Archive for August, 2012


Cover, Invitation to the DanceI don’t know how many times I’ve checked Amazon looking for this on DVD. I’ve wanted it ever since I saw the brief episode of Gene Kelly dancing with the cartoon harem guards on That’s Entertainment Vol. 2, and I’d almost given up. Then this spring I found it, finally put on DVD in 2011.

It wasn’t remastered, there is no menu (though it is possible to jump through the film with the buttons) and there are no extras on the DVD. Given the number of VHS reviews on Amazon that effectively said “where’s the DVD?” I suspect Warner simply put it from the vaults straight to DVD, and according to some reviews effectively made the DVDs to order. Too bad, as the movie is worth more than this cursory treatment – but it’s not the usual musical, and MGM apparently shelved it for four years before releasing it.

It’s really a dance and music performance, starring Gene Kelly and a number of other excellent dancers, with not a word spoken. Even the crooner (a takeoff of Frank Sinatra) has an instrumental voice – I think a trumpet, though I could be mistaken on that.

The performance is made up of three dances, only one of which I had seen at all before.

The first is a tragedy, told in mime and dance, set in a small circus. Gene Kelly is hopelessly in love with a girl who sees him only as a clown. The ballet sequences are beautiful, and I particularly liked the one danced on a fishnet hung vertically.

The second, with both ballet and tap dancing sequences, follows a bracelet from wrist to wrist. My favorites were the crooner and the stage door Johnnies.

The third was the tale of Sinbad the sailor. The meat of this one was a marriage of live action and animation, with Kelly dancing in cartoons representing book illustrations. This sequence had pieces that reminded me very much of Cyd Charisse’s dream dance in Singin’ In The Rain, a movie that came out 4 years after Invitation, but was actually being made the same year, also with Kelly as choreographer. Another part of that sequence might have helped inspire the Disney artists of Mary Poppins, which came out almost a decade later. Certainly it had very much the feel of Mary and Bert being carried across water by turtles.

Parts of all three sequences were obviously shot either speeded up or in slow motion, emphasizing the frenetic activity of a cocktail party or Gene trying to dance the guards into exhaustion,  or the floating motion of a dream.

Fans of Gene Kelly will want to watch this, as will those interested in the history of the combination of cartoon and real life characters. But I do wish the film had been remastered and color-corrected. As an example of the problems, the segment from Sinbad the Sailor on That’s Entertainment showed harem guards whose clothing varied from green to blue, and I believe that when the trousers are blue, the background is a much more bluish shade of red, suggesting that the yellow pigment has faded. In the Invitation to the Dance DVD the harem guards are consistently in green trousers, though some other colors look faded. Sometimes the skin tones are totally unrealistic.

In short, the film is wonderful. The DVD leaves a great deal to be desired, but for right now it is all we have.

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Begonia boxes, 8/17/12The first yellow leaves of fallSunrise this morning was at 5:56 and the sun will set at 9:50 for 15 hours 55 minutes of daylight. It is now getting quite dark at night, though we still do not have astronomical night. It won’t be long, though. Already the first leaves are turning, and it gets above 70°F only on the warmest days.

August is usually our rainiest month, but not this year. We’ve only had a quarter inch so far, and the rainiest day, Thursday, had only .12 inch. July was a little drier than average, but not to the same extent as August so far. I’ve been watering the lawn and garden – I have a well, so most of the water goes right back to the well. We even have smoke in the air — apparently there is a small forest fire, lit by lightning last spring and smoldering since,  that has flared up not that far from Fairbanks. Our fire season is normally in spring!

The zucchini is happy, and I took half a dozen to the food bank last week and still have all I can eat. I finally got caught up with the beans, and need to pick the snow peas. The beets are thriving in the holes in the cement blocks that make up the raised beds, and I’m having a beet and its greens for supper almost every night.

beets in cement blocks

The beet on the right was pulled for Saturday’s supper–they were crowding each other.

Flowers? The perennials are about through for the season and setting seed. I still have some columbine blooming, and some annuals, but the annuals I planted around the raised beds have mostly been shaded out by the vegetables. For a change the lobelia have just about taken over the planter boxes with the begonias. Usually I’m lucky if one or two survive.

I’m starting to watch the weather pretty closely for frost warnings. Not right away – the extended forecast has lows in the 40’s. But August has certainly been known to produce frosts in the past, and I want to be prepared to drape plastic over the hoops on the raised beds if needed. I should get another two to three weeks of growing season, even if the trees are starting to show yellow branches, and the first fallen leaves are littering the lawn.

Once again I am offering a piece, contiguous with last week’s, from War’s End. Coralie is mentally linked with her dog, Bounce, who is searching for the others stranded on this strange planet. Last week wound up with a comment that the dog’s vision seemed blurred and colorless to Coralie.

WR136 tears apart a shell of gas: HubbleBut Bounce’s vision did seem brighter ahead, and when Coralie pivoted in place she could see that it was lighter in one direction–the direction Bounce was heading toward.  Then Kelty’s voice rang out again.  “Bounce!  I can see Bounce!”

The dog hadn’t seen Kelty yet, though she heard him and his scent surrounded her.  Coralie urged her to look up at the same time she shouted, “Wave your arms if you can.”

This snippet is part of Six Sentence Sunday, a web ring of authors who post six sentences from something they have written in any stage from first draft to published. This one is part of a trilogy in the polishing stage.  To find other snippets, click on the logo below.Six Sentence Sunday logo

Seeing the Jet Stream

Jet stream cirrus, looking WSW

Jet stream cirrus, looking WSW

Ever seen the jet stream? Not on a weather map, or talked about on a weather show, but overhead in the sky?

Most of the time the jet stream, being air, is invisible. If you see clear sky looking up, or an overcast, you really can’t tell the jet stream’s up there. That’s one of the reasons it took so long to discover it was there. There were hints, starting with the way the ash from Krakatoa spread. Planes prior to WWII generally didn’t fly high enough to encounter it, though a few planes during WWII went high enough to find

Jet stream cirrus, looking north

Jet stream cirrus, looking north

their air speed and their ground speed were vastly different. Today the jet stream can make a difference of 100 mph or more in how fast a jet travels, and company meteorologists generally try to route planes away from a headwind in the jet stream.

Jet streams form where there is a large horizontal difference in temperature, and are very likely over fronts near the

surface. They also generally have a high-speed core with lower speeds to the sides, and this wind shear tends to drag out tendrils of cloud so they form lines parallel to the jet stream. If you look up and see long streaks of filmy cloud, all in the same direction from horizon to horizon, chances are good you are seeing the jet stream.

Jet stream cirrus, looking NE

Jet stream cirrus, looking NE

We don’t see that very often here in Alaska, because the jet stream is generally south of us, over the Pacific Ocean. But large waves do form in the jet stream, and last Wednesday a wave formed that put the jet stream moving from south to north over our heads. The warm air it brought aloft was reflected in a lovely warm day (77°F) at the ground, and the cirrus streaks were conspicuous. Thanks to perspective, they fanned out from the northern and southern horizons, and looked horizontal when you gazed east or west. All of the photos were taken at the Farmers Market, around 1 pm ADT.

In the lower 48, jet streams are more likely to blow roughly from west to east. Look for them!

Year 3 Day 270

Stormy skiesMy new home is almost finished – at least as far as the structure goes. I decided to cover most of it with soil and vegetation, for insulation. I do have windows, deep-set and transparent, looking in all directions, but from outside only the porch and entryway are obvious. The site is well above the lake, with both hot and cold springs supplying me with water. It’s wonderful to have a large soaking tub again!

So far it’s only a shell. I’ve been teleporting back and forth to the old shelter, recording my journal there and moving what I need at the moment to the new site. Today I found that the rains had started at the old site, so last year’s drought was a relatively short one.

Will Rain Cloud lead the group I know best back to the vicinity of my old shelter? From the steady drumming of the rain on the roof, the grass will soon begin growing and the animals should follow it to provide good hunting. I will begin planning to move the rest of the solar panels and the computer soon, but might I not stay here long enough to see if my friends come?

Perhaps I should search the area for them? I must confess I am curious to see whether Songbird and Giraffe will make a pairing, and perhaps even have a child. Of course a pairing here is only a commitment on the part of the male to protect his mate and her children; these people have no concept of biological fatherhood and that is one thing about which I have no intention of enlightening them. But Songbird is no longer a child herself, and it would be pleasant to see hers.

I wish there were women of my own species here.

The Fair Horse Shows

As should be obvious by now – perhaps painfully obvious – I don’t get much else done during the ten days of the Tanana Valley State Fair. I love fair food (though all I can eat are the gyros and now and then the crepes.) I always take in the quilt show. I check out the giant vegetables, the fiber arts competition, and the various organizational booths, though there was a little too much politics for my taste this year. I look at (and occasionally buy) the locally handmade jewelry. I take my annual Ferris wheel ride. (Why does my spell checker insist that “Ferris” must be capitalized?)

red dun head

This one’s a red dun, with a well-marked dorsal stripe.

But all of these are fitted in around the horse shows.

I used to ride, and I still love the classes I used to compete in. I am also on the lookout for horses of unusual colors to use as illustrations for the series I did last year on the genetics of horse coat color. I don’t have all those photos on the old posts yet, but I’ll get them there. I do wish the fair made it easier for spectators!

Silver Dapple horse

Silver Dapple; Rocky Mountain Horse.

The classes I most want to watch, such as dressage, normally start about 9 am. The Fairgrounds officially open at noon. I’ve learned that I can enter early through the livestock gate, though it’s a long walk (with a cane these days, when I’m walking on rough ground) to the horse arenas. This year, though, my hanging around photographing the horses got noticed by the second show, and the superintendent of that show presented me with a pass that actually let me park inside the fairgrounds, by the arenas. Even the man in charge of the gate, who’d obviously been worried by my heading down the dirt road with a cane every day, seemed pleased.

4H Dressage

4-H Dressage

This year was a ten-day fair, with three 3-day horse shows and a 1-day game day (Pony Club.) I went to all of them, and only missed photos the last day, when my camera battery quit. (Yes, I had a spare. An hour’s round trip away, in the plugged-in charger.) This post is mostly sharing photos, though I mainly watch dressage and jumping.

Decorated for the games

The chestnut spots are natural. The others?

Friday through Sunday was a AQHA show, though they had all-breed classes. No dressage, and the jumps were pretty low, but I did get some shots of interesting colors, including a silver dapple, a red dun and a rabicano.

Rabicano chestnut horse

This boy is what’s called a rabicano, with roaning in a brindle pattern on the flank and sides and a white tail base.

Monday through Wednesday was the 4-H show, and they did have dressage. I got some more shots of colors, including head markings. I’m showing only a sampling here, though quite a few will wind up posted to the blogs on horse color genetics. Check back in a few weeks.

Thursday was games, and some of the horses sported interesting decorations. An appaloosa was enhanced with pink and green, and a chestnut was decked out with gold foil stars and a ribbon in her tail. One black or very dark bay had hearts painted on her hip and neck.

Pas de deux dressage

Pas de deux dressage, to music.

Friday through Sunday was the Interior Horsemen’s Association show, and I met some of my old friends from the Jammie Jamboree, including Sport. (He won his halter class.) This show did have dressage, including a pas de deux to music. Also jumping, with some of the jumps a little higher – but that was the day my camera battery quit on me. At any rate I enjoyed watching, especially the backyard jumping class. Ever see a jump of feed sacks, or one festooned with pink flamingoes? Next time I’m going to bring a spare charged battery!

Quotes from Andre Norton

These are the quotes that were tweeted from Aug 9 through Aug 15 from @sueannbowling. All but the last are from The Crystal Gryphon, by Andre Norton.

The Crystal Gryphon, Cover“The truth is better than any evasion which may later trip one up.” Joisan’s thought when her cousin Ynglida questions her as to whether she has a portrait of Kerovan.

“No lord would openly admit that he accepted the will of another.” This is the state of things in High Halleck before Alizon attacks. Riwal is speaking.

“What man wishes to see into the future in truth when there are so many ills lying there in wait for us?” Kerovan’s thought after Riwal’s foreseeing.

“New dangers mean new ways of dealing with them.” Kerovan’s father, as he realizes that the Dales are likely to be under attack shortly.

“Malice can be spread by tongue and lip alone.” Dame Math is telling Joisan of Cyart’s birth, and how rumor nearly destroyed the wise woman who helped their mother.

“When hope is gone and the heart also, then one may fight as one can.” Dame Math, who has decided to stay in Ithkrypt and destroy it around herself rather than yield it to the Hounds of Alizon. |

“It’s a stupid word, but I’d have to say he’s nice.” Sue Ann Bowling, Homecoming. Cinda, when Marna first asks her to describe Lai.

Cover, The Fire RoseThe Fire Rose is not considered to be an official member of the Elemental Masters series, I suspect mostly because it has a different publisher. (The first “official” book of the series is The Serpent’s Shadow.) It is also set in Chicago and the San Francisco area rather than England, and the relationships among the Elemental Masters is somewhat different—the inability of two fire masters to co-exist in the same city is certainly out of line with the White Circle of the later books.  But the basic structure—magicians of the classical Greek elements, historical setting sometime between the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a strong female protagonist before women had the vote, and a plot based on a popular fairy tale—is similar. I suspect The Fire Rose was Lackey’s first experiment using this form, later refined into the Elemental Masters series.

The plot is a variation of “Beauty and the Beast,” the two major characters are a Master of fire (the Beast) and an apprentice of air (Beauty), and the setting is the West Coast near the time of the San Francisco Earthquake. If you like werewolves, part of the book is the tragedy of a man caught between the wolf and the human forms by his hubris in trying to apply an incompletely learned spell, and the mental and physical pain he must endure as a result.

I read this book long before publication of The Serpent’s Shadow, and thought enough of it then to replace it when my original copy was lost in a fire. An enjoyable book, and one I’ve read several times.

(I was going to review the fair today, but I suspect you’ve had more than enough of that. I will have something to say about the horse shows Thursday, when I’ve had time to go over all of the pictures I took.)

Colored-leaf geranium and delphiniumThe sun rose at 5:33 this morning and will set at 10:16 this evening for 16 hours 43 minutes of daylight. We’re losing almost 7 minutes a day, and the sun at noon is now less than 40° above the horizon. We’re definitely on the down slope of summer, though the farmers market is now loaded with produce. The local carrots are here, and wonderfully sweet and crisp compared with what we can get at the supermarket. I don’t even bother to buy tomatoes except in summer.

liliesMy own garden is winding down too, in some ways. Starting in the middle of July I had first Summer Arts Festival, then a family reunion. I was back three days when the fair started, and just finished the last of the nine days of fair yesterday. (I was trying to get photos and succeeded most days, but yesterday I forgot to charge the battery on my camera.) It’s been a mixed week for rain – fairly nice Monday, a little rain for the 4-H horse show Tuesday and Wednesday, and generally nice to downright hot (70’s) for the rest of the fair week. My first few years up here it was a standing joke that it always rained on the fair, so I really can’t complain. But the garden has been pretty much fending for itself for nearly a month now, and the chickweed is definitely winning.

The delphiniums are going to seed, as are most of the perennials. The last of the lilies are just opening. I need to go through and pick beans, zucchini and snow peas, and possibly take what I can’t eat to the food bank. The weather is forecast to be clear and warm, so maybe I can get rid of the worst of the chickweed. At least there are no frost warnings yet, though we’re getting into the 40’s most nights now.

News first: I got back my Foreword Clarion Review for Tourist Trap, snippets from which I blogged here last year. 5 Stars, and they don’t give them often!

Continuing on from last week on War’s End, Coralie is stranded on a strange planet, and has sent her dog, Bounce, to find the others from the ship. Bounce is a pocket herder, a small herding breed capable of limited telepathy. The breed was inspired by my first Sheltie, Derry, who was also my first tracking dog. Bounce is a clear sable, not darkly shaded like Derry, and has no white markings. If you want more background, click on the Index tab at the top of the page, and then on Six Sentence Sunday.

Shetland Sheepdog herding beach ball

Can Ch Rogene’s Sean Lord Derry Am/Can CD TD  herding his favorite ball.

Now she was able to follow Bounce mentally, and to her pleased surprise she had no problem keeping track of the little dog’s location as Bounce searched.  A familiar scent reached Bounce’s nose, but not the one she was hunting for.  Coralie noted the dog’s position, but sent her on.  There.  Bounce stopped dead and turned into the faint whisper of wind, zigzagging up the cone of scent as she searched for its source.

Coralie couldn’t see much through Bounce’s eyes–everything was in shades of gray to the dog, and nothing seemed sharply in focus.

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