July 2004 Archives

tsui hark's vampire hunters

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July 27 movie: Tsui Hark's Vampire Hunters. This was a lot of fun, but how could any movie with the words "Tsui Hark" and "Vampire" in the title not be fun? Tsui Hark didn't actually direct the film (I guess he produced it or something) and it isn't going to enter my permanent library of HK classics. It was pretty confusing at times, but never quite freaky enough to reach the delirious heights of Zu Warriors style surrealism. But still, a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

They win bonus points for having vampires that look like extras from a George Romero movie, not metrosexual Eurotrash. I wonder if that's the traditional form of the bloodsucking undead in Chinese folklore? Also, Chinese vampires don't bite people to steal their blood: they use their acid breath to suck it out through the capillaries and orifices in some amazingly low-budget effects. They also see people by their body heat, and are confused by water. The vampire hunters at one point dump barrels of water on themselves so the vampire can't see them, and they hide the damsel in distress in a shallow pool under a wet coat.

Some exposition at the beginning of the film explained that Chinese vampires start out as zombies, but turn into vampires if they taste human blood. Chinese zombies, however, do not look like extras from a George Romero movie. They just look like dead people. Best of all, Chinese zombies don't shuffle with their arms outstretched before them. They keep their arms at their sides and hop up and down! I'm super bummed that I never encountered this when I was studying Chinese. I even read a whole book of supernatural stories called "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio." But no hopping zombies that I can recall. Georg had read about it, though, in a book about HK cinema. And both of us found the sight of a room full of zombies hopping towards our heroes absolutely hilarious.

Perhaps the best unintentional comedy was provided by the sorceror who could control zombies. Actually by his title. The subtitles described him as a "zombie wrangler," as in "I know a zombie wrangler in the village! He'll help us!" But the end credits called him a "geomancer." Which is completely wrong. I mean, maybe he was also a geomancer, but his skill in the movie was as a necromancer. Okay, I'm being totally pedantic. But at least "zombie wrangler" was accurate!

the thomas crown affair

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July 27 movie: The Thomas Crown Affair. Not the remake; the original, with Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. I had heard of this as a slick caper movie, but I wouldn't describe it that way at all. The plot about the bank robbery was secondary and too plodding to be that interesting in my mind. Really the good thing about this movie was the amazing chemistry between McQueen and Dunaway. McQueen never convinced me as a millionaire businessman, but I didn't care as long as he and Dunaway kept smoking up the screen. The best scene was definitely the sexy chess. Every movie should have a sexy chess game!

One thing I will grant this film: I totally did not expect the ending. I thought they were heading towards another ending entirely. I haven't seen the remake but I'd bet money that it doesn't end the same way.

Director Norman Jewison described it as "style over content" and I would definitely agree with that. I almost gave up on it during the interminable glider scene -- just McQueen flying around and around while "Windmills of Your Mind" plays and god I hate that song. But thankfully Dunaway showed up onscreen soon after that. Even if the movie had totally sucked, I would have continued watching just to see her clothes. Picture perfect 1968 fashions. Which I'm kind of into, as you may have gathered if you read this journal with any regularity. During the film I guessed that her clothes were by YSL, but it was actually Thea van Runkle, a movie costume designer I'd never heard of before.

unethical eating

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I have a couple of movies to write up, but I'm not motivated tonight. So instead I'm going to ramble on a topic I've been thinking about since the trip to Baltimore.

I don't remember how it came up, but at some point we were talking about vegetarianism. Now, I've never been a vegetarian. I don't have a problem with people choosing to eat or not to eat meat. But I do have a problem with people who pretend the meat they eat was born in a neat styrofoam package, that it never came from an animal that was once alive. I believe that everyone who eats meat should, at least once, kill an animal and then eat it, to understand what it is that they're doing. That said, I've never done this and probably never will. I did go fishing once but I don't think we ate any of the fish I caught. Heck, I'm too squeamish for boiling live lobster. So I'm a bit of a hypocrite.

Anyway, so I've never abstained from meat for ethical reasons. Or any reason for that matter -- I like the stuff too much. Even the types of meat that tend to put people off. Lamb? Love it. Veal? Not an everyday food, but I'll eat it, especially if it's hormone free (more concerned about myself than about the mistreated calves). Goat? Why not. Rabbit? This one is a toughie, rabbits being pets and all. But I have eaten it, and wouldn't have a problem ordering it if it was the best looking thing on a menu. Though I probably wouldn't cook it. The rabbits at Whole Foods are still in one piece and look too much like rabbits, albeit the headless and skinless variety.

Of course all you have to do is go to the chinatown of a major city to find plenty of food animals that I wouldn't be comfortable eating. But as far as I can recall, I haven't yet encountered an animal on a menu that I wouldn't eat for ethical reasons or "aw, it's too cute to eat" reasons.

The only thing I've ever decided not to eat was foie gras. Which, as you surely know, is pate of goose liver. I heard a story a few years ago on NPR about how they fatten up the geese to make their livers bigger, fattier and extra flavorful. I won't go into the details in case you're eating, but it's awful. Very cruel. The story included sound effects. It was appalling.

And yet, a couple of months ago Georg and I went out to a nice dinner, foie gras was on the menu, and we ordered it. I ate it and it was good. Not quite the transcendent experience that it's made out to be, but still, very very good. So I guess there's no food I won't eat for ethical reasons. No matter how badly the animal was treated, if it tastes good enough, I'll eat it. At least I'm a well-fed hypocrite.

the predator is no fun

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Had a restless night, interrupted by many bad dreams. I can only remember two: first one where I was in a restaurant with an old, dear friend, who kept smirkily insulting our waiter. (In real life this friend is a gracious person who would never, ever do this.) I asked him in a whisper why he was being so rude, then realized that I had spoken too loudly and everyone in the place was listening.

The other dream happened around 6 am, and, as my morning dreams tend to be, was a lot weirder. I was a little girl playing dolls with a bunch of other little girls. We were playing "Predator vs. Barbie" and I was the predator. The predator was no fun at all. They got to actually play, have their dolls interact with each other. All I got to do was wait around the corner and occasionally jump out and chase them around. The only good thing was the predator doll had a laser destructor ray: if I drew a line with my finger from the predator doll and made a "pew pew!" laser beam noise, whatever I pointed at would disintegrate. I was feeling petulant about having to be the predator, so I started trying to laser beam the other girls' Barbies.

On the bright side, I guess my day can only improve from there.

soft box

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The photography class yesterday was amazing. I can't believe I missed last week!

First we worked with portrait photography, using umbrellas to either reflect or diffuse the light. Then she brought in 2 soft boxes. Which I had never heard of before, but apparently they are like a pup tent made of fabric that's black on the outside and reflective silver on the inside. The bottom is translucent white. Except that hers is actually more of a light pink-orange on the bottom. Anyway you set up this little tent, and there's a hole in the top that fits over the strobe light. Leaving you with a giant rectangle of pink light. Point this thing at the subject, as close to their face as possible, and they are suffused with a soft, rosy light that makes them look positively beatific. I mean it, they glowed.

Even better was when she connected a camera to a power pack that controlled the strobe, so it would flash when a photo was taken. Unfortunately only two guys could do this, because the powerpack has a different voltage from typical digital cameras. One guy had bought an adaptor, and one other guy uses the same exact camera. I only got to see the photos on the camera's little screen, but I can't even describe how beautiful they looked. This is apparently the technique Sonia used to get the Carrboro Farmer's Market photos on her website. I hope those guys bring in prints next week.

After playing around with this in the classroom, we took the bigger soft box outside. It was octagonal so setting it up was a bit of a challenge (Easy for me though, since I wasn't one of the ones who did it! At least I helped break it down). Also it didn't fit Sonia's strobe, so three students had to hold it in place during the shoot. Luckily we were only out there for about a half hour and the soft box was very light! I offered to take a turn on one side, but Su said he was fine.

Sonia had a photo of the Dalai Lama clipped from the newspaper that she said we were going to duplicate. She made Marc*, the guy who works the front desk at the Durham Arts Council, come outside and pose as our Dalai Lama. It was really interesting to hear her instruct him on how to stand: "hands on your hips please ... not comfortable like that? ok, thumbs in your belt loops then ... move about a foot to your left ... now turn your whole body so it's pointing towards the soft box ... yes, including your feet ... now look at the camera ... no, don't smile ... tilt your head down a little ...." She was dissatisfied the first time through and made Marc come back out and do it again. I guess I knew that portrait photographers didn't just let people move around however they wanted and hope for the best, but I'd never witnessed one in action before.

I never realized that you might ever need to use a flash in broad daylight. But she used a really high f-stop to darken the sky, and then the flash from the soft box made Marc almost seem to glow with his own light. Just like the Dalai Lama!

The only downside of the class was when I revealed in front of everyone that I didn't know the difference between metering and focus. Well actually, of course I know the difference, but I thought the same button in my camera controlled them both and I had been using the terms interchangeably. So all this time, the years I've had this camera, every time I thought I was manually focusing, I really wasn't. Well I sort of was: when I would spot meter on something specific and lock in the exposure settings, it was probably auto-focusing on that subject too. So I was blundering into proper focus, but never doing it intentionally. Oh well, I'm there to learn!

Saturday night was more photography: for homework Sonia had assigned us to find a theatrical performance that would let us take photos. I asked her if a rock concert in a nightclub would work, and she said probably yes. So I took some photos at the Chicks Rock benefit show last night.

I had read up on how to deal with stage lighting but unfortunately, the light at Ooh la Latte was so low, there was no way to do anything without the flash. There were a couple of spotlights on the stage, but the musicians diligently avoided them throughout their performances. (is this some kind of indie rocker aesthetic, to remain poorly lit at all times?)

So I had to use the flash. Which created a couple of problems. First, that horrible hard shadow which I hate. But the stage was so small, there was no way to avoid it. Second, my typical method of taking photos, especially photos of people, most especially photos of moving people, is to snap as many shots as I possibly can and hope that some turn out. But I didn't feel like I could pop my flash in these guys' faces over and over. So I had to measure out my photos, trying to wait for good moments. Which was probably good practice for me, but meant that I only got a handful of shots that didn't totally suck.

The last band, Roxotica, were the most photogenic. I don't mean their looks but their costumes and their stage movements. Alas, their fans were also the most enthusiastic, and rushed the stage as soon as they started. Which left me little room to scurry back and forth with my tripod. (and by the way, did I ever feel like a dork, crouching on the floor with a tripod at a rock show. Chess club, here I come!) My crowd-phobia kicked in after two or three songs, I decided that I had enough material and fled.

If I have to do something like this again -- which I may well, if Sonia decides that these shots weren't enough or weren't what she was looking for -- I'll take my computer so I can download the photos immediately and see what's working and what isn't. A couple of shots that I thought would look great actually turned out terrible because I could only see that tiny preview and couldn't spot the problems.

*Correction: In the original version of this post, Marc was misidentified as Mac. Funnystrange.com regrets the error.

charles carson

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if you read this Charles, send me your email address. I forgot to ask you for it. thanks!! Sarah

oh dear god

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One of the kids next door is a teenage boy. He used to be a little boy but I guess we've been living here a while, and now he's a teenager. I came home today from lunch with an old friend to discover that said teenage boy has started a rock band. Which is practicing outside right now, under a tent. Very loudly.

How good are they, you ask? What kind of music do they play? Think Rod Torfulson's Armada featuring Herman Menderchuck and you'll get a pretty good idea.

Have I mentioned that I work at home? It's going to be a long summer.

gay divorce redux

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A few months ago I posted wondering what would happen when gay marriages inevitably, in some cases, become gay divorces. Today I heard on the radio that a lesbian couple in Canada have filed for divorce.

The article is very brief, but the NPR story said the divorce is problematic because while marriage is legislated at the provincial level, divorce is a federal matter. And Canadian federal law doesn't recognize gay marriage. It will be interesting to see how the case works out.

random thoughts on artscape

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This is me, not writing a full recap of Artscape. And having to backdate it too, because I posted the rest of the photos yesterday, assuming I'd get to the recap yesterday too. Sigh.

Georg was on a business trip and had to fly up to Baltimore seperately, so Lisa and I drove up in UMJ on Friday morning. Lisa had packed an awesome picnic lunch, which we ate at a nice little rest stop in northern Virginia. Traffic was easy and we got to Pru's place in Columbia around 3.

Possibly the funniest thing that happened all weekend was on the drive up, when a truck driver spotted Lisa, smiled and waved, then held up a neatly hand-lettered sign which said "FLASH ME." I missed the sign but saw Lisa give the guy the two-handed middle finger. Which made him smile almost as much as if we had flashed him. (Which we did not, not being co-eds who can't tell the difference between a trucker and a Wild On cameraman.) Apparently all he wanted was attention of one kind or another, so getting flipped off was just as good as seeing our boobs.

There's been some talk that Artscape's management isn't as supportive of art cars as they used to be. I don't know the inside story, but it is true that they had no funding for stipends this year, and attendance was only 1/3 of what it was in 2002 (my first year there). I was really disappointed that more cars weren't there, especially since it was Lisa's first art car event. The money isn't much of an issue to me, since we always stay with Pru. But I know that not getting a stipend anymore was a problem for a lot of people.

Still we had a good time. I have to say, an experienced and level-headed team made all the difference. It was so great to know that when problems occurred, everyone would help with fixing it, & if I was driving, they could do it without me :)

For instance, I had plugged the bubble machine and the computer into the cigarette lighter. During the caravan -- the drive from the AVAM, through downtown Baltimore, to the staging area at Artscape -- the fan in the inverter kicked on, which overloaded the car's electrical system and blew a fuse. From my place in the driver's seat, all I could tell was that we were suddenly not drawing any power. The laptop had battery power of course, but the bubble machine was dead as a doorknob. There was no way I could have done anything while I was driving, but Lisa and Alix figured out that we had blown a fuse, got the extra charger out of the trunk, and got the bubble machine running again. All while we were still driving! By the time we pulled into the staging area everything was a-ok. (My only contribution to the effort was having had the foresight to put the chargers way at the back of the trunk, where they could be reached from inside the car by pulling the seat down.)

The place they had us park at Artscape was unfortunately really near the "DJ Culture Stage," which provided extremely loud DJ sets and painfully loud, painfully bad hip-hop sets. The hip-hop was actually so bad it was funny. Fortunately it didn't last too long, and we were able to have a conversation when it ended. Pru had made us a great picnic, which we set up in the shade near the cars. Tim McNally of the Plaid Car joined us for most of the afternoon, and it was really cool to get to know him. We also chatted briefly with several of the other drivers.

The only really bad part was when we tried to leave. We were completely trapped! The way we had come in was blocked with other cars double-parking the art cars, and in the other direction there was a big crowd around the stage. We took a walk, hoping the crowd would die down, but when we got back it was even worse. Then we enlisted the help of a security guy, but all he could say was "sorry, you're stuck." One of the other art car folks helped us get people out of the way so we could turn the car around. Luckily right then the DJ on stage invited the crowd to come closer, giving us enough room to get up on the sidewalk and out to an open road. It was a little scary for a while there!

Sunday was a day of rest, including a swim in Pru's neighbor John's pool. I hadn't been swimming in I don't know how many years, and it was so cool on Sunday that we thought we weren't going to get the chance. But the sun finally came out in late afternoon so we headed to the pool. I have to say, swimming is fun! I wish I could do it more often, but the only pool I have access to is at the Duke gym. I'm not ready to wear a swim suit in front of all those perky little students. At least now I'll have a suit to wear when we're at a hotel with a pool.

On Monday we headed home, with a stop at Ikea. Georg had never been before so we had a great time walking around and looking at all the showroom displays. My only disappointment was that I really wanted him to see the bedroom displays, which have some interesting storage and lighting ideas. But they were working on the bedroom area so all the displays were broken down that day. Darn!

We still had fun, especially in the marketplace section. Lisa found some great textiles for 9 Westy, while Georg and I mostly window shopped. (We didn't want to impulse buy because we didn't have a list, and we were also worried about fitting everything into the car with all our luggage.) We did get a small rug for the bedroom and a pack of paper napkins. Also I bought small gifts for two little girls I know, and that was it! First time I've ever gotten out of that store without spending a fortune.

We didn't quite make it back in time before St. Francis closed, but they kindly let us come late and pick up the dogs. Who were beside themselves with happiness to be home, as they always are. And that's the trip!

back from artscape

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[writing on Monday evening but dating this entry on Sunday so the photos will show up] Artscape was a blast. The event was a lot smaller than in previous years, but I still had a great time, thanks in large part to the most excellent Team UMJ evah: Georg, Lisa and Pru.

Too tired to do a full write-up tonight, but I will say in brief that during this trip I determined: Lisa and Pru both pack a killer picnic lunch, 9 Westy is going to be an amazing art car, swimming is fun, William S. Burroughs is not the same as Edgar Rice Burroughs, and UMJ's next T-shirt slogan will be "don't fuck with the cute car."

departure

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Well I managed to get the car cleaned, clear out the trunk and even do a little bit more decorating this evening. The mosquitoes were vicious, but at least it only itches for a little while. I'm just about packed, whew! Just have to pack my toiletries and cut up a watermelon for our lunch tomorrow. Then I can get some rest, which I really need. I'm hoping to get a decent night's sleep so I'll be fresh and ready for the drive tomorrow.

We will be webcasting on Saturday starting at about 10 am, and continuing until we either run out of power or go home. Which I hope will be mid to late afternoon.

Ta ta, have a great weekend!

new ibook! !!

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Georg bought a computer last night. He intended to buy an airport card for his old iBook, (one of the clamshell ones that looks like a purse), because the hotel for this business trip has free wireless net access. But earlier in the day he asked me if I thought he should buy the card, and I said candidly that I couldn't answer the question because if I were him, I would have already bought a new computer. I guess that was more persuasive than I would have expected, because we went to the Apple store and walked out with a 14" iBook.

They gave us an HP inkjet printer for free (with a rebate). We really don't need another inkjet printer, but, free! Maybe we can sell it or something. They also tried to sell us .Mac, which we scoffed at. Maybe a little too openly. But really, .Mac seems pretty lame to me. Most of it is software that comes on the computer already. The only things we don't already have are virus protection (which I suppose would be a good idea, but when was the last time you heard of a virus for the Mac?), online disk space (we're quite happy with our pair.com hosting account, thank you) and backup software (okay, that would be nice).

The new iBook is so cute! It looks a lot like my Powerbook except all white. The screen is a little smaller than mine, but the hard drive is bigger and the processor is faster (I have more RAM though). Georg has it with him in Atlanta; I can't wait for next week when we'll both be back and we can set up our network. We'll finally be able to share the printers! Whee!

artscape this weekend

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I think I may have forgotten to mention that Artscape is this Saturday in lovely Baltimore. We'll be there as usual, staying with the lovely Pru and webcasting starting around 10 am. This year should be extra fun since cam queen Lisa is coming with us, to soak up some art car energy as she gets started on her art car, 9 Westy.

The weather is supposed to be nice in Baltimore this weekend. Not too hot -- around 87 -- and only a slight chance of rain. Georg is on a business trip right now, so Lisa and I are going to drive up Friday morning, then Georg will fly up from Atlanta and meet us there that evening. Then the parade is Saturday, we'll hang out and relax Sunday, and drive back (with a stop at Ikea, natch) Monday. Because Pru's next door neighbor has a swimming pool, I bought a bathing suit. First time I've worn one in at least 10 years. Gack.

Unlike previous years, I haven't really put much effort into Artscape preparation. (I've had a lot on my mind lately!) In fact I didn't get around to any decorating or repair work until today. There's one spot on the right side where I had slapped a bunch of tiles on right before we left for Houston. And I had never been happy with how that turned out. Too haphazard. That "random junk everywhere" look works really well for some art cars, but that's not Undersea Mah Jongg. So this morning I pried off a bunch of those tiles (not easy to do! I continue to be impressed with Liquid Nails) and beaded over the right front fender in a sort of wave pattern. I really like it, though I wish I could have done more. That one spot took 2 hours though, and by then it was so hot that I had to quit. How hot was it? It was so hot that a small burn I had gotten a few days ago blistered today. Ew!

I also went to the hardware store and worked out (I think) the problem of the bubble machine having too high a center of gravity and too great a risk of toppling over and falling off the car. Not only was that thing expensive, it took 10 hours to bead it. I'm not doing it again! Anyway I think I can rig something up so the bubble machine will sit behind the mounting rack, rather than above it, making it much more stable.

This evening I tried to make some progress on the inside too. Just some beading around the edge of the headliner. It started pouring just as I started to work. I had put the seats all the way back so I could move around, and I pulled back the shade under the sunroof, lay back and watched giant raindrops fall onto the sunroof.

Unfortunately the rain made it get really dark really fast. I had to quit beading the interior because I couldn't see what I was doing, and I fear I may have mucked up the last bit I did. Oh well, I'll see what I can do in the morning.

dogtown and z-boys

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July 13 movie: Dogtown and Z-Boys. I had seen about half of this movie last year, and have been waiting for it to show up again on IFC so I could see it all the way through. It's a documentary about the Zephyr Skate Team who (according to them) revolutionized skateboarding in the 70s by incorporating surfing techniques and skating in empty pools, creating the vertical and airborne styles.

The movie was fascinating to me on a bunch of levels. First, it does a really good job of capturing the creation of a subculture & letting the viewer feel the excitement of the moment. But besides that, the filmmaker (Stacy Peralta) was himself one of the Zephyr team, which maybe gave him better access than an outsider would have had, but also raised a lot of interesting questions about point of view in a documentary. For one thing, when Peralta is on camera (which he frequently is) who interviewed him? During interviews with other Z-boys you can hear Peralta laughing at stories or in-jokes, which creates the impression of listening in on a conversation between old friends rather than watching a documentary.

And of course, the filmmaker being one of the gang means that self-aggrandising statements tended to be taken at face value. I know nothing about skateboarding so I have no way of knowing if their claims are true. But it does seem that they might have been more a part of a culture than lone trailblazers. At times the Z-boys talked about skating in pools as though they were the only people doing it, but then they said that a good pool was a closely guarded secret because they didn't want a lot of other people horning in on their good thing. Which would indicate that there were others doing similar things.

Maybe the Zephyr club did revolutionize skateboarding. But I'm guessing they wouldn't have ended up so famous without photojournalist Craig Stecyk, co-founder of the Zephyr shop that sponsored their team, who wrote a series of articles about them in Skateboarding magazine. They also had a photographer (Glen Friedman) hanging out with them at the time, creating a mountainous photographic record which is heavily drawn on by the film.

The only disappointment for me was the lack of airtime given to Peggy Oki, the only female member of the Zephyr team. It comes off as a testosterone-driven environment (for example, 2 different Z-boys compare skating a new pool to having sex with a virgin), and I really wanted to know about her story. How did she get in with this group, and why were no other women included? Did they accept her, did they consider her as good as them? Did she get the endorsements that were thrown at the male stars? None of these questions are answered or even asked.

Oki has a couple of quotes and shows up in the group shots, like most of the Z-boys. The only people who are profiled in any depth are Tony Alva (who comes off like an egomaniac), Jay Adams (who is not dead, although I assumed he was from the tone of his profile -- actually he's in prison), and Stacy Peralta himself (as Georg said, these guys aren't exactly humble). I guess 90 minutes wasn't enough time to examine every member of the Zephyr team in detail.

The soundtrack is spectacular. There are a few misfires ("Maggie May"? *shudder*) but mostly the music makes the Z-boys seem gloriously cool, like Bowie, Iggy, the Buzzcocks, Sneaker Pimps, and Devo. "Gut Feeling," yeah! Unfortunately none of that stuff is on the soundtrack album. Maybe they had problems with music clearance or something.

The last thing I have to say is that Dogtown and Z-boys included one startling technique that I had never experienced before: at one point narrator Sean Penn stumbles, coughs, then has to repeat a word before finishing the sentence. And they left it in. That's gonzo filmmaking for you!

our man flint

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July 11 movie: Our Man Flint. Good golly, I love this movie. Best spy parody ever stars James Coburn as Derek Flint: super genius, super agent, sex machine. Made four years after Dr. No, Flint sends up the Bond movies and was clearly a main inspiration for Austin Powers. To its credit, the Powers movies acknowledge the debt with touches here and there (like the phone in Austin Powers' car, which makes the same funny ring as the red phone in the Flint movies).

I think Our Man Flint is better than the sequel, In Like Flint, except that the sequel includes Anna Lee, who I love, as a matriachal villainess in crazy wimpleish headgear. From the cigarette lighter with 82 secret functions (83, if you'd like to light a cigar), to Flint's four multinational girlfriends, to the spy organization called Z.O.W.I.E., to the "anti-American bald eagle" trained to attack Americans, to the whole bizarre "I am not a pleasure unit" scene, it's hard to pick out the funniest moment.

But the best thing about Flint, absolutely the best, is that he doesn't make stupid quips when he kills a bad guy; he just kills the guy and moves on. That's because he's Flint! Derek Flint is too cool for lame quips.

lazy day

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I got involved in my photography homework last night -- back lighting and side lighting, which turns out to be much easier to do when the house is dark and everyone else is asleep -- and didn't end up going to bed until almost 2. Hours and hours after I normally go to sleep. Because of that today was pretty much a wash. I slept late and then lay around feeling lazy and enervated all day. We talked about going to the library (at least if I was going to lie around all day, I could read something) but they're closed on Sundays during the summer.

It was worth staying up late since the photos turned out nice, if I do say so myself. She asked us to photograph people, but I hate people -- whoops, did I say that? I meant that I won't have time to invite someone over and go through all that rigamarole before the trip next week. So I photographed a statue of Ganesh and a Dia de los Muertos figurine instead.

Thirteen finally seems to be recovering from the overheating on Thursday. This afternoon she acted much more like herself -- moving around, showing interest in food, rolling over for me to scratch her tummy, and best of all wanting to go outside to pee. Yay! I've pretty much decided to board her at St. Francis next weekend instead of the regular kennel. The folks at the kennel are nice and take good care of them, but right now she should be with people who are aware of her medical condition and can monitor her more closely. The only question is whether Lina will go there too, or to the kennel by herself. Which will depend largely on cost.

mr. lucky

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July 9 movie: Mr. Lucky. Cary Grant is a wartime con artist who dodges the draft by stealing someone else's 4F card, and plans a grand scheme to bilk a war relief organization out of $200,000. Does the love of a good woman (Laraine Day) reform him? What do you think?

Grant is terrible at playing a street-smart gangster, but this movie has some high points. Like a running gag where the war relief ladies teach knitting to Grant and his driver, Crunk, who thereafter knits all the time and teaches it to the other hoodlums. Also Gladys Cooper in a supporting role as, believe it or not, a nice person. She specializes in the sadistic maternal figure (the mother in Now, Voyager and Separate Tables, and the mistress of novices in Song of Bernadette) but here she's the head of the war relief organization. I've seen her in a bunch of other movies but I'd never before seen her smile! Charles Bickford (who I always get confused with Joseph Cotten) also had a nice supporting role.

There's a thing about Grant teaching Cockney slang (bizarrely described as being from Australia) to Day that was so horrible it was funny, but in the unintentional comedy way. And Grant did get to be all tough guy violent in one scene, knocking Day's lights out (for her protection of course), and stomping his foot on the face of the bad guy. That was about as convincing as his Australian cockney slang. All told, I wouldn't watch this again.

photography class

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I've been so preoccupied with Thirteen that I haven't posted about the past two photography classes. They've been really good; I'm getting a lot out of the class. Last week we talked about quality of light, i.e. which lights are warmer, which are cooler, and which (fluorescent) are just nasty.

Our homework assignment for this week was to take photos in a variety of lighting environments, with no white balance or color correction, and then bring the photos to class. She wanted us to bring "bad" photos so that we could discuss the problems and how they could be fixed. Unfortunately, several people's photo labs did color correction, even though they asked them not to. So those photos didn't really teach us anything, except that we should use those photo labs when we want our photos to look nice.

I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't even bring any photos. I did the assignment, but I always sort through my photos and print out the ones for class on Thursday and Friday evenings. Well, Thursday night I spent at the emergency vet with Thirteen. Friday during the day I was working, and last night I was too exhausted to do anything but watch a dumb movie (Mr. Lucky, to be written up here as soon as I get a chance) and fall asleep early.

In today's class we talked about controlled lighting. She brought a couple of lights and set up a backdrop, so we could move things around and take light readings and so forth. I had my nifty light meter that my dad sent me, so I could take incident light readings too. yay!

(The Weston Master III on this page looks to be the same meter that I got from my dad, which he bought new in 1961. His [now mine!] is the UK version in the main photo, not the US version pictured at the bottom of the page. It reads the light from the back, and the slide rule thingie on the front tells you what exposure settings to use. It comes in a leather case that snaps open on both sides, so you can use it without removing it from the case.)

At one point the teacher, Sonia, had one of the students sit down and she arranged the lights so he was side lit and back lit. She held up a reflector so the dark side of his face would be softer & show more detail, but I honestly preferred the more contrasty & dramatic version without the reflector.

Another student brought a really neat thing called "warm cards." Apparently digital cameras are known to make photos look too cold. Warm cards are these light blue cards which you use to adjust the white balance, so the image is warmed up. The woman who bought them wants to do wedding photography, which makes sense. I can imagine her clients will want to look warm and happy in their wedding photos, not cold and blue!

The warm cards also came with a green card you can use to counteract the green tint of fluorescent lighting. I tested it while Sonia was holding up the card, and it does make a big difference! Although I have to say, the image with the corrected white balance looks awfully pink to me. The uncorrected one is greenish, true, but I kind of like it better.

Now I think I'm going to do my homework for this week, which is to practice with side lighting and back lighting. Seems like I'm always either super busy, or so worried about Thirteen I can't think straight. But things are calm right now so I'm going to do the photography while I can. I'm not going to be there next week (dang!) so I'll have to email my photos to the teacher. She has a great website by the way. She took some amazing photos of Muhammed Ali in the 70s. She was at the fight between Ali and Foreman in Zaire!

thirteen update

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This post is all about Thirteen, so skip it if you're not interested.

She seems normally alert, thoguh very tired, and is drinking a lot. Which is good. The bad news is that since the heat stroke on Thursday night, she's become incontinent. Not just accidents in the house (which have already been happening more often than I would like), but wetting herself where she lies without even realizing it. It's kind of gross but mostly distressing. I talked to Dr. Lindeke this afternoon and she said we should assume for now that Thirteen is just overloaded with fluid and off kilter from all the stress of the past few days, and that's why she's not able to control her bladder. If it's still happening on Monday, I'm to call back and they'll start investigating for kidney damage or what.

Also distressing is the difficulty Thirteen has been having with food. She didn't eat at all on Thursday, ate about half her food Friday night, and then ate a little this morning. So we thought that everything was OK. But this evening she hasn't been eating. She acts hungry, goes over to the dish and stands over it, but only eats one or two bits of kibble at most before walking away. Normally she chomps it down by the mouthful.

It was really scaring me, so Georg went to the PetSmart and got her some Science Diet canned food. Which she ate right up. Whew! I only gave her about a third of a can. She's had so little food the past few days, I don't want her to gobble it too fast and then get sick. I'm going to give her some more in about a half hour.

damn it.

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Just received this message to the XDU list:

Sadly, due to imigration/visa issues this morning, "Les Primitifs du Futur" have not been allowed into the US at the Canadian border, and as a result, tonight's concert at the NC Museum of Art has been cancelled. The movie "The Triplets of Bellville" will still be shown at 9pm, but the concert will not be taking place. If you have tickets or passes for the show, they will still be honored for the film.

I've been looking forward to this concert for weeks, and after the past few days I really felt like I deserved a fun night out. But besides that, I'm just in the middle of making the humongous picnic Georg, Sylvia and I were going to share during the concert. Pesto chicken, bread and cheese, roasted vegetables, and fruit salad. Now what am I going to do with all this food? I guess we could invite Sylvia over to dinner before the movie, but the house is kind of a wreck.

God knows our borders need to be protected from a bunch of middle aged French guys with banjoes. I blame Rumsfeld for ruining my evening. Or maybe Ashcroft. I blame them both!

no news is good news

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They did the ultrasound this morning. Thirteen's liver and spleen are completely normal, despite being so enlarged. (I don't know how that's possible, but hey, I'm not the doctor.) I'm certainly relieved to find out that she's not having "splenic bleeding" and doesn't need surgery to have her spleen removed. But on the other hand, I'm a little weary of not knowing what's wrong, or if anything even is. Well, I guess no news is good news.

They couldn't get Thirteen to eat -- no surprise there, she won't eat unless she feels comfortable and safe -- but she did drink and pee normally. Also they gave her 800 ml of fluid subcutaneously. I didn't understand this at first; apparently it means they pumped almost a liter of liquid under her skin. Ew! She looks weird and puffy in her midsection, and I think her new nickname is "Squishy." They said her appearance will go back to normal over the course of the day as she absorbs the liquid.

They told me not to expect her to drink much today because of all that fluid. But that wasn't true at all. She's been drinking lots of water -- 3 times in the first half hour we were home. I think that's a good sign, as long as she also pees. She went to her food dish once, but I was so happy about it that I followed her and started praising her immediately, which made her nervous so she left the dish without eating anything. (have I mentioned that Thirteen is a neurotic dog?) If I had left her alone I think she would have eaten, but now she's asleep again.

They also told me that the antibiotic can upset Thirteen's stomach and she should only have it with food. I'm sure they never told me that before, and I just checked and it's not on the label. I feel really bad now because she's been having it with food in the evening, but by itself in the morning. I hope it hasn't been making her feel bad.

Anyway, Thirteen seems all right now. Tired but able to move around normally & not disoriented at all. I need to go to the gym (was in a meeting all morning while she was at the vet) but I'm going to wait until Georg gets home so I don't have to leave her alone. I got my Duke card replaced after my meeting -- I had lost it earlier in the week -- so I can finally go back to the gym. The card office still had my photo on file so the new card looks exactly like the old one. I don't know why I even needed to go down there. Why couldn't they have mailed me a new one?

home from the hospital

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We're back from the emergency vet. They got Thirteen's temperature down and she's resting comfortably on her bed.

The vet noticed the size of Thirteen's spleen during the physical exam, and I told her what the radiologist had said, that it's normal enlargement due to her age. The vet sounded dubious of that, she said it seemed too large to be normal aging. And I have to say I had noticed a bulge in Thirteen's side the past couple of days. Which I thought maybe had always been there, and I just hadn't noticed it because usually she has thick fur on her belly.

Anyway the dr. suspects Thirteen might have had a "bleeding episode" from the spleen today, which would have contributed to the blood pressure drop. They tested her blood and it wasn't abnormal, but the bleeding might have happened earlier in the day. The dr. recommended that we get that ultrasound, and they left the catheter in Thirteen's leg in case she needs more fluid tomorrow. They covered it with a purple bandage that matches her collar.

Internal bleeding from the spleen is pretty scary, but on the bright side, if it is the spleen that's causing her problems, it can be removed. It's not like liver or heart failure.

They also checked her for "nystagmus," a brain disorder that affects older dogs & causes loss of balance, disorientation and nausea. But they didn't see any signs of it.

The weird thing is, on the way home I was stopped at the light at Hillsborough and La Salle, right by Visart, and I heard a voice say "Ms. Ovenall?" I looked over and there was the vet tech from St. Francis! She asked how Thirteen was doing, and told me that she had just read the patient record which the emergency vet faxed over. Then she said that the radiologist is coincidentally going to be in their office again tomorrow morning. They'll have to try and fit Thirteen in, but if I drop her off before my meeting tomorrow morning, she might be able to get the ultrasound tomorrow.

I realize it was just a coincidence, the vet tech was on her way home and happened to pull up at the stoplight next to me. Still it was funny. As if she had followed us in her car so she could talk to me right away. What service! She had a cute little dog in her car that kept trying to climb out the window. I was glad that Thirteen was lying on the floor of my car, where the vet tech's dog couldn't see. I think seeing another dog three feet away would have made it even more wriggly and desperate to get out that window.

The emergency vet told me to try and get Thirteen to eat because her blood glucose levels are low, but nothing doing. She took a really long drink of water, lay down on her bed and went right to sleep. I put the yummy stinky Pill Pocket containing the antibiotic two inches from her nose, and she hasn't even noticed it. It's no wonder she's tired; this day has been exhausting for her. Me too. I think I'm going to read a while and then go to sleep myself.

only a total dumbass...

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...would leave an old, sickly dog outside until she got heatstroke. Apparently, I'm a total dumbass! Because that's exactly what I did. Well I didn't exactly leave Thirteen out. She wanted out, and I kept bringing her back in, but she kept asking to go back out. Last summer she sat outside all afternoon plenty of times, but I guess that goes to show how much more frail she's gotten in the past year.

She was in and out for a total of about 2 hours, and she had fresh water, but when I brought her in to have dinner she was panting heavily, leaning to one side, and could barely walk. Really fucking scary. She would drink if I put the bowl right in front of her, but wouldn't walk to the water bowl in its regular place. She wouldn't eat at all, and she never refuses food.

Her temperature was 105° when we got to the emergency vet. The vet told me that 107° is life-threatening, so Thirteen was sick but not in danger of dying. The vet also said that the heat made her blood pressure go up so much it made her dizzy, that's why she was having so much trouble walking. They put her in a cool water bath for a half an hour, which brought her temperature down, but not enough to release her. She's still there now, getting an IV. I'm supposed to call back at 8:30 and see if she's cooled down enough to come home.

Jesus, what a scare. I can't believe I put Thirteen at risk like that. I just didn't realize how much more the heat would affect her now. Last year she sat outside all the time during the summer. She was fine as long as she had fresh water. I swear, she's not going outside during the day again all summer. She can go out early in the morning, but then not again until it cools off in the evening.

when nice gestures go wrong

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So Georg has been thinking about starting a web journal for a long time. As far as I can tell, the main reason he hasn't yet is that he hasn't yet settled on a domain name. He wanted "cakeordeath.com" but every variation (.net, .org, .info, etc) was already taken.

This morning he sent me an email which said:
"meant to mention that your entry about it being stupid hot just cracked me the hell up.
think i've finally come up with a URL that i like..." (ellipses in the original)

I read this and thought, aha! here's my chance to do a something nice for my boyfriend. Went online and registered "stupidhot.com" and forwarded the confirmation email to him.

Only to find that the ellipses at the end of his message really did mean that something had been left out of the message: the domain name he came up with. Which had nothing to do with my post; it was just a coincidence that those two sentences were together. D'oh!

At least I used godaddy.com, so it only cost $9. I would have been really bummed if I had spent $35 to surprise Georg with the wrong domain name. So does anyone want the domain stupidhot.com? It would be perfect for a porn site!

stupid hot

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Now that it's gotten stupid hot, it's officially summer. It's so hot the rabbits set up little rabbit hammocks in the back of the yard, where they lie around fanning themselves and drinking iced tea. It's so hot Cary Grant asked me to put on the air conditioning because he couldn't stand being on TV in my house. It wasn't so bad when it was raining every evening, but of course then the mosquitoes were much worse.

The 4th of July thing was fun. It was a small event, no surprise since most of Durham was probably at the Eno Festival. It's a kid's thing: they let the kids decorate their bikes with stuff from the Scrap Exchange, and there was a juggler, and face painting, and a few people from the NC Symphony playing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and similarly themed music, and us. The Independant did bring their art car, which is painted with chalkboard paint. It didn't look so great when they pulled up, but people had a lot of fun drawing and writing on it in chalk. Once the bikes were all decorated we paraded around the block. Wool E. Bull didn't show, but a fire truck led the parade instead. As Georg said, once the fire truck arrived the art cars ceased to exist in the eyes of all the boys.

I talked to a few people who expressed a desire to create an art car, including Chris C. from WXDU who had a great idea that involved mounting a big ass satellite dish on top of his car. I thought about it later and I think he should paint a big red & white bullseye inside the dish, and then paint the bullseye all over the car too, radiating out from the base of the dish. And he should also figure out how to wire up the dish so he can rotate it from inside the car. That would be the coolest thing ever!

The only disappointment of the afternoon was thinking that someone was describing a new local art car to me, but eventually realizing that it was Toby's new car. Of course I'm glad people are noticing Toby's car, but I was hoping there was someone else besides the two of us.

Not a lot else going on. Yesterday I had to go into the office to work on a project. Which is kind of bizarre, since normally I work at home while everyone else is in the office, but yesterday everyone was home on holiday and I was in the office. (Except Georg, he always has to work on holidays too.)

Thirteen's latest round of tests came back. The fungal infection was negative, but she did test positive for the bacterial infection. Which is good news because it means the antibiotic was the right drug. Since Thirteen started taking it, she's definitely pacing less. But on the down side she's still coughing just as much. Tomorrow I'm going to call Dr. Lindeke back (she told me all this in an answering machine message) and then I guess we'll have to start Thirteen on steroids for the cough.

It's kind of ridiculous how I never go to the doctor unless I'm deathly ill or I've cut a huge gash in my leg or something, but I have Thirteen going all the time & taking all these medications. Well on the other hand, in dog years she's 2 1/2 times as old as I am so I guess it's not so ridiculous.

Now I'm indulging in one of my guilty pleasures. No, not America's Next Top Model. That's not on for another hour and besides, I don't feel any guilt about it. No, my guilty pleasure is browsing expensive catalogs for something I don't really need and then checking to see if I can find the same things on Ebay. Tonight it's sports bras. I have four so I don't need more, but I get tired of doing laundry every four days. Besides, the super-expensive ones in the Activa catalog are so cute!

art car news

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Very exciting news (some definite, some just possibilities) for art cars in Durham:

1. The Durham Central Park people asked me to drive in their 4th of July parade tomorrow afternoon. It sounds like a pretty small parade: maybe just Wool E. Bull, the police, a bunch of kids and me. And also possibly the Indepedant's art car, which I've never even seen. (I wrote to Toby Galinkin, the doll car woman, and asked her to come too, but alas she already had plans. This all happened just a couple of days ago.) This is just to get some buzz going, because they want to plan a real art car parade for 4th of July 2005. They asked me to be on the planning committee.

2. Ms. Film Festival is doing a benefit in October called "Chicks Rock." They asked me to do a DIY workshop in which we will turn a donated truck into an art car. We're hoping to have an unofficial art car cruise (like a parade, but no stopping traffic and no permit) after the workshop & featuring the new art truck.

3. Today in the Foster's parking lot a guy came up to me and said that he works with the Carolina Theatre, and they are planning an event this fall with John Waters, and would I be available to possibly chaffeur Waters and have him do a photo op with my car? Let me repeat that. John Waters. In my car. Eeeee!

He said it's still largely up in the air, they're not sure yet if Waters is going to come, but if he does come they had discussed having my car involved. (I guess to show Waters that Durham is just as wacky as Baltimore. Take that, personality quiz that called me a sober follower!)

For years I've been wishing there were an art car community in the Triangle. I even tried to start a club called TRACK, Triangle Regional Art Car Klub. (We had exactly one meeting with 3 people: me, Toby and Deb Allen, who lives north of Raleigh and used to drive a nifty painted car.) So you can imagine how thrilled I am about these developments. All of which have come up in the past few days. I haven't even had a chance to write about it until now.

Who knows, maybe in a few years we'll have a real art car community here. I would so much love to have a group like that. Just some other art car folks who would get together once in a while for dinner, just for the fun of parking all our art cars in the same place. Or cruise up and down Ninth St. or Franklin St. or Hillsborough St. Or caravan with me to Artscape. Basically, I want not to be Durham's lone art car kook anymore. I want to be part of a whole gang of kooks!

in name only

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June 28 movie: In Name Only. Cary Grant falls in love with Carole Lombard, but his golddigger wife Kay Francis won't give him a divorce. Grant's upper crust parents and friends are mean to Lombard, but eventually everything works out. Francis is great as the villain and Charles Coburn has a nice turn as Grant's father. The only thing wrong with the movie is that Grant spends the entire end of the movie lying in an oxygen tent looking weak while the other characters sort things out. Doesn't that violate a cardinal principle of classic movies? It's the woman who's supposed to become deathly ill so the man realizes he can't live without her, not the other way around.

bright eyed & bushy tailed

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It's 10:30 am and I've already done a radio show, worked out, finished my photography homework, eaten breakfast, and returned phone calls. This getting up before dawn thing is great!

On the downside, it probably won't seem so great 3-4 hours from now when I'm about to pass out and people are expecting me to, y'know, work or something. This evening will be even better: we're going to an outdoor concert at the museum. I think I might take a blanket so I can lie down on the lawn.

Even though Dr. Lindeke said it would take more than a few days I do think the antibiotic is helping Thirteen already. She had developed this habit of pacing in the evenings, which we think now was due to pain from that spinal infection, and she's been pacing noticeably less since we started the antibiotic. Also I think she's coughing less too, but I'm not 100% sure because I've been working at the office the past couple of days so I haven't been here to monitor her all day as usual.

Now, a couple of links: This is the funniest website I've seen in ages.

This personality test is making the rounds. I got Sober Rational Constructive Follower. As I posted on Lisa's blog, it's right about me not being much of a leader, but I'm not really a follower either. I'm more of a "wander-off-on-my-own-and-what-were-we-talking-about?-er." The constructive part I'll buy. But rational? Not so much. And sober? The opposite of that indicator was "wacky," and any personality test which decides I'm "sober" instead of "wacky" is fucked up. I'm all about the wacky!

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