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Feb 23, 2008

Off to see the wizard

Hi folks -- I am off to see Fidel!  Back in a week.  Will try to post from Cuba but I might not have easy internet access.

10:29 PM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Feb 21, 2008

"Anonymenter"

Anonymenter -- someone who posts blog comments (often but not always critical) without providing his or her name.  Related terms: Pseudomenter* and "Chickenshit asshole".

This post dedicated to my pal, Mr. Dependable, who has dealt with many turds in the sandbox.

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*(same as anonymenter but always critical and submitted under a pseudonym)

BTW, "anonymenter" and "pseudomenter" and get one Google hit each, both in German-language contexts.  I hereby claim these words as English-language originals for me. Meine, meine, meine.

12:18 PM in Words | Permalink | Comments (0)

Club KY (next to Azul Picante), 2 in the Frickin' a.m. on a Wednesday Night

Azul_picante_merida

Restaurant folks can be so nice.  If they notice you eating at their place quite often alone, they'll adopt you.  Tonight I had dinner with Fernando and his family at their house (with a great view of the lunar eclipse).

Later I went out with Alondra (from another excellent Mérida eatery) and her friends*.  We tried a few cafes but they were all closed, so we ended up at Club KY (the smaller DJ'd dance floor and bar adjacent to sister club Azul Picante).  Lucky for me, I don't have anything scheduled today until 12:30 p.m.  Alondra goes to school at 6 a.m.  "Red Bull", she says.

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*otherwise known as "everybody in the whole town, if not the whole state of Yucatan."

04:13 AM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (2)

Feb 19, 2008

Mid-South Fencers' Club Grand Open

Fencing_from_midsouthfencersclub
Allez!

With the opening of the MidSouth Fencers' Club this January, fencing in the the Triangle and North Carolina has taken a nice step forward.  Owners Matthew Cox and Jennifer Oldham Cox were standout fencers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.  Jennifer went on to be one of the nation's top women's sabre fencers, and she represented the US in international competition.  She recently served as assistant coach to the US Olympic women's team.  Matthew has earned his reputation as a national level competitor and a top US fencing official.  They're going to run a great program for advanced fencers and beginners.  And they're very very nice people.  Please join me in welcoming them back to the Triangle after a decade away.

The fencing club's "Grand Open"* is this weekend, Feb 23 and 24 at their new site on Ninth St., in the former "The Basement" venue, entrance below the newest Cup-a-Joe, on the nicely developing little block that includes the Broad Street Cafe, The Palace, Watts Street Grocery, and High Strung musical instruments.**  The fencing tournaments are open to all spectators.  If you don't know the sport, you can easily find a friendly soul to tell you what's going on.

Mid-South Fencers' Club
1104-C Broad Street
Durham NC 27705
919-308-0800***

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*"Grand Opening" x "Open Tournament", get it?  Heh.

**Of note (about the club and about fencing people in general): Matt and Jen tout their "near lots of great food" location as an important feature of the club :-)

***spiff phone number, eh?

Fencing Photo yoinked from the Mid-South Fencers' Club website.  But not from their new location.

11:06 PM in Destination Durham | Permalink | Comments (1)

Fidel, Such Timing!

Fidelcastro From the AP:

HAVANA - An ailing, 81-year-old Fidel Castro resigned as Cuba's president Tuesday after nearly a half-century in power, saying he will not accept a new term when parliament meets Sunday.

Ah, for the love of Pete -- I'm going to Cuba on Sunday and he frickin' resigns just before I get there.  It looks like I won't be able to say I visited Cuba under Fidel.  Technically, anyway.  Dang. 

Full Castro article here at Yahoo.

Photo yoinked from The Onion with a clickworthy caption.

09:35 AM in Mexico, Misc.Blog 2007, News | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sarah Susanka - Not So Big House / Life Author Speaks in Raleigh Tonight

**** News Alert via Triangle Emerging Green Builders ***

Sarah Susanka (author of the The Not So Big House & Not So Big Life)
will be speaking in Raleigh tonight (Tuesday, February 19, 2008
7:00pm. Details below and on web site,
http://www.notsobiglife.com/appearances/index.html

The Longview Center - the 1880 Hall
Sponsored by Unity Church of the Triangle
Sarah Susanka's "Not So Big Life"
118 S. Person Street
Raleigh NC
Telephone: (919) 832-8324
Open to Public: Limited Seating, first-come basis
For more information, see Long View Center

http://www.notsobiglife.com/appearances/index.html

09:07 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Old People Dancing

Salon_de_baile_merida_mx

Sunday nights at the Salon de Baile "Ortiz", Calle 61, two or three blocks from the Plaza Grande.

The Ortiz Dance Hall is a couple of short blocks from my apartment.  What a sight... dozens of old couples dancing, swaying, grooving by themselves.  Almost always slowly.  With very little ornamentation or style.  Sometimes with very little rhythm.  You know those Latin American countries where everybody dances like a pro from age 12?  Mexico is not one of them.  But you know those countries where nearly everybody dances and everybody is very happy about it?  Mexico may be one of them.

Around the corner from this crowd, a loud 5-man band played on a stage constructed from planks and saw-horses.  Not much jumping around.*

I'm not sure what the admission fee is for Sunday night dancing.  The guys at the door let me in for a look after I asked their permission to take a photo (before saying "yes", they asked me what it would be for.  I think that's what they asked, anyway.  I said, "para mis amigos en los Estados Unidos".  That seemed to be acceptable.). 

Beyond the dance floor, I could see that there were some people selling food, and I was surely interested.  But I was also terrified that one of the old ladies would ask me to dance.  Every now and then one would start walking my way, and I'd hold my breath until she did something harmless like picking up an empty chair, or grabbing her purse.  I scooted out of there pretty quick.  And not necessarily on the beat.

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*compare that to the two young guys who did the wandering minstrel thing in the outdoor plaza where I had dinner tonight.  Guitar dude jumped around like a two-legged pogo stick while his "drummer" pal knocked out a beat on the fat end of an empty water carboy.  They were pretty good.

02:25 AM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (2)

Feb 16, 2008

Google Street View, Durham NC -- How to Correct Errors

Immersivemediacar
Immersive Media car pic yoinked from Engadget.

As others have noted, the amazing Google Street View is now available for Durham.  And as some have also noted, Google Street View isn't always precise.  Not a big deal for some things, but an annoyance when you want to make it easy for visitors to find/see YOUR house, and not your neighbor's house, three doors down.

Fortunately, it's fixable:

1.  Enter your address at Google Maps.
2.  Click on the edit link near the bottom of the pop-up window.
3.  Follow the directions.

Your change will be immediately (more or less) live in both Google Maps and Google Street View.  I just did this for my old address at 4100 Five Oaks Drive, Durham, and was surprised at the update speed.

You'll need a free Google account of some sort: Gmail works fine.

A couple of odd observations:

1. I can't find a direct link to Google Street View.  You have to get there through their main (and decidedly ugly) maps page at http://maps.google.com. 

2. The Google search folks, brilliant as they are, seem to have goofed something in their algorithm and/or their own SEO.  I wanted to find a Google satellite image of Cleveland, so I entered these search terms:

Cleveland Map Google. 

Google returned bunch of stuff that wasn't their own product, with the only visible link to Google Maps over on the right in the sponsored links column, with a generic link to Google Maps (not even to Cleveland).  D'oh!  So I changed my search entry to just:

Cleveland Map

And Google gave me back exactly what I wanted: a Google Maps entry for Cleveland, on the first AND second lines of their search results.

Go figure.  I tried to make it easier for them with a "Cleveland Map Google" search string, and they made it harder for me.

This reminds me of another computer-"assisted" event from the Ohio region.  Back ~1991, my office-mate David and some colleagues needed to visit Lexington, KY, so they checked the flights at Delta.  The price and schedule were reasonable: a quick flight from RDU to the Delta hub at Cincinnati* (CVG), then a quick connection to LEX.  Out of curiosity, they wondered if they'd save money by flying only to CVG, then renting a car for the leg to LEX.  Believe it or not, the round trip just to CVG cost MORE.  As David said, "They're actually paying us to go to Lexington.  It's like we don't want to go there, but they really wish we would."

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*Did you know that the "Cincinnati" (CVG) airport is actually in Kentucky?  Yup.  Click here for SkyGod.com's great article on the history of airport codes.

01:37 PM in Destination Durham | Permalink | Comments (4)

Feb 14, 2008

Hagar the Horrible, en Español

Olafothehorrible
I asked you for a husband and you sent me one.  I thank you for that.  And now I ask... Do you accept returns?

09:37 PM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (1)

Feb 13, 2008

Symbiosis, or Just an Undefended Border?*

Thank you to the folks who have been reading my posts from Mexico.  You may have been wondering, "when is Phil going to post about things related to Mexico, instead of things related to travel?"  Bueno.  Here is a post about something common in Mexico that I'm not used to seeing in the US: the informal sharing of commercial space.

First example: On the 90-minute bus ride from Progreso to Mérida, one of my fellow passengers asked the driver if he could play a few songs for tips.  The driver nodded his head, we got a half-dozen songs, and the performer passed his hat for a few dollars.  In this photo**, he's one song away from a canción about getting a letter from his mother.  Being too poor to own a pen, he writes back using his blood for ink.

Guitarfromprogreso600

On another morning on the city bus from Mérida to Cholul (30 minutes on a good day, arriving maybe on time for my Spanish lessons), a man hopped on and asked the driver if he could do a quick solicitation.  The driver agreed, and the bus got a 3-minute fundraising pitch for "El Taller del Maestro." ("The Master's Workshop"), a Christian drug rehab program.  Note the disclaimer at bottomThis association is not responsible for the crime of fraud or robbery or of the illegal use [of its name] conducted by lucradores [panhandlers?] soliciting donations without a valid ID.  Please to confirm.  Now they tell me.  In any case, I wonder if my friends at UMD might try this on the Durham Area Transit Authority buses?***

Eltallerdelamaestrofly

In town, one of my regular restaurant stops is El Trapiche, a Yucatecan place whose dining room opens to the sidewalk near Mérida's main plaza.  Street vendors wander in and out of the restaurant as they please, approaching diners, showing off their fans, pecking chicken toys, necklaces, whatever.  Beggars stop at the doorway and lean in with their hands out.

At other restaurants with sidewalk seating, the vendors are even more numerous.  Little kids, grownups, and old ladies will walk around the tables, selling anything from gum to hammocks to shoeshines.  One night at dinner, a beggar woman holding her baby came by my table to ask for a contribution.  My friend Marie didn't want to give her anything until she realized that the woman wasn't a beggar: she was soliciting tips for the flute player who had just finished a few songs.  So Marie gave her a few pesos.  But not me.  I don't like the flute.

Last night I bought a small woven bracelet from these cute girls. 

Littlegirlsselling600

10 pesos (~90 cents) for the bracelet (you can see a bunch hanging off the right wrist of the girl in the green sweater), plus another 10 pesos to ask if I could take their photo.  They tied my bracelet on for me.  I think it stayed on for about 18 hours before I probably caught it on my belt or bag or who-knows-what and lost it.  Anyway -- I hope someone else found it and is enjoying it.

So: what's interesting to me is that these vendors don't seem to pay anything to the storekeepers (or bus drivers) for the pleasure of soliciting their customers in the storekeepers' space.  I had a brief debate with a young Australian woman about this.  As some of my readers know, I have decidedly mixed feelings about property rights and private property.  It's nice to be a visitor where I can observe without needing to have an opinion.

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*A joke for you -- Question: How many Frenchmen does it take to defend Paris? Answer [in dorky French accent]: Nobody knows! hohn hohn hohn hohn hohn.

**Gringo in Mexico moment: as the guitarist started to play, I used a few hand gestures to ask if I could take a photo.  He nodded (lots of nodding here), I shot, and after the song, I handed him a 10 peso coin.  Before he stuck it in his pocket, he looked at it.  Why would he look at it?  Did it seem like a surprisingly large tip?  Or was he worried it was only a 5 peso or 1 peso contribution? (FYI: the 10 peso coin is significantly larger than the 5 peso coin, which is a tiny bit larger than the 1 peso coin.  You'd think that a guitarist would have sensitive fingers.).  His face didn't reveal his sentiment.  Later, when he passed the hat at the end of his performance, I think he got ~40 pesos total from five or six riders.

***I doubt this would play well. Barry R. at Dependable Erection has some read-worthy posts (make sure to check the comments) on panhandling laws in Durham.  Here's the Google path to Barry's multiple entries.  (No pun intended.  Really.)

10:17 PM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (2)

Feb 12, 2008

New Apartment

Welcome to my new apartment, twice the rent of the old, but three times larger and five times nicer.  The old place was great for a couple of weeks, but it had some challenges for work: lots of noise from the street and driveway, and not much of an internet connection.  And it was too close to the hostel (with its daylong temptations for socializing and for living in English instead of Spanish).  So, here:

Apartment_kitchen_600
Part of the living room, looking into the mini-kitchen.  The laundry room is at the far corner, with a sink for handwashing and a clothesline.  The red you see at rear is a brick-lattice wall for ventilation.

Apartment_entry_600
Third floor walkway, looking north (my door is the first one at left).  The clothesline you see at right is perfect for the morning sun.  Lots of green plants line the wall of the truck repair place next door.  Through most of the working day, I leave my front door open for a very nice breeze that enters through the doorway and exits through the laundry room.  Humidity is generally perfect.

Apartment_rooftop_600
View from the rooftop (one level up from my apartment), looking due west, 6 blocks to the Catedral de San Idelfonso on Mérida's Plaza de Independencia. The tower you see toward the left is the biggest and ugliest in town.  There are two or three other big ones, but not as big as this.  Still, if they're giving me my internet signal, I'm happy.

12:18 AM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (3)

Feb 11, 2008

Suzanne S. Lessler -- 8 Feb 2008

A tremendous loss for all of us.  Please join me in holding her family in the Light: husband Brad and their three young daughters.

Obituary notice from 13 February:

Suzanne Catherine Stephens Lessler, 44 of Chapel Hill, passed from this life into the eternal on February 8, 2008. Suzanne has been the loving wife of Brad Alan Lessler since June, 1992 and the devoted mother of Allena Suzanne (11), Rebecca Addison (9), and Sofia Grace (5).

The fifth daughter of John Francis Stephens (departed) and Mary Ann Tomlinson Stephens Grimes of Lexington, North Carolina, Suzanne was born October 28, 1963 in White Plains, NY. Suzanne moved to Lexington, NC with her family, where she attended Lexington Senior High. Suzanne graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was a Physical Therapist at Duke University Medical Center since 1993. Suzanne loved water sports, traveling, gardening, skiing, cycling and making special memories with her family and friends. Suzanne is the treasured sister of Marilyn Stephens Edwards, Virginia Stephens Baker, Elizabeth Stephens Visnic, and Louise Stephens Cain.

A memorial service will be held 2:00 p.m., Saturday, February 16, 2008 at the Eno River Unitarian Fellowship in Durham. A reception will follow.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to Heifer International or Water Partners International.  Arrangements are under the care of Griffin Funeral Service of Pittsboro.

01:03 AM in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

Feb 10, 2008

Will Tomorrow Be a Better Day? Once More on Optimism vs. Hope

One lucky piece of my life: I've always lived in cities (and usually in a country) that believed "next year will be better than this year."  Asheville, Durham, Providence (and a few months in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and even Raleigh): all these places, whenever I was there, had reason to believe that their circumstances -- on the whole -- were on an upward trend.

Traveling elsewhere and among travelers, I don't always see this.  Two weeks ago I was talking with some Italians who were thoroughly despondent about their country's situation.  The Prodi government was disintegrating.  And in the opinion of my new friends, all options for the future were as bad or worse.  ("All the lawmakers are old and stuck!  But not old enough to die.  And until they die, there will be none of the changes that our country needs.") 

Here in Mérida, Mexico, one of my local friends spent an hour telling me about Mexican and local politics.  In particular, he told me about the southern part of town -- which he warned me not to visit under any circumstance.  Crime.  Poverty.  No opportunity.  Ugly like a scene from Escape From New York.

I asked about the kids who lived there,  "Do they have schools? Do they have a chance at a different future?"  "Only with a miracle," he said.

So.  Hope, then.  Not optimism, at least not as defined by the Rev. Peter Gomes.  Here is a Gomes quote (that I just rediscovered in one my comments on a related blog quoting Cornel West):

"So, the struggle is very real, which means that patience is the most important witness -- which is the third thing. Patience is the most important witness. How does the old hymn go?

Not to the strong goes the battle,
Nor to the swift goes the race;
But to the true and the faithful,
Victory is promised through grace."

Does that mean that I'm optimistic? No. I am not optimistic; and no Presbyterian I know is ever optimistic. We live in a fallen world ruled by totally depraved people who do not understand the sovereignty of God.

I am not optimistic, but I am hopeful. What is the difference? Optimism cannot stand the bright heat of the noonday reality: mere optimism wilts and has no inner resources with which to combat the seeming hosts of evil all around it. Optimism fades very quickly; but the hopeful are the ones who, in spite of the circumstances, in spite of apparent reality, in spite of the moment, understand that hope endures all things and ultimately carries all before it in God's time. When we had Nelson Mandela at Harvard last fall, somebody asked him whether in prison he had been optimistic that this day would ever come. He said, "I never was optimistic, but I never lost hope."

Unfortunately I cannot find the original source for this quote.  If you happen to know it, please let me know.

07:56 PM in Mexico, Quotables | Permalink | Comments (3)

Blogroll -- RDUWTF.com

As we sometimes talk about around here, Durham folks are often reluctant to mix with folks on the Wake side of things.  That's why I'm glad to add RDUWTF to my blogroll.*  At the risk of sounding parochial in exactly the way I don't want to be, let me just say that Robert at RDUWTF would fit in great with my Durham blogging pals.  He hates wanton destruction of old properties, he likes good food (and will drive to Durham to get it), and last summer he did a very nice blog interview with "our" own Endangered Durham. He can even be snarky about local politicians.

From Robert's About page:

There will be much complaining here but we hope to offset those complaints with a recognition of the things in our region that we appreciate. Many of our complaints will be about the disappearance of local character as it faces the wrecking ball of progress. Oh, we aren’t resistant to change! In fact, if you had to give us a label it might be: Modernist but not the Modernism that espouses the timeless and placeless ideal of design. No, we appreciate the things that are rooted here in North Carolina and that are an honest representation of their time and purpose. That state motto on our seal means “To be, rather than to seem” and we think that’s good advice.

So tune on in, 'kay?  And pester him so he keeps writing.

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*apologies to fellow Durham bloggers if you've already posted notices about this guy that I've failed to read.

07:23 PM in Links of Note, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Celestún and National Personalities in Jokeland

Emayas_flamingos
Flamingos at Celestún.  Photo by Emaya.

Do you know what flamingos sound like?  No, not like the theme to Miami Vice.  More like Canadian geese.

Yesterday was birding mania at Reserva de la Biosfera Celestún -- flamingos, cormorants, sea ducks, pelicans, Mexican eagles, and many more I don't know.  Too bad I didn't have Stew the birder* along for the three-hour boat tour of the coastline and estuary. 

Phils_feet_at_celestun

But I still managed to enjoy myself -->

 

Fellow tourists: a family from St. Paul, MN; Katya and Jacek from Poland (but currently living in Hamburg) and Rocio from D.F. (aka "Mexico City").  Wilberth, our Yucatecan captain and guide, spoke no English.  So Rocio and I did most of the interpreting while Wilberth told us about area's biology and geography.  Rocio had the Spanish and a good bit of English.  I had some Spanish, all the English, and some biology and earth science -- useful for discssions about saltwater invasion, mineral uptake, water coloring from mangroves, etc.

Now, for more jokes about national personalities:

Heaven and Hell

In Heaven: the Italians greet you, the French feed you, the policemen are British, and the Germans run the trains.  In Hell: the French greet you, the British feed you, the policemen are German, and the Italians run the trains.**

Speakers of the World

What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
   -- Trilingual
What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
   -- Bilingual
What do you call a person who speaks one language?
   -- [see footnote***]

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*who might have visited here in the 90s.

**Suzanne Gilman -- one of my typesetting teammates at the Brown Daily Herald -- told me this joke in 1987 when I didn't know enough to get it.  I had to write it down so I could remember.  No longer.

*** American.

Miscellaneous notes:

  • When I rushed into the bus station at 8:03 a.m., the ticket agent said I had just missed the 8 a.m. to Celestún.  I was so sad to have missed joining Jacek, Katya, and Rocio for our planned outing. But when I walked into the waiting area -- miracle of wonders -- Jacek was waving at me from the gate.  "Hurry!".  Man, his face was a beautiful sight.
  • How would you feel about assembling a semi-random group of strangers to attempt negotiating our prices with a wide variety of boatmen?  When you don't know everybody's price and time sensitivities?  When you hadn't much sleep the night before?  Rocio rocks.  She did all this for us.  And we had a really good time.
  • BTW -- if you are not the Negotiator, life is easier if you can let go of your desires for any specific outcome.  Just let her do her job, and everybody has fun, and nobody gets shot.  Although I wasn't our negotiator, I did get to play Treasurer.  That job usually means that I end up paying extra to cover world's shortchangers of the world.  But on this rare occasion, everybody handed me more money than they were supposed to.  Yay for Wilberth who got a good tip.  Even after our early disagreements in which money was handed from us to him, then back to us after a second disagreement on price, then back to him after Rocio made the peace at $90 for the whole boat for 3 hours.
  • I love all boats.  Even boats without lifejackets.
  • After the tour -- marinated salad of mixed seafood.  Very happy mouth. 

04:01 PM in Mexico, Quotables | Permalink | Comments (5)

Feb 08, 2008

Roald Dahl -- Recommended

Archives_dahl Thanks to Celeste for asking for some Roald Dahl recommendations.

Dahl's most famous works were written for children*, but he also wrote many stories for grown-ups, and he wrote some nice memoirs.  Of these less-famous works, I recommend the following:

Boy -- memoirs of childhood and the public schools of England.  Canings, bowel movements, licorice from rat's blood, adenoid removal without anesthetics of any kind, goat droppings for tobacco... How Dahl (and any children of the 20s and 30s) survived these schools is beyond me.  Read these memoirs for good stories, a view into the last years of England and the world's most powerful country, and insights into how Dahl came to be so wonderfully twisted.

Going Solo -- memoirs of life in Africa just before the start of WWII, and of life as a fighter pilot.  Old nudists, poisonous snakes, sword-wielding Africans, dead Germans, and plane wrecks... As I plan my own international wanderings, I dream of adventures like Dahl's.  But I don't want anything nearly so scary.

Switch Bitch -- a collection of four short stories, two about "Uncle Oswald", a very wealthy character** who lives his life collecting walking canes, raising spiders for silk, and seducing women.  The two "Uncle Oswald" stories were first published in Playboy magazine in the 60s and 70s.  In Bitch, Uncle Oswald funds a scientist who is trying to synthesize the human sex pheromone.  In The Visitor, other things happen.  Remarkable, sensual, dangerous things.  In Egypt.

Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life -- a collection of seven short stories from the 40s and 50s, inspired by (or true reports from?) Dahl's time in a rural England town.  He went there intending to spend some quiet time writing.  Instead, he fell in with the best of the locals: dog-racing cheats and gamblers, poachers, and freaks who play with rats.  An antiques dealer poses as a parson to swindle suspicious farmers out of a valuable piece of furniture.  Parson's Pleasure is required reading for fans of Antiques Roadshow.  Especially the British edition.

Going_solo Tales of the Unexpected -- many short stories published in various collections (Tales, Complete Tales, Tales I and II, etc.).  Some were produced in a BBC television series, which Quentin Tarantino refers to in the movie Four Rooms.***  In his Four Rooms sketch, Tarantino's characters remember one episode (Dahl's Man from The South, which becomes The Man from Rio by the time it gets to Tarantino) and decide to copy the storyline.  Tarantino's risk-taking pal bets that his trusty lighter will light ten times in a row without fail.  The wager?   Tarantino's 1964 red convertible Chevy Corvelle against the man's little finger.

I liked stories in Tales of the Unexpected, but reading them in a collection was not so great, as I quickly tired of the repeated rhythms: introduction, set up, clever twist revealed in the last two or three paragraphs...  You can ruin anything if you do it too many times in a row.

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*Many were made into excellent and faithful movies, such as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder, which I prefer to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp, which was good but unnecessary for me), Matilda, and the often-impressive The Witches (with Angelica Houston). 

**In The Visitor, Uncle Oswald makes at least one more observation about The Very Wealthy (cf. yesterday's post about the rain). I like how Dahl describes the wealthy -- not as better or worse than you and I, but simply for the interesting ways in which they are different.

***Four Rooms is a rich movie.  I didn't like every part, but some of the vignettes (or scenes within vignettes) are masterful.  And man, is this movie full of talent (or at least full of interesting people doing things you haven't seen them do before).  Combustible Edison (Esquivel disciplines whom I once saw at the Cat's Cradle) provides music for animated title sequence.  Four Rooms screenplay at IMSDb.

Photo credit: Roald Dahl Museum, Buckinghamshire, England, open since 2005, I'm told.  One more good reason to visit that country.

Info credit: RoaldDahlFans.com is a great site with a Bibliography and extensive story notes.  It even has classroom ideas for teachers using these stories either with children or with adults learning English.

07:04 PM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

"Aw, man. You got no class."

Cheech_and_chong_yellow_2 So to continue the theme of Mexicans and Chinese: Does anyone remember the Cheech & Chong quote (maybe from the Yellow Album?) where one of them (Cheech, I think) is talking about the philosophy of marijuana while Chong is smoking a joint?  The gist of Cheech's speech is, "The nice thing about weed is that everybody shares." But after Chong finishes off the joint all by himself, Cheech says sadly, "Aw, man. You got no class."

I mention this because somebody in my open-windows apartment complex has been smoking la cucaracha on and off for the last two hours.  But has anyone been knocking on doors with an offer to share?  Somebody around here is like school in the summertime: no class :-)

Also coming in through the windows: the yowls of multiple cats in heat. We don't hear that much in the US suburbs, where most all the cats are spayed.  It's a wild sound -- something new to me.  In fact, I wouldn't have even recognized it if K hadn't told me when she heard it over the phone.  (I had been assuming it was an exorcism.)  Hey waitaminnit -- do you think it's the cats who are smoking the weed?

Aki600 Oh and speaking of cats: last night, some new friends and I were talking with Aki*, Japanese guy who's lived his last 20 years in the US.  He adopted a neighbor's outdoor cat and built it a home to stay warm in the Arizona mountain winters.  Aki told us "I really enjoyed building the cat house."  Then we had to explain why we were snickering. 

Twenty years in the US and he hadn't heard that word before?  But I'm not too surprised. Aki is a clean living sort except for his cigarette habit.  "You know why I smoke?  I don't drink, I don't do drugs, I don't eat meat.  I don't watch TV.  I don't have a girlfriend.  If I didn't smoke, my life would really suck!"  Every day, Aki walks 15 to 20 miles.  He's built long and thin.  Kind of like a cigarette.


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*yes, same name as the Mexican grocery store.

02:25 AM in Mexico, Quotables | Permalink | Comments (0)

"The very rich are enormously resentful of bad weather"

Akigroceryrain591
Waiting out a rainstorm at the Super Aki grocery store ("¡Cuesta poco!") in my new neighborhood near Parque Santiago, Mérida.

The folks here seemed pretty patient -- even the hot dog guy whose cart you can see in the distance.  Still, I had to think of a favorite passage from The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, by Roald Dahl:

Henry_sugar One summer weekend, Henry drove down from London to Guildford to stay with Sir William Wyndham.  The house was magnificent, and so were the grounds, but when Henry arrived that Saturday afternoon, it was already pelting with rain.  Tennis was out, croquet was out.  So was swimming in Sir William's outdoor pool.  The host and his guests sat glumly in the drawing room, staring at the rain splashing against the windows.  The very rich are enormously resentful of bad weather.  It is the one discomfort that their money cannot do anything about.

As the story continues, Henry finds himself stuck in Sir William's library where he finds a slim book that teaches him how to develop the extrasensory powers of a yogi. 

I love this story along with five of the six* that appear as a collection in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar -- And Six More.  I think you might enjoy reading it.  You might even develop the extrasensory powers of a yogi.

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*The sixth is much too sad and violent for me.

01:24 AM in Mexico, Quotables, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (3)

Feb 04, 2008

Dos Pies y Dos Hamacas

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Two feet and two hammocks. 

I notice that it's 68 and partly sunny in NC today.  So don't be a hater.

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Photo from the "Hamacas Lounge" at the Hostel Nómadas where I spend social evenings, and where I sometimes take an afternoon nap.  There is a nicer hammock about ten feet away from this pair, but the tree it's under has all sorts of pods that do a "Divine Wind" attack any time there's a breeze.  So I avoid that one.  It's hard to relax when you know you're going to get popped on the noggin at any moment.

Last week I was napping in yet a different hammock (near the mixed dorm rooms) when I heard an urgent whisper from ~15 feet away.  "Magda[!]" "Magda[!]".  I woke myself up and turned to see a woman's wet head poking out from a shower closet.  "Can I help you?" I asked.  "Yes[!]  I forgot my towel in the dorm and my friend Magda seems to have gone away.  Could I ask you to...?"

So of course I did.  And let this be a lesson to us all: it's good to speak four languages.  (Not me, silly, the shower girl: an Israeli named Nirit.)  Nirit speaks Hebrew, French, English, and Spanish.  So even if I were some traveler from Haiti or Panama, she had a decent chance of getting dry without getting a reputation.

04:59 PM in Mexico | Permalink | Comments (5)

Martina's Moods in Mexico

Someone at the hostel asked me, "Do you know where Martina is from?"

"Grumpyland!"

So of course all things are relative, but let me tell you, Martina can be dour.  She's from Germany, about which she has mixed feelings.  When she's home she spends a lot Cuban and Dominican men who she can dance with.

Yesterday we were walking past some bands at Carnaval (which she constantly mocked throughout the two-hour parade we had just watched), "Well, four more weeks of this.  Then back to Germany.  No more happiness.  No more smiling."

Smiling?  That expression on her face has been "smiling"?!  Dang, I'd hate to wonder what she's like at home.

But in any case, she was talking with one of our Mexican friends who wants to move to the US because there are more opportunities.  Said Martina,

"Don't be like everybody in America and Germany and other places like that -- all confused.  They have too many choices and they don't know what the f*** to do.  Here, people are HAPPY."

The grass is always greener...

12:26 PM in Mexico, Quotables | Permalink | Comments (2)

Creature Comforts

Greetings from Mexico where I've been talking with a few Brits today, and one guy from Portugal (loosely tied these days to Brazil).  Which is to say, I'm thinking of the video for Creature Comforts, introduced to me by the beautiful folks at She Said / She Said.

Happily, you can find the whole 5 minute Creature Comforts short at AtomFilms:



AtomFilms.com: Funny Videos | Funny Cartoons | Comedy Central
I hope that the video is embedded, above (this is my first try at such). If not, click this link to the video at Atom Films.

12:28 AM in Misc.Blog 2007 | Permalink | Comments (1)