Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Peter Jackson to direct The Hobbit, after all.

Good news for those who like the Lord of the Rings trilogy: it sounds as though Peter Jackson will direct The Hobbit and the oddly-conceived "prequel" movie set between The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring (you know, where J.R.R. Tolkien didn't think to write a book). It just won't be done by New Line, the company that produced the trilogy of movies. Their rights to do movies from the books expire sometime next year, and when the rights revert to producer Saul Zaentz, he'll bring back Peter Jackson and all his crew, and do it up right.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Peter Jackson NOT directing The Hobbit.

Nor, for that matter, is he going to direct a prequel to the Lord of the Rings. Yes, two separate movies, only one of which would be based on an actual book by J.R.R. Tolkien. Unless they're planning a movie version of The Silmarillion, which I would pay good money to watch.
Update: See above.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Guess which yard is mine.

Hint: My neighbor is retired, and raked his lawn on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday of this past week.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Not to be confused with the Heinz 57 Route 66.

So here’s an idea for financially-strapped municipalities: Sell “naming opportunities” for roads.

Not that it’s a completely new idea with Hazleton. On the Washington Beltway, they changed the name of one of the bridges crossing the Potomac River to the “American Legion” bridge, even though generations of drivers knew the bridge as the Cabin John bridge. But the commercial possibilities are staggering.

I look forward to driving on the Sherwin-Williams Blue Ridge Parkway.

(And the best part of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce Beltway? It doesn’t go all the way around Hazleton. It doesn’t go halfway around Hazleton. Not even a quarter of the way.)

A long time ago.

Went to my high school reunion last month. The Mumblety-Mumbleth. As I was walking from the parking lot to the main entrance of the country club where it was being held, I looked in the window and thought, “Gee, there are a lot of old folks in there. Wonder where my reunion is? Must be on the other side of the main entrance.” It only took another five seconds for me to realize that the group of old people was my reunion. Gack.

It was otherwise okay. Eventually those classmates of mine who have dyed their hair and done other things to make themselves look young showed up, so it didn’t feel quite so much like a meeting of the AARP. Oh, wait: My classmates and I are now all eligible for membership in AARP, aren’t we? Gack.

This year, for the first time, they invited teachers to the reunion, and a couple showed up. My favorite teacher from my senior year and her husband (who introduced me to Othello) were there. My classmates? In most instances, seeing them for 2 hours every five or ten years seems about right.

Every reunion, though, I find myself having a conversation with someone I haven’t talked to since graduation, and discover that they’ve turned into relatively normal people in the interim. This year’s conversation turned ominous when he said, a propos of nothing, that he already knows he won’t be able to make it to our next reunion. In this age group, that often means some sort of terminal condition. I had to ask though, preparing to cringe: “Okay. Why not?” Because he’s going to retire from his government job in about two years, and then he’s moving to Rio, where his government pension will allow him to "live like a millionaire.” And with no family in the area, he really doesn’t expect that this reunion will justify a plane trip from Brazil.

Yeah. Every five or ten years sounds just fine.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

If you're going to wake us up, the least you can do is to bring us breakfast in bed.

That’s Mosby on the right, and her kitten Rebel on the left. Rebel is now six months old, and I’m guessing that Mosby is about a year and a half.

And they’re both available for adoption. Sami and O Henry will even kick in a bag of cat food to entice you to adopt them.

Friday, November 10, 2006

1-800-PHONE ME.

Or not.

Always intriguing to find out what I’ll do for amusement when I’m stuck in a traffic jam. In this case, stuck on an Interstate in the wilds of northeastern Pennsylvania, three miles away from where the two lanes of travel merge into one, while they’re fixing a bridge.

Well, okay. Nothing else to do but wait, so I’ll cast around for something to read. How about the truck immediately in front of me? (And yes, you’re really hurting for entertainment if you’re reduced to reading the back of a truck.)

Hmm, yes. There’s the “Wide Turn” sign. And the obligatory “How’s My Driving?” sign. Except – just where do you suppose you’re supposed to call to comment on his driving?

Not that his driving was bad, you understand. For about a half-hour, his driving was impeccable. No one could have been motionless in the left lane better than he was.

Oh, and the most delightful part of the traffic jam? The Pennsylvania highway department very helpfully put up a sign – one of those movable message signs – that said something to the effect of “BRIDGE WORK AHEAD. ONE LANE TRAVEL. CONSIDER ALTERNATE ROUTE.” They placed the sign after the last exit prior to the bridge being worked on.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Library at Boston.

Other than visiting with friends and eating good meals, one of the most fun things I did was to visit the JFK Presidential Library and Museum. Lots of good information – you could watch JFK’s acceptance speech at the 1960 Democratic convention and his Inaugural Address in their entirety, and pieces of the presidential debate or quite a few other speeches – with a lot of lighter information to keep the visit enjoyable, such as rotating exhibits on gifts to the President and an in-depth examination of JFK’s trip to Ireland. And it was all presented in a way that seemed academic and nonpartisan, as befits a Presidential Library (unlike, say, the Nixon Presidential Library, which misrepresents objective historical fact and is overly defensive).

Leaving the JFK Library, it really struck me that, since JFK’s death, this country has not had a President who was an active, effective leader. What a shame that breed has disappeared from the national landscape.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A bridge too far.

On the other hand, there are a number of the nice things about going on vacation off-season: No crowds, for one. No hordes of leaf-peepers jamming the highways; no waits at good restaurants. (Well, provided they're open.)

And those who make their living in the tourism industry are more willing to go out of their way to ensure that tourists have a good time. Here, for instance, someone understands that one of the things tourists enjoy doing in New England is seeing and crossing covered bridges. And if you aren’t willing to go way out of your way to see a covered bridge? They’ll bring one to you.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weather forecast: crummy.

It turns out that there are some good reasons to avoid going somewhere on vacation off-season. Crummy weather, for one. During the nine days of the trip that I was north of the Mason-Dixon line, I saw a total of four hours of sunlight. The rest of the time looked no better than this photo: overcast. Or drizzling. Or light rain. Or the occasional snow. Never quite so crummy that you couldn’t drive somewhere to do something indoors, but almost always too raw to want to do something outside. And during that same nine days, it never got over 45 degrees.

No, I wasn’t expecting shorts-and-t-shirt weather in New England in late October. But clear-and-chilly would have been a nice change. (And I understand that it cleared up quite nicely, once I got back home.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

I've been polled!

Well, almost. While I was on vacation, I was called by WUSA (Channel 9 in Washington), and the Caller ID says "WUSA9 NEWS POLL". I was, alas, unable to take part in that poll, and presumably they didn't leave a message asking me to call back because it would have been a week too late to be included.

I've been getting the usual barrage of phone calls; this year, from both sides. And I'm really tired of it. Thank heavens for Caller ID.

I got an absolutely repugnant voicemail message over the weekend, from some "nonpolitical" right-wing nutjob group, ironically called "Progress For America." Their message was that the best way to fight terrorism was to vote on Tuesday, because if you don't vote, the terrorists win. Or something. About every fifth word was some variant of "terrorist." If you look at their website, it's absolutely clear that it's a front for the Republicans, about as nonpolitical as George Allen's noose. And about as subtle. The saddest part was that they conned the parent of someone who died on 9/11 to be their spokesman - what an incredibly twisted way to gain his fifteen minutes of fame, besmirching his son's memory to flack for the invaders of Iraq.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mower or less.

I celebrated the return from my trip by raking the front yard. Well, okay, “celebrated” probably isn’t the right term. But, strictly speaking, neither is “raking.”

On Sunday, I was guilted into removing the leaves from my front yard by my neighbors, both of whom had raked their front yards earlier in the day. And I didn’t want to be The Guy Who Doesn’t Rake His Leaves, so they blow into other people’s yards.

Not that it really mattered all that much: the fallen leaves I collected probably account for less than 20% of all the leaves produced by the neighborhood trees that will end up on my yard this year, and within two days, enough new leaves had fallen to make it impossible to discern who had already raked once this year, and who had not. Still, both of my immediate neighbors saw me out raking, and that’s enough to gain me the appropriate Neighborhood Brownie Point.

And I don’t actually rake my leaves any more. I tried that once, four years ago. It took me three and a half hours to do my front yard, and I sprained my wrist so badly that I couldn’t write for two weeks. So now I do like everyone else in the neighborhood, and “rake” leaves with my lawnmower. Much easier on the wrists – but a much sillier feeling when you’re running the lawnmower in December, when the grass has not grown at all since the last time you mowed/raked.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Library at Tuckahoe.

It’s in my genes: my mother was a librarian. So it’s probably no surprise how much I enjoy hanging out in libraries and bookstores.

And it’s probably no further surprise to learn that the closing of my local library three months ago threw my book-reading routines out of whack. Sure, Henrico County has plenty of other libraries around that I could go to instead, and the closest is only two or three miles farther than “my” library. But it’s a smaller library with a smaller selection of books and some strange ways of shelving their collection – they shelve the books on cassette tape with the books on CD, all mixed together, for instance, so you have to pull the plastic box down off the shelf and open it to see whether it’s a tape or a CD, only one of which I can play on my computer.

But all is well with the world again: my local library has reopened. In a new building, and all the modern library accoutrements: They’ve put RFID chips in all the books, so you can do a check-out or check-in on your own, without bothering the librarians. There are lots of computers. Lots. They’ve weeded out a lot of old books, and replacing them are many, many new books and books on disk, and two rows of shelves full of DVDs. There are small meeting rooms, and a computer training lab. To me, the biggest surprise was the addition of a cafĂ© in the library, where you can get coffee, muffins, sandwiches, and the like. Food in the library? Sacrilege!

The most fun, though, was going to the library on the day it opened: Because this library had not been checking out books for two months (as it was closed) while everything that was previously checked out had come due and was returned, all the items in their collection were present in the building: all the bookshelves were full, including all the books on disk and DVDs. You could make sure that the library had all the volumes in a series before starting in on it, you could see what books they have on disk, to make it easier to decide whether you wanted to read a book or listen to it. Getting to wander around in the library before anything had been checked out of it was like having the entire library be mine.