February 2010 Archives

I had a fun show this afternoon! I tried to play lots of jazz and swing, since next week is going to be so pop. Also had a lot of birthday tributes to cover. I got a few requests, including a very frustrating series from one person: they wrote to the request line and requested Frank Sinatra singing "Moon River." Well "Moon River" won an Oscar so I'm already planning to play it next week. Which I said on the air, and invited them to request something else. They wrote in a few minutes later ... and requested "Moon River," sung by Audrey Hepburn! Okay... obviously they were not listening to me the first time, so I just ignored it & didn't bother explaining again.

Didn't get back into Operation Destroy Bamboo today, although Georg did some work this morning. I had planned to work on it after my show, but when I got home it was 45° out and the place where I needed to work was in shade. My rule of thumb is, if it's at least 50°, or a little colder and I'm in the sun, then I can warm myself up enough just by working. Cold than that is just too cold for me.

Maybe it was better that I took a day off, because I was really sore last night & early this morning. I think I need to balance my movements better. Because my right knee & shin are all scratched and scabby, and my left arm is scratched up too, and my left shoulder hurt a lot last night (as in, I woke up in the middle of the night and it was kind of numb down the left arm). I think I must get into a rhythm where I kneel on my right leg (so the right knee gets all scratched up by the punji sticks, thank you Raynor Grace for that term, it's very helpful), lean forward on my left foot, and do all the work with my left hand. It makes sense since I'm left handed.

I did spend a little time outside, since Clovepod alerted me that bamboo can actually be rooted from cuttings. I'm planning to use a bunch of the cut bamboo to trellis up my peas, which means sticking the cut stalks into my vegetable garden. I sure don't want to accidently spread the bamboo to my vegetable garden! I did some research and it sounds like bamboo isn't that easy to propagate from cuttings: you have to keep it warm and moist, get it into rooting medium right away, keep the leaves attached, etc etc. I figure leaving my stakes outside to dry out, and freeze every night, for weeks ought to prevent them from rooting when they finally do go into the ground. Also I went out this evening and cut all the leaves off them, just to be safe.

did I really buy this many seeds?While I was at my show Georg brought the grow lamp in, and tonight I got a bunch of seeds started! I planted up two trays, about half of what I'm planning to start indoors. Plus there are a bunch of seeds that will be sown direct outdoors, after it warms up. It was a little alarming when I laid all the seeds out to sort through them. Did I really order that many?

I have to say, Fedco is my new favorite seed supplier. They have a great selection, and they offer these mini packets which are priced like the big box stores (around $1 a packet). There's only a few seeds in a mini packet, which is perfect for a home gardener like me. If I'm only planning to grow 4 of a plant, then I'd rather pay $1 for 10 seeds than $3 for 30 seeds. The excess is wasted, and it really adds up when you're buying dozens of varieties.

Johnny's Seeds is geared more for small farmers & they're still a better deal for large quantities. So I'll keep ordering from them to get things like cover crops and sunflowers, which I plant a lot of (also Johnny's has an incredible sunflower selection, I never knew there were so many kinds). But next year I think I'll do most of my seed ordering from Fedco.

Also, note to self, next year I have to get myself one of those little squeezy things for measuring out tiny seeds. Every single year I wish I had one.

operation destroy bamboo, week 2

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Due to weather and work, "week 2" is a slight exaggeration. It's been 2 full days and 2 half days of work. (Last Saturday and today were full days; Sunday and Monday were half days.) And I'm really happy with our progress:
operation destroy bamboo, 1 week

The parking area is almost completely cleared! There's just a narrow strip along the fence on the left. Georg and I worked for a couple of hours this morning, then after lunch he had to go to the radio station so I worked alone all afternoon.

We're still using the same method: cut the stalk close to the ground and immediately press a sponge soaked with Roundup against the cut end. It's slow going as opposed to, say, spraying the entire area with Roundup, waiting a few days and then chopping it down with a machete. That would be the easy way. I'm happy with this approach because so much less Roundup is used. Using a sponge there's almost no excess Roundup going into the ground.

I had expected an explosion of new bamboo shoots during the past week: bamboo is infamous for fast growth, cutting a plant back always encourages new growth, that whole area is getting way more sun than before, and we had heavy rain early in the week. I thought we'd spend a long time this morning cutting new shoots, before we could get back to clearing the older growth. To my surprise we didn't get that at all. There were a few new shoots, I found maybe about a dozen and a half. And all of them were in the area we were newly clearing today, none where it had already been cleared. Maybe the Roundup really is slowing it down?

The massive pile of cut bamboo has grown even more massive. We're planning to shred it, though I'm not sure if we need to let it dry out first. Our shredder is fussy about bamboo: it can cut stalks but jams up on leaves. I guess we'll just have to try a fresh stalk and see how the shredder does. We can put the leaves in the compost pile.

uh ohA couple of unpleasant discoveries today: first, the retaining wall which had been hidden behind the bamboo for years is in serious disrepair. I wonder how difficult it will be to fix.

worst of the best


I've got almost all the prep done for the Oscar Sunday show. It's all planned out, which versions of all the songs, now it's just a matter of getting the movies from Netflix and ripping the songs from them.

It's going to be a pretty good show I think, both for edumacational merit and for entertainment value. Because the songs that win Oscars tend to be good. Pure pop; I usually play a mix of pop and jazz, and this show will be all pop. All good songs though, with a few notable exceptions. I can't decide which song will be the worst: "Gigi" or "Love is a Many Splendored Thing."

Well, that's not totally honest. "Love is a Many Splendored Thing" is a truly, deeply bad song. It's definitely the worst, and may be a contender for worst song I've ever played on my show. I'm just super bummed about "Gigi" because I had gotten it confused with "Mimi," the Maurice Chevalier song from Love Me Tonight. I think my confusion came about because Maurice Chevalier is also in Gigi. Even though I knew they weren't the same song, and every time I thought about it consciously I'd remember no, that isn't the song. Still everytime I saw "Gigi" on my flowsheet, in my mind I'd hear Chevalier singing "My left shoe's on my right foot, my right shoe's on my left..." and I'd feel happy.

So when I got on Youtube and heard the actual song "Gigi" it was a major disappointment. If the song has any rhythm I can't hear it over Louis Jourdan shouting the lyrics, Broadway-actor-forced-to-sing style. And the song is six and a half minutes long, with no obvious place to cut. In a lot of movie songs, especially the early ones, they sing the song, then they do a dance number, then they sing all or part of the song again. So it's easy to cut an 8 or 10 minute song down to a manageable length. Not "Gigi."

I think what I'm going to do is use the instrumental version that plays under the opening credits, and talk over it. I was trying to avoid doing that, using any the winning songs for talkset background music I mean. But I think it will work better than playing the vocal version. And this way I'll have time to play a fun little song at the beginning of the show called "Hollywood Party." It didn't win any awards, but it is from a movie (surprisingly enough, called Hollywood Party) and it's kind of the perfect song for the Oscars.

that's that

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I don't care that it's freezing cold, I don't care that it snowed yesterday. The daffodils are starting to bloom and therefore it's spring.

Yay! Spring! Actually only those few in the photo are in bloom; the rest are still coming up and/or budding. Usually the first to bloom are the ones planted under the water heater exhaust. They're in a protected spot next to the south side of the house, and the exhaust blows hot air on the ground every time we use hot water. It's the perfect spot for tender plants -- the bay leaf is there, and the gardenia nearby --and the bulbs in that spot always bloom first. Not this year though; the daffodils in the photo are way down front, on the hill by the road. I have no idea why they bloomed first.

I've been meaning to get the grow light out of the shed and start planting seeds all week. This weekend for sure! And I hope the weather tomorrow permits working on the bamboo.

hooray for hollywood

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I decided to go ahead and do a special show for Oscar Sunday. And now that I've started planning it, I'm getting excited! I'm going to play 30 years of Best Song winners, starting with the very first, "The Continental" in 1934 and going through to "The Shadow of Your Smile" in 1965.

I already have almost all the songs I need. Though there are a few that I want to play the version from the movie, so I'll be getting a lot of Netflix in the next ten days. (Audio Hijack Pro, how I love you.) I'm trying to play the movie version wherever possible, and if not -- sometimes the movie version is really long and full of tap dancing, or is just a bad version of the song, or what have you -- then a hit version that was recorded in the same year, so at least it sounds similar.

I was concerned that I'd end up playing the same singers over and over again, but that ended up happening much less than I expected. Frank Sinatra four times, Bing Crosby three times (that was a surprise, I thought there would be much more Bing), and several singers twice: Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Bob Hope and Doris Day.

Anyway I think the show is going to be fun!

don't fall down the stairs

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Utah is about to pass a law criminalizing miscarriage. The law would make it illegal for a woman to deliberately induce a miscarriage, or to engage in "reckless behavior" that causes a miscarriage at any time during the pregnancy.

"Using the legal standard of "reckless behavior" all a district attorney needs to show is that a woman behaved in a manner that is thought to cause miscarriage, even if she didn't intend to lose the pregnancy."

I read that about 1/3 of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. Women, if you live in Utah and you're pregnant, want to get pregnant, think you might get pregnant, or are even fertile, be sure not to fall down any stairs. Or get on an airplane. Or ride a horse, or a bike. Or have an infection, or a fever. Or take NSAIDs. Or drink alcohol. Or smoke. Or drink coffee or caffeinated tea. Or eat blue cheese. Or have an argument, or get stressed out for any reason. In fact, best to just stay in bed all the time. According to Utah law you're not a person anymore, you're a fetus incubator.

In a way, I almost want to thank the Utah legislature for making it so plain that the anti-choice movement really is about punishing women.

bamboo photos

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Looks like it's going to rain today. Dang! I was hoping it would hold off until tonight. Since I can't work outside today, I took a few photos of our progress.

Here's the "before" photo. The bamboo patch fills the parking area and has spilled out into the gravel driveway.
operation destroy bamboo: the beginning

Here's where we are now. We cut the whole thing back a couple of feet, back to the front of the parking area, then we focused on the right half and got about 3/4 of the way back.
operation destroy bamboo: day 2

We did it that way because our neighbors (the source of the bamboo) were out in their yard having a barbecue on Saturday, and we thought it best to stay back from the fence while they were right there. It would have been really weird for us to suddenly emerge from the bamboo in the middle of their barbecue. We're going to have to figure out something for that fence when the bamboo is gone.

Here's what the ground looks like as we work. Whatever you do, don't fall!
whatever you do, don't fall

Does anyone need bamboo? After I take all I need for trellising the sugar snaps, we still have hundreds of canes. It's about 1/2" thick and 10-12' long.
anybody need bamboo?

operation destroy bamboo, day 2

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Unfortunately today was my show, so we were only able to work for about an hour on the bamboo. Very frustrating considering what a nice day it was! While I was at the station Georg moved the pile of bamboo. It was getting difficult to walk in and out of the bamboo patch because the pile of bamboo covered the entire front of the area, and the stalks would slip under your feet. So he moved it out of the way, and set aside a few dozen nice straight lengths for me. I'm going to use them as stakes, to trellis the sugar snap peas.

We've been using bamboo stakes I bought at big orange a few years ago, and over the years they've gotten nasty and mildewed. I was thinking I would have to bleach them before putting them up this year. Instead I can throw the nasty old stakes in the compost and make new ones from the bamboo forest. I don't know why I never thought of this before. What was I thinking, buying bamboo stakes when our yard is being taken over by a field of bamboo.

I also did a couple of non-bamboo yard tasks: cut down the butterfly bush, which we do every year about this time, and started removing straw from the tender plants. They don't need to be protected from the cold anymore; now they'll do better if the ground is warmed by the sun. Best discovery: the alliums are starting to come up! Last fall I planted 25 Globemaster alliums in the backyard -- those are the ones that grow 3 feet tall with a giant purple pompom-like ball of flowers -- and 25 tiny little blue ones (called allium caeruleum) by the back door. As of today, 14 of the Globemasters and over a dozen of the tiny ones are up. So exciting! I can hardly wait until they bloom. I know it will be months from now. I'm so ready for spring.

operation destroy bamboo, day 1


The first day of Operation Destroy Bamboo went pretty well. We spent about 8 hours working on stage 1, cutting down the bamboo. It's a two person job: one person cuts the stalk a few inches from the ground, then the other paints Roundup on the cut end with a sponge. The Roundup has to be applied immediately, like within 15 seconds, because the sap draws down as soon as it's cut. If you wait too long then the Roundup just sits on top and doesn't get down into the rhizome. At least, that's the theory. We'll find out if it works or not.

It was slow going, and harder work than we expected. It's all the crouching and stooping. The person with the loppers can stand and crouch over, but the person with the Roundup sponge has to be down at the ground. And once we got into the middle of the bamboo patch, the ground was covered with pointy bits of bamboo sticking up. It was hard to find a place to put our feet, and forget about kneeling comfortably. I was terrified one of us would fall and be impaled on dozens of bamboo spikes. Really, the ground is starting to look like a set from The Most Dangerous Game. Luckily, as we got further back into the bamboo patch it thinned out somewhat and became a little easier to kneel on the ground. Georg speculated maybe because there's less light back there, it can't grow as close together. Or maybe because the soil is poorer & sandier back there.

So we worked for about 8 hours. Part of that time I was on my own -- Georg had to go to the radio station -- but most of the time we worked together. And we got close to half of the parking area done. Less than I had hoped, but when I look at the area we cleared, and the size of the pile of bamboo on the ground, I'm not disappointed.

The bamboo is skinny, the stalks range from 1/4-1" in diameter, and 12-13 feet tall. They have leaves only at the very tops. The stalks are green, and have a sort of husk attached to the ridges, so they look striped: half green, half tan. I should take a picture. Now that I think about it, I should post on Craig's List and see if anyone wants it. I know someone who wants bamboo but he needs it much thicker, more like 2" diameter. He wants to make candle holders out of it.

We found some interesting things in the bamboo patch. A bird's nest on the ground. We don't know if it fell out of the bamboo, or if the birds nested on the ground. Which would have been really stupid seeing as there's a dog running around in there every day. A rodent's nest inside a plastic bucket. See, the Durham County landfill used to sell mulch and soil. The price was fantastic and we used to buy a lot of it. The only drawback was, since it was made from other people's yard waste, it was always full of bits of trash, mostly plastic bags. We used to keep a bucket nearby while we were unloading the mulch or soil, and every time we found a bit of trash we'd throw it in the bucket. Well, one of those times we apparently forgot to empty out the bucket. We must have left it at the front of the bamboo patch, and then the bamboo grew around it and we forgot it was there. And eventually it tipped over, and rodents found this little hidey-hole full of scraps of plastic, and decided it would make a great nest. It had little soft things like fabric scraps and clumps of dryer lint in it. Alas for the rodents, we threw it out. It didn't look like anyone was still using it. We also found a rubber snake, the kind used to scare away birds and rodents. Which was obviously not very effective since we found it a couple of feet from the bird's nest and the bucket nest.

By the end of the day we were exhausted. We got cleaned up and had a lovely dinner at Spice & Curry. A paneer dosa, aloo palak and chicken pasanda, which is my favorite thing they make. Great food and we have lots of leftovers. Now we're sitting in front of the fire and watching the Olympics.

The only really annoying thing about the first day of Operation Destroy Bamboo is the well-meaning people on certain social networking sites who feel compelled to tell me ad infinitum how much I'm doing everything wrong, and how I should be doing it their way instead. I'm happy for advice and suggestions, in fact I've gotten some great suggestions. What I'm not so thrilled about is being scolded by someone who isn't offering to help, just to tell me how wrong I am. Actually I'm just cranky because I spent all day chopping down bamboo and now I'm tired and sore. (Note: I'm not talking about anyone who reads this blog.)

operation eradicate bamboo


We have a bamboo problem in our backyard. The problem is that, when the bamboo started creeping in from the neighbor's yard, we didn't realize what a problem it would be and didn't deal with it right away. And now we have a thicket, nay, a forest of bamboo.

I've been reading up on bamboo removal, and there are almost as many opinions on the subject as there are people posting on the internets. This is what I learned: You can kill bamboo by cutting it down, then cutting down the new shoots every time they appear, until you eventually wear it out. Simply cutting down the bamboo, without herbicide, is totally ineffective. Roundup works best. Roundup doesn't work. Roundup does work, but only if you cut the stalks and paint the Roundup on the cut end within 15 seconds. The best method is to liberally apply rock salt, and if you want to replant with something else, too bad. The best method is to flood the bamboo for 2 weeks. The best method is to get a backhoe, dig out the entire area, and replace the soil. The best method is to pave it over with concrete.

The one thing that everyone agrees on: it takes a long time. Every method takes a couple of years of watching for new shoots and (depending on who you believe) either digging them out, cutting them down, or applying more herbicide. Well, no time like the present!

The backyard is partly terraced, so we've got two bamboo regions to deal with: the lower area was used by previous residents for an above-ground pool, and the "soil" is actually hard-packed sand. I'm more agreeable to heavy applications of Roundup there, because we won't be planting there anyway. When/if the bamboo is gone we'll probably use that spot for parking the truck. If we did decide to plant there for some reason, we'd have to replace the sand with garden soil anyway. The upper area is soil, though I'm not sure how good it is. If we could get rid of the bamboo without going crazy with the Roundup, that would be great. We'll have to get up there and see how bad it is.

Anyway, now while the bamboo is dormant seems like the time to start. Tomorrow marks the beginning of Operation Eradicate Bamboo! We're going to mix up some Roundup and try the "cut the stalk and immediately paint Roundup on the cut end" method. With both of us working together I'm hoping we'll get it all cut down this weekend, but if not, then as much as we can get done.

Then the next step will be separating the clump in our yard from the neighbor's yard. We talked to a tree service who will come with a ditch witch, dig a trench and put in a barrier. I read that running bamboo is all one plant underground. So you can't kill the part invading your yard without separating it from the rest. Just like, if you had a big shrub and cut a chunk out of one side, the rest of the shrub would still be alive and eventually it would grow back where you had cut away. Once the barrier is in place, you have to check it a couple of times a year and cut back any runners coming over the top.

After we have it all cut back and the barrier in place, we'll see if the "knock back the new shoots until you wear it out" method seems at all effective. If no, then I guess we'll find someone with a backhoe to come and dig it out.


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On Monday we saw Tinariwen perform live in Chapel Hill. They were amazing! They are Tuaregs, nomadic Berbers, and their style is influenced by rock (blues actually) and by their own musical tradition. Really incredible.

The performers didn't seem to speak any English so there was almost no patter. All they said was "Thank you," and one of them would call out "Ça va? S'okay?" in between songs. At one point the main singer, Abdallah, apologized in French for not being able to communicate with us. He asked if we understood French, and the funny thing is that when a good percent of the audience yelled back "Oui!" he didn't really say anything. Maybe he was expecting us to say "Non!" Then near the end, the other singer (the one who kept saying "S'okay?") said in French that they were about to play a good song for dancing, so anyone who wanted to dance should feel free. A bunch of people on the main floor did dance. We were up in the balcony first row, so we did not. (By the way, I do not recommend row AA in the balcony in Memorial Hall. You have to sit all the way forward in your seat to see over the railing. It was fine, but a seat that allows you to sit back in your chair and still see the stage would be finer.)

Anyway it was a terrific show, one we were lucky to see. Georg had had tickets to see them over a year ago, then they had to cancel because of scheduling conflicts. Really glad they finally came to this area.

down with love

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flying spaghetti monster on the airI had fun doing the Down With Love show this afternoon. Played lots of funny songs, many of which I'd never played on the air before, and also dropped in a bunch of Groucho Marx clips. I even got a request, but it was for a new song so I didn't go find it.

The show got a little hectic. The perennial equipment problems continued: CD3 only plays about one in four of the CDs you put in it, the rest of the time it jams. And CD2 started doing it too. at one point I only had 1 functioning CD player, with CDs stuck in the other two -- kind of makes it hard to cue up the next track! Plus the Groucho clips were all very short. The longest was about 30 seconds and the shortest was 8 seconds. Whenever I played a Groucho clip, I really needed all three CD players: one for the current song, one for the Groucho clip, one for the song after the Groucho clip. And Ross was setting up for a band which meant lots going on up there, equipment everywhere, not much room for my stuff, etc. It just made it a little more exciting.

I did get to play some of my favorite Groucho jokes, including one of my very favorites:

Groucho: Where is your husband?
Margaret Dumont: Why, he's dead.
G: I bet he's just using that as an excuse.
M: I was with him until the very end.
G: No wonder he passed away.
M: I held him in my arms, and kissed him.
G: Oh, so it was murder. Will you marry me? Did he leave you any money? Answer the second question first.
M: He left me his entire fortune.
G: Is that so? Can't you see what I'm trying to tell you? I love you!

I'm thinking about possibly doing a special show for Oscar night, haven't made up my mind yet. I think that's three weeks from now. Then the next theme show is Ella Fitzgerald's birthday in late April. Coincidentally, Georg just gave me a new Ella box set that looks fantastic! Called Twelve Nights in Hollywood, it's a series of small club performances she did in the early 60s. The liner notes say that everything on it is previously unreleased. These are the only live Ella recordings of several of the songs, and the only recordings at all of a couple of them. How exciting!

death, taxes and spammers

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The only glitch in my Movable Type 5 installation is that the plugin I use to block spam, CCode, seems to have disappeared. The website is still there but the download file isn't. I couldn't find a copy of the files on my computer, and didn't feel like hunting through my old MT 4 installation to find all the parts of it, so I skipped it.

Well it took about 12 hours for the spammers to find my blog. How do they do that? I'm getting spam comments at a rate of 2 per hour. And that's just the ones getting to me, that MT can't identify as spam. I have MT set up to hold all comments for approval unless the commenter logs in, so none of them are being published on my site. Still, it's a pain in the butt to have to delete them all, plus the email notifications. So I guess I need to find out what all the parts of CCode are, find them in my MT4, move them to MT5, and cross my fingers that it still works.

I hope CCode isn't gone for good; it's a great plugin. It adds a field to your comment form, with a randomly generated value which is obscured by Javascript so the spammer can't figure out what it is. And any comment which doesn't include that value doesn't post. It blocks all comments which hit your comment script directly, while passing all comments that are typed into the comment form on the page. It's the most effective method I've ever seen for blocking spam without any inconvenience to genuine commenters.

love is the darndest thing

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Georg and I will be cohosting Divaville Lounge today, with "Love is the Darndest Thing," two hours of songs about the lighter side of love. Songs like "Never Trust a Woman," "That's the Kind of Guy I Dream Of (You Should See the Kind That I Get)," "Down With Love" and "Brother Beware." If you're happily attached, you'll be grateful the person you're with isn't like the people in these songs. And if you're safe, sane and single, well I've got a song called "Safe Sane and Single" so there will be plenty for you. Either way, if you've had your fill of syrupy romance, check it out! 2-4pm, 88.7fm or listen online at wxdu.org.

upgrades are fun

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I upgraded to Movable Type 5 today. And the plugin that lets me crosspost to LJ still works. Whew! It's ancient, really really old, and the plugin designer has long since disappeared. Every time I upgrade, I copy the plugin from my old installation to the new one, and cross my fingers that it will still work.

Georg's and my blogs are done now. I still have to upgrade the Divaville Lounge site, and then get started on my friend David's site. Which is the impetus for this upgrade. His site was still on MT 3, and he needs a major update before the 28th, and I wanted to move him to MT 4 so he can upload his own images. And so I decided, what the heck, now is the time to upgrade to 5. Which, now that I've spent half the day working on the MT upgrade and have barely started on David's site, seems like maybe not the best decision.

So far MT5 seems fine, except for one question: What the heck is Zemanta? It installed itself and it seems to do nothing except take up a lot of room on my entry page sidebar. Another one of Six Apart's brilliant ideas I suppose.

azucar y candela

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I had great fun covering the second half of WXDU's Latin music show, Azucar y Candela, last night. I have to admit, I was a little nervous about it! Because the show's regular host, Santa Salsera, has such a good music collection, and encyclopedic knowledge about the music. Also nervous because I don't speak Spanish and I knew I would be butchering the pronunciations.

Still and all, I had a great time. Here's the playlist; my part of the show begins with the Mongo Santamaria track and continues to the end. I got to play some great songs by some of my favorites, including a few things Salsera had just given me. I had almost bought myself a Machito box set for my birthday, then realized that was ridiculous because I know someone with an amazing Latin music collection. So I asked her for some Machito, and told her what I already have and what I like about it. She gave me 3 great CDs, two of which feature singing by his sister Graciela. Who, as it turns out, is still alive and in her 90s. She started singing with Machito in the mid 40s. Amazing.

Salsera also gave me a comp with some fun loungey tunes. She said whenever she comes across something that seems Divaville Lounge-ish she sets it aside for me. How sweet! I tried to stay away from the cheesey-loungey type music last night though, because that's not really the Azucar y Candela vibe. F'rinstance, I played some Rene Touzet, but one of his own compositions, not one of the loungey cha-cha-cha crossover songs like "S'Wonderful" or "The Continental."

I was covering the show so Salsera could go to an event, and she told me that she ran into one of her listeners there, who was astounded to see her because they were convinced they had been listening to her on the air as they drove over. Which I consider high praise indeed.

silver linings

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If I'm going to wake up hours early because I'm having insomnia over some bullshit I have to deal with, it's at least satisfying that I came up with a productive (and, I think, genuinely good) idea for dealing with the situation, instead of just worrying it obsessively.

It's even nicer to have my good idea, relax enough that I can stop obsessing and surf the internets, and learn that Lt. Dan Choi is back in the National Guard. Is this the first time an openly gay service member has been reinstated? I'm starting to believe that the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal is really going to happen.

How's that hopey-changey stuff working out for me? Pretty darn good!

gold diggers of 1933

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February 5 movie: Gold Diggers of 1933. A friend was talking about wanting to watch pre-code movies, and I made a list of some of my favorites in 3 categories: Comedy, Drama and Sleaze. This was the top of the list of comedies.

There's so much to love about Gold Diggers of 1933. The crazy Busby Berkeley numbers, Aline MacMahon's raunchy humor, the sweet romance between Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. It's also really interesting to see a comedy about the Depression, made while it was happening. To quote Roger Ebert, the characters in most movies (then and now) seem to be living on a stipend from God. The three women at the center of this movie are living hand-to-mouth while they try to get jobs in the theater. They share a dingy apartment so small the three of them sleep in one bed; dodge the landlady when rent is due; steal milk from the neighbors; and have pawned so many of their things, they have to pool their closets to come up with one outfit suitable to visit a Broadway producer. And they make jokes about it. And the jokes are funny!

One joke that I hadn't noticed before, which made me laugh out loud this time, is when Barney (Ned Sparks), the crochetey producer, decides his next show is going to be about the Depression. MacMahon asks if there's going to be any comedy in it, because that's what she does. "Comedy?!" Barney shouts. "I'll make 'em laugh at you starving to death! It'll be the funniest thing you ever did!"

Gold Diggers of 1933 is not what people typically think of as a "pre-code movie" because there's no actual sex. The movie could easily have been made under the code if they had just toned it down a little, removed the jokes about sex and drugs, made the costumes less revealing and the situations less suggestive. Still, it has a breezy openness about it which to me was the wonderful thing about pre-code movies. Anyone who thinks their generation invented sexual freedom (boomers, I'm looking at you) needs to watch this and learn.

flirtation walk

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February 5 movie: Flirtation Walk. Romantic comedy starring Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. He's a military cadet and she's a general's daughter. It suffers from a lack of good supporting cast, lack of good songs, lack of Busby Berkeley, and lack of Ruby Keeler -- the movie is structured so she's not in it at all in Act 2. Really big mistake.

the bedford incident

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February 4 movie: The Bedford Incident. This was a Cold War movie about a US destroyer which catches a Soviet sub in illegal territory, and tries to force the sub out. Richard Widmark is the destroyer captain, a hard-nosed authoritarian who develops an Ahab-like obsession with the sub. Eric Portman is a German officer on board to advise Widmark. Sidney Poitier is a civilian reporter who asks a lot of questions and generally gets in Widmark's face in a way he's not used to, seeing as he's used to interacting only with men under his command. And Martin Balsam is a Navy doctor who comes on board with Poitier. This was an interesting psychological drama, and then it got really really dark in a way I wasn't at all expecting. I enjoyed it.

air force

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February 4 movie: Air Force. This was really good. An ensemble piece about a bomber crew who are on their way to Hawaii when the Pearl Harbor attack happens. They stay just long enough to refuel, then are sent to Wake Island -- this time arriving just before the attack -- then on their way to the Philippines, then finally Australia.

The movie starts slow, giving you a chance to get to know the airmen during their long flight. The characters really aren't characters, just thumbnail sketches of broad types. In fact they aren't even given names in the credits, just listed by their position in the bomber crew. Which is my only criticism of a fine movie. Even without complex character development the performances are good, with subtle emotion. The battle scenes are very well done, especially a scene in the Philippines where the crew are trying desperately to repair their plane and get it airborne before the Japanese overrun their position.

There's also an air battle from the gunners' point of view which reminded me very much of a battle scene on the Millenium Falcon in Star Wars. Those big guns swiveling back and forth. In fact, now that I think about it, I remember my dad watching Star Wars with me and complaining about those guns. He said that was World War II technology and it was ridiculous to see it on a space ship. If they had hyperdrive, they would surely have guided missiles. I guess George Lucas thought it looked cool. Maybe he had seen this movie.

the mummy: tomb of the dragon emperor

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January 30 movie: The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. This was really, really bad. First of all, Rachel Weisz' replacement could not act her way out of a paper bag. Seriously, there are no other dark-haired actresses with British accents? The guy playing Fraser's and not-Weisz' son is equally bad. And the plot is ludicrous. And Jet Li is the villain, and he spends most of the movie stomping around as a CGI mud creature. Here's a tip: when you have Jet Li in your movie, do not make him into a mud man which can barely move! Duh. Most irritating is that the Chinese characters all speak Chinese with subtitles at first, then switch to English late in the movie. No actually, most irritating is that there are no mummies in this movie. But the characters keep talking about mummies! I'm sorry, Jet Li's character is not a mummy. He's a mud man.

The only good thing I can say about this movie is that Michelle Yeoh is also in it, and she and Jet Li have a good fight scene.

it should happen to you

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January 30 movie: It Should Happen to You. Jack Lemmon's first movie! It was a vehicle for Judy Holliday, though Lemmon has a great part as her love interest. Really funny and sweet without being overly sentimental. Also stars Peter Lawford as a sleazy rich guy. His character made me kind of uncomfortable. In particular the scenes where he tries to force his way into Holliday's apartment were hard for me to watch. Like, if he had managed to get into the apartment he probably would have raped her. I think in the early 60s he would have been seen as an aggressive ladies man, but that's not how it came across to me. Of course he's just there to show Holliday that mild-mannered ordinary guy Jack Lemmon is a much better catch. Which he is!

road to utopia

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January 30 movie: Road to Utopia. This was everything I hoped for. Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in a silly comedy with great songs and lots of breaking the fourth wall. They didn't actually go to Utopia; instead the movie is set in the Yukon. My only disappointment: I was hoping for a song about Alaska for my Independence Day show, and there wasn't one. Alas!

look at me, i'm in wikipedia

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Well okay, no, I'm not really in Wikipedia. I mean, there's no entry about me. The pages on derivative works and Dover Publications link to my copyright pages. It's at the bottom of the entry under "External Links." Just for fun I looked at my site in Google Analytics today -- I don't usually bother, I'm not trying to build traffic so I save my Google Analytics time for client sites -- and discovered a small yet steady flow of traffic coming from Wikipedia.

The derivative works page mentions my name; the Dover page does not. So, my name appears exactly once in Wikipedia.

Look at me, I'm a footnote in Wikipedia! Woo!

the getaway

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January 29 movie: The Getaway. My birthday dinner was cancelled on account of snow, and to make up for it I got to pick the movie that night and Georg watched it with me. So we watched the original The Getaway with Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw. Directed by Sam Peckinpah, and I have to say it's not Peckinpah's best effort, nor McQueen's. It drags at times, and there are some serious logical flaws. On the other hand, there are good moments throughout. And the big set piece at the end, in the hotel, is classic Peckinpah.

The original was vastly superior to the Alec Baldwin/Kim Basinger version. Which almost goes without saying. You know, I just realized something -- both versions of this movie featured costars who were a couple in real life. Interesting coincidence. Also, I thought of two things about the remake which were better. First, the heavy in the beginning, the money man who sets up the robbery that goes bad, is played by James Woods in the remake. He's way too good at playing a sleazy, smug rich asshole.

Second, there's a part in the middle where they're on their way to El Paso, they're identified, they get away, go on to another town, are IDed again, have to abandon their car, flee on foot and end up in a garbage truck. In the remake this is condensed down to one action sequence in one town, which tightened up that part of the movie considerably.

As for the two bits in the remake I mentioned, with identifiable Joss dialogue. On the train, McQueen silently grabs the woman's bag and shoves it into the compartment. No dialogue. In the gun shop, the clerk never drops behind the counter and never says anything funny.

On the other hand, the part at the end with the old redneck is way, way funnier in the original. Because the old guy is played by Slim Pickins.

back to work

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I finally got sick of being at home and drove to work today. We live on a busy road which connects to the interstate, and as expected I had no trouble, the roads were completely clear. Hillsborough was another story. Eno Mountain, the road my office is on, was a winding, hilly sheet of packed snow and ice. With a guardrail and a steep drop-off on one side. Fun!

I heard that yesterday a tractor trailer got stuck on Eno Mountain, blocking both lanes, and everyone had to turn back and go the long way around. You'd think they would have plowed after that happened. Then again, I don't know how many plows Hillsborough has. Today I went out to get lunch and on the way back, some idiot was riding up my tailpipe as we headed into the bad part of the road. I knew what was coming so I pulled halfway off the road and waved her past. She roared past me, went about 100 feet, hit the ice, slammed on her brakes and started fishtailing. Fool. I'm just glad she was ahead of me, not behind.

Now it's raining. Weather websites disagree as to how cold it will get tonight. So the rain will either melt off the rest of the snow, or turn into ice overnight. Can't wait to find out.

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This page is an archive of entries from February 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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