April 30, 2006

 island for sale


my favorite things about this piece of traffic circle art are:

1) the astroturf mats
2) the huge stalks of flowering bamboo that have been attached to the traffic signs
3) the sprinkler!
4) the fact that this is apparently one hot property.

Posted by xta at 5:41 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

April 29, 2006


aah, the joys of long-term exposure. (on the digital camera, people! get your minds out of the gutter!)

marshmallows take on dali-esque forms and friends' faces begin to melt off:

cardboard tubes from wire hangers become humorously-long joints:

and marshmallow toasting becomes an entrancing work of art:

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April 27, 2006


while at whole foods yesterday i stocked up on spices. i love their bulk section, where you can buy a whole year's worth of curry powder for 53 cents.

the spice bounty inspired me to clean and organize my spice cabinet. i put all the spices into similarly-sized containers (the contents of all of the tiny squat plastic jars went into larger glass bottles), and wiped down the shelf. i grouped all of the spice blends together and then alpabetized everything else.

then, because i knew exactly what i had, i set about creating an amazing, spicy black bean soup. good god it was good. i followed the recipe almost to the letter, except i omitted the celery (which i hate), added a touch of cayenne (in addition to the hot sauce! zowee!) and i used my immersion blender at the very end to make the whole thing a little more creamy. i also served it with a dollop of fat-free sour cream.

yum-o, as rachel ray would say.

my adorable little niece is having eye surgery today to correct her strabismus. please send some loving thoughts her way. i endured three of these surgeries myself when i was a youngster...

i just registered for the race for the cure on june 10. i think pinky and knidiot are going to join me... would you like to, too? it's fun... and the more the merrier! (we are participating in the women's 5k, so if you're a guy i'm sorry to say you won't be able to walk with us.)

finally, here's a random link for the day: map gallery of religion in the united states. i find it mildly interesting that on the unitarian map, my county (and the one adjacent) really stand out. also, durham is apparently above-average in jewish population compared to the rest of north carolina.

oh, and here's another random reminder that i do this little radio show on thursday nights that you might enjoy: divaville.

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April 25, 2006

 read 'em and weep

there seem to be more than the usual number of nutty church signs in my neighborhood this week:


what do you think? political message? or just clever punnery?
i showed it to a baptist friend of mine and she said that she was familiar with this church, and it was definitely a political message. (their last sign proclaimed --praise god!!-- that their april 9 attendance was 3,906.)


and this one just terrifies me. i mean, what the...? is there a sentence there? it hurts my head.

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April 24, 2006

 you did good

new_red_shoes.JPGyou helped me pick 'em!

my first thought after ripping open the zappos box was "wow, that's RED!" the color is much more, uh, impactful than any photo could accurately depict. but still... i love 'em!

they're sooo comfy. the heel is a great height to wear with pants or skirts. maybe even capris. we'll see.

but y'all did good! thanks for your help!

ray has been teasing me about how many pairs of shoes i have. honestly, i think i have about 30 pairs total. for a girl who grew up thinking that feet were inherently disgusting, i view shoe purchases as a kind of therapy. 30 pairs represents a successful journey towards a healthy relationship with my feet.

when i was young i was taught that showing my toes in public was inappropriate. that's what hussies did. i don't ever remember being allowed a pair of sandals. what's more, my wide feet required shopping in special stores with shoes that cost more than other people's shoes. coming from a frugal background, i always felt guilt about that.

so, now, a couple of decades later i own 30 pairs of shoes. i get monthly pedicures and rejoice in how beautiful my feet can be. and i have fun buying shoes that show them off.

besides, when i get a new pair of shoes i'm pretty quick to toss out some old ones. it's not like i'm turning into imelda marcos or anything.

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April 20, 2006



so, this morning i was halfway through my walk when i spotted updated traffic circle art. i also saw my friend joe, who lives adjacent to the circle.

today is joe's birthday, and he is one of the recipients of the birthday greetings. (the display is aimed at all april birthday celebrants in the neighborhood. note the sharpie left behind for additions -- it's an interactive display!) joe and i walked to the middle of the circle together and admired the handiwork up close.

while we were standing in the circle a car approached and slowed down. the driver wanted to talk to us. she was a middle-aged woman, nicely dressed, with glasses and a nice ponytail. she was trying to carry on a cell phone conversation while simultaneously talking to joe and me.

"the neighborhood would really appreciate it if you would stop putting these displays in the traffic circle." she said it so pleasantly that i thought she was joking. i smiled and with a wink and a nudge i said, "oh yeah?"

"yes," she said, "it's tacky. i was just telling my friend on the phone that i was so excited to be catching the culprits in action!"

both joe and i said, "oh, we didn't do this!" but we still kind of thought she was joking. she wasn't mad at all. she was really quite nice.

joe said, "it's my birthday! this is for me!" the lady said, "well, happy birthday. but maybe you can tell the people who did this to stop. in their own yard, it would be ok. but these displays make the neighborhood look bad."

i laughed out loud, still not sure whether she was kidding or not. "it makes the neighborhood look bad?!?" she was kidding, right??

whoever was on the other end of her phone conversation must have been trying to get her attention, and she became clearly torn about whether to talk to her friend or chew us out some more. she chose the phone and drove off, saying one more time, "just tell the people who do this to keep it in their own yard."

after she drove away, joe and i discussed whether she was serious or not. joe thought she was kidding. i was pretty sure she was serious... i think she's a traffic circle hater.

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April 19, 2006

 lobster thermidor aux crevettes with a mornay sauce served in the provencale manner with shallots and aubergines, garnished with truffle pate, brandy and with a fried egg on top and...

it's sad that the only thing i want to talk about right now is spam. and i'm not talking about junk email. i'm talking about spam.

last weekend i was clipping coupons before going to the grocery store (don't laugh! it helps!) and i came across one of the most bizarre products i've ever seen in my life: spam bacon. there was a full-page spread in the coupon flier for this revolutionary canned meat, and perhaps a 35-cent coupon (though i was actually too horrified to remember the exact denomination). spam bacon! try it! here's 35 cents off! yum!

i tore out the page and set it aside for ray to laugh at, too. which he did. we both got a good chuckle from it. spam bacon. how ridiculous!

i figured at that point that spam bacon would be great blog fodder, so i set about finding a web page about it so as to provide some blog links. unbelievably, not only does the official spam website (which SUX, btw) not make a single mention of spam bacon, but neither does the hormel website. a google search of "spam bacon" only brings up monty python lyrics.

at this point i started to wonder whether i dreamed up the whole thing. but what kind of sick mind would dream up spam bacon?!? as the mystery grew, i knew i was going to HAVE to blog about spam bacon... i figured at the very least i could take a picture of the coupon and blog around that, but ray threw it away!! i was crestfallen when he told me it was in the garbage. (believe me, i thought about digging through the outdoor trash bin, but figured i'd be sinking to spam bacon levels in doing so.)

so sadly, i have no proof that spam bacon exists. if you see it in the store, please take a photo and email it to me. i need to know that i'm not spam bacon crazy.

Posted by xta at 4:04 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

April 15, 2006

 happy easter


happy easter from the traffic circle!

this display features a cute centerpiece and handmade fabric flowers.

Posted by xta at 12:10 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 13, 2006

 help me spend my zappos gift certificate!

first, i have to tell you about an AMAZING find. i was in cato yesterday and after i purchased a cute t-shirt i asked the cashier if i could use the bathroom before i left the store. she said yes, but said it was currently occupied by another employee. i had a long drive ahead of me, so i waited. and while i waited i discovered the cutest pair of pumps on earth!


guess how much i spent on these? c'mon, guess! look at the detail. what do you think they cost?

ten dollars! they were ten dollars! on clearance! i am so very happy.

so, anyway, on to the interactive part of this post.

my super-fantastic brother and sister-in-law gave me a $50 (!) gift certificate for my birthday and i don't know what's wrong with me that it's taken me this long to get around to spending it. i must be ill. seriously. i act quickly when presented with the opportunity to buy shoes. (as is evidenced by the story above.)

anyway, here are the contenders. in alpha order by brand. click the photo for more details from the zappos site. (scroll down... i don't know why there's so much space between here and there...)

Clarks Benna
i'm still searching, i guess, for the perfect pair of clarks. everything i've tried on either doesn't fit quite right or is too clunky-looking. given how loyal clarks-wearers are to the brand, i would love to find a style that works for me. i don't hold out much hope, but this is the most agreeable pair i can find on zappos right now. sigh.
Easy Spirit Lureyou
these actually remind me a little of the dark brown wedges i bought recently, what with that fancy leatherwork and all. this shoe, though, despite the retarded style name, looks really sweet and simple. i could see wearing this sandal a lot. it would go with all sorts of outfits...
Fitzwell Carmella
i'm not as crazy about these as i am some of the other shoes i've picked out, but it seems like this would be a little more "every day" than some of the dainty heels on this page. this style seems laid-back and easy to walk in. am i super-crazy about them? no. would i get a lot of use out of them? probably.
Fornaria 5141
kidding!! this is horrendous. just keeping you on your toes, so to speak. (this shoe does make me want to do another zappos couture post, though.)
LifeStride Aruba
ok, i'm pretty much in love with this shoe. the metallic leather, the symmetry, the wedge... the price! i was briefly considering this style in black, too, but if i do end up getting this i'm pretty sure it'll be in gold.
Rockport Corunna
i have a pair of rockport tennis shoes, and can i just tell you how unearthly comfortable they are? they're unearthly comfortable. i love them. i want a pair of rockport sandals, too. (i tried on a few pairs last year, but they weren't quite wide enough. now that i've lost weight and my feet are a bit skinnier i have higher hopes.)

this blue is nice and calming, too, isn't it? is it too dressy, though? the shoe comes in lots of colors (click the photo) including bronze and black, which could also be contenders.

rsvp Drizzle
this wedge is INSANE! the description says it's 4", but one of the reviewers says it's even taller than that when you take into consideration it's a platform shoe. i consider it a personal challenge to try to walk in these shoes! (the reviews also say that they feel narrow, which doesn't bode well.) i like this purple, but i'm also partial to the lime and red.
rsvp Monte
heart! heart! heart!
aren't these pretty? the violet color is also nice. but man, i love the multi-toned leather here. so very very much.
rsvp Morocco
i don't know what it is with me and this 'rsvp' line. i've never bought any of their shoes before, but suddenly practically everything they make is attracting me. this style is strappy and cute, but i've always shied away from the ankle strap in the past. now that my legs aren't quite so chunky perhaps i should try it. also, i think i would really like to add a pair of orange shoes to my wardrobe. (though i also really like the violet and red shades.)
Sofft Arianna
is it possible for a shoe to be too strappy? i almost feel like there isn't enough material to hold this on my foot. i own a couple other pairs of soffts, though, and they fit pretty well so maybe i should give them a try. the description of this color is "coral", which may or may not be disgusting. i like the black, too.
Sofft Fedora
now that's orange!! (it also comes in "limeaide" which is also appealing.)

i love the buckle on this sandal... it's a little something special on an otherwise simple-looking shoe.

Sofft Frances
these seem somehow a little dressier than the other soffts here. why is that? the heel strap? less overall strappiness and more solid areas of leather? i like it, but until i see it on my foot i'm not sure it's something i would wear everyday.

also, i should mention that the only red sandals i currently own are leather flip-flops. i love red shoes A LOT and would like to add more to my wardrobe.

Sofft Napoli
i'm really drawn to the multi-toned look right now. these are GORGEOUS and if i don't get them now with the gift certificate, i might later sell my body for the money to buy them. there is nothing i don't like about this shoe. (other than the fact that it also comes in a perfectly horrid green/blue combination.)
Sofft Nymph
again, too strappy? and though yes, i've lost weight, i'm still far from svelte and i often wonder whether something dainty like this would look ridiculous on me. no way to know until i try it, i guess.

Posted by xta at 4:08 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

 it's done!!!!!!!!


here's something to add to the list of things to love about durham: the fantastically gorgeous, newly-completed brick wall at the end of my street!

you can still see a couple of workers in this photo; i think they're putting on the finishing touches. next step: the DOT says they're going to plant trees and shrubs along the wall. i understand there may also be a walking path. i'll be patient when it comes to this stuff. at least i don't have to look at semis anymore.


Posted by xta at 10:15 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

April 12, 2006

 why we love durham: a list

The lacrosse situation has stirred up a lot of tensions between the University and town residents. Sarah mentions it here, and Lisa B has been bloging very insightfully about it, too. Personally, I hate knowing that people all over the country are focusing such negative attention on my chosen hometown... a city I love and defend passionately.

After an opinion column that was critical of Durham appeared in the Duke Chronicle, a Trinity Avenue resident started a list of reasons why she loves Durham. Many other residents provided input, sewing their own patches into a growing quilt. Here's the quilt...

The Arts:
Local music scene
The Music Maker Relief Foundation (Keeping the bluest of the blue alive)
The Durham Symphony (and watching the children dance at the pops concert)
The Carolina Theater
Full Frame Documentary Film Fest
The Nevermore Film Fest
The American Dance Festival
The Starlite Drive-In
The Scrap Exchange
The Durham Freecycle Listserve
The Durham Arts Council
The Durham Arts Walk
The Center for Documentary Studies
Art galleries
Jazz at NCCU
Claymakers Art Studio
Manbites Dog Theater
Durham Jazz Festival
Walltown Theater (and Joseph and Cynthia Henderson)
Scott Hill and Ronnie Lilly and all they have done for the arts
Random art in central park and in the traffic circle in Duke Park
The Nasher Art Museum
Durham Savoyards
The Duke Coffeehouse which showcases local bands nearly every weekend
African American Dance Ensemble (and Chuck Davis)

Educational Stuff:
The Hayti Heritage Center
The Museum of Life and Science
The Butterfly House
Bennett Place
The Carnivore Preservation Trust

The Bars, Clubs, and Beer:
Joe and Jo’s
Club Maraka
The Federal
The Green Room
The World Beer Festival
Sam’s Quick Shop.

The People:
The people are friendly, helpful, tolerant, diverse, and involved
There is a real feeling of community that I never experienced on campus
Mr. Wall the lawn man
Sgt. Gunter’s emails
The nice people at the main Post Office
People from all over the world, working together
Nancy Tuttle May
Duke students, professors, and workers
Locals who call it Drrrhm
The talented and interesting people: artists, engineers, musicians, community activists, etc
Merchants who remember and look out for you
The Durham Police Department

The Outdoors:
Biking the American Tobacco Trail
The abandoned dinosaur on the greenway (and all the wonderful stories people have about discovering it)
The Eno River
Jordan Lake
You can go skiing one weekend, and go to the beach the next.
All the trees: magnolias, dogwoods, redbuds
Lots of places -- urban and rural -- to walk
Durham Central Park
Natural wetlands
Master Gardener Volunteer Program
The view from Red Mountain
Bike friendliness
The Flat River
The Little River
Falls Lake
Duke Forest
NC State Forest
Lake Michie
Duke Gardens

The City:
The Triangle. Raleigh and Chapel Hill are right next door.
Durham has great weather, mild winters and gorgeous summers.
Durham is almost never affected by tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or blizzards.
Medical care
Adaptive use of old buildings—converted warehouses and tobacco factories
Duke Street
Gregson Street
Club Blvd.
Magnet schools (Watts)
Listening to the freight trains
NC Central University
EK Powe
Bright World Daycare
Erwin Mills
A revitalizing downtown
Summer camps
Erwin Square
Historic Preservation Society of Durham
Schoolhouse of Wonder
Triangle Land Conservancy
Self-Help Credit Union
Durham Rescue Mission
Durham Crisis Response Center
Durham Literacy Center
Habitat for Humanity
Curbside recycling
Full of possibilities and nurtures a creative spirit
Affordable housing
Job opportunities
Trinity Park
Parking spaces
No traffic
Independent Weekly
Fire trucks
Front porches
Vegetable gardens
Shady streets
Young, entrepreneurial real estate
development/downtown renaissance types
The crazy entertaining politics
The crazy entertaining crime log (not the bad ones--just the ones about people fending off naked intruders with pans of hot gravy--true story)
It's a place that loves underdogs and turns itself inside out to include them in town, its politics, and its culture
The new developments on East Main Street just east of downtown Durham being built by the Durham Housing Authority for the Hope VI project
Durham Bulls (and the fireworks)
ACC Basketball
The Pride Parade
The Great Human Race
The Duke Chapel
Easy-to-deal-with airport

The Food:
Wimpy’s Grill
Blue Nile
El Cuscatleco
China Buffet
Bali Hai
Cook Out
Magnolia Grill
Blue Corn Café
Bean Traders
Safari Cuisine
Counter Culture Coffee
Asia Market
Whole Foods Café
International Delights
Safari Cuisine
Hog Heaven Bar-b-q
Dim Sum at Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant
International Delights
Bread and Kabob (I know it closed years ago, I’m still mourning)
The Farmer’s Market (Especially Amy the pickle lady and Miss Emma the fried pie lady)
Durham Catering Company
Mt. Fuji sushi
Dillard’s BBQ
Jamaica Jamaica
A Taste of Durham
Madhatter Bakery
George’s Garage
Cosmic Cantina
The Co-op

The Shopping:
Brightleaf Square
American Tobacco Historic District
Morgan Imports
Thrift World
Pennies for Change
Public libraries
9th Street
The Regulator
Vaguely Reminiscent
Know Bookstore and Restaurant
Tattoo Asylum
Dogstar Tattoos
One World Market
Books on Ninth
West Durham Tire
Fisher Signs
Tackle Design
Books Do Furnish a Room
Nice Price Books
The Book Exchange
Baby Bear
Kangaroo Pouch
Just Your Style
New Beginnings
Twice Remembered
Classic Treasures
Trash & Treasures
Everything But Grannie's Panties
Knick Knacks I & II
Peter's Design Works
Durham Building Supply Recycling Center
Hamilton Hill
The Playhouse
Stone Brothers and Byrd
Meadowsweet Gardens (Rebecca and Jonathan)
Durham Garden Center
Offbeat Records
Northgate Mall
All the Goodwills and Salvation Armies

Posted by xta at 1:41 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

April 10, 2006

 bleary-eyed full-frame wrap-up

this weekend i immersed myself in the full frame documentary film festival. it's been several years since i attended, but with press pass in hand i decided to see as much as i could this year. charlotte also had a pass that got her into all the screenings, so we saw a lot of films together.

the festival started thursday night. after divaville i headed over to the theatre to pick up my press credentials and figure out how everything worked. the instructions indicated that i would need to be in the "other passholder" line a half-hour before any screening i wanted to attend, at which time seating cards would be handed out. (how many seating cards were issued depended on the size of the theater, how many individual tickets had been sold to the screening, and how many 'priority passholders' chose to attend that particular film.)

there were six screening venues, and though i knew where they all were it took me a few minutes to figure out where all of the lines were supposed to form. (the line for cinema one at the carolina theatre, for instance, was set up in a conference room in the civic center, while the line for cinema two was right in front of cinema two.) the only screening i wanted to see that night was for alan berliner's new film, "wide awake", and on my way out to the civic center plaza to wait in line for fletcher hall i ran into charlotte and skip. as the show started at 10:30pm, we grabbed a cup of coffee from the coffee truck and proceeded to wait in line.

we had no problem obtaining a seating card (fletcher hall seats over 1,000 and there were only a couple hundred in line) and got really great seats for the show. the film was berliner's study of his own battle with insomnia (great topic for a late-night movie, eh?) and it was incredibly inventive. he used footage from old educational films and such (he had used some from skip's archive) and created a very entertaining, very creative, and very personal film. it went beyond his stuggles with insomnia, and explored how his obsession with sleep affected his whole family. it was one of my favorites from the entire festival.

though i didn't get home until 1am i had hoped to get up early and see another film before going to work. i didn't make it, of course (i've been utterly exhausted since our pledge drive ended over a week ago), and the first thing i managed to see after arriving back in durham after work was a film called "the boy in the bubble". this screening was in the durham arts council, and though that venue only seats about 200 we still didn't have any problem getting in. in hindsight, i now realize the line was so short because the eventual grand prize winning film, "iraq in fragments", was being shown at the same time at the carolina theatre.

anyway, "boy in the bubble" was a very created-for-tv documentary about, well, that boy in the bubble. after seeing alan berliner's documentary the night before, this hour-long film seemed too clean, too edited, too predictable. the subject matter was interesting enough, and the film was good, but it just wasn't anything that pushed the boundaries of filmmaking, in my not-so-educated opinion.

charo and i decided to abandon the second film on the bill at that screening (a film about ALS -- there are only so many films about diseases that you can watch in one day) and headed to the civic center to wait in line for a short film about an outsider artist in brunswick county called "mary's gone wild." we love outsider artists, but charo & i didn't particularly care for this short film. it was about 10 minutes long, which seems like it would have been plenty of time to give a better feeling as to who mary is and why she makes this crazy art, but both charo and i left feeling a little disoriented.

many of these films, by the way, were up for audience awards, and we were asked to vote at each screening. we were handed ballots on the way in and were asked to 'tear through the number' (between one and ten) printed on the ballot which indicated our opinion of the film. i voted every chance i got, but i didn't see charo vote at all.

we skipped out on the second artist film in that screening and headed over to american tobacco to stand in line for "songbirds", a 'musical documentary' about female prisoners in england. first of all, i have to say that i love the american tobacco complex and am really happy that the festival is taking advantage of this newly-renovated area. i think it helps create a good impression of durham for the thousands of out-of-towners who come to this film festival. (a better impression than, say, the decrepit arts council which seems to be falling apart at the seams. or the torn up roads in the center of downtown, which made walking from the theatre to american tobacco pretty difficult.)

ok, back to "songbirds". this was the only film that charo and i disagreed on. the filmmaker interviews these female prisoners about their lives and their crimes and then cuts away to these same ladies performing what is essentially a music video about their lives and crimes. the music was typical overproduced pop (which ranged from hip hop to alt.whatever) and the ladies sang their own songs (though the credits revealed that they had help with the lyrics). i found the style very innovative and enjoyed the musical perspective of these ladies' stories. charo hated the music (passionately) and also didn't like how disjointedly the filmmakers seemed to cut from interview to video and back to interview again. we argued about this film the whole weekend.

i was pooped after this film (also, the seating at the american tobacco screening room was really uncomfortable and it was COLD in there, and i was kinda grumpy about that), but charo had enough energy left to go see "trannyshack". she later told me she really enjoyed that.

the next morning charo and i met up for the screening of "a stranvinsky portrait" (which i had talked up on-air last week) and to see the director, richard leacock, get his career award. i knew this was going to be a jam-packed event (there was a star-laden panel scheduled afterward, which was sure to draw more people) so we got in line almost a full hour before the screening began. it was at this point that we started to muse over whether we'd spent more time in line than actually seeing movies. the good thing about these lines, though, was that everyone was really friendly and i never even pulled out the book i brought to pass the time. also, we were almost constantly running into people we hadn't seen in ages. while waiting in the stravinsky line charo encountered a guy who she had barely known in college, but who recognized her immediately. this don't i recognize you?-thing happened to both of us a couple of times throughout the weekend, and was pretty neat.

so, we got into the screening only to find out that leacock didn't want to show the stravinsky film ("i hate film -- that was the old me. i'm fully digital now. so i want to show something that represents me now.") and instead screened a work-in-progress (the film is called "a musical adventure in siberia") about a long-lost prokofiev symphonic drama that was staged for the first time in siberia several years ago. honestly, i was disappointed not to be seeing the stravinsky film (especially since i'd hyped it on-air!) and thought the prokofiev thing was not very good. in know it was a work-in-progress, but it was difficult to follow and i really don't think leacock had the greatest grasp on digital technology. the audio was overblown in many instances and it just didn't feel right.

still, charo and i decided to see a couple of leacock's short films after the panel concluded. actually, we grabbed some lunch first (chicken souvlaki from george's tent in the plaza) and ate it in line, as the theatre that was showing the shorts only holds 75 people. the first short was called "jazz dance" and OH MY GOD it was so good. it was filmed in 1954 and leacock so brilliantly captured the excitement of a live jazz hall. the musicians, the exuberant dancers... and knowing that he was using giant wind-up cameras loaded with one-minute of film (he got up and spoke about his process before the screening began) really blew my mind. i was grinning through the whole 20 minute film. it was amazing.

charo stayed for the second short ("toby in the tall corn") while i left to go wait in line for doug block's "51 birch street". (charlotte had a baby shower to go to that afternoon, so i was on my own for several hours.) while in line for this screening at the arts council i ran into someone i hadn't seen in a decade and just reveled in the fact that this festival was not only bringing together so many people from all over the country but, in fact, from all over town.

indicentally, there was another film showing at the same time as "51 birch street" that was i was tempted to see. it was called "the refugee all-stars" and it eventually went on to win one of the festival awards. still, i am not AT ALL sorry i chose to see block's film. "51 birch street" was the only film i saw this weekend that moved me to tears. i hope you'll watch the trailer and poke around the site a little. it was such a moving film, and i think it spoke volumes that ross mcelwee was in the front row and albert maysles attended as well. both asked questions of the filmmaker during the Q&A afterward. i gave "51 birch street" a 10 on my ballot as i left. amazing.

i had a half-hour to kill so i grabbed a burger at joe & jo's (where i ran into a filmmaker friend at the bar) before heading back into line to see "the intimacy of strangers" and "john and jane toll-free". i figured that arriving 45 minutes prior to showtime would be plenty, but the line for cinema one was already huge. i found myself in line next to that guy who recognized charlotte from college, and though charlotte was still at the baby shower i hit it off with this guy and his friend and the time passed really quickly. the seating cards were handed out but the three of us were too far back in line to get one. the ticketing manager told us there was only a minutely slim chance we'd be able to get in to this screening and though we were welcome to wait we really shouldn't expect to get in. there was nothing else to go wait in line for, though (all of the other screenings had started an hour prior), so we just decided to stick it out.

the screening was scheduled to begin at 8, and as 8:00 approached they counted the seats and let a few people in. then a few more. finally we were within spitting distance of being at the front of the line and i said, "i have a good feeling. i think we're going to get in." and we did. we missed the entire first film (though it also won an audience award, and i saw it on sunday when it was re-screened), but the three of us managed to even all find seats together for "john and jane." (which i enjoyed, though i expected a more campy look at this crazy scenario america has created by outsourcing our customer service to india scenario. instead it was a pretty poignant study of the kinds of people who take these jobs, hoping to raise themselves out of the poverty that surrounds them by selling pancake molds and other unnecessary stuff to americans.)

charo had returned by the late showing and (after waiting in yet another line) we watched a weird little short called "surveillance 3" by a local filmmaker, and a film called "in the pit" about a giant bridge being built in mexico city. the workers that were building this immense bridge were really fascinating and the filmmaker's captured their unique personalities. i got scared for these guys, dangling hundreds of feet in the air, bending rebar and pouring concrete. there was an amazing aerial shot at the end that showed the phenomenal length of this bridge, and how much more work there was to do. i was so tired by that point, though... i enjoyed "in the pit" a lot but could feel myself nodding off a little towards the end.

ok, so now we're up to sunday. the final day of the festival. and again, both charlotte and i had grand plans to get up in the morning and see an early screening, but we were both plum tired and only managed to meet up at 11am for "wordplay", a documentary about will shortz and the national crossword puzzle championship. honestly, this film was a breath of fresh air for me. it was very funny, featured crossword-loving celebs (jon stewart, bill clinton, ken burns) and did a great job focusing on the average citizens who are crossword fanatics and compete in the annual tournament. i laughed a lot and really enjoyed myself. (i find that i really enjoy word documentaries, like "spellbound" and "word wars".)

when this film let out, the awards ceremony and barbecue are underway in the armory. my press pass allowed me a free lunch, but charo's pass would have required her to pay. we saw the line of people snaking out of the armory and decided instead to go see a little of the durham art walk, which is also coincidentally going on this weekend. we visited one of our favorite photographers who was exhibiting at blue coffee, and then, for some reason, decided to bail on the art walk and go to the mall. i know, that sounds weird. but i think we just needed a change of scenery to get us through the end of this film madness. charo helped me pick out a new pair of jeans (earlier in the day she said the pair i was wearing was too baggy) and new denim jacket (allowing me toss out my old one, the last piece of XL clothing i owned).

we headed back to the theatre to learn which which films had won the awards and strategized about what we wanted to see. we opted for "no umbrella" (an amazing 20-minute film about voting irregularities in cleveland during election day 2004), "the intimacy of strangers" (which i mentioned earlier as having missed while waiting in line for "john and jane" -- it's a very creative film which consists entirely of overheard cell phone conversations) and "iraq in fragments."

i had successfully avoided political documentaries all weekend long (i knew i'd flame out and not be able to make it through the weekend if every since doc i saw was h-e-a-v-y) but i had heard so many great things about this iraq film that both charo and i knew we'd be fools to miss it. and everything we heard was true -- "iraq in fragments" was amazing (and that's why it won the grand jury prize of the festival). it showed iraq in, uh, fragments. the film was in three parts. one focused on a 10 year old boy in baghdad, the second on sadr city and the third on the kurds in the north. amazing filmmaking, very personal. very touching. very scary, actually. (during the sadr section i found myself reacting to the iraqi's violence towards america by thinking to myself, "we are all so fucked.") the footage was exquisite and i feel honored to have felt that proximity to these iraquis through the film.

and that was it. when the credits had finished rolling, we walked into the civic center plaza and both charo and i said "we want more movies!" it was an exhausting weekend, and sure there were some frustrations (over waiting in line, mostly) but we both had an amazing time. in fact, i would like to go back and do it again, and choose entirely different films. it would become a whole new experience. i probably would choose to see the al franken film (he was here for Q&A, too), maybe the new ken burns work-in-progress (he was here, too) and maybe the hip-hop movie. i would have liked to see "air guitar nation" and the dexter romweber doc, and many of the katrina films. there's just too much for one person to do. which, i suppose, is a good thing.

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April 7, 2006

 it's almost done!


i said i thought the wall would be done by the end of the week, and they're so close... i bet it'll finally be complete on monday.

i'm sorry to blog so many photos of these bricks, but honestly this is the most thrilling thing to happen to me in ages. i've been living with the noise of roaring semis for years now (not to mention being able to see them from my living room couch) and this is just going to change everything about the way i view my home.

well, if i could get some landscaping done that would help, too.

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April 5, 2006

 lobotomy, perhaps?


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April 4, 2006

 unsatisfying time spent in the dark

if you're going to go to all the trouble of casting clive owen in your movie, for the love of god (or at least for the love of women), please show his face once in a while.

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April 2, 2006

 bricks have never looked so lovely


it's been about three weeks since i last blogged about the wall... and LOOK! it's almost done!

i really think it might be complete by the end of the week! o, joyous rapture!!

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April 1, 2006

 you're gonna be surprised how your torso feels

charo_zoom.jpglast night, against my better judgement, i went rollerskating with rossi and charo.

don't get me wrong... i love to skate! and i'm really quite good at it. it's just that i've had a phenomenally exhausting week and knew i'd have to endure even more exhausting activities early the next morning. every fiber in my being was telling me to go to bed instead of strapping orange wheels to my feet. more precisely, my mind was asking "who on earth goes roller skating at 11pm? you're way to old for this, xta. get a grip."

still, i went. and i'm glad i did. i myself only had enough energy for a few spins around the rink, but rossi shook his groove thing and charlotte managed some fancy dance moves, too.

and keep in mind that this was a group of 20- and 30-something college radio DJs who hadn't been on skates in a while. i saw some interesting techniques. a lot of balancing-with-the-arms. a lot of people ended up on their asses. one DJ looked like he was walking on wheels and didn't really understand the concept of gliding. it was pretty humorous.

around 12:30 i started to get a blister on my heel (isn't that always the case? those old, crummy brown skates never fit very well) and i also began yawning uncontrollably, so i forced charo & rossi to take me home. they probably would have liked to have stayed a little longer, and maybe had some fun in the private party room, but we all agreed that it was fun while it lasted.

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