Double Indemnity on the Big Screen

Double Indemnity On Monday night, Peggy and I went to see a special screening of Double Indemnity at the movie theater. The film was shown as a part of the Big Screen Classic Events with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Fathom Entertainment. They are showing classic movies in select theaters around the country with introductions from TCM’s Robert Osborne (or Ben Mankiewicz.) Robert Osborne, TCM and Fathom PresentsBefore the movie, Robert Osborne shared some history of the movie. Fred MacMurray was very reluctant to do Double Indemnity because he was afraid of ruining his squeaky clean image by playing a murderer. In the end, MacMurray thought it was one of his best roles. And Osborne discussed how the Hays Production Code dictated changes to the script. Has anyone read the book? I just ordered it from the library because I’m curious about the original ending of the book. (No spoilers, please!)

I’d seen parts of Double Indemnity before, but it was such a treat to see it on a huge screen where I could appreciate the darkness and the light in the movie, the facial expressions, and the score. Someone on Twitter* mentioned that he noticed the silences during the movie better. I thought that was a great observation.

Sadly, there were only five other people in the theater with us at Melrose Park, so I hope they continue offering the rest of the series. Next up is a Grease sing-along**, but I am so excited for Psycho in September! (Full line-up is here. I’m sad I missed JAWS last month.)

Have you gone to one of these? Have you seen anything else good in the theater lately?

 

*If you like to watch TCM, the #TCMParty is a fun hashtag to follow if you want to have a Twitter chat during a movie.

**I hate Grease!

Double Indemnity image from here. (The article about women in Film Noir is excellent reading!) Photo of Robert Osborne is mine from the theater.

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Sakura Ballsign Knock Pens

Sakura Ballsign Knock Gel Pens, metallic and glitterEvery time I step into Loft, my second favorite stationery & more store in Japan, I head directly for the pen displays. I stand there, section by section, trying out all of the different pens, different colors, different styles. This time, I was shopping for a new pen that I could use for letter writing. (My reliance on the Frixion pens has gotten risky for letter writing since some of the ink disappeared on the way to Tacoma, Washington recently.) So I was shopping for something a little bit more permanent. I found and fell in love with these Ballsign Knock gel pens. They come in a few different varieties, but I ended up getting a pack of the metallic ones that can write on dark and light paper, a pack of the shimmery ones that glitter in the light, and a single neon one. sakura ballsign knock gel pens, metallicMy favorites are the metallic ones. I love pens that write on dark papers, and I was excited to have some that went beyond the normal white, gold, and silver options in my arsenal. I love the metallic gold (it’s almost a white gold), green, blue, purple, and pink colors, but sadly, they don’t show up as strong colors on black paper. (It’s hard to tell from the picture, but they read more silver metallic on the black paper.) I think part of the reason is the colors aren’t very dark to begin with and that they have a 0.6mm point. (I like a thinner point on my pens, but I’m also not sure that this style comes in other sizes.) I still love the way that they write and the way that they look on dark paper so I’m pleased with my purchase. (Plus I have these other Ballsign gel pens in my pen stash and their true colors show up perfectly on dark papers. I’ll be sharing more about them in a future blog post.) sakura ballsign knock gel pens, glittersakura ballsign knock gel pens, glitterThe glittery ones are a lot of fun, but only show on lighter papers. I purchased the 0.8mm points in these (again, I think that was all Loft offered) and the thickness is perfect for showing off the shimmer of the ink (the box calls them lamé). The colors are very opaque and the ink flows really well. These will be fun for addressing envelopes and making mail art. sakura ballsign knock gel pens, neon redI almost bought a box of the neon pens, but I decided that I should leave some pens for the other people. So I just bought the red one. (Neon is out of style now anyway, right?) But I like the width of the neon red pen and there was a tiny bit of skipping at first, but it got better as I used it a bit. It’s hard to tell from my picture, but the ink really pops off the page.

Sakura also offers a pastel version that can be used on dark papers and a regular ol’ gel ink version (in a 0.4mm point). All in all, I’m really happy with these pens. They are nice and slim and comfortable to hold. Time will tell if they are good workhorses for letter writing and list-making. I’ll have to put my precious Frixion pens away to find out.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 10

Stamp Collecting 8 cent postage stamp, USPSAt last…our July council meeting!

We started the meeting with a follow-up report about the Freedom of Information Act request about our council. The USPS provided the meeting minutes of all of our meetings but redacted all member’s names. The USPS also declined the person the right to attend one of our meetings since meetings are only open to current council members.

The next order of business was a discussion about the mobile Post Office visiting the Oak Park Farmers Market. The Postmaster determined that July 25 was too close for him, so he decided to push things back to August 1. Again, this was disappointing since we’ve been talking about the farmers market for months. I wondered if it would actually happen. Since the meeting, I’ve received confirmation that the mobile Post Office will be at the Oak Park Farmers Market on August 1! I am hoping to get more details (timing, whether or not there will be a special postmark, services) and I will share more information then.

We moved onto the big topic of the meeting–planning for the 80th Anniversary celebration. It will be held on Saturday, August 29 from 10am-2pm. We discussed contacting the historical society to see if someone there could create and host tours of the building that day and to see if they had more old pictures of the building through the years. Two members had already reached out to the local newspapers, but more media attention was planned. Council members volunteered to attend and help with refreshments and greeting people on the day of the event. The post office decided, in spite of our offers to help, most of the planning would be done by the post office. (Honestly…this makes me a little bit nervous. Considering how poorly the planning of the other two (smaller) events has gone, I hope they get on the ball and create a really great celebration.)

We got more updates about the facilities issues at the River Forest Post Office.

  • An order was put in for repaving and striping the lot to make the handicap spaces more clear.
  • There is also funding approved for a new roof for the building in 2016.
  • Funding has been approved for more maintenance staff in the Oak Park post offices, which will benefit River Forest since they share.
  • As far as the Oak Park Post Office is concerned, the building’s exterior (the bricks and the brass) will be professionally cleaned thanks to private donations. (For those of you who have no idea what the post office looks like, I promise to have pictures soon…it’s really a beautiful building!)

Nationally, a lot of changes happened in the past few weeks. Apparently the new Postmaster General has made some personnel changes and cuts at the top. The USPS is trying to save money on management to relieve money and resources for delivery and sales. Sadly, some people lost their jobs or got moved around, but the postal employees at our meeting seemed to feel this was a step in the right direction to improve operations in the long run. Customers will benefit from the changes and improvements and hopefully that will increase sales in the future.

New delivery vehicles are coming soon. The vehicles will be tall enough for mail carriers to stand up inside and there will be a skylight so carriers can see the mail and parcels better. All of these changes are driven by the huge increase in package delivery, the future of the USPS.

A USPS marketing manager was scheduled to visit the Oak Park Post Office on Friday (July 17) to observe the service counter and to look at the post office from the customer’s eyes. This conversation brought up a suggestion that signage at the post office is sometimes lacking. For instance, it’s difficult to know (unless you do it all the time) what forms you need to fill out for each service you need. The signage is not helpful. The USPS app is not really helpful. And we reiterated our frustration that the cost of a first class stamp is very difficult to find anywhere on the USPS website.

Last month, all USPS employees attended a “Deliver the Brand” training. There is a huge focus on customer service right now. I would love to hear from you whether or not you have noticed a change in your local post office.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 9

Letter Carriers We Deliver StampsOur June Post Office Consumer Advisory Council meeting was…interesting. Phil (the Postmaster) was not in attendance but his manager, Jackie, was, so we sort of rehashed a few things from the previous meeting in order to clarify some concerns better.

The meeting started with the announcement that someone filed a Freedom of Information Act request about our group. This person is a former postal employee who now travels around filing FOIA requests about the post office in his role as a self-appointed USPS watchdog (my words). My fellow council members and I were concerned whether or not our names would be given to this person, so the post office promised to follow up with more information at our next meeting.*

We talked about the Passport Fair again. Apparently this is the “year of the passport” and more fairs will be scheduled. Council members who did receive postcards about May’s Passport Fair mentioned that the type was very small and there were spelling errors on the cards.

We talked about the 80th Anniversary celebration again. Saturday, August 29 was confirmed as the date for the celebration. Jackie said she would approve small giveaways like coloring books for kids. And she thought there would be a small budget for refreshments. A few members mentioned they would reach out to the local newspapers to give them a heads up about the event.

Bob, our co-chair, offered to contact the Oak Park village newsletter to ask them to put something out about dog bites and mail carriers. The post office said they would give him an official “blurb” for the newsletter.

The (Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park) carriers have new scanners that are connected by satellite so if you get text alerts for your Amazon packages, you will get your text even faster letting you know your Prime package has arrived.

We confirmed that July 25th would be the date for the mobile post office’s visit to the Oak Park Farmers Market.

We learned that all postal employees would be attending a “Deliver the Brand” customer service training.

We reiterated the shabby state of the River Forest Post Office grounds.

At the end of the meeting, we discussed the effectiveness of our group. According to Jackie, who manages a number of post offices in Chicagoland and Northern Illinois, Oak Park has recovered from its initial challenges much better than other “troubled post offices” that she manages.

It is still to be determined if our council appointments would end after one year. (If so, August would be our final meeting.)

I’ll be back tomorrow with our July meeting notes and then next week, we can get on with our lives and talk more about Japan, okay?

*I’m obviously blogging publicly about the advisory council, so I don’t have any expectations of privacy in that sense…but my name handed to this guy on a government document feels a little bit invasive. And my fellow council members don’t blog about our work, so they certainly deserve a level of privacy.

P.S. The guy in the middle of the stamp reminds me of John the Mailman.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 8

US Postal Service stamps 8 cents(I’m a little behind in blogging about the postal advisory council. So, I apologize for the upcoming clump of posts about the council’s work.)

Our May meeting was a little bit disappointing. (I mentioned last time that I’ve been feeling a little bit of ups and downs with the council this year.) First, the post office reported that their Passport Fair was kind of a bust. Apparently, they didn’t have more traffic than most other Saturdays, but things were spread out over the extended hours. This may have been slightly more convenient for customers. Robert, the council co-chair, expressed his frustration that he didn’t receive any advertising about the fair until 5:30PM the night of the fair. The post office representatives insisted that the postcards were all sent out to all Oak Parkers the Wednesday before the fair, but only one or two council members actually received any advertising. Also, the weekend of the Fair was a busy weekend in Oak Park. We suggested that the post office look at the public calendar before scheduling the next fair.

After months of discussion and planning for Oak Park’s Day in Our Village, the post office was unable to secure a booth at the fair because they sent in their application too late and all of the spaces were filled. Since we had been discussing Day in Our Village since March, it felt like a big let-down that the ball was dropped on this. The main job of our council is to help improve postal relations with the public and Day in Our Village would have been a great community event to participate in.

The focus turned to the mobile post office visiting the Oak Park Farmers Market and we decided the second or third week of July would be best. The Postmaster planned to look into securing the post office on wheels for the market.

We eagerly discussed the Oak Park Post Office building’s 80th anniversary. We talked about having past Postmasters there, getting in touch with the Oak Park Historical Society to help with a display of artifacts and to ask the Oak Leaves (local newspaper) to republish their archives about the post office.

A council member brought up the facilities at the River Forest Post Office. She noticed that the handicap parking sign was upside down, there were no clear markings on the pavement for handicap parking, the trash can was overflowing, and the weeds and grass were overgrown. We learned that River Forest shares a custodian with the Oak Park post office, making time tight for managing all of the properties. And, postal employees cannot spread any chemical based weed treatment (per their union contract), so that part of the landscaping is outsourced to a professional company. The Postmaster said he would look into new striping in the parking lot.

The post office is trying to lease the second floor of the post office for more income. (Random note…but wouldn’t it be fun to have an office in the post office?)

In other maintenance news, over the next year, the post office will be refurbishing sixty-nine mailboxes in Oak Park.

Our discussion moved from customer issues to mail carrier delivery issues. According to the post office’s records, summer weather brings a new challenge for mail carriers—dog bites. Apparently, Chicago is #3 in the country for the most dog bites. So the post office sends out little postcards reminding people to keep their dogs away from the letter carriers.

And finally, we talked about package theft and the new challenge the post office has with leaving Amazon Prime boxes on people’s porches. Because Amazon deliveries are promised 2-day deliveries, the letter carriers have to balance finding a place on the customer’s porch where the package is out of plain sight, or leaving a redelivery card and risking an upset customer. It seems there isn’t a great solution for this.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more exciting notes from our June meeting. In the meantime, anything going on with your mail carrier? Or in your post office?

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Pilot Frixion Stamps

pilot frixion stampsI’ve never done a post about Pilot Frixion Pens, but they are my favorites. (I’ve mentioned them in these posts.) I love that they are erasable, because I’m a perfectionist at times, and I love the way my handwriting looks when I use them. I use the pens mostly in my calendar so I can easily erase appointments when plans change. When I read about the Frixion Stamps, I immediately put them on my shopping list for Japan. (This should tell you so much about my Tokyo shopping addiction!)pilot frixion stampsI sometimes regret not buying all of them (they are sold individually, but you can see all of the options here on Amazon), but since I also have a planner sticker addiction, I chose the four that I thought would be most useful for me: the umbrella for tracking rain in the garden, the coin purse to mark pay days, the birthday gift to remind me to buy or send a present, and the birthday cake for noting birthdays. Just like the Frixion Pens, the ink is erasable, so if plans change, you can erase the stamp with the rubbery edge of the cap. The stamps themselves are about 1/2 inch square and a little over 2 inches long, so they can easily fit into a pencil pouch for on-the-go planning. The stamped images are about 1/4 inch and fit perfectly in smaller calendar squares. Hobonichi planner with pilot frixion stampsHobonichi planner with pilot frixion stampsSo far, I am using the coin purse and the cake on my monthly calendar spreads. Hobonichi planner with pilot frixion stamps Hobonichi planner with pilot frixion stampsAnd I’m using the gift and the umbrella on the daily pages. (I guess mainly because buying and sending gifts is more of a to-do list item which I put on daily pages and because this summer has been rainy so I don’t have room for a hundred umbrellas littering my monthly calendar spread.)

Like any new stamp, using the Frixion Stamps takes some getting used to. At first, I was pressing too hard and the images were getting all muddled together. They really take a gentle touch. And, though the stamps dry pretty quickly on normal paper, they dry really slowly on the smooth Tomoe River Paper in my Hobonichi Planner. (But, if the ink smears or transfers to another page, you can just erase any mess.) Now that I’m used to them, I’m really enjoying using these little guys.

(Rumor has it that Jet Pens will be carrying the Pilot Frixion Stamps soon!)

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Tourist Postcards

DSC_0180My mailbox has been buzzing lately with all sorts of good mail. Two of my pen pals sent interesting travel postcards this month. I’ve never seen this “mailable souvenir” concept before but now I think I’ll be keeping my eye out for something like it next time I travel.

DSC_0183Anne sent the Wildflowers of Colorado postcard. It’s a postcard-sized seed packet with Wild Red Columbine inside. I’m looking forward to winter sowing them for next summer! And Ali sent a postcard packet of sourdough starter from Alaska. I’ve been wanting to make sourdough bread for years, so this is the perfect excuse to try!

Have you ever seen anything like this when you’ve been shopping for postcards? I want to know what other fun things are out there!

Thanks for the good mail, Anne & Ali! 

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Plot #6: Back to the Jungle

plot 6 from the north endI failed again this year to make my garden neat and tidy. It’s a jungle again. I feel like the tomatoes are more disorderly than ever and the cucumbers…well, let’s just say not thinning them out early on has created a tangle of rebellious vines that will not take the hint to stay in the plot. tiny edamame, plot 6But, growing in the jungle are teeny, tiny edamame…tiny green bean, plot 6…and the beginnings of a strong crop of green beans. huge daikon, plot 6 The daikon are almost done, but I pulled this huge guy last week and Naoto enjoyed it on Sunday night. first tomato of 2015, plot 6And I picked our first red tomato! It was a Sweet 100 and I shared it with Naoto. It was so sweet and juicy! I hope there are hundreds more in our future!

So far, we’ve harvested almost 15 ounces in radishes, peas, tomatoes, and lettuces. It’s just the beginning!

I hope to have some balcony* garden pictures next week. Some of my vining plants are finally starting to bloom and I think it’s my best summer out there yet!

How is your garden growing?

*I’ve begun calling the balcony the lanai as a nod to the Golden Girls.

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Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis

Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, yuzu umeshuDuring our stay in Tokyo we were lucky enough to have happy hour with Jess and her family. We drank yuzu umeshu (plum wine) cocktails and Jess made sukiyaki. Sukiyaki, made at the table in a Japanese hot pot, usually consists of meat and vegetables cooked in a broth of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiHasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiJess sliced up the vegetables and presented them beautifully, in true Japanese fashion. We had two types of beef, tofu, cabbage, leeks, burdock, two kinds of mushrooms, and noodles in our sukiyaki. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiJess browned the meat a bit first (on a pile of leeks!) Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiAnd then she added the broth to finish cooking the meat. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiAnd then Jess removed the meat to make room for the pile of vegetables and noodles. Hasegawa Happy Hour at the Suzukis, sukiyakiMmmm…it was delicious. The beef was perfectly seasoned by the slightly sweet broth and the vegetables’s textures were the perfect complement. Naoto and I think a nabe pot and a table-top burner is in our future. I definitely think it would be a fun cold-weather activity with friends!

And, to add a little excitement to the evening, there was a sizable earthquake (7.8) that night off the coast of Japan! It was a little bit scary because it was so much more powerful and lasted a lot longer than the other tiny earthquake I’d experienced in Japan before. I just kept looking at Jess to see if she had any panic in her eyes. (She didn’t and she calmly turned off the burner in case things did get any scarier!) We turned on the TV to see that the subways had been briefly halted, but by the time Naoto and I left, everything was up and running like nothing had happened.

Whew!

Thanks for being such great hosts, Jess, Keiichi and Ethan!

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Spending the Yen 7: Kyukyodo

Kyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery storeLast year, Jess introduced me to Kyukyodo and I fell in love. Located in Ginza and just down the street from Itoya, Kyukyodo is filled with traditional Japanese stationery and paper gifts. The store opened in Kyoto in 1663 and moved to Tokyo in 1880 and it’s still run by the same family! Kyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery storeThe building is dark brick and very traditional looking, sandwiched between modern steel and glass towers in Ginza. Kyukyodo has only two floors dedicated to the shop: the main floor with all of the stationery and handmade washi gifts and the second floor with amazing (and expensive) calligraphy supplies and wall art.* We spent most of our time on the first floor, but I think the best part of shopping for stationery in Japan is that you can get some really fantastic stuff without spending a fortune. Kyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery, washi stickersKyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationeryI bought some really lovely letter paper. On this trip, if it had a hydrangea or a cat on it, I almost always bought it… The letter papers are gorgeous. The hydrangea paper is so thin its almost translucent and the kitty paper is lovely washi and the cat and Kyukyodo are embossed. I bought a greeting card with the same cat image to send to a friend for her birthday. Kyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery, washi stickersI also bought a few sheets of washi paper stickers. The sleepy kitty and “fist-bump” cats were obvious must-haves and the hydrangea stickers have a really pretty texture and delicate gold accents. Kyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery, washi stickersKyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery, postcardsAnd I bought plenty of these postcards to send to pen pals and to save in my paper collection. Wind chimes (top left) are a very big thing in Japan this time of year so I bought the cat postcard to remind me of the season. And I love that bottom right card with the pigeon and the Ginza Wako Clock Tower, which is right by Kyukyodo. I found this little video on YouTube where you can see the real clock tower:

Kyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery, washi stickersKyukyodo, Tokyo, Ginza, stationery, omiyage wrappingAnd, of course Kyukyodo has beautiful flat paper bags and will separate your purchases into the proper omiyage packages, one of my favorite things about shopping in Japan!

*I apologize that I didn’t take any interior photos, but it was very busy that day and I wasn’t sure of the rules. Itoya doesn’t allow photography in its store, so I wanted to make sure I extended the same respect to Kyukyodo.

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