The Color of Language, the Language of Color

Monday Morning Musings:

“When a name for a color is absent from a language, it is usually blue. When a name for a color is indefinite, it is usually green. Ancient Hebrew, Welsh, Vietnamese, and, until recently, Japanese, lack a word for blue… The Icelandic word for blue and black is the same, one word that fits sea, lava, and raven.

It has been shown that the words for colors enter evolving languages in this order, nearly universally: black, white, and red, then yellow and green (in either order), with green covering blue until blue comes into itself. . .

Within every color lies a story, and stories are the binding agent of culture.”
–Ellen Meloy, quoted on Brainpickings

Sunrise over the Delaware River. West Deptford, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

I celebrate color, all the hues
of dawning light to grey or blue,
the color of the sky, the gulls that flew
before the morning moon to sparkle bright–
I celebrate delight

in things we name from time and before—
the universe of letters, we’re each a book—and more–
composed of fiery stars and stellar song. And all along
from there to here and back again, there is light—
I celebrate its flight

from stars, bird-winged it soars, beating hearts
twinkling, illuminating the night, and each day
through shadows, there is a glow, a gate, a portal
through which time circles, not black or white—
I celebrate the spotlight

the lens through which I see. My faulty illusions—
still part of me. And everywhere I go, I see Crow—
who sees much more. So, while we count, label, and navigate,
some things remain unseen. But I dream and write—
I celebrate me, color, language, light.

My older child has been a fellow at the Atiq Maker Kollel for the past fifteen weeks. Yesterday they did a Zoom celebration of their art projects. You can find out more about their project here. In a discussion by one of the other participants, there was a mention of the world being created from letters and language, and even our bodies composed of language. I had read the Brainpickings article earlier in the week, which made me think of color and language, and the naming of things.


Memorial Day seems much more than a week ago, but we went to a Lobster and Chardonnay event at a local winery that afternoon. This past weekend, we tasted some of the wine (only got through the whites) from a blind tasting box—a Mother’s Day gift from our children.


Last night we watched the Kennedy Center Honors, which we both enjoyed. The honorees were Debbie Allen, Joan Baez, Dick van Dyke, Midori, and Garth Brooks. I couldn’t name a Garth Brooks song, but I even enjoyed his segment because he was so moved by the performers. Because of Covid restrictions, the TV program combined clips of filmed indoor and outdoor performances instead of the usual formal theater production. Some of the dance numbers worked very well that way.

I’m linking this to dVerse, Open Link Night.

Measuring

Monday Morning Musings:

Early Morning, Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

Measure by measure—

in hope and despair
from winter bare to sun-charged air

we smile through tears
with spirits brightened, but still the fears

of what comes next?
Another crisis, another text

of sorrow or disaster.
Can we master

moving from the passing of this year?
Too many lost, but we’re still here–

and so, we live as we’re able,
finally meet across a table

to eat and laugh, while those who’ve passed
remain within our memories, clasped

in synapsed snapshots, held fast,
until all is faded, at last,

everything balanced, a measure
of sadness, a finding of treasure

in the remembrance of what she said,
those words, like a thread

linking us, a connection
a form of resurrection

in “do you remember?” Phrases bright—
like the promise, with shadows, there’s light.

Ripples. One Year. ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

April is a strange month all over, it seems—one day cold, one day warm, full of storms, and also flowers. A bunch of tulips that we didn’t plant have popped up in our garden.

Yesterday was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Now that we’ve all been vaccinated, we went to our younger daughter and son-in-law’s house—and for the first time in over a year, hugged and ate inside. She made us a tapas feast, and I baked a chocolate cake in my mom’s memory.

My husband and I both got haircuts for the first time in over a year, too. Woo hoo! We celebrated with a date night at home and streamed the excellent production of the Lantern Theater’s production of Measure for Measure. It was a filmed production from a few years ago. The play is very timely. We watched the movie, Promising Young Woman, (rental from Amazon), which my husband and I both enjoyed and thought was very good—great acting, direction, and soundtrack. Both play and movie will inspire discussion.

Spring Cycle

Monday Morning Musings:

Sunrise–almost Spring

On the first day of spring,
I take my shadow for a walk
she doesn’t talk—but the crows do
remembered views, the death and blight–

a year has passed
upside-down and inside-out,
and birdsong comes again, devours the dark
as dawn glows bright from each spring night

Spring Reflection

after winds of winter go,
and summer storms not yet here, she knows,
to go softly on tippy-toes, then stop, perch
till too soon off like a bird in flight

she soars—another year–
but while she’s here—oh!
She flicks colors with her feathered wings
yellow, pink, purple, white—the sight

of all these tiny, bright beautiful things brings
more song and whispered longings—
all things yearn, and we turn, yearn,
learn spring returns, despite

would-be tyrants and corona drops
spread from the unmasked walking brain-dead, threads
of lives unraveled and songs unsung—yet, listen, see–
birds, bees, tender buds in bloom—and the light!

Sunrise, Delaware River, West Deptford, NJ ©️Merril D. Smith, 2021

It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? Now spring is back. The crows are once again very busy, the songbirds have started singing before dawn, and the light lasts longer each day. Even the cold mornings now don’t stay cold. There are still ignorant people spreading lies, and new strains of the virus also spreading, but hopefully, more people will be vaccinated before too long. I get my second vaccine later this week.
We started watching Shtisel (Netflix). It’s a family drama about a religious Jewish family in Jerusalem. We’re enjoying it. We’re still on Season 1. The third season is dropping this week.

I made chana masala and garlic naan on Friday night.

Love, Loss, and Dancing Through It

Monday Morning Musings:

Beat away the aching time
in river blues, see serene, sublime

Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield

in those rippling rhythms. The tide rolls in, and thus begins
another round of what and when and who wins

the life and death struggles, the eagle soars, swoops, a pounce
there goes the fish, squirrel, another ounce, but we can’t denounce

an avian predator who wants to eat,
but human ones, we must unseat.

I see the lawn-stuck signs of misguided fools who think
freedom comes with soundbite slogans–but we’re on the brink

standing on a precipice, tottering, about to fall
while they embrace the treacherous, Russians and all–

the lies they think are fine, wish them away, spin, deny
in sheep-like flocks they gather, unmasked, I sigh

as I walk, watch the geese honk and fly
greeting each other, hello, goodbye

I say, wonder what it’s like to twirl and soar
and then, I go home to bake some more,

to dip bread and apples in honey’s sweetness
to wish for good to flourish, feeling a completeness

of life with loved ones, though from afar
with a world increasingly troubled and bizarre.

Every day more and more, surpassing–
we’re saddened by news of a hero’s passing.

More wine, more honey
talk of this and that, find something funny—

hold on to love (is love is love is love is love is love)
dance when you can, look for beauty above

and all around, fight for justice and truth—
remember our heroes, remember Ruth.

We celebrated the first night of Rosh Hashanah with a Zoom dinner with our daughters and their spouses. I don’t know how to make a small holiday meal, even though there are just two of us here. We heard about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg when the news flashed on a daughter’s phone.

Merril’s Movie Club: We saw And Then We Danced, which now is free on Amazon Prime. We had seen previews for it before the pandemic hit, and though I enjoyed the movie, it would have been wonderful to see it on a big screen. The film is about Merab, a member of Georgia’s National Dance Ensemble. It’s an art form that is beautiful, but rigid, and steeped in tradition. Merab and a new dancer, Iralki are first rivals, but then attracted to each other. It is dangerous to be gay in Georgia (the country, not the state). The government would not finance the movie, and there were bodyguards on the set. The choreographer remains anonymous. I fear this is what it could be like here.
My husband and I both liked the movie very much. The drumming music is great. The subtitles could be better, and they even though I watch subtitled movies all the time, I had to full with the settings.

Hate, Love, Hate, Love

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Blue Mood with Pegasus clouds racing across the sky. Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ ©️ Merril D. Smith 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

“Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete.” –Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

“There’s a saying in Hebrew, ‘No matter how dark the tapestry God weaves for us, there’s always a thread of grace.”—Mary Doria Russell, A Thread of Grace

 

Glowing ships on the aquamarine sea,

Moon and Venus shine their beacons–

 

Farewell night!

The moon smiles a crooked grin,

 

and Venus titters

such fools, these mortals be.

 

***

 

I hate everyone, she says to me.

Well, not you—not my family—

 

and I know what she means, because I feel it, too,

the constant barrage of evil and ignorance,

 

people who refuse to wear masks,

who spread misinformation,

 

and insist they’re not racist while sharing racist posts—

the people, who like black holes, swallow the light,

 

but not all of it.

 

Sigh. Breathe. Walk. Begin again—

 

as each day does–

the sun rises, even if we don’t see it

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shining over the horizon

waking the world

 

again and again,

though some never awaken

 

to see the world around them,

its beauty

 

flowing on a river of hope

reflected over and over

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Delaware River at Red Bank Battlefield, National Park, NJ. ©️Merril D. Smith 2020

a dream

of what was and what could be.

 

Some of the things I’ve seen on my morning walks this week:

These mushrooms that look like umbrellas set up for fairies.

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Deer and red-tailed hawks this morning.

 

On Friday nights, we get together virtually with our children and their spouses. We light the Sabbath candles and share the things that we’re grateful for.

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Saturday night homemade pizza and movie night

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Lots of baking

Merril’s Movie Club: We watched The Hate U Give. (Amazon Prime with an additional slight fee, but I believe it’s on other streaming platforms.) We both thought it was a very good movie, and I highly recommend it. It’s based on a YA novel of the same name. It gets very intense, but in a thoughtful, nuanced way. Here’s a review in The New Yorker. We finished Season 3 of Bordertown, which I mentioned last week. I’m happy that apparently Season 4 is in the works.

I’m rereading Mary Doria Russell’s A Thread of Grace, a historical novel set in WWII Italy. She’s an author who does her research, but also tells a good story with captivating characters. Another story that seems timely when read now.

And this–unconditional love.

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The Light Rekindled

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The Upside-Down World: An overflow drainage pond is beautiful reflected. Merril D. Smith, March 2020

Monday Morning Musings:

“I borrowed his brightness and used it to see my way, and then gradually, from the habit of looking at the world as he illuminated it, the light in my own mind rekindled.”

–Geraldine Brooks, Year of Wonders

 

I walk, alone

no human voices, only birdsong.

Vultures soar above me,

social, silent creatures

gracefully catching the currents

 

 

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sniffing the air

for death on the ground,

unnoticed by us–

like those who scavenge and clean

under-appreciated, like those who serve.

 

Life blooms all around me

yellow, pink, white

petals bright against the sky

where a mockingbird perches

to sing for hours in looping trills

 

a song of love, longing, and hope

of attracting his mate,

or fending off others.

Whatever the intent,

his message makes me smile.

 

We celebrate Shabbat,

a virtual dinner with our daughters.

We light the candles, sip our wine,

cut the challah

share our lives and love through a screen,

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Virtual Shabbat Dinner

 

agreeing that we should do this again

agreeing that we are all connecting

in new ways—

I tell them I called a friend,

I remind myself to call others.

 

The sun shines

through the raindrops

a brief reminder

it is there, like a memory

it is always there

 

in a puddle

reflected

or in the sky

hidden by clouds

or by a turn of the axis–

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Sun shower–Upside-down World in a puddle Merril D. Smith, March 2020

 

even in the upside-down world

light is a constant,

if unseen

like light within a black hole

trapped

 

like a thought in a confused mind–

my mom says she’s honeymooning

with my dead father,

remembering not the anger, but love rekindled—

a bit of light in the darkness.

 

The week began with sunshine

ends with clouds and rain–

spring is a tease of

warm days and cool breeze,

but the light lingers longer

 

even while the shadows play.

 

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No movies this week, but we finished Season 3 of Babylon Berlin. It’s so good. Now we have to wait for Season 4.  I’m seeing new things in my neighborhood as I walk through it.

And we celebrated #openlocalwine night on Saturday. Doing our small part. 😀

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All the Seconds, Connecting

Philadelphia from Patco train, February 2020

This moment–sparkling.

Monday Morning Musings:

“Nourish beginnings, let us nourish beginnings. . .

This moment, this seed, this wave of the sea, this look, this instant of love.”

-from “Elegy in Joy [excerpt]”

Muriel Rukeyser – 1913-1980

 

In the slow sailing of time

and the dazzle-dance of stars

in all the afters

and the befores

we find connections

 

heroes still live

chasing one another for eternity

unable to escape

though larger than life

and immortal

 

(as long as we see them)

even if they vanish

in the rosy blush of morning

like the dew

like the second that has just passed

 

never to return.

But this instant,

and the next,

a beginning each time

like this seed

a burst of lavender and yellow

comes again, crocus then daffodil

through the years,

four seasons,

one birthday to another

 

we celebrate you

we celebrate us

a special dinner,

cake and presents,

you smile

 

say you’ve been thinking Vera, Chuck, and Dave

but I’ve brought you a bottle of wine

and you’re still my Valentine

I still need you and feed you–

let us nourish beginnings,

 

the moments that pass too soon–

my mother tells me my father wrote songs

she says she knows they’re his

though they say anonymous

because they’re about her,

 

the moments they had

when he saw her

and she could still see

and the doctor can fix her eyelid

but not her sight

 

or her green eyes

dimmed by time

almost a century

our oak tree even older,

and ghosts dance beneath its boughs

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where we had a swing,

a yellow baby swing,

somewhere in time

maybe it exists still

gently swaying

 

a rippling memory

like old window glass

of what was–

and I could connect them

the present and the past,

Merchant Exchange Building, Philadelphia

Wavy window glass of the Merchant Exchange Building, Old City Philadelphia, 2020 Merril D. Smith

 

and then that moment

would pass, too

elusive like a ghost.

Does my mother really see him

my father?

 

In the movie

the women are bound by the past,

broken by war

wanting to nourish new beginnings

will they heal

 

connect to something more than ghosts?

They are filled with emptiness.

And she is frozen.

What happens to the ghosts

when past moves to future?

 

We watch a show of future times

space ships and androids,

but still there is war.

Treachery seems to fill the skies

everywhere, so we look for heroes

in the stars

and watch their dazzle-dance

and mark the passage of time

with cake

as we nourish love, drink–

and so, the seconds pass

from birth to death

all the in-betweens

seeds to flowers, kittens to cats,

stars explode and are reborn, connected.

***

Random bonus cats.

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Cats and reflections! Philadelphia.

 

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Sometimes we like each other. 

 

Merril’s Movie Club: We sawJoJo Rabbit on Prime. I think my husband liked it more than I did. Not that I disliked it, but. . .I’m not sure if it worked. It’s hard to laugh about Nazis. Parts of it I did, and the little boy in it is wonderful. We saw Beanpole in the theater. Another one that is difficult to say, “I liked it” because of the subject matter, but excellent acting–the two leads especially are astonishing–but also the whole cast. It is definitely a bleak movie set in post-WWII Leningrad, but I can’t stop thinking about it.

We started watching Picard, even though I really don’t want to pay for another streaming service, but Patrick Steward as Jean-Luc again and daughters are watching it. . . and yes, that is an Enterprise pizza cutter with our homemade pizza.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More on Heroes and Hearts

Swirls Over Spruce

Spruce Street, Old City

Monday Morning Musings:

“She preferred imaginary heroes to real ones, because when tired of them, the former could be shut up in the tin kitchen till called for, and the latter were less manageable.”

–Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

“i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”

–e.e.cummings “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]”

 

 

Ancient voices carried on a breeze

float beneath the moon

in leaf-rustle, they speak

in each footfall, they keep time

and secrets

 

that whirl in dusty motes

gathering in silvery specks,

specters of the past

the echo of their heartbeats

caught in a laugh, a scent, a cry.

 

***

Harriet was a true hero,

but she was a woman, too,

who loved and laughed and cried

and if the playwright has her move through time

is that so odd

 

because we still hear her voice,

don’t we?

She walked down this street or that one, perhaps

here the enslaved reached freedom,

here refugees still hide

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Second Street, Old City Philadelphia (From the Arden Theater) Merril D. Smith 2020

their hearts full

or broken.

I learn my friend’s heart literally broke

the day before Valentine’s Day–

but it is patched, stents installed

 

to let his blood flow.

Another friend has an artificial heart,

but like the Tin Man

she doesn’t need a heart

to love or be loved.

 

I read that the Giant Heart in the Franklin Institute

has been refurbished–

it now has the soundtrack of a real heart

with beats that echo

through time and space

 

like Harriet in the play,

like the memory of my grandfather

popping up from the giant heart’s artificial valves

to show me and my little sister

that it was a safe space

 

a place I carry

a memory of a heart

carried in my heart

his heart and that heart

in my heart, they echo

 

as do the voices of women

leading “lives of quiet desperation”

that the assistant sees in the movie

and what can she do

till enough people speak and the system changes

 

as whistles are blown

and heroes speak the truth

even as rich and petty men besmirch them

retaliating with the power of wealth and position–

tin men without the shadow of a heart.

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But still,

I bake chocolate hearts

for all the hearts I carry inside

and we celebrate love

and heroes–

 

because both

transcend time and space.

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We saw My General Tubman, a new play by Lorene Cary at the Arden Theatre.

We went to the Wine and Chocolate event at William Heritage Winery.

Merril’s Movie Club: we saw The Assistant, a bleak but excellent movie with an outstanding performance by Julia Garner.

We also finished Counterpart. We really enjoyed the two seasons. It’s on Prime, and apparently Starz cancelled it because they didn’t feel it appealed to female viewers (!).  You know how women don’t enjoy well-developed plots and complex storylines (rolling eyes).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowflakes and Time

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“Every snowflake has an infinite beauty which is enhanced by knowledge that the investigator will, in all probability, never find another exactly like it.”

Wilson Bentley

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Beneath a frantic cry

a need for love

is carried on the wind

over a thousand summers

through winter storms of snow and ice,

the moon hums

***

There is no present the man says,

only past and future,

no division between beach and sea,

only water and sand

both existing together.

 

“In physics there’s no arrow of time.”

In a place beyond our beyond

the past might be the future,

perhaps time existed

before our universe.

 

My toddler daughter once asked

“Do you remember when I was in your belly

and I hiccupped and that made you laugh?”

A conversation that she no longer remembers,

but that I still do—

 

that moment in time

frozen—no–

like a movie in my mind—

the improbable (could she have remembered?),

the reality

 

of mothers and daughters

over and over through time

we’ve moved my mother to a new facility–

she is exhausted,

she is exhausting.

It is an exhausting week.

Time seems to work differently,

dragging, then suddenly gone.

The world is wind and clouds

I am housebound–

by work

not trapped–

but constrained by deadlines

and circumstances

and January grey.

 

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The snowstorm-that-isn’t comes

and goes–

nevertheless, I cook and bake–

comfort food, candles, and wine

while we watch the trapped Icelandic town

caught by weather and geography,

old grievances and new politics.

The world is weary everywhere

trapped by hate,

mired in ignorance.

 

My daughter says there’s a good musician here,

if you’re not doing anything today?

We’re not

and we go

listen to music, drink some wine–

 

It’s an afternoon out

but inside—away from the wind—

a moment in time, different,

as each snowflake, and ephemeral

but carrying its unique beauty in our memories

 

through time

(whatever that may be).

 

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It’s been a strange week with moving mom and cleaning out her old apartment. While driving, we listened to an episode of the Ted Radio Hour, Episode “Shifting Time,” first broadcast in 2015.

We’re watching an Icelandic mystery series called Trapped. We’re almost finished with the first season, and we’re enjoying it.

The Scent of the Past

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Monday Morning Musings:

“We sit down

in the smell of the past

and rise in a light

that is already leaving.”

From Rita Dove, “November for Beginners”

“Wars, plagues, names upon tombs tell us only what happened. But history lies in the cracks between.”

― Sarah Blake, The Guest Book

 

The wind roars, a dragon

blowing in the season

 

overnight the temperature drops

and there’s a reason

 

I’m baking and cooking

easing in

this time of melancholy and light.

 

The leaves glow golden

in the slanted light of dimming days

 

 

and color pops, unrestrained,

blazing, in the rays

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of setting sun.

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Here come ghosts

and memories, the dead

Day of the Dead at Love Park

William Penn looking down at the Day of the Dead display at Love Park, Philadelphia

 

remembered in joy and sorrow

decorations, graves, a thread

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of history, the moments in-between

the things we love, the times we dread

 

the smell of the past,

 

comes back to haunt us–

my mother says, do you smell that

 

when nothing is in the air

and goes on to chat—

 

(I open window and door)

we discuss dogs, a cat

 

and this is where we’re at,

 

now, daughter and I make candles

smelling scents for future burning

but is it also, perhaps,

for a past we’re yearning

 

in scents of autumn and Christmas

as the season is turning

 

we talk and sip our wine.

 

 

Swirl, sniff, taste,

discuss ghosts and dreams,

 

the feelings of houses

our moods, of what seems

 

to be real or not—

(I watch how the light streams

 

then dims.)

Vintage Wine Bar, Philadelphia

Vintage Wine Bar, Philadelphia

The clocks turned back,

but we’re the ones that change,

 

not time. It moves on,

there’s no real exchange

 

hours lost or gained,

yet memories remain, sometimes disarranged

 

but triggered by this or that, perhaps a scent.

 

I dream of cooking beans,

the refrain, they need long simmering

 

add some water the dream people say

and in my mind some glimmering–

 

this is my life and words

with long slow cooking, simmering

 

and sometimes shimmering

 

through the cracks

the scents of cinnamon and spice, autumn

 

the leaves glow and fall

the ghosts often forgotten

 

wander, here and there

as the light dims

 

but returns—in time.

 

Merril’s Movie Club–we watched It on Halloween, as the wind began to howl. We saw Pain and Glory, Almodovar’s latest. Husband and I both liked it–(but liked Parasite more)–you probably know if you like this kind of thing, Banderas as Almodovar remembering his life, perhaps more pain than glory at times. Trailer here.  We also started watching a French series on Netflix, Black Spot (definitely not translated from the French title Zone Blanche) about strange goings on in a French town. We like to keep our viewing international.  😉