January 2009 Archives

three strangers

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January 28 movie: Three Strangers. Odd, moody movie starring Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre and Geraldine Fitzgerald as three strangers who make a pact to share a horse race ticket -- I didn't really understand this, it was some English thing, but they have a ticket and if it pays off then they roll it over on the horse race? Whatever! The point is that they make a pledge on a statue of Kuan Yin to share whatever winnings come to them.

All three turn out to be fairly seedy characters, and the movie purports to be a suspense thriller about the various reasons they desperately need the money, but actually it's a somber meditation on human failure. Peter Lorre plays an aimless, drunken petty crook, and ends up being the most sympathetic character almost by default. Also costars Alan Napier as Fitzgerald's estranged husband, and Joan Lorring as Lorre's love interest.

the private life of henry viii

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January 27 movie: The Private Life of Henry VIII. Charles Laughton shines as Henry VIII. I knew he would be good because he played the same part so well in Young Bess. I also loved Merle Oberon as Anne Boleyn -- she's physically perfect for the part, I just wish she were in the movie more -- and especially Elsa Lanchester as Anne of Cleves. I'd like to read a biography of Anne of Cleves. She's such an interesting figure and she tends to get short shrift in histories of all the wives.

galaxy quest

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January 27 movie: Galaxy Quest. I had forgotten how funny this was! I put it in my Neflix queue ages ago, and forgot it was there. And then all the movies at the top of the queue were out (including a movie about Harold Arlen which I really want to see because I have a tribute show to do in two weeks, and I'm afraid some lazybones like me is sitting on it forever) so I got Galaxy Quest. It's a sly, good-natured sendup of Star Trek and its fandom. I still think they missed the opportunity of a lifetime by not casting Wil Wheaton in this movie. He could have been an obsessive fan who hated "Young Tommy," the child crew member. Though it might have been hard for him to do that with the affection the movie mostly shows to Star Trek fans, considering the vitriol sent his way.

latin lovers

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January 26 movie: Latin Lovers. Lana Turner is a millionaire businesswoman who's unfulfilled because she's tired of being in control all the time. What she really needs is a man with enough machismo to take her down a peg. Enter Ricardo Montalban. I guess I ought to hate this movie the way I hated That Certain Woman. But I just can't. Because, Ricardo Montalban! There's a great scene where he dances, first with Rita Moreno and then with Turner. He explains to Turner that the samba is "tight inside, loose outside." Montalban also "sings" a couple of songs, unfortunately dubbed by a Mario Lanza sound-alike.

that certain woman

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January 26 movie: That Certain Woman. There are a lot of things about old movies which I can overlook. Put aside my modern sensibilities and accept the movie for what it is and the time. I can't do that with movies where a couple split up, and the woman's life is ruined, and the man goes on his merry way without ever giving her a second thought, and she's supposed to quietly endure it as a test of her .. devotion I guess. Bonus points if she gives up her child to him, ostensibly so the child will have a better life, except there was nothing wrong with the life she would have given it. And eventually they reunite, and he's so sorry about the years she suffered, and that makes it all okay. I can't stomach that, and it's all over this movie.

In other words, this movie sucked. Bette Davis stars as the long-suffering woman, a grown-up Sara Crewe. Henry Fonda is her boyfriend, the heel. No, he's not a heel. It's worse: he's weak. He abandons Bette Davis, puts her through hell, simply because he lacks a spine. And she puts up with it because she wuvs him. Ugh. Also stars Ian Hunter as Ralph Bellamy.

fiesta

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January 26 movie: Fiesta. I watched this again so I could record it on DVD. It's a silly fluff of a movie, light as a feather, and I love it so. What can you say about a movie about bullfighting in which bulls are never hurt? Fiesta would have us believe that the point of bullfighting is to taunt the bull and get close enough to tap it on the forehead, at which point the bull is paralyzed by shame and grovels, allowing the matador to stroll away.

neptune's daughter

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January 26 movie: Neptune's Daughter. Ricardo Montalban plays Jose O'Rourke, the captain of the South American polo team. I used to think his character's name was ridiculous, then Santa Salsera introduced me to the music of Cuban bandleader Chico O'Farrill. Montalban's character has an Irish name so that Red Skelton can impersonate him. Whatever! At least in this one Esther Williams plays Montalban's love interest, not his sister. And the two of them do a great water ballet together. Betty Garrett is also in it, as a man-crazy woman so deranged for love that she can't tell Red Skelton isn't Latino. Xavier Cugat is also in it, though I don't think he has any lines.

(by the way, was there really a "South American polo team"? And would Ricardo Montalban be on it? He's from North America. Though I don't think they ever say what country Jose O'Rourke is from.)

the girl from 10th avenue

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January 26 movie: The Girl from 10th Avenue. Sweet romance starring Bette Davis and Ian Hunter. He's a bitter society man set on drinking himself to death after being tossed over by his fiance. She's a working class girl who cleans him up, takes him in and takes care of him, no strings attached. It's kind of like Leaving Las Vegas without the crushing hopelessness.

I particularly liked the character of Davis' landlady: a former nightclub singer who was involved with a society man in her day, and was paid off by the gentleman's father. She used the money to buy her building and ends up a comfortable older lady, offering Davis advice on how to deal with being the outsider in Hunter's social circle. Also cracking jokes about how the old man would spin in his grave if he knew how valuable her property had become.

fiesta

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January 23 movie: Fiesta. TCM started the Ricardo Montalban tribute with his first English language movie, Fiesta. The story is that Montalban grew up in Mexico City, then moved to LA as a teenager. He got the acting bug and tried to get into movies, but couldn't get any work. When he auditioned for a part in Tortilla Flat and was beaten out by John Garfield, he gave up on Hollywood in disgust and went back to Mexico. He became a serious actor in Mexico City, then was "discovered" by MGM when they came down to cast Fiesta.

Montalban is almost the only actor with a speaking part who's actually from Mexico. His father is at least played by a Spanish actor (Fortunio Bonanova). It goes downhill from there: Mary Astor is his mother, Akim Tamiroff the faithful family retainer, Cyd Charisse his girlfriend, John Carroll his future brother-in-law, and Esther Williams his twin sister! Alan Napier (Alfred from the old Batman series) gets to play his own nationality: he's a British tourist.

xm radio

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Georg got me XM radio for my birthday! Woo! I have the best husband in the world. He got me a subscription and the thing to put in the car. Apparently it plugs into the auxiliary jack in my car stereo.

I can't wait to try it! I have so much enjoyed satellite radio when I've had the chance to listen to it. Georg's brother has it for sports, though I'm interested in the music. They have a channel with all music from the 1940s and earlier, that I really loved. I think it was called "Savoy Express." I'll have to look at the list of channels and see what they have for news, too.

Woo!

January 29 movie: A/V Geeks: How to Be a Proud American (Again). We celebrated my birthday tonight at A/V Geeks, and I won a dvd! I had an advantage: the show included the amazing psychadelic animated film 200. Which I had seen at a show of his before, and I remembered that he asked a really hard trivia question about it: "what objects come out of the cornucopia?" Well I watched for the cornucopia and I payed close attention and lucky me, he asked the same question. After the show one of the regulars said she thought I had cheated, which I think was totally uncalled for. It's not like I went through Skip's things to find out the question. I was just lucky enough to have seen and remembered that show in Hillsborough a couple of years ago. She has the consolation that he'll probably never ask that question again; it was really obvious that I was ready for it. My hand shot up as soon as he said "cornucopia" and when he gave me the dvd he said, "I didn't ask that question before, did I?" To which I had to reply "Yes you did!"

200 is freaky and trippy and well worth watching. Sorry for the heavily pixelated video, it was all I could find:

So the theme of the show was "How to Be a Proud American (Again)" and the movies were all about patriotism and civics. There was a WWII era short of simple sing-alongs of patriotic songs. It included this crazy song that we heard on satellite radio last Christmas, "He's My Uncle Sam." It goes "I'm his nephew, he's my uncle, I'm as proud as I can be! And my sisters and my brothers and my cousins by the dozens, share that pride with me." I have to track that song down before my 4th of July show this year.

I didn't sing along with that first one, but I did sing along with the Schoolhouse Rock cartoon that does the preamble to the Constitution in song. I remember that cartoon so fondly. It's the only reason I know the preamble to the Constitution, in fact.

Then there were several shorts for kids, telling them how to be good citizens. For the most part that means following the rules and being considerate of others. I was impressed with a movie from 1951 -- from that time period I expected the message to be all about conformity. But several times the film encouraged kids to play on their own, think about their own ideas and their own way to do things. I don't think they used the word "innovation" but they were clearly suggesting that was the benefit of exploring new ideas.

Also there was a thoughtful short about a family in the 1950s who aren't poor, but don't have enough money for a Thanksgiving turkey. Instead of moping about Thanksgiving being ruined, they all think about the things they have to be thankful for. It was nice, especially the father who thinks about his freedom to vote, to express his opinions and not to be afraid when someone knocks at the door. That seemed like a jab at the Soviet Union.

review: carrboro dmv

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At the dmvRenewed my driver's license today. Showing my usual talent for planning and preparing, I did it on the very day the old license expired. Good thing I made it out there when I did: I heard the woman say that if you wait until after the license expires, you have to do a lot more to get a new one.

I had a little trouble finding the DMV: last time (five years ago) the Chapel Hill location was on 54, next to that little Harris Teeter. Across the street from where Jujube is now. Drove out there and discovered no more DMV (and no more Harris Teeter to boot). I had seen a "License Plate Office" sign near University Mall. Went over there, and of course they don't do drivers' licenses, but they told me how to find the drivers license office in Carrboro. It's in that little strip across from the post office. (Which, come to think of it, is still on 54.)

This DMV was a mixed bag. They were severely understaffed -- just 2 people working in the whole place. And I heard one of the women say that was a permanent situation. They used to have 4 people there, but two got transferred out, and while they were waiting for replacements the statewide hiring freeze was put into place. So they're on half-staff for the foreseeable future. She said she didn't know when they would get replacement staff, if ever. I was there for about 45 minutes and they kept saying that it was a really slow day. Though they had been slammed earlier, because school started late so all the high school kids came in in the morning.

On the bright side, the two staffers they had were excellent. Really friendly, really nice to everyone; they made the time go surprisingly fast. So, if you have a drivers license issue, and you don't care about how long you wait, but you do care about dealing with pleasant people, this is the one to go to.

hold your man

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January 18: Hold Your Man. Clark Gable/Jean Harlow movie. The first half is a funny, sexy romantic comedy. Then it gets all moralistic and it's like a different movie. I don't know what was up with that. Still worth watching for the first half though.

the emperor's candlesticks

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January 18: The Emperor's Candlesticks. Convoluted suspense movie starring William Powell and Luise Rainer as rival spies trying to smuggle documents into Tsarist Russia. Costars Robert Young and Maureen O'Sullivan in surprisingly small parts. I was confused at times, but I'm not sorry I watched it.

mgm: when the lion roars

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January 14 movie: MGM: When the Lion Roars. Documentary about MGM narrated by Patrick Stewart. I think it was a miniseries, and we watched parts 2 and 3 of 3. This was different from the That's Entertainment! movies in that it's a history of the studio, including dramas and what was going on behind the scenes. Stewart's dialogue is very silly, and rendered totally ridiculous by the self-important delivery. For instance a scene where he has to repeat some dialogue from a William Powell movie, about which dance beats to use when shaking various drinks. "A martini must always be shaken to a waltz." Powell said it like it was a funny bit of foolishness, and he was slightly drunk, and the line worked. Stewart says it like he's simultaneously reciting Shakespeare, and also wondering if he should fire his agent. It's hilarious.

The best thing about this movie was the interview clips with aging MGM stars. One of the stars they talked to was Ricardo Montalban, and we coincidentally watched this on the day he died. It was a nice surprise to see him talking about his days as a matinee idol.

million dollar mermaid

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January 11: Million Dollar Mermaid. Esther Williams stars in this biopic of Annette Kellerman, the Australian swimmer who pioneered synchronized swimming. She was also arrested in Boston for wearing a one-piece suit that revealed her arms and legs, if the movie is to be believed. Victore Mature plays her love interest/manager (what is Victor Mature doing in a movie with no lions?) and Walter Pidgeon is her dear old dad. The movie features a spectacular water ballet sequence at the Hippodrome.

swing your lady

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January 10 movie: Swing Your Lady. I think I recorded the wrong movie. I thought this was a comedy about Humphrey Bogart opening a nightclub. Actually Bogart is a two-bit promoter who, along with Alan Jenkins, tours the Ozarks with a wrestler. The gig seems to be that they travel from town to town looking for local brutes their wrestler can fight. Then the wrestler falls in love with a mountain woman and everything goes all zany. This is a good movie to watch if you like Ozark bluegrass music. Ronald Reagan has a small part.

more movies

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January 9: A Scandal in Paris. The wonderful George Sanders stars as a gentleman thief in pre-revolutionary France.

January 9: The Caine Mutiny. Another one of those "can't believe I hadn't seen this until now" movies. Unlike Mutiny on the Bounty this was not based on a true story, rather a novel by Herman Wouk, which I understand ends somewhat differently. Excellent acting all around, including of course Humphrey Bogart, Robert Francis as the naive young officer (sadly, the actor died soon after making this movie), Van Johnson as the hero, Fred MacMurray as a louse, and especially Jose Ferrer as the attorney for the defense. Lee Marvin also has a very small part as a sailor named Meatball or something.

January 10: Mister Roberts. Movie about the Navy starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon. I did not enjoy this. I found it both too stagy, and way too preachy. Maybe it wouldn't have seemed so clumsy and obvious if I hadn't just watched a powerful and complex movie like The Caine Mutiny the day before. Your mileage may vary.

January 10: Dodge City. Errol Flynn and Alan Hale clean up a rough Western town. Also stars Olivia de Havilland and Ann Sheridan.

January 10: Back to Bataan. Excellent movie starring John Wayne and Anthony Quinn about the Philippine guerrilla war against the Japanese during WWII. Too many wartime movies treat local populations as passive, helpless victims who sit around waiting for the Americans to show up and save them. Back to Bataan is a welcome exception: the Filipinos are portrayed as heroic in their own right, not just as a reflection of the American soldiers. Now, if the hero of the Philippine resistance had been played by an actual Filipino actor instead of Anthony Quinn, then we'd really be getting somewhere.

January 10: The Fighting Seabees. Another good John Wayne wartime movie. In this one Wayne is the leader of a group of construction workers who end up joining the Navy. There's a sequence in the middle of the movie which illustrates that some hot-shot barging into the middle of a conflict without paying attention to the chain of command can do more harm than good -- not the typical message for a John Wayne movie.

three for the show

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January 9: Three for the Show. Remake of Too Many Husbands starring Betty Grable and Jack Lemmon. In this version Lemmon is a Korean War vet who was presumed dead, then shows up again about a year after Grable, a Broadway star, has remarried to dancer Gower Champion.

This had its moments, but if I had my choice I'd watch Too Many Husbands again instead. There's one funny scene where Grable goes to see Lemmon's commanding officer, and misunderstands him to be saying that it's okay for her to stay legally married to both men. With exasperation he finally says, "If we were to follow your logic, it would result in the ridiculous conclusion that a woman can have as many husbands as she wants!" Yeah, that's ridiculous.

harriet craig / craig's wife

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January 7: Harriet Craig and Craig's Wife. Two movies based on the same book, about an emotionally crippled woman who hates men, marries because she wants security, rules the household with an iron fist, and eventually drives away everyone she cares about.

Harriet Craig starred Joan Crawford in the title role and Craig's Wife was earlier, starring Rosalind Russell. I had a lot to say about comparing the two movies .. three weeks ago when I watched them. Now, all I can say is that both women do a good job with the part.

that's entertainment! ii

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January 5: That's Entertainment! II The second That's Entertainment movie was cohosted by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. They only used clips that hadn't been shown in the first one, which meant they had to go to lesser known films, which made it -- well much more interesting for me, maybe not as enjoyable for a casual viewer. The part I did not like was when Kelly and Astaire sing new, lame lyrics to old songs. It was nice when they danced though. According to the intro Kelly didn't want to do it, and Astaire insisted that if they didn't, everyone would assume they were so feeble they couldn't. They were getting up there -- Astaire was 77 at the time -- and it's pretty amazing to see him dancing, even at a more subdued pace.

that's dancing!

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Jan 4: That's Dancing! Modeled on the That's Entertainment! franchise, this featured famous Hollywood dancers introducing clips of classic dance scenes from the movies. This one was improved by not being limited to the MGM catalog, as the TE movies were. They included clips from RKO movies, which you really couldn't make a documentary about Hollywood dancing without. There's a good segment on Busby Berkeley, one on ballet in the movies narrated by Baryshnikov, and my favorite (of course!) was Sammy Davis Jr. narrating a segment about Bill Robinson. They start the segment by showing a clip of seven-year-old Sammy dancing in Rufus Jones for President, and then contemporary Sam does the same dance on a replica of the set! Even if the rest of the movie had been a bust, it would have been worth it for that.

On the downside, That's Dancing! was made in 1985 and therefore included far too much Flashdance. There's a hilarious scene in the beginning where Gene Kelly is standing on an outdoor basketball court talking about street dance, while a bunch of kids breakdance around him. I seriously thought he was going to bust a move for a minute there. That would have been so awesome.

movie update

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I just realized that I haven't written up a movie all year. Yikes! I'm so far behind. I'm going to go through these quickly to get caught up.

Jan 1: Libeled Lady, Bringing Up Baby, Theodora Goes Wild and The Awful Truth. They showed screwball comedies all New Year's Day. All four that I watched are classics.

Jan 2: Swing! 1938 all-African American movie about a producer trying to put together the first all-black show on Broadway. The plot is .. well, not the reason to watch a movie like this. The acting is pretty bad too. The reason to watch the movie is the musical performances, including a couple of number by female trumpet player Doli Armena.

Jan 2: Dead Reckoning. Noirish thriller starring Humphrey Bogart as a bitter veteran trying to find out what happened to his WWII buddy. Costars Lizabeth Scott as Lauren Bacall. I enjoyed this a lot.

oh the humanity

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Huffington Post has an article collecting accounts of the Purple Ticket problems, which also includes a description of the Silver Ticket situation I got caught up in. I could live without the "oh the humanity!" drama queen attitude, but if you strip away the tone, this was a pretty accurate description of what I experienced:

At around 10:15, we moved fairly quickly to 3rd and Maryland SW, two blocks away from the "Silver Gate" banner. At that point, the line itself was more than two miles long. But the front of the line "fell apart" as non-ticketed people pushed toward the checkpoint, becoming a giant mass of people. No one could move. There was not a single security staffperson or organizer on the scene to coordinate crowd control. At NO time did anyone provide information to those who were waiting. It was clear that there was no organization whatsoever. We remained at that same spot with no movement, no information, no security personnel, no announcements -- NOTHING -- for another hour, until 11:15. At that point, as the inauguration ceremony was beginning, the crowd, which was yelling "Let us in!" (I have video) and "LET MY PEOPLE IN!) for 20 minutes -- surged forward, pushed over a fence, climbed over security barricades, and flooded onto the Mall. It was a free-for all.

I was closer than this person -- about 100 yards from the gate, and then I worked my way up to a few feet from the barricade -- and it was just like she described. The line dissolved into a mass of people that completely filled the street. No space, no way to get out, so crowded you couldn't lift your arms. I don't remember people yelling "Let us in!" but I did see a woman arguing with a cop on the other side of the barricade. He was yelling "These are not my rules! I did not make the rules!" and she yelled "What are the rules? Will you tell us what they are?" which he did not answer. I think that means he had no idea. I felt bad for him: he was out there having to deal with the beginnings of an angry mob, not quite by himself but close to it.

Right after that was when the barricade toppled and the people rushed forward. I noticed that cops were also opening the barricades that hadn't fallen. At the time I remember thinking that the cops must have known someone was going to get hurt and made the decision to abandon the checkpoint and let us all in. I can understand why people were upset at the poor crowd management, but in that moment I felt the opposite. They were valuing our safety over Obama's. (Though we weren't that close and I don't think there was any real danger from the crowd at our location. Still, we were supposed to go through security and we were allowed to enter without doing so.)

Later in the article there's a bit more about the Silver Ticket people:

The security fence was a double fence of plastic, with about four feet in between the fences. Well, people just pushed over the inner fence and moved over to the outer fence to give them some room.... The flow of people out of the Silver area from that breach was now pretty strong, and as others along the front line saw, they started to push over the fence in their area. Eventually, the entire front fence failed and the whole section just walked forward into the area around the reflecting pool.

When I read that I remembered walking over two plastic mesh fences on the ground. People kept getting their feet caught in the edge of one. I wondered at the time what they were for. Why were there fences inside the Silver area? Now I realize that I must have crossed into the Purple area.

I can understand why the people who were trapped inside a tunnel for the entire ceremony are angry. But I think the people who got in should, well, STFU. Yes, there were problems. Yes, security was inadequate. Yes, I was genuinely scared for a few minutes, and heartily sick of being crowded and pushed after a few hours. But it turned out okay. When I read these exercises in high dudgeon I want to ask, were you expecting that many people to come together with no problems? Seriously?

I mean come on, we got to be there for one of the most important events in our lifetime! I wouldn't have traded it for anything. If you wanted a perfect view and a comfy seat and no inconvenience, you should have stayed home and watched tv.

we're historical

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So the inauguration was kind of crazy. I guess with that many people in one place, things are bound to get a little out of control. I wasn't in the group that got trapped in the "Purple Tunnel of Doom" and didn't get in at all. Whew! I was in the group that got blamed for causing the problems for the purple ticket people.

Let me back up a bit. I got up at 6 and left Allison and Steve's house at about 6:30. They live in a great neighborhood, just a couple of blocks from the Metro station. It wasn't even that crowded. I heard someone say that it was about as busy as a typical rush hour. I didn't go to any of the big transfer stations like Metro Central, which I heard were super crowded. And I didn't even need my fare card to get out. I had read about that in a "here's what the tourists need to know" article in the Washington Post (where I also learned to stand right, pass left, thank you Post!) I had my card all ready, and then there was a man at the exit waving us through without having to put our cards in.

I heard two guys who sounded like they were from New York on the train. One was fretting about where to go when they got off the train. The other one said "Man, just follow everyone else. They're going the same place you are." How right he was! When we got out of the station there was a throng of people, thousands and thousands of people walking towards the Mall. All we had to do was wade into the river of people and be carried along.

My checkpoint was south of the Mall, so I had to walk through the I-395 tunnel to get to the other side. Which was a really cool experience. It was full of people, and there was a group of teenage girls near me, who every few minutes would yell "One, two, three ... OBAMA!!!!!" at the top of their lungs. Up and down the entire length of the tunnel would reverberate with other people shouting and cheering in response.

When I got to my checkpoint, the line was already about 6 blocks long. I ended up standing with a nice couple who were originally from Alaska but are living in DC now. I am very proud of myself for standing with them for almost four hours and resisting the urge to ask them about Sarah Palin. They said they were from the southern part of Alaska, where the average temperatures weren't much colder than we were experiencing that day. They handed out those little hand warmer packs to everyone. I didn't need any, thanks to Spacegrrl! She set me up with hand & foot warmers, and Smartwool socks.

I also stood with a naval officer wearing his dress uniform and no overcoat! He looked so very cold. I offered him my fleece ear band but he wouldn't take it, nor would he take hand warmers from the Alaskan couple. I think he was pretty high up in the Navy. He had lots of ribbon and lots of stripes on his jacket, and other sailors who walked by called him Master Chief. He was very generous in answering our questions about his decorations. He said he was E-9, which must be pretty good because he said his rank was as high as he could go. I found a photo of him on the Navy website (he's the one on the left). He wasn't wearing those medals, lots of ribbons instead. They looked like this. He said the oval one was a "cookie cutter."

Our line moved slowly but surely, edging forward. All morning people walked past us saying, "Is this still the line for silver tickets?" We all thought that was funny -- we'd been there for hours, with a steady stream of people joining the line after us, who knows how long it was by then. The Master Chief said he was going to start telling people "no, it's the line for the porta potties." But he never did.

Later on I met a lady who was celebrating her 80th birthday that day. She said that her daughter had been very active in the campaign in Santa Barbara, and had gotten her the ticket for her birthday. Unfortunately the daughter had tried to arrange a handicapped ticket but they messed up and gave her a regular ticket. She had tried to go in the handicapped entrance but they told her she had to wait in line with the rest of us. She said she could walk okay, but couldn't stand for very long, and I could see she was reaching the end of her endurance. She said they had offered her either a wheelchair or an ambulance but she refused. I think she should have taken the offer; it would have gotten her inside. I lost track of her when the crowd got really bad. I wonder if she made it in.

Around this time was when the crowd started to get bad. We were about 100 yards from the gate (or so I was told; being height challenged I couldn't see a thing but the people standing right around me) and the line dissolved into a mass of people which basically stopped moving. Every five to ten minutes we would move another step or two, which I think might have been due to people crowding in closer, not actual progress. There was no one in charge, no one telling us what was happening, and rumors started to go through the crowd that non-ticketed people had broken into our area, which was now full, and none of us would be admitted.

Lots of people left, including the Alaskan couple I had been waiting with. They said they were going to go home and watch on tv. I was sad to see them go! I thought about leaving, but in truth I didn't have anyplace to go. There wasn't time to get to the general admission entrance, and I couldn't get a cell signal to call Allison and Steve. So I decided to stick it out.

I worked my way a bit farther forward, pretty close to the barricade. The crowd was packed in really close at that point. Everyone pushing, pushing, and there was no place to go. I was standing next to a lady in a wheelchair, and the young woman with her kept yelling "Wheelchair! Stop pushing!" but they didn't stop. At one point I was leaning over the lady, pressed up against the chair, and I was afraid I was going to fall on her because the people behind me were pushing so hard. This went on for about 10-15 minutes and I have to say, it was scary. I had never been in a crowd like that before.

Then the barricades went down and people ran forward. It was this mad rush to get onto the mall. Looking back I'm amazed that no one was hurt. I don't know what happened to security; I never even saw it, much less went through it. We just ran right in. Well, I didn't run. I walked fast enough that the running people wouldn't knock me down. The rumor about the silver area being full turned out to be false. There was plenty of room and I ended up pretty close to the reflecting pool.

Later on I heard about the Purple Tunnel of Doom, which I didn't know anything about at the time. I read in the Post that the Inaugural Committee was blaming the purple ticket problems on us: "...some ticket holders, demanding access to the silver-ticket section, became so rowdy that they knocked over a barricade. Once inside, one witness said, some people stampeded toward the section. As a result, extra police had to be deployed there, leaving fewer to handle screenings in the purple and blue sections." I don't think that's fair. It seems to me that we were in the same situation as the purple ticket people: trapped outside the gate with no explanation. I guess I was just lucky to be with the group that forced their way in, not the group who never got in.

About the ceremony itself I don't have much to say. If you were watching on tv you had a much better view than I did. I was standing near a loudspeaker and could hear really well. I do want to say that I didn't understand the pundits who said they were disappointed in the speech. I found it very moving. The crowd was transfixed. Everyone listened silently; when cheers broke out, they died down immediately so that people wouldn't miss anything.

Another nice thing that happened was during the musical performance. Just as it started a bunch of seagulls flew up from the reflecting pool and started wheeling in circles over us. It was beautiful, and I overheard a funny conversation: "Are those doves? Did they release doves?" "No, they're seagulls." "They released seagulls?" "No."

It was amazing to be in the middle of two million people who felt the same way I did. People were cheering, crying, hugging each other. When Bush's helicopter took off, the crowd sang "Na na na, hey hey, goodbye!" That part was hilarious.

As the crowd began to disperse (during the poem, which seemed to impress absolutely no one) I stopped to take a couple photos of myself with the Capitol behind me. I pulled out my cell phone, and it had been impossible to get a signal before, but somehow a text message had gotten through. It was from my friend Kevin, a short congratulation sent just as Obama was saying the oath. I hadn't wanted to cry in front of a bunch of strangers, and I had held it together pretty well up until then, then seeing that message left me standing there crying right on the mall. I don't think anyone even noticed. Everyone was so euphoric.

The way out was not as scary as the way in, but chaotic at times. A lot of roads were blocked because of the parade route. There was a lot of heading up streets and being turned away, then having to fight my way back through other people trying to head up the same street. Have you ever watched a stick or leaf in a stream, hit a rough spot in the water and spin around? That happened to me. I was trying to get across the street, through a mass of people, and I was being pushed so hard from different directions that I got spun around in a circle. There wasn't anything to do except keep my arms close to my sides and try to keep moving in the direction I needed to go. I have to say, I'm not anxious to be in a crowd again anytime soon. I'm glad the State Fair isn't until October; if it were next week I don't think I could go.

I had to get to Allison's office at 18th and K streets, and I slowly made my way down to the other end of the mall and then north. On the corner right in front of her office there was a man playing "Happy Days Are Here Again" on a trumpet. It was magical.

In retrospect, I would have had a better viewing experience if I had left my ticket at home and stayed with Allison and Steve and their friends Sheri and John and Francoise. They took the bus, stood near the Washington Monument, and had a good view of the Jumbotrons. But then I wouldn't have gotten to walk on I-395, or meet Tom and Liz from Alaska, or the Master Chief. Or get the free button that C-SPAN gave me, or walk the length of the mall, which I had never done before. Or take a picture of myself with the Capitol on my head.

back from dc

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I was thereI'm back! Couldn't post yesterday because I had no net access from early yesterday morning until I got home to Durham just now.

Will do a thorough write-up later this evening & also have a few photos to post. The short version: I waited in line for about four hours, I almost didn't get in, I almost got trampled, I couldn't see a thing, and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. It was so worth it.

The best part is, Georg saved the broadcast on C-SPAN for me and I'm watching it now. I got to be there for history, and now I get to sit and watch it from the comfort of my couch. The best of both worlds!

quiet evening

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Had a nice quiet dinner with my hosts A. and S. and their two friends, down from New York for the inauguration. I brought a pie from the pie lady at the Durham Farmer's Market to contribute to the dinner. It was a lemon pie, which I love, but not everyone is crazy about lemon desserts. Well this pie was a big hit. It was a layer of lemon curd and then slices of candied lemon which were edible, including the rind. Really intense lemon flavor, not too sweet and not too tart. The pie lady never lets us down!

We had all been invited to a party but everyone bailed except A. and her oldest daughter. Younger daughter was tired, S. is getting over a cold, and all the out-of-towners including myself wanted to get a good night's sleep and be fresh in the morning. I'm aiming to leave here about 6:15-6:30 tomorrow. I'll walk to the Metro station, take it into the city and then walk to my security checkpoint. The others don't have to go through security so they're leaving around 8:30 and taking the bus.

A. gave me a map with pedestrian routes marked: I thought at first these were permanent pedestrian walkways but they are actually roads which have been closed for the day. In fact it looks like I'll end up walking on I-395 where it tunnels under the Mall. Georg and I drove through that tunnel on our way up before Thanksgiving (we missed the exit off the HOV lane and ended up driving right through the middle of DC) so it will be kind of cool to walk it.

Tonight I'm going to shower, lay out my clothes for tomorrow and pack everything up. I might even put my suitcase in my car tonight, so I won't have to deal with lugging it out while everyone is still asleep. I can put my pajamas in my computer bag and toss them in the car on the way out in the morning.

I also need to figure out how to make my phone act as an alarm clock. There's no clock in this room and I don't trust myself to wake up that early without an alarm.

A. and S. have two cats who are standoffish with strangers, but love burrowing. They seem torn between not wanting to get too close to me, and really really wanting to crawl under the blankets on the air mattress in here. I left the door cracked so they can get in and out as they please.

arrival

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Inauguration or bustI'm in DC! The drive was super easy. I was expecting terrible traffic and left at 10 this morning. Somehow the bad traffic just never materialized and I got here about an hour ago.

I drove by my host's house to make sure I could find it, but didn't want to burst in on them four hours early so I drove back to a bagel shop I had seen on the way in. Now I have lunch, and wireless!

ETA: the bagel shop closes at 4! I couldn't find anyplace else nearby with wireless. Guess I will be showing up early after all.

latin a la lounge

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This afternoon will be a fun show: Latin a la Lounge, cohosted by WXDU's Latin music expert Santa Salsera! We spent a few hours yesterday previewing music and I think it's going to be a great show. I had created a Latin channel on pandora.com to get ideas, and brought a list to Santa Salsera's house. She had everything on the list, no matter how obscure. Kiko Mendive? Check. Noro Morales? Check. In fact she had an album of Noro Morales doing American songs like "Am I Blue" and "Sheik of Araby" as cha-chas. Fun!

2-4 pm today. 88.7 if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not.

just for fun

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One more clip of Ricardo Montalban. This is a fun one: Ricardo flirting and dancing with Rita Moreno and Lana Turner, in Latin Lover.

now I feel better

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This makes me feel better about declining the ball ticket:

"Never, ever, ever go to an inaugural ball. They’re terrible. First you get in a taxi and instantly hit terrible traffic. Then the taxi drops you off at some cavernous space, like the Air and Space Museum. Then you get in a long line to drop off your coat. Then, once you’ve dropped off your coat, you get into another long line to get a drink and the whole time you’re surrounded by people you don’t know, and people who don’t know each other." --David Frum

I made arrangements to visit my friend Pru on Tuesday night, rather than trying to drive straight home after the ceremony. The more I thought about it the more it sounded like sheer insanity. This way I can stay off the highway, drive up there on a state road, and spend the evening with an old friend. Traffic coming home will probably still be bad on Wednesday, but not quite as bad, I hope.

In other news of "I cannot believe how well this is all working out," my host in DC took it on herself to get me a Metro pass, so I wouldn't have to deal with buying one on Tuesday morning. I can't get over how thoughtful that was.

This evening driving home from Stoneline, I saw a travel advisory board warning of heavy inaugural traffic and delays on the 20th. This is a sign on I-85 south of Durham! Allowing 6 hours for the drive up (which would normally take 4) is maybe a little optimistic. I'm trying to get there around 6 pm, and I think I'll leave more like 10 am instead of noon. If by some miracle I get there early, I'm sure I can find a cafe with wireless to hang out until my hosts get home from work.

weather alert

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It's going to be cold for the next couple of nights, possibly as low as 9° tomorrow. Winterize your plants! This could be by far the coldest nights since we started gardening, and I'm a bit worried about some of our plants. After several years of it never dropping below about 22° we'd gotten cocky about planting things that aren't supposed to survive here.

We had already put straw on the tenderest plants, and tonight we'll put down more straw and clear plastic. The plastic has to be removed during the day, or it can heat up in the sun and cook the plants. But it adds a few degrees of protection overnight.

I'm not sanguine about the gerber daisies, the artichokes or the hardy amaryllis. The bay leaf may die back to the ground but I think the plant will survive. It's in the warmest spot in the yard -- right in front of a wall that gets full sun, and the exhaust vent from the water heater blows on it -- it will be fine. I hope.

The snapdragons will probably die, but they're easy to regrow from seed and were getting kind of leggy. So that might not be such a bad thing. It will make me sad if the fig dies.

more on montalban

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I'm kind of broken up about Ricardo Montalban's death. It wasn't exactly a surprise, but still. He's been one of my favorite MGM stars for a long time. Santa Salsera and I used to have "Ricardo Montalban Night" where we would get together, eat Mexican food and watch his movies. The first movie we watched together was his first English language movie, Fiesta. Here he is from that movie, dancing with Cyd Charisse:

Here Montalban sings "My Heart Beats Faster" to Esther Williams, from Neptune's Daughter:

My favorite Montalban clip is one I could not find online, from Fiesta. His character is an aspiring composer, and sits down at the piano to play his own composition. He plays with surprising conviction and passion, and the scene is genuinely moving. It's one of the highlights of the movie. Someday I have to find out how to rip a clip from a DVD.

ricardo montalban, r.i.p.

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It's been a bad day. Ricardo Montalban has died. Best known for Mr. Rourke on Fantasy Island and Khan from Star Trek, Montalban was a wonderful matinee idol in the 40s and 50s. I loved him in Latin Lover with Lana Turner, Fiesta and On an Island With You with Esther Williams, My Man and I with Shelley Winters.

ricardomontalban19.jpg

I also love his dramas, like Right Cross, Battleground and Mystery Street. I read an interview with Montalban in which he expressed pride that through his entire career, he never played a character who was demeaning. That's no small achievement for a Mexican actor working at the time that he got his start. Whatever role he played, he always found something positive about the character, something to be proud of. Adios, Ricardo.

ricardomontalban.jpg

patrick mcgoohan, r.i.p.

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Star of The Prisoner and Danger Man and noted misanthropist Patrick McGoohan has died. Farewell, Number Six.

patmcgoohan3.jpg

on the brighter side

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I have a place to stay in DC! Georg wrote to an old friend who lives in Silver Spring and works in the city to ask for advice for me on getting around. And she invited me to stay at her house!

I can hardly believe her generosity. I'm a total stranger, and even Georg hasn't seen her in decades. She says her house is a five minute walk from the bus depot, and she advised me to take the bus instead of the Metro if I can. Apparently the Metro will be insanely crowded and she expressed doubt as to whether the system can really handle it. My invitation came with a map which tells me which Metro station to take -- I'll have to look at the bus map and see how close I can get to there.

So instead of staying in a motel in Fredericksburg and getting up at 4 am to drive to the Metro station, I'll get to spend the evening getting to know an old friend of Georg's, then get up at an early yet reasonable hour Tuesday morning and walk to the bus stop. What a life saver.

I'm still planning to drive up on Monday afternoon and leave on Tuesday afternoon. I think I'll take a look at Google maps and see if I can do anything to minimize the horribleness of the drive. Maybe I can detour to the west and avoid the loop around DC. If I added even 2-3 hours to the drive but avoided the inauguration traffic, well I probably wouldn't end up adding anything to the drive. Because I'm sure 95 around DC will be miles and miles of parking lot.

on the bright side

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I can't let a bad lunch bring me down because my ticket to the inauguration arrived today! Now I can finally be sure it's for real. My assigned area pretty far away from the action, in the area behind the reflecting pool. Which is about what I had expected. I hear they'll have lots of big TVs, and thank goodness for that!

It's supposed to be really cold on inauguration day. I think I'll wear long johns instead of tights. With a pair of cute knee socks over the long johns no one will even know. I found out that there's no place to eat anywhere near the Capitol, so I guess I'll be taking a sandwich. They said no bags allowed, I guess I'll wrap it in paper and carry it. Unfortunately my coat is pseudo vintage (I made it from a vintage pattern) and has no pockets.

I hope they don't collect the tickets when we get there. I want to save it for posterity.

too much garlic

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Had a truly wretched lunch at Toast today. Everything I've had there before was really good. Today I got a roasted beet bruschetta which was so redolent with raw garlic that even though I only ate a few bites, seven hours later my mouth still burns. I felt queasy all afternoon, and I can only imagine how awful it must have been for the person who was sharing a small office with me. I ended up not going to the big Durham for Obama meeting for the dual reason of my upset stomach and not wanting to offend the other participants. I feel like a head of garlic crawled into my mouth and died.

It's a surprise to have such a bad experience, since their food is normally so good. Well, except that one time I got the cheese sandwich and it wasn't grilled enough, and one of the cheeses was kind of hard inside the sandwich. Now that I think about it, both times it was really busy. Maybe the key is not to eat there when it's busy.

[update: Nine hours, and my mouth still hurts. My god, that taste. I never want to eat garlic again as long as I live, and will eat at Toast again almost as soon.]

cold

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It didn't seem that cold out, but I felt so very very cold all day. I sat and shivered at my desk. At my job (the one for which I still have to leave home and go sit at a desk) we don't have control over the temperature in our office, and it's always cold in winter. There's a space heater but I have a bad habit of forgetting to turn it off, so I only use it rarely.

Today I discovered that the big door by the loading dock retains heat. Makes sense: it's a big sheet of corrugated metal in full sun. Of course it absorbs heat. You can feel the heat radiating off the door as you walk by. The door (like much of the facility) is so dirty that I didn't want to touch it. Instead I stood as close as I could, sort of leaned against it without touching it. It felt like standing in front of a fireplace.

Needless to say I did this when no one was around. I don't fancy having to explain what I'm doing if someone catches me warming my hands at the loading dock door.

sunny sunday

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The cold seems to be running its course. I'm still sneezy but this morning, for the first time in days I don't feel like death warmed over. Unfortunately Santa Salsera and I already decided to postpone today's Latin a la Lounge show, as her busy schedule and my illness prevented us from getting together and reviewing our music.

Starting to work out the details of my trip to DC. We had a brief hope that Georg could go too -- we wouldn't be able to stand together during the ceremony, but the whole Mall will be open to the public so he could at least be there -- but unfortunately his job needs him on the 19th and 20th. Danged responsibilities!

So I'll definitely be going alone, and most likely just for the one day. The plan so far is to stay in a hotel in Fredericksburg, VA on Monday night. Tuesday morning I'll drive to the Metro station, leave my car there and take the Metro into the city. I'm not concerned about finding my way: there will be hundreds of thousands of people going to the same place I'm going, all I'll have to do is follow everyone else. The Metro website advised buying a card in advance, which I'll probably do. Unfortunately this means I have to spend $10 extra for a commemorative card with Obama's face on it -- whoop-de-doo, I still have a box full of campaign stuff with pictures of Obama -- plus whatever they charge for shipping. I guess it will be worth it not to have to wait in line to buy a card on the 20th.

I decided to forego the ticket to the Neighborhood Ball. I know the balls are a big deal, but I don't know if anyone I know will be there, since I'm guessing a lot of the NC people will be at the Southern ball instead. And dealing with the clothes would be a major headache: not only would I have to come up with a dress in a week (which would mean, first of all, cleaning up my sewing area, a scary prospect all on its own), but I'd have to go all the back to my car after the swearing in, find a place to change, and then go all the way back into the city for the ball. Instead I'm just going to go for the swearing in, and maybe stay to watch the parade as well. I read on the Post website that you can't go to both the swearing in and the parade -- with so many people there just won't be time to get from one place to the other. They recommend staying put on the Mall and watching the parade on the Jumbotrons.

Afterwards I'll take the Metro back to my car and then drive home in the evening. Traffic will be pretty horrible and I might spend some time on Google Maps figuring out if I can stay off I-95 for awhile. I have a feeling that every road out of DC will be equally nightmarish.

I won't be totally convinced until I have the invitation in hand, but it would be foolish not to start planning. So, does anyone reading this know DC & can you recommend where I can go to get something to eat after the ceremony? I'm planning to bring a snack for the morning, but since you can't bring big bags, it won't be a big snack, and I'll need a place for lunch afterwards. I'm expecting to wait in long lines anyplace, but assuming it will be worst right near the Mall. Is there a neighborhood I could walk to with a high concentration of decent cafes, something like that?

attitudes and insomnia

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So I have a cold. And the thing about colds is, a frequent cold symptom for me is insomnia. No idea why. The medicine maybe? Whatever the reason, I can't breathe and I can't sleep. Whine, whine.

Time Warner Cable made slight amends for the looming price increase by finally giving us Bravo a few days ago. The first day we recorded a Project Runway marathon. Like fun! It started in the middle of season 5 and went to the end, and I think this was the first season I managed to see unspoiled.

As always one of the cast got the "bitch edit" in a major way. No spoilers here because I don't even remember her name. You'll know when you see it: she's the one who is rude and immature all the time. After we finished watching the season, Georg found an interview with her which was a classic case of self-delusion. A few choice comments, with translations:

"I just think I’m very animated. With me, what you see is what you get. I’m very honest and truthful and I think it just comes across as rude."
translation: I behave rudely, and then for some weird reason people think I'm rude. Go figure!

"I just became the outcast, I guess probably because of me…When I feel like someone doesn’t like me I don’t really try to make the effort to try to make them like me. I think that’s what happened."
translation: If someone rubs me the wrong way I assume they don't like me, act so badly that I ensure they won't like me, and then for some weird reason they don't like me. Go figure!
Also, if I say "I guess probably because of me" then I don't have to actually understand why.

"Heidi would say the same thing three times, like ‘those are horrible! I can’t believe they walked down the runway!’ So, and you’re out there for four hours listening to this, and people need to realize that. So, yeah, they did get reactions out of me. I’m shocked that no one was the way I was. It just became like jabs over and over again. I just got annoyed, like ‘alright! I heard you the first three times, now you’re just doing it for TV. Making sure you get that comment on camera and get my reaction.’ So they really did get the best of me."
translation: I knew they were trying to provoke me but I have so little self-control that I gave them the footage they wanted anyway. And then for some weird reason I got the bitch edit. Go figure!

"Other than the way I acted towards people to their face, I was very nice to people."
translation: ???

I'm sure that once the show decided she was the bad guy, they aired everything ill-mannered they could find to reinforce that perception. And I can imagine how she would feel like it was unfair. But then again, she gave them the footage. Long ago I read a surprisingly insightful essay by a Real World cast member (I think it was Matt from New Orleans) who said that with editing the show could change the context of what they said, but he still had to own it because the show couldn't make them say something they never said.

Also, Georg and I think that once reality shows have decided who is the outcast, they arrange for that person to arrive last when the cast are reunited. To increase the likelihood that the ones who like each other will have a great time catching up and bonding, and then they'll all give the cold shoulder to the outcast. Watch the finales of shows like Top Chef and Project Runway, where they come back from a hiatus: it happens every time.

confirmation

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It's for real, I have a ticket to the swearing in ceremony. My field organizer is the most amazing person in the world! She had a few tickets to give out and she gave one to me.

So it seems that 239,999 other people and I will get cozy and watch Obama be sworn in -- on a Jumbotron, as I'm sure I'll be too far away to see anything but the backs of people's heads. And here I was all excited about spending that day at home with C-SPAN. Gosh, I have to look at a map of the Metro.

speaking of holy shit

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A friend of a friend (of a friend) was chosen to ride on the train to DC with Obama and Biden.

Wow. I mean, I'm excited about maybe being one of 240,000 people to stand around outside in the cold all day, but that? Wow!

holy shit

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Georg found an article on the Washington Post that suggests that email I got is legit. So I typed in my address and this is what came up:

ticketmaster.gif

Can this be legit? It has to be some kind of mistake. How the fuck could I have gotten a ticket to the swearing in? I didn't even ask for one! At least I don't think so, I can't remember actually. I know I didn't ask Price because I had friends who did and they told me he had a pool of thousands of people asking for a few hundred tickets.

And if it's real, what do I do? It will only let me select 1 ticket and it would suck to go without Georg. The "change your address" page wouldn't let me change my name -- I tried because they spelled it Sara with no h -- and I've read that tickets with names on them are non-transferable, so I couldn't give the ticket to someone else.

There has to be a catch. I can't possibly have a ticket to the swearing in. This must mean something else besides what it looks like.

suspicious

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That page loads easily this morning ... and goes to an "Update your Profile" page that wants my address. There's no way to see what it is they're offering me until I fill in the address; the "home" link goes back to the same "Update your Profile" page.

This thing is much better done than any phishing scam I've ever seen before: not only are there no misspelled words, the web site appears to be the actual Ticketmaster, and I looked at the email headers & it came from Blue State Digital. Still, the way this thing is set up is incredibly suspicious. I have a hard time believing the real inaugural committee would do this.

[ETA: there's a phone number on the website that is the number of the inaugural committee. I suspect that what they're offering me is the chance to buy a $150 ticket to a ball. In which I have no interest. I did rearrange my work schedule so I can be home on the 20th and watch the swearing in.]

inauguration

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Is anyone who reads this going to the inauguration? I just got an email which claims to be from the Presidential Inaugural Committee and claims to be offering me inaugural tickets.

Did anyone else get this message? If it's a phishing scam then everyone probably got one. It's got to be either outright phishing and isn't from the PIC at all, or it is from the PIC and is offering me the "opportunity" to buy tickets to a $500 rubber chicken dinner or something. Because I thought the only way to get inaugural tickets was from your congressman or senator. I didn't even put in a request for tickets because I knew the demand would be so high.

The email has a link to Ticketmaster, and an account number and password they say is unique to me. The page wouldn't load (yes I did click the link, and yes it did go to Ticketmaster). There are probably ten million other people frantically trying to follow that link right now.

I searched on "inaugural ticket scam" and didn't find anything about this email specifically. Just warnings from back in November not to buy tickets to the swearing-in ceremony. I'll try the link again in the morning and see if I can figure out what this is all about.

back to the grind

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The first day back at work always feels strange. I got a lot done today, which felt good, then got a headache around 4:30 and didn't get anything done on the great CD sort. Instead I spent the evening lazing around, finally doing the Sunday crossword puzzle, reading about Senator Al Franken on the blogs (and is that weird or what?), watching That's Entertainment! II and pricing digital recorders.

Yes, I don't have enough expensive gadgetry in my life. Apparently the ease with which I borrowed a recorder from the station last fall was an anomaly which I should not expect to repeat. I didn't realize how many news and interview programs they have on the schedule now, and those shows need the recorders all the time. I'm planning to need one once every couple of months at most, and might not be able to get one depending on what's going on with the news shows.

So if I want to be ready for situations like last weekend, and even to have a reliable way to record interviews planned in advance, I'm going to have to buy one. And seeing as there's a tech element, I have to read about it from every possible angle before making a purchase. The ones I'm looking at range from "kind of a lot of money" to "no way in hell can I afford that, but I sure want it."

The other options is that some friends in radio are talking about getting a good rig, better than I could ever get, and would lend it out to me. They're not in any hurry to buy though, and besides, the whole point is not to be dependent on an outside source. So I maybe should just get one for myself and be done with it.

I don't have to decide right this minute anyway. I don't even have another interview scheduled yet (though I do have inquiries out for a few).

In other news, Colbert is not that funny tonight. I think the Colmes thing is too close to reality.

show-riffic

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It's been a show-riffic weekend, what with the interview yesterday, all the time spent trying to make the interview happen, then editing it last night -- which went well, if I do say so myself. Coincidentally just last week I had asked my friends in radio for their perspective on editing and they had given me an excellent piece of advice: I should always edit more than I think is necessary, and if I have any doubt about whether something should be in there, it shouldn't. Apparently this is because when people are editing their own audio, they tend to want to keep too much. If it feels like you're editing yourself too much, you've probably got it about right. I would imagine writers have the same problem. In fact I've seen it in action: many fine writers have turned out bloated books after they got successful enough to dictate the terms on which they would be edited.

Anyway, I took their advice to heart and edited the interview a lot. A lot. I cut it down from almost 18 minutes to about ten. I think it did make the interview sound better. Also I did the Eartha Kitt tribute, which turned out to be about an hour. Just the right length I think. I played almost everything I had wanted to, and all her hits. (Except "Santa Baby" which I had just played a couple of weeks ago on the Xmasville show.)

Since I got home I've been working on the website, updating the birthday list and working on the schedule of shows for the coming year. I like to do one theme show a month but it's largely dependent on who has a birthday on a Sunday. This year I'm going to have a lot:

  • Jan 11 Latin a la Lounge (cohosted with Santa Salsera)
  • Jan 25 Jungle Madness (all lounge/exotica)
  • Feb 15 Harold Arlen
  • April 5 Sweet Bands (all 20s/early 30s dance bands)
  • May 3 Bing Crosby
  • May 24 Memorial Day (all war music)
  • May 31 Nelson Riddle
  • June 28 Richard Rogers & Oscar Hammerstein
  • July 5 Happy Birthday America (all songs about cities & states)
  • August 9 Wayback Machine (will feature one year, haven't picked the year yet)
  • Sept 13 Mel Torme
  • Nov 22 Hoagy Carmichael
  • Nov 29 Billy Strayhorn
  • Dec 13 Frank Sinatra

November is going to be tough because I'll have to research for both Carmichael and Strayhorn. Damn them for being born seven days apart!

Then tonight it's back to the great CD sort. I decided to do each binder seperately rather than all in one go. It's probably a bit less efficient but I feel like I'm getting more done this way, so I'm more likely to stick with it. I started with the comps binder and have it completely refiled & all the label cards printed. Now I'm making sure everything is in the database. It's really tedious. But worth it, so I continue.

eartha and sammy

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On air today from 2-4 pm with a tribute to Eartha Kitt and my interview with Sammy Davis Jr. impersonator Kenny Jones. The plan is to play Eartha for the first hour, and then the interview in the second hour. 88.7 if you're local, wxdu.org if you're not.

did it!

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I just finished my interview with Kenny Jones, aka Sammy Davis Jr. from The Rat Pack is Back. (warning, linked site immediately plays music) I couldn't get the mic from the station so we did it by phone. Which ended up being better, because the first show today starts at 2 and there wouldn't have been much time if I'd had to go there & set up in his hotel room. On the phone we had more time because he called me from the hotel lobby, then they drove to the theater and he called me back from backstage. I think we talked about 20 minutes total.

He is a really interesting guy and it was great to hear his perspective on performing as Sammy. I wish I were at a bigger station so the interview would be better publicity for him! The sound quality on the recording is pretty bad because he was on a cell phone. Still, it's better than not getting the interview at all. One time we had to do a question over because a noisy group walked through the hotel lobby, but mostly the ambient noise wasn't too bad.

I asked him if he had any favorite Sammy songs for me to play in the show and he asked for a couple of great ones, both live: "Lady is a Tramp" and "Come Back to Me." The cool thing is, when he mentioned the latter he said "that was recorded in London with Buddy Rich" and I knew what album it was from. I was like "Ooh! Is that from Sounds of '66? That's a great album!" I was trying not to act like a total fangirl and I think that was the only time I geeked out.

He told me a little bit about their (grueling) 2009 tour schedule. They aren't coming back to the Triangle but they will be in Charlotte and Baltimore. Georg and I are already talking about going up to Baltimore to see it with our old friend Pru, who lives in Columbia MD. She was with us when we saw the earlier incarnation of the show in Vegas, back in 2001. So it will be great to see it with her again. Who knows, maybe we'll road trip to see them in Charlotte too. Anyone interested in seeing an awesome Rat Pack tribute show sometime this coming year?

damn it.

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I thought I had arranged to pick up the mic in the morning, then I found out that one of the station's 2 mics has been given to someone for the entire holiday, and the other one is on "semi-permanent loan," whatever that means, to someone who isn't even in Durham and may or may not have taken it with them.

They suggested I use my iPod to record. I've been researching and this would require me buying a mic for $25-75, which won't sound that good, and I may not even be able to get on such short notice because my iPod isn't very new so the newest mics won't work with it. Plus my iPod has almost no battery, and is so small that I wouldn't be able to record for long. I could also buy a mic for the computer. That might be easier to find and might sound better. But my computer is also running on a worn out battery so I'd have to buy a new computer battery too. I might or might not be able to get that at the Apple Store. Last time I checked there, they old sold batteries for really new computers & you had to special order for everything else. Besides, considering I need a mic about twice a year and the station is supposed to have decent ones available for us, I really don't want to have to buy one.

Well this sucks.

the rat pack is back

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The rat pack is back!We went to a Rat Pack tribute show tonight. The show was fantastic! And I might get to interview the guy who played Sammy!

OK let me start at the beginning. Georg surprised me with tickets to The Rat Pack is Back as a Christmas present. We saw their show in Vegas back in 2001, at the Sahara, and it was really good. Then they had some kind of licensing issue, a conflict with another Rat Pack show or something? and the show stopped running. Every time we went back to Vegas we would talk wistfully about how we wished we could see the Rat Pack show again.

Well they finally resolved the issue, I think Georg said the two shows merged. And they're running the show in Vegas, at the Plaza hotel now, and also touring. And they came to Raleigh, and Georg bought tickets for us as a surprise! We had the best seats in the house. Third row center. Any closer and we would have been craning to look up at the stage & would have gotten stiff necks. The third row was the perfect distance and height.

The show was so good! They had Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey backed by a 15 piece orchestra. All four impersonators did a really good job. The first time we saw the Rat Pack is Back, the show adhered fairly rigidly to an original Rat Pack Vegas show. In fact we think it was an exact duplication of an original show. This was much more flexible. They sang songs that weren't from the Vegas era, like "My Way" and "Mr. Bojangles." And told jokes which were clearly new (some were about Viagra) but very much in the spirit of the Rat Pack's raunchy humor (some were, um, about Viagra). For Rat Pack geeks like us, slavish devotion to the original is of course preferable. But I can understand why it's a better show for most people if they can play crowd-pleasing songs that happen to be newer, and I don't begrudge them that. People applauded wildly when Frank started singing "New York New York." I doubt most were thinking, "Frank never sang this song at a Rat Pack show! It hadn't even been written yet!"

As you know Bob, my favorite member of the Rat Pack is Sammy Davis Jr. And the fellow playing Sammy tonight, Kenny Jones, was very good. He had Sammy's style of movement dead on. There was one moment when they were all singing "Luck Be A Lady"* and Jones burst into some dance steps that just blew me away. He looked so much like Sammy. After the show the cast were in the lobby shaking hands and posing for photos, and I asked Jones if he would be free to do an interview for my show. He directed me to their manager, who didn't give me a definite yes but sounded positive since I said I could come to them and could do it on his schedule. They're only in town for two more days, and doing two shows both days, so it will be tough. I have to call the manager in the morning and I already arranged the pick up the mic from the station at 10:30 tomorrow. I hope we can work it out!

Oh lordie, I have to figure out what I'm going to ask him! I've never done a real interview before. The ones I did before were either mostly scripted, or I had done a lengthy pre-interview so I knew exactly what we were going to talk about.

*that was another liberty in the format; in the original Rat Pack shows Frank always sang "Luck Be a Lady" solo.

the cheaters

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December 30 movie: The Cheaters. This was promoted as a "lost" Christmas movie, starring Joseph Schildkraut, Billie Burke and Eugene Pallette. It was okay. It didn't join my list of must see Christmas movies, but I'd watch it again. And probably will, when they show it next year on TCM.

And that's it for 2008! 275 movies last year. Not bad considering I saw almost no movies in October.

rage in heaven

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December 29 movie: Rage in Heaven. This is a strange movie starring Robert Montgomery, Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders. With a cast like that, they can't go wrong. All three stars are excellent, but Montgomery has most of the heavy lifting. He's the villain, and crazy to boot.

the guns of navarone

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December 29 movie: The Guns of Navarone. I love this movie. It hangs together well and the cast is stellar. One gripe though, which involves spoilers so read no further if you haven't seen it.

white christmas

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December 25 movie: White Christmas. We watched the Yule Log in the morning, and then Bing and Rosemary and Danny and Vera in the afternoon. The perfect thing for Christmas Day.

December 23 movie: Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald: Live at Cote d'Azur. We watched this concert video with my dad. Georg and I had also watched it in early November, but I think I forgot to write it up then. There's some great footage on this DVD. First Ellington jams while Joan Miro hangs out and watches. Then they show rehearsals at the Cote d'Azur, then joined by Ella Fitzgerald for the final performance. Ella does spectacular versions of "Something to Live For" and "So Danco Samba."

Over the final credits there's a great bit with Ellington showing the audience how to act hip. He says to tilt the left earlobe down on the beat, then snap the finger after the beat. And don't push the hand down after snapping the finger; just let it drop.

destination: tokyo

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December 22 movie: Destination: Tokyo. This is an excellent WWII drama starring Cary Grant and John Garfield. And a submarine! And John Forsythe! And Alan Hale!

2009: early report

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If the first 12 hours are any indication, 2009 is going to be a great year.

The year began at Jujube where we winding down a fabulous dinner with D and S. It was a 9 course meal which started at 9 pm. I think we were about to have dessert when midnight struck. The entire meal was wonderful; I think the highlight was the char-siu style bacon. Another highlight was when D. and I almost came to blows over Daylight Savings Time. He's violently opposed to it; I'm equally opposed to standard time. Violence was averted when we discovered our shared opposition is to changing time: we should really just pick a time system and stick with it all year.

We got home around 1:30 and Georg went right to bed as he had to go to the station and work in the morning. Poor Georg! I was a bum and slept in, then spent the morning watching fantastic movies on TCM and typing up track listing cards for my new CDs. And, we finally have Bravo! I recorded a bunch of Project Runways yesterday to watch when Georg gets home. What a great start to the year.

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