Hot Coals.

The job ended last week. The last day, there was the debrief — two hours of people slapping each other on the back, with a little bit of actual feedback on how to make the place run better — followed by the traditional taco lunch. (I had never had tacos al pastor before. Really tasty.)

I had to say goodbye to a lot of people. The future is uncertain, both for me, and in a lot of cases, for them.  I have applied for a job with the Census, and the other senior verifier has an exciting job lined up with a non-profit.

And I had to say goodbye to our team lead.

While the head of the VBM was technically our supervisor, the permanent staffer who was our team lead was really our boss. And what a boss she was.

I separate bosses into three categories:

  1. Bosses I would walk over hot coals for.
  2. . Bosses I would possibly walk over hot coals for, but I would have to think about it first.
  3. Meh.

I suppose there could be a category under “Meh” but I haven’t yet had any bosses that fit that description. Fortunately.

Our team lead definitely was in the first category.

She is bright, with a great sense of humor, and an ability to quickly grasp the complexities of a situation. (She is also very, very pretty. It’s just not fair.)

She is also humble. Last spring, she was tasked with heading up the signature verification unit having had no experience with the work. She asked me and the other senior signature verifier to walk her through the process, and explain unusual or difficult situations. By the fall, she was well versed in pretty much everything.  As a friend (who was a former supervisor who also fell into the “hot coals” category) said, “humility in leaders is a great and rare thing.”

I know she’ll go far. I hope I’m around to see it.

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The Film Registry turns 30.

It seems impossible that the Library of Congress National Film Registry is 30 years old. Yesterday, they released their annual selections for the National Film Registry. It’s important to note the criteria: films must be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Some films that are less than aesthetically significant may nonetheless be culturally important — the Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example. It’s a terrible movie, but there are a great many Americans of my age who have at one time or another sat in a theater throwing rice at the screen during the wedding scene. (Of course, Animal House has both cultural and aesthetic value.)

As far as aesthetic importance, I really don’t think Brokeback Mountain is of more than middling quality (altough very many people disagree with me), but it did become part of a larger dialog about the representation of homosexuality in film.

Okay, Jurassic Park. It’s scary. It’s very scary. It’s by Spielberg. Eh.

Wait, the LOC is just now getting around to naming Hearts and Minds to the registry? The definitive documentary about the Vietnam War (at least until Ken Burns came along)? But they named Brokeback Mountain only three years after it was eligible? These people are more inscrutable than the folks who decide who enters the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The musicals… I adore My Fair Lady (I have watched it all the way through probably a dozen times in the last year, and many more times I have seen the first twenty minutes — it’s one of my insomnia cures). Still, I am not completely surprised it wasn’t inducted earlier.

On the Town, though…. In addition to songs and story by Comden and Green, the movie boasts a wonderful jazzy score by Leonard Bernstein. How did it take them so long on this one?

I’m very glad Bad Day at Black Rock is going on the list. A film noir wrapped up in a sun-swamped Western, this is Spencer Tracy at his best.

I’m DVRing Monterey Pop. It makes a nice companion to my director’s cut of Woodstock. I was amused by the chief of police in Monterey worried about getting 50,000 people at the festival. He worried about violence (“I’ve heard the Hell’s Angels are coming down”) and he worried about food supplies, foreseeing that the crowds would buy out everything edible. Contrast that to a year later, when Woodstock organizers blithely predicted 200, 000 attendees, with inadequate food, water, and sanitation. That could be the reason that the Monterey Pop Festival is known for its music, while Woodstock is known for (in addition to its music) as being a complete clusterf***.

Cinderella surprises me. I thought all the Disney animations were in there.

Movies I have heard of but never seen: The Shining, Smoke Signals, Broadcast News, among several. Don’t email me and tell me how I absolutely have to see The Shining. I am a fan of neither Jack Nicholson nor Stanley Kubrick, (I am a fan of Stephen King, but from I’ve read he didn’t like the movie) so no, I’m not interested.

Most of the rest are movies I’ve never heard of or seen before. Last night on TCM, Leonard Maltin and Librarian of Congress (how cool a job title is that?) Carla Hayden showed a number of the newly added films. My favorite is “Something Good — Negro Kiss” from 1898. Every film buff has seen the earliest kiss on film, but this is equally important. Every second is also joyous and caring. TCM followed that up with an animated short calledHair Piece: A Film for Nappy-Headed People from 1984.

Okay, that’s it for this year. Time to go back to my lobbying effort for The Blues Brothers. I figure I can’t lose. After all, I’m on a mission from God.


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On Friday, I was involved in a car accident. (I dozed off and ended up driving across the median in front of an exit at 60 MPH. Nothing was broken — at least on me — but my ribs hurt.) Everyone telling me how much worse it could have been only helps a little.

Work ended today. I was sick a lot this fall, so earned very much less than I wanted or needed to. And I liked my job. Losing it hurts.

That’s the reason for the double bourbon and coke, okay?

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Oh, Baby.

[MASSIVE spoilers for Rosemary’s Baby. I’m not sure it would matter — I think even if you know what is going to happen it would still scare your socks off — but in any case you have been warned.]

Over Thanksgiving, the premium channels have open viewing, so that you can watch Game of Thrones and get so enraptured you subscribe to HBO. I saw American Gods on Starz, and as wonderful as it is I was not moved to get a premium subscription. (I bought it on iTunes, instead.)

During the promotion I DVR programs and movies I am interested in. The shows don’t go away when the promotion does. For the longest time I had Frozen and The Force Awakens DVRed – until my cable crashed and I lost all my programming.  This time I DVRed Spiderman: Homecoming, among others. From Epix, I snagged Rosemary’s Baby.

I was recovering from a massive asthma attack which landed me in Stanford ER for 30 hours for treatment and observation. I decided to go ahead and watch a couple of movies, and since it had been one of the “1001 movies to see before you die,” I chose Rosemary’s Baby.

Oh, my God. That has to be the scariest movie I have ever seen. I don’t believe in the Devil – or not the type of Devil that the movie portrays, anyway – or witchcraft, let alone that the Devil could have a half-human child (although, looking at the Jesus paradigm, wouldn’t the baby be all Devil? The movie raises interesting theological issues), but the rest of it…

What makes the movie so horrifyingly frightful is, demons and witches aside, how possible it all seems. I have seen The Exorcist, and no matter how many times little Regan hurls pea soup across the room, it will never seem like reality. Likewise the other movies that get my pulse racing – Cloverfield or the Blair Witch Project. But Rosemary’s Baby…

Let’s leave aside the devil and looks what happens to Rosemary, shall we?

She has to deal with neighbors that increasingly take over her life.

Her husband gets demanding and controlling, to the point of siding with aforementioned neighbors about what she would do.

A close friend tries to warn her about her neighbors and dies.

Her husband starts to restrict her access to reading materials.

Her doctor insists on her drinking weird concoctions.

Her husband refuses to allow her to change doctors.

When she tries to go to another doctor, that doctor dismisses her as crazy, and calls her husband and doctor, who literally drag her away, kidnapping her.

She is held down and gagged while she gives birth at home and not in a hospital, against her wishes.

She is told that her child died.

She is told that everything that happened before was the result of her having the “prepartum crazies,” and that her fears are a result of psychosis.

She lies in bed listening as the child cries – the child she was told had died. Others state they can’t hear anything.

Worst of all, a third of the way through the movie, she was drugged and raped, and her husband claimed he was the rapist. (Having sex with an unconscious woman, even if she is your wife, is rape.)

All of this seems tragically possible. Or, if not possible as depicted in the movie, then it’s only a reasonable exaggeration of things that could actually happen.

Long before Rosemary actually found out about baby Adrian, my skin was crawling and my pulse was racing. I have never had to deal with a husband like Rosemary’s, but I know that there are husbands like that out there.

And through all of the weird but not impossible happenings, until the end of the movie, it’s not quite clear what is reality and what is her imagination. Was she possessed? Was she psychotic?

I found myself shivering at the end. The very end, however, with the coven and the baby, lessened my sense of horror. Actuality trumps mythology. I think as good as the movie is, it would have been even better had they ended when she was walking down the corridor at the end, when she still doesn’t know she had Satan’s child, so you can’t tell if all of it is real.

Unlike other movies which I view as masterpieces (and I do view Rosemary’s Baby as such), which I usually hold onto for at least a week while I decide whether to keep them permanently, I could not erase this film fast enough. Even so, it’s going to stay with me for a while.




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In October, I saw an exhibit of Rene Magritte’s work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was a lovely and thought-provoking show, and as is my wont I bought a mug. (Note to family: yes, I know we are swimming in mugs and need another one like a hole in the proverbial head. However, I will point out that I seem to have lost my favorite mug, the one I bought at the Edward Munch exhibit, so I am simply maintaining mug equilibrium.)

There were two options: a drab mug with the famous pipe-not-a-pipe on it. The other, white with painted clouds on it, was far prettier, so I bought it. I was vaguely dissatisfied: the mug had Magritte’s impossibly puffy clouds on it, but that was it. No rock suspended in air, no broken sunset, no landscape with the street in darkness and the sky bright. (These are – he made eight versions of this picture – my favorites of all of Magritte’s paintings.)

And the mug was flimsy. The walls were thin – thin enough I didn’t take it to work for fear it would get broken. I couldn’t understand how such an august institution as SFMOMA would sell something this …. Weak.

The other day, the Rocket Scientist strolled into the kitchen where I was making a cup of coffee in my new mug. “It’s a teacup,” he said.

“What?!” “No really, it’s china. Look at it.”

I held the cup up to the light. Like good teacups, the mug was delicate enough that I could see my fingers through the walls. I looked at the bottom. It was, indeed, china.

“Oh, cool,” I thought.  “It’s not a teacup – the shape is wrong. It’s not a mug – the material is wrong.  Maybe a teamug? It’s weird. It’s almost surr….. Oh.  Never mind.”

Need I say that this is now my favorite mug?


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You don’t know what you’ve got ’til its gone…

Well, it’s been a while…

I could talk about work and how Donald Trump’s mischaracterization of what is going on with California elections is both wrong and harmful, but I just don’t have the energy. I don’t want to talk politics more generally, at least not yet, other than to say that I am very happy that the House is now blue.

I don’t have a lot of energy because I was in the hospital for a day, as a result of the worst asthma attack I have ever had.

The Camp fire dumped massive amounts of smoke — including particulates — into the air, and because of the climactic conditions in the Bay Area, all of it funneled down here. For a few days our air quality was the worst in the world — worse than Bejing, or Mexico City. Walking from the office into the parking lot made me short of breath.

On Tuesday, as I started driving on my way to work, I became very short of breath. I headed for the nearest ER, and by the time I got there I could not draw enough breath to finish a complete sentence. They put me in a bed and spent the next 30 hours running breathing treatments every few hours and giving me steroids. (Oddly enough, I wasn’t worried about asthma — I was concerned that I was about to have a heart attack. Fortunately that was not the case.) Even though I know am getting more oxygen, I still feel like crap; I am still coughing a lot.

I haven’t been able to cook Thanksgiving, and I am upset about that. All I could manage to do was cranberry sauce, when the past few years I have been doing the stuffing and the cranberry sauce, and some years the turkey (the Rocket Scientist and I switch off). I cook the cornbread and the veggies for the stuffing. I roast the sweet potatoes that RS then turns into a lovely casserole.

I am fretful because I have left work at the worst possible time. I have a supportive boss, bbut I still worry. Given being sick, I have been only working and average of 30 hours a week. I am upset about not being able to earn what I wanted to, but I am more upset about the burden this has left for other people in my team, especially the other senior verifier. She’s young, but she is also working 75 hour weeks.

But as fretful as I am, and as bad as I feel physically, I recognize how lucky I am.  I had asthma caused by the bad air (I really did not appreciate good air until it went away), but I did not lose my home, or my cats, or people I loved. I did not lose my life.

Something to be thankful for, definitely.

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For the trolls…

Y’all are going to have to carry the banner on this because I am going off the Internet for a while.

A few points to toss at the trolls…

Dr. Ford has passed a polygraph test. She has asked for an FBI investigation. Neither of those can be said of either the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee or Brett Kavanaugh.

You want proof? Would you ask a man to provide proof of a mugging that took place years ago or would you believe him?

If you think she can’t be telling the truth because she didn’t report it, check out #WhyIDidn’tReport, although on second thought don’t mention the hashtag, because the sort of guys who believe this are the sort to troll the men and women posting there. Fuckers. Just tell them to check out my post.

Finally, and MOST importantly…

This is not a criminal proceeding, it is a job interview. People have been refused jobs for far, far less. If Kavanaugh doesn’t get confirmed, he still has his comfortable life as a federal judge.

See you guys down the road. Maybe once the PTSD has settled down.

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