December 2004 Archives

beggars and choosers

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I really, really should have worked today, but after the Vacation Of Which We Will Not Speak Again, I badly needed a day of fun. So I played hooky with Lisa. First we had lunch at Green Tango. And I have to interject here, since my appetite came back it has been voracious. I had breakfast today at about 8:30 and lunch at noon, but that was too long to wait so I had some cheese and crackers at about 11. I ate my whole salad at Green Tango, and those salads are huge, I don't usually eat the whole thing. Then in the evening, again I was famished so I had some pastrami and cheese around 6, then we ate a big dinner (steak and mushrooms and asparagus) at 7:30. I hope this settles down now that I'm eating well again, and I'm not super hungry like this all the time.

After lunch we drove out to Beggars and Choosers in Pittsboro. It was great! I have to say, today rivals the Ethel Dress for successful vintage shopping. I was looking for accessories to go with the clothes I make, and boy oh boy did I find them. I bought:

  • two pairs of shoes: black and brown slides with laces, and tan shoes with buckles. The ones with buckles need to be cleaned, but both pairs fit really well. I think the slides are actually a little more recent than the look I'm going for, based on the shape of the heel. But they're comfortable and cute as the dickens, so I had to buy them.
  • a mink hat. I've never worn real mink before. It's comfy and warm and has that tall 60s shape. The lady in the store (who seemed to be the owner) told me that it's male mink, which is thicker and warmer fur. I don't know if that's true or not but it sounds good.

    Lisa and I talked some about our feelings on wearing fur. Neither of us would wear new fur, but vintage fur is a trickier issue. On the one hand, since it's pre-owned you aren't causing animals to be killed for your coat. That happened decades ago & the responsibility rests with the original owner. On the other hand, you are still contributing to the aesthetic of wearing fur. (Lisa said that she was even uncomfortable with fake fur that's too realistic for that reason.) I'm not sure what I would do in the extremely unlikely event that I inherited a fur coat (which has happened to a friend but will never happen to me -- I just don't have relatives who wear mink). But I'm willing to wear fur accessories like this hat or a fur collar on a cloth coat.

Also bought but not photographed:

  • A cute little brooch shaped like a daisy that will look good with my summer dresses.
  • Two vintage patterns, including one which I had seen on Ebay and tried to get, but had been outbid. It's of a top, skirt and garter stockings. Imagine the possibilities! I am going to start combing Ebay for wild knit fabrics.
  • a badly stained dress for $3 which has very nice beaded trim, which I will remove and use on another outfit.
  • a cute little black and white skirt.

There were a couple of disappointments, including some tall boots that were a little too big, but the most amazing things were two hats designed by Schiaparelli! With the original tags still on them! For only $65 each! I tried them both on but the one I liked best was too big.

I didn't intend to spend so much, but I did have my Stoneline Christmas bonus in my wallet -- cash no less -- and everything was so cool, and the prices were so reasonable. As we paid and gathered up our things, the owner kept saying "Come back soon, I restock often!" I guess I must seem like a big customer. What she doesn't know is that I only buy like this a couple times a year. I'm going to have to get dressed up in my new shoes and hat and one of my best outfits, and go back there to show her.

not a top ten list

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Inspired by wordnerdy, here's an alphabetical list of Ten Albums I Listened to Obsessively in 2004. I'm calling it "not a top ten list" because it's not the ten best (whatever that means), just the ten I listened to most. Not all of them were released in 2004 though I think I first heard all of them in the past year. At least half of them I would not have heard at all if not for WXDU.

Air, Talkie Walkie
Cinematic Orchestra, Man With a Movie Camera
Sammy Davis Jr., Live at the Cocoanut Grove
Lamb, Between Darkness and Wonder
Morcheeba, Parts of the Process
Barbara Morgenstern, Fjörden
Rhythm King and Her Friends, I Am Disco
Scissor Sisters, Scissor Sisters
Stereolab, Margerine Eclipse
Various, The Rough Guide to Asian Underground

home again

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We are home, we've had dinner, and all's right with the world. Correction, all will be right tomorrow morning when I spring the dogs out of the kennel.

It's so warm here! I'm hoping the weather lasts through the weekend so I can get some gardening done.

In other news, I got a client email that included revisions and the phrase, "please don't hurt us :)" Including smiley face, from a client who is normally fairly serious. I haven't looked at the revisions yet, but that's not even the main thing I need to work on tomorrow. Looks like it will be a fun day!

heading home

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How much of a dork am I? I just paid $10 so I could be online while we wait in the airport. It is a 2 hour wait, so I guess it's justified.

We never did make it into the city during our trip. In fact we almost never left the house, except a short drive around Staten Island yesterday afternoon just so we could get a little fresh air. Georg was still shaky yesterday so we didn't want to tire him out. I felt fine, except when I tried to eat. Even today I feel a little queasy whenever I eat something. If y'all don't mind a gross comment, I'm really glad I started to feel sick fairly early Sunday night so I skipped the pumpkin pie. It would have been awful if I was put off pumpkin pie because of throwing it up. Does that happen to everyone or is it just me? There are a couple of foods that I still can't eat after getting sick on them almost 20 years ago.

I don't want to ramble about getting sick any more than you all want to read it. I don't have much else to say except that I realized a few minutes ago that this was not actually the worst vacation imaginable, since no one got robbed. (Knock on wood -- there are still a couple of hours.) I can't wait to get home.

Here's hoping I have something more pleasant to post about tomorrow!

change in plans

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Thanks to a stomach bug, yesterday's planned sightseeing and museum-visiting in the city had to be cancelled. Georg and I were both horribly sick Sunday night and neither one of us was up to traipsing around the city. Especially since it snowed overnight and the high was around 25° F. I had to cancel my visit with Womzilla, Nellorat and Supergee too because I didn't want to risk passing on the bug to them. A night of being violently ill isn't exactly the christmas gift I had in mind. Oh well, nothing to be done about it. Maybe we'll be up for a trip to city this afternoon.

Instead of sightseeing we spent the day lying around feeling queasy and sorry for ourselves and watching TV. We saw a show on the History Channel which featured an actor dressing up in costumes and re-enacting the worst jobs in various historical periods. It wasn't actually the absolute worst jobs, I think: that show would have been so depressing it wouldn't make good entertainment. It was more like "unusual and unpleasant jobs." Like for instance, in the show on the Tudor era he dressed up like a fishwife and got ducked into a pond for being an uppity woman. In another episode he talked about the guy who painted the frescoes inside the dome of St. James Cathedral. That must have been a hard job, but hardly the worst.

On the other hand, in the Victorian episode he covered jobs that really were among the worst from my understanding: scavengar, chimney sweep, rat catcher, tanner, road-digger, workhouse inmate. He actually acted out the rat-catcher, coating his hands with a sugary syrup, then sticking his bare hand into a mound of straw and pulling out of a rat! The rat looked pretty tame. It seemed perfectly OK about being pulled out of the straw and then held up to the camera, and didn't even try to bite him.

In other bad news, I got a phone call first thing yesterday morning from someone I met through an online forum. She and I and another woman get together every couple of months for lunch. Neither one of us had been on the forum in ages, and she just checked in this morning and discovered that the third woman's husband died a couple of days ago. Apparently he had cancer & it came on very suddenly. She was so close to her husband. The way she talked about him it was clear that they had a great relationship. He was young too; mid 60s I think. Her father died earlier this year too. It's just heartbreaking.

Even though I never met her husband, I'd like to go to the funeral. But I may not get back to NC in time. We agreed that we'd give her a couple of days and then call her and see if she wants to get together. She may not be up for company but even if so, at least she'll know that we're thinking about her.

white christmas

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December 25 movie: White Christmas. Not exactly a remake of Holiday Inn, in fact not a remake at all. But they both have Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas." I think I prefer Holiday Inn because it has Fred Astaire. But White Christmas has Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen singing "Sisters." Which I hear Pinky does an excellent version of, and maybe if we pester her enough she will sing it for us. Vera Ellen, by the way, is amazingly athletic. Her legs are so muscular they could belong to a fitness model today. I had to wonder if those legs were considered attractive at the time: I thought in the 50s people preferred a softer, more curvy look. Ellen is all sinew and muscle. She also wears a horribly tight girdle that pinches her waist into a waspy shape that I found a bit painful to look at, which may have been an attempt to give her lean, athletic frame some approximation of an hourglass figure.

Anyway, enough about Vera Ellen's body. The movie is fun, silly and implausible with lots of great singing and dancing. Which is all you can ask for in a musical. I especially appreciated "Choreography," the dance number where Danny Kaye makes fun of Martha Graham and Gene Kelly.

This is the second year in a row we've watched White Christmas on Christmas Day. Last year was at the late lamented Madstone Theater; this year on commercial television with Georg's folks. I wonder if this is our new Christmas tradition.

greetings from sunny staten island

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Actually make that "Greetings from Grey, Overcast, Threatening to Snow Staten Island!" to be precise. To be even more precise, "Greetings from the Muddy Cup cafe in Staten Island, which makes a mean hot chocolate but does not provide spoons." With the houses so close together, we were hoping that at least one of Georg's folks' neighbors would have unprotected wireless. But no such luck. At my friend Peggy's house in Austin, there were three unprotected networks and one heavily protected network. I guess the residents of Staten Island are either more computer savvy and have their networks all locked up, or much less computer savvy and don't have wireless.

The trip up was fairly uneventful andall we've done so far is relax and hang with the folks. We got there in time to watch the yule log on TV. I'd never even heard of it before but apparently it's a New York tradition. There was even an article about it in the Times yesterday. It's just film of a log burning, with Christmas carols playing, no talking or change of scene or anything. Apparently it's a 7 minute loop; they loop it so they can show the fire for 4 hours without having to stoke it or add more wood. It was originally filmed at the governor's mansion but a film crew set fire to the mansion in the 70s, so the log they show now was filmed in California.

I've been very much enjoying the book Georg gave me for Xmas about alchemical themes in the work of Max Ernst, but it's a dense book so I haven't gotten that far into it yet. Lest you think we're all highbrow or something, Georg also gave me a DVD of Mystery Science Theater 3000's treatment of Manos the Hands of Fate and Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Old school MST3K! TV's Frank! Whee!

Tomorrow we're going into Manhattan but I'm not sure yet what we're going to do. Maybe go to a museum, the MoMA just reopened although I hear that's exhausting because it's designed to make you walk through the whole thing. Tuesday I'm going to see my old friends Womzilla, Supergee and Nellorat. I most likely won't get another chance to post until we get back, so I hope you had a wonderful weekend and have a great week!

the man who came to dinner

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December 24 movie: The Man Who Came to Dinner. 200 movies! Woo! Actually I think there have been a lot more than that, but I forgot to post movie write-ups for most of September and October. So I'm guessing it's probably more like 215-220, but if we only count the ones that got written up, this makes 200.

Looking back over the entire movie list there are fewer repeat viewings than I had expected. I think this list made me more aware of which movies I'd seen recently and so less likely to watch the same movies over and over. Still, there were some repeat viewings, notably The Man with a Movie Camera (4 times!), and this is the second viewing of The Man Who Came to Dinner.

With apologies to Holiday Inn I think this is my favorite Christmas movie. Monty Wooley plays a famous author/radio personality who falls on the ice and commandeers the home of a hapless small-town family during the holidays. Hilarity ensues! Bette Davis plays his secretary, and Ann Sheridan is the diva who tries to steal Davis' love interest, played forgettably by some forgettable guy. Also costars Billie Burke, Jimmy Durante, Mary Wickes, and a bunch of penguins.

I've seen it a bunch of times before, but this is the first time I caught the very beginning. Which explains why Monty Wooley is able to make such outrageous demands on the family he's staying with: after falling outside their house, he holds the threat of a lawsuit over their heads. Wooley's character is even more ornery and imperious in the first few scenes; by later in the film he starts to soften up and the abject fear surrounding him doesn't make as much sense. According to Robert Osborne the studio didn't think Wooley could carry a movie like this, so they considered instead casting Orson Wells (which would have been bizarre, I just don't see him doing comedy) and John Barrymore (which would have been great, but unfortunately his alcohol-related decline had gone too far by then).

Trivia note about Monty Wooley: he was a Yale classmate and good friend of Cole Porter, and played himself in the Porter biopic Night and Day. But due to his age he couldn't convincingly play a college student alongside Cary Grant, who played Porter. So they made him Porter's professor and mentor instead of his classmate. Which is one of the smaller distortions of fact in Night and Day. Though I hear Delovely was just wretched, so I should stop trashing Night and Day which was at least entertaining.

divaville

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0412230700.jpgThe show was great fun. Two hours is not nearly enough time for all that great Christmas music. The sideways photo shows me rocking out to "The Holiday Season" by Andy Williams. Who is not quite in the Divaville genre, but I love that song so who cares. "Well whoop di doo, and dickory dock, don't forget to hang up your sock!" The webcam (or the frame that holds it up) seems to have been broken and then taped back together. While trying to adjust the cam I mooshed up the tape and it ended up hanging sideways like that. Georg fixed it later but that was still the most interesting photo.

We only got one request, but it was from Christa so that was cool. And weirdly, she requested the exact thing that I had just cued up! Great minds think alike, folks. And I did get several calls when I played some loungey thing that sounded like Christmas music blended with a game show theme song. I think the caller who identified it as the Dating Game theme song was correct.

Best of all, the web stream wasn't fucked up tonight! I'm listening to the recording now and it sounds great, no distortion. I guess they fixed whatever it was that was messing up the stream. Whew!

call me bootsie

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My boots are here! I must say, I'm impressed with Zappos.com. I ordered these boots at 10 pm Tuesday night, and I had them at 2 pm Thursday. With no shipping charge! Of course it's way more expensive than a shoe warehouse like SRI, but at a warehouse you have to take what you can get. I've been checking SRI for a couple of years and have never found the boots I wanted.

Anyway, the boots. They are super-comfy, no surprise, and a bit big, which I also expected. I have two pairs of Børn's mary janes: one in my size, which are too big, and one a half-size smaller, which fit perfectly. I thought about ordering the boots a half-size smaller but decided that I'll be wearing socks with them anyway for warmth, so I might as well order the roomier size. They fit perfectly with a pair of thin socks. I'm going to wear them to the station tonight and tomorrow to break them in.

Took the dogs to the kennel this afternoon. We're not leaving until Saturday morning, but the kennel is closed tomorrow. I really like Pet's Companion. Everyone is so nice and professional there. They remembered us on sight, even thought we'd only been once before. They do grooming so I asked them to clip the dogs' nails. I hate doing that and they both really need it.

They had an optional Christmas dinner for the dogs, turkey and rice & other stuff instead of dog food. At first I said no because my dogs never eat people food, and hardly ever get treats anymore except for medicine disguised as treats. But on the way back I changed my mind. One meal a year isn't going to kill them. If the change in diet makes them sick, I won't have to clean it up. Besides, I didn't want them to feel bad because all the other dogs had special food and they just had kibble. It may even be good for them, if it makes them happy about going to the kennel. When we go there, Lina always whines like she's being sold to the glue factory. Maybe she would cut that out if she thought she was going to get fresh turkey. So I called them when I got home and told them to go ahead with the special dinner.

yours, mine, and ours

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December 22 movie: Yours, Mine, and Ours. Lucille Ball and Henry Fonda play a widow with 8 children and widower with 10 who marry, thus inspiring "The Brady Bunch." The main difference is that the movie begins before the couple meets, and the kids are a lot nastier. Particularly Fonda's sons, who are merciless to Ball. They spike her drink the first time they meet her and make her seriously ill, and then harangue her non-stop for the first year of the marriage. (I did learn the handy tip from the drink-spiking scene that vomiting is a cure for drunkenness: Ball is totally plastered, disappears into the bathroom to be sick, then comes back sober.)

This movie was funny, but should be avoided by anyone who can't take the sound of children yelling. Also anyone who was conscripted into caring for much younger siblings will probably be given nightmares by this movie. There's one scene near the end where Ball is asked how she manages to provide such a happy, well-run home for 19 kids (by this point she and Fonda have had another, the crazy freaks) and she gives some goo-goo eyed response about having a lot of love, a little discipline, and a husband who doesn't criticize. When really it's obvious that the family would go to hell without the older kids acting as nannies to the younger ones.

There's also some lame conflict over counter-culture which ends in one of the older daughters being nearly assaulted by her boyfriend, and her telling him to get a haircut. That scene was totally "huh?" but it was happening off to the side while everyone is trying to get Ball to the hospital to deliver child #19, so they kind of blow right by it. And the movie ends with the oldest son being drafted and happily marching off to join the Marines in Vietnam. The father is a Navy man which I guess is why the son is so cool with being drafted, but still, that kind of creeped me out. "You're off to experience and possibly commit unspeakable horrors! If you're lucky your wounds will only be emotional! Bye! Don't forget to write!"

morning glory

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December 19 movie: Morning Glory. Katharine Hepburn plays a naive ingenue full of misconceptions about the theater, struggling to make it as an actress in New York. Several theater bigwigs take her under their wing and give her all the breaks they can, but she still fails because she's a terrible actress. Until the very end when she magically becomes the greatest star the stage has ever seen. Blah, blah, blah. This movie really annoyed me. I think Hepburn's naivete was supposed to be quirky and endearing but I found the character insufferably pretentious. I think I watched too many movies last weekend.

zatoichi enters again

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December 19 movie: Zaotichi Enters Again. The third Zatoichi movie has Zatoichi returning to his old village and meeting up with his sensei, who is a bad, bad man. This shocked me. I've never before seen a Japanese movie in which the hero's sensei turns out to be a villain. Zatoichi and the sensei's little sister want to marry, but the sensei refuses because he wants her to marry someone who will bring him prestige. We thought the sister was a goner as soon as Zatoichi admitted that he wanted to marry her. Lucky for her Zatoichi promises to give up his violent life, and then has to abandon her when he fights again at the end. "I guess I am that kind of man," he says, which literally translates as "I'm a loner, Dottie, a rebel." Zatoichi also admits the prostitutes as a shameful thing, so maybe it wasn't as socially acceptable in a historical Japanese film as I thought. I got the impression in the second movie that there was nothing untoward about it.

on air

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0411291501.jpgI will be on the air tonight from 6-8 pm doing the Divaville all-Christmas-music show. I look forward to this show all year, which Christa is kind enough to let me do. This year I have a new 3-CD set of big band Christmas music which includes a bunch of performances I hadn't heard before. My favorites are Fats Waller singing "Jingle Bells," and two kooky songs called "Christmas Chopsticks" and "Little Jack Frost Get Lost."

I will be on again tomorrow morning from 9-noon, doing a no-Christmas-music show. I hear that the playlist requirement is still in effect, but I also hear that the playlist is slim pickings, so who knows what I'll end up playing in the morning. 88.7 if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not.

brussels sprouts

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After eating out rather too much last week, I've been forcing myself to find time to cook the past few days. Today was something fun that I found at Whole Foods: brussels sprouts still on the stalk. It's so kooky looking, a big long stalk with little knobs sprouting off the sides. I had only seen photos before. The whole stalk was more expensive than just buying a bag of brussels sprouts, but it was a fun novelty, plus I was able to pick out a stalk with mostly small sprouts. I so want to grow these next year!

Georg doesn't care for brussels sprouts but I found a recipe that made them palatable to him too: roasted them with chopped bacon, minced garlic and olive oil, then poured a bit of white wine into the roasting pan to scrape up the brown bits and glaze the brussels sprouts. It was great, if I do say so myself. I thought the sprouts on the stalk might be sweeter and milder in flavor, since they were basically alive until ten minutes before they went into the oven. But if anything the flavor was a little stronger. I'm not complaining though; I love brussels sprouts.

shoe splurge

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Ordered a pair of rather expensive boots today. I want them for walking around NY next week, so I probably should have ordered them before now. But Zappo's promises delivery by Friday, and I've been debating for the past week or so whether to order the Børn boots (which I did order) or these super stylish Fluevog boots, which are only a bit more expensive, or to be fiscally responsible and not buy any boots at all.

After much waffling I decided that I really do need a new pair of boots, and that the Børns will be more comfortable and more versatile than the Fluevogs. I'm not crazy about the look of the Børns, but at least they don't look like riding boots. And they won't make my feet hurt during a whole day of walking around the city, which is important. What I really want is boots that are as stylish as Fluevogs and as comfortable as Børns. Unfortunately I don't think that exists. Which I have to say, really irks me. It can't be that hard to make shoes that look nice and don't kill your feet.

Now that I finally made up my mind to order the boots, I hope they arrive in time for the trip!

bombshell

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December 18 movie: Bombshell. When I got home from Bad Buffy Night I discovered that while I was away, Georg had bought and hung up pine garland in the living room, the very day we'd sadly decided that we didn't have time to decorate this year. What a sweetheart! Between the garland and the groovy glowing Santa that my aunt gave me, the house is looking downright festive.

I was too wound up to go right to sleep, so I sat in the living room writing up movie posts, enjoying the pine fresh scent, and watching Bombshell. Jean Harlow plays a Hollywood starlet coping with a freeloading family, and a studio publicist who feeds the press scandal stories about her and thwarts her efforts to build a normal life, because he fears the public won't find her so interesting without a constant flow of gossip in the papers. The movie is played as broad comedy, and it is very funny. But I have to admit I found it also very sad, almost tragic. The bare bones of the story are apparently based on Clara Bow (Harlow's character is named Lola Burns and called "the It girl," back in the day when that meant no one but Bow) but also to some degree based on Harlow herself, who also had a family of moochers to support. It's so sad to think of Bow (and Harlow as well) being exploited by all those people who live off her and care so little about her, except as a meal ticket.

Now I've made the movie sound depressing, when it really is very funny. Made before the Hayes Code, it's full of salacious details that would never have made it into a movie just a couple of years later. And it's a hilarious parody of Hollywood the money-making machine. It's just funny with a sharp, painful edge.

i'm with lucy

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December 18 movie: I'm With Lucy. The final entry in our Bad Buffy night was this chick flick costarring David Boreanaz (Angel), and I must say this was the best of the bunch. We almost didn't watch it but I'm glad we did. The movie follows Lucy through five apparently disastrous blind dates. We're told at the very beginning that she's going to marry one of the men, but we don't find out which one until the very end. Boreanaz plays one of the dates. He's the polar opposite of Angel -- so un-mopey and un-brooding that he seems to have no internal life at all -- and he has awful hair. They lightened it and curled it and it looks frizzy and crunchy and awful. Other dates were Henry Thomas (Elliot from ET), that Scottish guy from Four Weddings and a Funeral who's on BBC America all the time, and two other guys I didn't recognize.

"Chick Flick" is a dirty word in many circles but I enjoyed this a lot. Of the three movies we watched, this is the only one I would watch again & would recommend to others. It was lucky that we watched the movies in ascending order of quality. If we'd watched the best one first, and gone downhill from there, I wouldn't have felt as good about sitting through 3 movies in a row like that.

scooby doo 2

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December 18 movie: Scooby Doo 2. Part 2 of our Bad Buffy Night was this one, featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) as Daphne. I hadn't seen the first one and I don't have a whole lot to say about this one. It was fun though I don't think I would have enjoyed it if I had been watching it by myself. To its credit, I will say that we intended to watch just a few excerpts, but got sucked in and ended up watching the whole thing.

It's exactly like the cartoon, except that Daphne acts like Buffy. At least, I don't think that in the cartoon Daphne used to fight the monsters with pole-axes. Also, Shaggy does this weird thing with his neck where he tenses it up all the time so the veins are popping out. Someone pointed it out early in the movie, and from then on I couldn't stop staring at his freaky veiny neck every time he was on screen. Seth Green (Oz) is also in it, which makes this one another bad Buffy double-shot. Alas, no one said "I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for those meddling kids."

rip it off

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December 18 movie: Rip It Off. Lisa, Shayne and I got together yesterday for Bad Buffy Night, which means watching bad movies that star former cast members of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This involved a complex negotiation to find movies that were first of all, bad, secondly, unviewed by any of us, and third, not totally objectionable because of utter badness or other reasons. For instance, Shayne and I just weren't up for a horror movie, which ruled out Darkness Falls. And we didn't get Cruel Intentions because we'd all seen it.

Anyway, we started out the Bad Buffy extravaganza with Rip It Off, which from the packaging appeared to be a fun Alyson Hannigan (Willow) vehicle about young women doing a casino heist that their boyfriends are unable to pull off. We were expecting a chick Ocean's Eleven. Unfortunately the movie was actually really depressing and ugly and most of the characters are unpleasant and have terrible dialogue. Hannigan isn't as much of the star as we expected, and she plays a lesbian junkie whore and the woman she loves dies at the end. So in other words, the last two seasons of Buffy made this role a natural for her.

On the bright side, the movie also featured Alexis Denisof (Wesley, and Hannigan's real life spouse) as one of the boyfriends. So it was a bad Buffy double-shot, so to speak. Denisof plays a small-time Russian crook who dresses like a jamoke: shiny track pants, sleeveless Tshirts, big gold chain with a cross, and very, very bad hair. He also speaks with the worst Russian accent ever. With a name like Alexis Denisof, you'd think he would have at least one Russian relative to practice the accent with. But no such luck apparently. Denisof isn't quite as evil as the other Russian boyfriend, but close. Also he lives in an apartment with giant spatulas hanging in the kitchen. We rewound over and over, trying to figure out if the spatulas were a decorative element, or it was a trick of perspective and they were just normal spatulas badly filmed. I'm going with the decorative element. And it says something about the movie that the spatulas were the most interesting thing. As the credits rolled Shayne summed it up better than I can: "Now we know why this movie was direct to video."

Return of Zatoichi

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December 17 movie: The Return of Zatoichi. The second Zatoichi movie takes place a year after the first, with Zatoichi returning to pay his respects to the grave of the samurai he killed in the first movie. Zatoichi also fights with his brother, who had stolen the woman he loved, and kills a bunch of bad guys. Also he meets up again with the woman who fell for him in the first movie, but refuses her again. And he sleeps with a prostitute, which I gather is more respectable in a historical Japanese film than it would be in an American film. It's great to get all this backstory on Zatoichi. The later movies are all so episodic: Zatoichi shows up in a town, befriends some honest people who fall afoul of gangsters, then Zatoichi kills all the bad guys. It's been really nice to see how the Zatoichi story began. We got the next one on the DVR today and I can't wait to watch it. Yay to IFC for showing these movies!

pork chop hill

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December 16 movie: Pork Chop Hill. Gregory Peck stars as a captain whose men are ordered to take and hold a hill in Korea "at any cost." Not only are the American soldiers outnumbered and undersupplied, they all know the battle is futile. The hill is strategically meaningless but is a point of contention at the peace negotiations. There's no gory violence a la Saving Private Ryan but the horror of war and chaos of battle is amply depicted.

The only false note for me was the very end, a stirring monologue by Peck about how much the soldiers had achieved for their country. But the whole point of the movie (for me at least) was the pointlessness of their heroism and sacrifice. But I guess the movie is ambiguous enough that, while it seemed like a powerful anti-war film to me, it could be just as powerful a pro-war movie to a hawkish viewer.

the perils of pauline

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December 15 movie: The Perils of Pauline. Betty Hutton plays Pearl White, silent movie star best known for the serial "The Perils of Pauline" (thus the title). The movie is fairly forgettable except for Betty, luminous as ever. The scenes where they were filming the silent movies were funny though. Everyone jumped around in these jerky movements to simulate the sped-up look of silent movies. I also watched the TCM "Private Screenings" interview with her. She was amazing, so candid and genuine. It's rare to see a celebrity speak from the heart like that. I wonder if she was always like that, or if it was being out of the public eye for so long that made her sound so unstudied in her interview.

yolanda and the thief

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December 15 movie: Yolanda and the Thief. Fred Astaire plays a con man who tricks a Latin American heiress (Lucille Bremer) into believing he's her guardian angel so he can bilk her out of millions. Except she really does have a guardian angel. Who guilts Astaire into giving the money back, and then orders him to marry her. Weird movie!

Not nearly enough dancing, almost no singing. And Astaire seemed to have been studying at the Gene Kelly school of choreography, because the biggest number was one of those awful dream sequences that stop the movie dead in its tracks and don't even have that much dancing. Also, Astaire was getting to the age where his wooing a teenager (the actress clearly wasn't, but the character was fresh out of convent school) was a little creepy. Even more creepy was the girl's position as de facto ruler of the fictional tiny Latin American country. Her family's corporate holdings controlled practically the entire GNP, and the peasants treated her like a demigoddess. So Astaire married his way into ownership of a corporate nation-state. How romantic!

evalicious

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The America's Next Top Model finale was brilliant. Now I really hate that I missed the party. I probably could have left Lina alone but I felt like I should stay with her. Since I couldn't snark at the party, here's my commentary:

Three seasons, and twice the person I liked best out of the final four has won. Yay for Eva! Actually what I really want is for the people I like best to get into the top three, because by that point they all have almost an equal shot at a career. I guess Yoanna is doing a little better than Mercedes from season 2, but they're both working. And Elise from season 1 has the most success of anyone from any season. Winning doesn't seem to get them that much of a head start (just ask Adrianne how fame is working out for her) though I get the impression the show is trying harder to set it up so the sponsors can't renege on the prizes.

I have my doubts about the "real fashion show" not being staged for ANTM. Because for one, last season the final episode fashion show was for D Squared, but I've seen their past three shows on Fashiontrance, and the ANTM show wasn't one of them. I bet this one was the same way. Second, if that was the real collection then why was makeup artist Jay Manuel in charge of it? Doesn't the designer have her own staff who handle her runway shows? Third, they never said whether it was the Fall 2004 or Spring 2005 show. When did they film this thing anyway? It couldn't have been Fall 2004, that was way back in February. It could have been Spring 2005, that was in September. But still, I suspect this was a special runway show they put together for ANTM. I did like that they made them walk in a different style, that made it more of a challenge. And I agreed with the judges that Eva's walk was better than Yaya's. I thought Yaya looked terrified.

Despite Tyra's protestations to the contrary, I heard that she very much wanted a black woman to win this season. Which is not to say that Eva didn't deserve to win, just that I think that was in her favor and Yaya's as well.

I also hear that Tyra and her mother are planning a talk show. Which explains mom's presence on the show, and the frequent "one on one" talks where Tyra gives her sage advice. They may have been doing those talks all along, but this is the first season I remember seeing it on the show.

Best moment of the episode: Janice jumping on Eva and wrapping her legs around her waist. Was Janice just waiting for her chance now that Ann and Eva are splitsville? I love that crazy silicone inflated freak so much. I think she lost the "world's first supermodel" war with Tyra. She hardly argued at all this season about whether she was just one of the world's first supermodels or the very first. (for what it's worth, I think she's clearly not the world's first supermodel -- Twiggy anyone? -- but she claims to have coined the term.)

Worst challenge of the season: the tea ceremony. What the hell did that have to do with modeling?

Best challenge of the season: acting the death scene with, what is that guy's name, Taye Diggs? Making them read all that medical terminology and then speak French was hi-larious.

Biggest editing-inspired personality whiplash: Amanda. Remember the beginning of the season when she made up accusations of theft against Eva and left money on the dresser to trap her? Wondering why none of that stuff was in the clip show? Me too.

god said, ha!

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December 15 movie: God Said, Ha! Julia Sweeney's one woman show about the year in which her brother was diagnosed with terminal cancer, her entire family moved into her house to care for him, and then she was also diagnosed with cancer. It sounds godawful depressing but it's actually really funny and touching. The funniest part is when they have to give the brother a shunt in his head, and the doctor persuades him by saying that all his patients who have shunts love them. After which the brother goes around saying "I love my shunt!" all the time, and when they watch ER he yells at the screen "Give him a shunt! He needs something to love!" Also funny is her acknowledgement of how awful and unfunny the Pat character became, and how everyone (including her) wished Pat would go away unfortunately before it did.

lina again

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Lina seems to have hurt her leg again. She was fine this morning when I put them out, she ran out the door and ran back in just like normal. Around noon I noticed that she was pacing around looking uncomfortable. She's sort of limping, favoring her rear left leg (the one that had surgery) but not holding it up off the ground like before. The scary part is that she can't lie down. She tries but immediately gets back up. She can't sit for more than a couple of minutes, and can't lie down for more than a second or two. All the poor thing can do is pace.

I called the vet and they told me to give her a Rimadyl (I still had some from before) and call them back in the morning if she's still in pain. Gave her the pill about an hour ago. She is walking more easily but she still can't lie down. I don't know if I can take a whole night of her pacing around, unable to lie down. I think if she still can't lie down by 4:30 I'm going to call them back and ask for a stronger painkiller.

I had to bail on Pinky's ANTM party because Georg is out of town today and I can't leave Lina alone. I'm really bummed about the party. I was even going to bring umeboshi so we could eat them and say "Tastes so sweet, you'll think it's candy!"

Meanwhile I'm still under an insane deadline but haven't gotten a damned bit of work done in the past hour and a half. Although I haven't heard from the client all day and they still have content to give me. Obviously this isn't going to be done today. Wish they would let me know what's up in any case.

[ETA:] While I was writing this she finally lay down. What a relief.

winter is here

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It's cold. So cold I'm wearing two pairs of socks, my flannel pjs and a long sleeved Tshirt and a bulky sweatshirt. (I tell you, winter is the sexiest season around here.) When did it get so cold? We put straw over the pansies so they wouldn't freeze. They've been looking great, lots of flowers, and I'm bummed that I didn't go out and take a picture today. Oh well, if the cold damages them I'll just wait, in a few weeks we'll have a warm spell and they'll bounce back.

Work is continuing to kick my ass but at least I'm getting it done. Unfortunately my client isn't doing as well at getting their part done, so the redesign may still not be ready by their deadline (tomorrow -- eek!) Well, if we miss the deadline, it sure as hell isn't going to be my fault. I worked until almost 11 last night, but tonight I watched a movie with Georg because he's going out of town for work tomorrow and not getting back until really late. It kind of sucks but at least he doesn't have to stay overnight.

I got my gardening books but I decided to send back the one on organic gardening. It was intended for people who want to start a small organic farm. I knew that, but the Amazon customer reviews said it still had lots of good information for the home gardener. But all I found was technical information about farming that was totally useless to me. I really do not need a detailed comparison of different types of plows. This is the first time Amazon's customer reviews have led me wrong. I usually get pretty good idea of whether a book is going to work for me or not.

I probably don't need a book about organic gardening anyway. I'm not that into it, I can probably find out whatever I need to know from the internets. I did keep the other book, about vegetable gardening. That one looks good.

I heard an interview on the radio today with NPR's librarian. That is either the coolest job in the world, or the most stressful. Or maybe both. The way she spoke, her manner I mean, reminded me of that movie Desk Set. It's one of the Tracy/Hepburn movies (which I'm not crazy about in general), Hepburn plays the head of the research department for a newspaper and Tracy has built a computer which everyone fears is going to replace all the staff in her department. Hepburn's character is super smart, as that job would require, but she seemed like the kind of person I'd find really annoying to spend time with. Interrupting people to correct them, popping out bits of trivia in a rather smug way, etc. The woman from NPR wasn't that annoying but still, there was something about her that reminded me of Hepburn in Desk Set.

Should be in bed now but I started listening to music and now I'm not sleepy. Maybe I'll read for awhile.

blind swordsman: the story of zatoichi

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December 14: Blind Swordsman: The Story of Zatoichi. Not exactly clear on the title of this one. The info screen called it Zatoichi: The Life and Opinion of a Blind Masseur, but I used the title that appeared in the film itself. Well in the subtitles, to be precise.

We think this was the first Zatoichi movie. Like all the others, Zatoichi somehow gets involved in a squabble among petty gangsters, although he doesn't kick as much bad guy butt as usual. In the other Zatoichi movies I've seen, he's always seeking a legitimate job, but in this one he calls himself a gangster several times and doesn't have a problem working for one of the gangs. There's a little bit of backstory; he says something vague about how he used to be a legitimate masseur until three years before, and that he practiced swordsmanship on his own, no formal training.

Zatoichi looked so young in this film! He's still an unlikely hero: not very handsome, and a bit greedy. Which is one of the things I really like about Zatoichi. He's not some saintly altruist who travels the countryside helping the needy and refusing all reward. He wants to make some money, and he doesn't mind doing the occasional unsavory work to get it. There's a subplot about a young woman whose brother is trying to force her to be with (maybe marry, or maybe just have sex with) a gangster, but Zatoichi doesn't rescue her: the would-be husband dies in the gang war. She falls for Zatoichi and wants to go with him but he refuses because he's a loner, Dottie, a rebel.

battleship potemkin

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December 11 movie: Battleship Potemkin. Speaking of silent Soviet films, they were showing this on PBS on Saturday night so my dad and I watched it. Did you know there is a whole new PBS station in the Philadelphia area? They have three now! An embarrassment of riches. I used to answer the phones during pledge drives for NJN, the South Jersey station, and I think once or twice I did WHYY too. One time they were showing ice skating, and they cut off the end of someone's routine to go to the pledge drive, and we were flooded with furious calls. Like there was anything we could do about it. We wrote down their complaints but I don't know if anyone from the station ever even read them. I guess it made the callers feel better, which is something I suppose. That was the most interesting thing that ever happened.

Anyway, the movie. Does it make me sound pretentious to say that I enjoyed it? Because I did. The print was really good, sharp images and hardly any scratches. I had seen the famous "Odessa Steps" scene before but not the whole movie. I was surprised that it turned out to have a happy ending. Well, except for all those dead Odessans on the steps, I guess it wasn't a happy ending for them. But still, the overall tone of the movie was so grim that the ending came as a surprise. When the rest of the fleet supports the mutineers at the end I was kind of like, huh?

dress to kill

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December 10 movie: Dress to Kill. This is my favorite Eddie Izzard movie. My dad and I watched it but my mom was tired and went to bed early. I guess I was tired too because I didn't laugh as much as the first time I saw it. It was funny though. There are a lot of funny bits but I especially like the part where he speculates on how Jerry Dorsey came up with the stage name "Englebert Humperdink" (my dad told me it was the name of a composer, which I had not known before, but the bit is still funny), and also the part about England conquering a bunch of countries through clever use of flags.

man with a movie camera

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December 9 movie: Man with a Movie Camera. Yes I know, this makes the 4th viewing this year. I had the DVD and wanted to show it to my folks. I think they enjoyed it. We talked about the fact that, as I have heard, the movie was so far ahead of its time it put the director, Dziga Vertov, on the outs with the Soviet government. Although my dad pointed out that might have been due also to the images of homeless people early in the film, in the segment on the city waking up. After all, street people aren't supposed to exist in the workers' utopia.

We also talked about how much more difficult it must have been to create the split screen and superimposed image effects in 1929, with no computers or Final Cut Pro, and how effectively these techniques were used. Not just to look fancy but to add meaning to the film. There's one segment in particular which shows major and minor events of life -- a birth, a divorce, a marriage, people riding in a car, a wounded man in an ambulance, etc -- cut back and forth with a close-up of the camera lens, and the cameraman's eye superimposed over it. The first couple times I saw the movie, I thought I was actually seeing his eye through the lens but eventually I realized that it was two separate images. The eye flickers back and forth frantically like the cameraman is trying to capture all these moments, not miss out on anything. Which is a pretty interesting visual comment on the movie as voyeurism.

(Trivia note: searching on The Man with a Movie Camera turns up the 1929 film in imdb.com, but Man with a Movie Camera returns a 2005 horror film in production. You'd think that with such similar names, they'd give you both results on either search and let you pick the one that was appropriate.)

back from DE

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Just got back about an hour ago from my trip to DE. It was a belated Thanksgiving visit that turned into an combination of late Thanksgiving and early Christmas. No turkey though; we had ham instead which was a nice change. Watched lots of movies, did some cooking, got halfway through The Name of the Rose with a companion book that had translations of all non-English phrases and short bios of almost all historical figures mentioned. I was surprised to find out that Ubertino the mystic and Bernard Gui the inquisitor were both real people. The only real disappointment of the trip was not getting to see my sister, who had the flu.

Will write more later. But now, time for lying down, staring at the Christmas lights, waiting for Georg's wonderful dinner (lamb stew) to be ready, and maybe watching TV. I heard JR pushed Bianca off a balcony on Thursday. I wish they'd wrap this damned storyline up, but that ought to be exciting. If they really want to drag out the agony, she'll have amnesia when she wakes up.

question

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So when you spend almost two hours working on a maddening code problem, and you even cut off your dad when he calls because you have to have it solved by the end of the day, and you finally figure out that you had neglected to capitalize one letter in the middle of a word because fucking Javascript cares about capitalization, and you didn't even want to use fucking Javascript in the first place, are you happy to finally have the problem solved, or pissed off to have wasted so much time on something so stupid?

This is the question that plagues me.

cool things

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  • Exchanging email today with a woman who's putting together a TV show about Southern drivers who trick out their cars. She hopes to do an episode on a "build an art car" workshop like the one we did for Chicks Rock. Would that not be cool?
  • getting a deck sale from a coworker of the TV person. Which just came by fax!
  • our Xmas lights are the nicest ones on the block. OK, they're the only ones up yet on the block, but after our yard was the shame of the neighborhood in past years, I'll take whatever neighborhood pride I can get.
  • a warm enough night to turn off the heat and leave the doors open so the dogs could sit outside -- 2 years almost to the day after the big ice storm.
  • Cherry pie. Mmm. cherry.
  • Still no time for yardwork on an even more beautiful day, but I took the dogs outside and did a little weeding in the iris bed while I was out there. The irises are doing great, all sending up new growth. The black ones I bought are just exploding. They may need to be divided next year. Some of the blue ones from Peggy, that I've had forever and never divided until this fall, are sending up four or five fans from each rhizome. Apparently plants like good soil, more sunshine and not being overcrowded. Who knew?
  • still crazy busy with work, which is not cool, but most of the worst of it was done yesterday.
  • This time tomorrow I will be driving up I-95 on my vacation! Which reminds me, I ought to put the "I am your traffic jam entertainment" bumper sticker on my car before I go. Did I ever even post that I got the bumper sticker from Cafe Press? It turned out really nice.

imitation of life

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Dec. 5 movie: Imitation of Life. Went over to Shayne's house on Sunday night to have dinner and watch the Lana Turner version of Imitation of Life. Great fun and a great movie. We almost didn't get to watch it because the DVD didn't arrive in time from Netflix. Visart had it on video, but it was an old, beat up video which Shayne's VCR didn't like. But Dave acted as tech support and got it working for us. (The funny thing is, the DVD finally arrived on Monday, the day after we watched the video! I would have watched it again with commentary, but there was none, no extras at all in fact.)

It was really interesting to watch it after both of us had just seen the Claudette Colbert version. They're both basically the same story: a white woman and a black woman become lifelong friends and raise their daughters together. I've heard that the Lana Turner version is considered one of the great melodramas and I certainly agree, it's one of the best I've seen.

The racial story was much more the focus of this version I thought, and portrayed much more graphically. For instance there's a really intense scene where the black daughter, Sarah Jane, has been passing for white and her white boyfriend finds out. He calls her the "n" word, beats her up and leaves her lying in a gutter with blood on her face. Jeez, nothing like that happened in the '34 version!

Shayne and I agreed that the Annie (Juanita Moore), the black woman in this version, was portrayed with more depth and personality than Delilah, the character in the first movie. Delilah was basically a mammy, not very smart, talking in a cringe-worthy dialect, and wanting nothing from life but to take care of her daughter and be Claudette Colbert (Bea)'s housekeeper. Like Hattie McDaniel in, well, a lot of movies. But more sweet and not as smart. Delilah and Bea are technically business partners, but really that means that Bea gave her a share of the profits because she came up with the recipe. Delilah doesn't actually have anything to do with the business, except cooking in the restaurant before they hit it big with the pancake mix.

In the later film, Annie is still Lora (Lana Turner)'s housekeeper, and in a way it's a step back because Lora is an actress so there's no business for Annie to be part of. But Annie does seem to have more of an independant life. There's a very telling scene where Annie mentions her friends, and Lora expresses surprise that she has friends. Annie says "You never asked," and goes on to say that she has hundreds of friends from her church, lodges and social clubs. The relationship between the two women is still totally one-sided, but this is presented as a failing on Lora's part. In the earlier film, it never seems to occur to anyone that Delilah would have a life of her own, or that Bea would care if she did. Even after they're rich, Delilah and her daughter still live downstairs in the servant's quarters. At least Annie and Sarah Jane have bedrooms upstairs with the family in Lora's house.

I wish that they had presented more life options for Sarah Jane, the daughter. The only alternatives she seems to have are to pass as white, or to date chauffeurs. There's no opportunity for her to better herself without denying herself. Shayne pointed out that there probably were very few opportunities for black women so in that way the movie was being realistic. I don't know a whole lot about racial politics of the 50s, but they lived on the outskirts of New York. It seems like there had to be a black community with professional opportunities there, if anywhere. But I guess the point was that Sarah Jane hated her heritage and didn't want to be part of a black community.

There's a whole other storyline in the movie about the conflict between Lora (Turner) and her daughter Susie (Sandra Dee), which I didn't write about because it's more typical melodrama fare. Lora's driving ambition for acting success makes her an absentee mother, Susie falls for Lora's love interest (Steve Archer, the only name that's consistent between the two movies), Steve wants Lora to abandon her career for him, blah di blah. It's an interesting story about people wanting things for the wrong reasons, and their relationships suffering because of it. But it's not as compelling as the Annie/Sarah Jane story. (Sandra Dee is too cute for words though. She was married to Bobby Darin; I wonder who's playing her in the Kevin Spacey biopic?)

I think that if you examine this movie from a modern perspective on racial issues, there's a lot not to like and even to be offended by. But looking at it in the context of the time it was made, it must have been ground-breaking. Annie sums up the message of that part of the movie when she says "It's a sin to be ashamed of who you are."

The ending is a massive tearjerker, but I'm proud to say I managed to get through it with just a few sniffles. Usually by the time Mahalia Jackson sings, I'm bawling.

man with a movie camera

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December 4 movie: Man with a Movie Camera. I know, I just saw this a month ago. But the DVD just arrived so I had to watch it. Well, I thought I had done a pretty good job of synching the soundtrack and the movie, but I was way off. What I didn't know was that the soundtrack doesn't start up for three minutes; the first few minutes of the movie are silent. Plus a couple of tracks are twice as long in the movie as in the CD. No wonder nothing synched up. It almost felt like watching a different movie this time. Really: this was my third time watching the movie and I kept seeing new stuff and wondering if it had been added for this DVD. Which is kind of weird, because obviously they didn't add any footage. I guess that's the power of a good soundtrack.

There are some DVD extras: a couple of Cinematic Orchestra videos, which I'm sure I'll be more interested in watching when I haven't just seen the same music in the movie, and a short "making of" which I watched the first few minutes, but it was boring so I turned it off.

tired

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It's been a busy few days. Work busy. Busy like my legs ache from sitting at my desk so long. It would have been a little hectic anyway, but Friday afternoon I got a frantic call from my best client, who desperately need their entire site redesign, which I thought was to be done by the end of the year, by the 15th. I'm going to be away Thursday through Sunday. Which means the bulk of it has to be done before I go, to give them time to proof. It's a big site and we're converting to CSS based layout. So there's a lot to do.

It's all going to be done in time, but man am I tired. I heard on the radio that it was a nice day but I wouldn't know, I never even stuck my head outside the door except to let the dogs in and out. It's probably the last warm day of the winter, figures that I'd be too busy to do any yardwork.

I still have to post some some photos for someone else tonight, but now I'm going to lie down and watch a soap opera. I hear Bianca finds out today that her baby is alive. I so need a vacation.

time waster

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Everyone who's interested has probably already seen this, but I've wasted tons of time on Guess the Dictator or Sitcom Character.

It easily got Edina Monsoon, Patsy Stone, Jiang Qing, Pol Pot, and every Buffy character I could think of. Charles Gunn was tougher for it, and I finally stumped it with Lorne, which it guessed as Willow. Then I tried Number 6, which it guessed as Wayne Campbell! How bizarre! (I know The Prisoner isn't a sitcom but it seems to allow all TV shows. Buffy, Angel and Wayne's World weren't sitcoms either.) I tried Number 6 again and it actually managed to stump me by asking if I liked pancakes. Flapjacks were a plot point in "Schizoid Man," but I couldn't remember whether he loved or hated them and had to look it up. (Number 6 hated them but was conditioned to believe they were his favorite breakfast food, and which is more sad? That I went to the trouble of looking that up, or my disappointment at not remembering off the top of my head?)

If you stump it, it asks you to provide a yes/no question which will be true for the person you were thinking of and false for the person it guessed. I gave it "Are you not a number, but a free man?" I should have said "Will you tell me why you resigned?" but I didn't think of it.

i need to learn spanish

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I've been cooking more Mexican food lately. Last night was a winner: an adobo, which apparantely means meat and vegetables stewed in ancho chili sauce. This one was chicken, potatoes and greens. Mmm! I'm definitely going to make it again. It was spicier than I expected -- I thought anchos weren't spicy at all -- but not too much. Just a nice zing that lingered on the lips. The recipe called for chard or collards, but I used spinach instead, which pretty much dissolved in the stew. Next time I'll use chard.

Today I'm making puerco pibil to take to Shayne's for our weeper night watching Imitation of Life. Puerco pibil is pork marinated in an achiote sauce, wrapped in banana leaves and then baked for hours. I've been wanting to try it ever since we saw the recipe on the Once Upon a Time in Mexico DVD extras, but we're using Rick Bayless' recipe, not Robert Rodriguez'. I must say, the spice blend smelled weird and kind of bad at first. I've never used achiote (also called annato) before and I was a little worried about it. But once we added the garlic and lime juice, it smelled good. I bet it will taste great on the pork.

Banana leaves were a little hard to find. The Kroger with the good Latino section didn't have them, nor did the Chinese grocery on 15-501. We were thinking that the new Filipino grocery might carry them, but we found them at the tienda on Hillsborough St. The guy behind the register did not speak a word of English, and I don't speak a word of Spanish, so it's a good thing I knew to look for them in the freezer. I would never have gotten them if I'd had to ask.

My transaction was basically handled by the customer ahead of me in line, who was waiting for another employee to get something for him from the back. The cashier said something to me, which in retrospect probably meant "Are all these things on the counter yours?" I just stood there with a "duh" look on my face, and the other customer said something which probably meant "No, those are mine, but I'm waiting for something so ring her up first." The cashier rang up my banana leaves, pointed to the dollar amount on the register (only $1.34! amazing!) took my money and gave me change, all the while saying things which were probably "$1.34 is your total, here's your change, etc." I said "gracias" at the end, and he smiled like "I know that's the only word of Spanish you know, but it's cool."

I need to learn some Spanish, at least enough to communicate while shopping in a tienda. I want to know if there's a tortilla factory in the area. And when there is one I want to know enough Spanish to shop there.

definite article

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December 3 movie: Definite Article. This was a stand-up routine by Eddie Izzard. Does it count as a movie? I think it does. It's 90 minutes long and it's on a DVD. In which case I should also mention Unrepeatable and Circle, two other Izzard DVDs we've watched recently.

In case you couldn't guess, we really like Eddie Izzard. He's done some acting but we most like his standup. He's very funny and his jokes tend towards topics like history and old movies, not so much the typical standup routines of flying on airplanes or going to bars or current politics, etc. My favorite of his performances was Dress to Kill, which we saw last year on HBO. I don't know if it's truly the funniest or if it's just the one that I saw first, but either way it seems the funniest to me. One of the reasons Georg delayed getting a website was that he couldn't get cakeordeath.com, which refers to an Izzard joke from Dress to Kill about how the Anglicans would have run the Inquisition, offering heretics the choice between cake or death.

Unrepeatable was his first performance to be filmed. It's funny, it has potential, but there are more typical standup jokes than in the others. He does have a very funny bit about The Great Escape, in which the cats are digging a tunnel called Charlie behind the couch, and also mysteriously wearing cat trousers so they can carry the excess dirt from the tunnel into the garden. (There's an extended bit about The Great Escape in Dress to Kill so it was interesting to see that he was working on the idea already.)

Definite Article is the one we watched on Friday. Actually I fell asleep (no reflection on the movie, it was the face-full of exhaust I had gotten from David's truck that knocked me out early) and finished watching it last night. It seems like he had found his voice by then, it's very funny and the topics are more like Dress to Kill. My favorite part was the letter the Corinthians write back to St. Paul, in which they tell him "Fuck off! Why do you keep writing us letters? You arrogant bastard!"

We watched Circle a while ago, I think maybe in October when I watched a bunch of movies but forgot to write any of them up. I don't remember Circle that well, but I did think it was funny. My only criticism is that I guess by the time he filmed Circle he had gotten more famous because of the success of Dress to Kill, and the audience was a bit obsequious. Applauding madly every time he said something remotely clever, you know what I mean? That's a minor complaint though, it was still funny.

remember?

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December 4 movie: Remember? Another romantic comedy about amnesia! The info screen on this one promised it was "two lovers reconnect after a jealous suitor gives them an amnesia drug." That's sort-of, kind-of, almost what happens. Actually it's Robert Taylor as a louse who meets his best friend's fiance (Greer Garson) and immediately seduces her, I mean literally groping her at the table in front of the best friend (Lew Ayres) five minutes after they meet. What a sleazeball! Garson is no better, she encourages Taylor from the start and seems to feel no guilt or regret whatsoever.

After Garson and Taylor elope, Ayres tries to bow out gracefully but they insist that he stay best friends with them and hang out with them all the time. Jeez, show some dignity, man. Their marriage collapses after a few months because they're horrible people who don't deserve to be happy. Garson and Taylor are both miserable about the breakup, and Ayres feels badly for them so he gives them the amnesia drug to make them forget their sorrow. The next day Garson and Taylor accidently meet again and the whole thing happens all over again! Love at first sight, sneaking away to elope. And Ayres helps them do it! Ugh.

There are a couple of funny moments. Like the second elopement, when they go to the same judge who married them the first time. He remembers that their divorce is not yet final even if they don't. The judge tries to explain that they don't need another wedding ceremony, they just need to start living together again. But he leaves out the word "again" and the couple are shocked, shocked I tell you, to hear such modern ideas from a judge. But mostly this was a waste of an hour and a half.

bubble car

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Yesterday I had to borrow my friend David's truck to return his wheelbarrow and buy one of my own. Because I'd gotten used to his nice wheelbarrow and don't want to go back to my rusty, rickety one. Wheelbarrows are one of the few situations where plastic is absolutely better than metal. The plastic ones weigh less, are stronger and don't rust.

But I could talk about wheelbarrows all day. The point is that David's truck is kind of a nightmare. Don't get me wrong, I am extremely grateful to him for letting me use it so frequently. Our landscaping work would be ten times harder if I didn't have easy access to a truck to bring mulch, haul away trash for the dump, bring home wheelbarrows, etc. But the truck is hard to drive. It has no power steering or power brakes, so it takes all my strength to get around sharp curves, and I have to be very careful about driving slow and giving myself lots of room to stop. When people cut in front of me or tailgate, they have no idea what a hazard they are creating and that adds to my stress. The truck used to backfire constantly, but he took it in for a tune-up and that seems to be fixed. (I kind of wish it still backfired because then people might give me a little more room.) It still stalls out sometime at stoplights. The new problem is that it also leaks exhaust into the cab. Actually that's probably not a new problem, but last time I borrowed the truck it was warm so I had the windows open and didn't notice. This time I definitely noticed.

By the time I got home I was wiped out, both from driving the truck and from breathing carbon monoxide. (Next time I'm going to wear a heavy coat and leave the windows open.) I had planned to cook dinner but ended up lying down while Georg got take-out. Then I fell asleep in the middle of the movie we watched after dinner. So I didn't get to any of my planned preparations for the Chapel Hill Christmas Parade this morning, like cleaning the car or taking a shower the night before since we had to be there so early.

The parade was great though. We've been to 3 Chapel Hill parades now and I think this was the best one. There was a good turnout, lots of people all along the route. It was cold but bright, and the sun warmed us up enough that we were comfortable driving with the windows open. We listened to a 3-CD set of big band Christmas music that I bought for the Divaville Xmas show. It has a bunch of classics performed by lesser-known musicians (like Fats Waller doing "Jingle Bells!") and several songs I'd never heard before, like "Little Jack Frost Get Lost" and "Christmas Chopsticks." Good stuff.

Undersea Mah Jongg is no longer "barbie car" in the eyes of the crowd; it's now "bubble car." People went nuts over the bubbles, especially the kids. I swear that bubble machine is the best thing I've ever done for the car. It was really fun to hear what people said about the car as we drove past. Some people thought the art was temporary, like one woman who said "Nice decorating job!" and obviously thought I had done it just for the parade. But I was surprised at how many people got it, and even knew the term art car. I heard one little boy explaining it to another: "It's an art car. Art. Car."

The crowd got noticably hipper in Carrboro. I heard one guy call my car "an iconoclastic float." That's a new one! (I also heard that the Carrboro crowd went nuts over Lisa's biodeisel stickers. Good for them!) I didn't see anyone I knew, which was too bad, but several people recognized me. I heard things like "hey I saw that car on 40!" "You parked next to us one time!" and "You work near my dad!"

So anyway, the parade was a great experience. I always get such a buzz from parades. My only complaint is that my mouth was a little sore after smiling and waving at people for 45 minutes!

Our group was Undersea Mah Jongg, Lisa and a couple of guys from the New Beetle club, and Toby Galinkin and her art car. As far as I know, Toby is the first art car driver in the Triangle. Seeing her car in 1990 or '91 is the reason I have an art car. So it's amazing to go to events with her now. We had lunch after the parade with the bug folks, unfortunately Toby and her friend Ann couldn't join us. We ate at the Barbecue Joint, which was excellent as usual. I had a reuben, Georg had crab cakes, and everyone else had barbecue. Mmm, reuben. The sign said they cure their own pastrami and I believe it.

I didn't really feel up to yardwork when we got home, but it was such a nice day. So we put up outdoor Christmas decorations. I know, I know, just a week ago I said it was too damned soon. But what the heck, being in a parade got me in the holiday spirit. Our decorations aren't too elaborate. Just lights around the front porch, and a lit up artificial tree on the porch. The tree was a bit complicated, first with having trouble finding all of it in the shed, then one of the strands of lights didn't work, but I didn't know it until it was on the tree. Also two strands were multi colored, but two were all red. So I did a lot of moving bulbs around to make them all multi, but heavy on the red. I can't wait for it to get dark so we can see how it looks!

new music yay

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Just sent in my requests for the glorious music buy at the station. Mostly I asked for replacements of RPM that had been stolen. I tried not to be greedy: for instance I asked for just my 2 favorite Future Sound of London albums, not replacing the entire collection. Besides FSOL I asked for a few things by Orbital (another major victim of the big RPM theft a few years ago) and One Word Extinguisher by Prefuse 73. Plus I asked for some CDs that weren't stolen because we never had them in the first place, but we should have: Barbara Morgenstern's first album, Aluminum Tunes by Stereolab, and either of Nathan Haines' two albums. I can't wait to see what they get! I'm not expecting everything I asked for, but any will be great.

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