August 2004 Archives

zatoichi

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August 29 movie: Zatoichi. (Note: promotional materials are calling this film The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi, but the title screen in the movie itself just said Zatoichi. So that is the title I'm using.)

This is the 2003 remake by Takeshi Kitano. Wow. It rocked. I mean it RAWKED! Best movie I've seen in a long time. Zatoichi is so well-loved in Japan, and so firmly associated with actor Shintaro Katsu (who played Zatoichi in all the old movies) that this was a big risk for Kitano. It would be like Quentin Tarantino making a new movie about the Man with No Name, and making it work brilliantly. We had heard that this was an updated version of Zatoichi, set in the twenty-first century. Which I wasn't thrilled about, and I am so glad turned out not to be true. Kitano's style is well suited to the subject: Georg and I both felt that it was very much a Zatoichi movie, and also very much a Takeshi Kitano movie.

There were several great interludes where soundtrack music blended with percussion sounds created by peasants working in the fields (well done too -- I watched each actor and their movements synched perfectly with the sounds), some hilarious comedy scenes, and a bizarre musical finale that made me feel like the movie had suddenly gone Bollywood. Georg loved it; me, not so much. Though I have to admire Kitano for doing something so kooky. There were even touching subplots about two geishas, and about a ronin who becomes an unwilling bodyguard to the bad guys, to raise money for medical care for his wife. The movie was no more violent in terms of body count than an original Zatoichi film. True, there was more blood and gore, but it was so extremely fake as to be okay for even the most squeamish viewer. Actually that was my only criticism of the movie: I hate phony CGI effects in fight scenes. I much prefer the low rent effects of older movies, the wire work and packets of fake blood. But that's a minor quibble.

Zatoichi was funny, moving, and kicked my ass across town and back. Go see it!

zatoichi and the fugitives

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August 28 movie: Zatoichi and the Fugitives. IFC showed a couple of original Zatoichi movies in honor of the release of Takeshi Kitano's new remake, and we're finally getting around to watching them.

For those of you who don't obsessively follow Asian swordfight movies, Zatoichi (played by Shintaro Katsu) is "The Blind Swordsman," an itinerant fighter who travels around the countryside helping people in need and killing bad guys. Lots and lots of bad guys.

There are over tons of Zatoichi movies, many of them available on DVD. I've only seen a couple but they've all been fantastic. All a bit formulaic though, I must admit. Zatoichi shows up in a new village, helps some people who take him in and offer him a job, he discovers some gangsters bullying his new friends, the gangsters humiliate him, he kills them all. Nothing really to distinguish Zatoichi and the Fugitives from the rest, except a supporting role for Takashi Shimura (veteran of many Kurosawa films) as the doctor who takes Zatoichi in.

I can't wait for Kitano's new Zatoichi. We're going to see it tomorrow afternoon. yay!

walk don't run

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August 27 movie: Walk Don't Run. Yes, that makes three movies yesterday. What can I say, I couldn't sleep. Cary Grant's last movie has him playing matchmaker to a young woman and an Olympic athlete (Jim Hutton, father of Timothy Hutton) while the three of them share an apartment due to lodgings scarcity during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. It's not a great movie, but considering how some silver screen stars ended up (Fred Astaire in The Towering Inferno, Joan Crawford in all those cheap horror movies, Barbara Stanwyck on The Colbys) it was a classy note on which for Grant to end his career. Not that he wasn't always classy. The highlights of the movie (for me at least) were Grant slyly whistling the themes to Charade and An Affair to Remember, a big set piece during the Olympic speedwalking race, and a small role for George Takei (Mr. Sulu!) as a police captain.

sign of the cross

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August 27 movie: Sign of the Cross. Wrapping up Claudette Colbert day on TCM (and how I regret not recording Tovarich, Midnight and Since You Went Away! But I'm really too busy to watch that many movies right now) with a Cecil B. deMille epic about the persecution of early Christians. Didn't the early Christians use the sign of the fish to identify themselves, not the cross? Whatever. Colbert plays the decadent Empress of Rome, who loves the prefect of Rome (Marcus Superbus, no I'm not kidding), who in turns loves an innocent young Christian girl (Mercia, again no joke). Charles Laughton also has a nice turn as Nero.

This pre-code movie is one of deMille's classic exercises in debauchery dressed up in a thin veneer of pious moralizing. The movie is as decadent as they could make it, with not much plot getting in the way of the sin, sin, sin: Orgies! Milk baths! Some kind of weird lesbian love dance! Torture! Gladiator fights! Amazons battling dwarves! A naked lady wearing only flower garlands, tied up and ravished by a gorilla! Another one eaten by alligators! Elephants walking on people's heads! Christians fed to lions! One of Claudette Colbert's nipples! It's all here, folks.

Trivia note: according to Robert Osbourne, the milk bath (more like a giant pool) was real milk, and since shooting took two days the milk started to spoil. Colbert was a trooper and sat in sour milk all day, but said later she had a hard time washing the smell off her skin.

it's a wonderful world

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August 27 movie: It's a Wonderful World. Jimmy Stewart is a detective whose client is framed for murder. He hides his client, thus making himself an accessory, then goes on the lam to find the real killer. On the way he kidnaps a poetess (Claudette Colbert) who quickly falls for him, and the two of them travel the countryside together trying to solve the crime.

They were clearly trying to recapture the magic of It Happened One Night here, and while it was good, it wasn't that good. That said, I love both Stewart and Colbert, I'll watch almost anything with either of them in it. Both is just that much better. And I did enjoy It's a Wonderful World, but if I were to recommend a madcap Claudette Colbert road movie it would definitely be It Happened One Night. (I can't think of a madcap Jimmy Stewart road movie off the top of my head.)

gardening update

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This week wasn't as productive in the garden as last week, but I still got some stuff done. On Monday I planted the balloon flowers down by the road. Tuesday I took the day off. Wednesday I mowed the lawn. Thursday I spent the day finishing the drywall, so no time for gardening. Friday I was feeling really crummy, between lack of sleep the night before, and the Armada having another jam session (with amps set to 11) in the afternoon, so I did nothing.

Today I planted some lantana down by the road. It's supposed to be a good ground cover, hardy, can handle slopes, tolerant of drought, and very few pests. Sounds nearly perfect. Lantana is also loved by butterflies. They planted some right outside the radio station and there are always clouds of little butterflies all over it.

The soil continues to be quite rocky, but I dug big holes so the plants will have at least a chance of getting their roots out. Along with the rocks I dug out some huge bramble roots. (I guess actually they're called rhisomes? The thick rooty things right under the plants.) The brambles have pretty much owned that slope for the past few years and I'm sure it's going to be a continual problem. Well if we just keep pulling as many root systems as we can every time we plant in there, eventually we'll get the better of them.

Took me about 2 hours to get the lantana in the ground, and it was hotter than I expected too. Good thing I put the dogs back inside. They like hanging out with me while I work in the yard, but this weather isn't safe for them. I got a little overheated myself. Nothing dangerous, just that I could feel how hot & thirsty I was when I went in for a drink of water. Which I really should do more often. I have a bad habit of treating it as a reward, thinking "I'll go inside for a drink after all the holes are dug," when really I should have taken a break after each hole.

The two gardening books I had ordered arrived: Gardening Southern Style and The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists. The former is an instructional book with an almanac in the back. It's written by someone in Mississippi so the advice is geared to the Deep South and not always totally applicable to the Piedmont. But still, for a beginner like me it's invaluable. The list book is just what the title says: 200 lists of plants. Lists of everything you can imagine: shrubs that like shade, ground covers that grow on slopes, vines that smell nice, perennials that bloom all summer, annuals that reseed themselves, etc. I think I'm going to be taking that one with me to go plant shopping. My only gripe with it is that it doesn't describe the plants at all, just lists their names. So, even though I wanted to limit myself to 2 books, I had to order another one with an encyclopedia of plant information. And I ordered the book about mongo while I was at it. At least I'm using my Amazon store to get myself a 15% discount on all these books.

the glass bottom boat

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August ? movie: The Glass Bottom Boat. I saw this sometime in the past two weeks but I forget when exactly. Doris Day is a career girl working at a research lab who falls for her boss, Rod Taylor. Hilarity ensues when the military decides Day is a Mati Hari-esque spy. Overall this was a bit too slapstick for my taste. And I found it really disturbing when Day finds out they think she's a spy, and starts acting like a spy to get back at them. I guess it was supposed to be funny but all I could think was, "great way to get yourself declared an enemy combatant, lady." My other disappointment is that the glass bottom boat of the title is hardly in the movie at all. Just the very beginning before the credits, and then the action shifts to the research lab.

karsh kale

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Karsh Kale was awesome! I just got back a couple of minutes ago. The first act was great too, an unnamed DJ (local I'm assuming) who rocked the house. Too bad the house contained five people, only one of whom was dancing. The dancing guy was so cool: most of the time he danced by strolling around in a circle. The only part of him that was dancing was his arms. It was like hipster walking meditation. I wish I had gotten that DJ's name. I'd love to know if he has a regular gig around town.

Kale took the stage around 10:30, not too bad since he was supposed to go on at 10. It was just him DJing/remixing, no band. Which bummed me out at first, but he did an amazing set. I wish I could get a set list! The only tracks I recognized were "GK2" from Kale's last album, and "Bhangra Fever" by Midival Punditz (red hot remix too). Which are both tracks I love. But the entire set was that good, I just didn't recognize the rest of it.

I felt like an idiot for not taking my camera. I thought it would be packed like Stereolab was a couple months ago, and I wouldn't be able to set up any decent shots, so taking the camera would be a waste. Okay, so it wasn't crowded. In fact calling the audience "sparse" would be generous. I guess I have a distorted idea of what is a big name act in these parts, because I seriously thought Ming & FS and Karsh Kale would draw tons of people. (As Georg pointed out, it doesn't bode well for them or artists like them coming to Chapel Hill again. Unless they add a mopey guy with a guitar whining about his love life to the lineup.) So anyway, the crowd was pretty thin and I could easily have gone up front and gotten some nice close-ups. I so need to get a new bag and just take my camera everywhere. Every time I leave it behind I end up wishing I had it.

I didn't stay for Ming & FS, who came on around 11:30. It was getting late for me, and I'd had a long day, and I'd really gone to see Karsh Kale anyway. Ming & FS are good but they're not my favorites. And also, I am a poopyhead. Georg walked me to my car (what a gentleman) and went back for the rest of the show. So I guess he'll tell me in the morning that Kale went back on and the three of them did the show to end all shows, and then I'll wish I had stayed. But actually not; I'm really tired and I'm glad I came home.

mongo

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I heard this story on NPR this morning and I must read the book. It sounds like that movie The Gleaners and I, only about New York rather than France, and it doesn't suck.

I've never heard the term mongo before and unfortunately I missed the beginning of the story, when I presume they explained the term. I was also surprised that the term dumpster diving didn't come up, except when one caller explained that it's called that in her town. Does New York even have dumpsters? If not, that would explain why they don't use the term. Here it's called dumpster diving even if you're not literally taking things out of a dumpster. I've never actually climbed into a dumpster but at one time my house was largely furnished with stuff that students had thrown away at the end of the school year. I've gradually replaced all the scavenged furniture, and I don't think I have any left at this point.

The annoying thing is, I just ordered gardening books from Amazon a couple of days ago & I could have added Mongo to the order if I'd known. Oh well, maybe the library will have it.

a new experience

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Something happened today that, to my knowledge, has never happened to me before.

See, I wanted to take a break from planting because my wrist has been bothering me a lot, and I suspected the shoveling was aggravating it. So, yesterday instead of planting I mowed the lawn.

That's not the new experience though. I hadn't mowed in a long time (long enough that I was surprised to find our mower, which we've had for over a year, isn't self-propelled) but I used to do it all the time. I actually kind of like mowing. It's good work but unless it's super hot, not exhausting, and the noise from the mower makes me feel like I'm inside a "cone of silence" where I can think about whatever I want without interruption.

Anyway, my neighbors on the one side had just mowed last weekend, as they do every two weeks like clockwork. The yard on the other side wasn't just mowed, but it wasn't getting shaggy or anything, it looked like they had another week to go.

This morning I went out to run a quick errand. Got back around noon, and saw that the yard on the other side is now freshly mowed. They must have mowed right after I did, either this morning or yesterday evening.

I shamed the neighbors into mowing their yard! That has never, ever happened to me before. They hate me (the mother will literally yell at her kids through the window to get inside if she sees them talking to me) so it must have rankled her that my yard looked neater than hers for even a few hours. I wonder if they'll feel obligated to match all my yardwork efforts so their yard alway looks better than mine? If I keep up with my landscaping plans, they'll have to make their yard look really amazing to stay ahead of me.

I'm going to start mowing at weird intervals, to see if it was a coincidence.

tender comrade

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August 25 movie: Tender Comrade. Ginger Rogers stars in a weeper about four war wives sharing a rented house and trying to be brave while their husbands fight the good fight during WWII. There's a great cast but the dialogue is pretty clunky, and the movie never rises above itself to affect me the way Since You Went Away, the ultimate war-wife movie, does. Both were made during the war and obviously intended to raise the spirits of real war wives, and both are highly sentimental, but Since You Went Away manages to avoid the treacly, phony schmaltz that keeps Tender Comrade locked in mediocrity.

Unfortunately Tender Comrade is mainly known not for its own merits, but for its role in the McCarthy era 10+ years later. The director and writer were among the "Hollywood 10," and this movie in particular was used as an example of Hollywood's insidious influence on American minds. First off, because the word "comrade" is in the title (according to a title card it's from a Robert Louis Stevenson poem about the role of a wife). But mainly because the premise of four women living together and pooling their resources smacked of communism. Even star Ginger Rogers testified that she had objected to anti-American sentiments in some of her dialogue.

Watching this hyper-patriotic movie today, it's hard to imagine how anyone could have seen communist propaganda lurking within it. I guess it just goes to show how people will believe anything if they've whipped themselves into enough of a frenzy. The director, Dmytryk, wrote later of Tender Comrade: "Their motto is 'share and share alike,' which sounded quite innocently democratic when we made the film, but which turned up to haunt me a few years later when I was instructed that the real motto of a democracy is 'Get what you can while you can and the devil take the hindmost.'"

old acquaintance

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August 25 movie: Old Acquaintance. Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins play writers and best friends: Davis is a talented serious writer and playwright with more recognition than income, and Hopkins is a wildly successful author of trashy women's novels who "cranks them out like sausages." The movie follows their friendship/rivalry over three decades.

I would have liked this movie better if it were more balanced, if they had shown that each woman had something for the other to envy. Instead Davis is a paragon and Hopkins is a total shrew. It was still fun though. Hopkins throws herself into the role of a silly, selfish bitch with wild abandon, and the payoff (when Davis finally grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her really hard) is well worth it. It was during that scene that I realized I'd seen this movie before. But the first hour didn't seem at all familiar so I think I must have come in on the middle.

John Loder has a nice turn as Hopkins' husband. I've seen him in other things and really like his work. I'd like to see more of his movies, but I looked him up online and unfortunately most of his career was in the British film industry, starring in movies that sound great but aren't carried by Netflix. I think I might write to TCM and suggest they do one of their day-long specials on him. Although, with my luck they'd just show Hollywood movies in which he has supporting roles, many of which I've already seen.

old newspapers

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Does anyone know where I can get a lot of old newspapers? I need them for mulching my garden and we don't get a daily paper.

the letter

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August 24 movie: The Letter. Bette Davis in a noir-ish melodrama based on a Somerset Maugham story. The first few moments of the film have Davis coldly shooting a man as he tries to flee her house on a rubber plantation in Malaya. The rest of the movie unravels the story of why, focusing on a letter (thus the title). As you might guess from the source material, it's pretty depressing and decadent and everyone comes to a bad end. Actually, the lawyer's inscrutably obsequious Asian assistant makes out all right -- he gets a cut of some blackmail money and he doesn't get killed, arrested, ruined or consumed with guilt. But he's about the only one.

Good movie though. Very dramatic and subtle. I liked how long they waited after the letter's appearance to even let us know its contents. Most movies would feel obligated to have lengthy scenes of the characters standing around explaining to each other what the letter meant.

bell, book and candle

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August 24 movie: Bell, Book and Candle. Every time I watch this movie it strikes me the same way: a half hour in I think it's the best movie ever, and by the end I hate it. Kim Novak plays a witch who lives in witchy contentment with her relatives Jack Lemmon and Elsa Lanchester, until she meets and falls in love with normal human Jimmy Stewart, thus losing her powers.

My problem with the movie is that Novak's witch life is portrayed as so marvelously cool. Giving it all up for Stewart seems like an appalling sacrifice. And seeing her change from a sultry witch in black trousers and bare feet to Donna Reed in heels and yellow silk, was just depressing. The message: love makes a woman lose all her power, but her life will be empty and unfulfilled until she debases herself for the man of her dreams.

I still watch the movie when it's on, if only to see Jack Lemmon's bongo-playing beatnik warlock. Ernie Kovaks also has a nice turn as a self-described expert on witchcraft.

jezebel

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August 19 movie: Jezebel. The rumor is that Bette Davis did this movie about a willfull Southern Belle because she was angry about not getting the part of Scarlett O'Hara. But as Robert Osbourne pointed out, that can't be true because Jezebel was released almost a year before they started filming Gone With the Wind. In fact, he said that one reason she didn't get to play Scarlett was that she had just done such a similar character.

In any case, Jezebel is a great melodrama about a bad, bad Southern girl who causes a lot of trouble and then redeems herself with the ultimate sacrifice. Lots of ladies flouncing around in huge hoops skirts and saying "I declare!" and men drinking mint juleps and challenging each other to duels. Good fun. Afterwards I watched most of Now, Voyager which I may have mentioned is my favorite Bette Davis movie. I love TCM's "Summer under the Stars."

the petrified forest

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August 14 movie: The Petrified Forest. Lesley Howard, Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart star in a talky but affecting drama about a bunch of people trapped in a rustic inn with a gangster. Most interesting to me was the way everyone projected their own motives and desires onto Bogart's desperado. Also interesting was a small subplot about the ideological clash between two African Americans: one Bogart's henchman, the other a rich man's valet. The gangster lectures the manservant on giving up his freedom to take orders from a white man, yet himself has no more freedom than the valet does. Each one is totally obedient to his respective boss.

the maltese falcon

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Catching up with the August 13 movie: The Maltese Falcon. I think I've put off writing about this because I don't have a whole lot to say about it. Bogart is Sam Spade. There's also Mary Aster, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. The falcon is a macguffin. It's brilliant. That about sums it up.

I never realized before how closely the voice of Ren from Ren and Stimpy was based on Peter Lorre. I guess it should have been obvious all along, but it wasn't until Lorre loses his temper and starts screaming "You imbecile! You bloated fathead!" at Greenstreet that I caught on. It's pure Ren. Heck, he even looks a bit like Ren.

Although they say at the end that Lorre and Greenstreet are captured by the police, Georg and I always like to imagine that they get away and go on to Istanbul as planned. I wish they had made another movie about the adventures of Joel Cairo and the Fat Man. What I wouldn't pay to see that movie.

sleep good

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Did not get anything else done on the room yesterday. We were both so tired that I think a break was good and necessary.

Mondays are always my busiest day, between catching up on work in the morning -- I always have a list of "oh my god I need this right now!!!" client messages first thing Monday morning -- my HKB meeting, and then my show. As I posted at the time, I was in a crummy mood and didn't want to do my show, but being there really brightened up my day. Unfortunately I didn't bother to record the show, I thought it was going to suck, but it turned out to be a good one if I do say so. Lots of vinyl, and some things I had never heard before but randomly pulled off the shelves, that turned out to be really good. I wish I had recorded it.

Then when I got home in the evening, I planted some balloon flowers down by the driveway. I love balloon flowers; they have weird cool balloon shaped buds and bell-shaped flowers. (I guess they ought to be called "balloon buds" or "bell flowers," but hey, I'm not the one making up these names.) The soil near the driveway is the worst I've encountered anywhere in the yard. Solid clay except for all the rocks. Mostly gravel (I guess the driveway must have been gravel at one point) but also lots of rocks about the size of my fist and a few much bigger than that. You can't even really dig the soil: it's more like hacking at it with a shovel to loosen up the rocks. I almost gave up on planting there, thinking that no plant would survive in soil that poor, but along with the rocks there were a lot of earthworms. I figure the soil can't be that bad if it has earthworms, so in the balloon flowers went.

Then I made dinner -- nothing fancy, just chicken sauteed with some vegetables, but I've been eating out (mostly junk) for the past week, so it felt really good to cook. Plus I made extra to have for my lunches for the next couple of days. After all that I was totally exhausted and went to sleep before 9:30. Woke up around 11 and thought it was pre-dawn the next morning (we don't have a clock in the bedroom right now because of the drywall work), staggered into the kitchen and asked Georg "what are you doing up already?" Then saw the clock, said "oh" and went back to bed. I'm really glad I slept so long. I feel much better now.

radio is fun

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I was in such a crummy mood this morning. I had to drag my ass to the station; I really didn't want to go. But being here always cheers me up. The webcam caught me deciding which Joe "King" Carrasco album to play. Whee!

sad news for movie fans

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The Starlite drive-in's screen has burned down.

I think about going to the Starlite often, and always have a fabulous time there, but rarely actually go. Just a couple of days ago Lisa and I talked about having an art car night there.

The owner says he's going to rebuild and re-open. I hope he does, but I wonder if money is a problem. (The Herald-Sun said he had fire insurance, but the News & Observer said the screen was not insured.) I think I'm going to send him a donation.

new drywall

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We didn't get as much done today as I had hoped, but that's only because I seriously underestimated the time involved in hanging drywall. Three coats of wall compound! Why the #$&*%@ does it need three coats? After we put the drywall up, I was saying "I can't believe hanging drywall is so easy!" By the end of the day I was saying "I can't believe hanging drywall is so hard!"

We did get a lot done though. The new drywall is up, two of the three coats of wall compound are done, nice and smooth if I do say so myself, and the blotchy paint on the adjoining wall has been sanded off and replastered. (I even got to plant my Joe Pye Weed this morning before we got started!) We still need to do the third coat of wall compound, sand everything, prime and paint.

It's a lot of work but I'm so glad we did this. Even yucky and half-finished, I still think it looks better already. Before we started I had grandiose notions that we'd get the priming done tonight, and be finished with the whole thing tomorrow. But we ran out of steam around 7 this evening and decided it was better to quit before we screwed something up from being too tired to work. Georg let me take a break and put the furniture back, because he is the best boyfriend. Then we had takeout for dinner and now we're watching the Food Network's tribute to Julia Child. It's really good, full of funny clips. I highly recommend it if/when they rerun it.

good day

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Today was a good day. We went to the farmer's market early, bought ripe peaches, a few herb plants, and a perennial called "Joe Pye Weed." It's pretty, supposed to attract butterflies, I saw it in a book on low maintenance gardening, and plus it's called Joe Pye Weed. How can we go wrong?

After the farmer's market I helped Lisa clean out the interior of 9 Westy. This was to repay her for the work she did on my room last week, but it seemed much less strenuous and also took less time, so I don't think we're quite even yet. In any case, we took down the curtains (neatly so she can use them as patterns), removed the upholstery from the seat cushions, and pulled up the carpet. Really nasty carpet that was holding moisture & encouraging corrosion in the floor pan.

Good music was listened to: greatest hits from the Cars (which reminded me intensely of the summer I bought their self-titled first album, and the girl who was my best friend that summer. She lived in Arden, a sort of hippie community in Wilmington, and we hung out together all the time, then somehow near the end of the summer we decided we hated each other and I never spoke to her again. But it was a great summer.) Many baggies were filled with various types of hardware. Many staples were pulled from teh seat cushion and thrown away. The gas pedal was broken but easily repaired. Much barbecue was consumed. An important consensus was reached that Lisa fucking rules the world.

In the afternoon Lisa used 9 Westy to help me get a couple sheets of drywall home. Tomorrow we're going to try and fix that wall problem in the bedroom. I sat around feeling grubby and drinking lots of water for a little while, then went out and planted the new herbs. The plot we've set aside for the herb garden is still looking pretty bare, but at least it's not totally empty anymore. A lot of those plants will spread so I don't want to fill the space up too much.

Then we got cleaned up and went to an opening at Tyndall Galleries, a client of mine. It was a great show, gorgeous work and a lively crowd. We tried to chat with Jane Tyndall but she was busy talking with people at all times so I never got close enough to say hello. We're gearing up to redesign their site but she probably didn't want to talk about that at an opening, and I sure didn't.

Last we had a nice dinner at Vespa, marred only by the noisy people at the next table who stayed long after their meal was over because it was pouring out. At some point David Sutton came in, he told me he had just finished up his second big celebrity makeover in two days! The first one was Christa's, and today's was for a TV show. Sure enough, soon after David a camera crew showed up and started filming right near us. I think they were doing the pre-reveal interviews. Which basically consisted of standing people up against a wall and asking them "How do you think your mom is going to look? What does your dad think about so-and-so changing the color of her hair?" The light from the camera was shining right in my face, but they weren't that close to our table so it wasn't a big problem.

As we left (thankfully, just after the downpour ended) we saw a party being filmed in the restaurant's private dining area. I guess this is one of those shows where the big reveal happens at a party. I've got to remember to find out what this show is called and when it's going to air.

gardening 101

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It's only been a couple of days but the gardening seems to be going well. So far I've mulched the raised bed that once was our herb garden and planted Georg's potted herbs in it; attached extenders to the downspouts to draw water away from the foundation; gone through a pile of old hoses, figured out which ones were usable, connected the good ones to the spigot and coiled them up; and planted two big azaleas on the shady side of the house.

I know it's the wrong season for planting but it's been a mild summer and I'm watering them every day so I hope they'll be OK. The soil is terrible on that side of the house -- lots of clay and tree roots -- so even though I added lots of good soil, I don't know how well they'll do in the long run. Although it might be good if they don't thrive, because I accidently bought a larger variety than I wanted (8' tall!). It won't bother me if they don't get that big.

I also tried to clean the driveway (which is covered with dirt from the landscapers) with a hose, but it took a lot of water so I stopped. We're not having a drought anymore but I'm still not comfortable wasting water. I'll sweep the driveway or something another day.

Overall I'm pleased with the first few days of this project. I'm trying to focus on work that will have a long term effect, like planting perennials and shrubs. That helps me feel like I've accomplished more, which (I hope) will help me stick with it.

Does anyone know of any good books on Southern gardening? There are so many different plants at the garden stores & I don't want to waste time and effort on plants that won't do well in this climate. I was looking at these books, but I'd rather just get one. I don't want to spend all my gardening time reading books.

The Southern Gardener's Book of Lists
The Southern Living Garden Book
Month By Month Gardening in the Carolinas

I just realized that I totally forgot to post about the only real goof by the landscapers: I had asked them to leave the rosemary and sage plants alone, but they pulled out the sage. I saw the hole in the ground on my way to lunch with David and Hervé, while we were working on the room, and couldn't help but exclaim "Oh no, my sage!" Which the landscapers heard, and were very apologetic. I told them it was no big deal, I could plant another one. At lunch I decided that it was better this way. Because the old sage plant had gotten really big and leggy, and I had planted it too close to the edge of the bed so it stuck out into the driveway.

Then when we got back, we saw that they had found the sage plant in the refuse pile and put it back! It looks terrible: only a handful of leaves survived. It was nice of them to try and undo their mistake, but I'm still going to pull out the poor old sage plant and put in a new one, further from the edge of the bed. We're going to the farmer's market this morning to see if the herb plant people are there.

So anyway, I'm not at all upset about the goof with the sage. In a way they did me a favor. Now, if they had dug out my huge rosemary bush, that would have been really upsetting.

hair party

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Christa's celebrity makeover was awesome. Two tons of fun. I was a few minutes late and by the time I got there, "the Antonio" had already started cutting her hair and there was a big crowd in attendance. Our little corner of the blogosphere was well represented with Lisa, Pinky, Ruby, Phil, and probably others I'm forgetting. I and several others tried to peer pressure Shayne to start a blog, but she's reluctant due to being a school teacher and not wanting her students to have easy access to her whole life.

I didn't take my camera because I assumed they wouldn't allow photos. Only to find that photos were allowed, nay welcomed. Ray was snapping photos constantly and no one seemed to mind. I was kicking myself for not bringing my camera. But then again, without the camera I could enjoy the party and not worry about photos. And I did get a couple of decent shots with my camera phone.

In fact, the first thing I did upon arrival was snap a photo of Christa's haircut and upload it to my photolog. At which point several people took photos of me uploading my photo, which they then uploaded to their blogs. It was dizzyingly self-referential for a minute there.

The publicist for Curl Friends (the product line sponsoring this shindig) got all excited and offered me a press kit when she overheard me tell someone that I was uploading photos live to my website. I told her that it was just my blog, to which she replied "We love blogs!" I told her that I'm not anybody important, but I took the press kit anyway. Also I bought a sample pack of Curl Friends products -- only $10 for all 10 products. My hair is naturally quite curly and although I am still digging my straightened, mod 'do, at some point I will go back to a more current, less helmet-head style. So it would be nice to have some good products for curly hair.

My big disappointment of the evening was that, while Christa's color was setting, "the Antonio" did some quick styling on everyone present who had curly hair. I had straightened my hair and put on a ton of product, so I couldn't participate. What a bummer. If only I hadn't done up my hair tonight, I could have had it styled by a celebrity!

Speaking of which, the whole point of the evening was Christa's hair, and it looked fabulous. Not that her hair doesn't always look nice, but this style was just gorgeous. They did her makeup too and she looked so glamorous, like something out of a movie. I saw David (the host of the evening and my regular stylist) carefully watching "the Antonio" work, which is good because I may ask him to duplicate the style on me sometime soon.

Everyone went to the wine bar down the street to celebrate, but I bailed because we're getting up early tomorrow morning to go the Raleigh farmer's market and shop for herb plants. Also because I don't drink wine or go to bars, so a wine bar isn't much of a draw for me. And also because I'm a poopyhead.

it takes all kinds

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I just got an invitation to join this group.

And here I thought the "I'm blogging this" t-shirt photo was going to get me porno attention! I would like to know if someone posted my tights photos there, but I don't really want to join the group to find out.

landscaping yay

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In all the craziness over the room I forgot to post about the landscaping. The whole family were here most of the day Sunday and basically finished the job. Peggy came back on Monday and put down mulch, but I wasn't here because I'm always out all day with meetings and my radio show on Mondays. Then Tuesday (as I think I did post) I ran into her at Home Depot and paid her.

The yard looks amazing. It looks as good as when we moved in. Actually better, because they took out the big cypress tree by the driveway, which I've always hated, and trimmed the trees out front which have always needed it.

My disappointments are few and minor, but this is my space to bitch and moan so I guess I will. First, they only dug up a few shrubs; most big things (including the cypress) they just cut down to the ground. I guess I should have realized that digging out stumps would take longer and cost more, so they wouldn't do it unless we specified. Second, I thought they were going to mulch that whole long area along the driveway, outside the fence, but they just mulched around individual plants. No big deal; I've already arranged with my friend David to get a load of mulch in his truck.

Those quibbles aside, I'm really happy with their work. It's like living in a whole different place, as I'm sure you can imagine from the photos. The dogs seem confused but happy. They've been spending their time outside wandering around the perimeter of the yard, checking things out.

So now I have a yard that looks nice, but is pretty bare. I need to get to work with mulching and planting right away, to keep it from getting overgrown again. Which brings me back to lack of time, the problem I had in the first place. Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago I hit my 8 week slump on my exercise program. This is a pattern for me: I throw myself into an exercise program, work really hard at it, then after about 8 weeks I start to think "why am I doing this? it's so narcissistic and takes so much time" and usually quit.

So I had stopped going to the gym about two weeks ago, and was feeling pretty guilty about it. Then last night it occurred to me that the four days I was working on the room were a way better workout than I would have gotten at the gym. Plus I had a beautiful room for my trouble, instead of a series of endless, pointless sessions on an elliptical machine.

I'm thinking about trying to use my exercise time on yardwork. Including travel time it had been an hour a day, sometimes more, 5-6 days a week. Rather than trying to go out and entirely do a major project in one go, I'll just do a little each day: plant one thing, pull up some bamboo, etc. I probably won't get as much exercise as if I were going to the gym -- there's no cardio to be found in gardening that I know of -- but it's heavy duty work so I think I'll still get some benefit out of it. Anyway I'm going to give it a couple of weeks & see how I feel about my physical condition and my yard's condition. If it's not working out, I'll renew my gym membership (which coincidentally expired at the end of last week because of the term starting). But if I could stick with this until my next 8 week slump, I'd get a heck of a lot done.

while georg was out, part 5

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Tuesday, 8:45 am. Got the headboard mostly painted this morning. It looks really nice. It's amazing what a difference a second coat of paint makes. Unfortunately the brushes weren't dry yet from last night. So I can't finish the fiddly bits of the headboard until I go to Home Depot and get another brush. They open at 9, so I have just enough time to write this before I go.

I expect painting the room to take about 3 hours. Then I've got to take the paneling to the dump, clean up, and put back all the furniture. I can get all that done by 7. It will be a rush, but I can do it.

Time to go to Home Depot.

10:30. I'm almost finished painting the headboard -- just waiting for one part to dry so I can slide the doors over and paint behind the other side. Waiting for David to get here with his truck to take the paneling to the dump.

I thought Home Depot would be deserted at 9 am, but apparently that's when all the contractors go get supplies. So I had to wait in line behind a guy getting ten different gallons of paint. Grr! Fortunately another employee came to help after a few minutes.

I ran into Peggy, the landscaper, while I was there. Since the job is finished and I had missed her yesterday, I wrote her a check on the spot. I hadn't gotten money from Georg before he left, so when I got home I thought gee, I better make sure I have enough to cover that check. Went online and saw a balance of $300 in my checking account. Ack! A few seconds of mad panic, thinking that I was going to have to call Peggy immediately and ask her to wait until tomorrow to cash my check, and how humiliating that would be. Then I looked at the detailed view and saw that the $300 balance was after the check I had just written her. She must have driven to the bank the minute she left Home Depot. I had no idea checks could clear that fast. I thought there was a delay of a day while the check went from the depositor's bank to the check writer's bank. But apparently not, because that check showed up in my statement about 20 minutes after I wrote it.

David is here. yay!

3:00. The trip to the dump took an hour; painting took 3, just as I expected. The color is more blue than I had wanted. I hope it turns more grey as it dries. Or looks less intense when all our stuff is back in the room. Didn't I say I'm bad at selecting paint colors?

4 hours left to clean up and put everything back. Oh, and take a shower. I am gross!

5:15. The furniture is in! The bed is made! The color does look a little less blue with other things in the room. Actually it looks just right on the walls that get direct sunlight. Unfortunately, it looks a little too dark & blue on the walls that don't, which is most of the room.

It's a good thing I'm so extremely dirty and sweaty, because my desire to keep my filthy self out of my nice clean bed is overriding my desire to lie down and rest. Time to install lighting and hang the curtains.

7:15. I made myself late hanging a picture, but the room looks great. Time to leave for the airport.

9:30. We're back! Georg is suitably wowed by the room. We're eating dinner now. I was too busy to eat all day (almost literally -- all I ate was an Atkins bar around noon, and two slices of cheese around 6), and Georg was stuck in an airport or on an airplane, so we both wolfed down our food. Q Shack, god damn is it good! I threw caution to the wind and had the brisket plate with mac & cheese and onion rings. Mmmm, mac and cheese. They were about to close so the guy loaded up our to go boxes with huge portions. The hush puppies were awful, stale and doughy, but everything else was fantastic. I so needed that.

while georg was out, part 4

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Monday, 11 pm. Things are still going on schedule, but it's been tough. Working hard all day, every day, and then sleeping poorly every night (I've been too tired to open up the air mattress, instead I've been passing out on the couch around midnight every night) is starting to take its toll on me. I will be so glad to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night.

They got the station back on the air so I did have to do my show after all. It was fun to be there, but it would have been nice to have that time here.

I got back to work around 5, cleaning the headboard so I could prime it. Which took a little longer than I had hoped -- all those fiddly bits where the doors slide back and forth, to paint in and around. Ray and Christa came at 7 to help prime. Have I mentioned that I have amazing friends? I had just started cutting in when they got here, and the two of them took over and did all the priming, all I had to do was finish up priming the headboard.

There were only a couple of goofs: first and most seriously, the old paint started peeling up off another wall when Ray tried to prime over it. Ugh! It looks horrible and scabby. I ought to resand that entire wall, but it's not going to happen if the bedroom is going to be put back together by tomorrow evening.

Second, we made the mistake of turning up the ceiling fan, which brought down a shower of plaster dust. I hadn't thought to dust it when I was cleaning the floor and walls! When it started, all three of us just stood there like, "duh, what? what's that stuff falling on my shirt?" Ray was the first one to figure out what was going on. I think we got it turned off before much dust got on the walls.

Also, we were surprised to discover that paint rollers come in different sizes, because the rollers I had bought were too short for the metal handle. Actually the rollers were the right size; it was the handle that was too wide. The handle was also too wide for the paint tray and Ray had to sort of dip it in diagonally. Who knew? I had assumed paint rollers were all a standard size, at least the big ones.

The last goof was potentially the worst, but turned out to be nothing at all. Christa was up on the folding bench (which is a cool thing by the way: made of aluminum like a ladder, but it's a bench so you don't have to get down and move the ladder as often) and I was working on the headboard. I tried to move the headboard with one hand while holding my little paint tray in the other. Unfortunately the headboard got caught on the slippery plastic drop cloth and tipped right over. It could have knocked Christa off the bench and really hurt her, but it fell just short of the bench, thank god. The only damage was a bruise where it bonked me on the leg.

Christa gave me advice on the wall color, which is always a problem for me. You'd think from my profession that I'd be good at picking out colors, and I do feel comfortable selecting colors for design projects. But for some reason I lack confidence with paint colors. I can't look at a color chip and visualize how it will look on an entire wall.

I wanted the wall color to look nice with the furniture, which is white with light green frosted glass. So I got out my copy of Color Image Scale by Shigenobu Kobayashi (which I had forgotten I had until Lisa reminded me of it) and we picked out a nice soft blue that goes with the green glass.

Christa also advised me on what to do about that short wall with the contact paper. After only 1 day it's already starting to peel off, so it obviously won't work even as a temporary solution. We agreed that it was best not to waste the effort trying to paint it, but just leave it as is so Georg and I can replace the drywall maybe next weekend. So the room won't be quite finished when he gets home tomorrow.

And Ray offered some tips on making sure the surprise isn't spoiled for Georg -- I was planning to post all these entries today at 1:30, when Georg gets on his plane. But Ray warned me to be sure the plane leaves on time, because otherwise Georg might be sitting in the Las Vegas airport websurfing just as I upload all my posts. Ray also suggested I make sure it's a nonstop flight (it is).

They left around 9 and then I had dinner and got caught up on some work. Now I'm tired. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day. I have to go to Home Depot and buy the paint, get David to come over with his truck so we can load up the paneling and take it to the dump, paint the walls, paint the headboard, clean the room, put up the lights and curtains, and replace all the furniture. Who-ee! Hope I can get it all done in time. I have be done by 7 pm to pick Georg up at the airport.

while georg was out, part 3

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Monday morning. I had hoped to prime the walls last night, but I ran out of steam in early evening while I was sanding the fourth wall. I really made a mistake on those goggles. I should have splurged for the kind that look like glasses. The cheap kind fog up really fast. I had to stop every few minutes and go wipe them out with a tissue. Otherwise I couldn't even vaguely see what I was doing.

Also I should have realized cleaning up would take a while. Because it wasn't just running the tack cloth over the walls, but also getting the dust up off the floor. Man, there was a lot of dust in that room. I still need to mop the floor but I swept and vacuumed and it's mostly cleaned up.

Anyway, between being tired and moving slowly on these jobs, and also going over to feed & walk Corn Dog, plus having some actual work (you know, the paying kind) I didn't get back to work on the room last night, and somehow managed to plan so poorly that I ate dinner around 10 pm. After that I watched a very slight movie (Night Nurse starring Barbara Stanwyck, soon to be written up) and fell asleep on the couch without even bothering to open the air mattress.

This morning I've got work to do & then, as usual, I'm out most of the day with meetings. The station is back on the air, which I confess I'm bummed about. I mean, I'm glad we're not off the air for days at a time, but I could have really used that time here. Oh well! I still have enough time to get everything done. The plan is to prime the walls and headboard tonight, then tomorrow paint the wall color, paint the headboard, clean up and put everything back. The painting will go fast because the baseboards and window frames are down. So the only trim is around the 2 doors and there's very little cutting in to do.

I wish I could start priming right now! But this client work has to be done first.

while georg was out, part 2

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Sunday, 4 pm. This morning I got back to work around 9. My friend David and his friend Hervé came over in mid-morning to help patch the plaster. They also helped me figure out what to do about the drywall, which was a serious mess. Whoever had put up the wood paneling had glued it right to the bare, unprimed drywall. The result was big tears in the drywall where the glue took off the top layer. We didn't think that spackling and sanding bare drywall would work very well, and the torn edges were really rough.

So we went to Home Depot, where they suggested that we cover it up with contact paper and just prime and paint right over the contact paper. Luckily Hervé is tall, unlike me or David, so he had the job of hanging the contact paper. It's a little bumpy over the torn edges, but once it's been primed and painted I guess it will look ok.

To be honest I'm dubious of this as a solution to the problem. It seems like the real solution is to replace the messed up drywall with new. But there's no way that's happening this weekend. Oh well, I'll go with the contact paper for now, and if it starts to peel off the wall we can go back and fix it for real. We did at least use additional adhesive, not just the sticky that's already on it.

Anyway, after lunch with David and Hervé I got to work on the sanding. It was much easier today; I must have just been tired yesterday. I got three walls done in an hour, and would have done the fourth but it wasn't quite dry yet (Hervé went really thick with the plaster. Which is good, it will be nice and smooth, but it takes a little longer to dry).

I'm going to go buy tack cloth now. My method for quickly cleaning plaster dust off walls is to attach tack cloth to a Swiffer, and mop the dust right off the walls. By the time I get back, the last wall will be dry enough to sand. Then time to clean up, and I might even be able to prime tonight. Yay! Plus, the station is off the air right now and if they don't get it up again by tomorrow, I won't have to do my show and that will be two hours more for painting. Now comes the hard part: deciding what color to paint!

while georg was out

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While Georg is in Vegas, I'm doing some work on the house to surprise him. (I'm writing this on Saturday night but I won't post it until he gets back on Tuesday so as not to spoil the surprise.) Before you say anything, yes this is kind of like that show. Except that I don't have a TV designer installing a lame "design" that features shoddy workmanship and lots of MDF. Or leaves glued to construction paper and called art. Or TV cameras following everyone around. Or an army of PAs doing the real work. OK, actually the only thing in common with the TV show is that I'm doing one room, it's a surprise, and it has to happen very fast.

When we moved in to this house, every room had that horrible fake wood paneling. Room by room we've been slowly removing it, and the bedroom is the last room left. That's what I'm doing this weekend: pulling down the paneling, repairing the plaster, and painting. I dropped Georg off at the airport at 8:30 this morning and got to work as soon as I got home.

I couldn't get all that done by myself in four days, but lucky for me I have the help of some amazing friends. Lisa came early this morning, just after I had gotten started, and stayed until almost 4. Together we got tons done, way more than I had expected. We pulled out all the paneling, trim and baseboards, scraped off all the glue, and even had time for a nice lunch at the Q Shack.

The glue came off much easier than it had in the other rooms. In some places we didn't even need the heat gun; it came off with just a scraper. After a while we realized that the reason it was coming off so easily was that the paint underneath was so fragile, it was peeling away from the wall. We were concerned about moisture damage messing up the paint. But eventually it became clear that previous residents had painted latex over oil, without bothering to prime.

I don't begin to understand the people who last decorated this house. What were they thinking? "Oops! We screwed up and the paint is peeling. Let's slap on some fake wood paneling instead of fixing it! And there's a hole in the middle of the floor. Let's patch it with wood that doesn't match and then cover it with cheap wall to wall carpet! Now let's install a built-in a bookshelf. No need to trim the carpet, we'll just put the bookshelf right on top of it!" Lisa and I discovered today that the carpet in one place runs under drywall. Most of the walls are plaster, but at some point a pantry was added to the kitchen, the walls of which (made of drywall) jut into the bedroom. Instead of trimming the carpet, they just put the drywall on top of it. We had to cut the carpet away, because it couldn't be pulled out from under there.

After Lisa left I kept working until about 8. I sanded the two walls with peeling paint (why did only two walls only have this problem? Like I said, I don't begin to understand) and started patching the plaster. The sanding was harder than I remembered, but that might be because I was already tired from a full day's work. Got the plaster entirely patched on one wall, but the wall with the most gaps (2 doors) so I'm less than 25% done.

Then I quit for the night. At which point I discovered that when we unloaded the bedroom furniture and piled it up in the study, I had neglected to keep my dresser drawers where I could reach them. But I was able to climb over everything and get to some clean clothes. I somehow managed to convince myself that cooking would take less energy than driving to Bojangles, so I even ate relatively healthy. It's 10 pm now, and I'm exhausted. I'm going to be sleeping on the air mattress in the living room because the bed is with the rest of the bedroom furniture in the study. I'm watching The Maltese Falcon but I probably won't make it all the way through the movie.

h.m. pulham, esq.

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August 15 movie: H.M. Pulham, Esq. Robert Young is a rich Bostonian who spends the movie in flashback, thinking about the life he could have had as a New York adman with career woman Hedy Lamarr. Based on a book by John P. Marquand, this was a thoughtful, sensitive character study of the two leads: where they came from, what they gave each other & why they didn't last. I don't know what the book was like, but the tone of the movie is a wistful look back on lost opportunity.

Good supporting work by Charles Coburn as Young's father, Van Heflin as the best friend, and especially Ruth Hussey (Liz Imbrie from The Philadelphia Story) as the Boston woman everyone wants Young to marry. But I have to close with a major "Boo!" to TCM for messing up the schedule for this movie, so the DVR cut off about a minute before it ended. I think I have the gist of it but it would have been nice to actually see the ending.

night nurse

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August 15 movie: Night Nurse. Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell play young nurses who uncover a scheme to murder two young girls for their trust funds. Which makes the plot sound much more substantial than it really is. The real point of the movie is Stanwyck and Blondell changing in and out of their uniforms, which they do as often as possible in this pre-code film. Seriously, the cost of lingerie must have been one of the largest line items in the budget. Also, a moustache-less Clarke Gable has a small part as a villainous gangster/chaffeur who punches Stanwyck's lights out (off camera).

Night Nurse allowed me to shut off my brain and soak up some cathode rays, and for that I thank it. But I can't otherwise recommend it unless you're hankering to see a very young Barbara Stanwyck in a bra and half-slip. Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good way to spend 72 minutes.

good morning, surprise

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The landscapers are here! Last week they kept saying they were coming at 8, and then showing up at noon. (though I must add that they get more done in three hours than I thought they would in a whole day, so I have no complaints.) Today I wasn't expecting them at all and they were here before 7:30. Good thing the dogs woke me up to go outside at 3 am, because they have to stay inside while the landscapers are here. In fact Thirteen was still outside when they arrived. She woke me up barking at them, which was good because I was up and dressed before they got going.

I offered them coffee but they said they had eaten at Bojangles on the way over. They say they're going to be done today. I'm amazed at how fast they work. Right now they're cleaning the gutters, raking the grass to get up the smallest debris, stacking wood, loading branches into their truck (which is blocking my driveway, good thing I don't need to go anywhere this morning) and cutting stuff down in the last corner they hadn't gotten to.

I wonder if the noise is annoying the neighbors. Probably not as much as looking at my yard used to. On Friday Peggy (the landscaper) told me that several neighbors asked her if she was moving in. I asked her if she said "no such luck."

the new number two

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BBC America is showing The Prisoner on Friday nights. I'm watching last night's right now, thanks to the DVR. It's "The General." Not one of the best episodes, but still not bad. Last week was one of the best: "Schizoid Man." But they're all good, except the one where McGoohan was away filming Ice Station Zebra and they had some other actor play Number 6. That was lame.

Once upon a time I was really into this show. It's surreal, paranoid, misanthropic and deeply cynical. What's not to love? It's not my favorite show anymore (maybe I'm just not cynical enough these days) but I still have a great fondness for it. I still think it has the best opening credits sequence of any TV show ever. I'm grateful to BBC America for giving me the chance to watch these episodes again.

relief

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Sounds like the hurricane was pretty bad in Florida, but in Durham it was nothing at all. I was expecting heavy rain and scary wind all day, but all we got was a light drizzle. The sun's out now!

Good thing I didn't go crazy with the pre-disaster panic. On the way to the airport Georg was telling me about going to the grocery store before some other impending weather crisis (maybe Hurricane Floyd) and seeing a woman with a dozen bottles of tonic water in her cart. They were out of bottled water and she must not have known what tonic water tastes like. Maybe she thought it was like soda water. Or maybe she just had a lot of gin.

it's that time again

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Yes, it's hurricane season. For us in central NC, this usually means mad panic followed by nothing more than an usually heavy rain. But occasionally we do get an actual hurricane.

It just started pouring a few minutes ago and will probably continue until tomorrow night. I can always tell when a bad storm is moving in because the dogs act clingy and Thirteen gets very upset. I think the sudden change in pressure affects her arthritis or something.

Georg's plane leaves tomorrow morning at 10 (did I mention that Georg is going to a baking convention in Las Vegas? the lucky bastard!) and we're crossing our fingers that the weather doesn't cause problems for his flight. It shouldn't, since the hurricane isn't supposed to reach coastal NC until 2 pm tomorrow.

Perhaps I should be more concerned, but my hurricane planning was fairly minimal: I plugged in the big car battery charger to make sure it's fully charged. That's it. I already have flashlights, candles, matches, food for me and the dogs, and a full tank of gas, so I didn't feel like anything else was necessary. I didn't even need to buy charcoal because the gas stove will still work if the power goes out. Which I don't think it will. They're not predicting the hurricane getting that close to us.

when it rains

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Apparently hiring a landscaper is like washing your car: it causes rain.

Because of the torrential rain today, the landscapers only got about 3 hours of work in. But in that three hours they managed to cut down all the scrub and brush on one side of the yard. Which scrub is now in a huge pile in the middle of the yard, so it actually kind of looks worse right now. She said that her husband is the tree guy, and when he comes to take out the cypress and trim the other trees (Saturday, weather permitting) he's going to bring a big truck to load up all the debris.

So I guess the pile of debris is going to get a lot bigger before it gets smaller. They're supposed to come really early tomorrow so get as much done as possible before it rains again. Their trucks block our driveway, so Georg and I are going to have to move our cars tonight. This morning I left mine around the corner, then forgot to wear waterproof shoes and had to walk through tall wet grass in that rain. Squish, squish!

This afternoon I met Corn Dog and learned his exercises so I can look in on him over the weekend while Charlotte is busy. He's a sweetie! So skinny though. You can count his ribs, and I've never seen such a narrow waist on a dog before. It's especially pronounced on a long-waisted dachshund, & makes him look positively emaciated.

He is a good dog though. Very sweet, no aggression at all. He barked when I first came up to the door, but in a "Hey! I see you!" way, not a hostile way. And he even let Charlotte's cat explore his food dish right after he had eaten (after living together for 12 years, my dog Lina still growls if Thirteen gets too close to her food dish!). He does cling to Charlotte and whine a bit, but my goodness, after all he's been through I think he's showing a remarkably good temperament.

I had just commented to Christa yesterday that I had taken to carrying my camera all the time now, to catch random photos. Then today I missed one because the camera was on the other side of the room! I was at Stoneline and their cute kitty, who is still lonely, was hanging out with me & acting a bit rowdy since she hasn't had anyone to play with. At one point she got up on the desk and started chasing the cursor on the screen! I would slowly move the mouse back and forth, and she would bat at it with her paw. It was too cute for words. Sickeningly cute. She kept at it for minutes & probably would have kept going, but when I got up to get my camera and the cursor stopped moving, she lost interest.

The things I learned today were far less painful than yesterday's "grommets are not reversable":

1. Do not check email while making a grilled cheese sandwich. Carbonized bread does not taste good. Although the cheese was nice and melty.

2. I know more ASP than I give myself credit.

3. If I want a lot of comments, just post a photo of my boobs.

today's lesson

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Today's lesson: I should never work on a project while tired, or while watching The Daily Show. I just set half the grommets backwards.

Unlike a seam, grommets can't be pulled out and done over. That whole end piece of the corset will have to be removed and thrown away. I have enough fabric to cut those pieces again, but I'm going to have to order more grommets. Oh well, it could be worse. At least it can be fixed without too much anguish.

The other lesson for today: the $36 grommet setter from corsetmaking.com is a complete waste of money. In case anyone ever finds this post while looking for tips on corset making, or grommet setting, don't waste your money on that grommet setter. The one that looks like a hole punch, with two handles. It's impossible to press the handles tightly enough to set the grommet. I ended up having to hold it down and whack it with a hammer, which was very awkward. The little grommet setter (just two pieces of metal you fit together and tap) is much cheaper and probably works better too. Although it wouldn't have prevented me from putting half of them in backwards.

bone casings

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Well I set out to put in the grommets last night, but it was kind of late and by the time I had attached the back facings, I realized that I was too tired to figure out how to use the grommet setter, measure and set 30 grommets without screwing up at least one of them. Which I do not want to do. So I made bone casings instead.

Bone casings, as you might guess, are the tubes of fabric that you put the boning in. Corsetry supply companies sell bone casing by the yard. A normal person would buy a few yards of bone casing, cut it to the needed lengths, and be done with it. But that would be way too easy for me. Oh no, I had to make my own bone casing out of the same silk I'm using for the outside of the corset. Of course, this silk isn't strong enough to withstand the pressure of tightlacing without the ends of the boning ripping through. So first I interfaced it with iron-on interfacing. Then cut it into 1" strips, each about a foot long.

Next the sides had to be folded under to make a 1/2" tube. The boning is 1/4" wide, so you'd think a half inch tube would be too wide. Aha, but you have to sew it down on both sides, and that takes a bit of width off. With a seam on either edge, it's a pretty snug fit as I recall.

Of course the bone casings all have to be exactly the same width. They're going to be on the outside and in a different color, so any variation in width will look really sloppy. The best way I've seen to do this is to set a pin into the ironing board with a gap of just the right width under the pin. Fold the strip of fabric, pull it under the pin and iron it as it comes out the other side, et voila! Neat little tubes of fabric, all the same size. The end you push through first ends up a touch too narrow, but I cut the strips a bit long so I can just discard the narrow ends. I did 15 bone casings last night, before I got so bored I couldn't stand it anymore. Unfortunately, I need 22. I don't think I can take bone casing again tonight, and it's early yet, so I'm going to work on those pesky grommets.

admitting defeat

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We finally called a landscaper. She came by to look at the yard yesterday, she's going to fax a quote today, and most likely start work tomorrow. Her name is Peggy Evans and I like her a lot. I got her name from someone on the Internetworkers list (a great list for this kind of referral by the way), who had been impressed with the work she did on a house with an overgrown yard that needed to be sold.

There was some ribbing about the condition of the yard -- when she got out of her truck, almost her first words were "When you said it was a jungle, you weren't kidding!" but she was pretty cool about it. She's going to rip out all the overgrowth, cut everything back, and mulch, but not plant anything. At this point I couldn't even visualize the yard well enough to decide where things should be planted. Peggy said the work will be done by just 3 people: her, her husband, and their employee. And she thinks they can do the front yard in three days. Wow! Depending on the cost we might have her do just the front yard now, and then the back in a couple of months. But I'm really hoping we'll be able to do the whole thing right away. She even offered to throw in power washing the house and awnings for free.

I asked her about the bamboo in the back, which has invaded from the neighbor's yard. She said that she can pull it out, but it's going to be a problem forever. I remembered later that I'd heard you can stop bamboo by digging 3 feet down and putting in a metal wall underground. When she comes back I'll ask her if she thinks that would be worth doing, or if there's already too much of it on our side of the fence. I should have had that done when I first moved in. But then again, I was broke when I first moved in, so broke that renting the equipment and doing it myself (if I even could have) would have been a problem.

We walked around and I pointed out the things I want to keep. There's not much: in the front yard just 4 trees, the butterfly bush, and the perennial herbs. Other than that, she has carte blanche to remove anything she thinks should go. She said that while she was at it, she'd take whatever loose dirt they have from removing things and put it around the foundation, which has gotten low because the dogs like to lie there & they usually scratch at the soil to make it cooler.

Also I warned her about the bunnies, pointed out where they live and asked her to be careful not to hurt them. She said that her husband loved animals so much that if he saw them, he would probably want to catch them and keep them as pets.

Georg and I were talking about it last night and we realized where things went wrong: in 2001, the year we were working on the tarot deck. Before that the yard wasn't a showpiece or anything, but we kept up and even did some improvements: we had a vegetable garden, a nice herb garden, and I had planted blueberries and had been working on making a flower bed in front by the mailbox. But the deck took up so much time, and my job was more than 40 hours at the time. We totally abandoned all yard work for about 6 months. After that we never got caught up again, not even close, and to be honest I pretty much stopped trying and left Georg to deal with it by himself.

But we've finally admitted defeat and brought in someone who can get us to a place where we can (and will) keep up with it in the future. I'm so excited about having a real yard again.

don't call us

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This afternoon I went to the Red Cross to get my blood test for the bone marrow donation program. Toni, the woman who did my blood test, was very nice, answered a lot of questions and gave me a handout to take home with lots of information.

It turns out that I'm at a fairly preliminary stage of this whole process. Toni told me that there are 6 antigens they need to match, called A, B, and DR (two of each). Nowadays, when someone joins the donor program registry, they test all six. But when I did it ten years ago, they only tested four, the A and B antigens. The blood they took from me today is to see if my DR antigens are also a match.

She said I'll be notified by mail between 1 and 3 months from now. If I am a complete match for the patient, I then have to go through another round where they take between 4 and 16 tubes of blood and test me for "highly specialized tissue matching" (whatever that means, it's what the handout says) and infectious diseases. I guess they don't want to give someone a bone marrow transplant and accidently give them hepatitis or HIV at the same time.

Toni said that sometimes if the transplant is urgent, they do a different kind of testing called "HR." But she didn't explain what that meant since it wasn't necessary. So I guess the patient in my case isn't in dire need, which makes me feel better. Because it sounds like chances aren't that good for me being able to help. I'm only a 2/3 match, and even if the blood test today comes up positive there's still the "tissue matching." If I did pass all those tests, then they would give me a physical exam to make sure the donation wouldn't be dangerous to me. Then I'd have to sign a statement that I was willing to donate, and only then would the patient be notified. Which makes sense; I'm sure they don't want to get people's hopes up until things look definite. (They said I could still change my mind even after signing the form. But jeez, who would go all that way and then back out? I think by that point, you'd feel connected to the transplant recipient and wouldn't want to let them down.)

Toni was surprised when I told her I had been sent all the way to Greensboro. She confirmed what I had suspected, that the woman who called me is very new to the job and not familiar with the region. Toni told me that although her official schedule puts her in Durham at a time I can't do, she often has to switch days and/or times. She gave me her business card so that at the next stage, if I get there, I can call her directly and schedule something more convenient.

Last, I asked her if the donation procedure is painful. She admitted that she's never had it done to her, so she can't tell me with 100% certainty. But she did say that the donors she's talked to say it isn't bad. Mostly they talk about feeling sore and tired for a couple of days afterwards. She said they usually schedule the procedure for a Friday, so the donor can rest over the weekend and be ready for work again by Monday.

Which was a big relief, because yesterday I talked to my friend Marc (an MD) and he said it was extremely painful. I believe his exact words were "They have to drill a hole in your bone! It's excruciating!" He also said that he had advised his wife not to join the donor registry because of the pain. When he realized that I was asking because I had been contacted about donating, he conceded that he would do it too if he were in my place (although, ever the optimist, he corrected my statement that I might save someone's life because in his opinion, the best a marrow transplant can do is prolong life).

The handout says that donor either gets a general anesthetic or an epidural, which seems like it ought to take care of the pain pretty well. And Toni told me that the procedure for the transplant recipient is a lot worse, it really is very painful, and that may be why donation has such a bad reputation. I would do it even if it were as painful as Marc suggested. I just want to be forewarned.

new sewing project

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I just started a rather involved sewing project and I thought it would be fun to blog the project from start to finish, with photos along the way. (People who don't care about sewing should probably skip this whole series; I'm not going to give you a cookie for reading it if you don't want to.) Unfortunately I had this idea after I'd already bought the fabric and done the first bit of sewing, so I can't write it up from the very start. But pretty close.

The project is my Halloween costume for Lisa's party. I'm making this pattern. The whole thing: corset, chemise and drawers. I'll be Scarlett O'Hara before the ball. Fiddle dee-dee!

I made a corset once before, but I was a lot less experienced at sewing then so it didn't turn out as well as I might have hoped. It was a Victorian pattern from Past Patterns. They have a great reputation for authenticity, and the saleswoman was very helpful on the phone. I bought the "corset kit" from them which includes everything you need. It's great for a first attempt because you don't have to figure out what supplies to buy, but the fabric is kind of ugly. Plus there must be something funky about their sizing because it never fit right, especially in the bust. I cut it open and took the boning, busk and laces for re-use. I guess you could call it my "parts corset."

This time I put more time into planning so it will look nicer and (I hope) fit better. The pattern is to be made out of only one layer of fabric, with the boning on the inside. Corsets need to be made out of very sturdy fabric with very little give, but these fabrics tend not to look very nice. So I'm making mine out of three layers: duck canvas for strength, a simple cotton lining on the inside for comfort, and a pretty dupioni silk (on sale, yay!) on the outside for show. Also, instead of putting the boning on the inside, I'm making it out of a contrasting color of the silk and sewing it to the outside. I got this idea from a corset-making website and though probably not authentic, I think it will look nice.

The first step of course was to sew the layers together. Actually, the very first step was to edge the pieces with a zigzag to prevent unraveling. Normally I wouldn't bother when the edges will all be enclosed, but this silk frays so fast I figured I'd better do it, just to make it easier to work with. I did not edge the canvas or the cotton lining. But I digress.

OK, so the first step was to sew the pieces together. As you know if you have ever sewn anything, you always put the right sides of the fabric together, so that when you open it up the raw edges will be in back and won't show. But in this case, the raw edges are going to be hidden under the boning, which goes in front. So I had to sew everything with the wrong sides together. I was nervous about screwing this up -- it's just the kind of thing I would get wrong when hurrying, and I don't want to have to rip out any seams in this silk -- so I double checked each seam before sewing.

The only other complication was that the canvas was too thick to take pins. So I had to go slowly and just sort of hold the fabric together, an inch or two at a time. Actually it wasn't that bad. Since none of the fabrics are slippery, they stayed in place pretty well.

The second step was to flat-fell the seams. I wish I had taken photos of this step in progress because it's kind of hard to explain, but I found a page with photos here. Basically it means trimming one side of the seam allowance so it's shorter than the other, turning them to one side (with the longer one on top) and then sewing them both down. It makes a nice strong seam (because the seam now has two rows of stitching, not just one) so it's used on seams that will get a lot of stress. Like in jeans, or a corset.

Normally you would fold under the long edge of a flat-felled seam, so all the raw edges are neatly enclosed. I didn't bother with that here because the whole thing is going to end up underneath bone casings. All I need is the added stability.

And that's how far I got in one evening on my corset. Reading back over it, my post makes the work sound rather tedious. But it really is fun, in the sense that focusing on the details of a challenging project is fun. If you're still with me, the next installment will probably be putting in the busk and grommets. I'm supposed to do the bone casings next, but I want to be able to try it on first, since it will be a lot easier to alter before the boning is sewn in.

diy art car workshop

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The Chicks Rock "Build an Art Car" workshop has been scheduled for Sat. October 23 from 10 am to 1 pm. It's going to be so much fun!

Someone has donated a truck which we're going to turn into an art car. I want the car to have lots of different things going on, not one single decorative theme like Undersea Mah Jongg. Because I want it to be fun for the participants. Countless hours of tedious, repetitive work might be the reality of creating an art car in most cases, but it wouldn't make for an enjoyable workshop! (For the same reason I'm trying to avoid decorative techniques that take a lot of time to cover a small space, like the beading on my car.) I have some ideas percolating on the "Chicks Rock" theme and I'm going to hit up local thrift stores for donations of cheap materials.

Chicks Rock will have workshops going on all day, not just ours. But at the end of the day we're going to reconvene with as many local art cars as we can get, light them up, and do a glow cruise around Durham. The truck only goes 10 mph so we won't go too far afield -- probably just Ninth Street, maybe around the circle on East Campus, and a few neighborhoods around that area. It would be nice to promote the cruise in advance so people on the route know to watch for us. But, we won't have a parade permit or anything, so I'm a little concerned about drawing too much attention to it. (The Durham police have always been really nice to me, so maybe I'm worrying too much.) I might ask people I know who live in West Durham to have "porch parties" that night so we'll have some good spectators.

The date is perfect for me -- we're going out of town from the 9th to the 12th, so this way I have about 10 days in town to get ready. Unfortunately, Lisa won't be able to bring 9 Westy to the caravan since she has her own event the weekend of the 23rd. Which is a damned shame. Well I know of a couple other local art cars that may be able to come. And even if it ends up just being Undersea Mah Jongg and the Chicks Rock truck, it will still be fun.

I posted on the artcarz list and got some great advice for the workshops. Things I might not have thought of, like having a cleaning station (a bucket of water and bottle of hand cleaner) at every corner of the work area. Also advice on how to get donations of supplies, which I totally suck at. And suggestions on time-saving prep work I can do in advance. Yay for the artcarz people! They rule.

The only thing that concerns me is the 3 hour time frame. That seems like hardly any time at all to create an art car. However, one guy on the artcarz list told me that he and 10 high school students did an art car in 2.5 hours, so I guess it's possible. I just hope we get at least 10 people!

So now that Artscape is over and my photography class is over, it's time to get to work on planning the workshop. Which means I need to figure out what exactly we're going to be doing and convince someone to give me the materials. Eek!

final photography class

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Today was the final photography class. We broke into small groups of 2-3 people and each group set up their own little studio (Sonia had brought in a bunch of equipment, as had a couple of students) and did mini photo shoots. A lot of people said that they wished the entire class had been more like today's session. Which I definitely agree with. It's very helpful to be told basic principles, but I think most people do learn better by doing, at least with a skill set like photography.

A couple of people expressed to me that they were disappointed with the class overall. The general feeling seemed to be that Sonia is an excellent photographer, but maybe not so good at explaining or teaching a practical subject like this. I see their point: it was pretty clear from the beginning that she wasn't really prepared to teach this class. (She said herself that she doesn't normally do classes like this one, and wasn't expecting it until they asked her to teach it, a week or so before the class started.)

I did learn a lot, although I'm such a beginner that I really had nowhere to go but up. I guess if I were at a place of already understanding the basic principles of lighting, and wanting to learn some practical skills, I might have been disappointed with the class. But as it was I felt like I got a lot out of it. For instance, I would never have felt confident taking all those photos at Chicks Rock without this class.

The only bummer for today was that I was in a small group with a couple of people I had been hanging out with throughout the course. One of whom brought in a whole new set of lighting he had just bought, for not a lot of money (at least in studio lighting terms) which he was very excited to try out. And I really wanted to find out more about his equipment. But just as we were setting up, Sonia came up and said that another group needed someone with a digital camera, and she basically insisted that I go to that other group. I did have fun working with the other guys, but I was very disappointed about not getting to play with Mike's new equipment. Because I'd really like to look into getting some basic equipment, without having to invest a fortune.

The other bummer is that one of the students was talking about setting up an unofficial group to get together once in a while and talk about their work, but I stupidly forgot to give her my email address. However I have someone else's email so I'm hoping I can get in touch with that group.

I was supposed to go with Georg to see a Harold Lloyd movie at the museum tonight, but I was just way too tired to go out. So he went alone & I'm hanging out and relaxing by myself. I may do a little sewing. I haven't turned on my sewing machine in ages, and it always cheers me up.

sales tax holiday

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Tomorrow (Aug. 6) through Sunday (Aug. 8) will be NC's third annual Sales Tax Holiday. For those three days there will be no sales tax on clothing, footwear, and school supplies of $100 or less per item; sports and recreation equipment of $50 or less per item; and computers of $3,500 or less per item.

Time to go shopping!

the ultimate power of cute

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cornwallisa.jpgCharlotte and Christa have posted new photos of Corn Dog and an update on his condition. Prepare to go "Awwwwwww!" Seriously, these photos are not safe for those with a low cute tolerance. It's lucky that Lina is so hostile to new dogs, because otherwise I'd be fighting for a chance to adopt this little guy.

party

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The party was great fun! Besides me and Georg, there was Lisa B., Alicia, Charles, Christa, Ray, Lisa L., Jeff, Sylvia and Christine, who we could not persuade to have any cake.

Speaking of which, the cake was a hit so I guess it was worth all that work. Even Jeff (who has lots of commercial baking experience) liked it, which I have to admit I was nervous about. Which reminds me that I wanted to ask him a couple of questions about baking but I forgot. Like, how come the cake in the magazine photo has nice straight sides, but mine pulled away from the pan as it rose and ended up narrower at the top? I ended up having to glob on tons of icing to make the sides look smooth.

Icing the cake was actually kind of a nightmare, because I had let the icing get too warm and it was kind of melty and kept oozing down the cake while I was trying to work. Eventually I had to go to Stoneline, so I just threw the cake and the icing into the fridge to deal with when I got back. Which turned out to be the best thing for it: giving it a chance to cool down made it much easier to work with (even though I only had a few minutes after I got back before we had to go, so the stress level was much higher).

The one layer from the earlier batch looked different -- much yellower -- but the texture was only a bit denser. The taste was the same of course. I'm glad I used the extra layer though, as it made the cake rather impressively tall. It was so tall that the leftover bit (about a quarter of the cake) was slowly collapsing under its own weight. Luckily I noticed and put the lid back on the cake plate before it fell off onto the table.

It was fun to hang out with everyone, plans were made to wear cute dresses to the Chicks Rock show this Friday (well, actually that's pretty much all I wear in the summer, but making a plan to wear special clothes that match your friends' clothes is so much more fun), and best of all, with Lisa B. there, who is even more of a shutterbug than I am, I didn't feel like a dork for whipping out my camera.

Speaking of feeling like a dork, my one foot-in-mouth incident was when Sylvia was talking about doing step aerobics and I said, "You do step?" Which she unfortunately heard as "You do step?", as if I thought she was too much of a slug to exercise. But my surprise was actually not that -- Sylvia's a salsa dancer, she's very fit -- but that she was doing step aerobics. Which I thought everyone had stopped doing about ten years ago, in favor of spinning or pilates or whatever the new fad is. Actually, that's almost as tactless as what she thought I said.

more on cake

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Well I'm still waiting to put the icing on the cake. Because I messed something up last night & had to do it again this morning. It's a chiffon cake, which apparently means "light and airy because of beaten egg whites." (My favorite pumpkin pie recipe is the same way.) The cake instructions say to only put half the sugar in the batter, then after the egg whites are beaten, add the rest of the sugar to the egg whites. Then the egg whites are folded into the batter right before baking. I screwed up and accidently added all the sugar to the batter. I thought about adding more sugar to the egg whites, but I didn't want to throw off the proportions. Besides, it's all going into the same cake, so what's the difference?

A lot, apparently. I guess the sugar stabilizes the egg whites. Without it, they collapsed under the weight of the batter and the cake ended up very flat. So flat that I didn't think I'd be able to cut the thick layer in half like I'm supposed to.

So I went out this morning, bought more eggs, and baked another cake. It was lucky that eggs were the only ingredient I had used up. And by the way, can I say that separating egg whites is one of the most disgusting things about cooking? The most effective way to do it, in your hands, is just so gross. I really hate eggs. But even if I didn't, passing a raw egg back and forth between my hands would be disgusting.

Anyway. The second cake turned out nice and tall like the one in the picture. I'm waiting for it to cool so I can assemble & ice it. It was kind of a pain to bake the cake again, but at least the icing and filling didn't have to be done over. Maybe I'll stack one of the flat layers in with the new layers, and make the finished cake extra tall.

you know what I feel like doing?

say what?

I feel like baking a cake.

Mmm, what kind of cake do you want?

How about a pineapple upside down cake? Or maybe a chocolate devil's food cake.

Nothing like a chocolate devil's food cake.

Ooh, how about an angel cake?

Umm, some cinnamon?

Yeah, sure.

Sugar?

Yeah, uh huh. I swear.

You got a pan the right size?

A pan?

It says in this cookbook it takes a long time to rise.

I read that.

this won't hurt a bit

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Got a bizarre phone call today. I almost didn't answer because I was walking out the door to see a client, but I thought it might be them so I'd better pick up.

In fact it was not my client. It was the National Bone Marrow Donor Program, telling me that I may be a match for someone who needs a bone marrow transplant, and am I still willing to donate mine?

I didn't even know how they got my name at first, but then I remembered that about 10 years ago everyone in the office at my old job went down to Duke Hospital and got tested because there was a kid that needed a bone marrow transplant. I didn't realize they saved potential donor information permanently, but now that I think about it, duh, of course they do.

The woman on the phone couldn't tell me anything about the person who needs the transplant, except that it's a 31 year old woman with leukemia. I'm 35 so she's almost the same age as me.

They have to do more testing to be sure I'm truly a match for this person. So I have to go to the Red Cross in Greensboro on Tuesday to have blood drawn. Weirdly, they only do this particular testing once a week in each city, and the Durham schedule is 2:30-4 pm on Mondays. Which conflicts with my radio show, so I have to go to Greensboro instead. I don't know why my own doctor's office couldn't do the blood draw, but apparently they don't allow that.

I also don't know why I couldn't go to Raleigh, where I'm sure they have a Red Cross. I think the woman I was talking to wasn't all that familiar with this region, and once we established that Mondays in Durham weren't going to work she just started reading off the names of cities in the Carolinas. Greensboro was the first place she named that wasn't really far away (Charlotte, Columbia, etc) so I kind of jumped on that. Oh well, I like driving. Besides, I always get horribly lost in Raleigh so my travel time may actually be less this way.

I guess they'll tell me on Tuesday what happens next if I am a match. I looked at the Marrow Donor Program website which says that the donation procedure happens under anesthesia and the marrow is "withdrawn from the rear of the pelvic bone," you feel sore like you fell on your tailbone for a few days, and the missing marrow is replenished within a few weeks.

I hope this works out. It would be nice to be able to help someone, especially with so little effort on my part.

fist of legend

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July 31 movie: Fist of Legend. Georg and I had seen this movie before, when we showed it at the Starlite Drive-in as a benefit for the Asian film festival. But it showed up on IFC so we had to watch it again.

I think this is probably the best martial arts movie I've seen. The fighting is excellent, more realistic than a lot of HK films but still full of impressive moves. The big fight scene between Morpheus and Neo in the first Matrix movie owes a lot to this film (both were choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping). I think I read an interview with Jet Li where he talked about developing a modern fighting style for Fist of Legend that incorporated Western boxing moves, to contrast with the historical films he'd been doing previously.

I could go on and on about the fighting, but there are a lot of martial arts movies with great fighting. What I really love about Fist of Legend is the story. (And I don't often say that about a HK action film!) It's set during the Japanese occupation of China and the plot focuses on conflicts between Japanese soldiers and the members of a Chinese martial arts school.

Fist of Legend is a remake of the Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury, which I haven't seen. I've heard that Fist of Fury was fairly one-sided and anti-Japanese. (Not that I can hold that against them under the circumstances: Fist of Fury was made only a few decades after the occupation, which was brutal to say the least.) But Fist of Legend is more nuanced: the Chinese characters aren't all heroes, and the Japanese characters aren't all evil. The story is about racism and conflict on both sides.

The IFC version was dubbed so some of the acting was lost, but at least the dubbing wasn't horrible. And I must thank them profusely for showing it in letterbox! Pan and scan would have ruined some of the best fight scenes.

georg has a blog!

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Yes, Georg has a blog of his very own. (And what does that say about us, that we came home from his birthday dinner and spent the rest of the evening setting up his blog? it says that we are cool!)

The mondomundo.net domain name won't work until the dns transfer goes through (probably tomorrow), and we're using a bland default template until we can design something better, but he has content and it can be viewed here: http://www.funnystrange.com/mondomundo/

Yay!!

happy birthday georg

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Today is Georg's birthday! We're having a little party for him on Wed. night, but tonight we celebrated with a nice dinner out. We went to Lantern, the pan-Asian place on Franklin St. in Chapel Hill. Oh man was it good! First we shared a "hamachi tartare" appetizer, which was little chunks of raw yellowfin tuna in a silky sauce, with a little dash of wasabi and caviar. A nice balance of flavors, nothing overpowering.

Then for the main meal I had tea smoked chicken, which was wonderful. There was a distinct flavor of anise from the smoking, and I don't normally like anise, but this was blended just right with the other spices and turned out very nice. The chicken came with green beans in XO sauce, which I was interested in trying because Iron Chef Chen uses it all the time. But it was actually a bit too spicy for my taste.

Georg's entree was a special called "Six Hour Coconut Pork" or something. It was outstanding. Really tender slow cooked pork in a coconut sauce. To be honest, at the time I was wishing I had ordered it too, instead of the chicken. But now, a couple of hours after the meal, he feels overfull and I feel just right. So I think the chicken was the right call.

For dessert he had almond panna cotta with bing cherry sauce. I had a taste and it was nice and light. I had an ice cream sundae which turned out to be monstrous huge. It was hazelnut ice cream with whipped cream and chocolate sauce, on top of some weird (but good) crunchy meringuey thing. I couldn't finish it by myself, but it was really really good! The only thing wrong was that on top were a few pieces of peanut brittle, which I didn't see in the pile of whipped cream and chocolate sauce. Sticky crunchy things that are hard to chew (like peanut brittle) are very bad for my jaw, which is still sensitive from having had TMJ surgery a few years ago. Luckily I only ate one piece of the peanut brittle and then was able to pick out the rest.

For the party on Wed. I'm going to bake a cake, which I confess I'm a bit nervous about. I haven't baked in years (that whole "avoiding sugar and white flour" thing kind of took the fun out of it). But I found a recipe in Bon Appetit that sounds good, and uses blueberries which we happen to have a whole big package of.

help cornwallis

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One of the cutest dogs in the world* needs your help! His name is Cornwallis and he is a stray who was hit by a car right in front of my friend Charlotte Walton. She took him to the vet, and he's going to be okay, but he has a broken pelvis and the vet bills will run over $2000.

If you can help or if you just want to know more, click here for photos and info.


*seriously, this little guy is cute. As cute as Lina, even as cute as Nutty, and, if I must be honest, cuter than Thirteen. Please don't tell her I said that.

ultimate boring

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Didn't do a whole lot this weekend. It was nice to get some rest. I did take down some ugly shelves that had been over the bed and then put up a couple of reading lamps we had bought at Ikea. Then to celebrate we went to the library. They didn't have a bunch of the books on my list, but I did get a few.

First I read one called Ultimate Fitness by Gina Kolata, a science reporter for the NY Times. I had read an interview with Kolata which gave me the impression that the book was about debunking myths of exercise and fitness. (Like, all fit people are thin, or all thin people are fit. Which myth she does briefly address in the book.)

The book was partly about fitness myths, and that part was interesting. Also partly about the history of fitness fads over the past two hundred years, which was a little boring. But it was largely about the author's interest in spinning classes (those cardio classes on special stationary bikes), which was extremely boring. I mean, jeez. If I wanted to spend my entire weekend being lectured on the heady joys of spinning, I could hang around with gym rats.

So the book was mostly a disappointment. But there were some interesting tidbits, when she stopped prosletyzing for spinning long enough to address a few myths here and there. Like for instance, there's apparently no solid evidence that weight-bearing exercise prevents osteroperosis. According to Kolata, strength athletes like weightlifters do tend to have stronger bones, but that might just mean that people who are predisposed to be good at weight lifting are also predisposed to have strong bones. There is evidence that regular exercise helps prevent falling down, which is how bones are usually broken, but no evidence that exercise makes bones less likely to break when stressed. That was a bummer.

The only really useful information was that athletes tend to have irregular heartbeats and/or or heart murmurs. I've had an irregular heartbeat all my life. It used to bother me a lot -- would sometimes keep me awake at night -- but when I stopped consuming sugar and caffeine a couple of years ago, it went away. Which was great, until it came back a couple of months ago, right after I started exercising more vigorously and more regularly. I don't think it's anything to be alarmed about: it's never as bad as it used to be, and even back then a doctor told me it wasn't dangerous, just annoying.

But still, I had been wondering if I should be worried. Because isn't exercise supposed to improve your heart? That is why they call it cardio, after all. I had been thinking about seeing my doctor about it (I'm due for a checkup anyway) but was waiting until I could get my heart monitor replaced, so I could bring him some data on my resting heart rate, heart rate during arrhythmia, and so forth.

I probably will still mention it to my doctor next time I see him, but it was a great relief to read in this book that an irregular heartbeat is common among athletes and doesn't mean the heart is weakened or unhealthy. Not that I'm any kind of athlete, but I guess even the moderate exercise I'm doing is enough to aggravate the irregular heartbeat I already had.

Now I'm reading a Miss Manners book. Which is enjoyable, but not as much as I thought it would be. I'm noticing more and more what my friend Kevin pointed out a long time ago, that Miss Manners has no empathy whatsoever for people who work in the service industry. When interactions between customers and clerks, waitresses, cashiers, etc. go wrong, she invariably blames it all on the employee. One gets the impression that customers are never rude unless provoked by malicious or lazy clerks. In this book (I forget the title, something annoying about her rescuing civilization) someone wrote in to point out this very thing, and Miss Manners replied that she knows all there is to know about dealing with an angry public. I'm sure she does get a lot of rude letters in her line of work. But I have to say that if she thinks reading angry mail has much of anything in common with waiting on angry customers, she knows even less about the service industry than I thought.

Anyway, it's not high literature but it's still a fun way to kill a few hours. Which I seem to need, as I'm having trouble falling asleep tonight. This almost never happens to me. I think I ate too much garlic at dinner. Georg made his fabulous shrimp in mojo de ajo, and I maybe overindulged a little. But it was so good!

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