Tuesday, July 31, 2001

We used to be able to stop by the house at noon and look at our mail. These days, we're lucky if it's delivered by 6 p.m. or sometimes at all. We used to know on exactly what day each magazine would arrive. No more; now we're lucky if we receive an issue at all. We had to give up subscribing to the New York Times metro edition (the complete one, with all the ads and all the regional news, plus much, much more), because half of the issues never arrived at all. I really liked it the time I called the branch to enquire and was told that there was no mail for us. There is never no mail for us. There's just mail that isn't sorted and mail that isn't delivered. It's short-staffing that's part of the problem. We have no quarrel at all with our letter-carriers. Maybe I'll feel better when I have a sheet of the new baseball playing-field stamp issue.

Monday, July 30, 2001

All of a sudden it seems that Band-Aid tins are nowhere to be found. How long has this been going on? I can't find out. These were the preferred secret ashtray of choice for secrecy-seeking smokers for decades and decades. My parents didn't believe in bandaging any kind of wound. If witch hazel or a mustard plaster or BFI powder couldn't cure it, you might as well go ahead and die. On eBay, Band-Aid tins seem to be regarded as collectibles. Ouch! bubble gum is packaged in tins, and they seem to change in design every once in a while. Last Easter season, Russell Stover had large tins packaged with candy and plastic novelties in them, featuring Looney Tunes characters. Royal Warriors showcases Michelle Yeoh as she was in 1986, along with many other familiar faces. The choreography of car chases in Jackie Chan movies makes those in other movies look truly inferior. In this week's New Republic is what's ostensibly a review of a book analyzing Bush v. Gore but it is really a detailed analysis of the case. After she gave up the life of a movie critic, she earned a law degree in New Haven.

Sunday, July 29, 2001

When we hit Acemart yesterday while questing for wedding presents, the staff was making caramel popcorn in one of the machines for sale. Except for a couple of Fiesta pieces in the current colors of cinnabar and spruce, we resisted most personal temptation. Movie du jour: Trial and Error. This is a well-crafted light comedy. Jeff Daniels is greatly under-appreciated. Location filming was done in Inyo County, California, including Independence, the county seat, where are located Mount Whitney, lava flows, the Yucca Mountain repository, and at least part of Death Valley, plus WWII Japanese-American internment camps and the Owens Valley. In geographic size, it is the second-largest in California.

Saturday, July 28, 2001

At the Target, where we were looking up someone's wedding-gift preferences, we met an old next-door neighbor, one we sorely miss. These folks shunned disposable diapers and did not use a clothesdryer either. It was always such a pretty sight to see a full line of laundry out every day. The first thing the new owner did was to take down the clothesline. I've got such a good eye for picking out the manager or any establishment or, failing that, the person most likely to know something and be willing to impart it and otherwise assist. Otherwise, shopping for anything would be even worse than it is. It's a great convenience to find that there's a scanner available to customers, so that the price of any article, even if unmarked, may be ascertained by means of the UPC. Of course, as to the wedding presents, most of the unbought ones were out of stock. And the item that we bought, we forgot to have removed from the list. How many others have done the same, one wonders. Most of the afternoon was spent assembling a fan on a telescoping pole. This item is ever more cheaply made and badly packed. The directions were scant, the box had been opened, and the result is wobbly. At first it appeared that there was a missing part, but perhaps that is not the case. We shall see. A remote control, of all things, is included. This is probably a good thing, since dealing with the controls manually requires one to be as limber as a contortionist.

Friday, July 27, 2001

What a stinker is Sleepy Hollow. Although we've enjoyed several earlier Tim Burton efforts, this one served, barely, merely to divert from the heat. Bad production values--bad costumes, bad "village of Sleepy Hollow," and utterly silly-looking headless horseman. Peculiar accents were served up by many. For the most part, the actors aren't really to be faulted, having striven valiantly against the script. The score was intrusive and bombastic; it could have come from a stock library, it was so generic. Speaking of the heat, seldom has the Statesman at its worst published anything so irritating as the little feature entitled "With no AC, it's a cruel, cruel summer," wherein the heroine feature reporter serves up her horrible sufferings of two days without what she's used to. Quel horreur! As catching up continues, the best piece in the London Review of Books is a profile of Tomi Ungerer and a discussion of some of his work. I completely agree, as a lover of military marches, the German marches beat most of them, with the exception of some of Sousa's and his American contemporaries. Evidently his children's books have been subjected to a sort of blacklisting in this country, following publication of some of his more "adult" fantasies. I had not realized that he was Alsatian or that he now lives in Eire, following an interlude in Nova Scotia.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

Up at 3 a.m. for the official watering day--what a treat. Of course, everybody else is just watering through the night with secret soak. The video treat of the evening was Bombay Talkie, an early Merchant-Ivory effort. The opening, with the 42nd-Street-ish dancers on typewriter keys, was fun. It was not a surprise to learn that the lead English actress was Felicity Kendall's sister; the resemblance was quite strong. All back issues of Metropolis have now been read; perhaps the piece on Florence Knoff was most interesting, with the blurb on the disposable cell phone a close second--this latter was also recently written up in Business Week..

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

At the end of "Abrazame muy fuerte," there was a tribute to Caridad Bravo Adams. She died in 1990, but was a resident of Villahermosa, where a lot of this novela was evidently filmed. Of all the books in Spanish in the library, hers and Agatha Christie's (translated at various levels of difficulty) circulate the most. Last night's entertainment was Susan and God (1940). The best thing about it was the wardrobe of Joan Crawford--the millinery was spectacular. The self-help, quack-religion aspect is very true to today's life. It was very obviously a reconfigured stage play and ludicrous at times, but very "educational."

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

Right after the end of the penultimate episode of "Abrazame muy fuerte" the power went off. Street lights and traffic lights remained on. We just slapped some anti-mosquito stuff on and went out and sat in the yard with a portable radio and listened to KFON norteno and banda music for an hour or so. Those with A.C. stayed inside, being afraid to let any of that precious cool air out. The big fear was that it would all last so long that the food in the fridge, just replenished, would spoil or melt. I still haven't dared check my stock of Haagen-Dasz ice cream on a stick. For some reason no one stocks the ones coated in dark chocolate, so I've finally broken down and taken to consuming the ones coated in milk chocolate. The Wall Street Journal once reported that the American taste for dark chocolate is limited to a small part of the northeast. For a while, H-D sold beautiful ice-cream sandwiches, with the cookie part made by Pepperidge Farm, but I guess people weren't willing to pay a premium price for something that delicious. Same for the short-lived H-D Fudgsicle equivalent, geometrically better than any others. Blue Bell makes a very decent fudge bar, though. When August arrives, I'll be digging into Manhattan paletas. There's nothing more refreshing than those tart lime items with no artificial colors. Today our new trash receptacle finally arrived. The Solid Waste people deliver it on a flatbed trailer. They're nested, and the City guy pulls one out of the stack, slides a rod through two holes to be the axle, and pounds a wheel on each end of the rod with a mallet. The old one developed a crescent-shaped slit in the bottom that leaked all the liquid matter and with it all the accompanying smell. Whew!

Monday, July 23, 2001

The Ghost Breakers with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard was last night's heat-beating home-movie fare. Willie Best played Bob Hope's valet/chauffer Alex a/k/a Syracuse. He sported even better tailoring than Hope, and had an extended movie career in parts of more or less the same nature. The IMDB reports that he was on TV in My Little Margie and the Stu Erwin Show. The zombie, one Noble Johnson, was also a producer and screenwriter. Entertainment can be educational.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

So Gunther Gebel-Williams is dead. The circus didn't even come to Austin this year, hitting Waco, Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth, but not us. The New York Times had the best obit. GGW said that the hardest cat to train is the housecat--can't be done. He never really left the circus. We were always watching him and not the act in the ring--he'd be out there in a boiler suit, wearing glasses, and no longer keeping his hair very blond, watching the big cats and elephants all the time. Last year he was limping and using a cane; he must have known about his brain tumor then. Today's our watering day, so we were up at 2 a.m., trying to get it all done, to meet the over-100 low-humidity day.

Friday, July 20, 2001

It's so odd that music sounds best over the radio. It felt so lucky to hear "Cruz de Madera" by Michael Salgado. It must be one of the most popular requests. Apparently this is a very popular karaoke choice also. It's hard to believe that this song's been around only since 1996, and that it was his first hit and his first disco de platino.

Local retail politics gone national

What does Last Man Standing look like to a national audience? If only there were someone to ask. It should have plenty of viewers in Blanco, Hays, and Caldwell counties. A good proportion of the district's population appears in the documentary. This campaign would have made a great reality show complete with weekly updates.

Thursday, July 19, 2001

So all issues of New Mexico magazine have been read; the best article was on Silver City and there was a good short bit on vintage panoramic (350-degree) Cirkut No. 10 cameras., which take film seven feet long, hand-rolled by Kodak. As a kid, I used to see a souvenir print of a panoramic photo of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. This is the kind of diversion needed to distract from the heat, there now having been seven over-100-degree days to endure without air-conditioning.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001


Breakin' All the Rules was just what the doctor ordered: laughs, but not the guffaw sort that are doing to be injurious to the person in delicate health, and cheap, too, at the dollar movies in Wells Branch. Maybe that pug should have had billing closer to the top. Movies that aren't mainstream don't get much play on IMDB. This is a review that conveys the social-comedy aspects of the movie and the characters, who are predominantly L.A. Buppies established in their careers, not just out of college but not settled down yet, either.

Magazine catch-up continues: Harper's Magazine had the best article of yesterday's consumption, a very true-to-life piece that featured conversations with insurance adjustors specializing in evaluating and trying to settle wrongful-death cases ("Working Stiffs: the necessary parasites of capitalism"). Reprinted in the front matter was an excellent piece read first in the Times Literary Supplement, wherein a person with property in South America compares cattle-raising practices in the U.S. with his own practices ("It's What's for Dinner").

Tuesday, July 17, 2001

The project to catch up on all in-house magazines continues. What a wholesome way to spend the evening: last night it was Consumer Reports, wherein I learned about hotels, outdated electrical house wiring and the dangers thereof, what's involved in filling prescriptions for eyeglasses, and all about chainsaws, including the advice not to use them when on a ladder or in a tree. Our current novela, "Abrazame muy fuerte," ends very soon. Since we limit ourselves to following just one at a time, a choice looms soon. We are leaning toward trying "Amigas y rivales," if only because we enjoy Adamari Lopez so much, and Michelle Vieth is also featured.

Monday, July 16, 2001

So yesterday, it was the cheapie route to escaping the century-high temps: Along Came a Spider, in which Morgan Freeman was his usual impressive self--a good and workmanlike movie overall. Whole Foods had parking spaces, for a change, and no obnoxious staffers, also for a change, although we haven't gone there for a long, long time. Pederson's Natural Farms has taken the domaine name "healthy pork." We found our favorite, jalapeno sausage, and were content, and also resisted going into the bookstore. At MGM Indian Foods, we found more stock at the new location.

Saturday, July 14, 2001

Temperatures over 100 degrees have ill effects on one's disposition, especially when dwelling without air-conditioning. I'll say no more on the subject today. Kiss of the Dragon does not display Bridget Fonda to advantage; it didn't even seem as though she was just along for the ride; even her character--forget how it was played, was complete surplusage. But the choreography of the hotel laundry room!

Friday, July 13, 2001

Well, now a month's worth of The Economist is read. There was a great piece on Houston and then a stupid letter a couple of issues later, from someone who has obviously never been there but still says bad things about it. There was a great piece on the U.S.-Mexico border, much better in one article than the long special section that Time magazine recently published on this subject. Perhaps the best piece was on the death of the rain queen. H. Rider Haggard is supposed to have based the notion of She upon an ancestor of hers. This afternoon another telephone guy's around toting a ladder from yard to yard, poor guy--in this heat. Messages to several members of the listserv are bouncing. Two have been tracked to new e-mail addressed and resubscribed. When will summer be over?

Thursday, July 12, 2001

"Customer care" is an expression long overdue for retirement. Where did this come from? Naming no names, I'll just say that any company that uses it arouses immediate suspicion. Today's the second day that KVET radio is giving two hours to radio psychic Allene Cunningham. The amazing thing is that the callers are predominantly male and asking about their love lives, though three asked about long-lost children from earlier marriages or relationships. Contrary to expectation, women were scarce. One called with concerns about her son in prison and the others were mostly interested in career advice. Her web site gives her the appearance of a jollier and better preserved Barbara Cartland in her heyday. Evidently she had planned to be in town for two days only, but her stay has been extended.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Well, I tried to post yesterday. The project to read all the magazines in the house continues. Now Business Week, Forbes, and Fortune are all read, as are all on-hand issues of the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. Nothing there that couldn't have waited forever, unless you count that the business publications seem to be disenchanted by George W. In BW was a great piece on left-over environmental troubles from the nineteenth century--coal tar and other residues left from manufacturing gas for street- and house-lighting by burning coal. We can both remember seeing gas-holders. Today's another watering day and, since wake-up happened at 1:30 a.m., there was nothing to be done but to arise and begin with the sprinklers. While that was going on, invited 89 more members of the nabe association to join the listserv.

Monday, July 09, 2001

Down came another pecan limb, this time on the telephone drop to the house. The trusty pavement broom dislodged it, and before dawn, but not without a terrific noise. With a Friend Like Harry was the movie du Saturday, requiring a first trip to the new Westgate movie theater, very handsome, but not much frequented, apparently. The end credits didn't crawl; they flew; so location credits could not be deciphered. People seemed to say "si" instead of "oui" a lot. Then it was Time and Tide, our third recent Tsui Hark feature at the Dobie, all in the cathedral room, thank goodness, not in the Egyptian room. I've read three reviews of this movie and there's no agreement on the plot, which is fairly incomprehensible, but it does't really matter. How fortunate that we were able to tape Miss Texas 2001 and how fortunate that it was not the ventriloquist who was chosen to go to the big scholarship. Jegimajo offered lots of lucky bamboo, bubble tea (not samples), and coconut rolls from the House of Bread in Houston, plus some pan de sal rolls from Sammy's Bakery and Delicacies in Houston, as well as a fat Filipino newspaper from Houston. Bolillos from el Buen Gusto bakery were disappointing--too soft, though nicely shaped. There was a wide selection of cakes, empanadas, and pan dulce, with tongs and a tray for selecting. Marranitos were resisted. At home we saw our first hummingbird. So we kept our minds more or less off the now very hot weather.

Friday, July 06, 2001

A learning experience it may be, but it certainly is tedious to try and retry. Trial and error remains trial and error, without ever becoming trial and success. And if it does become trial and success, how the grand accomplishment was achieved can never be recalled. The wheel is always being invented, alas.

Thursday, July 05, 2001

All my free services are starting to charge: good-bye free e-mail; good-bye free counters. And I got super-soaked at the parade by some kids riding on a float. Luckily the old sunglasses saved my vision. Is Once Upon a Time in China part one better than part two? There's disagreement in the household, but nobody disputes that Rosamond Kwan looks cute dressed as a boy scholar. Ginger Rogers still had strong traces of her Texas accent in Roxie Hart.

Tuesday, July 03, 2001

How wonderful to see Once Upon a Time in China! This was the first one and is so beautiful (a/k/a Huang Fei-Hong). Jet-li rules! On video, two old bill-makers, The Rage of Paris and The Road to Singapore, plus Me, Myself and Irene. Blah. The quality of the print for The Road to Singapore was beautiful, though. Prediction come true: the Statesman feature on the combination mail-order minister/notary public/bait-seller brought doom. The City cited him for an illegal sign in a residential neighborhood and also for the "illegal health hazard" of the worms on his front porch, claiming two anonymous complaints, but sending him a copy of the newspaper story. Sammy and Bob made hay with this one. I'd like to see a legal health hazard.

Monday, July 02, 2001

Yesterday the post card was from the Gila cliff dwellings, one of the most, dare we say, numinous places. It used to be that there'd be nobody around but you and the birds and the little stream and the trees. No wonder people lived there 700 years ago. It'll be a wonder if it's as peaceful as it used to be. There'd never even be a ranger around.

Sunday, July 01, 2001

Supper was on the table when there was a knock on the door. It was one of those infernal clipboard-bearers that go around from door-to-door asking to have petitions signed and seeking contributions, always for some "environmental" outfit and always for pay and always at suppertime. This one was different because there was a trailing entourage of video and sound people from Japanese public television. All this evidently had something to do with GWB and the Kyoto accords. The canvasser was given the standard spiel: a one-car household, a small-car household, a no-power-mower or power-tools-of-any-kind household, a centrally located household, a household without air-conditioning. As they all left to go on to the next establishment, the canvasser was heard to say to the crew, "...sympathetic, but...."