Film: Spartacus, Stanley Kubrick 1960This is Hollywood epic-making at its best. The inspiring story of a slave-gladiator turned tragic revolutionary is mostly quite well done...with the exception of the talentless Tony Curtis. The all-star cast includes Kirk Douglas in the title role, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, and Peter Ustinov.
Film: La Marseillaise, Jean Renoir 1938A surprisingly even-handed look at the French Revolution from the prise de la Bastille to the taking of Versailles. For such a political subject, and such a political time, the characters were surprisingly realistic.
Gary Smiley turned me on to some nifty shareware called Panorama Factory. This is an alternate way of making panoramas, by "stitching" a series of normal photos together. Unfortunately, it is only available for Wintel machines, so I need to use Virtual PC to make it work on my Mac. Here's a quick and dirty Panoramic Photo of my back room
This was made from 13 individual exposures. It doesn't do a complete sphere like iPix does, but it can have better detail than you get with an iPix. [The large original is no longer around. -- HJF]
Film (video) One, Two, Three by Billy Wilder, 1961This is a hilarious Cold War farce, set in Berlin, 1961, with James Cagney as the manager of the local Coca-Cola bottler. It relies very heavily on stereotypes, but this makes it a sort of time capsule of a vanished era, as well as a laugh riot. The pacing is frenetic and the comic timing is masterful.
Book: The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver 1998This is a beautiful but horrifying book, mostly set in central Africa. The protagonists are a mother and four daughters, brought by their god-crazed husband/father from Georgia to the (then) Belgian Congo as missionaries in 1960.
They think they can change Africa, but it is Africa that changes them. The book is full of captivating imagery, and is told in the voices of each of the 5 women/girls as the chapters rotate by. Highly recommended.
Over the weekend, Sturmey-Archer was shut down, possibly forever. This was sad, but Sturmey-Archer quality has been on a steady downhill slide since the 1960s, so I don't think I'll miss their hubs so much.
The nasty part is that Sturmey-Archer also owns/owned Brooks saddles, and this has created a crisis. I checked with Mel Pinto, my usual Brooks source on Monday, and he checked with Persons Majestic, the only authorized importer. Persons has cut off supplies to Mel and other distributors, and intends to sell their remaining stock off at retail on the Web. Mel has decided to hold on to what he has on hand, at least 'til the dust settles.
The phone has been ringing off the wall all day with people wanting to buy Brooks saddles. Since our stock appears to be irreplaceable, I've raised up the prices, but we're still far from meeting the demand. I did manage to get some additional saddles from Quality, which should help.
Film: (video) High Fidelity, by Stephen Frears, 2000This romantic comedy centers on the very self-centered record-store owner played by John Cusak, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The film was a lot of fun, looking at courtship in the '90s, in a subculture devoted to pop music. Highly recommended.
26 mile ride on my Bianchi Brava, first "pleasure ride" for me in a while, and 26 miles is longer than I'm used to these days. It was different to be on a geared bike, with STI and everything. Went out to Glezen Lane and Water Row in Sudbury, came back via 117 and Waltham.
Film: (video) Mission to Mars, by Brian de Palma, 2000"Hard" science fiction, with no bad guys, lots of good special effects. The plot wasn't much, but I enjoyed it anyway. Only recommended for hard sf fans.
Film: (DVD) Topsy Turvy, by Mike Leigh, 1999I saw this in the theatre back in February. I loved it then, and it is the first DVD I've bought, even though I don't yet have a DVD player. I watched it tonight on Harriet's Powerbook. It was just as good as I remembered it. I particularly enjoyed the rehearsal scenes, which really felt true to me from my own experience in the theatrical productions I've been in.
Drove to Ithaca to see:
Play: The Maids, by Jean GenetThis production at Cornell University's Black Box Theatre featured Tova in the role of Solange. I can't say that I much liked the play, but the performances by all 3 actors were excellent. I do hope Tova doesn't get typecast into this sort of madwoman role, though she does this sort of thing quite well. I'd really prefer to see her doing more comedy, which she also excels in.
We are staying in a converted railway car, down by the lake. It's an old passenger car that had formerly been converted into a restaurant, and has recently been re-converted into a bed and breakfast. The adjoining railroad station building is a restaurant still. There are 3 such cars, and an old steam locomotive standing on a bit of the old track. It's a very cool place, done up in an approximation of Gilded Age splendor.
Dropped my Handspring Visor on a marble floor, and it's not working properly now. Bummer, I REALLY miss it!
Book: Honour Redeemed by Tom Connery, 2000This is the sequel to A Shred of Honour. I liked this one better. It's set in Corsica, just as Bonapartism is beginning to rise, and features the valiant nationalist general Paoli, and his daughter a guerrilla fighter who can't resist Lt. Markham's charms.
Book: (audio) Hornblower and the Atropos 1953Listened to this in the car going out to Ithaca and back. I've read this one probably 3 or 4 times, but not lately. It opens with a wonderful description of a trip by canal boat in the glory days of canal boating, when the 9 mph of a two-horse planing canal boat was an astonishing speed event. This one also involves diving to salvage a quarter-million-pound treasure from 100 feet below the Mediterranean, using Sinhalese pearl divers and early underwater explosives.
Made an IPIX panorama of Ithaca Falls [IPIX plugin no longer works]
I called Handspring last night about my busted Visor Deluxe. They said they'd send another. To my great surprise, it arrived this morning! Sure glad to have a working unit again!
Watched the first Bush/Gore debate on the tube. Seemed to me that Gore was much more in command, and I'd consider him the clear winner, but maybe my liberal Democrat bias is showing.
Travel--Evanston Illinois.Off to Chicagoland for the CABDA bicycle show, and to spend some time with my sister and her husband.
The CABDA show is smaller this year than last, only on one floor and not all of that. Scuttlebutt is that this will be the last time, which will be sad. I enjoy this show, and also enjoy spending time in Chicago with my sister.
Film: (video) All About My Mother, by Pedro AlmodóvarA nurse living in Madrid loses her son in a traffic accident, and, grief-stricken, returns to Barcelona to search for his lost, partially transsexual father. A well made film, but rather gloomy and squalid for my taste.
Operetta: The Mikado, Gilbert & Sullivan, the Savoy-Aires, Evanston, Illinois.While visiting my sister in Evanston, I spotted a banner for this production by the Savoy-Aires, and was able to get tickets to the Saturday evening show.
I had not been familiar with this group before, but was quite pleased, in general with the production. They had the largest orchestra I've ever encountered in a G & S production, and some excellent soloists. Nanki-Poo had a splendid, unusually strong voice, and used it well (though his acting was often marred by in inappropriate goofy grin.) Pooh-Bah was particularly fine as well, a fine singer with a deft feel for the comedy of the role.
Yum-Yum, Pitti-Sing and Katisha were all well up to the task, though Yum-Yum was somewhat overpowered by Nanki-Poo in some of the duets.
The Mikado was quite funny, though less scary than some that I've seen. His comic dancing was the choreographical high point of the show, which was otherwise a bit lacking in that department. The choreography tended a bit too much to static straight lines, and the men's chorus was not well enough drilled in their fan work in the opening number.
Ko-Ko was rather a disappointment. His voice was not as strong as one would have wished, and he wasn't funny enough to make up for this. His delivery was mostly blah, and his timing was poor.
The costumes were mostly quite good, especially the Mikado's robe. Strangely, Yum-Yum was wearing what appeared to be pajamas in act one, while the other maids were kimonoed. Ko-Ko's costume was not particularly Japanese looking, with something resembling a bandsman's shako.
Despite these cavils, this was a very enjoyable show, and I hope to have the opportunity to see future Savoy-Aires productions.
eBook: The Sails of Tau Ceti by Michæl McCollum, 1993This is a good one, with plausible aliens arriving by light sail from a nova-destroyed planet of Tau Ceti, hoping to find a new home among humanity they've been studying by radio for 250 years. Highly recommended for hard science fiction fans.
A day for doing touristy things. First, off to the Art Institute of Chicago, never been there before. Amazing collection, comparable to the MFA back home. Lots of Monets, more than I've seen in one place since the blockbuster traveling Monet exhibit a few years back. I was particularly taken by some Georgia O'Keefes they had, formerly Alfred Steichen's. There was this green mountain somewhere in Canada that really caught my eye. They've also got the famous Seurat Afternoon on the Grand Jatte, Grant Wood's American Gothic, and the Hopper Nighthawks. Nighthawks is worth seeing in the canvas, doesn't seem to reproduce all that well. Contrariwise, American Gothic looked the same as all of the reproductions one has seen.
After that, we went to the top of the Sears Tower. I took a bunch of photos, including this Quicktime panorama: [Unfortunately, this panorama is no longer viewable. -- HJF]I'm really impressed with this Panorama Factory software. The interior image near the top of this page was done with the camera on a tripod, aimed level, and I was pretty pleased with how it came out.
The view above was made under much less favorable conditions, with a hand-held camera, walking around the observation deck of the Sears Tower, so the camera was not in the same place for each image. To make things even more challenging, the camera was aimed downward, to get more city and less sky. This led to an unavoidable "keystone" effect. I figured I could perhaps correct this on the 27 individual images in Photoshop, but before doing so, I tried just plugging the raw images into the Panorama Factory software. To my amazement, it handled the images with no problems, and corrected the key-stoning automatically. This software is well worth the $35 shareware, and even worth the trouble of dealing with Virtual PC on a machine that's just barely able to run it.
Cycled from eastern Gary to Michigan City, Indiana. Pleasant ride, mostly along route 12, much of it in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. I rode my old '96 Cannondale ST500 tourer, which now belongs to my nephew Stephen Eskilson. It's been a while since I rode a bike with downtube shifters, but given the basically flat terrain, I didn't actually do that much shifting.
It was a beautiful day for a ride. Saw a doe quite close...she was getting ready to cross the road, but stopped when she saw me coming. When I got within about 10 meters from her she turned and bounded back into the woods.
Went for a boat tour on the Chicago River, focussing on the architecture of the city. This was great fun, beautiful weather and a very entertaining docent. The Daley administration has been making a major effort to spiff up the river, and it has been working. Highly recommended to visitors to Chicago.
Flew back home
Film: (video) Shine by Scott Hicks, 1996The story of David Helfgott's struggles with his father and mental illness. There is some dispute as to whether David's father was as much of a monster as he's portrayed. I can't say I enjoyed this very much.
Signed up for yet another domain today, "sheldonbrown.net." I signed up with Icom for another "Ecco" package, partly for the additional domain, but mainly because I'm getting tight for space on the 200 mb allotted to captainbike.com, so I can definitely use the extra 45 mb.
TV: Deadline.This seems to be, in some ways, a "Cracker" clone. It had sounded promising, but the whole premise of this episode, at least was so far-fetched as to be ludicrous. This one involves a scam to defraud culturally-illiterate "dot-com millionaires" by having them become patrons of fake avant-garde composers. The "composers" are out-of-work actors playing "avant-garde" music by the likes of John Cage, and the gullible D-C Ms are fooled into thinking the music original. If that wasn't outré enough, the murderer, a gifted and successful pianist, croaks his agent by slipping her an anti-depressant that he knows will make her crazy if she drinks red wine with it. Sure enough, she runs in front of a bus. I'll give this show one more chance, but it's not all that promising.
Watched the final Gore/Bush debate, this one in "town hall meeting" format, as the pundits say--more correct would be "town meeting" which is the correct term for the traditional New England form of local government.
I thought Gore cleaned Bush's clock, with commanding presence, masterful body language and a general take-charge attitude. Where they differ on the issues, I'm definitely in the Gore camp. It was interesting to note that when the death penalty issue was raised, while they both, alas, favor it, for this one question, Gore answered while sitting on his stool, rather than pushing up toward the audience.
Film: U-571 by Jonathan Mostow, 2000This submarine flick was rather maddening to anybody who knows about the subject. It caused great anger in the UK because the events depicted were achievements of the Royal Navy, but the Hollywood money men decided it would be more "commercial" to give the credit to the U.S. Navy.
I don't quite understand the "action-adventure" genre's fascination with flames. They are quite prevalent here, including a fire onboard the U-boat, which one of the crew extinguishes in the compartment next to him, then stops to rest while you can still see flames in the next compartments down the line. Then there's the German destroyer (were there really German destroyers running around on the surface in 1942?) being hit by a single torpedo in the bow, and instantly becoming totally engulfed in a fireball before sinking like a rock.
The McGuffin is the famous "Enigma" code machine, though, in reality, it was the actual code books that were the true prize...the Allies already had the machines, but they were useless without the daily keys.
Film: Princess Mononoke by Hayao Miyazaki 1997This animated feature is based on an old Japanese legend. It was quite engaging, and had more depth than one might expect from a "cartoon." I didn't think the english dubbing was all that good, seemed a bit too laid back.
Music: Leon Rosselson at Johnny D's in SomervilleSongwriter/singer Leon Rosselson stopped by on his 4th farewell US tour, and flogging his new disc. Best known for The World Turned Upside Down, his 2 sets were a mixture of quirky humorous songs and quirky, but deeply felt songs on social/political themes. It was a fine show.
Book: Saturn's Race, by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes, 2000More good "hard" science fiction, set 20 years into the future. Bioengineering has progressed to the point where virtual immortality seems possible, but continued population growth has rendered it a deeply held secret of the "council" who rule a high-tech nation based on floating island-cities. A mysterious individual or entity called "Saturn" has attempted to solve this problem by distributing an AIDS vaccine with the secret side effect that users' female children will be rendered infertile. Now the first generation of infertile Third World females are reaching maturity and the plot is revealed... This is a good one, as one might expect from Larry Niven's franchise.
Voteswap2000.comSome clever people have set up a Web site to match voters, http://www.voteswap2000.com/. The idea is to enlist Nader supporters from states where the election is expected to be close, and Gore supporters from states that are in the bag for one or the other candidate, and have them swap votes!
Massachusetts is for sure going to go Democratic, as always, so my vote can't possibly help Gore. I've been paired up with a Nader supporter from Michigan, a key battleground state. I'll switch my vote from Gore to Nader, and she'll switch hers from Nader to Gore. This improves the chance of Gore carrying Michigan, and my Nader vote counts toward getting Nader over the 5% threshold to qualify for matching funds in '04!
This may be a date of great historical significance. It may be the last day that the entire human race is confined to planet Earth! The International Space Station is getting its first regular occupants today, and, presumably, there'll always be at least some humans in space from now on, to the last syllable of recorded time...
1,000,000 visitors!The Harris Cyclery/sheldonbrown.com site went up a bit over 5 years ago, and this afternoon, around 1 pm, it had it's millionth visitor! Yes, I know there are lots of repeat visitors, but it's still a kick to break into the 7-digit league.
http://www.voteswap2000.com/ notified me that they're discontinuing their site, because of fear of legal complications. It seems that California law may make this illegal. I've opted to accept the risk of extradition, and so has my partner in Michigan. There are still other sites doing this matching, including http://www.nadertrader.org/
Harriet bought Halloween candy too early last week, and we finished it all off ahead of time. I bought some more this afternoon on the way home from the shop...and she did the same. We haven't had many takers, so we're going to be glutted on Reeses Peanut Butter Cups for a while...
The Mac version of Napster is now available. I installed it and now I'm listening to a whole raft of John McCormack MP3s. I love the Internet!
|Books reviewed on this page:
|Hornblower and the Atropos
|The Poisonwood Bible
|The Sails of Tau Ceti
|Larry Niven and Steven Barnes
|Music reviewed on this page:
|October 24, 2000
|October 7, 2000
|Gilbert & Sullivan: The Mikado
|November 29, 2002
|November 23, 2001
|Helen Mirren, Ian McKelln
|The Dance of Death-August Strindberg
|September 30, 2000
|Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell University
|The Maids-Jean Genet
|May 30, 2000
|Kelsey Grammer/Colonial Theatre
|May 26, 2000
|The Huntington Theatre Co.
|King Hedley II
|September 3, 1999
|The Publick Theatre
|August 21, 1999
|Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.
|August 13, 1999
|Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.
|Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You
|Newton South/North High Schools
|December 18, 1998
|Newton North High School
|The Bone Violin, May Flies
|November 12, 1998
|Newton North High School
|To Kill a Mockingbird
|November 21-24, 2007
|September 25-28, 2007
|Las Vegas, Nevada
|August 18-25, 2007
|Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
|November 22-26, 2006
|September 25-28, 2006
|Las Vegas (Interbike)
|June 10-20, 2006
|Santa Cruz, California
|May 5-7, 2006
|November 23, 2005
|September 26-29, 2005
|Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada
|August 26-28, 2005
|'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.
|July 21-24, 2005
|Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
|April 29, 2005
|Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.
|February 16, 2005
|November 24, 2004
|October 8, 2004
|Santa Cruz, California
|October 4, 2004
|Las Vegas, Nevada
|June 8, 2004
|December 22, 2003
|Halifax, Nova Scotia
|November 27, 2003
|October 31, 2003
|October 10, 2003
|Las Vegas, Nevada
|September 21, 2003
|New York, N.Y.
|November 27-30, 2002
|New York, N.Y.
|October 8-13, 2002
|October 4-8, 2002
|Las Vegas, Nevada
|July 3-9, 2002
|Canso, Nova Scotia
|May 24-27, 2002
|Long Island, New York
|November 21-24, 2001
|New York City
|October 16-19, 2001
|Cape Cod, Massachusetts
|September 29-October 3, 2001
|Las Vegas, Nevada (Interbike Show)
|June 16-23, 2001
|Nags Head, North Carolina
|October 5-14, 2000
|September 30-October 2, 2000
|Ithaca, New York
|June 22-25, 2000
|October 7-13, 1999
|August 19-28, 1999
|Ithaca, New York
|August 12-13, 1999
|Ithaca, New York
|July 23-25, 1999
|November 25-28, 1998
|Fort Lauderdale, Florida
|England, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Turkey
Last Updated: by Harriet Fell