Saturday, June 27, 2009

Live From Seattle

This! is what we're seeing every day, when we step out on the deck. Well, except when it's cloudy.

Some things I've seen in Seattle:

The nice lady who showed us which road led to Alki beach had a bumper sticker on her car that said: "Nobel Prize for Pete Seeger." She looked like a librarian.

The troll under the bridge. A poster taped to the bridge said there would be a performance of "Skakespeare on the troll" this summer.

On the bank of Lake Washington, a woman and man sat on a blanket. The man was typing on a manual typewriter.

The original Starbucks, at Pike Place Market. They toss paper cups the way the men at the fish market toss fish. But they have no cookies, and no plastic spoons.

Every night, somewhere around dusk, everything turns blue --the sky, the mountains, the sea. It's called "L' heure bleu". The blue hour.

We took a ferry to Bainbridge Island, and saw yellow jellyfish in the water.

There is more to say, but I am missing out on Seattle's blue hour while I type, so I must go now.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Big Ol' Analog Gets The Heave-Ho

Analog broadcasts will be turned off today. Forever. Snif. Another clunky piece of 20th century technology kicked to the curb. You think all that analog equipment doesn't have feelings? I guess I've seen The Brave Little Toaster too many times.

We are among the 15% of American households that don't have cable or satellite. So tonight comes the test: did we or didn't we hook up our converter box correctly?

Here's a common misconception about the switch-over to digital: No more rabbit ears. In fact, if you don't have cable, you need an antenna and a converter box.

From this point forward, TV historians might distinguish the analog age of TV from the digital age, with the analog age of course seeming more primitive. They will have no other way to explain things like reality shows and Dancing with the Stars.

Doesn't technology usually fade into disuse more quietly, while no one is looking? It just seems so crass to take such a widely used system and shut it down on a specific day. Hmmpf!

Thank goodness not everything has been digitized yet. The other day Roger told me of a recording studio he went to, where the owner uses analog equipment to achieve a certain effect. Analog aficionados say tape has a warmer tone, a "brown sound."

Well, it's time to go turn on the TV and see if we are counted among the living or are stranded in analog purgatory.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Not Such A Drag

I love Ted Bessell in drag! Do you know this photo is selling on Ebay right now? That's where I found it, after Googling "Ted Bessell in drag".

Check out Bessell's facial expression in this shot. Priceless. Bessell plays the boyfriend in "That Girl". Here's what I'm finding out: "That Girl" is not as dippy a show as I thought. Some of the writing is very funny, and the supporting cast has great comic timing.

There was even a Seinfeldian moment on one episode. Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas's character) is going to play Monopoly with her boyfriend and her parents. The boyfriend and the father both want the battleship playing token. Finally they decide to roll for it. The father blows on the dice like he's rolling for high stakes at Vegas. He rolls a ten. The father slides his lips over his teeth in a hilarious "I got you" grin. But then the boyfriend rolls eleven. The boyfriend offers the father the hat token. "I hate the hat!" the father protests. "I always lose with it." The boyfriend says, "Okay, take the thimble."

I confess that one of the episodes had me in absolute stitches. Ann is mugged in Central Park, so she goes to a police station. She is sent to one of the offices, to meet with a detective. When she opens the door, she sees several men hiking up pantyhose and putting on their lipstick. They are on the “park detail”, and they pose as women to bait muggers.

Ann's boyfriend gets wind of this, and being a journalist, wants to do a story on the detectives. So he agrees to dress in drag one night and pose as the lady on a "date" with one of the detectives. Before meeting the detective, he stops by Ann's apartment to show her his "new look." Who should open the door but Ann's father, who doesn't like the boyfriend in the first place, and now is even more suspicious of him. The boyfriend can't tell him it's part of police work, because Ann doesn't want her father to know she was mugged.

The boyfriend explains that he's going to do a skit at a bachelor party, where he's going to play the wife. But the father is still unnerved by Don's gender-bending, wondering why he isn't going to play the husband. The father takes Ann to dinner at a place near the park, where the boyfriend is on park detail. He sees the boyfriend being escorted by another man, and watches, alarmed, as they sit down on a bench together, and start cuddling. "Just how important is this Don Hollinger to you," the father asks his daughter. "Oh father, he means a great deal to me," she replies. "Well, I'm not so sure he feels the same way about you!!" the father says.

The show has a surprising slyness to it, kind of winking and nodding at the possibility that Ann might have a sex life, despite her father's efforts to keep such a thing from happening. When Ann and Don plan an intimate evening alone together at her apartment on New Year's Eve, Ann tells her friend next door how her father is worried and is going to come over. "Does he think you're not healthy?" the friend asks. "No, he's afraid that I am," Ann replies.

In another scene, Ann tries to buy a mattress but is relentlessly hit on by the salesman who can't resist making suggestive remarks. It's interesting to watch, because the writers strike a tricky balance between innuendos that are clear but subtle enough to get past the network censors. Later that evening, the salesman shows up at Ann's door with a bottle of wine, to make sure she finds her mattress "comfortable." I found this all very surprising for a sitcom of that time period.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

You Are Getting Very Relaxed

When Annabelle's sleepover birthday party was finally over, and the last kid had been picked up, I crawled upstairs to the attic, brushed the smashed-up popcorn off the bedspread covering the mattress, lay my head down on a couple of fluffy heart-shaped pillows, and watched old episodes of "That Girl," with Marlo Thomas. It was just so incredibly relaxing, I cannot tell you. I felt all of the tension draining out of my body.

In "That Girl," Marlo Thomas lives in an attractive apartment in New York City and wears mod dresses. She's an aspiring actress, so she goes on a lot of auditions and cattle calls. Her boyfriend is cute and smart and hangs out in her apartment a lot, much to the chagrin of her father. In fact her biggest problem seems to be her overbearing father, who, in an attempt to preserve her chastity, somehow always finds time to barge in on her, even though he's a busy restaurant owner in Brewster.

Yes, the plots are light-hearted and undemanding, but the clothing changes are riveting, which is why this may be the most relaxing 60's sitcom ever. A week after Annabelle's sleepover birthday party, Lilah had hers, and once again, after the last kid left, I went up to my sanctuary and turned on "That Girl" and happily decompressed.

By the way, I have no idea why Marlo Thomas has a turkey on the leash.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Dog Fog

Busy with the new dog. No time to blog. Usually I can stay up late, but I think this puppy is emitting some kind of sleep ray, because every night I crash like I've been drugged and I can't pull my usual night owl routine.

Tomorrow at last, maybe, ends the soccer season that will not die. Annabelle's team is playing a rain-out game long after most teams have disbanded. I think there is something very wrong with this.

I'm posting this picture in honor of Bob Dylan's birthday, which was May 24th. I toasted him with a bottle of beer at a cook-out, but failed to mention it here. What kind of shoes are those he's wearing? Looks like's he's in Europe, so there's no telling. When I turned eight my sister Michele gave me the book, "The Red Balloon." I still have it, along with her inscription, saying that soon I would be "setting the world on fire." Yes, didn't I though? One of the things that struck me the most vividly in that book were the pictures of little boys wearing sandals with socks. I knew it was because they were European, so it was okay if their clothes were a little odd.