Wasps keep getting into the house. Big, nasty-looking wasps. We find them crawling disconsolately on the sliding door to the deck, or sometimes on the living-room window. They must be weak, ready to die, because they often do. Right now there are four dead wasps in the tracks of A.’s office windows and the deck door. My past practice was to suck the living ones into the vacuum cleaner, sneaking up behind them with the hose, closer and closer until they suddenly disappear into the guts of the machine with a rattle. “You can change the bag next time,” A. says. Now this feels cruel, so I’ve taken to catching them with a glass and releasing them outside. Of course, I botched my first effort to be “less cruel” and just about cut one of them in half with the glass I was using. While I thought about what to do next, I had a close-up view of the thing’s stinger, flexing and groping for something to hurt, and I think we can all identify. Who hasn’t felt that way? We think they might be getting in through the air conditioner, which we should cover up anyway with the onset of winter. So the wasp problem shouldn’t be a problem for long.
I worked until eleven a.m. or so and then drove my parents downtown. We strolled by the river, ate lunch at Dauphine’s, visited Fact and Fiction. It was 99-cent movie day at Crazy Mike’s video rental, so we stopped by to stock up. We strolled the new releases, and what a vomitous bunch of movies they were, but that’s Hollywood today: very smart people making awful movies that are designed to do nothing more than make money from certain segments of the population that can be expected to spend a lot of money renting awful movies. I found that I didn’t even need to slow down and look at titles until I spotted a movie that the store held only a few copies of. Most of those were crap, too, of course, but, in general, the fewer copies of a certain movie that a store carries, the higher the chances that I will be able to watch it without wanting to run out into the backyard, douse myself with gasoline, and set myself on fire.
One movie I picked was “The Agronomist,” Jonathan Demme’s documentary about the Haitian journalist Jean Dominique, who did his job – i.e., challenging the thieves and murderers who ran his country, from Mother Teresa’s good friend Duvalier, through the horrid General Cedras, and even including the initially well-intentioned Aristide – so well that he was gunned down by thugs a few years back. The movie was a one-night rental, so we watched it last night. I was expecting a bit of a broccoli movie, i.e., a movie you don’t enjoy watching but know you should. (You know, “eat your vegetables” and all that.) But the movie was transfixing, from interviews with the charismatic Dominique (an odd-looking man who was never far from his pipe), to footage of voudou ceremonies and street demonstrations, to the director’s unobtrusive narrative style in which the subjects are mainly left to speak for themselves except for occasional clarifying captions briefly explaining the context of a certain historical development. Out of many aspects of Dominique’s character and personal history that struck me, I was particularly affected by the way this man, educated in a French university, a film lover, a quoter of Shakespeare, an eloquent – even poetic – writer and speaker, demonstrates the important role of art in helping people to imagine a better world, even as he worked to give a voice to illiterate Haitian peasants, who it may be fair to describe as some of the most unfortunate people on earth. I highly recommend the movie if you’re the slightest bit curious about Haiti or journalism, although it may make it difficult to do mundane things the next day like, um, keep a pointless blog.