Tuesday, December 28, 2004


After all this clear, sunny, un-wintery weather we've been having, the forecast now has solid rain through the next week, just in time for Camp Harmony. Oh well. I have a raincoat, an umbrella, and wellies, so I'm all set. In a couple hours I'll be surrounded by redwoods, music, and wonderful people. I will return on January 2nd. Happy New Year, everybody!

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mexico City, 1968

Running I found a set of photographs from what Dad called a "pre-Olympic tour" in Mexico. He said his college team travelled around the country racing against a lot of the local and regional teams, and they also got to run the first official race on the real Olympic track. Very cool. Hopefully I'll get to hear more about it when I see Dad on Christmas. I'm not sure what event this was that he won.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Fortunately Unfortunate

I went to see A Series of Unfortunate Events today with Mom. I was a little bit worried about it since I couldn't tell if they had just condensed the whole series into one movie, even though the last book isn't out yet. So I thought that it would either be giving away the ending or else not bothering to follow the story line at all. It turned out that this movie just covered the first three books, which is good because that was a good amount of material and it gives them space to make three more movies from the rest of the series.

They managed to cover the main important points of those three books, though they moved the conclusion of book one to the end of the movie, and stuck in an extra bit about a train early on. Also, the whole deal with the spyglasses was out of the blue, and there were lots more hints about the secret organization than I remember from that early in the series. But I guess they couldn't leave that out of the first movie entirely.

Jim Carrey made a perfect Count Olaf. Emily Browning, who played Violet, was pretty neat, and Sunny stole the show in terms of cuteness, being the baby and all. I like the way they used subtitles with her -- I had been wondering how they would work that. Also, Jude Law as Lemony Snicket was kept suitably shadowy and mysterious.

What I liked most about the movie though was the overall visual effect. It was all appropriately dark and dreary, but in a very beautiful way. Some of the sets reminded me of watching the Harry Potter movies, in that I wanted to just stop everything and go there, to examine every little thing in detail. A lot of the time when I see movies of books, I don't like how the movie clashes with the images I have in my mind. But I loved this one, and it has already completely ousted anything else I had in my head in terms of pictures for these books. I also enjoyed the animation sequence during the end credits (not to mention the accordion version of Brahms' Hungarian Dance #5 -- awesome!).

I really want book 12 to come out now, and I'm also going to be looking forward to the next movie. (Further reading: my previous post about the books.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

More Stuff from the Boxes

Family Picture, 1954 I spent a little while this evening going through a bag full of old birthday cards and similar things from when Dad was age 0-5. Most weren't anything very interesting or worth keeping, but some I kind of liked. I'm particularly taken by how many little tiny cards there were. I like miniature things, and you don't see cards this size these days.

I haven't managed to work myself up to tackling all the various newspaper clippings yet, but a couple did catch my eye. One was the family photograph shown to the left. The other was a Sermon of the Week, which was "condensed from one written and delivered" by Dad, when he was 16. Neat.

Monday, December 13, 2004

(Re)Learning Tunes

I'm trying to get back into shape musically before Harmony starts in a couple weeks. I haven't been playing nearly as much as I'd like to recently. I think the worst of it though is not so much being out of practice playing various instruments (though that's pretty bad for some of them) but being out of practice learning and remembering tunes. The Irish session I go to every couple weeks is fun but has a fairly distinct set of tunes that get played, without a lot of surprises. When I play on my own at home, I have an even smaller set of typical tunes that I play, though they tend to be different ones -- more favorites that other people might not know. So there are hundreds of tunes out there that I know I've learned but can never think of to play or practice. Argh. I can only hope I'll recognize them all (or learn them really fast) when they come up in sessions.

The other day I was talking with Miriam about crooked tunes and songs, and we got to listening to a track from one of the Nightingale albums, with a bunch of crooked Breton tunes and one delightfully twisted one called The Alley II. I finally decided to just sit down and learn them all and it was really a lot of fun. It's been a long time since I put any effort into learning new tunes. These of course aren't anything that will be useful for actually playing with many people probably, but they're fun. The Alley II is just incredible, continually switching between rhythms in 3's and 2's. Really tricky, but worth it.

Anyway, I need to find a good pile of tunes somewhere that I can just tuck into and start learning. It would be fun to start building up more of a repertoire again.

Friday, December 10, 2004

TMBG Blog Mention

They Might Be Giants now have an album of Venue Songs available for download. On their last tour, they wrote a new song for every place they played. Great album. And I was tickled to find the following in the Towson, Maryland song:
As you navigate the rotary on the way to park your car by the theater,
I'll hold your sweater, my leg is in a bear trap, I'm unable to attend,
But I applaud you and I'll jealously read your blog after the show.
Cool :-) Blogs are good for that sort of thing. I wonder how many people at that show caught the reference and ran home to blog it afterwards.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Running Pen Holder I went through the two boxes of Dad's old running trophies tonight. A lot of them were broken, and there was also a separate collection of broken people from the tops of various other trophies. Some still looked good, though. And there were a few amusing ones, like this one, which seems to be Richard Nixon jogging on a treadmill, scratching his armpit and making a face like a fish that wants to be fed. Then there's this one, which looks like a combination combination gramophone-compass-speedometer-pen holder of some sort. Interesting. I was disappointed that not many of them said what even he actually won (though a couple were marked "2 mile run"). Still, it was fun to see everything, 25 trophies or pieces in all.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Bill Bryson Is Awesome

I'm listening to my second book by Bill Bryson right now, In a Sunburned Country, which is about Australia. This guy does about the most entertaining non-fiction writing I've ever encountered. He can describe Canberra (the capital) as the most boring city on earth and still make you want to travel there. His description of cricket, and listenting to games on the radio, had me laughing so hard that I was nearly in tears by the time I got home tonight. He also has extensive and wonderful descriptions of all the things in Australia that can kill you. It's great.

The first book of his that I read was A Short History of Nearly Everything, which, as I've already noted, was also excellent. Next, I want to read A Walk in the Woods and The Mother Tongue: English and How It Got That Way. I'm hoping they come out on Audible though, because his books are good for listening to.

The point of this post: Find a book by Bill Bryson and read it.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

A New Project

The pack-rat tendencies in my family are really far too extreme. A couple months ago, Uncle Jim delivered to me four boxes and one bag that had been in the care of my aunts. It seems that these contain nearly everything that ever happened to my dad during his high school and college years, at least in terms of athletics and academics. There are two boxes just of trophies and awards from his track and field competitions. There are also two more boxes of scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings, photos and report cards. The bag contains a few things from earlier years as well, like a stack of birthday cards (some from when he was two years old), a baby book, a bit of schoolwork, and more report cards. Scattered throughout are some more random things, like a paperback copy of Revolution at Berkeley, and an entire binder of Pan American World Airways Teacher magazines.

So anyway, this has all come to me, in a kind of implied apprenticeship to Uncle Jim, the family historian. I'm in the process now of simply figuring out what to do with it all. Tonight I opened everything for the first time, just to see what all is in there and get an idea of what I'll be facing. It looks like it will be interesting to go through piece by piece, but I'm also going to need to somehow archive it all so that it can be safely gotten rid of without upsetting Grandma Jackie (Dad doesn't care what happens to it, and I'm certainly not going to keep it all in my room forever). I'll probably just photograph all the trophies, which should be the easiest part. Scanning in all the photos will probably take a while. When it comes to the hundreds of newspaper articles, I think there's going to have to be some significant selecting and editing involved. I'm not sure what I'll do with the slides. But whatever I do, it'll be a bit of a project for a while.

On the other side of the family, I have a cassette tape from Monee that I want to transcribe, and maybe get into a digital format at some point. It's Uncle Paul talking with Great-Grandma Herdman about Monee's father's "courtship diary." Should be interesting. I'd also like to read some of Great-Grandma Herdman's diaries, if we can ever borrow them from the cousins currently in possession of them. But that's a project for another time.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Many Fun Things

It's been a good weekend. For starters, Jammix was on Friday night. I tuckered out a little while before the end, but I did have some very nice dances, including a couple of polkas with Eric and a particularly good swing with Annaka. Then Saturday night was Testimony's Christmas show. All the people who originally drew me to Testimony's shows are now with me in the audience (or running the lights, in Justin's case) rather than on stage, but I still love it. Chi-en called me the ultimate groupie. Then this afternoon I went to see The Incredibles, which I found quite delightful. So yeah, lots of fun stuff the last few days.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Voice & Speech Class Overview

Last Monday night was my last Voice & Speech class but now is when I have time to write about it. The class turned out to be slightly different than I had imagined, but I was very happy with it overall. Prof. Sussel (visiting from U.C. Berkeley) was a lot of fun. I think I have a somewhat better understanding of how the voice works now, and I listen to speech and song entirely differently, which is fun. I've also notice that I can speak or sing for a long time and have it be a lot easier on my throat than it used to be.

I would have liked to learn more about the International Phonetic Alphabet and how to use it for things like learning different dialects, since that seemed really interesting. Our professor does a lot of that kind of work with actors, but this class was more oriented towards "speaking as yourself" the best you can. We also didn't specifically address singing at all, so I didn't get any clever tips on how to be more of a bass. (And there certainly wasn't any throat-singing, but I didn't expect that. :-) Still, everything we did was really good and useful, though I wish I hadn't been so busy the last month so I could have practiced my presentations more.

Anyway, I was quite pleased with the class, so I'm glad I put myself on the wait list back in September and lucked into it. The Continuing Studies Catalog for next quarter just arrived the other day, so I get to look through it sometime soon to pick what I want to take next.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Eddie From Ohio

Somebody at work today told me about a band called Eddie From Ohio. So I listened to one of their albums (yay for iTunes music sharing!) and I'm completely hooked now. It was one of those times when I just had a reaction like "Why have I never heard of these people before? They're awesome!" There have been three or four songs already that literally made me laugh out loud. They've got a great sound with lots of energy and some nice arrangements. I think they're sort of in a "folk rock" kind of category. I'm seriously going to go out and buy a stack of their albums this weekend. They're just too much fun.

Link: Eddie From Ohio. (All flash-based and with background music. Sorry.)

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Old Favorites

What with all the writing of the last month, I didn't actually get to read a whole lot. But I did manage to get sucked into a few favorite books that I haven't read for a very long time. It started off innocently enough, just wanting to check up on some details (since these books all figured in the story I was writing) but then they were just too hard to put down.

The first one was The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. I think I read that about 14 times in a row when I was in third grade. Reading it again I was continually struck by how incredible it is. It teaches a lot of good lessons, and it's even extremely obvious about doing so, but somehow it's still a completely delightful book. I think that just hitting that balance is a minor miracle. Also, I think it was probably a big influence on my thinking, not to mention my sense of humor, just judging by the way things resonate with me 15 years later. It's the sort of book that makes me wish I had kids so I could read it to them (and saying I wish I had kids is not something I do very often). I did, however, get to read a great deal of it out loud to Miriam, Rebecca, Emily and Jen last weekend, while they were all in the middle of dress-making and origami-folding. That was quite fun.

The book I just finished today was Redwall, by Brian Jacques. I think I started that series when it first came out, and probably kept going for a good 10 years or so. After a bit, there wasn't enough point to getting the new ones, but the early ones were excellent. The variety of characters and the way all the different species of animals are characterized are just wonderful. All the way through the book I was stopping to laugh and say things like "Oh! I remember the shrews! They were great!" These books would be fun for read-alouds, too, especially if you like doing lots of difference voices.

In the midst of my novel I also reread some sections of The Princess Bride, and that's another that I'd like to go back and read in full again. All the fun of the movie, plus tons of extra details and back-stories and whatnot. I remember I used to periodically go back and reread just the chapter about Inigo, because I liked it so much. There aren't many chapters in any book that I do that with.

So there's still lots of rereading that I'd like to do right now, but it will probably get put on hold for a bit. There are just way too many new books on my list that I've been itching to get at for a while. And some of them are really long. (I'm still trying to figure out when would be the best time to tackle Atlas Shrugged, or Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell.) So many books, so little time!