July 2008 Archives



I hate them.

back to the supermarket


More voter registration today. I thought it was going to be more canvassing targeted households like we did on Saturday, but I was wrong. Apparently the data in the walk lists wasn't as good as they had expected, so the "clipboarding" is still more effective for now. I'm a little bummed because walking around a neighborhood is more fun. Standing outside a supermarket isn't my favorite thing, but what the heck, it won't kill me. I was at the Food Lion on Roxboro Rd. an hour and got three registrations, not bad.

On a lark I started out in front of the Wal-mart in the same strip mall. Just as expected, it took 5 minutes for a manager to emerge and run me off. He wasn't rude, just said "I'm sorry, you can't ask people to register to vote here." I left immediately, and noted that he stood outside and watched me go until I was completely out of their parking lot. I wonder what they have against democracy?

The Durham Obama office is open ... sort of. With no phone or internet yet, they're leaving one person in the office to greet visitors and the rest hang at the cafe down the block to get work done. The one weird thing is that when I was talking to the volunteer coordinator on the phone, she told me that she's in charge of my precinct so I'll be dealing mainly with her. I missed that at first, didn't really understand what she meant. Then later tonight I got an email from the campaign with this weekend's volunteer events. The email included the names of the volunteer coordinators and lists of the precincts each one covers. She was right: she's in charge of my precinct, 37. I guess she must have looked me up in their database after I contacted her.

they met in bombay

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July 28 movie: They Met in Bombay. Rosalind Russell and Clark Gable star as competing jewel thieves who fall for each other. It's a fun movie, a bit preachy at the end but nothing out of the ordinary for movies made just before the war (1941 in this case). Robert Osborne said that Russell's part was originally supposed to be played by Hedy Lamarr. Which would have been a very different movie. They'd both be good though.

you belong to me

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July 27 movie: You Belong to Me. This movie was adorable. A screwball comedy starring Henry Fonda as an idle millionaire and Barbara Stanwyck as a lady doctor. They meet on vacation, marry on a whim, then Fonda reveals himself to be insanely jealous of her patients and her time away from him, even though she warned him in advance. But get this: the movie presents him as wrong! And she doesn't quit her job to become a homemaker! On the contrary, she convinces him that his ugly jealousy is caused by idleness and lack of ambition, and he'd be a better person if he had a job, like her. It's kind of amazing for a movie of that era. Plus of course, Fonda and Stanwyck have amazing chemistry, and they get some good sparkly dialogue. An example: "I didn't know you had younger men patients." "What did you think you were?"

Deeply indebted to McCainIsReallyOld.com for the link.

a storm and a leak

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Major storm just blew through. It was high Jane alert throughout. And, we have a leak on the porch.


100 days canvass

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Today is 100 days until the election, and to mark the occasion the Obama people launched a new canvassing program. It's much more targeted: instead of standing outside a supermarket (which, as I learned today, the kids call "clipboarding") or hitting every house in a neighborhood, they had walk lists with people they think are unregistered voters. I don't know how they got this information, I think maybe it's people who aren't in the Board of Elections database.

Anyway they had this targeted list and sent us out with 2 purposes: first, to try and register these people; second to gather information. The walk list had all these codes we were supposed to circle, indicating if the person wasn't home, had moved away, refused to talk to us, was willing to talk, etc; are they registered or not; and who do they support. (Libertarians may be pleased to know that the Obama campaign considers Barr enough of a player to have his own codes: there were codes for Strong Obama, Lean Obama, Strong McCain, Lean McCain, Strong Barr, Lean Barr, Other, and Undecided.) At the end we turned the packet back in so they can use the information for GOTV in the fall.

There were four shifts today and S. and I did the noon shift. It was supposed to take 2 hours, and we had planned to go to the grand opening of the Durham office at 2. David Price was going to be there and I was hoping they'd have shirts and hats for sale. But it ended up taking more like 3 hours and so we missed the opening. Which was all for the best, as by then we were so bedraggled from the heat that we didn't feel like going to a crowded gathering.

We knocked on 30 doors, of which 20 were not home. Still we got 3 registrations and 1 volunteer. Again I was buoyed by the enthusiasm we encountered. A few people seemed annoyed to have a stranger knock on their door, but most people were happy that we were there. At our first stop the next-door neighbor saw us and came over to tell us she was a volunteer too. She went on and on about how excited she was and the different volunteering she's been doing. I'm sure we'll see her again at something in the next few months. Then later on we walked up to a house where the woman was wearing a "Durham for Obama" shirt. (The house was on our list because of her son, who is away at college.) That couple were so nice. They chatted with us about the political situation in northern Virginia, where they had just moved from, invited us inside (no one ever does that), offered us water and let S. use the bathroom. Nice pro-Obama couple in the solar neighborhood, you were our favorite people all day!

S. and I decided that in this heat, a shorter canvass is more effective. Because for the first hour or so we were really trying to engage people & draw them out. For instance our first registration, she started out saying "Well I don't really like Obama but I guess I'll vote for him because McCain is worse," and we talked to her for awhile about the issues that mattered to her (reproductive choice mainly) and by the end of the conversation she sounded much happier with Obama. As we got hotter and more tired (and sweatier!) we started losing parts of the script. The last few people we forgot to even ask who they supported; we were just like "Hi, are you registered? Ok thnx bye--" and onto the next one. I think that as long as it's Too Darned Hot, I'm going to quit at 2 hours no matter how much is done, and tell the office that I had something to do and had to cut it short. It's probably better to turn in an unfinished packet that they can add to the next canvass, than to give them incomplete information.

I didn't remember to ask if they had swag for sale at the office. But S. had a shirt which she had ordered off the website, and she said it had arrived really fast. So this evening I went to the site and ordered some stuff to wear while canvassing: a shirt and a hat and a couple of different pins. A hat is nice to have because you can't wear sunglasses (nobody wants to talk to you if they can't see your eyes) and I hate having the sun in my eyes. It gives me a headache. I won't wear all the gear at the same time of course, that would look ridiculous. It will just be nice to have some variety since it looks like I'm going to be doing a lot of this over the next three months.

wild things

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July 24 movie: Wild Things. Oh lordie! Such an extravaganza of sleaze. I remembered enjoying this the first time I watched it, and I had to get it from Netflix when the AV Club put it in their New Cult Canon. The AV Club asks if Wild Things is so bad it's good, or so good it's good. For me it's definitely the latter.

This time I actually watched the movie twice, without and then with the commentary. I didn't have any trouble following the plot twists, but I did have trouble understanding why the plot is as complicated as it is. I was hoping the commentary would address this (and provide a better answer than "because we could") but alas, they didn't get into the plot at all. The commentary focused on 3 main topics:

1. the locations
2. the difficulty of filming in Florida weather and mosquitoes
3. that was about it, actually.

I did learn the interesting bit of trivia that cinematographers sometimes use big helium balloons containing an incandescent light inside to simulate natural light: 6' diameter balloons for interior shots and 16' diameter balloons outdoors to create moonlight. That's about the only thing I learned from the commentary. I guess I should be glad they didn't get into trying to explain the plot, because all too often they end up simply describing the plot, which is insanely boring.

I can't say more about the movie without getting spoilerish, so the rest is behind a cut.

hillsborough canvass


One of these days I will write about something besides politics. But not today. Because today I went to the Fairview community in Hillsborough for a voter registration canvass. It was great. I think the best (both most productive and most enjoyable) political volunteering I've ever done.

The Obama people had coordinated with a community organizer from Fairview, and they had recruited volunteers from within the community to pair with the outside volunteers. Each of us walked with a resident of the neighborhood. I think there was a dual purpose: to make today's canvass more effective, and also to train and motivate Fairview residents to be more politically active. It felt like the community was canvassing itself and we were assisting them, rather than us coming in and telling them what to do. It was a nice feeling.

I walked with Dorothy, an amazing lady who is already very involved: I didn't catch the actual title but she's the "block captain" or "neighborhood chief" or something, anyway I think she's the community organizer the Obama people coordinated with. I was lucky to walk around with her. She knew a lot of the people we spoke to, and if she didn't already know them, she got to know them. She was so engaging and had something nice to say about everyone -- she would compliment their child, their garden, even a pretty front door. She did the talking, and I carried the clipboard and helped people fill out the form.

We got 6 registrations, all of them new -- no changes of address. That is much better than I've done standing outside supermarkets, even though we talked to far fewer people. Plus people were so excited about the election. At a supermarket everyone is in a hurry, they're trying to get past you without making eye contact. This was totally different. The last house we stopped at had a lady who wanted to register, an older lady in a wheelchair who's already registered and wanted us to arrange an accessible van to take her to the poll, and a little girl who literally jumped up and down and yelled "Obama!" when she saw our pins. While I was helping her mother with the form, the little girl counted on her fingers how many years it will be before she can vote. (She's almost 11 now.) I wish we could bottle that enthusiasm and give some to everyone.

you lied to me

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I forgot the funniest thing that happened at voter registration on Saturday. I knocked on a door and asked the guy who answered if he was registered; he replied that he had already voted. I said good, if you voted in the primary then you're definitely registered. "Already voted," he kept repeating. Right, I said, but it's really important that you vote again in November. At this point the other volunteer joined in and the two of us tried to explain to him that he had voted in the primary, and the general election in November is the really important one.

"Oh, man! You mean I have to vote again?" He turned around and yelled to someone inside the apartment, "You lied to me!"

Tonight I went to an organizational meeting in Hillsborough. There were about a dozen volunteers there, plus the chairman of the Orange County democratic party, and Orange County's paid Obama staffer who will be here until the election. It was about 40 minutes of really interesting information; unfortunately the meeting lasted for 2 hours. The interesting part was about how they're going to structure the volunteer effort from now until the election. The uninteresting part was a lot of back-and-forth about several groups who have been active independently until now, and which one is in charge now, and who is doing what to bring them together, and so on and so on. I actually caught myself thinking, unironically, "I wish they'd stop with all this politics; I came to hear about politics!" I came so close to cracking myself up in front of everyone. That would have been embarrassing.

On the way out I chatted with another woman who had been quiet like me, and we agreed that we don't care about all that, we just want someone to tell us where to go and which door to knock on. I think from now on I'll skip the "organizational meetings" and just keep signing up for volunteer events on the website.

politics: voter reg

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On Saturday afternoon I went out to do voter registration, or "voter reg" as the kids call it,* at the McDougald Terrace public housing community. From a results point of view the event was kind of a dud: hardly anyone got any registrations. I walked around with a group of three people, and we only got one among all three of us. I learned later that this was the second or third time this neighborhood had been canvassed, so no wonder everyone was already registered. (Or they said they were, which is the same thing for our purposes.)

On the bright side I got to meet two of the Organizing Fellows. They're young, college age I would guess. I guess that makes sense: college students are most likely to be free for six weeks of volunteering in another state during the summer. They're near the end of their six weeks here, but one of them told me she's going to come back to Durham in September. She's really nice, I hope she does come back.

I took a packet of blank forms and I think in the future I'm going to go out on my own in Hillsborough instead of these organized efforts in Durham. It seems like there's a lower concentration of volunteers in Hillsborough so it might be a little easier to reach unregistered people who haven't been hit up already. I'm in Hillsborough anyway twice a week for Stoneline, and it would be pretty easy to do after work. I was thinking about doing it tomorrow, but then I saw the weather forecast. Maybe not.

*I also learned that the kids call my.barackobama.com "MyBo." It rhymes with Taebo. I guess that's better than calling it "My B-O."

mr. and mrs. smith

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July 19 movie: Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The info screen from the cable company IDed this as the Brad Pitt/ Angelina Jolie movie, and hilariously, it fooled me for at least a few seconds every time. "Why in God's name is TCM showing this? Oh." "Why in God's name did I record this? Oh."

No, it was the 1939 movie with Robert Montgomery and Carole Lombard, Hitchcock's only screwball comedy. I love this movie so much.


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July 18 movie: Dave. I enjoyed this, but not as much as I thought I would. I hadn't seen it since it came out and all I had remembered was "I once caught a fish this big!" I hadn't remembered how, what's the word. Mawkish? That works. I hadn't remembered how mawkish it is. The swell of sentimental music the first time the White House appears on screen (and when he first greets a crowd of adoring fans, and when he first sees the Oval Office, and when Congress convenes, and when he goes to the homeless shelter, etc etc), that sort of thing. I think the movie would have seemed much less obvious and manipulative with a different soundtrack.

Now that I've trashed the movie, let me say a few good things about it. Kevin Kline is quite funny, as is the moustache-twirling Frank Langella. I laughed out loud several times, like the scene early on where Kline walks around his apartment singing "Oklahoma" without realizing the Secret Service are sitting there. It's so endearing they kept me with a preposterous plot until almost the very end. It's not a bad movie, just not as good as I had remembered.

strangers and brothers

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July 14-17 movie: Strangers and Brothers. This was a BBC miniseries based on a series of novels by C.P. Snow. My dad and I watched the first 5 episodes while I was in Delaware. It follows the career of Lewis Elliot (Shaughan Seymour), an ambitious young lawyer, in the years before WWII. Of the episodes we saw, the best was "The Master," which showed the scheming and infighting to elect a new Master at the Cambridge college where Elliot is a fellow. There were many costars, my favorites being Nigel Havers as another fellow at the college, and Sheila Ruskin as Elliot's troubled wife. I read that Anthony Hopkins also appeared in some of the later episodes we didn't get to.

design for scandal

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July 12 movie: Design for Scandal. Rosalind Russell plays a judge. Walter Pidgeon is a schemer trying to manufacture a scandal which will ruin her career, so she can't preside over a trial with Pidgeon's boss (Edward Arnold). The plot is very much like Libeled Lady, which is a much better movie. I love Russell, Pidgeon, and Arnold, and they all deserved better material than this.

dancing co-ed

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July 12 movie: Dancing Co-ed. This was intended to be a musical starring Eleanor Powell and Artie Shaw. Powell wasn't available, so they cast a very young Lana Turner instead. Turner didn't have nearly the dancing chops to play a role intended for Powell (duh) so they changed the movie into a comedy with music. Also costarred Monty Woolley in a small part.

This movie was okay. I'm glad I saw it, probably wouldn't watch it again. It did have a nice gag at the end: Lana Turner and her costar (Richard Carlson) ride off together in a delivery truck, the doors close on them to reveal the message "Through These Portals Pass the Most Beautiful Hams in the World."


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I am back in Durham after a visit to Delaware. Relaxed, hung out, watched movies, met two cute bichons, caught chickens (no, really, we used a butterfly net), did crossword puzzles. Reached a milestone too: a Thursday puzzle with only 1 letter wrong! woo! This emboldened me to try the Friday puzzle, which kicked my ass. It's true, they really do get harder every day of the week.

Obligatory political note: I finally saw a McCain bumper sticker, on I-95 in southern Delaware. So now I know for sure they exist.

The traffic back home was only mildly heinous. Now I'm catching up on Daily Show reruns and not doing much of anything.

politics: myopia


I'm been reading a lot of political blogs lately, probably more than is good for me. And one thing I've noticed a lot of is people stating wild speculation as if it were not just fact but self-evident.

I think it's hard to definitively state what "is" happening because we each live in a relatively small world (compared to the nation, I mean) and only see what we see. For instance I live in a heavily Democratic town, albeit in a red state, but gas prices being what they are I rarely drive outside Durham and Hillsborough. I see lots of Obama stickers and yard signs and have never seen either for McCain. I am volunteering for Obama, and so I see an energetic & organized Obama campaign on a regular basis. I've never met a McCain volunteer because why would I? Only if they happened to show up at the same place where I was doing voter reg. And frankly, that would be a stupid waste of effort on their part, because I'm going to places where I'm mostly likely to find potential Democrats.

If I overgeneralized my experience I would assume that Obama is going to win by a landslide. The truth is I have almost no idea what's happening outside my own little world. I guess the McCain campaign is just as busy in the more rural parts of my state, because that's what I would do if I were them. In fact I don't know, because I don't read any websites where McCain supporters talk about what they're doing. And I don't trust the media to paint an accurate picture for me; they've demonstrated thoroughly that they're going to tell the story they like, regardless of reality. I guess my narrow focus and lack of information about the other side is myopic, but in my defense it doesn't seem to be unusual.

that's right, you're wrong


July 12 movie: That's Right -- You're Wrong. This movie was delightful! Hilarious, self-referential comedy starring Kay Kyser and his orchestra, Adolphe Menjou, Edward Everett Horton and Lucille Ball. The best part of the movie was at the end when they acted out a segment from Kyser's radio show, "Kay Kyser and his Kollege of Musical Knowledge." It was a musical quiz show, so funny that I wish I could hear whole episodes of the real show.

a song is born

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July 12 movie: A Song is Born. Georg wrote a nice piece about this remake of Ball of Fire. So I'll just say that I enjoyed it immensely, though it didn't make me forget the original.

i dood it

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July 11 movie: I Dood It. Finally, a movie that didn't piss me off. Instead it was a silly musical comedy starring Eleanor Powell and Red Skelton, featuring Jimmy Dorsey's orchestra. Powell has a couple of great dance numbers: one with a lariat that was outstanding, and a battleship dance recycled from Born to Dance. (I mean it; it's the exact same footage lifted from the earlier movie.) Born to Dance was a better movie in general, but this was fun.

operation petticoat

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July 11 movie: Operation Petticoat. Why was I surprised by this movie's mysogyny? I suppose I should have expected it. Cary Grant and Tony Curtis star as a by-the-books submarine captain and a fast-dealing supply officer, respectively. Through a series of misadventures they end up in the Pacific during WWII with a group of Navy nurses (five I think) on board.

The Navy nurses, despite all being officers, are utterly ignorant of military discipline. They seem to have been handed uniforms and sent on their way with no idea they were in the middle of a war. They don't salute, they hang their dainties up to dry in the engine room, they make out with the sailors, they barge onto the bridge uninvited to talk about vitamins, and accidently sabotage a combat mission.

There really were women serving as nurses in the Pacific. They risked their lives, and over 80 of them were captured by the Japanese. In case you couldn't tell, I'm offended by this depiction of them as addle-brained idiots who blunder around ruining everything for the men folk.

Tony Curtis' character is worse: a schemer and scammer who like the nurses, also seems to have made it to his rank without ever encountering anyone who would expect appropriate behavior. Worst of all is Cary Grant, whose character is a terrible leader. He loses control of discipline the moment Curtis arrives on the scene, and hardly even tries to get it back. He's barely in command of his own ship. Grant and all the nurses should have been busted down, except the nurse who screwed up the mission. She and Curtis should have been court-martialed. Instead [spoiler] everyone gets promoted, the women to the coveted rank of MRS. This movie sucked.

four's a crowd

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July 5 movie: Four's a Crowd. This movie was awful! Errol Flynn plays a heartless cad who works in the newspaper business and toys with Rosalind Russell and Olivia de Havilland. I think I was supposed to sympathize with Flynn, see him as a charming rogue, but I hated him and the movie too.

soap exchange


Overhead at the Durham Farmer's Market this morning:

What's that store over there?
Looks like ... The Soap Exchange.
It's got to be a joke. They can't really be recycling soap.

[I hate to ruin a joke by explaining it, but for non-locals the store is called The Scrap Exchange and sells a variety of salvaged stuff, office supplies and fabric and foam and such.]

oh sammy no


Because I love you, I am putting this behind a cut.

rainy mornings

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I love them.

politics: voter registration

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My friend Joe and I went out tonight to do more voter registration. Not as good as the parade last Friday: we only got 4 between us. Though we did give out several forms.

First we went to the Food Lion at Lakewood, which was completely dead. Just no one going in or out. Then we drove over to the Harris Teeter behind former South Square. That was a lot busier but also more affluent, and it seemed like everybody was already registered. We did get a few, a couple of which came from the staff, who were very positive about us being there. I had a nice long conversation with an employee just getting off work. He told me Obama had spoken at his church and how much he hopes Obama will win. I tried to get him to volunteer but he said he didn't have time.

When we went to drop off the forms, the organizer guy was giving some kind of speech in the Blue Coffee Cafe and being videotaped. I don't know what that was about, and Joe was parked illegally so I couldn't stay and watch. I turned in our clip boards and kept the blank forms. I'll to get them filled out some time on my own. Maybe in Hillsborough after work one day. I think there's a lot of opportunity in smaller towns where there aren't as many volunteers as in Durham. I have a goal for myself to do some kind of volunteering at least once a week between now and the election. I hope I'll be able to stick with it.

holiday inn


July 5 movie: Holiday Inn. I rented this from Netflix so I could rip the holiday songs, and then I never got around to it until this past weekend, when I needed the Fourth of July songs, "Say it with Firecrackers / Song of Freedom." By the way I forgot to mention that I did a special show of patriotic songs and songs about America on Sunday. I've done this show every Fourth of July for years: even though I've only been hosting Divaville Lounge for a year, Christa used to always travel over the Fourth and I never did, so I would always end up subbing for her. So this show is a tradition for me that I very much enjoy. Patriotic songs like Yankee Doodle Dandy, songs about places in America, songs about freedom, Mom, apple pie and hot dogs. It's a fun show. Here's the playlist if anyone is interested.

My favorite song of the show was "Freedom Train," which is in fact my all time favorite patriotic song, because its lyrics are so specific: "You can shout your anger from a steeple, you can shoot the system full of holes, you can always question "We the People," you can get your answer at the polls!" In an era when peaceful protestors are routinely ejected from public places and sometimes even cited for trumped up violations, we need more reminders that political dissent is a fundamental patriotic value.

Anyway, I needed the Fourth of July songs for the show, and then I ended up getting sucked into watching the movie while I was at it. I always think of this as a Christmas movie because it starts and ends with Christmas, but the movie actually covers all the holidays so it's a shame to relegate it to December and not watch it any other time of the year.

The DVD included a really interesting short on how they filmed the sound for dance numbers. Typically it would be filmed without sound, and all the singing and tap sounds would be dubbed in later. The narrator said that Astaire and Rogers were good at duplicating a dance to dub their own taps, but sometimes Rogers would be busy with another movie in which case Hermes Pan would dance her part. The really interesting part was that for some unspecified reason, they didn't want to do it the normal way for Holiday Inn, so they hid a mic on the set (for instance, under the bench in "I'll Capture Her Heart Singing") and recorded Astaire's taps live.

my weekend of food

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It was a good weekend for food. Friday night we wanted to do something Fourth of July-ish. Georg made hamburgers that turned out really well, and I made a cobbler of plums, apricots and blackberries.

The cobbler left us with buttermilk to use up, so Saturday morning Georg made biscuits and sausage. Ten for dinner we made barbecued ribs, one of my favorite treats. I love this recipe for bourbon molasses sauce. Although it is much improved by a few suggestions in the reader comments. Instead of beef ribs we make baby back ribs. We put them in a roasting pan on a wire rack, and pour a bit of the marinade in the bottom of the pan. Then cover with foil and roast at 275° for 3 hours. Then we removed the foil and basted with the sauce for a half hour.

Sunday morning we had brunch at Piedmont with Lisa and J. The waitress looked a little askance when I ordered "eggs Piedmont without the eggs," but it did turn out to be the perfect breakfast. Without the eggs it was a thick piece of crusty bread, toasted, with crispy pancetta and spinach and hollandaise sauce on top, and hash browns. Also I got a small side salad to go with it. I really wanted something a little lighter after the ribs the night before.

Then tonight we were tired -- I'd had my show and Georg intalled a new mailbox while I was out, woo! -- and we did something really easy. We bought a precooked chicken, cut it up with leftover barbecue sauce and added cole slaw to make barbecue sandwiches. And we made mac and cheese to go with it. Also some asparagus, just to have something green on the plate.

I think tomorrow I'll try to eat light.

hollywood hotel

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July 5 movie: Hollywood Hotel. Dick Powell stars as a singer trying to get a break in Hollywood. Apparently the movie was based on a radio show of the same name, hosted by Powell and Louella Parsons (who also appears in the movie) and recorded at the real Hollywood Hotel. The main plot has elements in common with Singing in the Rain -- for instance our hero and heroine having to fill in for pampered, talentless stars -- but the plot is a lot more complicated and doesn't hang together as well.

The movie has some very funny scenes and good supporting actors, particularly Alan Mobray and Glenda Farrell, but is marred by the monumentally unfunny Ted Healy, and also a brief but horrible blackface scene, possibly the most offensive I've ever seen.

The real reason to watch the movie is Benny Goodman. He appears as himself: Powell is supposed to be a saxophone player in Goodman's orchestra when he gets his big break. There are several numbers with the Goodman orchestra, including a deranged version of "Hooray for Hollywood" with the band riding in jeeps, one musician per jeep, and playing while they drive in formation to the airport. Also there's a number with Frances Langford, and a couple of minutes of the orchestra playing "Sing Sing Sing." And best of all, two outstanding numbers by the Benny Goodman Quartet with Goodman, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton. I read that this is the only film footage in existence of that line-up.

no time for comedy

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July 4 movie: No Time for Comedy. What a delightful movie. Jimmy Stewart is a playwright from the Midwest who comes to New York and falls for Rosalind Russell, the actress starring in his play. There's a wonderful scene early on where Stewart tries to get a cab driver to help him read a subway map, and the cabbie refuses because they're competitors, and tries to convince Stewart that a taxi would be more comfortable, and Stewart insists that the pushing and shoving is what New York is all about and he really wants to experience it.

the women

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July 3 movie: The Women. Another movie I never miss an opportunity to watch.

las vegas nights

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July 2 movie: Las Vegas Nights. Frank Sinatra's first movie, but he's not credit and has no lines. Just one song -- "I'll Never Smile Again" -- with Tommy Dorsey's orchestra, which was featured in the movie.

Aside from the Dorsey appearances the movie was a huge disappointment. It's about a vaudeville family who moves to Vegas, and they're terrible, not funny or talented in any way. The script is as bad as the family. And the movie is so early that Vegas doesn't look anything like the Vegas of Ocean's Eleven or Meet Me in Las Vegas. It's shown a cowboy town with people riding their horses into hotel lobbies. I wonder if the real Las Vegas was like that in 1940.

every girl should be married

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July 2 movie: Every Girl Should Be Married. I love this movie because it's so hideous. A crazy woman (Betsy Drake) stalks Cary Grant. I mean serious stalking, not "cute rom-com movie standing outside the bedroom window with a boom box stalking," but real, scary stalking. Following him around day and night, quizzing the clerks at all businesses he frequents, going through his trash, etc etc. He manages to stay one step ahead of her through the entire movie and then for some bizarre reason breaks down and marries her at the end. Franchot Tone plays a sleazy womanizer who embodies ugly stereotypes about horny men just as fully as Drake embodies ugly stereotypes about desperate women.

What really pushes this movie over the top, from merely offensive into deliriously, beautifully awful, is the fact that Drake and Grant married for real after making this movie.

the apple

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June ? movie: The Apple. I forgot to write this movie down on the list so I'm not sure exactly what day I watched it. I've wanted to see it ever since I read about it in "My Year of Flops" on the AV Club. It's a deranged 70s musical about a dystopic near future where people are forced to listen to disco and wear a forehead patch in honor of the world's most powerful disco band and hippies are outlawed and then there's something about the Rapture. I'm not really sure. The movie is totally crazy. And really extremely bad.

the band wagon

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June 29 movie: The Band Wagon. I think I've mentioned before that this is my favorite Cyd Charisse movie. It's a great musical, very funny send-up of Broadway, that pairs her with Fred Astaire, and includes the sublime number "Dancing in the Dark." The age difference between Astaire and Charisse is much easier to take because it's part of the story: he plays an aging Hollywood dancing star past his prime and trying to make a comeback. Also stars Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant as Betty Comden and Adolph Green, the authors of the screenplay.

silk stockings

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June 28 movie: Silk Stockings. Now this was a fitting memorial tribute to Cyd Charisse. A musical remake of Ninotchka with Charisse and Fred Astaire playing the parts originated by Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas. It's funny and sweet with some great dance numbers. My only criticism is the enormous age difference between Astaire and Charisse. Not quite as bad as Astaire and Hepburn in Funny Face but still, way too much. It makes romance between them positively cree-pee. On the other hand, it includes the only dance number in history with both Fred Astaire and Peter Lorre. Do you need a reason besides that to see it?

the best man

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June 28 movie: The Best Man. Finally I got to watch this all the way through. Such a good movie. I highly recommend it if you have any interest in politics or in psychological dramas. Interesting trivia: the title card at the beginning calls the movie Gore Vidal's The Best Man, giving the lie to my previously held belief that all movies with the original author's name in the title are bad. Then again, Vidal did have script and director approval, unlike the original authors of Bram Stoker's Dracula and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.

singing in the rain

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June 27 movie: Singing in the Rain. Good grief, am I behind on the movie list. TCM showed this as part of their memorial to Cyd Charisse. Honestly I don't think it's a good choice for her memorial. Although it was the most famous movie she was in, she was barely in it. No dialogue, just that horrible "Broadway Melody" dance number which I always fast forward. Still, I never miss an opportunity to watch this movie.

the jane alert system

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Jane is afraid of thunderstorms. Which bums me out, because I love thunderstorms and I can't enjoy them anymore. If I'm home I spend the whole storm calming Jane, and if I'm away from home I spend the whole storm worrying about how she's doing by herself.

On the bright side, she's a fairly reliable predictor of storm severity. I can be sitting at my desk working, only sunny skies in view out the window, and then the Jane Alert System informs me that a storm is going to occur in about ten minutes, and how bad it's going to be.

Mild Jane Alert: She comes in from outside and sits in the same room with me. (Normally she likes to lie in the hall where she can see into all rooms.)
Medium Jane Alert: If I'm in the study she gets right up next to me and stares at me nervously. If I'm in the living room she gets into her "hidey hole" (a narrow space between the coffee table and the couch). Tail tucks way under.
High Jane Alert: Some trembling. Follows me if I move around, so closely that I trip on her if I'm not careful. Sheds more than normal.
Extreme Jane Alert: Panting and uncontrollable trembling. Crawls under desk which she is way too big for. Follows me into bathroom, which she hates because it is the place where baths happen. Sheds profusely.

the day after

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The body is cold and my self-imposed temporary injunction against speaking ill of the dead has lifted. And now I find that, funny thing, I don't want to waste beautiful a Saturday afternoon writing a long diatribe about Jesse Helms. This will have to suffice:

I'm going to remember Jesse Helms' legacy by working as hard as I can to help a black man win the Tarheel State's electoral votes. I only wish Helms could had lived to see it happen.

politics: fourth of july

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So far I think this is my best Fourth of July ever. I spent the morning registering new voters at the Caldwell Parade in Orange County. I got to feel patriotic and I got to see a great small town parade. Fun!

We had four volunteers including the organizer, a far cry from the registration drives I've done in Durham where there are dozens of people. But four was plenty for this event. The other three all had tons of political experience -- for instance there was a couple who had met at the 1984 national convention in San Francisco, and the wife was the former chair of the Mecklenberg County Democratic Party -- and then there was me. Well you don't need a lot of experience to ask people if they're registered to vote.

Everyone was so nice! I think it was partly because they were sitting and watching a parade, not rushing to go to the grocery store or catch a bus whatever. Also I think the small town location had a lot to do with the general level of friendliness. Everyone smiled and was polite, and lots of people seemed genuinely happy to talk to me. I had a great conversation with a lady who told me she was 75 years old and she had voted in every election since she turned 18. And she didn't want praise for it because it was nothing more than her civic duty. And she didn't understand people who complained about the state of the nation but didn't even vote. And she probably would have had a lot more to say but I had to keep moving up the line. Which was too bad, I would have liked to talk to her longer.

I got four registrations, half the total for the group! That was a nice ego boost because last time S. registered 6 people and I only registered one. And at the time I thought I must be really bad at this. So it was nice to have a better day today. I also gave out two forms for someone to take home. They don't like us to do that because the form is so much less likely to get filled out if you don't do it on the spot. But I think these will get filled out. It was a woman who had just moved, and asked me a bunch of questions so she was clearly engaged. And she couldn't fill out the form today because they were building their house and it hadn't been assigned an address yet. She said they were expecting to get an address within the month and she wanted forms for herself and her husband.

I only talked to one hostile person all day, and it was an honest to goodness Prairie Muffin! The novelty of meeting one in person was worth her relatively mild meanness. I shouldn't even have approached them: a family with tons of kids, all the women & girls wearing long "Little House on the Prairie" style dresses and all women over 13 wearing head coverings of homespun white cloth. I think it's a safe to assume that group is probably not going to vote for Obama.

But it's a nonpartisan registration drive, and I was talking to everyone, so I asked them if they were registered to vote. The oldest woman was the only one who talked to me and she said she wasn't sure. I asked her when was the last time she voted (because if it's been many years then she might have been purged from the rolls and have to re-register). She looked at me sourly for a moment and then said "I don't want to talk about voting!" Okay sorry to bother you, have a nice day! That's really the only thing to say at that point.

The best part of the day was that I remembered to put on sunscreen before I left. And two of the other volunteers (the couple who are big-time activists) gave me a bottle of water since I had forgotten to bring one. So I feel much less wiped out than last time. Still, it's time to enjoy a well-deserved nap I think. Or maybe a movie. I've got one on the DVR with Jimmy Stewart and Rosalind Russell. That sounds good.

enough said

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Jesse Helms died today. I do not believe in speaking ill of the dead until at least the day after they die. So that is all I can say.

news flash

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Breaking story: Powerful politician discovered not to be ideologically pure. May in fact be good at the politicking required to achieve presidential nomination. Where is my fainting couch?

amitabh video: rote huye


Womzilla's link to a great Bollywood video made me think of my favorite Bollywood star, Amitabh, and how I haven't watched any of his movies in ages. Here's one of my favorite of his songs, from Muqaddar ka Sikandar. Amitabh clowns around on a motorcycle (which he is clearly actually driving, not being towed. woo!) This video makes me want desperately to visit Bombay. In 1976.

If I recall correctly, "Muqaddar ka Sikandar" means "Alexander the Conqueror" (Alexander the Great) who Amitabh's character is named after.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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