February 2004 Archives

hizzi fa shizzi

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Got a message to my website from someone who had seen the URL on the back window of my car. (That vinyl sign is the best thing I ever did for the car.) He said my car is "off the hizzi fa shizzi." What the heck does that mean? Based on context -- the next sentence is "your car is so cool" -- I think it's something good.

I kind of wonder if the message isn't a friend of mine having me on. Because they said they saw me Friday morning in Wellspring parking lot. But I wasn't there Friday morning; I was at home working. On the other hand, I was at Wellspring Friday evening around 5. Maybe it was just a typo.

24 hour party people

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Feb. 27 movie: 24 Hour Party People. Deliriously fun movie, ostensibly about the 80's Manchester music scene but actually mostly about Tony Wilson, co-founder of Factory Records. There's lots of breaking the fourth wall, witty asides & in-jokes that could have so easily ended up annoyingly clever, but didn't. I'm a bit amazed that it worked so well. My favorite line was when the actor playing Wilson talks to the camera, pointing out a bunch of cameos including the real Tony Wilson, and says that one cameo was cut "but I'm sure it will be on the DVD." (In fact, I don't think it was.)

My only quibble is that, if you didn't know anything about the Manchester music scene, you wouldn't learn as much as you should (and what you did learn wouldn't always be true). I had heard that the movie was "about" New Order, but I was surprised by how little presence they had. Maybe the Happy Mondays, who do get a lot of screen time, fit in better with the story they were trying to tell. The Smiths and the Stone Roses aren't in it at all (I think they each get mentioned once). The portrayal of Ian Curtis was brilliant, but I really wished the movie had spent more time with him. I felt many times like allusions and references were being thrown out that would have made much more sense if I had known already what they were alluding to. (This feeling wasn't helped by the thick accents, and frequency of scenes in noisy clubs, which meant that I often had trouble understanding the dialogue.)

My short assessment: don't rent this movie expecting a thorough or accurate overview of the Manchester music scene, rent it because it's a damned lot of fun.

(I thought for sure I'd be humming music from the soundtrack today, but instead I'm hearing the Alex Gopher single "Party People," which was not in the movie, over and over. "Pa-arty, where's the party at? Party people, where's the party at?" Not a bad thing to have stuck in my head.)

goodbye, old stove

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I think I mentioned that we bought a new stove a week ago. I had looked through the Consumer Reports ratings, but we couldn't find the exact models they had recommended anywhere. They had one at Home Depot that seemed like a similar model to a Consumer Reports "best buy," but when I lifted off the burner to make sure it was easy to clean, this burner tray underneath clattered loose and we couldn't get it correctly seated. We stood there for several minutes trying to figure out how the parts fit together, but it was always loose and uneven. I certainly don't want to be dealing with that every time I wipe down the stove! So we passed it over, "best buy" or not.

So we ended up getting one from Sears that wasn't mentioned in Consumer Reports, but had everything we wanted (like cast iron burners and knobs that turn all the way instead of just 90°). Also we went ahead and got the extended warranty -- the salesman said that they'll fix anything, even if it's our fault, and they'll come out once a year to do a maintenance check. That seems well worth $30 a year to me.

On Tuesday the people from Sears brought the new stove and took away the old one. Goodbye, old stove! You served us well, or as well as an ancient electric range could. Sorry we never managed to get those stains around the burners off you.

The gas company didn't come to hook up the new stove until Wednesday afternoon, which would have worked out perfectly -- Georg was out at the station and I had a dinner meeting that night -- but I had to reschedule my meeting. It wasn't a big problem though; I had leftovers heated in the microwave on Tuesday night and a sandwich for lunch on Wednesday.

The new stove is gas, which Georg had when he was growing up but I had never used before. It's a bit of an adjustment. I've only used it a few times and I'm still figuring out what settings to use for "medium low," "medium high" etc. Also the noise of the gas kind of freaks me out. I'm just now getting to the point where I don't feel compelled to turn it off and on each time I use it, to make sure there isn't a leak. It's really nice to be able to turn off the heat and just leave the pan on the burner. We have so little space in our kitchen that finding a safe place to remove a pan from heat was at times a major problem.

The guys from the gas company were very nice and helpful. They liked the dogs, showed me how to use the stove and oven, set the clock and even made sure the stove was level. I asked them if I could give them a tip, and the one who seemed to be in charge said "We can't accept tips, but if some money happened to find its way into my pocket, I wouldn't say no to that!" We all laughed and I held out the money, but the guy really meant it! He would not take it from my hand, I had to put it in his pocket. Ew! He had work gloves sticking out of his pocket so I just kind of stuck the bill into the gloves. If he had expected me to actually put my hand into his pocket, I wouldn't have done that.

They said that the oven won't work in a power outage because of the electronic thermostat, but the stovetop will. He demonstrated lighting it with a regular match, which looked a bit risky. I think I'll be using a long butane lighter if and when I ever need to light it that way. Still, it will be very nice indeed to have hot food (and even small quantities of hot water) during a power outage.

So what's the best way to clean a stovetop? I don't want this nice shiny new stove to get all gross like the old one did.

i heart brini

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I have a new love: The Brini Maxwell Show. It's a retro lifestyle/advice show hosted by a drag queen with "an emphasis on uncompromising fabulousness" and an amazing collection of mid 60s clothes and beauty products. Really, her outfits are staggering. According to her website, the show was on New York public access for five years before being picked up by the Style network. Every show has a theme; so far I've seen shows on throwing cocktail parties, baby or bridal showers, and getting over a bad breakup. My favorite segment is "Why Didn't You Think of That?" which features a handy tip (such as chilling spoons in the freezer to reduce swollen eyes from the bad breakup episode) and of course finishes with Brini asking, "now why didn't you think of that?"

unnatural intrusion security

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So, it snowed last night. All the local TV stations ran closing announcements, as they tend to do when it snows. Channel 14 had the clever idea of posting a form on their website that allowed people to submit announcements. They also had the less clever idea of airing the submissions without authentication or human review, with amusing results. There are a bunch of screen shots here. Damn, I wish I'd known about this while it was happening.

movie list

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I did watch a few movies last week while I wasn't posting. Here's a quick rundown:

Kwaidan. Forgettable series of Japanese ghost stories. In fact, I don't remember the movie well enough to comment further.

The Divorcee. I love Norma Shearer and was hoping for some racy pre-code action, but the, ah, race wasn't racy enough, and the icky gender attitudes got the best of me. Shearer plays a woman whose husband has an affair, then asks her to take a man's attitude towards infidelity (i.e. forget about it). She "takes a man's attitude" by going out and sleeping with one of his friends, at which point he dumps her in disgust. She spends a couple of years leading a pathetic, dissolute life before they eventually reunite. Yawn.

The Magnificent Seven. Funny how I was just wondering whether I liked Fistful of Dollars or Yojimbo better. In this case there's no contest. The Magnificent Seven is a good movie, but it just doesn't grab me nearly as well as its inspiration The Seven Samurai. Great stars though: Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Eli Wallach. Good soundtrack too. I was humming it for days after seeing the movie.

Down With Love. Do I even need to say how much I loved this movie? I really loved this movie. No surprise since Pillow Talk is one of my all-time favorites. I would have watched it for the clothes alone, but the movie was great fun too. David Hyde Pierce is uncannily good at playing Tony Randall. I wish they could have worked in my favorite line from Pillow Talk (said by Randall): "Jan, how could you fall in love with a tourist?"

magic power of cute

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So like I said, Nutty's been staying with us while Sean's out of town. He's been here since last Tuesday & will probably go home tomorrow. It's been wonderful to have him here. Lina and Thirteen love him & are always more lively when he's around. And I missed him too.

Nutty has the magic power of cute, that lets him get away with just about anything. He is obscenely cute. Look at that face! Could you tell that face to get off the chair? I can't do it.

If I have any complaint about Nutty, it's his unrelenting neediness. He has an endless desire for affection which gets a bit tiring after a while. Most dogs follow their people around, but Nutty follows so close and so constantly that he's always nearly tripping us, earning himself the nickname "Mr. Underfoot Guy."

Still, I say that now but I'll be missing Mr. Underfoot Guy a lot tomorrow night.

dear globesonic

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Dear Globesonic. I realize that you're just doing your job, and it's very nice of you to keep the RPM gal at some college station on your mailing list. But would you please stop sending me invitations to your astoundingly hip Manhatten parties? Seriously, I can't take it anymore. I do not need to know that you hosted Ojos de Brujo's sold-out first US appearance, and that I could have been there if I didn't live eight hours away. I do not need to know these things!

comments fixed

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I fixed the broken comment thingie. I was working on something else last week and had to change the password to my database. I didn't remember that I was using the same database for that project and MT (I get several now but at that time the account only came with one) and so the password needed to be changed in MT as well.

Anyway, I updated the password and everything seems to be working. So all the legions trying to post comments here (*cough cough*) can do so freely now.

update

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So I've been working a lot the past few days. And when I'm not working, the last place I want to be is in front of my computer. Which means that I haven't been posting. So here's the quick update: Christa's party was fabu, Nutty is staying with us, I started exercising again and I'm sore all over, it was ridiculously warm last weekend but now it's cold again, and we bought a gas range. Next power outage, everyone at our house!

yojimbo

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Feb. 14 movie: Yojimbo. I've been trying to figure out which I love more: this or Fistful of Dollars. Badass, enigmatic hero? Check. Killer soundtrack? Check. I think the bad guys are slightly more fun in Yojimbo, and Mifune's strut is not to be missed, but Fistful of Dollars maybe still edges out victory due to the "apologize to my mule" scene.

I've got to get better about writing down entries in the movie list right away. I just remembered this, and I think I watched another movie on Saturday as well, but I can't remember what it was. Darn.

pirates of the carribean

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Feb. 16 movie: Pirates of the Carribean. Just in case you thought I was some kind of snob who only watches black and white movies or obscure art films. Not so! I'm all about the action movies, and I'm particularly fond of swashbucklers. This one was too much fun. Good swordplay, good effects, funny. I don't have much else to say about it though.

pride and prejudice

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Feb. 16 movie: Pride and Prejudice. No, not the really good BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. The really bad 1940 version with Greer Garson and Laurence Olivier.

This movie is so wrong, in so many ways, I don't even know where to begin. Georg compared it to a boat that occasionally drifted vaguely on-course, but mostly just drifted. The dialogue has been changed so radically that I had been watching for 15 full minutes before I heard a line I recognized. The costumes are Civil-War era -- big hoop skirts and leg-of-mutton sleeves. Mr. Collins is a librarian. They waltz at the assembly. The Netherfield Ball has become a garden party, with Darcy and Lizzie trading quips over an archery lesson. The Hursts no longer exist, nor does Lizzie's visit to Pemberley.

All that I could have forgiven, if the characters at least had the right demeanor/attitude (we've already established they didn't have the right words to say). Only Lizzie was truly how I think of her, although Mr. and Mrs. Bennet and Caroline Bingley were also pretty much right. But everyone else was so, so wrong. Jane coquettishly approves of her mother's scheme to make her catch cold and have to stay at Netherfield. Mary is a flirt whose voice clears up at the end when she meets a nice officer. Darcy pursues Lizzie openly from nearly the first moment he sees her. By the time Lady Catherine reveals that her attack on Lizzie was a reverse psychology ploy to help Darcy, Georg and I were roaring with laughter.

separate tables

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Feb. 15 movie: Separate Tables. Nice little movie based on a Terence Rattigan play about a colorful assortment of people living in a small British hotel with, you guessed it, separate tables in the dining room. David Niven won an Oscar for playing a war veteran with a lot of secrets who befriends mousy Deborah Kerr. Also nice work by Gladys Cooper, who was scary good at playing evil controlling matriarchs. (She's also the horrible mother in Now, Voyager, one of my favorite movies.)

the quest for the iron

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It's still snowing, and I'm not sleepy, so here's the story of my quest for a new iron. Having done a complicated sewing project made me realize the inadequacy of my old iron. I think that the value of a good iron for sewing is kind of like the value of a good tripod for photography: you have to get to a certain skill level before you realize how important it is. Which is not to imply that I'm anywhere near that skill level in photography. I just read advice guides from photographers who are that good, when I was shopping for a tripod.

Anyway, I am getting to the point with my sewing where any old iron won't do anymore. And luckily, I have some birthday money just itching to get out of my bank account. What better way to spend it than on a spiffy new iron?

My first thought was naturally a Rowenta. Everyone loves Rowenta irons. People who sew love them; sewing magazines love them; heck, Consumer Reports called the Rowenta Professional the best iron they'd ever tested. It's expensive ($80 at Costco, $100 elsewhere) but I'm willing to pay for that level of quality.

Except that I can't just go buy an iron. That would be way too easy. Like any purchase, I have to research it to death, reading up on competing brands and making sure I get the best deal. Which does not necessarily mean the lowest price. For instance, when I bought my camera I decided it was better to pay a bit more from Amazon, rather than using Ebay and possibly getting a "grey market" camera without a US warranty.

So anyway, while comparing prices on the Rowenta Professional, I found dozens of angry customer reviews on Amazon.com and Joann.com, from people whose Rowenta irons stopped working after a year or less. The company is reportedly less than responsive to the problem too. I always associated German manufacturing with high quality standards, but apparently not so with Rowenta irons. I wonder if this is a new problem? The brand seems much more available than it used to be -- I saw it in Costco, Target, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Maybe they've pushed so hard to increase production that quality has suffered? Or maybe it's a problem just with this (newish) model, that hasn't been around long enough for the company's reputation to suffer.

I'm rather stunned that Consumer Reports would rave about a iron with this kind of reliability problem, but maybe they were testing only the performance in a new iron and not at all on how long it lasts. The angry customers did often say that the Rowenta was the best iron they had ever used, until it stopped working.

$80 is a small price to pay for a great iron that would last a lifetime, but it's way too much for a great iron that would last a year. I did see a different Rowenta model on Ebay, for a good price, but they were all factory refurbished. No way am I buying a refurb from a brand that is having this kind of problem.

So back to the research. I found another one, by T-fal, that's ranked almost as highly by Consumer Reports and had only happy customer comments on Amazon. $60 from Amazon, but I snagged a new one (not refurbished) from Ebay tonight for $36 plus shipping. Can't wait until it arrives.

(Now I need a new ironing board!)

hip grandma

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I did finish my dress, just in time for Valentine's dinner. Here's a photo that's pretty bad of me, and actually not all that good of the dress (I was sticking my knee out which made a funky pleat in the front, that it normally doesn't have) but it's the only one I've got.

I'm pretty sure it's the most difficult sewing project I've done so far, and I'm really happy with how it turned out. It was a Dior design and had a lot of couture touches like the bound buttonholes, the piping, and these funny little tabs on the skirt front, that I never could figure out what they were for. It will be a relief to go back to regular sewing after this!

Pam saw it on Friday night and exclaimed that it looked like something her grandmother would have tried to make her wear to high school. I confess, I'm kind of surprised that it bothered me. I'm a firm believer that fashion is all attitude -- if you feel like a dork, then you look like one. But (as my friend Jason says) if you feel like the coolest thing ever, then you won't notice or care about the people who think you look like a dork. I agree with the truism that bad taste is better than no taste. And of course I have good taste, which is even better.

So why do I care about this? I think partly it's because I had worked on it for so long, and the first reaction from the first person to see it (besides Georg of course) was so negative. I was kind of hoping for something along the lines of "wow, pretty." Not "ugh, looks like something my grandmother would try to make me wear to high school."

On the other hand, maybe she just had a really hip grandmother. Nobody ever tried to make me wear Dior when I was in high school.

my mini-me

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I've been having a hard time making myself write here for the past week. By now there's no point trying to go back and recreate the whole week, so I'll just hit a few highlights.

On Tuesday night I hung out with Gina Norman. Gina and I knew each other in college, but had been out of touch for years until we ran into each other at a holiday party at Jason's. I got the tour of the absolutely amazing addition she'd put on her home, we had yummy Indian food (very very mild!) and spent most of the evening listening to cool music and doing crafty things. Specifically making home-made dressmaker dummies. This involves wearing a T-shirt you don't care about, and being wrapped with paper packaging tape that has been moistened with a sponge. The tape acts like papier mache, forming a you-shaped shell that is then cut up the back, slipped off and resealed with more tape.

Voila! Instant dressmaker's dummy. It's a tiny bit bigger than me; I guess it has to be, since it was wrapped around me. But the weird thing is, it really does look like me. I mean I recognize my shape in it. Kind of cool, kind of creepy. Of course the first thing we did was put our clothes on them. Which really made it look like me.

Unfortunately, I think I got the better end of the deal on this one, as Gina did a much better job with mine than I did with hers. We did her first and I over-wet the tape, causing it not to stick as well. Also I used the full width of the tape, which didn't fit so well around the curves. Gina had the idea of cutting it into narrower strips which worked much better. She spent some time patching hers up and I promised to help her make another one if this one doesn't hold up.

Gina suggested I should name mine "Rah-sa," my name sort of backwards. But I think its name is naturally Mini-Me. Even though it's not actually a mini-me, but rather a slightly-larger-me. Whatever! I'm still calling it Mini-Me.

Wednesday night was The Gleaners and I, which I've already written about. Thursday night I did nothing (yay!) and Friday night Sean and Pam came over. Which was really fun. We had dinner, then decided we were too tired and full to play mah jongg so we just hung out and talked. Which is getting to be a habit for us.

Saturday night was, well it was Valentine's Day, so none of your business. Okay, we went to Il Palio, the Siena Hotel restaurant. Really good, but too much food. I understand the value of seasonal menus, but didn't they ever hear that light food is better for romantic evenings? They gave every couple a long stemmed rose at the end of the evening. (I wonder if they also gave them to non-couples? I saw a group of 6 people at one table, but didn't see if they got roses.) It was kind of a weird and icky gender moment when the waitress brought it: "Sir, your bill. Madam, your flower."

An older couple at the next table actually took a cell phone call. Which annoyed me to no end (really loud ringer!) until I overheard (not trying to, but she talked as loud as her phone rang) that their son's wife had just given birth to twins. Okay, that's a good reason to keep the cell phone on. I felt like that was kinda bad luck for those twins though. I knew a girl when I was little who was born on Christmas Eve, and she could never have her birthday party on her actual birthday.

The other interesting thing is that I had a half glass of wine and really enjoyed it. I've spent so many years thinking of myself as a person who Does. Not. Like. Wine. So it's a bit of an adjustment to realize that I actually don't like bad wine. Which is pretty much all you get when you're the age when I decided that wine all tasted like rotten fruit. This was a pinot grigio and I liked it a lot. Did not taste the slightest bit like rotten fruit.

Now it's snowing. Luckily, I did the stocking up thing earlier in the week when it was supposed to snow before, so we have plenty of groceries and all the non-food supplies we need. Besides, we're only supposed to get an inch or two. I'm hoping we get enough that I can stay home from my HKB meeting tomorrow. Yes, I am a lazy bum.

bound buttonholes

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Time for another boring sewing post. My outfit is almost done (finally!), and the bound buttonholes weren't as difficult as I had feared. Really the only tricky thing is getting them all to look the same. I took photos of each step:

1. Mark the buttonholes on the fabric. This is critical to getting them all lined up and the same length. I bought a new tool for this purpose: a tracing wheel. It's like a tiny pizza wheel, with serrated but not sharp edges. It comes with a sheet of tracing paper, which you lay on top of the fabric with the pattern over top. Trace the lines on the pattern with the wheel, and the lines are transferred onto the fabric. The tracing wheel is so awesome! It only cost $2.50, I can't believe I never got one before.

2. Cut 1" wide strips of fabric, one for each buttonhole. Fold in the long edges so they meet in the middle, and press. Try not to burn your fingers with the iron while doing this. My iron is particularly bad for this, because the "steam off" setting no longer works (owie!).

3. Lay the folded strips in place and mark the buttonhole. This is the shape the actual buttonhole will have, so use a ruler and make sure the lines are straight and in exactly the right place.

4. Sew a rectangle over the markings you just made. Again, this sewing line is the shape of the buttonhole, so it's critical that everything lines up just right. Also, use very small stitches because this seam will be under a lot of pressure.

5. Cut a slit down the middle and into the corners, as close as you can get to the stitching. This is the "do or die" moment: impossible to do it over once it's been cut.

6. Push all the extra fabric through the hole to the back. The folds that were on the outside of the strip are now on the inside of the hole. Smooth everything down down with your fingers so it lies as flat as possible.

7. Turn it over and you have a buttonhole!

At this point normally you would have to finish the back by covering it with a small piece of fabric that had a slit for the button to go through. But since the buttonholes on my outfit are all decorative, not actual fastenings, I got to skip that step. The pattern was designed to cover all the buttonhole backs with facings or whatever.

My book didn't explain how to press them flat, which they really need, but I came up with a method: with the back up, I pressed really close around the edge of each one, lifting up the ends of the fabric strips to get underneath. Then laid the ends back down and steamed (held the iron above, so it was just touching but not pressing, with full steam) them until the wool was soft. Then finger pressed them flat and hand-sewed them down to the underlining.

I'm really happy with how they turned out! I kinda wish they didn't have to be covered up with buttons. Maybe I'll get smaller buttons so more of the buttonhole shows.

the gleaners and i

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Feb. 11 movie: The Gleaners and I. Lisa, Christa and I watched this French documentary about scavengers last night. It could have been fascinating, but (in my opinion of course) the movie's flow was almost completely destroyed by the director's lack of focus. She includes lengthy shots of herself brushing her hair, looking out the window of her car, filming her own hand in close-up, and so forth. There's even a sequence (I didn't time it but at least a minute) of the ground and a bouncing lens cap, because as she explained, she let the camera dangle but forgot to turn it off.

I wonder if the problem partly stemmed from the camera. She mentioned in the narration that she was using a digital camera for the first time, and how much she loved it. Maybe the lack of need for economy with film led to the excessive moments about driving in the car or the wrinkles on her hand or etc.

I suppose this meandering personal record could make a good movie too, but it sure as hell wasn't the movie I wanted to see last night. I opined that she should have titled it "The Gleaners and Me! Me! Me!" Lisa summed up the film's message as: "Look at my hand. I am aging. Oh right, gleaners."

It's too bad because the (ostensible) subject matter was fascinating. She talked to actual gleaners (people who go into fields after harvest and take food left behind by the farmers), junk collectors we'd call "dumpster divers" in the US, homeless people who eat out of garbage cans, even a couple of magistrates who explained the laws regarding agricultural gleaning and urban scavenging.

I wish that someone else would take all her raw footage, throw away the stuff about her hands, and make the movie The Gleaners and I should have been.

branded to kill

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Feb. 9 movie: Branded to Kill. I debated whether to include this one on the movie list, since I wasn't feeling well and fell asleep about 1/2 hour before the end. But I think I saw enough for it to count.

I was really looking forward to this movie, having loved Tokyo Drifter by the same director (Seijun Suzuki). Alas, Branded to Kill lacked the style that I enjoyed so much in Tokyo Drifter (super-saturated colors and a space age go-go sensibility). Also, Branded to Kill was a bit hard to follow due to many abrupt and seemingly random transitions. In fact Georg and I spent most of the movie saying to each other, "How'd she get there? Weren't they someplace else? Wait, they're back now. Huh?" I think it was a deliberate stylistic choice, but at times it came across a bit Ed Wood-ish -- people getting into a car for a short drive at night, and arriving in a different car during the day. It was that level of disorienting.

vertigo

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Feb. 9 movie: Vertigo. Jesus, what a downer. This is one of the few Hitchcock movies I hadn't seen, and I was totally unprepared for the ending. I had always been given to understand that Hitchcock didn't believe in the perfect crime, and therefore the baddies always get what's coming to them in the end. I'm not complaining that Vertigo was so much darker and more complex, but I have to admit that when the credits rolled I felt like I had been tricked. Maybe that was the point.

ghost dog: the way of the samurai

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Feb. 8 movie: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. I had a really hard time getting involved in this movie. The concept was so rarefied (or to be less charitable, ridiculous) that I found myself with no empathy for the main character. So we've got this hit man, see, and he's obsessed with the code of bushido, right? Imagines himself a samurai! Oh and also, he only communicates with his employer via carrier pigeon.

What in the what now?

There was supposed to be pathos in his final self-sacrifice, I think, but since I was so disengaged it came across as pointless and stupid. And his giving the book to the little girl -- sucking her into his futile world -- just seemed perverse.

But the movie wasn't all bad. There was a cool scene where Ghost Dog (Forrest Whitaker) shoots some guy through the drainpipe of his bathroom sink (which turns out to have been cribbed from Seijun Suzuki's Branded to Kill, which we watched the next day). And I really liked the relationship between Ghost Dog and the Haitian (?) ice cream man (Isaach De Bankolé, the Parisian taxi driver in Night on Earth). I think I would have had a more satisfying viewing experience if I had fast-forwarded through the whole movie, only watching the scenes at the ice cream truck.

The other good thing about the movie was a very brief appearance by RZA, which prompted Georg to explain to me that his name is actually pronounced "rizza," not "are zee aae." Next time I have to say his name on the air, I'll sound a little bit more like I know what I'm talking about.

show today

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I will be on the air from 2 pm to 4 pm eastern time today. I'm trying again to record my show using that software. And, I'm going to be late if I don't step away from the computer.

small world and then some

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In one of those weird coincidences whose implausibility would annoy me if it happened in a movie, it turns out that my friend Lisa and I may have gone to preschool together.

When we were hanging out at Shayne's, I mentioned for some reason that I had gone to Montessori preschool. Lisa replied that she did too -- in Wilmington, Delaware, where her family lived for the first few years of her life. I was born in Wilmington and lived there until I moved to Durham in 1986. We both realized at the same moment that we may have gone to the same school. And since we're the same age, we may very well have been in the same class.

I poked around online and determined that I probably went to Wilmington Montessori. There are a few other Montessori schools in the area, but I think only Wilmington Montessori existed when I first went to school, and the location fits with my very vague, very young memories.

We might not have actually been at the same school. It's possible that she went to Montessori Learning Center, which was founded in 1974. Or, she might have gone to Wilmington Montessori, but after I had moved on to the Elementary Workshop. (Which I see is now also Montessori, but I seem to recall was not at the time I went there. Alas, their website appears to be down right now so I can't find out more details.) Or we might have been there at the same time, but in different classes. I don't think Wilmington Montessori was big enough for more than one class of each age group, but I'm not sure.

Still, what a freaky coincidence if it turns out that we were in the same preschool class, and then without remembering each other became friends decades later in another state. I wonder if we interacted at all back then? Were we friends then too? It was such a long time ago, my memories of Montessori are too vague to be sure.

huh?

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I just remembered that something weird happened today. I was driving to Stoneline, and some people in a van in front of me were waving at me. That part wasn't unusual. I waved back, and one of the guys in the van started gesturing and pointing to something that looked like a cell phone. He kept pointing to his phone and waving it around, so I got out my phone, turned it on and held it up. That seemed to be what he wanted, but then his gesturing got even more manic. I had no idea what he wanted, so I made a big "shrug, I don't know" gesture. At which point I guess he realized that I didn't understand and gave up. I turned off the road just after that.

What was this guy trying to do? Get me to call him? How could I? I didn't have his number. So weird!

the great escape

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Feb. 8 movie: The Great Escape. I was going to say this was the greatest prison camp movie ever, but then I remembered Bridge on the River Kwai and Stalag 17. So let's just call The Great Escape one of the three greatest prison camp movies ever.

I read that it was based on a true story. Some changes were made, notably adding Steve McQueen's character, I guess to give the story more American appeal since the hero of the true story was British: Roger Bushell, called Roger Bartlett and played by Richard Attenborough in the movie. (Come to think of it, Bridge on the River Kwai did the same thing, adding William Holden's character to a true story about British prisoners.) But the tunnel escape really happened pretty much as described in the movie. As did the murder of 50 of the recaptured escapees.

I found a History in Film webpage that goes into nice detail about the actual events, and even compares the movie characters to the real people they were based on. The author of that page says that the movie is extremely accurate, especially about details like the lookout system in the camp, and the tricks to disguise the tunnel work. Although as Eddie Izzard points out, the movie has McQueen traveling to Switzerland by motorcycle and getting there faster than James Garner and Donald Pleasance by plane!

It was a good day on TCM; after The Great Escape they showed North by Northwest. Unfortunately I had to go to Stoneline so I couldn't hang around and watch it.

the hidden fortress

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Feb. 8 movie: The Hidden Fortress. IFC was doing some kind of Kurosawa special, and I also taped Drunken Angel, which I hadn't yet seen, but based on the description I decided I'd rather watch The Hidden Fortress again. I've heard that this movie, about a samurai smuggling a princess out of enemy territory with the help of two peasants, was the basis for a lot of the plot of Star Wars, and it makes sense.

It was interesting to compare this movie with Once Upon a Time in China 3, which Georg watched last night (I was in and out of the room so I saw a bit of it). Jet Li as Wong Fei Hung, as is typical for Chinese action movies, is basically a superhero. He doesn't just fight bad guys; he's completely moral and upright, respects his father, saves women from foreign brutes, rescues puppies from burning buildings, etc. In contrast the heroes in Kurosawa movies are usually cranky bastards, and Mifune's samurai in The Hidden Fortress is no exception. In one scene the princess demands that Mifune rescue a young woman from her clan who's been sold into slavery, but he refuses. When the woman escapes and follows them, Mifune screams at her repeatedly to go away. He's not totally heartless -- he risks his life to save the woman after she sacrifices herself for the princess -- just unconcerned about the plight of random peasants.

dog update

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Sylvia took this really cute photo of me and the dogs last time she was here. They both have demon eyes unfortunately, but other than that I think it's a good photo.

The vet called yesterday, while I was out watching Firefly, and left a long message about Lina. She doesn't think we should be worried about Cushing's disease. She said that the indicators in Lina's blood work were only slightly outside the norm, and they did test normal when Lina's blood work was done back in October. She thinks that any oddities in the test this time was due to the stress of the surgery.

So, I guess I just keep an eye on Lina for any more extreme symptoms. Dr. Lindeke said that one of the main symptoms of Cushing's disease is excessive drinking and excessive peeing. Which we have definitely not noticed in Lina. I am going to call her back on Monday, and ask about the bald spot and the unfortunate car incident. Speaking of which, after thoroughly disinfecting my car it still smells a bit funky, but not ah, poopy. I think the smell must be from having left the windows open in the rain.

art car parade

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I turned in my application for the Houston art car parade today! Actually I faxed it to my friend Tim Klein, of the spectacular yarn car. We're turning in our applications together and asking them to place us together in the line-up. Our plan is to run webcams from both cars, but he doesn't have a cell modem. We're going to try staying close enough together that we can keep a wireless network running so he can connect through mine.

I'm really excited about the parade. Our dear friends Peggy and Chris are going to ride with us again, and this time we're also going to spend a little time with them in Austin either before or after the parade. We were worried about Georg getting extra time off, but if we can push the drive a little harder and make it in two days instead of three, that will give us a couple of days extra without needing more time off work.

firefly

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Yesterday afternoon Lisa and I went over to Shayne's house to watch Firefly on DVD. We saw the two hour pilot (which neither Lisa nor I had seen before) and "The Train Job," the first episode that aired. I remember having been irritated at Fox for airing the episodes out of order, but we agreed after watching that, in this case at least, it was a good decision. "The Train Job" was a much better introduction to the series. I remember watching it for the first time and being excited about the possibilities in the show; I couldn't wait to see the next episode. The pilot, heavy with exposition and light on story, was nice to see for the characters' backstory, but I don't think I would have been nearly as caught up in the series if that's what I had seen first.

It was an interesting object lesson in how to present information economically (and how not to!). For example, the pilot contains a lengthy speech by Simon about his sister River, how smart she was, how the government got their hands on her, how they escaped, how she's messed up in the head now and he doesn't know why. In "The Train Job," there's only a brief scene of someone (the captain I think) asking Simon how she is. He replies "Sometimes she's perfectly lucid and sometimes she makes no sense at all. I still don't know what the government did to her or why." While he's speaking, the camera pans over to a shot of her in the next room, rocking herself and muttering nonsense. And at the very end there's another brief scene of clearly evil government agents, hot on her trail. All the same information (at least, all the information a viewer needs at this point) is conveyed in less than a minute.

I can't wait for our next Firefly viewing session! The DVDs includes the three episodes that never aired, and I didn't see all the episodes that did air either. My timing with this show was really bad. I saw the first few episodes, missed a few, then caught the episode in the hospital, decided that Firefly kicked ass and I would never miss another episode. At which point the show was immediately cancelled.

ripley's game

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Jan 6 movie: Ripley's Game. I enjoyed this, but I think I probably would have enjoyed it more if I'd had more context. I've never read Highsmith's Ripley novels or seen any of the other movies. This one, based on the third book, might have been a bad place to start. I had a hard time understand what Ripley was about & why he acted the way he did. I think I would have been better off starting with one of the movies based on the first book, which from what I hear explores how the character became who he was. That said, Ray Winstone was excellent as usual, and John Malkovich plays a sociopath almost disturbingly well.

I added Purple Noon and The American Friend to my Netflix queue. I'll be interested to see what I think of Ripley's Game after having seen other Ripley films.

some like it hot

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Jan 5 movie: Some Like It Hot. I don't usually think of Some Like It Hot as a screwball comedy because it's a bit late for that genre, but it's one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, and it's got the zany humor based on gender roles down pat. If my movie list was a retrospective of the great screwball comedies (which sometimes I feel like it is), Some Like It Hot definitely belongs on the list.

I can't recommend this movie highly enough. Curtis and Lemmon are hysterical (check out Curtis' imitation of Cary Grant), Marilyn Monroe is a vision (including one gown which, from a distance, appears to be only a skirt), and Joe E. Brown gets the best closing line of any movie ever (no I'm not going to say what it is! You'll just have to see for yourself).

(I saw an interview once with Tony Curtis where he confessed that whenever he didn't know what to do as Josephine, he would purse his lips. It's totally true! He spends half the movie that way.)

catching up again

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So, when do I get to stop beginning posts by complaining about how busy it's been lately? I would really like to know. Unfortunately, it's been so busy that I don't have much to write about except how busy it's been.

Yesterday was so awful I contemplated not even writing the day up. Spent the morning working, around 1 pm decided I needed a break. So I packed the dogs into the car and went to make a bank deposit, mail some bills, pick up some tax forms I need for Stoneline, and grab some lunch. This was only the second just-for-fun car ride the dogs have had since Lina's surgery; it used to be their favorite thing. I have to help Lina up onto the back seat, and on the doctor's advice I put a folded up comforter on the floor so she can't fall off the seat and hurt herself.

Ran into Sylvia at the post office -- that was the bright spot of the day -- and had a fun chat. She peeked ito the car at one point to say hi to the dogs and really seemed to connect with Thirteen! She was very gentle & careful not to touch Thirteen's face, which I had mentioned makes Thirteen nervous. I feel sometimes that because Lina is so aggressively cute and friendly, by comparison Thirteen must seem downright unfriendly. Actually Thirteen is wonderfully sweet -- when we're alone. She's so frightened of strangers that most people never get to know what sweetheart she is. So it was really nice to see Thirteen making friends.

So the beginning of our car trip was great, but it didn't end so well, due to Lina taking a dump in the backseat of my car. I can't describe how appalled I am. She's never done anything like that before. We were across town at the tax office, and of course I didn't have paper towels in the car. I had to drive home, in the cold and rain, with the windows down, trying not to gag at the smell. And then leave my windows open all day and night, in the rain, to try and air out the car. Aren't you glad I shared?

I'm actually wondering if she's sick or something. My vet is supposed to call me about about the Cushing's disease so I'm going to ask her about it.

Needless to say I didn't much feel like eating after that, so I went straight home, to several frantic client calls over crises that need to be fixed right now!! One of which was completely my fault -- I had tried to make a simple change to a form and had ended up breaking it. I love when that happens. Didn't end up eating lunch until around 4 pm, and didn't end up finishing the day's work until around 9. By then of course I was way too tired to sew, so I watched a movie instead. Bleh. Not a good day.

nerd test

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I don't usually post quizzes, but I just took the Nerd Test and I'm only 30.9% nerd! I'm so disappointed. There's something wrong that test. I'm way more nerdy than that.

catching up

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It's been a busy couple of days. I ended up working all day Saturday (end of the year payroll taxes for Stoneline, always fun), then going to a party at David's house that night. Then worked most of the day Sunday on Nancy's website, which we're almost ready to move live. I didn't get to do the full redesign that I would have liked, but we were able to restructure the site in some important ways like getting rid of the frames and adding better navigation to the individual portfolio pages.

Sunday night Christa came over and watched the Survivor premiere. Which was two tons of fun. I wasn't looking forward to seeing Jerri on my screen again, but she seems to have developed a new strategy this time, not to be a vicious harpy. I remember reading when she was on the first time, that other cast members liked her a lot outside the show. Which I found unfathomable. But I guess maybe she had adopted a "bitch from hell" persona for the show, or she was edited to look that way. Or maybe both.

Monday I got caught up on HKB work, did some sewing (which I wrote about in the last post) and also had my show, which was great. I really like the Monday 2-4 time slot. I got a lot of calls. I like calls! Two requests, two people asking about tracks I had played ("Utopia" by Alison Goldfrapp and something from the new DJ Kicks Chicken Lips comp) and three people asking for tickets to the Cat's Cradle show that night. Which tickets had already been given away. I must say, I never understood why people get so honked off about those calls, but I almost never got them during my old show in the morning. The volume of callers who are clearly not listening to the station, but just hoping to score free tickets, seems to increase substantially in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, once again I forgot to set up that software so I didn't record the show. Ah well, maybe next week.

Yesterday, what did I do yesterday. Oh yeah! Finally got down to business on the sewing and I am proud to report that I have conquered the bound buttonhole! It is no match for me! The test I did on scrap fabric didn't look very even around the edges, but on the thicker wool they all turned out great. The fabric around the buttonholes is a bit lumpy but I didn't have time to press them last night. I'm hopeful that the lumps will press out OK. I took some photos of the buttonhole-making process and will post them probably later today.

sewing

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If you find sewing boring, you'll probably want to skip this entry. My birthday outfit is taking way longer than I expected. It's a complicated pattern; I was going to say the most complicated I'd ever made, but then I remembered that Victorian outfit, complete with corset, that I made a few years ago. This doesn't have nearly as many steps as the Victorian outfit, but the difficulty level is about on par.

I'm feeling a little frustrated with it, because I've been working on it for, what, two weeks now? And I still haven't really started sewing. I never feel like I've started until I'm sewing the pieces together into something that resembles an outfit. The work before that point, even if it involves sewing, feels like preparatory steps. And that's where I've been stuck.

First I had to make a test outfit out of scrap fabric. Usually I skip this step, but I was a little concerned about the fit. I didn't want to cut all that beautiful wool and then find out that it doesn't fit right. So I did the whole outfit (skipping the details like the piping and buttonholes, and just doing one sleeve) in scrap fabric. And discovered that the pattern did need to be altered a bit. It's a pure A-line, meant to be a bit loose in the midsection and then flare gently, very little shaping below the waist. But I like my clothes more fitted in the waist, which means I have to let it out at the hips. Because, well, I have hips. (So I guess I turned it into a semi A-line. Well maybe not; I only let it out a little bit.) Also the sleeves were a bit long, and they have these cuffs so I couldn't just cut them as is and make an extra big hem like I normally do. So I took the sleeves up too.

So after making the dress in scrap fabric and altering the pattern, I finally could cut it out of the wool and the underlining.* Then zigzag around the edge of every piece so the edges won't fray. That takes a long time, especially since I have twice as many pieces: the wool and the underlining. Then the wool pieces had to be pressed, because the zigzagging had stretched out the edges a bit; then the underlining pieces had to be basted to the wool pieces. I finally finished that part just now.

But I'm still not ready to start sewing the pieces together yet! Next I have to put in the darts and the bound buttonholes.** I've never made bound buttonholes before so I'm a bit nervous about this part. It seems like the kind of thing that would look really bad if you didn't make each one exactly the same. So of course I have to make nine of the little buggers. Five right on the front of the dress. I think I'm going to quit sewing for the night and read up on my bound buttonhole instructions. Then tomorrow when I'm fresh I'll try them on scrap fabric.

*Lining is sewn to the main garment at the top (and sometimes also at the bottom) but hangs separately. It's sort of like making the same outfit twice and then sewing the two together, one inside the other. Underlining means cutting every piece out of two fabrics, sewing all the duplicate pieces together, then making the outfit as normal, as if the two layers were only one fabric. It gives an outfit more structure and crispness. I think it's gone out of fashion; I've been sewing for over a decade but I had never heard of it until I started working with vintage patterns. I don't know why I think y'all care about any of this.

**I tried to find a photo or drawing of a bound buttonhole online to illustrate this, but couldn't find one that makes any sense unless you already know what they are. It's like a rectangle with two little strips of fabric in it, and the button comes out between the two strips. Rather than a machine buttonhole which is simply stitched, and the fabric slashed inside the stitching. If you have a nice coat or sport jacket, it probably has bound buttonholes.

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