Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.
Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net
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» Saturday, August 31, 2002
Dragoncon, Day 2
Arrived early and had about 30 minutes in the dealer's room before it got crowded. I bought eight zines: one is for a gift, and I discovered later on that I already had one of them; it had a different cover and I didn't recognize it. It is undamaged, so I'm hoping the distributor may let me return or trade on it. There's a Secret Adventures of Jules Verne zine that looked intriguing. Anyway, I bought issues 1-5 of Prime Time, a multimedia zine done by some friends of mine, and Oh Boy! 6. You may be able to guess what that's devoted to. (Me, I'm devoted to Admiral Al Calavicci.)
Then James went off to a spam panel and I saw Chris Demetral of The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne. He's charming and funny, and told some amusing stories of working in authentic Victorian costume. Apparently they are still trying to market a season 2 of the series.
James had a panel about spaceships of the future at one, while I went to see Ethan Phillips. I was not a Star Trek: Voyager fan, and really not a Neelix fan, but Phillips was a riot. He not only talked about the series, but regaled the crowd with jokes.
We then caught up with each other, and, because Robert Picardo's panel had been moved (sigh...), saw Robin Sachs instead. He was amusing, but not as good, I thought, as either of the previous panelists.
We chose to leave that panel a bit early because the next panel featured the Babylon 5 cast and we wanted to get good seats. A good thing, too, because even at 3:25, people were lining up for this 4 p.m. panel! (The DragonCon heirarchy persists in putting the B5 programming in small rooms, despite protests. Well, this year's room was larger than last year's, but not by much!)
If laughter is the best medicine, we got a good dose of health at this panel. From the moment the "festivities" began, we were in stitches. The panel consisted of Tracy Scoggins, Julia Nickson, Julie Caitlin Brown, Andrea Thompson, Andreas Katsulas, Peter Jurasik, Richard Biggs, and Jason Carter, and they were all hilarious, especially Biggs and Carter, who came walking in last (the autograph areas they were appearing in was quite a walk from the panel rooms). Julie Brown led the conversation, but everyone had a chance to get some zingers in, and most people ended up laughing until tears came.
Our last panel was a wrap up of the Enterprise series with Peter David. Panel and audience debated the pros and cons of the show (the theme song got some bad marks).
We debated on whether to stay longer or not, drifted to the ARTC table for a while, then went for supper. By the time we finished, we figured we'd make it an early night and came home by nine.
» Friday, August 30, 2002
Dragoncon, Day 1
A short day today. We slept late, spent some time with the fids, then had lunch at Boston Market before braving downtown Atlanta traffic (the streets aren't bad, it's the freeway). When we got to registration, we were asked for "the green card that you were sent in the mail." Well, maybe in your mail, not in ours! Apparently a lot of people didn't get their green cards in the mail, if the comments we heard in line were correct.
Spent the next few hours strolling the Dealer's Room, the Exhibit Hall, and the Art Show. Saw a friend we hadn't seen in a couple of years, and said hello to Daniel Taylor, whose heart attack and subsequent problems with his blood thinners are chronicled in his blog. I was overjoyed in the Dealer's Room to see that Jim Butcher's new Harry Dresden book is out, and also that one of the dealers has fanzines! I'll be making a stop in two places tomorrow. Oh,yeah, and Bill Holbrook is there, so I can buy the latest Kevin and Kell comic collection.
The Art Show is good and bad. The pro stuff is excellent, but the amateur material is only so-so.
James was a bit flaked out, so I attended one panel without him: Armin Shimmerman in a panel for the Buffy programming track. He was pleasant and funny: talked about his first audition for the show, a time when Sarah Michelle Gellar helped him out with a scene, and other small tidbits. He also talked about being a union steward, did a scene from Richard III and talked about being a Shakespearean scholar and teaching Shakespeare courses.
Afterwards found James in the main performance room and we had the supper (roast "beast" sandwiches we'd carried with us) while sitting, reading the schedule, and watching the Atlanta Radio Theatre Company people straggle in to set up for their performance. Talked with everyone as they came in, then sat through the short opening ceremony before their production began.
Dancer in the Dark is, in short, stunning. I sat there with my eyes fixed on the stage listening to the story, hardly able to wait to hear what happened next. The plot: in 1928, Indian mounds are being excavated in a small Georgia town. Professor Cletius Tremaine arrives from Arkham, Massachusetts, to see the excavation, being handled by his nephew. But there are townspeople telling him it's dangerous to open the mounds, that something under the earth is waiting to be freed...
As young Jerry says in the production, "Wow!" And let that suffice.
» Tuesday, August 27, 2002
The movie A Ring of Endless Light premiered on the Disney Channel recently.
You must understand I have been a fan of Madeleine L’Engle’s since Judy Martini recommended A Wrinkle in Time to me in seventh grade. (I will thank Judy for this till the day I die.) I have as many of L’Engle’s books as I can collect, and I’ve even slogged through Ilsa, borrowed from the library, a book which L’Engle admits badly needed an editor. My favorites of her fiction are A House Like a Lotus and A Wrinkle in Time, but I love her nonfiction. When I am mentally or spiritually troubled, it’s L’Engle’s nonfiction I turn to, especially the Crosswicks books or the Genesis Trilogy.
So you can see why I’d be interested–and afraid–when The Disney Channel announced they were doing two L’Engle projects, Ring of Endless Light and a miniseries version of A Wrinkle in Time (set to air in November; there’s a preview of it on the Spy Kids DVD).
I’d wondered how one earth they were going to do Ring as a movie anyway, since most of it is introspection from Vicky Austin about herself, her life, the two young men in her life, Zachary Gray and Adam Eddington, and the dolphins Adam is researching. I also wondered about the climax, as I couldn’t see Disney doing the sequence where the little girl, Binnie, dies of a seizure (she is epileptic and her religious zealot father keeps throwing her medication in the toilet). Predictably, too, Zachary’s suicide attempt was left out, so there’s no Commander Rodney to die as in the book's opening. (The harbormaster is actually someone named Dan in what looked like a token black role.)
In total it was predictably superficial, and I wonder what Madeleine L’Engle thought of it since it’s been so heavily promoted on her granddaughter Charlotte Jones’ website. Let me get out of the way what I did like:
Suzy Austin. Suzy was almost perfect. (Little brother Rob was okay. They turned him into your typical little boy tormenting his sister, though, with a bug collection, and in one scene he says a very un-Rob line about girls being gross. But at the end he still asks the thought-provoking question about death perhaps being like people without eyes on an alien planet getting to go to a planet with sight when they die.) Suzy indeed had a great line in the movie: Zach drives up as they are bicycling to the research center and she mutters, “Look, here’s Mr. Thinks-He's-Wonderful” with the appropriate disgusted attitude.
Use of some of the Henry Vaughan poetry (including the end) that figures in much of the novel, including lending the book its title.
Grandfather actually mentioned as being a minister (Disney usually avoids mention of religion like the proverbial plague).
Zach saying that he admires the Austins because they love one another and have dinner together and go to church and say Grace.
God being mentioned in a Disney movie (the only other mention I can remember is in Pollyanna).
Grandfather giving Vicky all her poems in a bound book, and his final gift to her being another bound book for future poems.
James Whitmore as Grandfather. Not how I pictured him, but I liked him.
Material I was ambivalent about:
Absence of Leo Rodney, another boy interested in Vicky.
Mr. Rochester the Great Dane as Grandfather’s dog, not the Austins.
The climax of the movie as rescuing Ynid [one of the dolphins] from a drift net. Looks like the scriptwriters took something Adam said about dolphins getting caught in fishermen’s nets and ran with it. As I said, this is a thoughtful novel. How would you bring it to the screen? I can’t see Disney doing the original climax: death of a little girl in an emergency room and Vicky’s resultant depression, with the dolphins—and Adam—to bring her out of it. Too esoteric.
Stuff that really bothered me:
Grandfather hiding the fact of his leukemia from the family. Quite at odds with the character. His illness is one of the troubling things Vicky must work through during the summer, and it contributes to the climax of the book. It also reeks of filmmaker manipulation.
Vicky is played by this tall, scrawny actress who looks like a model instead of a real girl. She’s not too bad acting-wise, but she doesn’t look anything like anyone imagines Vicky, who describes herself as plain. She always seems to be irritated instead of troubled.
Zach isn’t dark enough. I always think of Zach as James Dean. This Zach is merely annoying rather than obnoxious.
The kid who played Adam, Ryan Merriman, was cute, but he seemed terribly childish and excessively emotional for the role. The novel Adam was quieter and more mature—and he sure wouldn’t have been rude enough to be confrontative when Vicky introduces Zach to him at lunch.
Zach’s dad as a one-dimensional eco-oppositionist. Ugh.
The scene where Vicky rushes into the tank where Ynid is giving birth. In the book the dolphin researchers are very close to the dolphins and know what they need. In the movie Vicky must tell them (I guess as the all-knowing psychic dolphin guru) not to give Ynid a sedative (good God, what dolphin researcher would sedate a dolphin unless it was an emergency anyway????) and that Basil has to be there to help her with her baby, like Dr. Zand and Adam are the dumbest clots on earth.
The final rescue scene where Vicky can “sense” Ynid in trouble from miles away. Urgh. It smacks of Lassie.
The thing I completely hated:
The reason Vicky is so snappish for much of the movie is that her parents are forcing, forcing, mind you, her to apply for a new high school at the university where they teach (they are not a doctor and a retired singer in this version, evidently), although she feels she would not be comfortable there. Wallace and Victoria Austin would never, never ever ask any of their kids to apply to a school that made them uncomfortable. They might encourage Vicky to apply there because they believed it would be good for her. If she did apply, they would help her with her studies and tell her to do the best she could. They would not force her into doing so. Mrs. Austin would also not just shrug off Vicky’s poetry with an “oh, they’re okay.”
They do this in every damn freaking movie these days, even if the source material doesn’t call for it: the kids always, always must be at odds with their parents about something, and the parents must be clueless and unyielding (occasionally stupid as well). Apparently understanding parents are verboten in kids’ movieland these days. They did it with Sarah Plain and Tall, and with the Laura Ingalls Wilder movie mess on CBS, and even with the 1980s remake of Jonny Quest. I expect that when the Wrinkle in Time miniseries comes out, Meg is going to be rude to her mother and have “issues” with her father and all sorts of modern adolescent rot. They wouldn’t take a book that was about a troubled teenager and gloss over the bad parts, so why must they take stories with positive adults and make them into objects of annoyance?
» Monday, August 26, 2002
Every once in a while I hear about a condition called "SADD." It a syndrome that hits people in the winter, sometimes called the "winter doldrums." Because it's dark and cold, these people suffer from depression. One of the remedies, I've heard, is "light therapy." Sunlamps are installed in these folks' homes to emulate the illusion of summer and sunshine.
I read this medical news always wondering if there's an opposite syndrome; if so I definitely have it. Although a series of cold dark winter days can be a bit dreary, I revel in the lack of sunshine and heat. Cuddling up in comforters while wearing a snuggly sweatsuit is a joy, as are flannel jammies. When the air is cool and clear I feel alive. Summer and heat is just something to be endured.
Suppose they have a "cold dark light" somewhere?
» Thursday, August 22, 2002
Maybe This is Why Kids Don't Learn Well...
The sign on the elementary school near our house says "Word of the Week: Self-control/Virtue."
Um, folks, where I went to school those were two words.
Sigh. It's so warm at my desk that if someone poured a bucket of water over me, instead of getting wet I'd melt like the Wicked Witch of the West...
Can't Stop the Music
One of the things I have to do in the course of doing purchase orders is phone vendors for quotes. (My regular vendors I have e-mails for; it’s much simpler to cut and paste the requirement and fire it off to them asking for a price.) Naturally doing all these phone calls one has fun with the wonders of voice mail. Someday I'm hoping to hear "If you want to speak to our sales department, press 1. If you want to speak to our support department, press 2. If you want our dial-by-name directory, press 3. If you are sick to death of these voice instructions, press 4."
Actually, the directional messages are okay. It's the on-hold music that drives me nuts. Sometimes you get lucky and the background music is some mellow old jazz, easy listening, new age, or lively classical arrangement. CompUSA's hold "music" was actually product plugs interspersed with their radio commercials, which were at least usually amusing.
But too many times it's music played too loud, or some intensely irritating twangy, wail-y country type music. Put in one call today and was assailed by the loudest, most dissonant jazz/new age type composition I'd ever heard. I like new age, but this was simply obnoxious. I had to lower the volume on my phone (which, thankfully I can do), but then of course when the "real person" finally picks up, you can't hear them. (This became more annoying when the vendor took a full six minutes to pick up the line.) Several months back I was blasted with rock music so loud that even turning the sound down didn't help–I had to pull the phone about two inches away from my ear before I could stand it. If I didn't have to call them for business reasons, I would certainly not phone them again.
» Monday, August 19, 2002
My monitor died a week or so back, so since the computer show at the Cobb County Civic Center was coming up, in the interim I used the (really bad) monitor from the lumbering old computer that we keep in the spare room. (It has games on it; should we have a party and the kids get bored, it's there for them to play with.)
Debated most of the weekend whether to get a used unit (they had monitors with acceptably good picture for as little as $35), or invest the money in a new one. I really would like a whole new system, although I'm doing perfectly well on what I have–James just needs to get it working right. The poor thing's been upgraded so many times it really can't handle anything new. We weren't able to install the new USB card, even though James upgraded me to Windows98, it's still telling me there's a new video card (there isn't), and now a new monitor (although the monitor comes with no installable software). It needs to be "taken down" and redone. (To that end, I have been burning all files I want to keep to a CD-R.)
I finally went with the new monitor for investment purposes: A friend has asked me to build a web page for his upcoming business later in the year, and I need to make sure the page looks the best it can. If I chose an "iffy" used monitor, the colors might be off. I bought an Acer flat-screen model, which has the added advantage of being so thin I can push it back and actually read it with the top lenses of my bifocals instead of having to tilt my chin up and look at it through the bottom lenses. I was getting a crick in my neck from the previous monitor.
James fared less well. He's had a new hard drive for months, but wanted Windows 2000 as an OS. He used it in his A+/Net+/Cisco classes and liked it, as well as needs to work on it for familiarity purposes.
Well, he purchased a copy at the computer show, put in the new hard drive, and loaded the software (which took several hours). Now, when we were getting the drivers together for reloading, we found the software for his video card had done a bunk. Hoping Win2000 would have some sort of generic video driver until he could get a copy of the proper software, he was rather astonished to find the only support Win2000 had for his card (an Nvidia TNT) was 16 color! Undeterred, he fired up dial-up networking, got to Nvidia's website, and downloaded what Nvidia said were the drivers. They seemed to install fine, but the system keeps converting to the 16 color driver and the Nvidia driver says it cannot start. (Don't you love computers? They tell you you can't do something but they don't tell you why. They just give you an error number.) After three hours of trying to load it, he gave up.
Commuter traffic has been absolutely horrendous since school started. This morning I spent 20 minutes going two miles due to a poor small pickup truck that got its bed bashed in by what looked like an old Ford Econoline van.
Although I didn't want to try it, I always wondered what it would be like to drive in L.A. traffic. It seems as if now I am.
» Friday, August 09, 2002
I'd comment on this, but right now I'm too sick to my stomach. Wish there were hot showers for your brain.
And on Friday, no less. :-)
1. Do you have a car? If so, what kind of car is it?
1997 Plymouth Neon in a color I can only describe as being "almost exactly like the thistle color in the 64 box of Crayola crayons."
2. Do you drive very often?
56 miles (at least) a day. I feel like I spend half my life in the wretched car.
3. What's your dream car?
Heck, I still miss my Dodge Omni. All right, I confess. It's a PT Cruiser.
4. Have you ever received a ticket?
Two: a speeding ticket (sheesh, I didn't think my Chevette could do 72 miles an hour) and one after an accident (see below).
5. Have you ever been in an accident?
Twice, once in 1977 when I was rear-ended on the freeway. The insurance company of the person who hit me was so slow in responding that I had major body work done on the car to fix it and then was using it again before they ever came by to inspect the damage. The other was sometime between 1984-1988. I was making a left turn out of a supermarket parking lot and was struck by another car. My car came within less than $25 of being totalled, but I received the ticket because the policeman said I failed to yield right of way. It would have been pretty hard to yield right of way to a car I didn't see coming because it was dark out and he didn't have his lights on. (He was an Air Force officer, so the policeman believed him, not me.)
Sorry. Still aggravates me. :-)
One of the magazines I get monthly is Best of British, an English nostalgia magazine. They talk about growing up during the Blitz, old ways of transportation, memorable foods and advertisements and radio series, etc.
One of my favorite features is usually the editorial. I didn't realize the poor Brits were going through the same nonsense we do until the editor began speaking about it in his column.
For instance, the Royal Mail was privatized, and after great "thought" they renamed it "Consignia." ???? What kind of dopey name is that? Sounds like all these HMOs and hospital companies that give strange names to hospitals and medical plans. We have a hospital near us that used to have a perfectly sensible name. Now it is "Wellstar." That sounds like what they should have named the hospital ship on Battlestar Galactica!
Well, guess what. After going to all the time and trouble and using taxpayer dollars to change "Royal Mail" to "Consignia" on stationery, signs, buildings, etc., they've decided it doesn't work and they want to go back to "Royal Mail." I bet the graphic designers are laughing all the way to the bank.
There was also a comment about increased patriotism during the Queen's Jubilee and how the editor intended to keep his Union Jack flying until the end of the Jubilee year. He mentioned that a town called Peterborough had discouraged their citizens not to fly flags because "it might offend the people who weren't born here."
Eh? We do that here in the States, too, and I consider it infuriating. I've even heard of US Government facilites that have large numbers of foreign visitors asking their employees not to put up American flags so the visitors won't feel alienated. Look, if I go anywhere in this world, from Austria to Zambia, I'm going to expect the people of that country to be proud of their country and their flag. I'm going to expect to see Swiss flags in Switzerland and Australian flags in Australia and Indian flags in India and Peruvian flags in Peru. I don't expect anyone in Lithuania or Thailand or New Guinea or Brazil to take down their flag for me. It would be denying their heritage and national pride. Are Americans and Britons not allowed this same right?
» Thursday, August 08, 2002
The spam problem of Tuesday righted itself by noon and the owner of the website even sent me a letter of apology; apparently a response was sent to the entire mailing list, not the one person it was supposed to go to.
Earthlink has a gadget called "Spaminator" that is supposed to cut down on spam. I've always wondered exactly how well it works because there are times when I have deleted up to 25 spam messages a day.
Well, now they have a feature where you can actually see what the Spaminator has trapped. Spam sent to you stays in a file for 10 days before deletion so, if you choose, you can redirect any message back to your e-mail box.
What a smorgasbord was in our box! Expected was the usual porn crap, credit card solicitations, debt consolidation offers, sales of nearly everything (even radiation prevention!), and of course the ubiquitous offers to sell you a mailing list so you too can annoy people. Also, I found about 15 other of the mistaken messages from Tuesday; the Spaminator had evidently cut in after fifty of them. My favorite message said: "This is not spam." Uh-huh. And my grandmother was a Ford Thunderbird.
The most amusing subject line: "Get paid real money to drive your car." Um, do you think I'd drive 60 miles a day if I wasn't getting paid real money?
So how much spam did the Spaminator actually "head off at the pass"? 504 messages in ten days. To quote Andrew McNair, "Sweeeeet Jesus."
» Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Attack of the Spam
After having one virus infiltrate my computer somehow (since I don't open unfamiliar e-mail attachments), needless to say, although I was careful before, I'm doubly careful now. I usually check e-mail through Earthlink's website, easily culling out the spam without reading, and then download the legit e-mail (if any) via Eudora. Even when I do download straight to Eudora, because blind cc'd items do not show up in the web mail box, I delete spam without ever opening it, especially those with attachments. (BTW, even if I had a Preview Pane I wouldn't use it.)
A few days ago I had a puzzled note from a friend asking me what the .zip file was that I sent her. I responded that I had not sent her a .zip file; I had, however, seen another message in that particular e-mail box with the same message line as the message my friend cited. Since it was nothing I had requested, I had deleted it. Someone--possible the friend who had asked me about it--evidently had opened it, though: chatting about it later, we discovered it was a virus that not only sends itself to everyone in your e-mail box, but puts your e-mail address on some of the messages. Case closed.
Today there's a different wrinkle. In four hours I have deleted 50 e-mails from my box, all actually sent to another address, but blind cc'd to me and molto other people, if the furious responses also being blind cc'd to me and everyone else are any indication. This is from some company that has been sending me an e-mail newsletter for what seems like years (maybe a year), one I never subscribed to. (I think I bought one of their items on e-Bay and they automatically subscribed me to it.) I've been too lazy to unsubscribe to it; every week I just delete the thing from my e-mail box without reading it. Evidently I should have gotten off my tush and unsubscribed.
I fired off a nice letter to the postmaster on this company's website telling them about the problem...and oh, asking if they'd take me off the stupid mailing list, too. We'll see...
» Monday, August 05, 2002
Hail Alma Mater!
Having had my first experience with early 20th century florid writing with one of my favorite writers, Albert Payson Terhune, and then continuing reading 19th and early 20th century children’s texts via e-books and old issues of St. Nicholas, I thought I’d experienced everything in wordcraft.
Then along came Jane Allen: Junior.
Jane Allen is a Montana girl–dad has a fabulously successful ranch–who is attending Wellington College (all-girls, of course) in the late ‘teens. Jane is one of that breed in this type of young adult fiction who, clean cut and bold minded, becomes an instant leader within her “set” of girls. Now in her second year as a junior (no, she hasn’t flunked out; she is taking extra studies toward her major, sociology, which somehow means a second junior year is required), the way is clear for her to become the most popular girl Wellington has ever known. She’s a good (not sterling) student and champ basketball player as well (apparently earlier books in the series talked about her prowess on the court).
Ah, the text! The book opens thus: “The late September day waved back at Summer graceful as a child saying goodbye with a soft dimply hand; and just as fitful were the gleams of warm sunshine that lazed through the stately trees on the broad campus of Wellington College. It was a brave day–Summer defying Nature, swishing her silken skirts of transparent iridescence into the leaves already trembling before the master hand of Autumn, with his brush poised for their fateful stroke of poisoned beauty; every last bud of weed or flower bursting into heroic tribute, and every breeze cheering the pageant in that farewell to Summer.”
While the book isn’t overloaded with descriptions of this sort, they do dot the textual landscape occasionally like imposing structures. One has to wonder reading the highly stylized dialogue of Jane and her chums if, even in the more formal days of the early 1920s, anyone actually spoke in this manner. Slang is, of course, always deplored and put in quotes, clearly representing to the reader that this is not proper English.
Viewed with a late 20th century eye some of the girls’ customs seem unusual. Girls walk with arms around each other’s waists, tenderly put a injured or sick comrade to bed with a loverly fuss, dance with each other when there are not enough boys at a holiday dance. Yet these were all fixtures of girls’ friendships in those days and no proper parent, nosy neighbor, or stern clergyman could have seen anything wrong with it. Here too are the “crushes” that were considered natural back then: a younger girl hero-worshiping an upperclasswoman, and frequently the older girl would mentor the younger with motherly affection. It always seems a bit melancholy that these friendships could now be seen as something totally different by cynics in a jaded world.
» Sunday, August 04, 2002
Here's a good one: a friend of mine is a librarian. A few days ago my friend caught a library patron, around 11-12 years old, looking at pornography on the library's computers. Upset, my friend contacted the supervisor. The supervisor responded that the child couldn't be told to stop looking at the site because "the parents' value judgment may not be the same as yours."
My friend was then told to stop being so "old fashioned" and out of step with the times!
I think pornography is something that should be indulged in in the privacy of your own home, or at the least in an adult environment. If I walk into an Internet cafe, I accept that some of the patrons may be looking at sites I might find unacceptable.
But families go to the library. I certainly would not want my young child walking by the Internet surfers and seeing gang-bangers, rape sites, naked women in chains, and all the other activies that go on at these sites. If the parents of the child in question do not think pornography is unacceptable, they should at least consider the rights of the library patrons.
Incidentally, this child is not allowed by law to be allowed into adult movies and buy adult magazines. Why is it legal for the same child to look up pornography in public?