Fast and loose.

It seems to be documentary-film week around this place, so let’s roll with it.

A few weeks ago, Dexter first sent me the trailer to “Oxyana,” a new doc about the opiate culture in a West Virginia town called Oceana. The filmmaker, Sean Dunne, was director of “American Juggalo,” and “Oxyana” is his first feature. It seemed worth keeping an eye on.

Then I watched the trailer.

You get a sense of what it’s about at a molecular level – the heart-stopping beauty of the mountains, the primitive music, and the rural poverty-porn imagery. But a couple of the sound bites brought me up short: The 23-year-old claiming “half (his) high-school class” is dead of overdoses, and the unseen one who claims he’s seen 9-year-old children shooting dope.

Both of these claims, I’d wager, are exaggerations. Evidently there were more. From an interview Dunne did with a West Virginia public-radio reporter:

Lilly: “Also in the documentary, there were people that spouted out percentages, numbers, information about homelessness, overdoses, hepatitis C cases, babies born on methadone and so on. How did you verify that information?”

Dunne: “That’s the thing. This isn’t a film that is meant to be informational in that way. It’s meant to be immersive. It’s meant to show the up close and personal of what drug addiction looks like. These are stories from the people down there. These are their perspectives. These are people dealing with this every day. We didn’t question those things we just we were a vessel to their voice.”

Oh, spare me. Don’t bother me with the facts. Here’s just one of the distortions:

Some of the statistics that went unverified by the production crew included, things like, 70 to 80 percent of people in the town have hepatitis C because of intravenous drug use.

According to the Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services between 2007 and 2011 Wyoming County saw less than 5 chronic hepatitis C cases.

To me, this is just another version of the cheap reporter’s trick of underlining the most tragic facts in a story with Albomian bombast. Believe me, the horrors of opiate abuse in southern Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia are easily portrayed with simple facts that don’t require passing along whoppers about hepatitis C.

A film blogger on a PBS site makes the point:

But not everyone does it so well. And when I watched Oxyana, I was bothered by the lack of context and long, languid shots of that dirty old town and its beautiful blue hills.

I sometimes didn’t know what I was watching. Or didn’t know why I was watching what I was watching.

After the film was over, in the Q&A, Dunne spoke of how he went to West Virginia a few times to film, with one trip lasting several weeks (maybe it was a couple of months.)

But how the hell are you going to make a truthful document of a complex problem that’s destroying real lives if you’re skimming the surface, with a few drive-by days of filming?

Yeah, what he said.

I think what has happened is, the technology for this sort of filmmaking is now ridiculously cheap; you can make a beautiful-looking film with a DSLR, consumer-level software and whatever talent you bring to things. But telling a story is not nearly so easy. It requires skill, empathy, intelligence, wisdom and a lot of other things. You can’t do it by just turning your camera on a beaten-up poor West Virginian and letting him or her talk, unchallenged. Calling it “immersive” is just excuse-making.

Oh, am I grumpy today? Maybe so. Here’s some comic relief: Apply for an Indiana marriage license as a same-sex couple? Risk jail:

Currently the state’s electronic marriage license application specifically designates “male applicant” and “female applicant” sections for gathering required background data.

“In Indiana the law clearly states that one man and one woman are the only two who can apply for a marriage license and can have a marriage ceremony performed,” Coffey explained.

Those who were to submit false information on the marriage license could face up to 18 months in prison and a potential fine of up to $10,000.

Don’t think it would happen, but who knows? This is Tippecanoe County we’re talking about.

Is it Wednesday already? Really?

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Movies |

38 responses to “Fast and loose.”

  1. Dexter said on July 10, 2013 at 1:07 am

    If I was gay and was wanting to marry a man, I’d challenge the Tippecanoe people. Dat shit be CRAY!

    On a personal note, I set a record…$208 plus tip, party of 5 at Crabs Restaurant here in Pensacola tonight. All I had was a fried oyster sandwich and some ala carte okra. Lemonade.
    My dinner party liked their crab legs and booze, however. Fun fun fun. The weather here is very nice now…only 88 today, 89 tomorrow for the beach wedding.

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  2. Deborah said on July 10, 2013 at 1:10 am

    So Brian, I saw The Lone Ranger and here are my thoughts:
    I thought it was an entertaining movie. Yes it was violent but so were the billion clips they showed of upcoming movies before it started, they all seem to be made for 13 year old boys now. I thought the Tonto character was well done by Depp, Hammer’s acting wasn’t very good at all. The whole thing was completely over the top, crazy and far fetched of course, but it had me sitting on the edge of my seat at times. The set up with Depp as the old Tonto telling the story to the kid visiting the carnival was, to me, poignant and added to the backstory of how badly the native Amercans were/are treated. I had read criticisms about that earlier and I don’t agree, I thought the tecnique added a lot overall. There was one scene that was shot about 5 miles from our land in Abiquiu, at what we call the white place. That location has been used for a number of films lately. I recognized a lot of locations in New Mexico and Utah. I’ve read that the movie is tanking at the box office.

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  3. Sherri said on July 10, 2013 at 3:30 am

    When filmmakers (or writers) start making up numbers and statistics, I start wondering what else they’re making up. Usually, quite a bit, it seems. They claim to be doing it in service of some larger Truth, but I think it’s in service of their own ego.

    Jolene, being within driving distance of Ashland (~8 hours) definitely helps make up for the darkness and the rain in Seattle in the winter. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is professional repertory theater that runs about six months a year, commissions new plays, performs the entire canon, and does it in a beautiful little town in southern Oregon. Brian, next year they’ll be premiering the second play in Robert Schenkkan’s three-play LBJ cycle, The Great Society. If it’s nearly as good as the first play, All the Way, it would be worth a trip.

    We saw A Streetcar Named Desire this evening; tomorrow, we see The Liquid Plain, a premiere about the slave trade in the afternoon, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream to lighten things up in the evening. Lear and Streetcar on one day was a little intense, but both productions were not to be missed.

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  4. David C. said on July 10, 2013 at 5:57 am

    It’s like Reagan’s Chicago welfare queen story, when pressed, his staff admitted that the story was complete bullshit, but that it didn’t matter because it was a good story. The film maker is just looking for a good story that will shock the rubes and maybe get a few new urban (rural) legends going.

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  5. brian stouder said on July 10, 2013 at 7:10 am

    Deborah – thanks for your reaction. I think you have confirmed that I over-reacted and veered into old fuddy-duddy-ism*! As you say, the movie has a fair amount of swagger and bombast, and indeed – I also liked the set-up with the kid at the carnival….and many of the scenes are filmed in astoundingly beautiful places. (I can see why your husband and you love NM)

    Sherri – I would LOVE that! As Nancy points out, fiction is all too easy; and fiction posing as nonfiction is itself almost toxic, since it’s hard enough to tray and discern what truth is, as a citizen. Anyway, I’ve never been west of Lincoln, NE (or Houtson, TX – if that places is further west) – but Grant (our 17 year old) and I will shatter that this weekend, when we wing to San Diego.

    And I loved this phrase: Albomian bombast. Outside of nn.c, though, I think it would make a person say “huh?”

    *The scene – which may have been in the white place(!) – where the main bad guy apparently guts a not-dead-yet good guy and makes a snack of it, pretty much marks where I gave up on the picture.

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  6. alex said on July 10, 2013 at 7:21 am

    For those who missed it yesterday, the big story in Indiana — the one I linked to that’s not making much of a buzz in the local media — is that there is also a new law that criminalizes the solemnization of a gay union. It appears that the same asses who are always braying about religious freedom are trying to control what goes on inside other people’s churches.

    WANE TV’s web site mentioned it at the tail end of its story on the marriage license law yesterday, where I saw it first, but I thought nothing of it at the time. The writing there is usually so piss poor that I don’t generally assume that they’ve got their facts right either. It was only later that I came across the link above.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 10, 2013 at 7:45 am

    It’s not the joke it used to be, but in Indiana it was often said that flight attendants on landing at Weir-Cook Airport in Indianapolis would occasionally tell the passengers “You’ve just landed in the Hoosier State! Don’t forget to set your watches back fifty years.”

    I think you need to make some distinction between the maker of the documentary making false claims, and an unnarrated production letting stand statements of the participants. If there are grossly inaccurate statements presented as facts, and there’s almost any voiceover at all, you have an obligation to clear up a point or two, but if the nature of the production is to simply let those filmed do all the speaking, I’m going to work from an assumption that all I hear is “from the perspective of” and not think “each statement’s been fact-checked before the footage was added to the final product.” For a guy in the life of addiction, sure, he feels like everyone has hep-C because everyone he knows has it because everyone he knows is in that five percent (see Kael, Pauline re: Nixon election, passim). But would a reasonable viewer hear the addict’s statement as a trustworthy data point about Wyoming County? Let’s hope not. As a former resident of the Mountain State, the ongoing frustration is with those sequences of long shot beauty and tight close-ups of squalor and toothlessness, a trope verging on the pathetic fallacy . . . “how can such beauty co-exist with such tragedy?” is not a question, it’s a truism, and you could do the same juxtapositions in any location, but somehow it’s always assumed to be meaningful for West Virginia in the same way a set of cuts from abandoned building to abandoned building salted with a zoom to a discarded needle is expected to be definitive of Detroit.

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  8. alex said on July 10, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Although there’s an update on the Think Progress piece that links to a blogger disputing that the “solemnization” law is not what it appears to be, here’s a piece that makes it fairly clear that “solemnization” is seen as conducting a ceremony separate and apart from applying for a license.

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  9. Mark P said on July 10, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Lance Mannion seems to like the new Lone Ranger movie. I have been completely turned off by the trailers, but, based on his review, I’ll probably watch it when it’s on satellite.

    Deborah, every time you mention living in NM I get a bad case of envy. I have visited a friend who lives out east of ABQ quite a bit, and I love the whole northern NM area. My wife and I are considering leaving Georgia when I manage to retire, and NM is one place I would like to consider. Unfortunately, I don’t think my wife is as enamored as I am.

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  10. adrianne said on July 10, 2013 at 9:41 am

    Immersive, my ass. Get your facts straight, dude, before you claim to be working as a documentarian.

    I actually enjoyed most of “The Lone Ranger” and agree with Deborah that Johnny Depp was probably the best thing in the movie, although I did appreciate Arnie Hammer’s take on Kemosabe. Yes, there were way too many explosions and falling train cars in the last half-hour, but plenty of enjoyable moments along the way. I did cheer when the “William Tell Overture” finally made its debut, about two-thirds of the way through.

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  11. Judybusy said on July 10, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Jeff, TMMO, I can kinda see your point, but the Hep C rate wasn’t five percent, it was less than 5 total cases. I also question the motives of people used for the subjects: why not make up a bunch of numbers and tragic stories because you’re on film? Harsh? Yep, but we see it sometimes in my job, and it’s part of the job to sort through the untruths to make our decision whether or not to support commitment.

    I know I mentioned this gem of a documentary before, but if you ever get to see “deepsouth,” about HIV/AIDS in the south, I highly recommend it. It’s very well-researched, and allows the people to tell their stories. It’s very moving and powerful.

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  12. Jeff said on July 10, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Alex, I’m sure you know the law in Indiana better than I, but in Ohio solemnization is the act of implementation of a marriage license. There are legal penalties for signing a license indicating that an act of solemnization has taken place (I.e., vows said) by a person not authorized to do so, or if you fail to file in a timely fashion once solemnization has taken place (30 days, here). But the blog seems to be stretching to include a colloquial definition to the legal one, and even in Indiana I don’t see that working.

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  13. Deborah said on July 10, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Brian, it was the heart he ate, but it was unclear when it was taking place on screen. The White Place scene was when Rebecca, the wife or widow and her kid were taken to be shot by the traitor. Here are some images of what is also called Plaza Blanca:

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  14. Prospero said on July 10, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Jeff@12: Sounds like Chas. Dodgson logic on the part of a legislative body:

    “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

    And in that case, how would that not constitute interference by government in a religious practice?

    Debit cards. The gift GOPers keep giving to multinationals that fund their campaigns.

    Anybody that bought a Lone Ranger ticket promoted Paganism, because most of those aboriginal Americans were actuallly, um, Christians, ya know. On a slightly more realistic plane, though I haven’t seen the movie yet, I intend to, because I love seeing Johnny Depp do physical comedy, ever since I saw Benny and Joon. And how would anybody decide what constitutes “too pagan”? I mean, is there a %age? Shouldn’t there be a Constitutional Amendment banning this sort of affront to organized Christianity?

    I’d like to know how a town in WV ends up called Oceana.

    And the framing device in LR sounds much like Little Big Man, a wonderful movie made from an even better novel by Thomas Berger, a very funny writer.

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  15. brian stouder said on July 10, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Little Big Man – superb movie.

    Gotta root for the Human Beings

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  16. Deborah said on July 10, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Mark P, there are a lot of people who move to northern New Mexico and promptly move away because they haven’t researched the realities. It takes a lot of time to understand the climate, the remoteness (the nearest real airport from Abiquiu is 2 hours away), the culture, it’s different. Our land in Abiquiu is a series of finger mesas off of a mountain called Sierra Negra, so many of our neighbors have moved out, we have a saying, “the mountain decides”. Some of the people have left because they’re older and had developed health issues, there aren’t great hospitals around either. The big hospital in Santa Fe is called St. Vincents, but the locals call it St. Victims. We’ve been coming out here for over 25 years and we really won’t be living here permanently, it will be part-time living for some of the reasons I’ve mentioned, it’s always nice to get back to Chicago for everything it has to offer.

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  17. brian stouder said on July 10, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Well, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old fuddy-duddy, I guess my main complaint with TLR was that the movie went (all too easily) from comic-opera rousing razzle-dazzle* to remorseless Gatling gun and eat-your-heart-out**savagery. But indeed, it was fun to watch Johnny Depp, as always; and I will NOW stop grousing and smile and nod as the movie discussions continue

    *Adrianne is right, though, that when they finally played the William Tell Overture, it was very affecting

    **and on further reflection, Deborah is right, that the cannibal scene was actually unclear; so, less graphic – but possibly more affecting, as it engages one’s imagination (for a second there I thought the guy had castrated his incapacitated adversary, and was eating Mr Happy. Hell, come to think of it, maybe that was a post-production edit by the movie makers….a ‘final cut’ decision, indeed!

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  18. Deborah said on July 10, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    My husband also thought the guy got castrated and in fact still thinks so, even though the LR character clearly mentions later to Tonto that he saw the bad guy eat his brother’s heart.

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  19. Jeff Borden said on July 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    As nutty as Indiana can be, it’s neighbor to the east is joining in the fun. I left Ohio in spring 1985, so I probably shouldn’t comment on the loons who are currently driving the clown car. Still, it’s jarring to see the state once defined by the Taft style of Republicanism acting like the teabaggers in Texas and Mississippi and, yeah, Indiana.

    I hadn’t realized the anti-abortion bill that is causing such a ruckus was tucked into a budget bill. So, Kasich and his party are not only seeking to intervene into a woman’s choice, but they did it in the most cowardly, spineless manner possible.

    “Why oh why did I ever leave Ohio?” sang Doris Day. Uh, because of bullshit like this, Doris.

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  20. Connie said on July 10, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Connecting to an earlier conversation: From an article in today’s Free Press about troublesome locations in Detroit: Coleman A. Young International Airport (Formerly City Airport). The residential blocks west of the airport contain some of the most vacant streets in the city. In 1960, two-thirds of all the people living in metro Detroit lived in the city. Today, fewer than one in five people in the tri-county area do. As a result, the blocks west of the airport offer some of the bleakest vistas in urban America.

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  21. Brandon said on July 10, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Nancy, it sounds as if you’ve been watching everything but Bad Girls All-Star Battle. Last night was the finale. Jenniffer and Flo were the last two, and Jenniffer(!) won. Next week Tuesday is part one of the two-part reunion special. Then, in August, the new season of BGC begins.

    I don’t intend to see The Lone Ranger. Johnny Depp looks like a Dethklok reject with that makeup and a dead bird atop his head.

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  22. adrianne said on July 10, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Brian, I laughed out loud at your confusion over the cannibal scene – and I thought the same thing! “Mr. Happy,” indeed!

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  23. coozledad said on July 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

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  24. brian stouder said on July 10, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    Robin Williams is one of those folks who can (or at least used to) make me laugh ’til my sides hurt – and he has a whole bit about Mr Happy, etc

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  25. brian stouder said on July 10, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Cooze – it is nothing short of amazing, isn’t it?

    And not for nothing, but the rightwing republigoon lock-step, orthodox support for George Zimmerman’s racial profiling (and ultimate lynching) of Trayvon Martin, as the latter walked to his dad’s house (in a neighborhood that GZ didn’t think one who looked like Trayvon belongs in) is nothing short of astonishing.

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  26. coozledad said on July 10, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    How’s that presidential hopeful there in VA lookin’?

    Pure scum. Just like our Baptist shitwagons in NC.

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  27. Brandon said on July 10, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Is it a certain type of Baptist (e.g., denomination)?

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  28. coozledad said on July 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    Southern Baptists. Fetus worshiping racists. Movement Republican trash. Petty authoritarian neo-Confederates.

    We had a pretty decent state here, but when you have too many of these people, you can’t have nice things. They’re basically the same kind of human garbage the Chinese called in from the backwaters to massacre their countrymen at Tienanmen Square.

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  29. Brandon said on July 10, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for specifying. I ask because MLK was a Baptist (Northern Baptist denomination, I think), but the gulf between him and Jerry Falwell is immense.

    I’ve never been to North Carolina, but I know of Dean Smith, longtime UNC basketball coach, also known for strong opposition to nuclear weapons, the death penalty, and the Vietnam War:

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  30. coozledad said on July 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    Dean is a mensch, a staunch Democrat, and remarkably short for an old basketball player.

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  31. paddyo' said on July 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Remarkably short, indeed, Cooze — I met Dean in the 1980s when I was assigned to do a profile of the then-phenomenal J.R. Reid for USA TODAY’s Sports section. Went down to Chapel Hill, spent an afternoon at the Dean Dome. Turned out he and my then-father-in-law both played for “legendary” Kansas coach Phog Allen, but a couple of years apart. Both men are kind of short, and they both played “center” — which in those days (late 1940s-early 1950s) was what they called the position we now know as “point guard.”

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  32. brian stouder said on July 10, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    I really hope that the prosecution in Zimmerman’s trial answers back the stupid foam dummy stunt today with a simple dry-erase board wherein they spell out the timeline of events.

    Zimmerman was told at 7:12 pm not to follow Trayvon –

    and the shooting occurs at 7:17.

    So the ridiculous idea that Trayvon was following Z, and then attacked him, is flatly ridiculous….

    unless the defense’s theory of “stand your ground” is that it doesn’t apply to people who wear clothes we don’t like, or people who are black – in which case standing your ground is grounds for summary execution

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  33. coozledad said on July 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    paddyo’: Definitely the days of the set shot, and segregated teams.

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  34. Mark P. said on July 10, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Deborah, I acquired a taste for the almost desert during my frequent visits to my friend in Albuquerque. He used to live outside Espanola and work at Los Alamos. We often visited Santa Fe. I really, really love the food, but I also love the climate. Summers in Georgia can give you a real appreciation for dry air. Of course I would probably miss the almost universal green of the southeast, but it would be worth it for me to be able to work outside without constantly getting sweat in my eyes. I once helped my friend dismantle a two-story house in Edgewood during the summer. We worked outside all day long, drinking lots of fluid and never getting sweaty; the sweat evaporated almost instantaneously. Of course ABQ is not all that attractive. It’s just another medium-sized city.

    Did I mention that I like the food?

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  35. Prospero said on July 10, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Having been an actively practicing alky in Williamson, Powhatton Co., WV, USA, with the guile and feral intelligence to hide such from two astute medical professional parents, I have no hard time whatever believing in nine-year-old junkies with meth-head parents. Grotesquerie does not make a story false.

    Cooze@33. And painfully asinine girls basketball, three frontcourt three backcourt, never the twain shall meet. Three dribbles, tops, then a mandatory pass. When I first saw this, I demanded that a monstro bitch nun explain to me why the girls couldn’t play basketball that was fun. My mom and dad hauled in again. To this day, I don’t get girls rules hoops. A lot of those girls were pals with me and my brothers, and played at our Pulte driveway court daily. And most of them could break you ankles, or at least break your jaw. They were also great girlfriends, more sexually aggressive than we boys were. Neighborhood hoops. A grand old game. Now, football, we’d kick they ass, very badly.

    Brandon: It bothers me constantly that the American Catholic Church is portrayed as big money. It is Southren Babdiss with the cash. I have said before, right here, I was a target of youth ministry sexual abuse at a Babdiss day camp in Mephis. Believe me, I would not say that if it weren’t true. My experience with what passes for the real Babdiss Church in modern Murrica is that claiming kinship with MLK is pretty much in the whited sepulcher neighborhood of GOPers claiming to be the “Party of Lincoln.” That they aren’t struck down by lightening bolts actuall shakes my faith inalmighty God.

    Anybody that feels they lost Johnny Depp’s charm, rent Bennie and Joon and Don Juan de Marco this weekend for a double feature. Astounding physical humor Buster-Style and great co-stars like Brando and Mary Stuart Masterson, who is such a good actor and so beautiful, she makes my heart ache.

    We had an amusing domestic situation today. I had to ride 20 something miles over to the other end of the Island to sign off on demolition of my mom and dad’s HHI house. Filling in the swimming pool. So I did the sentimental journey and went to the grocery 20 miles from home. Then rode that load back a long fucking way. I knew at the grocery I was supposed to buy soap for S. For me, soap is Ivory bassic, Sharley likes Dove, which I contend isn’t even actually soap. But, she’s my girl, so what the hey? So there was no Dove at the Bi-Lo. There were marked down packs of Dove for men. It has pumice or some sort of sand, and I have to admit it smells good. Turns out, we were both in bad need of a shower, so we opted to share resources. That soap may not be worth writing home about, but we will sure enjoy the other two marked-down bars.

    I heard the originally undoctored tapes and Zimmerman calle the kid a “coon”. Asshole left his car with a killing machine and stalked a kid for no reason. How does anybody excuse these actions? This dumb mofo wannabee was out to shoot a black kid, and that is ridiculously obvious.

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  36. Prospero said on July 10, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    So anyway, S. likes the Dove for Men. She likes guys underpants too. This is probably why our weekend guests fo the Fourth bot my attention. Two lezzies that were my Mom’s best friends, and in the long run, friends of mine and friends of my dads. My dad doesn’t get homosexual relationships, but if my mom did, he knows she’s right.

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  37. Prospero said on July 10, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I am not kidding. Read Angelmaker, by Nick Harkaway. You will not come across anything remotely so entertaining. If You like Indie:

    If you don’t like Indie, what the fuck is wrong with you.

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  38. Deborah said on July 10, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Yes Mark P, the food is fantastic here, one of the things that people keep coming back for, definitely. The peppers, the subtle flavorings of meats and vegetables with cheeses, these folks have it down. And everything tastes better here, even the things I make in Chicago. Is it the dry air? the altitude? I wish I knew. July is the hottest month of the year, but it gets down to the upper 50s at night, no air-conditioning needed. The highs might be in the mid to high 80s but it’s dry so very little sweating. In the full sun it can be hot but step into the shade and it’s a lot cooler, always breezy. No question, I love it here. But I love Chicago too, so glad I can go back there half the time.

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