Friday, September 07, 2018

OZARK

One thing that I do like about modern television is the diversity of material available via cable and satellite. There are all kinds of crazy things that one could only dream about in the days when a few networks controlled the medium and social norms limited what could be created.

A series I watched last year and am currently enjoying is OZARK. A project of Jason Bateman, it's pretty darned good. It stars Bateman as Marty Byrde, an accountant who got mixed up with a Mexican drug cartel and who was plunged into a seat-of-the-pants scheme so that he could save himself and his family from execution by that same cartel. Laura Linney co-stars as his wife. I generally have not liked her performances in the past, no matter the project. But someone realized that her often false and wooden portrayals would work perfectly as Marty Byrde's wife, Wendy. And they were right--it does work. It's the first time I've actually appreciated her acting.


Bateman and Linney as the Byrdes.

But the supporting cast is what stands out to me, even shining through a largely contrived plot that often pulls tricks out of its ass (such as a minor character having the key to dealing with the Kansas City mob). It's hard to pick out which supporting cast member is turning in the finest job, and I find that I cannot play favorites on that point, so I won't even try, and will instead just go down the list.

Julia Garner is an actress of whom I had never heard. She portrays a white trash youngster who is directionless until she falls into the web spun by Marty Byrde. Under his wing she discovers that she has scheming talents she didn't realize. Uglied up beyond belief, there was something about her that I found beautiful, and when I finally saw photos of her without the horrible makeup, clothing, and hair--I have to admit that I was not surprised to discover that she is, indeed, quite beautiful. I don't know where she learned to do her southern accent, but it is spot-on perfect. Stunning, actually. Because I figured her for a born southerner.

Julia Garner as Ruth Langhorne. What a great performance!

Lisa Emery portrays Darlene Snell, a kind of monster and the co-owner of a heroin-producing outfit that she runs with her husband. Again, she comes off as a truly hideous person, both physically and (often) personally. And once more I was a bit surprised to find that underneath that bare, horrid character is another beautiful woman. She nails the creature so artfully that it has risen to the surface to hide her true self.

Lisa Emery as Darlene Snell. Don't worry, she looks at everyone that way. Whether she's marked them for death, or not.

Jason Butler Harner plays the sadistic FBI agent Roy Petty who is completely and utterly obsessed with nailing Marty Byrde as the laundry man for the drug cartel profits. I had previously seen his work in two films--The Changeling (directed by Clint Eastwood), and Kill the Irishman. In the former he was, as here, an obsessed and irredeemable monster, and turned in an unappreciated job as that vile creature. His turn as agent Petty is as a gay but totally psychotic bastard who can, and does, break all of the rules to catch his target. As in The Changeling wherein he played a pedophile serial killer, he is completely easy to hate.

Jason Butler Harner as douchebag FBI agent Petty.
Peter Mullan is an actor I must have seen previously because I have watched some of the movies in which he appeared. But in none of these was he so prominent. In Ozark he is Jacob Snell, the head man in the heroin outfit that he operates from his land holding in the wilderness on his property. A gruff, bearded, good old boy with a soul-killing gaze and the temperament to slaughter anyone who gets in his way, he is the voice and face of the wolf running point at the head of the pack. 

Peter Mullan as Jacob Snell

Pretty much all of the acting in this series is far beyond average. The scripts are excellent ,with the exceptions of reliance on fantastic chance from time to time. Still, it's classic pulp fiction, so you have to expect that kind of thing. What I did not expect was a series to be so uniformly excellent. But I find that I'm often being surprised by such developments from cable and satellite offerings these days.

Oh, yeah. You can watch this on Netflix.




Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Rock Creek Recreation Area Campground Review.

A brief review of the Rock Creek Recreation Area campground.

This was our second trip to this campground and recreation area. Located near Erwin, Tennessee, it's one of the finest National Forest campgrounds we've ever visited. The sites are room and almost all of them are surrounded by big trees and are very shady. The sites have electric, but no water hookups. You can fill your onboard tank from water spigots throughout the campground loops, or from a potable water hose near the dump station.

On this trip we were hampered by very heavy rains for the first two days. Drenching downpours of steady precipitation that dumped about four inches of rain over two days. It kept us from doing much in the way of outdoor activities so we ended up exploring nearby historical sites which is something we try to do anyway. And this area has quite a lot see in that respect. So we were not bored.

Each campground loop has its own bathhouse. Each house has a men's and women's section, and each section has a toilet stall, a sink, and a shower stall. The showers were good with excellent water pressure and warm water.

There is a good amphitheater where entertainment or ranger talks are sometimes held, but nothing was planned there during this stay. The last time we were there we listened to excellent bluegrass music being performed.

There is a ridiculous wealth of hiking to be done from, and around, the campground. Waterfalls seem to be almost everywhere. Even though the rain kept us from doing as much as we wanted, we still had a great time, and it remains one of the best National Forest campgrounds we've ever visited.

The campsites are very roomy and private. Lots of trees and shrubs separate you from most of your neighbors.

We opted not to use our awning because it was raining so hard the first two days we were there. The rain was so severe that we didn't want to risk damaging the awning.

We love these little kiosks. It allows us to put our camp stove under cover where we can cook, and also store items safe from the rain. We prefer to cook outside even though our Casita has a stove.

This is the last time we'll use our old-style picnic shelter. We're going to buy one of the modern Clam-type shelters this month and donate this old clunker to Goodwill. It works well, but is a pain to erect.

This is the campground bathhouse. There is one of these on each of the three loops. Each bathhouse has a men and women's restroom, each with a toilet, sink, and one shower stall.

Big bathrooms, but only one of each stall. Could be problematic when the campground is crowded.

The showers use two pressure buttons to turn on the water. The water does not stay on very long (maybe 20 seconds) before you have to press the buttons again. Two nozzles, upper and lower. The water pressure was good and the water was warm, but not hot.
When the CCC built this pond it was a bit larger. It was also much deeper--eight feet. Stream fed, with a little cascade tumbling into the pond. It also used to have a diving platform. However, later administrators decided to reduce the depth to only four feet and to remove the diving platform. Lawsuits, I suppose. It's a very nice pond where you can take the kids wading and go swimming. Lots of space to lounge on the shore and to picnic if you wish.

Not as deep as it used to be, but still a fine place to pay and relax.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Another Trip to Rock Creek!

We're just back from a trip to Rock Creek Recreation Area near Erwin, TN. It remains one of our all-time favorite National Forest campgrounds. However, this trip was tempered with torrential rainfalls, and the fact that our formerly reliable truck suffered an engine-destroying event that ended with us having to be towed back home from Tennessee.

Still, we managed to have a good time and we made more good memories than bad ones.


Easy fords became tough barriers.

Upper Rock Creek Falls, the goal of my hike.

The view at "the Beauty Spot" on Unaka Mountain Road.

Our campsite.


I had to wait a day for water levels to subside to make the hike after three days of torrential rains.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Cardinal Grateful

Years ago when I was a letter carrier for USPS I went into an old two-story apartment quad. On the second floor there was a female cardinal that had gotten trapped inside. She had been flying into the window so many times she'd worn a patch of feathers off of her head. (I noted that her skin under the feathers is black.) I carried a towel with me and was able to toss it over her. Then I carefully carried her in my hands, shouldered the door open, and released her. I recall a man walking past as I opened my hands and she took to the skies. He kind of just stood there and gawked.

For the next half an hour or so she followed me down the street, landing on twigs and tree limbs whenever I stopped. I paused a few times to talk to her. I have never had any doubt that she was thanking me.


Not the cardinal I rescued, but one in the backyard of the condo where we lived in Matthews.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Closing in on Retirement.

Eleven months until full retirement. I've been planning for this for decades. I won't be rich, but I'll be relatively comfortable. I'll be able to travel and do as much camping and hiking and backpacking as I want to do. No house payment. No large debts. I might buy a newer truck to pull the trailer. We'll see.

I just have to make it through the next eleven months.

The shorter the time gets, the more frustrating the waiting becomes.

Dang it! I can't even recall the name of this spring! I'll be doing a lot of kayaking come my 62nd birthday.
I'll be camping in the middle of the week, avoiding the crowds. Woo HOO! Also, I'll get National Park camping at half off!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

SHAZAM!

This movie looks like it could be fun. People some time back lost sight of the fact that comic book superheroes were created to entertain children. It's cool that some adults get a kick out of them, but this silly shit was made for kids.




Friday, June 29, 2018

Chance the Gardener Lives.

I cannot stand group-think and the selling of mass market crap. One of the people who pretty much embodies everything that I hate about politics, religion, and propaganda is the man everyone knows as "the Dalai Lama". His very existence as a person of so-called 'importance' grinds on my every last nerve. He says nothing of lasting value, and each of those things are obvious and to varying degrees of either practicality or of nonsense. The Hoi polloi eat that crap with a ladle.

At any rate, whenever anyone mentions him or presents me with one of his quotes or asks me to watch a snippet of video of him droning, this is what I see and hear. He is, in effect, the Chauncey Gardener of philosophy. The absolute worst.


(I got yer Dalai Lama right here!)