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RECOMMENDATIONS FOR INDIE NETFLIX STREAMING FILMS; EXCELLENT, BUT MOSTLY IGNORED BY CRITICS AND MEDIA.
Friends have asked how I pick them.
Here’s a list recommended by pro film writers. Begin with (*) titles, which I’ve seen and loved. In no specific order: HUNTER GATHERER*, A WOMAN A PART, I BELIEVE IN UNICORNS, KING JACK, MEN GO TO BATTLE*, MISS STEVENS, THINGS TO COME, TRAMPS, THE TRIP TO SPAIN*, LOOK WHO’S BACK*.
Let me know what you think.
I taught ESL one summer to Mexicans in the US. They said they moved to the US, and had no respect for anti-immigration laws. They said they were justifiably reclaiming the land stolen from them in the 18th and 19th centuries, by white Europeans. No matter how many times they were deported, they would still return, until the white Europeans thieves were willing to share it. They had a point.
I’ve been reading a history of the Cherokee “removal’ from the South in the 1830s, authorized by president Andrew Jackson and Georgia governor George Gilmer. Trump really does reflect the dastardly deeds of Jackson and Gilmer.
The US government ignored treaties, ignored the US Constitution, ignored land and livestock theft, destroyed homes, encouraged violence, and permitted torture and murder of the Cherokees, the native people, so they could steal their land.
Their final solution inspired Hitler and his Nazi genocide in Eastern Europe 100 years later. Jackson’s Trail of Tears forced winter march killed thousands of Cherokees. Trump’s threats to remove 11 million American residents has a similar ring.
I especially consider that most of the “illegal” deportees were natives descended from people who had populated the US and Mexico for thousands of years. They were deceived and decimated by the Europeans, just like the Nazis did to the Central Europeans when told they would be sent to “Work Camps.”
“The Cherokees are nearly all prisoners. They have been dragged from their houses, and encamped at the forts and military posts, all over the nation. In Georgia, especially, multitudes were allowed no time to take anything with them except the clothes they had on. Well-furnished houses were left prey to plunderers, who, like hungry wolves, follow in the trail of the captors. These wretches rifle the houses and strip the helpless, unoffending owners of all they have on earth.”
Will Trump repeat?
montana wilderness – indian paradise lost
After spending the night at Little Bighorn Battle Field with the Lakota and US Calvary re-enactors, I headed back to the Monument Headquarters for a Crow-native guided tour of the battle sites—told from the Native point of view. The guide was one of the tribal officers, who led the tours in a small bus as a community service.
It was a top-drawer tour. We stopped at several places on the ring road as the guide gave very detailed descriptions of the battle. This is a unique battle field, because after the battle, most of the Cavalry were buried in unmarked shallow graves where they fell. The graves were quickly hidden by dense grasses. A few years later, marble markers were set by the graves, but there were many doubts about the accuracy of their placements.
In 1984, a wild fire cleared the dried grasses across the entire battlefield. This allowed archeologists to thoroughly search for artifacts, and they created an accurate map of the battle. Seeing how groups of a dozen grave markers shrunk to pairs was testament to how the soldiers assembled for safety, but as groups were decimated, many fled, and were cut down—explaining the many single outlying graves.
The Plains Indian War was a fearful posting for experienced soldiers, because of the danger of ambush, insufficient food, scarce supplies, and inadequate arms. For example, while the Indians had acquired modern repeating rifles, the soldiers had only single-shot muskets.
Most of the soldiers were recent jobless immigrants from Europe, Britain and Ireland. They joined the cavalry to eat, not suspecting the horrors they would face, nor the irony that they had fled their homeland due to genocide carried out by the English on their native minority.
After the early-morning tour, I ate breakfast at the ‘Custer Battlefield Café’ in the nearby town of Crow Agency. It was part of the Crow Indian Reservation, and the restaurant/gift shop was tribe-owned.
I met another traveler, Eric, who was driving the back roads, just with his dog, from Connecticut to San Diego in a late model Cadillac. They pulled over whenever he was tired, and slept in the back seat.
Eric was a freelance campaign manager for Democrats across the country, and so depressed by the recent election loss by his people, that he hit the road, without a plan for the future, thinking that America was now doomed.
Eric insisted that on my way back, I should visit Wounded Knee, on the Lakota Pine Ridge Reservation—where he had just come from. It was one of the most emotional moments of his life.
The drive there, over the Blue Highways of Montana and South Dakota, was long and stunning in its remoteness. No exits, no towns, sometimes for stretches of 75+ miles.
I spent the night outside the Donner Pass town of Truckee. After 12 days on the California coast, it was surprising to see there was still plenty of snow in late June. In the morning, I drove I-80 nearly the entire length of dry-bones Nevada through Reno, Fernley, Lovelock, and Imlay, finally landing in God-forsaken Winnemucca, where I stayed in one of the hemisphere’s ugliest RV parks.
After dinner at possibly the greasiest Mexican restaurant ever, I walked through downtown, which had the saddest little strip of casinos in the hemisphere. I went into one that was, with a fistful of quarters, but saw that slots the machines had gone boring digital with credit card thingies for money. Plus, as with everything digital, they had a million choices, and I had no idea how they worked. Gone was the satisfaction of plunking in a quarter, pulling the arm, coaxing the spinning wheels, and hearing 3-4 or 100 quarters jangle into the metal coin tray, like little bells from heaven.
No fun there. The handful of players scattered around the dark rooms were mostly grim-faced solitary middle-aged women pulling on cigarettes and sipping raspberry vodkas.
This stretch of I-80 is desolation row, passing ghost towns like Battle Mountain, Beowave, Golconda and Valmy. Then you zoom by the little city of Elko, which according to Wikipedia “is also home to legal prostitutes and contains active brothels. Several geothermal features are located in Elko, the largest of which is the Elko Hot Hole.” In winter, you can ski for $20.
About 80 miles from Elko, at the only town in the West with two Flying J’s on the same exit, I turned north onto US 93 North. One of the great American desert highways, it runs mostly two lanes for 1,457 lonesome miles from Phoenix to Canada, crossing five Interstate Highways, and passing hundreds of ghost (or nearly) towns.
On the border, there is Jackpot, Nevada, which has a 15 story hotel ‘convention center’ that lures gamblers from Twins Falls, Idaho to this D-grade border sin city.
Then, the West blossoms into Idaho, which has some of America’s most bizarre natural features. Craters of the Moon National Park, St. Anthony Dunes, and the back end of the Rockies. The ghost towns and sleazy casino villages of Nevada are replaced by refreshing views, lakes, and electric green fields of wheat and potatoes, and Nuclear Reactors.
A bit further up the Road, I passed a little time with this vagabond couple at a Flying J in Twins Falls (they were thumbing their way to Vermont).
Idaho has its share of lonely roads, if you like to feel alone in the world.
And one of the most bizarre sights in the USA, Craters of the Moon National Monument. Hundreds of square miles of volcanic cinders line the road. The most recent flows were just 2,000 years ago. Not a place to be barefoot.
Idaho was one of the most surprising places, I’ve ever been, but the potatoes I had weren’t the best, and they’re not promoted much. But then again where will you find a landscape that looks like a herd of dinosaurs just took a dump.
A SEA OF CELLPHONE WATCHERS,
AND NOBODY IS REALLY THERE
I love the US National Parks. So do many people around the world. They are packed with international tourists. Buses are full. Especially of Japanese. Watching them juggle selfie sticks,create the perfect facial expression, arrange their colorful clothing just so, then finally snap themselves looming in the foreground of every corner of the park, oblivious to the real world around them, fascinates me.
A recent article described obsessive selfie photographers, as budding sociopaths disconnected from the real world, and unable to appreciate anything their big face on a 5×4 screen. They visit scenic places but never really see them, and never really experience the intense emotion of being there. Every event is a selfie event, to be captured for later, or maybe to impress acquaintances, waiting breathlessly on Instagram. The author mentions that at rock concerts, the audience is a sea of cell phone watchers, and nobody is really there.
A friend called Sunday afternoon, while I was crossing Montana on the way to the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation. He recommended I should make a 100 mile detour to Little Big Horn Battlefield, because it was the 141st anniversary of the death of Gen. George Custer.
I arrived at Crow Agency, Montana and found a re-enactment of the battle, from the Native American perspective, was scheduled for 1 pm. It was 5 pm, and the grounds were empty. I went back to the tribal-owned café for dinner, and think about where to spend the night. Three ladies sat at a table near me, and we struck up a conversation about the re-enactment. One of them owned the ranch on the Little Big Horn River, where it had taken place. She invited me to camp where about 75 re-enactors were still cleaning up, and spending the night. I could stay with them.
Custer’s last stand, at the Battle of Little Big Horn is a famous moment in US history. It was part of The Indian Wars, 1610 to 1924–310 years. In school, I learned that Indians were treated fairly by benevolent ‘pioneers’- Thanksgiving and all. On the other hand because they were ‘uncivilized savages, attacking white settler families’, whose only fault was they were taking the Indians’ land, they had to be put on reservations.
Touring Indian reservations from Eastern NC to the Pacific coast, seeing and reading their side of the story over many years, I’ve decided that all I’d learned about Native Americans in school had been a lie—to make white people look good, and excuse their own violent conquest of the Native population.
During the Indian wars, the US government spent the equivalent of many billions of dollars, removing millions of Indians from the rich hunting and farming lands, which they had occupied for 10,000 years. To do this, the government used broken promises, theft, and mass murder. It was violent conquest and genocide. Nothing to be proud of or patriotic about.
They were an amazing group: US Calvary re-enactors and Sioux re-enactors. Serious living historians. I introduced myself, and was welcome to hang, shared buffalo jerky, and their other foods on a bench around a campfire where two battle foes got along in a way that would have pleased Jesus Christ himself.
It was an incredible experience, and one I’ll return to next July—at their invitation. It deserves a book, but for now, here is a gallery to help tell the story.
Met this pleasant nouveau hippie couple at a restaurant in Garberville, California, Humboldt County. She’s from France, and he’s from New Zealand. They informed me that Garberville /Humboldt County had been one of the world’s hottest pot spots for decades– even rivaling Amsterdam as a nouveau hippie mecca, for the variety and easy availability of cannabis.
They were happy to talk about their lives, and had come to the area for the pot harvest, having become experts in how to pick the best buds quickly and carefully– from stints in Mexico, Africa, and Asia. They could pick plums from area orchards, but plum picking paid $9/hr. and pot picking upwards of $50/hr.– for their level of experience. Could be an interesting alternative to your kids’ coding camp– good healthy outdoor work and all. They did look fit, healthy, and happy.
Recreational weed is legal in 9 states, with others on the verge. However, Jeff Sessions is threatening to arrest every American stoner and throw them in jail for violating federal anti-pot laws. Pot saved many Humboldt county families from bankruptcy decades ago, when the timber industry went bust.
The locals, who are tough country folk wouldn’t cotton the Trump administration dropping Agent Orange bombs on their beautiful California farms.
Good luck with that General Sessions.
Also, Colorado recently reported that state sales tax in the first quarter of this year, from the infant legal weed industry had exceeded the entire alcohol tax income for the previous year! Taking on the pot industry will likely be as successful as building a wall on the Mexican border. Watch out North Carolina and other Bible Belt states, that giant sucking sound you will hear in a few years will be people exiting West for good pot-economy jobs.
Had no idea coming into Garberville as we crossed from the Northern California Coast that it would be such a cultural throwback and economic success story.
Walking through the Norris Geyser at Yellowstone National Park, found selfie-snappers more interesting than bubbling springs.
Instead of geysers, I snapped selfie snappers. Here’s my favorite- ‘millenial with tiny bear’. Didn’t want to look like a creep or stalker (using my big, loud Nikon), so no time for proper focus.
What are they thinking? More snaps of selfies coming.
Never expected this. Camping tonight, accidentally, at a campground especially for ‘sand’ jockeys. This was a surprising introduction to an American sub-culture I had no idea existed. Some of these dune buggies cost $35,000+ (but used ones- probably for sale after their previous owner broke his back– can be had for just a couple thousand).
Got into a conversation with these two guys. When I admitted I’d never been on a ride, they insisted I try it. In my younger years I would have relished it. This time, I hesitated, but said yes– for art’s sake.
The amazing location is St. Anthony’s Sand Dunes Nat Park in St. Anthony, ID. It has about 11,000 acres with some dunes rising 400 feet at 80+ degree angles. The folks have souped up dune buggies, noisy as hell. Reminds me of Saudi Arabia– but in the middle of Idaho? There are drivers in their 60s and pre-teens, running up and down the hills like demons. Harley riders and NASCAR drivers frequent the place. You have to love the sound of screaming internal combustion engines to handle the place. Ends at 10 pm thank god. Some carry buggies for kids and adults– 4 in a huge trailer pulled by their huge RV.
I didn’t expect to sleep much, but it had been a long day to the middle of nowhere, but I had no idea. It was one of the most insane, scariest thing’s I’d ever done. No video or photo will capture it.
I think I was the highlight of these two fellows trip. As I screamed like a little girl with a spider in her hair, while holding on for dear life, sure I’d only get out of there in an ambulance, they laughed so hard they could have pissed themselves. Was happy to make their day, I think. I’m not in a rush to do it again, but appreciated their friendliness and generosity. While I was still shaking after the ride, they assured me mine was a baby ride, and I should try the big boy’s ride next. Maybe later.
Welcome to the USA!!
Stumbled on this scene outside Batesville, in northern Mississippi. Batesville, you probably already know is the namesake and home of the Batesville Casket Company, America’s largest coffin producer– for more than 100 years! I’ve seen their delivery trucks across the USA. Sadly, they don’t offer factory tours– I asked.
This inspiring piece of sculpture is found on old US 278 between Tupelo (Elvis’ birthplace) and Clarksdale, MS (Clapton’s ‘Crossroads’), two notable towns located in the AMERICANA MUSIC TRIANGLE. http://americanamusictriangle.com/driving-trails/ — bet you didn’t know about that either!