May 2008 Archives

devil-ville lounge

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I present the best fan letter ever:

[Note to the humor impaired, this letter is not a real complaint; it's from someone I know. Someone really, really funny.]

Dear Everyone,

As a opponent of violences and sexualitys on the stage, the printed page, and pretty much anywhere, II listened to last week's program on this so-called Sarah Ovenalls' "Divaville lounge" radio program.

It wasn't no good at all. It was TERRIBLE. She just got her poor old daddy onto it just to make him spill secrets that are best kept PRIVATE in The American Family. He has obviously gone so senility that he dint' know what she was up to, or he would of walked off in his right mind. Plus, she had a sassy mouth on her to him half the time, which I did NOT appreciate. I was raised to RESPECT poor old veterans.

Maybe she would like it better if we were all talking "High Hitler!" nowadays? I bet that would suit her just fine. But it woudnt' go over in North Carolina, so she better stop trying.

My sister, as a nursing mother, brought her baby over that afternoon, and that poor, innocent little thing cried all the way through that awful radio program of the so-called "Sarah Ovenall" hostess.

Which I should think more than proves my point.

My other #2 big point is how she just played old records, which costs nothing. She wont' even spend the money to play something new, because that would cost her nasty program MONEY (which she willnot pay, because she is so cheap. Lord knows what shell do when she hears they're having a blue-lite sale down to the Kmarks this weekend. It may be time for her to go on down there and buy her another pair of THREE DOLLAR SHOES that she thinks is cute, but itSNOT.

The main thing is how she tries to get attention on her radio program. she goes on and on in that way she thinks is "sexy" for the boys and you know she just wants everyone to listen to it and say "Wow! She is so great! I want to be her friend!" (like she is neat and cool and wasn't evil?)

But I wont' and, you shouldn't neither.

The People need to get their voice heard and have that thing shut down. she is just trying to get attention (and you can bet good money she wants it to be from boys so they will think shes' cool). She acts like the NPRs' Peoples' Pharmacy program, to, whicb tries to get you hooked on drugs and buy their mind-control books, instead of going to a REGULAR church and getting your healing there, like normal.

Write a letter to the paper and get her radio program shut down. It presents a image of us that makes americans look like Slaves of Unnatural Appetites and ignernt. that's all on top of the racism and homophobicas and misgyinsties in the whole thing. She is worst than Hilary Clinton.

My #3 point is how we can shut it down. Just let folks know not to listen to it. Tell them it is terrible. The reason it is on the FM radio-dial is, that stands for "Foolish Mutterings" (Proverbs, 19 & 12).

It also says (in Pauls' letters to the Sopihisticals) "LEAVe the presence of the FOOL! for there you will not find no word of KNOWLEDGE!"

How many of you gone tell I am right on THAT!!!!! How many of you gone raise your hand and say "Rev. Terry? I know a radio program that is 110% IGNERT!"

Listening to her radio program gone turn your heart black on you. Rot it out from the inside. She should of called it "DEVIL-ville Lounge"! Many of the so-called songs are nasty and unnappropriate in The Family Home.

I know I am right on that.

The Peoples need to stand up and shut that thing down.

Yours in Anger,

The Rev. Dr. David Terry (clean bachelor)
Church of the Holy Macadamia

strangers may kiss

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May 28 movie: Strangers May Kiss. Note to self: I hate this movie. Hate. Norma Shearer and Robert Montgomery are not enough. Self, don't ever let me watch this movie again.


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May 27 movie: Duffy. James Coburn stars as an aging hippie living in Tangiers who gets involved with a piracy caper with two upper-class twits. The opening credits were outstanding, and the payoff at the end, while not much of a surprise, was enjoyable. In between ... meh.

I'm not that surprised actually. We really dig James Coburn, and if this movie was as bizarrely cool as it sounded, we would have heard of it before. I probably wouldn't watch this again, but I'd go out of my way to watch the opening credits.

marriage on the rocks

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May 26 movie: Marriage on the Rocks. This one wasn't deliriously awful; just awful. Frank Sinatra and Deborah Kerr are an older married couple who are completely sick of each other, and Dean Martin is their best friend. They go to Mexico for a second honeymoon, and in a snit get a quickie divorce. Then they decide to get remarried, but through circumstances too wacky to describe she ends up accidently marrying Dino instead.

At this point everyone in the movie stops acting like a lovably annoying jerk, and starts acting like a repulsive asshole. Sinatra, Kerr, Dino, their kids, Kerr's mother: everyone is a complete tool. You might be able to tell that I didn't much care for Marriage on the Rocks. In the introduction Nancy Sinatra said that the government of Mexico was so offended by this movie that Frank was banned from the country after its release. He had a house in Acapulco that he was no longer able to visit. When she said that Georg and I were like, what the??? Then they got to the scenes set in Mexico, and Georg turned to me and said "Gee, I wonder why the Mexican government found this offensive?"

the kissing bandit

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May 26 movie: The Kissing Bandit. Deliriously awful movie starring Frank Sinatra as a Mexican-American -- why yes, that is the first problem with this movie. Slap a dark wig on Old Blue Eyes and call him Mexican? Why not? -- anyway Frank Sinatra stars as a Mexican-American "milquetoast" (that according to the info screen) who visits Mexico and somehow gets roped into being The Kissing Bandit. Kathryn Grayson costars as his love interest, the governor's daughter.

they were expendable

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May 26 movie: They Were Expendable. Robert Montgomery and John Wayne star as PT Boat captains in the Philippines. This was a good movie, exciting & full of John Ford characters. The movie seems to have been made after the Japanese captured the Philippines & before the US went back -- a wild guess based on the "We Shall Return" title card at the end. I read on IMDB that Montgomery was an actual PT Boat captain during the war.

pork chop hill

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May 25 movie: Pork Chop Hill. Really good, intense, gritty movie set in the Korean War. Gregory Peck stars as a lieutenant required to capture a hill with no strategic value, at tremendous loss to his men. The cast is full of future stars: George Peppard, Rip Torn, Martin Landau, Robert Blake, Normal Fell among others.

stalag 17

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May 25 movie: Stalag 17. Once again, I cannot miss an opportunity to watch this movie.

nazi interrogation techniques

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May 25 movie: Nazi Interrogation Techniques. This was an Air Forces training film made during WWII. A downed flight crew are manipulated in various ways by their Nazi captors, who gradually tease enough information out of them to piece together the facts about a vital Allied attack in time to ambush it. The first time I saw this, I missed the beginning and didn't realize it was a training film. I just thought it was a B movie. Then at the end, when the base commander turns to the camera and starts explaining in detail what each airman did wrong, I was like "huh?"

We also watched a 20 minute Air Forces recruitment film starring Lt. James Stewart. The movie starts with Stewart climbing out of a North American Harvard plane, which I recognized because I had just been looking at photos of it for my dad's radio show. Stewart spends most of the movie talking about how much money you'll make if you get this job or that job, and trumpeting the fact that a college education is no longer required to join the Air Forces. There's one scene where a guy working at a gas station dreams of being a pilot, though it seems to me that someone with years of experience pumping gas into cars would probably end up ... pumping gas into airplanes.

their own desire

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May 24 movie: Their Own Desire. I really enjoyed this 1929 melodrama. Norma Shearer stars as a girl whose father (Lewis Stone) leaves her mother for another woman. Norma falls in love with Robert Montgomery, a boy whose mother turns out to be the new fling of her father. Confused? It makes sense while you're watching it.

The weird thing about this movie is the attitude towards divorce. Norma has a righteous scene condemning her father when she finds out about the divorce, but then the movie does a 180 and seems to suggest that it was the right thing to do. The father and his new girlfriend behave maturely and seem to be sincere about building a new life together. While the mother is so perfectly awful I couldn't blame Stone for walking out on her. Maybe I wasn't supposed to see it that way though.

progress proceeds

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This kind of audio editing turns out to be more enjoyable (though not faster) than removing ums. I've got three tracks: Francesca reading the questions in English, Santa Salsera reading the answers in English, and the original in Italian. It's all just going through bit by bit and time-shifting the the tracks so everything fits together.

I made a clip of the first minute or so: It's rough; there's some crackle in the beginning, and I need to do a better job of evening out the volumes. The plan is to do all the time shifting first and then all the volume adjustments. I thought it would go faster this way.

I'm about 1/3 done the time shifting. Adjusting the volume should go faster, then I'll need to break it up into segments, and then music selection too. Which will be kind of tricky I think; that swingy war-era big band music seems like it would be inappropriate to most of Signor Bucca's story. He never mentions music at all and Francesca told me before that he never heard American music during that time. Well I've got some time to mull it over.

Also, Francesca sent the answers to those few things we didn't understand in the translation. We had guessed right on almost everything. There's only one sentence that Santa Salsera needs to do over.

let's get started

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I have all the audio! Picked up the voiceover from Santa Salsera this evening. She did a really good job with it: did multiple takes and put a lot of thought into the tone of voice throughout. I'm impressed by her professionalism.

And now it's time to start putting it all together! Which is more than a little intimidating. It's just so different from anything I've ever done before. Then again, the first time I did an interview show it was totally beyond anything I'd ever done up to that point, and that turned out okay.

The first hurdle is that there's a fair amount of noise in Santa Salsera's recording. There's a noise reduction command in Audacity, but it seems easy to over-apply. I'm trying to find the balance between reducing enough noise and making her voice sound weird. I hope that having the second layer of audio beneath will help to mask the noise.

and the living is easy

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I don't care what the calendar says, I know it's summertime, because it's too hot to do yardwork in the afternoon. I was trying to dig out the zombie rose and felt like I was giving myself a heat stroke.

The zombie rose is a climbing rose that was next to the house when we moved in. I call it the zombie rose because we keep killing it and it keeps coming back to life. But this time I think we got it. It's a shame the flowers were so drab, as the plant was the healthiest rose you can imagine. Anyway I just got an email from Ashdown that they're shipping the replacement I ordered, so the zombie rose had to go. Georg took over when he got home and between the two of us, we got it out. I hope!

In radio news, this morning I got the rest of the English transcription for next week's show. Did some minor cleanup and sent it on to Santa Salsera, who is recording the voiceover this evening. She asked me for a short clip of the original audio so she'd know what Signor Bucca sounds like. He's fairly monotone, although he does chuckle from time to time.

It's a great interview, really interesting stories. I was stunned to learn that Signor Bucca actually met Mussolini as a child. And at the end he talks about meeting American GIs, who brought presents of food for everyone, but Signor Bucca's family never took anything because his mother as afraid the food was poisoned! That reminds me of the scene in Hope and Glory where the father brings home jam he rescued from a sunk German ship, and the mother doesn't want them to eat it because she thinks it's been poisoned. "They know how much we love jam!" she keeps saying.

I already have the original Italian audio, and Francesca's voicover of herself reading the questions in English. And so when I get the main voiceover from Santa Salsera, I'll have all the audio pieces and will be able to start editing! We might have to ask Santa Salsera to rerecord a few bits, because there were a couple of places where we didn't quite understand the translation, just odd word choices. We wrote asking for clarification, and the meantime we guessed at the meanings but we might have guessed wrong.

let's go on with the show

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My dad's show is done! I think it went off well. My dad did a really good job of sounding spontaneous; most of his dialogue was written in advance, which I don't think was at all obvious from listening. He also did a good job of responding off-the-cuff to my followup questions, none of which he knew about in advance. I think the prepared statements and the spontaneous conversation were pretty much seamless.

In one place I sprung something on him: I knew he was going to talk about how they used to listen to William Joyce, a British fascist who went to Germany and broadcast anti-British propaganda, sort of like the Tokyo Rose of Western Europe. I knew he was going to talk about this, and so I found a recording of one of Joyce's broadcasts, and also the broadcast from the BBC the day the British entered Hamburg and captured Joyce's recording studio. And I didn't tell my dad about this in advance because I wanted his spontaneous reaction & I knew it wouldn't sound the same if he knew it was coming. Anyway, to my surprise my dad actually remembered the incident Joyce described in his broadcast and was able to explain what it was about. I was like, "wait a minute, you're the one who's supposed to be surprised!"

There was only one flub, which hopefully wasn't too awful -- at one point early on I cued up the wrong track. So instead of playing a song, it went right into the talkset which was intended for the end of the show. Whoops! It took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on, just long enough to hear me say "You're listening to WXDU Durham and in honor of Memorial Day, I'm talking with my dad about his memories of the war," and then I stopped it and skipped forward to the music that was supposed to play then. I hope it sounded intentional, like I was doing a station ID or something. Considering some of the goofs I've made on the air, I think it's a pretty good show when that's the worst mistake.

I have a question for anyone to listened to the show: Did you think the instrumental music under the talksets added something to the dialogue, was neutral, or detracted from it? I got a comment after the show from someone saying they found it a distraction. It seemed fine to me but I'm used to it, because I do that (play low instrumental music) in all my own talksets. When I first started doing Divaville Lounge last summer, I heard from a long-time listener that they liked the music, thought it was a nice change, and then I haven't heard anything since. So I'm interested in hearing what others think. I'm definitely not going to play music under the talksets next week, because there will already be 2 layers of sound: the translation in English and the Italian original underneath it. Adding music to that would be a mess.

In terms of the on-air experience, this was the most boring show I have ever done. Most weeks Divaville Lounge is a flurry of constant activity. Because the songs are all so short, and I don't do much planning in advance -- sometimes I bring a short list of songs I want to work in, but usually not even that. So in a typical show I spend the entire two hours thinking, "what would sound good after this song that's playing right now? I have 1 minute 45 seconds to figure that out, find it, and cue it up! Make that 1 minute 30, and counting!" Which I used to find very stressful, but after 10 months I guess I've gotten used to it and now it's kind of fun.

Today was the complete opposite. All the work was done in advance. I had a flowsheet with the entire show planned out, and a small case with about a dozen CDs containing all the songs I needed. All I had to do was stick in the next CD, and then check the song off on the flowsheet. And the tracks were so long that there wasn't even much of that to do! I've never spent so much time sitting around. In most shows I never have time to sit down at all.

In terms of audio editing I took Santa Salsera's advice and didn't try to make it quite so polished as last time. Last time I tried to cut out every single um, false start and repeated word. Santa Salsera told me she leaves in every third um, or every fourth, to retain the flow of natural speech. I think she has a point that if the dialogue is made too artificially perfect, it can sound sterile. So I followed her advice and didn't work so hard to clip out all the ums. Mostly this was just giving myself permission to leave in the hard ones: sometimes they're really easy to get rid of and sometimes quite difficult. And I think it sounds worse to make it choppy, like a bad reality show, than to leave in the occasional um. Also I did less editing at the points when the conversation got serious. Because I noticed that NPR shows do that: the dialogue is generally very clean, but then when someone is talking about something emotionally charged they pause more, say um and even stammer a bit. I think looser editing helps to convey the person's state of mind.

Now I'm taking the night off and relaxing (it's a great day on TCM: war movies all day and Sinatra all night), and then tomorrow I hope I'll have everything to get started on next week's show. Which will be a whole new kind of editing -- layering the two languages together -- and I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes. Georg helped me work on the written translation yesterday. It's quite good although there were a couple of things we didn't quite understand & had to ask for clarification on. Just a few odd word choices. Like for instance, Signor Bucca said that Mussolini visited his school, and was surrounded by fawning "hierarchs." I'm assuming that meant bureaucrats and/or fascist party officials and I want to make sure.

ready to go

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The show is ready to go! Yesterday afternoon I finished editing the audio, and then did the music selection. That's the fun part: picking out the music to go with the talksets. Both songs to play after talksets, and instrumentals to go underneath, so to speak. (I'm sure there's a radio word for that, but I have no idea what I'm doing so I don't know the word.) For instance, for a long talkset about my dad going to a coastal town and meeting American GIs who were stationed there, I picked "Sing Sing Sing" by Benny Goodman Orchestra. Which was actually recorded a couple of years before the war, but I think it conveys the tone of the talkset pretty well. Besides, I love that track and I don't normally get to play it, being an 8 1/2 minute instrumental and all. Also, in one segment my dad talks about listening to the BBC during the war, and I have a CD of wartime music from the BBC Radio Orchestra, which of course I used in that segment. Plus there were a few songs that my dad had requested, like "American Patrol" by Glenn Miller. Georg was a huge help yesterday, going through the CDs and making a list of wartime big band instrumentals that were the right length, so I could pick the ones I wanted.

I was running a bit long so I did something a little new this time: last time, if a talkset was longer than any appropriate instrumental tracks, I'd use two and just let the songs start early and run on after the talkset. But this time several of the talksets were 4-5 minutes, and using two instrumentals would have added a minute or two to each. And I just didn't have enough time to do that. So this time I figured out how to copy a chunk of the instrumental and paste it back in, lengthening the track without it sounding like anything had changed. I was surprised to find how easy that was, as long as I copied a passage with a lot of repetition. It just sounded like that bit lasted 15 seconds longer (or whatever). Someone who knew the track really well would notice the change of course, but the way I'm using them, dropped in under talksets, no one will be able to tell.

This morning I finished up, made sure everything times out right, and fixed one track that was messed up. I forgot about a bug in Audacity: when you import a music track off a CD, you have to save it right away so Audacity has the source audio in the project folder. If you start monkeying around with the music track before you save, that weirds Audacity out for some reason. Every edit on an unsaved track (dropping the volume, fading in, whatever) introduces random noise into the music track. And undoing the changes doesn't undo the noise. When it happened, I remembered it from last time. But I don't do this often enough to have remembered in advance -- or to have remembered why it was happening! I flailed around in a panic for a few minutes, even reinstalled Audacity, then stumbled onto the solution. Whew!

Now I'm burning everything onto CD. And previewing the CDs to make sure they're okay. Which may sound obsessive, but one time I went to the station with a specialty show all planned out, and a screwed up CDR. Which resulted in a lot of panic, a phone call to Georg to reburn the CD and drive it over as fast as possible, and a show that didn't turn out at all like I had wanted. Now I always check. Especially something like this where almost the whole show is on CDR.

In any case, the show is from 2-4 pm. Tune in if you can! I think it turned out well if I do say so. 88.7 fm in Durham, elsewhere.

bluestone sale

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Gardeners alert! Bluestone Perennials just started their annual sale. Until midnight June 1 everything on their site is half price.

I've ordered from them a couple of times and have always been very happy with the results. Their plants arrive tiny but healthy, and start to take off as soon as they're in the ground. The plants I ordered this past March (hardy geraniums and an unusual red/green speckled euphorbia) are thriving. I went through the catalog once last night and have a huge list, which I will narrow down before ordering. Simply because we don't have that much space for new plants right now, and I don't have time to dig a new bed before they arrive.

Almost everything Bluestone sells comes in a 3-pack, so this sale is a great way to stock up on something you need a lot of, like a groundcover or a perennial for the back of a border.

crunch time

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Remember that grand plan to work on editing the memorial day show a little every day, so I wouldn't be stressed in the last couple of days? Yeah, me neither. Actually I know what happened: my job intervened. That thing that pays the bills, which means it takes priority. I suppose.

It's not that bad really. I had done 3 segments earlier in the week (well, 2 and a half), and tonight I got through #8. That means I'm halfway done. Tomorrow I need to edit the other 8 segments, pick out the instrumental music that goes under them and put all that together. And then figure out the rest of the music and put everything on CD. And I just remembered I'm out of blank CDs. Ergh .. maybe I shouldn't think about it right now.

In other news, we have the transcript of Signor Bucca! Well most of it. I talked it over with Georg and Santa Salsera, and we agreed that it would be okay to edit the transcript a bit to make it less back-and-forth. More like short questions followed by paragraph-long answers. I've never done documentary before so I didn't know if that was considered okay. Santa Salsera has done many interviews, for her own show Azucar y Candela and also for the Independent, and she says it's perfectly acceptable. Especially if you try not to change the actual words in the response, just rearrange them a bit in order to cut some of the questions out.

So I think that will work well, the only problem is (of course) time. Santa Salsera needs to record it this weekend, Monday at the latest. And I have no time at all until after the show Sunday afternoon. Georg to the rescue! He's working on the editing right now. What a relief.

I know I've said this before, and I'm going to say it again many times in the next nine days: I have no idea how the pros manage to do this every week. Two interview shows in two weeks feels overwhelming; fifty shows like this in a year would send me to a nervous breakdown. Even if this were my job, and I didn't have another job taking time away from it, I still couldn't edit audio all day. There's only so much concentrated listening I can do before my brain starts to feel woozy.

no more ladies

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May 22 movie: No More Ladies. I love this movie. Robert Montgomery and Joan Crawford star as a couple of socialites in a trainwreck of a marriage. They should never have gotten married, spend the movie humiliating each other, and seem destined for divorce at the end. And yet, somehow it's a sparkling comedy. Costars Franchot Tone as the ex-husband of one of Montgomery's previous flings, Arthur Treacher as the previous fling's new husband, Gail Patrick as Montgomery's current fling, Charlie Ruggles as Montgomery's drunken brother, and the fabulous Edna May Oliver as Crawford's cantankerous grandma. (And I almost forgot to mention the dress Crawford wears in the second half of the movie: it has this huge, weird collar that looks like a nun's wimple fell off her head and landed on her chest!)

radio progress

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Finally making progress on the Memorial Day show -- shows, I should say. Last night I started to work on the audio of my dad. Went through the whole thing, cut it into the discrete segments that will be aired, and cut out the chit-chat in between. 16 segments in all, whew! Most are 2-3 minutes long but a couple are longer. I was hoping to get the first segment edited last night but the first pass took until 10:30, and by then I was too tired. Last time I remember the editing required fairly intense concentration, just to listen so closely. Anyway, if I can get 3 segments done a night, I'll be in good shape and the weekend won't be totally insane.

Then this morning I got the transcript and partial audio for about the first quarter of the Italian show. Woo! Francesca is reading her own part of the interview in English (the questions I mean), and fellow dj Santa Salsera agreed to read Signor Bucca's part. She has an excellent radio voice, so I know it will sound great and I'm incredibly grateful to her. Before I had wanted Francesca to read both parts, but now that I hear it, it's way too conversational. It sounds weird to have one person reading both parts & it's hard to tell sometimes when she's speaking for herself and when she's speaking for her father. This way will be much better.

The interview with Signor Bucca is wonderful. I'm so glad to have the (partial) transcript. Here's my favorite story so far:

Where did the partisans hide?

On the mountains and in the valleys where the planes couldn't spot them.

You once told me that your mother gave them clothes.

Yes. We almost ended up having no more clothes... they asked for civilian clothes, but we didn't have many! At the end, it's almost funny, she only had these long, white drawer with lace, she told the soldier that she had nothing else. The soldier replied he'd do with it; he turned his coat inside out, and went away wearing my mother's underpants... The soldiers left their weapons at my house.

Why did they leave their weapons?

Because if they should be caught by the Nazi hidden in the cities, carrying no weapons they wouldn't be recognized as deserting soldiers..

Tell me what you did with the weapons.

We played with them. We were so irresponsible...

up and away

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Unexpected trip up to DE for a few days to visit my sister. Probably won't have much chance to check email or post here until I get back. Though I am going to try to get to the Charcoal Pit if I can manage it. Luckily Georg is able to cover my show this Sunday so I didn't have to worry about finding a sub. Thank goodness it wasn't next week, when I have the show with my dad. That would have been a disaster.

the seventh cross

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May 12 movie: The Seventh Cross. Spencer Tracy stars as one of seven escapees from a concentration camp, who are recaptured and killed one by one, except Tracy, because he's the star. That makes it sound grim, and it kind of is. It's also a pretty inspiring story about the innate goodness of ordinary people.

Things I didn't love about this movie:
-I could really, really have done without the plot device of narration from the ghost of the first escapee to die. The ghost sort of hovers over the story mumbling platitudes about the strength of the human spirit. Ugh.
-Tracy was a terrific actor, but no acting could make his stocky build any less ridiculous as a recent inmate of a concentration camp. He looked like someone who should lay off the ham sandwiches, not someone who had been starved by the Nazis for three years. It required a suspension of disbelief that I wasn't able to muster.

Things I did love about this movie:
-Tracy's acting was genuinely tremendous. He conveys a character who starts out embittered, desperate and half-dead, and ends up inspired and inspiring. And he does it without dialogue for the first part of the movie.
-The surprise joy of the movie was Hume Cronyn as a likeable joe who shows unexpected heroism. I just looked up this movie on IMDB and found out that Cronyn's wife was played by Jessica Tandy, who was his wife in real-life!

the great lie

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May 12 movie: The Great Lie. I love this movie. Mary Astor is the perfect foil to Bette Davis. Oh yeah, and George Brent is in it too. And Hattie McDaniel, as the maid in some strange alternate universe where 1930s Maryland is exactly the same as the antebellum deep South (down to the live oaks and Spanish moss). Was McDaniel ever in a movie where she didn't play the maid? She was a great actress and someday I would like to see her get to do something besides wait on the stars.


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My cake for Saturday night turned out well if I do say so. I had been asked to make something chocolate, so I had found the richest, most chocolately dessert I could. Two whole boxes of Scharffenberger chocolate. I had to go to the store three times: Friday night to get the ingredients, then Saturday morning when I discovered we were out of sugar, then again Saturday afternoon when I discovered we were out of vanilla. Seems like that's always the way, especially when I haven't baked in a long time.

The cake had three layers: a nearly flourless cake on the bottom, a mousse in the middle, and whipped cream and fruit (strawberries and raspberries) on top, and I had some time while the cake cooled. So I mowed the lawn. The cake was done just in time, and the mouse set before we cut it, and I couldn't ask for more. For my taste, I would have preferred the cake layer to be a little more cake-like and a little less like a fudge brownie. But it was a hit at the party. They did a cookout with hamburgers and brats and I wore my diabolical hot dog shirt for the occasion. and the weather was perfect for sitting outside. Warm enough but no mosquitos yet. It won't be like this for long.

I had my meeting with the WWII vet and it went really well. He was a charming man, full of interesting stories and excited about getting to tell them. I think my favorite story was about a Nazi sub which surrendered to his destroyer in the North Atlantic, at the end of the war. The German officers came over to their ship to surrender, and they sent a crew of officers to command the sub. (Interestingly, he said that was called the "prize crew" just like in the Aubrey-Maturin novels.) He said the Germans spoke English well enough to get along, but not well enough to understand everything. And at that time, because the war was over, they were allowed to listen to swing music on the PA system. So the sailors had a little joke on the Germans by requesting the song "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Town of Berlin" over and over. He said they must have played that song ten times a day while the Germans were on board. They would also play "Schickelgruber," a Kurt Weill song about Hitler. I'm kind of surprised the Germans didn't figure that one out.

Yesterday I did my Irving Berlin tribute show, which came together surprisingly well considering how little time I had to prepare. I should have done it Saturday night after the cookout but I was so tired that I waited until Sunday morning. And then overslept until 8 and then only had a couple of hours to prepare. Also I had brunch with D. and S., who as it turned out had a bet over whether I hate eggs. (I do; D won.)

And I seem to have gotten a cold. I thought over the weekend that I was exhausted all the time because I was doing so much. But looking back, I didn't do that much. I think it's more likely that I was starting to feel sick and so normal activity seemed like an extreme exertion.

interview yay

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I listened to the whole interview this morning. It sounds really good. Lots of material -- about 75 minutes! -- and a good mix of light, funny stories with more serious material. I was a little concerned that a show about the war would be depressing but I think the tone will be just right. And it was really nice to talk on the anniversary of V-E day.

I'm glad we did so much planning in advance. First, my dad wrote up his stories in a script and sent it to me. Then I wrote lead-ins and follow-up questions for each segment. Then we talked a week ago about some minor changes: adding a couple of things and moving one paragraph to another place. Last night on the call, we had some good extemporaneous conversations from the follow-up questions, and we still had the script to keep us from wandering too far afield. My dad was really good at not sounding like he was reading. At times I think he sounded more spontaneous than I did! And I'm supposed to be the radio person and all.

I want to start work on editing right! now! but I can't. I have the Irving Berlin tribute show on Sunday and I'm so deeply unprepared. I have a Berlin biography that I've only read a little bit of. I meant to read it during the slow times at the primary. That worked out so well! I guess I'll have to find shorter biographies online and then flip through the book the follow up on anything I want to know more about. Good thing Berlin wrote so many, many songs that I won't have to do much hunting to find two hours worth. On the contrary, it will be hard to narrow it down to two hours.

And then I have another radio related thing to do tomorrow: a coworker is introducing me to her father-in-law who was in the Navy during WWII, and might be willing to be interviewed on the air for Veteran's Day. I'm going to meet him tomorrow night and find out what he wants to talk about. I want to ask him if they were able to listen to music on the ship, and if he ever went to the Hollywood Canteen, which was founded by Bette Davis and which they made a movie about. The show won't be until November, but the father-in-law will be in town this weekend so we're meeting tomorrow.

I am seriously in awe of people who do weekly talk/interview shows. How do they do it?


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My dad and I recorded the interview tonight for the Memorial Day show. I think it went really well! It sounded really spontaneous; I don't think people will know we started out with a script. My dad did a really good job of riffing on the script, adding extra thoughts off the cuff, and still staying basically on track. He's getting to be an old hand at this!

I listened to a few minutes and the audio sounded great. I'm going to listen to the whole thing tomorrow morning to make sure there aren't any problems, and then my dad will be free to do some computer maintenance he's been holding off on in case it messed up his Skype installation.

It's looking like I'm going to have to do this show in two parts. Because tonight's interview was just over an hour, and the Italian audio is also an hour, before translating and of course I'll have to add at least some audio to lead in and out and so forth. And so I'd have to make cuts to get down to a two-hour show with no music. And that would be a really dry show. I'd rather have two shows with music that will be easier to listen to, than try to cram everything into one marathon show of all dialogue. And this has the added benefit of giving me an extra week to do half of it.

I haven't decided yet whether to do all of my dad's interview in the first episode, and then all of Signor Bucca's interview, or to mix them together. I have to hear the translation first and decide how it best fits together.

check cell phones

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I was chatting online a couple of days ago with an Italian friend who has been a poll worker in her community too. In Italy the job is randomly assigned, like jury duty. She told me that they have a big problem with people selling their votes and photographing their completed ballots as proof. And so the poll workers have to check voters for cameras or even cell phones with cameras!

I just heard recently that it's illegal in North Carolina for a voter to photograph their own completed ballot, and I thought that sounded like a silly law. I guess there's a good reason for it.

please state your name


So as you might have guessed from yesterday's post, I was one of the people taking names and handing out ATV (Authorization to Vote) forms yesterday. We have books with the names of all registered voters in the precinct, and each name has a sticker next to it. We would verify the person's identity by asking them to state their name and street address, then put their sticker on an ATV, have them sign the form and direct them to the ballot table. Where they would turn in the ATV and be given a blank ballot.

In rare circumstances we would have to check ID, if the voter was marked "Inactive -- Verify Voter Information" in the book. Though a surprising number of people thought everyone had to show ID. Whenever they did I wouldn't look at it and would just say "I don't need to see that if you can state your name." Because first of all, I wanted to make it clear that ID wasn't necessary. And secondly, they're required by law to say their name and address out loud, and it seemed stupid for me to read their information off their ID and then ask them to say it anyway. I think the requirement to say names and addresses out loud is a fraud protection from the days when precincts were smaller and voters were likely to be known by either a poll worker or another voter who happened to be there. So if someone falsely gave John Smith's name and address, one of John's neighbors might hear it and realize that wasn't really him.

A few people expressed their opinion that we ought to check everyone's ID. One person even told me "that's horrible" that we don't. Personally I think this system is pretty good. As long as the BOE stays on top of removing people who die or move away, and marking people they can't verify "inactive" so their ID is checked, then there's no reason to hassle everyone with showing ID.

If people were unaffiliated then the process got more complicated. We had to tell them that they had a choice of ballot, and ask them to circle the name of the ballot they wanted on the ATV, and then initial in that box, in addition to signing the form like everyone. After about an hour the chief judge told us to start making people circle the ballot style in red. But, they still had to sign in black. Which made the process much more cumbersome and complicated: "Circle here in red, now initial here ... now if you can change pens and sign your name here in black." Asking unaffiliated voters to make three marks with two pens was kind of ridiculous, and I think I apologized to every single unaffiliated I dealt with.

If they didn't know which ballot they wanted, then they could go look at sample ballots posted on the wall. This also created a lot of confusion. It seemed pretty clear to me when I voted last week, but a lot of people didn't really know what the whole thing about choosing a ballot meant, and we spent a lot of time explaining it. A lot of people thought that because they were unaffiliated, they should circle "non-partisan" and then they'd get to vote in all the races. When actually the non-partisan ballot only had the non-partisan races like school board. We had been instructed not to steer people towards or away from any ballot style, but whenever we saw someone fixing to circle "non-partisan" we would urge them to go look at the sample ballots first. Other than that I was very careful not to say anything about the ballot styles. For instance when I told them they could choose their ballot style, if they said "I want the democratic ballot" I wouldn't say "well then circle DEM on the list" or even point to it. I would just say "if you know the one you want, circle it on this list." Maybe I was overly fastidious but I felt like it was better to err on the side of caution, than to inadvertently say something that sounded like I was advocating one party over another.

A couple of times people spouted off with political statements which we were all careful not to respond to. For instance one person asked me, "Are lots of Democrats voting?" I replied "Lots of everyone are voting!" One guy really pushed the woman next to me, asking her who she voted for in the presidential primary, lots of questions that are rude in any circumstance but incredibly inappropriate in that one. She put him off by saying she didn't like any candidate. I'm sure people don't realize they're putting a poll worker in a bad position by trying to engage in a political conversation.

One thing I will definitely remember next time is to take lozenges. I should have expected how hard it would be on the throat to have the same conversation over and over for thirteen hours. I did have the sense to bring lots of liquids -- a big sport cup of iced tea in the morning, a big bottle of water for when that ran out, and then around 5 Georg brought me a biggie sized iced tea from Wendy's. (Who by the way, make the most reliably good unsweet iced tea anywhere. I've been to expensive restaurants which charge more for a tiny glass of foul, undrinkable tea, than Wendy's biggie sized tea which is always at least decent, and usually quite good. But that's neither here nor there.) So anyway I had plenty to drink and that did help.

Closing down after the polls closed took less time than expected because there wasn't a line at the end. Just a couple of guys who made it in just before we locked the doors. Then the assistants (that included me) folded up the voting stations, cleaned the kitchen and put the tables and chairs away, while the judges counted the ballots and sent in the vote totals. The blank ballots had to be counted and compared to the number of votes cast, to make sure the numbers matched the number of ballots we had before the polls opened.

All the judges and assistants were great. All really hardworking and knowledgeable and professional, and all willing to help a newbie like me. Our chief judge was especially impressive. She ran the exceptions table (the help desk) and it seemed like no matter what happened, she knew what to do. It would have run a lesser person ragged but she never seemed tired or short-tempered. At one point I needed to ask her what to do with a spoiled ATV and I decided I'd wait until she wasn't busy at the exceptions table -- it took an hour and a half before there was a free moment when I could ask her! She had been busy dealing with voter problems non stop all that time. And it was like that most of the day.

1677 votes

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We reported 1677 votes today. The others said this was very high turnout for a primary. (In comparison they had 2500 votes in the 2004 general election.) There were a couple of people waiting already when I got there just before 6 am! It was crazy busy until about 11:00, then slowed down through lunch, then we had a steady flow of people until 4:30 when it picked up again until about 6:30. No rush at the end though, which was kind of a surprise. We left just before 8:30 pm.

I was trying to keep count of the voters I personally processed but unfortunately my stack of blank forms got combined with someone else's stack at one point. Still, I estimate that about a quarter of those people came to my station. And since we had 5 people checking names, that should tell you how busy I was. Somehow I managed to randomly sit at the station which had 2 big books; one other station had 2 books, one of which was small, and the rest had 1 book. (It's the same talent that allows me to unerringly pick the slowest line at the bank drive-through.) Actually I was glad to be busy because it kept things moving. The slow times made me feel tired.

The poll workers were a really good group of people. Everyone helped each other out -- like for instance whenever I had a line (which was often) one of the others would take one of my books and process anyone they could from my line. And I did the same for the other person who had two books. Everyone seemed to really care about helping the voters and fixing whatever problems came up. I was glad to know them and I'm looking forward to working with them again in the fall. Overall it was an amazing experience and I encourage others to do it. All you have to do is call the board of elections in your county and tell them you want to be a poll worker.

More later, right now I am completely exhausted. And losing my voice. I'm going to be saying "Sign here and then take this form to the ballot table at the end, thank you!" in my sleep tonight.


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Setting up the polling location took about an hour and a half. Everyone was really nice. There are eight of us, and one other is new like me. When I first got there we were setting up the voting booths. They pop open and the legs are folded up inside. Then I helped one of the other poll worker put together the yard signs ("Vote Here," "No Campaigning Beyond This Point" etc), and hang signs inside.

Then I helped check off people who already voted. We got a big list of everyone who already voted, and we had to put a big red "A" (for Absentee) over their name in the book. I only encountered one irregularity: a person whose first and last name and ID number matched, but the middle name did not match. They said not to put the A over that person's name because it might not be the same person, although probably it is.

While a few of us checked off names, the others set up the rest of the voting area. Almost everything is set up and left in place the night before. Just not the actual ballots and the tabulating machine. For obvious reasons they can't be left unattended overnight. And the chief judge has a grey bag containing an emergency kit. In case something crazy happened tomorrow morning like the key broke off in the lock and we couldn't get into the building, we could use the emergency kit to let people vote in the parking lot.

Also I filled out my tax forms -- we get paid to do this! I had to bring a photocopy of my driver's license and social security card. Lucky I was able to find the latter.

We have a full kitchen in back, which is nice, although one of the others warned me that we might not have much time to use it. They all said this is an active precinct with a lot of voters. They said that in 2004, when they arrived at 6 am to open up, there was already a line of voters down to the street! And it never let up all day. They said it won't be that insane tomorrow, but it probably will this coming November. And here I had a book all ready to fill the down time.

I'm going to be one of the people checking off names, which I'm happy about. The only complicated thing is that unaffiliated voters get to pick which ballot they want: the democratic, republican or nonpartisan (which only has nonpartisan races). The chief judge instructed us not to say the party names, but instead tell unaffiliated voters they can choose "either party or unaffiliated." I don't know why she doesn't want us to say party names, but whatever, she's the chief judge. Then the voter has to circle which ballot they want on their ATV form. Which I'm pretty sure I was not asked to do, when I voted last week. Well it's a new rule and so maybe the guy at early voting forgot.

The only thing that was less than ideal was the temperature. It was hot! And that was with only 8 people in the room. I'm a little concerned about tomorrow, when it's going to be warmer outside and the room will be crowded with people all day. I thought they'd have the a/c cranked and wore a light sweater, but I think tomorrow I'll wear short sleeves. We're required to wear "business casual" which doesn't describe many of my clothes, but I came up with something.

At the very end when we were walking out the door a car pulled up and a guy leaned out and asked us if this was the place for early voting! One of the other ladies told him, "Tomorrow morning at 6:30!" He missed early voting by a couple of days.

I have to be there at 6 am tomorrow, and we can't leave (I mean that literally: we legally cannot leave the premises) until the votes are counted, which they said might optimistically be by 8:30. I've got a lunch & snack to pack tonight, and Georg promised to come by after work tomorrow and bring me an iced tea. Wish me luck!

can accept cookies

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Just now I decided it would be a good idea to review my poll worker training book before tomorrow. Flipped open to a random page and read these notes from the training session, which I had written at the bottom of the page:

  • sometimes candidates come in -- can accept cookies, don't let them stay
  • in case of scary crazy person w/ gun, call 911

No instructions on what to do with a scary crazy person with cookies. Or a candidate with a gun.

divaville lounge after hours

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Tune in tonight at 10 pm for an hour of songs from the 1930s and 1940s that are too racy, raunchy, druggie, or dirty to be played during my regular daytime show. 88.7 fm if you're local; if you're not. A live playlist will be online at 10.

dancing lady

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May 1 movie: Dancing Lady. Fred Astaire's first movie! He plays himself and is only in it for a few minutes. The stars of the movie are Joan Crawford as the titular dancing lady, and Clark Gable and Franchot Tone as two guys vying for her.

The plot is that Crawford gets a job starring in a Broadway show, and it's kind of ridiculous to have everyone falling all over themselves about what a brilliant dancer she is (for one thing, she looks at her own feet almost continually), but it allows her to do two numbers with "Freddy" Astaire, who costars in her show. Unfortunately Astaire doesn't get to do much; like Eleanor Powell dancing with Jimmy Stewart in Born to Dance, he has to tone it way down so Crawford can keep up. The best part is they do a dance number where they ride a magic carpet to Bavaria and sing about beer. Fred Astaire seems like the unlikeliest person in show business to sing a song about beer: he's better suited to evening jackets and champagne cocktails. And yet, I always love the beer songs. The one in The Bandwagon has Oscar Levant bellowing "More beer!" and somehow pronouncing "more" with four syllables, but this one has Astaire wearing lederhosen. That's a tough call.

tunnel of love

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May 1 movie: Tunnel of Love. This movie, starring Doris Day and Richard Widmark as a young couple trying to adopt a baby, was a seething mass of ugly gender stereotypes. Ten minutes in I was so offended I wanted to put my foot through the screen. After half an hour it was just hilarious.

I recommend this movie if you're a huge Doris Day fan, you're intrigued by the sheer weirdness of Richard Widmark as a neurotic, weak-spirited husband, or if you're amused by the ugly gender stereotypes of the late 50s.

born to dance

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April 30 movie: Born to Dance. Another outing for Eleanor Powell and Buddy Ebsen. This one costars Jimmy Stewart, Virginia Bruce, Una Merkel and Sid Silvers, and includes music by Cole Porter and a really ridiculous plot. Stewart, Ebsen and Silvers play Navy men, which leads to a scene where Virginia Bruce's pomeranian dog falls over the side of a battleship, then two hundred sailors leap in after it, and somehow it isn't hurt.

Ebsen doesn't have any dance numbers as inspired as "Sing Before Breakfast," but he does get some nice moves in this ensemble number to a very, very lesser Cole Porter song:

Skip to about 2:30 to see Ebsen sing to and dance with Frances Langford, or watch the whole thing to see Eleanor Powell dancing (sort of -- she has to tone it way down so Stewart can keep up) and some charmingly terrible singing by Stewart. In the intro Robert Osborne said this movie was painful for Stewart to watch because of his singing voice. I'd probably also be horrified if I had to sing in public, much less in a movie, and my singing voice can't be as bad as his was. I really felt for him doing "Easy to Love." Not an easy song even for a talented singer. They had intended to dub his singing, as was commonly done at the time -- Powell is dubbed by Marjorie Lane in this movie. But the dubbing sounded really fake because Stewart's speaking voice is so distinctive. So they had Stewart do his own singing.

You can really tell Powell had ballet training by some of her dance moves. She does this one thing (in another number not on Youtube) where she kicks up until her foot touches her head -- ankle actually, she had long legs -- and then she bends over backward with her foot still in the air. Simply amazing.

wife vs. secretary

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April 28 movie: Wife vs. Secretary. Myrna Loy is married to Clark Gable and consumed by jealousy over his secretary, Jean Harlow. That description makes Loy sound like a shrew. Actually her jealousy is unfounded but completely reasonable. Because Gable is an oblivious oaf who constantly behaves suspiciously and then gets all indignant when Loy is suspicious. He's a "who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?" kind of guy. Except that the movie vindicates Gable by making Loy's eyes actually lie to her. It's kind of painful to watch her crumble under her insecurities.

For me the most sympathetic character is Harlow. In too many movies her characters are grasping and tawdry. Here she's a talented professional woman who handles a difficult situation with maturity and clarity. It's tragic that she died so soon after making this movie. Also nice work by a very young Jimmy Stewart as Harlow's boyfriend.

puppy time

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We had a bit of an adventure this morning: I was out front working in the yard when I heard a car honking as it drove by. Looked up and saw a dog in the road. (I should mention at this point that I live on a busy road with a 45 mph speed limit.) He had a collar with a tag, and though he seemed scared, he let me approach and acted really happy to meet me.

He was a big puppy, very sweet and so squirmy that I couldn't get a look at his collar. So I carried him back to our yard and looked at the tag. Which gave his address as the house across the street. D'oh! I got the leash out and took him back across the street. (Much to the confusion of poor Jane, who thought she was going to go out when she saw the leash.)

No one answered at the door even though there were two cars out front, so I took the puppy back across the street to our yard, got the phone number off the tag and called the neighbor. Then Georg and I spent the next half-hour or so trying to manage Puppy Fun Time! The puppy was frantically excited about being in a new place! with new people!! and another dog!!!

Jane, on the other hand, was none too happy about all this. She acted excited and played with the puppy for about half a minute. Then she realized that this was a strange dog in her yard, jumping on her, playing with her people and wearing her leash no less. After that she parked herself right in front of me and barked at the puppy if he tried to get attention from either me or her. I spent my time scratching Jane's head and telling her "I love you best," and distracting the puppy when he tried to play with her.

The problem was the puppy didn't understand Jane's signals at all. She would bark a quick "back off!" at him, and he would half-crouch down right in front of her and yelp his head off. I guess he thought, "wow, she's making noise! I can do that too! Hey! Hey! Hey!"

The funniest part was every time the puppy would pee, Jane would go right over and pee in the same spot. Like she was saying, "No way, this is my yard! And it smells like me! Not you!"

Keeping an eye on the dogs meant no more yardwork for the moment, so Georg went out to get lunch. A few minutes later the puppy's owner came home and got the dog. He said they had the puppy in an outdoor pen with a flimsy barrier, and it had never tried to break through it before. To his credit, the neighbor seemed horrified and I feel pretty confident that it won't happen again.

After the neighbor and puppy left, I took Jane for a quick ride as a reward. She really was good about the whole thing. Extremely tolerant of a bouncy, jumping puppy in her space who did not understand her communications. I was in my filthy gardening clothes and shoes so I didn't take her out of the car. I did stumble onto another entrance to the Eno Park which I'd never seen before. Maybe tomorrow morning we'll go walking there.

Also, I drove by the home of the chief judge at my precinct! I know it was her house because there was a (temporary) sign out front with her name and an arrow pointing to the house. The sign kind of looked like the signage at the polling place, and I wonder if it's there so the board of elections can find her to deliver supplies and equipment before Tuesday. Although I thought the chief judges had to pick everything up. Maybe the sign was just a coincidence.

more logistics

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My dad and I did a trial run sort of pre-interview this evening for the Memorial Day show. It went really well. Skype and Audio Hijack worked perfectly. Which is no surprise but still, just wanted to make sure. The sound quality is so much better with Skype than with the telephone. Last time somebody called the station thinking my dad was there, because he sounded like he was right in the studio with me.

My dad had sent me detailed notes beforehand, basically a script. Tonight we talked about a few parts where we're going to elaborate & go into more depth. For instance tonight he told a great story which wasn't in the script, about meeting a homesick young GI who kept talking about his mother's home-baked cookies. And of course my dad didn't know what that meant because they don't use the word cookie in England. It was a sweet story that I definitely want to have on the show.

Also we made one minor structural change (moving one bit up to a place where it seemed to fit in better). We're going to do the interview on May 8, which coincidentally is V-E Day. It will be nice to talk about the spontaneous end-of-the-war celebrations on the anniversary of the day. And a nice parallel to Francesca's interview with her father, which they did on April 25 (Liberation Day in Italy).

I've listened to almost all the untranslated audio of Francesca's father and by stopping frequently and looking up words, I'm able to understand some of it. For instance they said Barcelona a lot, and at first I wondered why they were talking about Spain. Then I looked at a map and discovered that Barcellona is a town in Sicily. That must have been where he lived.

I found out from Francesca that I misunderstood part of her father's story. I thought he said that the fascists stole their farm animals and they had nothing but potatoes to eat. In fact he said that the fascists stole their farm animals and then forbade them from planting gardens, so there wouldn't be vegetables for the Nazis to steal. And so his family had no food at all. When I heard him say "patate" he was saying, "not even potatoes." I'm kind of at a loss for words. It's grim, but I think it's important to learn about what war is like for civilians. Especially now when our country is involved again in a protracted war on another continent.

i voted

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I voted this morning. Went to the Board of Elections office by the old ballpark. There was a line out the door but they had a lot of voting stations and the line moved quickly. I was only in line about 5 minutes, maybe a little longer. Mike Ashe was at the door greeting people, wearing the same stars and stripes tie he wore to poll worker training. I wanted to say hi and see if he remembered me from training, but he looked really busy and I didn't want to interrupt.

The guy who took my name asked me to spell Sarah: "with an H or without?" I hope he wasn't suggesting that there's someone else name Sara Ovenall in Durham County? Since there are only four Ovenalls in this country, and the other three live in Delaware, probably not. Maybe the guy was just checking to make sure I knew how to spell my own name in case I wasn't really me. 

dirty tricks update

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[Update: Three months ago in Virginia, the same group did the same thing, and made the same excuses. I'm having a harder time believing this was all an innocent mistake.]

Talking Points Memo has a long comment thread including comments from Sarah Johnson,* representative of Women's Voices Women's Vote, the group making the robocalls. She basically chalks it up to incompetence: says their goal is to register voters for the general election and they wanted to get an early start and just couldn't be bothered to check the primary schedule. And it's just bad luck that in state after state, they've made the calls a few days before the primary, after the deadline for primary registration ended.

She also said that instead of identifying and contacting unregistered voters, they've been targeting neighborhoods with low rates of registration. And so it's just bad luck that they've been calling registered voters in black neighborhoods and implying that the people aren't currently eligible to vote.

Johnson said they're using robocalls with a male voice and an African-American sounding name (Lamont Williams) because the group has the dual goals of registering women and African Americans. Though the website says otherwise: "Women's Voices. Women Vote started with one goal in mind: Improving unmarried women's participation in the electorate and policy process." She said there's another robocall using a woman's voice and the name "Julie."

The NC attorney general (pdf) says it's illegal to make a robocall in NC with no identification. When asked about the lack of identification, the phony name and the blocked caller ID, Johnson said it was human error.

The TPM thread also points out that the group has ties to the Clinton campaign. Which is suspicious but not enough for me to accuse Clinton of involvement. Though it stretches credulity, I'd like to believe that Johnson is telling the truth and they're well-meaning idiots. Still, it's a sad day when we have to wonder whether a Democratic campaign is possibly using sleazy voter suppression tactics against its own party.

*It could of course be someone else claiming to be Sarah Johnson, but Josh Marshall seems to believe that it is her.

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