December 2007 Archives

the man who came to dinner

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December 29 movie: The Man Who Came to Dinner. We ran out of time to watch this at my folks house. So I brought the DVD back home and Georg and I watched it on Saturday night. This is my favorite Christmas movie. It's so delightfully misanthropic.

Coincidentally I'm reading a great biography of Bette Davis (thank you Georg!) which provides a lot of behind the scenes gossip about this movie. Davis' role is strangely restrained and secondary, considering how big a star she was at the time. I had read before that The Man Who Came to Dinner was a punishment, Warner's way of taking Davis down a peg and reminding her that no matter how many Oscars she won, they still called the shots. According to the biography, that isn't true at all. Actually the movie was Davis' idea: she convinced Warner to buy the rights and then campaigned for the starring role (and she almost didn't get it!). The book says that she had just come off a series of heavy, serious movies like The Letter and wanted a comedy where she played a nice character that audiences could root for.

The book, written by a film critic, talked a lot about the "what ifs" of potential stars and directors for The Man Who Came to Dinner. Apparently Orson Welles was at one point attached, to both star and direct! I think Welles would have done a terrific job directing but I can't imagine anyone but Monty Wooley as the star. The author of the biography called the movie a "disappointment," an opinion which I emphatically do not share. The only disappointment to me is Davis' love interest, who is so bland I don't think anyone would have noticed if he'd been replaced with a literal cardboard cutout. Just think what someone like Robert Montgomery would have done with that part. At least it would have been believable that Davis would fall for him.

the third man

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December 27 movie: The Third Man. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the whole thing, but my dad and I watched about half and caught all the really good parts. Except the final shot, which I had to miss, alas. I went out with my sister that night and I couldn't very well tell her to wait so I could watch the last few minutes of a movie I've seen a bunch of times already.

When we got to the big reveal (the scene that, if you've seen this movie you know what I'm talking about, and if you haven't, go see it right now!!!) I said to my dad that I felt a little sad that I can never see that scene for the first time again. He made the most hilarious comment: "Just wait thirty years, and it's as if you're seeing it for the first time again." I bet that's true, but as I said to him at the time, I don't think I can stay away from this movie for that long.

a great day

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Did it feel like such a nice day because of the sunshine? Or because we finally got a decent rainstorm yesterday? Or just because I've finally recovered from our hell drive on Friday? Today wasn't even really a day off, because I did have to go in to one of my jobs for a couple of hours. But it was low stress, I got everything done that I wanted to, and it was nice to talk to the guys.

Afterwards I went to Whole Foods and picked up a couple of things for tonight and for my breakfasts for the rest of the week. On the way home I stopped at the bank and sat in their drive-through for several minutes before I realized they were closed for the day. Oops! Next stop, pick up a late lunch at Shanghai. Where I ran into a friend coming out of Hancock's. She was buying buttons for her wedding dress and she told me a little bit about the design. She's an incredible seamstress. She used to work in theatrical costuming and this isn't the first wedding dress she's designed. I could learn a lot from her.

Then I came home, ate my yummy lunch and did the NY Times crossword puzzle. Okay, I confess, I did it in pencil. (but I didn't need to!) And I left one darned square blank (it's an athlete's name, which I'm never going to know). But still, I did it. And read most of the newspaper too. There were some really interesting articles in there. It makes me wish I had the time to read the paper every day. Except that I really don't, and I shouldn't feel guilty about it.

What a nice day. Now, it really would have been great if Georg had been able to stay home too.

the inanity continues

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A few months ago the RIAA staked out the position that any copying, even for purely personal use, is illegal. Now they're going further

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer. The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

I don't think the RIAA is going to get anywhere with this. On the contrary, this stance is so preposterous I bet it will do them more harm than good.

After the last time I've stuck pretty well to my rule of buying no new music, although I did have to make exceptions for Christmas gifts. Used CDs from Amazon Marketplace usually aren't shrinkwrapped and I thought that would look kind of cheesy.

I do like buying from the Marketplace though. My best experience was when I bought the Ella Fitzergald songbooks a few months ago. It was a fair price considering the set (box, packaging, liner notes etc) was in perfect condition. Only one problem: one of the CDs was missing! It had two copies of CD12 and none of CD11. I discovered it in the middle of a show. Thank goodness it wasn't a request, so I could just play a different song and no one was the wiser.

I wrote to the seller, and they were extremely helpful about it. They must have checked to make sure the right number of CDs were in there, but not looked that closely at each disc. They offered me the option of sending the whole set back for a full refund, or keeping it and a partial refund. I decided to keep the set because the price on Amazon Marketplace was pretty volatile at the time, and I might have ended up spending a lot more. (And to be honest, I already had a less-than legal copy of the missing CD.)

I was expecting a refund for 1/16 of the price, since there were 16 CDs in the box. But they gave me a $20 refund, enough to buy the whole missing disc on iTunes! I guess it was still a good deal for them: if I had sent it back they would have been stuck with a massive, unsellable box set. I googled the seller and it turns out they're a used record store in Minneapolis. I went through their Marketplace listings and spent the $20 credit on more CDs from them. Everybody wins!

no place like...

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We are home. The drive was one of the worst we've ever had -- bad traffic, bad weather, bleh. On the bright side, Thirteen seems to have done well while we were gone. And Jane welcomed us back by taking a dip in the stinky head pool. This time she came up crusty and stinky. Now that's dedication.

enigma

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December 26 movie: Enigma. This was a WWII thriller about, you guessed it, the Enigma machine. Starred Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northram, and some guy and woman I didn't recognize. It was a decent movie, hung together well and it was interesting to see a movie set at Bletchley Park. Although I think I might have had trouble following the plot at the end if my dad hadn't been there to explain the historical events the movie referenced. According to my dad they changed the ending a lot and added the romance between Winslet and Guy I Didn't Recognize. I guess they had to have a romance in there somewhere. He lent me the book (my dad, not Guy I Didn't Recognize) so I can find out for myself.

There's a very brief scene where the two main characters visit the facility where women are intercepting and recording German transmissions. I'm reading a really good nonfiction book about those women, called The Enemy is Listening. The book is a memoir by a woman who worked in the "Y Service," and their role was a lot bigger than I had realized. I had imagined what you see in the movie, a roomful of people writing codes down with no idea what it is they're transcribing. The woman in the book takes a much more active role. Her group helps with code breaking, logging and analyzing not just the transmissions but their context (i.e. who sent the transmission and what were they doing at that moment) and she gets good enough to decode on the spot, making her an invaluable resource for immediate information. Granted, the woman in the book (at least the part I've read so far) worked mostly on transmissions to and from German fighter pilots, who did not use Enigma. She wrote that the women working on Enigma transmissions were dealing with what you see in the movie: countless hours of transcribing random gibberish, never learning what any of it meant. What an incredibly tedious and difficult job that must have been.

beauty and the beast

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December 26 movie: Beauty and the Beast. I mostly watched this one by myself while my folks were doing other things, but they came in at the end. What a lyrical, magical movie. It's like poetry. Cocteau has such a delicate touch. This is one of those movies that I could watch over and over, but I won't, because I want to feel this delight every time I see it. If I overwatched the movie it might start to feel ordinary and that would be a crying shame.

judgment day: intelligent design on trial

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December 26 movie: Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial. My folks and I watched this together, the recent Nova documentary about the Dover school board trial. My dad had closely followed the case while it was happening, so he was able to add context & more information during the movie. I also followed the trial, though not as closely. I remember where I was when I heard the verdict though. I was driving home from work, I had just gotten on on I-85 north. On the radio they read quotes from the decision, like "breathtaking inanity," and I bounced up and down in my seat, whooped for joy and waved my arms in the air. One at a time, of course! Had to keep one hand on the wheel.

The movie did a good job, I think, of explaining the basic principles behind evoutionary biology in a clear and understandable way. With nifty graphics. Whether it was accurate or not, I'll leave to the scientists. Of which I am emphatically not one; in fact I have trouble following the discussions of evolution vs. intelligent design on the cool science blogs when they get down to details. I still try to read them anyway, because they are cool. And who knows, I might learn something before they go over my head.

The term "docudrama" has a bad rap, but I think it maybe applies here: it's mostly documentary, with interviews, news footage and narration. Plus they added dramatizations of the trial because cameras weren't allowed in the actual courtroom.

From what I understood at the time, this case was a crushing defeat for the ID people. And the movie definitely confirms that perception. The defendants made some major mistakes, such as saying on camera they wanted to bring "creationism" into the classroom in an early interview; lying about the source of money to buy the ID book that was added to the school library; and probably the most glaring gaffe, cdesign proponentsists. It made me wonder if the trial might have gone differently had the ID crowd been able to pull their act together.

One thing that really bothers me about modern American journalism is this focus on "objectivity" at the expense of all else, including "accuracy." It seems like much of the media think their job is to repeat what each side says about a controversy, giving equal weight to all sides, regardless of which statements are true and which are false. In essence, they give up reporting and reduce themselves to stenographers. The Nova documentary didn't do that at all. They thoroughly refuted the claims made by ID as they went along. I guess it's no surprise that Nova would come down on the side of science, but the people from the Discovery Institute must have hated it. Oh what am I saying. It was PBS! They would have hated it no matter what it had said.

cover girl

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December 24 movie: Cover Girl. The message of this movie is repulsive. Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth play romantic partners performing together at a small theater. Hayworth gets a big break to be a magazine cover girl. Kelly tries to convince her to give up the opportunity, because he can't stand the thought of her being more successful than he is. When he fails and her career flourishes, he tosses her over and all their mutual friends ostracize her. Eventually she comes crawling back, begging forgiveness for the high crime of having value in her own right. But don't worry! He deigns to forgive her. The end.

Ugh. At least the songs are good.

the incredibles

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December 22 movie: The Incredibles. We had forgotten how funny this movie is. It came on ABC Family, which we've been watching because they show most of the Rankin-Bass specials in December. Anyway we came in on The Incredibles about 1/2 hour in, and they repeated the movie so we watched it again to catch the beginning which we had missed. And we enjoyed it so much that we watched the whole thing over. The Edith Head character is definitely the funniest part.

anthony adverse

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December 22 movie: Anthony Adverse. Historical melodrama starring Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland. The best thing about the movie is Claude Rains as the villain. Come to think of it, Claude Rains is the best thing about every movie he's in.

the joker is wild

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December 18 movie: The Joker is Wild. Frank Sinatra stars in this biopic of Joe E. Lewis. The story is that Lewis was a promising young singer until he defied a Chicago mobster who had him beaten nearly to death, which beating destroyed his singing voice. So he became a comedian instead. I've read that there's no evidence this story is true except Lewis' own word, so who knows. Makes a good story though. I love Sinatra in this movie, and there's a terrific supporting cast: Eddie Albert, Mitzi Gaynor, Jeanne Crain, Jackie Coogan, and Sophie Tucker in a small role as herself. (She gives Lewis his big break in comedy.)

drums along the mohawk

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December 18 movie: Drums Along the Mohawk. John Ford drama starring Claudette Colbert and Henry Fonda as revolutionary-era pioneers building a farm and battling Native Americans in upstate New York. It lacks the subtlety of say Fort Apache but is well worth watching. Both stars are great, and Edna Mae Oliver steals the show as a widow who takes them in.

such spirit through the year

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I think the show went well. I thought beforehand that four hours would be insanely long, and that by the end we'd be struggling to put together a set. Turned out not to be like that at all. The time flew by and we had a whole list of great songs we didn't get to.

The first half hour was kind of chaotic because the playlister crashed on us, and we couldn't view it or make any changes. We wrote the songs down on paper for about 15-20 minutes and then finally the system timed out and let us log in again. Somehow we ended up with 3 playlists -- the first one that crashed, another one that we tried to start which didn't appear to work but apparently it did create something, and then the third one in which we entered most of the show. I'm going to go back and combine them all into one; for now here's the playlist for most of the show.

I haven't listened to the archive yet but I think we may have played a few too many novelty songs. What the heck, it was fun while we were doing it. And we got several requests, which was a nice surprise. I don't usually get any requests during a theme show. I think maybe they think I've got the whole show planned and requests would be an intrusion or something. There was one request I couldn't fill, for a song I'd never heard of called "Clyde the Camel." It sounds like it would have fit in well with our silly animal songs set -- "Rabbits Have a Christmas," "I Want a Hippopotomous for Christmas" etc. I'm going to try to find it for next week.

During the show I was totally jazzed up and was even regretting that I hadn't also signed up for the 7-9 pm show. But as soon as we left the station I started to realize how tired I was, and what a good thing that the show was four hours long and not six. Right now I'm resting my feet (I feel like I can't reach everything from the chair so I always end up standing for the entire show) and trying not to snack on my stocking candy before dinner.

what a land santa land is

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Tomorrow Georg and I will be cohosting a special 4-hour-all-Christmas Divaville Lounge. We've been collecting cool, vintage and just plain odd Christmas music for weeks and I think it's going to be a fun show. Tune in and find out the answers to critical questions like, "what will Santa Claus say when he finds everybody swinging?" "where is Christmas City?" "who'd like to hitch a ride with Santa Claus?" and "what a land is Santa land?" Sunday December 23 from 3-7 eastern time. 88.7 if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not.

the thirteen report

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The vet saw Thirteen and we got the go-ahead to leave for a few days. The vet was careful to remind me that things can happen when we don't expect them, but Thirteen's decline has been so gradual that she'll likely be okay next week.

Thirteen is basically stable, though losing weight steadily. She's down to 33.5 pounds. She has her good days and bad days. For instance on Wednesday she ate a whole cup of food, and was so lively that when I came home she barked at the door for me. She hasn't done that in months. But the day before that, she ate only 1/2 cup and threw up most of it. The vet said that "roller coaster" to be expected. One day you'll think "oh no, this is it" and then the next day you'll think she's doing great.

The vet also said that Thirteen doesn't have a lot of time left. I knew it already, but it was still tough to hear. I asked the vet what I should look for as symptoms of pain. Because Thirteen is such a stoic that it's hard to tell. The vet said I shouldn't focus so much on pain, since we already know Thirteen is in pain from her arthritis. Instead I should pay attention to how engaged she is. When she gets to the point where she just lies still all day, doesn't interact with us and doesn't want to be touched, that's when she probably doesn't want to be alive anymore. Thirteen isn't like that at all now. Even though it's hard for her to walk, she still seems interested whenever Georg, Jane or I are moving around, wants to know where we are, and approaches me frequently to get her stomach scratched. She seems like she's still happy to be with us.

The past few days I've been a lot more emotional than I had expected. Just having to discuss emergency plans with the vet and the pet sitter has brought up a lot of feelings. I was all proud of myself, thinking that I had accepted Thirteen's impending death & was able to think about it and talk about it so calmly. But I'm finding that odd things set me off.

Like for instance the movie I Am Legend. The one where all the ads show Will Smith and his dog living the survivalist life together in New York. Now, this is not a spoiler. I haven't seen the movie, haven't read the original book, and there is no dog in Omega Man. But if you've ever seen a Hollywood movie before, it's pretty obvious that the dog isn't going to make it. I can even hazard a guess as to how it will happen, and I bet I'm right.

I find that I can't stand even seeing the ad for that movie. I see Will Smith running on the treadmill with his dog and I think about that dog dying and I become physically upset. Not just crying, but an actual pain in my chest. It's ridiculous, I know. I guess it just hits a little too close to home.

yet more trivia

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Georg posted trivia questions on his blog. If you want to read the questions without the answers, go to his home page first. There's one category left, Holiday Food:

1) what fried potato dish is traditionally served at Chanukah? (must give the Yiddish name)
2) what is the name of the traditional Italian Xmas eve meal?
3) in Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", what food does Scrooge have delivered to the Cratchits for their Xmas dinner?
4) in Dr. Seuss' story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, what dish is the centerpiece of the Who's Xmas dinner?
5) What are traditional sugarplums made of?

more trivia

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Georg posted the trivia questions from the "December" category. I think he'll probably want to post the "Freaky Puppet Shows" questions since he wrote them. So I'll post the next category, "Toys:"

1) Before 1986, what was the Play-Doh container made out of?
2) In Transformers, who were the leaders of the Autobots and the Decepticons?
3) What toy, introduced in 1945, "walks down stairs, alone or in pairs"? For a bonus point, what toy "rolls over your neighbor's dog"?
4) What modification to the Easy Bake Oven was introduced in 2003?
5) When they were introduced in 1993, how many Beanie Babies were there (in the product line)?

trivia from the other side

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We didn't get to compete in trivia tonight, because we helped write the questions! It was a holiday theme, and the categories were December, Freaky Puppet Shows, Holiday Songs, Toys, Holiday Food, and A Christmas Story.

There are five questions in each category, and theoretically the questions increase in difficulty, so that question 1 in each category is fairly easy and question 5 is extremely difficult. Georg wrote the Freaky Puppet Shows questions (all about Rankin Bass) and I wrote all but one of the Holiday Songs category:

1) Name the movie which premiered the song "White Christmas"
2) The first singer to record "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)" was also the song's composer. Who was it?
3) In Adam Sandler's "Hanukkah Song" the fact that this celebrity is one-quarter Jewish is described as "not too shabby"
4) Who recorded "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
5) In Run D.M.C.'s "Christmas in Hollis," what is Mom cooking for Christmas in Hollis, Queens? One point for one dish, two points for two dishes, three points for all five dishes.

Answers behind the cut ...

goodbye starlu

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Last night we went with D. and S. to dinner at Starlu for the last time. The menu was somewhat reduced, not a surprise really. I'm sure it would be impossible to plan things so perfectly that they ran out of every ingredient at the end of the last day. Everything we had was excellent, and I highly recommend going before they close their doors.

I hope the chef is able to open a new restaurant soon. I never had a bad or even mediocre meal there.

dangerous female

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December 14 movie: Dangerous Female. The first film version of The Maltese Falcon. I've seen this before, and it isn't a bad movie. I would have considered it a pretty good movie if it hadn't been followed by a spectacular movie made from the same source material. Georg and I decided that there were two main differences between these two versions.* First, the acting. This version starred Ricardo Cortez -- who was not Spanish or Latino, but was given that stage name in hope that he would become the next Valentino. Unfortunately he was the kind of actor who conveys emotion by making a frowny face when something sad is happening.

Second, the script. Huston's script was so much more, what's the word. Elliptical? The Dangerous Female script is riddled with as you know Bob dialogue. (Many, many thanks to Nellorat for that wonderful and useful phrase.) The Maltese Falcon puts the information out there much less intrusively, and lets the viewer connect the dots. There is a somewhat explainy scene at the end, as I recall, but for the most part you have to pay attention to keep up. Whereas in Dangerous Female there's always a scene coming up where the main characters will explain everything to each other, and to you.

The differing quality of the scripts is most painfully clear at the ending. Dangerous Female goes on and on with an epilogue that might have come from the book, and probably worked well there, but drained the life right out of the movie. Unlike the Huston version, which ends with so much impact.

For me at least, the main value of Dangerous Female was that it made The Maltese Falcon shine more brilliantly in comparison. Which made it worth watching, twice, but probably not a third time. At least not for awhile.

*There's a third version of The Maltese Falcon, called Satan Met a Lady, which I'm pretty sure I haven't seen. I put it in my Netflix queue.

man wanted

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December 10 movie: Man Wanted. This was a a pre-code movie about a married lady executive (Kay Francis) who hires a male secretary and then falls for him. A fun bit of fluff. It was part of a birthday tribute to Una Merkel, who played the male secretary's girlfriend. I like Una Merkel. She seemed to play only two characters: the crass best friend of the heroine, or the crass girlfriend who gets dumped for the heroine.

high society

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December 9 movie: High Society. Wow, this goes by quick if you fast forward all the parts with Grace Kelly acting like an annoying snot. The first half of the movie takes about ten minutes this way. Whose idea was it for her character to be so shrill and unsympathetic, anyway?

two rode together

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Decmber 8 movie: Two Rode Together. Fair to middling western starring Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark as two cowboys hired to rescue white Americans being held prisoner (slaves would be more accurate in my opinion) by Comanches. The movie is complicated and somewhat dark, as John Ford movies tend to be. It doesn't really develop any momentum until they get to the Comanches, but I thought it was worth the wait.

ratatouille

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December 8 movie: Ratatouille. What a delightful movie! Marvelous from beginning to end. I think my favorite part was the DVD extra called "Your Friend the Rat": the two main rats narrated a little history of rat-human interaction. So cute! And accurate too, if I can trust the book about rats I just read a few months ago.

most famous hits: the rat pack

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December 8 movie: Most Famous Hits: The Rat Pack. This poorly labeled DVD from Netflix was actually concert footage from a benefit show Frank, Dean and Sammy did in St. Louis in 1965. Georg recognized it because Johnny Carson was MCing the show instead of Joey Bishop.

The DVD cut most of the banter & kept just the songs. Great songs, too. Count Basie Orchestra backed up Frank and Sammy, which was fantastic.

One caveat about the DVD: it starts with a "table of contents" of sorts, where they showed the first 5-10 seconds of each song to come. Just when you start to get into a song, they'd switch to the next one. There wasn't any explanation and we thought at first that was all we were going to see. We were prepared to be pissed off, and then the concert started for real.

the thirteen report

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We got Thirteen a new food again: this time another type of Science Diet, which has a slightly higher caloric content and comes in small kibble that we hoped might be easier for her to eat. She had a couple of really good days after the switch. One day she ate almost as much as the suggested portion on the Science Diet website.

Then of course her appetite dropped off again. Today she would only eat about a half cup of the kibble, maybe a little less. We cooked a couple of those pork chops and cut them into tiny pieces for her. Had to wake her up, poor thing, but we did get her to eat about 3.5 oz of pork. It's funny how she eats. She doesn't do the normal thing of eating faster at first, then slowing down as she gets full. She eats at a steady pace (sometimes even with enthusiasm) then just stops. Often she'll be eating away, and then suddenly get up and walk away from the dish. Or just turn around if she's not up to walking away right then. It's like she reaches a point where she's just had enough and she can't look at food anymore. I wonder if whatever is wrong with her GI system is triggered when she reaches a certain amount of fullness?

In non-food news, she's doing okay. She sleeps most of the time, and she doesn't seem to be in a lot of pain. Of course she's such a little stoic that it's hard to tell. (When we go to the vet, she always freezes if something unpleasant is happening. During a shot or blood draw I can't even tell when the needle goes in. She doesn't even flinch.) But she still likes me to scratch her stomach, though she can't roll all the way onto her back like she used to. I think if she were having a lot of abdominal pain she wouldn't want that anymore.

prezzie time is here

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2983335011266433.JPGOur Christmas present to ourselves arrived today: a Playstation 2. With Katamari Damacy. Yes, we are geeks! I've been intrigued by this game since I read about it years ago. A couple of weeks ago we tried it at D. and S.' house, and we were hooked. We set it up this evening and played for hours. I'd still be playing now, but my thumbs hurt.

happy hanukkah from divaville lounge

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Short notice, I realize, but I'll be on the air from 3-5 eastern time today. Special content this afternoon will include a birthday tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. and a Hanukkah tribute. (Sammy was Jewish, so they go together like, um, like a Jewish person and Hanukkah.)

Hanukkah music that fits in with Divaville Lounge is in rather short supply, and my original plan, suggested by S., was to play Christmas songs written by Jewish songwriters. Which is surprisingly easy, since most of Tin Pan Alley were Jewish. Almost all the classic holiday songs, especially the ones about winter rather than Christmas per se. I could do half of today's show that way if I wanted to. I probably won't though, because I have a 4-hour all-holiday music show coming up on the 23rd and I don't want to overdose on it now.

Then on Friday I stumbled onto this album, Hanukkah Swings. It came up on Pandora.com's Swinging Christmas channel. I wouldn't normally play something new, but it fits in so well with the sound of the show that I have to make an exception. I'm particularly fond of "Sevivon Sov, Sov, Sov" which seems based on "Sing Sing Sing" (by Benny Goodman, also Jewish). The best part is the album is available on iTunes so I was able to get it in time without having to call around to local stores or whatnot. I'm thrilled to have actual Hanukkah music to play today.

thirteen update

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Today Thirteen ate a slice of bacon and about 2.5 oz of pork chop. At first she wouldn't eat the pork, but if we broke it into teeny tiny pieces she would. We had another porkchop for her, but one was her limit. We didn't want to overdo it because we thought the richer food might make her sick, so we didn't push.

That isn't nearly enough food, but still it's a relief after she refused to eat the bacon, tofu and egg scramble. I guess Thirteen just doesn't like eggs. (A sentiment I can relate to.) Tomorrow we'll try adding rice and honey, like the recipe the vet gave me.

The pet sitter said she was willing to come during Thirteen's illness, although she won't be able to stay for longer visits because she's so busy during the holiday. She asked me to write down "advance directives." That was sobering. It made me think about what it would mean to be away for so long. I really don't want Thirteen to be by herself at the end. And I really don't want to leave her death for the pet sitter to deal with. That would be so unfair.

Our original plan for the holiday was to take an extended trip and visit first Georg's family, then mine. Georg and I talked it over and decided that instead we'll shorten the trip and separately visit our respective families. We can drive up together, Georg can drop me in DE and then head up to Staten Island. Then he can pick me up on the way back. That way we'll only be gone for a few days.

the violent men

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December 8 movie: The Violent Men. Decent Western starring Glenn Ford, Edward G. Robinson and Barbara Stanwyck. They said after the movie that Robinson hated Westerns and only did it because his career was on the wane. It's too bad; he was such a great actor.

jessica

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December 8 movie: Jessica. Ann-Margret plays a young widow working as a midwife in a small Sicilian town. All the Sicilian men want to get with her, and all the Sicilian women hate her for it. The women all refuse to have sex, so there will be no more babies, so that hotsy totsy midwife will be out of a job and will move away and stop stealing their husbands!

The movie is about as bad as you'd expect from that description. It did have lots of beautiful exterior shots of Ann-Margret riding a Vespa around a picturesque Sicilian town.

footsteps in the fog

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December 6 movie: Footsteps in the Fog. Edwardian thriller starring Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons. Did you know they were married in real life? I just found that out recently. This movie was surprisingly dark. Not totally successful, but there was a lot worthwhile in it. I enjoyed it a lot.

highlander: the final dimension

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December 4 movie: Highlander: The Final Dimension. Oh lordie! So bad. So hilariously bad. I had never seen a Highlander movie before. Were they all this bad?

hera pheri

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December 3 movie: Hera Pheri. Sean and Pam came over to watch this terrific 70s Bollywood movie with us. Amitabh and Vinod Khanna star as con men who cheat at cards, engage in a little petty theft, try to find love, and get caught up in a complicated plot involving Vinod's father, who murdered Amitabh's father, which drove Amitabh's mother crazy. Fantastic music by Kalyanji/Anandji. And yet again I forgot to take any screen caps before sending the movie back. Take it from me, this movie is way cool.

bad news

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Today on the vet's advice I tried cooking people food for Thirteen. Bacon, eggs, tofu, and some vegetables diced and sauteed. She didn't want it at all. Nosed at it once or twice, picked up a few pieces and dropped them, and then went back to sleep. If she won't eat bacon and eggs, I don't think anything will tempt her.

I'm going to try the other recipes from the vet before giving up. Still, it's pretty clear that the goal at this point is to make Thirteen as comfortable as possible. She's losing weight fast (3 pounds in the past two weeks) though she's still surprisingly mobile, considering.

I've thought about cancelling the petsitter for Christmas and boarding the dogs at the vet instead, so they can monitor Thirteen. I don't think I'll do it though. Thirteen hates change and I don't want her to spend that much time away from home. It's a lot to ask of the petsitter. Maybe I'd better ask her how she feels about it.

clean, for now

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jane-bath.jpgI gave both dogs baths this afternoon. I feel awful about bathing Thirteen because it's so hard for her to stand for that long. But we have a system that minimizes the burden for her. I stand over her with my legs on either size of her hips, so she can lean on me and doesn't have to stand up on her own. And we've done this so many times now that I can get the bathing done fairly quickly.

Jane was another matter. She doesn't need to be bathed nearly as often, so she isn't used to it like Thirteen is. And she's so big that it takes both of us to get her into the tub, and to keep her there. Georg had to sit by the tub and keep her from jumping out while I washed her. She has that German Shepherd fur, very thick and naturally a bit oily, which is difficult to wash. Especially when the dog is upset and not sitting still! I usually try to keep the dog's face dry during a bath, but Jane's entire face was covered in that oily stuff. We tried to cover her eyes with a washcloth but it was hard to keep it in place because she kept moving her head. I think having her eyes covered might have scared her even more. Poor thing, I felt like the meanest dog mom in the world.

At least she's clean. For now. This evening when we got home from trivia, Georg stayed outside with her to make sure she didn't get into the oily stuff again. And dang if she didn't head straight for the overgrowth in the back of the yard. He kept her out of there, and I guess we'll have to watch her when she's outside tomorrow too. I do not want her get all sticky again the very day after a bath.

Trivia was fun, by the way, even though we got our asses handed to us. We did well in the first half, then completely blew the second half. Oh well, winning isn't really the point. (At least, that's what I say now!) Next week is a special "all 80s" trivia, with bonus points to people who wear 80s costumes. Alas, I've been fairly aggressive about culling my closet in the past couple of years and I'm sure I don't have anything left that looks 80s. I think I can put an ouftit together though. A long sweater with a short skirt, tights, ankle socks and I think I still have a pair of Chuck Taylors.

the return of stinkyhead

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There's something horrible, oily and smelly, hiding somewhere in our yard. Jane has found it and periodically sticks her entire head into it. She looks like she took an oil bath -- face, ears, neck, her fur is matted with it. My guess is that there's a plant somewhere, up in the brushy part of the yard, with an oily sap. And Jane is trying to find rodents or something and sticks her head into the plant.

Last time Jane did this, I had her professionally groomed (which is kind of expensive for a dog her size) and then she did it again the next day. Because clearly it's better to smell like rancid oil than like shampoo. Then it didn't happen for a long time, and I had hoped that the plant died back or dried up for the winter. No such luck! Last night she came in proudly showing off her Stinkyhead. We cleaned her as best we could with baby wipes, but she's still pretty disgusting. Well I have to give Thirteen a bath today anyway, might as well bathe them both.

the shop around the corner

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I just read a good post on Something Old, Nothing New about The Shop Around the Corner, and then it was on TCM! What luck. I love this movie. It definitely has that Lubitsch sparkle. The entire ensemble shines. I'm a particular fan of Frank Morgan and Felix Bressart. It was a good choice to cast Jimmy Stewart, because the character has a real mean streak -- after he finds out who Margaret Sullavan is, more than once he messes with her head in a way that's almost sadistic -- but Stewart is so extremely likeable that somehow he didn't lose my sympathy.

visions of light

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December 2 movie: Visions of Light. I love this documentary about cinematography. I was a little frustrated by the focus on American movies -- they briefly mention German Expressionism and French New Wave, and that's it for non-Hollywood. I was hoping they'd show something from The Man With a Movie Camera, which I adore, but no dice. Georg and I were both amused by the guy who said the invention of sound had been a setback for moviemaking, and that film as an art would have developed so much more if the silent era had lasted ten years longer. Spoken like a cinematographer!

Still, it's a great movie with lots of interesting tidbits, mainly about lighting. I particularly loved the story about Rosemary's Baby. And this movie (the first time I saw it, back when it came out) was how I first learned about the "dolly counter-zoom," tracking in and zooming out at the same speed. I had seen it before but didn't understand what was going on.

I wish that other filmmaking guilds would make documentaries. I'd love to see a documentary about editing.

ocean's 13

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November 28 movie: Ocean's 13. I was pleasantly surprised by how well this movie held up on second viewing. Like Soderbergh's Ocean's 11, it's best not to think too hard about this movie. Just enjoy the koo-koo hipster vibe and the tribute to Vegas. Eddie Izzard was a nice addition to the cast, and the absence of Julia Roberts was also nice. Even if you like Julia Roberts, it doesn't seem like there was anything left for her character to do in this series.

incredible shrinking dog

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Sean and Pam came over tonight to watch Hera Pheri. Both of them commented on how much smaller Thirteen looks. I told them she's lost weight, but they said it was more than that. They said she looked shrunken. It might be because of the skin problem she had over the summer, where she lost almost all the fur on her hips. Her skin is better now and her fur is growing back nice and thick, but it's still fairly short. Which makes the back half of her body look smaller, just like a dog looks smaller in the bath because the water slicks down the fur.

In general Thirteen is hanging in there. She's eating about half of what she should, which is at least something. She really likes to know where Georg and I are. Sometimes she'll wake up with a start, look around for us, then go back to sleep. Or if I'm not in the room when she wakes up, she'll come and find me even though it's not so easy for her to walk anymore. I hope she can tell when I'm not home so she isn't walking around the empty house looking for me.

durham holiday parade

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Yesterday we went with D. and S. to the Durham holiday parade. It was great! Very much fun. There were marching bands, scouts, four mascots (for the library, the water department, and for the Bulls both Wool E. Bull and Luck E. Duck), a horse club, two motorcycle clubs, the bomb squad, cheerleaders, a unicyclist, a juggler, beauty queens, dogs, flame jets, garbage trucks, librarians, and of course Santa. Plus the usual small town parade participants (police, local politicians, people from the newspaper, local businesses, church and neighborhood groups).

I think the highlights for me were: the very cool Scene of the Crime Rovers band, marching for the Scrap Exchange; the Book Cart Drill Team from the public library; the dogs, all former shelter dogs walking for the APS; the crazy cool elf car from National Jewelry and Pawn; the garbage trucks lifting and lowering cans in formation; the motorcycle that caught fire; and the Hillside marching band. Those kids were amazing. They put on a great show, good sound and very well choreographed. The souzaphone players danced! And I don't mean swaying from side to side; they danced. Really impressive.

They had the parade late in the day, which was a fun change of pace, but on the downside as the sun went down it became difficult to get photos of anybody late in the parade (like Hillside). Plus the parade route went from west to east, so what light there was, was on the marchers' backs. Still, I did manage to get a couple of decent shots.

After the parade we walked over to Piedmont. We had to sit at a bar table because they had a big party coming in. The host was very apologetic but it was fine by us. The food was terrific as usual. I had cassoulet, which included pork belly, sausage and duck confit. It was fantastic, if a bit rich. I think the butternut squash risotto is still my favorite thing there.

like high school, except fun

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I found this online civics quiz surprisingly fun. With some educated guessing I scored 81.67%. Not great, but better than I had expected, considering how little attention I payed to high school civics.

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