November 2005 Archives

home from the holidays

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Traffic was hell but we made it to Delaware and back without major incident. One nice thing came from the horrible traffic: on the way up we detoured through rural Maryland and had a lovely drive past old farmhouses and a very cool hydro electric plant. We didn't know it was coming until we were right on top of it, so I didn't have time to get out my camera. But Georg found and linked to a photo. If it weren't for our drive lasting 2.5 hours longer than it should have, I would have been downright happy about the detour.

On Saturday Georg and my sister and I had lunch at the Charcoal Pit. That was the favorite hangout of high school students when I was one, and apparently still is today. I remembered going there with my friends back in the day, but I didn't remember how utterly amazing the food was. Hamburgers and french fries and milkshakes, oh my. The burger and fries were both outstanding, but I think my favorite thing was the milkshake. It came in a huge metal container, with glasses and spoons so we could scoop it out a little bit at a time. That way most of the shake stays nice and cold in the metal thing.

The place hadn't changed a bit since the early 80s, and from the photos it appears to have hardly changed since the mid 50s. I highly recommend it to diner aficionados. It's not far from I-95. My mom told a funny story from years ago, before my sister or I was born: one night mom cooked pork chops and mashed potatoes for my dad and herself. After dinner she announced that she was still hungry and wanted to go to the Charcoal Pit for an ice cream sundae. When she got there she decided to have a cheese steak instead. Then she went ahead and had the ice cream too. Now I know where I get my appetite from.

Saturday night we checked out a house near my folks with a spectacular Christmas light display. Why is it that people in Durham always seem to go for the all-white lights? Georg and I agreed that multicolored lights are way more fun. Especially if you have way too many of them. This house had the benefit of a big yard, so they could set up paths for people to walk among the lights. On one side of the yard they had even laid blue lights on the ground to look like a pond, and then put life-sized ice skaters on it!

Now we are home and I'm in my jammies and ready for bed. The display on my laptop has finally given up the ghost, but I have a loaner computer and a shipping box ready to send the laptop to Applecare. All I need to do is find my danged firewire cable so I can transfer all my critical files to the loaner.

The pet sitter took such good care of the dogs that they didn't even seem that excited to see us. I thought they would be frantic but no, they acted about the same as when we come home from work any normal day. It's a big relief to have them stay at home while we're away. I like our new pet sitter a lot. She seems to really care about the dogs. Someone had an accident while we were away (I'm guessing Thirteen) so the pet sitter split the evening visit into 2 short stops, which brought her here 3 times a day. And she wouldn't even take any extra money!

thirteen update

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Thirteen had her acupuncture this morning. I was really glad to have the appointment because the cold snap of the past few days has been really hard on her. I must admit I was hoping that the cold wouldn't affect her as much as usual. But that hope turned out to be overly optimistic. Once over the weekend I saw Thirteen having difficulty standing up. It hurt to see her like that.

We had Dr. Pagel today. I think she's the more expert of the two acupuncturists. We talked about the impact of the weather and she (Dr. Pagel, not Thirteen) suggested Chinese herbal medicine. I must admit I'm rather dubious, but I'm willing to give it a try. I have an empirical approach: if a treatment works, we'll do it.

So we brought home a bottle of pills. I was hoping for a tea extracted from a variety of obscure ingredients, all stored in an antique apothecary cabinet, but no such luck. I asked Dr. Pagel how it works and she was pretty vague. Basically she said that the explanation is all in terms of Chinese medicine & wouldn't mean much if I wanted the kind of explanation you would normally get when you ask how a medication works.

I don't know. I'll try this once, but the pills were expensive. If we don't see substantial improvement, I'm going to drop the herbal medicine and suggest we instead increase the frequency of acupuncture. Which would actually be more expensive than the herbal medicine, but at least I know it works. In any case I'm going to wait until next week to start the herbal medicine so I'll be here to watch for side effects.

On the bright side, Thirteen seemed to respond really well to today's acupuncture session. While we were there and she still had the needles in, she rolled over on her side for me to scratch her stomach! She loves that, but I don't think I've ever seen her do it outside our home. Normally when the needles are in she just stands there looking nervous. Although sometimes she does lie down.

In even better news, Thirteen's weight loss program has been effective. She's lost 7 pounds: almost 15% of her starting weight. Dr. Pagel said that if Thirteen were otherwise healthy, this would be a fine weight to stay at. But the purpose of the weight loss is to ease the pressure on her arthritis, which is fairly severe. So we are going to keep at it until she loses another 2-3 pounds. I deeply hate restricting Thirteen's food, but it's worth it to make her life more comfortable or even maybe extend her life.

One funny thing about Thirteen's weight: at the acupuncture appointments, I often ask them to check some new lump on Thirteen that I just noticed. It's always been a harmless fatty tumor or cyst or whatever. But this time I told Dr. Pagel that I had noticed a new lump on Thirteen's side, about midway between her front and back legs, and I was concerned about it because it was kind of hard. Dr. Pagel felt Thirteen's side and informed me that the "lump" was actually a rib! It's been years since I could feel Thirteen's ribs.

the lady eve

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November 19 movie: The Lady Eve. I've said before how much I love this movie. I even already mentioned the presence of Charles Coburn, Eugene Pallette and Eric Blore, three supporting actors I love in everything they do. I think my favorite scene this time was when Barbara Stanwyck makes up a lengthy series of imaginary past lovers to shock Henry Fonda, punctuated by sound effects from the train they're riding on. It's comedy gold.

man's favorite sport?

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November 18 movie: Man's Favorite Sport? This is one of those hostile romantic comedies from the early 60s. Rock Hudson plays a fishing expert who works for Abercrombie & Fitch. Apparently before it was the place for half-naked gay college students, it was the place for fully clothed gay fishing experts. Paula Prentiss plays the promotions director for a fishing tournament who strong-arms Hudson into competing. Trouble is, he's a fraud who doesn't know how to fish! Dum-dum! Also there's a guy working for the tournament who pretends to be a Native American by acting out the worst stereotypes imaginable. This movie was very not funny. About the only thing I can compliment is the opening credits.

harry potter and the goblet of fire

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November 18 movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Alicia, you are safe! Georg said pretty much everything I would have said about the movie, so I'll just talk about the moviegoing experience instead.

It's been a long time since I've seen a movie in a theater that crowded. We had to sit way down in front, in the section without stadium seating. Is there a term for the opposite of nosebleed seats? Maybe neck pain seats, because that's definitely what we had by the end of the movie. On the bright side, the audience was remarkably not rude. Once the movie got going the talking pretty much stopped.

The trailers pretty much ranged from "meh" to "suck." Except the "Superman Jesus" trailer which was a big dose of "huh?" I swear to god, the trailer ends with Superman flying up to the heavens, surrounded by a holy glow, while a booming voice talks about saving the people of Earth by sending his only son to them. It's freaky.

Interesting trivia: Brandon Routh, the actor who plays Superman, got started on the soap opera One Life to Live about 4 years ago. He played Seth, the boyfriend of good girl Jessica. Except really he was the secret boyfriend of Jessica's long lost twin Natalie, and was helping Natalie plot against Jessica. Anyway, the scuttlebutt at the time was that Routh was fired because he refused to go along with plans to make the character bisexual, which to my knowledge would have been the first bi love triangle on daytime. Seth was recast but they ditched the storyline anyway. There were a couple of ho-yay scenes of another guy hiding in the bushes while Seth and Jessica made out, leering and both of them, and then the whole thing was dropped. I can't even remember if Seth moved away or just faded off the canvas. Anyway, besides the whole gay thing Routh's acting wasn't very good. You may be thinking "bad for a soap? Wow, that's bad." But what I really mean is that soaps demand a certain style of acting that he wasn't able to do. Who knows, he might be great as Superman.

i married a witch

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November 17 movie: I Married a Witch. Veronica Lake plays a witch who in the seventeenth century curses Fredic March and all his descendants to be unhappy in love. Then she comes back in the present day -- well, the 1940s -- and while tormenting March's descendant (also played by March), falls for him. I greatly enjoyed this very funny movie, which was the inspiration for the TV show Bewitched.

hard to get

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November 14 movie: Hard to Get. Olivia de Havilland plays a spoiled hieress who tries to stiff a gas-station worker (Dick Powell) at an "auto camp" (like a motel). When Powell makes her clean rooms to pay for the gas, she decides to get back at him by pretending to be a maid and tricking him into tangling with her father. It's kind of like The Richest Girl in the World, except in that movie Miriam Hopkins was a decent girl who just wanted to be loved for herself. Not a vicious brat who wants to hurt people for daring to assume the rules apply to her too.

it happened to jane

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November 13 movies: It Happened to Jane. Doris Day plays a widowed lobster fisherwoman living in a small Maine town, who sues a huge railroad company owned by Ernie Kovacs, doing his best Charles Foster Kane impersonation to play the "meanest man in the world." Jack Lemmon plays Day's love interest, a lawyer in the small town who's passionate about bettering his world through politics.

The movie was funny, very funny at times, but it just didn't work for me. Lemmon is badly miscast, Day is so squeaky clean you could scrub a floor with her, and by the end of the movie I was so sick of salt-of-the-earth New Englanders and their homespun wisdom I wanted to scream. What I wouldn't give for urbane sophisticates trading quips over champagne cocktails!

bataan

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November 13 movie: Bataan. It wasn't just war movies last weekend; it was depressing war movies. I watched this one because of the cast, which included Robert Taylor, Robert Walker and Desi Arnez. According to Robert Osbourne this was the first Hollywood movie to show an African American soldier who is the equal of the other soldiers. He didn't have much personality, but at least he wasn't a horrible step-and-fetchit stereotype.

they were expendable

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November 12 movie: They Were Expendable. I think they were showing war movies last weekend because of Veteran's Day. This was a movie about PT boat captains in the Philippines, starring John Wayne and Robert Montgomery. I love Montgomery but generally dislike Wayne, so this was kind of a wash for me.

400 daffodils

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We got all the daffodils planted, yay! Well, almost all. We planted up the entire bank along the driveway and still have a couple dozen left. Working together it took Georg and I all day. Good thing we were both working on it! This was harder than the ones I planted by the road, because of the slope and also because we were standing and kneeling on boards to avoid compacting the soil. Which is hard to balance, and also hard on the knees.

I'm really happy with the Terra Ceia, the mail order source I bought them from. They sent me a shipping confirmation so I knew when to expect them, and the bulbs were good quality. Nice and big, and only 4 mushy ones in a box of 400. My only complaint is that they didn't include any freebies. Of course they don't have to, but most vendors do when you place a big order. Still, I was really happy with what I got. Besides the daffodils I also ordered 100 white and 100 blue muscari, and 3 giant alliums (or is that allii?) for fun.

We're both tired and sore now, but a nice relaxing evening and I think we'll feel fine in the morning. We had some leftover roast chicken which we made into the most amazing chicken pot pie. Now we have the fire going and it's time to watch movies!

child vs. dog

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I had the dogs at Pet Smart, and while we were standing in line a little boy walked right up and started petting Jane on the head without asking me. I didn't say anything, and I still regret it. I don't like to correct other people's children, but kids really ought to learn not to touch strange animals.

Jane was fine; a little nervous in general because of the strange environment, but she stood quietly and let him pet her. That boy is just lucky that Jane isn't mean! Of course I wouldn't take a mean dog to a public place, but how does that boy's mother know that? Basically she's trusting me to look out for her child so she doesn't have to. The mother didn't even know he was there; she was ahead of me in line while the kid wandered around the store alone. Occasionally she would yell his name but that was the extent of her concern.

When the boy reached for Thirteen I did stop him. I told him that she didn't like being petted because she was afraid of people. Thirteen proved my point by fleeing from him and hiding behind me.

So what would y'all do in this situation? He seemed like a nice kid, he wasn't rough with Jane. I didn't want to prevent him from petting her; I just wanted him to ask first if it was okay.

(We were at Pet Smart, by the way, to buy a new bed for Thirteen. Thick orthopedic foam. She got right on it in the store, but now that it's sitting in her favorite sleeping spot, she won't go near it. Sigh.)

change of season

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Looks like yesterday was the last freakishly warm day of the year. I made good use of it, too: borrowed David's truck and got some compost. The guy at the dump filled the truck extra full: 17 wheelbarrows full! I unloaded the whole thing in one afternoon. I filled in all the spaces I had left for paths on the bank along the driveway, then spread two wheelbarrows on the raised bed under the oak tree, then put some around the blueberry bushes and the new hydrangeas. And I still have one wheelbarrow full left.

It was tiring work, but it felt so nice to be outside all day. I have missed working in the yard so much. I really love these hard, dirty jobs that make such a big difference. It was a perfect day for it too. The air had that electric feeling of changing weather, and the dogs sat out with me all day. I had to work into the wee hours the night before to keep my day free for this, but it was well worth it.

The only trouble was with the truck. It gets harder to drive every time I borrow it. This time I had a really hard time changing gears, and couldn't get it into reverse at all. Unfortunately I didn't find that out until I was trying to turn the truck around behind the house. The truck got trapped back there and I stupidly tried to push it out. What can I say, I was hot and tired and filthy and I just wanted to be done with it so I could take a shower and a nap.

Of course I wasn't able to move the truck; all I accomplished was f***ing up my shoulder. No permanent damage though, I feel fine today. Just the normal soreness you'd expect after shoveling soil all day. And we did get the truck out when Georg got home, so no harm done.

Today the chimney sweeps came. Just in the nick of time! They cleaned out the fireplace and chimney, and repaired the broken cap on top of the chimney. I was concerned that Jane might try to make a break for it while the chimney sweeps were going in and out, but she just stood out in the yard with Thirteen and regarded the situation with suspicion.

This weekend I have big yardwork plans: first, my case of 400 daffodils arrived and need to be planted. That's why I needed the compost, so I could fill in the bank along the driveway and plant the daffodils there. Then if I have time on Sunday, I want to dig up the iris bed, remove the yuccas that took over in there, then spread that last wheelbarrow of compost, divide and replant the irises. Whew! I hope I can get it all done.

hell is for heroes

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November 12 movie: Hell is For Heroes. This is one of the darker, more gritty war movies I've seen. I recorded it because Bobby Darin was in it. He doesn't look anything like Kevin Spacey. Actually, in this movie he looked like the guy who played Carmine in Laverne & Shirley. Steve McQueen and James Coburn are also in it. And a very young Bob Newhart provides some comic relief before things go all to hell. I didn't recognize him but Georg walked through the room while Newhart was saying funny stuff on the phone. Apparently that was his schtick.

nothing sacred

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November 11 movie: Nothing Sacred. This was a deranged movie with Carol Lombard as a young woman from a small town in Vermont who pretends to be dying of radiation poisoning. Fredric March is the NY reporter who needs a big story to revive his career, so he brings her to the big city where all Manhattan falls in love with the brave dying girl. We're supposed to sympathize with Lombard when she tries to extricate herself but can't, but it wasn't clear to me why she made up this horrible lie in the first place. I didn't enjoy this movie because I couldn't get over the premise. It's hard to root for someone who would do such a thing, even if she is Carol Lombard.

One funny thing: the publisher of March's newspaper is named Oliver Stone. This yields the hilarious line "I can't stand that phony Santy Claus Oliver Stone slobbering and drooling over me!"

come live with me

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November 10 movie: Come Live With Me. A very silly screwball comedy with Hedy Lamarr and Jimmy Stewart. Lamarr is an Austrian refugee facing deportation, who pays starving writer Stewart to marry her so she can stay in the country. Stewart of course falls in love with her, but she's busy getting it on with a wealthy, older publisher. Who does she end up with? Well if you've ever seen a screwball comedy, you don't have to ask.

I enjoyed this very much except for 2 things: Stewart's "salt of the earth" grandma, who speaks only in proverbs, and these creepy cartoons in the closing credits of Lamarr and Stewart with the bodies of fireflies. Eek.

crossroads

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November 10 movie: Crossroads. Suspense movie with Hedy Lamarr and William Powell being blackmailed by Basil Rathbone. Why did Basil Rathbone always play the villain? Well I guess he wasn't the villain in those Sherlock Holmes movies.

to be or not to be

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November 11 movie: To Be Or Not To Be. A screwball comedy about the Nazi invasion of Poland sounds freaky. And, it is kind of freaky. But Ernst Lubitsch, Carol Lombard and Jack Benny somehow manage to make it funny. Lombard and Benny play Polish actors trying to trick a Nazi spy into giving his information on the Polish underground to them instead of to the Gestapo. The wonderful comedic actor Sig Ruman has a big supporting role. I had to look up his name but I've seen him in tons of movies & you probably have too. He usually plays a cheerful but not-too-bright German. He was Sgt. Schultz in Stalag 17, which was of course the inspiration for Sgt. Schultz in Hogan's Heroes.

north by northwest

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November 8 movie: North by Northwest. Speaking of movies with a gay subtext. Was it Hitchcock's birthday or something? TCM must have showed 20 of his movies.

Isn't it weird how it's easier to write about a bad movie than a good one. I don't have much to say about North by Northwest except that it's an excellent movie, and if you haven't seen it you really should. It's probably Hitchcock's most blatant use of a macguffin. I mean that scene at the airport where the government man tells Cary Grant that James Mason is in "buying and selling." "Buying and selling what?" asks Grant. "Oh, let's say government secrets." He's basically saying right in the script that it doesn't matter what the macguffin is; it's just the thing that drives the plot.

how to murder your wife

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November 6 movie: How to Murder Your Wife. Forget Gigli, this was the worst movie ever made. Or at least, the worst movie I saw last weekend. It was without a doubt the most mysogynist movie I've ever seen. And that includes Boys Night Out and A Guide for the Married Man. I wouldn't have minded that if it had been funny like A Guide for the Married Man.

Jack Lemmon stars as an inveterate bachelor/newspaper cartoonist, who lives with his butler Terry-Thomas. Lemmon gets super drunk one night and wakes up the next morning married to the girl who jumped out of the cake, a sexy Italian woman who speaks no English. She proceeds to ruin his life by cooking him fattening foods, watching TV in bed, and girling up his space age bachelor pad. So he plots her murder -- in the cartoon only, of course. Unfortunately he always photographs himself acting out his cartoon stories and uses the photos to draw the cartoons. And witnesses see him acting out the murder (with a dummy), and his poor wife disappears at the same time, and so he's charged with murder. Instead of proving his innocence on the stand, he gives a speech explaining that women are so hateful that any man who could get rid of his wife without consequences would do it in a heartbeat. He is instantly acquitted by the all-male jury and carried out of the courtroom on their shoulders. He goes home, discovers his wife waiting naked in bed, and decides he loves her after all. The End. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, doesn't it?

The one funny thing about this movie is the huge gay subtext running through it. The relationship between Lemmon and Thomas is totally gay, and when Lemmon winds up married, Thomas walks out in a huff to go work for another bachelor. All the men in the movie, all of them, dislike and avoid women. They don't even hate their wives and screw their mistresses; they just want to be away from women. At one point the wife sneaks into the locker room of Lemmon's all-male club. How do you think a bunch of guys in the 60s would react to a super-sexy woman in their locker room? I think she'd be lucky to get out alive. But these guys squeal and hide like eighth grade girls who found a boy in the girl's bathroom. Women are just plain icky to these men.

shadow of a doubt

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November 6 movie: Shadow of a Doubt. I had never seen this all the way through before, and I'm really glad I did. I think it's one of Hitchcock's best movies. Casting Joseph Cotten as the villain was brilliant. He has an air of decency about him that makes it even more chilling when he's revealed as a killer. I remember reading that Hitchcock tried to do the same thing with Suspicion but the studio interceded. They said that movie audiences wouldn't accept Cary Grant as a villain so Hitchcock had to rewrite the ending and make Grant innocent. Fie on them, I say.

confessions of a nazi spy

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November 6 movie: Confessions of a Nazi Spy. I'm not sure whether this or Gigli was the 3rd worst movie I saw last weekend. I think Gigli was probably worse because this had Edward G. Robinson. On the other hand, Gigli had Christopher Walken, even if only for a few minutes. And I never felt totally bored during Gigli as I did a couple of times during Confessions of a Nazi Spy. I can't decide.

Anyway this was a 1939 movie about Nazi spy rings in the US. I guess it was a propanganda piece to get Americans riled up against the Nazis in anticipation of the war. They used a docudrama style with the movie, although I don't think it was based on actual people. Except in a general sense that there were indeed German spies in the US at that time.

One problem with this movie is that the Germans are such idiots they're overcome either by their greed or their stupidity. And the ones who aren't stupid are easily defeated by the super FBI skills of G-man Edward G. Robinson. Taking this movie too seriously might make you wonder why the Nazis were ever a threat. But the real problem is that Robinson doesn't appear onscreen until 45 minutes in. I would have enjoyed it more if he had been in it more.

In any case, this was interesting as a historical moment but I can't recommend it as a movie. Although it did yield the hilarious line, said in all sincerity: "German cooking: the best in the world!"

the richest girl in the world

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November 6 movie: The Richest Girl in the World. This was a fun screwball comedy with Miriam Hopkins and Joel McCrea. Hopkins plays the title character, Dorothy Hunter (loosely based on Barbara Hutton I believe). The premise is that Hopkins routinely changes places with her secretary to avoid the public eye. McCrea falls for her thinking she's the secretary. Then Hopkins decides to find out which he loves more, her or the money, by encouraging him to woo the heiress. Who is actually the secretary (played by Fay Wray). My description is confusing but it makes perfect sense if you're watching the movie.

portrait of jennie

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November 5 movie: Portrait of Jennie. This is a strange movie, and I love it. By strange I mean atmospheric and melancholy rather than weird. Although it is a little weird. The two stars, Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones, are amazing. She has to portray so many ages, from a little girl to a grown woman, and she does it effectively without relying on modern makeup techniques.

charade

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November 5 movie: Charade. I took a break from the bad movies to watch something wonderful. The chemistry between Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn is amazing, and her clothes are even more amazing. The movie is exciting and suspenseful too; I didn't even mind James Coburn's horrible Texas accent.

tomorrow, the world!

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November 5 movie: Tomorrow, the World! This was the second worst movie I saw last weekend. It was about an American family, headed by Fredric March, who adopt a German boy during the war. (I missed the first few minutes so I don't know how the boy got to the US.) The boy is a vicious little Hitler Youth; before the movie is over he beats up the other kids; finds out that one girl's father is in a prisoner of war camp in Germany and threatens to have her father killed; writes anti-semitic messages outside the school about his Jewish teacher (who's also March's fiancee); tries to steal state secrets from March; and when his adoptive sister catches him in the act, brains her with a fireplace poker & nearly kills her.

March calls the police on the little Nazi, but the teacher tells the boy how since he has no friends, his adoptive sister planned his birthday party, paid the other kids to come and bought all the presents, including borrowing a year's allowance to get him the night-vision watch he wanted. The kid breaks down and cries, so they decide he's human after all and he can stay with them.

This movie was made during the war, but I think after the tide had turned for the Allies. Everyone in the movie seems to have known that we were going to win. March talks several times about the German kid being a test case for how to deal with Germany after the war: if they can get through to the Hitler Youth kid, then they can get through to the German people. The message seems to be that the German people were monsters, but if we went into hock to buy them friends and nice things, they'd see the error of their ways. As Georg said, that's the Marshall Plan right there.

the mask of dimitrios

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November 5 movie: The Mask of Dimitrios. This thriller starring Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre was nothing to write home about, but they are such a great pair that I'll watch anything with them in it. The best line was from Lorre: "He was my friend! Well, not my friend, but he was a nice man!"

gigli

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November 4 movie: Gigli. I recorded this to see if it was true when people called it the worst movie ever made. Well, it wasn't. Worst movie ever, my eye. It was bad, to be sure: I've never liked Ben Affleck, his John Travolta imitation was awful, and he had negative chemistry with J.Lo. Also the kid with Rain Man Syndrome was beyond annoying, and in general the tone of the movie was weirdly off. That said, Gigli wasn't the worst movie I saw last weekend. It might not even have been in the bottom 3.

from dusk till dawn

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November 3 movie: From Dusk Till Dawn. When this movie came out, I had the idea in my head that it was the ultimate scary, gory horror film that I should never, ever watch. Well I was either much more squeamish then, or the people who told me about it thought I was. It wasn't scary at all. It was gory, but not too much. My friend Jason P. didn't like it because it was silly, but that's exactly why I did like it. I thought it was silly good fun. I think the Netflix DVD package perfectly set my expectations by describing the movie as a parody of 60s Mexican horror films. With that in mind, I enjoyed it immensely.

Georg and I watched the commentary together and I have to say, it wasn't a very good commentary. It was basically two old friends (Tarantino and Rodriguez) sitting around chatting for two hours & congratulating themselves for being so clever. There were a few interesting tidbits here and there; for instance Tarantino said the stuff at the beginning, about the hostage, was there to make us see the Gecko brothers as truly bad people, not just roguish bad boys. Well, if that was the goal then they failed, mainly due to casting George Clooney. It's impossible for him to be anything but a rogish bad boy. And good thing too: I don't think I would have enjoyed the movie nearly as much if both brothers had been creepy and villainous like Tarantino's character.

blackmail

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October 30 movie: Blackmail. This was Britain's first talkie, directed by Hitchcock. They started out filming a silent movie and switched mid-stream to sound, which led to some interesting techniques (like crowd scenes with a general babble of noise, but no sync sound). The star (Annie Ondra) didn't speak English, and they didn't have the technology to dub in new dialogue, so Ondra had to silently mouth the words while someone else stood off camera and spoke her lines.

There were a lot of common threads in the plots of Blackmail and Sabotage. Both feature a young woman driven to kill a very bad man, and a detective who loves her and tries to protect her, but she insists on confessing, but plot twist in the final moments erases evidence of the crime and she gets off scot free. Sorry, I just gave away the ending of both movies. But you know the good guys aways win in Hitchcock movies.

sabotage

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October 30 movie: Sabotage. Based on a Joseph Conrad novel, Hitchcock remade this movie in Hollywood as Saboteur. I haven't seen the remake but this was pretty good. I recorded it because it starred John Loder, although I read that Hitchcock didn't want Loder, and reduced the part to move focus away from him. That's too bad; I like John Loder.

Anyway, this movie is about a German saboteur in London. It's pretty dark; one thing in particular I was surprised to see in a movie from that era. (Don't read this if you're planning to watch the movie: the saboteur tricks his stepson into delivering a bomb, but the boy is delayed and the bomb blows up in his lap, killing everyone on a bus including the boy, the old lady sitting next to him, and the old lady's puppy. Yes, a puppy! I think it would have been more horrifying if he had skipped the puppy. That was just overkill.)

the lady vanishes

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October 29 movie: The Lady Vanishes. They did a big feature on early Hitchcock a couple of weeks ago. I watched four, of which this was the best. It's about a young lady on a train trying to figure out what happened to a missing woman, who seems to have never even been there at all. If you saw the ads for that recent Jodie Foster movie, where her daughter disappears from a plane, it's basically the same. Even down to the proof of the missing person's existence being written in the condensation on a window.

It's not a perfectly crafted Hitchcock movie: for instance I figured out a big plot twist the instant the prop appeared on screen. But still, I enjoyed this a lot.

the old maid

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October 26 movie: The Old Maid. Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins star in a retread of several Davis movies. There's Now, Voyager with Davis as dowdy "Aunt Charlotte," raising a child that sort of is hers and sort of isn't. Then there's Old Aquaintance, with a lifelong, difficult friendship between Davis and Hopkins. At the time I remember thinking of a third Davis movie, but I can't remember it now. Oh yeah! Georg Brent dying and leaving behind a child out of wedlock brings in The Great Lie. All three of those are better movies than this, unfortunately.

road runner is a poopy head

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My email has been offline since early yesterday afternoon. All Road Runner can tell me is that it's down, they know it's down, they're working on it, and they have no idea when it will be back up again.

So if you've tried to reach me in the past day or so, I'm not ignoring you. (Or maybe I am, but that's another matter entirely.) Leave a comment here or try sarah@funnystrange.com if you need to reach me in the meantime.

In other news, I did end up working most of the day yesterday. Blegh. On the bright side, I think I finally understand grep.

Jane has been digging holes in the front yard. Not wide holes, but deep. She looks so happy while she's digging. I'm not upset because she's digging off to the side, in an area we haven't cultivated yet. She's only disturbing weeds. Still, digging is usually a sign of boredom so I'm trying to get her more exercise. Don't want her to dig up something I care about. In the meantime I think I'll plant daffodils in the holes.

Speaking of flowers, the gerber daisies are blooming again. This weather is crazy.

what i want

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There's only one thing missing from Durham: a business which would sell me healthy food without making me get out of my car. For those days when I don't want to change out of my pajamas, but I'm just not up for eating fat deep fried in fat. Is that too much to ask?

too nice a day

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Well my plan to devote the weekend to relaxation and recovery didn't work out quite as expected. I did sleep in until 9, but then the dogs woke me up. Not to go to the bathroom -- I'd already gotten up at 7 and let them out -- but just because they were lonely.

The weather was just too darned nice to spend the whole day on the couch, so I took the dogs for walkies in the park and then spent some time in the garden. Nothing too strenuous: just weeding and planting a shopping bag full daylilies my friend Diana gave me. I used them to fill in the bank by the road. I think it's going to look nice up there next year! The daylilies I planted up there last month are already starting to sprout.

I opened up the windows to get some fresh air in the house, and left the door open so the dogs could come in and out. They love that so much, Jane especially. The hot cocoa wasn't working, so I made a nice big pitcher of iced green tea instead. Iced drinks in November! My god I love North Carolina.

I had resolved to take the whole weekend off, but alas, I am working after all. I figure it doesn't count if I'm really slack about it. It's not really work anyway, because it's a job for barter. Something I've been wanting to work on for a long time but haven't had the time for. So it's actually kind of nice to finally get to it.

I am such a nerd.

absentee me

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You may have noticed that I haven't been posting lately. See, it's like this. I've been working. A lot. And when I'm not working, I'm thoroughly sick of looking at my computer. Thus no time or energy for blogging.

I have the night off, and maybe all of tomorrow too, and I intend to spend it lying on the couch under a blanket watching soap operas and bad movies and drinking cocoa. The fact that it's supposed to be a thousand degrees out tomorrow has not altered my plan in the slightest.

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