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Sheldon Brown's Journal

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March 4, 2006

Film: (DVD) Mars Attacks! Tim Burton, 1996

Hilarious science fiction spoof. I loved Sara Jessica Parker after the Martian invaders swapped heads between her and her chihuahua!

March 5, 2006

TV (HBO) Deadwood

Two episodes tonight, re-runs of the final episodes of last season. This show is so good!

The writing is top notch, with a real feel for the 19th century characters of various social levels. I can hardly wait for HBO to bring out more episodes.

March 6, 2006

Film: (HBO) Catwoman Pitof, 2004

Not really my kind of movie, but it was on and I wound up watching it. Sort of like Spiderman without the web slinging. Halle Berry was quite good despite the silly plot.

TV Veronica Mars

We have both been very much enjoying this series. Highly recommended for fans of snappy dialogue.

March 7, 2006

Film: (DVD) Bound Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski, 1996

A quite violent "film noir" action thriller, quite well made and suspenseful. I liked it, but it was too violent for Harriet's taste.

March 10, 2006

eBook: Their Silver Wedding Journey Wiliam Dean Howells, 1898

This is the final book of the March Family Trilogy, begun with Their Wedding Journey and A Hazard of New Fortunes (I read that too, a while ago, but I seem to have forgotten to record it in my Journal.)

This semi-autobiographical novel/travelogue relates the Marches' visit to Germany in the summer of 1898, partly to take the waters at Carlsbad, and partly to celebrate 25 years of marriage. As Howells's best friend Mark Twain wrote:

Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths.
No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they
have been married a quarter of a century.

The first part of the book deals mainly with the crossing on the German steamship Norumbia. This book, as The Lady of the Aroostook, reminds me of what has been lost in this era of air travel...Back in the days of trains and ships, when you traveled, you were forced to interact with your fellow travelers over a period of days or weeks, and the resulting acquaintanceships/friendships could become a valuable byproduct of the journey. These connections were actually more easily formed in transit than once one got to a destination and settled into a hotel.

All of the other important characters in this book are people the Marches met on this voyage.

The bulk of the book consists of poignant descriptions of a vanished Germany, by turns Gothic and Rococo, as they visit, in turn, Carlsbad, Nuremberg, Ansbach,Wurzburg, Weimar, Berlin, Potsdam, Frankfort (sic) and Mayence. T Howells is a committed Germanophile, but is not blind to the dark shadows of rising militarism of Germany, still swaggering a bit after their crushing defeat of France in 1871, and clearly looking for new worlds to conquer.

He notes that women seem to do all the physical work on the farms and in the cities because so many men are in uniform. He describes, scandalized, the common site of a woman and a dog yoked together to pull a cart.

He finds the Germans generally humorless but kind and polite to travelers.

One of the characters is an American boy named, of all things, "Rose." I found this confusing until it became clear to me that he was, in fact, a boy despite the name.

Reading Howells always adds to the vocabulary. Among other tidbits I learned the terms:

These evidently refer to one-horse or two-horse carriages.
A sliding panel, as a piece of stage scenery; also a side scene next to a stage.
One of the levels of seating in an amphitheater.
True and accurate.
I was glad that I was using Palm eReader to read this, since I have an unabridged dictionary linked to that software, making it easy to look up unfamiliar words.

March 15, 2006

Film: (DVD) Paris When It Sizzles Richard Quine, 1964

Aubrey Hepburn and William Holden in early '60s Paris...what's not to like?

Not a great work of art, with many flaws, but also with some wonderful moments, a few great lines and some nice cameos. I liked it a lot.

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March 17, 2006

eBook: The March E. L. Doctorow, 2005

This was a good one, a historical novel set in 1864, dealing with the liberation of Georgia and South Carolina by Sherman. I liked it very much.

A couple of very minor errata: Doctorow has Sherman humming Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries but that wasn't published until 1870. He also makes the common error of writing "yardarm" when "yard" would be correct.

One cool new word fact I learned from this is the word "shebang." Of course I'm familiar with the usage "the whole shebang" but without ever knowing what, exactly a "shebang" was. Turns out it's a crude temporary hut-like building, and it is etymologically connected to "shebeen." Who knew?

March 18, 2006

Memorial Service for Jack Langstaff

I cycled in to Cambridge for this event, in Memorial Church, Harvard Yard. It was a very nice service, lots of music, not too heavy handed on the religion. The church was packed, Jack touched a lot of people's lives in his 85 years. He is missed.

I rode the Quickbeam in, first time I've been on a fixed gear this year, due to the medical problems I've been having with my legs. It was a bit of a challenge, 14 miles in 30 degree weather. I'm afraid I ran a lot of stop signs because I find it so hard to get started. If the leg problem persists, I'm very much afraid my fixed gear riding days are over.

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Ligeti, Schumann, Strauss; David Robertson, conductor; Yo Yo Ma, Cello

This concert was a bit of a disappointment. Originally it was to have included the premiere of a new 'Cello Concerto by Osvaldo Golijov, but he hasn't completed it yet, so the Schumann 'Cello concerto was substituted. It was well played, but it's not one of my favorites. The same could be said of Strauss's Ein Heldenleben that concluded the program.

The saving grace was the curtain raiser, Ligeti's Concert Românesc ("Romanian Concerto.") This was only 12 minutes long, but was the high point of the concert for me at least.

The conductor was a substitute for James Levine, who is out for the season due to a torn rotator cuff suffered in an on-stage fall a couple of weeks ago. Robertson did a fine job. He's young and quite acrobatic. I also noticed that Ma interacted with the orchestra more than any other soloist I can recall seeing.

I was struck by the fact that the last time I was in the same room with Yo Yo Ma, I was on the stage, and he was in the audience! (This was the Christmas Revels last December.)

March 22, 2006

Film: (DVD) Fever Pitch Bobby & Peter Farrelly, 2005

A romantic comedy dealing with a rabid Red Sox fan, in the year the Sox won the pennant for the first time in living memory. Recommended for Red Sox fans.

March 23, 2006

eBook: Treasure Island Robert Louis Stevenson, 1881

Fun to read the original...not sure if I ever actually read it before, though I vividly recall the Classics Comic and various film treatments.

Long John Silver never says "Arrrrrrr" though he does call a lot of people "matey." A ripping good yarn!

March 25, 2006

Film: (DVD) The 40-Year-Old Virgin Judd Apatow, 2005

Netflix kept me waiting a looooong time before sending this one, even though I had it on top of my queue. Turns out it wasn't really worth the wait. A light comedy, had it's moments, but nothing special.

March 26, 2006

TV (HBO) Big Love

This is the latest HBO series, about a polygamous family in Utah. I've seen three episodes so far, and like it very much. It's not The Sopranos, or Six Feet Under, but still quite good.

eBook: Censored by Earth Command Volume 1 - Bullets and Lasers David L. Kuzminski, 2006

Well, this sounded interesting, sort of along the lines of 1632 with a section of a small American town getting bodily transported to another world, where there was a war going on between two different alien species.

What a disappointment! This might be the worst book I've ever read. It starts out with the disappearance of the clothing of everybody, and all of the characters spend the rest of the book naked. This is very convenient, because it reads like the screenplay for a low-budget porn flick, and it saves a lot of time to have everybody naked for all of the screwing that is referred to (but not described in any sort of tittilating detail.) The "hero" is a high-school gym teacher who gives good grades in return for sex, and is hung like a horse. The "bad" aliens have early 19th century level technology, except for the fact that they have military lasers. An incredible clinker! The scariest part is that this is represented as just "Volume 1" of a series!

March 30, 2006

Film: (DVD) Daniel Deronda Tom Hooper, 2002

This lavish BBC adaptation of George Eliot's sentimental victorian melodrama was great fun, and a particular treat for the eyes...I really loved the costumes, especially.

I'm kind of a sucker for this 19th century stuff, enjoyed it a lot.

Wolfgang's Vault

Bill Grahm, the late concert promoter, turns out to have tape recorded all of the concerts he produced, from the late 1960s onward. These tapes have recently begun to surface as a streaming feed on There's wonderful stuff to be heard here, great concerts form the Fillmore, Winterland and various other venues...

March 31, 2006

Film: (DVD) The Crossing Guard Sean Penn, 1995

A Jack Nicholson gloomfest. No fun at all.

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April 1, 2006

April Fool

I wasn't inspired this year, I'm afraid, but I got a link to a pretty good story from SmartEtailing, so I used that, since we are paying for the rights to their content even though we hardly ever use any of it.

April 2, 2006

eBook The Two Moons James. P. Hogan, 1978, 1981

This was actually a re-packaging of two earlier novels: Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede.

Hard science fiction at its hardest, with excellent aliens, and "history" going back to before the creation of the Asteroid Belt. The characters weren't anything special, little emotional verisimilitude, but the stories make up for this deficiency. Recommended for "hard sf" fans.

April 3, 2006

Film: (DVD) Milwaukee, Minnesota Allen Mindel, 2003

Marketed as a second Fargo, but not the only thing it has in common is the snow. Gloomy and not much fun. Not recommended.

April 6, 2006

Reruns: HBO Six Feet Under

HBO started re-running this series from the beginning a couple of weeks ago, an episode every weeknight at 8. We're hooked, or should I say re-hooked.

What a great show this was! Even though there's no more suspense to the plot, seeing it the second time around, the excellence of the writing and acting makes it a daily treat.

April 7, 2006

Film: (DVD) Engaging the Enemy Elizabeth Moon, 2006

This is a sequel to Marque and Reprisal and Trading in Danger. If you liked those, you'll want to read this one too. If not, not.

April 8, 2006

I.B.M. Shindig at the Peabody Museum

Harriet and I went to an academic party organized by I.B.M. at Harvard's Peabody Museum. Good food surrounded by Mayan relics, but nobody there that I knew (though I had heard of one of my table-mates, Benoit Mandelbrot of fractal fame.)

April 11, 2006

Tova's Coming Home!

The best news I've heard in a long time! My dear daughter has been considering where to go for her doctoral studies (mathematics) and has been choosing between offers from Berkely, Chicago and M.I.T., her mother's alma mater. I'm delighted to learn that she has decided on M.I.T. so we'll get to see her from time to time! (She has spent the last several years far away in California...but M.I.T. is less than a dozen miles from our house!)

April 12, 2006

eBook: The Grantville Gazette 6 Eric Flint, 2006

The latest in the 1632 series.

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April 18, 2006

eBook: The Grantville Gazette 7 Eric Flint, 2006

The latest in the 1632 series.

April 19, 2006

Film: (DVD) The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Andrew Adamson, 2005

Quite well done, if you don't mind heavy-handed Christian propoganda.

April 20, 2006

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Saariaho, Beethoven & Sibelius; Robert Spano, conductor; Piotr Anderszewski, Piano

This concert opened with Saariaho's Nymphéa Reflections a rather misty string piece. I'll reserve judgement until I've heard it a couple more times.

Then came the Beethoven Piano Concerto #1. I was a bit overcome by emotion during this, reflecting that here I was, in this beautiful place with 2000 other like-minded folks, holding the hand of the woman I love, while the Boston Symphony was playing Beethoven for me. Could life possibly get better than this?

Actually, it did! The Beethoven was very nice, but the Sibelius 3rd Symphony was a fabulous performance, a favorite piece that I don't recall ever hearing live before. Life is good!

April 21, 2006

Batching It

Harriet's gone off to Montréal for a computer conference, so I'm home alone for most of next week.

April 22, 2006

BOB Ride, Bristol Rhode Island

One of the members of the BOB email list organized a ride/get-together for local list members. I'm sort-of local, and know that coastal Rhode Island is pretty flat terrain, so I drove down to Bristol for the ride. I feel like a real American, driving 120 miles to ride 30!

There were maybe a dozen people there, mostly on Rivendells or Rivendell products. I took my Raleigh International, which was surely the oldest bike there, and the only one with an internal gear hub...but this was going to be my longest ride of the year, due to my health issues, and there was supposed to be a fair chance of rain, so this was my choice.

I started out OK, but got dropped after about 5 miles, and decided to take the short loop. One of the other cyclists kindly offered to keep me company, and we had a nice ride through the scenic coastal terrain. Spring is a few days behind the Boston area here, but it was still very pleasant.

After the ride we repaired to Aidan's Pub, a very pleasant Irish pub, with great food, fine beer but a noise level that made conversation difficult. Anyway, a good time was had by all.

April 23, 2006

Health Issues

I have not chosen to bore people by whining about every ache and pain of my 61 year old body on my Journal/Blog , but a major problem has been gradually developing over the course of about the last 2 1/2 years that can no longer be ignored, because it seems to be forcing a major change in lifestyle on me. Click here if you want the details

April 25, 2006

Film: (DVD) Sharpe's Rifles Tom Clegg, 1993

An adaptation of the novel by Bernard Cornwell, the first of the video series, starring Sean Bean. I've seen these all before, and read most of the books (all of the ones that are available in electronic form) and greatly enjoy them all.

This series follows a British soldier in the Peninsular War. Richard Sharpe is a low-born bastard who rises from the ranks to become an officer, despite the deck being stacked against him. The principal theme of this series is the evils of the Class System.

April 26, 2006

Film: (DVD) Sharpe's Eagle Tom Clegg, 1993

eBook: (DVD) Mutineer's Moon David Weber, 1991

The first of the Dahak trilogy, turns out that Earth is caught in the middle of an interstellar war that has been going on for millennia. An entertaining read, I'm liking the series. It's set in the early 21st century, but the heroine grew up in Tudor England so she speaks with a Shakespearean vocabulary. I'm not a Shakespeare scholar, but it seems to me that Weber handles this very convincingly, and it's a nice touch. Can't go into much more detail for fear of spoilers...

April 29, 2006

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Schubert, Henze, Brahms; Christoph von Dohnányi; Frank Peter Zimmermann, violin

The final concert of the season began with Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, followed by orchestral excerpts from Hans Werner Henze's opera The Bassarids, then the Brahms Violin Concerto.

Much as I like Schubert, the Unfinished has never been among my favorites. The Henze didn't do much for me either, but I have always enjoyed the Brahms.

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The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
The MarchE. L. Doctorow3/7/06
The Grantville Gazette 6Eric Flint4/12/06
The Grantville Gazette 7Eric Flint4/18/06
Their Silver Wedding JourneyWilliam Dean Howells3/10/06
Censored by Earth CommandDavid L. Kuzminski3/26/06
Engaging the EnemyElizabeth Moon4/7/06
Treasure IslandRobert Louis Stevenson3/23/06
Mutineer's MoonDavid Weber4/26/06


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

Films reviewed on this page:
BoundMarch 7, 2006
CatwomanMarch 6, 2006
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The WardrobeApril 19, 2006
Fever PitchMarch 22, 2006
The 40-Year-Old VirginMarch 25, 2006
Mars Attacks!March 4, 2006
Paris When it SizzlesMarch 17, 2006
Sharpe's RiflesApril 25, 2006
Sharpe's EagleApril 26, 2006


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

Music reviewed on this page:
April 29, 2006 B.S.O., Christoph von Dohnányi, Frank Peter ZimmermannSchubert, Henze, Brahms.
April 20, 2006 B.S.O., Robert Spano, Piotr Anderszewski Saariaho, Beethoven, Sibelius.
March 18, 2006 B.S.O., David Robertson, Yo Yo Ma. Ligeti, Schumann & Strauss.


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
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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
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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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