Maybe I’m Not ‘A Man’: Complaining About The Rules Of The Economic Game

Do you feel afraid?

I feel afraid. I cannot escape it.

Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m meek. Maybe I’m not “a man.”

That’s how I feel sometimes.


Because I don’t believe my sole purpose on Earth is to make money. I’m not willing to do whatever it takes to make money.

The caveman part of my brain equates that with not being a provider — aka “a man.”

Perhaps I have the luxury of not focusing on money. I have an apartment. I have food. My needs are met.

And yet, I feel the pressure. Mostly, it’s because I want to retire some day. But it’s also because of the expectation (from myself and, often, society) that I’m supposed to be a provider. If I make enough money, I can provide for someone, something — if I don’t make money, what am I?

We are defined by our economy. It is how we are providers or not providers. It is how we are winners and losers.

I won’t be surprised if you think I’m whining.

“Stop complaining about the rules and play the game. These are the cards you were dealt. Play them.”

To a large extent, I’ve done that. I haven’t retreated from society. I’ve entered the fray.

Because I was lucky enough to be born in the middle class of the Great Plains, I was able to go to college. I got a job that allows me to hold on to solvency when combined with a second job and, admittedly, support from my family. (Let’s be honest, a great family can take you a long way.)

But by certain, widespread definitions of success, I am not successful. I am someone who is not living up to his earning potential.

And what do I have to do to be successful by the rules of our game?

Let’s take a look.

According to a study by the Institute of Policy Studies on CEO pay:

• Four CEOs of financial firms that received some of the largest bailouts in 2008 have reappeared on the top 25 highest-paid lists since the crash.

• Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell got the boot in 2006 after the drug maker’s stock plunged 40 percent. He still jumped out of the escape hatch with a golden parachute worth nearly $200 million.

• Dialysis giant DaVita HealthCare has had to fork over more than $350 million during the past year to settle various fraud cases. Nevertheless, CEO Kent Thiry made the top 25 highest-paid list in 2012 with more than $26 million in total compensation.

Those are individuals who know how to play the game.

But maybe all that is too abstract. Let me try to make it clearer.

Michael Eisner earned $9.54 a second as CEO of Disney. His successor, Robert Iger, also makes regular appearances on the list of the 25 highest-paid CEOs.

Meanwhile, Disney is on the board of the National Restaurant Association, which is leading the opposition to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour.

So, if these rules are valid, we are to believe one man’s work is worth $9.54 per second, while another man’s work isn’t even worth that an hour.

We must enforce those rules, and Disney is apparently doing its part.

Is my dissatisfaction with this game a sign of common envy, or perhaps some form of mental illness, given this competition’s widespread acceptance? I would counter-argue that anyone who does believe the aforementioned equation is just and fair suffers from some sort of grand delusion.

But not even that gets at the core of the rot in our system.

The real grand delusion is that we can continue on this path of consumption. We are to believe that consumption equals progress: It’s growth, which equals money.

But the continuing effort to make more stuff that people will buy depletes our limited natural resources. These items are often not even made to last, because that would hurt demand.

This way of life also wastes a tremendous amount of the precious little time we have on this planet.

That is reality as I see it.

We are humans. We try to justify our actions. We need hope. So we keep believing we are special. We do what we do because we’re smart and won’t mess things up.

But it’s worth noting what well-known biologist Lynn Margulis once told science writer Charles C. Mann: The fate of every successful species is to wipe itself out.

Mann wrote in Orion Magazine in 2012:

Preventing Homo sapiens from destroying itself à la Gause would require a still greater transformation —behavioral plasticity of the highest order — because we would be pushing against biological nature itself. The Japanese have an expression, hara hachi bu, which means, roughly speaking, “belly 80 percent full.” Hara hachi bu is shorthand for an ancient injunction to stop eating before feeling full. Nutritionally, the command makes a great deal of sense. When people eat, their stomachs produce peptides that signal fullness to the nervous system. Unfortunately, the mechanism is so slow that eaters frequently perceive satiety only after they have consumed too much — hence the all-too-common condition of feeling bloated or sick from overeating. Japan — actually, the Japanese island of Okinawa — is the only place on earth where large numbers of people are known to restrict their own calorie intake systematically and routinely. Some researchers claim that hara hachi bu is responsible for Okinawans’ notoriously long life spans. But I think of it as a metaphor for stopping before the second inflection point, voluntarily forswearing short-term consumption to obtain a long-term benefit.

We have created a game where the goal is to consume too much.

I’m afraid we’re going to end up consuming ourselves.

But I’m not a man amongst men (or a woman amongst women, for that matter). I’m not winning the game. I’m a loser complaining about the rules.



“Catch The Breeze”: Slowdive Is Back!

The rumors were true.

Slowdive is back!

A lot of you are probably wondering if that is a discontinued Olympic sport or perhaps an antiquated dance move.

Um, no on both counts.

But I forgive you for not sharing my excitement. Slowdive was a band that was, arguably, ahead of its time.

I still remember the day when I first heard Slowdive’s 1994 release, “Souvlaki.”

In the pre-Internet age, it was not uncommon for me to track down British music magazines and read the hype about bands whose albums were very difficult to track down in rural America. However, after reading about Slowdive, I was able to find their album at Homer’s in Lincoln during a band trip to support Crofton’s state basketball appearance.

Back at the hotel room, I put the CD in my portable player and lost myself in the lush melancholy of Slowdive’s “shoegaze” sound. At that time, I was already listening to labelmates like Ride and the Boo Radleys — bands which I also loved. But Slowdive was somehow more foreign, ethereal and untouchable than those groups. It was harder to turn people on to their sound, because it seemed to appeal to a more unique sensibility.

Indeed, some critics in the UK completely savaged “Souvlaki.” According to Wikipedia:

Critical reactions, like their previous album, were generally negative. NME writer John Mulvey gave an ambivalent review. Despite noting their dated and “unfulfilling” sound, he did call it an “exemplary product”. Dave Simpson writing for Melody Maker, declared “[This] record is a soulless void […] I would rather drown choking in a bath full of porridge than ever listen to it again.”

According to FACT Magazine, the derision was a long-standing problem for the band:

Manic Street Preachers’ Richey Edwards delivered the death blow to Slowdive’s British reception when he proclaimed “we will always hate Slowdive more than we hate Adolf Hitler” in a notorious interview back in 1991.

Meanwhile, I had songs like “Alison,” “Machine Gun” and “40 Days” on repeat. I hadn’t done any drugs in my life but imagined that Slowdive was the musical equivalent and often used them to soundtrack writing sessions.

And how many lovelorn poems did I write to unaware crushes while listening to “Dagger?” Answer: Many.

It was announced Tuesday that Slowdive will play the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona, Spain, in May. I won’t lie. Seeing Slowdive on the roster has struck up conversations of whether I will be quitting my job and stowing away on a ship in order to attend the event. I mean, have you seen this INCREDIBLE lineup? It would be worth risking life and limb to experience all that great music in three days.

Not only are Slowdive performing live this year, but the possibility exists that fans will get new recorded material. Vocalist and guitarist Neil Halsted spoke with The Quietus:

“I’m super excited. We had our first rehearsal last week, which was fun. We were surprisingly good. Quite a few of the songs came back quickly,” says Halstead: “The initial impetus was the idea of doing some new music. It seemed easier to do that because it’s not so public. But then we thought it would be good if we could raise a bit of money to make the record, and doing a couple of gigs would enable us to do that. And that’s the way it shaped up – while we’re rehearsing we can see if we’ve got another record in us.”

The reunion is welcome, as the band’s legacy has gone through a critical reappraisal in the last 12 years. Now, many bands cite Slowdive as an influence, and they are considered a highlight of the “shoegaze” sound.

During their brief career, Slowdive put out three albums and several EPs. All are worth checking out, in my humble opinion.

I’ve made a Spotify playlist of selected tracks off the three albums to provide a crash course for anyone interested in the band but unfamiliar with them:

This FACT Magazine feature is a beginner’s guide to Slowdive.

And these are some thoughts on the reunion by Stereogum.

“The River’s Divide”: Yankton Native Discusses New Documentary

In today’s Press & Dakotan, I wrote a story on 2006 Yankton High School graduate Kyle Nickolite and the release of his film, “The River’s Divide.” The story can be read here. Also of note is that Yankton native Ross Wuestewald and his band Onward, Etc., composed the soundtrack for the film.

Here is the trailer for “The River’s Divide”:

I’ve included my interview with Nickolite below for those who are interested in learning more about his work.

How did you get into adventure film editing and directing? Were you ever interested in/have you done other genres?

I never had a plan of getting into adventure film-making or the outdoor media world – it just sort of happened. I took a job in college editing for a local outdoor hunting & fishing show – “Gary Howey’s Outdoorsmen Adventures” – I took that job because editing is what I love to do and an opening was available for that show at the right time. So I worked in the Hy-Vee meat department in Vermillion in the mornings, went to class, and then commuted to Hartington, Neb., every day to help work on Gary’s show.
In college I was lucky enough to meet the right people and continued working jobs that helped me get where I am today.
My true passion is and will always be the conventional film-making process – actors, lights, scenes – it’s so magical to me. Fortunately, working for Sicmanta I’ve been given the opportunity very recently, to direct some really cool commercial spots and work in that sort of environment. A couple months ago, I was brought on as a director for a commercial campaign down in Louisiana starring the entire cast of Duck Dynasty – so much fun.
I’m completely open to any kind of video projects – I’m hoping to be able to write and direct a short narrative film or two sometime in the future.
What challenges are there in filming adventure movies versus a fiction film or other kinds of documentaries?
It has to be one of the hardest things to film and create stories around. It’s a constant battle of fighting the elements, managing people and gear, worrying about what’s going to happen, and not to mention one of your main subjects – the wildlife – is completely unpredictable. We’ve been working on what we’ve nicknamed “The Donnie Vincent Project” over the last three years and we’ve filmed all over the world: Patagonia, Alaska countless times, Northwest Territories, Newfoundland, to name a few. And every trip requires a grand plan but in all honesty we have no idea what may happen on these trips. “Film it all and the screen will tell” – is the mindset. It’s a constant balance of figuring out how to film certain things while also worrying about your own safety and the safety of everyone involved – and staying creative. Some of these expeditions may last months. We were dropped off by plane in the arctic circle of Alaska working on an upcoming film, and lived (worked) out of an 8-man tipi for almost a month. I saw everything from a black wolf carrying a caribou leg in it’s mouth, had a staring contest with a giant moose at 5 yards – and found myself 30 yards from a grizzly and her two cubs. You never know what’s going to happen – we just have to be sure to document it the best we can and hope people enjoy the outcome. It can be very stressful – tension builds… there was a time we had to get 2 miles up a river to reach our pick up point with 75 mph winds blowing directly in our face, we were literally traveling backwards, bitter cold, as grizzlies walked up and down the shoreline searching for salmon. It’s all part of it and it’s very rewarding. The best part is watching people watch the films and reading the reviews and taking in all of the varying reactions to the film.
The River’s Divide has been touring the country, playing in theaters – and I got to attend some screenings and it’s the best feeling in the world hearing and seeing people’s reaction to The River’s Divide. The film has also been selected to quite a few film festivals – and took home some incredible awards. Really cool to see a film about hunting be selected to be screened at these festivals, let alone be nominated for awards. We’re all very proud of the message the film sends and the story that was told. People seem to be really enjoying it as well. We know hunting can be a sensitive topic for some people – we’ve had people get up and leave the theater – but the majority of people, hunters and non-hunters alike, appreciate the insight into why people hunt. That was the main goal of the film, to show the entire process of what people like Donnie go through when they approach hunting and expose their true feelings as to why. Why kill an animal? – Tough subject for sure, but I think the film does a great job of exploring those feelings and emotions and tells that story and answers that question in a way people can appreciate. Opening eyes to those on the fence about hunting and having them come up to us and say they finally get why people partake in it – means so much. In the end, it’s a story that needed to be told.


Courtesy Photo — Yankton native Kyle Nickolite’s film directing career has taken him to many remote locations. In this photo, he was filming in the Arctic Circle of Alaska.

Do you consider “The River’s Divide” your first major film effort? Tell me about the process of filming it.

Absolutely. In my short career as a filmmaker, The River’s Divide is easily the project that I’m most proud to be involved with.
The bulk of the principal filming process consisted of Cinematographer William Altman (Maine) and Donnie (Wisconsin) spending countless hours hunting for the deer known as “Steve” out in the badlands of North Dakota. With hunting, we obviously can’t have an entire crew of camera operators following Donnie around so that job was given to William who knows a lot about hunting himself. The two are an incredible team. Out of the two years we spent working on The River’s Divide – I personally was only on location there in North Dakota for a couple months total – but every day spent there we wouldn’t take a break from filming – it was an all day every day process. My job was to keep the storyline intact – make sure we were filming all the pieces we needed to tell the story and stay as true to it as possible. This wasn’t hard at all to accomplish, the story seemed to tell itself and everything just fell into place. And with Donnie being a natural on camera – that made the job even more enjoyable. The sheer beauty of the location (badlands of northwest North Dakota) made capturing footage incredibly easy and we had all these cool and interesting natural aspects to tie into the story. Every day Donnie had to travel across this river in an old boat to get to the area of the land where the deer lived, so naturally this becomes a big part of the film and would eventually become the inspiration for it’s title.

How did you start working with Donnie Vincent, and did it end up being a very collaborative process between the two of you?

After college, I worked for a production company in Kansas City that took on a project that would focus on two hunters and their adventures all over the world. One of them was Donnie. The project dissolved for various reasons, but it was in Argentina where the idea for collaboration spawned. We were in Patagonia; one of the most beautiful places in the world and had just spent the last couple weeks hiking ash-covered hillsides from a recent volcano eruption. We were taking a break from hunting red stag, chatting on the top of a hill, when we discussed the possibility of producing these upcoming films (The River’s Divide) included. That idea turned into forming a production company in Hudson, WI (where Donnie lives) and we’ve been filming and producing work ever since.

Reviews of the film often mention not only the breathtaking cinematography but also the story arc that isn’t common in current hunting shows. How did you decide that was an approach you wanted to take, and did you take inspiration from any other films (I saw mention of “Shawshank Redemption” in one interview)?

I’m a movie lover. I’ve studied the philosophy of films, even minored in film studies in college. That enabled me to really dive into the craft. I was really inspired by the classes I took at USD. One of my professors, Timothy Case (assistant art director for Children of the Corn), played a huge role in developing my understanding of what makes a movie great – and why movies make us feel the way they do. We’d study foreign films a lot and all of the American classics of course. However, some of my favorite directors were from France – Jean-Luc Godard’s film “400 Blows” was so inspiring. It was amazing how I didn’t have to understand the language to know exactly what was going on in the film – simply because of the way it was made. More on the technical side of things… I would study the structure of scenes, composition, all the way down to the psychological aspects of film and film editing. Another professor of mine at USD that I give a ton of credit to developing my desire to make films is Todd Mechling. He really helped me hone in my skills and learn the very basics & fundamentals of the film-making process.
The story arc that we followed and the way we went about making “The River’s Divide” wasn’t really pre-decided – I just used the knowledge I’ve gained through my studies, combined with the natural talent of Donnie & William to construct the story in a cinematic way that would feel authentic to the viewer but still entertain. The true art and magic of the film was the real and raw story that played out – it’s truly unbelievable and once in a lifetime story. I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of how it all came together. I think even people that have no interest in hunting whatsoever, will find this movie very insightful and entertaining.
I drew a lot of inspiration from Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” in regards to the overall structure of the film. I get goose bumps just thinking about that film. What an inspiration that movie has been on everything I do. Quentin Tarantino said it best when he said, “I didn’t go to film school – I went to the movies”. The greatest tool for learning about film-making for me is to just watch movies. I wanted the backbone of The River’s Divide to be strung together with Donnie’s narration (just like Martin Sheen’s character.) That’s the feel I was going for anyway. Donnie is the only character in the film so there’s no back and forth dialogue between him and anyone to help move the story along – so the only way to develop Donnie’s “character” was through his thoughts and ideas that he would deliver verbally with a voice over or have him speak directly to he camera as if it were journal entries. Donnie wrote all of the voice-overs and it really became the strongest part of the film, in my opinion, and helped drive home the message we were trying to deliver. Donnie did a fantastic job.

It took two years to make the movie. Did you ever have moments of despair and question whether it would actually ever be finished, or were you ready for the long journey?

Yeah, at one point after the first year of filming we all thought the production would be shut down. You’ll have to see the movie to understand what I mean but there are some things that happen that were really heartbreaking for Donnie and he wasn’t even sure he was going to continue with filming. Luckily, for all of us he changed his mind and fought through the ups and downs – without those moments of despair and him questioning what he was even doing – the film wouldn’t be what it is.

Do you hunt yourself?

Being from South Dakota hunting has always been a part of my life. I always looked forward to pheasant opener, dove opener, and goose hunting is an absolute blast – some of the more fun times I’ve had with friends and family. But I wouldn’t consider myself a hunter by any means. I’ve never even shot a bow. I think the fact that I’m not a hunter really adds an interesting element to these productions, I know very little about hunting – so I’m focused on the story and the film making process more than anything.

Have you done adventure films outside of hunting?

Yes, we’ve spent some time in Argentina filming short films about fly-fishing and have plans in the future to do more of that. I’m very grateful for the opportunities that I’ve had to travel and work with such great people. It’s also amazing to be able to be able to do what I love and take the skills I’ve learned and apply them. It’s been an incredible journey so far and there’s much more to come that I’m very excited about.

Tell me about Ross Wuestewald’s involvement in “The River’s Divide.” How did that come about and what did he bring to the project?

I moved to Yankton from Columbus, Nebraska when I was six years old and my first day attending Webster Elementary my teacher assigned one of my classmates to be the one to show me around and make sure I had at least one person to talk to. I had no idea that person would become one of my best friends in life – Ross ‘Rosco’ Wuestewald. Ross is the lead singer of the greatest and best band in the world called Onward, ETC and he is one of the most talented people I know. (The band just recently got signed to a major label: DC-Jam Records). We’ve been collaborating on video work since we first got a hold of a camcorder when we were like ten years old. So it was only natural that Ross and his band would create the music for our film The River’s Divide. The music they came up with for the film is absolutely incredible and adds so much. Makes it even more personal. All of us that worked on the movie have become even closer and KC Olson, the violinist for Onward, etc has become one of my best friends as well. Donnie, myself, everyone involved in the film, and the band have become a family – those guys mean so much to this project and we’re so excited to work with them for this and films in the future.

When was “The River’s Divide” finished and first screened? When was it released on DVD? Can you announce when/where it will be aired on television?

The River’s Divide first screened in May 2013 at a theater in Reno, NV. Since then it’s played in theaters in Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, Maine, South Dakota (Aberdeen), Minnesota, Kentucky, and Maryland.  It was released on DVD on December 19th, 2013. It was named the Judge’s Choice for “Best in Festival” at the 2013 Maine Outdoor Film Festival, selected to The River’s Edge Film Festival in Kentucky, is currently nominated for “Best Cinematography” at the Fargo International Film Festival and won best Dakota documentary at The South Dakota Film Festival. Unfortunately right now I can’t announce when it will be aired on national television but it will be aired most likely by next month – very excited to see the response. The film will also be available for purchase as a digital download in the near future, as well as blu-ray (no dates set yet for either).

What have you thought of the response to the film, and did it exceed your expectations?

The response has completely exceeded my expectations. I had no idea film festivals would select it to be featured let alone win any awards. It’s also pretty incredible that we’ve shipped DVD’s all over the world: Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Australia, UK, Italy, Austria, Canada, and just today sent out an order to Croatia. It’s so cool reading reviews in big publications like Field & Stream as well as just seeing the public’s response and hearing and reading comments about the film. The best part is definitely sitting in a theater and hearing people’s reactions first hand as well as meeting tons of people that enjoy it. At the screening in Aberdeen, Donnie had an older lady approach him and shared that all the years her husband spent getting out of bed at 5am to go hunting she never understood why – until she saw The River’s Divide. How cool is that?

Do you have any plans to screen the film in Yankton?

As of right now, there have been no plans to bring the film to Yankton – but I would love to make it happen if there is interest by one of the theaters or someone that could help with organizing the event.

You mentioned that this is one of a series of adventure films you will release in 2014. Can you tell us about what lies ahead? Are more Donnie Vincent/Ross Wuestewald collaborations in the works?

Over the last three years we’ve been filming all over the world producing the films that will follow the River’s Divide. Adventures that include hunting grizzlies with a bow in Alaska to trying to catch up with Woodland Caribou in Newfoundland. We’ll be releasing a 4-minute teaser trailer that will have highlights for the upcoming films. These films will most likely make their rounds on a film tour with an organization called “Full Draw Film Tour”, will then be available on DVD, and then will also air on television. That’s the plan for now anyway.
Ross will hopefully be collaborating on all of our film work – with his band just getting signed to a major label and the crazy amount of touring they do that might be difficult for them to pull off but I’m confident we’ll make it work.

What are your long-term professional goals? Is the film business a full-time job for you?

Our production company, Sicmanta, has become my full-time job. We have a lot of fun producing video work for different companies, anything from web videos to full blown commercial work.
It’s a great balance between the creative and personal work approach with films like “The River’s Divide” and the client work that comes in. We feel like we’re just getting our feet wet and are very excited for the future of this company and the upcoming adventure films.

An Inland Voyage’s Top Films Of 2013

(I’m a little late in posting this. I’ve been stuck in a dark cinema and couldn’t find my way out.)

I guess I’m with Oscar.

Comparing my list of the 10 best films of 2013 to the 2014 Oscar nominees for Best Picture, we share five entries. Three of the other nominees just missed my top 10 — and I have yet to see “Philomena.”

For both narrative films and documentaries, there was a lot of quality cinema to see in 2013.

Here were my highlights:

10. 12 Years a Slave

Steve McQueen’s unflinching adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir is a haunting piece of cinema that reminds us how casual the slavery system was in its brutality. The depiction of an interrupted lynching is particularly difficult to endure. The film is a demonstration of the power history can have over us and is McQueen’s best work yet.

9. Her

If you think the idea of falling in love with a computer operating system is ridiculous, you haven’t seen “Her.” Spike Jonze’s look at loneliness and the difficulty of connecting with other human beings in a slightly futuristic world is tender and penetrating at the same time. Yes, you may initially laugh at the goofiness of Joaquin Phoenix’s mustache and pants, but you’ll probably join him as he falls in love with a computer voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

8. Selfish Giant

In recent years, British directors such as Shane Meadows, Lynne Ramsay, Andrea Arnold and Ken Loach have given audiences some brilliant, heart-wrenching films about characters who live in poverty. Now we can add Clio Barnard to that list. “The Selfish Giant” was inspired by Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name, but in this case the film is definitely better than the source material. It follows two boys who collect scrap around the city in order to make money. However, greed soon leads to tragedy.

7. Nebraska

Filmed largely in northeast Nebraska and written by Bob Nelson, who has Yankton-area ties, “Nebraska” will likely make you uncomfortable with just how spot on it captures life in this part of the country. Bruce Dern gives the performance of a lifetime as Woody, a cantankerous old man who believes he’s won a million dollars. Once again, director Alexander Payne manages to mix humor and drama in a way no other directors are doing today.

6. The Hunt

An elementary teacher played by Mads Mikkelsen is accused of raping a student in a small Danish town. Friends that have known him his entire life immediately shun him and even become physically violent. The thing is, the student made up the accusations. She even admits it, but no one wants to listen. Thomas Vinterberg’s film takes a subject that is usually looked at in black and white and explores the grays. The scene where the accused goes to church and confronts his friends is still hard for me to think about without becoming emotional. (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

5. Mud

Jeff Nichols is one of America’s best filmmakers, and “Mud” is the latest example of that. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young boy that hits all the right emotional notes and tells a thrilling tale at the same time. Matthew McConaughey continues his streak of excellent film work — words I never thought I’d have reason to say several years ago.

4. Post Tenebras Lux

Director Carlos Reygadas opens “Post Tenebras Lux” (“After Darkness, Light”) with a small girl in a field. Animals thunder past her as lightning flashes overhead — and before you know it, you are watching Satan himself casually entering a home with a toolbag in hand. If that sounds disorienting, it’s because it is. The dream-like film is a parade of unforgettable images and emotions that never quite unveils its precise intentions. I was awestruck from the stormy beginning to the explosive ending. (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

3. Upstream Color

I’m not going to try and tell you what this film is about, because I can’t entirely explain it. It’s got a love story; a parasite that passes from humans to pigs to orchids; and references to “Walden.” Put those disparate elements together, and you’ve got an incredible movie. I don’t know how Shane Carruth did it, but he did. (Currently streaming on Netflix.)

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

Mountains of cocaine are consumed in Martin Scorsese’s “The Wolf of Wall Street,” and I imagine this movie as the cinematic equivalent of doing the drug. Leonardo DiCaprio gives his best performance to date as Jordan Belfort, a New York stock broker who is merciless in his pursuit of riches. Those who believe the film glorifies Belfort and his accomplices saw a different movie than I did. “The Wolf of Wall Street” may be visceral and entertaining, but it is also an indictment.

1. Gravity

“Gravity” was a unique cinematic experience that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. It was the only film in 2013 that I saw twice in the theater. The cinematography was breathtaking, and the story had just enough meat on it to give the journey meaning without getting in the way of the action. Despite the dire circumstances, it was a pleasure accompanying Sandra Bullock and George Clooney through the depths of space. Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” was my favorite film of 2006. “Gravity” is his first directorial effort since that tale of a dystopian future and, once again, he carries the mantle.


Here are some honorable mentions for the year: “American Hustle,” “A Hijacking,” “Before Midnight,” “Into the Fog,” “This is the End,” “Captain Phillips,” “Spring Breakers,” “Vanishing Waves,” “John Dies at the End,” “Only God Forgives,” “Blancanieves,” “A Place Beyond the Pines,” “Short Term 12,” “Fruitvale Station,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Frances Ha.”

It was also an extraordinary year for documentaries. My 10 favorite ones were “Black Fish,” “Maxima Mea Culpa: Silence in the House of God,” “Stories We Tell,” “The Act of Killing,” “The Gatekeepers,” “A Band Called Death,” “Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie,” “The House I Live In,” “56 Up” and “Room 237.”

What was my biggest disappointment of the year? I usually love Terrence Malick’s work, but “To the Wonder” failed to connect with me emotionally and left me feeling frustrated. Still, I can’t wait to see his next outing.

This Dirty Bird Is Terrorizing My Neighborhood

There is an eagle who lives in my neighborhood. His name is Larry.

We call him the Bald Eagle. It’s not for the reasons you might suspect.

Just look at what a creeper he is and you’ll understand.


Photo by Kelly Hertz (who had no idea I was writing this blog post based on a picture he had taken for a completely different story).

Do you see a resemblance to this Monty Python character?


Larry the Eagle and this flasher from Monty Python are, sadly, birds of a feather.

We’re at a loss as far as what to do about Larry and his lewd conduct.

Because of the the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, local authorities refuse to lay a hand on him (and probably for good reason. He is a real sicko).

If anyone has any ideas about what to do regarding this dirty bird, please contact the B.S. Department in Nathan City. 🙂

From Yankton Post Office To Grand-Chateau? Some Background On The Purchase Of The Downtown Landmark

The Yankton Post Office has been purchased by U.S. Property and you’re probably curious about what the company plans to do with the historic structure.

First, you should probably read my story in the Press & Dakotan to get up to speed:

The former downtown Yankton post office could have a future as the Grand-Chateau, according to its new owner.
“We think that’s the name we’re going to call it,” Monte Froehlich, chief executive officer of U.S. Property, told the Press & Dakotan Wednesday. “We feel really strongly about putting apartments in there. We’re just starting on the design process. We’d like to see a mixed-use building with commercial on the main level. A lot of that will depend on what Yankton needs and if there is commercial demand for the space.”
U.S. Property, a commercial real estate firm based in Lincoln, Neb., purchased the post office under the name Grand-Chateau, LLC, for $206,000 after winning a competitive bidding process overseen by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).

Read the rest of the story here.

It’s actually pretty easy to imagine what U.S. Property might do with the post office because about 10 years ago the firm renovated a Lincoln post office/federal court building that was built at the exact same time — 1904.

It’s now called the Grand Manse:


And check this out:


Beautiful, isn’t it?

The Grand Manse site can be found here.

Also, the Lincoln Journal-Star did a story on the project that can be read here.

Now, it’s difficult to say how the Yankton project will compare to the Lincoln one. After all, Lincoln is a much larger market.

However, the new owners have said they are looking into the possibility of a coffee shop and other commercial uses on the main level.

Wouldn’t it be great if the post office once again assumed its former role as a social hub for the downtown? I couldn’t even tell you how many conversations I had over the years in front of that building with people coming and going. I miss that activity outside the Press & Dakotan door and would love to see it return. I’m guessing I’m not alone in that desire.

If you have any ideas for commercial uses/tenants in the Yankton post office, U.S. Property is inviting the public to share ideas. Visit their site here.

Holy Hot Hogs!

Holy hot hogs! I just got my first Pigalog!!!


I didn’t even know this existed, but I’m glad to have been enlightened.

You’re probably thinking it’s a dirty piggy mag, but it actually claims to contain “the world’s BEST STUFF for leaks, drips and spills.”

I’m no expert in that area, so I can’t comment on the claim. The company behind it, New Pig, has been around since 1985 the Pigalog tells me. If you like driving pigs in sunglasses, visit their site. (This is not a paid advertisement. I swear. I just can’t believe there is a Pigalog by a company called New Pig.)

As Farmer Hoggett would say: That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.


Warm In The Winter: Get Your Igloo Dance Party Started Here

These penguins know how to throw a dance party.

We’re going to be spending some time in our igloos these next several days, and it’s important that we all keep it together.

Do not let the mixture of cold and confined spaces get you down.

Rather, this is a time to have your own igloo dance party.

This is what penguins do to maintain their sanity under extreme conditions. You’ve never heard that? Check out the photo to your left for the hard evidence.

I suggest you get things started with Glass Candy’s “Warm in the Winter.” It’s a perfect song to set a positive atmosphere. Turn it up loud for maximum effect.

Love is in the air… love is in the air

We’re warm in the winter

Sunny on the inside

Love is in the air

I’m crazy like a monkey

Ee ee / Oo oo!

Happy like a new year

Yeah yeah / Woo hoo!

See. You’re feeling warmer already.

Next, you might want to join French Horn Rebellion and Savoir Adore at “The Fire.”

Yeah, you’re getting the hang of this.

You’re ready for your Igloo Dance Party 2014. Configure the playlist as needed.

Don’t stop because the temperature drops. You’ve got to keep going until you’re hot.