Color your world: Fuzzy Wuzzy Brown

jan-2-2017-068My feet get cold in winter, even in the house, so I like to have slippers that reach up over my ankles. And these did – just. But they were quite cozy as the cuffs hugged my legs. And as you can see, they were very fuzzy-wuzzy and definitely brown.

Soft slippers, however, don’t hold up very well after long use, and for some reason one of them began to sag a bit to one side at the heel. Nothing to do with the way I walked, of course. Oh, no. We always followed our mother’s gait, one foot in front of the other – Indian style, as she used to say. But somehow one heel had begun to slide over to one side. This made it very uncomfortable – though it still kept my foot warm. I even wore them on the wrong feet sometimes but that didn’t even it out.

Then we went to London. In June. So I didn’t take my fuzzy-wuzzy brown slippers. But the house in London was chilly. New Mexico is so nice and dry one doesn’t feel the cold so much, but a rainy, damp day in London can be very cold. Even in June. I did have some over-the-ankle slippers there, gray ones, but – guess what – they were wearing down just like the ones back in Albuquerque. However, needs must, and I slopped around in them whenever the weather dictated.

Meanwhile my PA was slopping around in his traveling slippers, but they are black, so they don’t fit into this story. For a while it sounded like an old people’s home with both of us shuffling around on the wooden floors. Wait a minute, we are both old people, but at least my house smells better.

So one day I took the bus to Croydon where there is a big shopping center (we don’t call them malls in England). I love having a day just to wander around and check out everything. This time I was looking for a Clarks’ shoe shop. They seem to fit my feet best – wide at the front, narrow at the heel – though they are not cheap. Luckily it was sale time – isn’t it always, these days? So I got myself a natty pair of navy blue (though AP says they are black) suede booties with sort of netting at the sides and zips up the back. Less than half price, too. I will feel really chic wearing them after living in trainers. Or sloppy slippers.

But I digress. Back to the fuzzy-wuzzy brown footwear. As I strolled around the Whitgift Center (wondering who Whitgift was to have a Center named after him/her) I chanced upon another shoe shop and lo, there they were: the perfect pair to replace my worn out slippers. They were in my size. They were brown. But the nicest thing was the fuzzy-wuzzy wool lining. These would come back to Albuquerque with me, I decided. As they look like boots and have a rubber sole I even kept them on for the flight back – ah, comfort and warmth.

I love them so much, and I’m sorry London; we’ll have to make another trip to the Whitgift Center to get some ‘over there’ slippers next time. These ones are staying right here.

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Winter Flowers

I’ve been watching the garden here in London for a couple of months. There is a ginko tree out back, one of my mother’s favorite trees. My son planted it in her memory a long time ago. It is now very tall and hides the side of the house behind us. It’s fun to watch the changing colors of the leaves as autumn weather gets colder, until finally its bare branches glitter in the low sunlight. (Nov.5, 11, 28) ginko-1
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Then I looked out this morning and noticed some tiny yellow spots on the back fence, which turned out to be delicate yellow flowers – winter jasmine, I think. We did a lot of pulling out tangled greenery this summer, and I didn’t even know this plant was there. I photographed it next to one of the candle holders that give the back fence a nice glow in the summer evenings.

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For the festive season, here are a couple of photos of our enormous holly tree. It is simply covered with berries this year. A blackbird hen uses it for her abode, carefully darting in through the prickles, or pecking away at the berries on the other side. We also have a little robin who is too quick for my camera. He likes the small black berries from the creeper vine. He comes most mornings, and stands on the compost bin looking at us through the dining room window before he, too, takes his breakfast.

To all my readers, thank you, and I wish you all a Happy Hollyday!

Daily Prompt: Original

via Daily Prompt: Original

We spent a year in Australia, home of the Aborigines – the original people of that land. In Alaska the native people are known as Aboriginals.

But since the prefix may have a negative meaning – abnormal, abjure, aberrant, abuse, abduct, etc – I think the first native peoples should be called “Originals” without the AB.

Just a thought, and it’s probably just a question of etymology. But anyway….

Not so silent films

I am thinking of changing my husband’s nickname from PA (Personal Assistant), to PP (Patient Partner). Recently he came to the Cinema Museum again with me to watch some Vitagraph silent films. They were from the 20s and actually very entertaining.

We were entertained, also, by three pianists who gallantly accompanied the galloping horses, Indian attacks , house fires, crashing waves, dying lovers, etc, in the good old single piano days before my father put orchestral music within the reach of small cinemas. What a nice change from one silent film I watched when they had a local band provide the background music. Only it wasn’t anything to do with the movie we were watching, just a performance, so by itself the music might have been ok, but it added nothing at all to the story we were watching. Didn’t anyone tell them what the accompaniment was for?

We were watching 91.5 notched films; I can’t remember if that’s correct but the notch is to stop the film for the dialog panel. If I remember the explanation – which probably made more sense to the technical film buffs there – this hesitation allows the dialog panel to be shown as a slide (one cell) and the projectionist then moves the film on. Otherwise it would have to be repeated on the film long enough for the words to be read. Not as fast as speech, you know. And a lot of film would be wasted. Very clever.

Well not only does this mean careful attention by the projectionist, but it wouldn’t work on a big screen such as we had last night. So it was being projected onto another screen and digitally enlarged and that’s what we saw! Too complicated for me to understand, let alone explain to you. But it worked.

We saw Indians attack covered wagons, ocean storms threatening to swamp the actors (very scary), saving a woman from a burning building (the ladders crashing down in flames), and heros getting their girls at last.

But even better was meeting a whole tribe of folk mad about sound; I have their cards and addresses to keep in touch and talk about my father. It’s all happening.

Daily Prompt: My Computer is Shivering

That’s just what it does when that annoying box comes on saying “connecting to the printer” and when the print information comes up and I click on it, it just shivers. Often I didn’t click on Crtl & P and I don’t want to print anything, but the same message comes up. And then the document showing on my computer screen shivers.

Honestly that’s exactly what happens, it shivers, and then doesn’t print. It doesn’t even put a note of what I want to print in the box, so somewhere it has gone missing.

At least I know now how to explain what I can see happening, so thank you whoever thought of a computer “shivering.”

Talking about Vitaphone

The Cinema Museum in SE London http://www.cinemamuseum.org.uk is a wonderful collection of memorabilia, located in the old workhouse where Charlie Chaplin’s mother lived. It’s also a great social gathering location. Screenings and events take place regularly, including a Comedy Weekend coming up in October.

The film ending Saturday’s selection is “A Better ‘Ole” (check out this link for the origin of this phrase:  http://blog.maryevans.com/2013/04/the-better-ole.html). It’s a WWI comedy with British Tommies (soldiers), and I understand was the second film to have sound, after “Don Juan”. Wes Connors says:

The production levels offered by Warner Brothers are quite high; “The Better ‘Ole” was the second film to make use of the studio’s synchronized music and sound effects “Vitaphone” process. Vitaphone synchronized camera

This is a photo of the synchronized camera used for the first Vitaphone productions here being studied by Stanley Watkins, Hartley C Humphrey, “Chuck” R Sawyer and “Archie” C Millard. I’ve given the first names by which I knew these engineers. The documents only ever give their initials. (sorry about the large white spaces – I need help to get my photos in the right place).

Now, I know that my father, Stan Watkins, worked with Sam Warner on that first sound film “Don Juan” and then on “The Jazz Singer” with its accidentally added speech, but I have nothing in his memoirs about”A Better ‘Ole” so when the organizer asked me to introduce the film I regretfully said I could not help.

However, he then asked if I could, perhaps, speak briefly about the Vitaphone system, so that’s what I’m going to do. I’m looking out some anecdotes now; people always enjoy them, and these will be from the horse’s mouth, so to speak (no pun intended).

The sun is still shining and my PA comes home tomorrow. Yippee! As Robert Lewis Stevenson said in his “Child’s Garden of Verses” (did you grow up with that too?): The world is so full of a number of things, I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

HAPPY 90th BIRTHDAY, DON JUAN

I just received the latest copy of The Vitaphone Project’s newsletter:  http://www.picking.com/vitaphone134.html celebrating the 90th anniversary of the birth of sound on films.

Don Juan was the first  film that had synchronized sound. However it was music, doors slamming, swords clashing, bodies falling, just sound effects, no dialog. But it was an innovation, birthed by Warner Bros.

And it was the first feature film my father, Stan Watkins, worked on with Sam Warner, after developing sound on disc in the Bell Labs.

The Vitaphone system married recorded sound on large 16″ discs with the visual film on reels. The synchronization had to be accurate to get the sound at the right point; for example, in the sword fights. But it didn’t have to be as accurate as with dialog.

Harry Warner was persuaded by his brother Sam to embark on this project, recognizing that this would allow small theaters the luxury of orchestral music rather than the usual single piano player. He was not interested in Talking Pictures at this stage.

Don Juan opened in New York City on August 6th, 1926, and Stan Watkins was there in charge of seeing that the records and film stayed synchronized. He said he must have seen the film about 90 times which made him notice things.

The continuity wasn’t quite as keen as it is now (though we still catch bloopers in contemporary films from time to time). In one scene in Don Juan a dagger was hidden in a lady’s cleavage; the low cut dresses of the period made that possible. But Stan noticed in some scenes “Her movements …were covered by several camera shots and in some of those the handle of the dagger could just be seen peeping out. The result was that it popped in and out during the scene in a most disturbing manner. One didn’t notice this until after seeing the scene several times. After which it was difficult to see anything else.”

He also learned to sleep silently during the film, but the audience was kept awake by the novelty of sound.

Happy Birthday, Don Juan, and sound movies.