September 2006 Archives

av geeks: the modern housewife


September 29 movie: AV Geeks: The Modern Housewife. This AV Geeks performance was in Hillsborough, which apparently does a "Last Fridays" thing once a month. Last Friday seems to be exactly like the First Fridays in other towns: stores stay open late, there's a band, outdoor food vendors, people playing chess and kids drawing in chalk on the closed part of the street. And they had an AV Geeks show in the Masonic Temple. Which was a little weird in theory, but in reality it was a pretty decent venue. The chairs weren't comfy, but the display was good. I would rank the Masonic Temple better than Kings in Raleigh (which has smokers and an incredibly crappy screen, and a long drive for me) but not as good as the Documentary Center in Durham (which has nice chairs, a good display screen and no smoking, plus it's about 10 minutes from my house).

The show was great. It rivals the safety series (what was that one called? Safety Last?) for the best AV Geeks performance I've seen. There wasn't a dud in the bunch; every film was hysterical. I had two favorites: first, a short film from the early 60s that encouraged women to wear perfume. Produced by Avon, it featured a woman drenching herself and her home with more perfume than I would have thought possible. All over her body, sprayed on her hair, in her lotion, bath oil, delicate laundry, drawer sachets, even sprayed into the air before a party. She made me think of the scary BPAL slatherers. Not to single out BPAL wearers, I'm sure every perfume line has people who overuse it. I only know about the BPAL slatherers because that's what I wear. One person on the BPAL forum claimed that she goes through a 5 ml bottle in 3 to 5 days. Just to provide some context, my favorite scent is Dorian. I wear it more often than any other single scent. I bought a 5 ml over a year ago and have used about half a bottle. She must be applying at least 50 times more perfume per day than I am. I'm so glad I don't work in the same building as her! (There is someone in the HKB building who slathers perfume to such a degree that we can't ride the elevator if she's been on it recently. When we get a "stinky perfume" elevator we send it on and wait for the next one.)

Anyway, my other favorite short at AV Geeks last night was "Freeze-in." It was a motivational film by Sears, for Kenmore freezer salesmen, based on Laugh-in. It had a couple of the actors from Laugh-in, Artie Johnson and Judy Carne, and was shockingly unfunny. So unfunny that it ended up being really, really funny. Skip only showed us a couple of minutes but I wish he had showed the whole thing. I might have to buy the DVD.

busting vegas

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I don't write up book very often, first because I don't read as much as I'd like, and second because I don't often have anything intelligent to say about the books I do read. But why should I let that stop me now. I just read Busting Vegas: The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees by Ben Mezrich. I enjoyed it, but I would have enjoyed it more if it weren't the exact same book as Mezrich's earlier Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students Who Took Vegas for Millions. The storylines are almost identical: a team of super-smart MIT students develop strategies which allow them to win big at blackjack, until the big bad casinos shut them down. Unfortunately the characters in Busting Vegas are less sympathetic than their counterparts in Bringing Down the House, for me at least, for a couple of reasons. First of all, just the simple fact that the stories are so similar and I read Bringing Down the House first.

Second, the Bringing team were card counters, a legal technique which the casinos ban simply because it's too effective. The Busting team, despite their protestations to the contrary, were cheaters. They called it a "grey area" but their techniques were based on manipulating the outcome of the game: tricking the dealer into revealing the bottom (hole) card, and then forcing that card to be dealt at a time that was good for them. That's cheating.

I don't much like cheating, though I suppose cheating a massive casino isn't a cardinal sin. Not as bad as cheating your friends, or at least easier to rationalize. But they weren't just cheaters, they were stupid cheaters. The team in Bringing Down the House put a lot of work into camoflaging their behavior, but the people in Busting Vegas acted really, really obvious. They would walk into a casino, take up a whole table, make it clear they knew each other, place the minimum bet on every hand, then suddenly all six raise their bets by a factor of 10, and what do you know? The dealer busts, they all win. Then repeat the whole process at the same table -- minimum bets, suddenly all raise, all win -- and then act surprised when the casino catches on.

I think it would have been better if the author had any distance at all from the subjects. There's no rational observer; he never steps outside of the characters' point of view to acknowledge when their behavior is foolish or their reasoning is flawed. Georg speculated over whether the author had to do that, in order to get the story, or whether he "drank the kool-aid," in other words he got so wrapped up in their story that he couldn't see it any way but theirs. I kept thinking how different the book would have been if it were an article in a journalistic magazine. (It was kind of a slim book, so I think for length it might also have worked better as a magazine article.)

The "infomercial" at the end also left a bad taste in my mouth: an afterword written by the main subject of the book, plugging his videos on how to cheat at blackjack. I was thinking, dude, you got caught immediately, roughed up, arrested and almost killed, and I'm supposed to pay you to find out how to do it? What in the what now? He really lost me when he compared his cheating techniques to the open source software movement. Because, you know, they're both taking on the man. Fight the power! I stopped reading at that point so I don't know what other heights of rhetorical excess the guy reached.

Checking Mezrich's Amazon page I see that he's also written Ugly Americans: The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys Who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions. He's an entertaining writer, and I hope he figures out how to write a different book at some point.

don't care about the money

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I had to take Jane to the vet today. She developed a mysterious open wound on her leg last night. Not big, but nasty looking. So I took her to the vet this morning. The front desk was crowded when we came back to pick her up. Dr. Broussard made a little wave to me, and I walked towards her, and then the woman in front of her said "I don't care about the money" and started crying.

I turned around fast and walked the other way so as not to intrude. And damn if I didn't cry too. I couldn't stop thinking about times I had had that conversation. I don't care about the money. Just make my baby well. Please.

(Jane is fine, by the way. She had an abcess on her leg. Gross, but no long-term harm.)

a dark pie for a dark emotion

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The most amazing thing ever: Schadenfreude Pie Oh man, I have to make this. It actually looks a lot like shoo-fly pie, with chocolate added and no crumb topping. I haven't had shoo-fly pie in years. If you've never had it, shoo-fly pie is basically molasses pie. It's almost pure sugar. With a crumb topping. Mmm.

Thanks to Making Light for the link.

planting time


The weather is finally starting to turn cool (though you wouldn't have known it last weekend) and that means planting time! We went to the farmer's market in Raleigh on Saturday and had a great time. I chatted with a couple of my favorite plant vendors and bought lots of things. Let's see, two yarrows, a bright orange echinacea -- is echinacea the perfect perennial? Cute, easy to grow, never needs watering, birds love it -- a fall blooming daisy with interesting foliage, another blueberry, a big Mexican sage with fuzzy purple and white flowers, and a "milk and wine" crinum lily. I'm most excited about the crinum lily. They look like amaryllis but they're hardy here, and they're supposed to have a wonderful scent. I saw crinum lilies at Plants Delight a week ago, but they were so expensive, and I wanted to research them before I bought one. Then I saw them at Bramble Woods on Saturday. They were half the price, and the Bramble Woods guy told me they had all been propagated from the crinum lilies in his grandmother's garden. Aww! That is why I love the growers at the farmer's market.

We also bought peaches. It was probably too late & the quality wasn't what it had been a month ago. I ate part of one and it was kind of mealy & not sweet. But they were great in a cobbler. Last peach cobbler this year I guess. I guess I'll have to satisfy my sweet tooth with apple pie and pumpkin bread instead.

I had also planned to get a fig tree at the farmer's market, but during the week a friend offered to give me a cutting from hers. She said it has really pretty leaves, is a heavy producer, and easy to grow from cuttings. Yay!

On Saturday afternoon I got almost everything planted. Everything except the blueberry and the Mexican sage, both of which I need to prepare a bed for. And I moved a few things we planted last year, which turned out not to have been in the right spot. And also mowed the lawn. I wish I could have gotten more done, but the heat did me in. I can't wait for it to cool down for real. Then I can start on the heavy-duty projects we have planned for this fall/winter.

pirates of the caribbean 2


September 18 movie: Pirates of the Caribbean 2. Were we the last two people in America to see this movie? We thought so, but there were 6 other people in the theater, so I guess not. Anyway, I went in with very low expectations as far as plot, character, etc. All I wanted from the movie was a fun adventure with lots of buckles being swashed, and I got that. I enjoyed it very much and I'm glad we saw it on the big screen.

It was fun to watch this after having read all those books about the British Navy, because I knew so much more of the lingo than the first time. I was like, "letter of marque! I know what that is!" It was kind of strange though, to watch a movie in which the pirates are rough around the edges but basically good guys, the Navy are the bad guys, and the East India company are the really bad guys. I only remember pirates showing up once in the Aubrey-Maturin series, and they come off like scary sons of bitches.

the crash

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September 19 movie: The Crash. No, not Crash (neither the Cronenberg movie from the Ballard story, nor the one from a couple of years ago about racism). This was a pre-code movie about the stock market crash directed by William Dieterle. George Brent plays a rich guy who made his fortune in the stock market, assisted by his wife, Ruth Chatterton, who he whores out by pushing her to seduce market insiders so he can get stock tips. The market crashes and so do they; Chatterton ditches Brent and moves to Bermuda where she goes to work on an Australian sheep rancher who, being Australian, wasn't affected by the market crash.

The ending is kind of lame, one of those "oh, we're at the end of the film, guess that means we should get back together" sort of endings. But still, it was a good movie. An interesting depiction of people who were addicted to the stock market. Even after Brent has lost everything, he never tries to get a job; he just keeps trying the market, eventually resorting to blackmail to get capital so he can buy more stocks.

stalag 17


September 20 movie: Stalag 17. If "favorite movie" is determined by the movies you can watch over and over, this has to be one of my top 3, if not my all-time favorite. With most movies I love, I can't watch them too often or eventually I get tired of them. I can't remember that ever happening with Stalag 17. Every time I stumble across it on TCM, I have to watch the whole thing.

I read a criticism of Billy Wilder's comedy recently, which basically boiled down to "he's not funny." I don't agree with that, but it's true that the humor in Stalag 17 doesn't work as well as his great comedies like Some Like It Hot. There were some gags (mainly focused on the two comic relief characters and their obsession with girls in general, and Betty Grable in particular) that fell a little flat. But still, the movie hangs together so well, maintains the pace and the momentum so perfectly, that I hate to offer even that small criticism. I love the combination of tension and boredom, which I've heard was characteristic of WWII POW camps. I love Sig Ruman as the original Sgt. Shultz. I love how (major spoiler) the tallest, handsomest guy is the villain. And I love how William Holden's character finds his moment to save the day, without changing his basic personality. He's a greedy, abrasive jerk at the beginning of the movie, and he's a heroic, greedy, abrasive jerk at the end.

her highness and the bellboy

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September 23 movie: Her Highness And The Bellboy. Another silly movie, this one a romantic comedy. Robert Walker plays a hotel bellboy who becomes infatuated with a foreign princess (Hedy Lamarr) staying at the hotel. That part was fun; the annoying part was Walker's perfectly sweet and chaste, sickly, bed-ridden girlfriend played by June Allyson. She lies on a couch making Santa Claus figurines to be sold in gift shops, and smiling through her tears while Walker neglects her for the princess. Give me a break! The character really brought out the saccharine worst in Allyson.

the time of their lives

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September 23 movie: The Time of Their Lives. Why did I watch this movie? I don't like Abbott and Costello. And that said, why did I enjoy it? Costello and Marjorie Reynolds play ghosts who were falsely accused of treason during the Revolutionary War. Abbott plays a scientist who helps them clear their names so their spirits can rest. It's about as silly as you would expect from that description.

the manchurian candidate


September 23 movie: The Manchurian Candidate. Speaking of movies that are a downer. I couldn't sleep last night so I stayed up and watched this into the wee hours. I'm embarrassed to admit that I had never seen it before. I had heard lavish praise of course, and I must say, it more than lived up to its reputation. Why on earth would anyone want to remake this movie? It's nearly perfect. Even knowing the basic plot, it still managed to shock me several times. The most shocking thing, I think, is how relevant the political commentary is after forty five years. And I can't really say anything more without giving the movie away. Although you probably know the plot, like I did, even if you haven't seen it yet.

the front

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September 24 movie: The Front. Why was I surprised that a 1970s black comedy about the 1950s Hollywood blacklist, made by and starring victims of the blacklist, would be bitter and depressing? It was a good movie, though, like I said, bitter and depressing. Woody Allen plays a small-time bookie who agrees to serve as a front for a friend who has been blacklisted from his job as a TV writer. The friend writes the scripts, Allen signs his name, attends meetings with the network, and takes 10%. Everything goes great until, inevitably, everything goes all pear-shaped. Zero Mostel (real life blacklist victim) also stars as a TV actor who is blacklisted. At the end Robert Osborne said it was Mostel's last movie. He also said Mostel had a reputation for being difficult to work with, but he was serious and professional on this film. I guess due to the resonance with his own past: he had had a close friend who suffered the same fate in real life as Mostel's character in the movie.

absentee ballot


This morning I went to the state board of elections website to request an absentee ballot. Learned a few things:

first, the state board of elections website looks like it was built in 1997.
second, I actually need the county board of elections. Which has a better website.
third, they don't have an application online. I have to call and request an application, which has to be filled out and mailed in to get an absentee ballot.
fourth, I don't need an absentee ballot at all because they're doing early voting again this year.
fifth, early voting in Durham has the annoying, nannyish title "One Stop No Excuse Absentee Voting." Statewide it's just called "One Stop Absentee Voting"; I guess the "no excuse" part is Durham's innovation. Thanks, Durham, for provoking a general sense of guilt when I'm trying to be responsible.

There's only one location in the county for early voting, but since there are no statewide elections I don't think the lines will be long. Especially if I go during the day. I hope not anyway! In 2004 the lines for early voting were really long. But that was a much bigger election.

controversial is in the eye of the beholder


They kicked off the ANTM season with the self proclaimed "most controversial photo shoot ever," and they weren't exaggerating. The theme off the shoot was "model stereotypes," and they had the contestants pose as, among other things, a dumb blonde, a narcissist, a drug addict, Naomi Campbell (throwing a cell phone at an assistant), Linda Evangelista (marrying Kyle MacLaughlin -- no wait, actually it was refusing to get out of bed for less than $10,000), an anorexic, a bulemic.

The bulemic photo was the most disturbing: the girl was sitting on a toilet with food scattered on the floor in front of her, and also smeared on her face and hands. Having her sit on the toilet rather than on the floor in front of it made the photo particularly creepy by implying laxative abuse. And yet, I have to agree with whoever (I think Mr. Jay) said that it was the most editorial photo of the bunch. I guess my feminist sensibilities are supposed to be horrified by that photo, and it was genuinely disturbing, but it was also a great shot. I could totally see it in a magazine. I think largely because the model was really good. (Remember a couple of seasons ago when they made that girl pose as "gluttony" and surrounded her with food? It wasn't half as good a photo as this one.) Unfortunately the photos from tonight's episode aren't up yet, so you'll have to take my word for it.

So aside from the creepy bulemia photo, the episode was pretty good. The first episodes are always hard to get a handle on because there are so many contestants. But there are the usual stereotypes -- the conservative nice girl, the raging bitch, the show-off, etc. I think my early favorite is the edgy girl with really dark hair. I think her name is AJ.

So why is UPN called CW now? Did the network just change names but keep all the same shows, or was it a bigger reorganization? When did it happen? I guess I wasn't paying attention.

(Hey, I just thought of something -- when they were picking model stereotypes for the photo shoot, why didn't they do a party girl? They could have had one of them dance on a table with a rocker guy.)

ec, otc and other acronyms


This post and this one about emergency contraception were eye-openers for me. Perhaps I'm naive (or just ill-informed) but I had no idea that EC can be so hard to get, even in urban areas. The comments thread includes personal accounts of women who try to get a prescription for emergency contrapception being treated like a slut, being refused because they hadn't been raped, being refused because they weren't married. What in the what now? I don't get that one at all. If a doctor thinks emergency contraception is immoral, either because they can't tell the difference between contraception and abortion, or because they're against all contraception, well first of all, why are they even a gynecologist. I don't want anyone so backward and deluded making medical decisions about my lady parts, thank you. But secondly, if they think emergency contraception is immoral, then why is it OK for a married woman? That makes no sense.

The one that made my blood run cold was the woman whose doctor had no intention of prescribing EC for her, but delayed returning her phone calls until it was too late for her to get it anywhere else. I hope there's a rule against sabotaging a patient's care like that. She didn't report her doctor, but in her place I would have.

The scary part is that after emergency contraception becomes over the counter, it will be kept behind the counter. So a person trying to buy it will still have to run the gauntlet of pharmacists who might refuse to sell it and/or harangue them about their sex life. (I had originally written "so a woman trying to buy it .... harangue her about her sex life," but then it occurred to me that when it's OTC, men can buy it too. I wonder if moralistic pharmacists will hassle male customers as much as they do women?)

I'm going to take Lee's advice and buy emergency contraception in advance, just to keep it on hand. I'm a bit surprised to find when I search by zipcode that there are currently only 3 sources in Durham: Planned Parenthood, the Health Department, and the Duke Family Medical Center (existing patients only). But there are more in Chapel Hill, including the place I go. (I was going to say "my doctor" except that my doctor left the practice a few months ago and I haven't gotten a new one yet.)

I don't intend to ever need it, but that's the whole point; it's used in an emergency. Its shelf life is 4 years, and it must be taken within 72 hours of need, although sooner is better. In case of an emergency (i.e. a birth control failure or a sexual assault) I'd rather open my medicine cabinet and grab the pill, than spend the whole 72 hours frantically calling pharmacies, trying to find one which has it and won't treat me like a slut.

fashion notes


First, Jay McCarroll is a damned genius. I so want that coat!

Also, America's Next Top Model starts tomorrow. I can't wait. I've been avoiding all information about the show because I hate spoilers.

And then a couple of nights ago, I saw Nnenna from ANTM in the Imitation of Christ runway show! I wonder if she's actually a working model these days, or if it was "stunt casting.' IOC did seem to have a lot of non-models in their show.

the bad news and the good news

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The bad news is that dress I ordered last week, which I was so excited about, was out of stock. They didn't even warn me; the package just arrived with the sweater and "sold out" written next to the dress on the packing slip. What a bummer!

On the bright side, that means I had some extra money. Which was burning a metaphorical hole in my pocket, since in my mental balance sheet I had already spent it. Well the Plant Delights open house took care of that.

A couple of months ago Georg and I went to their summer open house with Christa and Lisa B. We had a great time browsing, but didn't buy anything because I don't like to plant in high summer. We had planned to go back to their fall open house and shop. We almost missed it, too: I just happened to be thinking about it and checked their website last night.

Luckily we took lots of photos at our last visit, and we were careful to photograph the tags as well as the plants. Last night we reviewed our photos and made a list of everything we were interested in. That was really helpful, since many of the plants that we photographed in glorious bloom in summer were bloomed out, or even going dormant, by now.

So let's see, what did we buy:

  1. An alstroemeria that's supposedly more heat tolerant and less invasive than the species is known for.
  2. Two agapanthus (lilies of the nile), one white and one deep blue.
  3. Florida Chocolate Flower, a low yellow flower that really does smell strongly of chocolate.
  4. An amsonia (blue star), which I'm very excited about because we need more flowers in spring.
  5. A sedum called Frosty Morn which grows like Autumn Joy but has white flowers and variegated foliage.
  6. A lovely little blue ground cover called Starry Eyes Nierembergia that thrives, they say, in good drainage and baking full sun. What a coincidence, that's what we have!
  7. Another flower for dry, sunny sites: Prairie Fire Catchfly (silene regia). I'm hoping to use this in place of the pineapple sage, which grew big and bushy but never bloomed all summer.
  8. A dwarf beautyberry. We actually got this not from Plant Delights but from another vendor, a woman who runs a small nursery in Garner. She told me she specializes in unusual small trees, daylilies and Christmas trees, and Plant Delights was kind enough to let her set up in their lot during their open house.

I didn't see her last time; maybe she only comes on Saturdays? Anyway I had a really good conversation with her. We talked about the Raleigh farmer's market, and she told me that many of the vendors there are major nurseries dumping overstock at liquidation prices, who depress the market for everyone else. I mentioned the three vendors I like -- Archer Farms, Messenbrinks, and Bramble Woods -- and she told me those three are all small independant growers, and she's friends with the folks who own Archer Farms. You can tell just by walking around that those three are a class apart from the typical plant sellers. (I would also put EarthWorks and JB Herb Farms into that better group, but I don't buy from them as often just because I don't need as much of their stock.) But it was nice to hear confirmation from someone who knows the local business. She goes to the farmer's market but only to sell Christmas trees in December.

She had some beautiful trees; unfortunately we just aren't in the market for trees right now. I was glad we could buy the beautyberry from her. I've been wanting a beautyberry for a long time: the purple berries provide nice color in winter, and they're a good food source for birds. But the ones at the regular nurseries are always too big for us. This dwarf one, at 3' by 3', is just what we need.

Even with as much as I bought, there was much more I admired, and might have bought if my budget had been higher. I took lots more photos and will be looking forward to the spring open house.

We had fun food adventures on the way home from Plant Delights, but I think I'll save that for another post.

traffic alert


Warning to anyone who might be driving on I-85 south of Durham: There are cops out there ticketing people almost every day. Mostly around mile 170, right around where the speed limit changes. I guess they're nabbing people who fail to slow down (or people going the other way who speed up too soon).

I've gotten used to the traffic cops, but the thing that still confuses me is the searches. Three times in the past couple of months I've seen someone pulled over in the median, with cops searching their car. Always around mile 170, always going south. I wonder what they're looking for?



We had an arborist come by today, to look at an oak tree we've been concerned about. It's been dropping branches and looking generally unhealthy. And it's right in between our house and the neighbor's house, so we didn't want to ignore it, especially heading into hurricane season.

I called Bartlett again, since I had liked them so much last time. I was even able to get the same guy. He looked at our oak tree and determined that it is showing its age, but not dying. Whew! He said the dropped branches are normal for a tree that age. Also he pointed out several "lesions" -- dark, mushy spots on the trunk -- which I hadn't even noticed because they were concealed under ivy. He said the lesions are indicative of a general lack of health in the root system, but we had caught it early and it can be fixed without much trouble.

All we have to do is treat the lesions with some stuff we can buy at the big box store, fertilize around the roots, and pull up the ivy that's on and around the tree. He also recommended we prune the tree to clear out the dead branches, which could be a hazard if they fall on someone. He said the branches in the interior of the tree are thinner than he'd like to see, but that when the roots become more healthy it will probably fill in.

While he was there I asked him to walk around and see if he noticed anything problematic in any of our other trees. He didn't, which was great. Also I showed him where the trunk had split off the maple in our front yard in the ice storm -- when was that, five years ago? Anyway he said that there is some decay in the base of the split, but there's nothing we could have done about it. And the sides are healing up well, so overall the maple looks pretty good.

I think we're going to fertilize and treat the lesions ourselves, and have Bartlett do the pruning. He gave me a quote on pruning up the oak, and also some light pruning on two other trees to get them off the roof. (He had a printer in his car! Is that not cool? I wish I had asked him how it's powered.)

The bad news is, the quote was expensive. More than twice what it cost to have a whole tree removed a couple of years ago. That tree removal was done by a guy I heard about through a friend, who works for a utility company and moonlights doing tree removal. I guess that's the difference between the "licensed arborist" rate and the "guy with a chain saw" rate. The guy with a chain saw is fine for felling trees that we know need to come out, but when we're talking about long-term tree health I want to go with the experts. And again, he did not charge me for the consultation even though he spent quite a bit of time here. So I don't begrudge the rate for the pruning.

monday night football

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Early this year I watched the football playoffs and the Superbowl at a friend's house, and really enjoyed. So I thought I'd try watching the season from the beginning, and see if I actually like football, or if it was just the company.

My plans went quickly awry when I discovered yesterday that I had missed the beginning of the season. How was I supposed to know it started on the weekend? They're always talking about Monday Night Football, so I thought the games were all on Mondays. (As you can tell, I have a lot to learn about football.) Oh well, I heard the Panthers got their butts kicked so I don't feel too bad about missing it. I don't agree with Sean's belief that one is required to root for one's home team, and even if I did, I'm not sure whether my home team would be the Panthers or the Eagles. But my friends who host the Superbowl party every year are big time Panthers fans, so I feel bad on their behalf when the Panthers lose.

Georg and I did watch the Redskins/Vikings game last name. Well, half watched. I must admit I didn't pay super close attention. We weren't rooting for either team although Georg express a mild preference against the Redskins. It seemed like an eventful game, though I'm in no position to judge whether it was a good game or not. I think I'll keep watching the season and see if I get into it. If nothing else, I'll hope to know the basic football rules by next year's Superbowl party.

fashion week


Does anyone have suggestions for a source of good information on Fashion Week? I mean basic reporting that isn't breathless and fawning like the Times, and doesn't suck like Slate?

Slate's Fashion Week coverage used to be good, back when they had that guy from Tuleh. What happened to him? He knew a lot about fashion, understood the industry, and he wasn't afraid to have an opinion. Last year they replaced him with someone else who didn't seem to know as much about fashion, but at least made an attempt. This time they've got a new guy who announces up front that he's never been to Fashion Week before and knows nothing about fashion. Because you know, ignorance and inexperience are just what I look for in a journalist. I'm glad Slate and I have the same standards in that regard.

In the new guy's first three articles, he gives us the amazing revelations that:

  1. Betsey Johnson looks like a clown.
  2. Runway models aren't hot.
  3. Some socialite named Natalie Reid is stupid.

Did Slate pay that guy for this? Why? He didn't say a word about the clothes until the third article, and even then barely mentioned them in between snarky descriptions of attendees. Back when Style Network was showing Fashiontrance, we had an abudance of riches in Fashion Week coverage. Now we're reduced to this? Guy from Tuleh, come back!

[ETA: Fashion Blogs We Like lists several blogs doing good coverage of the shows, with photos. Thanks to Alicia for the link!]

no time for comedy

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September 10 movie: No Time for Comedy. Jimmy Stewart is a Midwestern playwright who marries Rosalind Russell, sophisticated New York actress. She stars in his comic plays. Everyone is happy, until a homewrecker comes along and convinces him that he should write Serious Drama.

This wasn't the greatest movie ever, but it was a fun way to spend an hour and a half. Nice to see Charlie Ruggles again today (as the homewrecker's long-suffering husband). Also Louise Beavers is in it. I was all excited because for once she's not a sweet simpleton maid, but a sassy actress. But then the play ends and Beavers goes back to her regular job -- as Russell's maid. I guess some things never do change. Size positive note: when Stewart embraces Russell for the first time, he presses her to him and says admiringly, "Whatever gave me the idea you were skinny?"

the rutles

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September 10 movie: The Rutles. I almost don't know what to say about this. It's one of my all time favorite movies. I finally got it on DVD and tonight I watched the commentary. I must say, Eric Idle doesn't give great commentary. There were some interesting details, for instance I didn't realize that Stig's girlfriend/wife in the movie is played by mod icon Penelope Tree, the actor's wife in real life. And I hadn't known how many of the locations they used were the same as the Beatles has used. But Idle mostly spends the commentary dropping names of famous people he knows, and congratulating himself on the gags he likes. Also he has a dismaying tendency to conflate the Rutles and the Beatles, talking about events in the Rutles' career (like Leggy taking the teaching post in Australia) as if it had actually happened to the Beatles. And more than once he even gets the names mixed up, referring to the real band as "the Rutles" and even calling John Lennon "Nasty."

I had heard a rumor that Idle sued Neil Innes over the royalties for Archeology, demanded songwriting credit for all songs because the original Rutles concept was his (Idle's) idea, and was a total asshole about the whole thing. Which would be completely awful since Innes had already gotten screwed out of royalties on the first Rutles album. But Idle spoke very highly of Innes on the commentary, and even mentioned sympathetically how Innes had been shafted on the songwriting credit for the soundtrack album. I searched online and didn't find anything about bad blood, much less legal action, between Idle and Innes. I really hope that rumor was false. It would really suck.


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September 10 movie: Raffles. This movie has been sitting on the DVR for ... weeks? Over a month? I'm not sure. Anyway I finally watched it. It's basically a mystery/suspense movie set in an English country manor, starring David Niven as a cricket star and gentleman cat burglar called "The Amateur Cracksman." I think that description pretty much says it all. I enjoyed it a lot; you probably know already whether you would like it or not, and you're probably right. Olivia de Havilland and Dame May Whitty are also in it.

a stolen life

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September 10 movie: A Stolen Life. I love this movie. Bette Davis plays identical twins: the good twin falls in love with Glenn Ford, then the bad twin steals him just because she can. The bad twin dies but everyone thinks it was the good twin. Who decides to maintain the deception so she can get Glenn Ford back. But then she finds out that the bad sister was badder than she knew, and she doesn't really want to inherit her life. But it all turns out right in the end.

The special effects -- pasting the two Bette Davises together -- are extremely well done. I've seen movies made decades later with clumsier effects. Also great supporting work by Charles Ruggles as the two sisters' cousin/father figure, and Dane Clark as an angry starving artist. I looked up Dane Clark on He made dozens of movies and over a hundred TV episodes, but nothing I remembered seeing. I'll have to look for his other movies.

Now, I said that I love this movie and I do, but I have to raise one complaint. I really dislike it when a movie hinges on a love triangle, and the "point" of the triangle -- the person for whom the other two people are competing -- is treated as having no responsibility whatsoever for their behavior. It's usually two women (one virtuous and one vamp) competing for a man who acts like a hapless object. But I've seen it go the other way too.

I mean, yes, the bad twin is clearly the villain, but she couldn't have taken Ford if he hadn't let her. Actually I don't think a person can "take away" someone else's partner, the way a possession can be stolen. What is he, a robot? He had a choice. He abandoned the real connection he had with the good twin, and let himself be seduced by the bad one.It would have been nice if he had apologized for that at the end. But then again, Davis doesn't apologize for impersonating his dead wife. So maybe I'm being unfair.

soldiers three

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September 9 movie: Soldiers Three. Three British soldiers in India have wacky adventures, drink a lot, get into comic fights, and then behave heroically. It was kind of Gunga Din Lite, with Stewart Granger instead of Cary Grant. The movie lost me right in the beginning, when the three stars get into a bar fight and beat the kilts off a bunch of Scottish soldiers. Excuse me? Stewart Granger beats up the Scots? Oh, I don't think so.

red ball express

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September 9 movie: Red Ball Express. This was a pretty good movie starring Jeff Chandler about a unit driving supply trucks in France in WWII. I guess you'd call it a docu-drama if it were made now: the fictional story is cut together with lots of newsreel footage of the actual transport division, and narration about troop movements. I love Jeff Chandler. The movie also features a very young Sidney Poitier as a private dealing with racial discrimination, both real and imagined.

merrily we live

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September 8 movie: Merrily We Live. A gentleman gets mistaken for a bum and through a hilarious but unlikely circumstance ends up working as the chauffeur for a zany rich family. The mother loves to adopt unscrupulous men as her protege; the father is grumpy and constantly annoyed at his zany family; and the chauffeur/bum/gentleman falls mutually in love with the beautiful daughter. Sound familiar?

If you've ever seen My Man Godfrey you know exactly where this movie is going. It even ends with the daughter pretending to faint, the erstwhile bum dumping water on her, and the daughter yelling "I knew you loved me!" Sheesh, they should have given screen credit to Godfrey.

Merrily We Live doesn't have the sublime wit of Godfrey, nor the social awareness, nor the talent. (Constance Bennett, Brian Aherne, Billie Burke and Bonita Granville are all good, but no match for Carole Lombarde, William Powell, Eugene Pallette, Alice Brady and Gail Patrick.) But I enjoyed it. What can I say, it's a formula that works. The best part is that Alan Mowbray shows up in both movies! He's the long-suffering butler in Merrily We Live, and Powell's Boston friend Tommy Gray in My Man Godfrey.

my favorite spy

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September 8 movie: My Favorite Spy. This was a very silly comedy starring Bob Hope and Hedy Lamarr. Hope is impersonating a spy in .. Tangiers I think. And Lamarr is the real spy's double-crossing lover. This movie reminded me that I don't much care for Bob Hope. He's funny and all, but a little manic for my taste.

cactus flower

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I'm sitting here wondering if I should wait up for Georg to get home from the airport, or go to sleep and see him in the morning. While I make up my mind, how about a few movie write-ups.

September 5 movie: Cactus Flower. Late 60s sex comedy starring Walter Matthau, Ingrid Bergman and Goldie Hawn. Matthau is bachelor who's dating Hawn, but pretends he's married so she won't make any demands on him & he can break dates whenever he wants. Then he decides to marry Hawn, but she insists on meeting his wife. So he bullies his secretary Bergman into pretending to be his wife. Like all 60s sex comedies, it was sleazy and misogynist. But at least the moviemakers seem to know Matthau's character is a heel. I think we're supposed to emphathize with him (gack) but at least we're not supposed to approve of his behavior. And it was funny enough that I didn't feel like I had wasted my time. It was worth it for Goldie Hawn alone. I've gotten so used to her current scary Botox face that I had forgotten how beautiful she was. Luminous. Her eyes were amazing. Also nice to see her playing a character who wasn't stupid. In fact her character is the most mature person in the movie.

sock dreams

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My Sock Dreams order arrived yesterday! That was faster than I expected. Now I'm ready for it to be fall. Right now.

I should have guessed the long socks would be much longer on me than on the model on the website. The "thigh-high" socks, if I hold one up next to me, reaches almost to my armpit, and the "over the knee" socks come up to mid-thigh on me. The cotton socks are pretty baggy, especially around the ankles, and the feet are much too big for my feet. I'll probably wear them at home (or maybe under boots). The nylon socks, though they don't have that lovely natural fiber feel, fit much better. It will be great to wear them over tights in winter.

Unfortunately it's too warm to wear my new socks during the day right now, but I can wear them in the evening. They also sell tube socks (no foot sewn in). I bet those will fit better around the foot and ankle.

bpal reviews

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It's been a rough couple of days, and a package from BPAL was just the thing to find in my mailbox this afternoon. It came with some fun swag: a small bumper sticker (actually the second I've received, though I hadn't yet gotten around to putting the first on my car), trading cards for each of the three scents in the Carnaval Diabolique series, a ticket to the Carnaval, and the usual postcards. Plus frimps, including a couple I can actually use.

Georg is away for a couple of days so I indulged myself and tried almost everything. Some quick reviews:

Theodosius: Earl Grey tea leaves, a white fougere, jasmine leaf, pearlescent white musk, and vanilla bean. This was a bit of a disappointment. Reviews described it as smelling like Dorian only less sweet. I thought that sounded like the best thing ever. Unfortunately, I put it on and I get aftershave. I don't want to smell like aftershave. Eventually the aftershave fades away and it's a nice light vanilla. But I have other scents that dry down similarly, without going through an unpleasant aftershave phase. I'm going to give it another try; maybe it will smell better when I'm not wearing 4 other scents. And also offer it to Georg. It seems like a guy scent.

The Candy Butcher: Dark chocolate with a heavy cream undertone. I knew I would love this, and I was right. It's a dark chocolate, not sweet. Like Velvet, only smoother and without the sandalwood. I'm going to wear this a lot in winter.

F5: A refreshing scent! GET IT?! Aloe, white musk, lime peel, fresh mint, seaspray, verbena and green tea. This was a special limited scent for forum members only. Again I correctly guessed I would love it. In the bottle it smells just like Embalming Fluid, my favorite summer scent. On me, F5 is ... crisper. It's all lime for about 10 minutes, but sadly citrus never lasts on me. The notes that remain after the lime fades out are perfectly blended, light and subtle. It really is refreshing.

Lyonesse: Golden vanilla and gilded musk, stargazer lily, white sandalwood, grey amber, elemi, orris root, ambergris and sea moss. File this in in the "what was I thinking?" category. Heavy floral hates me. Yet I keep trying. I was seduced by the vanilla, musk, sandalwood and orris root in the description. All I get is the lily, and something powdery. Probably amber, which doesn't much like me either. At least it's just an imp.

Cockaigne: The Land of Plenty, also called Luilekkerland – the Lazy, Luscious Land: milk and honey, sweet cakes and wine. In the imp it smells cakey, with a tang that must be the wine. On me it smells wonderful, like baked goods. Reminds me of Beaver Moon. Or Monster Bait: Underpants, except without the cinnamon nastiness. (I love the smell of cinnamon, but can't stand cinnamon scents in candles, potpourri and etc. BPAL is unfortunately no exception..) Beaver Moon, Underpants, Cockaigne ... I sense a pattern here. Hmm.

five things


Not quite a meme, but borrowed from Nellorat, five things I have learned or been reminded of recently:

  1. Those little solar outdoor lights from Costco aren't broken. They have a power switch that is switched off in the factory. (It took us days to figure this out. D'oh!)
  2. I am much happier when I listen to music or books on tape instead of the news. Perhaps ignorance really is bliss.
  3. When they say you should disconnect the battery on a car that will sit idle for any length of time, they mean it.
  4. Sammy Davis Jr's dancing is breathtaking. Even on old TV broadcasts whose image is so degraded you can barely see him.
  5. If you have a ratty old bra that provides about as much support as no bra at all, which you wear around the house, don't forget to change before going out in public. Really.

hurry up already


I am determined that it be fall, but the weather refuses to cooperate. This morning said there was an 80% chance of thunderstorms, so I wore knee socks and my big rubber wellies. And of course, the sun shone all day, and my feet were hot. All day.

Still, I am not about to let a little thing like sunny, high 80s weather come between me and autumn. I'm ready for fall, dang it, and whether it's here or not, it's here. At least as far as I'm concerned.

I've kicked off my imaginary autumn by making some of our favorite autumn meals (tuna casserole, chili and spinach casserole -- not all on the same day of course), starting to plan this year's big winter landscaping project (a stone path and wall), starting to plan my Halloween costume, and most importantly, fall shopping.

I don't do a whole huge amount of spending on clothes/personal items, so when I do, I like to go for the good stuff. I'd rather own a few pairs of beautiful high-quality shoes, for instance, than dozens of crap pairs which will hurt my feet and fall apart. So far the shopping includes Halloween BPAL, a dress and sweater from Gudrun Sjoden, -- who are kind of scary expensive, even on sale, but the clothes are so nice, and their e-commerce site finally works -- a vintage umbrella and a couple of vintage purses from Ebay, and lots of socks and tights from Sock Dreams.

Call it retail therapy or just self-indulgence, but it made me happy. When the socks arrive is when I'll start to get truly anxious for autumn weather.

good advice and bad dreams


Making Light recently published some fascinating, though useless to me, advice on how to throw a room party at Worldcon. And the end of the post they link to an older, equally fascinating post on how to attend Worldcon. I've never been to an sf convention, much less a Worldcon. Though it seems to me that much of the advice for Worldcon attendees applies to art car events. Especially the advice about getting adequate food, sleep, and quiet time. Over the past couple of years I've learned that maintaining some control over my environment is essential to enjoying an art car event. If I have the ability to get back to my hotel room for an hour of a/c and quiet, I am going to enjoy the event so much more than if I'm trapped in a parking lot all day. Bringing a cooler, so I always have good food at hand, has also helped immensely.

This is the best line: "Another sign of trouble is that you suddenly realize that all your friends hate you, you’re having an awful time, you've made a fool of yourself in every conversation you’ve been in so far, and you should never have come to the convention. This is definitely a sign that you should go back to your room and take a nap. When you wake up, things will be better." So true!

The weird thing is, after reading the post on Making Light yesterday, I had a nightmare about losing my temper at an art car event last night! I dreamed that I was at a PR thing for an art car event. There was a woman doing TV interviews and we were all waiting our turn to be interviewed. (Just like Mt. Dora, except it wasn't the same woman.) I was talking with some of my friends, and then I looked over and saw another driver being interviewed in front of UMJ, pretending it was his car! It was an obnoxious guy I knew from events and didn't like at all. (I hasten to add, the person in the dream was not a real art car driver. There's no one in the art car world that I have such negative feelings about. I really like just about everyone I've met.)

Anyway when I saw this guy pretending to be me, I ran over and got between him and the TV woman. I put my hand on his face (so my palm was basically covering his face), pushed him away from UMJ and snapped at the TV woman, "This interview is over!" Then some other stuff happened that I don't remember, except an intense feeling of remorse for using violence against the obnoxious guy. I knew that I had crossed a major line. Pushing a guy by his face? I don't know where that even came from.



So I've been reading the Aubrey-Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian, and came across an interesting usage: jury-rig, in its current meaning of an improvised system cobbled together from spare parts. I had heard that this was originally a WWII slang, coined by the British, and was actually the anti-German Jerry-rig. I've even taught myself to say kludge instead of jury-rig, due to the latter term's nationalist origin. (Likewise I stopped saying gyp to mean "cheat" when I found out it referred to the Gypsies.)

In any case, this word turning up in the Aubrey_Maturin series throws a new light on it. O'Brian seems to have been a fairly thorough researcher; I'd be more than a little surprised if he used such recent slang --only 25 years old when the first books were written -- in a historical novel. And he uses jury-rig a lot: three times in Post Captain alone.

I just looked up jury-rig in Wikipedia, which says that the word is a nautical term from the 19th century and gives 3 possible etymologies. (My favorite is from the French du jour, meaning "of the day" or by extension, "temporary.') It also debunks the WWII origin I had heard. Learn something new every day!

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