Monday, December 31, 2001

West is West made a great follow-up to Chan is Missing (1982); in color, and also set in the Bay area and homemade in feeling, its soundtrack featured music from Bombay movies of the day (1987). In the Rolling Stone issue devoted to George Harrison, Keith Richards is quoted as follows: "I draw the line at swamis." Speaking of quotations, the December Harper's magazine has a fantasia on "Kenneth, what is the frequency?" and casts suspicion on one or more of the Barthelme brothers, particularly Donald. I always remember the query, for some reason, as being addressed to Norman, not Kenneth.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

Chan is Missing is truly greater than the sum of its parts: very big-city and ahead of its time in lots of ways. I especially loved the Mexican bolero music ("Sabor a mi") accompanying the dance party at the Filipino old folks' home. We used to see the preview for it over and over again at the old Varsity but we never saw the movie. Today was the annual trek up north. We did not find the tamale lady, perhaps because it's Sunday, but we did sale-price bulbs at Smith & Hawken, we did get some left-over Crane holiday items at Northwest Pharmacy, especially good because I'd used up my last items of the kind writing holiday letters. How we miss VBL&J. The right socks were found at Sam's and at a very good price. The Container Store did not ensnare us; we acquired all the necessary items and in record time.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

When people send their kids out to sell from door to door, why do they think it's going to improve sales to have the parents trailing along the curb in the family vehicle? The least they could do is get out and walk with the kid; better yet, sell in their own neighborhood where the neighbors know the kid or the kid knows the neighbors. Or send the kid out alone or with a friend to sell. We all survived somehow. Or better yet, buy up all the stuff yourself, making sure that the merchandise on offer is acceptable. For some reason, the wrapping-paper sales efforts seem to have better products.

Friday, December 28, 2001

We're still finding places where the squirrels have replanted spring bulbs, giving us an even more eccentric garden than the one we had planned all by ourselves.There was only one new episode of Amigas y rivales this week and there's not going to be an episode again until Wednesday, which may turn out to be a repeat--just when it's really heating up again, especially with Roxana (Joanna Benedek).

Thursday, December 27, 2001

So I was not the only one to have password trouble yesterday--the site was hacked. Better password precautions are in order--I can't get "I'm Putting All My Eggs in One Basket" off the mental jukebox. Just another Irving Berlin special. Though I've always loved it, until a little research was conducted I hadn't been aware that it ever reached number one on the hit list at any time. Why is it a seldom-heard item today when it should be a standard? I've only ever heard Ella's version and Fred's version, never anybody live.

Wednesday, December 26, 2001

Somebody altered my blog password while I was otherwise engaged--no matter; all is back to normal. Almost Famous has its longeurs, but it was fun to see. It's one of the rare ones that doesn't suffer for not being seen on the big pantalla. In the authenticity department it's lacking, but the stewardess uniforms were a wonderful amalgam of Braniff and American, heavy on the Braniff. Follow the Fleet is a lesser Astaire-Rogers effort but seeing it after all these years makes one realize how far above most efforts a lesser Fred is--case in point, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. For that one, I don't know whether it's the 'fifties effect that elicits the bleah or the garish color or Jimmy Van Heusen's mediocre (for him) musical efforts. Okay; so now I look in the AMDB and find it was released in 1949--just as gruesome an era, with a completely uncharming Bing Crosby and the odious William Bendix. Nurse Betty is very peculiar, but extremely comical in places. Morgan Freeman is the real star. Crispin Glover makes one of his rare non--peculiar appearances. A Stolen Life makes one believe that 1946 was also an accursed year for movies. The "charm" of Glenn Ford has never been apparent for me. Just more reasons to be grateful that the 'sixties arrived. Splitting Heirs was never seen in this town, so far as we can remember--noteworthy for an early view of Catherine Zeta-Jones. Nothing to Lose was well worth seeing and unexpectedly funny. How it got made is a mystery. Our Christmas tree still smells wonderful. Christmas letters are still being written. Christmas baking has yet to be done. Many small packages are to follow.

Friday, December 21, 2001

When dignified-looking and -appearing people not in their first youth are reduced to going from door to door even as darkness falls and the chill sets in, begging for yardwork to earn a few bucks for a night's roof, Austin is returning to hard times for sure. If only we'd thought quickly enough to give some pocket-fitting, ready-to-eat, peel-top canned food as well. We were reminded of Lucian and wonder where he is and whether he's well.

Thursday, December 20, 2001

The Day the Sun Turned Cold conveys what it's like to be in real snow and cold weather, just as Brother's Keeper did. It's supposedly based on a real case, and the acting is wonderful. According to the IMDB one of the cast was in Raise the Red Lantern. Thanks to our never-miss attendance at the old movie series on campus that so often featured movies from Hong Kong and the mainland, we immediately recognized the beancurd-making process as soon as it appeared on the screen. Since this movie was in Mandarin we could only pick out the words, "ma," "pa," "doufu," and "feng shui."

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Someone was looking for silver dragees, not even knowing for sure if they are called by that name. It was a pleasure to help. These days they're billed as nonedible, but I don't think I'm any the worse for wear for having consumed plenty in my childhood! The King Arthur's Flour people always have them, but in one size only, and not pearl.

Monday, December 17, 2001

The wonderful thing about this time of year is hearing from those who report in annually. Santa Fe and the Irish Republic are among those outposts lately heard from. How do we get scattered so far apart?

Sunday, December 16, 2001

The choreographer of White Christmas had lots of fun mocking Martha Graham in one number, with a certain kind of knit dress, certain poses, and Martha look-alikes. It brought back memories of that production of Aida (here in Austin?) in which the priestesses of Ptah writhed around on the floor in knit jersey tubes, completely out of keeping with the rest of the production design. Since the international movie dababase reports that Robert Alton was from Bennington, one can only suppose that he knew about the goings-on at the college and at Jacob's Pillow. Shadow Magic from Vulcan is a visual treat (language Mandarin) and very sweet in spirit. Lacking everything in delicacy, but still fun is The Animal.

Friday, December 14, 2001

Time's whirling by so fast and sometimes it seems there's not much even to smile at, but for some reason I find the cover of the December 14 issue of the New Yorker smileworthy--Talibanish figures zipping along an Afghanistan-looking mountain ledge on Ginger Segway personal transporters. By the way, the Segway link here is to somebody's weblog featuring 'Net segway mentions and also shows the New Yorker cover. This is an issue that arrived in the mail only today, although no doubt it's been on the newstands before now. In Fortune magazine for December 24 I like the illustration for the piece on Smucker's purchase of the Jif peanut butter line from Procter and Gamble--it's a photograph of a jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly under the covers together in a miniature bed. There's a framed picture of a peanut in the shell over Jif's side of the bed and a similarly framed depiction of a purple grape on Smucker's side.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

A wonderful miracle in everyday life is the finding of a lost contact lens. It's not to be found anywhere; the mind conjures up the necessary ophthalmologist appointment, the complete examination including all the dismal news about macular degeneration, etc., etc, the dread tonometry, the bleariness afterwards, the wait for the new lens or lenses. The money's the least of it; the time's what can't be spared. The brightest flashlights scan the floor, the clothing, the countertop, the sink. Once it was found when the sink trap was opened. And then! it's on the floor--right where it wasn't a minute ago. Where did it come from? where had it been? We'll never know, but all heave a great sigh of relief.

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Once again, my favorite local meteorologists agreed with me and disagreed with the other forecasters in town. The rains did fall, and fall, and fall. This morning was the right morning to finish up fall seed-planting. Now we're ready for things to dry out again because it's time to go up on the rooftop.

Monday, December 10, 2001

Papa always said, "Let the saw do the work." So I did. But tomorrow or the day after it's going to feel otherwise. Whenever there's a pick-up of sawn logs, there'll be a big one out in front of this particular establishment.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

With some help to steady the ladder, the large fallen redbud limb overarching the sidewalk to the front porch and being held up by a moribund Japanese yew and some immature Rose of Sharon shrubs is finally separated from the tree and on the ground ready for additional dismemberment. I am very good at using handsaws of various kinds, but regret that I wasn't ever given enough instruction to be able to make my own sawbuck and sawhorses, as any novice carpenter should be able to do. I know how to hammer and saw, and do it right, and a little bit more, but that's it. Too bad.

Saturday, December 08, 2001

We had a lot of Russel Wright dishes in the house at one time. Now there's only one divided vegetable casserole dish in Iroquois casual and copycat teardrop pitcher. There was also lots of Stangl fruit-pattern pottery, which chips and cracks easily; perhaps it's something about the red clay, which seems to be called "terra rose." This came from the hardware store. I don't know who made the cups and saucers that were yellow and hand-painted with a green-and-gold plaidlike design. There's certainly a lot of time spent in the company of tabletop items, which are so evocative when encountered again in later life in other contexts.

Friday, December 07, 2001

I don't become irritated until I encounter irritated people; if others are good-humored so am I. Just call me the human mirror, or "looking glass," as my grandmother used to call it. The Dictionary of American Regional English collected this usage from people who used "bureau" for "dresser."

Thursday, December 06, 2001

Too bad it's extremely unlikely that we'll be going to Santa Fe to see the old year out. How wonderful it would be to see our good companions from the old days.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

There's nothing like carnitas for breakfast. Somebody's driving around and pitching out little knotted plastic bags with a few pebbles or pieces of gravel inside, plus a slip like a Chinese cookie fortune with "work at home" information. At least a half dozen of these ingenious items in our gutter alone. This is not a form of promotion that I've ever seen before--one person's invention, or a fashion? The primary checking-account statement for November arrived today, having closed on 27 November. It has never taken so long to arrive.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

The next time there are large plants to be moved there should be a hand truck in the house!

Saturday, December 01, 2001

What kind of collision between a land yacht and a compact car leaves no one injured and no immediately visible signs of damage, but leaves the larger vehicle immobile? Whatever it was brought a police cruiser to the scene down the hill, not done very often these days but perhaps there was contenion over the cause. It was a great treat to see the usual idiots top the hill and then stand on their brakes when they saw the light bar on the prowler.