I just finished my first aid/CPR refresher training, and man, it was a slog. I first received the training a few years ago. I volunteered for it, in fact. The company needed two people in every department with this training, and with young kids at home, I figured it would be good knowledge to have, so I volunteered. The course was a full day of training with a certified nurse from the organization (who shall remain nameless here because I can’t remember whether the terms and conditions I agreed to in taking this course had any kind of disclaimer about public criticism) providing us instruction. She used videos as supplements, but much of the training was hands-on. We were asked to team up in groups of two to practice treating coking adults, choking children, adults who were unconscious and not breathing, etc. We used the old plastic dummies and dummy AED systems to practice giving shocks and CPR, and when I was finished, I felt like I could at least keep someone going until the paramedics arrived. But of course, like everything these days, the refresher training has been automated. That’s right, boys and girls. We’re no longer sending out a real live person to train you (after all, that requires paying someone for each session, each day worked). We’re going to have your training done online! The scenarios you’ll find yourself in, well, you’ll no longer need to practice on people or dummies, going through the actual motions with your physical body, no! We’ll provide a digital avatar because that should be enough to show you where you’ll need to kneel and place your hands for chest compressions! You don’t need to practice tilting a real head to open the airway, you can kind of see with a 2-D image and a broken red line running at the angle of tilt, right? Right?

In all fairness, they are having someone come in to complete our refresher training in September. And maybe they only do this for refresher training, this whole online module thing. I don’t know. But the modules were absolutely frustrating. First off, the training videos didn’t provide comprehensive or complete information, so when you were in the modules, you started off by guessing and getting things wrong and trying again. Maybe this is a better way to learn, maybe that’s what research shows. After all, things tend to sink in a little bit more when you’ve answered incorrectly. So maybe by not feeding you all the information and making you guess in the modules they were reinforcing the lessons. All right, I’ll grant that. But then the modules started….freezing? Freezing’s not the right word there, but it’s the closest I can get. And the reason freezing isn’t the right word is that I could still navigate the module with my avatar (though I don’t think even avatar is the right word, sometimes you could see digitally animated hands that were supposed to be mine doing things, but there was never me on the screen, rather everything was supposed to be thought of as from my point of view).

But what would happen when it “froze” would be, I would click on the hazy white icon that gave me the options for the next step, for example, “Check responsiveness” and the training module voice would say, “How do you check for responsiveness,” and I would click, “Say ‘Are you okay?'” which was the right answer, and then nothing would happen, and I’d click “Check responsiveness” again, and the same options would come up, so I figured maybe I was wrong and click a second option, “Tap the person and ask ‘Are you okay?'” and the voice would come on and tell me that was the wrong option, that you would tap them later but for the first response, you just ask them, so I’d go back and click what I’d clicked the first time, the right answer, and nothing would happen, so I was back at square one and I’d go in and click the third option, simply “tap the shoulder” and the voice would come back on and tell me again, I was wrong. And so now I’m thinking, am I the crazy one here? First off, any of those three options would work in checking for responsiveness in a real life situation. I only knew they wanted me to put “Say ‘Are you okay?'” because I got it wrong the first time, and why did I get it wrong? Maybe tapping their shoulder could be legally misinterpreted as crossing the line into unwanted physical contact since they hadn’t consented at first. Because consent is important, obviously, and I’m not being facetious about that. If someone is conscious, I agree wholeheartedly that the step where you tell them who you are and what your level of training is and then you should ask if they want you to help is important.

In fact, for as much as I’m complaining about the modules, everything they were communicating about was incredibly useful information to have. I think it’s just that the method of delivery (22 online training modules completed in the course of two and a half hours) juxtaposed with the real-life possibility of having to treat someone who’s choking or having a heart attack while we’re waiting for the paramedics to arrive leaves me feeling a bit shaky. I mean, I completed the course, and I nailed the final few modules, which were designed to test your comprehensive knowledge of everything you learned with ratings “in the green” which meant that my level of usefulness in the situation, gauged by a meter with red, yellow and green coloring, was full or excellent (that’s actually one thing I don’t remember…the word above the meter when you’d buried it in the green). But the wide gulf that separates navigating these situations with an avatar and actually performing them on a real-life human being is daunting. Which is something I think I’ll bring up during the in-person training next month. Ultimately, it’s pretty nice to have it out of the way, and since most of my staff works from home on Fridays while I’m in the office, this was a good day to do it.

Last night I was up pretty late watching the latest Jordan Peele movie Us. I’d intended to watch it the night before, but we were dealing with a minor medical emergency at home, a case of head lice that my daughter contracted at day camp. We’d received notice two weeks ago that they had cases there, and since that time had passed, I thought we were in the clear, but my wife was combing through my daughter’s hair after bath time and she called me up to confirm. “What are these?” she asked, pointing to these tiny white dots in her hair. “Are these nits?” Honestly, I didn’t know and I hoped against hope it was dandruff. I’d checked her around the time we got the notice from day camp and hadn’t found anything but it turns out, they’re a lot more visible when the hair is wet and they can be one someone a month before you notice they’re there. So, that was exciting. I had the movie teed up, I’d even watched the first five or six minutes by the time she called me into the bathroom, but at that point, our plans changed. She took my daughter to the clinic at CVS to have it confirmed, and yes, it was head lice, and so my wife purchased the treatment shampoo and came home and treated my daughter and combed the dead lice and eggs out of her hair while I put our son, who at this point is still lice free and let’s hope remains that way, to bed, first reading him stories and then laying down with him for a bit. I’d shut off the light and left, but he got up and came to the top of the stairs and called me back up. “I’m scared of the dark,” he said. And I said, “No, you’re not,” because he isn’t, but I recognized that with all the commotion going on around our daughter he just wanted me to comfort him as he fell asleep, which I gladly did. The kid is three going on four, and he’s the prefect age for snuggling up with, and he won’t be this small forever, so when he asked, I gladly nestled up with him until he fell asleep.

I wasn’t even sure I’d get to it last night, since my wife again went through my daughter’s hair, combing any remaining eggs out and that took much longer than I thought it would and while she was doing it, I was hanging out with our son, watching Wild Kratz and Arthur on the PBS Kids station. Now, I’m not complaining about not being able to get to the movie, I hope you understand, because I realize it could sound that way. But I did need to get to it at some point, because as I mentioned in my previous post, I get most of my new movies (anything not on Netflix or Prime) at least out of the library these days, and Us was out from the library with a due date that couldn’t be renewed because it’s new and there are a lot of other people who want to see it, and I myself was really looking forward to it mainly because of the trailer, which looked…bonkers, I suppose would be le mot juste. I like Joradan Peele. The few episodes of Key and Peele I saw made me laugh, and I liked Get Out, though I didn’t necessarily like it as much as other people. To say it was well done might be a bit of an understatement, but that’s how I felt about it, it didn’t necessarily make me wish to ecstatically take to the web and proclaim it a masterpiece, but I liked it and figured I would probably watch it again someday, but I wasn’t going to buy it and…well, it was a satire wrapped in a horror film, which is something I can get down with but not something that really resonates at a deeply emotional level for me. This is all just a really roundabout way of saying I preferred Us because it wasn’t a satire, which made it, to my taste, a more subtle and interesting film. Don’t get me wrong, the things that were said about race in Get Out are relevant and important to our times, and those types of things need to be expressed in a more straightforward way, as they were in that film. But Us spoke more to my preferences as a piece of art.

So unlike my last entry about The Prodigy where I took you step by step through everything I didn’t like, I’m going to be a little more general here. Part of that’s because I didn’t mind spoiling that film, but more it’s because in not liking it, I felt I had to go piece-by-piece into what didn’t work for me. There were only a few things that didn’t work for me in Us as it went along, and the twist at the end actually did a decent job of wrapping up those questions. So I’ll just drop a few of those questions here and leave it at that. And I’ll describe a few of the elements that really worked for me. To an extent, despite seeing the trailer, I went into this movie cold. The trailer was all I knew about it. I hadn’t read reviews or talked to anyone who’d seen it, and I’d managed to avoid hearing any opinions, although I listed to a few horror-themed podcasts. If you don’t know what it’s about, it starts with a prologue in which a little girl wanders off from her family on the Santa Clara boardwalk into a dark and gloomy, I would even say spooky, house of mirrors. While exploring, she encounters an image of herself only when she moves the image doesn’t and we realize it’s a doppleganger. Cut to the present, she’s married with a great husband and two kids, boy and girl. They’re obviously pretty well-to-do since they’re driving in nice SUV to a summer home in Santa Clara to take a vacation. The woman (and you’ll have to excuse me here, I can’t remember the character’s name, but that often happens to me with movies) has this sense of anxiety/dread in coming back here (and actually that leaves me with one of the questions that wasn’t really resolved, it’s alluded to that they were at this house the year before, but she seems resistant to the idea of returning to the beach where she’d encountered the hall of mirrors in her youth, did they come back and never go to the beach before or was there something about this year that was different…was this answered and I just didn’t pick up on this or was it one of those unresolved script ideas that the audience lets slide because it doesn’t really matter? Maybe a subsequent viewing will answer that, and I’ll probably watch this again some day).

In any case, they go to the beach and the hall of mirrors house is still there, and the family meets up with another family, wealth friends of theirs played by Elisabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker, and there’s a tense scene where the mother of the main family thinks they’re son is missing but he just went to the bathroom. This is actually one of the areas in which the movie excels, that sense of dread and anxiety; Peele is really good at ratcheting that up by introducing odd, off-kilter coincidences that hint at the doppleganger theme (for instance in the opening scene there’s a guy holding a cardboard sign on the boardwalk that reads Jeremiah 11:11, which I just looked up: “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them…” but even not knowing this, just seeing the dude with his sign is creepy). The other thing he does really well is bring us into the main family’s world and make us really like them: the father’s funny, the sister is sassy, the boy is cute but odd and obviously, as the baby, the mother’s favorite. In any case, the boy is fine. He returns from the bathroom unscathed, although there’s another guy standing on the beach in a trench coat with his back to us bleeding from his hand. The family goes back to their place and retires for the night. The husband thinks he’s getting some but the wife’s off in her own little world, staring out the window, and finally, she tells him what happened to her as a child in that hall of mirrors. Then the lights go out, which…is horror movie cliche, but sometimes the cliche works and it was effective here. Their son comes in and tells them there’s a family in the driveway, and they go to look and sure enough, there’s a family of four just standing in their driveway looking at them.

And obviously, the family in their driveway is up to no good, intends them harm, and as it turns out, if you saw the trailer, is them. Dopplegangers. Only violent angry dopplegangers. What you might not notice at first, or you may notice it, is that only the mother’s doppleganger can talk. The father’s takes the father outside and drives him in a trash bag in a boat to do what we could only assume is dump him in the bay, the son and his doppleganger end up upstairs in a closet playing with fire, the sister manages to get outside and run, but her doppleganger is just as fast, and the mother’s doppleganger has her chained to the table. I know I said I wasn’t going through a play-by-play above, so as to not spoil it, but I’ll say here, the family fights back and escapes their dopplegangers; the scene of the movie then shifts to Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker’s family, and their doppleganger’s appear and quickly dispatch, by which I mean murder, them and their daughters. Which lead to the main overarching question I had throughout the movie, especially when it’s revealed this is happening all over American and not just to these two families: why is it that this main family we’re following was so effective at fighting back when it seems the dopplegangers were able to so efficiently kill their real-world counterparts? I mean, it’s mayhem out there, and it’s not as if this family has any special training or knowledge that would help them out in combat situations. Peele does have an epigraph before the credits about how there are thousands of miles of tunnel underneath the United States, so I was assuming that’s where the dopplegangers came from, and it’s soon revealed that the dopplegangers are used to control their counterparts aboveground, but it’s really the twist at the end that reveals why the family is able to survive so long.

So yes, there’s a twist. There was a twist in Get Out, too. And I can only hope that Peele didn’t put a twist in here because there was a twist in there and audiences liked it. Because I’m getting an M. Night vibe here. The only difference being that….well, I’m not sure there’s much of a difference. The first film was adored, universally acclaimed, nominated for Academy Awards, and the second film was still lauded but more divisive. I know that Us has a high score among critics on Rotten Tomatoes, that bastion of critical consensus aggregation, but I don’t think fans warmed to Us in the same was as Get Out, and the reaction to Peele’s reboot of the Twilight Zone, from what I’ve heard, was tepid. Which is a similar trajectory to the whole Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Signs path. I just hope that Peele continues to test himself, expand on his ideas rather than relying on things that worked before because he’s done some really interesting work, and frankly, running a TV show that didn’t catch on isn’t the same as making a weak third film. But now that we’ve mentioned M. Night, he came back eventually. He just had to make a lot of utter crap first. I liked The Visit well enough and Split was good, too. And hey, I’ve got Glass in my house, checked out of the library for my perusal this weekend, so we’ll see if he stuck the landing with his surprise trilogy. But before all that, tonight’s movie night at my house, which means movie night with the kids, not movie night for me sitting alone watching horror until 11 o’clock (which is what I mean by late…I was still in bed by 11:15 last night; and up at 6:15, that meant I got in 7 hours, which while not my ideal is still a decent nights sleep). No, movie night in my house is movie night with the kids, and I have Ugly Dolls for them, which I know little about other than it’s got a lot of music stars among the voice cast so I’m assuming it’s a musical. And my wife is making vegetarian taco salad, and I picked up cupcakes from a bakery for the kids and this thing called a peanut butter brownie cookie dough jawn for my wife and I to split, and I’m sure on top of the cupcakes, she’ll make popcorn for the kids, since movie night is a special night. However, inane Ugly dolls ends up being.