Film: (DVD) TitanicPerhaps not the best choice to watch before an ocean voyage, but what a wonderful film this is. Amazing special effects, glorious set, tear jerking romance, wonderful Leonardo di Caprio, Kate Winslet...
I'm having the BEST day! Getting ready to drive/ferry up to Nova Scotia to see The Oysterband and Fairport Convention at the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, I dropped into the shop to see if the new Harry Turtledove had arrived from Amazon.com, and it had so I'm going to be well fixed for vacation reading even if I finish the U.S. Grant Autobiography I'm reading on my PDA.
...but wait, there's more!
My Raleigh Pro is back from Brian Baylis's tender ministrations!
I've been in love with Gold/silver Raleigh Pros since the first time I ever saw one, back in the early '70s. This was the first bike I ever saw with Campagnolo brakes (which I thought were good at the time) also the first with a sloping fork crown, and the simple elegant lug design was like a breath of fresh air after the proliferation of Nervexes and their imitators.
This was also the first bike I ever saw with a 6-speed freewheel, and that lovely fastback seat cluster...oooooooh!
I've had the opportunity to ride a couple, a 23 1/2 which was a bit too small, and a 25 1/2 which was too big.
A while back I was offered a Pro frameset for cheap, 'cause it had a crack in the bottom bracket. It was a 24 1/2, with a short top tube, just my size, and I snapped it up. It was really beat, and was the mink blue, not my preferred gold color, I figured I could maybe slap a bit of braze into the crack and it would work. I asked about the best way to do this and Brian Baylis kindly replied with bad news and good news. The bad news was that the only real fix was to replace the bottom bracket...but the good news was that he would be willing to do this on a barter basis!
I won't get a chance to build this up 'til I get back from Nova Scotia, but it's just lovely. I opted for an investment-cast bb rather than the more "authentic" pressed steel one, and had bottle mounts installed on the down tube...I don't intend to represent this as a "restoration" more as an "interpretation." Brian did a gorgeous job with the paint and decals, looks just like an original one only better! I'll be building it up as a fixed gear, natch...it's a perfect candidate--no major shift braze ons (only the chainstay, where removing the stop would have messed up the chrome) and the wonderful Campagnolo 1010a dropouts, the ideal setup for a fixed gear.
Off to Nova Scotia, for the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso.
Left at 3 PM, drove to Portland to catch the overnight Scotia Prince ferry to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. It was hotter 'n' hell, 110 f on the road, a great time to be in an air-conditioned car.
Got to Portland around 6, got in line for the ferry. While we were waiting to board, we met a nice family in the next line over, the husband was Spanish Basque, the wife from New Hampshire, with two young-ish children. Elario noticed the Celtic design on George's t-shirt, and we got to talking about music. He lent us a nifty CD by a Galician group called Luar na Lubre. I hope we see these folks again.
The Scotia Prince is a very nice vessel, good food, excellent service from what appeared to be a mainly Bahamian crew. The vessel was surprisingly smooth and quiet. After dinner, there was an impromptu concert by the Long Island Youth Orchestra, which was on its way to a concert tour of Nova Scotia.
We disembarked at 7 am Eastern time, and set our watches to 8, Atlantic time. Yarmouth was very foggy, we got lost and had to backtrack a bit before we hit the correct road. We had to go the whole length of Nova Scotia to get to Canso, the easternmost point on the North American continent.
Stopped for lunch in Windsor, at the Downeast "Chinese/Canadian" restaurant. This brought us visions of General Gau's Poutine, Smoked Meat Chow Mein...The food was mainly microwaved, and was about what one might expect from a Chinese restaurant in the deep boonies.
Heat wave continues until we approach Canso, then it cools off and becomes very foggy with intermittent drizzle.
At Canso, we set up the tent, then drive off in search of a place to have some dinner--not much choice in this pop. 1200 peninsula town-not up for pizza, but we hear there's the Last Port Motel a few miles away in the next town.
After some backtracking in the fog, we find it. The place is deserted except for 6 or 7 guys at one table...i do a bit of a doubletake--it's Oysterband! They're waiting for their fish & chips, bemoaning the fact that the Last Port doesn't sell beer. We sit at the next table and talk with them a bit as we all eat various deep fried things. The band members have no vehicle available, so I volunteer to make a beer run, and bring back a couple of 8-packs of Alexander Keith's I.P.A...
The festival doesn't start until evening, so we poke around Canso a bit, do a bit of shopping, and head down to the wharf, where Bluenose II is docked. Took a few foggy photos of her, then drove to Little Dover, where there's a nature trail running down to the a beach.
From there we drove to Guyton, visited a nifty little museum in an old courthouse building, and found a supermarket.
Coming back from Guyton toward Canso, we were stopped by a random police roadblock, checking for open alcohol, unfastened seatbelts. I hadn't expected such a Big Brotheresque thing in Canada. Later learned that they also have a compulsory bicycle helmet law, with a $25 fine for violators.
Although we brought bikes, we never actually took 'em off the top of the car...I had thrown my back out packing, and couldn't face trying to get them down and up again, alas.
The evening concert was interrupted and ultimately cut short by thunderstorms. Highlights included:
- Scott cameron Smith, backed up by Ariel and David Rogers.
- Hunter Hayes, a 9-year old Cajun prodigy, leading his own band with great skill and showmanship.
- Lennie Gallant, a very fine singer/songwriter. We wound up buying a couple of his CDs, like them very much.
- Fairport Convention was scheduled to close out the evening, but they were cancelled due to the lightning.
Audio Book Grant Max Byrd 2000I'm currently in the middle of reading U.S. Grant's Autobiography on my Visor, so I was interested when I found this 15 CD audio novel at the library. We listened to it in the car on the way up to Canso.
It deals with the last few years of Grant's life, after he has finished his second term as president, beginning in 1880 with his unsuccessful attempt for a third-term nomination at the Chicago convention. The protagonist is Nicholas Trist, a freelance journalist who lost his left arm at Cold Harbor, and feels some bitterness toward Grant on this account. It's a fascinating story, also featuring a truly creepy Henry Adams.
HORROR!-this morning my PDA was hors de combat, with a couple of drops of water visible on it, evidently caused by a tent leak! I really miss it!
This was a mostly rain free day,even a bit of sunshine.
We went to a bunch of the daytime workshops, including:
- Fairport Convention. Their lineup for this tour was Simon Nichol vocals & guitar, Dave Pegg bass, Martin Conway drums and Rick Conway electric fiddle. Chris Leslie had been scheduled, but was not able to make it for medical reasons.
I'd never heard Fairport live before, they louder and more rock-like than most of their recent recordings...or maybe I just haven't been playing the CDs loud enough.
Rick Conway's fiddling was very adventurous, often using a long-period reverb to allow him to play harmony with himself.
They opened with a medley beginning with Haste to the Wedding. Each of the three Fairport workshop performances we heard started with this medley, but it was worth multiple hearings. They continued with Crazy Man Michael, Walk a while, an instrumental and an energetic Matty Groves.
- Les Barker was his usual delightful self, reading some of his inimitable comic poetry.
- "The Oyster Set" was an hour shared between Oysterband and a Canadian country group called the Prairie Oysters. The two bands had nothing in common except the word "oyster". Both are fairly large electric bands, and half an hour is not enough time for them to actually set up then perform a reasonable length set. We were all sad that Oysterband had to leave the stage after less than 20 minutes. Prairie Oyster didn't do much for me, not really a genre that I much care for.
Due to the previous group running over, Oysterband only had time for 4 numbers: Native Son, One Green Hill, the new Uncommercial Song and a Ceilidh. Uncommercial Song was inspired by Fast Food Nation, and contains the chorus "Maybe they don't know right from wrong, maybe they don't know what we're here for."
Had poutine for dinner, but it turns out that Nova Scotia poutine can't hold a candle to Québec poutine. Instead of cheese curds, they use shredded cheese, and it's just not the same. Then it was time for the evening mainstage show.
- "Generation Gap" an hour shared between Fairport and the Corb Lund Band from Edmonton, Alberta (sorry about their horrible Website!)
Fairport's set was pretty much the same as the one they did in the morning, but I'm glad we went anyway, because Corb Lund was a lot of fun, and we would otherwise have missed them. We wound up buying one of their two CDs, and later regretting that we didn't get both of them!
- Bob Franke started the evening off with some of his big depressing hits. I do not share the folk communities general fondness for his rather mawkish work.
- Haines and Leighton are a very pleasant duo, mainly doing Maritime themed songs. We bought one of their CDs too.
- Sue Medley , a fine singer/songwriter.
- Oscar Lopez, one of the many Guitar Gods at the festival. He was highly hyped, and had amazing technical skill, but his music didn't really touch me.
- J. P. Cormier was a big hit with the crowd, most of whom seemed to know him well. He's from Cape Breton.
- Fairport Convention had not been scheduled, but they were squeezed in to make up for their missed slot on Friday. Their set included Walk a While, Who Knows Where the Time Goes, and Meet on the Ledge.
There was a scary incident when Dave Pegg either tripped or fainted, and it took a while and some help for him to get back on his feet.
- Tony McManus, another guitar god. He brought down the house with "The first one has a really good chorus, you can all join in" then he played a very busy, elaborate series of fingerpicked guitar riffs. He did a couple of instrumentals while the stage was being reset.
- The Good Brothers are a long established, country-flavoured group. I enjoyed their set quite a bit. They reminded me a bit of one of my favorite country-ish groups, the Dillards--possibly 'cause they did a couple of songs I associate with that group: Same Old Man and Fox on the Run.
- The Lee Boys are from Miami, and are practitioners of the "Sacred Steel" tradition. Evidently the pedal steel player is quite the thing, but he was drowned out by the other guitars and the horrible screaming of the lead singer. This was definitely the low point of the festival for me...I've had more pleasant half hours in the dentists's chair!
- Prairie Oyster closed out the evening.
Much to my relief, my Visor came back to life, having evidently dried out without suffering any permanent damage or even memory loss.
I skipped most of the afternoon workshops, took a nap instead.
- Songwriter's Circle--pretty good, but almost all of the songs were downers.
- U.K. Folk--an hour split between Fairport and Oysterband. All too short. I had hoped that the two bands might jam together, but it didn't happen.
Fairport did their Haste to the Wedding medley, Slip Jigs and Reels, Matty Groves.
Oysterband played Another Quiet Night in England, The Deserter, an instrumental ceilidh, and Hal-an-Tow. John Jones said that whenever they play Hal-an-Tow , the sun shines. It worked today, the morning started cloudy, but after Hal-an-tow it was sunny and cloudless for the rest of the day!
After the set we hobnobbed with the band a bit. I shared my theories about Hal-an-Tow:
Chopper often plays an electrified cello, which has an extra long spike so he can play it while standing. I spoke him about my persistent curiosity as to whether anybody has ever used a cello as a murder weapon. Has no cellist ever bayonetted a colleague in a fit of pique? This led to a discussion of other instrument related deaths...I brought up the case of Lully, who smashed his toe while conducting with a heavy staff, and died of the resulting infection...Chopper also knew this story, but he heard it of Marain Marais. Chopper took a photo of me with his Lomo camera, I'm hoping he'll send me a copy if it comes out OK.
- I suspect that the title is a variant of "heel and toe" and refers to dancing.
- There's a line about "...the Spaniards...shall eat the feathered goose, and we shall eat the roast-o". It is my belief that this is a reference to the goose feathers with which English arrows were fletched.
- Singing Stan. Mainstage event, with various artists doing Stan Rogers songs. I was somewhat disappointed that this was about the only time that any Stan Rogers songs were done during the weekend. I would have expected more artists to include at least one Stan song in their sets.
- Rory McLeod is a fantastic harmonica player, as well as being a guitar god. I think he's from Scotland. He did a charming song about conception.
- The Cottars are an excellent celtic quartet from Cape Breton. I believe the oldest of the group is 14. Great job of The Briar and the Rose. At age 11, Roseanne MacKenzie is an excellent fiddler, and step dances while playing the fiddle!
- Martina Sorbara, a talented, jazz-oriented singer/songwriter from Toronto. Wonderful singer. We bought her CD too.
- Alfie Zappacosta--I remember I liked his set a lot, but can't recall any details.
- Valdy was probably the oldest performer. We were the only people in the audience who had never heard of him, he was a big hit, very warmly received. He's from B.C. and has a persona reminiscent of Pete Seeger. His first couple of songs might as well have been in Greek for someone who isn't up on B.C. politics.
- The Irish Descendants are a bit on the fence between Irish traditional and vaudeville-Irish. The are a powerful and vigorous band from Newfoundland.
- Oysterband was the final official act of the festival. Their set included Native Son, One Green Hill, Uncommercial Song, another new song called Be Good Be Lucky (?) with Rory McLeod on harmonica, an instrumental featuring Rory on trombone, Everybody's Leaving Home, When I'm Up, and We Could Leave Right Now. They encored with an a capella version of the old hymn Bright Morning Star.
I have to say that I was disappointed that there were not more Stan Rogers songs. There was that one hour "Singing Stan" block on Sunday afternoon, and that was about it. I would have expected more of the performers to squeeze in a Stan Rogers song into one of their sets.
- The festival closed with a big mob on the stage. Ariel Rodgers soloed in Amazing Grace (I'm so tired of that song!). David Rodgers traded solos with Con O'Brien in The Mary Ellen Carter, and the festival ended with Fiddler's Green.
We packed up our tent before the day's rain started, and just before the mosquito onslaught. During the festival itself, we had no mosquito problems at all, either there weren't any, or the only ones about were pacifists. Today, the militant mosquitos began to make their appearance, so it was a good time to be heading south!
The night ferry was fine coming up, but the timing on the return trip is much less favorable. We had heard that the coast of New Brunswick is quite scenic, so we decided to drive the whole way back, but to do it in two stages.
We found ourselves in southern New Brunswick in the late afternoon, among a bunch of coastal towns named after saints. We picked St. George, in honor of George. We stayed in a B & B called the Hibbard house, and ate dinner in a nice restaurant called the Quartermaster.
It felt SO good to get a shower and to sleep in an actual bed again! I'm just not cut out for camping, I'm afraid.
I haven't spent much time in English-speaking parts of Canada. One thing I learned there is that the preferred term for sanitary facilities is "washroom." Curiously, of the various public "washrooms" we used, at least three of them had no inside door locks.
Drove home from St. George, Tova's here visiting from California!
Ripped Off!A kindly reader called my attention to a Norwegian website that has stolen most of my technical articles, deleted my name, and posted them without my permission or any attribution! The 105 stolen files are located at http://home.no.net/ajskau/Bicycle/ but I hope not for long! I've written to the ISP and university involved, and I trust appropriate action will be taken agains this pirate. (These files are no longer located at this site and they have also been removed from the wayback machine archive. -- Harriet Fell 10/14/2012)
Audio Book Darwin's Radio Greg Bear 2000"Hard" science fiction, involving what at first appears to be a mysterious and unstoppable disease causing stillbirths, but which turns out to be the action of evolutionary forces. George Guidall does a wonderful job of reading this on 17 CDs...it's quite challenging because there are a great many characters, but he has a voice and accent for each. We listened to most of this on the return drive from Canso, but at 17 hours plus, we still had 3 discs to go when we got home.
Went out to Salem for a morris dance event on Derby Wharf, part of a celebration of an anniversary of Bowditch. It was beastly hot, but a fine day. Went to Salem Beer Works for lunch, then toured the Friendship, a replica east Indiaman.
Film: (DVD) Rob Sitch The Dish Rob Sitch, 2001Sam Neill stars in this Australian comedy about the trials and tribulations of the operators of the largest radiotelescope in the southern hemisphere at the time of the Apollo 11 landing. This telescope, in a sheep paddock outside of a small outback town, was the key link in getting the television images of the landing and the Small Step.
Not a great film, but amusing. I still get teary at some of period the space footage.
I'm 58 today. Tova got back from the wedding she went to in D.C. in time for the birthday cake (though she wouldn't eat it on account of veganity.) Anyway, it's nice to have the whole family back together for a few days.
Film: (VHS) Run, Lola Run Tom Tykwer 1999I'd seen this before, and the protagonist reminded me a bit of Tova (they used to have similar hair color.) Neither Tova nor George had seen it, so I rented it. It held up pretty well under a second viewing--there's a lot going on. I won't try to describe it, except to say that it plays very nicely with time and alternate time tracks, differing only slightly in delay, but greatly in outcome. Highly recommended. In German with subtitles.
Grant Prix on M8000, patch at the valve.
Film: (DVD) A Night to Remember 1958Pretty good English film about the voyage of the Titanic. Not in the same league with the more recent film, but pretty good for its time.
Film: (DVD) Ghost WorldFrom comic book, quirky story of a surly, rebellious girl fresh out of high school, who plays a mean prank on a shy older man, then becomes infatuated with him. A pretty good film, suggested by Tova.
Film: (DVD) Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain J.-P. Jeunet, 2001Oh, what a charming, hilarious film! Indescribably delicious. Don't miss it! (It's just called "Amélie" in your local video store.)
See also my nephew's review of this great film...that's what prompted me to see it!
Book: American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold Harry Turtledove, 2002The latest in the Great War/American Empire series runs from the mid 1920s into 1933. The U.S. Goes from Socialist president Upton Sinclair to his successor, while the Confederacy is coming under the spell of the Hitler-like Jake Featherston, as the Great Depression sweeps the world. The arc of events in this volume do tend toward the gloomy, but it's a great read anyway, with a rising young generation of characters beginning to take over.
Film: (DVD) Straw Dogs Sam Peckinpah 1971What a clinker! Very stupid, gratuitously violent film set in the English West Country. All of the characters are detestable, have implausible motivations and startlingly phony dialogue. Even the cinematography is bad, with over-lit interiors. Hard to believe Dustin Hoffman would be involved in such a lousy film.
eBook: Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant U.S. Grant, 1885This is a surprisingly well written memoir of Grant's life through the end of the Slavery War. He had not wanted to write of his experiences, but near the end of his life he was ruined financially by a dishonest business partner, and so he turned to his pen to support his family, even as he was dying in slow agony from throat cancer. Mark Twain, a friend of Grant's encouraged him and published the two volumes.
Grant was a great general, and his military virtue of loyalty to his comrades was his downfall as president. He describes his military campaigns in great detail, and is generous in sharing credit with his subordinates. He has much favorable to say about almost everybody he served with, and even the few officers he criticizes have their good points mentioned. He is particularly fulsome in praise of Sherman and Sheridan (who always seems to have anticipated Grant's orders and set things in motion before receiving orders to do exactly what he is doing.) He also speaks well of rebels Longstreet, Johnston and the despicable General Forrest. He speaks well of Lee as a gentleman but is conspicuously silent as to his military/strategic skills.
He's not so kind about Secretary of War Stanton.
I found much of the battle detail a bit boring and hard to follow without maps. It's interesting to read of the part played by technology in the Rebellion. In the first couple of years of the war, when Grant was fighting in the West it is amazing how much use he made of steamboats to transport troops hither and yon on even rather small, obscure rivers. He was constantly coordinating with the Navy, and had nothing but praise for the help and cooperation the Navy supplied, particularly for Admiral Porter.
In addition to steamboats and railways, this war was unique at its time in the use of the telegraph, allowing much faster communication and coordination than had been available in the past.
I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in the Slavery War.
Film: (DVD) Muppets from Outer Space Tim Hill 1999I've long been a Muppet fan, but don't see them as much as I did when the kids were kids. I figured this couldn't be any worse than Straw Dogs, and it wasn't, but it wasn't as good as previous Muppet films either.
Opera: (DVD) Lady MacBeth of MtzenskDmitri Shostakovich, 1935 (Rostropovitch, London Philharmonic film: Petr Weigl 1992)Opera is difficult to do well in film/video. Most opera videos are of staged productions, but this doesn't always work so well. Many great singers are not great actors, or do not look right for the part, especially in close-up. The other approach is to make a film with the opera as soundtrack.
This is a fairly extreme example of the filmic approach, because we never see the singers. Instead, we see actors lip-synching to the sung soundtrack. For me, this works pretty well, at least in the case of an opera in a language I don't understand. Much of the action actually takes place outdoors.
The actors are quite good, and the Katerina is lovely. Her part is sung by Galina Vishnevskaya, Nicolai Gedda sings the role of Sergei, her lover.
The story is a typically grim Russian tale of adultery and murder, set shortly before the revolution. It's not for everybody, and while I'm a big fan of Russian opera and of Shostakovich, this was mostly too much of a downer for my taste. There was quite a lot of nudity in the film (try that with opera singers!) both male and female, with an extensive steam-bath scene leading into a very graphic rape scene, as well as several encounters between the leads that left nothing to the imagination.
Film: (DVD) The Royal TenenbaumsAnother recommendation from my nephew, and a good call on his part. This is a comedy about a dysfunctional family in New York City, very highly recommended.
Film: (DVD) On the Waterfront Elia Kazan, 1954One of Marlon Brando's early triumphs, playing a longshoreman caught up in a mob-corrupted union. Great score by Leonard Bernstein, 8 academy awards, one of the classics.
DVD Sex and the CityWe don't have HBO, so we have to wait for the DVDs to see The Sopranos and Sex and the City. Tonight we watched the first 6 episodes of season 3 of S.A.T.S. What fun!
Book: Stars and Stripes in Peril Harry Harrison, 2000This is a sequel to Stars and Stripes Forever. It was probably a mistake to read it so soon after a Harry Turtledove, because the genres are so similar, but the quality is so disparate. While Turtledove features historical personages, he also has his own fictional characters. Harrison uses mainly historical characters, and displays them as cardboard cutouts, while Turtledove's characters, both real and fictitious are plausible, well rounded human beings.
In Stars and Stripes Forever a misdirected British attack caused the Confederacy to re-unite with the national government against the common enemy. In this volume, the perfidious British, led by a bizarrely bloodthirsty Queen Victoria have invaded Mexico as a staging area for an attack on the U.S.A.
President Lincoln, however refuses to be drawn into a defensive posture, and instead mounts a mission to liberate Ireland, led by Robert E. Lee, Sherman and Johnstone (Grant is busy fighting a diversionary campaign in Mexico.)
The whole thing is rather implausible, but amusing for a hard-core alternate-history fan like me. Not recommended for the general reader.
Here's a new family photo:
Nym Sing in MontagueDrove out to Montague with Harriet and George to sing 19th century songs (mostly) with Nym Cooke. It was in the cool old Grange Hall in Montague, out in the deep boonies, about a 2 hour drive. Tova had meant to come too, but had accidentally double-booked, and a bunch of her friends were throwing a party for her.
We listened to an audio book of Saki short stories on the way out, and a newly received CD of French sea chanteys that just on the way back.
Turnout was smaller than usual, only about 20, but a good time was had by all. I did a solo on the first verse of Hard Times Come Again No More , think it went well--though I lost my note for the chorus.
I would have preferred a bit less of the vaudeville stuff and more shape note stuff (New Jerusalem was a high point) and more material from the War of the Rebellion. We did sing a rousing version of the Battle Hymn of the Republic (wonder how many times that old New England Grange hall has rung to the strains of that!) but I would have preferred to add Marching Through Georgia, or Babylon is Fallen, or Rally Round the Flag even if it meant missing out on Put My Little Shoes Away or John Reilly's Always Dry.
Film: (DVD) Bob Roberts Tim Robbins, 1992A faux-documentary, this is sort of a political This is Spinal Tap, documenting the 1990 Pennsylvania senate campaign. Tim Robbins plays a folksinger/politician, whos musical persona (and album covers) are based on Bob Dylan, but whose politics are those of Rush Limbaugh. He's running against a liberal 30 year incumbent played marvelously by Gore Vidal. I don't know how this one slipped under my radar so far, it's an absolute hoot. John Cusak is great as a liberal Saturday Night Live host, and Giancarlo Esposito is wonderful as a gadfly independent journalist.
Film: (DVD) Breathless Jean-Luc Goddard 1960This was a major milestone of the French "Nouvelle Vague" film school, Goddard's first feature (also Jean-Paul Belmondo's!) The naturalistic, quasi-documentary style and jagged cutting were revolutionary in their day.
A very sprightly Jean Seberg is an American student in Paris, in love with Belmondo, a car thief on the lam.
eBook: Rewards and Fairies Rudyard Kipling, 1910This is the sequel to Puck of Pook's Hill, but not as good as that book.
Film: (DVD) Riding in Cars with BoysI expected a comedy, but instead this was a downer autobiographical film about the sad life of a Connecticut baby boomer who gets pregnant at 15 and her life is hard and miserable, with a no-account junkie husband. It was well done, and the young actor who plays her son age 8 or so is super, but it wasn't fun.
This film suffered from a common Hollywood error...evidently people in California think that folks drive around when there's snow on the ground...with their car windows wide open. The same thing used to drive me crazy about Northern Exposure.
Spent pretty much the whole day setting up the SmartEtailing site, configured //sheldonbrown.com/harris/head.html to work with the shopping cart software.
Film: (DVD) When Harry Met SallyA very pleasant romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal. Rather predictable, but that's par for the genre, and all in all it was quite well done.
Shakedown cruise on Raleigh Professional, cut short due to a loose spoke in the front wheel (and sweltering heat.)
Bicycling Magazine has hit the stands with the September issue, which has a very nice article about me, including an excellent full-page color photo. None of my hats will fit me this week!
Film: (DVD) From Here to Eternity 1953I had seen this as a kid when it was new, but this was the first time I've seen it as an adult. It really is quite a good film. Frank Sinatra was a has-been teen idol when he broke into films with his excellent portrayal of Maggio, and his career was reborn. Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift were both at the top of their game too.
There's a scene when there's a barroom brawl, and Burt Lancaster's Sargent Warden grabs a beer bottle by the neck, busts the bottom off of it, and brandishes it as a weapon. That scene made a big impression on me as a kid, and once while playing in the Marblehead Town Dump, I tried to reenact it. I didn't have any trouble busting the bottle, but then I tried stabbing a boulder with it, it shattered and I got a quite nasty cut. Don't try this at home!
Film: (DVD) O, Brother, Where Art Thou? The Coens, 2001I've seen this before but it's worth a second look (and listen!)
Film: (DVD) Monsters Ball 2001Billy Bob Thornton as a racist Georgia prison guard, son of an even worse racist prison guard, and father to a reluctant prison guard. He accidentally hooks up with Halle Berry as the widow of a prisoner Thornton helped electrocute. Each of them has lost an only son, and they reach out across a gulf of race and class for mutual comfort and solace. Quite a fine film.
Film: (DVD) Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the RingI saw this before too, but it, too is well worth a second look, and today the newly released DVD arrived from Amazon.com. This might be visually the most beautiful film ever. I particularly liked the Shire, the interior of Bilbo's Hobbit Hole and the Elvish domains of Rivendell and Lothlorien, also the trip down the river from Lothlorien, with the marvelous ruins. I could stand a little less of the hand-to-hand fighting, which gets a bit boring on second viewing.
eBook: A Fire upon the Deep Vernor Vinge, 1992This is set in the far distant future, in a galaxy full of spacefaring races among which Homo Sapiens is one of the less important ones. Two children are marooned on a planet stuck in medieval technology, which is inhabited by dog-like creatures who are mentally linked into groups of half-a-dozen or so. Each group constitutes an individual intelligence, a group mind made up of the assembled critters, who are not much smarter than dogs individually. The link is maintained not by ESP, but by ultrasonic organs in their shoulders. As a result, the units forming an individual must always stay in very close proximity to one another. Each sentient group, however, must stay distant from other groups (except for fighting and sex) lest the ultrasonics of the two groups garble and confuse one another. The "packs" communicate among themselves by means of normal speech in the normal audio spectrum.
These aliens are very well developed and well differentiated as individuals, some good, some bad, some a bit of both. Reminds me a bit of much of the work of David Brin (which is high praise!)
Film: (DVD) Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August, Lina WertmüllerRaffaella is a wealthy, idle right-wing northern Italian, and very bitchy and demanding to boot. Gennarino, a Communist from southern Italy, is the most menial crew member of the yacht Raffaella and her husband have chartered. She is constantly complaining and insulting Gennarino...the coffee isn't fresh, the spaghetti is overcooked, his shirt is not clean enough.
Then the two of them go off in a Zodiac boat, and become separated from the yacht, and cast away on a tiny desert island. Suddenly the power relationship is reversed, because Gennarino can hunt and fish and make fire, while Raffaella can't do much but complain. The resulting scenario is highly reminiscent of The Taming of the Shrew, only more violent as Gennarino slaps Raffaella around quite a bit before turning her into his sex slave.
Most of this film is very funny, but with a serious undertone about the nature of power.
Film: (DVD) The Curse of the Jade Scorpion Woody AllenA comedic homage to the Sam Spade films of Humphrey Bogart, featuring Helen Hunt and Dan Ackroyd in addition to the Usual Suspects for an Allen film. Quite funny and enjoyable.
Minor quibbles: This film is set in 1940, and features characters planning to vacation in Paris...I don't think so! Also, Allen, playing an insurance adjustor lives in a rathole apartment--but has two telephones, one in the bedroom and one in the living room. Nobody but the rich had multiple telephone extensions back then! Otherwise the period decor looked pretty good to me.
Film: (DVD) The Man who Wasn't There The CoensThis was a strange somewhat noir film set in Petaluma, California in the early '50s. Billy Bob Thornton is an emotionally distant, solitary small-town barber who blunders into a string of disasters. There's an eerie feel to this film, something very Coen-esque about it that I can't put my finger on. Filmed gorgeously in black and white, with good use of filters (green predominates, if I'm not mistaken.)
eBook:1633 Eric Flint & David WeberThis is the first sequel to 1632, and is a delightful time-travel/alternate history yarn. The premise is that a medium-sized West Virginia town of our time is mysteriously transplanted into the middle of Germany in 1632, with all the people and all of their homes and other artifacts. I loved it!
Film: (DVD) Separate Tables 1958This rather stagy film, set in a semi-genteel hotel in Bournemouth won David Niven a Best Actor Oscar, and also features Deborah Kerr, Burt Lancaster and Rita Heyworth. Wasn't much fun.
Film: (DVD) Miss CongenialityA sort of caper comedy, with a very tomboyish FBI agent posing as a Miss America contestant to thwart a terrorist plot. Good fun.
Friends Connie and Fred invited us for a sail in Ruffian, their 27' Alberg sloop. A very welcome invitation in the continuing heat wave. Wind was in short supply, unfortunately, so we mostly motored, from the Winthrop Yacht Club out to Calf Island. Anchored in 16 feet of water and swam into shore, did a little bit of exploring--there's the cellar of a once grand solitary mansion on the island. Unfortunately, biting flies were out in force, so we didn't stay long. A bunch of them followed us to the boat, and made for a rather less pleasant return trip. Nevertheless, it was nice to get to go for a sail and a swim. I was at the tiller almost the whole way, so I didn't wind up taking more than a couple of photos.
Concert: They Might Be Giants at the Museum of Fine ArtsHarriet stumbled on an announcement of this concert on the Web, and they still had a few tix left, even though it was a little 380 seat auditorium. It was a very nice concert, 5 musicians on stage for this iteration. Their PA rather overpowered the small-ish space, and I would have enjoyed it a bit more if it wasn't so loud. I noticed that all of the musicians and all of the crew were wearing ear plugs...what's wrong with this picture?
I fell in love with a sculpture in the lobby, a heroic, many times larger than life rendition of a balloon dog, rendered in polished, dyed stainless steel. I knew I couldn't touch it, but somehow it really called out to me to be touched.
Heat wave continues. Went to the Larz Anderson bike show, brought 3 of my bikes along for the concours: the Rochet, Raleigh Twenty and Raleigh Competition.
Film: (DVD) The Coca-Cola Kid Dusan Makavejev, 1985A rather strange and disjointed Australian comedy in the Aussies-make-a-fool-of-hotshot-Yank genre, like The Dish. Entertaining but difficult to follow or make sense of in parts.
Film: (DVD) The Seduction of Mimi Lina WertmüllerThis features the same male and female leads as Swept Away... by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August, and also features the sharp contrast between the Northern Italian woman and the Southern Italian man. In this case they're both Communists, but the man (Mimi) gradually gets sucked in by the Mafia and gradually loses his Communist ideals. Very funny, but again with a serious political undertone.
Film: (DVD) The Magnificent AmbersonsThis is not the Welles version, but an A&E made-for-TV version, based on Welles's orignal screenplay. My understanding is that the Hollywood money manipulators caused Welles's version to be so badly cut down as to make it incompressible. I haven't seen the original, but this version was quite good. The central character is a spoiled-rotten rich kid with Oedipal problems, one of the most detestable protagonists I've ever encountered in a film. Wonderful sets and costumes, generally good acting, rather sad story set in Indianapolis before WW I.
Film: (DVD) Benny and JoonIn the genre of David and Lisa. I didn't find it as heartwarming as I was meant to.
Film: (DVD) Duck Soup 1933While I've seen clips from this Marx Brothers opus, I don't think I'd ever seen the whole thing before. What is there to say, it's the Marx Brothers!
Film: (DVD) Space CowboysA fun space film, Clint Eastwood and an all-star cast of older actors as a retired astronaut called back into service to save an obsolete satellite from crashing to earth. Pleasant fluff, good special effects.
Harriet, George and I cycled in to the North End, to see the Imax film at the New England Aquarium. Beautiful day, nice ride thought he Charles River paths are showing their age, and are also a bit crowded on a beautiful summer Sunday afternoon. We followed the paths as far as the dam, then took Causeway Street to Atlantic Avenue. I rode my Bianchi B.a.S.S. --damn, I like that bike a lot! George rode the Repco, and Harriet her Bottchia fixer. 25 miles round trip.
Good thing we didn't come by car, the annual Festival of St. Anthony was going on in the North End. We rode along with a parade for a while, 'til we got to the Aquarium where we saw...
Film: (IMAX 3D)Space Station 2002This 45 minute IMAX 3D film shows the construction of Alpha station, with segments on the first two crews. It is the first IMAX film to be issued in 3D, and is quite breathtaking. We liked it a lot!
Film: (DVD) America's Sweethearts 2001Billy Crystal, John Cusack, Julia Roberts in a comedy about a film couple who exude love on the screen, but are pfffft in real life. Entertaining, not great.
Film: (DVD) The Best Years of our LivesWilliam Wyler, 1946I've known about this famous film for a long time, but had never seen if before. It won 7 Oscars, including Best Picture, all well deserved. Wow! It is the story of 3 veterans returning from WW2 and what waits for them at home. I can't recall any other film that made me cry so many times. A great film, a great story.
eBook: For King and Country Robert Asprin and Linda Evans, 2002A real page-turner...or should I say a thumb workout on the Handspring? A SAS officer, a crazed Orange terrorist and a reluctant IRA operative are sent back in time to the early 6th century. I've always been a sucker for time-travel stories, couldn't put this one down.
Film: (DVD) The Sopranos, Season 3This series is sooooo goood!!!
Film: (DVD) Buffet FroidA quirky, surrealistic French film, Gerard Depardieu as a disconnected murderer, the alienation of modern society, etc...
|November-December, 1998||April-May, 1975|
|Books reviewed on this page:|
|For King and Country||Robert Aspin & Linda Evans||8/27/02|
|Darwin's Radio||Greg Bear||7/12/02|
|Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant||U. S. Grant||7/20/02|
|1633||Eric Flint & David Weber||8/14/02|
|Stars and Stripes in Peril||Harry Harrison||7/27/02|
|Rewards and Fairies||Rudyard Kipling||7/31/02|
|American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold||Harry Turtledove||7/20/02|
|A Fire upon the Deep||Vernor Vinge||8/9/02|
|Films reviewed on this page:|
|Amélie||July 19, 2002|
|America's Sweethearts||August 25, 2002|
|Benny and Joon||August 22, 2002|
|The Best Years of our Lives||August 26, 2002|
|Bob Roberts||July 28, 2002|
|Breathless||July 29, 2002|
|Buffet Froid||August 21, 2002|
|The Coca-Cola Kid||August 18, 2002|
|The Curse of the Jade Scorpion||August 11, 2002|
|The Dish||July 13, 2002|
|Duck Soup||August 23, 2002|
|Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain||July 19, 2002|
|From Here to Eternity||August 5, 2002|
|Ghost World||July 18, 2002|
|Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring||August 9, 2002|
|The Magnificent Ambersons||August 21, 2002|
|The Man Who Wasn't There||August 12, 2002|
|Miss Congeniality||August 15, 2002|
|Monsters Ball||August 8, 2002|
|Muppets from Outer Space||July 21, 2002|
|A Night to Remember||July 17, 2002|
|O, Brother, Where Art Thou?||August 6, 2002|
|On the Waterfront||July 23, 2002|
|Riding in Cars with Boys||August 2, 2002|
|The Royal Tenenbaums||July 22, 2002|
|Run, Lola Run||July 14, 2002|
|The Seduction of Mimi||August 20, 2002|
|Separate Tables||August 14, 2002|
|Space Cowboys||August 24, 2002|
|Space Station||August 25, 2002|
|Straw Dogs||July 20, 2002|
|Swept Away...by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August||August 10, 2002|
|Titanic||July 1, 2002|
|When Harry Met Sally||August 4, 2002|
|Music reviewed on this page:|
|July 21, 2002||London Philharmonic, Rostropovich||Shostakovich, Lady MacBeth of Mtsensk|
|July 3, 2002||Stan Rogers Folk Festival||Oysterband, Fairport Convention, others.|
|November 29, 2002||Lorraine Bracco||The Graduate|
|November 23, 2001||Helen Mirren, Ian McKelln||The Dance of Death-August Strindberg|
|September 30, 2000||Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell University||The Maids-Jean Genet|
|May 30, 2000||Kelsey Grammer/Colonial Theatre||Macbeth|
|May 26, 2000||The Huntington Theatre Co.||King Hedley II|
|September 3, 1999||The Publick Theatre||Nine|
|August 21, 1999||Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.||Sonata|
|August 13, 1999||Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.||Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You|
|May 22-29||Newton South/North High Schools||Richard III|
|December 18, 1998||Newton North High School||The Bone Violin, May F lies|
|November 12, 1998||Newton North High School||To Kill a Mockingbird|
|November 21-24, 2007||Plantation, Florida|
|September 25-28, 2007||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|August 18-25, 2007||Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts|
|November 22-26, 2006||Plantation, Florida|
|September 25-28, 2006||Las Vegas (Interbike)|
|June 10-20, 2006||Santa Cruz, California|
|May 5-7, 2006||Aurora, Indiana|
|November 23, 2005||Plantation, Florida|
|September 26-29, 2005||Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada|
|August 26-28, 2005||'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.|
|July 21-24, 2005||Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.|
|April 29, 2005||Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.|
|February 16, 2005||Indianapolis|
|November 24, 2004||Plantation, Florida|
|October 8, 2004||Santa Cruz, California|
|October 4, 2004||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|June 8, 2004||France, England|
|December 22, 2003||Halifax, Nova Scotia|
|November 27, 2003||Florida|
|October 31, 2003||Potomac, Maryland|
|October 10, 2003||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|September 21, 2003||New York, N.Y.|
|November 27-30, 2002||New York, N.Y.|
|October 8-13, 2002||Evanston, Illinois|
|October 4-8, 2002||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|July 3-9, 2002||Canso, Nova Scotia|
|May 24-27, 2002||Long Island, New York|
|November 21-24, 2001||New York City|
|October 16-19, 2001||Cape Cod, Massachusetts|
|September 29-October 3, 2001||Las Vegas, Nevada (Interbike Show)|
|June 16-23, 2001||Nags Head, North Carolina|
|October 5-14, 2000||Evanston, Illinois|
|September 30-October 2, 2000||Ithaca, New York|
|June 22-25, 2000||Urbanna, Virginia|
|October 7-13, 1999||Chicago/Evanston, Illinois|
|August 19-28, 1999||Ithaca, New York|
|August 12-13, 1999||Ithaca, New York|
|July 23-25, 1999||Bridgeton, Maine|
|November 25-28, 1998||Fort Lauderdale, Florida|