November 2004 Archives

amazing what 12 hours of sleep can do

| 6 Comments

Sunday night I had the horrible realization that I had gotten the dates wrong, and a big deadline I thought was Tuesday was really Monday. I blame those damned European calendars! Stayed up almost all night working on it, but at least it got done and the client is happy. Monday was a busy day, then last night I crashed after dinner and slept all evening and all night. Woke up feeling great. I guess catching up on sleep worked after all.

My next door neighbors just got wireless. They have a massively strong signal. In my living room I get a better connection on their network than on mine. My network is actually kind of bad in the living room, sometimes I have to move the laptop around on the table to get a connection at all. I feel a little guilty about using their network, but it's not like I'm doing anything bandwidth intensive. Besides, I didn't do it intentionally. My laptop is set up to go for the best available, so it jumped onto their network automatically. When I'm working in my study, which does use more bandwidth, it goes back to our network.

One (or maybe both) of the dogs has decided that the bales of straw we're using for mulch are fun to play with. Every time I go outside, there's more straw strewn about. I'm not going to scold them though. Time they spend pulling apart the straw is time they aren't digging up my hydrangeas. Hmm, maybe I should keep an extra bale of straw around to distract them from the flower beds.

I did a little more yardwork today, planting those last daffodils. Daffodils are no fun because they have to go so deep in the ground. Also because I hear they tend not to do well in the hot, damp South, and all that digging may be for nothing if they rot in the clay soil next summer. I splurged and got myself some waterproof gardening clogs, in a cute bright green, and a foam kneeler thing. My knees still got gross from dirt getting on the foam thing, but it was a lot more comfortable.

ready to wear

| 1 Comment

Nov. 30 movie: Ready to Wear. In case you haven't heard, this movie sucks. It was supposed to be a cynical insider comedy, The Player of fashion, but it's just a chaotic, unfunny mess. For a while my ex and I had a tradition every Christmas day, of going to the Carolina Theatre to see an eagerly anticipated indie film that turned out to suck bigtime. Ready to Wear was one of them.

It's not all bad though. There are some good moments. Richard E. Grant is funny as a Galliano-esque designer. And there are lots of runway shows full of wacky, now tacky, early 90s fashions. The Isaac show had "Twiggy Twiggy" as soundtrack music, which if I recall correctly, was the first time I ever heard Pizzicato Five. That's something to recommend the movie. I remembered a couple of the shows from having seen them in magazines at the time, definitely Gaultier's eskimo collection. It makes me wonder how Altman filmed this? Did he film at the actual shows, with his actors in front row seats? It seems like he must have. It would have been difficult to recreate those shows with all the models and real industry people. And now I've put way more energy into thinking about this movie than it deserves.

the best years of our lives

| No Comments

Nov. 30 movies: The Best Years of Our Lives. Thoughtful, deeply affecting movie about three soldiers just back from WWII, dealing with emotional and physical battle scars and trying to find a place for themselves back home. The performances are nicely restrained, giving realism to the sense of loss and alienation. There's beautiful camera work by Gregg Toland, with these deep focus scenes where different things are happening simultaneously in the foreground, middle ground and background.

It's interesting to compare this movie to Since You Went Away, which is all about waiting for the soldier's return, and makes it seem like everything will be sunshine and roses after he gets back. It makes me wonder, when Claudette Colbert's husband came home after the movie ended, did he feel like a stranger to his family? Did he have recurring nightmares? Did his job seem trivial and pointless?

The three soldiers were Fredric March, Dana Andrews, and Harold Russell, who was not an actor but a war veteran and double amputee. Russell's performance is heartbreaking. He's the only person ever to win two Oscars for the same role: Best Supporting Actor and a special award for being an inspiration to veterans. The movie also starred Myrna Loy as March's wife, Teresa Wright as his daughter, Virginia Mayo as Andrews' wife, and a small part for Hoagy Carmichael as Butch, the proprietor of a little bar. Carmichael played the piano a couple of times but alas, didn't sing.

the man who came to dinner

| No Comments

Nov. 29 movie: The Man Who Came to Dinner. No, this isn't the movie where Sidney Poitier wants to marry Spencer Tracy's daughter. That's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. This is a very funny movie with Monty Wooley as an imperious radio star who breaks his leg and has to stay in some hapless man's house over the holidays, and Bette Davis as Wooley's personal assistant, whose life he tries to control with hilarious results. It's way too early for a Christmas movie but this is so funny, it's worth watching any time of the year. Also stars Jimmy Durante as, well as himself basically. Durante plays himself in pretty much every role.

wildlife report

| No Comments

I totally forgot to mention, while I was outside weeding today, three deer came running out of my next door neighbor's yard, crossed the street, then disappeared into the woods behind the yard across the street. I live on a busy road and the deer stopped traffic, which kindly waited for the third deer, lagging somewhat behind the other two.

I wouldn't have seen them except the dogs did, and went nuts with the barking. I thought it must be a jogger and turned around to look, and there were the deer. Wow. That's the closest I've ever been to wild deer except for seeing them on the roadside while I was driving my car at night. We've seen deer on other parts of Cole Mill before, mostly near the golf course, but never right here.

In other wildlife news, I made an attempt at squirrel proofing our bird feeders. Georg bought a domed baffle which I put up over the little tube feeder. And I found some leftover bathroom tiles from our bathroom renovation and taped them inside the "squirrel-proof" feeder, covering the little holes that the squirrels have been using to get to the seed. Also we replaced the suet feeder, which the squirrels had knocked to the ground and eaten up, with new suet that has hot chilis in it. Apparently the birds can't taste the chilis but the squirrels can.

The red-bellied woodpecker has found the seed feeder. I didn't even know woodpeckers liked seed feeders but apparently they do. I've seen him on it every day for the past few days. And he's been hanging around a lot in the tree it hangs from. Maybe he'll build a nest there. Also there's a wren that keeps getting through the dog door onto the porch. Luckily he seems to have figured out how to get out as well. Making the wren more intelligent than my dog Thirteen, who can only get out the dog door, not in. Thirteen is a good dog but she's sometimes not very smart. Or should I say, there are inexplicable gaps in her problem solving abilities.

another busy day in the yard

| 4 Comments

The weather was beautiful today, perfect for yardwork. I didn't get the last of the daffodils into the ground, but I did make some good headway on preparing the soil for the vegetable garden next year. It's the bed along the driveway, which seems like a weird place to put your vegetable garden, but it's good for two reasons: first, it gets the most sun of any place in the yard, and second, it's outside the fence where the dogs can't dig it up, chew on the plants or poop in the soil.

Speaking of dogs messing up garden beds, yesterday we put a new fence around the hydrangea bed. It's hideous. A 3 foot high green plastic monstrosity. Thank you Lina! We also saw a dog and cat repellant spray called "Pet B Gone" or something. I looked it up online and it's reportedly effective, but contains capsicum (the active ingredient in chili peppers). It's the same stuff they give mailmen to spray in the faces of attack dogs. I even read that it's so powerful it can be used to ward off bears. I'm not comfortable spraying that in my garden. I want to stop Lina from digging up the flowerbeds, but not if I have to torture her. Other recommended dog repellants include vinegar, which is unfortunately toxic to plants, and moth balls. Which I think I will try.

Anyway, back to the vegetable garden. I thought about it last night and decided that I like the idea I had yesterday, to add organic material by burying dead leaves under a layer of soil. It seems like the leaves should rot under the soil and make a nice layer of compost. We have tons of leaves, so why not? Even if it doesn't work like I hope it will, it certainly won't hurt anything.

The bed is 45 feet long and 7 feet wide. Which seems pretty daunting: every time I think about trying to clear that whole bed, I end up panicking and doing something else instead. So today I just did a little area about 5 feet wide. I pulled back the black plastic, which by the way, seemed to work better at killing weeds than over by the blueberries. Maybe because it gets more sun, so the soil got hotter underneath the plastic. Anyway I pulled back about 5 feet of plastic, then dug up the few weeds with deep enough roots to survive 2 months under black plastic. Luckily my friend Pete had lent me a small mattock, so I didn't miss my broken one. I even dug up a stump about 3 inches in diameter. Which sounds more impressive than it was, because the soil was so dry and crumbly. It wasn't too hard to clear the soil away from the base of the stump with the mattock, then chop it out with an axe. I hope I got it deep enough that it won't come back.

Clearing the ground was the hard part. Then I raked up a wheelbarrow full of leaves and piled them up on the ground, then covered that with a thin layer of compost and peat. Covered it with newspaper to keep weeds down over the winter, and then straw over the whole thing. Then I hosed it down, to wet the straw and keep it from blowing away. Next spring I hope I'll have a nice layer of organic material to turn into the ground. Even if I'm totally wrong about this, and end up with nasty wet leaves and straw sitting on top of clay, it won't be any worse than if I'd left the plastic all winter.

While I was doing all that, Georg cleaned up the front porch, got rid of all the trash, then organized the gardening tools, art car supplies and toolbox. Because he is amazing.

This afternoon I spent an Amazon gift certificate from my folks. I bought 2 gardening books, one about vegetable gardening and one about organic gardening. I don't have a huge moral investment in organic gardening; I don't object to artificial fertilizers and pesticides on general principles, if they're safe and do the job. But having pets makes me reluctant to use chemicals in the yard unless absolutely necessary. Besides, an unintended result of our total yardwork negligance is that we're starting with a clean slate in terms of organic methods. I don't think we've used a single chemical in the garden or yard in the seven years we've lived here. Well, I may have used some fertilizer on the vegetable garden that first year, I can't remember. But that's in a totally different part of the yard, and nothing since then.

Also I ordered a DVD I'm very excited about: The Man With a Movie Camera with the Cinematic Orchestra score! I didn't know it existed, but I was checking to see if Cinematic Orchestra had a new album out and it came up. Amazon was out of stock, but they had someone else selling a copy of it. Yay! Playing the DVD on mute and then simultaneously playing my CD of the score was my best approximation. But it wasn't great because some of the tracks had been shortened, so it was difficult to sync the two. I can't wait to see the movie with the soundtrack as it's meant to be heard.

my man godfrey

| No Comments

Nov. 27 movie: My Man Godfrey. A crazy thing happened tonight. I had no movies saved on the DVR, nothing from Netflix, and nothing good on TCM. What's a girl to do?

Dip into the DVD collection of course, with one of the great screwball comedies. William Powell plays Godfrey, a down-on-his-luck former Boston aristocrat who somehow ends up working as the butler for an insane Park Avenue family, which includes grumpy father Eugene Pallette, ditzy mother Alice Brady, bitchy sister Gail Patrick, long-suffering maid Jean Dixon, and our heroine, Carole Lombard. The family are mostly likeable, but there's an edge to the humor that keeps it from being saccharine. The humor also balances a storyline about homeless men which could have been heavy-handed and preachy, but ends up just a light social satire.

This movie is hilarious from beginning to end. The DVD has some nice extras, especially a blooper reel showing Carole Lombard flubbing her lines and then swearing like a sailor. I meant to watch the commentary by historian Bob Gilpin, which I heard was good. But once the movie started I wanted to hear the dialogue, so I turned the commentary off.

step off, cheery

| 2 Comments

Did someone forget to circulate the memo that it is too damned soon to be inundated with Christmas cheer? I expect it from TV advertising and mall displays -- heck, that's why I have a DVR and avoid malls -- but people were buying Christmas trees from Home Depot this afternoon, and several of my neighbors have their lights up already.

It's too soon! We haven't even polished off the pumpkin pie yet! Aren't these people going to be royally sick of their Christmas decorations by the end of the month? I know I will.

the white sister

| No Comments

Nov. 27 movie: The White Sister. Clark Gable plays an Italian soldier who falls for Helen Hayes, an aristocrat. He messes up her engagement to an old drip, then WWI breaks out so Gable goes off to war. His biplane is shot down and she thinks he's dead, so she becomes a nun. Eventually he makes it back, but by then she's gotten used to being a nun and doesn't want to give it up. Something about not being able to marry Gable because she's already married to Jesus, or whatnot. Gable sort of kidnaps her and tries to make her admit that she loves him. And can I say, Gable played a lot of bad boys but forcing himself on a nun? That's pretty low. Anyway the Germans start bombing, Hayes starts praying, and Gable thinks better of the whole "kidnap the nun" thing and takes her back to the convent. Then he goes back into combat and dies. What a happy story!

This may be the first Clark Gable movie I've ever seen, after he became a leading man that is, where he doesn't get the girl. (Gone With the Wind doesn't count, because there he gets the girl, but doesn't want her.) I guess God trumps Gable.

before sunrise

| 2 Comments

Nov. 26 movie: Before Sunrise. What a sweet movie. But before I talk about it, I have to say that we tried to watch American Movie first, but turned it off after about a half hour. I heard it was funny, and assumed that meant "laughing with" funny, a celebration of a kooky amateur filmmaker. No, actually it was too cruel to even be "laughing at" funny. It was funny the way kicking someone in the nuts is funny.

Anyway, Before Sunrise. This is another one of those "can't believe I hadn't yet seen this" movies. We've had the DVD from Netflix sitting around for ages, but I've been resisting watching because I thought it would be talky and boring, like a slacker My Dinner With Andre. (Call me a philistine but I found My Dinner with Andre insanely boring. I can produce my own painfully clever dinner conversation, thank you very much.) But I was totally wrong about Before Sunrise. It was talky, yes, but also engaging, funny and sweet, and very romantic. There were a lot of great moments in the film, but I think my favorite is the scene early on where they're in a listening booth, playing this horrible American singer-songwriter, and Ethan Hawke wants so badly to kiss Julie Delpy, but every time he looks like he's going to, she turns her head the wrong way so he pretends like he wasn't. So sweet!

The ending was great too. I like a movie that doesn't wrap everything up in a neat little package, that leaves things somewhat open-ended and makes me care enough about the characters to spend time thinking about what happens to them after the movie ends. Of course the existence of Before Sunset means that they do meet again. Speaking of which, I need to add Before Sunset to the Netflix queue.

no turkey thanks

| 2 Comments

Thanksgiving dinner at Four Square was wonderful. As expected! This was my second time eating there and it's been fantastic both times. It was a prix fixe, with choice of appetizer and main course, and then everyone got the same dessert. I had pheasant and chestnut soup to start, and venison wellington in dried cherry sauce. Georg went for the seafood extravaganze with a tuna sampler -- tuna tartare, smoked tuna carpaccio, and cooked tuna wrapped in rice paper with a spicy sauce -- and then salmon in saffron cream sauce. We traded tastes and everything was outstanding. I want to learn how to make saffron cream sauce. My venison was wonderful. It was served with mushroom risotto and collard greens. Which sounds like a yucky combination but was actually very good. I didn't want to fill up on bread but in the bread basket they served this cornbread that was so delicate, it was just like pound cake. Georg said he thought there had to be some wheat flour in it. I think he's right; no matter how finely ground, there's no way they could have gotten that light texture from just corn meal. I had to ask for another piece of that.

The dessert was three things: a caramel custard which was a bit too eggy for me, but Georg liked it very much; a little chocolate brownie with a block of peppermint ice cream, which we both loved; and an "apple cinnamon beignet," which was the only disappointment of the meal. First of all, it was nothing like a beignet, and I'm annoyed by the fancy restaurant habit of naming everything after whatever food is hot at the moment. We had a "wasabi beignet" last year at Morimoto and that wasn't anything like a beignet either. It's like how a few years ago, every sauce with fruit had to be called a chutney, no matter what was in it or how it was made. So I guess every small pastry in a trendy restaurant is going to be called a beignet for awhile. But aside from my persnickity trendoid food complaint, the apple cinnamon "beignet" wasn't great anyway. It was a bit tough actually. But the apple cinnamon part was good.

I got lots of compliments from the staff on my outfit (the polka dot dress, first time I wore it this year!). I think our waitress must have told the other staff about it because another waitress came out at some point to see it. She also gave me a tip on a thrift store I hadn't been to before with good vintage patterns. While she was telling me about the store, she accidently said "shit" and then turned red and looked around to see if anyone had heard her. That was funny.

But the funniest thing of the evening was definitely the group sitting near us. It was three men about our age, one young guy, and one older woman. Based on their conversation we guessed that it was maybe a man who had moved down here for work, and his mother and two brothers had come down to have Thanksgiving dinner with him and his partner? They sounded like New Yorkers based on their accents and speaking volume, the mother for sure at least. She was hilarious, loudly commenting on how surprisingly good the restaurant was, "because you don't expect fine dining when you go to Durham North Carolina!" Also arguing about something, proper decorations for a baby's room maybe? All I know is she kept saying "But Amber? Why would Amber want blue elephants?" Her funniest moment without a doubt was when she explained the e.coli outbreak at the state fair, shouting "They touch the animals, they put their hands in their mouths, next thing you know, they've got the bacteria!" while someone else at the table tried to shush her. I seriously hope they couldn't see me laughing. I turned away and didn't make any noise, but I was probably shaking from laughing silently.

The rest of the day was great too. We watched the Philly parade as I wrote earlier, then spent the afternoon in the garden planting rhubarb. I broke my mattock! Boo hoo! Hit a rock and the blade snapped right off. I hardly even felt it: just a weird noise and the mattock came up with a big piece missing. Luckily I had another mattock, but it's a smaller one that doesn't dig as deeply. I'm going to replace the big one tomorrow.

Anyway we dug out a big area on the end of that bed along the driveway which is going to be the vegetable garden, added lots of compost and peat, planted the two rhubarbs, mulched over them, then covered the slope all around that area with newspaper and old straw. I sprinkled blood meal over the straw because the Gardener Guy (I love that show) says that attracts worms which eat the rotting straw, which is a good way to improve bad soil. Also instead of taking the extra clay from the hole and using it to fill another hole somewhere else, I piled up some dead leaves at the bottom of the slope and loosely mounded the clay over the leaves. I figure the leaves will compost under there and then the soil won't be quite as bad there. Also I want the ground at the bottom of the slope to be higher because there's a city water pipe under there, but I don't know how deep it is. I'd like to raise that bed a little so I can plant without worrying about hitting the pipe.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until after doing all this that I realized the rhubarb bed would have been a perfect place to plant daffodils. As I recall, rhubarb dies all the way back each winter. So the daffodils would get lots of sun in early spring. Then when they had bloomed out, the rhubarb would grow and cover the daffodil foliage. By the time the daffodils needed to be divided, the rhubarb probably would too. Also I realized that we had planted the two rhubarbs too close together -- 2 feet apart instead of 3. So today I dug up the front of the rhubarb bed again, moved one rhubarb, and planted about 30 daffodils around them both.

The really bad garden-related thing today was Lina's discovery that the little fence around the hydrangea bed is really no impediment at all. She got in there and dug up half the bed, unearthing a bunch of Spanish bluebells I had planted, possibly damaging two hydrangeas and likely killing one. I'm very upset with her. The worst part is, until we get a better fence around that bed, we can't put her outside unattended. This afternoon after I had cleaned everything up in there, the little brat jumped into the bed and started digging again, right in front of me! I was not 20 feet away, just wasn't watching her that instant because I was refilling the bird feeders.

The problem is that for years I've let her dig in that bed all she wanted. It's always been her favorite place: she likes to dig up a spot and then lay in the dug up place. It's cooler in the summer and I guess also warmer in the winter. Now that we've got nice soil and nice plants in there, I don't want her to dig anymore. But try telling her that. She seems to want to dig bare earth, where no plants are. So I guess in the spring we'll have to plant lots of ground cover in there so it won't be a nice digging spot for her anymore. In the meantime, I wonder if there's anything we can spray or sprinkle on the earth that would be a deterrent to her?

it's not the mummers, but it'll do

| 3 Comments

For some weird reason, our local ABC affiliate is showing the Philadelphia Thanksgiving parade this morning. It's not getting national coverage: they showed a map of stations showing the parade and it's just the Delaware Valley area, a couple of stations in New Jersey and New York, and us. I wonder why? Is our ABC station manager from Philly or something?

Except for the incessant ads for Disney (which owns ABC of course), watching the parade is fun. It's the 85th year, and everyone keeps saying "The oldest Thanksgiving parade in America!" You can just hear them muttering "...so fuck you Macy's!" under their breath. They've also been showing footage of floats and balloons from old parades. I had to take a photo of this one. They aren't providing any captions or explanations, but I swear it looks like a balloon Cthulu.

The other fun thing about a local parade is local coverage. Everything is just a little less slick, the camera work is off half the time, the news people aren't afraid to look like dorks. Or maybe they just can't tell. Here they are getting their groove on while the Trammps (looking like nice middle-aged gentlemen) lip-sync "Disco Inferno." That's not my sister on the right, it's Kelly Ripa. Who bears an uncanny resemblance to my sister. But my sister is way too cool to sit on a podium and do the electric slide.

since you went away

| 2 Comments

Nov. 24 movie: Since You Went Away. Oh my GOD I love this movie. It's an epic melodrama about Claudette Colbert holding her family together while her husband is away at war. The ensemble cast includes Jennifer Jones and Shirley Temple as Colbert's daughters, Robert Walker as Jones' love interest, Monty Wooley as the crochety roomer they take in, Joseph Cotton as the old family friend with an unrequited love for Colbert, Hattie McDaniel as the obligatory jolly maid, and Agnes Moorehead as the selfish, hoarding neighbor.

The movie was made during the war, and it's very much a propaganda piece encouraging American families to stay brave and help the war effort. Colbert works in a munitions factory, Jones is a volunteer nurse's aide, Temple collects salvage and sells war bonds. All the principles are great, but for my money the emotional heavy lifting of the movie falls to Jennifer Jones. She has the most character growth, and the most scenes that made me reach for the kleenex. Although at three hours, there were plenty of heartwrenching scenes to go around.

And I think that's all I can take of Tearjerker Night. I have Penny Serenade on the DVR but I think I'm going to delete it. This afternoon I teared up in my car over a story on the radio about a doctor who found a treatment for rabies and saved a young girl's life. I think I need to take a break from the melodramas.

stella dallas

| No Comments

Nov. 23 movie: Stella Dallas. Tearjerker Night continues with Barbara Stanwyck earning her title as the Queen of the Weepers. Stanwyck plays the title character, a crass, loud, vulgar woman who devotes her life to her daughter after her upper-class husband leaves her. Eventually Stella realizes that her daughter will be better off living the upper crust life with her father, but her daughter is too loyal to leave her. So Stella pretends not to want her daughter any more to drive her away. It's so sad. But don't cry, because Alan Hale is in it! With the biggest part I've ever seen him have. He plays Stella's best friend, a loud, crass, vulgar man who would be a much better match for her than her husband was. He loves her but she won't marry him because there's no room in her life for anyone but her daughter.

yay

| No Comments

Reasons to be happy: Not feeling sick anymore. My dogs all curled up and snoring. A pumpkin pie in the oven. The day off with my sweetie tomorrow. America's Next Top Model on the tube at this very moment. Okay, so it's only the clip show. But it is a chance to see the contestants I liked who are gone (Julie, Tocarra, Bitch Poured Beer on My Weave Girl).

Life is good.

happy thanksgiving

| No Comments

Well it's a big bummer to have holiday plans suddenly disrupted, but at least Georg and I aren't going to just sit around feeling sorry for ourselves. We got reservations at a nice restaurant -- Four Square -- for Thanksgiving dinner, and the silver lining of having to stay home is that the dogs don't have to be boarded. (On the other hand, the coal underlining -- so to speak -- is that I lost the 50% deposit at the kennel, but what can you do.)

I'm hoping tomorrow to get done some of the yardwork that I couldn't do last weekend because I was sick, miserable and/or asleep all weekend. First, my rhubarb plants arrived and have to be planted. They're dormant bare-root plants, so it's not super-urgent, but still they have to get into the ground as quickly as possible. The bed where I want to put them is in terrible shape. I've had black plastic over it for a couple of months to kill off the weeds, but I have to take up the plastic, dig out the roots, and amend the soil which is solid clay. You're not supposed to cultivate around the plants once they're in the ground, so I need to improve the soil as much as possible now. Fun, fun.

Also I need to plant a bunch of bulbs. I've already planted over a hundred, but most of those were planted shallow -- Spanish bluebells, muscari, snowdrops, things like that -- and went into the hydrangea bed, which has nice soft earth. The mattock blade is 4 inches long so it was easy: just poke the mattock into the ground, wiggle it a bit, pull it out and push the bulb into the hole. All the rest of the bulbs are daffodils, which are planted much deeper, plus the soil is much harder where they go. I might cheat and put a few inches of mulch over them so I won't have to dig quite so far down. Will that work? Is mulch included in the recommended soil depth over the bulbs?

The nasturtium experiment was mostly a failure. I thought they would be more frost-resistant than they really were. Half of them were taken out by the hard frosts we had a couple of weeks ago & I expect the rest to go with the next frost. Oh well, I'll replant it in early spring next year, maybe we'll get some flowers before it gets too hot for them. We have the worst of both worlds with cool-weather plants like nasturtiums and sweet peas: our summers are way too hot for them, but we can't grow them in the winter like people can in the Deep South.

On the bright side, the cilantro is still going strong, no sign of frost damage. I'm having to check a couple of times a week and pick off the flower stems to prevent them from going to seed. It's really nice to have fresh cilantro every time I want it. I hate having to buy a giant bunch when I only need a little, and then invariably wasting half of it. The basil was all killed off by the frost, but clever Georg had picked almost all of it in time, to make a pesto.

I have another sewing project too, a cute wool jumper. It's a much simpler pattern than the coat so it should come together quickly. It's a knock-off of the Marc Jacobs mod design from two falls ago: the sleeveless dress with the round pocket on the hip. Unfortunately I kind of messed up the fabric by washing it. It was a beautiful crisp checked wool, and now it's much more fuzzy and indistinct. It doesn't look that bad, just not the look I was going for. But I'm not upset about it, because I know full well that if it had to be dry-cleaned I would never wear it. Or worse, eventually I'd forget or just say "hell with it" and wash it anyway. Then the pattern would be messed up and the whole thing would shrink. Better to have a dress that isn't quite as nice as what I wanted, but at least I can wear it.

imitation of life

| 5 Comments

Nov. 23 movie: Imitation of Life. It's "Tearjerker Night" on TCM. I really needed a good dose of sentimental melodrama too. A good cry helps clear the sinuses. The Lana Turner remake of Imitation of Life is one of my favorite movies, so it was great to see the 1934 original with Claudette Colbert. It's basically the same story: two women, one black and one white, become friends and raise their daughters together. The white woman's daughter falls in love with her mother's fiance, and the black woman's daughter causes her mother heartache by abandoning her mother and passing for white. Lana Turner played an aspiring actress in the remake, but in this version the two women are partners in a hugely successful pancake business called "Aunt Delilah's Pancakes." (Hmm ... that sounds so familiar.)

According to Robert Osborne, this movie was criticized both by conservative audiences who objected to a white woman going into business with a black woman, and by black audiences because Louise Beavers (the black woman) doesn't establish her own home after they start making money, but prefers to remain in Colbert's house as a domestic. It did make me cringe to think that Beavers debasing herself, talking in "yas'm" dialect and begging to stay on as Colbert's cook, was progressive in 1934. But then again, I guess things hadn't improved much in 1959 when they made almost the exact same movie -- worse in some ways, since Annie (the black woman in the remake) isn't a business partner with her own share of the profits.

On the bright side, the movie also stars Alan Hale as the Furniture Man! Hale gives Colbert her big break by selling her all the furniture and fixtures for the first pancake restaurant, for no money down. Alan Hale makes any movie better.

day of wrath

| No Comments

Nov 23. movie: Day of Wrath. I put this aside the other day because I wasn't up for it, a bleak psychological drama set against 17th century witchhunts in Denmark. But I couldn't stop thinking about it until I had seen the rest. Brilliant movie, but man, what a downer. That Dreyer sure knew how to bring down the mood. I think I'll be in bed with the covers over my head, contemplating the meaning of fate, love, fear and evil. Send Fig Newtons.

two girls and a sailor

| 1 Comment

Nov. 21 movie: Two Girls and a Sailor. This sounds like the punchline of a dirty joke, but actually it's the movie from last weekend that I forgot to write up. June Allyson, Gloria de Haven and Van Johnson star in an East Coast version of Hollywood Canteen. Allyson and de Haven are singers who run a wartime canteen -- an entertainment hall for the troops -- secretly funded by Johnson, a sailor they both have a crush on without knowing he's stupid rich. The canteen features performances by (starring as themselves): Harry James, Jose Iturbi, Xavier Cugat, Lena Horne, Gracie Allen, and another singer whose name I forget. The movie also featured Jimmy Durante as a washed up vaudevillian (not playing himself, I hope).

This movie was mostly forgettable but it had a couple of unintentionally funny moments: for one, at the very beginning, before Van Johnson bankrolls the big canteen, the two sisters host a nightly "private canteen," meaning that after their gig at the Flamenco Club, they walk up to random soldiers on the street and invite them over for an evening of singing, piano playing, sandwiches and soda pop. Which prompted me to yell at the screen, "Two women alone in an apartment with thirty military men? Are you insane? Haven't you ever heard of Tailhook?" Also, the big canteen had seating areas for soldiers, sailors and marines, but airmen got jack. Georg pointed out that there wouldn't have been many Air Force in New York, but then why were all those soldiers and marines hanging around the city for months on end? Rather than stopping in Manhattan for a day or two on the way to a base somewhere else, the same guys hang out at the canteen throughout the movie. Actually the war has pretty much no presence here. It's basically a "hey kids, let's put on a show" movie in which a lot of people happen to be wearing uniforms.

november movies

| 4 Comments

Like I mentioned, I've been sick. And therefore haven't done much of anything except lie around watching movies. Here's the round-up. Hope I don't forget anything.

Solomon and Sheba. Oh lordie this was bad. Biblical epic starring Yul Brynner (with hair) as Solomon and Gina Lollobrigida as the Queen of Sheba. In this movie I learned that the ancient Israelites believed slavery was a sin, the people of Sheba liked to get funky, and God spoke to His people with a wussy British accent. The depraved pagan rituals, clearly the point of the movie, are over way too soon. Then we settle in for the long, depressing retribution against the sinners.

Men in White. Clark Gable as a brilliant intern and Myrna Loy as his selfish socialite fiancee, who wants him to give up medical research and take a cushy Park Avenue practice. This movie was made in 1934, right after the introduction of the Hayes code. They seem to have basically made a pre-code movie and then simply dropped any scenes that wouldn't have passed the code. The result is a plot so elliptical that I'm still not exactly sure what happened. Gable secretly kisses a lonely nurse, and then he leaves the room and tells her to leave too, but she stays there alone. Next thing you know, time has passed and she's being admitted to the hospital as a patient. They never say what's wrong with her but the surgeon (Gable's mentor) asks about "the man who did this to her," and Gable wants to know why she never came to him for help. So I guess they must have had sex and her illness is somehow related. But it's not pregnancy, because they show her full body -- no pregnant belly -- when they put her on the operating table. But everyone seemed to know what was wrong without saying. After the surgery Gable promises to marry the nurse because her life is ruined and it's his fault, but she conveniently dies just after asking Loy to forgive Gable. Anyway I found this movie quite perplexing. Near as I could tell, the woman died of premarital sex. Or maybe just from that one kiss. If it had been made three years earlier, they would have shown Gable and the nurse in bed, and they would have explained what was wrong with her, and then thrown in a scene of a man hitting a woman for good measure.

A Free Soul. I realized near the end that I'd seen this before. It's a pretty depressing film starring Norma Shearer as the willfull daughter of a drunken lawyer (Lionel Barrymore). Shearer shacks up with a gangster (Clark Gable) who turns out to be a heel, then Shearer's upstanding ex-fiance (Lesley Howard) kills Gable to protect Shearer. It's kind of interesting to compare this 1931 movie with Men in White. A Free Soul has everything: gambling, drunken carousing, unmarried people living together, Gable hitting and pushing Shearer. Also interesting to see Gable as an outright villain, not just a rough-around-the-edges bad boy.

This Is Spinal Tap. I tried to watch Day of Wrath, a Carl Theodor Dreyer movie about a woman in the early 17th century falsely accused of witchcraft. But I was so not up for that and ended up watching Spinal Tap instead. I don't really have anything else to say about it.

More Treasures from American Film Archives, part II. More silent movies restored by the American Film Archives. Highlights include: a gruesome version of the Three Little Bears in which Theodore Roosevelt shows up at the end, kills Mama and Papa Bear, captures Baby Bear, and then gives all Baby Bear's toys to Goldilocks. Also some early two-strip color films, including "The Flute of Krishna," the first recorded performance by the Martha Graham company. And an early Chinese-American film, and a "soundie" vaudeville performance by "The Original Singing Duck." The duck didn't really sing, just quacked on cue. And a Rin Tin Tin movie, and a bunch of neat pseudo-documentaries about life in New York at the turn of the century.

More Treasures from American Film Archives, part III. This one included a melodrama about tuberculosis by a female director, which was almost censored because they showed improper quarantine procedures (the healthy family members hugging and cuddling with the daughter who had consumption). The guy from the film archive explained that tuberculosis was a leading cause of death at the time, but still. I can't imagine the MPAA censoring a film because it depicted unsafe sex. Also a silent version of "Lady Windemere's Fan" by Oscar Wilde, which is ambitious to say the least. And a couple of "soundies": Calvin Coolidge giving a speech about lowering taxes, making him the first US president filmed in a talking picture; and Eddie Cantor telling jokes so offensive I didn't even understand them, and singing a song about how much better stupid women are. The chorus of the song was "The dumber they are, the better I like them, because the dumb girls know how to make love!" Also an 1896 movie of "Rip Van Winkle" starring an actor who had been a stage star since before the Civil War.

joining the ranks of the stay-at-home

| 2 Comments

Well I finished my coat, but as it turns out it doesn't matter. Because Georg and I both have colds, and rather than transmit our germs up and down the eastern seaboard we are postponing our holiday visit to my folks until mid December.

Anyone need an XDU sub over Thanksgiving?

bzz bzz

| No Comments

I just got back from my friend Carina's eighth birthday party. Last year, as I recall, her party knocked me flat. This time I took the precautionary measure of a taking small handful of ibuprophin before leaving home, so I was fine. Who knew twenty kids hopped up on sugar could make so much noise? (well I guess everyone with kids knew that, but it was a surprise to me.) Carina is my bud so I'm happy to go to her party, but I must say that, not being a parent, I don't have much to talk to the other adults about. And the kids are too busy running around in circles screaming. So I usually end up helping Carina's parents with set up, clean up, keeping the smallest kids from being trampled, etc.

Last year I sipped water while everyone else gorged on pizza, potato chips, cake and ice cream. This time I joined in and ate an ice cream brownie sundae with chocolate sauce. I can't remember that last time I consumed that much sugar. I feel kind of jittery. I'm either going to crash and zone out all evening, or I'm going to be up all night sewing. I hope it's the latter as I'm close to finishing my coat. Just have to put in the lining and do the hand sewing: the hem, finish the buttonhole backs, that kind of thing. Of course it's way too warm for a coat right now, but I want it to be finished in time for Thanksgiving in DE next week.

owl vs. hawk

| 1 Comment

I saw the owl again today! It was fighting with a hawk. Well actually, the hawk was fighting with the owl. The owl was mainly ignoring the hawk.

I heard the hawk screeching, constantly and really loud like it was right outside, so I went outside to look. The hawk was up in a tree over the house, just sitting there screeching. Then it flew a short ways towards a branch that I couldn't really see, seemed like it tried to land, flapped its wings a lot, then shot off in the other direction to another high branch. I walked around and what do you know, the owl was sitting where the disturbance had been. The owl never made any noise, but it moved to another branch a couple of times and the hawk followed it, each time finding a close perch and screeching over and over at the owl. Finally the two of them flew off together.

I wonder what they were fighting about? Who gets first dibs on all the juicy rodents in the yard? Or maybe one was threatening the other's nest. It's the wrong time of year for that, isn't it? I thought owls had their babies in late winter/early spring.

persuasion

| No Comments

Nov 17 movie: Persuasion. I guess I'm on an Austen kick. This is a subtle, quiet movie, much less broad and funny than Pride and Prejudice. Which well suits the source material. Also my least favorite thing about the book -- its abbreviated length, due to Austen's declining health while she was writing it -- turns out to be an advantage in adapting it to a movie. Relatively few cuts had to be made to get it down to two hours. The two principle actors are wonderful, and I especially liked that Amanda Root blossoms so naturally that it's not clear whether her more attractive appearance by the end is due to makeup or just her own demeanor. But my favorite actor in this movie is Fiona Shaw (best known in the US as the evil aunt in the Harry Potter movies) as Mrs. Croft, Anne's mentor and future sister-in-law.

my man and i

| No Comments

Nov 16 movie: My Man and I. On Tuesday Sylvia and I had another Ricardo Montalban night. This time her very cool friend Hilary joined us and we ate at Sitar India Palace beforehand, which was yum, then watched Sylvia's favorite Montalban movie, My Man and I. This was a touching story about Montalban as a Mexican immigrant who is thrilled to be a US citizen, then is cheated and falsely accused of assault by a chiseling white farmer and his wife. Also Montalban falls in love with Shelley Winters, a troubled young woman who can't seem to handle someone being nice to her.

I was impressed that this movie handled racial issues head-on. Maybe it's because I mainly watch older movies from the 30s and 40s, which generally wouldn't be so overt as to have the white bad guys using racial slurs against the hardworking Latino, to his face no less. Also the relationship between Montalban and Winters wasn't softpedaled. Montalban romanced white women throughout his hollywood career, but typically as the exotic "latin lover" (that was even the title of one of his movies) suitable for a summer fling. In My Man and I he wants to marry Winters, and it looks like he'd be good for her too. That's pretty forward for 1952. Winters, as always, blew me away. She had an amazing ability to be real, even if it made her unglamorous or even unattractive. How many Hollywood actresses would have been willing to play the parts she did, much less play them convincingly?

odds and ends

| 2 Comments

So, I haven't posted in a while except to write up movies. That's for a couple of reasons: one, I've been kind of busy with work. When I have any free time, I've been spending it sacked out in front of the TV. Which leaves me with a lot of movies to write up, and little time for other posting. And not much interesting material to write about besides the movies. But here are a few odds and ends.

Does anyone want a little pack of 10 crocus bulbs in assorted colors? They were a free bonus with some plants I ordered, but I have tons of chipmunks and my gardening books says not to bother, the chipmunks will dig up and eat every one. Please take them off my hands so I don't waste my time planting chipmunk food.

I saw one of the owls two days ago. It was sitting in a low branch in a tree overlooking the bird feeder, right near the door. I've never been so close to one before. There were tons of birds flying around it making all kinds of noise. (I wonder if the birds were trying to chase it away from their nests?) It was kind of a crazy scene, the owl with a cloud of smaller birds around it. Alas, just as I saw it, while I was opening the door, the owl flew up to a higher branch on a tree about a hundred feet away. It was huge. Awe inspiring. Its wingspan as it took off looked as big as my outstretched arms. It sat in the far tree and we watched each other for a few minutes, but I was running late and had to go. I went to open the gate and when I turned back around, it was gone.

This morning I dreamed about the owl. The dream started out just like what had happened: I opened the door, the owl took off, those huge wings opening up. But in the dream my camera was already turned on and in my hands, so I got a series of photos as it flew away. They looked like good photos too: the owl flew towards the sunlight and the light flared beautifully off its wings. In real life it was an overcast day and the owl was flying through dense trees and my camera was uselessly packed in my bag. But hey, I can be a brilliant photographer in my dreams, can't I?

In the dream I thought to myself how lucky that this new camera has a "rapid shoot" feature that lets you take a bunch of photos and holds them in a buffer before saving them to the memory card. I would never have gotten so many shots of the owl with my old camera, which had to pause for a couple of seconds while saving each photo. But as soon as I finished shooting, I realized that something was wrong: it wasn't making the noise that meant it was saving to the card. I looked at the window and realized that the memory card was full. Stupidly I had forgotten to download my photos from before. (This is true: I've got about 3 weeks worth of photos on the card. But's not full.) I thought that maybe I could put in my backup memory card, but I was afraid that opening the case to remove the full card would clear the buffer and I'd lose the owl photos. I was looking for the camera manual when I woke up.

It's kind of funny that a beautiful dream about the majesty of nature turns into a major geek-out about my camera. But that's me.

Finally did some more gardening this morning. I hadn't worked in the yard for a couple of weeks, because of being busy and also because last time I kind of hurt my back. I was clearing a bed around the place where we planted the blueberries. There are all these vines growing there, and I was pulling out their long and tenacious roots. I've done this before with no problems, but it was on a slope where I could stand at the bottom of the slope and basically lean forward to grab the vines. This was on flat ground, so I spent a couple of hours stooping over, hacking at the vines with my mattock and yanking out the roots. I felt a little sore that evening, but then back pain actually woke me up in the middle of the night. That was kind of scary. I felt fine after some Advil and a day of rest, but it's made me want to be more careful in future. I think I might get one of those kneeler things.

Anyway, today I started attacking the yucca that is springing up all over the bed down by the road. There are a couple of big yucca plants which seem to have taken the clearing of the bed around them as an invitation to send up as many new yucca as they possibly can. Did you know that yucca have humongous roots? It's really impressive. They're so big that right under the plant they aren't even like roots: more like a thick, white, starchy layer in the subsoil. When you order yucca in a restaurant is that what you get? It doesn't seem like any of the above-ground plant would be good to eat.

I'm tempted to admire the yucca and its prodigious roots, except that I'm trying to get rid of them so the roots are my enemy. Even worse, I didn't know what they were at first -- the young shoots are soft and un-yucca like, I thought it was some kind of fall bulb -- so I planted my irises all around them. Now I have to take up the irises, dig up the yucca, hack out the root masses, and replant the irises. What a pain.

On the bright side, the yucca roots are so deep that taking them out is creating big holes where I can plant clumps of daffodils.

rabbit proof fence

| No Comments

Nov 15 movie: Rabbit Proof Fence. For most of last century, official policy in Australia was to forcibly remove "half-caste" (i.e. white/aboriginal) children from their homes and raise them in education camps. This movie is based on a true story about three girls escaping from a camp in 1931 and walking 1200 miles back to their home town. The title refers to a fence stretching across almost the entire continent, which the girls follow to find their way home.

Rabbit Proof Fence was adored by critics, though Georg and I felt like it was too heavy handed and preachy. I guess it must be difficult to make a movie about such an appalling historical event without preaching at least a little. Kenneth Branaugh played Mr. Neville, the architect of the program that put the children in camps. It would seem to me that though Neville's actions were evil, at the time he must have thought he was doing good. But as Georg said, you could practically see Branaugh twirling his moustache (and he didn't even have a moustache). It would have been more interesting to find out why Neville thought it would improve the children's lives to take them from their families.

Lucky for me I was dozing on the couch when Georg put the movie on, so I missed the first half hour or so. Apparently I slept through the worst parts, like a scene where they measure the children's skin color to determine which will be mainstreamed into white society and which will be trained into the servant class. I woke up when the three girls had just run away, so the part I saw was mostly a road movie about the girls on their own, walking across a staggeringly beautiful landscape while evading the police and an aboriginal tracker hot on their heels.

To the movie's credit, I will say that Georg and I each predicted some horribly cliched stuff at the end which did not come to pass. Also, the acting by the girls was very good. And finally, I was glad to learn more about this historical episode. I had heard about it before, but only in vague terms.

pride and prejudice

| 2 Comments

Nov 13/14 movie: Pride and Prejudice. What fun to watch this -- the BBC miniseries with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth -- while I was cutting my fabric. So much better than the movie with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier. It's hard to imagine a better Austen adaptation. There were a few things added, notably any scene with just men talking to each other (Austen never wrote a scene with no women present), and a few tiny things taken out, but it was extremely faithful overall. Plenty of swoonworthy scenes of course, but lots of funny stuff too. Georg has been going around all afternoon saying "I am deeply vexed!" like Lady Catherine de Bourgh.

The weird thing is, I'm on an Austen e-list and some of the people there are offended by this movie because they think it's too licentious. For three reasons: first, the scene early on where Mr. Darcy is taking a bath, stands up and puts a robe on and you can see his bare back -- not his backside mind you, his back. Second, in the letter when Mr. Darcy mentions that Mr. Wickham was dissolute, there's a flashback of Darcy walking in on Wickham macking with a girl in his room. Third, at the very end during the wedding ceremony, they show all the bad guys and the bad ends they've come to, and Wickham and Lydia are shown lounging on a bed. I actually saw a post where someone called these scenes "Austen porn." These people seriously need to get a life.

random harvest

| No Comments

? movie: Random Harvest. I was telling Georg the basic plot of I Love You Again when he said "Haven't you seen this movie already? No? Didn't you see another movie about a guy getting married while he has amnesia?"

Well what do you know, he's right. I forgot to write it up for the movie list but sometime during the summer I saw Random Harvest, a melodrama about Ronald Colman getting amnesia and marrying Greer Garson, then recovering his true memories, thus forgetting her along with the rest of his amnesia life. (I have to interject here, I'm not expert but I didn't think amnesia worked that way. But whatever!) I've heard this movie described as a brilliant romantic drama, but it really annoyed me. After he leaves her, Garson tracks Colman down and, rather than telling him who she is, takes a job as his secretary. She suffers silently for years, watching him court another woman and even eventually agreeing to a marriage of convenience so she can manage his social affairs. All the while she pretends to be satisfied with this abject subjugation. It's really quite appalling.

i love you again

| No Comments

Nov 13 movie: I Love You Again. William Powell is a NY con artist who gets amnesia from being conked on the head. Amnesia turns him into a dreary, penny-pinching teetotaler in a small town in Pennsylvania. The funny thing is, all that happens beforehand. The movie begins with Powell getting conked on the head again, getting his original personality and memory back, and forgetting the nine years he spent in a small town in PA. He sets out to bilk the town, then discovers that he's married to Myrna Loy. Trouble is, she hates the penny-pinching drip he used to be and wants a divorce.

I don't know if that description makes any sense or not, but this movie was hilarious. Definitely "madcap," possibly even "zany." There is, however, one huge unanswered question raised by the movie: Powell showed up in this town a total stranger, with no idea who he was. Nine years later he was a pillar of the community, devoted to his mother, leader of social groups, manager of a pottery factory -- wait a sec. Devoted to his mother? Where did he get a mother from?

I seriously thought the movie was going to end with the real Larry Wilson, the man whose life Powell appropriated, showing up so that Powell and Loy could run off together. But there was nothing like that at all.

once upon a time in mexico

| No Comments

Nov. 12 movie: Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The "Mariachi" trilogy wraps up with a very fun flick. Quite a bit gorier than Desperado, which I think was due to Rodriguez getting into digital film, which made the special effects much less expensive. Or so he said in a DVD extra called "Ten Minute Film School," which was actually a ten minute ad for digital over traditional film.

Rodriguez compared the three principles (Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp and Willem Dafoe) to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. But Georg and I agreed that they got two of them wrong: Banderas is "the good" of course, but they identified Depp as "the bad" and Dafoe as "the ugly" due to that whole "face messed up" thing. It seemed to us that Depp's character was much more like Tuco ("known as The Rat"), a bad guy but basically comic relief. Dafoe, like Lee Van Cleef, was the real villain.

Georg has already mentioned the cooking lesson on the DVD, so I'll just add that the recipe, for puerco pibil, sounded fantastic and I really want to make it. And I think every DVD should have a cooking lesson in the features.

new project

| No Comments

I have tons of yard work to do, so I spent the whole weekend sewing instead. The change of seasons is a good time for new clothes, and having finished the halloween costume two weeks ago makes it a good time to start a new project.

Friday was the fun part: pulling out my pattern and fabric collections and deciding what to make. It's so nice to have a stash of raw materials and not needing to go to the fabric store everytime I want to make something. It's like having a free fabric store at home! Well not free of course, since it's already paid for, but it feels free. Those of y'all who do crafty things know what I mean.

I picked out a coat and two dresses, and started on the coat first because I've been feeling the lack of a warm coat the past few days. It's a cute little A-line, high waisted coat with a standing collar. I'm using a really funky blue and white fabric I picked up last year, with a nice soft flannel lining. I'd also like to make a fleece shell lining that could snap in for extra cold weather, but the "home fabric store" didn't have any fleece that worked so I'll have to buy that. Hey, JoAnn's is having a sale on fleece!

The only problem with buying fabric in advance is that you never know how much you're going to need. I almost didn't have enough of the blue and white fabric. With some careful rearranging I was able to fit everything, but I couldn't even try to match the pattern. I'll see how it turns out! It's an irregular pattern so it shouldn't be too bad.

Laundering and cutting the fabric took all day yesterday. Well actually I spent several hours cooking a nice big pot of chili for dinner, and the fabric took the rest of the day. I had a scare this morning with my sewing machine jamming up, and thought for a while I was going to have to take it in for repair tomorrow, but thanks to the internets I figured it out. Word to the wise: if you get a giant tangle of thread underneath that jams up the bobbin, the problem is actually with the top thread. It turned out there was a bit of crud stuck between the tension discs, holding them open and making the thread behave as if the tension was set to 0.

Spent a long time this afternoon practicing buttonholes, and it looks like bound buttonholes aren't going to work with this project. I don't know if's the fabric, or if I was just being clumsy, but all my practice buttonholes came out awful. Ugh. I hate to do plain old machine buttonholes on my special coat, but at least they'll be neat and even. I might try the bound buttonholes again in a few days when I'm in better spirits and see if I do a better job of it.

Anyway, I'll post photos when I get a little further along. I can't wait to wear my new coat!

today's lesson

| No Comments

Today's lesson is one I thought I had learned a long time ago: If someone asks a favor, and you really don't want to, and the only reason to say yes is that they assure you they probably won't need you, say no.

love on the run

| No Comments

Nov 11 movie: Love on the Run. Did you know that Joan Crawford and Clark Gable made a lot of movies together? Well they did. (And they were having a love affair at the time, according to Robert Osborne.) This one is about Crawford, Gable and Franchote Tone chasing each other around Europe while two spies try to get some kind of map from them. Tone and Gable are rivals this time, alas no ho-yay to speak of. There is a funny scene where they all sneak into a palace and dress up like French royalty and the caretaker thinks they're ghosts.

possessed

| No Comments

Nov. 10 movie: Possessed. Bizarrely, Joan Crawford made two unrelated movies called Possessed. This is the one from 1931 costarring Clark Gable. This is a pre-code film about Crawford shacking up with rich Gable, then breaking up with him so he can run for governor of New York, then they get back together on the eve of his victory. It's not very memorable but there's a really nice shot early on where Crawford peers longingly in the windows of a passing luxury train, which I'm sure I've seen somewhere before. Maybe in Visions of Light.

Nov. 10 movie: More Treasures from America Film Archives. This was not one movie but a collection of silent films, plus the first known sound film ever, from 1894! It was 15 seconds of a guy playing violin while two other guys danced. Also included: The Suburbanites, a 1904 movie about a Manhattan family who move to the suburbs. Apparently this transition was just as difficult a hundred years ago as it is today, except the movers threw your dishes on the ground from a horse drawn carriage, not a van. And a 1909 short by D.W. Griffith, and have I ever mentioned how much I hate D.W. Griffith? Sure, he's influential and all, the architect of modern filmmaking, whatever. He's such a godawful preachy moralizer. I can't stand even his non-racist films.

There was also a strange 1910 version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in which a donkey accompanies Dorothy to Oz, and she does not get home to Kansas. And some ads -- the earliest from 1897! Early advertising was so effective. I can't wait to buy a tin of Flash Cleaner and visit the Electric Refrigerator Show. Also a western, and some serials, and melodramas of course. Honestly this was more about edumacation than entertainment.

the ultimate dork

| 2 Comments

Yes, I am the ultimate dork. I am live blogging America's Next Top Model. Right now! Except it's on the DVR so I'm about 20 minutes behind.

8:00 Previously, Nicole tripped! Tocarra was fat! Ann didn't suck so bad! Cassie went home! Seven girls remain; who will be eliminated tonight?

8:01 nah nah nah .. wanna be on top!

8:04 who the heck is that? Tyra's mom? Well Tyra's mom thinks it's OK to do nothing to help bulemic Cassie. So I guess it's OK.

8:07 News Flash: Yaya does not know all the answers. Or at least, should pretend like she doesn't. And Amanda looks cheap. Ha!

8:10 we finally learn something about Nicole: she hates Jessica Simpson. Good call.

8:17 When will they ever learn, Europe is not funny?

8:18 hey, Century 21! I love that place.

8:21 Norelle calls Yaya annoying, Tocarra can't pronounce Gaultier, and I still hate Amanda.

8:27 "Are we working with her, or the spider?" Sheer genius.

8:33 wait a sec. Ann is making fun of Eva for being afraid of a spider? Ann who clung to Eva when she was afraid of flying? Does this mean Eva is out of Ann's wedding?

8:34 he said Amanda looks commercial -- that's the kiss of death! They hate her too! Ha!

8:38 it's the stupid Cover Girl makeup tip with Jay Manuel and the generic Eurotrash model. "I lahv the vay dis glides right ohn!"

8:43 Whoa, what happened to Tyra's hair! Oh good, tell us the prizes. I'm sure no one remembers what they are, it's been so long.

8:45 hats? the final challenge is to wear hats? Jeez, I guess I could be a top model too.

8:47 they hate Tocarra this week, but they hate Ann more. So there's still hope.

8:53 now Yaya has to apologize to the hat. what the? Next week: Ann writes a mean message in the hat's low carb brownies and makes the hat cry!

8:55 two girls, one photo, one hat.

8:56 Crap! how could they pick Ann over Tocarra? Me no likey.

8:59 next time: people argue, pack your bags y'all, who cares. Tocarra's gone! Sob.

suspiria

| No Comments

Nov 9 movie: Suspiria. Lisa watched Suspiria with me tonight so I wouldn't have to watch it alone. As expected, it was creepy. Cree-pee. It never got scarier or gorier than the first big set piece, which I had already seen. That was a big relief: I knew I could handle that level of scariness but I wasn't sure if I could deal with more.

The stylishness of the movie, those amazing art nouveau sets, were the best part for me. I wonder where that building is, and whether it's open to the public. Because I go to Europe so often you know, I could just pop by anytime and see it.

Watching it with someone else really helped to break the tension. (And Moses helped too by sitting between us and purring.) Like when the girl falls into all the barbed wire, Lisa quipped, "oh yeah, that's where we keep the barbed wire!" Based on the barbed wire scene, we decided that Dario Argento is the master of "Stop! Enough!" We also decided that the coven has a faulty business model. If they keep killing off their students, the school isn't going to stay open for long, now is it?

susan lenox (her fall and rise)

| 2 Comments

Nov 9 movie: Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise). This movie was the worst ever. Alan Hale was a bad guy! A blackhearted villain! First he tried to rape Greta Garbo, then he shot Clark Gable's dog. God, it was awful.

There was a bunch of other stuff about Garbo and Gable being mean to each other, and the cruel wages of adultery, and Garbo shacking up with rich guys because Gable tossed her over. And there was a circus in there somewhere. I don't know, I was too devastated about evil Alan Hale to pay attention.

even the real models can't walk

| 4 Comments

Finally got around to rewatching last week's ANTM. The Friday rerun is supposed to have extra footage, which turned out to be a few minutes at the end of Miss J. showing Tocarra how to walk so that her hips sway but her bosom doesn't bounce. I've got to say, he's good.

Regarding the argument between Tocarra and the wardrobe woman at the photo shoot. I felt like Tocarra did behave unprofessionally, but I can understand why she lost her cool. She's gone on and on (and on, and on) about wanting to be the first black plus sized supermodel. That episode may have been the first time she had a taste of how difficult that will be. None of the designers at the go-sees had clothes to fit her, which is exactly how it's going to be in the real world. I subscribed to Mode, the "fat fashion" magazine, during its brief run. They had some stories to tell about photographers showing up for a shoot, taking one look at the models and walking out. That's just the photographers! How much harder will it be for a young woman like Tocarra, no matter how beautiful she is, to convince mainstream designers she can represent them?

Diane von Furstenburg's remark, "Tocarra would be a good model for people who would want that kind of a girl," was cold but alas, true. Tocarra will be a great model, for designers who are willing to overlook their prejudices and give her a chance. I'm not saying she shouldn't try. I still think that of everyone there, she has the best potential at a career in modeling. But she's got a rough road ahead of her. Maybe she acted out last week because that's starting to sink in.

Having to wear a Home Depot uniform (actually I think it was a blouse from Lane Bryant) while the other models wore glamorous gowns must have been demoralizing. But the wardrobe woman at the photo shoot was trying to tell Tocarra that her job as a model is to wear whatever they give her and make it beautiful. (If you've seen any runway shows recently, you know how right she is that looking good while wearing crap is a big part of the job.) Last season in the final photo shoot, Yoanna wore a motorcycle helmet and looked prettier than Shandi did with flowers woven into her hair. It's too bad that Tocarra was too rattled to do the same. I really hope she bounces back this week. I know she has it in her. And I was impressed that she recognized her own responsibility to rise above it, rather than blaming the people around her.

The next big topic is Cassie. Alas, our optimism about the show trying to help her with her eating disorder was misplaced. That thing with Mark Bouwer measuring her hips and telling her they were too wide was awful. I mean, I'm sure stuff like that happens all the time, and worse. (was it Nicole Miller or Nanette Lepore who said Eva had a piggie nose?) But the producers knew she had serious body image problems. And they knew it had gotten to her because she mentioned it to the wardrobe mistress later on. They should have responded in some way besides just kicking her off the show and sending her back to pole dancing. I wish I had been able to go to her live chat and ask her if they did more to help her than we saw. Unfortunately I was busy that day and they haven't posted the transcript yet.

Final brief comments: I love Nanette Lepore, she's one of my favorite designers, and when she took a dislike to Amanda that only made me love her more. It was hilarious that Amanda took responsibility for making everyone late just to score brownie points, then complained that taking the blame made Lepore blame her. Ha! I wonder why they didn't make more of that at the judging? In season 1 when they did the same challenge, they came down really hard on Kesse for missing a go-see because she was shopping. I think they eliminated her for that.

Diane von Furstenburg's comment "they can't walk ... even the real models can't walk" was definitely the quote of the episode. Yaya came off as a bit of a snot in this episode but I still love her. And I don't blame her for wanting Lepore to know she was on time. It's a competition, not a schoolyard, and sharing the blame when she did nothing wrong isn't going to get her anywhere. At least Yaya wasn't going around saying "Respeito!" in everyone's faces this week. Norelle is gorgeous, if she had a more fierce attitude and a less clunky walk, I think she could win.

china sky

| No Comments

Mov. 8 movie: China Sky. This movie was pretty bad. Randolph Scott stars as an American doctor in a Chinese village that supports rebel fighters against the Japanese occupation. Take away the appalling stereotypes (the inscrutable Korean doctor who turns bad, the smart alecky "Short Rib" Chinese kid who loves American music and slang) and there's not much there. I only watched it because Ruth Warrick -- Aunt Phoebe from All My Children -- was in it. She looked really different back then. The movie also features Anthony Quinn as the leader of the mountain rebels. I know they used to do that all the time, but it still annoys me. Thirty Seconds over Tokyo managed to find actual Asian people to play the Asian parts; why couldn't this movie?

With about a half-hour to go I accidently pushed the wrong button on the DVR remote and wiped out the end of the movie. (You can pause a show and it will save it for up to an hour without recording, but if you change the channel it loses everything.) No big loss.

ecstasy

| No Comments

Nov. 8 movie: Ecstasy. 1933 Czech/Austrian film shocked the world with a teenage Hedy Lamarr (or Hedwig Kiesler as she was then known) scampering naked through the woods. The film was condemned by the Vatican and heavily edited for US release, but the fine folks at TCM have restored it, allowing us to see Lamarr in all her glory. The film also includes the raunchiest love scene (adulterous, no less) I have ever seen in an early film, with a close-up on Lamarr's face during orgasm.

The film is actually drab and plodding when it's not being totally hot. It weirdly ends with a long scene that reminded us of Soviet propaganda films: smiling workers swinging pick-axes and bountiful fields of wheat, that sort of thing. The movie also came across like a silent film with sound: there was some dialogue, but sometimes the movie would go for 20 minutes or more without anyone speaking. Most of the narrative was handled visually as in silent films. It's interesting because it seems to me that most American directors of the time, when first confronted with sound, treated movies like plays: lots of scenes of people standing around talking to each other. I wonder if the transition to sound was handled differently in Europe or if it was just this director.

But really, who am I kidding. There's one reason to watch this movie and it's Hedy Lamarr in the nude. There's a brief glimpse of full frontal, plus several lingering close-ups on her bare breasts. Hubba hubba. Robert Osborne said that when Lamarr moved to Hollywood she had to change her name to disassociate from the infamy of this film. Which makes a nice sound bite, but I think young Hedwig Kiesler would have been given a stage name regardless.

proverbial pants

| 5 Comments

Georg and I will be on the air tonight, doing the mystery show from 10-11 pm EST. Tonight's theme: Pants Control. We just finished researching and it should be a fun show. Listen online at wxdu.org or 88.7 if you live in the Durham area.

the hucksters

| No Comments

Nov. 6 movie: The Hucksters. I've seen this a couple of times before and it frustrates me every time. On the one hand, Clark Gable and Deborah Kerr have no chemistry whatsoever. Watching Gable ditch smoldering Ava Gardner for mousy Kerr is just bizarre. (Don't get me wrong; I like Kerr. She's just all wrong for Gable.)

On the other hand, the portrayal of the post-war advertising world is hilarious. Great supporting work by Keenan Wynn as a washed up, unfunny comedian; Adolphe Menjou (who did not play Seth Lord in The Philadelphia Story although I think he did every time I see his face) as the nervous ad agency president; and especially Sidney Greenstreet as the tyrannical soap baron who spits on the table and forces everyone to yell Right! and Check! on cue in meetings. Those guys are why I keep watching this movie. I think next time I'll fast forward all of Kerr's scenes and just watch the parts about the ad biz.

mansfield park

| 2 Comments

Nov. 3 movie: Mansfield Park. As a regency romance this wasn't bad, but as an Austen adaptation it was atrocious. Fanny Price is Austen's most controversial heroine because she's so ill-suited to modern sensibilities. In other words, she's a total dishrag and a lot of people can't stand her. I've developed an appreciation for Fanny, but she's still by far my least favorite Austen heroine. Anyway, it seems that the director of Mansfield Park was firmly in the "hate Fanny" camp, because the character in the movie is the polar opposite of Fanny in the book. This Fanny is proud, witty, and sure of herself. She's much more like Lizzy Bennet than like Fanny Price. In fact I think she's based on Austen herself: the movie Fanny is a writer and the passages she reads out loud all come from Austen's juvenilia.

There's also a subplot about the evils of slavery. I don't know if that's anachronistic or not; there may have been an abolitionist movement in Britain in 1806. But it is totally out of place in Mansfield Park. Sir Thomas' financial interest in slavery is only mentioned so obliquely that I didn't even realize what he was doing in Antigua the first time I read the book. There was never any opposition to it from the rest of the family, and the idea of Fanny criticizing her benefactor on moral grounds is just unreal.

There were a lot of other changes that irked me (like an on-camera sex scene), but the main problem is Fanny's character being so distorted. I guess they felt that the Fanny Price in the book was way too much of a wilting violet to make a good movie heroine. And they'd probably be right. But still, it seems like if you're going to make a movie out of a widely read book by a beloved author, you can mess around with the details but the core personalities of the main characters have to remain intact.

lagaan

| No Comments

Nov. 3 movie: Lagaan. I had seen this already, and a frothy, happy Bollywood movie was exactly what I needed on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I don't have a whole lot to say about it. It stars Aamir Khan, probably the biggest male actor in Bollywood today. It's a plucky underdog tale about cricket. And it won an Oscar for best foreign film. The first dance number (where they celebrate the coming rainstorm) is the best, but the others are good too.

mutiny on the bounty

| No Comments

Nov. 4 movie: Mutiny on the Bounty. The 1935 verson, which I'm kind of embarrassed that I had never seen before. I've heard that it isn't super-accurate, at least in the portrayal of Captain Bligh. Apparently the real Bligh was stern but not a sadist, and none of the punishments seen in the movie were out of line for the British Navy at the time. Still Charles Laughton is great, as is Clark Gable and Franchot Tone. The ho-yay between Gable and Tone is palpable: there's one scene where their Tahitian girlfriends have wandered off to swim or something, and the two men are lying together on the beach, where I was yelling "just kiss him already!" at the screen.

the haunting

| No Comments

Well I was originally going to write up all this week's movies in one post, but there were too many of them. So here's the last of the Halloween movies that were saved on my DVR.

The Haunting. The remake had 100 times more special effects, but for my money the original was 100 times scarier. Seriously, I started watching this in the afternoon by myself, and I had to turn it off and wait for Georg to get home to finish. The plot is about the same in both movies and much of the tone and set design of the original was kept in the remake. Like the creepy statues everywhere, and the only really scary part of the remake (the scene early on when the two women hear pounding on the walls outside their room). But all that goofy stuff about Eleanor sacrificing herself to save the souls of murdered children was new to the remake. In the original the house just wants her because she's psychic, sort of like The Shining. The other woman (Catherine Zeta Jones's character in the remake) was dressed by Mary Quant, which was pretty cool.

ooh, shiny

| 4 Comments

Like Christa, the past few days I've been desperate for something shiny to distract me from, well, you know. For me it's been movies. I've watched a heck of a lot of them this week, starting with three by Mario Bava, who was featured on IFC on Halloween night. I'm not usually a big fan of horror, but Bava was supposed to be very influential on American horror movies, and he also directed Diabolik, which was goofy (so much so that they showed it on MST3K) but visually stunning, so what the heck. IFC showed an hour long documentary about Bava before running the movies, which was nice because it gave me a little background.

Black Sunday. Like all Bava's movies this had a lot of titles in the US but I think this was the most common. The Italian title was La Maschera del demonio (Mask of the Demon). It was one of the first post-war horror movies made in Italy (apparently the genre was banned during the fascist era): a gothic tale about a resurrected witch terrorizing a Russian village. It was fun though pretty tame compared to my expectations, based on what I knew of Italian horror. But I guess it's not fair to expect a 1960 film to be as intense (or as gory) as Dario Argento's work. Black Sunday did have some really memorable images, notably the witch's face all scarred from an iron maiden-type mask. In the documentary they said that Tim Burton had appropriated this visual for Sleepy Hollow. (ripped off, homage, what's in a word?)

Twitch of the Death Nerve. This is what they called it on IFC but I think it might be more commonly known in English as Bay of Blood. The original title is Reazione a catena (Chain Reaction). This was credited with being the first slasher film & being a primary inspiration for Friday the 13th. I think I mentioned that I'm not a huge fan of horror, and slasher films are probably my least favorite of the genre. But what the heck, it was so outrageously gory that it was kind of funny. There did seem to be a very convulated plot about people vying for property rights to a bay, but mostly the movie just sped from one set piece to the next, everyone killing everyone else in imaginative ways. There was a much-hyped "shocking twist ending" which was completely predictable if you knew there was a twist coming, simply because there was literally no one else left to perform the final killing.

Baron Blood. The original title of this one was Gli Orrori del castello di Norimberga (The Horrors of Castle Norimberga). Joseph Cotton plays a resurrected evil baron who buys back his ancestral home and rebuilds the torture chamber in the basement. Unlike the witch in Black Sunday, Cotton looks like a normal person when resurrected and has an unexplained source of funds. It was kind of sad to see an actor of Cotton's caliber in a cheap horror film, but like Vincent Price he gave it his all. This was made after Twitch of the Death Nerve but with a much lower body count and less gore overall.

The Bava documentary didn't say anything about Dario Argento, but I'm assuming that as Italy's first big horror director Bava must have had some influence on Argento. Argento started directing in the late 60's but I think I read that he mostly did "giallo" movies, crime thrillers, until Suspiria in 1977, the year Bava's last film was made. Which reminds me that I've had Suspiria on tape for years and have been trying to work up the nerve to watch it. Georg won't watch it with me and I'm too wussy to watch it by myself. Anybody up for seeing the ultimate horror film with me? I hear it's brilliant.

news free

| 2 Comments

For my peace of mind, I've been avoiding news and punditry for the past few days. (It's been a great strategy: not hearing Bush's voice has definitely made it easier to get through this week.) Started reading again this morning, and found an onslaught of opinions that really piss me off. Not from Fox News types but from Democrats. Calls to the blue states to secede. Opining that everyone in the red states is evil or a stupid, unteachably ignorant hick.

I realize that everyone is upset and probably writing out of anger and grief, but this is ridiculous. I'm upset too but as a resident of a red state, it seems to me that open contempt for middle America can only make things worse. These essays make the portrayal of Democrats as elitist assholes seem not so unfair after all. If this is what passes for soul-searching, it's no wonder we lost.

Telling yourself that everyone who voted for Bush is a prehistoric moron may make you feel better, but it isn't a useful way of thinking. I don't understand the mentality of Bush supporters either, but we'd better try to understand if we want the next election to be different.

I guess it was too soon to stop avoiding news & the like. I'll start listening to the radio and reading Slate again when everybody cools down. Meanwhile, this reminds me that we are still living in one country, not warring red and blue states. (thanks again to Supergee)

canvassing is fun

| 4 Comments

Okay, so last night I wrote most of a very long entry about my day canvassing. But I thought better of posting it, in light of that whole "getting our asses kicked by the electorate" thing. So here's the short version:

  • To my surprise, canvassing is fun.
  • On election day, democratic party hq has tons of food. But if you don't want to eat sugar or junk food, you'd better bring your own.
  • "The more volunteers, the better" is only true up to a point.
  • Canvassing in a low income neighborhood is more fun than in a McMansion neighborhood because the houses are closer together and more people are home and willing to have a conversation.
  • Said low income neighborhood is less fun, however, if you are with a white woman who is clearly terrified of being surrounded by black faces. Especially if the neighborhood isn't that bad, not much rougher than where you used to live, and she won't stop trying to convince you how cool she is with it.
  • On election day, every single person in East Durham will claim to have already voted. Unfortunately, some of them actually mean "get out of my face, cracker."
  • It's hard to blame them when we ignore them, wouldn't set foot in their neighborhood, then descend on them for one day every four years.
  • When you're ready to go home, just leave. Don't go back to the staging area to check out. If you do you will find yourself in another van on your way back out before you know what happened.
  • If it gets dark and an old man comes out of his house to tell you not to go down the street you were about to go down, and that he hasn't left his house in 12 months without his gun because he was attacked by a drug dealer's pit bull, it's time to call it a night.
  • Even if your effort to get democrats elected is a total failure, canvassing is still a good way to keep yourself too busy to worry until the polls close.

So, as I'm sure everyone has noticed, things are bad. I've been thinking a lot about the question that I'm sure is on everyone's minds: "What next?"

I'm going to take some very good advice and give myself 72 hours to weep, gnash my teeth, and rend my clothes. Then I'm going to dust myself off and get on with life. No matter how bad things seem now, the sun will rise tomorrow. Western civilization will not fall, women will not become chattel, they will not put a statue of Jesus on the White House Lawn. We survived eight years of Reagan, we'll survive this too.

That's said, I'm not going to crawl into bed with a box of Fig Newtons, pull the covers over my head and ignore the bad stuff that we all know is coming. I'm not going to sit around and complain and wait for the other half of the population to wake up and see things my way. Things will only get better if we make them get better. Extreme conservatives have done a great job of claiming the initiative in the political arena. They're in control. We can't let that continue.

(Thanks to supergee, Bull Moose and James Wolcott for inspiring blog posts.)

the man with a movie camera

| No Comments

Nov 3 movie: The Man with a Movie Camera. This morning I really needed to forget about the fate of western civilization, for at least a little while, and spend time with something beautiful. Luckily I had this movie on the DVR. Just like the first time, I muted the TV and played the score by the Cinematic Orchestra, which I have on CD. I wrote the movie up already, and all I can add now is that it was even better this time because I was better at synching up the soundtrack. Unfortunately, it can't be matched perfectly because they seemed to have shortened some of the tracks on the CD. In a couple of places I had to repeat a track almost all the way through to make the next track start at the right time. Still, the points where the movie and score synched perfectly (the first 20 minutes or so, and the very end) were breathtaking.

I wish the movie was available with this score on DVD. They could have used the DVD commentary track to provide it as an alternate to the regular score (by Alloy Orchestra). Alas, I think the only way is to play the CD and DVD simultaneously like I did, an imperfect match-up, or to see the Cinematic Orchestra perform the score live. Which they may not do again.

!@#%

| 4 Comments

I wish I'd found the energy yesterday evening to write about my day canvassing for the Democratic Party. Because now I don't want to talk about it and I wish I'd never done it. It made me feel involved and optimistic. I should have tried instead to feel more cynical and disaffected. Then maybe I wouldn't be so sick to my stomach now.

god damn it. god. damn. it.

fiddle-dee-dee

| 6 Comments

(Not my real hair. Or my real waist.) I think the Scarlett O'Hara costume turned out well! As corsets tend to do, it completely changes the shape of my torso, and also makes my hips look enormous. The baggy drawers don't help with that either.

Georg helped me tighten it, which we did in three stages: put it on snug, waited about a half hour and then tightened it as much as possible, then waited another half hour and tightened it again. If you put it on and immediately try to tightlace, you are in for a world of pain. But doing it gradually like that lets you get used to it. I could still breathe comfortably, though not too deeply. (I have deep admiration for women who could ride a horse or do physical work while wearing one of those things!) It did make my back hurt a bit, and finding a comfortable seat was a challenge. Still, I wore it for about 5 hours before it started to feel seriously uncomfortable.

Did I ever write up the completion of the sewing? I don't think I did. Well, I finished the corset. Everything went smoothly at the end, except for the 1/2" bones at the back. They have you use wider bones at the back edges because there's so much pressure on the grommets. I was going to use the white steel bones from my old corset, just so I wouldn't have to deal with cutting and tipping. But the white steel bones were made for a Victorian corset, so they were too long.

Did I mention that Civil War corsets are smaller than Victorian corsets? Victorian corsets cover more of the bust and curve over the abdomen. Civil War corsets typically don't provide much bust support, I've heard complaints about that, but I'm so short that it worked out perfectly for me.

Anyway. The white steel bones were too long for the new corset. Lucky for me the corset supply store had mistakenly shipped me 1/2" boning, otherwise I wouldn't have had any. It turned out to be more difficult to cut than the 1/4". The bolt cutters didn't work at all; instead I had to use the wire cutters on each wire individually. The problem was working the wires loose without distorting the shape so much that the tip wouldn't fit. I did get both pieces cut and tipped eventually.

After that the only thing left was to sew the edging on the top and bottom. It was supposed to have lace on the top, but I skipped that because I wanted a simpler look. Really I should have reinforced the ends of the bone casings. I thought about cutting little strips of the canvas and slipping them into the bone casings, but I decided that it was okay to skip this for a costume that would only get infrequent wear.

The chemise and bloomers came together pretty well, although they took longer than I had expected. (Isn't that always the way?) The fabric was already cut, but I did all the sewing on Friday. Started work at 9 am and finished at 4 am. I did take a couple of breaks, to drive to the store and to eat dinner, so I figure that was about 16-17 hours of work probably. That was even with skipping some of the fine detail work that wouldn't show. All the seams were supposed to be flat-felled and there were supposed to be facings inside to cover the underarm seams. I think that was to protect the skin from raw seam edges while the corset was on. I skipped it because the fabric was so soft.

I did make one major goof with the drawers: the pattern had to be shortened, but it had been so long since I'd made a pair of pants that I'd forgotten how to alter them. I tried to alter them the way I would a dress, and ended up cutting off way too much above the waist. Basically I turned them into low-rise drawers, the waist ended up very low on the hips. It looked ridiculous but thank goodness it was covered by the corset.

The other weird thing about the drawers, which I didn't realize at first, is that they are totally open between the legs and over the backside. This is, of course, so the wearer can go to the bathroom without having to completely undress. (It's also, I have heard, the reason why the can-can was so scandalous.) Obviously this wouldn't do for a halloween costume. I thought about just sewing the legs together, but decided that the ability to go to the bathroom would be a good thing. So I added snaps. Very authentic. It didn't even work anyway, because I had normal underwear on under the drawers, so I still couldn't go to the bathroom in the corset. Oh well, it was a good idea. I should have put snaps in the underwear too. I'm going to stop talking about underwear now.

ourvote.com

| 2 Comments

If you have difficulty voting or you witness irregularities at the polls, call 1-866-OURVOTE or visit ourvote.com and my friend Joe will help you out.

the power of positive thinking

| 1 Comment

Volunteering this morning was great. Working the phone bank would have been exhausting, but this was fun. They put me on a tedious job that involved very little human contact -- just what I like! It was sorting addresses of registered Democrats into packets for the "flushers" tomorrow. Of which I will be one. I hope that's because we will flush out reluctant voters, not because our chances are in the toilet!

Actually I'm feeling good about the election for the first time in ages. There were tons of people in the party office, all smiling. Happy. Confident of success. Their optimism was infectious. I wish I had started volunteering weeks ago.

The best news I got there was from an older man I worked with on the packets. He's from Georgia. He contacted the Kerry campaign to volunteer, but they didn't need him in Georgia. They sent him here instead. Not Florida or Pennsylvania, here. That really surprised me. Maybe we do have a chance of making NC a blue state. (honestly, I don't believe that. But still, somebody must think there's a chance.)

The best part of the day was when some reporters from ABC came in to get footage of party drones at work. One of them asked "who has the car outside with all the toys on it?" He took my name and number and said he'd call me later. I told him that the art car club would be driving in the Chapel Hill Christmas parade (not really an exaggeration, we may have 3 cars there!) and he seemed really interested in doing an art car story on that.

So tomorrow morning I have to be there at 6:30. They said they'd provide breakfast, but I saw them bringing in food and it was a white flour & sugar fest. Donuts, danish, all stuff like that. That's no good because I'm really trying to eat more healthy. I have some sugar free granola bars to take with me. They're really filling, which is a good thing because I may end up eating them all day.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from November 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2004 is the previous archive.

December 2004 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives

Pages