Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Fencer and Short Takes on Dolores

     “Workers of the world, unite!” (until you get jailed or deported)

                                                           Reviews by Ken Burke
                   
 As I’ve noted in recent postings, there’s not a lot out there right now I’m interested in seeing that I haven’t reviewed already (apparently I’m not the only one; Box Office Mojo reports this is the worst Labor Day weekend movie attendance in 12 years) so I’ve gone so esoteric in this posting most of you won’t be able to find these films at all, at least not for awhile.  In recognition of this income shortfall at our local cinemas I’ll note another Labor Day that didn’t turn out quite so well for “same old Hal” (William Holden) in Picnic (Jerome Robbins, 1955) although he did have a steamy dance scene with Madge (Kim Novak) before all hell broke loose.  I watched it with my even-steamier-wife, Nina* (it’s one of her favorites, despite all the melodrama, dysfunctionality, and blatant sexism—or maybe it’s because of all that; I dare not ask), playing my own little drinking game where I took a slug of Brother Thelonius (Belgian-style beer, high-alcohol, delicious!) every time he called her “Baby” instead of her name so I was pleasantly relaxed by the end of the story as they’re headed to Tulsa (probably with both of them playing their own drinking games in a few years after the reality of this 1-day-romance hits home). Now, on to my post-Labor Day-history-based-reviews for this week.

*Please scroll to the very end of these rambling explorations to see my new, permanent tribute to Nina in the famously-final-cluster of songs in every Two Guys in the Dark posting from this day on.
                
                                             The Fencer (Klaus Härö, 2015)
                






“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Inspired by (but I'm not all that clear how much it’s specifically based on) the life of a well-known Estonian Soviet fencer who had to change his name, then go into hiding to escape being arrested for a situation he had no control over (recruited by the Nazis into their ranks during their WW II invasion of his country, then held accountable for that postwar by Stalin's merciless dictatorship) he returns to his homeland, takes a nondescript job as a school gym teacher in a small town, then establishes a fencing club when forced to sponsor an additional activity.  Despite the crude limitations his students face (they have no fencing foils, just long reeds from a nearby marsh), they’re enthusiastic about the sport, look upon their teacher as a father figure, beg him to take them to an all-Soviet tournament in Leningrad even though he knows what danger awaits him if he returns to his former residence.  This will be a very difficult film to find as it’s not yet scheduled for screenings in too many cities, but I encourage you to look out for The Fencer as it’s very heartfelt, inspirational, and reflective of the kind of social consternation now facing our society when those innocent of “crimes” they’re being accused of (e.g. the “Dreamer” undocumented immigrants now facing expulsion from the U.S. with the proposed demise of the DACA policy) must still face harsh punishments they’ve not intentionally brought upon themselves.

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’d like to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify such give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐  OK, continue on if you like.
                   
What Happens: In this story based on facts (although the opening graphics don’t tell you that—you have to wait for the pre-credits statements at the end to verify what became of the actual protagonist and his work with fencing students) an Estonian man, Endel Nelis (Märt Avandi), in the early 1950s faces a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario as his country was overrun by the Nazis during WW II so he and thousands of his countrymen were forced into the German ranks (the formerly-independent-country briefly came under control of the Soviet Union even earlier during the war); however, he managed to escape to Leningrad (relatively speaking, not that far away) where he eventually got a university education but then went on the run after the war because Russian madman Josef Stalin’s vicious program of imprisoning former conscripts (“collaborators”) allowed for no negotiation so Endel used documents with his mother’s maiden-name (previously he went by Keller), slipped back into Estonia to take a job as gym teacher in Haapsalu (where the principal [Hendrik Toompere], as a Communist Party official, accepts him but with distain because of his “uppity” life in Leningrad, then sets his assistant [Jaak Prints] on a records search to learn more about this new arrival).  Another job requirement is to mentor an extracurricular club, so when Endel finds some skis in a storeroom he gets eager recruits only to be shut down immediately when his equipment’s given to the local military base (another “damned” situation, this time with the blessing of his rigid, unhelpful principal).  Falling back on his own success in fencing, though, with the encouragement of little Marta (Liisa Koppel), Endel soon has a well-attended fencing club, even though his students must do the exercises with long marsh reeds.


 Through telephone conversations (and a later visit) with Aleksei (Kirill Käro) a fencing friend/coach in Leningrad, Endel learns he must stay quietly undercover because the secret police are anxious to locate him (Aleksei also proves helpful for the students by sending 2 crates of used foils, masks, chest guards so they can better learn their desired skills).  Ender faces further frustration as his principal attempts to shut down the fencing club (he considers it a “feudal” sport not appropriate for proletariat education) but the activity’s saved when student Jaan’s ([Joonas Koff] who had to endure some tough love from his teacher, as Endel sees potential in the boy but not yet enough discipline) grandfather ([Lembit Ulfsak] a fencer himself in previous years) notes at a parent-faculty meeting that Karl Marx was a fencer as a young man; then our beleaguered protagonist begins to find some joy in mutual attraction with fellow teacher Kadri (Ursula Ratasepp).  Endel’s hopes of remaining under the Russian radar become complicated, though, when Marta learns of an all-Soviet youth fencing competition coming up in Leningrad.  Her disappointment in Endel not wanting his kids to participate (using the excuse they need further training to compete against more-skilled-opponents) finally convinces this sincere teacher that the stimulating experience of the big-city-trip along with the kids' challenge of putting their passions on the line against fierce competitors is more important than his safety, despite Kadri worried sick about his likely fate if he returns to Leningrad (we’re given good reason to share her fears, as even Jaan’s elderly grandfather is taken away, just another of the many men now missing from Haapsalu, either killed in the war or sent off to underserved prison terms afterward).  Jaan and 2 others are chosen for the contest, with Marta as the joyful alternate.

 They manage to make it to the finals, but with the score tied and seconds to go Jaan twists his ankle, forcing him to withdraw with Marta taking his place against a cocky kid from Moscow, a member of the previous year’s championship team.  Surprisingly (after encouragement from Endelwho previously tried to slip away when he realized he’s being watched but found all the exits guarded), the little girl manages to thrust through for the winning point, after which Endel quietly surrenders to the authorities, causing no disruption for his team’s celebration.  Endel’s sent off to a miserable Soviet prison for his wartime “crime” but is released seemingly not too long after Stalin’s death in 1953.  Returning to Haapsalu, he finds Lea and the children anxiously awaiting his return as they find no tinge of criminal guilt in him (even the principal, who came along on the Leningrad trip, revealed to Endel privately he was just doing the job expected of him for his own protection but encouraged this teacher to slip away if he could).  Those final pre-credits graphics tell us Endel lived well until 1993, as his Estonian fencing academy continues to operate into our current day.⇐


So What? Had I not learned at the very end of the film these events are based on a true story (well, actually, I knew that from reading a couple of reviews a few weeks prior but had forgotten that aspect of the narrative until being reminded by those closing graphics) I would have found The Fencer to be a bit melodramatic, with its constant tension of KGB intrusion into Endel’s life and the Hoosiers (David Anspaugh, 1986 [also with some relation to actual events of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team winning the Indiana state championship])-like underdog win at the fencing tournament (a comparison made in several reviews of this film), ⇒especially with charming-child Marta as the unexpected conqueror, lunging to victory into her older, larger, better-prepared, smug male opponent.⇐   Realizing these events have a foundation in history, though (even if I can’t find any verification of this tournament’s particulars, so they may be dramatized quite a bit), helps me better appreciate how successful fiction’s often inspired by fact, even if those facts end up being put into a very different context (as with the actual water wars in 1920s-‘30s L.A. being turned into a tale of extreme-family-dysfunctionality in Chinatown [Roman Polanski, 1974]) or refocused in such a manner as to provide a filmmaker’s perspective on aspects of that history without trying to give a comprehensive account of the entire event (as with Christopher Nolan’s take on Dunkirk [review in our July 27, 2017 posting], where the emphasis is only on specific characters in this massive troop evacuation in the early days of WW II, so that we’re forced to feel the isolated aspects of this action along with those being highlighted rather than getting much of an overall sense of the huge rescue).

 If The Fencer simply were a tale of ragtag-winners moved from Hoosiers’ basketball court onto a fencing mat, this current film would still carry an uplifting, feel-good mood, ⇒enhanced by Endel not having to rot in a Gulag forced-labor-prison for several years as did Aleksander Solzhenitsyn⇐ (there’s a little bit more about him in this review’s next section just below), but knowing that The Fencer is in some manner a true story of a man willing to sacrifice his own freedom rather than continuing to fade into the mists of the vast U.S.S.R. for the benefit of kids in a small, backwater town who’d never been given any reason to think life has much meaning at all just makes this film all the more inspiring, a perfect companion for the documentary Dolores to be reviewed below.  Given The Fencer’s fictionalized approach to history, though, there’s additional opportunity for the filmmakers to use cinematic devices to enhance the mood of their story which they do with tactics such as several scenes where the camera follows Endel from behind, as if he’s being stalked by the always-lurking KGB, as well as the fear all of these characters show anytime there’s a knock on the door, likely implying a miserable fate from those dreaded masters of surveillance.  The landscape we see fits this sense of bleak paranoia as well, with the story taking place in the winter where we mostly observe barren environments, monochrome color schemes,  a lot of quiet stillness along with a generalized lack of activity or interest in this forlorn place even by its native-born-inhabitants.

 Long ago (2003) I had an opportunity to make a quick visit to Estonia, as I was attending an international conference of audiovisual producers (the kind of folks who made huge multi-image concoctions of projected slides enhanced with reel-to-reel-audiotape-soundtracks for various corporate, artistic, and educational uses in the 1960s-‘90s prior to this kind of striking display being replaced with increasingly-sophisticated video/computer-generated imagery) in Helsinki, Finland where it was possible to catch an early-morning ferry across the Baltic Sea (the Gulf of Finland specifically) to this neighboring country, but having already spent some days that week slipping away for a quick tour of the Czarist-palaces of Russia’s St. Petersburg (and the reality of that early-morning-departure) I passed on this chance—not likely to come again—which, had I traveled that road (or sea) not taken, would have given me an even better understanding of this frequently-occupied-country (over the centuries Denmark then the Swedish and Russian Empires held sway prior to the briefly-imposed Estonian S.S.R., the German occupation, and reabsorption into the U.S.S.R. so the current-day Republic of Estonia has existed only in about 1920-1940, then again since 1991) than I got in The Fencer, with its impactful presentation of how the citizens of this small land have for far too long functioned as pawns in the maneuvers of their more-powerful-neighbors.

 With concerns this may be happening again as current Russian dictator Vladimir Putin keeps trying to encroach into former-Soviet-territory, with NATO on alert to prevent a Crimea-type invasion/ occupation, The Fencer’s even more relevant today despite its 1950s Cold War setting.  If you’d like an extensive immersion into Estonian history, culture, etc. I recommend this site, a marvelously-detailed, well-documented collection of information no matter how snooty you might be about using Wikipedia, although there are other options if you put more trust in either the CIA or the BBC.

Bottom Line Final Comments: While this Finnish work competed to be among the Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language Film last spring (made the shortlist of 9 but not the final 5), it found no domestic (U.S.-Canada) distribution until help arrived from the tiny CFI Releasing group, associated with the California Film Institute in San Rafael (just north of San Francisco) who produce the annual Mill Valley Film Festival (close to San Rafael) so The Fencer’s been in very-limited-release since July 21 of this year (just the 2nd film to be marketed by CFI Releasing) but only in 19 theaters as of last weekend (you can consult the official website far below in the Related Links section connected to this film to see what its intended schedule is through the upcoming autumn season) so at this point I have no idea about what its income has been (although it couldn’t have been very much) nor how accessible it will be to any of you until video options become available, although I’m in good critical company with my support of it as you’ll find the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are 85% positive while the Metacritic average score is 60 (however, the latter’s based on only 13 reviews so you might want to check back with them later to see if anything’s changed; you can get current details now if you wish in the Related Links for this film far below).

 Regular readers of Film Reviews from Two Guys in the Dark (of which there are regularly tens of thousands according to the Google robots; I thank all of you for your support) know I attempt to cap off each analysis with a final dose of commentary in the form of a Musical Metaphor to offer some additional insight (or just plain silliness, depending on what we’re talking about) but from the perspective of an aural artform.  In trying to find something relevant for The Fencer I was stumped, even after pondering on it for a few days so I tried an Internet search for “song lyrics about personal sacrifice for the greater good” (interested to see what the algorithms could do with that) which led me to a site that located 5,206 songs containing the word “sacrifice”; after skimming the 1st 500 of them (as far as I intended to go) I decided to further explore Al Stewart’s “Trains” (from his 1993 Famous Last Words album), finding the full, extensive lyrics to be even more metaphorical to this topic than is my usual intention, but with nothing else to consider I turned to YouTube to see if there was some video of this tune only to stumble across Stewart’s “Roads to Moscow” (from his 1973 Past, Present and Future album) which seemed vaguely familiar from back in my grad-school-days when I know I heard this Scottish folk-rocker’s “Year of the Cat” and “Time Passages” on FM radio.

 A check of those lyrics showed this song as a perfect match for The Fencer, with its tale of a Russian soldier chronicling the Nazi advance (Operation Barbarossa) into his homeland beginning in 1941, finally turned back in 1944 thanks to huge Russian sacrifices on the battlefield but with this singer/soldier arrested upon his arrival home, sent to a bleak prison just because he’d been a German captive for only one day (Stewart’s implied this song references the imprisonment of previously-noted Nobel Prize for Literature-winner Solzhenitsyn [One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, 1962;The Gulag Archipelago, 1973]) so here it is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcFs8vKtFgQ (a PowerPoint presentation incorporating the song, its lyrics, accompanying photos and maps), telling a story that gives additional, brutal context to what Endel Nelis endures.
              
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
              
                                       Dolores (Peter Bratt)
              
This is a biographical-documentary about United Farm Workers co-founder and long-time farm workers/civil rights-activist Dolores Huerta who’s often mentioned (if at all, she's dropped from Texas social studies textbooks; ethnic studies curriculum outlawed in Arizona*) along with César Chávez but not explored enough on her own, despite a long lifetime of crusading work.

*Currently under challenge from a federal judge.

Here's the trailer:


          Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
             
 Normally, this is the type of review where I’d encourage you to especially pay attention to my plot spoilers warning because these comments represent one of those infrequent occasions where I got to attend a press screening of the film a few weeks ago so I’m now blogging about it on the same weekend it opens locally (in my case, the San Francisco area) so my comments are out there simultaneously with the more-well-known-critics (as fate will have it as to who gets such a designation) even though I’m giving it all away while they’re being discreet for the benefit of interested viewers who haven’t even had a chance to see Dolores yet.  However, that level of concern’s not too worrisome for me this time around for 2 reasons: (1) This film’s a biographical documentary that may offer some specific commentary not previously well-known about Delores Huerta, but the facts of her life are easily found with a simple Internet search so there’s really not much I can spoil about this “plot” anyway; (2) Dolores opened in only 3 theaters last weekend, is scheduled for just 4 more this upcoming one (Sept. 8-10) so there really aren’t very many of you with an opportunity yet to see this film anyway, maybe allowing my comments to substitute for attendance for now because it could be quite awhile before you even get a chance to seek it out unless you find some future video option (as with The Fencer, if you consult the 1st listing under the relevant Related Links section below for Dolores the official website notes when and where the scheduled viewing opportunities exist for those of you fortunate enough to live in those areas.*)  With all those intro items now out of the way, I’ll be glad to tell you why I liked Dolores so much with encouragement that you’ll be able to share my experience sometime in the near future.

*Published reviews of this film are currently scarce because so few critics have seen it; as I go to press “post,” there are only 13 at Rotten Tomatoes (but 100% positive), 6 at Metacritic (81% score).

 Unless the subject of a biographical documentary is already well known in our media-dominated-culture (say Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump—than you’re welcome to say whatever else you care to about any of them) one problem a filmmaker of such a cinematic-historical-exploration has to deal with is simultaneously giving enough information about the film’s subject for an unaware audience to fit this somewhat-mysterious-entity into a comfortable, already-established context (as with Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World [Catherin Bainbridge, Alfonso Maiorana], where the largely-unexplored contributions of Native Americans to a wide range of popular music styles is given a well-deserved-spotlight through interviewing well-known-musicians such as The Band's Robbie Robertson) while also appealing to those who may already have a decent awareness of the film’s subject so what’s presented doesn’t come across as pedantically-boring.  In my case, with a combo-heritage from Texas and California, I have a somewhat better idea of who Dolores Huerta is than the vast majority the filmmakers were concerned about, the millions of children and adults who either know nothing about her (sometimes because her contributions to contemporary social justice have been eliminated from textbooks) or assume she’s just an accessory to César Chávez’s accomplishments on behalf of farmworkers (at worst, understanding her as some sort of office manager  implementing the important work he originated).

 Further, I had the even-greater-advantage of seeing her speak in person at the October 1, 2010 Convocation ceremony at Mills College (3 years before I retired from my Film Studies faculty job), which you can see in these Part 1 (14:44) and Part 2 (8:14) videos if you like.Certainly, I learned a lot more about her in Dolores than I’d known previously, but the film is structured in such an energetic, decades-synthesizing-manner I’d have appreciated it if I’d somehow previously learned everything there was to know about this inspiring woman even before the first images appeared on screen (with an opening montage setting the proper tone for what’s to come, including negative comments about her, demonstrating this film’s trying to give an honest understanding of its subject not a transcript of some fawning testimonial dinner).  Even at age 87 she's still outspoken in her opinions, referring to President Trump's recent decision about DACA as "a step up above slavery."

*You might also be interested in my earlier review of the related-but-by-now-probably-mostly-lorgotten Cesar Chavez film (a docudrama directed by Diego Luna, 2014; no Spanish-language-accents in the “let’s-do-everything-we-can-to get-this-into-mainstream-theaters”-title) in our April 30, 2014 posting (featuring my horrible choices for paragraph layout in those earlier times; sorry).

 What Dolores does especially well is keeping the inclusions moving so the pace doesn’t settle into a flat history lecture while never losing sight of the focus on the people Huerta’s spent her adult life fighting for, not just her own accomplishments and honors.  Regarding this first point, throughout the structure of this film is an amazing collection of archival photography and footage, given contemporary context with statements from Dolores herself over the years plus more from a few of her adult children and many other social-justice-leaders who’ve admired/worked with her (too many to name but among the most recognizable are Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem [commenting on how Dolores’ interests came to also embrace feminism in the 1970s—an irony when Huerta is shown being pushed out of the United Farm Workers {UFW} leadership after Chávez’s death in 1993] and Luis Valdez [probably best known as director of Zoot Suit {1981} and La Bamba {1987}, founder of El Teatro Campesino stage group]); as for my second point, I never got the sense in watching Dolores the primary reason for the film’s existence is to celebrate Huerta (although, according to director Bratt in the press notes, that may have been the intention of executive producer Carlos Santana [yes, the famous musician] when he pitched the idea of the doc to Bratt) as much as it was to give honor and recognition to the people and movements she’s worked so tirelessly to advance through her ongoing crusades on behalf of farm workers, immigrants, candidates for local and national offices, and non-violence as the only appropriate strategy for achieving social justice. (This approach works better for me than the constant focus on Al Gore in An Inconvenient Sequel [Bonnie Cohen, Jon Shenk; review in our August 9, 2017 posting] where too often he comes across as the lone savior of Earth’s environment, whereas Huerta’s biographers are more willing to share her achievements, including with friend/UFW co-founder/often-confrontational-policyman Chávez.)

 While Dolores Huerta’s received numerous honors (the most prestigious being the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian honor, in 2012 [you can learn more about her, even without seeing this film, at sites such as this one, this one, or this short doc {10:01}])Dolores has won some awards also including Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival (Audience Award) and the Seattle International Film Festival—she’s also been chastised for her political stances, criticized for leaving her children to be largely raised by others while she was involved in her continuous campaigns, and physically injured as a protester (most notably at a 1988 anti-G.H.W. Bush rally in San Francisco when a cop broke 4 of her ribs, shattered her spleen), as well as seeing many of the gains so hard-fought-for on behalf of the UFW members put in jeopardy when the Teamsters began encroaching on her work as early as 1973.  Still, she’s alive, candid, well-rounded in her pride and regrets (including the pain her children suffered during those frequent absences), a charismatic person showcased in a moving, energetic documentary (enhanced by a lot of music, including from Santana) I actively encourage you to see however, whenever you can find it (while distributor PBS isn’t as generally-unknown as The Fencer’s CFI, it’s not exactly a major player in the movie-biz but at least it portends basic-cable-availability in the near future [assuming no further proposed-federal-arts-budget-cuts in order to be fully-funded for destroying North Korea]).

 Speaking of music (if I didn't bury the reference too much in the previous paragraph), it’s time to bring these comments to a close with a Musical Metaphor which will be once again (as with my review of Cesar Chavez) the traditional Mexican folk song “De Colores” (with slight trepidation I’m just lumping Dolores in with César as has been the case before with her life’s work), but it was an anthem during their historic 1966 march from Delano, CA to Sacramento (340 miles) in support of the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee-National Farm Workers Association (merged later into the UFW) strike against grape growers, demanding better working conditions.  This version (at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48vNfKUHWRw) by Joan Baez (lyrics translated from Spanish here) still conveys the essence of Dolores for me: “In colors, the fields drape themselves in profusion of colors in springtime In colors, in colors the young birds arriving from afar In colors, in colors the brilliant rainbow we spy And that’s why the great love of infinite colors is pleasing to me,” words that capture the combined senses of love, diverse interests, unshakable determination this film so well embodies about the marvelous presence, the ongoing “story [viewers can see] as part of their own, one that perhaps allows them to more fully, more honestly, understand the last 50 years in America’s history and how it connects to and informs where we find ourselves today” (Bratt), helping all of us to better support, believe, act on her most famous phrase, the UFW motto, “¡Sí se puede!” (Yes we can!), which Obama admits he stole from her for his 2008 Presidential campaign but remains a necessary rallying-cry, from the Hurricane Harvey cleanup in Houston (and hundreds of miles around) to all those running for election next year with sincere hopes of finally making progress for their constituents locally/statewide/nationally rather than just constantly talking about improvements while discretely focusing more on the next re-election campaign's fundraising.
             
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
                
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*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 The Fencer:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SHavgDUrPI (5:00 mini-doc about U.S. fencer Nzingha Prescod, Bronze medalist at the 2015 World Fencing Championships and on the U.S.A. Olympic teams in 2012, 2016 but no medals; this video has no direct connection to the film but it’s about the most useful follow-up I could find based on aspiration of this fencer, except for several offers to see the full film if you care to pursue any of those, none of which I’m promoting)



Here’s more information about Dolores:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A62s5n8xHq4 (14:54 interview with co-writer/editors Jessica Congdon, Ben Zweig from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival; again, the best supportive video I could find except for multiple offers to see the entire film if you care to explore any of them)



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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*

*YouTube keeps deleting links to this Eagles performance so I keep putting a newer version back in but you’ll just find dead links in our previous postings prior to July 6, 2017, so don’t be confused.

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 songNeil 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 31,012; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week (with a massive uptick from my normal Russia response; I guess those semi-psychic folks knew about my review of The Fencer but they clicked in a week early so maybe they'll be back this time):


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