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May 1, 2001

Film: (DVD) Bicycle Thieves 1949 Vittorio De Sica

This is a wonderful film of nitty-gritty life in depressed postwar Italy. Although it is commonly called "The Bicycle Thief" in English, the Italian title is plural.

May 3-6, 2001

The Grand Duke

This was an excellent production, I'm very proud to have been a part of it. The Grand Duke is really a much better operetta than conventional wisdom would indicate. Harriet took some nice photos with my Coolpix.

May 8, 2001

Film: (DVD) Gettysburg 1993 Ronald F. Maxwell

I'd seen this before on a smaller screen, VHS, but it was certainly more worthwhile on the new tv from the DVD. I'm not an expert on the military side of the Slavery War , but as far as I could tell, this film seemed pretty authentic (with the exception of J.E.B. Stuart's beard.)

It is a lavish production, thanks to being bankrolled by Ted Turner. It features some 5000 expert reenactors, and an all star cast, particularly Jeff Bridges as Lawrence Chamberlain. It was strange to see Martin Sheen, who I'm used to seeing as President Bartlett on The West Wing, playing the bumbling traitor Lee.

Ted Turner has to be my favorite media mogul. I tend to share his politics (and those of his wife) and I like the way he uses his wealth. I first became aware of him when he was defending the America's Cup--not only with his money to build the boat, but with his own brain and skill as skipper sailing her to victory. I'm sorry to hear that he's getting divorced from Jane, 'cause I'm a fan of hers, too.

May 13, 2001

Went to the Arnold Arboretum for Lilac Sunday, George danced with his team, Red Herring Morris. He has gotten quite good!

Lilac Sunday Photos

The whole family went to a new restaurant, The Newtonville Times (which used to be Duckworth Lane. A grand time was had by all. We mostly discussed and laughed about the works of the late Douglas Adams (who died on Friday, alas.)

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May 19, 2001

Went on a 15 mile canoe trip with the Boy Scouts. I haven't been in a canoe since the last Scout trip a year ago, and I'm a bit done in. George has become a demon paddler, though and we were consistently the fastest boat in our little flotilla.

About 3 weeks ago I thought I had a toothache. Went to my dentist, he took X-rays and found no tooth problem, turns out to be a sinus infection. He prescribed Keflex, and I ran through a 2 week course. After a week the symptoms went away, but a couple of days ago, after I finished up the Keflex, it came back. Today it is really bad, so I'm now on amoxicillin, hope this will fix it up. I had gotten a referral to an otiolaryngoligist, but he had to cancel, and can't re-schedule in a timely fashion, so now I've got an appointment with a different otio guy, for June 14...

Film: (DVD) Pat & Mike

This 1952 Kathryn Hepburn/Spencer Tracy comedy is not their best work, and many of the supporting actors, particularly Hepburn's college-administrator beau are pretty bad, but it's amusing nonetheless. Tracy plays against type, as a boxing promoter of borderline honesty. Hepburn is a "natural" athlete.

A very young Charles Bronson and Chuck Connors both have small roles in this film.

May 22, 2001

George finally got an opportunity to play his new trombone concerto with an orchestra. The Newton North High School Orchestra spent 20 minutes rehearsing it, then did a run through as part of their rehearsal. I recorded it digitally, and have made it available on the Web as an MP3:

Music: George Brown Trombone Concerto: Across the Desert

May 25, 2001

Film: (DVD) Sunday in the Park with George Terry Hughes, 1986

DESCRIPTION This Stephen Sondheim musical is based on Georges Seurat's monumental painting Sunday Afternoon on the Isle of La Grande Jatte

I had not been familiar with this show before, but was quite taken with it. Mandy Patinkin and Bernadette Peters star. This was basically a filming of the stage show, but it was extremely well done and well edited. Highly recommended.

May 27, 2001

Films: (video) Horatio Hornblower: The Mutiny; Retribution

The latest two Hornblower epics were made from Forester's Lieutenant Hornblower. I'm very pleased with the way this series is developing, and look forward to upcoming episodes as they get made.

May 28, 2001

Red Herring Morris had an outdoor gig at Newton Center with Banbury Cross. I took video of this one. Tova came along and danced in the mass morris at the end, first morris dancing she's done in a couple of years...she's still got it. George has gotten really good too.

Film: (DVD) Sling Blade Billy Bob Thornton 1996

This is a very fine film, featuring a developmentally disabled man in Arkansas. As a 12 year old, he saw what he thought was a man raping his mother, and killed him with a lawnmower blade...then it turned out that it wasn't rape, he lost it, and killed his mother. After 20 years in an asylum, he is deinstitutionalized out, and tries to make his way in the world as well as he can. Billy Bob Thornton is brilliant both as director and protagonist.

May 30, 2001

Film: (DVD) Mississippi Burning Alan Parker 1988

Gene Hackman and William Dafoe are an "odd couple" of FBI agents investigating a triple murder in Mississippi, 1964. This is loosely based on the Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner case. It's pretty horrific, as the local Klan keeps escalating its terrorism to keep all witnesses intimidated into silence. Lots of fires and car chases for those who get off on that sort of thing. Not great, not terrible.

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June 2, 2001

Put up a new page for the 2001 Christmas Revels

Film: (DVD) Balzac: A Life of Passion Josée Dayan 2000

This made-for-French TV biopic stars Gerard Depardieu as the famous writer, and focusses largely on his relationship with his cold and distant mother, played by Jean Moreau. Fanny Ardant is excellent as his last lover and eventual wife, a wealthy Polish countess.

June 3, 2001

Went out in the wee hours of the morning to pick George up in Canton, where the bus returning from the American Regions Math League National Competition unloaded. His team did quite well, and his personal score was quit impressive.

Film: (DVD) Network Sidney Lumet 1976

This super film has a script by Paddy Chayevsky, and gets great performances from William Holden and Faye Dunaway. A sardonic, cynical look at the world of network television in the era when the "big 3" reigned supreme.

June 4, 2001

Film: (DVD) Red Planet Antony Hoffman 2000

Hmm, a science fiction film with no mad scientists, no bug-eyed monsters, good space ship effects...why didn't I like it better? I guess I found the dialogue unconvincing.

The science was so-so... It is 2057, Earth has become so polluted that the survival of humanity is in question. Robot probes have been working on terraforming Mars for 20 odd years, planting oxygen-generating algae on the surface. Lately, however, oxygen levels have been dropping, so a 6 person space ship (5 men, 1 woman, who is captain) is sent out to investigate. Disaster strikes in the form of a solar flare that makes lots of sparks all over the ship, and the 5 men wind up marooned.

The space ship has revolving ring segments to generat artificial gravity. When electric power is lost, they immediately come to a stop, permitting some pretty good zero-gee effects. Much of the hardware is very well done.

All in all, I can't recommend this film, though it has its moments.

June 5, 2001

George had his final student recital with his teacher of 8 years, Don Robinson. He played the Cavatine of St. Saëns. I made a digital recording which will go online when I get around to it.

Film: (DVD) The American President Rob Reiner 1995

Written by Aaron Sorkin, this was, in many ways, the prototype for what became the splendid TV series The West Wing . Features the same cast of characters, (played by different actors) probably the same set, similar approach...though I'd have to say that The West Wing is better...but that's not a rag on this film, The West Wing is better than a great many things.

It is disorienting to see Martin Sheen as Chief of Staff to Michael Douglas's prez.

The main thing that differentiates this from The West Wing is that this president, Andy Sheppard, is a widower, and becomes romantically involved with a lobbyist (Annette Bening) which is a more fun plot complication than Jed Bartlett's MS.

Lots of familiar faces in this one, including Michael J. Fox as a presidential aide, Richard Dreyfuss as the Republican bad guy. Also features Wendie Malick, who plays Nina van Horn on Just Shoot Me and John Mahoney who plays Martin Crane on Frasier .

Highly recommended, especially if you're a bleeding heart Democrat like me.

June 6, 2001

Film: (DVD) Brazil Terry Gilliam 1985

This is the first time I've seen the "director's cut" and it was quite a show. Maybe I'll write more about this later. Highly recommended.

June 8, 2001

Film: (DVD) Arthur Steve Gordon 1981

Dudley Moore plays a multi-millionaire playboy, in love Liza Minelli a Queens waitress. This film has its moments, particularly Sir John Gielgud as Moore's butler, but it is also often rather mawkish. I've never understood what people see in Liza Minelli, she does nothing for me. Some people are crazy about this film, to judge by comments on the Internet, but I don't particularly recommend it.

Film: (VHS) Bogus Norman Jewison 1996

I'm a big fan of Gerard Depardieu, and an even bigger fan of Whoopi Goldberg, so when I saw this video at the library I figured it had to be a winner. What a mistake! It's a syrupy, saccharine hack potboiler about an orphaned child who Whoopi is suddenly faced with guardianship of and his imaginary friend (Depardieu.) The kid, Haley Joel Osment, is quite good, but most everything else about this film is phoned in.

eBook Stars Over Stars K.D. Wentworth

Fairly good military science fiction. Humanity is at war with an insect-like race called the Flek. On a backwater planet of an obscure star system, an experimental training group is trying to determine how to coordinate human rangers with Hrinn warriors, an allied race very reminiscent of Larry Niven's "Kzin" There are also peaceable natives, but not many since the planet had been nearly wrecked while under Flek control a couple of generations before.

If you liked the Man-Kzin Wars series, you'll probably like this, but it's not for everybody.

It turns out that this is a sequel, to Black On Black

June 9, 2001

Film: (DVD) A Fish Called Wanda Charles Crichton, John Cleese 1988

I had seen this before, but had forgotten how funny it is. It's a British "caper" comedy about a gang of jewel thieves led by Jamie Lee Curtis, who's playing everybody against everybody else, until she falls for unhappily-married barrister John Cleese. Kevin Kline and Michel Palin are hilarious as members of the gang. Highly recommended.

Film/Show: The Rocky Horror Picture Show Jim Sharman 1975/Full Body Cast

Went to the midnight show in Harvard Square, because Tova was starring as Janet. She was super.

See also my entry for July 2000

June 10, 2001

Film: (DVD) Adam's Rib George Cukor 1949

Kathryn Hepburn and Spencer Tracy star in this battle-of-the-sexes screwball comedy as a married couple, both lawyers, on opposite sides in court. Dated, as one might expect, but a hoot nonetheless.

ICOM had me down all day, no email, and the Web site was off line. Finally came back up late in the evening, but I think a lot of email got lost/bounced.

June 11, 2001

Film: (DVD) A Clockwork Orange Stanley Kubrick 1971

As horrifying on DVD as it was when I saw it on the big screen, this is one of Kubrick's (and Anthony Burgess's) masterpieces.

June 12, 2001

Film: (DVD) Star Trek V-The Final Frontier William Shatner 1989

It's not clear how I missed seeing this one before, but no loss, it seems to me to be the worst of the Star Trek movies.

I put up a page about problems with Campagnolo Track hubs self-destructing , and Campagnolo's reluctance to cover the failures on warranty, on the basis that riding on the road constitutes "abuse" and "misuse." Got close to 900 hits the first day.

June 13, 2001

Film: (DVD) The Horse Whisperer Robert Redford 1998

A teenage girl and her best friend go horseback riding in the winter, an accident ensues in which the best friend and her horse are killed, the other girl and her horse are gravely injured, physically and psychologically. The girl's mother (strongly resembling Hillary Clinton) drives girl and horse from their home in New York out to Montana to be healed by Robert Redford, horse therapist. The plot is all pretty much inevitable, but the film is well acted, with great Montana scenery. I cried. Recommended.

June 14, 2001

33 years since my last cigarette!

Film: (DVD) Charge of the Light Brigade Michæl Curtiz 1936

A racist tour-de-force featuring the noble British of the Raj and the either childlike or treacherous Indians. Errol Flynn is a cavalry officer serving in Inja, (only the last half hour finally takes us to the Crimea.) This is a big-budget rah-rah jingoist shoot 'em up of its day. There's a cast of thousands, and some very good close-order cavalry drill. Back in 1936 they didn't have to say "no animals were harmed..." and lots of horses get tripped at full gallop.

The infamous charge is depicted as an act of pure heroism and revenge, and is shown as successful, though a Phyrric victory. Tennyson's poem is quoted in part, carefully omitting the verse about how "someone had blundered." If you think current Hollywood films take liberties with history, you'll find is pure fiction.

June 15, 2001

Film: (DVD) Indochine Régis Wargnier 1993

The delectable Katherine Deneuve as owner of a rubber plantation in French Indochina in the 1930s. A visual treat, and a film of considerable depth and power. Highly recommended.

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June 16, 2001

Down to Nags Head North Carolina for a family reunion. We flew to Norfolk, Virginny, then it was a 90 mile drive. Due to a delayed flight, we didn't actually arrive 'til 2:30 in the morning. We have rented a posh beach house along with my sister and her husband. Due to schedule problems, Harriet will need to go home on Wednesday, and Tova couldn't make it down at all.

June 17, 2001

Mostly hung around the house, but did go swimming in the ocean. The water was very clean, good surf, and about a perfect temperature for my taste (though some others thought it was too cold.)

June 18, 2001

Picnicked at the beach house my brother and his wife are renting, a bit south of us. Big mob of relatives there. Took some hilarious pix of my cousin Henry and brother-in-law Mel trying vainly to launch a kayak into the surf. Here's a QuickTime movie:

QuickTime Movie

June 19, 2001

Very sad news, one of my brother's grandchildren (not at the reunion) was struck and killed by a truck. Harley was only 5, I never got to meet him.

Visited the Wright Brothers site at Kill Devil Hill, sat through an entertaining but rather elementary presentation by a Park Service docent. The best thing here is the replica of the 1903 Flyer, which you can get a lot closer to than you can the original in the Smithsonian. It was fun to spot the bicycle parts they used to build many parts.

I noticed something that has me puzzled, though. The biplane elevators are rigged so that they're parallel when horizontal, but the linkage makes the lower one tilt up farther when they tilt up, the upper one tilt down farther when they tilt down. I haven't been able to figure out why they did this yet.

Went to dinner with my siblings, cousins, their spouses and aunt & uncle at Penguin Isle, a snazzy restaurant. Everybody but me had fish, but in honor of the fact that I flew over New York on the way down, I had a New York steak...

June 20, 2001

Got up early to drive Harriet up to Norfolk to catch the plane...she has to teach tomorrow, alas.

Went over to the Brunelle house for dinner.

June 21, 2001

Big party at our house, most of the gang was there:
extended family portrait

June 22, 2001

Nothing too eventful today, last day at Nags Head. Went for a swim and played in the surf. Saw a cool jellyfish, kind with tendrils dangling down...didn't touch it.

June 23, 2001

Not a good day. George and I were s'posed to fly out of Norfolk, Virginny at 10:55 AM, but I hadn't counted on major traffic jams trying to get off the island. In retrospect, I should have realized that the similarity to Cape Cod extended to the fact that there are only two bridges, and lots of rentals changing hands on the weekend. We missed our flight, got put on standby for the 3:35 PM flight. Hung around the airport for that, then they only had one standby seat available. I put George on the plane, and rented a room at a Holiday Inn.

June 24, 2001

Finally got home about 8:30 AM, whipped out from rising at 4:30 to catch the flight from Norfolk.

eBook: Flag in Exile David Weber

Another in the Honor Harrington series, good escapist summer reading. Another Baen Books download

Film: (video) O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Not quite as funny as The Big Lebowski, but quite good nevertheless, this is the Coen brothers' take on the Odyssey, set in 1930s Mississippi. Lots of excellent music, fine performances. Highly recommended.

June 25, 2001

Icom.com had a "massive server failure" and my sites and email have been down almost all day. I shudder to think how much business we're missing out on as a result.

Tonight, George had his Eagle Scout court of honor, and is now officially an Eagle. We had a good crowd for the ceremony, including Mayor Cohen and Alderman Antonellis. It was a lot of work putting it all together, most of which was done by Harriet.

June 26, 2001

Film: (DVD) Cast Away Robert Zemeckis 2000

Tom Hanks in a tour de force as a FedEx executive who becomes a latter-day Robinson Crusoe. Thrills and chills galore, highly recommended.

June 27, 2001

Film: (DVD) State and Main David Mamet 2000

I hadn't heard of this, though I'm a Mamet fan (and he's a customer of ours!) but George found it at Blockbuster. What a fine film! A Hollywood film production company takes over a Norman Rockwellesque Vermont town for a production, and the culture clash is delightful. William H. Macy is a standout as the director, but the entire cast is excellent. Very highly recommended!

June 29, 2001

Film: Monty Python and the Holy Grail Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam 1975

I don't go to actual movie theatres all that much, but George noted that this had been re-released, and the family schlepped into Kendall Square to see it. I believe I first saw this in London at the time of the original release. It's a classic of the genre, with many screamingly funny parts. It is a bit long, and does drag here and there, though. I don't think it was just the local print, the whole film seems to have been somewhat underexposed, much of it is really too dark. Highly recommended nevertheless.

Book: Rally Cry Martin R. Forstchen 1990

Fine escapist sci-fi. The year is 1864, and a regiment of U.S. veterans from Maine, with all of their equipment set sail on a transport steamer...which blunders into some sort of wormhole and finds itself afloat on a sea of a distant planet. On making landfall, they find the land populated by medieval Russians, whose ancestors got there in a similar fashion several hundred years before. The Americans have an altogether positive effect on the local Russian society, and bring many of the benefits of 19th century technology and political theory to the oppressed serfs.

It turns out that there are many different clusters of Earth folk scattered around the planet, from different times and places. It is a large planet, without the large seas of Earth. There is also a fierce native race of nomadic giants, the Tugars. The Tugars are 10 feet tall, armed with bows, catapults, axes and swords, and maintain a constant westerly migration that brings them around the planet every 20 years. The Tugars are the absolute rulers of the planet, and consider the humans as "cattle", using them as the primary staple of their diet. When the Tugar horde meets the 35th Maine and its firearms, a mighty battle ensues. This is the first of an extensive series of novels. Recommended for alt-history fans or fans of military SF.

June 30, 2001

Film: (DVD) Blue Velvet David Lynch 1986

A creepy and grisly film, well acted, made with considerable craftsmanship (except for Isabella Rosselini's lousy singing.) Not recommended.

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November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2001:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2000:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
1999:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
1975-98:
November-December, 1998 April-May, 1975

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The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
Flag in ExileDavid Weber6/24/01
Rally CryMartin R. Forstchen6/29/01
Stars Over StarsK.D. Wentworth6/8/01

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

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

Music reviewed on this page:
May 3-6, 2001 M.I.Tl G & S PlayersGilbert & Sullivan: The Grand Duke

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Plays:
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

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Travels:
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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