Thanksgiving 2007

I am not thankful for the cold/flu that I have. After 6 days you'd think I'd be feeling better but no, I am still whining.

Thanksgiving day was pretty good except for the death of my car's battery that prevented me from visiting Austin and his guests before they ate dinner. But my dinner was simple but delicious - Green bean casserole, Cheesy Monkey bread and Apple cake. I believe it met the minimum Thanksgiving requirement for starch that Sandy and I discussed in a conversation earlier this week.


Here' s picture of a funny little car that parks near my office. It is a government car but I am not sure of its exact purpose.


More Beer reviews
Lagunitas India Pale Ale: Now that I know that India Pale Ales have an extra hoppy taste I want to try them all. The Lagunitas web site says their IPA is a "special homicidally hoppy ale" and while I found it to be quite good with a nice smooth taste I did not find it to have a strong hoppy taste..


Some more movie/DVD reviews

3 Iron
A curious Korean movie about a young man who moves into people's homes when they are away. He eats their food but also does their laundry and other cleaning. He manages to leave before the occupants return. At one house that he thinks is empty he finds a woman who has been abused by her husband. She leaves with him and joins him in his little home invasions. They are eventually caught and she returns to her husband but they still remain together in a way that may not be real. There are some elements of horror towards the end that were kind of confusing to me. It is a nice looking film and I am glad I saw it but it is just odd. The director also directed Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring,

Animated kid's movie about a young robot who has dreams of being an inventor. He goes to the big city where he makes friends but his dreams look impossible to achieve. The animation is very inventive but the story is nothing special. The ending scene involving a robot dog singing like James Brown, a marching band and lots of robots dancing makes up for the overly long scene involving flatulence.

Horror on the 15th Floor

I was watering flowers on my balcony Friday evening when I sensed something buzzing towards me. At first I thought it was a bumblebee which did not scare me but then I realized it was bigger than a bumblebee could ever be. I immediately knew it was a cicada and from experience I knew he was looking for something to land on. Luckily I headed for the sliding glass door and not over the balcony rail. It sat on the window box for a while and I was brave enough to go back out and take a picture of it.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Dead Like Me This series about a young 20 something who dies and is then given the job of escorting other people to their death is well done and well written but I just can't get past the ugliness of it. There are some moments of humor but overall it is depressing and filled with unpleasant people. I think the side plot of the grieving sister and mother is brilliant. I appreciate it but it is just not for me.

The Aviator Way too long and I just was not interested enough but Cate Blanchett is great as Katherine Hepburn and the scene where Howard Hughes crashes his plane is fantastic.

Im Juli. A charming German film about a shy school teacher who is told by a street vendor who has a crush on him that he is destined to be with a woman associated with the sun. She of course plans to be that woman but things go differently and he meets a turkish woman and follows her to Turkey. The plot is predictable but there is lots of fun along the way.

The Ladykillers The Coen Brothers remake of the 1950s Alec Guinness film. Tom Hanks, his accent and his dialogue are brilliant. And visually the movie is stunning. I could not wait for another character to die so I could see the body go off the bridge on to the garbage barge

Folklife Festival

Sunday we braved the high tourist turnout and went down to the Smithsonian Foklife Festival at the Mall. This year they featured Northern Ireland, Mekong River and Roots of Virginia. Joe had read about a band from Ireland called Four Men and a Dog (pronounce "Dag" like Brad Pitt pronounced it in "Snatch"). We got there in time to catch the end of their set. The kids and adults dancing were as entertaining as the band. (There was no dog). and


We then saw a young song and dance troup from China, a barbershop quartet type group from Tibet.

mekong03_t mekong01_t


Then the Vietnamese opera performed.


The food lines at the folk life festival were way too long so we headed to the food court at the Old Post Office. First we had to get masala dosas at the Indian Kitchen. I almost tried the Coconut Bharfi and Thums Up soda.

signage_t indiandelight_t

coconutbharfi_t thumsup_t

And we could not leave without a visit to Larry's Cookies.


Some more movie/DVD reviews
We've been renting some cable TV series

Dead Like Me
Paula recommended this series about the dead walking among the living acting as grim reapers. We've seen the pilot. The cast is interesting and we are interested to see how the story develops.

The Wire Season 2
Started off a bit slow but the action is picking up. The first season was all about the drug dealing gang in the Baltimore projects. This season the story continues in the projects but there is also a murder investigation in the Baltimore Port. I still can't get enough.

Another great series - a young actor makes it big in the movies and moves from Queens to Hollywood with his childhood friends. Jeremy Piven plays his intense agent. It's light and fluffy and fun with cameos here and there. Joe's favorite so far is Jessica Alba. Mine is Mark Wahlberg.

Top Fifty

I have nothing to write about really. The most interesting thing going on is my new haircut and the request by my Italian friend Lorella to be her 2nd Medical Power of Attorney. She is having laparoscopic surgery next week. She informed be that if things don't go well she wants to be burned.

It is lilac and wisteria time in DC. I took this picture in the parking lot next to my ballet studio.


So since it is a slow news day I thought I might list Joe's and my Top 50 movie list that we put together recently:

(In no particular order)

Kill Bill I & 11
Sexy Beast
My Neighbors the Yamadas
The Fifth Element
Dil Se
The Matrix
The Professional
Simple Men
Ghost in the Shell
City Hunter
Chinese Ghost Story
Hana & Alice
Galaxy Quest
Lost In Translation
Toy Story
My Neighbor Totoro
Slaughterhouse 5
Dr Strangelove
To Kill A Mockingbird
From Dusk til Dawn
Edward ScissorsHands
Grace of My Heart
Last of the Mohicans
Raise The Red Lantern
Party Girl
Die Hard
High Risk
Paris Texas
Wings of Desire
Star Wars
Young Frankenstein
Annie Hall
Bram Stroker's Dracula
Princess Bride
Sixteen Candles
Bottle Rocket
The Last Seduction
Singing In the Rain
Local Hero
Enchanted April
Austin Powers
Nightmare Before Christmas

Contest winner

One of our favorite museums is the National Building Museum (you may remember this little movie). Joe became a member and so he gets a magazine every couple of months. In the first issue he got there was a contest. Identify this picture:
Joe guessed it immediately and he was one of 4 readers to win. He correctly guessed it was the underside of arecibo radio telescope dish in Puerto Rico. There was no prize just a mention the next issue of the magazine.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
The Good Shephard is a movie about the beginnings of the CIA and one man's initiation into the world of espionage. It is a good story spanning World War II through the Bay of Pigs. It is a bit complicated but well laid out. Recommended.

Craftiness and Cuteness

A couple of days ago I had my camera out at work so I took some pictures of some cute things around my desk including my dinosaur-with-his-lunch-box iPod cover.
cute office things

I went over to Austin and William's place today to visit with them and my aunt Zita as they prepared for Thanksgiving dinner. I did not stay because I decided to work on my Christmas Contest entry and have a nice quiet veggie Thanksgiving dinner with Joe. We had a corn pudding, the traditional and apparently 50 year old green bean/cream of mushroom soup/french fried onions casserole, pull-apart rolls and cookies that Austin made this morning for dessert. I did make some progress on my Christmas Contest entry but I still have a long way to go before it is a true work of velvet art.

Austin and William's table looked quite elegant with a touch of cuteness. Austin made the napkins and I loved all the textures on and around the table.

thankdgiving table austin's naplins
austin and turkey

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Koi... Mil Gaya
A Hindi movie that steals liberally from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Charly. A mentally retarded young man, his younger friends and a pretty girl find an alien and try to hide him from the authorities. It was fairly dumb.

The Secret Lives of Dentists
A family man and dentist thinks his wife, also a dentist, might be having an affair. He decides not to do anything about it but soon the jealousy and worry manifests itself in an imaginary alter-ego type character played by Dennis Leary (whom I really liked in his short-lived TV show The Job) who says what the dentist is thinking but dare not say. It is an interesting film, funny in parts but mostly kind of depressing because the family is falling apart.

Long Time Gone

A new entry is long overdue. I have been a little busy with christmas shopping which I do mostly online but it's the management of all the alliances I have built with my sisters and brothers for gift buying that takes time. It is so complicated I have to keep a spreadsheet and this year Austin is organized enough to join in on the alliances and my aunt Zita wants in too because she hasn't travelled much this year, her usual source for presents, so it's even more intensive. But most of my shopping is done!

And then there is the Christmas contest. It's coming along. I have found that working on black velvet requires daylight.

And I have also been working on images and little movies that will be used in my friend Dana's dance performance in March. I am enjoying doing the research and video-taping and video-editing but I am now starting to think of the hundreds of people including dance critics from major newspapers who will see the performance. I am now wishing I had gone for that BA in Art instead of that BA in Astronomy.

Here are two pictures I took recently.

our new antenna local parade queen
This is a cool looking antenna we got recently to use to get some stations that are not part of our building's antenna (we do not have cable). I took this last month when nearby University of the District of Columbia held a parade that passed by our street.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Mystic River
Excellent story, very engaging, beautifully filmed, great acting. My only complaint was the last scene that seemed tacked on and unnecessary. It should have ended with the Sean Penn character walking down the middle of the street away from the Kevin Bacon character.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
After the inital 15 minutes where the vulgar to funny ratio was a bit high I really started to enjoy the movie. I really like Jay's ramblings in this movie as I did in Clerks and the silly plot was actually interesting.

Pet Food Bunny

We went on our usual 12 mile bike ride Sunday. It was a brisk 45 degrees but I am getting better at figuring what to wear. I have a couple of vintage wool cycling jerseys and I love wearing them. It's a bit cold at first going downhill to the park but it warms up really quickly once we get down to Rock Creek Park. Other cyclists are always commenting on Joe's bike which is a hard-to-find Japanese steel bike. My Italian Atala bike is also old and steel but it is not as popular. The last couple of outings though I've gotten comments too. One guy passed us a couple of weeks ago and said "Old school bikes. Cool".

My sonnet is coming along but I am still finding it very hard. I've changed themes a couple of times. I heard rumors that Lenore finished hers while lounging in her chemotherapy comfy chair and that Paula has already written 2 sonnets.

A neighborhood picture:


Some more movie/DVD reviews

Good Bye Lenin!
A nice little movie about a son trying to hide the fact that the Berlin wall has fallen from his mother after she wakes up from a coma. It is an interesting portrayal of that time and place.


Last weekend Lynda and Graeme came up for the long weekend. We went to Zita's Friday night for her annual Russian New Year's party. Saturday Lynda and I worked on her web site project (she volunteered to maintain a website for Graeme's school) while Lyla, Tracy and Graeme went to the Spy museum. Sunday Tracy, Lynda, Graeme and I went down to the Smithsonian Sackler Museum of Asian Art and the Freer Gallery to see the Ottoman Textile exhibit and anything else we encountered.
Sackler Gold Exhibit Kids with magnifying glasses
This small exhibit on Gold was conveniently located near the gift shop and bathrooms. Which may have been why there were so many noisy little kids running around. They were kind of cute with their magnifying glasses.
Tracy and Ganesh
Separated at birth?
Two of Lyla's favorite dudes
In front of the Sackler lovely sackler garden
In the garden outside the Sackler museum
lovely Sackler garden lovely Sackler garden
Some more movie/DVD reviews
The Limey
This thriller is about an ex-con who travels from England to Los Angeles to find out more about his estranged daughter's death. It has a very interesting look to it and the editing is unusual without being too gimicky. The story is not complicated so it is more about the characters involved. Terrance Stamp and Peter Fonda do a great job with the characters. I thought this was much better than some Soderbergh's more ambitious movies like Full Frontal and Traffic. As I was just now looking over Soderbergh's film list I saw King of the Hill, a bittersweet movie that spawned my interest in vintage Hamilton watches. I had forgotten he had done that. Another excellent film that seems to have slipped through the cracks. It is not on out on DVD.


I sprained my ankle last night in ballet class. We were doing small jumps and somehow I landed a jump on the side of my foot and went down with a fairly loud bang. Dancers gasped, the piano player stopped playing and the teacher ran over to me. I hobbled to the side of the room and put ice on my foot. Everyone in class sympathized and several dancers who are physical therapists gave me good advice. This is particularly frustrating after a couple of weeks of increased exercise. I started going to a somewhat high-powered yoga class Saturday mornings and my italian friend Lorella talked me into going to a jazzercise class at work. I find jazzercise to be a little corny but it is a good aerobic workout, I like the teacher and it is very convenient.

Last weekend I went to Dana's house for a baby shower for my friend Amy who is on Dana's board and with whom I shared a hotel room in Latvia. We drank wine and champagne and Aaron made wonderful tea sandwiches and salads. Other than baby names Aaron's homemade mayonnaise was the most popular conversation topic.

shower goodies picking baby names
We voted on baby names. Some were names Amy and Stefan are thinking of. Others we suggested. I think Attila and Ildiko, both Hungarian names, won
amy and stefan amy and jimmy
Baby clothes are so cute! Jimmy gives Amy his opinion on the books he and his family gave as presents.

A couple weeks ago Joe and I went down the the Hirshhorn Art Museum to see a video exhibit we had read about in the paper. It was very interesting. A Japanese artist made these quiet little films when he was studying art in London. They are mostly films of animated objects or shadows in his apartment. In one had planes taking off from tables, going in and out of rooms, circling light fixtures. Another had shadows of camels and elephants roaming the corners and windows and staircases.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
The Returner This is a Japanese science fiction gangster movie starring one of my favorite Hong Kong action movie stars Takeshi Kaneshiro. He plays an assasin who must work with a woman who has come back from the future to prevent an alien invasion and drops into his life. They find that their jobs are intertwined and a lot of action ensues. It was quite good.

Reservoir Dogs A classic I have never seen, mostly because I heard it was so violent. After seeing Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill I figured I could handle the violence. I kept waiting for it to be funny like his other films but it really wasn't. But what it lacked in humor it made up in style. And of course I had to see it after meeting Michael Madsen's father and uncle. `

More Spring Things

I went to Lorella's for Easter dinner today. She served two lamb dishes - one Italian, one more traditionally American. Both were excellent.

On the way home I stopped at the carwash near my house to clean my very dirty car. I was the last car to be washed for the day and as some of the guys were wiping down my car the others were all taking off their red carwash tshirts and changing into other shirts. That was an odd sight but then after I adjusted my seat forward and started driving down the alley about 10 of the carwash guys had jumped on their bikes and were riding down the alley with me. I felt as if I was swimming with the dolphins. Or maybe it was the white wine and Italian grappa at dinner that made the scene seem so surreal.

Here are two signs of spring - a bunny found behind the garden nursery at the National Cathedral and our algae-tinted pool which I will be swimming in one and a half months from now.

bunny in a cage ugly green pool

Some more movie/DVD reviews
13 Going On 30 and Hellboy: Two movies dealing with the supernatural and in which the heros must overcome true evil - a bunch of hellhounds and an evil russian and nazi in the case of Hellboy and a back-biting fashion magazine editor in 13 Going on 30. Both are enjoyable movies.

A Week In May

It started with Lyla's surprise birthday party a week ago Saturday. Lyla was surprisingly totally surprised. Some of her friends traveled from the northeast and midwest to be there which was great. I caught up with her friends, many of whom I had not seen in 5-10 years.

Wednesday Ben and Dennis came down from Secaucus, NJ to attend the reception of their artist friend Chakaia Booker. She is a very interesting person to look at and she does very interesting work with rubber tires. Her pieces are huge and amazingly graceful. Lyla, Tracy, Austin, William and I attended the reception and then went to dinner with Ben and Dennis at Tabaq in the U Street neighborhood.

This past Saturday Marcia, Brooke and I drove up to Baltimore for a cookout with friends I met through Brooke. The cookout was at the house of Jill and David who live in a beautiful 1950s house. It was a nice night. There were stories of celebrity encounters. Tanya met Paul McCartney and his now estranged wife Heather at an animal rights event in Canada. But even more intriguing to me was Jill and David's story of being at Hunter S. Thompson's memorial party and meeting Johnny Depp. He offered them cigarettes. Someone also knew someone who dated James Gandolfini (Tony Soprano) in school. Apparently he was very nice.

Family News (where it's not all about me):

  • Lenore who was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer this past month will be starting chemotherapy soon. She'll be sporting that Melissa Ethridge look for a time. Maybe she'll take up the guitar.
  • Lynda finished her chemotherapy and is back at work. During her time off she learned Dreamweaver and became a web mistress. I think there's even an outfit that she wears.
  • Lyla and Tracy are getting married, sometime in the fall, somewhere in the US.
  • My parents have started their Spoleto marathon where they try to cram in as much culture as possible in a two week period. It's like a city-wide smorgasbord.
  • Tommy and Sandy will receive a grant to renovate their house with equipment that will help Little T get around
  • Austin made fajitas last weekend.

Here are three slide shows of pictures from my week. I experimented with some new formats. If you have an opinion on them let me know.

lyla with flowers tracy elbows

Some more movie/DVD reviews

Curse of the Were Rabbit Wallace and Gromit are now inventing for their new pest control business and making some money. There is a monster out there eating all the vegetables that may or may not win the Giant Vegetable Competition and they intend to find it and stop it. Very clever and funny.

Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself

This movie is a little funny, a little sweet, a little sad. The look and feel is mostly bleak (it is filmed in rainy, cold Scotland) but there are wonderful moments in the film when color is used to highlight an event. And there's this German doctor that has a great face. Another good movie.

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Statue Contest

My parents have a lot of beautiful art work. They are artistic people. My father paints and my mom does stained glass, needlework, knitting, sewing, etc. But every now and then they buy or create something that is just not to my taste. There is a particular painting of a scary ass clown that my dad painted and that I refuse to be in the same room with. There is also a vase that I actually was sent to pick up at a gallery in Charleston. I should have exchanged it right then and there.

My parents also have a small collection of outdoor sculptures and statues and, again, for the most part I like them. But there's this one statue of a little girl that is cloying. It obviously means a lot to them so I try to keep my mouth shut. Well, they bought another outdoor statue and, guess what, I felt it was of dubious or non-existent artistic value. But hey now I really like it because I won the contest that my father orchestrated to name the statue. Here is a picture. I'll let you judge for yourself.


Some more movie/DVD reviews
Better Off Dead A much more light-hearted view of a suicidal young man than Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself. John Cusack plays a high-school student who has been dumped by his girlfriend for a expert skier. He tries to become a better skier but eventually decides she's not worth it. Luckily there is a cute French exchange student across the street. This 1980s movie really set a standard when it came out back in 1980 something. It has all these quirky comic-book like characters and quirky situations like the two vietnamese brothers, one of whom speaks like Howard Cosel, who constantly want to drag race.

Highway Warning

I was driving home on the beltway last week and saw this entertaining warning on a truck. Luckily it did not say "Do Not Take Pictures".
do not tailgate sign

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge A good Bollywood movie starring Shah Rukh Khan. It has just the right amount of melodrama and silliness and only a small amount of self-righteous gratuitous violence. Raj and Simran live in England and fall in love but Simran's father has promised her to the son of an old friend in India. When the father finds out Simran loves Raj he immediately moves the family to India to start the wedding preparations. Raj follows Simran to India and tells her that he knows they could run away together and elope but he wants to win the heart of her father and get his permission - a true challenge. The music and dancing are quite nice.

To The Limit

I have a new employer. The contract I work on (about 350 people) is up for bid every 5 years and the competition is fierce. 5 years ago I switched companies. I liked the new company but they lost it this time around. I am not so sure how I feel about the new company. Only time will tell. It is somewhat disruptive and there is always the chance that the new company has someone already to fill your position but so far that has not happened.

Joe and I took a longer than usual (for me) bike ride this morning. It was great. The weather was nice and the trails were fairly uncrowded for holiday weekend (well, holiday for some. I have to work on Monday). We rode from National Airport to Mount Vernon, through marshes, under the Wilson Bridge, through Old Town Alexandria to the RV parking lot at the home of George Washington. Here are some pics.

Some more movie/DVD reviews
Initial D This is a nice Hong Kong movie about car racing based on a Japanese comic book series. It is a story about a tofu delivery boy who gets involved with professional and street racers. It is also a story about friendship, fathers and sons and first love. There is no testosterone-fueled violence, only testosterone-fueled car racing.

Cutthroat Competition

Austin is off and running with his new blog He's been very prolific - 11 posts in one week.

Lenore and Lynda are competing for the best scar from ovarian cancer surgery. Although Lenore's scar from her breast cancer surgery increases her total scarage, Lynda's stomach scar is longer and was cut into again for her second surgery. The prize is getting the most sympathy from the family. And you thought we only competed making puppets, writing sonnets and creating black velvet artwork. If you are squeamish, DO NOT GO HERE.

By the way, here is a list of our Christmas competitions:

  • 1990 Write a Story based on a Edward Gorey drawing
  • 1991 Make a 1992 Calendar
  • 1992 Make pages for a Alphabet Book for Graeme
  • 1993 Make a Mobile to hang in the Edisto house
  • 1994 Karaoke Gilbert and Sullivan
  • 1995 Puppets with a Purpose
  • 1996 Touchy Feely Book for Little T
  • 1997 Lawn Ornaments
  • 1998 Poetry: A Limerick and then one other poetry form
  • 1999 Mosaics
  • 2000 Photography (Photography By The Numbers)
  • 2001 Comic Strip
  • 2002 White Trash Cooking Show
  • 2003 Stuffed Toys
  • 2004 Dioramas
  • 2005 Black Velvet Art

Some more movie/DVD reviews

Kilnieks (Hostage) Lorella and I went to see this Latvian movie directed by Laila Pakalnina that was part of the European Union Film Festival. It is a story of a hijacker who forces a plane to land in Riga. He lets all the hostages go except an 8 year old boy who asked to stay on the plane. The story is about the hijacker and the boy's friendship as well as about a number of interconnected events that happen around the airport involving racing cyclists, farmers, detectives, biathletes, folk song choirs, bunnies, dogs, cats, cows, bees. The director manages to include many Latvian traditions and favorite foods in the stories. It was quite enjoyable although I am not really sure what happened at the end. Even though we see the hijacker and the boy sitting and talking in a tree it is not clear if they got away clean, died, or if they were just in the imagination of some children playing in the sand. The film was in English and Latvian. I recognized alot of words but unfortunately my grasp of the language has severely dwindled.