May 16th, 2008


Dr. Who 2007 Christmas Special, briefly

They named it Voyage of the Damned. Has this aired in the US yet? I buy the PAL DVDs from as they are released - a couple of months after they air on BBC. This one has been sitting on my TV table forever, finally got around to watching it Wednesday night. Or was it Saturday? I forget.

No spoilers here. The action is set on a space cruise ship named Titanic, and the cruise is to Earth in modern day, but the ship is decked out as a replica of the original Titanic, with all the guests and staff in period dress. The set is entirely too small to carry off the illusion, but they make a valiant effort.

David Tennant is The Doctor, he is companionless, but Kylie Minogue plays the part of a cocktail waitress who acts in that capacity for the duration. She's a good actress, I was impressed. The chemistry between her and Tennant is remarkable. Also remarkable is veteran actor Geoffrey Palmer as the captain of the ship. You may not know the name, but you'll recognize his face as soon as you see him.

From the name of the ship, you can guess this will be a disaster story, and it is, but it's not of the innocent "oops, we hit a patch of ice" variety. Written by Russel Davies, it features cardboard characters, a plot which seems to have been written on napkins at several different liquid power lunches, and gratuitous mocking of fat people (a short step away from his usual fart jokes).

Not one of the better episodes, but still worth buying the DVD.
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    good good
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What this country needs is a 5-cent scar

I did the scar last night, and a couple of the cast members told me it worked for them. I wasn't sure if it would "read" on stage, it didn't look too impressive in the makeup mirror. During the course of the show the rigid colloidal pulled the skin tighter, and when I looked in the mirror to take it off it was pretty nasty looking - which is what I was going for. I thought it would come off with spirit gum remover, but it needed nail polish remover for whatever I couldn't just peel off.

Rehearsal last night was a notch better in several ways, but my song was not so good. All I need is a drum cadence, and I'm not getting it. It's coming in late, and the drummer is losing the rhythm about 8 bars into the number. Okay, so I have been hearing this cadence since I was five, and the drummer is just learning it. But it's not that hard. I can play that beat and stay on it, and I'm just a hack as a drummer. The orchestra is out of sight in the wings on the other side of the stage, so we don't have a conductor we can look to for the beat. I wish it was not too late for us to ditch the stage extension and put the orchestra where it belongs, at the foot of the stage. All of us are suffering from not being able to see the conductor, and the fact that the accompaniment usually doesn't give us the tune or the beat.

I've done two other shows with the orchestra out of sight, and it worked because the orchestrations were straightforward, Bells Are Ringing at Foothill College. Simple 4/4 and 3/4 time signatures and the melody line was always somewhere in the instrumental score and it was a tiny stage with the musicians only a foot or two away. Anything Goes with Northwest Savoyards in Everett, WA - it was a small swing band, and they were up above the main stage, between two long staircases at the back of the set. Again, easy rhythms, melody everywhere. There's a clip from that show here which shows the orchestra in its crow's nest, about a minute into the song.

All in all, though, I am having fun. There are no prima donnas, the cliques are not obnoxious or closed, they just stem from having worked together a lot in the past, and/or being related to each other. The ASM and props person are both going above and beyond backstage, the opposite of the "it's not my job" attitude. The last-minute fill-in conductor is working her tush off to try to make things right, and although we have lots of talented musicians in the orchestra it's a moving target - every night there's a different mix of personnel, due to the usual conflicts. That's a major challenge for a conductor. And it's difficult music printed poorly.

I asked the question about power blackouts, reminded when the traffic signal at the nearest corner - Saratoga & Fruitvale - was out (it was still out leaving rehearsals). The protocol is to freeze, wait for the emergency lights to come on, and follow whatever instructions come from the SM. Works for me. I've done a couple of shows by flashlight, and one in total darkness (Under Milkwood was more of a staged reading than a full theater production anyway). Sancho tells me they have never lost power at this theater, but they've also never had this kind of heat this early in the year.

I am so looking forward to tonight. It's preview, we will have an audience for the first time. Last night the six or seven people in the seats tried real hard to applaud and laugh but it needs about 40 in that theater before the actors can start to feel it.

"What this country needs is a good 5-cent cigar" was a popular political line when my father was a lad, or so he told us. According to it was originated by Vice President Thomas Marshall in a remark reportedly made to Henry M. Rose, the assistant secretary of the Senate, while Marshall was presiding as president of the Senate. The episode is detailed in the New York Tribune, January 4, 1920, part 7, p. 1. There are numerous other sources, including Marshall’s autobiography, Recollections of Thomas R. Marshall, caption facing p. 244 (1925), and Charles M. Thomas, Thomas Riley Marshall, p. 175 (1939).

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    optimistic optimistic
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Bits and Pieces

Yesterday morning I met Lynn at her storage unit which is 3 minutes from my apartment. She's moved to VA, and had some computers to be recycled. Lynn is a total nut job, but has a heart of gold, and this was a small thing for me to do for her, but a big thing to her. They look usable - an HP Pavilion tower, an emachines mini tower and a Brand X mid tower. And one MS Keyboard & mouse. I should have time next week to fire them up and see what needs to be done to make them safe to recycle.

Since it was 100° at lunchtime yesterday, I went to Sizzler.

My Garmin GPS now speaks Thai. They just added that language to the uploads. The volume is 2/3 of the English, and it doesn't try to pronounce the street names. It's a typical Thai young woman's voice, and there was only one word I didn't understand - until I figured out they had programmed the word for "more" to stretch out too long. Thai has long and short vowels, and the word for "more" or "additional" is "eek". She pronounces it "eeeeeeek".

The two ATI cards were on the patio rack when I came home last night. a 1GB PCIEx16 display adapter and a PCIE(small) Vista-certified HD/SD capture card, both by Visiontek. AMD has gone the way of nVidia, selling the chipsets to OEMs, who make functional boards featuring the chipset. They are getting out of the board mfg business, it seems. Will install these tomorrow.

One of our engineers from Russia is back in St. Petersburg for the week. She says it is snowing, and hopes it is warmer here. Right.
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    complacent complacent

Say Goodnight, Roxi

Sometimes my product loyalty gene recombines with my stupidity gene and it takes a while to see the light. When I was out of work during the dotcom bust , my first foot in the door was given to me by Roxio, which desperately needed well-qualified tech support people to work for a pittance. They found about 20 of us. They needed us because they were being sued up the yin-yang because their latest upgrade would wipe out Windows 2000. Completely nuke the OS. The only fix was a 90-minute routine which started with re-installing from the Windows CD. On Windows 98/ME all it did was disable your CD/DVD drives.

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Last night I finally removed the last traces of Roxio from my PC.