Monthly Archives: September 2020

Movies to Calm and Heal the Spirit

During this time of unprecedented stress, fear, and isolation, I find real solace in watching some films that lift my spirits. Here is a list of the first films that come to mind. In my opinion, they are suitable for watching by all ages.

Buck (2011)
I’ve written about this beautiful documentary before. Buck Brannaman is the leading practitioner and instructor in gentle methods of “starting” a horse. Buck helped inspire and was instrumental in the making of the Robert Redford film, “The Horse Whisperer.”

I watch this film at least once every year or two.

My Blog Article:

As of this writing you can stream it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, and IFC.

Waking Ned Devine (1998)
This charming and hilarious film is about a small Irish town that plots to collect and share a massive lottery winning.

As of this writing, this can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Redbox, Fandango Now, Google Play, and Apple TV.

Children of Heaven (1999)
This Iranian film is a lovely story about a brother who loses his sister’s shoes. The family is so poor that the brother and sister devise a plan to share his pair of sneakers between them. It is a beautiful and entertaining film.

As of this writing, this can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Fandango Now, Google Play, and Apple TV.

Babe (1995)
A sweet and funny live action film about a little pig who learns how to herd sheep. It has the wit and emotional impact that “Charlotte’s Web” had for previous generations.

As of this writing, this can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Vudu, HBO, Redbox, Apple TV, Fandango Now, and Google Play.

Up (2009)
There are so many Pixar films from which to choose, but this film won two Oscars and is the one I rewatch most. As many agree, the first 5 or so minutes arguably pack more emotional punch than the majority of full-length movies, and merely hearing the first few notes of the theme music causes me to well up.

The movie is funny, has great dialog – especially the canine banter – and really warms the heart.

As of this writing, this can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Disney Plus, Apple TV, Google Play, and Fangdango Now.

The Straight Story (1999)
This is a gentle and powerful film inspired by the true story of a 73 y.o. man who drove his riding lawn mower for six weeks to visit his ailing brother. This was Richard Farnsworth’s last film. While playing the lead character, Farnsworth was terminally ill with bone cancer and struggled through pain during the production. His acting is gently powerful, evocative, and unforgettable.

As of this writing, this can be streamed on Amazon Prime, Vudu, Disney Plus, Apple TV, Google Play, and Fandango Now.

As with any list, looking back I regret all the films I did not include, like Amelie (2001), The Secret of Roan Inish (1995), Sing (2016), The Color of Paradise (1999), Departures (2008), and more.

I would love to hear what films you find calm and healing.

Introducing How To Do Online Karaoke Parties

I love karaoke, but due to the pandemic, it has been unsafe to get together with friends and sing.

So I have been hosting karaoke parties online!

Although one might think it would be impersonal to watch others on a screen and to perform to a camera, many have commented to me how much fun and how intimate it really feels. I certainly see more smiles and hear more laughter during these parties than I have in six months!

And as an added bonus, online karaoke allows us to party with people all over the world. We have had parties with participants calling in from four U.S. time zones, from Canada, and even Europe. I hope to see friends connect from Asia sometime in the near future.

After ten parties, we’ve really figured it out.

I have scoured the Internet and YouTube to see if other people are doing this and have come up empty. So I decided to create a website explaining how we are doing it.

I’ve tried to make it as simple as possible for the less technically-inclined, but detailed enough for those who are.

So without further ado, may I present How To Online Karaoke

I’m sure others would really enjoy doing this, so let’s spread this!

Please forward and share this link to anyone you think might be interested.

Note: At this time, we have not yet figured out how to sing or perform with someone else over the ‘net. Technology does exist to make this possible, and I will updating this site once I have figured that out.


Smoke and Fire in Oregon, Part II

Update: Temperatures have dropped significantly and winds have died down in Oregon. In just a week, daytime temperatures in Portland have dropped from highs of about 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) to 63 degrees F (17 degrees C) today.

The good news is the fires have stopped spreading at alarming rates, and fire crews have had a chance to start to make headway. Some of the evacuation zones have shrunk. One low level zone that was just a mile from my home has moved about 6 or more miles away.

The bad news is that there are still so many fires that fire crews and equipment are all deployed, and we need more.

Furthermore, the air quality continues to worsen. The entire west coast now has the dubious distinction of having the worst air quality in the world:

Source:, captured at 7am, Monday, Sept 14

The bad air quality index (AQI) extends from British Columbia, Canada down to Mexico:

Source:, captured at 7am, Monday, Sept 14

The bad AQI is spread all over Oregon, although it is concentrated down the most populated area of the state:

Source:, captured at 7am, Monday, Sept 14

There is little we can do other than to limit time going outside, wearing masks (cloth masks not recommended, unless they are wet), and sealing windows and doors with cloth, etc. I have been outside my home briefly about once a day for the past three days.

Looking outside, I don’t see the ominous yellow, orange, and brown skies we saw last week. It just looks like heavy fog. But open the door or step outside and you are hit with an oppressive smell, your eyes and nose will burn, and you begin coughing.

Some rain is forecast tomorrow (Tuesday), which may hopefully offer us some relief.

Smoke and Fire in Oregon

As of this writing, the fires in Oregon:

Many update sites are getting heavy traffic, but here are some you can try:

Evacuation Areas
green = level 1, get ready
yellow = level 2, get set to go
red = level 3, go now!

Real-Time Assessment and PLanning Tool for Oregon (RAPTOR) Public 2D map

Clackamas County Evacuation Zones

Marin County Evacuation Zones

Linn County Evacuation Zones

Jackson County Evacuation Zones

Air Quality

AirNow Air Quality Index (AQI)

PurpleAir: Real-time Air Quality Monitoring

Fire Maps

Northwest Interagency Coordination Center Large Fire Web Map

Oregonlive: Real-time wildfires

Be safe, stay informed, follow evacuation orders, and do not spread unfounded/unsubstantiated rumors.