April 6th, 2020 – Partial freedom

So Week 2 of self quarantine finished on Saturday.   I didn’t actually leave my condo for 15 days, and yesterday it was only for a quick drive to start the car, but also see what the situation is with local grocery stores.   In short, it seemed the larger grocery store must have had the “social distancing” line inside since there was none outside.  The liquor store had a line 14 deep and the other grocery store close to 30 deep.  I didn’t venture inside but stayed in the car and headed home.   These are unique and challenging days.   It’s unusual to be spending so much time at home but it’s critical to do so.   The statistics bear it out that any medical system (socialized or not) is incapable of managing this many patients in need of beds and respirators.  The system was already at or near full capacity before this.   Now it overflows and goes tilt.   The lack of personal protection equipment for those heroes in the front lines (doctors, nurses, support) is a real threat for keeping those institutions open.   Every day watching the news becomes an exercise of staying informed while closing your eyes and cringing at what the devastation will be.   Global numbers become staggering, especially when you realize that these aren’t statistics – they are people.   Who have families, and children and grandchildren and co-workers and neighbors.  They are falling.   The CNN story of the wife in New York who lost her healthy 42yo husband was emotionally crushing, and had anchor Erin Burnett in tears (for which she should never apologize).    Then there was Canadian Rick Mercer who has many rants to his name and he put forth this really informative effort; the message is “This is not the time to look for loop holes – stay home”.

So true.  CNN’s Chris Cuomo has been documenting his positive virus story.  The Prime Minister in UK Boris Johnson goes to hospital with it.   The Queen herself speaks to her people.   Strange times indeed.

Here is how I have kept myself busy, after reading and doing online workouts, doing a large puzzle and otherwise trying to find a balance of TV and screen time with other pursuits including putting in full workdays.

I watched the Netflix series Tiger King, which was given positive reviews by rogerebert.com.   I had hoped for more tigers and fewer rednecks truth be told.  There are around 4,000 tigers in the wild.   The native lands are Asia, India, Africa.  The US can’t say for sure how many tigers it has scarily enough but the number is around 10,000.   Most are outside the management of zoos and aquariums.   Enter this motley crew of former inmates, rednecks, criminals and other shady characters who make up the cast in this series.   They are all flawed, with many issues including a lack of character and compassion for these remarkable animals.   From Carole Baskin who runs Tampa’s Big Cat Rescue, she who quite possibly had her rich first husband killed when he was seeking a divorce from her.  He just disappeared one day.   He and his money ended up with Carole.   She also has this army of volunteers who work for her, and they take years to wear different coloured shirts in working with the animals.   All the while, she runs her park, runs her website and keeps the donations and entrance fees flowing in.   Then there is Joe Exotic himself who is introduced early as being in jail.   In truth, they all should be in jail.   It seems you need to be a polygamist to run a zoo with tigers.   Joe is gay and has his husbands.  One of whom later has a little twist of fate which is not particularly shocking given his introduction, but the other has a more surprising twist.   He has run for President (deciding a young man who sells guns and ammo at Walmart would be a great campaign manager) and then later Governor for Oklahoma.   John Oliver from This Week Tonight actually mentioned him in one of his episodes.    In short, it is a train wreck.   Every episode you feel that you need to wash off the muck, and it’s not the smell of tiger or zoos.   I held my nose and watched it.   Finished it, because I try to finish what I start – but I was not satisfied.   Everyone involved disappointed.  The real sympathy is the plight of these tigers.   Not one has ever been returned to the wild.  And for those thinking, “well they can’t be returned”, Carole Baskin bred bobcats and lynx before and didn’t return one of them to the wild either, and they native to the US and Florida!   Watch at your own risk.

A series that I can wholeheartedly support is the Disney + series called Imagineering.  The series traces the history of those creative people who helped construct the dreams of Walt Disney and later the dreams of the corporation.   From the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland in Anaheim, to Disney World parks in Florida, to parks in Paris, Tokyo, Shanghai (which I honestly never knew existed) to more recent efforts with themes of Avatar and Star Wars.  These people at what was once WED Enterprises (for Walter Elias Disney) and has become a source of inspiration for how to create, design, construct theme parks that delight the senses and imagination.   Seeing how rides are put together from concept into reality is an amazing thing.   Real life considerations like budgets and deadlines enter into it as well.   The Disney company itself has had its share of ups and downs, with some years more lean.  Cost-cutting and a business drive to do more with less is shown at times to not be effective when trying to dazzle and amaze.   I found the early episodes with Walt himself and putting together Abraham Lincoln, or the haunted house fascinating, as well as the later epsiodes about Disney Shanghai and others remarkable.   11 million people went to Shanghai in the first year alone, with cost to build of $5.5 billion dollars!    If you have any interest in Disney, and the backstory to some of your favourite rides, then this is a series for you.

Having watched the Imagineering series, I realized that I hadn’t watched Avatar in quite some time.    Incredibly James Cameron’s Avatar was released 11 years ago in 2009.   Wow how time flies.   Upon re-watching, many of the scenes hold up well to today’s technology.   The 3-D for its time was excellent.   It gave the film depth and was immersive.   It didn’t darken the picture’s vibrancy as much as others do.   They story, which has been criticized, is very much a Dances With Wolves type story.   But you don’t watch this movie for the story, but rather the visuals.  There are some stunning visuals.   The creation alone of Pandora is a feast for the eyes and senses.   The creatures in Pandora are creative and fascinating, from bugs to cats to rhinos and horses.   The banshees (flying dragon-like creatures) eclipse them all, and the scenes of soaring upon banshees among the floating mountains are some of the most amazing images on film.   Seen on a large screen in a theatre with big sound it encompasses why movies are made, and why theatres with the moviegoing experience are still important.   Sam Worthington is a member of a strong central cast as he plays Jake Sully.   Zoe Saldana and Sigourney Weaver add depth, with Saldana being a strong supporting actress.   Others like Giovanni Ribisi, Stephen Lang and Michelle Rodriguez are all good.   If you have never seen this movie, then see it.  At the very least it will prepare you for the long since announced sequels.   Originally Avatar 2 was to be set for release in 2014.  Then there were four additional films being made.   The release date for the first was pushed to 2020.  Now it is December 2021.   The updated release dates for the films are “Avatar 2” on December 17, 2021; “Avatar 3” on December 22, 2023; “Avatar 4” on December 19, 2025; “Avatar 5” on December 17, 2027.

Also on Disney + was the latest animated movie release from Pixar entitled Onward.  It has the voice talents of Chris Pratt as well as Tom Holland (of Spider-Man fame now – but then again who in Hollywood hasn’t played Spider-Man these days?!)  It has always puzzled me why known actors are used in animation.   The voices of very famous animated characters like Snow White, or Belle from Beauty and the Beast, were not well known actors.   Pratt and Holland make no real contribution to this tale.   As Pixar goes, this is a weaker effort.   Some of the most recent and best animation comes from Pixar (Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Monsters Inc etc.) are all excellent for young and old alike.   John Lasseter being disgraced and later resignation has hurt Pixar I think from a creativity point of view.   The storyline here revolves around a mythical time when there was more magic.   An elf community has been learning about modern conveniences (like electricity) and turning away from magic.   A family has a father who has passed, with two brothers, Mom and police officer step-father.   On the younger brother’s 16th birthday, the boys are offered a gift from their long departed father.   The rest of the story deals with the boys trying to reconnect literally and figuratively with the father.  Again, it’s okay.

Finally, Showtime network was playing The Dark Knight Rises, and Alison had mentioned revisiting the trilogy recently.   As she mentioned, this is LOUD.   The surround sound gets a good workout, and especially the sub-woofer.   This is another example of a film that benefits from the big screen.    The emotional core is Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Alfred.   Wayne becomes a recluse for 8 years, thus the deterioration in his body and is depressed about the loss of Rachel Dawes.   He needs to find a way to get back to living and contributing.   Alfred pushes him to this.  Lucius Fox also tries to help.   Adding Anne Hathaway as the Catwoman was a master stroke and she has great lines and is an interesting character.   Add to fine performances by other Oscar winners like Gary Oldman and Marion Cotillard and you have the finale to Christopher Nolan’s masterful treatment of this superhero.  It is always worth seeing more than once.   Christian Bale is my Batman, in the same way that Sean Connery is my Bond, although Daniel Craig is getting up there.

So enjoy the viewing.  Stay safe.  Stay healthy.   Stay home.


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