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March 3, 2007

House Concert: Bernice Lewis

A pleasant enough concert, she's a winning performer. Unfortunately, her voice is too soft and high for my 62 year old ears to follow consistently without amplification.

March 4, 2007

eBook: 1634-The Baltic War Eric Flint & David Weber, 2007

The latest in the 1632 series, more or less following 1634 The Ram Rebellion. This was one of the better ones, a relief after my disappointment with 1634 The Ram Rebellion and the recent Grantville Gazette entries.

It deals with a war on two fronts: Northern Europe and England. Evidently the England sections were originally intended as a stand-alone book, but it really works quite well zipping back and forth from theatre to theatre in alternating chapters.

March 5, 2007

2008

Barack Obama for President Hillary Rodham Clinton for President

I added a Hillary banner to the Obama banner on this page. The fact is that I would be absolutely delighted to have either of them in the Oval Office. I have no strong preference between the two, though I'm slightly leaning toward Obama because, unlike Hillary and me, he was not fooled by Dubya's lies about Iraq.

Actually, from what I've seen, there's nobody currently in the running for either party who wouldn't be a major improvement over the Current Occupant, except maybe Mitt Romney.

March 9, 2007

Film: (DVD) Kristin LavransdatterLiv Ullman, 1995

This 3 hour epic is based on a popular Norwegian historical novel, winner of the 1928 Nobel Prize. It is set in the 14th Century and focusses on a "well to do" farm family. When I say "well to do" I mean for people who live in a log house and all do farm chores.

Ullman's direction is a bit slow paced, and there's too much footage that doesn't have appropriate audio...using voice-overs or music instead. The scenery is gorgeous, and the sets are very convincing. I was a bit put off by the extreme religiousity of all of the characters, but I suppose that may well be authentic.

I did rather enjoy this film, maybe I'll read the book...

March 10, 2007

Film: (DVD) Stranger Than Fiction Marc Forster, 2006

Will Ferrell plays an I.R.S. agent with O.C.D., who discovers that he is actually a character in a novel being written by my old flame, Emma Thompson. This was a lot of fun, highly recommended.

March 11, 2007

eBook: Prince of Sparta Jerry Pournelle, 1993

Another in the CoDominium series. Highly militaristic and right wing, as with the others, but mostly a page turner.

March 12, 2007

eBook: The Importance of Being Earnest Oscar Wilde, 1895

This might be the funniest play ever written. P.G. Wodehouse is a pale imitation of this. I've seen various video/film versions, including the horrible Oliver Parker version, but this might be the first time I've actually read it.

Betty Brunelle, Arlene Eskilson photoMarch 16, 2007

Betty Brunelle 1910?-2007, R.I.P.

My beloved aunt, my father's sister, died today. In a sense, it was just her body that died today, as alzheimer's disease had taken her mind several years ago. I don't think she really would have much wanted to survive her husband Henry even if she had been in full possession of her faculties.

Arlene Eskilson photo.

eBook: King David's Spaceship Jerry Pournelle, 1980

The next in the CoDominium series , set a thousand years after Prince of Sparta, and very much superior to the earlier ones.

Prince of Sparta dealt with the period just before the establishment of the galactic Empire, based on the planet Sparta. Prince Lysander went on to become the first emperor, but that story is not told, nor is the subsequent fall of the First Empire in the Secession Wars, nor the rise of the Second Empire, which is in full expansion mode in this book.

Prince Samual's World has been cut off from galctic civilization for centuries. It is divided into multiple nation states, and has a technological level roughly equivalent to the late 19th century. A survey ship from the Empire has arrived, and intends to incorporate Prince Samual's World into the Empire...but upon what terms? Planets that lack space travel are generally taken over as colonies, with imperial citizens imported to rule without regard to the wishes of the natives. Planets that have space travel, on the other hand, are accepted as associate planets, and have considerable independence...

This novel brings us up to the same period as The Mote in God's Eye , though in a different region of the galaxy.

I liked this one.

Film: (DVD) L. A. Story Mick Jackson, 1991

A charming Steve Martin comedy, good fun! Also lots of Shakespeare references...

March 17, 2007

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Mahler, Symphony #3, James Levine

A very fine performance of a wonderful work. One of the highlights of the season.

Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano; Women of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, John Oliver, conductor; American Boychoir, Fernando Malvar-Ruiz, music director

March 18, 2007

Film: (DVD) For Your Consideration Christopher Guest, 2006

Well, it's not Best In Show or A Mighty Wind, but it's still pretty funny. I'm a big Christopher Guest fan. This one is a send up of Hollywood and Internet hype. Highly recommended if you have already seen Best In Show and A Mighty Wind (not sure how I forgot to add those to my Journal...I actually own those DVDs, part of my rather small selection of owned DVDs.)

March 19, 2007

Film: (DVD) United 93 Paul Greenglass, 2006

Given my preference for happy endings, I would not normally have chosen to watch a film about the 9/11 attacks, but I found this at the library, and wound up picking it up.

It's quite a good film, but a bit hard to take emotionally.

March 23, 2007

eBook: The Mote in God's Eye Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle, 1974

I had read this once before, probably in 1988 or 89 when I lived in France. One of the all time great alien-contact tales.

The year is 3016. Humanity has spread widely throughout the galaxy without encountering any competition, until a mysterious light-sail ship arrives at the planet New Scotland, with a 3 armed corpse aboard.

By backtracking, the Empire's Navy people discover the origin of the craft at a star system 35 light-years away, one that is at the end of a dead-end hyperspace route, only accessible from inside the photosphere of a red dwarf.

The "Moties" are a highly advanced race with multiple sub-species, each with a specialized function. Their general tech level is higher than that of humans, but they don't have the "Langston Field" that would allow them to use the jump point in the red dwarf's photosphere without getting cooked.

I won't go on with details, due to spoiler issues, but this is very highly recommended for all fans of "hard" science-fiction.

Although I read the whole CoDominium series leading up to this, it was mostly a waste of effort, though I did enjoy King David's Spaceship

One warning: This electronic edition also includes "Motelight" which is a short story set before the action of the novel, but for some bizarre reason, Baen has placed it after the novel. I would suggest reding Motelight first.

March 24, 2007

Took the Greenspeed out this afternoon, first time this year. Rode along the river up to Waltham and back, a mighty 4 miles, average speed 4.7 mph. I'm afraid even the slightest upgrade reduces me to less than walking speed due to my extreme muscular weakness .

Film: (DVD) Borat Larry Charles, 2006

Screamingly funny, but not for the squeamish. The deleted scenes were also worth a look, though the supermarket sequence was way too long.

I had previously seen this on the big screen but Harriet had not.

March 26, 2007

Dream

Strange one...I dreamt that there was a mail chute in my living room, sort of like what's seen in some apartment buildings, even though I live in a single-family house. I accidentally discovered that it had a false wall, concealing an alternate chute, and this was somehow the result of a nefarious scheme of the Selective Service System intended to entrap my son somehow into getting drafted.

It all made sense at the time, and I drove to West Newton to report this crime to the police. Had some trouble finding a parking space, then wound up going into a police annex, not the main police station, and telling my story to a couple of plain clothes officers...then I woke up!

March 27, 2007

Film: (DVD) French Kiss Lawrence Kasdan, 1995

Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline in a frothy romantic comedy. Enjoyed the French scenery, managed to not be bothered by the ridiculous plot.

March 28, 2007

Took photos for my April Fool page.

Very windy, and a falling branch on Rt 16 caused a power failure on our street. We've been here for 28 years, but never had a real power failure before, probably because we're only 3 houses down from Rt. 16. We poked around with candles and flashlights for a while, went to bed early, and the power came back on a little before 9. No cable internet until the next day, though.

By the way, I said "power failure." The electric company prefers the made-up word "outage" but that's bogus language, almost as bad as "pre-owned" used cars.

Nobody likes to admit to failure, but calling it something else doesn't make it not a "failure."

Since we couldn't cook, we went over to Tommy Doyle's in "The Lake" for dinner. This is one of a chain of faux-Irish pubs. It was pleasant, the food was good and plentiful.

GPS Cell Phones

I'm sure I'm not the first to think of this, but thinking through some of the implications of the now mandated GPS system in cell phones gives me pause.

It wouldn't take an unmanageable amount of computer power to record the motion of every cell phone. This would give government (or whoever) a detailed record of where everybody was and who they were with at any given minute in the past for as long as they cared to preserve records...

March 30, 2007

Elton gave me an electric scooter that he had inherited from his father in law. He and Tom D. dropped it off at my house this afternoon. Looks pretty cool, but I'll need to get new batteries for it.

It also includes a clever collapsible electric winch for hoisting it in and out of the van, but I'll need to get a receiver hitch installed to mount this. Anyway, it looks like it will be pretty useful once I get it all set up.

Concert: The Andover Chamber Music Series

One of my fans is a violist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He and his wife, a violinist, were performing with the Andover group at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge. He was kind enough to send me a pair of tickets. What a treat!

I'm generally a fan of chamber music anyway, but it has been a while since I heard any live. Live, in a small auditorium it's just a delight.

The program started with Peter Schickele's Invocation--starting with the pianist playing a one-note ostinato, then a flute is heard from offstage, and the flautist continues to play while walking on stage. This was a very moving piece. I think it might also be the first serious Schickele piece I've heard. Like most folks, I mainly know Shikcele from his P.D.Q. Bach comedy schtick.

This was followed by Wm. Albright's Rustles of Spring for saxophone, flute, piano, cello & violin. I had never heard of Albright, but enjoyed the piece thoroughly.

The first part of the concert concluded with Mendelssohn's String Quintet in A Major, Op. 18.

After the interval came the pièce de résistance, the original 13 piece chamber version of Aaron Coplnad's Appalachian Spring. What a treat! I'm not sure I ever heard this version even on record, and certainly never in the flesh.

Harriet and I had not previously known of this series, but will most likely subscribe next year, this was so much fun!

March 31, 2007

Film: (DVD) The Prestige Christopher Nolan, 2006

Fairly enjoyable film about a rivalry between two stage magicians in he late 19th century. Rather hard to follow though.

D'oh!

So, I thinks to meself last night: It's the 30th...'30 days hath September, April---April Fool! Better put up the April Fool links tonight! So I'm a day early this year, and to make it worse, I put a typo in the Subject heading:
Chain Cleaning & Maintneance

April 1, 2007

Dream

I dreamt that I was standing on a porch, waving goodby to my daughter Tova as she was on her way somewhere. As she stepped off the porch, she stepped into a mud puddle and started to sink. Just then, Harriet came out from behind me with Tova's coat, which she had evidently forgotten. She tossed the coat to Tova, but missed, and the coat landed half in the mud puddle. The coat then sank into the mud puddle, and so did Tova. As she went under, she looked up at me. I could see she had a serious, but not concerned nor distressed expression on her face. Then I woke up...

Took the Greenspeed for a ride on the Minuteman trail. I drove to Lexington Center, parked the Pontiac, and rode down to Arlington center and headed back. There's a slight grade along this route, and I was very slow coming back. So slow that I actually pulled out my PDA to read from my current science fiction book as I crept along. Total distance 9.8 miles, longest I've done since maybe September of last year. Average speed, 5.7 mph.

Film: (DVD) Imaginary Heroes Dan Harris, 2004

Billed as a "comedy/drama" but seemed pretty grim to me. A downer soap opera.

April 2, 2007

eBook: The Gripping Hand Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 1993

Sequel to The Mote in God's Eye, this is the last in the series , at least so far. Mostly enjoyable, though the last third of the book is mainly a highly technical description of a complicated series of space battles.

April 5, 2007

Film: (TV) A Wayfarer's Journey: Listening to Mahler Ruth Yorkin Drazen, 2007

Films about composers and/or music don't usually work too well for me, but I really enjoyed this. It is a very fine piece of work. Part biography, but mostly about the music and how it relates to Mahler's life and the lives of people of today. Features well selected excerpts and interviews with Christoph Eschenbach, among others. Richard Dreyfuss reads from Mahler's writings. There's also a very lively performance of one and a half of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Highly recommended.

I wound up watching this "real time" which I rarely do, but all three of my VCRs were tied up recording other stuff. Thursday evenings are a bit of a bottleneck these days.

April 6, 2007

eBook: Designated Targets John Birmingham, 2005

Sequel to Weapons of Choice in the Axis of Time series. I'm a sucker for both alternate history and time travel stories, so this is right up my alley. In 2021, a multinational naval battle group led by the supercarrier U.S.S. Hillary Clinton is mysteriously transported back to 1942, changing the entire course of WWII. The unintentional time travelers have much to offer to the Allied cause, but they must face major cultural conflicts, and also struggle against the evil machinations of J. Edgar Hoover. One of the principal heroes is Prince Harry, also known as "Major Windsor." It's not Turtledove, but I liked it anyway.

April 7, 2007

Drove up to Nashua New Hampshire for a seder with some friends of Harriet's It's been a few years since we last went to one of these. A good time was had by all.

On the drive back, I had a minor linguistic ephiphany: We were listening to Mahler's Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen and I was thinking about the German word "allein", which means "alone." If you deconstruct "allein" you get "all" "ein", i.e., "all one" which makes the etymology obvious. I had known this before, but what occurred to me tonight is that, if you look at the spelling, ignoring the pronunciation, our English word "alone" is the same, except that we dropped one of the l's from "all."

April 10, 2007

Film: (DVD) Flyboys Tony Bill, 2006

The good news: Very fine cinematography, excellent special effects, lots of thrilling WWI dogfights. Beautiful French scenery (except for No Man's Land.)

The bad news: Hackneyed writing, featuring exery war movie cliché you have seen a hundred times (except for the streetwise Italian kid from Brooklyn...he was missing from this one!)

April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

The great science fiction writer died last night. I always liked his stuff, starting when I used to buy it in 35 cent pulps back in the 1950s.

It's a shame that the Literary Establishment seems to have the idea that "if it's good, it isn't science fiction." Hardly any of the obits I've seen mention that basically all of Vonnegut's oeuvre was science fiction!

Film: (DVD) Final Impact John Birmingham, 2007

This is the conclusion of the Axis of Time series. Very enjoyable for a fan of both alternate history and time travel stories.

April 16, 2007

My sister is in town, drove over to Charlestown where she's staying with her daughter's family. She, her daughter and two grandkids went to see:

Film: Blades of Glory Josh Gordon, Will Spec 2007

Amusing comedy about Olympic figure skating. Two archrival male skaters tie for gold, and get into a brawl on the podium. They're both banned for life from men's singles skating. However, a loophole is found...they are still eligible for pairs skating, and they join forces becoming the first male/male pair...Good fun.

April 18, 2007

So, yesterday some lunatic in Virginia murdered 32 people before offing himself, and the news is full of nothing else...as perhaps it should be. However, if Iraq had a day when the biggest murder/suicide was "only" 33 people, that would be a good day by current Iraqi standards! Go figure...

eBook: Command Decision Elizabeth Moon, 2007

The 4th in the Vatta's War series. Highly satisfying space opera.

April 19, 2007

Re-dyed my beard, shaved my head for the summer. I learned my lesson last year when I waited too long to shave the dome, and as a result I had a wierd suntan for a while!

April 25, 2007

Film: (VHS from TV) Kidnapped 2007

This was a Masterpiece Theatre adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel. A decent film, though the actor who played David Balfour (the protagonist) wasn't all that sympathetic.

April 26, 2007

Got an email from Neurologist #3:
"I think you have MS and because its slowly progressive there is no effective therapy (yet?)
I would be happy to let you see our MS doc who does clinical trials Let me know"
Waiting to be connected with "MS doc"...

April 27, 2007

Film: (DVD) The Queen Stephen Frears, 2006

Helen Mirren certainly deserved the Best Actress Oscar she won for this tour de force. Very fine film.

April 28, 2007

Rode the Greenspeed down as far as the North Beacon Street bridge, 8.76 miles, 5 mph average speed. I was carrying my Nikon D70 with the 70-300 lens, mainly took a few photos of birds.
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Film: (DVD) The Last King of Scotland Kevin Macdonald, 2006

Horrifying depiction of the reign of Idi Amin in 1970s Uganda. Forrest Whittaker won Best Actor for this, and it was well earned. Another excellent film.

First Baptist Church NewtonApril 29, 2007

Concert: New Philharmonia Orchestra

The New Philharmonia is one of Newton's two symphony orchestras, but this is the first time I've heard it. Got a call this morning from a friend of mine who's a violist in the orchestra, so Harriet and I went to the concert. It was a good one!

The first part was Beethoven's Fidelio Overture and the Pastorale Symphony. My friend Al condcted the overture, a priveledge that had been auctioned off. He did a quite creditable job.

This was the first time I've ever been inside of the First Baptist Church of Newton, and I must admit that I was somewhat distracted from the mysic by the gorgeous interior decoration. I would have expected a Baptist church to have rather spare decor, but this is a time capsule of high-Victorian gingerbread, miraculously preserved through all of the many decades when it was out of fashion. The church was built in 1887-88, and the decor is heavily influenced by art deco. The photo doesn't do justice to the exquisite detailing. The organ pipes, in particular, are covered with spectacular art-deco arabesque designs, as are the edges of the four great arches.

After the intermission we moved up to the front row. The Newton All-City Treble Chorus joined the orchestra for a couple of Randall Thompson settings of Robert Frost poems. I read the poems during the intermission, and wasn't much impressed, but with the music they really worked, particularly the second: A Girl's Garden.

After the Thompson, there was a Mezzo soloist doing a Mozart aria and the Habanera from Carmen.

The concert concluded with Britten's Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes. This piece is a long-time favorite of mine. I must admit that I was a bit surprised when the conductor took up the microphone for a bit of a disclaimer to the audience, he seemed to think this was a "difficult, modern" work, though I've always thought of it as being pretty accessible...it's not Schœnberg, after all! Anyway, the orchestra did a fine job of it.

I'm currently in the midst of re-reading Victor Hugo's Quatrevingt-treize and during the intermission I was reading the horrific chapter that describes a loose carronade rolling back and forth across the deck of a sailing corvette. Hugo descibes this in vivid, terrifying detail. After reading this, the last of the Four Sea Interludes seemed particularly apposite.

Spoke

Forward to:

May-June, 2007

Back to:
2007:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2006:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2005:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2004:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2003:
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
2002:
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

Spoke

The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
Command DecisionElizabeth Moon4/18/07
Designated TargetsJohn Birmingham4/6/07
Final ImpactJohn Birmingham4/12/07
The Gripping HandLarry Niven & Jerry Pournelle4/2/07
The Mote in God's EyeLarry Niven & Jerry Pournelle3/23/07
Prince of SpartaJerry Pournelle3/11/07
King David's SpaceshipJerry Pournelle3/16/07
1634-The Baltic WarEric Flint & David Weber3/4/07
The Importance of Being EarnestOscar Wilde3/12/07

Spoke

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

Films reviewed on this page:
Blades of GloryApril 16, 2007
BoratMarch 24, 2007
FlyboysApril 10, 2007
French KissMarch 27, 2007
For Your ConsiderationMarch 18, 2007
Imaginary HeroesApril 1, 2007
KidnappedApril 25, 2007
Kristin LavransdatterMarch 9, 2007
L. A. StoryMarch 16, 2007
The Last King of ScotlandApril 28, 2007
The PrestigeMarch 31, 2007
The QueenApril 27, 2007
Stranger Than FictionMarch 10, 2007
United 93March 19, 2007
A Wayfarer's Journey: Listening to MahlerApril 5, 2007

Spoke

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

Music reviewed on this page:
DatePerformersWorks
April 29, 2007New Philharmonia OrchestraBeethoven, Randall Thompson, Britten
March 30, 2007The Andover Chamber Music Series Schickele, Albright, Mendelssohn, Copland
March 17, 2007B.S.O., James Levine, Stephanie Blythe Mahler, Symphony #3
March 3, 2007House Concert: Bernice Lewis

Spoke

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 052999
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Travels: 112206
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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