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Chambers and Stravinsky

Sara and I met for dinner at Sushi.come after work and then went to Hill to see Evan Chambers' "The Old Burying Ground", followed by "The Rite of Spring".

I don't think I've seen the latter in concert before, so I'd never realized how massive the orchestra is--the stage was packed. It was great to set right up front and get the full force of it.

And the Chambers premiere seemed very big too, though the orchestra wasn't quite as huge. It was beautiful, though I might still have preferred hearing it with just voice and piano in the basement of the library....

I'm too boring to think up good titles

I finished reading Molière's "Tartuffe". The ending is a lame deus ex machina, with an all-powerful prince setting everything to rights. Obviously I don't know how to read Molière. Actually, my favorite parts are the flowery dedications; l'école des femmes has a good example.

We saw the Hepburn/Grant comedy "Bringing Up Baby" at Dave's Saturday night, after dinner at Sabor Latino. I was carrying around a spaghetti squash from the farmer's market through all of this; one of the non-obvious consequences of doing everything without a car is that you don't have a trunk to put things in.

Today we spent home.

Thursday I got my teeth cleaned.

That's about as exciting as it gets here.

flights, bugs, questions

This morning Sara got us flights to Arizona for Christmas, after fighting with some web reservation system for a while. I'll admit I'm looking forward to being someplace where it isn't bitterly cold outside.

I go to this seminar in the law school every now and then, and then I'm reminded why I don't go very often. Every student seems to be required to ask a question. They're also required to submit comments to a class website beforehand. So there's this long line of people who have to ask (uninteresting, to me) questions. And you can't just put your hand up. People with questions to ask are put in some long queue and called on by the instructor. I've never figured out the system. Why would I?--by the time they got around to me I'd probably have forgotten what I wanted to ask. Anyway, it makes the whole thing kind of tedious. Oh well.

There's this new and improved fast-user-switch applet that got added to gnome recently, nice for our home machine because Sara and I share it and are usually both logged in all the time. Except it doesn't seem to do a good job of keeping track of which virtual terminal each user is on--if someone logs out and then logs back in again, the applets in other user's sessions don't seem to notice that the other user has changed virtual terminals. Argh. I downloaded the code and have been taking a look, but can't make much sense of it yet.

Tomorrow morning I get my teeth poked at. Yay.

winter

Thanksgiving it snowed, and it's been cold ever since. Winter is here to stay.

Thanksgiving dinner this year was with the extended family of a couple of my coworkers, which was a treat. They're extremely energetic and outgoing people, and I sometimes feel like a bit of a wet blanket by comparison.

Except for some time working Friday, we mostly spent the rest of the weekend at home.

I saw "Molière" last Tuesday at the Michigan Theater. One of the people I was with described it as a "French Shakespeare in Love"; the story is woven together from bits of his plays, and it explained the central theme of his work with an early romance. I thought it was great fun, and was inspired to go back and read "L'école des Femmes" and a couple other things.

We watched a little more "Buffy". The last couple episodes I've been watching with graph paper with minutes numbered down the left side, and I keep track of major scene changes, where the commercial breaks fall, etc. I'm just kinda curious how they put these things together. And it gives me something to do while I watch.

And Friday we watched "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort", which I thought was wonderful, though it's also ridiculous. It has a scene in the middle where all the dialog is suddenly in rhyming Alexandrine couplets (why? no idea), a nice coincidence with all the recent Moliere reading.

And then Saturday I watched Truffaut's "Agent de Poche", which I also liked. Like a lot of his movies it's more a collection of loosely related little gags, but I enjoy it that way. I should just go through all his movies some time. The UM library seems to have an excellent DVD collection, actually, which I should take better advantage of.

Today after work Sara and I met to see local composer Evan Chambers present some selections from "Old Burying Ground", a big work of his that's premiering at Hill next week, based on texts taking from gravestones. For some reason I had low expectations for the idea, but the songs he did were lovely, and he performed them really well (just singing with his wife playing piano). It reminded me of Sara's dad's singing. And it was great to hear it in a small room with a small audience and the chance to ask questions (a chance I took advantage of).

wet and muddy

I rode my bike most of this week, which also helped me take care of a few errands--Tuesday night I filled up the panniers with groceries from Busch's, this morning it was produce from the farmer's market, and then tonight I rode out to North Maple to get my driver's license renewed.

It was raining during all of today's biking. This is the first time I've ridden in the rain since the failure of one of my old panniers ripped the back of my rear fender off. Boy does it make a difference--I was getting a lot more water and mud sprayed on me. I've gotta fix that some day. I probably should have put on my rain pants, too. Fortunately the temperature was about right--just cold enough to keep me from sweating while riding with my jacket on, but not so cold to make my soaked legs hurt.

The driver's license renewal was quick and painless.

Quiet weekend

Our book group discussed Clive Barker's "Weaveworld" last week. The discussion didn't give me any more reason to like it.

A fellow attendee loaned me a couple albums--Marc-Antoine Mathieu's "L'Origine", and Gradimir Smudja's "Le Bordel des Muses".

The latter follows Toulouse-Lautrec as he parties at the Moulin Rouge and then shows Vincent Van-Gogh around Paris. There's nothing much to the script, but it's quite something to look at.

"L'origine" is the first of the "J.C. Acquefacques" albums, and tells the story of characters discovering they exist inside a comic book--just the sort of nerdy self-referential humor I like. It's fun to see how he manages to put together such an imaginative series of stories from what appear to be such limited means--a bland everyman hero, his tiny one-room bedroom, his neighbor, an anonymous overcrowded city, all done in what seems at first an unwelcoming high-contrast black-and-white style.

Wednesday I stopped by the French conversation group again; it was smaller this time, with a higher concentration of native speakers. It was fun, and they were very nice, but I came away a little depressed about my progress; I can understand a lot, but it's frustrating not being able to form a coherent sentence most of the time....

Friday got pretty much written off; I did some chores at home, showed up really late at work, planned to go renew my driver's license but didn't get to it--didn't get much of anything done, really.

This weekend except for juggling and lunch afterwards at Totoro, I mostly stayed at home and did a little work and reading.

Sara and I have been slowly working through the third season of "Buffy". It gets better as we go. It's sort of impressive that they manage to give it a sense of variety, given the constraints--not a lot of time to work with, regular commercial breaks, a story that has to make sense to people that drop in any time, etc. The episode we saw most recently partially answers the question of whether people in this fictional town ever find it a little odd that they're constantly under vampire attack. (They do, they just don't like to talk about it much.)

The question that always bothers me about this sort of thing, though, is--why doesn't anybody in these sort of stories find it odd that they're surrounded by people that look like movie stars?

cold but not that cold

I never judge the weather right. I think I was confused by the sudden onset of colder weather after a longer-than-usual summer. I keep leaving the house in my mild-winter clothing (rain jacket over fleece jacket, but no long underwear or hat yet), when I really should be sticking with fall clothing (and skipping the fleece jacket). So the walk back from work was too warm, especially once I was headed up the Broadway Hill with some groceries hanging off both arms.

I got to bed a little earlier than I have in a while, and got up late, but still somehow felt like I needed a nap in the afternoon. I've been really sleepy lately for some reason. Could I hibernate this winter?

Late-night translating

I've got a couple books by comic book writer and artist Marc-Antoine Mathieu that I recently decided I should try translating--I've arranged to loan them to a non-French-reader (in return for a couple borrowings from his much vaster collection), and figured it might be a nice gesture to include translations, and, what the heck, they're comics--how long could it take?

It did actually go pretty quickly, and was loads of fun--it's partly just an excuse to read very slowly, with Google and some dictionaries close at hand. I get more jokes than I might otherwise, and learn some strange new words (did you know that the "bourdon" is the lowest of any set of church bells?). It was too much fun to stop, so I had a few late nights last week. The results aren't necessarily great, but whatever.

I did a little juggling Saturday, worked a bit today, saw a concert by French singer Eric Vincent Wednesday--OK, but a little cheesy, and aimed at an audience less than half my age.

Speaking of which, as of Monday, I'm back in my prime! A sexy prime, even.

Dr. C., Dr. D., halloween, approaching cold

A few years ago I picked up a copy of Eugene Chadbourne's "I Hate the Man Who Runs This Bar" at the local Borders. I have no idea what I was thinking: I'm not a huge fan of his (though I saw him place once and enjoyed the show, at the now-defunct "Gypsy Café" near our old apartment on Ann Street). And though I've been fascinated by music to varying degrees over the years, there's no reason I'd be drawn in by the cover copy's promise of an "essential guide... for real musicians who have decide to make a life and living out of doing what they love". But now it's one of these books I pick up and reread every few years. A little rambling, but packed with funny anecdotes. I picked it off my shelf again this weekend.

Besides that, I've been taking care of a few loose ends, trying to get my inbox under control, doing a few chores.

Yesterday our friend Graham dropped by on his way from London, Ontario to Berkeley, California--he had a few hours to kill on his way to a hotel near the airport where he was leaving his car and overnighting before an early-morning flight. Our evening's entertainment was a couple slices at Silvio's, a Contemporary Music Ensemble concert at Rackham, then something hot to drink back at our place--with November here, it's finally getting chilly.

Wednesday night in lieu of the French conversation group's usual cafe meeting there was a halloween party at someone's place. I put on my one (weddings, funerals, and halloween) suit, dropped by the Beer Depot and asked for something Halloween-themed (some pumpkin ale that turned out to be pretty good), and walked to their place through a neighborhood full of trick-or-treaters. I was just another representative of a stereotype there: most males came with beer or wine and either no costume or something they could throw together in the morning out of their closet; most females brought real food and costumes. Oh well. It was a good time.

Sara's got a lingering cold and I've been a little low on energy myself, so we've otherwise been staying home most nights and doing not much.

weekends

Last weekend was my dad's 65th, so my mom, sister, aunt Carol, and uncle Chunk all showed up for the weekend; mom and dad first, arriving Thursday afternoon, then Carol and Chuck showing up at our apartment (where my parents were staying that night) as a surprise later in the evening, and my sister meeting us at Greenfield Village Friday. Greenfield Village was better than I expected--the demonstrators seemed pretty knowledgeable, and there weren't a lto of visitors, so I got to ask a lot of questions. We saw a Jacquard loom and talked to the guy restoring it for a while.

Saturday was Belle Isle--also more interesting than I expected--followed by stops at Cederland and Shatila in Dearborn to stuff ourselves. Sunday we had lunch together at Seva, then everyone went their separate ways.

This last weekend I got obsessed by a subtle (hence fun!) file locking bug in the kernel that someone reported, and spent most of Friday night and Saturday writing a test-case (more fun than expected since I normally don't write that much non-kernel code) and trying to figure out what to do about it.

Sunday we went to watch the Sandhill Crane migration--there's a preserve not far away where they congregate for a few days before setting off for Florida. It's impressive to see groups of them soaring back in after their day foraging, but they were kinda far away, it was getting cold, and the whole thing went on a little long. Worth seeing, though.

I made it to my French conversation group the last couple wednesdays and had a good time. I think my comprehension is slowly improving, but producing sentences is still difficult--I'll rush headlong into one, realize half-way through I have no idea how to finish it, then get lost. But I guess talking in English is a little like that for me too sometimes.

November's book group book is Clive Barker's "Weaveworld", which I liked more in the end than I expected to. I think the thing I find most difficult is that the characters (especially the two protagonists) are total blank slates--they have no personality at all. But by the end I was almost wondering if that was intentional--as a story about stories (fairy tales especially), maybe that's how it should be. I dunno. His writing also seemed really verbose. I had the feeling it could have been half the size if he'd just stopped telling us how earth-shaking each new event was supposed to be.

I watched "Fauteuils d'Orchestra". The part that amused me most was a bizarre bit of stunt-double choreography in an extra: the goal was to give the illusion that a certain character was playing the piano, during a continuous take that started with the camera stage right of the piano, then circled around it downstage ending stage left, showing as it did the pianists back, his hands on the keyboard, then the pianists face over the open piano. They did it by using the (pianist) double at the start, then (as the camera crossed in front of the piano) having him slide under the keyboard, where he continued playing, hands above his head, as the actor mimed playing along with his hands hovering just above the pianist's. That allowed the camera to get a view of the piano with the actor's face and the hammers still moving in time to the music.

Then last night I finished Truffaut's "La Mariée etait en Noire", a Hitchcock tribute. I like Truffaut a lot, and Truffaut was a great admirer of Hitchcock, whose movies I detest--so apparently this sort of relationship isn't transitive, alas. Anyway, Truffaut's take on Hitchcock has characters that actually seem like humans instead of icicles. I didn't feel like there was much to it, but it was worth seeing once.

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