February 2009 Archives

the naked city

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February 28 movie: The Naked City. What a treat! I've heard this described as a film noir but it really isn't. It's a police procedural set and filmed in New York, in which the city is almost the main character. Apparently location shooting wasn't common in the late 40s. This movie was filmed almost entirely on location in NYC, with a documentary style that makes you feel like you're really getting to experience the city as it was then. Not just the exteriors but the interiors were on location too, and you can see the city passing by through windows in the background of many scenes. I read that many of the street scenes were shot with a camera hidden in a delivery truck, including "a cast of thousands" who had no idea they were being filmed. All those people in the street scenes weren't extras following a script, they were real people going about their business.

This movie made me want to go back to New York, even though of course the New York in the movie doesn't exist anymore.

solaris

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February 28 movie: Solaris. The question I asked myself before starting this movie was, why does it exist? What did Soderbergh add to this story that was worth making the movie over? If it had been nothing more than "make Tarkovky's movie again, this time easier to follow," I would have been really annoyed.

Well, it kind of was that, the same movie with less ambiguity, but it wasn't just that. It was actually pretty interesting how the two movies tell basically the same story -- almost everything that happens is the same -- but it seems to mean something different in the Soderbergh version. It's much more about the love story here and the resolution of his relationship with his wife is quite different.

I have to give Soderbergh credit for making a thoughtful science fiction movie with few special effects (though what effects there were -- mainly the images of Solaris -- were spectacular) and almost no action, which is still engaging. And for doing a remake of a legendarily cerebral film that doesn't compromise any of the ideas in the original. In big budget Hollywood that can't be easy to do.

That said, it was a bit too explainy for my taste. There's some clunky dialogue in there, like "I don't understand what's happening. And if I do understand it, I don't think I can handle it. I'm not the person I remember." Funny, I recall the Tarkovsky version conveying all of that without the character having to exposit it all for us. It didn't go all the way to Closed Captioning for the Intelligence Impaired, but having to stop and make sure the audience is keeping up, it robs the movie of a certain ... subtlety? mystery? poetry? All that and many other -y words Tarkovsky provided in abundance.

It's not really fair to compare Soderbergh, a talented filmmaker, with Tarkovsky, a genius. But then again, it's impossible not to if he's going to remake Tarkovsky's movies. So I'll just say that if you like movies that make you think, but you avoided the original Solaris because a foreign movie almost 3 hours long in which nothing happens sounds boring, give the Soderbergh version a try. I didn't think the original Solaris was boring at all -- I was stunned, in reading a review today, to learn it was 165 minutes long, I would have guessed half that -- but I'm glad I saw this one too. I probably would be giving it an A+ review if I hadn't seen the Tarkovsky version first.

free at last

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Finally we can end our crippling dependance on wasteful volcano monitoring with VolcanoMonitors.org.

Q: Who even needs Volcano Monitoring?

A: The fact remains that it’s pretty hard to say when a mountain is going to explode– unless you monitor seismic activity and use sensitive laser surveying equipment to look for terrain that is bulging and other science-type stuff. Governor Jindal is right when he says people should take care of that locally. Otherwise, data might be shared and we might someday be able to figure out ways to minimize damage. Then we’d have to make disaster movies about hurricanes or some other thing not as fiery and awesome. That would be bad. Imagine if we could develop a way to slowly relieve the pressure of tons of magma trying to boil up out of the earth instead of just letting it go all at once. That would be no fun at all!

now this is gardening advice

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I have to give a plug to local nursery Plant Delights. They're located southeast of Raleigh, about an hour's drive for us. Their business is mostly by catalog, and four times a year they do an open house at the nursery. They specialize in unusual perennial and have all kinds of plants I've never seen anyplace else. Their prices are quite high and to be honest, we only buy really special things from them. (Which is most of their stock, unfortunately for our wallets.) But even if we don't buy anything, we love going to the open house to see their gardens and get ideas.

The owner has a wry sense of humor and the catalog is always worth reading. Here's the description of a new offering, Giant gunnera (Gunnera manicata):

You've seen it in all the English gardening books, you've seen it featured in landscape design magazines, and now you can kill one of your own. When properly grown, G. manicata can reach 10' tall with an equal spread. The giant thick leaves double as an umbrella for the entire family. Remember killing gunnera at least three times is an official right of passage before you qualify as a true plant nerd. This holy grail of plant nuts everywhere needs a cool moist site to survive, and will not tolerate more than 40 summer days with temperatures above 90 degrees F. Keep in mind it hates heat and extreme cold. Personally, if you don't live on the West Coast, eastern mountains, or similar climates, there is virtually no chance you can grow this. Best of luck! Pot size: 2 qt.

chez big daddy

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We've been watching Big Daddy's House, the show by Next Food Network Star Aaron McCargo, and I find it a lot of fun. It's been nice to see him grow more comfortable in front of the camera. He's had three guest stars from NFNS: Shane, Kelsey, and Adam (who now has his own show, Will Work for Food). Adam was the best guest, feeding Aaron questions like "What kind of bread are you using?" and "Why do you add salt to a sweet dessert?" Makes sense, since that's a lot of what he does on his own show. We've been wondering if Lisa "Ensign Ro" Garza will make an appearance on Big Daddy's House. It seems like he ought to have her on, since all the other finalists have, but I can't really imagine her on his show.

We finally made a couple of his recipes: Inside Out Burgers and Broccoli Casserole. The burgers were terrific, maybe too much food though. Next time we'll make them a little smaller. Also the recipe called for cubed cheese and I think it would have been better grated. McCargo's recipes use lots of cheese and he never grates it.

The broccoli casserole was better the second day, I guess reheating cooked it better. We made a few changes: panko bread crumbs instead of crushed Ritz crackers, and we substituted monterey jack and port salut (a soft cheese at Whole Foods which isn't too expensive) for Velveeta and camembert. The only real problem wasn't the recipe's fault: I had tried to cut the recipe in half and ended up with way too many bread crumbs. Next time (yes, I would make it again) fewer bread crumbs, and a shallow pan so there broccoli to bread crumb ratio is better.

speechifying

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Just finished watching Obama's speech. We started late because we were at Elaine's for a special Mardi Gras dinner. (more on that later. The short version: the food was much better than the service.)

We normally watch these things on CSPAN because you get the least extraneous bullshit (I prefer the unadulterated bullshit of the speeches themselves). Also CSPAN gave me a free button at the inauguration, so I like them. Tonight when we set up the DVR to record, the speech wasn't on the CSPAN schedule so to be safe we recorded MSNBC.

This was the first time I'd ever seen a speech with one of those "audience-o-meter" things. You know, where they have people turning a dial to reflect how they feel in real time. I tried not to watch it at first but it was impossible to ignore. What I learned from the audience-o-meter:

  • We hate terrorists! woo!
  • We love our troops! woo!
  • If kids aren't learning it's their parents' fault! woo!
  • It's time for America to lead again! woo!
  • We hate bankers! woo!

The first candidate to campaign against terrorist bankers who don't read to their kids is a surefire winner. You heard it here first. Also:

  • Democrats and Republicans both like Obama about the same: a whole lot. Both lines on the audience-o-meter were the same almost the whole speech. For the top three applause lines above (we hate terrorists, we love the troops, we blame parents for their kids dropping out of school) both lines were literally off the scale. Whew, so glad we're past all that nasty partisanship!

the morning after

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The Oscars were as silly as usual. We never feel any pressure to see the nominated movies; we just tune in on Oscar night and watch the posturing and the pomposity and the ridiculous musical "comedy" numbers. We especially enjoy seeing who has the class not to applaud for themselves (hint: it's the Europeans).

My favorite part every year is the montage of people who died last year, aka "The Parade of the Dead." This year they did some weird editing thing which I did not like at all: instead of just showing us everyone who died, the people were displayed on a bunch of screens on the wall and the camera swooped back and forth around the screens, making it hard to read people's names at times. I was also irked at the omission of Eartha Kitt. Sure, she was more on television and on stage, but she did appear in some great movies like Anna Lucasta and St. Louis Blues. And then they included Ricardo Montalban, who died in January. Very strange.

I did a Harold Arlen tribute show yesterday which went pretty well, I think. Wish I had remembered to plug it in advance but I almost never do. I lucked out in a major way: I had gotten The Wizard of Oz from Netflix so I could get some music from the movie -- I really wanted that "you're out of the woods, you're out of the dark, you're out of the night!" song from when they approach the Emerald City. Well it turns out the DVD has a "music and effects track." Which is the whole movie minus the dialogue. Jackpot! There were several nice bits of score that were the perfect length of my talksets. Just what I needed to round out the show.

fun with wires

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Is there anyone reading this who lives near Durham and knows how to take the tip off a coaxial cable and put it back? We tried to move our cable today and hit a snag -- the cable goes through a hole in the floor, which hole is smaller than the end of the cable. We don't want to remove the end because we don't know if we'll be able to put it back. It might be easy, or it might not, and we'd be without cable in the meantime.

We went with the quick-n-dirty fix (duct tape) until we can figure out what to do. Otherwise we had a productive day: took the couch to the dump, loaded the truck with the loveseat and the old hideous china cabinet, moved the new cabinet and filled it. Also sorted through a bunch of things in the old cabinet that we didn't want anymore, like a stack of placemats and tablecloths that are a bit too "country kitch".

OopsAnother problem today was the discovery -- well, rediscovery, it's not like we didn't know this had happened -- that we had left the wall unfinished behind the old china cabinet. Looking back this seems like a stupid decision, but I remember how hard that job was, scraping off the glue, replastering and sanding, and how exhausted we were. Cutting a corner (literally: it was a corner cabinet that hid the corner of the room) was just too tempting. Unfortunately the new cabinet is not the same shape and there's a big patch of ugly unfinished wall showing. Well, now we have another project for spring.

And another problem: I had kind of a panic attack at the farmer's market this morning. I was stressed about crowds after the inauguration but I thought I was over it; we had been at the DPAC on Thursday night and had to work our way through the crowd in the lobby and it was a little stressful but not too bad. But then Georg and I split up while I tried to buy hot chocolate, and I thought I was in line but I must have been wearing my cloak of invisibility, people kept cutting ahead of me, and people were all around and then a couple of them bumped into me, and I kind of freaked out. Fortunately I got away from the market before totally losing my shit. I think I'm going to need to avoid situations where I don't have a clear path to not being surrounded by people, at least for a little while.

furnituriffic

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When Ecko offered to deliver our furniture for $100, we scoffed. Scoff, scoff! We have a truck! We will do it ourselves!

Well I'm starting to understand why people pay for furniture delivery. It's exhausting! Saturday we brought home the new chair and put the old chair out on the porch. That was the easy day. Wednesday I moved the loveseat into the spare room just to get it out of the way (being by myself, I dragged/shoved it. It was crazy hard until I realized I could remove the feet and then it would fit through the doorways), moved the TV to the other side of the room, and cleaned all the spaces previously hidden by furniture. Thursday we spent most of the day picking up the couch, getting it into the house, and dragging the old couch and chair out and around to the backyard. And, of course, cleaning behind the couch. Which, since it hadn't been moved in years, was super nasty.

Today I took the old chair to the dump in the morning, then after work we went back to the furniture store to pick up this tall cabinet we decided to get as well. We've been wanting something non-hideous to store dishes in for years, and this was on major sale. So anyway, we went back to Raleigh to get this cabinet, and brought it into the house. Plus I had to go back to the dump before driving out to Ecko. Because after dumping the chair in the morning, I stupidly drove away without getting reweighed and getting my deposit back. The deposit was $20 and the dumping fee was $2.40, so it was well worth the trip to go back! I called when I realized what I had done, and they were really nice about holding the deposit for me. Still I had to get back before 4 when they close out the register. It made the afternoon a bit hectic.

This weekend we have to take the couch to the dump, carry the loveseat out of the house (I can't even get to my closet with it filling up the spare room), take the loveseat to the dump too if we have time (they close at noon tomorrow), empty the horrible china cabinet and carry it outside, move and fill the new cabinet, drill a new hole in the floor for the TV cable, and go into the crawl space and move the cable to the new hole. Plus I have to get ready for my Harold Arlen tribute show on Sunday. Whew!

(Actually I'm almost ready for the Harold Arlen show. I just need a few more instrumentals for the talksets and to time it all out.)

unfortunately sarah

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A new twist on that "search for your name" thing: google on "unfortunately [your name]" and grab the first ten results. Mine would have looked a lot different before a certain someone who shares my name chose to run for national office last year.

  1. Unfortunately Sarah wasn’t there when we were visiting but Bea kindly showed us around.
  2. Unfortunately Sarah and I arrived late to the concert and missed most of the film.
  3. Unfortunately, Sarah and Aldous have chosen the same place to spend their vacation. They're on a collision course with wackiness!
  4. Unfortunately, Sarah got so much water in her boat while upside down that she tipped over on an easy rapid.
  5. Unfortunately Sarah is a "Liteweight".
  6. Unfortunately, Sarah suffered much brain damage that she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy.
  7. Unfortunately Sarah’s not telling the truth.
  8. Unfortunately, Sarah does not have that luxury.
  9. Unfortunately Sarah does not demonstrate any of qualities to be a Vice President of this great country.
  10. Unfortunately, Sarah took these and many other fascinating facts with her to her grave.

(These are the first ten results, but I confess I reordered them to create a little mini narrative. About a perpetually late liar who tipped over her boat because she had cerebral palsy, and took these facts to her grave.)

((Thanks to raynorgrace for the meme.))

ass, meet new couch

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new couch!We got the couch today! This photo in bright sunlight makes it look weird and dayglo. Which would actually be kind of cool, but that's not what we got. It's actually a softer sort of pumpkin orange and matte leather, not shiny.

I drove the truck out to Ecko at noon and Georg met me there. Actually we met at Steak n Shake and had lunch first. The couch was a little too big to close the back of the truck, but didn't hang over the edge or anything. The drive back was fine -- well fine for me, I just drove slowly. Georg felt a little nervous driving behind me, staring at the couch the whole way. But the tie-down held, thank goodness.

Getting it into the house was a chore. There's a tight turn in the kitchen so we couldn't come in the back door. Instead we had to carry it all the way around to the front of the house and up the front steps. That was the tricky part, tilting it to get it in the door at top of the steps. We laid down a rug on the front porch so we wouldn't risk scraping the leather on the threshold, which made that part a lot easier.

I have never done this beforeThe truck was filthy (it sat outside unused for months, and before that we only used it for carrying mulch and dirt) so I took it to the car wash this morning. I had never been to one of those "touchless" car washes before. As you might guess, it's not good for an artcar! Those power jets would knock the toys right off.

Those if you who have nice cars and wash them probably know this already, but the way it works is you stop at a machine in front of the car wash (which looks like the place where you order at the fast-food drive through), punch in what you want, pay, then the machine tells you when to drive in. There were a couple of people ahead of me and when I got to the machine I saw that the guy before me had left his change behind. I want to run around to the car wash exit to give it to him as he came out, but I had parked too close to the machine and I couldn't get the door open far enough to get out! Fortunately there was a man there doing maintenance on the other aisle, and I was able to get his attention. He looked annoyed but he took the change and gave it to the other customer.

Even after the car wash there's still some dirt that would need to be scrubbed off with a brush. It's not all the way to "clean" but the car wash was able to eliminate the "what the hell happened to that car" look. What really mattered was it got the bed clean and dry, so I didn't have to worry about carrying new furniture in it.

Now I'm exhausted from moving the old furniture out and the new furniture in. Good thing I have a nice new couch to sprawl out on.

age of assassins

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February 16 movie: Age of Assassins. Oh. My. God. This was an early 60s movie about an assassination plot by a Nazi and a Japanese megalomaniac who runs a bizarre Art Nouveau insane asylum. Their organization is called Population Control Corporation and they target an antisocial college professor seemingly at random. There's also a spiritualist who dresses like a dominatrix, and a guy named "Automo Bill" (except the subtitles call him "Automo Bile."), and an obsession with an Italian restaurant and raw meat. It's funny, suspenseful, full of action, and so fucking weird. Every movie should be like this.

And that's not even the weirdest part: the weirdest part is the actor who plays the evil genius head of the insane asylum was also in What's Up, Tiger Lily? He was the old guy who wore big rubber gloves and had a snake who was marrying a chicken. After I made the connection, whenever the megalomaniac showed up on screen I heard in my head, "I always cry at weddings!"

We saw this as part of Duke's Cine-East series. Free! We ran into Phil L. from the radio station, a couple of friends of his, and our old friend Walt. A fun evening indeed.

boomerang!

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February 16 movie: Boomerang! Elia Kazan movie about a prosecutor who defies political pressure and helps to exonerate an accused murderer because he believes in the man's innocence. His motto is that the goal of the district attorney is not to get convictions, but to ensure justice. (So, it's a fantasy.)

Much of the movie is a courtroom drama, and a good one. There was narration at the end which implied that it was based on a true story. Starred Dana Andrews as the prosecutor, also Lee J. Cobb and Arthur Kennedy.

February 14 movie: A/V Geeks: VD Isn't Just for Valentine's Day. We can't go to the Durham showing of this because we have Durham Neighborhood College on Thursday. So we went to the Raleigh show. It was at Tir Na Nog, and I have to say I was amazed at how crowded it was. There must have been 30 people there! Maybe if the Durham shows were at a bar, we'd have big crowds like that too.

VD Isn't Just for Valentine's Day was a winner. One of the best A/V Geeks I've seen. There were a couple of movies from the 70s, all about what a drag VD is and how much it brings us down, man. My favorite line was this woman who says "It's really hard to have to call someone up and say, 'I'm sorry, I gave you the clap.'" Yeah, that is hard!

Also there was a cartoon about two guys who have to research VD. One of them thinks you can get it from toilet seats, which is illustrated by a toilet growing arms and crab claws and attacking him. And one from the late 40s, which was disguised as a regular narrative movie, about a military man who caught gonorrhea, gave it to his wife, made her sterile and destroyed their marriage. Recently TCM did a whole series of military training films disguised as narratives. My favorite was one about interrogation.

In any case, I highly recommend VD Isn't Just for Valentine's Day and I hope all Durham A/V Geeks fans will go see it next Thursday.

the gay divorcee

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February 14 movie: The Gay Divorcee. Just the ticket for Valentine's Day. I think this is my favorite Astaire/Rogers movie. "Fate is a fool. Take a chance!"

support your local gunfighter

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February 13 movie: Support Your Local Gunfighter. I didn't enjoy this follow-up to Support Your Local Sheriff! nearly as much as the original. James Garner, Harry Morgan and Jack Elam returned, joined by Joan Blondell and Suzanne Pleshette. I don't know what to say, it just didn't gel for me.

seven days to noon

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February 11 movie: Seven Days to Noon. Post-war drama about a British military scientist who has a crisis of conscience and decides he can't allow his life's work to be part of the war machine. So he steals a small nuclear warhead and sends a note to the Prime Minister announcing that if Britain doesn't disarm by Sunday at noon, he'll blow up himself, Parliament and the center of London.

This movie was excellent. I can't believe I had never heard of it before. The portrayal of the scientist by Barry Jones was superb. It would have been easy to make him a raving lunatic. Instead he was a principled man driven to desperation, who gradually unravels as the movie progresses. Watching him wander around London carrying a nuke in a little suitcase, I found myself rooting both for him and against him.

A calm, documentary style heightened the tension, in particular the evacuation of London. I loved the way they moved through the crowd, catching snippets of conversation. One scene in particular stood out: a man working the line of evacuees, trying to sell hotel rooms outside the city. He was only on screen for a few seconds and his character was more vivid than some starring roles I've seen. Or a pair of soldiers annoyed about having to work late, complaining about flipping this and flipping that. There were so many moments like that. The movie felt like being in the middle of a vibrant, real world.

I really can't say enough good things about this movie.

the devil and miss jones

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February 10 movie: The Devil and Miss Jones. Delightful movie starring two delightful actors: Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn. It gets a little preachy at times, about the evils of corporate union-busting overlords, but I don't care.

the apartment

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February 9 movie: The Apartment. I resisted watching this movie for a long time. You're probably familiar with the premise: Jack Lemmon is a put-upon office drone who lends his apartment out to executives for their assignations. It's a sad, dark movie about lonely people with modest goals: to use each other more than they are being used by each other.

That description sounds much harsher than I intend. The movie hits a perfect balance of comedy, drama and pathos. Fred MacMurray is scarily good at playing a heartless heel. I don't know why I'm always surprised to see him play louses so well. I saw Double Indemnity.

sahara

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February 7 movie: Sahara. Gripping war drama starring Humphrey Bogart as the commander of a tank crew trying to hold a desert oasis against hundreds of Germans who are desperate for water. The irony is, the well is dry.

Actually the real irony is that writer John Lawson later became one of the Hollywood Ten, and this movie was used an example of his alleged Communist tendencies. We spent the whole movie trying to figure out what exactly was Communist about it. Was it the part where the American and British soldiers join forces to fight the Nazis? Or the part where they sacrifice their lives for the mission? No, it must have been the part where Bogart's character says of the German soldiers, "Those men out there have never known the dignity of freedom." That's Communist propaganda for sure.

satan met a lady

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February 7 movie: Satan Met a Lady. I've seen 3 movie versions of The Maltese Falcon, and this was my least favorite. It's also the version that takes the most liberties: all the character names (and some of the genders) are changed, the titular falcon becomes a "Horn of Roland" stuffed with jewels, and the story is much more played for comedy. Bette Davis is in it, in the part played so well by Mary Astor a few years later. Unfortunately Davis isn't very good here. She acts like she knows she's in a bad movie and she's not happy about it. Warren William is good as the star. Well, if you're expecting him to be Bogart you'll be disappointed. Accept his character for what it is, and it's worth watching.

thursday never looking back

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GnocchiSo we usually go out on Valentine's Day to a fancy restaurant, but this year we decided to buy a couch, go see Coraline, then stay home and cook something nice. We didn't make it to Coraline but everything else went as planned. We made gnocchi with a crab/truffle sauce and it turned out really well if I do say so. Sometimes it's handy to live with a professional baker.

The gnocchi shapes weren't perfect because we didn't cook them immediately, nor did we flour the board they were resting on, and they stuck a bit. But they tasted great. A little bit of nutmeg in the gnocchi, and a little bit of truffle oil (plus a lot of cream) in the sauce.

Along with the gnocchi we had sugar snaps and the pea shoots from the farmer's market. We steamed the sugar snaps and then tossed them with the pea shoots at the last minute. So the pea shoots didn't really cook, just softened a bit. My favorite way to have sugar snaps is sauteed with a little butter and lemon juice, but the gnocchi & crab was so rich that we thought it would be better to keep the sugar snaps light.

Over dinner we watched The Gay Divorcee, my favorite Fred and Ginger movie, and then exchanged gifts. Nothing extravagant because, you know, new couch. Among other things, Georg gave me the most amazing t-shirt:

heart cakes, pea shoots and couches

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Good haul at the farmer's market this morning: we bought rainbow chard, braising greens, pea shoots, and a heart shaped cake for tonight. We will also have the pea shoots tonight since they probably need to be eaten right away. I have mixed feelings about the pea shoots: on the one hand I love them and I'm glad to find them. On the other hand, I have a panicky feeling of "oh no, the growers at the market already have pea shoots and I haven't even planted my seeds! I am so far behind!!!" Georg pointed out to me that they probably have cold frames allowing them to plant very early, and I shouldn't expect my own hobby gardening to be up to the standards of a professional farmer. In which he is right, of course.

We took Jane with us, and again she did really well. A little boy came up and asked if he could pet her. Score one for well-behaved children! I told him yes, just to be gentle because she's shy. He was really good about patting Jane lightly, not trying to manhandle her. Then he kissed her head (which was adorable) and tried to hug her neck (less so, but he wasn't too pushy about it). While this was going on the boy explained to us that Janey looks like a coyote, and that this makes sense because dogs are a subspecies of the grey wolf. A polite and smart child. Jane wasn't crazy about the extended interaction -- she kept turning her head away so he wasn't right up in her face -- but she handled it well. And she needs more practice dealing with people who are friendly and not overbearing.

After the farmer's market we drove out to Ecko and bought a couch and chair! This is actually our Christmas gift to ourselves; we decided last December to buy something for the house instead of expensive presents for each other. Our old living room set is very old and very badly in need of replacing. I bought them from a coworker who was moving away. The furniture was in good condition but didn't really suit my living room. My house is a small post-war cottage, and this is big overstuffed furniture meant for a bigger, newer space. Now, 9-10 years later, the furniture still doesn't really fit in our living room, plus it's completely worn out. The seat cushions are all cracked and so mashed down, you feel like you're sinking into a cave when you sit down.

So we picked out a nice couch and chair from Ecko. The couch is about the same size but without the overstuffed style, it both looks smaller and also provides more space for sitting. (Neat trick, that.) They're having a floor model sale and we got a good deal on a leather couch. They said the leather has been treated so we won't have to condition it. I'm happy about the leather because it won't attract dog hair (of which we have a lot around here) though we'll still put a blanket on the couch when we're not home, to prevent Janey from scratching the leather.

The new chair is cloth, a nice light green color, and the guy at the store told us that this tight weave of fabric would be easier to vacuum than a chenille in which dog hair would get embedded. The new chair is genuinely smaller rather than just seeming smaller. We brought it (the chair) home today and it's kind of amazing how much it opens up the room. The old chair took up so much space and the room looks so much bigger without it.

We've decided to get rid of the loveseat entirely. It takes up a huge amount of space for the amount of seating it provides -- generally only one person would sit on it unless the house were crammed full of people. So we're going to move the TV to where the loveseat was, and maybe get another small chair to put next to the TV. Or maybe just enjoy having all this extra floor space.

I made an appointment to take the truck in on Monday -- it's been sitting unused for about half a year, and already needed new tires before that, and who knows what else it needs by now. Battery replacement for sure -- and then the plan is to pick up the couch on Wednesday. I can take the chair to the dump on a weekday, and we can drop off the old couch and loveseat together on the weekend.

We've been making do for so long that it's kind of a thrill to get a couple of nice pieces of furniture. I suppose that in the current economic crisis we ought to be saving our money. But it's just two pieces. It's not like we ran out and refurnished the entire house.

dollhouse night

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Had a fun evening with Spacegrrl and J., and D. and S. We went to the Carpe Durham party at Pinhook, which was mobbed so we stayed outside and had dinner from the taco truck. We ran into Archer Pelican Phil and had a great time chatting in the taco truck line. I also ran into Joy, who I had met on the campaign. Joy was awesome. She came to our North Durham office one day to help out, and the next day she was literally running the office (I had to go for a few hours and none of the regulars could fill in for me, so I called Joy. She really stepped up! Came right over and took over like she had been there for weeks.)

After our tacos we walked over to Bull McCabe's for drinks, and then back to D. and S.'s place to watch Dollhouse. On their new HDTV, mighty impressive. I used to work with someone who had one, a really huge one, and I was disappointed by the way non-HD programs looked. Really bad, weird and bitty. But it looks like they've resolved those issues in the newer models.

Now I'm home, wearing my nice warm socks and watching Battlestar Galactica. woo!

tech notes

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So the XM radio is great. It has a pause button! There was only one problem with it, which I fixed today. The problem was a high-pitched buzz or whine which got a lot louder if I ran anything else on the dash like the headlights, heater, etc. I thought it was the power adapter (the thing that plugs into the cigarette lighter) which bummed me out. Because the XM won't run without it.

But then I noticed that if I switched over to a CD or the regular radio, I didn't hear the buzzing noise, even if I left the power adapter plugged in. Which made me think maybe it was the audio cable. I was using a cheapie cable I bought at Radio Shack for $2 years and years ago. Replaced it with a slightly better cable (I think it was $8 instead of $2) and the buzzing is no more! If I turn the headlights on and the heat all the way up, I can still hear the buzzing a little. But in normal use it sounds perfect.

Also replaced the battery in my laptop today. The old battery is just about shot: only lasts about an hour, and it had taken to shutting down abruptly when it got down to somewhere between 40-45% of power. Sooner or later I'm going to have to go to a meeting where I won't be able to plug in, and my laptop will shut itself off in the middle of the meeting, and wouldn't that be embarrassing? Time for a new battery!

I was worried that my computer is too old and the Apple store wouldn't carry my battery, but they had it. I couldn't find someone to help me until I figured out the secret: stand in front of the register as if you're ready to check out. That brings someone in a hurry. The old battery came out with a thick layer of dust caked on the inside. Gross!

happy ending for the beasties

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Remember the beasties? The pair of shi-tzu/bichon mixes that my sister and I rescued last summer? I just heard back from the rescue league in Ohio:

Just a quick note to let you know that the girls were adopted together by an older couple. Shortly after getting adopted the man had surgery and much complications. He did make it but the girls were so much comfort to their Mama while their Daddy was sick. Then when he came home they were a lot of comfort to him as he convalesced. Just wanted to let you know how much they are loved and how much they love their new family. Thank you for taking the time and money to help these girls. They are spoiled little princesses.

It sounds like the perfect place for them: a quiet home with a couple who dote on them. I bet the couple let the dogs snuggle with them on the couch. I'm so glad the beasties got to stay together and they're happy.

freakishly warm weather continues

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The past couple of days I've managed to get into the yard for about an hour each day. Both days I worked on removing last fall's debris from the flower beds: leaves, dead branches from last year's perennials, a few perennial weeds. We like to let the leaves pile up on the flower beds and just leave them there to help mulch & protect the plants from frost damage. Now it's time to remove the leaves so as not to smother the young growth.

I love this first chance to see the perennials start to poke their heads up. I was worried about the agapanthus because I didn't bother to cover them with straw, and then read after those two really cold nights that they're only hardy to zone 8. But they both look alive, yay! I guess the leaves gave them enough protection. Also, more of the snapdragons survived than I had expected. Well, what I had expected was "none" and what survived was "some." I really like how they looked last year so I'm going to get more seeds and fill in the bare spots. I think this time I'll get softer colors. The blue star, roses, hydrangeas, columbine, hardy orchids and clematis are all coming back. I think we might have lost the toad lily though. Something yanked it out of the ground last fall. I put it back but there might have been too much root damage.

I haven't checked the really tender plants: the gerber daisies, amaryllis, and artichokes. They're all still under straw. I'm not bullish on the gerber daisies but they'd be cheap to replace. Our phlomis is also looking really dead, but I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. Dave's Garden says it should survive down to 5°F and I'm just going to assume they're right.

We also planted a few more seeds under the grow lamp: parsley, gazanias, and a flower we've never tried before called Texas Bluebells. Tomorrow if I get home in time I'm going to starting plant seeds outside. We've got the sugar snaps, spinach and beets which can all be planted now.

blossom dearie 1926-2009

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The past six weeks have been bad for beloved older singers and movies stars. First Eartha Kitt, then Ricardo Montalban, now jazz singer Blossom Dearie has died on February 7. As a kid I first heard her singing the "Figure 8" and "Adjectives" songs from Schoolhouse Rock, and later discovered she was a tremendous jazz singer. She continued performing until about three years ago and I will always regret that we didn't make the effort to go see her at the Cafe Carlyle when we had the chance.

Farewell, Blossom.

gold diggers of 1933

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February 6 movie: Gold Diggers of 1933. Calling a Busby Berkeley movie "surreal" is stating the obvious, so I'll just say that this one is all about the Depression, and sex, and surprisingly explicit about both.

For example: one of the big dance numbers, "Pettin' in the Park." This features couples necking in the park while a lecherous baby (played by dwarf Billy Barty) blows spitballs and then rollerskates around leering at everyone. Then the ladies get caught in the rain and all run behind a scrim to change their clothes, allowing the audience to watch them undress in silhouette. Finally Dick Powell's girlfriend Ruby Keeler shows up in a metal bathing suit. Fear not! The baby comes to the rescue, giving Powell a can opener to cut Keeler out of her armor.

That description doesn't nearly do it justice, so here's a clip:

The first two minutes are Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler singing. The crazy stuff starts at about the 2 minute mark.

Besides "Pettin' in the Park" there's also the sublime "In the Shadows," featuring tiered hoopskirts and neon violins, a serious piece about the plight of WWI vets called "Forgotten Man," and a number where Ginger Rogers wears a costume made of pennies and sings "We're in the Money" in pig latin.

And if that doesn't make you want to watch this movie, I have no idea why you are reading my blog.

state of the union

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February 5 movie: State of the Union. Spencer Tracy plays a politician offered the chance to become President if he plays along with the political party machine. At first he tries to remain his own man, eventually he is corrupted by his desire for power. Katharine Hepburn plays his wife. I did not enjoy this at all. It's boring for most of the movie and then all sanctimonious speechifying at the end. Also stars Angela Lansbury as a ruthless political insider, which I know she can do well because of The Manchurian Candidate, but she's not very good here. I blame Frank Capra for this whole mess of a movie.

spring out

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Today was the first freakishly warm day of the year. It happens every year in February: gets really warm and I think spring has begun and we're done with cold weather. And then it gets cold again. Oh well, I'll enjoy days like this as I can get them.

Georg and I took Jane to the farmer's market. We walked around the outside & gave her a chance to get used to it before we waded into the thickest crowd. Considering she's a nervous dog and isn't used to crowds, she did really well! She tucked her tail but stayed calm even when a man let his little girl pet her while I was talking to the cheese lady, and the daughter patted Janey right on the nose.

I spent most of the day running errands. Rumors are correct and there is still an Outdoor Provision store in Eastgate (by Trader Joe's) in Chapel Hill. I bought a pair of those amazing Smartwool socks for my sister, who lives in a beautiful and drafty cold house. I've been wearing mine on cold nights and they have made such a difference. We may be having early spring here, but there's still plenty of time for cold weather in Delaware.

Then I stumbled onto a Vietnamese New Year celebration at University Mall. They had people in costume and a lion dance. They were selling box lunches of Vietnamese food outside Southern Season, so I brought our lunch home. It had noodles, rice with sausage, lemongrass chicken, and a spring roll.

Also today we set up the grow light, bought seeds, cleaned last year's plant trays and cell packs, bought a couple more, filled them with soil and planted the seeds! We couldn't find all the seeds we wanted at Barnes & I only seeded one of four trays: cilantro, basil, poblanos, eggplant, and Super Sweet 100 tomatoes. We usually buy tomato plants but the past couple of years we've had trouble finding Super Sweet 100, which is one of our favorites.

We also have a few that need to be sown outdoors: sugar snaps, spinach and beets can be sown now if I'm feeling lucky, or I could be cautious and wait a couple of weeks. And zucchini which needs to wait until it warms up. I'll get the rest of the seeds from Johnny's, my favorite mail order seed company.

Now it's movie time: first Satan Met a Lady, now Sahara.

the more the merrier

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February 4 movie: The More the Merrier. Speaking of movies that hold up well! I remember loving this movie the first time I saw it, and I was so excited to see it on the schedule again on TCM, and it was just as funny this time.

One thing I love about this movie is how well they use integrate the premise into the fabric of the movie. The movie is about 3 strangers (Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and the brilliant Charles Coburn) sharing an apartment due to the wartime housing crisis in DC. The citywide overcrowding is reinforced in almost every scene: people lining up in hope of getting a room for rent, taxis which can't move until they have at least four passengers, women workers carpooling home in cars so tiny they look European, rooftops jammed with people. In the beginning of the movie Charles Coburn tricks his way to the head of the line so he can rent a room in Jean Arthur's apartment; by the end the lobby of her building is full of men in cots. It makes the movie feel so vivid, like it exists in an actual place.

the young in heart

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February 2 movie: The Young in Heart. And here's another movie about which I pretty much said my peace last time. I was surprised at how well this held up. It's only been a couple of months and I try not to rewatch movies that often unless I really really like them. This one was still charming.

sabrina

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February 2 movie: Sabrina. I said my peace last time I watched this movie. There's plenty to enjoy in this movie in spite of its flaws. It's hard to believe I hadn't seen it in two years. TCM shows it all the time.

pot, meet kettle

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In the last post I said that just because the AP are dicks doesn't mean they're wrong. Today I have to add that just because Shepard Fairey is a hypocrite doesn't mean he's wrong, either.

hope appropriation

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So that famous illustration Shepard Fairey made of Barack Obama? The one the campaign used on tons of promotional art? Well you may have heard that the AP is claiming Fairey infringed their copyright. Apparently the illustration was based on an AP photo taken by a freelance photographer, and now the AP wants credit and money.

Obama_Pic.jpgObama.gif

The response I've seen online has been pretty one-sided. We love that image, we have it on t-shirts and bumper stickers and hanging on our walls, and we love Shepard Fairey, and we hate the AP, so it's a no-brainer, right? Here's a typical response, from Dailykos: "This is quite the novel claim by those assholes at the AP -- that artwork based on a photograph is now a copyright violation. Not use of the photo, or even use of part of a photo. But that an entirely different work, on a different medium, is now somehow owned by the AP because it happens to be based on that photo."

Let's unpack that. First of all, what is a derivative work? According to the Copyright Office, a derivative work is "a work that is based on (or derived from) one or more already existing works." And, "Any work in which the editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications represent, as a whole, an original work of authorship is a derivative work or new version."

Looking at the two side by side, it would be hard to deny that the photo was the basis for the illustration. And Fairey hasn't denied it. In the same publication the Copyright Office is very clear that only the copyright holder of the original work can authorize a derivative work.

So, onto Kos' claim that because the illustration is in a different medium, it can't be a derivative work. The Copyright Office gives a list of examples of derivative works, including: "Motion picture (based on a play)...Sculpture (based on a drawing); Drawing (based on a photograph)." All three are examples of a work translated into a different medium. The last one explicitly covers Fairey's illustration.

I also found an example where artist Jeff Koontz made a sculpture based on a photo, which he saw on a greeting card. He did not have the photographer's permission, the photographer sued, and the sculpture was found to be infringement. (Rogers v. Koons, 960 F.2d 301 (2d Cir 1992))

rogers.jpgkoons.jpg

So Kos' rant about those assholes at the AP and their novel claims, well ... their novel claim seems pretty well backed up by both statute and case law.

It took me about 10 minutes to find the information above. Would have been faster but I thought I had it on my own website, and wasted about 5 minutes looking there. I guess the take-away message is, first of all, Kos is full of shit. Second, just because the AP are dicks doesn't mean they're wrong.

Actually I'm being a little disingenuous. Kos comes up with (and seems to conflate) two defenses in his post: first the one about translation to a new medium, where he's just flat wrong. And then fair use, which is what most of the responses I've seen hinge on. Personally I think it's a stretch. But I'm not a legal scholar; I'm just some idiot with a blog. And I know that fair use is a hotly contested area of the law, and it seems that there are legitimate arguments both in favor and against in this case. For instance, Fairey donating all the proceeds to the Obama campaign I think means there was no commercial benefit from the work, and that's a mark in favor of fair use. On the other hand, another factor when considering fair use is "the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole," and that's a mark against.

It seems pretty clear to me that calling Fairey's image fair use is debatable. And that anyone (like Kos) ranting about how obvious it is and how the AP are copyright bullies without a legal leg to stand on .. well Kos, there's this thing called Google. You might try it sometime. If you think copyright law should be different from what it is, make your case. I might agree with you. But pretending it is what you want it to be rather than what it is .. that's just pointless.

In practical terms, I think the likely outcome will be Fairey and/or the campaign cutting a deal of some kind with the AP. I would feel better about it if the settlement would go to the freelance photographer rather than the AP. Because the photographer is the one who created the work that was infringed. And the AP really are dicks. Which, again, doesn't mean they're wrong.

the eagle has landed

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February 2 movie: The Eagle Has Landed. WWII thriller starring Michael Caine as the leader of a group of German commandoes on a mission to kidnap Winston Churchill. It's difficult to maintain tension in a movie where the outcome is a foregone conclusion (it's not exactly a spoiler that Churchill was never kidnapped), and they do a good job of it. The movie mostly focuses on the nuts and bolts of the mission and moves at a steady clip once things get going. There's also a certain fatalism that's interesting: it's set near the end of the war, when everyone (including the Germans planning the mission) know the Allies are going to win. Caine's goal seems to be not to succeed, but to go out in a blaze of glory. For instance he insists that he and all his men wear their Nazi uniforms underneath their disguises, so they can't be taken for spies, even though this drastically increases their chances of being caught.

The cast is very good. Caine is excellent as always, as are Robert Duvall as his superior officer and Donald Pleasance as Himmler. Donald Sutherland is an IRA soldier who went over to Germany at the start of the war, and joins the mission. He was good, although his accent wandered all over the place. And I have to admit, I was soured on his character because the only Irish nationalist who helped the Germans that I know about is William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, and he was a nasty piece of work. I think I was supposed to find Sutherland rakish and likeable. Instead I found him repellant because I kept thinking about Lord Haw-Haw and his zeal for fascism.

Also costars Treat Williams and Larry Hagman as American officers, representing the sublime and the ridiculous, respectively. Neither of them added much in my opinion. Hagman was especially a problem, with his extremely unfunny "comic" relief.

The thing that really put me off was the transparent, clumsy attempt to win sympathy for the team by disassociating them from Nazism. In Caine's first scene he throws away his career and lands himself in prison with a pointless, clearly doomed attempt to rescue a Jewish girl he'd never met before. The scene feels so random and out of place, like they're saying "Look, see? Right here!!! Our guy isn't really a Nazi!! Well okay, he is, but he's a good Nazi! Okay, he didn't actually save anyone, barely even tried, the girl got killed immediately, but still! He's good!!! It's okay to root for him!!!" (Then again, "pointless" and "clearly doomed" describe the mission as a whole, so maybe there's more to that first scene than I give it credit.)

I didn't hate the movie nearly as much as this write-up makes it sound, at least not while I was watching it. I have to give them credit, the action was exciting enough to keep me from noticing the plot holes and distract my from my misgivings about Nazis and pro-Nazi Irish terrorists as heroes. I guess I can recommend this if you're a big fan of Michael Caine. Or if you love adventure movies about war, and promise not to think too hard about it.

seven days in may

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February 1 movie: Seven Days in May. I watched it again right away to hear the commentary by director John Frankenheimer. I have to say, he gives great commentary. He remembered so many details about how the movie was made, and it was a really good mix of colorful stories, technical details, discussion of the themes & issues at play, and praise for the actors & crew.

A couple of interesting stories that won't give anything away: well the first scene of the movie shows a demostration / counter-demonstration in front of the White House which breaks out into a riot. And they were filming in front of the actual White House because JFK had been a fan of The Manchurian Candidate and gave them a lot of access. So they had stunt men who were supposed to be in the brawl, and a couple of them kept trying to leave, but the crew kept shoving them back in, and they filmed it because it added to the appearance of chaos. And then someone else showed up, like a heckler or something, and tried to disrupt the shoot. And the cops grabbed the heckler and threw him into their police car. And Frankenheimer filmed all that and put it into the movie, so the heckler looks like just another actor.

Another spoiler-free story: apparently Frankenheimer was unhappy with the set decoration in Ava Gardner's apartment, he thought the art looked bland and her character would have a more stylish home. So he had a painting which he really loved. Which in fact, had been bought during his first marriage, and he loved it so much that he took it during the divorce, just snuck it away without talking to his soon-to-be ex-wife about it.

So he told a crewman to go upstairs, get the painting off the wall of his office, and hang it in Ave Gardner's apartment. It made the apartment look much better, he was happy with the set, great, everything can proceed. Then a couple of years later, out of the blue he got sued by his ex-wife! She had seen the movie and recognized the painting. And he had to give it to her (or maybe sell it and give her half the money -- not totally clear on this). Either way he got the scene and lost the painting.

(The funny thing is that he was right, the painting really did make Gardner's apartment. I noticed it the first time I watched the movie. I remember thinking, "wow look at that painting! I wonder who the artist is?" I didn't think it looked better than the rest of the art because I honestly didn't even see any others. That one painting was so compelling that I thought it was the only art in the room.

snug as a bug

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Been pretty sick the past few days, which I haven't written about because, writing about being sick is generally boring. So I'll just say that I'm grateful to Georg for setting up a power strip in the bedroom so I can lie in bed and use my laptop without worrying about the battery running down. (Which happens alarmingly fast these days. I think it's time to get a new battery.)

There are rumors of snow overnight, and in fact we saw flurries on our way home from the store this evening. Nothing sticking to the road of course. The supermarket was remarkably free of pre-snow panic. I got a few lunch things, plus milk to make oatmeal, so that I can stay in for the next couple of days if roads are icy.

My birthday turned out to be full of techy goodness: XM radio from Georg, and money from my folks which I'm using to buy the digital recorder I really wanted. Through a friend of a friend I have a lead on an interview with an older lady who lived in DC during WWII, loved jazz, and saw a lot of great acts -- like the King Cole Trio in its early incarnation. She lives up in Charlottesville now and I don't think I'd feel comfortable taking the station's recorder on a road trip out of state. (My other option was to borrow a rig from my friends in professional radio, and I definitely would not feel comfortable taking theirs that far.) Which seems like plenty of justification to buy the nice one I've been admiring. It's the size of a small cell phone and records in WAV. I want something, well I hate the word "prosumer" but that basically describes it. Better sound quality than the cheap mics you plug into an iPod, but not as expensive as what a true pro needs.

There's another recorder which costs less and is said to sound about as good, though the controls are confusing and hard to use. I could live with with the UI problems, but I can't live with another fatal flaw: it has an unfortunate product design which makes it look kind of like a taser. If I had a good recorder I would want to use it at political rallies in the next election cycle. And I definitely would not bring a device that looks like a taser to a Secret Service checkpoint.

(With the money from my folks I also bought several collections of 20s-30s dance bands, mostly of the "sweet" variety. For about $75 I got 250 songs, almost none of which I already had. I've really been getting into the sweet band sound & I want to do a show all about them this spring.)

Now I think I'm going to write up a couple of movies and go to sleep early. I hope we get decent snow overnight!

ban ki-moon wants to give me money

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and all I have to do is give my personal information to a nice man in Nigeria! A novel twist on the classic email scam:

How are you today? Hope all is well with you and family?,You may not understand why this mail came to you. We have been having a meeting for the passed 7 months which ended 2 days ago with the then secretary to the UNITED NATIONS.
This email is to all the people that have been scammed in any part of the world, the UNITED NATIONS have agreed to compensate them with the sum of USD $100,000 (One hundred thousand United State Dollars Only).
This includes every foreign contractors that may have not received their contract sum, and people that have had an unfinished transaction or international businesses that failed due to Government problems etc.
We found your name in our list and that is why we are contacting you, this have been agreed upon and have been signed.
You are advised to contact Mr. [REDACTED] of ZENITH BANK NIGERIA PLC, as he is our representative in Nigeria, contact him immediately for your Cheque/ International Bank Draft of USD$ 100,000 (One hundred thousand United State Dollars Only. This funds are in a Bank Draft for security purpose ok? so he will send it to you and you can clear it in any bank of your choice.
Therefore, you should send him your full Name and telephone number/your correct mailing address where you want him to send the Draft to you.
Contact Mr. [REDACTED] immediately for your Cheque:
Person to Contact Mr. [REDACTED]
Email: [REDACTED]
Thanks and God bless you and your family.
Hoping to hear from you as soon as you cash your Bank Draft.
Making the world a better place.
Regards,
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon

seven days in may

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January 31 movie: Seven Days in May. Wow. This movie is incredible. It rivals The Manchurian Candidate for the best political movie I've ever seen.

I put it in my queue in early fall, when I was obsessed with politics but before I had gotten so involved in the campaign that I didn't have time or energy to watch movies anymore. (Come to think of it, that's when I started watching soap operas again. I would get home late, fall down on the couch, and didn't have the mental energy for anything more demanding than One Life to Live.) Didn't know anything about it when I put it in the queue, and forgot about it until it showed up in the mail today. And it blew me away.

I don't want to give anything away in case you don't know about the plot. I didn't and I really enjoyed it more unspoiled. So I'll just say it's a political thriller with a spectacular cast: Fredric March, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Ava Gardner, Martin Balsom, Edmond O'Brien. Even minor characters like John Houseman, Andrew Duggan and Richard Anderson were perfectly cast. Frankenheimer knows how to bring out the best in his actors. I was impressed by the lack of scenery chewing from Douglas; he's practically restrained.

And Fredric March, who I always love, was at the top of his game. He conveys so much in every scene. He plays the POTUS, and in one of the first scenes he's shown standing next to a swimming pool, drying off with a towel. He wasn't a young man anymore and it's pretty unflattering. I think a lot of former matinee idols would refuse to be filmed like that, shirtless and flabby. But it's important to the character, because a major point is that the people see him as weak and ineffective. So it adds a lot of meaning for him to appear so soft and pale and vulnerable. To me it's a sign of what an actor he was.

How much did I love this movie? I'm staying up late to watch it again with the commentary. Even though it's a weekend and I could easily watch it in the morning. The commentary was recorded in 2000 and Frankenheimer remembered a tremendous level of detail about making the movie.

words and music

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January 30 movie: Words and Music. Biopic about Richard Rodgers (Tom Drake) and Lorenz Hart (Mickey Rooney). Actually it's mostly about Hart, whose life was much more dramatic and who had died just a few years before the movie was made. I have to say, I wish they had cast someone else as Hart. Because the sight of Mickey Rooney on a sweaty, shaking bender because he's drinking himself to death because he can't take the pressure of being trapped in the closet? That is a sight I could have lived without.

They don't address Hart's closeted homosexuality at all, no surprise for a movie made in the late 40s. They explain away his unhappiness and bachelor status by coming up with a girl he was sweet on in his youth (Betty Garrett) who dumps him, which he never gets over. But then at the end of the movie he says that it wasn't really her at all, she was just a symbol of something lacking in his life. Oh, and in his eulogy Gene Kelly says his lyrics were "gay and witty." That's as close as Hollywood could get.

The musical cast is great. Singing by Perry Como, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Mel Torme, Anne Sothern, June Allyson, and dancing by Gene Kelly, Vera Ellen and Cyd Charisse.

the merry widow

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January 28 movie: The Merry Widow. Wonderful Ernst Lubitsch movie starring Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette Macdonald. I don't even know what else to say about it. It's just so much fun.

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