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September 3, 1999

Play: Nine at The Publick Theatre

This is a play based on Fellini's 8 1/2. I didn't much like the film, but liked the play better.

September 9, 1999

George and I auditioned for the M.I.T. Gilbert and Sullivan Players Iolanthe, and will both be in the chorus! What joy to get to share a stage with my son. His low voice has gained greatly in power since our last performance together in The Pirates of Penzance., and at 16 he's now just about as tall as me. The show will for 7 performances, the first two weekends in November.

September 12, 1999

George got his learner's permit in the spring, the day before he went off to camp. He only got a chance to drive around a parking lot a few times then. When we picked him up from camp, we drove off to Ithaca, then the car died. Anyway, today was his first time actually driving on the road. He's a bit timid, as who wouldn't be, but seems to be picking it up quickly. He drove to the library, then the supermarket, then to a video rental store...not too scary.

Conventional wisdom is that it is not good for parents to teach driving to their children, but I don't think it's going to put too much strain on our relationship: I'm a pretty easy-going guy, and never had too much regard for conventional wisdom.

Film: The Thin Red Line

This has been represented as the Pacific Theatre Saving Private Ryan, but, while it was quite good, I don't think it was that good.

September 13, 1999

Harriet had gone down to Florida to visit her mother, and was planning to return tomorrow. Due to the foretold depredations of Hurricane Floyd, however, she decided it would be prudent to return home tonight. I'm glad to have her back safe and sound.

September 18, 1999

Film: Oh God!

I don't know how I missed seeing this the first time around. I seem to recall that it was well received originally, and there was even a sequel or two. I expected to like it much better than I did. John Denver was quite a dweeb, and the whole script was nothing but low-grade fluff. Very disappointing.

September 19, 1999

Film: The Silence of the Lambs

I'd been putting off seeing this for quite a while. Though I'm a big Antony Hopkins fan, I really don't like scary movies. It was pretty good, though the plot was a bit weak.

The climax was ludicrous, with Jodie Foster chasing the armed maniac from room to room. She finally gets into the same room as he is, and he shuts out the lights. Since he's got IR night vision equipment, he can see her, but she can't see him. He gets right next to her, we see him raise his revolver and point it at her...his thumb cocks the hammer and POW! Jodie fires at the sound and virtue triumps. I'm afraid this gimmick strained my credulity past the breaking point. Why would he wait so long to cock his weapon in a situation like this? Makes no sense at all to me.

The acting was pretty good, as was the cinematography.

September 25-26, 1999

Canoeing-Hornets

George and I had an Iolanthe rehearsal in the afternoon, the Act 1 finale. It is going well. This caused us to be late for the Boy Scout canoe trip. We joined it in progress. The scouts were canoeing down from Rt 109 in Medfield to camp at Rocky Narrows, with the plan to paddle on to South Natick on Sunday morning. George and I decided to drive to South Natick, park there and paddle upstream to the campsite.

We had planned to use our old Great Canadian canoe, but when we went to get it down from the rack we discovered that a hive of hornets had taken up residence. We both got stung trying to move the canoe. In a brilliant maneuver, I decided to try to smoke them out: I crumpled some newspaper and put it on a rake, lit it, and held it under the upside-down canoe. I didn't want to damage the rake, so I temporarily dumped the paper on the inverted bottom of the old Blue Hole canoe below the Great Canadian on the rack. This might have been OK if I hadn't gotten a phone call just then, distracting me. When I got back to the canoes, I found that the fire had gotten a bit out of control. I put it out easily enough with the hose, but there is a sizeable scorched area on the bottom of the Blue Hole, and I fear it's a goner. I won't know for sure 'til I succeed in dispossessing the hornets, which may not happen 'til winter. Anyway, we wound up renting a canoe.

We got to South Natick and into the water about 6:10, and paddled off into the setting sun. It was a magical trip, in sunset, twilight, sky-glow and finally the full moon. There wasn't a breath of wind, and there's not much current in this stretch due to the dam at Sounth Natick--the water was a perfect mirror, even reflecting the stars. We had the river to ourselves, and I got into singing, as is my wont when canoeing. I was in good voice, and went through most of my current repertoire: Tit Willow, Harbo and Samuelson, Passant par Paris, The Cumberland and the Merrimack, Why am I Moody and Sad?, Tailleurs de Pierre, Northwest Passage, Mary Ellen Carter, I shipped, d'ye see, in a Revenue Sloop, Flowers of Bermuda, A la claire Fontaine...

September 29, 1999

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra

This was the opening night gala of the 1999-2000 season. This was a formal affair, starting with a champagne reception before the concert. I rented a dinner jacket for the occasions (photos to follow.)

Hildegarde Behrens joined Ozawa and the BSO for an aria from Tannhäauser, then some excerpts from Götterdämmerung. Great bloodthirsty stuff, followed by an even grislier monologue from Strauss's Electra, including the charming lines:

Father! Agamemmnon! Your day will come.

As from the stars

all time pours down so will the blood from a hundred throats gush on to your grave!

As from overturned pitchers it will flow out of the fettered murderers, an in a surging wave, in a swollen stream, their life-blood will

pour out of them.

And in your honor we will slaughter the horses from your stables, we will drive them to the grave, and they will scent death and whinny in the air of death and die.

And we will slaughter your hounds that licked your feet...

I'm glad Tasha wasn't there to hear that last bit! Having ones toes licked by Tasha is probably the greatest sensual pleasure possible below the knees.

October 2, 1999

Iolanthe rehearsal, Act 1 finale. I wanted to cycle in to M.I.T., but George didn't. I should have insisted--there was a football game, a soccer game and some kind of alumni do going on all at once, and parking was very hard to find.

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra

A glorious performance of the Mahler Second, with Florance Quivar and Paula Delligatti and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. I've heard Ozawa play this before, but he outdid himself tonight. Little bits here and there were taken rather faster than I'm used to, but it always worked well.

I meant to tape the concert off the radio, but I still had the VCR set for the Tanglewood starting time of 8:30, rather than the Symphony Hall 8:00, so I missed the first half hour or so...drat!

October 3, 1999

George has been invited to join a group that will be performing an Italian sword dance in this year's Christmas Revels. Fortunately, the dance groups share the load a bit, so he won't need to be in all 16 shows. I was in the '95 Christmas show, and the schedule was brutal.

I dropped George off in Sudbury for his first rehearsal, and brought a bike along with me to do a bit of mountain biking in an area less familiar to me, the King Phillip Conservation Area. The singletrack trails turned out be a bit too technical for me, and I dumped pretty hard downslope after catching my foot on a protruding branch. I landed quite hard on my back, with my bike on top of me. Narrowly escaped getting impaled on the stub of a branch on a deadfall that I landed on the other side of. Got a bit cut up on my right calf, and a painful bruise on my right quad.

That night, I couldn't sleep due to stomach pain. About 3:30, it got so bad that I went into the emergency room at Newton Wellesley Hospital. They tried various drugs which did little or nothing, took x-rays and ultrasound. Eventually the pain settled down. The exact cause is undetermined so far...might be a peptic ulcer, or might be the gall bladder. I'm leaning to the gall bladder theory, since none of the antacids or other stomachy things seemed to make any difference at all.

October 5, 1999

Book: Napoleon, by Emil Ludwig

This biography was written shortly before the First World War. It is mainly an examination of the personality and development of the Corsican Tyrant, and the influences and ideas that led to his rise and fall. The author is rather more admiring of Bonaparte than I am, though the book is not a whitewash. Ludwig tends to focus a lot on Napoleon's ends, which were often noble and good, while placing less emphasis on the evil means used toward those ends.

He dreamed of a United States of Europe, (which Ludwig felt was just around the corner in the early 'teens, when he wrote), and accomplished much that was good: built schools, roads, hospitals, ports; established a very advanced legal/judicial system which is still in place with little modification in most of Europe.

He also practiced the war crime of conscription on an unprecedented scale, and drenched Europe in the blood of his enslaved soldiers and their victims.

One of Napoleon's major errors was his ambiguity about heredity vs merit. He rose to power in the wake of the egalitarian French Revolution by promoting officers of skill, talent and energy. Most of them came up from the ranks--the Revolution had caused most of the old aristocratic officers to flee the country or to lose their heads to the guillotine. Had he stuck with this approach, history might have been very different, but he couldn't resist the urge to make his brothers into kings and his sisters into queens. This led to his establishment of a whole new set of nobility, with himself on top as emperor. This destroyed the moral/political underpinnings of his regime.

October 7, 1999

To Chicago for the CABDA bicycle show at Rosemont (an extremely weird place, a one-man company town run by Donald W. Stephens. The residential area of Rosemont is the only "gated" town in the U.S. Formerly a tiny farm village, its location next to O'Hare Airport has been parlayed into a mini-empire by the construction of a large convention center and a cluster of hotels to serve it.

October 8, 1999

Book: How I learned to Ride the Bicycle, by Frances Willard

The author, a pioneer suffragist and temperance advocate, set out to master bicycling in 1893, at the age of 53. This book tells of her struggles, but also uses this as a metaphorical framework for her to expound many of her thoughts on life, politics and women's rights. Quite a delightful little book. A careful examination of the photographs included shows that her task was further complicated by the fact that her bicycle had a bent fork, probably resulting from a front-end collision before it was given to her.

October 9, 1999

CABDA show. Went to a prestentation on the new Shimano wheels. The technology is revolutionary, and looks to me to have real promise. Went to yet another Mexican restaurant (Las Palmas) with Arlene. Rented:

Film: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This was one of the better Shakespeare film adaptations I've seen, making generally appropriate use of special effects. The acting was quite good.

This was a video rented from Blockbuster, which I had assumed was the new version with Kevin Kline and Calista Flockheart...but it wasn't. I haven't been able to determine what version it was.

October 10, 1999

I woke up this morning recalling a dream...I had missed game 3 of the divisional playoffs between the Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians. I dreamt that I heard a news report, saying that the Sox had won it by a score of 27 to 24. Was this prophetic? Although that game was won by the Sox 9 to (1?), tonight's game was the highest-scoring post-season game in history, Sox 23, Indians 7! Another Mexican restaurant, El Tipico this time. As we were getting into the car to drive out to dinner, I found a $5 bill in the gutter...my lucky day!

October 11, 1999

Drove up to Lake Forest College with my sister Arlene, then borrowed her car to drive up to Waterford, Wisconsin to see the Waterford Precision Cycles factory. It was the cleanest and tidiest bicycle factory I've seen, if it can be called a factory; probably a better description would be a large-scale frame-building facility. It's in two buildings on the outskirts of tiny Waterford (population 2300 or so.) Richard Schwinn gave me a quick tour.

After driving back to Lake Forest, I got my nephew Stephen's old Cannondale mountain bike out of the back of the car to ride back to Evanston (17.2 miles as the lost cyclist wanders.) This was not the most pleasurable ride, since the bike had a rather short seatpost, so the saddle was at least 2 inches too low for me. My knees did NOT like this, especially with the 175 mm cranks, which are longer than I'm used to. As I rolled up in front of Arlene & Mel's house, I found another $5 bill in the gutter!

The Green Bay Bicycle Trail

There's supposedly a bike path, the Green Bay Bike Trail, that runs along the commuter rail line most of the way. Although the basic routing has great potential, the actual implementation of this path is almost a text-book example of how to do a bikeway wrong.

Some of the path is well paved, but most of it isn't. Far too much of it is crushed stone instead of proper pavement.

This bikeway appears to be built (I couldn't say "designed") with the idea that cyclists will drive to one of the many parking lots along it, unload their bikes, ride a few miles, then turn around and ride back to their cars. It doesn't seem to have occurred to the builders that some people might actually want to use the bike way to actually go somewhere. There are no directional signs of any sort on the segment I used, and none of the cross streets are marked, so it is almost impossible to determine where you are, even if you have a map. While most of the mileage of the path is on the railroad right-of-way, every mile or two it dumps you out onto an unmarked sidewalk or parking lot, and only good luck or good navigation will help you find the trail again.

I finally lost it in Winnetka (probably the most anti-bicycle town in Illinois, the most anti-bicycle state.) I found myself dumped out onto a brick-paved street that "T'ed" out at a major city street on which cycling was prohibited! The anti-bicycle forces in Winnetka are so firmly in control that there's a section of Sheridan Road (the main road cycling route from Chicago north along the shore of Lake Michigan) where, for about half a mile, they prohibit cycling, even though the speed limit is 15 mph! Do they have detour signs to show you how to find your way around this crazy bottleneck? No way! You're on your own.

After losing the path, I finally found my way to Sheridan Road, which I followed south to Evanston. Sheridan leads to Ridge, one of the main north-south streets of Evanston. This goes within a block of my sister's house, so it should have been easy to get back, but Evanston, too is anti-bicycle, so most of Ridge is off limits to bicycles. (I should make it clear that this is not an expressway or limited access highway; it is an ordinary city street, with houses and driveways! In Massachusetts, a bicycle prohibition like this would be against the law, but Illinois doesn't believe that bicycle users are entitled to the equal protection of the laws.) There are parallel streets to Ridge (I used Asbury) but they generally have stop signs every 2 or 3 blocks. Stop signs are, of course considerably more burdensome to cyclists than they are to motorists, but the government of Evanston doesn't care about cyclists, and, it appears, rather wishes that they'd just go away.

Went out to a non-Mexican restaurant, for a change. The Lucky Platter on Main Street. Fair to good food, somewhat spoilt by the grumpy attitude of the waitress.

October 20, 1999

Barium enemas are not much fun, nor is the preparation for them. The whole procedure left me rather wiped out.

October 23, 1999

Book: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by Mark Twain 1896

This triply pseudonymous book is framed as a memoir of "The Sieur Louis de Conte (her page and secretary) Freely translated out of the ancient French into modern English from the original unpublished manuscript in the National Archives of France by Jean François Alden" While I've long been a Twain fan, I'd never heard of this, and was startled to run across it on a shelf at the Library. It's quite a ripping yarn, with some genuinely funny bits, mainly at the expense of the English and the established Church. I really have no idea how historically accurate it is, though it has a bibiliography of eleven scholarly sounding biographies. On the whole, I'd say that it is not as good as the first half of Huckleberry Finn, but better than the second half.

Harriet and I went looking at cars this morning--the '90 Grand Caravan is getting a bit long in the tooth, and we've had a lot of expensive trouble with it lately. We're looking at newer Caravan/Voyagers, or maybe a late model Ford Windstar.

Iolanthe rehearsals are going along well. Although George and I both missed a bunch while I was out in Chicago, we seem to be pretty much up to speed. George is a quick study, and I'm pretty familiar with the music--Iolanthe was the first Gilbert & Sullivan I discovered, when I bought a bargain Richmond LP set in 1962, and I've listened to it uncounted times since then. The bass chorus part mostly lies in very comfortable parts of my vocal range.

October 25-26, 1999

Another gastric attack sent me back to the emergency room, and this tim they kept me for a couple of days, a CT scan, another Ultrasound and still no diagnosis.

October 26, 1999

Book:

Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone by J.K. Rowling

(This is the dumbed down U.S. market version of H.P. and the Philosopher's Stone. Too bad about the boneheaded US publisher, Scholastic Press. They think 'Mericuns are too stupid to know that a "dustbin" is a trash can, and that the terms "public school" and "private school" have transposed meanings in Blighty. The Barbarians are at the gates.

This is quite an entertaining, quick read. Actually, the plot is the old warmed-over chestnut coming-of-age-at-a-public-school (private school?!?) with a thaumaturgical spin. It features the traditional cast of characters: the doughty, talented, lower-middle-class protagonist and his entourage, including the brilliant wonk, good hearted but clueless and clumsy dweeb, loyal lieutenant, kindly groundskeeper. They take on the bullying aristo snob, sadistic, bitter prof (and a 3 headed dog.)

The "playing fields of Eton" in this instance involve broomsticks and 5 self-propelled balls of assorted sizes.

October 27, 1999

Yet another doctor, this time a specialist, Dr. Theodore Koh. The man's a gem, and inspires much more confidence in me than any of the other MDs I've been dealing with the past month. He doesn't treat me like a fool, and explains the possibilities lucidly. He's scheduled yet another test, observing flow through the small intestine.

October 29, 1999

Dream: Harriet and I were visiting a locomotive factory (not the old ALCO one in Schhenectady, a newer, more modern place. There were all kinds of enormous machines there. I posed and photographed Harriet under the chuck of a huge drill-press, as if she were a drill bit ready to do a pirouette.

A large workman came in rolling a big heavy wooden barrel up next to his workbench. With amazing economy of motion and practiced ease, he used a heavy sledge hammer to drive one of the staves out, causing the barrel to disintegrate and leaving a huge pile of black sand-like stuff next to his bench. This was just what he meant to do, and he had a shovel handy to use on the sand-like stuff...

October 30, 1999

Operetta: The Pirates of Penzance, The Cornell Savoyards

. My daughter Tova is a freshman at Cornell, and this past weekend was freshman parents' weekend. We found ourselves with time on our hands on Saturday night in Ithaca. A fortunate encouter informed us of a performance of Pirates that very night, so off we went.

It was particularly intriguing for George and me, because we had been choristers in the same operetta in the M.I.T. Gilbert & Sullivan Players production (http://sheldonbrown.com/pirates98/) in April of last year. We enjoyed the Cornell Savoyards production very much, though I don't think it was quite as good as the one we were in...

This student-dominated production took place in the rather cavernous 1000 seat Ithaca High School auditorium. The orchestra was in front of the right 1/3 of the large proscenium stage, and would have obstructed the view of anybody who would sit behind them. Since there were probably fewer than 200 in the house, this was not a problem in practice.

The orchestra was very good for an amateur unit. They could have used more string players for balance, (3 violins, 2 violas, 1 cello, 2 basses) but the orchestra in general was quite smooth and musical. I'd particularly commend oboist Aaron Jakubiec.

Unfortunately, the percussionist was apparently A.W.O.L. for this performance. Conductor Richard Majors made a valiant attempt to double on the snare drum during the overture, but it was asking too much, and he soon gave over. The lack of percussion was most keenly felt in "With Cat-like Tread", but the lack of a bass drum was partially compensated by having 2 double basses.

Frederic sang well, but his acting tended to be a bit on the hammy side. The Pirate King was well cast, though some of his schtick seemed to have been taken from the Papp film (actually, some of Frederic's hamming was rather reminiscent of that film as well.)

Ruth and the Major General (and one of the Pirates) were the only cast members who appeared to be older than undergraduates. They both did very well indeed, but Ruth seemed to be, perhaps nursing a cold, and her voice tired early in the production.

Both choruses sang quite well..."Hail Poetry" was flawless and glorious...but the chrous acting was rather mixed.

The Police were, at least to me, quite disappointing. There were 6 plus the sargent (1 was a woman) and their balance was, I thought too much on the tenor end of the spectrum. They were fairly busily choreographed, but their facial expresions tended to be varously either overdone or blank. The sargent (who for some reason was wearing a bandsman's kepi with a large American eagle on the front) seemed to lack the proper deadpan attitude that works best in this role, and to do rather too much mugging.

A highlight of Act 2 was the tango scene interpolated into the battle bewtween the Pirates and Police. This featured the Pirate King and one of the maidens. It was neither Gilbert nor Sullivan, but it worked quite well.

All in all, a splendid time was had by all (and the refreshments were super!)

October 31, 1999

Book: Interface, by "Stephen Bury (Neil Stephenson & ?) 1994

This was an early work of Neil Stephenson, in collaboration with an un-named co-author. It's quite good, and I'd highly recommend it. It deals with a presidential candidate who suffers a stroke, and is treated with an experimental implanted microchip which is intended to restore the broken pathways in his brain. Unfortunately, this chip also allows him to be controlled by radio by a sinister cabal. It sounds hokey, but is much more persuasive as "Stephen Bury" tells it.

As with other Stephenson books, it has a varied, well drawn and fascinating cast of characters.

Book: Ringworld, by Larry Niven 1970

We listened to this on tape during the drive to and from Ithaca. The 12 hour reading timed out perfectly, and ended within half a mile of our house on the return trip!

It has been quite a while since I read this, and it was fun to re-visit Niven's "Known Space" series again. The concept of the Ringworld, an enormous ring around a sun, rotating for artificial gravity and providing more living space than thousands of planets is intriguing, to say the least. The alien characters, a felinoid Kzin and a two-headed, three legged Pierson's Puppeteer are well worth the price of admission, despite the sexism which somewhat mars the book.
For Halloween, I put up a different self portrait on most of my pages,
with a link to a larger version:
../Sheldon Brown photo

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November-December, 1999

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
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Books:
InterfaceStephen Bury10/31/99
NapoleonEmil Ludwig10/5/99
RingworldLarry Niven10/31/99
InterfaceStephen Bury (Neal Stephenson)10/31/99
Click here for more Books

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Films:
Oh God!September 18, 1999
The Thin Red LineSeptember 12, 1999
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Music:
DatePerformersWork
October 2, 1999B.S.O., Seiji Ozawa
Florence Quivar, Mezzo; Paula Delligatti, Sop.
Mahler, Symphony #2
September 29, 1999B.S.O., Seiji Ozawa,
Hildegarde Behrens, Soprano
Wagner: Tannhäauser, Götterdämmerung excerpts;
Strauss: Electra excerpt.
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Plays:
September 3, 1999The Publick TheatreNine
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Travels:
October 29-31, 1999Ithaca, New York
October 7-13, 1999Chicago/Evanston, Illinois

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