Friday, March 31, 2006

Favorite flicks in March

The Libertine
Transamerica (Felicity was robbed - you're right, Jamaal)
The Edukators
After Life (1999)
Memory of a Killer
Howl's Moving Castle

disappointed in

Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio
Good Night, Good Luck

bought preview tickets for and then forgot:

Tristram Shandy (d'oh!)

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ghost Story 2, Part 2 - The Mischief Maker

My secretary Shirley was an older, grandmotherly type woman. She said she helped a minister get rid of some 'entities' (her word) at a church-member's home, and at this point, I didn't have anything to risk really, apart from my reputation at work as the crazy, believer-in-ghosts person. I wanted to resolve it before my parents arrived, and I really needed sleep. So she came out to the house after work a few days later.

She walked into the house and immediately walked into my room. I followed her in, and although this sounds really cliche, the room was really cold. She asked, is this the room? And I said yeah, but that there were things going on all over the house.

I had never met anyone who 'channeled' ghosts, or met a psychic, or had any other kind of experience with this kind of spiritualist. It was way before reality TV or the pet psychic on the Animal Channel. It made me uncomfortable when she just started talking to the 'entity.' I was a little embarrassed for her, and for my future working with her, because it seemed so out there.

She used a very soft voice and started speaking. "You need to move on. Your place is not here." She asked me to imagine a white light around the house, to protect it. She then asked "it" if it wanted to talk. Here's where it got really freaky.

As soon as she asked this question, both my feet started tingling like when they have been asleep and you are now trying to make them walk. The tingling feeling started traveling up my legs. I immediately said "STOP" and ran out of the room. She stayed in there for about 5 more minutes, talking in a low voice, and then came out to talk to me.

The first thing she did was apologize. She had intuited that this was a young boy spirit, from the mischief he was creating and his reluctance to move on. When she asked if he wanted to talk, apparently he did, and was going to use me as the vehicle. She didn't see that coming. It is actually making me have goosebumps just typing about it. I will never forget it.

After that, she went through the house and blessed all the rooms. She sat me in a chair, and then she blessed me.

Nothing ever happened again. No sounds, no giant spiders, no microwave bells in the middle of the night. A few days later Shirley said she researched the property at the library and apparently a house had burned down there in the 1930s and a little boy had died. I never verified it, and we never talked about it again.

When my parents came, I told them the story, and they just laughed. Everything was back to normal.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ghost Story 2, Part 1 - The Mischief Maker

I volunteered to move into my parents' new house in Florida while they were still living in Seattle to make sure the contractors finished the lanai, pool, etc. I gave up my beachfront apartment on the nearby island, and went for the free rent. 2800 square feet. 10 minutes closer to work. No hurricane evacuations. All good.

And all was good for about a month. Then, the tapping started.

At first it was just annoying, a tapping sound in my bedroom that sounded like somebody drumming a pencil on a table during a meeting. I just slept through it most of the time, thinking it was the air conditioning clicking on. Then, I noticed that it had sort of a beat. It had sort of a rock beat, and it would change.

Then, I noticed that it stopped if I moved. And that it started between 2 and 2:30 every single damn morning. OK, still, not scary. I experimented with it - moving to see if the beat would change or if it would just stop. Timing when it stopped, etc.

Understandably, I started losing a bit of sleep in the middle of every night. I was still sleeping when it stopped, but was awake every night from about 2- 4. After about a month of that, I woke up one night to see something that is really hard to describe.

I remember waiting and waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness, because I just couldn't reconcile the image. It was a huge black spot - at least 2 feet wide, on the ceiling above the bedroom door, and it seemed to be shaped like a spider. I watched it move from the ceiling, down the wall, and under and around the doorway to the other side. This was the first time I was scared.

Then things really started happening. The main theme was the tapping, but new things were added. One night I awoke to the sound of the microwave bell going off in the kitchen. Another night, the water faucets in the bathroom nearest my room were turned on, and I had to get up and shut them off. I would turn off all the lights in the house before going to bed, and when I got up in the morning, they would all be back on. Now remember, this was a brand new house. I kept thinking, maybe the wiring's off, maybe this, maybe that.

But I was getting less and less sleep. I moved in in September, and in November a friend from Michigan came down for the long Veteran's Day weekend. I didn't tell her because at this point, what would I say? Um, there's some tapping and stuff.

So the first night, nothing really weird happened, just the tapping. We got up early and went deep sea fishing and had a great day in general. The second day, she came into the kitchen all bleary-eyed and said, "This weird tapping noise kept me up all night."

And, that was the first night that I had no tapping. I apologized and shared what I had been going through. Luckily, it didn't worry her too much. At this point I started freaking out a bit, because the thing moving from my room to her room was just too much. The following Monday I was telling a co-worker about it, which is hard when you're worried about looking kinda nuts. My secretary overheard me, and asked to speak to me in private. It turns out she had some experience dealing with this kind of problem, and wanted to come over and "evaluate" the house.

Tomorrow, part deux.

Monday, March 27, 2006


I sort of grew up with feminism. I had a lot of experiences with discrimination that my younger friends may find hard to believe. At 17 I had a boss who would not let me leave my part-time job at the end of the day until I gave him a hug. At 20 I was let go from an entry-level job, the first in my field, because "a man needed it."

Obviously, things have improved. Discrimination is more subtle, because outright discrimination is now illegal. And some women WANT big diamonds and to be treated like sex objects. I haven't figured that out yet, but hey, if they want it, fine with me. A major point of feminism is that you can choose, and things are not assumed for you.

One idea that has snuck back from caveman days, though, is that women are all waiting around to meet men, are miserable without them, and do not have vital, interesting lives apart from them. This cracks me up whenever I hear or see it. Some women buy into it though, because can there be any other reason to spend $600 on 4" heels, or to wear spaghetti straps in 40-degree weather? This makes me sad.

So I ignore all that until somebody actually makes me deal with it using subterfuge. Hence, I met a new type of knuckle dragger last week. This new type is educated, verbal, and politically aware, yet uses candor as a weapon and a protective device. And I don't mean wit or sarcasm, which are also easy distancing tools to use. I mean candor.

There is a vanity inherent in a certain type of candor that isn't worth it no matter how insecure one is. This new type of knuckle dragger cherishes his opinions as fact, and cherishes them more than he cherishes the feelings of others. This knuckle dragger is not interested in discussion, debate, or really, the opinions of anyone else. My guess is, though, that if there were other men present, their opinions would not be as readily decimated.

I believe that the largest part of evolving means being civil. I do not mean politically correct, or game-playing, or being in touch with your feminine side - I just mean civil. Some men have so far to go, are really so inherently clueless, that I wish there was a class in evolving, just to give them a leg up. But, the target audience would never think they needed it.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Ghost Story 1 - The Walker

The other day while waiting for a meeting to start we started sharing "ghost" stories. Some people will dismiss purported supernatural "events" and even ridicule the storyteller, but if you've ever had an unusual or upsetting experience that has no rational explanation, you become a little more open to hearing stories. So I have 2 big and 1 small ghost stories - just don't read them if you're a ridiculer.

The Walker

Before my junior year of college I moved with some girlfriends into an old, rickety house near downtown Grand Rapids (Michigan). It had 4 big bedrooms and another small room off the attic. Lu was already living there, and she warned me that there was a 'ghost,' and that her dog was regularly upset about it. The rent was cheap, and I really didn't care about a ghost as long as I got my own room.

The first incident occurred about a week after I moved in. I didn't see or hear a thing - but the dog stood up in the middle of the living room, stared into thin air, and just went nuts - barking, fur raised, teeth bared. It was pretty unsettling. She could not be calmed down. So we just waited it out, and that was it.

The dog did this about every 3 weeks, but nothing else happened for a few months. January came, and we covered the windows with plastic sheeting to hold the heat in. Another friend moved into the attic bedroom, which was the warmest. Marcy started complaining that she would hear footsteps coming up the stairs to her room, cross the attic, and then stop in front of her door. She thought we were playing a joke on her, pretending to be the 'ghost'. We were not. After a few times, she wrenched open the door to face whoever it was - and no one was there. I heard her yell "just show yourself, you m$&*f*@r," but I didn't hear anyone walking in the attic, even tho her room was right above mine.

Then, everyone but me left for 2 weeks, including the dog. We had interim semesters, and I chose to work rather than take a class, and everyone else either went on vacation or went home. One night I woke up because I heard the basement door slam. Then, all the doors on (my) second floor slammed in succession, including the door to the attic. Wide awake now, I just figured there was a huge gust of wind that tore off some plastic, and started to go back to sleep.

I had some clothes hanging on my closet door, and a bulletin board with papers on it. The clothes suddenly started swinging back and forth, and then the papers on the bulletin board moved as if there was a huge wind going through the room. But the plastic sheeting did not move around the window, and the door did not rattle.

A few minutes later, I distinctly heard the attic door open and close, footsteps going up to the attic, and then across it. I thought, maybe it was somebody's boyfriend, and they were looking around and thought nobody was home. That didn't explain the clothes swinging around, but I was trying to keep from being scared. A drunk boyfriend with an unauthorized key is still better than a ghost.

Well, I never got any sleep that night. Marcy came back to town first, and the attic walking continued - she just learned to ignore it. Nothing ever happened directly to us - it was just very annoying and cost a lot of sleep. It continued until we moved out about a year later - but we moved out because of a neighbor who used to sit on his porch and polish his gun and complain about college students - not because of the 'ghost'.

Next, is The Mischief Maker, which is much weirder.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Insane black dog

I got out of work early today and it was sunny, in the mid-70s. After having suffered through a long weekend in Western Michigan (where it was actually great for spring, but still way too uncomfortable) I wanted to just hang out in the park, sit in the sun, and read some Wired.

Despite Neighborpalooza, no one actually uses the park very much. Between 3 and 5 it is populated only by 'dog people' and very brave cats. Today I was sitting on a berm and Oscar the cat, who is owned by one family yet lives with another (better food maybe?) crawled up on my lap to read some Wired too. Bella was wandering around saying hola to Sanger, Irma, and Jackson, and looking for treats and discarded tennis balls.

Bella came over to check out the cat and make sure he wasn't getting any treats or undue attention. It was a little bit o'afternoon paradise when suddenly, I saw Bella look across the park, and then take off running.

This is never a good thing. She is powerless before bike riders, just has to chase them, and she will chase them right out to the busy street. If she thinks she knows someone, she will run right up to them, and she is not always right. She's willing to pretend that she knows them anyway - they are not always willing to do so. She also has no idea that she is a small and cutesy kind of dog, and other dogs are not afraid of her.

So today she took off chasing a pit bull. Right. A huge, no-collared, drooling, pit bull. This dog had crazy yellow eyes and a coat that looked like a chocolate lab left too long in the wash. I yelled and screamed at Bella to STAY STAY STAY and even pleaded and threatened. She just kept running. Finally, she doubled back and I grabbed her and scooped her into the air. She is about 35 pounds right now so air scooping is not a graceful maneuver. I was lucky I didn't fall over with the momentum. I had a good start running, so I started off toward the backyard.

The damn pit bull followed right behind, and actually tried to bite me in the butt. I THINK he was playing, but I also could not be sure he was just drooling and not foaming. I dumped Bella in the yard and made like I was going to grab the pit bull, and he went into play position and started jumping and barking. Good signs, all. I followed him back out into the park and got my magazine, and called it a day.

They're back

Pearl Jam's new single is up on iTunes, and they're throwing in "Unemployable" as well. They're also going to be on SNL April 15 - they haven't been on the show since 1994. Tickets for the east coast leg of the tour go on sale Saturday.

Here are some lyrics...

Worldwide Suicide

Medals on a wooden mantle
Next to a handsome face
That the President took for granted
Writing checks that others pay
And in all the madness
Thought becomes numb and naive
So much to talk about
And nothing for us to say

It’s the same every day
And the wave won’t break
Tell you to pray while
the devil’s on his shoulder
Laying claims to the tainted soldier said
I’m not a quitting
The truth’s already out there

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You can't go to Cleveland...

After spending the weekend with old college friends at a wedding reception, completely obvious to reality, I ended up on a tiny plane in Grand Rapids, Michigan, headed for a connecting flight in Cleveland. My seatmate informed me as soon as I sat down that she had bet her office mate that Bush's Cleveland trip would produce travel delays. Waah? Bush? Cleveland?

I made a sound that is basically swearing without using consonants, as I had only a 45-minute layover, and then apologized, in case she was one of the two supporters that Bush had left. She said, no worries, I feel the same way. She, like Bush, was headed to a sales conference in Cleveland, and no planes were allowed to fly into or leave Cleveland until "The President" departed.

Because Bush was elected via voter fraud, twice, I do not refer to him as President... I say either Bush, or "The President," in quotes, and I think of it as a metaphor, like Springsteen is "The Boss" or Elvis was "The King." Of course, as far as I know, neither one of their titles enabled them to ground thousands of passengers in the middle of a business day with a rumored snowstorm on the way.

Every 20 minutes the pilot would let us know that they had not received clearance, thanking us in advance for our "patience." When someone thanks you in advance for your patience, they are not apologizing, but putting the onus back on you, to control YOUR reaction to other people's crap.

At one point we moved to the (I kid you not)"holding pen" to await word. At least they didn't come right out and call us cattle. At one point I asked the flight attendant what the airline's policy was about holding the connecting flights after "The President" got up from his nap or whatever, and apparently, it didn't happen enough to have a policy. So, I prepared mentally to spend the night in Cleveland.

After sitting in the tiny hot plane, cooking enough to become pork rinds (maybe we would get some respect from "The President" then) we were finally allowed to spend 1/2 hour in the air to get to Cleveland. When we landed there were still 5 small black limousines on the tarmac, like calves who got cut off from the herd, wondering where their parents were.

The delay produced delays for connecting flight attendants and pilots as well, scheduled for the Cleveland to Phoenix flight, so no worries on making the connection. The 45-minute wait morphed into 2 hours.

Like all non-profits, the administration doesn't really have to perform or understand how things work in the real world to keep getting paid. Having a sales conference to sell a war is really for their side-jobs, and we all understand that. I just think they should do it on their own time.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I usually don't tell people much about my neighbors, because the stories are so extreme that they are either not funny or they would not be believed. But for every neighbor who should live full time in the happy hospital, I have another who redeems all the crazy. They are why I still live here after 10.5 years, 7 of which have been like living in a Fellini film sequel directed by the Farrelly Brothers. But recently, I decided that this is what blogs are for - blowing off a bit o'steam.

Our neighborhood is a beautiful, conveniently-located historic district in Central Phoenix. The official district is only about 4 blocks long, but it surrounds a 3-acre park, fringed with ancient tamarisk trees. When I first moved in, in 1995, the neighbors all helped each other with projects, chores, and keeping up the park. There were very cool traditions, such as leaving Christmas Day alcohol on the porches of people who helped you during the year. By midnight on New Year's Eve, if you got stuck with The Head (a bizarrely-decorated doll) by an anonymous donor, you had to keep it in your house until some unsuspecting newbie got stuck with it the following year. Everyone trimmed the trees once a year, having breakfast together in the chilly morning air. A "pool party" painted the bottom of the community pool in the spring, with everyone signing the design.

Charming, yes? The neighbors were equal parts quirky and "normal" back then. One neighbor has 23 cats, and takes good care of them all. Another is almost deaf yet talks non-stop. They are artists and professionals, gay and straight, blue collar and unemployed, retired and college students, blacks, whites, and Hispanics. For years it was all tolerance and waves. Then came the split.

We're (and by we're, I mean those of us who still live in the concrete here and now) not sure how it started. I remember offering to do a website so we could trade skills and barter with association members. In the process of getting info for the site, we realized that our association rules still prohibited having "negroes and chickens" as residents, a rule from the late 30s, we think. We all got together to work on new R+R's. At some point there was disagreement over said website and said new rules between "park people" who had been there since the millennia, and some newer bees, who had been there only 10 years or so.

One person, a talented artist, was so upset by a decision to change her park logo for the website that at a meeting she held up emails and sketches as evidence of subversion while her hands trembled and her voice shook. She got so upset that she ended up stabbing her own leg with a ballpoint pen. At another meeting, the drunk park "president" greeted an unknown homeowner (a woman in her 60s whose family had owned the house for over 60 years) by shaking her finger in her face and yelling "Who the hell are you?" At another, an architect threatened me with physical violence if I mentioned anything on the website about incidences like The Logo Incident. City officials have been threatened at block parties that if they ever combine the smaller association with the much larger neighborhood organization, they had better be careful in the darker allies. One park resident threatened a city councilman while he was doing a job at the councilman's house. This was followed up by a visit to the park resident's house by the councilman and his friend, a police officer.

Another neighbor, who has a 12-foot urn in his front yard depicting a Roman orgy, filed criminal vandalism charges against another who was painting a backyard mural on the other side of his 7-foot block wall. The weirdest of the neighbors (think Crispin Glover weird) routinely talked to my dog about me while I was standing within earshot. Neighbors without computers and/or internet access screamed and carried on that the website was not printed out and mailed to them, that they should be able to participate in the online venture as well. When t-shirts were designed to be given as gifts to the "board," there was a revival of The Logo Incident.

The whole turbulent time seemed to end with the erection of a neighborhood display board, for everyone to post items of interest. Well, everyone with a key, which at last count was the cat owner and the angry artist. But what really ended it is the lack of participation by what we now call the normals. If you don't engage, there is no fight. Let them have their display case, logo, and paper website. Let them prevent apartment dwellers from using the pool - we all know the crazy lawyer pees in it anyway. Let them keep The Head, the alcohol, and the right to trim trees alone in 40-degree weather. Let them think that Roman orgies are great decor, while murals can only mean criminal vandalism.

Now, if only we can learn to ignore the frivolous lawsuits and threats of physical violence, we could all be good neighbors again.

Monday, March 13, 2006

You will not like this review. The Libertine.

A few years back when I was living in L.A., a friend and I almost came to blows over whether to leave (him) or not leave (me) The English Patient. (For those of you who have gone to movies in L.A., you know what kind of physical and time commitment it is.) He checked his watch and sighed so many times that I had to go see the movie again a few weeks later to see what I missed. During one of his dramatic heavings of breath, I came up with my movie personality theory.

Loosely based on the Myers-Briggs assessment, I believe there are two camps of moviegoers. On the one hand, there are the sensates. Sensate types like a definite story, for that story to be told linearly, and they want to know the good guy from the bad guy. They love a big dramatic arc and a predictable conclusion. They go to movies to escape. In the other camp are the intuitives. They like having to figure things out on their own. Intuitives prefer more ambivalent characters, and they love a non-linear or open-ended plot line. They go to movies to get some cognitive calisthenics. Not that the camps never cross over - they just have their preferences.

My theory was borne out some weeks later when my friend began ranting about the review that the then-LA Times writer, Richard Eder, had written for The English Patient. "There should just be 2 boxes on the page, and the reviewer should just check Yes, I liked it, or No, I didn't." To me, this is classic sensate thinking. Richard Eder was (and is) a master of context, of bringing together initially disparate perspectives, and weaving them into a review that really, most readers are not gonna appreciate, or even get.

So Brian, wherever you are, you are not gonna like this review. 3 paragraphs in and I haven't even mentioned the movie.

A few weeks back the trailers began for The Libertine. I've been waiting for way over a year for this film to come out. So when Mr. Depp appears in his long-haired glory, proclaiming, "You will not like me," I'm thinkin to myself, oh, I think I will. And the only thing I did not like was the fact that this intelligent, wickedly funny film turned into a morality play. An intuitive beginning with a sensate finish.

The film is based on the life of the Earl of Rochester, a 17th century (talented and entertaining) royal/poet who personified hedonism, and died at 33 after trying to treat syphillis with a mercury bubble bath. Fortunately, the disappointment does not come til the end, when it's all "Debauchery bad, Puritanism good." Check. In the meantime it was a refreshing change - in story, cinematography, and set design - from anything I have seen in a long time, and Mr. Depp was consistently riveting.

Now, to get back to my theory. The Teenage Johnny Depp Posse who came in late and sat down next to us, giggling and texting and in general just not getting the movie, were such sensate types that they should have had some kind of I.D. check at the box office window - "you will not like this movie." I would have felt bad for how in over their heads they were, if they just weren't so damn annoying. Big dramatic sigh.

Oh - forgot to mention that two of my favorites from the Brit series Coupling have minor roles - Richard Coyle (the space cadet Geoffrey) was the sardonic manservant Alcock (get it?). And Jack Davenport (nice-guy Steve and was also in Pirates with Depp) had a tiny role. It's one of those films where you know they had a great time on the set.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

King Deighv - anti-rain activist

King Deighv is in the living room again, formally protesting the weather. Deighv is my 11-year-old cat, named after an imaginary Monty Python character. Don't ask. It's pronounced Dave, like Letterman, only that would be far too prosaic a name for this tiny bundle of quirk.

Deighv has been in the house for about a day now. He prefers being outside but equally prefers being dry; hence, his dilemma. Since the rain started late Friday night, he has complained loudly about every 45 minutes, standing just inside the pet door and dripping a kitty-shaped puddle onto the wood floor. See, Deighv thinks I control the weather. After filing a report at least hourly for the last 36, he temporarily gave up his alpha role (oh yes, even over Bella the dog) in our house and is now napping peacefully on a rug by the front door.

He will probably remain there for 3 weeks, apart from the rude interruptions I create when I have to leave the house. Every 3- 4 weeks, Deighv picks a new spot from which to reign. Usually nothing deters Deighv from his chosen spot. Deighv spent 3 weeks inside the washing machine, leaving only when I would start the water. He spent almost a month in the bathtub. Other kitty thrones have included the top of a ladder on the back porch, on top of a viga over the porch, in a bed of cacti, and in the dog's bed.

He doesn't stay there 24/7, though, because he has self-appointed duties. When Bella and I go for walks in the park behind the house, Deighv will either follow or stay by the gate to guard the perimeter of the house. He is fearless. I once saw him chase an 80-lb dog all the way from our back gate to the dog's house across the park. Another time I put a stray in the backyard while I tracked down the owner, and came out to find a dog-shaped hole in the wooden gate - Deighv had chased the dog out right throught the gate. He growls ferociously, and requires passing dogs (and their owners) to allow a 10-foot semi-circle of safety from the back gate out into the alley and park.

If Bella is annoying him too much, he lays on top of her favorite ball and lowers his eyelids until she retreats to the couch. One time during a 3-week stint on the coffee table, he made eye contact with me while he pushed my full coffee cup onto the floor because it was too close to his space.

My "cat people" friends insist that Deighv be kept inside to keep him safe and have a longer life. They don't understand that the only thing I control around here is the weather.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

0 days with no rain

It started raining at about 2 a.m. and has not stopped since. The last time it rained in Phoenix was on my birthday in mid-October, so around 143 days. At around 100 days the news got in on the (non)action. The perception of the desert is that it doesn't rain, but we have "monsoons" or a rainy season (I know, I laughed the first time I heard that too) in July. And normally it rains a lot in January.

During the monsoons it rains for days straight, there are many car crashes (lack of experience in rain), and a few dumb motorists always have to be towed from flooded washes or even low-lying intersections. We have a Stupid Motorist Law now - people have to pay the city back for their rescue services. People even drown in these flooded washes. The water just does not get absorbed.

One year I was trapped at work because the streets were so flooded I could not get home in my little car. Another storm knocked down power lines, which flipped around in the standing water on the streets - it took over 2 hours to drive about 4 miles - very scary. Sometimes the storms are led by huge walls of dust - I've seen this only once but it was almost apolcalyptic in its effect on my psyche. When the wall of dust hit - and everyone on our block was standing outside to watch it - things started flying around in the air a la Wizard of Oz. I had to duck to miss being hit by a flying trashcan.

When it doesn't rain throughout the winter it means that there will be no spring flowers. The hills are usually a psychedelic riot of color in March - green, yellow, orange, purple, and red. The hardiest of cactus start to wither. The silicone water barrier around my clerestory windows dries up, and the rain just pours in when it finally comes. I'm keeping an eye on that now. So much dust is in the air that cars are always coated with a thin film - and the air pollution is terrible because nothing washes away the particulates.

In general, people don't talk much about the weather here. You'd think in a land of such extremes that it would be a hot topic. If it goes over 118 in the summer, someone may mention it, but more likely they will tell you that they sunk their heels into the asphalt while pumping gas - because you already know it's hot. Newbies are given instruction on living in the desert - otherwise they might get 3rd degree burns from their steering wheels. But after this long period without rain I heard people say "It's supposed to rain tomorrow." And after about 3 weeks of tomorrows, it did.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Weird job perks

Part of my job is to find or create graphics that illustrate certain concepts for online lessons. Here are some postcards I found last week while I was looking for a vintage spa photograph.
I love my job.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Welcome to my porch

This is my new welcome sign, although it is too heavy to hang, so it's more of a welcome stand. I made it yesterday, using a terracotta base, tile shards, glass beads, some Mexican clay beads, and one Oaxacan carved cat. It took a little over 5 hours to make. I love mosaic because you don't have to fire, saw, solder, or condition anything. There is much breakage involved though, so that's always fun.

Click on the image for a larger view.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Guilty Pleasure Movies

Until I started going to the Oscars party at Claudia and Scott's, I didn't watch the show very often. Most of the time, the winning movies leave me baffled. Titanic? I don't think Titanic should have won any awards, even if there was one for "Most Water Wasted While Filming." The day after I saw Titanic I exorcised my demons by commandeering the overhead system at work and yelling "Jack! Rose! Jack! Rose!" into it until my boss came and took away my phone.

But watching them with a bunch of people who love them is an entirely different experience. In fact, Lara loves the Oscars so much she's not even going to the party, where there will be a 9 million-inch plasma HDTV and Haagen Dasz ice cream. She prefers instead to watch alone, so the various sarcastic comments and squeals of delight will not cause her to miss one inch of the 4,000 foot-long program. She will miss the happy dance by the winner of the pool, which will probably be Scott, because OH YES, there will be betting, and Scott is an Oscar savant.

So this post is in honor of Lara, whom we will miss because it is really fun to see her lose it when someone talks over the winner for Best Sound in a Foreign Science Fiction Short. See, Lara loves lists almost as much as she loves the Oscars.

So Lara, this list is for you.

Top 5 Guilty Pleasure Movies

1. Office Space
2. The Money Pit
3. Legends of the Fall
4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch
5. Hair

Friday, March 03, 2006

We Shall Overcome the Seeger Sessions

In the past I was very happy to get email from Bruce Springsteen. He writes a lot - "here's my new DVD," "here's Patti's new album," "I'll be performing on the Grammys." He's one of those "list" senders like your friend from college who only forwards bad blonde jokes, but never really writes. Bono, he's only written once but it was looonnnng. If you want to read it I'll send it to you, let me know.

But today Bruce writes that it's official. The only way this email would make me happy is if it had come from The Onion. That would also explain the weird 3rd person narrative. And note the name of the album - methinks a certain colon was left in the 60s.

"Columbia Records will release Bruce Springsteen's twenty-first album, 'We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions,' on April 25. The album features Bruce's personal interpretations of thirteen traditional songs, all of them associated with the legendary guiding light of American folk music, Pete Seeger, for whom the album is named. Speaking of the origins of the new music, Springsteen said, "So much of my writing, particularly when I write acoustically, comes straight out of the folk tradition. Making this album was creatively liberating because I have a love of all those different roots sounds... they can conjure up a world with just a few notes and a few words."
According to Springsteen's longtime manager Jon Landau, "'We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions' has a lightness and ease to it, a sheer joyfulness, that makes it very special from top to bottom. Bruce has taken a core group of classic American songs and transformed them into a high energy, modern and very personal statement."

'We Shall Overcome The Seeger Sessions' Track Listing

1. Old Dan Tucker
2. Jessie James
3. Mrs. McGrath
4. Oh, Mary, Don't You Weep
5. John Henry
6. Erie Canal
7. Jacob's Ladder
8. My Oklahoma Home
9. Eyes On The Prize
10. Shenandoah
11. Pay Me My Money Down
12. We Shall Overcome
13. Froggie Went A-Courtin'

Bonus Tracks:

Buffalo Gals
How Can I Keep From Singing

Hopefully we too shall overcome the Seeger Sessions.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Throttling, and stupid criminals

If you haven't heard, Netflix is throttling you. Well, maybe not you, but someone you know and care about. And they're doing it openly, and without fear of reprisal.

What is throttling? If Netflix thinks they are not making enough profit on your subscription, they withhold popular releases, sending them instead to new customers, or those with lower return rates. These customers are likely paying less per month than you are. Now, don't get me wrong, I love Netflix. I signed on in their first month of operation, and have been faithful ever since. But this reminds me of the 'bad boyfriend syndrome.' It's great in the beginning, but then, when he knows he has you wrapped around his finger, he doesn't call as often, he doesn't try as hard. He basically just does not deliver.

Meanwhile, I have become very self conscious about my rental activity. Am I sending back too soon? Does someone else have my copy of ____? (Am I calling him too soon? Is he seeing someone else?) I knew I was being throttled when I added The Best of Youth to my queue - a subtitled Italian film that runs 6 hours long. It immediately said "SHORT WAIT." Huh?

So last night I watched Ice Harvest. I LOVE stupid criminal movies. The best stupid criminal movie ever? Lock Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels. Out of Sight, Welcome to Collinwood, Snatch, Big Trouble - you're a stupid criminal movie? You're going in my queue. So, Ice Harvest is released on Tuesday -it's already in my queue. For some mysterious reason, I am not throttled for this new release. I think, wow, my complaint letter worked.

But... no. This was the worst movie I have seen in a long time. Nothing wrong with Jon Cusack or Billy Bob - but take away Connie Nielsen's hair and she could have been one of the androids from I, Robot. Stiff and basically non-human. The story was lame, predictable, and done many times before. The one bright spot? Oliver Platt plays a great drunk, and he was drunk almost the whole movie.

So, do I send it back? Or hold onto it for a week. Sigh. I promise to rent only German existentialist flicks for 2 months straight. Unpopular German existentialist flicks.