Healing and Shivering, and a New Unicorn

06 Feb 2007

I’ve had a second and third acupuncture treatment for the continuing pain and light-sensitivity in my right eye and I’m pleased to report that the situation is continuing to improve. I still have to wear my sunglasses indoors occasionally. I have one more acupuncture treatment scheduled, since it seems to be reaching a poind of diminishing returns. While this recovery seems like it is taking forever, it hasn’t actually been that long: it hasn’t even been two months yet.

It was a strange weekend in Ann Arbor. Once again our heat failed, just in time for below-zero temperatures. Our radiators were not producing any heat at all, and the only heat in our apartment was apparently coming from the basement. That put the ambient temperature in our apartment in the 50s. Not dangerous, certainly, but not comfortable either, especially for a three-month-old baby. We spent Sunday bundled up in layers with hats and wool socks on, drinking hot tea and hot cocoa and went to bed with all the gear still on, trying to keep baby Sam warm.

We heard from our neighbors that they were in the same boat. This is the fourth time this season that we’ve had problems with our heat. Their response has been to bang on the pipes and tell us about stuck valves. The Ann Arbor Woods approach to maintenance is notably underwhelming. It took four rounds of leaking before they replaced our air conditioners last summer. And don’t get me started about the roof leak that required a year of complaints (and, eventually, a collapsed ceiling and threats of withholding rent) before any effective repairs happened. Not that we want them to start ripping up plumbing now — but how about next summer? Then there’s the driveway and parking lot in front of our apartment, crumbling and turning to potholes for lack of minor repair at the appropriate time. Never spend a dollar now when you can spend ten later!

One of Veronica’s favorite videos is the movie version of The Last Unicorn, so for a bedtime story on Sunday I read the first three chapters of the book. I’m not sure she realizes that the story with the “icorn” on the cover is the same as the story of the DVD, but I tried to copy the voice of the butterfly. Quite a few lines are unchanged, since the novel is short and the movie a relatively straightforward adaptation.

In one of those odd coincidences that seem to happen to me more and more often, the next morning I found that you can now buy a remastered copy of the movie on DVD, and if you buy this one, Peter S. Beagle will actually receive royalties. (Granada media has sold nearly a million copies of the movie without paying Peter a penny in royalties). You can buy a copy through the Conlan Press web site here.

I’ve ordered a copy signed and personalized for Veronica. It’s a great movie, animated beautifully in much the same style as the animated version of The Hobbit. It is especially notable for some really inspired voice work. The minor characters steal the show for me: Christopher Lee plays the embittered King Haggard, Brother Theodore plays a half-crazed (OK, fully crazed) Ruhk, and in my favorite scene, Rene Auberjonois plays a talking skeleton who is fooled into drinking a nonexistent bottle of wine – and enjoying it immensely! The main characters are somewhat colorless by comparison, but still pretty decent, especially Alan Arkin as the nervous Schmendrick the Magician (“the last of the red-hot swamis!”)

The previous DVD edition was a piece of pan-and-scan hack work. The video is fuzzy, with a lot of background noise and poor contrast, and the audio transfer is downright bad. If you don’t know much about audio, you might not notice exactly what is wrong, but you will definitely notice that some of the songs in particular sound bad. The dynamic range is poor, the frequency range is truncated, there’s no stereo imaging to speak of, and in some of the songs there is even very noticeable wow and flutter together with audible drop-outs, as if the sound was dubbed from a worn casette tape. This makes it sound as if Mia Farrow couldn’t stay on pitch and as if lead singer of America recorded his parts drunk. I don’t think either of these things are true, so I’m really looking forward to a release with a better audio track. Support Peter S. Beagle and order a copy today!

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