Bonus Long Weekend

I’m taking a long weekend this weekend, which is nice. A little extra time to relax, and a lot of extra time to get stuff done around the house. Not to mention reading Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin for tonight’s book discussion group. (Review forthcoming, natch. 🙂 )

A couple of strange thing happened on Friday. First, I had a lot of trouble getting through to Debbi at work. At first I suspected my cell phone, but after calling around a little I realized it must have been her work phone. Sure enough, later she told me that their phones had been down for much of the day – along with their Internet service. How frustrating!

More directly annoying to me was getting a call from my bank (on the home answering machine) that they have reason to believe my ATM card has been compromised, and they’re sending me a new one. What made this strange was that the time on the message on the machine was the exact same time – to the minute – that I’d been taking money out of an ATM, 5 minutes before I got home. I called my bank and it seems that that was sheer coincidence; apparently they had several hundred cards flagged this way, so I’m just part of a mass event. No word on exactly what happened; I don’t use my card for anything except ATMs (I’ve never used any card I’ve ever owned as a debit card), and I haven’t lost the card. So it’s possible that my card actually hasn’t been compromised, but they’re using some algorithm to identify cards which “might have been”, somehow, and mine happens to be a hit for whatever algorithm they’re using.

Anyway, assuming the new card arrives on time and nothing bad happens in the meantime, then it won’t be anything worse than a little extra stress. Still, kind of annoying.

Otherwise we’ve been taking care of things around the house and running errands, as well as going for a bike ride. The weather has been sunny and close to 70 degrees out, which after all is why we live here, right?

Oh yeah, and last night we went out with Subrata and Susan to catch a Hitchcock double feature at the Stanford Theatre. The first show was To Catch a Thief, which I first (and last) saw in 2002. I’d forgotten how whimsical it was, how snappy its script was, and I enjoyed seeing it again more than I’d expected. Of course, I always enjoy seeing Cary Grant – and Grace Kelly ain’t bad, neither.

The second film was Dial “M” For Murder, which I’d never seen before. It’s a sort of locked room mystery, except that the viewer knows exactly what happens, indeed gets to see the plan, execution, and aftermath of the whole thing. Former tennis star Ray Wendice (Ray Milland) married rich girl Margot (Grace Kelly). He later learns that she still carries a flame for her American friend Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), and resolves to do her in to inherit her money. To this end he blackmails a ne’er-do-well college chum, Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson) to kill her. Things go badly awry, but he then manages to set up a last-second frame to throw suspicion away from himself, while Chief Inspector Hubbard (John Williams) looks into things.

The film almost entirely takes place in the Wendice’s flat, making it a small-cast suspense flick. Wendice is cool and calculating and seems to have set up the perfect murder, but Hitchcock manages to squeeze every ounce of suspense out of the film, by having trivial things go wrong with the event followed by one really big thing, followed by the characters circling each other – with little idea of who knows what – as they pursue their own agendas. The whole puzzle hinges on a single fact, and I’d expected it would be something cheesy, yet it turned out to be an elegant and entirely sensical fact.

The film’s downside is the wan acting; no one here manages to rise above the level of a cliche character, although Dawson as the hired gun does his darndest to give him a little depth and uncertainty. Kelly, in particular, sleepwalks her way through the role and seems almost unrecognizable compared to her role in Thief.

Still, despite its limitations the film is overall a win and I’m glad I saw it.

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