May 2004 Archives

bend it like beckham


May 27 movie: Bend It Like Beckham. This is another one of those "I can't believe I didn't see this until now" movies. The plot sounds (and is) a bit formulaic -- a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl from a traditional culture (South Asian), trying to find her place in a modern world (London) and pursue her passion (football) without disrespecting her strict parents. But it works because it's so funny and so loving towards its characters. Georg commented that the film didn't really transcend its genre. In a way that's true, but in another way it isn't: Bend It Like Beckham manages to wholly avoid the saccharin glow that seems such a common pitfall for culture clash comedies (My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I'm looking at you). It's warm but not "heartwarming," if that makes sense.

I don't much care for sports movies but the film did an incredible job of making the football scenes exciting and fun. They really captured the joy of doing something so well. Most of the girls on the team were actual football players, but the two stars were (according to the DVD extras) actresses who didn't play & had to be coached to pull off those amazing moves.

The DVD included the best DVD extra I've ever seen: a cooking segment with the director demonstrating how to make aloo gobi, while her aging mother and aunt (?) sit behind her and critique her work. Every cooking show should have Indian grannies hovering and kibbitzing!

The most important thing we learned from Bend It Like Beckham is that Indian movie weddings have way better music than American movie weddings.

the italian job


May 27 movie: The Italian Job. This was the remake starring Mark Wahlberg. I had heard that this version had almost nothing in common with the the original, which we watched a couple of months ago. That's not quite true. The basic storyline and tone are quite different, but there are plot elements in common: the theft of gold bars, a big chase scene involving 3 MINIs in places a car isn't supposed to go, the involvement of the Mafia (Italian in the original, Russian in the remake), the use of computers to disrupt traffic in an entire city, a main character named Charlie Croker, the death in the very beginning of Charlie's mentor in crime. There's even a very brief clip of the original film on TV at one point. But no role for Michael Caine! I thought that was scandalous. If they couldn't find a part for him, they could have at least given him a walk-on.

Bottom line: I enjoyed it, it was fun, but it didn't make me forget the original. "You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!"

elizabeth r

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May 26 movie: Elizabeth R. This is not actually a movie but a BBC miniseries starring Glenda Jackson. And wow, it's amazing! I had heard that this was the most historically accurate movie about Elizabeth I, and I wondered if it might be a little dry. But it really wasn't. On the contrary, it was gripping. I stayed up hours late because I couldn't possibly go to sleep until I had seen the whole thing. The drama of Elizabeth's life was amazing, and Glenda Jackson's acting was incredible.

I watched the first DVD, which includes the first two parts of the miniseries. Part I covers the death of Henry VIII to Elizabeth's ascension. Mainly it's about Elizabeth's survival during the reign of Mary Tudor. Part II is about the first few years of Elizabeth's reign, focusing on her relationship with Robert Dudley and efforts by her council and various ambassadors to convince her to marry. Mary Stuart also shows up but isn't yet a major force in the story.

The BBC didn't have the budget of a major Hollywood movie like Elizabeth (the one with Cate Blanchett), but the constumes were still wonderful. I so much want one of those gowns! The ones with the skirts that sweep straight down in a triangular shape, not the ones with the panniers. But I read those early corsets are very uncomfortable, they compress the ribs much more than 19th century corsets.

The DVD also included intermittent commentary by a historian whose name I forget. I started out listening to the commentary, but she too often spoke over scenes whose dialogue I wanted to hear. So I ended up turning it off. However, the additional context she provided was so interesting that I kind of wish I'd watched again with the commentary on. But I was anxious to send the disc back and get disc 2, which comprises parts III and IV of the miniseries. I can't wait to find out what happens next!

well, duh

| 1 Comment has posted an article about iTunes celebrity playlists . Apparently, celebrities, mostly or maybe entirely musicians, can post playlists of recommended songs on iTunes. Nice marketing technique: I'm sure a lot of people will check out & maybe buy a song just because Beyonce said she liked it.

Slate's shocking revelation is that most of the playlists are bad because bland, corporate musicians listen to (or to be more accurate, want the world to think they listen to) bland, corporate music. But artists who aren't part of the corporate music machine (i.e. Sleater-Kinney) don't. Wow! Who would have guessed that Thievery Corporation's recommended playlist is better than Sheryl Crow's? It's not like Thievery Corporation has any experience with mixing other people's songs together. Not like they're, you know, DJs or anything. But the Slate author seems genuinely surprised that Thievery's mix is so good.

I guess I shouldn't sneer at the article. It seems written for people who, unlike me, don't assume that anything created by Michael Stipe or Sheryl Crow totally sucks. And it did provide the helpful information that these celebrity playlists exist, which I hadn't known.

pillow talk

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May 24 movie: Pillow Talk. I love this movie! Another one of my very favorites. The best of the Rock Husdon/Doris Day films, TCM is showing it as part of their memorial tribute to Tony Randall. There are too many funny things to recount them all, but one of my favorites is the dueling internal monologues Hudson and Day have on their first date:

him: "I'd say five or six dates should do it."

her: "It's so nice to meet a man you feel you can trust!"

However, my favorite line without a doubt is said by Randall: "Jan, how could you? How could you ever fall in love with a tourist?"

[The movie just ended and I have to add that the ending is the only part I don't like. But up until the last two minutes or so, it's utterly fabu.]

now, voyager

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May 23 movie: Now, Voyager. This is one of my very favorite movies. I think it's Bette Davis' best. Its famous moment is Paul Heinreid lighting two cigarettes in his own mouth and then handing one to Davis. But I love it for Davis' nuanced character study of a shy, emotionally stunted socialite gradually blossoming. The scenes with the Heinreid's daughter are a bit schmaltzy, but don't make me enjoy the movie any less. I've lost count of how many times I've seen it. The scene near the end where the daughter asks Heinreid if he likes her, and he hugs her and looks over her shoulder to say "I love you" to Davis, gets me misty every time.

the major and the minor

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May 23 movie: The Major and the Minor. I had started to watch this earlier this year, but turned it off about a half hour in because I was creeped out by the premise: 31 year old Ginger Rogers pretending to be a 12 year old and falling in love with Ray Milland. But Alicia raved about the movie so I thought I'd give it another chance if it showed up on TCM again. I still think the premise is icky, but I must admit I turned it off too soon before and missed a lot of funny stuff. The cadets all talking about Maginot line are hysterical!

the unsuspected

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May 23 movie: The Unsuspected. Unremarkable noir starring Claude Rains. I might have liked it better if the cable company's info screen hadn't spoiled the identity of the killer, which isn't revealed until an hour into the film. This movie had several superficial elements in common with the far superior Laura, which came out three years before.

broadway melody of 1940

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May 23 movie: Broadway Melody of 1940. Fred Astaire loves Eleanor Powell from afar, but his drunken louse of a dancing partner (George Murphy) unwittingly steals his big break -- to be Powell's leading man on Broadway. This is a really fun, funny movie, although it lacks any really memorable dance numbers. Which is probably why it's not a classic like the Astaire/Rogers films.

the prince and the pauper

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May 22 movie: The Prince and the Pauper. This was fun, not the greatest movie ever but fun. I vaguely remember the book having more biting social satire, but the movie is fairly treacly. Still, it has Errol Flynn, Claude Rains (in an absolutely horrendous hairdo) and Alan Hale! Alas, Hale is a bad guy. He plays the captain of the guard, who Rains blackmails into finding and killing the real prince. He gets offed by Flynn before he can do the dastardly deed.

weekend update

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Had a great weekend. Nice and quiet. Went shoe shopping on Saturday -- didn't buy anything, but it was still fun to shop -- then went to a gallery opening Saturday night. Ran into Jacob Cooley, who told me I was looking very mod. That's my look! I also ran into Toby Gillinkin! She was my art car inspiration: I saw her car in a parking lot in Chapel Hill in 1990 or 91, and it blew my mind. I remember standing there for, I don't know, 10 minutes? -- just staring at all the decorations on her car. I didn't even own a car at the time, but I knew that someday I'd decorate my car too.

I had gotten together with Toby and another local art car driver, Deb Allen, a couple of years ago, but had lost Toby's email address. So I was really glad to run into her again, especially now when I've had a couple of feelers on local art car events! yay! Nothing on the scale of Artscape or Houston, but I'm still thrilled at the prospect of having art car things happening here.

After the gallery I went to the radio station. I ended up playing a 100% indecent show. Except for one request, for "What Do I Get" by the Buzzcocks. There is actually an indecent song on that same album, but it had a big scratch in it so I didn't want to risk it. It wasn't my best show ever, for one thing the all-indecent thing severely limited my choices from the playlist. But it was fun, and the guy who made the request said he was enjoying the show.

Georg congratulated me for getting through the whole show and still managing to say "Some listeners may find the following to be indecent" with a straight face. I must admit, I felt ridiculous after a half hour, but by halfway through the show I was used to saying it over and over. The only downside was that having to cut in and speak before every track meant there was absolutely no flow. Oh well, I still had fun!

Sunday I slept in and then lay around all day. I watched four movies! Well actually, three and a half. I had already started watching The Prince and the Pauper the day before.

that retro thing

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About a week ago, Lisa and Shayne and I hung out at Ooh La Latte -- very fun afternoon -- and on the way home I stopped at Whole Foods to get something for dinner.

The guy at the meat counter asked me, "Have you ever been to Ooh La Latte?" A bit taken aback, I replied that I had just been there. He pointed to my dress (a thrift store find) and said "How did I know?"

I told him that I hadn't bought that dress at Untidy Museum (the clothing store connected to Ooh La Latte) and he said that he just liked that whole retro thing, pointing to my hair which was done up all mod.

Fast forward to today. I had a lot to do this morning and didn't have time to style my hair and dress up. So I just wore jeans and a T-shirt, and let my hair do its own thing. Not my most stylish, actually pretty grungy, but who cares? It's not like anyone is paying attention, right? Had my HKB meeting, went to my show, stopped at the supermarket on the way home. The same guy was at the meat counter, and when he saw me he said "Shockingly modern!"

Which just goes to show that, if you ever think no one's paying attention to the way you look, you're wrong.

I'm subbing the 10-midnight show tomorrow night. I very rarely do a show in safe harbor, so I'm planning to play a lot of indecent songs. Good songs that happen to have a four-letter word in them so I can't normally play them on the air. Suggestions are welcome.

mr. and mrs. smith

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May 21 movie: Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery play a married couple who discover that their wedding wasn't legal. Montgomery doesn't ask Lombard to remarry him quickly enough for her taste, so she dumps him and starts dating his business partner. Hilarity ensues! Hitchcock's only screwball comedy, this isn't the greatest example of the genre ever made, but it is very funny, and very screwball, and well worth watching. There are a few hysterical sequences (like Montgomery punching himself in the nose to induce a nosebleed and get out of a bad date, or Lombard trying to convince the business partner that after getting caught in the rain, hard liquor is medicine).

school of rock

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May 19 movie: School of Rock. I'm not a big fan of Jack Black. I find him mostly an obnoxious blowhard who isn't very funny. But sometimes his obnoxiousness works in his favor, when the character is supposed to be an ass. Like High Fidelity or last night's movie, School of Rock. Which was surprisingly funny. Joan Cusack (the Eve Arden of our era) in a major supporting role definitely helped.

We watched the "making of" thing on the DVD. Which was nice because they interviewed several of the kids. Mainly only the boys though, which was a bit weird. I wanted to find out about the girl who plays bass. Anyway the boy who plays lead guitar in the movie said he found out about the audition from music camp. Who knew music camp could lead to a movie career? Black made some charmingly modest comment about not being very good on guitar, and then they showed him playing with that boy and sure enough, the boy was better.

The other funny thing was when Black was describing something, I forget what, and he said it got so chaotic it became "a combustible edison." We're pretty sure he meant "spontaneous combustion," but hey, I love Combustible Edison! I'd probably like Jack Black better if his band were a lounge act.

millenium actress

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May 14 movie: Millenium Actress. The description on the DVD sleeve (animated film about a retired actress recalling her career) made me think I wouldn't like this movie. Boy, was I wrong! The plot device of the eldery actress reliving her past is a nifty way to pay tribute to a variety of Japanese film genres. And her personal story, weaving in and out of the movies, is genuinely moving. I really enjoyed this film, although I felt like I would have appreciated it even more if I were more familiar with the post-war Japanese film industry. I bet it had lots of references that were over my head (we did catch a few).

the cole mill road rodent resort


Despite Lina's attempts to decimate the cute little rodent population, we've had a lot of rodent sightings in the past couple of days. First, we have at least 2 bunnies: one adult who hangs out in the front yard, and one younger rabbit, which must have been from the same litter that Lina got into a few weeks ago, and hangs out in the back yard. The bunny in the front yard seems to be better about getting the heck out of sight than the bunny in the back yard: one time I was dumping food into the compost bin, saw something out of the corner of my eye and realized the young bunny was less than 10 feet away from me. I wish we could leave vegetable scraps out for them, but that would probably increase the chance of them falling prey to Lina. In any case we're being careful about checking for signs of rabbit before letting the dogs out, and making a whole lot of noise as we're opening the door.

Besides the bunnies, we have a thriving chipmunk community. They like to hang out under the bird feeder, I guess because we use a birdseed mix that has lots of sunflower seeds & even some peanuts. And the birds spill a lot of seed on the ground where the chipmunks can get to it. There are also chipmunks living outside the fence, near the herb garden. I see them running across the driveway sometimes. I've been thinking that maybe I should try to mentally distance myself from the rabbits, and focus more on the chipmunks. They're almost as cute as the rabbits, and way, way smarter about avoiding the dogs. Lina's never had a chipmunk kill. Once years ago, she and Thirteen trapped one inside the gutter spout, but Georg and I got them away in time. We had to pry open the spout with pliers as I recall, because the dogs had chewed it so much, trying to get at the chipmunk, they'd closed up the end and the chipmunk couldn't fit through the opening. I thought that poor thing was going to have a heart attack but it survived!

Besides the cute bunnies and the brave chipmunks, I saw a rodent yesterday that I couldn't identify. It was about as big as the adult rabbit, maybe a little smaller, grey fur, and very rounded. Rounded body, no discernible neck, rounded head, tiny ears, no tail. It actually reminded me a lot of a short-haired guinea pig.

I'm certain it wasn't a rat, that is if Womzilla and Nellorat's rats are typical of the species. This guy's head was totally different -- more snub and almost the same size as his body -- his ears were much smaller, and he had no tail. Any ideas about what it was? A mole maybe?

He was hanging out under the bird feeder, eating seed. I took a few photos, but without a telephoto lens (and through a screen window) it might as well have been the Loch Ness Monster. Eventually something spooked him -- he probably heard me or maybe the dogs inside the house -- and he disappeared into the tall grass behind the feeder. He moved fast but there was something waddling about the way he walked.

The mystery rodent was cute. I hope he's a harmless species.

car question


I had an oil change right before leaving for the trip. According to the "three months or 3,000 miles" rule, I'm about 100 miles away from needing another one. Should I wait three months, or get another oil change even though the last one was two weeks ago? (Not from Jiffy Lube of course!)

head in the sand

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I have to say, if I was going to be almost completely oblivious to TV, radio and newspapers for ten days, I picked a good time to do it. While we were away, we never had time to watch TV, didn't bother trying to find local radio stations since we had tons of music on the iPod, and avoided even looking at the front page of newspapers because we didn't want to be spoiled for who won Survivor.

The only glimpse of TV news I had was a few minutes of "Good Morning America" on May 3, while I was waiting for my car radiator to be repaired. At one point they interviewed some woman in a uniform, she was claiming not to have known about torture? Huh? I was so focused on my immediate problems that I couldn't pay much attention. I wasn't sure who was supposed to have been tortured, or if that's even what they meant. I half-convinced myself that I must have heard them wrong & then put it out of my mind when we got back on the road.

Getting back and catching up on my web reading was a bit of a shock. Some guy getting decapitated on video? Hired mercenaries torturing people? Jeez louise, is this America? It's enough to make me want to put my head back under the sand.

catching up on movies

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I did watch a few movies while I was getting ready for the trip, and a couple since getting back. Let's see how many I can remember.

Samurai Spy. This was kind of hard to follow, despite (or maybe because of) nearly endless backstory narration at the beginning. But it had some good set pieces, and a bad-ass villain who dressed all in white.

Plymouth Adventure. Historical costume drama about the Pilgrims features Spencer Tracy as the captain of the Mayflower and Gene Tierney as an upstanding Pilgrim wife he tragically falls in love with. Tierney kills herself by jumping off the side of the Mayflower because she can't stand the shame of, well I'm not sure what. She didn't cheat on her husband. Maybe that's what she was ashamed of. This was perfect to watch while beading the bubble machine, because it was interesting enough to maintain my attention but not so interesting as to keep me from working.

The Adventures of Robin Hood. I love this movie so much, I can't think of anything to say about it. Errol Flynn at his finest, Claude Rains, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Alan Hale! That's really all that needs to be said.

I'll Take Sweden. Bob Hope moves his daughter (Tuesday Weld) to Sweden to get her away from her undesireable boyfriend (Frankie Avalon), then discovers that those perverted Swedes think sex is healthy and natural! Horrors! According to the movie, all Swedes were also deeply involved in Freudian analysis. The movie ends up with Avalon, Hope and Hope's Swedish girlfriend chasing Weld and her Swedish boyfriend around a hotel, trying to find them before the boyfriend can sexually assault Weld. Because date rape is funny! Actually this movie was funny, in a bizarre way. Worth the price of admission just for Avalon singing the title song.

Christopher Strong. Katharine Hepburn plays an aviator who falls in love with a married British nobleman. They have an affair, she gets pregnant and realizes that his life would be ruined if he knew about it. So she flies too high on purpose and dies. I think this is supposed to be inspiring but I found it kind of sick. She's a courageous, independent woman for most of the film, but love messes with her head so badly that she'd rather kill herself and her fetus than inconvenience her lover. Wow, how romantic. Billie Burke (Glinda the Good) plays the wife. I kept waiting for her to ask Hepburn if she was a good witch or a bad witch.

Break of Hearts. Hepburn again, this time playing a composer who marries an orchestra conductor. Too bad the husband is a drunken womanizing lout. Another guy loves Hepburn and would clearly treat her a whole lot better, which is too bad because she's destined to stay with the jerk. Because he needs her to prop him up and keep him from drinking too much. Gender attitudes in the 30s were lovely, weren't they?

odds and ends


A few random thoughts about the art car weekend:

-The yellow T-shirt for Georg was a mistake. It looked great, but the volunteers all wear yellow shirts so he looked like one of them. We didn't have an escort for most of our trip to the line-up, because they saw Georg inside our car and assumed he was our escort. Whoops! Next time we'll do his shirt in a different color.

-This year they made us pop the trunk to inspect our fire extinguisher! It was buried under a bunch of stuff, Georg had to jump out and dig through the trunk to find it. Last year the guy didn't want to see it, just asked where it was. Tim told me later that they usually want to see it. He had his in the front seat so he could more easily show it to them. Whew, I'm so glad we still had it!

-The best moment of the weekend was definitely meeting Ben, creator of Student Driver, who immediately said "Oh! I love your website!" Wow. That's one of my favorite art cars ever. What a thrill that he not only knew who I was, but had seen my site!

-Another fine moment was at the Art Car Ball, seeing a woman who was working a very similar late 60s look to mine. She had a big bubble flip hairstyle with a little bow above her bangs. Her hair was a lot bigger than mine, and I was feeling like my hairdo wasn't as good as hers, until I got a better look and realized that it was a wig! Her hair may be bigger but at least mine is real!

-A less excellent moment was making the mistake of telling some guy the real reason I had gotten my tattoo -- to celebrate getting back to my preferred size -- at which he went on and on about how good I looked (even suggesting that I must get up every morning, look in the mirror and congratulate myself for being so hot. ew!) and kept touching me. I was like "hello? my boyfriend is right here!" Any suggestions on what I should say when people ask why I got the tattoo? I don't want to have that conversation again.

-I love my camera (a Nikon 995) but there's only one thing I don't like about it: the lens cap isn't attached to anything. So you have to put it in your pocket. If you don't have a pocket (as my nice clothes rarely do), you either carry it in your hand or put it down somewhere and risk losing it. Which was what I did constantly during the week. I tried to remember to put it in the camera bag or the little shelf between the car seats, but I have a bad habit of setting it down on the car, where it's really hard to find among all the decorations. At the start of the Main Street Drag I was sure I had lost it. Which would be annoying, though not as bad as having to replace the lens itself. But when we arrived at the first stop, Georg lifted up the trunk and the lens cap fell off onto the ground. It was sitting on the trunk the whole way there! Whew, lucky that it didn't fall off while the car was in motion. Actually I confess that I do that all the time: leave things on the car, drive somewhere and find them when I get to my destination. As long as the ride isn't too bumpy, the toys and carpet tend to keep things from falling off.

-I thought the Bojangles fast food chain was all over the Southeast, but we only saw them in North Carolina. Bo's is my favorite, but I almost never eat it anymore because I try not to eat fast food. I was hoping that on the drive back, when I was resigned to eating fast food anyway, we'd get to stop there for some chicken and biscuits. But we didn't pass a Bo's until we were so close to home that there was no point in stopping.

the numbers

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A few statistics on our trip:

Days away from home: 10
States driven in: 7
Miles driven: 2788
Miles towed: 38
Total distance: 2826 miles
Lowest gas price paid: $1.659
Highest gas price paid: $1.839
Total gas purchase: 89.28 gal
Average gas mileage: 32.5 mpg
Lowest gas price seen (regular unleaded): $1.639
Highest gas price seen (regular unleaded): $1.899
Region with lowest gas prices: upper South Carolina
Region with highest gas prices: all cities were about the same
Cell phone minutes used: 925
Photos taken: 827
Photos posted to website: 353

jiffy lube


Just got off the phone with Jiffy Lube customer service. They are refunding the radiator flush they did before I left, but they will not pay anything towards the new radiator. Or the second radiator flush to replace the wrong fluid they put in. I wasn't surprised about the radiator, I knew he would say that you never know when an old radiator is going to go, and that's exactly what he did say. However I was a bit surprised that he was so unwilling on the second radiator flush. He didn't even offer to have them do it for free. (Not that I would ever let them near my car again, but the offer would have been nice.)

My feeling is that they should refund the first one because it fucked up my life for two days, and they should pay for the second one because I only need it to fix their mistake with the first one. But he said that if they refund the first one then we're even. If I then pay to have another one done someplace else, then I end up exactly where I wanted to be: having paid for and received one correct radiator flush.

So I'm irked about this but not enough to make a big stink about it. I suppose I could have gotten angry and tried to bully him into caving on the second radiator flush. But I'm tired. Too tired to mess around with this nonsense. It probably wouldn't have worked anyway & I would have gotten myself into a state for nothing.

I have an appointment with my regular mechanic to do the radiator flush tomorrow, and I guess that will be the end of it. Last week I was feeling like I had paid Jiffy Lube $100 to destroy my radiator and strand me in the middle of Alabama. But this way, they did it for free. See, I'm trying to look on the bright side!

cafe press

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While we were away the UMJ T-shirts I had ordered for Pru's kids arrived. But they messed up the sizes! Hunter was supposed to get a large and Logan a medium; they actually got the reverse. The shirts have the girls' names on them, so I had to call Cafepress for an exchange.

The call took a long time but they were really nice about it. She looked in their records and saw that I had ordered different sizes from what I got, so there was no question about them sending new ones & I don't have to pay for shipping the second time. Also, the kids shirts are a "premium" item, but I had only done the free trial period on the premium shop. So she comped me for 3 months of a new premium shop.

All I have to do is set up the girls' shirts again and call them back to place the new order. I think the graphics are still in my Cafepress account so I don't even need to upload them again. Also, I have the premium shop back for 3 months so maybe I'll do a green T-shirt or something. Not like I'm expecting to sell a ton of them, but a couple of people at the parade did ask about Georg and Chris' shirts. Who knows, maybe someone will actually buy one.

official photos

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The Orange Show has posted photos of almost all the entries with their titles:

They also have a page announcing the winners:
Yay to Tim Klein for the Yarn Car winning 2nd place in Best Art Car! It's well-deserved!

new orleans

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[writing on Tuesday evening, but dating this post on Sunday so the right photos will show up with the entry.]

We checked out of the hotel first thing Sunday morning to get an early start on the road. There was one more unpleasant surprise: the cost of the valet parking. Twenty dollars for the first night and another ten for each additional night. I have to say, the room was nicer at the Doubletree but I was much happier at the Best Western two years ago. I really missed being able to see the other cars in the parking lot. There wasn't any social advantage to staying at the same hotel as everyone else, when we didn't have the parking lot to meet each other. And not having access to my car created so much additional hassle. Besides, the group rate savings was eaten up by the nightly valet charge. Next time I'm going to stay at the Best Western again.

Anyway, enough of that. We were both really tired, so it was a good thing we had an easy drive to New Orleans. Georg had reserved a room for us at the most amazing historic hotel. I'd never stayed in a such a swank place before. The doorman wore a top hat and white gloves! They had a free turndown service, but we didn't see the little sign in time so we didn't request it. Georg was really disappointed about that, but I was more bummed that we missed the peanut butter sandwiches. Apparently they have a hotel tradition that every night between 10-11 they have free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, milk and hot chocolate! We came in from dinner around 10:30 and sure enough, there was a table set up in the lobby with bowls of peanut butter, jelly and jam, a big plate of bread, milk cartons and an urn of hot chocolate. They even had mini marshmallows! Looked like everyone in the hotel was down there having a sandwich. I would have had one too if I hadn't been so full.

The hotel was only a few blocks from the French Quarter, so we walked around there in the evening. It was so beautiful! We loved the balconies above the shops. The only blight on the walk was when we stumbled onto Bourbon Street. Suddenly the atmosphere changed from "old world elegance" to "spring break skank." Seriously, the smell of stale puke on that street was overwhelming.

We left Bourbon Street quickly and headed back to the more charming parts of the French Quarter. I've heard the garden district is beautiful and I wish we could have walked around there, but we only had one evening. So we stayed within walking distance of the hotel. It was a wonderful evening. We looked in shop windows, walked along the Mississippi River, and had beignets at Cafe du Monde. I'd never had them before. They were like rectangular doughnuts, but crispy on the outside, light and fluffy inside, not greasy at all. They were served hot with a mountain of powdered sugar piled on top. So good! I have to say, I could never have done Atkins if I lived in a town where you could get these anytime you wanted.

The beignets left us really full, so we walked around some more before dinner. We saw a hotel with an iron fence shaped like corn stalks! I heard a walking tour guide say that some wealthy guy had built the fence for his wife, because she grew up in the Midwest and missed it. Isn't that sweet?

We even saw an art car! It was parked on Decatur Street. We remembered having seen it at the Houston parade two years ago, but not this time. I can't imagine living so close to Houston and not going to the parade! There was a sign requesting donations and I would have given them a dollar, but I didn't have one on me. At least I got a photo of it.

We ended up eating at a place called Court of Two Sisters. The food was good, perhaps not a foodie's paradise, but the environment was perfect. The tables are all outdoors in an interior courtyard, but completely covered with a thick canopy of wisteria. It was so romantic! The whole evening was just wonderful. Just walking around, not having to go anywhere or do anything. It was just what we needed after such a stressful week.

The next morning we got a slow start on purpose, because we wanted to arrive in Atlanta after rush hour. So we got up late and walked back to Cafe du Monde for breakfast. More beignets! One order is three beignets, and we talked about getting two orders, but in retrospect I'm really glad we shared one. It was better to leave feeling like I could have had more, and remembering how wonderful they tasted, than to eat too much and end up feeling gross and overfull.

Then we saw another art car on our way back to the hotel! It was a big old Suburban, one of the really old ones from before SUVs became such a trend. It was mainly green, had three dimensional decorations all over it, and "Phantom 309" written on the side. "Phantom 309" is the name of my favorite Red Sovine song, about a ghostly truck driver, which made the car doubly delightful. Unfortunately it was driving down the street so I didn't get a good look at it or have time to get out my camera. It must be so amazing to live in a city with multiple art cars. I love being the "art car kook" of Durham, but I'd love it more if there were others.

more on the parade

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[It's Tuesday evening, I'm comfortably ensconced on my couch & watching junk tv while I write this. Life is good!]

I think I mentioned in the previous post that being #50 and 51 put us at the front of the line. That was nice because we got to watch cars 1-50 pass us by on their way out. It was so fun! Parades are different for participants than for spectators: when you're in a parade, all you ever see are the people directly in front of and behind you. So it was great to be spectators and wave to the first 50 cars as they headed out.

At the end of the route we saw Bryan and his santa car pulled over on the shoulder. Later Georg told me that Bryan had said he was going to pull over as soon as he could and watch the rest of the parade. I wish we had done that! We didn't get a good look at some of the cars that got there late, like the Trojan Horse and Scrap Daddy's latest invention (some kind of walking machine). Especially since we didn't park on Allen Parkway this time, the parade just sort of broke up at the end. Next time we'll definitely pull over and watch the rest of the cars.

After the parade the four of us went to the after party location, which hadn't really set up yet, and had a picnic lunch Peggy and Chris had brought. With champagne! It looked like it would have been fun to stay at the after party, but Peggy and Chris needed to get going and Georg and I needed a little time to rest before the illuminated cruise.

I already wrote about the illuminated cruise, so I'll just add that Georg and I talked about the lighting issues on the drive back and we decided that the car would look just fine with only 2 strands: one on the roof and one on the front of the hood. Or maybe we could get another inverter and run another 2 strands off the charger. Either way, next time we'll know what to expect and we won't get so stressed out. On the bright side, the glow sticks I taped to the wheels lasted all night!

parade day

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[I'm experiencing a bit of a back-log on the posts here. Because I want the posts about Saturday to be dated Saturday, so the photos will show up on the entry page. But that means I can't post about anything that happened after Saturday until I'm done writing about Saturday. So let me just quickly say that our evening in New Orleans was wonderful, just what we needed. Now back to parade coverage!]

The parade went really well. Especially the webcasting! To be honest I wasn't expecting that to go as well as it did. Tim's Yarn Car and UMJ were right next to each other in the line-up, and amazingly enough, that was close enough to maintain a connection while we were stationery and even much of the time while we were driving. Lisa's instructions on how to create a network with my Powerbook worked perfectly. There was one scary moment when we thought it wasn't going to work & I almost called her from the parade for troubleshooting help, but then it occurred to me to turn off the firewall on my computer and that took care of it. Whew!

They line the cars up in groups of 50, in two columns. Since UMJ and Yarn Car were 51 and 52, we were the first cars in the second group. Which put us right at the front of the line! That was pretty cool, to look behind us and see the line stretched out, and forward just spectators.

We got there really early so we'd have time to set up the network. That meant we were there for a good long time before the parade started. I didn't get as many photos as I wanted of the other cars, because I made the mistake of walking up and down the line early, before a lot of the cars had arrived. But Georg walked down later and took a bunch of photos of cars I hadn't seen.

The judging was much more focused than I remembered from before. Last time I would call it a "cursory glance": we pulled up at a table where some people were sitting, they said the name of the car, asked me if it was a daily driver, and waved me one. This time there were a bunch of people who walked all around the car and asked me questions like "what is the connection between fish and mah jongg?" One judge asked me what was up with the roof, how did the green carpet and the Barbie fit in. I said "well the roof is the surface of the water, Barbie's sitting on the shore fishing." One of the other judges laughed and said to the first, "You didn't get that?"

We didn't win anything of course; I wasn't even hoping what with all the amazing cars there. Still it was nice that the judges actually took the time to look at the other side of the car, much less ask questions.

Thanks to the charger we were able to start up the bubble machine around noon. It was really fun to see kids come by and play with the bubbles. I had put the charger in the trunk and run the cable into the back seat, since we need room for Peggy and Chris to sit. Which worked well, except that the trunk was stuffed so full it was kind of hard to get into the back of it. I ended up pulling the back seat down and just sort of stuffing the charger in, shoving everything back until the back seat would close again.

Since Yarn Car and UMJ were right together, Tim and I spent a fair amount of time chatting. It was interesting to see people's reactions to the yarn car. People really do ask him the same questions over and over! Tim and I agreed that I need a snappier answer to the "how did you get this idea" question, because the real answer is pretty boring. Georg and I thought about it while we were driving yesterday & the only thing we could thing of was "Fish ... mah jongg .. fish playing mah jongg! It's a no brainer!" I think that's what I'm going to say from now on.

I also got to chat with Tim McNally of the Plaidmobile. He's from New Jersey and I'm amazed at all the places he takes Plaidmobile: Houston, Burning Man, Art Car Fest in San Francisco. I was also very surpised when he said he reads my website! I seriously thought only my immediate friends read my journal, but that kept happening over the weekend. Hey, if you read this site but you think I might not know you, do me a favor and post a comment, OK?

Just behind Yarn Car was a truck pulling a flatbed with a punk band. At first we were like, "oh great, this will be a noisy parade," but I have to say that I'd much rather be hearing passable covers of "Blitzkrieg Bop" and "Judy is a Punk" than an antique car horn going "aooga aooga" over and over, which was what we had behind us two years ago. Georg was digging the music and I didn't mind it. It might have been more of a problem for Tim since he was closer to them.

The parade itself was much slower than I remembered. Last time they were constantly telling us to hurry up, speed up, get through the line. I think I heard there was a lot of pressure from the International Festival to keep the parade under 90 minutes, which must be hard to do with over 250 cars! This time it was a good pace most of the time, but at one point we slowed down to a crawl and even sat still for about 10 minutes in the middle of the route. It must have been less fun for the spectators, to stare at the same cars for such a long time. We heard later that there were 2 problems: one of the lowriders had broken down and had to be pushed out of the route, and the TV people were making everyone slow down and go through their cameras one at a time. How annoying that real life has to be rearranged to suit TV.

OK, got to pack and have breakfast (mmm ... beignets!) and head out. More on the parade after we get to Atlanta!

after the parade

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The parade was awesome. Georg and I both took tons of photos. The webcasting worked great. Would love to write more, but we're exhausted & we only have a couple of hours to rest because we need to get the rope lights attached to the car before the illuminated cruise tonight.

To the person who said "I read your blog" when we drove by, Hi!!!

saturday night


Well the illuminated cruise didn't go off quite as well, technologically speaking, as previous events. We had serious lighting issues. Mainly because I hadn't had time to test all the lights before we left, so I didn't know that six strands of rope lights draw way too much power for our inverter and charger. As do five strands. And four. We kept unplugging a strand at a time, but still the lights kept flickering on and off and the inverter kept squealing. Finally we cut back to three -- one on one side and two on the other -- which the charger seemed able to handle. Until it ran out of juice halfway through the first leg of the cruise! We tried to plug the inverter into the cigarette lighter but three strands was too much for it, the inverter squealed terribly. So we finished out the cruise with no lights except the glow sticks taped to the wheels. I was so stressed about the rope lights I had forgotten all about the black light inside.

The other annoying thing that happened was another art car driver cut into the caravan and rear-ended me! He only tapped my rear bumper, but still! When it happened the guy merely held up his hand in the "sorry" gesture, as if he had just cut me off rather than hitting my car. No other response. He was at the next caravan stop, I saw the car, but he didn't make any effort to come over and make sure my car was okay. (I don't believe there was any damage, but it was dark so I'm not 100% sure.) I'm not going to identify the car by name, but if you are reading this blog, I want you to know that you are a dick and I wrote down your license number and if daylight reveals any damage to my rear bumper you will be hearing from my insurance company.

Overall it was a more chaotic event than what I was expecting. Actually, I don't really know what I was expecting, but it was basically a roaming party with lights on the cars. A few of the cars had their flame jets blasting! I can't imagine driving around in Durham on a Saturday night with open flames coming out of pipes on top of my car. One of the cars was a flatbed with a band playing music; I'm not sure if they played while the car was in motion or not. There were two boat cars, both of which were blasting excellent house music. The one closest to us played Timo Maas, which Georg and I were both grooving on. He said he got into Timo Maas at Burning Man.

After the lighting disaster we chatted with Donna of RU Game about her rope lights. She said she never uses more than two strands at a time because they use so much power. I asked about DC rope lights, but she said they're a lot dimmer and also much more expensive. She and a friend whose name I didn't catch are going to order a whole big roll of EL wire. I asked them to contact me if they need someone to share the order, but I suspect they probably won't be buying a color that would work for me (all I would want is white or maybe blue). Still it's worth a try. That stuff is a lot less expensive if you buy it in bulk.

I think the illuminated cruise would have been fun if it weren't for all the stress, and we talked about setting up the lights again with just two strands, and turning on the black light. But we were tired and the party was obviously going to run very late -- it was 10 pm and they had only just gotten to the first stop -- so we bailed after the first leg. The police were showing up just as we left, and I think they must have been telling everyone to leave because we crossed paths with the caravan a few blocks away.

saturday morning

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It's 6:20 and I'm too excited to sleep. The battery power for webcasting lasted so long yesterday that I think we're going to start again around 11:30. We'll be there at 9 for judging and staging. The parade starts at 1, and our number is pretty low (51) so I'm thinking we'll be done by 1:30. Then we'll have lunch -- a picnic provided by Peggy and Chris -- and head back to the hotel. They have something else going on after the parade (some kind of "art boat" water event called Anything That Floats) but Peggy and Chris need to get back to Austin and Georg and I will need a nap & then time to attach the rope lights to the car.

I have to get the car from valet around 8, find street parking somewhere, clean the back seat, then come back at 8:45 for Georg, Peggy and Chris. This valet-only thing at the hotel is a colossal pain in the ass. I'm definitely going to mention this on the Orange Show questionnaire. If I had know I wouldn't have access to my car I wouldn't have stayed here, group rate or no group rate. (And free cookie or no free cookie.) Besides, seeing all the cars and meeting the other artists in the parking lot was one of the best parts last time.

Harrod Blank's new movie, Automorphosis, was good, although they had severe technical difficulties so the movie ended up starting almost 2 hours late. First one audio channel (the one with the dialogue) was missing. They spent about a half hour trying to fix it, while we sat around and chatted. The nice thing was they kept repeating the intro to the movie, which used a smoking hot Asian Massive track neither Georg nor I had heard before. I'm going to write to Harrod and find out what that track was.

Then they sent someone out to go home and get a VCR. When that happened we left and walked around the block looking at the art cars. The only new things I saw were a "bed of nails" car completely covered with nails point side up -- I really hope it isn't a daily driver! -- and an "art Segway" that looked like a magic carpet with puffy clouds covering the wheels. So cool! It was too dark for a photo; I hope he's there tomorrow.

We talked with a few people while we were waiting and I got the "you're the one with the website" comment a couple more times. Now I feel totally vindicated about spending so much time on the website. Also chatted with a couple of people about my tattoo, because I was wearing an outfit that showed the top of it. It's nice of people to notice and comment on the quality of the work, but I really wish they wouldn't assume "can I see it" means "can I touch you." At least no one thought it meant "can I pull at your dress and look down your back." That does happen on occasion but thankfully not last night. I guess I need to develop more of a "back off" attitude.

Anyway, as we headed around the block we heard someone calling that the movie was starting again. Went back up to the viewing room (the second floor of Treebeard's restaurant) where we saw the first 5 minutes or so with dialogue, and then the tracking went out! They were trying to fix it with a flashlight, but it was taking longer and longer and eventually Peggy and Chris gave up and went back to the hotel. Georg and I stuck it out and a few minutes later (8:45 maybe?) the movie started again. It was great. Fun and funny and also touching at times. There were whoops and cheers whenever someone in the Houston scene, especially someone in the room at the time, showed up on screen. It felt a little long, but I think that was because of the late hour. And also because Georg and I were sitting right under an a/c vent that was uncomfortably cold. The film was actually only 90 minutes, not long at all.

Harrod must be having some issues with the structure of the movie, because at the end he handed out a lengthy questionnaire and begged us all to return it. We talked about the questionnaire as we were walking back to the hotel (it was a nice walk by the way, not too far and beautiful breezy weather) and agreed that the only question we couldn't really answer was the one about whether the parade footage suggested that art car drivers create their cars in order to be in parades & should therefore be dropped. We don't really think that a room full of art car drivers at a parade is the right audience to answer that question! I hope he'll do a test screening with people who don't have art cars and give them the same questionnaire.

The first time I saw Wild Wheels, I had Little Pig Boy but I didn't know there was an art car community or anything like that. I'm trying to remember what I thought of the parade footage. I guess I thought that those must be famous cars or something. I certainly didn't think that I could be in a parade. Little did I know!

OK, it's almost 7. I've been staying quiet so Georg could sleep but it's time to get a shower and start getting ready.

an evening off

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I just realized that because I used up all my peak minutes and can't webcast from the street fair, that means I don't have to lug the computer, equipment bag, DC charger and extension cord down to the lobby when we go out tonight. I can leave the hotel with nothing but a purse! Just like a regular tourist!

main street drag

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The Main Street Drag was fantastic! We had a great group, the web cams worked nearly flawlessly, the kids were almost all non-destructive.

We broadcast for about 3 1/2 hours, and the only glitch I noticed was the first time we switched from one cam to another, it got stuck and uploaded the same image (the last image from the previous cam) for about 20 minutes. I think maybe because the new cam was plugged into a different port on the firewire hub? Whatever the reason, I carefully tried switching cams again later and it seemed to work fine.

The pleasant surprise was the battery life. The Main Street Drag is perfectly designed for this -- a half hour at a time at each school, with 15-20 minutes of driving between each school. So we had time to recharge the computer battery off the DC adaptor between schools. We quit webcasting after 3 1/2 hours because I was concerned about the cell phone minutes, but the computer said it had 2 hours of battery life to go, and the cell phone was showing 3/4 battery full. I never even needed to spare phone battery!

The big charger lasted longer than I had expected too. We ran the bubble machine off it, using an AC/DC inverter. Those things use a lot of power so I wasn't expecting it to last that long. Maybe 45 minutes to an hour? Well it lasted the whole morning with no signs of running out! We only used it at the schools because we were concerned about driving with the new mounting frame. We just don't know how much wind pressure it can handle. But still, we think it was running for about 1.5 hours.

The kids were terrific! I can't even describe how much fun it is to pull into a school and see a wave of elementary school kids come running towards us, laughing and cheering. At one school the kids were chanting "Art Car! Art Car!" as we pulled up. And at another, the smallest kids had made signs that said "Go Art Cars!" or "I Heart Art Cars!" and they held up the signs for us as we drove in.

There were only a couple of kids who had to be stopped from yanking on the toys, and only one of the two was rude about it. The other kids were all great. And they went crazy for the bubble machine. They'd jump up and down, playing in the bubbles and trying to catch them. As Georg said, for kid appeal nothing gives you the bang for the buck of a bubble machine. We owe R U Game bigtime for telling us what brand of machine to get.

At the first school, a group of middle school aged girls stopped me and asked, "Excuse me, are your clothes from the 70s?" (I was wearing my green dress with the standing collar and a matching headband.) I didn't understand her at first -- it was sometimes hard to hear anything over the din -- but after she repeated herself I told her no, it's from 1967, but she was close! If it hadn't been so noisy I might have explained that the dress is new but made from a 1967 sewing pattern. But I didn't want to get into that in the middle of all the bedlam.

A lot of the kids noticed the webcams, and asked me about them. Unfortunately I was walking up and down the line and missed the only group of kids who were technologically savvy enough to have a conversation about them. Georg told me they were asking him if the cams were USB, how was the cell modem hooked up, etc.

We had a really nice group of drivers on our route. I chatted the most with Sarah, the leader of our group, her husband Stuart, the guy who drives the "Child Advocacy" Ferrarri, and the driver of Vincent's Dreams. At lunch afterwards we sat with the photographer who had accompanied us and his wife. A couple of out-of-towners who are staying with them joined us at the table, and it turned out to be Andy the spork guy! I met Andy in Houston two years ago, when he was riding in "Unexplained Bacon," and saw him again at Artscape 2002 driving a Space Invaders car. He didn't go to Artscape last year but I'm hoping he'll come again this year. He's now driving a car with big fins that the kids all called Batman car.

The only yucky part of the morning was that one school made us park in this huge dirt lot, like a torn up parking lot or something. It was dusty and rough, with no shade, just the sun beating down on us. I think if anyone didn't yet have a headache from the noise of the kids and the police escort sirens, they had one by the time we left that school.

Well I could write endlessly about the morning but I want to get my photos uploaded & also get a shower before we meet Peggy and Chris at 5. Tonight we're going to see a rough cut of Harrod Blank's new movie. Should be fun!

It's Friday and it's Houston and it's early (oh and I'm still Georg). Next up is Main Street Drag. I just went down to the lobby and bought a map of Houston. It's better than anything we had but still not quite what I was looking for. Note to self: next time, make sure we've got a decent map *before* arriving in town and getting lost. (Even the AAA trip tix, which were great on the trip out, aren't much good now that we're in town). And actually, compared to 02, when we spent hours lost driving around looking for a fire extinguisher, last night's trek to/from the Art Car Ball was fairly low on the fiascometer.
I don't have much to add about the trip out, other than to note that Montgomery, Alabama (like C.K. Dexter Haven) may have unexpected depth. Example 1: green trash trucks with big smiley faces painted on them; Example 2: the restaurant Wings & Things which, according to the sign painted on their front window, whose offerings, along with buffalo wings and Philly cheesesteaks, include whole fried fish, Mongolian beef, and bulgogi. (alas, no pics as I'd left my camera in the car which was being repaired at Firestone)
Missed the bats in Austin this time. Not enough time, due to travel delays and car traumas. But I did get to make several trips to Jo's on Congress, where they make some damn fine coffee indeed.
And now we're in Houston. And I must begin with big ups for Rick! for suggesting Chapultepec The entrees couldn't quite live up to the promise of the salsa (mmm... garlicky) and the appetizer (queso flameado con chorizo!!) but it was still a damn sight better than most anything in the Triangle.
But isn't this supposed to be about art cars? OK yeah. Art Car Ball was a blast. Many things burning. Met (and re-met) drivers of cool cars like R U Game? Student Driver, and Cloudy Blue Skies. Had a really good IPA (St Arnold)
Did I mention that there was much burnination?

thursday night

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We're webcasting! Seeing as it's dark out, the image is kind of boring. But we aimed the cam at a car with flame jets, here's hoping we get a shot of the flames going off.

Now off to enjoy the party!

we are here


We're in Houston! Whee! Just got in about ten minutes ago.

The Doubletree Allen Center is swank. The only thing wrong so far is that it's valet only. We had to scramble to pull all our bags of equipment and clothes and junk out of the car, at the front entrance while everyone was waiting for us. A lot of that stuff was packed with the assumption that we'd be able to make several trips to the car (i.e., not packed very well). Also, we aren't allowed access to the garage. Which means 1. I can't take photos of all the art cars in the parking lot; 2. I can't get in there to wash the bugs off my car. We'll have to leave early for the Art Car Ball and just pull over somewhere so I can clean the car.

On the bright side, the room was cheap due to the parade group rate, the in-room net access is fast, they provided the ethernet cable which I had forgotten, the free soap is Neutragena, and they gave us each a cookie when we checked in. Chocolate chip, and hot! I can't be annoyed with any hotel that gives me a cookie.

Barring technical failures we'll be webcasting from the Art Car Ball tonight at 9 pm (10 east coast time). Now it's time for me to unpack and relax!

bad artscape news


I keep forgetting to post that we've had some terrible art car news. Artscape this year is cancelled! The American Visionary Art Museum has withdrawn all support for the art car event. No line-up outside the museum, no caravan through downtown Baltimore, no parade through the Artscape festival. They said that if we showed up to the festival anyway, there would be a place for the art cars to park. So in other words, the boring part at the end of the event is now the event in its entirety.

Artscape has been our regular art car event for the past 2 years, and I was hoping would continue to be for many years to come. It's great fun, big (30-50 cars), some really good people come, it's only a 4 hour drive for us, and it's close to good friends of ours who always ride with us.

It hasn't really sunk in yet because I'm too pre-occupied with Houston, but I know that as soon as I have time to think about it I'm going to be crushed. I don't know of any other art car event of that size on the East Coast. We had even ordered T-shirts from Cafe Press for our friend's daughters that say "Artscape 2004" on them. What a bummer!

On the bright side, this means we'll definitely have time to go to that September event in Columbus that I've been hearing about. It's a lot smaller than Artscape but I've heard it's a really fun event for the drivers.

thursday morning: leaving austin

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I haven't posted since we got to Austin because there hasn't been that much to post about. We've been working on some last-minute computer issues, testing the web cams with Chris so the process won't be a surprise to him at the main event, finishing up a few decorations that I couldn't do before we left due to rain, and just trying to chill and catch up on sleep. Things are going to be a bit hectic (to say the least) once we get to Houston so it's been nice to have a couple of days that weren't insane.

We went to Toy Joy, an awesome toy/gift shop. Their prices are higher than last time, I think, but they still have a great selection of toy fish. I bought a couple of extra carp and an extra lobster, and a good assortment of smaller fish. We had lunch at the County Line barbecue place, which seems to be our Austin tradition since we eat there every time we come here. Brisket tacos, mmmm. And Peggy took us to an amazing thrift store. Reminded us a lot of Thriftworld (the store you deserve) except bigger.

I have to say, those shows like "The Look for Less" drive me crazy, when they brag about finding a skirt or top for $35. Because that's how much I spent yesterday at Peggy's thrift store for 6 sundresses and a skirt, all of which are in great condition.

Peggy's cat Wiley is so sweet. Yesterday morning he came into our bedroom, burrowed under the blankets and went to sleep curled up against my stomach. Awww! You know, I love my dogs but I sometimes wish they were small enough to cuddle with like that. Wiley really seems to like Georg. He's been showing off for us by catching lots of gecko lizards. Luckily he doesn't kill them, just brings them into the house. Peggy catches them and puts them outside.

Anyway, this morning we're doing laundry and packing & are planning to leave Austin around 10. That will get us into Houston at 1, giving us plenty of time to settle in before the Art Car Ball tonight at 9.

car window update

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This morning I took Undersea Mah Jongg to the South Austin Mazda dealership to have the left rear window fixed. Normally I'd prefer an independant mechanic. But Peggy had called around yesterday, and had determined that the dealership is the best place to have a repair like this done quickly. So to the dealership I went. They open at 7 but I wasn't moving that fast this morning, and the drive took longer than expected (Austin is big!) so I got there just before 8.

Everybody there was into UMJ. The mechanics all came out to look, several asked me questions, and some of them took photos. I was a little concerned that at a dealership I'd get the "what's wrong with you, how could you do that to your car" reaction, but they weren't like that at all. The woman who mainly helped me was aware of the Austin art car event last weekend, so I told her a bit about the one in Houston.

In the waiting room I had a nice conversation with a woman who talked a lot about wishing she could decorate her car like that for her disabled son, who loves Finding Nemo. It was kind of sad though, because she said she lives in low income housing, where there are a lot of vandals. And she knows that any art she added to her car would be destroyed in short order. We talked about it and eventually she came to the idea of decorating her son's room like UMJ, but with the toys on the walls and hanging from the ceiling. I think that's a great idea.

Later on a guy came over and talked to me about UMJ with great enthusiasm, both for the art and the car. He said that the 626 from the early 90s is a great car, especially the manual transmission. I could only agree that mine has done really well for me. (Despite the problems of the past week, I still love my car!) He even started talking about doing an art car of his own! He said he has 15 cars (!) and he was thinking a Prelude from 91-94 would be good for an art car. I have to say, of all the responses I might have expected at the dealership, that was definitely not one of them.

They had a little dog in a nice pen right next to the service entrance, with grass, a doghouse and even a fountain. The dog's name is Chatto and if you go anywhere near his pen, he brings out a tennis ball for you to play fetch with him.

But anyway, about the window. They tested it and found the problem (window rolls down but not up) just like we did. So they got inside the door to find out what part needed to be replaced. Once the door was apart, the window started to function normally again! They had the car for a couple of hours and weren't able to duplicate the problem again. I tried it before I left and sure enough, the window works fine now.

They said there were a couple of possible reasons: 1 (preferable but less likely): There was a bit of schmutz or something blocking the motor, which was jarred loose when they took the door apart and is no longer a problem. 2 (which they seemed to think was more likely) there's a bad spot on the motor, so it works OK most of the time but will get stuck if it rotates around and hits that bad spot. The guy who talked to me for such a long time said that if it happens again, we should try pulling both buttons at once or alternating them, to see if we can jar the motor loose from the bad spot.

It's all Greek to me, but as long as the window works I'm happy! Just in case, I'm not going to open it again until parade day. If it gets stuck again, we can pry it up like we did before, and just leave it closed until we get back to Durham.

She charged me $50, which she said was half off the diagnostic charge because they weren't able to identify the problem. I can't complain about it since they did have to take the door apart. If it were my regular mechanic I would have, if not expected, at least hoped not to be charged in this situation. But since they had never seen me before & knew they never will again, I think it was fair.

update on Monday


We got in too late to post last night, so here's a quick update:

Monday morning neither Georg nor I could sleep, so we got up early and got to the Firestone a few minutes before they opened at 7. Unfortunately the really nice "anything I can do to help you, I'll do" guy wasn't there, instead there was a "yeah right, we've all got problems, sit down and we'll get to you when we get to you" guy. Still I can't complain. The work got done. Not quite as fast as I think it would have been if it had still been the guy who gave a crap. But we were back on the highway by 8:45.

Turns out that Jiffy Lube didn't just crack my radiator. They also put in the wrong kind of coolant! They put in orange, and according to the guy at Firestone I'm supposed to have green. I noticed the stuff leaking out was orange and wondered about that. I'd never seen orange coolant before. So the expense Jiffy Lube has caused me now stands at: $100 for the radiator flush, $375 for a new radiator, and $100 for another radiator flush after we get back, to put back the proper coolant. (They offered to do it at Firestone but I wanted to get back on the road and he said it would be OK to wait). I am definitely going to be contacting Jiffy Lube.

The drive was long but fine. It was about 13 hours total, which I could never have done by myself. But Georg shared the driving, whew! He had picked up some food at a nearby grocery store while we were waiting for the car, so we didn't have to stop for food. There was no traffic at all except in Houston, which we reached around 6 pm, and even that wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. The only bad part was at the end. We reached Austin at 9, but got lost trying to find our hotel on Congress Avenue and spent almost 40 minutes driving in circles in some neighborhood off Lamar. Finally another car drove past and we followed them out.

Then the worst part was that the delay meant we got there just as all the restaurants on the block were closing! There's a really nice Mexican cafe with free wireless right next door to the hotel, and I had been thinking all day about having a late supper there, catching up on my website and email, as a reward for finishing our marathon drive. There were tons of people inside when we drove up to check in, but by the time we put our suitcases inside and walked back to the front it was closed up tight. This was 10 pm, (11 East Coast time) and we hadn't had any dinner yet. Waah! I'm afraid I had something of a freak-out at this point. Luckily Georg went down the front desk and found a 24 hour restaurant close by (Magnolia Cafe). By the time we had eaten it was after 11 and we had barely enough energy to get back to the hotel room and collapse.

OK, that's Monday. The next post will be much happier and more relaxed.

Tuesday: Austin

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I'm sitting on Peggy's shady front porch, drinking a cold glass of seltzer water and going through my photos. The weather is perfect, sunny and breezy and not too warm. Peggy's beautiful cat Wiley is playing with the computer cables. And one of their neighbors has an open wireless network.

Sometimes life is just perfect.

sunday evening


I'm having trouble sending email out from the cell modem connection. So those of you who sent concerned emails, don't worry, we're OK :)

As you may have seen from the photos, today did not go exactly as planned. Apparently, when Jiffy Lube did the radiator flush yesterday, they used too much pressure and the top of the radiator cracked. It was fine until about 2 this afternoon. Just north of Montgomery, we pulled into a rest stop to switch drivers and noticed white smoke coming out from under the hood. When we lifted up the hood we saw the coolant leaking out.

We were lucky in a lot of ways. First, we happened to pull over when the coolant had just begun to leak, so the car didn't overheat. Second, we were at a rest stop with bathrooms and picnic tables, not stranded on the shoulder of I-85 (which is fairly narrow around here). Third, Georg hadn't pre-paid the hotel reservation in Mobile, so we were able to cancel with no hassle.

The AAA tow driver took a while to get there, but he was a hoot and a half. He was a master of tall tales, entertaining us throughout the half hour drive to Montgomery with stories of custom car deliveries and impressive wrecks. The best one being the guy who drunkenly drove his H2 into a concrete drainage ditch, landing it on top of a water main, which water main broke when the tow guy dragged the H2 out, which broken water main spewed with such pressure it split the H2 in two. I don't believe it, but it was a great story nonetheless.

The funniest thing that happened was when, on the way to Mobile, we drove past a Chrysler Le Baron convertible on fire. Seriously, there were huge flames coming out of it. As we crawled past the firemen trying to put out the car, the tow driver complained that he had stopped and offered to help the driver when the car was only smoking, but the driver insisted that he didn't need help. And he (the tow guy) predicted that this was going to be his next call, to tow the Chrysler back when they put the fire out. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later he got the call! That one I know was for real, because we could hear the dispatcher.

The tow driver seemed really taken with Undersea Mah Jongg. I wonder what stories he'll tell future customers about us. More importantly, he knew an auto shop that does radiators and was still open. The mechanic was really nice. He ordered the part, got it delivered before he closed, and said if we have the car there by 7 he'll have it repaired by 8.

Montgomery is only a couple of hours from Mobile, where we had planned to stop tonight. So if we can get on the road by 8 or so, we may still make it to Austin tomorrow.

on our way


This is it! Georg is packing up the food for the trip & the only thing I have left to pack is this computer. I keep feeling like I must be forgetting something since the past couple of days haven't been as high-stress as I would have expected. But according to the list, we're ready!

I miss the dogs already. I know Rob will take good care of them, but still. I took pictures of them this morning so I'd have their photos until we get back.

It's supposedto be rainy on and off all day. As long as it doesn't rain hard, I'm glad. Overcast weather is easier for driving than when the sun is beating down on you. We'll post again tonight when we get to Mobile. Whew! We're finally on our way!


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In case you're curious, here's our itinerary for the next eleven days:

Sunday: Drive from Durham to Mobile, AL.

Monday: Drive from Mobile to Austin. Stay at Austin Motel.

Tuesday: Get Undersea Mah Jongg to auto mechanic by 9 am. Lunch with Prentiss if we can arrange it. Do whatever last-minute decorating I couldn't do beforehand because of the rain. Run-through cams with Chris. Stay overnight with Peggy & Chris.

Wednesday: Possibly take Undersea Mah Jongg to Peggy's friend's school. Thrift shopping and yoga class with Peggy. Stay overnight with Peggy & Chris.

Thursday: Drive from Austin to Houston. Check into hotel. Clean car. Art Car Ball at 8:30.

Friday: Be at Main Street Drag by 9. Meet Peggy and Chris at hotel at 2. Test webcams with Tim in afternoon. Main Squeeze street fair at 6.

Saturday: Be at staging area by 9. Art Car Parade begins at 1. After parade, attach rope lights to car. Illuminated Cruise at 8:30.

Sunday: Early breakfast with Peggy & Chris. Drive from Houston to New Orleans.

Monday: Drive from New Orleans to Atlanta.

Tuesday: Drive from Atlanta to Durham.

Wednesday: Collapse! Watch soap operas. Hug dogs a lot.

things that make me happy

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-Georg bringing dinner home for me from the Q Shack.

-Knowing that Rob will be here keeping the dogs safe while we're gone.

-My friend Patricia, who sent me the sweetest email wishing me well on the trip.

-My friend Peggy, who arranged for a mechanic in Austin to order the part in advance and fix my window first thing Tuesday morning.

-Feeling grubby all day, then finally having the time to take a nice long shower. Mmm, clean.

-Enough clothes for 10 days fitting in one suitcase.

-No botulism!

-Most of all, finally being done my work and mostly packed, and having nothing left to do tonight except fill up the iPod and try to get a good night's sleep.

i'll take botulism


So yesterday afternoon I decided to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch. I've recently rediscovered my love for peanut butter and jelly. Except that I always use strawberry jam, not jelly. I had just bought a new jar of sugar-free strawberry jam. Opened it up and stuck the spoon in, only to find that the jam was a liquid. It hadn't set at all. I was puzzling this out, trying to figure out what to do about my sandwich, and without thinking I put the spoon in my mouth. Ack! Immediately started having panicked visions of coming down with food poisoning or botulism right before the trip.

It didn't taste spoiled, just a bit weird, and the jar was definitely sealed when I opened it. Besides, I clearly don't have food poisoning or I would have been sick last night. (The 3-6 hours after eating questionable food are the worst time! Sitting there waiting to get headachy and nauseous.) I looked up botulism on WebMD and they said there are only about 25 cases caused by food a year in the US. Which suggests that it's not all that easy to get. I bet you have to eat much more of a tainted food than I did. All I ate was the amount coating the spoon, probably about a 1/4 teaspoon or less.

Georg said he thought the jam mostly likely was improperly made, not improperly canned. In other words they probably left out the pectin. Which makes it no good to eat, but not unsafe. I called the low carb store and told them about it. She went and looked on the shelf, found another couple jars like that and said she'd take them all off the shelf until they could sort it out. And she said I could come back after my trip to get a replacement or refund, since I don't have time to deal with it now. They're really nice at that low carb store.

It's been 18 hours, and if I were going to develop symptoms of botulism I probably would have by now. Whew!

window problem

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Merchant's won't fix electric windows. However, the guy did help me get the window closed. That's a huge relief. I'm going to ask Peggy to find a mechanic in Austin who does electrical, where I can drop it off on Tuesday.

Georg and I had a slight mix-up because neither of us had our phones (technology works so well when you forget to bring it with you!) that involved us both driving back and forth between home and Merchant's, looking for each other. Luckily it's a short drive and we met up on the second pass. Then, since we were out, we headed to Jiffy Lube so I could get the oil and the coolant changed. I hate going to Jiffy Lube but I had forgotten to ask Hawkins to do it. Actually, now that I think about it, Hawkins might have had to change the oil when they changed the engine seals. But there wasn't a charge for oil on my invoice so I think not.

The guy at Jiffy Lube totally talked down to me. When I asked him to change the coolant he went into this detailed explanation of a radiator flush, and was like "Are you sure you want us to do that?" I know what's involved in changing the coolant, thank you. Heck, I got one of those "flush and fill" kits and did it myself to my old Toyota! But I guess I can't blame the guy for asusming that I don't know jack about cars, based on my car's appearance. Besides he probably deals with dozens of people every day who have no idea that changing the coolant is more work than changing the oil. Anyway I told the guy I was driving to Texas at which point he agreed that I should get the radiator flush.

While I was there I asked them to inspect it, since it's due this month. In retrospect that was probably a mistake, because according to Georg, Jiffy Lube inspectors are generally much more hard-ass than neighborhood mechanic inspectors. He already made me remove a fish from one of the lights. It wasn't even actually on the light, it was on the plastic between two lights. But the body of the fish was partially over the light, I'll grant him that. I told him I'd never had a problem with passing inspection from that fish before, and he replied "Well the other inspectors were doing it wrong!" Whatever! I took the fish off and threw it in the back seat. I'll put it back this afternoon.

So that's where we are. The window isn't working but at least it's up. And we have 2 1/2 days in Austin. That ought to be plenty of time to have it repaired.

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