latin bands

I got a slow start Saturday, did a little work in the afternoon, then met Sara again for Top of the Park.

The second band was a 12-piece latin band. Fun music! And fun to watch all the dancers, too. (Me, I just stay seated and wiggle a bit when the spirit moves me. It's safe for everyone concerned.)

The latin jazz band before was great too.

July 4th, parade, NOMO

The Ann Arbor 4th of July parade isn't the most thrilling; the bulk of it seems to be businesses with their vehicles decorated, and politicians throwing candy. But that also means that if you take 5 minutes to fill out a form, they'll let you march. The juggling club hadn't done it in a few years, so I figured maybe we should give it another try.

And it was reasonably fun. There were seven of us. We were in the back, though, so the front was already finishing before we started, and we didn't really get to see the rest.

I worked most of the rest of the day, then met Sara for Top of the Park later.

Somebody in the Top of the Park sound booth really likes bass that makes your chest vibrate. Which is fine sometimes, but it sometimes seems to come at the expense of the other instruments. And at the NOMO show Friday night it grated at first--the songs were built on these repetitive 8-beat units, with the bass part not necessarily the most interesting part (though their bass player did seem really good).

But, for whatever reason, I got over that eventually. I really enjoyed the last few songs, and for the very last song the came down into the crowd and played in a circle with everybody crowded around them, which was magical.

kernel summit, Mr. O, TotP

Hey, look, I got an invitation to the annual linux kernel summit, which is in one of my favorite cities, Portland, this September.

Curious what makes Trondheim's "Mr. O" click, I've been killing some time trying to figure out how to draw little O guys that look like they have different expressions, or are doing different things. It's suprisingly subtle--a line a little astray and it changes the character of the whole thing.

Top of the Park continues, so we've been spending more time than usual outside. Tonight a pretty good rain came through, though, so after my French thing at Sweetwaters I made a dash for the bus and came home.

Continuing the French movie spree:

  • A Bout de Souffle: The library had a new edition with a bunch of extra interviews and stuff. I get the impression Godard was a bit of a jerk. And probably not as smart as everyone claims (who is?). I still like the movie, though I'm nto sure whether it's because of the stuff they did or the stuff they didn't bother to do.
  • Pierrot Le Fou: Ditto.
  • Poupées Rousses: Not worth a second watch, it turns out. There's some good bits, but it didn't add up to much. The explanation of the title at the end is a bit of an anticlimax. (Looking for the perfect woman is like opening russian dolls, you see, with each new one you wonder if it's the last. Huh.)
  • Ridicule: Regular guy goes to Versailles looking for a grant for a swamp-clearing project. I liked the fact that he wasn't just an innocent rube: he actually finds he's *good* at the court games. Sara and I both enjoyed it.
  • Le Vieil Homme et L'Enfant: A jewish boy's parents send him to the country to hide him from the occupiers. The grandfatherly host is a wonderful, warm character, but completely in thrall to antisemetic propaganda. The actor who plays him (Michel Simon, also star of Boudu Sauvé des Eaux) is fascinating.
  • Rêves de Poussière: Mining for gold in Essakane was a dirty, dangerous business, I guess. Really beautiful to watch. Reviews all warn that it's very slow, and I'm normally a pretty impatient movie watcher, but I felt like it flew by.


Wednesday night we the Sun Messengers, and then stayed for the movie, the 2007 version of Hairspray. The ratio of minutes spent in song-and-dance routines to mundane minutes was high. I liked it.

Thursday I went to my book group. There were only three of us, not quite enough to keep a conversation going, but it was OK. Still, I was jealous of Sara, who got to see Laith Al-Saadi.

Next time that group meets it's for something I recommended, "Mr. O", which is thirty 1-page 60-panel stories (layed out in a tiny 6x10 grid) about a little stick-figure O attempting to cross a chasm and repeatedly failing.

I think they may kill me.

Then it was the top of the park again tonight. The first band ("Money Mark") was good. The second ("The Mason Jennings Band") bored us both, so we went home.

Failing to stay out late

Monday night and again tonight, Sara and I met at Top of the Park and watched the first band, but didn't manage to stay much longer. I'd wanted to stay for tonight's movie ("Some Like it Hot"), but forgot to bring warm clothes, and wasn't really enjoying the second band ("Stewart Francke & The Regular Boys"). The first band ("Yoshi") I actually liked better.

I wasn't too interested in the Terraplanes on Monday night either. I can only hear so many straight-ahead 12-bar blues in a row.

It was nice out today, so I juggled on the diag again. I've also been taking regular 3-ball breaks during the day. It doesn't actually help my juggling much--my back crosses, what I've mostly been working on, aren't getting better very fast--but it actually helps with work. I concentrate better when I'm juggling on breaks (anyway, at least it's better than checking Slashdot).


I came home after juggling yesterday and haven't set foot outside the apartment since.

In fact, I haven't done much at all. Mostly, I'm alternately napping and trying to relearn what little I used to know about reading Japanese.

I'm meeting some people to discuss the delightful manga Yotsuba&! on Thursday night. I figured it might be fun if I could take a look at the original, and figured with a little work I might be able to make it through at least one of the stories. They're written with kids in mind, so have some helpers ("furigana", which annotate all the kanji). But that's only a small help. And there's also the problem that the little bit of Japanese I learned in college was extremely formal, quite different from the language kids in a comic book are likely to use.

Last night we finished season 4 of Buffy over dinner. The last episode wasn't that interesting. I think I'll forget about Buffy for a while and try to catch up on this stack of French movies that I have checked out from the library.


Maybe I could set a goal to learn a name every day. Yesterday and today I learned six, so I figure I can retreat to a cave for the rest of the week:

  • Laurie (if that's the spelling): I'd met her several times before, but since I had to be corrected after introducing her to Sara as "Carol", I figure this counts.
  • Daniel: A UM psych prof sitting with Laurie at Top of the Park. We sat next to them a while. He talked about brain imaging a little.
  • Tanner: The husband of someone Sara had a class with, who works on Linux and OpenBSD at the Linux Box.
  • Liz, Melissa, and Kyle: three friends (from the co-ops, I think) who showed up for juggling today. Most of the jugglers went off to Madison for World Juggling Day. I did the regular diag juggling time, expecting to just be on my own. HD also showed up and we passed clubs for a while.


Sara's mom visited us for a little over a week--she arrived on Amtrak from Arizona late on a Thursday night (the 22nd) and spent a couple days in Ann Arbor, then she and Sara rented a car and drove north Sunday to visit Sara's uncle. They got back Thursday, and Sara's mom caught the train back Saturday morning.

While they were away I watched "Boudu sauvé des eaux", and rewatched "Baisers Volés" and "À Bout de Souffle".

Over the last week or so my dad's been riding his new bike--just picked up from Bruce Gordon--from Portland to San Francisco, a good 80 miles or so a day with what sound like some pretty good ups and downs, too. Yipes.

Juggling photography, french invasion, Jandek

We got an article in the local paper about our juggling festival a couple weeks ago. I figured that might get us a few more people at the festival or our weekly meetings, but the main result so far has been that we get lots more requests to volunteer work.

None of us really performs, though. I don't think any of us have anything against the idea--it just takes work to put together something entertaining and original, and nobody seems to have the energy. Maybe some day. But occasionally if someone doesn't mind our just showing up, fooling around, maybe doing some one-on-one juggling instruction with passerby--basically the same stuff we do for fun on the diag every week anyway--then we'll show up. So this Saturday a few of us made it out to Chelsea's "Relay For Life", some sort of American Cancer Society benefit. It wasn't that interesting, and we didn't stay very long. I never understood that kind of fundraiser--isn't there some simpler way to get people to write checks?

Before that we had our regular Saturday afternoon juggling thing. There were a couple French students--Arnauld, who'd been before, and Ariel, but who I'd met briefly at Sweetwater's before. Some random passerby that were friends of Dave's also turned out to be French speakers, so hung around and talked to Arnauld for a while.

Then there was also a photographer from the UM alumni magazine--someone at the magazine saw that the Ann Arbor News had run juggling pictures, and figured, hey, maybe they could do that too.

Later in the evening Sara, Paul, Steve S., and I saw a free Jandek concert. Wikipedia can fill you on the details of the whole Jandek mystique; or see this NPR article. Nobody really tries to describe the music, though. So what was it like? This is what I wrote Dave, who decided to skip the concert at the last minute but was still curious:

So there was a harpsichordist, a trumpeter, a dancer/singer, and Jandek.

Jandek had a guitar (was it some kind of bass guitar? I couldn't see from where I was). He'd often start songs playing notes that went up and down a bit and didn't have a regular rhythm, but by the middle he settled in to this very regular thump-thump-thump on the lowest string. It was always about 180 beats per minute, I think. So there was almost always this deep bass drone going on, and every piece had pretty much the same medium-slow tempo.

You can go find his singing on youtube. It varies between just speaking and chanting. He'd start a sentence sliding up to a note, hang around on that note, then drift back down at the end.

The dancer would start sitting up straight in her chair, then stand up, walk a careful circle or two around the stage, or maybe stand in one place and make sort of jerky movements with her arms and stuff. Occasionally she'd stand at the microphone and sing wordlessly, mostly longer notes.

The trumpeter would sort of listen along a while, then join in with an atonal jazzy little solo, and fill in between Jandek's singing.

A lot of the time the harpsichordist was just jabbing out these occasional little chords, like a jazz pianist comping behind a solo. Sometimes he'd do more complicated stuff with some syncopation and multiple lines going on at once.

So how was it? Who knows? I think I napped a little during the first few songs. By the end, once I'd resigned myself to the thump-thump-thump and the unchanging tempo, I actually decided some of the music was kind of pretty, and that the harpsichord was doing some interesting stuff.

The harpsichordist and trumpeter were clearly very proficient musicians. I thought the dancer had a good voice too, and liked her singing. I know nothing about dance, but suspect she's pretty good at what she does. As for Jandek himself? I just have no idea. Anyone could have done that stuff, I suppose, but, hey, I've never heard anyone else do it, so if you were into that kind of stuff, I guess he's the guy to go to. Personally I thought we could have replaced him by a machine that went thump-thump-thump and not missed much.

A lot of people left between songs. Some songs would have a particularly large exodus at the end--we could never figure out why--they mostly sounded pretty much the same, so it's not like you could say that the song that a lot of people left after was any more annoying than the previous ones.

There was a standing ovation at the end (assuming it wasn't just people anxious to leave), yet another data point in support of our hypothesis that Ann Arbor audiences give standing ovations to anyone.

San Jose to Ann Arbor

The flight back to Ann Arbor was long--we changed planes in Atlanta. It was almost uneventful, except that--well, I must have had something bad to eat at some point along the way, because I started getting slight cramps just as we were boarding the plan from Atlanta. By the time we'd taxied out they were getting painful. I asked the attendant behind me if I could get up, and the answer was more or less: yes, but we'd have to stop the plane. So I had a couple more agonized minutes (we weren't first in line for the runway), then made a dash for the bathroom, and all was well for the rest of the trip.


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