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Nov 30, 2008

Get Smart -- Saving the World... and Loving It


Ha!  Perfect light entertainment. 

The Good

  • Lotsa yuks
  • Surprisingly good camera work
  • No unnecessary lingering or overemphasis during (the millions of) movie references or crude jokes
  • Clever lines that didn't break the rhythm of the movie
  • Extended shots of the Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall in LA (inside and out).
  • Alan Arkin.

The Bad

  • The score
  • The fact that I now want to re-see the Cody Banks movies to compare cinematography and pacing.

12:15 AM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (9)

Nov 28, 2008

National Heritage Day - For American Indians, For Now

Did anyone hear about this?  I just saw it in my Yahoo newsfeed:

National heritage day honors American Indians

By MARY HUDETZ, Associated Press Writer  – Fri Nov 28, 8:10 am ET

PORTLAND, Ore. – For the first time, federal legislation has set aside the day after Thanksgiving — for this year only — to honor the contributions American Indians have made to the United States.

Frank Suniga, a descendent of Mescalero Apache Indians who lives in Oregon, said he and others began pushing in 2001 for a national day that recognizes tribal heritage.

Suniga, 79, proposed his idea to a cultural committee that is part of the Portland-based Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. The organization took on the cause of a commemorative day, as did the National Congress of American Indians and other groups.

Congress passed legislation this year designating the day as Native American Heritage Day, and President George W. Bush signed it last month.

The measure notes that more Americans Indians than any other group, per capita, serve in the U.S. military. It also cites tribes' artistic, musical and agricultural contributions.

"The Indians kept the Pilgrims alive with turkeys and wild game," Suniga said. "That's the reason it was attached to the Thanksgiving weekend."

After the Thanksgiving weekend, Suniga said, he and other advocates plan to lobby to place the Native American Heritage Day on the nation's calendar annually.

It isn't certain, however, that all tribes would agree that the fourth Friday in November is the best day to recognize their contributions and traditions.

"Thanksgiving is controversial to some people," said Joe Garcia, director of the National Congress of American Indians.

The holiday marks a 1621 feast in which English settlers and Wampanoag Indians celebrated and gave thanks in Massachusetts for their harvest, but it was followed by centuries of battles and tense relations between the United States and tribes.

Unfortunately, tribes have had virtually no time to plan events to commemorate Native American Heritage Day because the legislation creating it was signed only last month, noted Cleora Hill-Scott, executive director of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

"What's difficult is this day is going to come and go without much being done." she said.

I would love a permanent national holiday dedicated to apology, atonement, and forgiveness -- a national, secular version of Yom Kippur. Others have probably proposed this in more detail.  Please point me to any links you know of. 

Regarding this year's National Heritage Day, I wanted to point you to other coverage and commentary, but there isn't any.  Google National Heritage Day and you will see that the AP article is damned close to the only web-findable thing written on the topic.  Blogger Rowan Wolf comments on the paucity of press, and more.  A copy of the resolution is here at the Melungeon Historical Society.

11:44 AM in History, Ideas and Yens, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nov 27, 2008

"You're Our Boy" -- Alice's Restaurant

For years, Thanksgiving was my reminder that I ought to mail the Alice's Restaurant LP back to the guy who lent it to me my sophomore year in college.  Eventually I quit worrying about it. 

Here's a clip from the movie:

If for some reason you don't know why I'm posting this on Thanksgiving, see the Alice's Restaurant wikipedia entry.

11:48 PM in AV | Permalink | Comments (3)

Nov 26, 2008

Thankful That I'm Wowed: Calle 54

My friend Laura once said she wanted to raise her kids in a small town because she didn't want them to fall into the trap of big-city kids from New York or D.C. -- the ones who at age seventeen feel like they've seen it all.

I remember this on occasions when I see something that makes me grin, sway and go "wow."  Like Michel Camilo's From Within, from the exceptional Calle 54:

Note: At around 5:28, the producer pushes the sliders back up on Anthony Jackson's six-stringed bass.  At 5:58, Jackson starts acting like there's two of him.

08:29 PM in Reviews | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nov 25, 2008

Hank Paulson and John McGinley -- Separated at Birth?

Tell me I'm not the only one who thinks that Hank Paulson looks a bit like John McGinley (of Scrubs and Office Space fame, and also sadly of the Miller Lite "Taste Commissioner" commercials.)



Second image is from The Mighty God King's veepstakes blog (written before the convention, duh) with pros and cons for various photoshopped candidates.  Here are the MGK's pros and cons for Alice Cooper:

  PROS: will introduce America to desperately needed alternative diets, IE, eating a snake live on stage; no way in hell anybody tries to assassinate Obama now; campaign will be the first campaign in history to have good theme music.  CONS: campaigned against John Kerry in 2004, could depress base; “School’s Out” evidences dangerous potential for interest in school privatization, which could hurt campaign with teacher’s unions; may steal Michelle Obama’s mascara.

11:41 AM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nov 24, 2008

Silence and Posture -- Tamura

On silence:

To me, a good Quaker meeting seems to be one in which deep silence continues at least for the first half hour because our minds are usually rough with the waves of thoughts and emotions and it will take some time for our minds to quiet down.  Then some vocal ministry is given during the latter part of the worship.  Otherwise most of the vocal ministry would come from the conscious, the surface layer of the psyche.  It would be nothing but the product of reasoning and thinking, and the Quaker meeting would turn into a mere forum.  In most of the Quaker meetings that I have attended, silence did not continue longer than fifteen minutes.  It was sometimes broken in five minutes or so.  Each time I wondered how they could calm their minds and get a divine message in such a short space of time.  Some of my Quaker friends share my doubt and prefer completely silent worship.

pp. 13-14, A Zen Buddhist Encounter Quakerism, Teruyasu Tamura, Pendle Hill Pamphlet 302 (1992).

And on posture:

If there is any other thing that Zen can contribute to Quakerism, it is the idea of the oneness of body and mind.  One of the most important discoveries of Oriental religions is that body and mind are so closely related with each other that we can control our mind to a great extend by controlling our body and breathing.   The main point is to sit still with your backgbone straight.  If we practice it constantly, we can control even the deepest layers of our psyche which would otherwise be out of reach of our conscious efforts...Yamada Roshi once commented on Rodin's famous bronze status called "A Thinking Man," saying, "If you sit in such a posture, nothing but pessimistic ideas will come up in your mind.  To think rightly as well as to keep inner silence, you had better sit in a right posture."

pp. 20-21.

I am finally returning some Pendle Hill pamphlets to the Durham Friends Meeting library.  I've had them forever.  Long enough to have forgotten that I quoted from this book last year, under the title The Buddha is a Sh**-Wiping Stick.  I realized this only when I went Googling for an image related to Tamura (to include in this blogpost), and found a whole bunch of photos from my own blog.  Sadly, the book seems out of stock/print at Pendle Hill, though you can find used copies on the internet.  Or in the DFM library after Wednesday night.

11:44 PM in Quotables | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nov 22, 2008

Bart, Lisa, James

Lasertable200 I know you already know, but I have certain reasons for mentioning here that the Associated Press recently reported the addition of "meh" to the Collins English Dictionary:

Publisher HarperCollins announced Monday the word had been chosen from terms suggested by the public for inclusion in the dictionary's 30th anniversary edition, to be published next year.

The origins of "meh" are murky, but the term grew in popularity after being used in a 2001 episode of "The Simpsons" in which Homer suggests a day trip to his children Bart and Lisa.

"They both just reply 'meh' and keep watching TV," said Cormac McKeown, head of content at Collins Dictionaries.

The dictionary defines "meh" as an expression of indifference or boredom, or an adjective meaning mediocre or boring. Examples given by the dictionary include "the Canadian election was so meh."

Now that we've recorded that news, I'd like you to ask me, "Hey Phil, what did you think of Quantum of Solace?"

You:  Hey Phil, what did you think of Quantum of Solace?
Me:   Meh.

For more intentional Simpsons/Bond connections, check out the Simpsons-Bond References Wiki or this other collection that's maybe even better.

12:26 AM in Reviews, Words | Permalink | Comments (3)

Nov 20, 2008

Changing Times and/or Not -- Doonesbury ca. 1976

I hope that the folks at Doonesbury won't mind me sharing this online. 


The Ginny mentioned is a young black woman running for US Congress, to represent a California House district in California if I remember correctly.  Clyde is her boyfriend.

03:31 PM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nov 16, 2008

PSA: Freeze Watch -- Bring In Your Plants


Weather forecast for the Triangle puts us into the TWENTIES several nights this week.  Bring in your plants if you haven't already!


Photo courtesy of Iowa Agricultural Extension

11:34 PM in News | Permalink | Comments (3)

Nov 15, 2008

Early, With Beer and/or Slaw


Last night I accidentally showed up two hours early for a party.  The host's home was dark but their next door neighbors were hanging out in their own garage, drinking beer and brewing more, and they invited me to hang with them.

All was well except for the surliness of one of their other guests.  After he made few comments that I couldn't quite tag as racist, rude, or stupid ("shouldn't you be out delivering egg rolls or something?"), he finally told me what was up.  It turns out that he had misheard the introductions and had confused himself into thinking I was a Chinese food deliveryman who was overstaying his welcome.*  After all was sorted out, we were new best friends and we enjoyed the hell out of drinking our host's very hoppy and still green beer ("There's $60 of hops in that five gallon keg") and some exceptional Kentucky bourbon.  Eventually, the correct party started next door and I had a fine time there, as well.

Tonight I drove to Raleigh for the pre-Thanksgiving potluck that my friends Pat and Tim hold every year.  It turns out that I was a week early, but they were home and we had a fine dinner.  I brought coleslaw.  Here's the rough recipe:

1/2 head red cabbage
1/2 head green cabbage
3 carrots
1 medium turnip
2/3 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbs. mayo
powdered ginger

After just a few tries, I haven't yet come to a recipe I like each time (shout out to Dave and Lo for their much better versions), but I'll get there.  Above photo from the first batch I made in Texas.  Keeping an eye on things in Bailey, my cousins' sweet dog.

UPDATE, 10 Feb 09:  I just did a new cole slaw that I like much better than above:

1 small head cabbage (size of a bigger-than-normal grapefruit)
3 carrots
1/3 cup blend of white vinegar, cider vinegar, and raspberry vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbs. mayo
1 medium red onion
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
black pepper

MUCH better than the earlier recipe


*Mitigating circumstances: I showed up with a plastic bag full of food, not sure of the street address, and asking, "I'm looking for a party hosted by Megan and Christine".  By coincidence, two of the women at this wrong house were also named Megan and Christine.  Etc. etc.

10:42 PM in Misc 2008, Recipes | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nov 13, 2008

Connie from Durham


My Couchsurfing hosts in Houston had a couple of Redneck Joke books, and I stumbled into this joke while skimming.  The choice of Durham, NC as the punchline town surprises me on several counts.  But I had to laugh, especially since I have a Durham friend named Connie.

12:06 AM in Destination Durham, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (4)

Nov 12, 2008

Durham + 8 months

So I've only been gone for a few months, but plenty in Durham looks different.  Since I last drove around downtown, Pettigrew St. has suddenly gone up in lights: the new Performing Arts Center is beautiful at night, the Bull Durham neon sign ("Bull Du" on election night -- some bulbs were out) is blazing red, and the transportation center has gotten all framed out.  Holy cats!  I also visited the north side of Washington St. where I got my first glimpse of the two new/adapted buildings at Trinity. 

Still undone: I have yet to visit Pinhook, Maverick Partners has yet to put any tenants into the great space at 1001 W. Main St., and Mangum South 219 has yet to be renovated. Too bad on all counts, though I think I can rectify one of those by myself.

It's good to be back.  Now if only we could replace Pettigrew St. with a river.

11:52 PM in Destination Durham, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (3)

Dark Blue, Light Blue, and Other Colors

I have no idea if this will translate to blog, but here's my record of a conversation I had among semi-subtle people on Sunday after church in Durham.  We were talking about a beloved former churchmate who moved to Texas three years ago:

Me:  So while I was visiting with A, she said they might be moving back to the area.  She wants to get her PhD in composition and rhetoric.

Understated Churchpal1:  Gosh, don't we have some schools that do that around here? And aren't some of them pretty good?

Dark Blue Churchpal2:  Well, at least the ones that are spelled with four letters.

Me:  Oh yeah, she's definitely excited about the program at NCSU :-)

Heh.  And no lie.  According to A's husband, the NCSU and UNC programs are much better than the Duke program.

12:14 AM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Nov 10, 2008

Yes "Sir" but No "Ma'am" in Texas

I had the greatest time watching my niece play high school volleyball in Mission and McAllen TX.  Three matches in nine days made for a lot of yelling, and one very polite referee's request to move my camera and myself a little bit farther from the court.  Which is a long way of introducing two photos shot outside the restrooms at Mission's Memorial High School.

One of these things is not like the other:



11:56 PM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (2)

"Happy Birthday, I Got a President..."

If I've learned one thing since last year, it's that the internet has many photos of the number "40" but few of the number "41".

Last year on my birthday, I found a nice number "40" and I asked y'all to consider doing stuff.

This year I got a nice new president.  So never mind about the photo.  And never mind about y'all doing stuff.  I'm satisfied.  Thank you!


Speaking of presidents and birthdays, this video weirds me out:

12:01 AM in Misc 2008 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Nov 08, 2008

Blue Coffee Cafe, Blue City Durham


Above, Blue Coffee Cafe on Election Night.
Off camera to the left, a TV set is counting up the delegates.

After a few hours here on Tuesday, Dave from Boston declared Durham his new second favorite city in the world.  In town on a business trip for the NIH, he celebrated his fifty-something birthday at a packed Blue Coffee Cafe.

"I had no idea about this place," he said.  "I'm staying at the Marriott and assumed I was going to spend the evening in my hotel room, watching the TV and jumping up and down by myself.  But then I looked out my window and saw a bunch of people, so I came on down."

With the delegate count around 220, Dave let my pal Jenny treat him to some birthday coffee but he refused any hugs until Obama was over the top.  "I'm old school, and I've been disappointed enough times that I'm not going to jinx this." 

While we waited, I told him that he was standing right where Obama had visited in May, and where the still-needing-to-win-the-primary candidate treated his gathered supporters to a few slices of baked Blue Coffee yumminess.* Meanwhile, I knocked off my own fantastic slice of red velvet cake -- chosen without irony, and enjoyed more than any I'd ever tasted.

When the newscasters finally called California and the race, Dave joined the yelling, clapping and hugging without any New England reserve.  "Wow," he said.  "Four decades ago, I could never have imagined this..." Looking around at all the happy on his birthday, he declared, "Durham is now my second favorite city.  This place is great."


*Actually, I told Dave it was pie.  I found out later that it was all cake, and that my memory was off.  I can tell you, however, that Blue Coffee was much more crowded than the photo, above.  I think that by the time I took that photo (after 270), more people had gone outside to holler in the streets.

Recommended visits: That's No Bull's Blue Coffee blog entry from May and the The Durham News' post-election coverage also centered around the Cafe.

09:11 PM in Destination Durham, Editorial, Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Dumb Things -- and Staying Put, Catching Up


There is no end to the stupid things people I will do to get some WiFi signal, and no end to the stupid things bloggers I will do to document it.  Above photo taken on the second floor balcony, courtyard side, at the Hotel Iberia in La Ceiba, Honduras.  A fine value at ~$18 per night.  Just don't take the rooms that face Avenida San Isidro.  The balconies are great but the street is very loud and the windows are very thin.  Below, a pic from the room I could not nap in and soon traded for another.  Yes, that is a Wendy's sign in the distance, with the cathedral just beyond:


For the week I spent at Hotel Iberia, I enjoyed hanging with the staff in their tiny lobby, especially at night when we'd lounge on the soft couches, watching TV.  The owner was visiting relatives in Spain so he left his son, Luis, in charge.  Luis, who usually manages the family's small ranch outside town, was as nice as nice could be.  One evening as I was getting ready to find a beer in the Zona Viva, he also cautioned me about going out alone (as I had done the night before, duh).  So of course I got paranoid and asked if he wanted to come along. 

Next thing you know, Luis and two of his staff and I were zipping around town in his dad's four-door pickup truck.  We had a great evening, despite the struggles I had trying to grab the bar tabs at the two or three places we stopped.  Unlike the beggars who routinely dropped by the hotel's lobby and sidewalk stoop, these guys had no interest in taking greenbacks from the gringo.  But I'm glad they were gracious enough to let me insist.

While we were out, the hotel was faithfully guarded by the last remaining male employee -- a whip-thin guy who carried a machete wrapped in a pretty scabbard.  Most hotel guards in La Ceiba carried guns, so I'm not sure what was up with this one.  But he was fun to chat with most any time.  Below, the lobby/lounge/guardshack by day.  FYI, most people in Honduras have all their limbs, despite the suggestions of this blurry phone-pic:


La Ceiba.  Happy memories.

So it looks like I'm going to stay in the Triangle through March.  This is not a bad thing.  I've enjoyed traveling for most of 2008, but it won't kill me to stay put for a while, earn some money and maybe even catch up writing the backlog of travel blogs I've meant to do since January.*  And shucks, I might even visit with my long-missed friends!


*I'll probably post them on current dates while I'm getting them done, and then maybe I'll move them back to the dates they actually come from.  Or not.  The reasons I am mentioning this are not worth explaining, so I'll leave you with Maddox's definition of a blogger:

Blogger: Term used to describe anyone with enough time or narcissism to document every tedious bit of minutia filling their uneventful lives.

Maddox has other humorous definitions, including:

Liberal media: Whiny, bitching, cry-baby conservatives love to prattle on and on about the "liberal media." To be fair, except for FOX News (Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, John Gibson, Neil Cavuto, Steve Doocy, E.D. Hill, Brian Kilmeade, Brit Hume), Clear Channel, Laura Ingraham, Dr. Laura, Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Ann Coulter, Newsmax, G. Gordon Liddy, Michael Reagan, Michael Savage, The New York Post, Sinclair Broadcast Group (WLOS13, Fox 45, WTTO21, WB49, KGAN, WICD, WICS, WCHS, WVAH, WTAT, WSTR, WSYX, WTTE, WKEF, WRGT, KDSM, WSMH, WXLV, WURN, KVWB, KFBT, WDKY, WMSN, WVTV, WEAR, WZTV, KOTH, WYZZ, WPGH, WGME, WLFL, WRLH, WUHF, KABB, WGGB, WSYT, WTTA), David Horowitz, Rupert Murdoch, PAX, and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, they're right.

07:37 PM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nov 05, 2008

Break's Over

Sheen Back in September when Obama and McCain's numbers were starting to flip, Maureen Dowd got Aaron Sorkin to do a painfully funny* piece in which Obama meets the West Wing's Jed Bartlet.  It ended with Bartlet delivering one of his tag lines, "Break's over."

So anyway. My break is over.  I had two days to help the campaign and to rejoice in the result.  Now I've got to face up to the fact that in my last two weeks of travel around the US, my two best clients yoinked the contracts that I had been counting on for things like food and gas for the rest of 2008.  I'm scrambling.  If you know anyone who needs a good marketing strategist or marketing writer, holler fast.  Meanwhile, time for me to start dialing for dollars.


*not "so funny it was painful," but just funny with a lot of pain.  I can laugh now.

09:26 PM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (1)

Nov 04, 2008

Cleansing Waters

Last Friday I visited the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, and I cried as I should have.  Today, an historic election, and I cried as I should have.


In this photo, the surface of the memorial's fountain.  Reflected in the water is a shiny new building across the street.  I do not know what the building is, but it stands in clear contrast to the older buildings nearby that were witness to the seated Rosa Parks in a Montgomery bus, and the preaching Rev. King on the State Capitol steps.

Obscured in this photo are the words that struck me hardest just four days before our presidential election.  Two of the first three souls commemorated had been martyred for voter registration and organizing.

7 May 1955.  Rev. George Lee.  Killed for Leading Voter Registration Drive.  Belzoni, MS

13 Aug 1955.  Lamar Smith.  Murdered for Organizing Black Voters.  Brookhaven, MS.

On the fountain -- cleansing waters and a reflection of the new.  Present light resting on but not forgetting past darkness.

On that day -- tears of sorrow and then hope.  On this day -- tears of joy and then belief.  Cleansing waters.

11:39 PM in Editorial, Traveling | Permalink | Comments (3)

A Quiet While Waiting

I spent the morning with my friend Jenny, canvassing in rural Roxboro, and we couldn't help but notice how beautiful the country was at half past eleven on a cloudy Election Day.

At 37 Brian Ct., we walked up a gravel driveway to the well-kept pre-fab.  Jenny noted the rose bush, perfectly trimmed, still full of rich red blossoms so late in the season.

We knocked on the door and waited for an answer.  (By now, we'd learned that sometimes people come slowly to the door, so we weren't in a rush.)  Meanwhile, we admired the roses, the lawn, and the overcast sky.

It was about sixty degrees, with a constant light breeze that alternated between barely noticeable and just strong enough to make the autumn leaves whisper.

Most of the time, Jenny and I talk without pause.  But standing on the porch, in a space between sentences, we came to realize just how perfectly quiet it was on the eastern edge of town.  Just the air and the leaves.  Then two cars faint in the distance.  Then again, for the longest time, nothing but the air and the leaves.

It's 6:56 now.  My computer fan is whirring.  The television downstairs is talking about something important but not yet decided.  I'm trying to remember the quiet while waiting.

And I remember the sign that my friend Mark used to have taped to his monitor: B R E A T H E.

06:58 PM in Editorial, Triangulations | Permalink | Comments (2)


Oh please oh please oh please...


Update, 11 p.m.: Thank you!

06:15 AM in Editorial | Permalink | Comments (3)

Nov 02, 2008

Home is Where the Heart (Disease) Is

After 16 weeks and ~11,250 miles, I'm back in the Triangle. 

I don't think I gained any special new wisdom from the trip, though I did gain back a shockingly (to me) large fraction of the weight I'd patiently lost in the year prior to the road trip.  Why is this important?  Because next week I'll be 41.  And my dad will celebrate the 14th anniversary of his double bypass surgery (at age 57). And because on my last morning in Texas, just last Monday, my otherwise-fit-looking 50-year-old cousin had a heart attack.  So I'm serious when I tell you that my family (on both sides) are heart disease specialists.  And I don't mean the kind with MDs. 

But back to other things.  I'm glad to be home in NC where I plan to stay through at least early spring.  I look forward to seeing wonderful folks I've missed here, even as I miss the wonderful folks I've seen on the road.

Good morning' America, how are you?
Say don't you know me? I'm your native son!

09:20 PM in Traveling | Permalink | Comments (9)