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July 2, 2004

House Concert: Louis Killen in Concord

Harriet and I went out to a very nice house concert organized by the FSSGB. He sang a lot of old favorites, and also some new material. It was nice to see him in such an intimate venue. I have fond memories of sharing the stage with him in the 1996 Midsummer Revels.

July 3, 2004

Film: Fahrenheit 911 Michael Moore, 2004

A masterful piece of propoganda film making. George W. Bush and his gang are even worse than I had previously thought.

A particular masterstroke was his handling of September 11, which featured several minutes of a togally black screen, but with sound effects that let everybody in the theatre provide their own visuals, very effective.

July 4, 2004

32 mile CRW with Harriet on the Picchio fixed-gear tandem, Lexington and points northwest. Farthest we've gone on this bike, and first time riding it with a group. It is definitely a rocket ship, but doesn't mix well with singles...we have to go too fast up the hills, and tend to drop folks.

eBook: FreeholdMichael Z. Williamson 2004

This is a right-libertarian "utopia", with the U.N. cast as the Bad Guys. Not recommended.

July 5, 2004

Film: (DVD) House of Sand and Fog Vadim Perelman 2003

A tragic conflict between a young American woman and an Iranian family, when her house is erroneously auctioned off to the Iranians, and neither side is willing to compromise or to yield. Ben Kingsley is great as the Iranian paterfamilias.

July 6, 2004

Film: (DVD) BasquiatJulian Schnabel 1996

Biopic of a New York graffiti writer who becomes briefly successful as a "serious" artist. I didn't much like this film.

July 10, 2004

eBook: (DVD) The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin Gordon S. Wood, 2004

I just can't get enough of Benjamin Franklin, one of the greatest men of the 18th century. This book focusses mostly on his political development, and I found it fascinating.

July 11, 2004

Harriet and I rode out to Dover on the Picchio fixed-gear tandem. Really having a lot of fun on this bike since I finally got it dialed in.

Sheldon and Harriet on the Picchio tandem

July 14, 2004

My 60th birthday

July 15, 2004

Alex Beam column

I was interviewed by Alex Beam of the Boston Globe about the Tour de France. Today the column came out, lots of folks congratulated me. Here it is, reproduced without permission:
Comprenez vous le Tour de France?
By Alex Beam, Globe Columnist | July 15, 2004

Last summer, my neighbor told me that he had been watching live coverage of the Tour de France on the Outdoor Life Network. Neat! I immediately tuned in and saw ... nothing.

It was like watching the legendary Mad magazine "sport" 43-man squamish, played underwater. Yes, I enjoyed seeing these 170-odd fellows in pastel jerseys pedal through the gorgeous French countryside. And yes, I know how to ride a bike, and I always make a little joke about Lance Armstrong at my local Post Office. (They seem to have no idea who he is.) But the Tour is, like, geek to me.

Two nights ago, I invited Sheldon Brown, a veteran cycling journalist who uses the Internet handle "CaptBike" at his website, to watch Stage Nine of the Tour with me. Brown also runs the successful website, and he has played King Paramount in the seldom-produced Gilbert & Sullivan business satire, "Utopia, Ltd." So he understands everything.

Before switching on the television -- he had taped OLN's edited broadcast that morning -- Brown asked to deliver some prepared remarks. "The Tour de France is not a sporting event, it is a series of sporting events," he said. "It is not like a baseball game, it is like a pennant race."

There are several separate races taking place during the Tour. There's the race for the yellow jersey -- like chasing the batting title in baseball -- which Armstrong has won five years in a row. A Frenchman named Thomas Voeckler is currently wearing the yellow jersey, meaning he has the best overall time so far. But the jersey will probably change backs several times before the racers finish under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris July 25.

There is simultaneously a race for best sprinter on the Tour (green jersey); best climber (red polka-dot jersey); best young cyclist (white jersey); and for fastest team. And each of the 20 race stages is itself a hotly contested race-within-a-race. "Most of them are won by somebody you've never heard of, and who you will never hear of again," Brown explained. "But that will be the biggest event in his life. It will be the headline in that man's obituary: `Winner of Stage Nine of the 2004 Tour de France."

Now for the question and answer period:

1. Please define: "peloton"; "drafting"; "breakaway"; "time trial." The peloton is the main pack of riders, sometimes stretching out a hundred yards or more. Most of them benefit from drafting, meaning they are cycling in the slipstream of the riders ahead of them, and pedaling less hard. The first and last riders in the peloton get the same time at the finish line.

I asked Brown why small groups of riders "attack," or break away from the pack. "Because it's a race," he answered. Duh.

In the three individual Tour time trials, the riders start at staggered, set intervals and are not allowed to draft. The trials are called "the races of truth." Armstrong does well in the time trials, because he is a very fast rider. Double duh.

2. What happens if a rider gets a flat tire? He gets a new bike, usually in a minute or less. Ditto in a crash situation, if the rider is uninjured.

3. When do the riders eat? In a long stage, they are handed special sacks of food, called musettes, in a designated "food zone."

4. Can you go to the bathroom on a bike traveling 25 miles per hour? Yes, but this isn't something you'll see on the Outdoor Life Network. Plus: don't try this at home.

5. When should you start paying attention? Next Tuesday. Starting then, two time trials and the Alps stand between the elite riders and the yellow jersey.

6. Why do the French hate Lance Armstrong? Because he is an American, and he beats them at their own game.

So what was Stage Nine like? Beautiful, and boring, until the end. Two riders, Filippo Simeoni and Inigo Landaluze, had staged a dramatic breakaway for 70 long miles, at times leading the pack by as many as 10 minutes. But right at the finish line in Gueret, the peloton caught up with them. So Brown and I had watched more than two hours' worth of bike racing to see a 172-way tie.

"Yes, it is confusing," Brown allowed. "But baseball has the infield fly rule." Touche.

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July 16, 2004

TV appearance, NECN

Appeared on New England Cable News, on a 3 person panel talking about the Tour. Others were Brian MacDonald from Redbones, and Lorenzo de Monaco from

July 17, 2004

Went on a 64 mile CRW ride out and around Mt. Wachusett, very pleasant ride on the Brown

July 24, 2004

eBook: (DVD) The House of the KzintiJerry Pournelle, Dean Ing, S.M. Stirling

This is part of the Man-Kzin Wars series, a couple of novellas and a story or two, which it turns out I had previously read. One of the novels is a bit of an homage to Casablanca. I enjoyed reading these stories a second time, I'm very fond of this series.

Film: (DVD) Mystic River

July 28, 2004

George is back from Bristol, good to have him home again.

July 31, 2004

Harriet's birthday! I built her a new wheel, with one of the Shimano Nexus hub generators and a nice rim.

Film: (DVD) 101 Reykavik

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August 3, 2004

Film: (DVD) Cold Mountain

I enjoyed the book, and the film did a good job of following it. Hollywood couldn't resist the temptation to show a big battle scene (the Crater at Petersburg) which was not a major part of the book. Been a while since I read it, so I'm not sure what they had to leave out. Fine performances however, and I would recommend this film.

August 6, 2004

I'm not completely sure why, but I don't ever recall enjoying cycling as much as I have been this summer. Most days I've been taking roundabout commutes, adding several miles in each direction.

Part of it has to be the weight loss, part of it, I suspect is my iPod, which makes the experience much more enjoyable.

August 11, 2004

Film: (DVD) Arsenal Dovzenko, 1928

Early Soviet epic of the counterrevolution in Kiev after WW1.

Film: (DVD) Prisoner of the Mountains 1996

Two Russian soldiers are taken hostage by Chechen rebels, who then don't quite know what to do with them. Very good film.

August 13, 2004

Film: (DVD) Catch Me if You Can

August 14, 2004

Film: (DVD) The Dreamers

August 15, 2004

eBook: Return Engagement Harry Turtledove, 2004

This is the latest in Harry Turtledove's massive "Great War" alternate history series that began with the Confederate victory in How Few Remain This book follows American Empire: The Victorioius Opposition and takes us into the alternate World War 2.

You shouldn't read this unless you've read the previous novels in the series, but if you have, you won't want to miss this one.

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August 17, 2004

Film: (DVD) Judy Berlin

August 18, 2004

Film: (DVD) The Player

August 19, 2004

Film: (DVD) Saving Grace

Partially filmed in Padstow, Cornwall, this charming comedy features the Lady of the Manor left a penniless widown by her wastrel husband's suicide. She never expected to have to work for a living, and has devoted her life to gardening. With the help from some other locals, she turns her green thumb to a different type of gardening, marijuana, to stave off the banker who wants to foreclose on her manse...

August 23, 2004

Film: (DVD) Psycho Alfred Hitchcock

A masterpiece from the Master. This film broke a lot of rules, most especially by killing off the female lead, Janet Leigh quite early into the film. This was such a shocker that Hitchcock insisted that theatres refuse admittance to the film once it started.

I suspect that this was the first impetus for a major change in moviegoing: I recall the usual moviegoing routine back in the '50s was "lets go to the movies" without any regard to the schedule. You'd just arrive at the theatre at whatever time you found convenient, sit through whichever feature was in progress, then watch the other feature and the first part of the one you walked in on. "This is where we came in" was the cue to leave, unless the film was unusually good.

Sometime after the '50s, this changed, and people started checking schedules so they could arrive in time for the start of the film. Psycho may have been the film that started this trend.

Film: (DVD) McCabe & Mrs. Miller Robert Altman

I don't know how I missed seeing this film earlier, it's legendary as one of the great late westerns. Leonard Cohen's soundtrack adds to the atmosphere. Highly recommended.

August 25, 2004

Film: (DVD) North by Northwest Alfred Hitchcock

Certainly one of Hitchcock's masterpieces, Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint, crop dusters and Mt. Rushmore...

August 27, 2004

Film: (DVD) Evolution

A so-so monster alien flick. Looks like the creature shop had a lot of fun making this film.

August 28, 2004

Drove out to Marblehead with Harriet and George, to watch the Firemen's Muster. Haven't been to one of these since I was a kid. We brought bikes, parked in Beach Bluff and cycled to the field for the Muster.

This is a great traditional New England event, featuring a parade of antique hand-pumped fire engines, and a very enthusiastic squirting contest. Marblehead has two teams, the Okos and the Gerrys.

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Afterward, we rode out West Shore drive to Grace Oliver's Beach for a swim. The water was chillier than we had expected, so we didn't stay in long, but it was quite refreshing anyway, as the day was very hot.

Film: (DVD) Funny Face

Aubrey Hebburn and Cary Grant in a rather dated '50s film about models and the fashion industry. Hepburn was supposed to be a sort of "ugly duckling" but she was incapable of ugly...

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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:
The House of the KzintiJerry Pournelle, Dean Ing, S.M. Stirling7/24/04
Settling Accounts: Return EngagementHarry Turtledove8/15/04
The Americanization of Benjamin FranklinGordon W. Wood7/10/04


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

Films reviewed on this page:
Fahrenheit 911July 3, 2004
House of Sand and FogJuly 5, 2004
BasquiatJuly 6, 2004
101 ReykavikJuly 31, 2004
Cold MountainAugust 3, 2004
ArsenalAugust 11, 2004
Prisoner of the MountainsAugust 11, 2004
Catch Me if You CanAugust 13, 2004
The DreamersAugust 14, 2004
Judy BerlinAugust 17, 2004
The PlayerAugust 18, 2004
Saving GraceAugust 19, 2004
PsychoAugust 23, 2004
North by NorthwestAugust 25, 2004
EvolutionAugust 27, 2004
Funny FaceAugust 28, 2004


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


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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Sheldon Brown's Personal Pages

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Last Updated: by Harriet Fell