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Harriet Fell

May 1, 2002

Another May Day on the banks of the Charles. I had trouble getting to sleep the night before, and just faded after the initial bit on the riverbank. When the crowd moved into Harvard, I went back to the car and sacked out.

May 3, 2002

Opera: (DVD) Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg Richard Wagner, Australian National Opera

This has long been my favorite opera, but I've never seen it before--I only know the music from audio recordings. I'd read various synopses, and understood the gist of the plot...but...what an eye opener this was! I'm astonished at what a fine piece of work it is, and what serious issues of art and culture it addresses in a serious and multileveled fashion.

The central burden is the dichotomy between the need for rules and standards in art, and the artist's need for freedom to go beyond the rules when the creative urge calls.

This is, of course very relevant to the struggles of Wagner and other romantics against the stultifying strictures of the classical forms.

Another strong theme is the rise of the urban bourgeoisie, in the form of the guild system, and the concomitant decline of the feudal nobility.

The characters are very engaging, and the story is quite engrossing. I may have to buy this DVD, it is so good!

The production is excellent, very actively staged, even the chorus can act (and does!) It is also refreshing to see a real set, rather than the rock and a rag that pass for a set in so many "modern" Wagner productions.

May 4, 2002

Film: (DVD) The Albino Alligator

A bungled burglary turns into a hostage crisis in a bar in New Orleans. A good job on a well-worn topic. Faye Dunaway is excellent as a barmaid. The Bogart and E.G. Robinson posters in the bar are a nice homage to previous examples of this genre.

May 5, 2002

Film: (DVD) Saturday Night and Sunday Morning 1960

Albert Finney as a working-class cad in this film based on a play of "angry young man" playwright Alan Stilltoe. Pretty gloomy, gritty stuff from pre-Beatles England.

For me the principal value of this film is its setting, in Nottingham. Finney's character works a the Raleigh factory, operating a lathe that turns the bearing surfaces on cottered crank bottom bracket spindles. He does a thousand per day for 14 quid...

May 6, 2002

eBook: Letters on England Voltaire

I feel a bit lazy reading this in English translation, but I found it on the the Project Gutenberg site and it caught my eye.

Voltaire lived several years in Blighty, and this book is, as the title suggests, a series of letters on various aspects of England and the English, especially as contrasted with France and the French under the Ancien Régime.

He starts with several chapters about the Quakers, who he regards as in some ways admirable and in others absurd. There are also several chapters on Newton, and on a number of English poets whom Voltaire admired. He considers Shakespeare a clumsy playwright, and his plots "barbarous" but is in awe of certain passages, including "To be or not to be..." which he translates into French.

He feels that there is much the English could learn from the French and vice versa.

May 7, 2002

Tonight's Revels rehearsal was joined by Tony Barrand and John Roberts. It was an enormous treat to hear them doing their numbers in an informal setting. One of their pieces was some new text by Paddy to a traditional tune. Paddy handed them the words, they sang it cold, but it was perfect!

Sitting in a big circle with the other 30 odd chorus members, with Tony on my left among the tenors and John on my right at the other end of the bass section, I had a wonderful seat for listening to their voices blended but separate. Glorious!

May 8, 2002

I had a strange dream: For some unclear reason, I had acquired a Thompson submachine gun, but I was having trouble figuring out how to get it to work. Although this is a very old design, this particular one had been upgraded with some sort of computerized interface. I managed to get it to operate after a fashion by installing the batteries correctly (some had been reversed, but there was the usual diagram in the battery compartment.) When I plugged the USB cable in, a dedicated screen showed up, but I couldn't figure out how to configure it. Seemed that I would need to buy a copy of Tommyguns for Dummies ...

Somehow I did manage to get it to fire, had trouble stopping it, and put a large number of holes in a cardboard box. It was much quieter, and had less recoil than I would have expected...

Someone who found my info on French bikes on the Web drove up from Connecticut to sell me his father's old touring bike an absolutely lovely '50s Rochet. This is a 3 x 4 12 speed with a Hurét "Suicide Shifter" hammered aluminum fenders, racks Mafac Guidonnet brakes, early FB/Campagnolo hubs, 531 frame, etc...

May 11, 2002

Film: (DVD) Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Enjoyable WW2 film set on a Greek island, occupied first by the Italians, then by the Germans. The Italians are portrayed as happy-go-lucky music lovers, led by Nicholas Gage as Captain Corelli. While they're in charge, the Greeks hate it, but they don't know when they're well off. After Mussolini is defeated and Italy is out of the war, the German troops wind up disarming and massacring the Italians and many Greek partizans.

May 12, 2002

Lilac Sunday at the Arnold Arboretum. Georges Morris team was up in the morning, fortunately, 'cause it came on to rain in the afternoon.

I put up photos of the Rochet

May 14, 2002

Film: (DVD) Highlander

What a clinker! Lots of sword fighting, cutting back and forth between 16th century Scotland and 1985 New York. Dumb plot about warriors who can only be killed by decapitation. The only one who can act is Sean Connery who plays...a Spaniard!

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May 16, 2002

George is back from Brandeis for the season, now he's a rising sophomore!

Film: (DVD) A League of Their Own

Women's pro baseball in 1943, a lovely film. Tom Hanks and **** were great in this period piece.

May 18, 2002

eBook: Man-Kzin Wars IXLarry Niven, 2001

Larry Niven's "Known Space" universe is peopled by many intriguing aliens. One of the most well developed is the Kzin, a race of feline carnivores--think of a cross between a tiger and a Klingon. As part of the Known Space franchise, Man-Kzin Wars is a series of nine volumes so far, each containing 3 or 4 novellas by various authors, using Niven's universe. I find them very entertaining, highly recommendable to science fiction fans who have already read the earlier Known Space novels. If you haven't read Protector, Ringworld, etc, this is not the place to start.

May 22, 2002

Film: (DVD) The Hidden Fortress Akiro Kurosawa, 1958

This Toshiro Mifune samurai flick is credited by George Lucas as an inspiration for Star Wars, and the resemblance is noticeable. Lucas speaks on the DVD, and mentions that Kurosawa was, in turn influenced by John Ford. I noticed strong echoes of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre in it.

May 24, 2002

Down to Syosset, Long Island for the Memorial Day weekend--a cousin of Harriet's is having her bat Mitzva. We drove to Bridgeport and took the ferry P.T. Barnum to Port Jefferson. There was a horrific traffic jam along I95 going north, but fortunately we were southbound.

Went out to dinner with Harriet, her mother and sister Anne in a surprisingly fancy Italian restaurant. One of the items on the bill of fare was wild boar, so I ate my first sanglier!

May 25, 2002

Went to the bat mitzva in the morning. I've only been to one bar mitzva before, that in a highly Orthodox temple. This was a Reform venue and event, and was much more pleasant. They had a woman cantor, who sang beautifully. I couldn't mostly sing along 'cause I don't know the tunes.

May 26, 2002

I mostly sat around the hotel room, reading science fiction and listening to Russian opera...doesn't get much better for me than that!

eBook: The Excalibur Alternative

The galaxy is inhabited by 200 odd intelligent life forms, but a clique of about 20 of the keep the other, less technically advanced races in virtual slavery. They have a "prime directive" that prohibits the use of high-tech weaponry on designated primitive planets. As an end-run around this directive, a ship of one of the competing guilds visits Earth in the mid 1300s, and "saves" an English army in 9 foundering ships. They use the English long-bowmen as enslaved mercenaries to subdue the populations of various more primitive planets, but the English turn out to be more than they can handle in the end...

In the evening we went to the Bat Mitzva reception, which was quite a spread in the temple's function room. 100 kids and 120 adults. The food was fabulous, but the hip-hop emcee was rather offensive. I think he was laying on the sexuality to a level inappropriate for 13 year olds. The loud canned music made conversation impossible for much of the evening, but I guess that's just the way these things are done.

May 31, 2002

George got his final grades for his freshman year at Brandeis, all A's, 3.86 average! We're proud as can be!

Film: (DVD) Stargate

Pretty silly sci-fi film of the Ancient Astronauts genre. Fortunately it was free from the library.

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June 1, 2002

Film: The Importance of Being Earnest

I've long believed that this is probably the funniest play ever written, so I took the Harriet and George out to see it at the West Newton Cinema. This Ealing Studios production was quite good, all in all, very high production values and well acted. Judith Dench was perfect as Lady Bracknell. The music seemed a bit anachronistic to me, but after Moulin Rouge , I guess one can't complain about that!

Unfortunately a number of unfortunate cuts were made, and physical comedy substituted here and there for the literary variety...still, this is a hard play to wreck.

June 7, 2002

I'm moving to a new provider, The hostin company I had been using, Icom, got gobbled up by a larger company, Interland,which in turn was gobbled up by a larger one, Interliant. Interliant seems to have very little interest in supporting the old Icom customers, and I responded to an email solicitation from WebmastersChoice. They seem hungry and helpful, offer basically the same virtual server package I had before, for a nickel more ($90/month) and with 600 mb instead of only 200. I've been a bit cramped with the 200 mb space, so this should help.

Film: Star Wars II: The Attack of the Clones

We went out to the new Framingham Cinema to see this in digital THX on the big screen, it was good fun. I particularly liked the vehicles of various sorts and the virtual scenery. The story wasn't much, and the acting was quite poor, but that's not what Star Wars movies are about.

I wonder why it is that science fiction movies can never show an ordinary rectangular door with hinges...? And why the gorgeous antigrav speeders make a noise like a prop/piston airplane...? And why a vehicle with anti-gravity holding it off the ground needs a draft animal to pull it...?

June 8, 2002

Book: Morgan's Run Colleen McCullough

Further support for my book cover theory. (They say you can't tell a book by its cover, but my experience is that if a book has a picture of a space ship or a sailing ship on it, the odds are good that I will enjoy it. This one has two sailing ships and a longboat!) This 800 pager tells the story of the First Fleet of convicts sent from England to Australia in the late 18th century. Very highly recommended.

Film: (DVD) Holy Smoke

A rather peculiar dark quasi-comedy with Harvey Keitel as a deprogrammer trying to de-convert Kate Winslet from her devotion to an Indian cult leader.

June 9, 2002

Film: (DVD) Big

Tom Hanks in a hilarious tour-de-force as a 13 year old suddenly transmogrified into an adult body. Highly recommended.

June 10, 2002

Film: (DVD) A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy Woody Allen

This film is a favorite of mine, one of Allen's best. Features excellent royalty-free music by Mendelssohn. Highly recommended.

June 12, 2002

Along with the rest of the Spring Revels Chorus, I went to Fenway Park, where we go to step on the Sacred Sod and sing the Star Spangled Banner, in a nifty 5-part arrangement by George Emlen. Actually, since the infamous Roseanne incident, nobody does it 'live' so we were to lip-synch to the recording we made last night...but I sang anyway, albeit quietly.

I had set a VCR to record it, but it appears that Al Qaeda has infiltrated the New England Sports Network (NESN) 'cause they decided a commercial was more worthwhile than the National Anthem, and they snipped us out, as well as snipping the New York Fire Chief who threw out the first pitch (and an excellent pitch it was!)

It has been a few years since I was last at Fenway, and I had never been behind home plate before. We (I brought George and g'nephew Nicholas) were in the upper grandstand, high and dry despite the intermittent drizzle. We were very glad to have Nick along. He'll be 8 on the Forth of July, and he knows EVERYTHING about the Red Sox, so his expertise was very welcome.

The game, an interleague match with the Colorado Rockies, was wild and wooly. The Home Town Team had a 4-0 deficit in the second inning, but came back to win 7-5. There were 3 broken bats and 8 errors, 3 for the Sox and 5 for the Rookies, sorry Rockies. Actually, the errors (mostly overthrows) were probably mainly due to the ball getting wet on the grass, and thus slipping out of the throwers' hands too soon.

A highlight you don't see on TV is the choreography of the Grounds Crew, which is, indeed worth seeing as 8 of 'em trot their rakes around the base paths in perfect echelon.

June 13, 2002

Film: (DVD) Meet John Doe Frank Capra 1941

I don't know how I've missed seeing this before. It's justly famous, and I'd certainly seen clips of it here and there, but it was great fun to see the whole thing, with Christ-like Jimmy Stewart going from tramp to dupe to savior. This was one of the films that the McCarthyite blacklisters considered particularly incorrect politically. Highly recommended.

eBook Puck of Pook's Hill Rudyard Kipling 1906

This is actually a children's book, but it is quite entertaining, and has some fascinating bits of English history/folklore in it. I particularly enjoyed the section about the Roman soldier and Hadrian's wall. The book is marred by the last section, dealing with a stereotypical Jewish money lender who claims credit for forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta.

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June 21, 2002

Opening night of the Spring Revels. My main moment of glory is in "Twankydillo" where I have some humorous acting to do as the tippling blacksmith. This has been well received, folks say I'm quite funny.

June 22, 2002

Two performances of the Spring Revels. I discovered that John Roberts shares my fondness for French sea chanteys, and we sang a couple together in the men's dressing room between shows. Tony taught me and one of the Morris dancers a cute little trio number, but I'm afraid I've already forgotten it...

The show has been well reviewed and very well received, and I'm quite proud to be a part of it.

June 23, 2002

Well, it's been a hectic week, with tech week for the Spring Revels then 4 performances, including a doubleheader yesterday. I'm pretty tuckered out, but it was a great experience.

I'm just back from the cast party, where I sat across from John Roberts, David Coffin and Tony Barrand, and we all did more singing than eating. Tony and John shared a couple of Music Hall songs about food, "A Little Bit of Cucumber" and a disgusting ditty about pickled eels. I offered "With 'Er 'Ead Tucked Underneath 'Er Arm", which both John and Tony knew, though they haven't recorded it. There were others as well, a splendid time indeed, one that I'll long remember.

June 26, 2002

Film: (DVD) Pearl Harbor

This was not a great work of art, but is a great work of craft. The cinematography is spectacular. The first half or more of the film, leading up to the attack is just gorgeous, beautiful light and composition...then comes the battle scene, which is mind-bogglingly visual and offers very convincing images of things that nobody could have actually seen in the flesh and lived to tell the tale. Must be seen in full letterbox format.

June 27, 2002

Hooray! At long, long last a federal court has ruled that the interpolation of the words "under god" into the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional! This has always been highly offensive to me, and it is mind-boggling to me that this crude violation of the 4th amendment has been allowed to stand for 48 years!

I've never actually made an issue of this, I just shut my mouth while the two offensive words are recited, and affirm the Pledge in its true, original form.

It is great to see the end of this McCarthy-era relic!

Film: (DVD) Love in the Afternoon Billy Wilder, 1957

Audrey Hepburn is adorable, Gary Cooper is miscast in this silly film...really needed Cary Grant, not Gary Cooper.

June 28, 2002

Getting excited about our upcoming trip to Nova Scotia for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival! We'll be taking the night ferry from Portland to Yarmouth on July 3-4.

Film: (DVD) The Visitors

A French time-travel comedy, with a knight and his squire ensorcelled into the 1990s, where they meet their descendants amid much low comedy. Not for everyone, but we enjoyed it.

June 30, 2002

Film: (DVD) American Pie

An amusing teenage sex comedy, recommended for those who aren't turned of by a bit too much bathroom humor.

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November-December, 1998 April-May, 1975


The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
Morgan's RunColleen McCullough6/8/02
Puck of Pook's HillRudyard Kipling6/13/02
Man-Kzin Wars IXLarry Niven et al.5/18/02
Letters on EnglandVoltaire5/6/02


The overall film list has been moved to a separate page.


The overall music list has been moved to a separate page.

Music reviewed on this page:
May 3, 2002 The Australian OperaWagner, Die Meistersinger


November 29, 2002Lorraine BraccoThe Graduate
November 23, 2001Helen Mirren, Ian McKellnThe Dance of Death-August Strindberg
September 30, 2000Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell UniversityThe Maids-Jean Genet
May 30, 2000Kelsey Grammer/Colonial TheatreMacbeth
May 26, 2000The Huntington Theatre Co.King Hedley II
September 3, 1999The Publick TheatreNine
August 21, 1999Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sonata
August 13, 1999Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You
May 22-29Newton South/North High SchoolsRichard III
December 18, 1998Newton North High SchoolThe Bone Violin, May Flies
November 12, 1998Newton North High SchoolTo Kill a Mockingbird


November 21-24, 2007Plantation, Florida
September 25-28, 2007Las Vegas, Nevada
August 18-25, 2007Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
November 22-26, 2006Plantation, Florida
September 25-28, 2006Las Vegas (Interbike)
June 10-20, 2006Santa Cruz, California
May 5-7, 2006Aurora, Indiana
November 23, 2005Plantation, Florida
September 26-29, 2005Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada
August 26-28, 2005'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.
July 21-24, 2005Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
April 29, 2005Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.
February 16, 2005Indianapolis
November 24, 2004Plantation, Florida
October 8, 2004Santa Cruz, California
October 4, 2004Las Vegas, Nevada
June 8, 2004France, England
December 22, 2003Halifax, Nova Scotia
November 27, 2003Florida
October 31, 2003Potomac, Maryland
October 10, 2003Las Vegas, Nevada
September 21, 2003New York, N.Y.
November 27-30, 2002New York, N.Y.
October 8-13, 2002Evanston, Illinois
October 4-8, 2002Las Vegas, Nevada
July 3-9, 2002Canso, Nova Scotia
May 24-27, 2002Long Island, New York
November 21-24, 2001New York City
October 16-19, 2001Cape Cod, Massachusetts
September 29-October 3, 2001Las Vegas, Nevada (Interbike Show)
June 16-23, 2001Nags Head, North Carolina
October 5-14, 2000Evanston, Illinois
September 30-October 2, 2000Ithaca, New York
June 22-25, 2000Urbanna, Virginia
October 7-13, 1999Chicago/Evanston, Illinois
August 19-28, 1999Ithaca, New York
August 12-13, 1999Ithaca, New York
July 23-25, 1999Bridgeton, Maine
November 25-28, 1998Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1988-89France, England
1980Yucatan, Mexico
1975England, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Turkey

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Last Updated: by Harriet Fell