connor better); Sam presumably now out to everyone (she finally told her girlfriends who lovingly embraced her); the 3 previously-frantic-parents now resolved with their daughters’ choices, friends as well (Lisa had been avoiding Mitchell because his marriage reminded her of what she’d lost earlier in life; they both accept Hunter as being less of the jerk he always seemed to be, with the revelation Brenda was more responsible for their breakup, which factored in to her known-infidelity).  In the final scene Lisa’s once again (accidently she assumes) in Julie’s chat exchanges where the girls talk of sex and drugs on the way to CA before Julie texts it’s just a final prank before the credits roll.⇐

 Depending on your interest in sex jokes, parents making fools of themselves on behalf of their children (except Marcie, seemingly the only rational one), some crude physical humor (including Hunter getting his balls squeezed by Austin’s blindfolded mother, Cathy [Gina Gershon]—don’t ask) balanced out by the positive messages that teenage girls are just as valid as sexual beings (not objects) as are their male counterparts even as they can be mature (probably more so than most guys that age [Do I speak from experience?  Take a wild guess.]) about how to handle their hormonal urges (at least these 3 are) within a context of noncontroversial interracial relationships (Marcie, married to Mitchell, is South Asian [probably Indian] with their so-called mixed-race [for those who need to make such distinctions] daughter completely comfortable choosing any partner she has her eye on; Cathy’s [we don’t see much of her after the early scenes of being annoyed at Hunter’s unexpected presence] involved with a Black man, Frank [Hannibal Buress], a relationship also taken for granted with no need for commentary) and expectations that clinging parents will eventually learn to trust the judgments made by their children, assuming they’ve been properly raised to infuse some reasonable considerations into those judgments (not unlike the sentimental messages of lasting friendships, the value of personal needs over material seductions, the sense mature women [who aren’t all that much older than Blockers’ teens in the context of usual lifespans] can independently make needed life choices that emerge after the equivalent-raunch of Girls Trip [Malcolm D. Lee, 2017; no Two Guys review, finally caught up with it last week on HBO] featuring golden showers above a New Orleans French Quarter street, absinthe-fueled-hallucinations, and the infamous grapefruit scene that—along with butt-chugging—could exist only in an R-rated story).

 Wrapping up with a Musical Metaphor for Breakers, though, I think it only reasonable to focus on the sex-drives (and corresponding parental-prevention attempts) that fuel this grossout-with-a-soft-center-narrative so an easy choice is Chuck Berry’s “Reelin’ and Rockin’“ (originally on a 1957 single with “Sweet Little Sixteen,” available on the 1972 album The London Chuck Berry Sessions) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTnoSsaeOn0, a live video from the 1972 Lanchester Arts Festival in Coventry, England (where some portions of that album were recorded), a song whose content should be obvious after a couple of verses, but if you still think it’s about dancing (at least the kind where you keep your clothes on) then Chuck clears it up for you toward the end with “We did it in the kitchen, We did it in the hall, I got some on my finger But I wiped it on the wall” (doubtful those lines were included in the original single version).*  Then, with that English-location-mood established, how about a final Metaphor harking back to this posting’s title, The Who with “The Kids Are Alright” (from their 1965 debut album My Generation) at this link (an old music video from when they were all young—and alive—with the song playing while Pete Townsend smashes various guitars and amps; it also contains the lyrics if you like) or maybe you’d prefer a more recent version (with surviving Who members Townsend and Roger Daltrey, along with Pete’s brother Simon on guitar, Ringo Starr’s son Zak Starkey on drums) where all the kids we’ve encountered—from Parzival, Art3mis, and company to Julie, Kayla, and Sam to the enthusiastic English audiences (for Berry and the more current Who “Kids …” crowd at the huge 2015 Glastonbury Festival [near Pilton, Somerset, England]) are as “alright” as anyone could ever hope to be, despite whatever travails they had to encounter to get there (I’m including endless restroom lines for those concerts). 

*If that tune whets your appetite for a bit more from the true King of Rock and Roll (in my passionate opinion, at least), you can visit this site for a lively medley of “Bye Bye Johnny” (from the 1960 album Rockin’ at the Hops) and “Johnny B. Goode” (from, among other recorded options, the 1967 Chuck Berry’s Golden Hits album) with a fabulous guitar solo in the middle of the latter.
                      
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
              
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Here’s more information about Ready Player One:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D5xfwllEnPU (25:58 interviews with director Steven Spielberg, actors Tye Sherdian, Olivia Cooke, Lena Waithe, Win Morisaki, Philip Zhao Hannah John-Kamen, Ben Mendelsohn, and screenwriter/original novelist Ernest Cline [plus one other unidentified guy])



Here’s more information about Blockers:

https://www.blockersmovie.com (seems to come up with show times for your local area)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEhQUiWHOLg (short [2:11] video statement from director Cannon on aspects of female sexuality in Blockers)



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By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
               
OUR POSTINGS PROBABLY LOOK BEST ON THE MOST CURRENT VERSIONS OF MAC OS AND THE SAFARI WEB BROWSER (although Google Chrome usually is decent also); OTHERWISE, BE FOREWARNED THE LAYOUT MAY SEEM MESSY AT TIMES.
              
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 41,078; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Isle of Dogs

                 How Much Is That Doggie on the Trash Pile?

                                                       Review by Ken Burke

                               Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)
                       
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): In a slightly-futuristic, mostly-fantasy-based Japan a powerful, evil mayor of a large city (who comes from a heritage of dog-haters) has declared canines are now a menace to their society because of an outbreak of dog flu so they’re all to be transported to the offshore dump, Trash Island, with the first to go being Spots, the beloved pet of the mayor’s 12-year-old-nephew.  After all the dogs have been removed, the kid steals a small airplane, crash lands its on the island in search of Spots, a difficult task because while the dogs he meets have their in-group-conversations translated into English for us (the audience) he can’t communicate directly with his new helpers, the leader of which, Chief, is a stray wary of humans to begin with.  Added to this situation, a scientist has discovered a vaccine for the flu but he’s killed by orders of the mayor to preserve the canine quarantine with a plan to then destroy all those dogs once he’s re-elected.  An exchange-student-investigative-reporter secretly uncovers his nefarious plans but will she be able to act effectively against the local power structure even as the boy continues to search for his lost pet?  Like other Anderson films, this one has an oddball sensitivity (with depictions of Japan that may be offensive to some, especially as the American student could be understood as a savior for this “foreign” culture) but if you can flow with the offbeat humor, the large cast of well-known-voices, and the stunning visuals created mostly through stop-motion-animation I think you’d find Isle of Dogs to be a wackily-amusing-diversion (with relevant commentary about governmental corruption, including its obsession with deporting “undesirables”).

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)


If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
                 
What Happens: In a fantasy version of Japan 20 years from now ruthless Mayor Kobayashi (voice of Kunichi Nomura) of fictional Megasaki City (he’s descended from a long line of cat-loving, dog-hating Kobayashis whose ancestor was defeated 10 centuries ago by a young warrior who then encouraged the domestication of his beloved canines) responds to an outbreak of dog flu (accompanied by snout fever) by banning all of these animals to nearby Trash Island (they’re carted out on a pulley system, then dropped onto the garbage).  In a symbolic gesture of “sacrifice” Kobayashi decrees the first victim of his edict will be Spots (Liev Schreiber), prized pet/guardian of nephew/ward, Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) whose parents died in a train crash.  Determined to retrieve his dear-doggie-pal, 6 months later (by which time all local canines have been sent away), young Atari steals a small (barely functional) airplane which he crash lands on the putrid island in search of Spots but instead meets the somewhat-alpha-clan of Rex (Edward Norton), King (Bob Balaban), Duke (Jeff Goldblum), Boss (Bill Murray), and their leader, Chief (Bryan Cranston), the only one who was previously a stray rather than a house pet (thereby having a distrust of humans but with inner-drive to re-inspire his companions when their spirits sag).  When they find a locked cage with a skeleton inside the assumption is Spots simply starved to death (a bit fast to deteriorate down to bones-level, but—hey!—this is a fantasy story rendered in a combination of stop-motion and digital animation with talking dogs so you have to grant a good bit of creative license), but that outcome’s called into question so the 6 of them (Chief eventually has a change of heart) set off to search other realms of these forlorn trash heaps in hopes of finding Spots, after fending off a team of humans and a vicious mechanical dog sent by the Mayor to retrieve Atari, as well as Chief getting additional encouragement to find Spots from an attractive purebred, Nutmeg (Scarlett Johansson).

 Meanwhile, back on the mainland, foreign-exchange-student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig)—a pushy American (what else could she be?) from Cincinnati, OH—stirs up her fellow students, then the local public at large with intrepid-investigative-reporting about corruption in Kobayashi’s administration which reaches its height when scientist Professor Watanabe (Akira Ito) and his assistant, Yoko Ono (Yoko Ono—Anderson’s open to doses of postmodern flair), have developed a cure for canine flu (along with a treatment for snout fever) but he’s poisoned by Kobayashi in order to honor his ancestors by keeping the dogs quarantined.  Tracy gets help from Yoko in procuring a sample of the virus antidote while Atari and the dogs continue their search for Spots with the wise aid of Jupiter (F. Murray Abraham) and Oracle (Tilda Swinton), only to be confronted by Kobayashi’s thugs, aided by several of those mean mechanical mutts.  Rescue arrives in the form of Spots and his large pack of dogs, after which we learn through flashbacks that Chief (now bathed by Atari so his dingy darkness is now light-colored-fur) is actually Spots’ long-lost-brother, sent into the streets after an unintentional-yet-regrettable-family-incident, while Spots was released from his cage by the pack he now commands so it was another dog’s skeleton we saw earlier (Atari had the key for that cage, though, so I forget how it got transported back to the other end of the island).⇐

 Chief agrees to assume the duties of Atari’s guardian so Spots can stay with his impending family of pups by way of Peppermint (Kara Hayward) while Mayor Kobayashi’s just been re-elected by a manufactured landslide (ironically paralleling similar recent “triumphs” by the Presidents of Russia and Egypt in our world, even though this movie was long in preparation, presciently-prior to such current events) after which he intends to exterminate all of the Trash Island dogs; Tracy interrupts his victory broadcast with the reality of Watanabe’s canine flu cure, just as Atari, accompanied by legions of dogs (who’ve come back to the city on a cluster of barges), arrive to confirm her story.  A shamed Mayor Kobayashi undergoes an immediate moral awakening but his consistently-cruel-henchman, Major Domo (Akira Takayama), goes about the act of releasing the Island-wide-poison anyway, thwarted at the last minute by a hacker-friend of Tracy’s which turns the poison onto the island’s human invaders, killing them instead.  Still, both Atari and Spots are injured in the ensuing melee with Domo’s thugs, as Atari’s remaining kidney fails only to be saved by a donation from his uncle before the former Mayor’s taken away to jail (along with his retinue) for admitted crimes, with Spots assumed dead.  However, he’s merely in hiding underneath Kobayashi Manor enjoying a comfortable life with Peppermint and their offspring while Atari inherits the mayorship (and a romance with Tracy), allowing all of the now-healthy-dogs to return to the city.⇐

So What? Anderson admits this story occurs in a Japan of his imagination, inspired much more so by his love of elements of Japanese cinema (especially from the 1960s) than by anything much intended as historical or cultural accuracy.  This approach has garnered great praise from much of the North American critical establishment (reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it 92% positive responses, Metacritic responded with their usually-lower-but-in-this-case-still-very-supportive 81% average score; more details in the Related Links section far below), although Justin Chang of the Los Angeles Times questions whether this movie’sa sincere act of homage, or a clueless failure of sensitivity? [Producing a form of] marginalisation, effectively reducing the hapless, unsuspecting people of Megasaki to foreigners in their own city.”  Part of Chang’s complaint comes from Anderson’s decision to present this movie as if everyone (except Tracy) is either speaking Japanese or dog, with most of the Japanese not shown in English subtitles (although the Mayor’s comments are translated into English by a reporter as his public events are broadcast [not clear why this would happen unless for some unexplained reason his appearances are seen by English-speaking-communities in Japan; of course, it’s really for the benefit of American movie audiences but’s somehow supposed to be part of the movie’s actual environment; yet, there can be no other rationale except target-audience-convenience for the dogs to be speaking in English—supposedly their barks are being translated—so, again, there’s a lot about the conceptualization here you just have to flow with if you wish to enjoy itor not, for those who find cultural-appropriation-problems with Anderson’s decisions]), so for viewers like me there’s a good bit being said that I can’t follow, although the actions on screen keep the narrative flowing in a most-easily-comprehendible-manner.

 But wait, it turns out this movie also works better for Chang (cited in U.K.’s The Telegraph) than he intended for his initial comments to be taken: "I wasn't offended; nor was I looking to be offended,he wrote. "There are enough valid reasons to be offended by art without anyone having to go actively looking for them. The piece is a mixed, measured appraisal. If readers want to turn it into a battle cry, that's their problem, not mine." ¶ He added: "My chief issue – the handling of language – feels like the result of a compromise, rather than blunt negligence or a desire to give offence... I sincerely hope you enjoy the movie, as I largely did, despite my reservations."  Further, Emily Yoshida, in Vulture, interviewed a few native or fluent Japanese speakers who didn’t find the Japanese dialogue to be a problem nor much of the depictions of the country and its culture, however fanciful they were intended (although a few aspects of Anderson's approach are a bit off-putting for these viewers).  That’s not the only problematical area, though, with this other one being more of a concern: the presentation of Tracy as a “white saviour” as noted by Steve Rose in The Guardian (another U.K. publication, thus the British spelling regarding Tracy’s role), in the context of other choices Anderson offers in this current work (as well as in his previous ones) that can be interpreted as insensitive at best or racist at worst depending on who is making such accusations.
 I can speak not at all to the Japanese cultural aspects of Isle of Dogs, having no direct connections with that long-established-country short of what I share with Andersonan awareness of some marvelous Japanese films, from 1950s Kurosawa classics to more contemporary marvels of anime-adventures (although I admit I was a bit taken aback by an explosion on Trash Island producing a mini-mushroom cloud with all the connotations such an image carries for that nation after WW II conflicts, but I’ve seen such irreverence in previous Anderson films so it wasn’t truly out of character).  However, regarding Tracy, are we actually supposed to see her as an outsider-Western-hero necessary to rouse docile “Orientals” into action or is she intended to be a parody of such as presented in an ongoing parade of Hollywood caricatures possibly most epitomized by Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: First Blood Part II (George P. Cosmatos, 1985)?  That’s an ongoing problem with parody or satire: when it’s mistakenly taken literally it just becomes the offense it’s intended to denigrate as if the absurdity on screen is meant to be accepted as promotion by the filmmaker (novelist, cartoonist, painter, playwright, musician, etc.) rather than a ridicule of such stereotypes (without such an understanding I think it would be difficult for an audience to watch all the blatant character-exaggerations—as well as patently offensive language—in Blazing Saddles [Mel Brooks, 1974] without breaking out into the same type of riot within that movie that brings its supposed plot to an abrupt halt).  Maybe it’s just naiveté clouding my perception here, but I don’t see Tracy as an intentional White savior (my spelling) on Anderson’s part; rather I think she’s intended to poke fun at the type of intrusive American who assumes she (he) knows best about determining the fate of other cultures (God knows we’ve been doing it in our own hemisphere and abroad for decades), although in this case—along with Atari and the dog army—she does prove to be crucially helpful in exposing the crimes of Mayor Kobayashi but even her intervention couldn’t have prevented ultimate disaster for Megasaki City’s canine population had it not been for the actions of her hacker friend.
 Taking all of the above into account, I think there’s a lot to like about this crazy movie from the complexity of the stop-motion animation* to the vast array of voice talent (including Frances McDormand [the TV broadcast interpreter], Harvey Keitel, Ken Watanabe, Courtney B. Vance [the movie’s occasional narrator], Roman Coppola, and Anjelica Huston in addition to the ones already noted)—further, for all I know the Japanese voices are just as noteworthy as these American ones, which might be an additional draw for this movie when shown in Asia, unless audiences there will, in fact, have the same objections about cultural appropriations as some Stateside critics do, but I’m guessing younger viewers there—likely the backbone of box-office-revenues, just as they are here—will find Anderson’s pastiche of well-worn-Japanese-depictions and references to be as amusing as I do when American culture is shamelessly used for easy recognition as seems to be the case (I haven’t seen it yet) with an abundance of 1980s references in Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg).
*Here’s a short video (2:53) with director-screenwriter Anderson giving you an anatomy of a scene, explaining how some of his imagery’s created through the visual magic of stop-motion-animation.

Bottom Line Final Comments: As has been the case in recent weeks other activities (opening of baseball season—go Oakland Athletics! [I’ve gone myself to one game already, but they lost, damn it! {no surprise; I just hope they make it out of the cellar this year}]—Easter with the in-laws, etc.) have left me with time only to attend one current cinematic offering so I’m glad it was Isle of Dogs (I’m also intrigued by Ready Player One though we’ll just have to see how that works out in upcoming days; in the meantime Ready …’s not hurting for income despite my absence, with a hearty opening worldwide debut of $186.5 million [almost $60 million from domestic—U.S.-Canada—venues]), which I didn’t have any intercultural problems with, but I’m not of any East Asian descent (one of the few areas of the world my somewhat-inconclusive-DNA tests have yet to assign me to, but maybe I should take a 5th one just to see if I can claim another continent) so I didn’t find anything offensive about it, although had I been Atari I might have had qualms about how much Tracy looks like Little Orphan Annie before cozying up to her, however admirable her quests for justice may be. (OK, you tightly-curled-whitish-blonds, fire up those nasty emails, even as my marvelous wife, Nina, had such a hairdo before I met her [except hers was red—well, it was white, she tells me, for a bit when her hairdresser completely screwed up, then had to dye it red, which then ran in the rain so she ended up with a shade of orange that would have made Ronald McDonald proud] so maybe I’d have found it more attractive on a less-strident-personality than Tracy—although I’m not sorry Nina cut most of hers completely off by the time we met [shallow on my part, I know, but there’s something about Tracy’s appearance that’s as off-putting to me as her presence is to some … Dogs’ critics, no matter how crucial she is for the ultimate triumph of this plot].*)  Tracy aside, … Dogs hasn’t been terribly attractive to audiences just yet with a mere $8.8 million in worldwide income ($6.4 million domestically) after 2 weeks in release, but it’s just now expanded to 165 domestic theaters so we’ll see if anything changes if its reach continues to grow.

*Please don’t find my comments as a coy denigration of Afro hairstyles on Black people, a wholly different lookvery appropriate and attractivebut to me not that transferable to White scalps.  (Maybe Anderson had such ideas in mind also, maybe he thought the hair made Tracy more distinctive in context, maybe I’m the only one who gives a rat’s ass about what Tracy looks like, maybe Anderson and I should just go off to Japan for awhile before filming or writing anything else.)

 Assuming you wouldn’t find anything terribly distracting about Anderson’s rendition of Japan or the inability to learn much from some of the non-translated-dialogue (which might help those adverse to subtitles to better appreciate such textual enhancements), I think you’d be amused by Isle of Dogs' subtle use of humor, varied personalities in its many human and canine characters (2,200 puppets were used, some as different sizes of the same characters), marvelous detail in the carefully-crafted-sets (250 of them), all put into a marvelous flow of action via the meticulous stop-motion-animation-process, its unique appearance falling somewhere between photography and computer-generated-animation (which has now virtually replaced hand-drawn-cel-animation except in “boutique” applications).  Yet, there’s an underlying seriousness about it also, speaking directly (however inadvertently) to the current worldwide crisis about immigration from ravaged lands to more prosperous ones accompanied by various levels of xenophobic-hostility toward such population shifts.  Therefore, to conclude this review with my usual Musical Metaphor for what’s been previously presented I’ll go with an idea that came to mind while watching … Dogs, Woody Guthrie’s “Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)” about a fatal crash of a U.S. Immigration Service airplane at Los Gatos Canyon near Coalinga, Fresno County, CA on January 28, 1948 killing the 4 U.S. crew members and the 28 “bracero” laborers (in the U.S. under a WW II-era agreement with Mexico to bring in field workers during our original labor shortage [a program continued until 1964], then send them home when certain crops were done for the season even as their contracts ran out).

 Guthrie lived in NYC at the time, was appalled that the New York Times article about the crash didn’t list who any of the Mexicans were who died, simply referred to them as “deportees” implying they were illegals being sent back across the border (sound familiar, Mr. Trump?), so he supplied a few likely names as he wrote a poem about the plight of poor people recruited by U.S. farmers for vital work even as they were shunned about any other aspect of their existence (“My father’s own father, he waded that river, They took all the money he made in his life; My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees, And they rode the truck till they took down and died.  Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted, Our work contract’s out and we have to move on; Six hundred miles to that Mexican border, They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.  We died in your hills, we died in your deserts, We died in your valleys and died on your plains. We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes, Both sides of the river, we died just the same.”), music added later by Martin Hoffman.  In that Pete Seeger was the first to become notable for singing this song I’ll give you his version at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrRak5-tCr8 (from the 1968 album Pete Seeger Sings Woody Guthrie) but you might also be interested in Woody’s son, Arlo Guthrie, performing it at Farm Aid 2000 in Bristow, Virginia (if you want more options you can just go to YouTube to find many other musicians’ takes on this famous editorial-song).  I realize the Isle of Dogs movie ends on a much more upbeat note than does Guthrie's “Deportee …”, but there’s a serious undertone as well to this movie’s narrative about repressive governments, manipulated elections, the power of the press to hold unscrupulous politicians to account, and the need to respect the inner-beauty of anyone who happens to be consigned to society’s dustbin just because he (or she) might look mangy on the outside, act hesitant to cooperate with societal expectations, because you'll never know what someone else has been through unless you’ve lived it for yourself.
          
SHORT TAKES (truly short for a change; please don't go into shock)
                  
 One of the many pleasures of getting together with at least some members of Nina’s far-flung-family on holidays is staying overnight with my brother-in-law who has a magnificent home theater (who needs a dining room?), now further upgraded with a 4K JVC projector which gave us a chance to finally see (after rejecting the opportunity for months, generally in favor of more esoteric fare) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Jake Kasden, 2017)—acknowledging we're some of the few on the planet who haven’t yet seen this sequel to the original Jumanji (Joe Johnson, 1995), where Robin Williams and others mostly released various crises into our world rather than being sucked into the game as in this new version (even though it’s still in its first run after 15 weeks, now having piled up about $946 million worldwide [about $402.9 of that from domestic theaters, making it #4 domestically for 2017 with a possibility of creeping up past Wonder Woman’s #3 position with its 412.6 million domestic dollars, $821.8 million worldwide]).  While this new version’s nothing but a fun adventure romp (with the effective casting of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, Karen Gillan as teenagers turned into avatars of game characters desperately needing to preserve their lives in a most-hostile-environment) it was a pleasure to watch on what was certainly a big screen for a small room (with excellent surround sound), especially on a full (wine-enhanced) stomach (if this were an actual review I’d probably say 3 of 5 stars but that’s not part of the official, canonical Summary of Two Guys Reviews below in the Related Links section).  If you happen to still be in the minority who haven’t seen this current Jumanji … you still have a little time to do so as it remains in 783 theaters (but soon disappearing, I’ll bet) or take the DVD/download route.  If you’d like to know a bit more about it (beyond its RT status of 76% positive reviews, MC 58% average score), you could visit the official site and/or see this extended trailer (which could replace watching the full 2 hours if you prefer).  Maybe next time we meet I’ll have gone more mainstream again with Ready Player One or maybe I’ll still be coming at you from left field (hoping to make fewer errors out there than the Oakland A’s have been doing of late); please come back to find out.
            
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
            
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about Isle of Dogs:

http://www.isleofdogsmovie.com (begins with 5:13 video "cast interview" of the primary "dogs" talking about their “character” personalities [voiced by their human counterparts])

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKFBFW0TgzA (27:36 interviews with producer Jeremy Dawson, co-screenwriter Jason Schwartzman, actors Courtney B. Vance, Akira Ito, Koyu Rankin, Jeff Goldblum, and director Wes Anderson)



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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of kenburke409@gmail.com(But if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website, 
https://kenburke.academia.edu, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
                
OUR POSTINGS PROBABLY LOOK BEST ON THE MOST CURRENT VERSIONS OF MAC OS AND THE SAFARI WEB BROWSER (although Google Chrome usually is decent also); OTHERWISE, BE FOREWARNED THE LAYOUT MAY SEEM MESSY AT TIMES.
             
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 59,644; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week: