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.
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» Sunday, February 24, 2019Even More Rain, Some More Sun, and Sister Tales
Talk about two days different as...well, day and night!
Our little Echo Dot described Saturday as "dreary." It was indeed: grey, often misty. We had breakfast, I walked Tucker, and then we were off to Hair Day. It was not a "dreary" day at the Butlers, but warm and happy. We feasted on roast lamb (Phyllis' usual, delicious as always), Asian salad (Lin's Asian salad is soooooo good), steamed carrots, and rice. We chatted (unfortunately about some unhappy things as well as happy ones, but that's adult life) and hugged and everyone got "shorn" and we learned that Colin is indeed taking a job in Massachusetts. Wow. This will be a big move for him.
We came home to get the power chair and went to Barnes & Noble for a little while. Not much on the cross-stitch magazine front, and didn't see any new mysteries out. Ah, well, we didn't have any coupons anyway. I was considering getting a copy of Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare from the remainder stand, which is a very famous book from the 19th century that you read about mainly in children's books from that era, as it tells the plays as stories, but I skipped it. I still have two ARCs to finish.
On the way home we stopped at Publix to do the shopping.
During the evening James eventually went down to the man cave. I was watching The Snoop Sisters, both the pilot movie and the four episodes of the series. Ernesta Snoop (Helen Hayes) is a mystery writer who dictates rather than types her manuscripts; her sister Gwendolyn (known as "G") (Mildred Natwick) is her amanuensis and continuity checker (G is a writer of poetry, having had one volume published, and a lover of movies). Ernesta is a happily single lady; G is a widow. And of course, since this is a mystery story, the ladies seem to continually be getting involved in murders. Their doting but harassed nephew, Steven Ostrowski, is an NYPD detective and the ladies are chauffeured (in a vintage hunter green Lincoln sedan) by their bodyguard and general helper, Barney (no last name given). In the pilot movie, Steven is played by Lawrence Pressman and Barney, a retired police officer, by Art Carney; in the series Bert Convy is Ostrowski and Barney is now an ex-con, a petty thief but otherwise good egg played by Lou Antonio. (Many people were upset that Pressman and Carney were not in the series, but I think Carney was filming Harry and Tonto at the time, and he earned an Oscar for it, so I think he got the better of the deal. I never bought Bert Convy as a police detective, but as much as I love Art Carney, he played Barney as crusty and always perpetually irritated. It didn't bother me when I saw the pilot, but this time around it kind of irritated me back.)
It's a cute series, very light and easygoing, with funny scenes with the two sisters doing things like bluffing suspects. It was created by Alan Shayne, who later helped cast Natwick in the four Addie Mills stories, and produced by Leonard Stern, who of course did Get Smart. While most of the series was filmed in Los Angeles, there were filmed-on-location scenes including in front of Rockefeller Center and a chase scene in the pilot film near the old Silvercup Bakery (now a film studio) in Queens (and what looks like a chase on the Queensboro Bridge). It features many familiar 1970s character actors like Roddy McDowall, Vincent Price, Liam Dunn, Sam Jaffe, and has a very campy appearance by rocker Alice Cooper, who appears in a story about Satanists.
I put it on because I got Lou Antonio's book in the mail the other day; he was a popular character actor who went into directing, including The Partridge Family, McCloud, The Rockford Files, Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, and more. He also starred in the cop series Dog and Cat, which got purged in the TV violence controversies of the 70s (ironically it was tame compared to the network series today). His chapter on The Snoop Sisters is only three pages, but includes a priceless anecdote about Helen Hayes effortlessly stealing lines from good-natured "Milly" Natwick.
Today we slept in and then went to Walmart, since we discovered in the deluge last Friday night that James badly needed new windshield wipers. We also finally found him some new diabetic socks. It has been so difficult finding calf-length ones! The sky was bright blue, the sun out, and about 60℉; the only drawback was the wind, which was so strong at one point that it blew James into the side of the truck.
We also stopped at Lidl so James would have a chance to see this new supermarket. A new one opened nearby a few days ago, so this one was finally free of the clotting crowds and we got a better look around. Without the crowds I did like it much better, and I did like the bakery. We got two large chocolate chip cookies for dessert tonight—they were quite good—and I also bought two of their "dinner rolls" (what in Rhode Island we would call "buns"), one of which I had as a sandwich for a very late lunch. They are pretty good.
So James has new wipers and we had a great supper: diced chicken breast and some chives with linguine noodles in a chicken/miso broth, with the cookies for dessert, watching the final two Snoop Sisters episodes (the ones with Alice Cooper and with Vincent Price, the latter who hammed it up for all he was worth).
And now we are back to Victoria.
» Sunday, February 17, 2019Anachrocon, Day 3: Sunny Day Indoors, But Not Out
And now back to our regularly scheduled program: rain. Rather this morning it was mist, so we covered up the chair with a tarp and set off back to the con for the ::sob!:: last day.
Again, neither of us had a panel until eleven. In fact, James came to my eleven o'clock panel about European midwives. I'd seen part of this panel last year and enjoyed it. They basically talked about how good, well-trained midwives did pretty well on delivering babies until the male doctors began to get in it. Rather than treating pregnancy as a natural occurrence, they treated it as an illness, and sick people were supposed to lay down, so instead of walking around during labor pains and using a birthing stool, women were forced to lay down and give birth, which is the worst position to do it in. Also, since the doctors had to work with the wealthy, they were better trained at having good manners than at midwifery. Also, they didn't know about germs back then and the doctors didn't wash their hands or their instruments; the midwives didn't know about it either, but they did heat blankets and sheets to receive the baby in. The heat killed germs. In one case this gave a midwife in 18th century France an almost spotless birth rate.
James went to another class, about making a leather cuff, and I was off to Jeremiah Mitchell's Robert the Bruce panel. I now have him and William Wallace straight in my head (Sterling Bridge and Wallace's death came first). He didn't mention the spider legend, though. I remember seeing this in a Disney film. I'm pretty sure it's So Dear to My Heart.
Incidentally, James had better luck with the leather cuff than the chain mail. You can tell it's a first effort, but he could probably wear it to a convention and no one would look askance. He tooled some stars and owls into the leather and, instead of using a brown dye, he used a purple one, and the leather came out a nifty dark brown.
Our final panel was in the Literature track: "The Business of Writing." The guest writers talked about self-publishing, working with Amazon (more complicated than they say it is), agents, incorporating oneself (one lady was an "S" corporation—don't ask me what it is; I didn't even figure it out when I was a purchasing agent—but it worked considering her situation), etc. As always, the big advice: always read the contract. Every single bit of every tiny printed word. You could lose money or lock yourself into exclusion contracts.
We did a last drift around the dealer's room, then headed for home. It was still misty, but barely, and we could load the chair in the parking lot and not have to get it undercover like Friday night.
And there was much rejoicing from the critters when we got home—Snowy sang budgie arias and Tucker mooched for food—and we had supper and watched Victoria.
Incidentally, I'm really interested in what next year's Anachrocon will bring. The theme is "The Roaring '20s." I'm not sure if this means they will stick to the 1920s—but even if they do, there is so much potential for topics here: Prohibition, the rise of the Mob due to Prohibition, the aftermath of WWI in Europe (inflation, hunger, etc. which led to the rise of the Nazi party), the Harlem Renaissance, the rise of jazz, the flappers and women being given the vote, the failure of the League of Nations, the Lost Generation, the revival of the Ku Klux Klan, the beginnings of radio networks (ARTC can probably do a whole panel on this, or even a production!), and finally The Crash—or do what they did with "The '60s": use all the centuries. So, opportunities for MORE historical topics: the Missouri Compromise, the Trail of Tears, the rise of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Webster's dictionary, aluminum was discovered, first Braille book published, first railway (1820s) , Peter the Great and Catherine the Great rule in Russia, Gulliver's Travels published (1720s), and of course 1620 is Plymouth. You can almost do an hour just about misconceptions of the Pilgrims (no, they didn't wear all black, and buckles on their shoes and funny hats), and yes, Plymouth Rock is really small. And just on and on like that...
» Saturday, February 16, 2019Anachrocon, Day 2: The Good, the Bad, and the Sad
Neither of us had a ten o'clock panel, so we slept until eight, had big breakfasts, and I gave the dog a nice walk, before we packed up our backpacks and were off. Since it was Saturday, traffic was light, but Waze pointed out a problem south of town. Apparently it was okay near the hotel, but traffic was backed up on the freeway nearby due to an accident southbound. So we went through I-20 this time and down I-75. Much better than yesterday!
James and I parted for most of the time today; this has become a normal thing. Most of our interests completely diverge. My first panel was "Deep Time" (description: "journey into the past with rocks, the original time machines"). Yes, I went to a geology panel! I hated biology, hate chemistry, but Earth Science...that was so for me. I've been into geology, paleontology, anthropology, etc. since junior high school, so this was a natural fit. So I had a full hour of ages of the universe, formation of the Earth and the moon, and other geologic wonders.
Next came one of the panels I was waiting for: Jeremiah Mitchell doing a narrative on the sinking of the Lusitania. I always enjoy the narratives, although I think some people still think it was Lusitania that "pulled the trigger," so to speak, on the United States' entrance into the first World War. It almost tipped the scales, but America was as isolationist at that point as before Pearl Harbor. It took the Zimmerman telegram to light the fuse. We also chatted about some of the books out about the event, especially Eric Larson's Dead Wake, which turned the U-boat prowl after the doomed liner into a thriller. Interesting fact: one of the "wolf pack" U-boat captains was none other than Georg Von Trapp, later to gain fame in The Sound of Music.
James had signed up for a class at one, and I didn't have anything else planned, so I attended a panel on H.P. Lovecraft and the history of American horror novels. I remember going to a Lovecraft tour of Providence when the World Fantasy Convention was in town. I'd never heard of him back then, and the tour was kind of nifty as it went up to the historic streets of the city. We were even shown a window Edgar Allan Poe mooned over because a girl he was in love with lived in that house.
My next panel was in the Literature track, "Researching Effectively," and the panelists included experienced writers Lee Martindale and Stephanie Osborne. They not only talked about sources for research, but Stephanie mentioned that in her Sherlock Holmes books she was complimented for having him realistically smoke his pipe. This was because she actually learned how to smoke a pipe to be able to portray it properly! It was emphasized that you should confirm facts in as many places as possible (don't use Wikipedia as a sole source!). We were also warned against doing info dumps of all our research, no matter how fascinating, and getting so fascinated by the research that you don't do any writing (I have that problem myself).
Next on the schedule was "Why Some Chocolates Are Better Than Others, Storage Life of Drugs, and All Sorts of Weird Stuff," given by Kevin Menard (who works for Mettler-Toledo). Shades of Mark Miodownik--it was a material sciences panel! He talked about the precise tempering of chocolate (and why European chocolate is better) and why transparent aluminum (alá Star Trek IV) can't exist, referencing a poem John Updike (!!) wrote for "Scientific American" called "Dance of the Solids." Who knew the author of Rabbit Run wrote science poetry?
I had also been looking forward to the next panel, "The African Burial Ground," after reading about the site in the book The Bowery Boys Guide to Old New York. This was also presented by Dr. Mozingo-Gorman, who was part of the group brought in to excavate the ossuary that was found while excavating for a new high-rise in New York City. It turned out to be the burial ground for African slaves brought over starting when the Dutch settled New Amsterdam, but the boom really came when the English took over. Since slaves could not be buried with white people, their cemetery was relegated to land near the middle of Manhattan Island. This was not an easy panel to listen to: not only did it deal with slavery, but how badly the slaves were treated. All were malnourished because they were allowed to eat only corn. (They often supplemented their diet with other things, but they were only fed corn by their masters.) Half the bodies were of children who showed signs of being forced to do hard labor from when they were four years old. One young woman was literally beaten to death; she had bones broken from head to toe. It was fascinating to learn of the burial customs they brought from Africa, but appalling to hear from someone who saw the remains firsthand about their tormented lives. Cruelty seems to have no end in the history of mankind.
Rejoined James, who had spent the past couple of hours trying to make a chain mail bracelet. He's so deft with his models I thought this would be a doddle for him, but he got very little done, as the links were small and he had nothing to pin one end of the bracelet to while working on the other. We enjoyed the panel about "Time Travel Stories and Why We Love Them," with the audience contributing titles of books and television series we had enjoyed.
Neither of us had a panel at six, so we spent some time chatting with friends. One set of friends had some bad news about another friend that they are helping through medical problems; this person has completely given up on trying to get well and appears to be just waiting to die. We bumped into some other friends after this and sat talking with them for a while; one couple is planning to retire.
I had nothing to do after that, so I went with James to a panel about 3D printers. He would love to have one to make specialty parts for his models, but the early ones have been expensive. The prices are falling, but I couldn't imagine where he would actually put it. His "man cave" is stuffed full, like a Thanksgiving turkey. (My craft room has a similar appearance.) The learning curve looks a bit steep as well.
We stuck around for "That's Not How That Works. That's Not How Any of This Works," which was billed as "Scientist round table talks about and answers questions on modern misconceptions" because it sounded interesting. It was, but rather scattered. They did talk a bit about scientific mistakes in movies, but they seemed to be having more fun talking to each other. It was still good for a few smiles, just not what we were expecting.
It was still nice and clear, so we had a nice ride home: there was so little traffic we just went straight up the Downtown Connector, then got off at the I-75 HOV exit.
» Friday, February 15, 2019Anachrocon, Day 1: Or What Worked and What Didn't
Anachrocon always starts late in the afternoon, so James worked until one o'clock today. I spent the morning making sandwiches, as the hotel food is extraordinarily expensive. It's a nice hotel, and I'm sure the rooms are terrific, but the restaurants are suited for businesspeople on expense accounts. If we thought the $20 breakfast buffet was too much at the Marriott at Century Center, this one is even worse: $24. We had dinner at the sports bar last year at WHOlanta and the portions were tiny and the charge large. They have an Italian place as well, with a $28 steak and even more for seafood; I don't even want to know what the ritzy "Magnolia Dining Room" costs! Anyway, I'd planned to buy chicken and make it as cacciatore, but we have a fridge stuffed with pork roast we bought on BOGO, so I made pork cacciatore in the crock pot and made sandwiches from that on cibatta bread. It sure smelled great while it was cooking.
James probably could have worked later, but we had to drive down to the airport where the hotel was, and that meant we had to leave before rush hour traffic started. Well, we left at 2:30 and still got caught in it. We had rain predicted today, but we managed to beat it down there, then registered for the convention and got our parking ticket vouchered so we don't have to pay $22 to park.
We wandered about locating each of the rooms for the panels we wanted to see, wandered through the dealer's room (already open with most of the vendors there; I bought three small things as gifts), and then went to see a guy called Matthew Atchley. He is an artist and an actor, and he was talking about being on the convention circuit most of the year and how sometimes he forgets where is is and what con it's supposed to be. He was talking about the celebrities he's met in his career and he said the nicest one was Burt Reynolds and the worst was Tom Wopat. We've never seen him perform, but his panel was fun.
I went on to the "Primordial Witches" panel. I'm not particularly interested in witchcraft, but this panel was done by Dr. Dea Mozingo-Gorman, who did the killer Neanderthal panel last year. She is a forensic anthropologist who also works with great apes, and this panel was about her discovery of shaman graves in the different digs she has been on. Apparently shamans were buried differently than other people in the tribe because they wanted no danger of the shaman rising from the dead. Their wrists and ankles were always tied so they could not stand up in the grave, and a stone was often laid upon the throat, sometimes a stone was also placed in the mouth. They were always buried with their shamanistic accessories and had symbolic items also included, like leopard claws and eagles' wings. Some were buried in stone jars. It was fascinating.
Following these panels, we had nothing else we wanted to see, so decided to head home. We initially came out the back, where we were parked in the handicapped section, but it was pouring rain, so I took the chair back upstairs to the front doors, where there were overhangs, and James drove the truck around so we could load under cover. It was a nightmarish ride home on I-285 in the pouring rain surrounded by looming eighteen-wheelers going at speed. Plus one of James' windshield wipers was clearly flapping. Will have to take care of that next weekend.
So, the convention bits we already saw were great, even with the hairy ride home. The big disappointment was the sandwiches. However good pork cacciatore tastes hot, it doesn't taste that good cold. It's back to chicken, which tastes delicious hot, warm, or cold.
» Sunday, February 10, 2019Going to the Dogs (In Some Cases, Literally)
So while we were looking forward to Westminster on Monday and Tuesday, this was only the "Best in Group" and finally "Best in Show" judging. We found out that if we went on Westminster's web site, we could watch everything that's been going on at the two Piers (this is what they do with the old embarkation piers on the Hudson River now, rent them out for events) before the big finale. And, although we watched several breed judging sequences and some obedience trials (when did they start making the handler clench his/her left fist up next to their breast area when doing "heel"? it looks unnatural), what we watched most of on Saturday afternoon and evening was agility (they showed breed judging on National Geographic Wild on Sunday), and boy was it fun. We got the biggest kick out of the little dogs, because the Papillons were like little Ferraris—they just got into gear and ran flat out, some barking, some not, but all having a grand time. In comparison, the few Bichon Frises we saw just kinda ambled through the course, as if saying "I'm doing this because it makes my human happy." The most amazing thing we saw was a bulldog running agility—they are not built for this physically, especially running full-tilt, but Rudy was amazing.
We saw this killer mottled sunset Saturday night coming home from Fried Tomato Buffet. Of course in driving home we were driving away from it, so I got this photo by using the rear view mirror of the truck. The best part is the reflection in the passenger side window.
On Sunday James went in for a spate of mass burrito-preparation while I did the taxes. I went via TurboTax online, per usual as in the past few years, and their obnoxious television commercial advertises "free...free...free." Well, yes, under certain conditions, basically only if you do what used to be called a 1040EZ form (those are all gone; there is just one form). Once you itemize, or do other things, it's no longer "free...free...free." Well, with the married deduction having doubled, none of our itemized deductions would have added up higher: not even having maxed out our deductible at Kaiser last year plus the cost of the biweekly insurance, plus the cost of my yearly exam and four prescription refills, and what prescription refills James got before we maxed out in July, plus what we ended up paying Northside Hospital. (I didn't have receipts for all the extra medical items we've had to buy this year, but we've bought on coupons and sales and that didn't add up, either. Now if we could have added all the wages James lost, maybe...)
However, I had received a 1099 form, and TurboTax would not go on without having me upgrade to "Deluxe" so they could process it. A couple of years ago, the IRS zapped Amazon on all the free items they were sending out to Vine members for review. Because lucky people (trust me, it was not me) did indeed rarely get big-screen television sets, Blu-Ray players, bicycles, and other expensive stuff, the IRS thundered: "This is income! The people who get these things need to pay tax on their income!" Never mind that a lot of times the stuff people got sent was literally junk, electronic and otherwise, and disposed of half of it in the trash. But we did do well on Vine last year: got an air mattress, an air fryer, a chain for my bike and a bike helmet, numerous kitchen gadgets for James, several craft items like watercolor paper and Sharpie brush markers, soft-sided storage containers, a toothbrush holder, and various other stuff including books (books are valued at 99 cents). So having to pay $40 to TurboTax was just the price I paid for having an extra bed for visitors and crispy chicken wings. I didn't really mind it.
Then we got to the state tax, which TurboTax also said was "free...free...free." No, no, no. Only if you make under $30K a year or are active military or getting childcare credits. This was another $40 to do. If we were still using the old Georgia tax form I would have filled it out myself and mailed it. The old Georgia EZ form was a doddle: how much did you make? How much did you pay in Federal tax? How much did you pay in Georgia tax? How much was your refund, if any, last year? If you paid us more than we're taxing, we owe you. Otherwise, you owe us. Heck, Snowy could have filled out the form. But no, they've gone all complicated again.
Thus another $40.
The absolute nadir was when I went to file. They said "We can take the $80 you paid out of your tax refund!" Sure! Okay, you need to authorize that, and, oh, that costs $40 more dollars! Are you serious? Screw you guys. I'll pay the $80 on my credit card, get the Amazon points, then pay myself back out of the refund, and I won't charge myself a cover charge! Honestly. TurboTax really has gone to the dogs.
Then there was peace. Then there was supper. Then there was Victoria.
[Later: February 12...terriers win again! It was the wire fox terrier for Best in Show. Frankly, I was rooting for the Havanese.]
» Sunday, February 03, 2019Books, Deer, and No Super Bowl
Since the Stupor Bowl was being held this year at new our Origami Stadium—that's what I call Mercedes Benz Stadium anyway, because of the way its roof unfolds—there was more of a furor than usual around getting ready for it. I didn't want to set foot in a supermarket this weekend, so on Friday I went to Sam's Club (for milk and popcorn mainly, but also picked up a rotisserie chicken) and to Publix (for the twofers, and also found some nice lamb shanks) and got that over with. Both places were definitely more crowded than they usually are on Friday and you had to swing your cart wide to avoid the pyramids of soda cans, stands of snack foods, and the overflowing bakery plinths.
So we had a whole weekend with nothing to do! What a treat! On Saturday, we went to the Container Store (we had a coupon) and got James a new lunchbox for work. He hated to give the old one up, but its vinyl innards were shredding. They didn't have the little flashers for his power chair, though; not sure if they were out of stock or they quit selling them. Since we went to the Perimeter Mall store, we could also walk past the makeup store and nip into Barnes & Noble. I hate it that they no longer put the new books "up front" in the various genre sections. This makes it very hard to see what's new in mystery, SF, etc. One of the clerks told me once that all the new books face out, which is a fib; I've seen books facing out that have been out for six months sometimes.
We took our time and by the time we were finished it was late enough to head to Town Center for dinner: we went back to Fried Tomato Buffet. We figured going early we would beat the crowd, but there were at least two birthday parties in there! They found us a booth in the back and a place to park the chair, so it was copacetic. Later we drove home through the Kennesaw battlefield park, and there, amongst the walkers out in droves, were three deer calmly grazing on the greensward in front of the park building, between the sidewalk and the hiking trail at the back.
James spent some time down in his "man cave" that night while I listened to some episodes of the "Happier" podcast. Next morning we were able to sleep in, only going out to CVS (with another coupon) to get Band-Aids. Once again he spent the afternoon in the man cave and I watched the Puppy Bowl, part of the Kitten Bowl (adorable, but dull), and some Caught in Providence. I bet my mom and dad would have liked this show.
At 6:30 I put the Stupor Bowl on to see Gladys Knight sing the National Anthem—finally, someone who can carry a tune! instead of these recent pop stars and their dreadful vocal fry—and catch the Thunderbirds flyover of the Origami (they had the roof open for it, then closed it for the game), and learned to my dismay that this had been part of the pre-game show. Huh. To me the National Anthem is part of the game. Phooey on you, NFL.
In the evening, of course, it was time for another installment of Victoria. I had not known that person was going to be killed off, least of all in conjunction with another historical event (the cholera epidemic in which Dr. John Snow figured out that the vector was not bad air or "poverty," it was one particular contaminated well). Apparently the actor has another continuing role in another series where they play the polar opposite of the one portrayed on Victoria. It was very sad.