March 2008 Archives

the illusionist

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March 30 movie: The Illusionist. I really enjoyed this. It was not at all what I was expecting -- I had somehow gotten it confused with Lord of Illusions. Very different movie! Here I was, expecting a cheesy supernatural horror movie with the guy from "Quantum Leap," and instead I get The Age of Innocence meets The Usual Suspects.

I knew nothing at all about The Illusionist going in, and I think that was the best way to see it. The movie genuinely kept me guessing. For instance, ten minutes in I thought I knew how it was going to end, and then my predicted ending happened half-way through, and the movie went in an unexpected direction after that. I like a movie that can surprise me.

(No kittens, no best girlfriends, but it did have oodles of true love.)

the great escape


March 29 movie: The Great Escape. Fuck you, Rose McGowan.

Apparently you cohost "The Essentials" on TCM now (from Molly Haskell to Carrie Fisher to you -- a downward trajectory to be sure). And in introducing The Great Escape last night, you announced that the film is remarkable for being "a war movie that women enjoy too!" which you followed by tittering, "I don't want to be sexist, but!" Wow, you don't want to be sexist. Congratulations; not being sexist is a worthy goal. I don't want to be sexist either. Here's a tip: if you really don't want to be sexist, don't say sexist bullshit on national television.

I watch a lot of movies. Probably more than you do, considering the inanity of your segment last night. And I am sick to the teeth, fed up beyond belief, with being told that my gender dictates my taste in movies. That I should prefer the ones featuring true love, best girlfriends and kittens. That I'm supposed to love Steel Magnolias and be bored by Sahara. Where did this idea come from, that stories about universal values and struggles are the sole property of men? In your world do women not possess or care about courage and ingenuity? Do you enjoy living in a world where half the human experience is assumed to be beyond you? I wouldn't enjoy that world at all, and I refuse to live in it.

So fuck you, Rose McGowan, and fuck everyone who thinks that being female means I'm not supposed to like war movies. My boobies and I like them just fine, thank you very much, and we think The Great Escape is a particularly good one. Now that I've got that off my .. ah .. chest, I think I'll watch a movie. One with nary a kitten or a best girlfriend to be found.

if only

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What a country this would be if people here cared as much about democracy as Tshewang Dema does. She traveled 600 km to vote in Bhutan's historic first national election. On foot.

"I didn't want to lose my vote just because I couldn't travel in a car," Dema said.


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One year ago today my gallbladder was removed. Cut of the stone, just like Samuel Pepys. Well, his stone was in his bladder, was the size of a tennis ball and was removed without anesthesia. So not exactly the same. What the hey, I'm happy to be rid of mine too.

Not much yardwork today, as I had the show to do. With the show an hour earlier, and having to do the op logs beforehand too, I have to leave before it's warm enough to do anything outside. After I got home I did mow the lawn. First time this year! We're still happily cultivating a freedom lawn, aka "the freedom to ignore our lawn." As long as it's vaguely green and can be kept in check with semi-weekly mowing, I'm happy.

all this and a penguin too


What a great day. We started with a trip to the Raleigh farmer's market, our first this year. Not many plant sellers were there yet, but several of our favorites were. The best thing was seeing the two guys from Messenbrink! Over the winter we heard that Messenbrink had gone under because of the drought, and I was crushed.

Well, the guys confirmed that Messenbrink did go out of business, but they're still at the farmer's market, working independently now. They said they missed being part of Messenbrink, a large wholesale nursery with excellent stock. I noticed that their booth is about half the size now, with handwritten tags, and plain pots instead of the nice octagonal ones Messenbrink used. But who cares about the pots! Their selection, while small, was all nice, interesting plants. And we get what matters most to me: personal advice from people who love plants, know a lot about them, and remember us when we come back.

We bought several things from the ex-Messenbrink guys (I forgot to ask them what their new business name is) and several from another one of my favorites, Archer Farms. Let's see, we bought white and purple verbena, a heuchera in a vibrant kind of mauve color, a rose campion, and a hardy amaryllis to replace the one the voles ate. That was from Archer Farms, and he thoughtfully had one in full bloom so you could see the colors, and the rest had unopened buds so you can plant it and enjoy the full bloom cycle.

We also bought a couple of shade plants whose names I can't remember, and we saw a fern we really liked, but decided to wait until next time to get it. We want to put it around the water barrel to hide the concrete blocks, and we don't want to plant anything there until the leak situation is resolved.

On the way out we stopped at the concrete lawn ornament place across the street. The place where I got the moai last year. This time I knew exactly what I wanted: a penguin statue. I had seen it last year and had regretted not buying it ever since. Well we got it and set it up in the vegetable garden and I think it looks nice!

We stopped for lunch at Nosh, got home about 1 and got down to serious work on the bank along the driveway. We had added nice soil to that whole bed three years ago, and in the meantime, erosion has done its thing. The top of the bank only has a couple inches of good soil, and at the bottom the bed is overflowing. Literally in fact; the little plastic borders had all fallen over from the weight of the excess soil. In short, the bed was a mess.

First we dug up the excess soil from the bottom of the bank and tossed it up to the top. Then we replaced the plastic borders. Then covered the whole bed with mulch. This took longer than the other beds because we couldn't just dump it out and spread it with a rake. There are so many plants in there that we had to place the mulch by the handful, and then carefully uncover any plants that got covered up. Then we scraped & swept up all the crud, straw and etc that had collected on the driveway. It was a lot of work, and worth it I think: the driveway looks a thousand times better.

So that was our exciting day in the yard. It felt great to get so much done. We celebrated with meaty goodness from the Q Shack (I had the chili and a side of bacony green beans, Georg had the ribeye sandwich and creamed spinach). Now we're chilling and watching a DVD of soundies.


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We had a great time at Taqueria Lopez tonight, consuming great Mexican food and enjoying the excellent mariachi band. Santa Salsera was there, also Bunch of Pants, Pants' mother, and D. and S. It was like we were having a party at the restaurant, with mariachis too! They took three requests from us, including the "El Mariachi Loco" song we enjoyed so much last time. We talked about requesting Viva Obama and I wanted to do it, but I wasn't sure how they would feel about a political song. Or if they would even know it. Ms. Pants danced with the trumpet player, and there was a general consensus that Santa Salsera should hire them for a party at her house as soon as it's warm enough for them to play on her back deck. And an equally important consensus was reached that we should have a party for "mariachi-oke," karaoke with mariachi music. Good times!


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March 20 movie: Wattstax. I've been meaning to watch this since we saw DJ Spooky at Duke last month; his performance used many samples from this movie. It's a fantastic documentary about the 1972 Wattstax concert, and interviews/ruminations with people living in Watts, LA, at that time. The community interviews include Ted Lange (Isaac the bartender from "Love Boat") as one of a group of guys hanging out & making jokes about a lot of things, especially women as I recall. It's not clear whether this was his first appearance on screen or not. IMDB says he had a couple of bit parts in the same year Wattstax came out. But it's clear that he's one of the guys, not "Ted Lange, actor," when the movie was filmed.

point blank

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March 20 movie: Point Blank. Wow, what a lighthearted romp! I rented this because of just watching Point Break. Also because I tried to watch it months ago, couldn't get into it, and ended up deleting it unwatched for some reason. Probably we were going on vacation and I was afraid the DVR would fill up, so I deleted everything I wasn't sure about.

Well this time I didn't have any problem getting involved in the movie. I guess I just have to be in the right frame of mind for a brilliant revenge flick starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. The movie would actually be a cliche if not for Marvin's stellar acting. Also the interesting, somewhat experimental time shifts and camera work. Also features Keenan Wynn, Carroll O'Connor, John Vernon and James Sikking.

rear window

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March 17 movie: Rear Window. I love this movie. And I don't have much to say about it. Jimmy Stewart is a total jerk to Grace Kelly in the first half of the movie, but then we are talking about Hitchcock. And Thelma Ritter gets all the good lines.

a slow leak

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No yardwork today; I had too much work work to do, and besides it was cold and windy. I hope it will be nice this weekend so we can make more progress on the mulch pile. I made a good dent in it yesterday, moving 16 wheelbarrows full. I covered the blueberry bed and the path around the vegetable garden.

One of our rain barrels has a slow leak. It looks like the barrel was patched, and water is seeping out of the patch. In this photo you can see the patch, a trail of water dripping from it, and a water stain on the concrete block.

I wrote to the rain barrel guy and he said he'd schedule a time to come out here. I'm not sure if he's going to repair it or replace it. I guess we could probably have done it with a pool repair kit, but I'm glad he's willing to come out and fix it. After all, we just got it a week ago.

Other than the leak, the barrels are great. One solid rain storm fills them both. If we have another drought as bad as last year, eventually they'll dry up. But I think the barrels will help us obey water restrictions and keep the plants adequately watered for most of the season.

We lost a distressing number of plants due to last year's drought, though I was surprised by some of the things that survived. Of course the echinacea and sedum survived with very little water. So did the yarrows and the purple verbena; they look great already. The roses also look great. Whew! The columbines, which were just seedlings last year, all made it. As did the agapanthus, alstroemeria, and gerbera daisies. The snapdragons also look great, but they were right along a soaker hose, so no surprise there.

On the other hand, we did lose some things that make me sad: the pink campion which had silvery fuzzy leaves; the euphorbia; the hardy geranium; the butterfly weed; two out of three verbascums. And worst of all, the entire bed of asparagus. Sob! I may or may not replant them this fall. It's not a place that's easy to water and I fear that if I plant there again, they'll just die again.

key largo

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March 16 movie: Key Largo. Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and John Barrymore are held hostage by gangster Edward G. Robinson during a hurricane. As Georg pointed out, after Casablanca many if not most of Bogart's characters were basically Rick, the embittered loner who "sticks his neck out for no one," until something happens that makes him remember his values and willingness to sacrifice for the greater good.

One thing in this movie really bothered me. [minor spoilers:] Robinson kills a police officer, and then tells the sheriff it was two Native American petty crooks who did it. The sheriff promptly kills the Native Americans. When everything comes out in the end, the sheriff and Barrymore wring their hands a bit about how the deaths were just too bad, and then that seems to be the end of it. So apparently, in the 40s a police officer could shoot two people in the back because some random (and highly shifty) stranger said they might have committed a crime, and there would be no consequences aside from a vague statement of remorse. Or maybe that's only if the victims were a minority.

the legendary nat king cole

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March 14 movie: The Legendary Nat King Cole. This was an hour long documentary, apparently made for TV, with a narrator who sounded unfortunately like John Oliver from The Daily Show. This left us waiting for him to say something snarky and ridiculous, which he never did. The documentary was pretty good, though it said a few things that weren't true according to the book I read.* The best part of the documentary was the bonus features, which included the complete performances of every song they had excerpted. It included a Trio-only version of "Nature Boy" (without strings) which I had never heard before.

*Nat King Cole by Daniel Mark Epstein. Really good book.

March 14 movie: Nat King Cole: Soundies and Telescriptions. As the name would suggest, this was a collection of soundies and telescriptions, which as near as I could tell are the same thing as soundies. All the performances were by either the three-man King Cole Trio, or the later Nat King Cole and His Trio (the Trio plus bongos). The dated ones were from 1950 or 1951, and the undated ones looked earlier.

The only weird thing about these soundies was that a few of them were strangely lit to make Nat King Cole look almost as white as I am. We couldn't tell if it was a mistake due to poor lighting, or a deliberate attempt to lighten his skin, maybe to make the soundies more appealing to white audiences? There were other soundies from the same session (you could tell by the set and clothes) where he looked like himself, but in those few that were badly lit he looked so strange. His hair and eyes were as dark as normal and his skin looked grey and ashen. We joked that those were the "Nat King Cole Zombie Trio."

just in time

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We got the rain barrels set up yesterday morning: leveled the ground, set down concrete blocks to put the barrels on, and diverted the gutters. Just in time too: yesterday afternoon's rain filled both barrels. Woo!

The only problem so far is that the screen the water flows into is kind of raised up in the center of the lid. So the lid fills up with water that can't drain. We're talking about either covering the whole lid with a screen to keep mosquitoes out, or putting one of those anti-mosquito donuts in each and seeing if the birds will use it as a bird bath.

After setting up the rain barrels we went to a delightful wedding. The bride designed and made a spectacular dress, the groom cried all the way through his vows, the maid of honor sang "I'm Sticking With You Cause I'm Made Out of Glue" by Velvet Underground, and the reading was from Plato's Symposium, the part about how humans were originally round, with eight limbs and two sets of sexual organs, and then the gods split man in half, and now we were all searching for our other half. And the cake was fantastic (we think they used the same baker as D. and S.), and the reception music was (in part) provided by me! It was a wonderful time. Nice to see two such cool people be so happy.

our dancing daughters

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March 12 movie: Our Dancing Daughters. Before she was a scary figure with hard hair, hard shoulder pads and a hard lip line. Long before Mommie Dearest made her the screeching harpy everyone remembers. Once upon a time Joan Crawford was a flapper with beautiful eyes, a winning smile, and a willingness to strip off her skirt, jump on a table and dance the Charleston in her panties. Our Dancing Daughters shows us that time.

my own insane project


In preparation for an all-Nat King Cole tribute show this Sunday, in the past few days I've listened to everything I've got by Cole, plus rented several DVDs. I think I'm beginning to understand the insane project. I feel like I've learned a lot about Nat King Cole just from listening to the saturation point. Not just "I like the Trio better than the schmaltzy stuff with the strings;" I knew that already. I was surprised by how much his voice had evolved. Cole tended to record the same songs repeatedly over the years, which makes it easier to hear the difference. Using Audacity (I love that program!) I spliced together three versions of "Sweet Lorraine," spanning two decades, to illustrate the point during the show. There's a lot more to Nat King Cole than just that guy who did syrupy ballads like "Unforgettable" and "Mona Lisa," and whose memory was pillaged by his daughter.

Speaking of which, I'm doing a tribute to Nat King Cole this Sunday at 2pm. 88.7 if you're local, if you're not.

much mulch

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The mulch arrived today! As I had suspected, 10 yards of mulch is indeed a lot. Unfortunately the guy couldn't get his truck all the way back into the backyard after all. There was another tree a few feet inside the gate which blocked the top corner of the truck. He tried really hard too: backing up a foot, getting out of the truck and climbing into the gap to yank branches out of the way, then backing up another foot. He even scraped his hand without realizing it; when he came over to talk to me his hand was bloody. I asked him to come inside and wash the cut out but he said no, he had "some stuff" in his truck. I was thinking, what kind of stuff? a sink? but I didn't push it. For all I know the company has a rule against drivers going inside customers' houses or something. Anyway I gave him a $10 tip because it had been such a hassle. I mean really, most deliveries to my house don't result in driver injuries. He seemed embarrassed by the tip, but at least he took it.

He dumped the mulch as far back as he could get it, which ended up blocking the gate open. Jane could have run right over the pile and out if she had wanted. Thank goodness she showed zero interest in the mulch. I thought she would want to check it out, you know, a big smelly pile of shredded wood that suddenly appeared in the yard, but I guess smells only interest her if they come from food. I even stood by the mulch and coaxed her to come to me because I wanted to see what she would do, and she wouldn't come near it.

It cost a lot more than we used to pay at the county landfill, and it was much better quality. For one thing, I didn't need a bucket to collect scraps of plastic and junk, as we always used to do with mulch from the county. Plus factoring in the time I didn't have to drive to the landfill and back to get the mulch: if I spent all that time doing billable work, then Sands & Soils would end up being cheaper. Realistically of course it doesn't work out that way. Still, this spring looks like it will be busy enough that I wouldn't have had time to go get this much mulch from the county.

I had set aside this afternoon for mulch but then ended up with some last-minute work that had to be done today. Which was a good thing because it prevented me from overdoing it like last week with the dirt. By the way, mulch is much easier to move than dirt. I moved 14 wheelbarrows full (about a yard or as much as would fill our small truck), made a good start on mulching the garden beds, and I feel fine. I also shoveled some of the pile over to the left side to fill up a gap where it would have been easier for Jane to see that she could get out.

When Georg got home he shoveled the pile back far enough to close the gate. (I took this picture right before he finished.) It's a good thing we can park our cars in the driveway, because I think the mulch pile is going to be there for a while. I have work tomorrow all day, and then we have plans in the evening. We have a wedding to go to on Saturday so we won't want to work too hard in the morning, and then I have some prep work to do for my show on Sunday. At least with daylight savings time we'll have more time to work on it in the evenings.

rain barrels

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Got work done today, and then in late afternoon our rain barrels arrived! We found them on Craiglist. I had wanted for a long time to make rain barrels and had been trying to track down empty barrels. Then one day I realized that I could locate the barrels, figure out how to make them, buy the hardware, and put them together. Or I could work a couple of billable hours and buy a damned rain barrel. The price on Craiglist was so good that we got two. Free delivery, and he was a nice guy too. He made friends with Jane, which always wins bonus points with me.

After the rain barrel guy left, I dug out unwanted/volunteer shrubs in the spots where the barrels will go. Including a pitiful forsythia which has been struggling in a dark corner since we moved in. I felt guilty about digging it up even though it would never thrive there, and I don't even like forsythia. I still need to pack down the soil, set up and level concrete blocks, cut the drainpipes and move the spout things to point into the barrels. Well it's not supposed to rain until the weekend.

After that I sawed down that tree growing into the driveway. Well I finished sawing it down. Georg had done the hard part yesterday: he cut down the bulk of the tree, leaving a stump about 3 feet high. I just cut down that last stump. We had to get that done today because we have 10 yards of mulch arriving tomorrow! Woo! The guy said if we removed that tree he could back his truck all the way up the driveway and dump the mulch behind the house. That will be great because we'll be able to park our cars in the driveway while we deal with moving the mulch. 10 yards. I wonder how big of a pile it will make? My Ford Ranger holds about 1 yard, so 10 yards will be ... a lot.

point break


March 11 movie: Point Break. A couple of days ago Patrick Swayze announced that he has pancreatic cancer. I'm honoring Swayze tonight with my favorite of his movies, Point Break. This movie was iconic in its day. Swayze plays an adrenaline junkie into extreme sports, robbing banks, and New Age aphorisms. Keanu Reeves is the FBI agent tracking Swayze's gang and joining the surfing world.

The AV Club has a fitting tribute with The Way of the Swayze: How to Be a Thoughtful Hunk.

futurama: bender's big score


March 10 movie: Futurama: Bender's Big Score. This was loads of fun. It was direct to DVD, which explains why I never heard about it in theaters. I felt at times that the series lost the funny & got too serious. For instance the episode about Fry's dog, that made me so sad that it was genuinely hard to watch. This time I thought they did a good job of balancing the pathos and the jokes. The jabs at Fox in the beginning were particularly funny. "But what does this mean to our many fans?"

March 10 movie: How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I can't believe I never saw this before. Robert Morse stars as a cheerful con artist who scams his way to the top of the corporate ladder using an advice book with the same title as the movie. Rudy Vallee is the CEO who gets snookered, and Michele Lee is the secretary who falls for Morse. The movie is stagey at times, and also quite sexist, but if you can overlook those flaws it's so much fun. Great mid-60s decor in the office building. I wanted to copy all the color schemes. Also this movie (well, the play I guess) was the origin of the song "I Believe In You." Alas, the version in the movie can't hold a candle to the Sinatra/Basie version.

the happy thieves

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March 10 movie: The Happy Thieves. Rita Hayworth and Rex Harrison star as, guess what, happy thieves. Who are blackmailed into stealing a Goya painting. This wasn't a great movie, but it had good things about it. I liked the scenes where they rehearse the theft. And Hayworth and Harrison have great chemistry.

fistful of dollars


March 8 movie: Fistful of Dollars. Another movie I love so much I have trouble coming up with something to say about it. This time I was trying to figure out which I like better, this one of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. I think maybe the latter, due to the presence of Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. "Tuco, known as The Rat!"

the president's analyst

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March 7 movie: The President's Analyst. My god I love this movie. That is all.


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March 6 movie: Female. Another great pre-code movie. Ironically, just the day before watching this I read a post on Shakesville complaining about sexist use of the word female as a noun. This movie starred Ruth Chatterton as the president of an auto manufacturer. She's a tough as nails CEO who seduces every handsome employee, and then transfers the poor suckers to Peoria if they get too attached. Then she falls for inventor George Brent, which is actually a pretty decent story about valuing corporate strength vs. emotional strength. Unfortunately the last minute of the movie ruins it all -- as you would expect from a movie like this. Just turn it off when Brent says "No one's going to take your company away from you" and it's a great movie.

March 6 movie: Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood. This was an interesting documentary about the Hayes Code. They shows lots of clips from pre-code movies. Most of which I had seen already, but a few I hadn't. More interesting to me was the history of the code: who was Hayes, who actually wrote the code, why wasn't it enforced at first, and then why did they start enforcing it.

night nurse

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March 5 movie: Night Nurse. Did I say Ann Vickers was the ultimate pre-code movie? Well I was wrong, the ultimate was Night Nurse. Barbara Stanwyck and Joan Blondell play nurses who discover a plot to murder two toddlers for their trust funds. Also, they change in and out of their uniforms. A lot. That's the reason for the movie: Barbara Stanwyck in a bra and half slip. And oh boy, what a reason.

The weird thing about this movie is that even after they've exposed the plot by the gangster chauffer (Clark Gable) and evil doctor to starve the two kids to death, while the drunken mother stands by and does nothing, no one ever suggests removing the children from the house. Even after it's all over, the good doctor says he'll help Stanwyck find a new job because the drunken mother will probably fire her! I guess child welfare laws were different in the early 1930s.

the little things

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Sometimes it's the little things that make me happy. For instance, yesterday I found a penny -- heads up! And then I went to the Wendy's where I always go when I'm in Hillsborough, to get my salad and iced tea (which is the best food available in easy driving distance of my office). And because it was raining the drive-through line was really long, so I went inside, and I saw the manager and said hi to him, and he told the cashier not to charge me! I was like, "what in the what now? I mean, thanks, but, what?" I've seen that happen in bars but never at a fast food place before. I've been going there twice a week for years now, so I guess they've gotten to know me. I almost always go through the drive-through so maybe they remember my car.

Then today there was a short window of time after it stopped raining and before the cold front moved in, which Georg and I used to smooth out the dirt around the blueberries, and also spread one last wheelbarrow full. It turns out dirt is a lot heavier when it's wet! Especially the dirt in the wheelbarrow, which had been covered with a tarp, which slipped, and the wheelbarrow was full of water. Mucky water with thick mud at the bottom. Spreading that stuff made me feel like I was making mud pies. Georg also turned the dirt in the second vegetable bed (the one we haven't planted anything in yet) which mixed the new soil in nicely. The beds which got the new soil are really looking nice. If it's sunny tomorrow I'll take some pictures.

After lunch I had planned to go out and weed, but then that cold and wind moved in and I really didn't feel like being outside. So I spent the afternoon sorting through (and throwing out, yay!) old papers while we watched Fistful of Dollars.

I heard from the rain barrel guy we found on Craig's List, he's going to deliver 2 barrels to us on Wednesday. And I had a nice email exchange with my favorite rose company, who were hard hit by the drought. They don't have any of the roses I want because they had trouble propagating without sufficient water. Which they were very apologetic about. They even sent me a link to a super-secret page with some roses not available to the general public. But I have a very specific wish list, which none of those fit. I'm going to wait a year and get the roses I want from them, because I like them and I want to support them.

Then I lit a fire and now we're watching a "Women of Ninja Warrior" marathon. New episodes tonight! And we're going to have a braised pork shoulder for dinner. What a nice day.

mariachi fun


We had great fun tonight at Taqueria Lopez with Ms. Bunch of Pants. They had a mariachi band! Who were really good! At the beginning of their set, they stood in the front of the restaurant and did a song which involved some kind of line dance. Very cool. I forget the name of the song but according to Ms. Pants it meant, "The crazy mariachis want to dance." How appropriate!

After that song they walked around the restaurant and sang for each table. When they came to our table Ms. Pants requested "El Cascabel," her favorite mariachi song. They didn't know it (well, they knew it, but not how to perform it) so they offered to play a similar song. And it was great! Fast paced and fun and had lots of interesting changes of tempo. At one point they sang about how fun it is to fly, and the trumpet player flapped his arms and made "whooshing" noises. I wish I had caught the name of the song.

We were lucky to be there with someone who not only speaks Spanish but has a favorite mariachi song to request. The other tables of Americanos got much less fun songs like "Guantanamera" and the theme from Love Story. Which didn't make a very good mariachi song, I have to say. On the other hand, at the very beginning of the set they played "Roll Out the Barrel," which made a great mariachi song.

They said the mariachis perform there twice a month. We're definitely going back in two weeks. Anyone want to come?

the day after

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I am sore all over. I knew it would wipe me out to do so much when I'm so out of shape, but with that pile blocking the driveway and rain on the way, it had to get done as quickly as possible.

We didn't have to tarp the pile of dirt against the rain because Georg got it all moved last night! He saved time by dumping it in the garden beds but not spreading it. Yesterday I had plans to go out this morning before work and spread it. But it just started raining. Which is for the best because first of all, we really need the rain. And second, as I might have mentioned, sore all over. I'm not sorry to be forced to stay away from yardwork for the next couple of days.

so much dirt

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Four yards of dirt arrived at 8:30 this morning. I was concerned that he wouldn't be able to get the truck up the driveway because of overhanging wires, but it was no problem. He said he would have been able to pull all the way in behind the house except for a tree in the way. We hate that tree anyway so I think we'll cut it down before we get the mulch.

I started work at 9:30, took frequent breaks, and by the time I quit at 4:30 had gotten more done than I had expected. I think about half although it's hard to tell with a big mound like that. All the new raised beds from last year had sunk, and I filled in the one by the side of the house and the one inside the fence. The one inside the fence was tricky because there were little emerging perennials here and there that had to be left uncovered.

Georg took over when he got home. For which I am most grateful because I'm beat! Also my right arm is pretty sore. It's supposed to rain again tomorrow so we'll have to cover whatever is left with a tarp.


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March 5 movie: Helvetica. This movie was so much fun! Spacegrrl came over and watched it with us. We saw that it was showing last week at some graphic design event, and we couldn't go, so we got it from Netflix and watched it here instead. In retrospect I'm glad; it was more fun to be relaxed and be able to joke around about the movie.

As the title suggests, it was a documentary about Helvetica. There were interviews with lots of typographers, including some who had designed typefaces I love and use all the time. The funny thing is that they all disagreed with each other. There were old school designers who thought Helvetica was perfection in type; postmodernist designers who hated Helvetica (including a woman who blamed Helvetica for both the Vietnam and Iraq wars!); and then young designers rediscovering Helvetica. The filmmakers were obviously talented designers too. There were many striking images of urban scenes with Helvetica on signage.

the quest for mulch

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Georg and I put in more stakes today and finished sowing the sugar snaps. Got it done just before the rain started. The bed is nice and level so I'm not worried about the rain washing the seeds away.

Once we get the soil delivered and spread, we're going to need mulch. A lot of it. Curse the Durham landfill for ruining my good thing, with their lack of permit and their yard waste fire that lasted for weeks! I used to be able to pop over there anytime I wanted and pick up a truckload for $7. Now we have to pay commercial rates, arrange for delivery, etc etc.

When Sand and Soil comes on Thursday with the soil, I'm going to ask them how much mulch they think they could drop off at once. Our driveway is not good for bringing in a truck: it's long and narrow and there's a low wire running across. I think they're going to have to back in and then dump the soil halfway up the drive. Which will limit the amount they can bring at once.

The Orange County landfill will deliver 20 yards of mulch for $180. It's a great deal (even though we're slightly outside their range and so it would cost us a bit more than that). But 20 yards, that's a heck of a lot of mulch. At least twice what we need. I keep trying to convince myself that we could get that much delivered here, and move it ourselves, and find a place to store the excess. Mmmm ... I'm not convinced yet. I'll keep trying.

ann vickers

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March 3 movie: Ann Vickers. This movie was about as pre-code as it gets. Irene Dunne gets pregnant out of wedlock, has an abortion (with some remorse but no other consequences), becomes a social worker & prison reformer, tries to stop a crooked warden from beating women inmates, gets blackmailed, takes over another women's prison, has an affair with a married judge (Walter Huston) and has a baby with him. The movie also features bribery, a woman being hit in the head so hard she's knocked out, another woman being flogged (in silhouette), and explicit references to heroin addiction. All this movie lacks is women in lingerie. Speaking of which, Night Nurse is on tonight! I'm recording it for later.

duck, you suckers

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March 1 movie: Duck, You Suckers. All hail my brother-in-law! He gave me this movie for my birthday. Ever since I first heard of this, I've been dying to see it. And it lived up to my expectations. James Coburn and Rod Steiger star as a fugitive Irish terrorist and a Mexican bandit, respectively, who get caught up in the Mexican revolution. The movie wasn't perfect; it dragged a bit and didn't seem to know how to end. But, what am I saying? James Coburn in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western! That's all you need to know.

harlem roots: the headliners

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February 29 movie: Harlem Roots: The Headliners. A collection of soundies by Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong and Louis Jordan. It was good, but not long enough. Barely an hour if I recall correctly.

anna lucasta

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February 29 movie: Anna Lucasta. What a bring-down after all those sweet romantic comedies. I rented this because it starred both Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr. Well, Eartha plays a prostitute who was molested by her father. Her family was happy to be rid of her for the most part, and invites her back only because they hope she'll seduce a family acquaintance who recently came into money. Sammy plays her boyfriend, who cares about her in his own shallow way but can't/won't really help her. It's a sordid movie. And Eartha and Sammy don't sing!

royal wedding

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February 29 movie: Royal Wedding. How I love this movie! The plot is a wonderful bit of fluff, and the movie includes one of Fred Astaire's most sublime dances -- the one in the exercise room -- and two of my favorites of his songs -- "How Could You Believe Me" and "I Left My Hat in Haiti."

back to the garden

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Did a bit of gardening today. Nothing strenuous, just cleaned up one of the vegetable beds, planted sugar snap and spinach seeds and onion sets, and put up stakes for the sugar snaps. Bizarrely, we already had some onions growing, even though we didn't plant any last fall. I wonder if some of last spring's onions went to seed? Or maybe they stayed dormant and didn't start growing until winter?

I've badly neglected the garden since last fall, and it had gotten to the point where my bad feelings were strong enough to keep me from wanting to think about it, which prevented me from going out there and doing anything about. One of those self-defeating things I get into sometimes.

I'm determined to dive back into gardening and not let it slide any longer. So I ordered 3 cubic yards of garden soil to be delivered on Thursday. That will force me to work: I won't very well be able to ignore a giant pile of dirt in the driveway. I used to get soil and mulch from the city dump but they don't sell it any more, since that stupid fire. This time I ordered from Sand & Soils, a company in East Durham that my gardening friend David loves. It's a lot more expensive than the dump, but at least they deliver.

organs in orbit


I will be on air tonight from 10 to 11 pm, doing the mystery show. Tonight's theme: lounge/exotica featuring the organ. Lots of Three Suns, John Buzon Trio, Lenny Dee, Walter Wanderley, good stuff like that. It will either be delightful or will make your ears bleed, depending on whether you like organ. 88.7 if you're local, if you're not.

in a disapprobation manner


So I was reading a comment thread on a blog, and one of the commenters dropped in a reference to Pap Finn. With no explanation except a somewhat pissy comment that anyone who didn't understand what he meant should go reread Huckleberry Finn. First of all, congratulations for remembering your middle school reading list better than I do; aren't you special. But, I did kind of want to know what the guy was talking about so I googled "pap finn."

The first result turned out to be an essay excerpt from a "buy a paper" site. I had never actually seen a purchased paper before. Since I went to college back in the dawn of prehistory (cough...wheeze) there weren't websites for ... well actually there weren't any websites at all, as far as I know. (the Internet existed though I hadn't yet heard of it, and I think the Web did not yet exist.) For sure there weren't websites where you could buy term papers. At the time I had heard rumors of "places" where one could buy finished papers on every topic imaginable, but had no idea how such a purchase would be made, nor any desire to find out. As far as I knew at the time, this rumor had about as much truth, and as much value, as CHUDs living in the tunnels under West Campus.

Anyway. This was my first look at a term paper for purchase and I have to say, I'm kind of appalled at how bad it is. Not just lacking in insight, but totally ungrammatical. The strange thing is that it starts out okay, and gradually devolves until the end of the excerpt is almost nonsensical. Examples: "He catch me a couple of times and thrashed me but I went to school just the same, and dodged him or outrun, but reckoned he'd go now to spite Pap," explained Huck when he had noticed that his father's actions had shows when Pap was envying of Huck being more educated than he is. Or: When alcohol entered into Pap body made him acts in a disapprobation manner.

I don't feel a whole lot of pity for students who buy papers, but still, anyone who paid for that got robbed. I've heard teachers say that they always know when a student turns in a paper they bought. Is this why, because the papers are so bad? It reads like it was run through a gibberifying machine. Maybe it was: maybe the excerpts are so bad to prevent people from copying them and using them for free. Maybe when you pay you get a clean, grammatical version of the paper. Their FAQ page doesn't say so, but it could be.

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