Chapter 129: COVID Chronicles

October 19, 2020

By Karen

Day 222

More Movie Reviews

In-person voting at satellite locations begins today in Virginia and a there’s one at a library around the corner from me, with a dropbox. I’ll check the news to see how turnout is before I venture over there. I can stand in line for a while to cast a vote, but if it’s too crazy, I can leave my absentee ballot as Plan B.

This insanely heavy early voting seems a good omen for Biden, but I won’t rest until the Trump crime family is behind bars. Since Trump caught COVID, he’s raving more maniacally than ever. His babbling at rallies revealed he’s considered fleeing the country. It’s rumored that he’s discussed resigning in exchange for walking free on myriad crimes, including those in New York. I hope that doesn’t happen. I want to see him face payback — bigly.

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching lots of movies. This past weekend, I saw two “comedies” that were anything but. First was Downhill (2020) with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell playing a couple on an Austrian ski vacation with their two sons. When an avalanche threatens to bury them all, Will grabs his phone and runs, leaving Julia with the kids. Julia spends the rest of the movie traumatized and disgusted with Will, which puts Will into his own emotional crisis. Here’s the RogerEbert.com review.

It was based on a 2014 Swedish film called Force Majeure set in the French Alps, which I found on Amazon Prime and also watched. Swedish has a lot in common with Norwegian, so I got in some practice. I found these characters more believable yet colorful than the Americans, and the attempts at humor more subtle than the scenes added to give Julia and Will a few funny moments. Here’s the review at RogerEbert.com.

In the end, I didn’t like either one much. But that’s probably because I don’t give two shits about the dynamics of married couples’ relationships. I live with cats.

Here’s another one: Back in 2017, I anticipated, the missed, seeing A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon (Miranda on Sex and the City) as Emily Dickinson. If it ever came to Richmond, it left the next day, but it’s now available on Amazon Prime. Oh. My. God. We need a new word for “ponderous” to describe this one.

Granted, any film about a paranoid recluse who never goes beyond her garden would be action-challenged, but five minutes to pan across a living room wall to show Emily lurking behind a door listening to music? Puleez.

It was surprising in its historical inaccuracy. To name just one, it killed off Emily’s mother, a helpless invalid Emily cared for, years before she actually died, presumably to give Emily more free time to get weirder. I refute just about everything in this review at RogerEbert.com except in that Cynthia was physically perfect in the role. However, her delivery of Emily’s poetry and almost every character’s dialogue sounded like high school actors doing Shakespeare without knowing what the words mean. It was hard to sit through this one to the end, even though she was only 56 when she died.

Then also on Amazon Prime I happened across Hotel Splendide from 2000, with Daniel Craig and Stephen Tompkinson (whom I crushed on as DCI Banks). This was — by far — the weirdest and BEST one of the bunch. It’s set at a creepy hotel on an island somewhere off the U.K., I think, accessible only once a month by ferry. The guests are fed only seaweed and fish-based meals made by Daniel Craig, which powers the hotel’s vast heating system, which runs on poop.

All hell (and shit) breaks loose when a woman who was once sous chef there — now a chef in the real world — returns and takes over the kitchen to serve real food. But that’s just the surface story. The characters’ relationships and who summoned the woman back to the island make up the real plot.

It’s one of those movies whose humor springs from its own absurd world with its own rules. To enjoy it, you just accept it, like The Grand Budapest Hotel.

These days, anything that takes me away from reality for a few hours is a winner.

BONUS: Comedian Sarah Cooper on How to Drug…


Chapter 110: COVID Chronicles

July 16, 2020

By Karen

Day 127

Mad About Good Bones & Artichoke Hearts Aren’t Forever

The only home fixer-upper program I watch is Good Bones on HGTV. Season 5 is underway right now. It stars the mother-daughter team of Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak Hawk. They live in Indianapolis and have a construction company called Two Chicks and a Hammer. They’re not flippers in the sense that they buy homes on the cheap, make cosmetic improvements (like what was done to the house next door to me recently), and then sell for maximum profit.

Instead, they seek out the most rotten, run-down ruins and reconstruct them, reclaiming as much from the original house as is safely possible. Then they install stylish yet practical finishes and go to great lengths to stage them to attract buyers.

Mina is also a real estate agent, and Karen was an attorney before she took up construction. They’re so fun together. Mina is the sensible bean-counter and Karen is whimsically New Age. I adore Karen, and while writing this, I discovered her birthday is the day before mine, so we’re both Libras.

This season, Karen has pulled back from the back-breaking renovations and instead focuses on turning trash she salvages from the houses into treasures through various DIY projects. She puts the results back in the houses as part of their history. I’ve seen her transform pianos, mantels, vent covers, light fixtures, doorknobs, panes of glass, even wallpaper into lovely new things.

Another family member who appears regularly is Mina’s half-brother Tad, who leads the demotion crew. That job is often disgusting thanks to what previous occupants left behind — especially in fridges and toilets.

The demo guys are like Tasmanian Devils and often have to reduce the houses to their studs, then clean up the unbelievable mess they make.

The homes are usually modest, with two or three bedrooms, so they’re affordable for normal people. Karen and Mina are also shown buying their materials from local businesses to showcase Indianapolis in a way that makes it look like a very nice place to live.

What surprises me is how many derelict homes there seem to be there. But these women have been at this since 2007 and they’re reviving entire sections of town. Now you often see one of their previous projects beside the one they’re working on.

There’s also a bonus offshoot called Good Bones: Down to the Studs where the crew discusses past projects with funny behind-the-scenes scoop on the how those went.

Since the show started, Mina has gotten married and had a baby named Jack. She’s a rough-and-ready type and seemed to stay involved in the heavy stuff almost right up to her delivery. Now she’s pregnant again and due in September.

Since both women are taking new directions, I hope this isn’t their last season. At the very least, Karen should host her own crafts show.

Here’s some great video, narrated by Mina, that lays out the show’s amazing evolution better than I could…

FOOD TIP: If you remember, several weeks ago I threw a few artichoke hearts into some leftover pasta salad I was jazzing up. The nearly full jar has been in the fridge ever since. Well, today I wanted them, but they were covered with green mold and had to get tossed. Lesson learned: Artichoke hearts ≠ pickles and olives. I had no idea.

BONUS: Comedian Sarah Cooper on How to Immigration…


Chapter 102: COVID Chronicles

July 8, 2020

By Karen

Day 119

Robert E. Lee Stands Alone & Catching Up With the Kitties

Yesterday the statue of General J.E.B. Stuart came down…

Photo James H. Wallace, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Now the only Confederate left standing on Monument Avenue is Robert E. Lee, and he’s probably feeling like it’s Appomattox all over again.

There’s still no word on where the statues are hidden or what’s going to be done with them.

Next up on the Virginia To-Do list should be banning the Confederate Flag, which promises to raise an even bigger stink than the statues. I’m surprised Trump isn’t flying one over the White House right now, just for spite.

Speaking of Trump, the publication date of his niece Mary’s book, Too Much and Never Enough, has been moved up to July 14. I’ll be downloading the e-book as soon as I get the green light. Fingers crossed that hearing every cable news talking head laughing at him and swapping anecdotes about what a fucked-up little demon-child Trump was will accelerate his meltdown.

Richmond has had several straight weeks of humid weather over 90o. Even with central air and fans, we feel it and I’m more often drenched in sweat than not. Roc finds it cooler to nap on my recycle paper than in his comfy bed…

Yesterday, new collars for Roc and Tony arrived. Yes, I still hope Tony will one day accept wearing a collar so he doesn’t look like a stray.

As it turns out, that day has not yet arrived. As soon as Tony was in his new collar, he deflated. He kept scratching at his neck and shuffling around with his head down. His usual joie de vivre was gone. He’s already a virtuoso when it comes to playing me. So, Max got the new collar instead and he seems very satisfied with it…

Tony checked out Roc’s handsome new look…

Tony is obsessed by shadows. This morning he thought he saw something on the wall and we had this brief exchange (listen carefully) about it, but he finally agreed it was nothing…

BONUS: Did you happen to catch Trump saying he’d wear a mask if he had to? He wore a black one once and thought it made him look “like the Lone Ranger.” Comedian Sarah Cooper shows us how effective that would be…

PS: In case you’re unfamiliar with The Lone Ranger, here’s what his mask looked like…

And yet Trumpers are still out there believing Trump’s just fine.


Chapter 74: COVID Chronicles

June 10, 2020

By Karen

Day 91

Protesters Try to Drown Columbus & Tony’s New Hangout

Protesters in Richmond branched out from the Confederacy last night, leaving Monument Avenue for Byrd Park, where they took down an 8-foot statue of Christopher Columbus. When they couldn’t burn it, they threw it into nearby Fountain Lake…

Photo James H. Wallace, Richmond Times-Dispatch

Italian-Americans gave the statue to the city in 1927, where it has apparently been standing on Powhatan ground. It became a target because indigenous peoples are joining African Americans in solidarity against white supremacy and oppression.

In early 2002, I used to drive from my last office cubicle past that statue to Fountain Lake every lunchtime to eat my sandwich alone and plot my freelance escape from corporate America.

Columbus has been fished out of the water and is stored in a secret location.

HBO Max has pulled Gone with the Wind from its library. This might just finish off 103-year-old Olivia de Havilland, the only living cast member. It certainly must have Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh — not to forget Margaret Mitchell, who created it — spinning in their graves.

I got the book in paperback for Christmas when I was 10 (the same year I got Little Women) and I remember reading it straight through TWICE. In 1965, Scarlett O’Hara and Jo March were my paradoxical role models. This still hangs upstairs…

And this is on the landing…

This in no way means I endorse Gone with the Wind. I’ve actually been wanting to replace them both with relaxing seascapes. I’ve had them for at least 40 years and need a change; Gable is custom-framed.

Speaking of movies, last night I needed comedy, so I watched The Onion Movie from 2008. It was stupid, gross, lewd and sometimes funny. Really a series of skits hanging around a loose fantasy about The Onion being a respected news network. Its lead anchorman revolts at the network’s acquisition and commercialization by a huge corporation that’s using his news broadcast to promote a movie franchise called Cockpuncher.

This tells you all you need to know about that.

So next I watched What We Do In the Shadows, the movie from New Zealand that morphed into the FX TV series I love. In the movie, four male vampires share a house who range in age from 183 to 8,000. Their familiar is a housewife with a husband and kids who comes by to clean up their victims’ blood and run errands in hopes of being given immortal life.

It had many good moments, especially when the vampires faced off against a gang of werewolves. But the TV show is 100% funnier.

They share the same theme music, and the houses are baroque and creepy. But the show added a female vampire and a human-looking energy vampire. Their familiar is an overweight nerd with no life beyond serving them. These changes open up so many more plot possibilities, I better appreciate how brilliant the TV adaptation is.

Tony has a new hidy hole. Well, he’s been hanging out here for a few weeks, but with his camera savvy, it’s been hard to capture.

I often don’t realize he spends hours in the corner under my desk until I quit at dinnertime and he comes out. He’s there right now and has been all afternoon. But I did manage to catch a few shots…

BONUS: Here’s Sarah Cooper channeling Trump on “How to Bunker”…


Chapter 56: COVID Chronicles

May 23, 2020

By Karen

Day 73

ABCs & Mail-In Ballot Retraction

I woke up at 9:30 and it threw the whole day off. Doing chores, I went outside to sweep tree crap off the deck and my new sliding glass door went wonky and refused to close all the way — by about 2 inches. Now there’s a gap at the top you can see daylight through. I had to physically lift the door above the track to close it and then slide a wad of cardboard under one end (best done by two people, BTW) to balance it enough to lock it until one of my handymen texts me back about a fix. I have every reason to believe they will ghost me on this.

The stress of finding this new home repair project (with its security implications in the meantime) propelled my masked self out the front door on a vodka run. But first, some context: Virginia controls all hard liquor sales through state-owned ABC stores (but you can buy beer and wine anywhere). This is solely due to a mix of latter-day prudishness and greed.

When I travel, it always amazes me when I see someone nonchalantly picking up tampons and Jack Daniels at Walgreens.

Anyway, I live equidistant between two ABCs, and my father told me yesterday that COVID had closed one of those. So I drove to the other one.

Well, guess what? Also closed. The sign directed me to the “nearest” store, in a dicey part of town I avoid. At this point, anyone with a functioning sliding glass door who didn’t need a stiff martini would have just gone to Food Lion for beer and been done with it.

But I knew of a fourth store, so I took the scenic route there to give my Saturn a highway workout because it hasn’t been driven in two weeks. It was open and everybody was wearing masks.

Yesterday, Governor Northam said he’ll probably make wearing masks in public mandatory on Tuesday. I don’t know what’s magical about Tuesday, but will love watching all the Trumpers who paraded around the state capitol in their cute little camo outfits with assault weapons stick that mask decree right up their Second Amendments.

RETRACTION: If you live in Virginia’s 7th District, forget what I said about getting a mail-in ballot. Upon returning from the ABC, I had a letter from the county registrar’s office saying my application was denied because the only Democratic primary is in the 4th District. Is my face red!

I blame the pathetic Richmond Times-Dispatch, the only newspaper available in this region, which I read front to back EVERY DAY. I pay attention to this stuff and had no idea what’s going on with the primaries. The RTD is so intent on keeping Trump’s crimes buried, local political news must also be getting lost — or going unreported. In their newsroom, who has time for CURRENT events when you’ve got pages to fill with Civil War developments and sports that aren’t being played?

For dinner tonight I had some leftover baked chicken thigh, so threw it together with rice, onions, green beans and BBQ sauce. Here’s what I mean about having no patience for caramelizing onions…

That’s as brown as they got before I ate them. They were good. Now I need a drink.

BONUS: The amazing Sarah Cooper telling us “How to Obamagate”…


Chapter 48: COVID Chronicles

May 15, 2020

By Karen

Day 65

Can We Schedule Trump for His Straitjacket Fitting Now?

This week, after the Braskem PPE factory in Pennsylvania spurned Trump’s offer of a mask-free visit and a worthless photo op, Trump got another Pennsylvania plant, run by (I’m sorry to say) Virginia-based PPE distributor Owens & Minor, to play the sap for him.

Braskem workers, at the beginning of the lockdown in March, lived in the factory for 28 days to keep it and their materials from being contaminated. They deserve kudos for not letting a publicity-addicted, disease-carrying orange ass-clown anywhere near them.

At O&M, Trump did his usual ill-prepared reading of a self-congratulatory speech. But when certain phrases would penetrate his rotting brain, he went off on stream-of-consciousness ad libbing that had to be embarrassing for everyone who had to listen to him. Here’s a snippet…

Somehow these gems failed to get him big, mocking guffaws from the audience:

“Nobody ever said they died” of the flu.

“We’ve been doing testing at a level that nobody’s ever done it before.”

“We’ve done more testing than all other countries in the world added up together.”

The numbers change by the second, but I just fact-checked him a bit.

Using Worldometers for world population (which I froze at 7,784,682,600), I calculated the U.S. (330,753,490) portion at 4.2%.

He half-lies (about speaking with anybody), then blurts a fact:

“I’ve spoken with many presidents and prime ministers. They can’t believe what we’ve been able to do with testing…. They can’t believe the job we’re doing.”

Let’s see how we really stack up against 214 other countries

COVID World U.S. U.S. %
Total Cases 4,595,718 1,471,967 32%
Total Deaths 306,789 87,825 29%
Cases/1M Pop. 590 4,450 754%
Avg. Deaths/
1M Pop.
39.4 266 675%
Rank #13*
Total Tests 10,874,018
Tests/1M Pop 32,877 Rank #36*

*Ranking indicates how many other countries have higher figures than the U.S., by my own count.

Just today, 913 Americans have died so far, which is 238% of the country ranking #2, the U.K., at 384.

Trumpers are screaming to end all precautions so they can get fake nails, tats and go out drinking.

Another bit of truth unconsciously dribbled out of Trump’s mouth. Speaking about tests, he said, “We came up with things that nobody even believes.”

Then this, which should be as oft-quoted as his idea to inject people with disinfectants. After bragging at length about our fictional testing prowess, Trump claimed:

“We have more cases than anybody in the world. But why? Because we do more testing. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases. They don’t want to write that. It’s common sense.”

Trump is clearly referencing his own dementia. He’s been tested and his doctors know the truth. He’s saying if they hadn’t tested him, he’d be just fine.

Now for some comic relief, here’s brilliant Sarah Cooper doing Trump talking about creepy Stephen Miller’s wife, Katie (Pence’s spokesperson) testing positive…

And talking about our “strong” death totals…

And my favorite, Trump launching his loony “Obamagate.” I haven’t seen where anybody knows yet what he’s talking about…

BONUS: American Idiot has maintained a running list of Trump’s stupidest statements about the COVID-19 pandemic, right up to yesterday. Check it out.


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