November 2008 Archives

four-hour divaville lounge today

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Thanksgiving was great, though too short. We left for Delaware Thursday morning and got back to Durham last night. I tried a new biscuit recipe while I was up there, using half-and-half instead of buttermilk, and cut really small, about 1" diameter. Turned out pretty good if I do say so! My mother actually has biscuit cutters in multiple sizes, so cutting them was a snap. She also had a tub of whipped honey which turned out to be the perfect thing for biscuits. They had some extra smokey bacon too, which made it a meal.

Today Georg and I are doing a four-hour Divaville Lounge. We took advantage of the holiday, when a bunch of DJs aren't around, to commandeer the show after mine for the week. No theme per se although we will be playing a bunch of songs about food. We'll be on from 2 to 6 pm. 88.7 if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not.

lady be good

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November 24 movie: Lady Be Good. Musical/romantic comedy starring Eleanor Powell, Ann Sothern and Robert Young. Sothern and Young are a songwriting team who keep getting divorced. Costars Red Skelton, Lionel Barrymore and John Carroll. The movie is so-so, but worth watching for a couple of dance numbers by the fabulous Berry Brothers. Also, Eleanor Powell dances with a trained dog, which is adorable.

Here's the Berry Brothers' biggest number in the movie:

Check out Phil Silvers as the emcee who introduces them.

it happened in hollywood

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November 23 movie: It Happened in Hollywood. This was a silly comedy starring Richard Dix and Fay Wray as silent movie stars who can't make the transition to talkies. The best part of the movie is a party scene featuring dozens of major Hollywood stars, all played by their actual regular stand-ins. It was so much fun to see the stand-ins for Bing Crosby, W.C. Fields, Clark Gable, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and others. And the stand-ins all looked like they were having a blast. They imitate the stars: "Dietrich" wears black tie, "Garbo" dresses like Queen Christina and talks about wanting to be alone, "Chaplin" does the Little Tramp, and "Crosby" even lip-synches a song.

broadway melody of 1940

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Another movie I never miss an opportunity to watch. Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell's only movie together. They have no romantic chemistry at all; their rapport is more collegial, two people who are the best at what they do, sharing their mutual love of their art.

The "Begin the Beguine" number at the end gets rave reviews, but I find the staging a bit overblown which makes it hard for me to enjoy the dancing. My favorite numbers are Fred's solo "I've Got My Eyes On You," and the one where Eleanor and Fred tap dance together in a cafe. They just look like they're having so much fun together.

Here's a Youtube clip of the latter. Check out the moment about 2 minutes in where she spins him.

the young in heart

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the flying wombatNovember 20 movie: The Young In Heart. This movie had no connection to the Doris Day movie Young At Heart. This was an earlier movie, a charming comedy about a family of con artists and the old lady they move in on, who eventually reforms them. It lacked the edge of The Lady Eve but I enjoyed it immensely. Starred Janet Gaynor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Paulette Goddard, and Roland Young and Billie Burke the year after Topper.

the flying wombatThe weirdest thing about the movie was the appearance of "The Flying Wombat," a car company with whom Roland Young takes a job as a salesman. An old friend of mine is mysteriously associated with the wombat. When they first mention the Flying Wombat (I think the line was "Be at the Wombat offices at 9 am tomorrow") I was like, "did he just say wombat?" And when they showed the Wombat business card I literally jumped out of my seat to hit the record button. Images of the Wombat logo/storefront only show up a couple of times, but there is a lot of hilarious dialogue like "As soon as we get around this bend, I'll show you what a Wombat can really do!" and "He'll never give up his beloved Wombat." Hilarious, that is, if you know a wombat.

dark victory

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November 20 movie: Dark Victory. They showed a run of movies with "Dark" in the title that day on TCM. Or maybe it was movies about blindness. Anyway, I can't resist an opportunity to see this movie. "I think I’ll have a large order of prognosis negative!"

the dark angel

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November 20 movie: The Dark Angel. The plot of this movie was pretty annoying. Fredric March loves Merle Oberon, then he's blinded in WWI, and he pretends to be dead because of the shame! And he wants her to be happy and have a full life! And clearly the best way to make her happy is to make her think the love of her life is dead.

I guess I should have hated this movie, but I love March and Oberon and also Herbert Marshall (the other point of the love triangle). Worth watching for the performances.

next up, sammy

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I think the interview show went well! It's kind of weird how dull the actual show is, compared to the frenetic activity of trying to get it ready. All I had to do was stand there, read off the flowsheet, and pop in the CDs. Since the whole thing is planned out in advance I didn't even bring all my CDs, just the ones I needed. Everything went smoothly, no flubs, and the interviewee's daughter-in-law called during the show to say how much she was enjoying it.

One thing I will do differently next time: say "uh-huh" much much less during the interview. I tried not to say it at the time, but when I listened to the raw audio it seemed like all I could hear was UH-HUH every five seconds. Fortunately I was able to edit almost all of them out. The trick will be to get the interview without saying "uh-huh" and without making the interviewee nervous. Because that verbal throat-clearing is so normal in ordinary conversation. Omit it and the interview sounds really weird while it's happening. A few months ago the Graedons interviewed me for their headache show, and I have to say the lack of verbal acknowledgement was disconcerting. They just sat there staring at me while I was talking, and I kept wondering if I was saying something wrong or what. It wasn't until I heard the raw audio from this show that I realized why. I'm going to have to think about how to put an interviewee at ease without any "uh-huhs."

Next Sunday Georg and I are doing a 4-hour program, from 2 to 6. We took advantage of the holiday break to grab the show after mine. And then the week after (Dec 7) is Sammy Davis Jr.'s birthday! I can't wait. I've been thinking about this show for months. I'm rereading the biography Black and White, and I'm going to try and finish Yes I Can! the "autobiography" my brother-in-law gave me. That way I'll have plenty to say during the show besides just "wow I love Sammy."

It's going to be hard to narrow the music down to just two hours. I like to plan these tribute shows out in advance so the playlist can follow a progression, rather than just being, you know, a bunch of songs I like.

divaville lounge interview program

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Tomorrow is another big interview on Divaville Lounge: Rod Hungerford, who served in the US Navy during World War II, was kind enough to talk to me about his experiences. The interview was recorded in September and was intended for Veteran's Day. But life got in the way: I had to postpone it a week because of the election, and then another week because I was sick.

I hope everyone who's interested in WWII or wartime music will tune in! Tomorrow from 2-4 pm eastern time. 88.7 if you're local, or the webcast at wxdu.org.

So the show is tomorrow, and I've spent all day preparing the audio. Rod was great to interview, articulate with lots of vivid memories to share. I hope that comes across in the show. Georg has been wonderful, helping me with music selection while I've been working on the interview. We have to pick out songs to go in between the talksets, and also instrumentals to play underneath each interview segment. The songs have to relate to the interview content, and the instrumentals have to be the right length and also the right tone. For instance you wouldn't want a swingy upbeat number under the part where Rod talks about his brother being a prisoner of war in the Philippines for three years. And the entire program has to time out to exactly 2 hours. Well actually, I've noticed that most songs end a few seconds before the track ends. In other words there's about 5 seconds of dead air at the end of each track. On my flowsheet I like to pad these shows out to about 2:01, to make up for those few seconds I'm losing at the end of each track. Otherwise the actual show would run short. So there's more to the music selection than you might think. It can get complicated.

I just finished editing the last interview segment, and I'm tired. In the morning I'm going to put the music and the talksets together, make sure it all still times out, and burn it onto CD. And then I'll be ready to go! Because half the show is pre-recorded, I won't have to talk hardly at all. I'm glad because my voice is still bothering me.

comanche station

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November 19 movie: Comanche Station. Enjoyable Western in which Randolph Scott rescues a woman from the Comanches and takes her back to her husband, who has offered a hefty ransom for her return. To get through hostile territory they have to travel with a group of crooks who want the ransom for themselves.

the naked prey

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November 19 movie: The Naked Prey. Gripping adventure movie starring Cornel Wilde as a Boer alone in the wilderness, trying to escape a group of Africans determined to hunt him down and kill him. A word of warning: there's an incredibly violent scene early on where Wilde's party (I think they're ivory hunters) are captured by the Africans and tortured to death, with only Wilde escaping. I think it's the most grotesque thing I've ever seen on TCM. I'm not going to describe it because frankly, I haven't been able to get it out of my head and I see no reason to inflict that on you. But just to give you an idea, the commenters on IMDB were all in agreement that this movie must have been a major inspiration for Apocalypto.

Anyway, once we got past the horrifying torture scene, the movie was exciting. If a bit silly, that Cornel Wilde could successfully evade a half-dozen African hunters on their own territory. Apparently the movie is largely based on the true story of an American pioneer who escaped from Native Americans, but Wilde couldn't afford to make that movie, and then he got the opportunity to work in South Africa so he retooled the script for the new location. Also, there's a lot of animal death in the movie (everything from elephants being shot to a python killing an iguana to a big toad eating a little toad) but it was all stock footage. So yes, those animals did all die, but none of them were killed for the movie.

the locked door

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November 18 movie: The Locked Door. Barbara Stanwyck's first talkie! The movie starts with a bang, as Stanwyck visits a "rum boat" (apparently this was a small cruise ship loaded with alcohol with went out into international waters for the evening, thus evading Prohibition) with a nefarious character who tries to rape her. Fast forward a year, Stanwyck is married and respectable and her sweet young sister in law is dating ... dun dun! The evil guy! The evil guy tries to ruin the sister, he gets killed, everyone takes the rap to try and protect everyone else, and it's all very exciting up to the ridiculous ending that ties everything up in a neat little package.

I can't recommend this unless you're really into Barbara Stanwyck or Zasu Pitts who has a small, funny role. The acting is terrible; if this had been the first Stanwyck movie I ever saw, I don't think I would have bothered with another. If you're mildly curious about Stanwyck's early, sleazy pre-code movies, watch Baby Face or Night Nurse.

western union

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November 18 movie: Western Union. Randolph Scott and Robert Young star in a Western about a crew laying telegraph lines on the frontier. I was enjoying the movie until the horrible racist portrayal of Native Americans showed up. It was bad enough that we turned off the movie. I used to think all Westerns from that long ago were racist, but John Ford made movies around that time that treated Native Americans like human beings. Why couldn't this movie?

ice station zebra

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November 17 movie: Ice Station Zebra. Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine and Jim Brown star in a cold war submarine movie. It's not a great movie, but it kept my attention. There's a beautiful sequence early on where the submarine travels underneath the arctic ice. On the downside, the Ice Station Zebra set is laughable. It looks like they're standing on a soundstage with white stuff on the floor. Nothing at all like an icy wasteland.

This movie was previously known to me as "that movie that caused the worst ever episode of The Prisoner." Because McGoohan was off filming this movie so they wrote an episode where Number Six was put in another guy's body, so they could use another actor, and it's a terrible episode.

foreign correspondent

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November 17 movie: Foreign Correspondent. I think this is Hitchcock's most underrated movie. It never shows up in lists of his great films, but it's one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, top 3 maybe. Joel McCrea and George Sanders play journalists who get caught up in a plot to steal British government secrets on the eve of WWII; Herbert Marshall and Laraine Day play a father and daughter involved in a peace movement which has been infiltrated by spies.

The great strength of the movie is the acting by Marshall and Sanders. Their characters are the most complicated and they do the most with them. Sanders in particular is wonderful as always. I love McCrea too, and he's great as the likable everyman who finds himself in the middle of intrigue. Edmund Gwenn has an unlikely turn as a nefarious character. There are also a couple of terrific set-pieces: one inside a windmill, and one on a plane that is just terrifying.

back to trivia

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We went back to trivia with D. and S. for the first time in ages. We had a great time! And I'm not just saying that because we won!

The questions were really hard, and we thought we had done badly. In fact we had done badly, just not as badly as everyone else. We had a couple of strong answers -- Georg and I knew the names of all the members of the Fellowship of the Ring, which we thought was a gimme but from the groans around the room, maybe not; I knew Vitruvian Man (that's the name of that Leonardo painting of the man inside a circle and a square); and D. had the genius moment of the night, correctly guessing what the Mexican government gave citizens in exchange for weapons in a weapon reduction program last year. (the answer: an X-box. Who knew?)

The place was mobbed! Trivia night was always crowded like that when we used to go all the time, and I guess it hasn't changed. We got there an hour early and we might not have gotten a table if D. and S. hadn't been there already.

My cold seems to be waning and I felt a lot better today, but right now I've lost my voice again. A whole evening of talking, and talking loud to be heard in a noisy bar, and I'm ready to lie on the couch, watch ANTM, and not talk. I have a meeting tomorrow at 11:30 and if I'm careful I won't have to talk at all until then.

the laying of the straw

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This evening was the Annual Laying of the Straw. That's the day when we look at the weather forecast, go "oh fuck! we're having a hard freeze tonight!" buy a bale of straw on the way home from work, and run around in the evening dusk laying straw over all the tender perennials, trying to finish before it gets too dark to see the plants.

We covered the fig, the gerber daisies, the snapdragons, the gardenia, the bay leaf, the dahlia, the artichokes, the amaryllis and the crinum lilies. I don't think the snapdragons, the bay or the crinum lilies really need it, but we had the straw and it won't hurt them. I'm not optimistic about the artichokes. Georg suggested that if they die, next year we try again and build them a cold frame. I saw on a TV show how to make one out of PVC pipe, clear plastic and zip ties. I wonder if it's really as easy as it looked on the show. I guess the hard part would be remembering to remove the frame during the day, so the plants don't cook in the sun.

I kept feeling like we were missing something. I must have been thinking of the Easter freeze two years ago, when we covered the blueberries and the hydrangeas in a (failed, as it turned out) attempt to protect the spring buds.

roses in november

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artichokesThe one thing I regret about spending so much time on political volunteering this year, was the total neglect of my garden. In July and August I never do much because it's so crazy hot. And this past year, by mid-September I was volunteering almost every day and didn't have time to work in the garden. I still have a couple of perennials sitting in pots that I bought in July and never got around to planting.

We were pleasantly surprised to see how well the garden has held up in the face of such neglect. Okay, so everything is covered in weeds. The basic structure is still there, and since we got a lot of rain, a lot of plants are doing well. The bay leaf, for instance, was about a foot tall in early summer, and is now high enough to be seen outside our window -- about 6 feet I think. The verbenas are still blooming and generally going nuts. Next year we're going to have to cut them back; they're threatening to swallow up nearby plants. Several other perennials are giving us their last flowers of the season. And the artichokes (photo above) look great. Supposedly if we can keep them alive over the winter, they'll produce edible artichokes next year.

The big surprise is that several of the roses are blooming! There's an old song called "Roses in December" and we almost got there. Two of the climbers, Awakening and I think Sombreuil, have a handful of flowers. The Secret Musk Garden Climbers have also been blooming but didn't have any flowers open right now, just buds. Which alas, probably won't open since we're supposed to have a hard freeze tomorrow night. One of the potted roses was almost totally defoliated by some critter but still managed to pop out a couple of flowers. It's amazing. I always thought roses were fickle and hard to take care of. I guess that's just the hybrid teas. We never spray, never fertilize, I don't think we even watered the climbers this year. I spent several weeks researching before I bought them, and it looks like it paid off.

valley of the kings

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November 16 movie: Valley of the Kings. Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker star in an adventure movie set in early 1900s Egypt. She's trying to prove some theory that one of the Pharaohs had secretly converted to Judaism and he's the hard-bitten archeologist who helps her search for the pharaoh's tomb. Sound familiar? Georg compared it to Raiders of the Lost Ark though I was reminded more of King Solomon's Mines with Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. King Solomon's Mines was a better movie but I don't regret watching this one. It was a decent ripping yarn.

platinum blonde

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November 16 movie: Platinum Blonde. Romance movie where newsman Robert Williams marries heiress Jean Harlow on a whim, but he really loves newswoman Loretta Young. There are a few good scenes -- notably one where Harlow's butler shows Williams the fine art of puttering -- but overall it's easily forgettable. I predict that within two years I will forget I've seen it and watch it again. Then I'll get to that puttering scene and remember.

roberta

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November 16 movie: Roberta. As delightful as all Fred and Ginger movies, this one costars Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. The four leads are really good together. Dunne is one of the great romantic comedy stars of the 1930s and Scott is surprisingly good if you only know him from westerns. Wonderful music by Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach and Dorothy Fields.

Here's an adorable clip of Ginger singing "I'll Be Hard to Handle" in a silly accent, then dancing with Fred. The setup is they're old friends from Indiana, but now she's posing as a Russian countess or something.

raiders of the seven seas

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November 15 movie: Raiders of the Seven Seas. A very silly pirate movie starring Donna Reed, Lon Chaney Jr., and John Payne as the head pirate, named Barbarossa. I entertained myself by calling him "Barbarella" every time someone said his name. What can I say, after two or three bags of cough drops in one day you start to get loopy.

syncopation

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November 15 movie: Syncopation. This is a bizarre movie about the origins of jazz. According to this movie it was Jackie Cooper and Bonita Granville who brought hot jazz to Chicago. The movie hints at black musicians, and there's a character who's supposed to be King Oliver, but according to the movie his influence on hot jazz was to teach it to Granville as a child and then disappear. She's the first lady jazz piano player, Hollywood's version of Lil Hardin I guess. Except for the part about marrying Louis Armstrong (who does not appear in this movie, neither fictionalized nor as himself. For shame!).

This movie is still worth watching to anyone who's interested in jazz, due to brief appearances by a bunch of (white) stars like Benny Goodman, Charlie Barnet, Connee Boswell, Harry James, Gene Krupa, and Alvino Rey. Also because it's so hilarious how they mangle the history. There's a fictionalized version of Paul Whiteman which is particularly funny. They describe his music as "taking jazz and covering it with marshmallows" which is, well, exactly how I'd describe Paul Whiteman. And in truth, Granville and Cooper turn in good performances. I read that they were dating in real life at the time, and it shows. They sparkle together.

(Georg just commented that in the later scenes they made Jackie Cooper up to look like Bunny Berigan, little moustache and everything. And in fact, Berigan did the trumpet playing for Cooper's character, so maybe that was intentional.)

Origin of Chicago Jazz?
kingoliver.jpg
King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band
bonitagranville.jpg
Bonita Granville

mike ashe on wxdu

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WXDU's local news program, Shooting the Bull, did an interview with Durham County Board of Elections director Mike Ashe. In my experience, Mike has the universal admiration of Durham County poll workers. I've never heard anyone speak of him in less than glowing terms, and I share the sentiment. I feel like he's the reason why we don't have to worry about suspicious "irregularities," partisan dirty tricks from either side, and so forth in Durham County.

Also, I love his jokes at poll worker training. This time he showed us a picture of the new stickers he said he'd gotten at a discount from Florida: they said "I Think I Voted." We all joked about being disappointed to get the real ones instead on election day. One of the judges kept saying, "Where's my 'I Think I Voted' sticker?"

I missed the interview live but listened to the podcast. Thanks to the Shooting the Bull guys for doing such a good interview and for posting the podcast so quickly.

(I'm also crushed that I wasn't scheduled to work at one stop on Halloween, and I missed Mike's Uncle Sam costume. Apparently he visited every early voting location so all the poll workers could see his costume.)

Marc Ambinder has a really interesting post on the Obama campaign's data systems called How to Tell Your VoteBuilders from your MyBOs, Your Catalysts from your VANs I spent a lot of time working with VoteBuilder and I think I knew it was integrated with MyBO, because I peeked at my own VoteBuilder file and saw records of volunteer events I had signed up for on MyBO.*

I knew a little bit of this at the time because I asked my field organizer what was this Catalyst that I kept reading about on blogs, and how did it differ from Votebuilder. She told me that Catalyst was the data and VoteBuilder was the interface, which is pretty similar to what Ambinder says. She also told me that VoteBuilder was only called VoteBuilder in some states & that during the primary in Iowa, it was called The VAN. I think that means she was working for the campaign so early that they hadn't yet given VoteBuilder its name.

We had a volunteer in the final week or so who had trained to be a "data fellow," which was apparently a volunteer data specialist. But then it turned out she couldn't travel for the campaign so she didn't get to be one. Anyway she said they had taught her what VoteBuilder is and how it all fits together, but they really hadn't shown her how to use the program at all. She was got up and running pretty fast though, no surprise considering she must have known way more about the program than we did, and we'd been using it for months. I wish I had been able to take that course. Just from a technical point of view it must have been really interesting.

*The main reason I peeked at my file -- and Georg's -- was to give us the "Do Not Call" activist code. I also told friends of mine who volunteered how to do the same. I felt like we earned it by volunteering. Besides, we were definitely going to vote so there wasn't any need for the campaign to call us.

communication

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This morning I learned that if you lose your voice from coughing all night, Skype is a good way to communicate with the people in your house. Better than passing notes.

This morning we saw a pro-high fructose corn syrup ad. Freaky. The sad thing is, I bet the ad will be effective. It implied that people don't know why they're scared of hfcs and in reality there's no reason to avoid it. I think it's true that most people don't know why they think hfcs is bad. And they may be persuaded by the argument that since they can't identify the problem, it must not be real.

Also, just saw an ad for a personal injury law firm, which featured a client saying "They were more than lawyers. They were human beings." Such frankness is rare.

one last thing: along with a bunch of other art car drivers, I just sent in an application for the inaugural parade. Our being accepted is highly unlikely; Georg put our chances between slim and none, and I think he's right. Four years ago they accepted 57 entries out of only 300 applicants, but I bet this year they'll get ten times that many applications. Still, it doesn't hurt to try. And how amazing would it be if we were accepted.

mary, queen of scots

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November 14 movie: Mary, Queen of Scots. Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson star as Mary Stuart and Elizabeth I. I'm a huge fan of Elizabeth R and I rented this mainly to see her. Elizabeth is kind of the villain, though I couldn't see her that way because I loved her so much in the miniseries. Redgrave's Mary is a sweet naif, which I have a hard time buying, but movies about her often take that point of view. It's kind of crazy to show a sweet naif having a tender love scene with her soon to be third husband, while her second husband lies in a drugged stupor in the next room. But there you go.

Anyway, there's a great cast here: Trevor Howard as William Cecil, Patrick McGoohan as Mary's brother James Stuart, Ian Holm as Mary's advisor Rizzio, and Timothy Dalton at his scenery chewing best as Mary's husband Lord Darnley.

sabotage agent

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November 14 movie: Sabotage Agent. This was the best of the spy movies from the past couple of days. A tight thriller starring Robert Donat as a British spy in Prague, and Valerie Hobson as a member of the Czech resistance. The movie was exciting from beginning to end. Also good work by Glynis Johns as a young Czech girl.

pot o' gold

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November 14 movie: Pot O' Gold. A break from the spy movies, this was a silly screwball comedy starring James Stewart and Paulette Goddard. The plot hinges on a radio program giveaway.

nazi agent

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November 13 movie: Nazi Agent. This one was depressing. A peace-loving German expat is forced to spy against the US by his evil twin brother.

espionage agent

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November 13 movie: Espionage Agent. Passable spy movie starring Joel McCrea as a diplomat and Brenda Marshall as his wife, a German agent.

british intelligence

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November 13 movie: British Intelligence. It must have been Espionage Day or something on TCM. This was an incredibly convoluted movie about German spies in England. Everyone in the movie is an agent, double agent, or in one case even triple agent. It keeps moving at a snappy pace; I enjoyed it. Stars Boris Karloff and Margaret Lindsay.

stamboul quest

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November 13 movie: Stamboul Quest. Did you know that before Nick and Nora, Myrna Loy played vamps? Dangerous females from foreign locales. I guess they thought she looked exotic or something.

Here Myrna plays a spy during WWI. A sexy spy. Most of the movie takes place in Turkey, but she's German. Whatever! George Brent is the American civilian she falls in love with.

stand by for action

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November 10 movie: Stand By for Action. I'm in the "dry coughing that feels like a lung is trying to exit my body" phase of this cold. Fun! Lucky for me I can sort of work while lying on the couch and watching movies.

Stand By for Action. is a WWII movie about a plucky destroyer commanded by Robert Taylor and Brian Donlevy. Also good supporting work by Charles Laughton as the commander of a convoy, and Walter Brennan as the yeoman who's getting too old for this shit. The plot is kind of similar to Operation Petticoat but I enjoyed this one much more, Cary Grant not withstanding.

doctors all around

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Took Janey to the vet today. Just a checkup and to get caught up on her shots, but they want to do a dental so we ended up doing bloodwork too. They said she weighs 56 pounds, which I found a little hard to believe. Two years ago she weighed 65 lb, and she's been getting a lot of treats lately so I thought her weight would still be high.

They asked me a lot of questions about that scab on her face, and eventually came to the same conclusion we had: that a stick must have bounced up and caught her in the face. They also trimmed her nails, and unfortunately she had a torn nail which they didn't see and they got the quick. Poor baby! She was good about it all things considered.

As for me, I'm finally come down with that cold I've been evading for weeks. Tired and coughing all the time. Bleh.

fired up and ready to nap

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The email lists for Obama volunteers are still active, and I'm starting to get a variety of messages trying to harness the enthusiasm from the election, transition us into ongoing activism. "Durham for Obama" is organizing a canvass to find out what issues are of local concern to the citizens of Durham. "Person County for Obama" (I'm on their list because I did some voter registration and canvassing up there in September) just had a meeting, will have a booth at a street festival in Roxboro next week, and are working on goals and a new name. "Barack's Inspired Phone Bank Army" (a national group which used the Neighbor to Neighbor online tool to phone bank all over the country; I read their list for tips on how to be a better phone banker) are already working on the Martin/Chambliss runoff in Georgia.

Personally I'm feeling a big heap of meh about all this. I was willing to drive to Roxboro during the campaign, but it's too far for a long-term project. And for the Durham group, I'm not so into this idea of a canvass to find out people's local issues. I was willing to knock on strangers' doors to ask them to vote in a critical election. I don't want to pester them at home just to ask them if they're concerned about local politics. I understand why people want to keep the momentum going, but I don't want to spend my Saturday afternoons canvassing just to be doing something. Rumors to the contrary aside, I do have a life outside the Obama campaign, or did at any rate, and I'd kind of like to get back to it. And as S. pointed out, Durham already has a lot of activist groups and PACs.

Mainly I just want a rest. One thing I learned during the campaign is that if something matters to you, you find the time for it. Right now what matters to me is finding my quiet routine again. I want naps, movies on TCM, afternoons in the garden, a clean house, and catching up on all those prosaic things like shopping for cute socks at Target and taking the dog to the vet. And a haircut! I really need a haircut. And knitting!

See, I don't have time for activism.

nevada smith

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November 9 movie: Nevada Smith. Steve McQueen stars in this prequel to The Carpetbaggers. Apparently The Carpetbaggers was based on a Harold Robbins novel but this one was not; it was basically an effort to cash in on the popularity of the earlier movie by creating a backstory for the two main characters. Based on that description you can probably guess whether this movie was worth watching, and you'd be right.

It's your basic revenge story, an excessively violent one: it includes (though does not show directly) a torture scene which wouldn't be out of place in a Saw movie. And the plot is sometimes Rube-Goldberg-esque, for instance at one point the main character commits a crime just to get caught and get himself thrown into prison in pursuit of his victim, when he could have just moved to the nearest town and waited for the guy to get out. Then he saves the man's life so that he can stage an elaborate and dangerous murder. When he could have just stood there and watched the guy die, at no risk to himself. On the bright side, well McQueen is always worth watching. And the movie was entertaining, so I guess it fulfilled its basic purpose.

becket

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November 10 movie: Becket. Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton star as Henry II and Thomas Becket. They argue a lot, and it seems like O'Toole has a big old crush on Burton, and then John Gielgud gets in the middle of it, and then O'Toole says "Will no one rid me of that meddlesome priest?" and then someone rids him of that meddlesome priest and then O'Toole has to let a bunch of priests flog him and he sure is skinny. Or something. Honestly I was busy shredding and didn't pay that close attention. Call me a philistine if you want; I won't deny it. For once Burton isn't the biggest ham; O'Toole chews more than his share of scenery.

what did you do in the war, daddy?

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Nov 10 movie: What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? I can't remember when I stopped writing up movies, so I'm going to start with today's offerings and work my way backward.

So today's movie was a war comedy starring James Coburn and Dick Shawn, the hipster Hitler from the original The Producers. The plot focuses on a small Sicilian town Coburn and Shawn are trying to capture, and the Italians won't surrender unless the Allies let them have a festival, and then a bunch of crazy stuff happens and it's all very wacky. The comedy tends towards slapstick, for instance a long set piece near the end featured Shawn in drag. Only Coburn and his deranged grin could rescue this movie from excessive zaniness. Coburn and Shawn are both very good, I just wish they had been given better material to work with. Also costarred Aldo Ray, Carol O'Connor and the great Harry Morgan.

ordinary

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Today was gloriously ordinary. Let's see, I went to the bank, worked, did laundry, shredded paper -- lots and lots of shredding -- vaccuumed, and watched a couple of movies while I was shredding.

I also got a hot chocolate from Starbucks this morning. A couple of people in the North Durham crew were big fans of Starbucks, and they had been raving about the hot chocolate, and I had to try it. I got the "salted caramel" flavor. It was good, but it kinda tasted like coffee. I think maybe every inch of Starbucks is imbued with the essence of coffee, so even non-coffee foods end up tasting like coffee. It also threatened to give me a headache, but I took a headache pill right away and kept the headache at bay. So to sum up, I'm glad I tried it but I probably won't have it again. Starbucks is just not my thing. Everything is so expensive and their iced tea is terrible.

Just now Jane came inside with a yucky scrape on her face. A round open wound, about half the size of a dime, an inch from her eye. We determined that it was just a surface wound, not a puncture. Maybe she was digging around in pursuit of a critter, and a branch flew up and scratched her. It kind of freaks me out how close it was to her eye. We cleaned it with peroxide and put Neosporin on it, and gave her a treat to reward her for being so good through all that. She doesn't seem to be in pain, isn't worrying at the wound.

It's been almost week and I've pretty much stopped dreaming about the staging area. Last Thursday I had a hilarious dream: I fell asleep while doing laundry, and I could hear the dryer but I dreamed it was the printer, printing walk lists and/or phone lists. And I woke up just enough to have the panicked thought, "it's after election day! I forgot to check the "already voted on election day" exclusion! I'm going to have to reprint all those lists!" Then I woke up a little more and realized it was after election day and I don't have to print any lists anymore.

social

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Today was a social day! We had brunch at Nosh with Lisa and J., then I went to my show, then we had an early dinner at El Paraiso with Sylvia. I had my favorite, tacos al pastor with horchata to drink. The cool girl Bernice was there and she was happy to finally see "the funny car."

The show was great fun. I figured there was a chance all my older listeners are Republicans and would be offended -- I never said anything political but I did say in every talkset that I was really happy, it was a celebratory program, and I kept saying things like "Now, let's hear another song about change!" Near the end of the show I got a note to the request line from my favorite listener. He was walking on air just like me, and requested a bunch of songs like "Once in a Lifetime," "I'm Sitting on Top of the World," "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "The Best is Yet to Come." Yay!

Now I'm curled up under the slanket and we're watching Dinner Impossible. I'm either coming down with that cold I've been holding off for weeks, or we have a mildew problem in the house and I'm having an allergic reaction. I'm fine when I'm out, but sneezing all the time when I'm home. I think I'll go to sleep early tonight.

the care and feeding of your shredder

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For once, a post that isn't about politics! Instead it's about a skill I have learned over the course of the past few weeks: how to coax a small home shredder into heavy-duty use without killing it. Because a campaign office, even just a small staging area, generates a lot of paper. All those walk lists and phone lists have to be shredded, not just tossed: imagine if we threw them out and then someone went into our trash and found thousands of pages of people's names, phone numbers, addresses, ages and voting preferences. Yikes.

So Georg' and my shredder was pressed into service at the staging area. And this is what I have learned about how to keep it happy:

  • First, ignore the label on the top which says how many pages you can shred at once. My shredder says it can handle 12 pages and I never feed in more than 2 at a time. The more pages you feed in at once, the harder the motor will work and the faster it will jam up.
  • Keep an eye on the receptacle and don't let it fill all the way up. As it starts to get full, stop and pack down the shredded bits. And empty the receptacle often.
  • The two things above will go a long way to slowing the inevitable process of bits of shredded paper getting stuck in the works. When you hear the motor get louder or start to go "RRrrr RRrrr RRrrr" instead of a smooth sound, stop and reverse it for a minute or two. Watch the receptacle and you'll see the shreds fall out.
  • If you weren't paying attention and the works get really jammed up with tons of paper, you may need to turn it over and use a pair of scissors to pick out the jammed up shreds. Unplug the shredder first! If it's really bad you may need to alternate pulling paper out with the scissors, plugging it back in and running it in reverse, unplugging and going at it with the scissors again.
  • Do all of the above, and then to keep the shredder happy, periodically spray a piece of paper with WD-40 and run it through. I've been doing that once a day.
  • Shredding paper also creates a lot of dust and you can also use compressed air to blow the dust out of the blades. I don't know if this is necessary or not but it makes me feel better.
  • If a well-meaning volunteer decides to help you by shredding paper, ignores all the above, and fucks up your shredder, try not to be angry with them. Or at least not to show it. They were trying to help.

Speaking of which, I better get back to the shredding.

i have actual responsibilities

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A parting gift from my field organizer:
I have actual responsibilities

13,692

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That's the margin of victory in North Carolina. 13,692 votes.

130 votes per county. 5 votes per precinct.

This is a state that went for Bush in double digits four years ago. I'm going to remember that if I ever again start to think that an election is a foregone conclusion and my vote doesn't matter.

My friend Mark J. sent me this awesome graphic:

over and out

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yes we didYesterday Georg and I broke down the staging area. I got there a little after noon, Georg arrived at 4:30 to help me with the heavy stuff, and we were done about 5:30. Most of the work was dumping all the leftover lit into the trash. Boxes and boxes of those door tags. Also we had hundreds of manila envelopes which had been used for canvassing, most of which were still stuffed with lit. I emptied them out and gave them to the lawyers. There were about 50 pristine, new envelopes, and then many many that had been reused, a bit worn but still functional. They lawyers seemed happy to get the envelopes and said they could use both the used and new ones.

I tried not to linger, you know, stop and muse over the wall schedule that had dominated my life, the collection of post-it notes with volunteers' names on them, etc. Just sort and toss as quickly as possible. It was actually easier going than I had expected. I ended up with a few things that belong to other people but only 2 whose owners I can't identify: a car charger for a cell phone which looks like it might belong to the Cricket phones the campaign gave us, and a porcelain serving bowl with a cat painted on it. The bowl must belong to a volunteer who brought food and I hope I can find out who and get their bowl back to them.

I also brought the shredding back home with me. There was a big box full of it and it would have been ridiculous to stay and do it there. I can shred while watching TV at home for the next few days until it's done.

as if we were never thereThe room looked so weird after it had been emptied out. I had been basically living there for 2 1/2 and weeks, and now it's gone! After we cleared everything out and vaccuumed, I locked up and then dropped the key through the mail slot. So strange to have gotten so attached to that place and it's suddenly over. Georg said it was like summer camp, but I never went to summer camp so I wouldn't know.

I only left 2 things behind: a box of small binder clips which I thought they might be able to use, and a poster which was our thank-you gift to the lawyers. We had asked volunteers to sign it saying thanks, then we framed it and left it for the lawyers. Not all the volunteers signed -- in the last few days there were so many canvassers, we staged them outside and they never even came in -- but I'm pretty sure we got all the out-of-staters to sign. Which by the way, out of many incredible things that happened in this campaign, that was one of the most incredible to me: out-of-state volunteers being sent to work with us. The first time I met an out-of-stater (a woman from Boston who came down here for a month) was when I knew that we actually were a battleground state. At the North Durham office we had people from LA, San Francisco, Savannah, South Carolina, and Chicago.

Today I did not a damned thing. It felt so good.

let's have a jubilee

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Tune in this Sunday afternoon for a musical celebration. I'll be playing two hours of happy songs about jumping for joy, changes being made today, the best being yet to come, and happy days being here again. Song suggestions are welcome.

Sunday from 2-4 eastern time. 88.7 if you're local, divavillelounge.org if you're not.

Here's a preview:

speaking of swag

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Like I said we're out of the good swag: buttons, bumper stickers etc. But I do have boxes of the flyers we were stuffing into canvass packs. I've spent the afternoon carrying them outside and throwing them in the dumpster. And I have the paper cuts to prove it!

(in case you're wondering, yes I hate throwing all this stuff away. We've been joking that they're going to have to plant an "Obama Forest" to make up for all the trees that were killed in service to this campaign.)

I think everyone who reads my blog and lives in the US has probably been canvassed and has received this stuff already, delivered to their door by a friendly volunteer. But, if anyone reading this lives in another country and wants to see the kind of literature the campaign was handing out, drop me a note with your address. If you want to send me a couple of bucks for postage by Paypal that would be great too.

I have early vote flyers that open up to make a small poster, square flyers which say vote November 4, the big door tags we were hanging on Monday and Tuesday, flyers about Obama and religion, and a few aimed at young voters. All are glossy, well produced and have nice photos of Obama. I also have a few sample Durham County ballots. These are plain old photocopies but might be of interest to someone who had never seen a US ballot.

ETA: sorry, looks like I tossed the ones about young people already. The "Obama and Faith" flyer has a nice family photo of Barack, Michelle and their daughters.

coffee is for closers

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Turns out the first thing I had to do at the staging area was change the voicemail message and stop answering the phone. The new message says:

"You have reached the Obama Campaign North Durham staging area. This location is closed. We do not have any yard signs, bumper stickers, buttons or posters. If you want Obama memorabilia, try the main campaign office at 112 West Main Street in downtown Durham. If you have any other questions, leave a message. Thank you so much for all your support and help and hard work. We did it!"

If I hadn't stopped answering the phone I'd be doing nothing but talk to people who somehow got our phone number, never volunteered, but wanted to, really meant to, and with such good intentions, don't they deserve to come over here and scavenge for whatever swag we have left?

In truth I do have a couple of yard signs, which I am giving to actual volunteers who come by. If I recognize them, they get a yard sign until I run out. Unfortunately I promised one to a non-volunteer right after I got here, because she had the same name as an awesome phone banker. I feel like the caller kind of deceived me. When she told me her name I said "Betty! It's Sarah! So glad you called!" and she basically pretended like she was the person I knew until I promised to hold a yard sign for her. Well I told her to go to the main office in search of buttons, which she really wanted, so I hope she'll also find a yard sign there and won't come here.

I kept only a couple of things for myself, and even gave one poster I really wanted to a volunteer. It was on Monday, she came back from a late canvass and realized that she had left her poster in the office, and by then we had run out and someone had grabbed hers. She seemed so sad about it that I told her "This is your lucky day, I haven't taken my poster out of my car yet" and I went and got it for her. It had been sitting in my car for several days so she really was lucky. If I had had any free time at all in the past week I would have put it away and she would have been out of luck.

good old america

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"Oh hurrah! My American friends have just texted me the news!!! Good old America, good old Americans!" -- Stephen Fry

Thanks to sensational for the quote.

how this happened

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Finally going through my email for the past couple of days and read this message, which came into my politics account last night:

Sarah --

I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don't want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing...

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,

Barack

Okay, I'm crying again.

the day after

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Slept from about 2 until about 7:30. It felt like my best night's sleep in ages, but now that I look at it, that's been pretty typical of late. Though much better than the past few days. I think it felt like I had slept longer because there was no waking up from anxiety-filled dreams all night long.

This morning I lay around watching soap operas and reading blogs, then went to Whole Foods and got myself a hot breakfast of grits and bacon. Which was my first actual meal in ... well I don't remember. Those last few days there wasn't really time to stop and eat. Now I'm hungry! The grits were really good, I wish I had gotten more. I bought some stuff for lunch too & will eat that soon. Not tired yet, I think that will come. Feeling lots of strong emotions. Last night when the results were called, I teared up but basically maintained my composure while inside S. and D.'s house (I think I made it off their front steps onto the path before the bawling started). This morning I tear up again basically every time I hear the words "President Elect Obama" on the radio.

Of course it's not really over yet -- I have to get in the shower and head over to the staging area to clean up and break down. Those poor bastards had no idea what they were in for when they invited us in. I think they imagined a couple of people sitting and quietly making phone calls. Instead they got dozens of people trooping in and out, the noise level was deafening at times, we moved into every room whenever they weren't there, food everywhere, people everywhere, junk everywhere, stains on the carpet, one wall got mysteriously marked up -- last night our room looked like a frat house and that was after S. had cleaned up in the evening and Stephanie had already started removing things that belonged to the campaign. (Speaking of which, she accidently took the charger to my cell phone and I hope I get it back.) So today S. and Georg and I are going to break down. When the space is emptied out we'll see if it looks clean enough, or if we're going to need to hire a cleaning service for them.

four words

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President Elect Barack Obama.

one hour to go

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Good luck and godspeed to us all.

a tip for voters

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This is my first year as a poll worker, so you could say I'm inexperienced and don't really know what I'm talking about, and you'd be right.

On the other hand, I've now been a poll worker eleven times: one primary election day and ten days of early voting. And I have noticed consistent patterns in the times that are more and less crowded. Granted, this is only an observation of two polling locations in one county, and may not apply generally. But I thought it might be useful to those who will be voting tomorrow and want to avoid long lines.

The busiest time is first thing in the morning. Always. There's always a line of people waiting when the polls first open. Even during the slowest days of one stop, when we were sitting around chatting most of the day, there was a line when we opened. On primary day the crowds from when we first opened took a couple of hours to die down.

I expected lunchtime to also be busy but that hasn't been my experience. With one exception: this past Saturday they were pulling people out of the long line at the busiest location and sending them to us, since we were the slowest location. And so the middle of the day was crazy that day. Otherwise noon seems to be a good time to go. I speculate that maybe everyone thinks lunchtime will be busy, so they vote an hour earlier.

Early afternoon also tends to be slow, though it picks up again in late afternoon.

Right before the polls close it's either really busy, or completely dead. Legally you are allowed to vote if you are in line at the moment the polls close, no matter how long the line is. I don't recommend this because you run a big risk of getting stuck in traffic or something, and being late. If you show up five seconds after the chief judge says "The polls are closed," we are legally forbidden to let you vote. Really. We're not being mean. If we let someone vote after the polls close we have committed a crime. Just like we would be committing a crime if we tried to make you leave the line if you were there in time. (I hasten to add, I've never met a poll worker who wanted discourage voters. Everyone I have encountered has been very dedicated to democracy.)

stuffing envelopes

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Stuffing walk packsWhen I was working the front desk at the main office, people used to come in all the time and say they wanted to volunteer, but then refuse to do anything we actually needed. They wouldn't canvass, they wouldn't make phone calls, they might do data, but not at night when we needed it. I remember one woman saying, "But I want to stuff envelopes!" full of indignation that we did not have envelopes for her to stuff.

I felt bad for her tonight, because she finally had her chance and she missed it! Yes, we spent several hours stuffing envelopes. I'm embarrassed to admit that in all this time, I had never stuffed a walk pack before today. We crammed seven people into that tiny room and set up an assembly line of sorts. I was off to the side printing and stapling the instructions and scripts. The last two phone bankers of the day stayed on and helped us. One of the phone bank guys was our secret success of the day. In the beginning he was clearly uncomfortable with the whole idea of calling strangers. Asked me a lot of questions about why we were doing this, what were we hoping to accomplish, and I thought at one point he was going to walk out without making a single call. But he sat down and tried, and stuck with it, and by the end of the evening he seemed happy and almost surprised by himself & how much he had done. It's really easy for some of these folks; they're extroverts who have no trouble at all talking to people on the phone. Someone like this guy, who was willing to do something way outside his comfort zone, and keep at it until he got good at it, that really impresses me.

done! almostAnyway both of the phone bankers stayed for a long time and helped us stuff the walk packs. These are a little different; in the last two days we won't really be canvassing anymore. No more knocking on doors, just hang the door tag and move on to the next house. The door tags have precinct information on them and so it's extremely important that the right door tags go into the right packets. If they got mixed up, we would be telling people to go to the wrong place to vote. What a disaster that would be. So we had to check every single door tag and make sure they were all bundled together correctly (in fact we found a couple dozen in the wrong bundles, scary). Then check and double check that the precinct numbers on the walk packs matched the precinct numbers on the door tags.

The door tags were the indirect cause of my first emotional meltdown of the campaign. I've gotten a bit weepy a few times before -- like when I saw this video -- it's probably just fatigue that caused this one. See, two older gentlemen came in to volunteer this afternoon. One of them wanted to phone bank. The other one had Parkinson's disease, so severe that he had difficulty speaking. He wanted to know if there was anything he could do that didn't involve talking to people. Up to yesterday the answer would have been no, sorry, thank you anyway. But just today we got these door tags, and every single one needed to be checked. And this man carefully sorted and counted hundreds and hundreds of door tags. In my car tonight I thought about him, how much effort it must have taken him to come in, and the luck that brought him and this critical task to us on the same day, and I cried the whole way home.

thank god for...

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  1. Excedrin Migraine. Woke up with a stiff neck and a killer headache about an hour ago. Took a couple of pills and now I feel fine. Jumpy and pain-free. Glorious caffeine.
  2. The Slanket. I'm sitting on the couch websurfing, as cozy and toasty warm as if I were still in bed.
  3. The end of Daylight Savings Time. I still have an hour before I have to get dressed and get over to the staging location. It means our third shift will be hanging door tags in the dark, but I sure needed that extra hour this morning.

crazy legs

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Today was pretty nuts at Forest View. And from what I hear, it was really nuts at the staging location. They had so many volunteers that they walked every single canvass pack which had been our goal for the entire weekend! We had to cancel tomorrow morning's canvass because there's nothing left for them to walk! We're going to ask tomorrow's canvassers to go up to Roxboro instead, and people who want to stay in North Durham will just make phone calls. Until third shift tomorrow, when we stop canvassing and switch to door hangers.

(By the way, we figured out how to get into the office first thing this morning. WHEW!)

I almost forgot to explain the title of this post. One of the poll workers at Forest View nicknamed me "Crazy Legs" because of my fondness for striped socks and tights. I have to admit, today's socks were a bit on the crazy side. Bright green and purple striped over-the-knee socks.

d'oh!

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I just realized I forgot to tell Eva about a peculiarity of the office lock. And because I forgot to tell her about it, she accidently locked us out tonight. Our first canvass starts at 9:45 tomorrow morning. All our canvassing materials are locked inside the office. I emailed the attorney who owns the office, and I guess I'll call his cell first thing in the morning and beg him to come over and let us in.

Speaking of sleepless nights.

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