Film: (DVD) This is Spinal TapThis hilarious send up of pompous 'rockumentaries" is a classic indeed. It goes to 11! See it if you haven't already!
Film: (DVD) My Left FootVery well done biopic on Christy Brown, an Irish artist and writer, who spent most of his childhood being treated as a vegetable due to his cerebral palsy. His left foot was the only part of his body that he had reasonable control over, and he used that for painting, writing, and everything else. Daniel Day Lewis won a best-actor Oscar for his performance, and ***** as the Artist as a Young Man is also terrific. The film is set in an impoverished Dublin slum, where a large family is crammed into a tiny house, and much of it is very squalid and depressing, but in the end it's an excellent piece of work.
This is the beginning of Parents' Weekend at Brandeis. Harriet is off this semester, and went in to sit in on George's math class. She liked what she heard. It is a great joy to her to talk math with George, and she is still able to teach him stuff, though the arcane mysteries they discuss are all 'way over my head. In the evening we went on a Brandeis sponsored outing to:
Show: Blue Man GroupI expected this to be super, and I wasn't disappointed! If you've seen the Pentium III commercials, you have some idea of their schtick, but it's all good, and they've got a lot of tricks up their sleeves. The show is mainly mime and drumming, but they also use teletext devices of various sorts, video, strange musical instruments, and make a big mess of the stage. The first several rows are all provided with plastic raincoats, and they need 'em! Did I mention the show is hilarious? Very highly recommended.
Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Federico Cortese. Ives, Mozart, Kurtäg, SchubertThe Ives Ragtime Dances are a recently discovered/restored early work, good fun. Parts actually sounded like Gershwin!
Nelson Freire played a Mozart piano concerto, not my cup of tea, but well done.
I'd never heard of György Kürtag before. The piece uses a solo guitarist playing an ostinato, a few other instruments on stage and various small groups scattered about the hall. I found it rather compelling. Our second-balcony seats were, unfortunately a bit too close to one of the groups, playing whistles and plastic toy trumpets.
Family Weekend at Brandeis continues. We had brunch in the cafeteria, then went to the Schlossberg Music Center for a mixed concert. There were a couple of excellent choral groups, then the Symphony Orchestra playing the first movement of the Dvorak 6th. George was the trombone section. They sounded very good, especially considering how many rehearsals they've missed this semester what with one thing and another. After that the Jazz Band did a couple of numbers. George had a good solo in one of them. The other was stolen by a guy who played two saxes at once (alto & tenor, I believe) to great effect.
Film: (DVD) The Trouble with Harry Alfred Hitchcock, 1954This murder farce is rather atypical Hitchcock, but quite funny. It introduced two newcomers, Shirley MacLaine and John Forsythe.
Film: (DVD) Battlefield EarthAs bad a clinker as the buzz had suggested. Based on one of L.Ron Hubbard's science fiction potboilers, it is solid cliché from beginning to end (though I skipped through about 40 minutes in the middle...couldn't take the whole thing. The cinematography is startlingly amateurish; they constantly use a very annoying fade mechanism where the new scene appears as a widening line in the middle of the screen. The film maker also seemed to think that it would make the film more suspenseful if the camera were always tilted 30-40 degrees to one side or t'other. This irritating gimmick is used almost continuously throughout the film. John Travolta is capable of being such a good actor, it's a shame that he allowed himself to be roped into his role as the scenery-chewing villain in this dreck.
Film: (DVD) The Day of the JackalI've seen this before, also read the book, and it's still a wonderful film, dealing with a plot to assassinate Charles de Gaulle in the early '60s. A great thriller.
Got a flu shot after standing in line for a looooong time at the Newton Center CVS.
Film: (DVD) How Green Was My Valley John Ford, 1941This autobiographical film is set in a Welsh mining town in the 19th Century, remembered as a halcyon Norman Rockwellesque workers' paradise in the author's youth. Things gradually deteriorate from there as evil mine owners lower wages and the countryside is covered in tailings. Lots of nice Welsh choir singing, too much religion for my taste, but a fine example of '40s filmmaking all in all.
For the first time in many years, I trimmed my beard (with Harriet's help.) Looks really different! Also feels a bit itchy.
Rose at a ghastly hour to drive Harriet to the airport. She's taking her mother for a week-long Elderhostel watercolor class on Chesapeake Bay, so I'll be batching it for the next week.
Film: (DVD) Enemy at the GateHarriet doesn't generally like war movies, so this is a good chance for me to see some I've been wanting to see. This one is set in the battle of Stalingrad, and focusses on a duel between two snipers. There's also a romantic triangle involving the political commissar who makes the Russian sniper into a folk hero, and a woman soldier. Quite a cinematic accomplishment, featuring a huge built-from-scratch set representing war-torn Stalingrad, great special effects. Tonight ABC was broadcasting Saving Private Ryan, and I watched the first half hour of that, though I've seen the film twice before. (Still made me cry!) Enemy at the Gates certainly owes a strong stylistic debt to Ryan, though it's not nearly so great a film as Spielberg's masterpiece.
I'm mostly in a state of shock and glued to the radio after the plane crash in Queens. It hits home particularly because Harriet came from Queens. Video of the Far Rockaway neighborhood shows houses that look identical to those on the street she grew up on. Nobody knows what caused the crash, my suspicion is that it was a portable missile, possibly one of the Stingers that the U.S. distributed in Afganistan in the '90s.
Things look a lot brighter today! The word is that the plane crash was most likely an accident. Better yet, the Taliban is on the run, and Kabul has been liberated! It is devoutly to be hoped that there won't be a bloodbath...
Film: (DVD) The PatriotLong ago, in a South Carolina far, far away...
This is a highly entertaining film, with spectacular production values, a gripping plot, and superb acting. Just remember that it's fiction, and, particularly, the atrocities shown didn't actually happen.
They're dancing in the streets of Kabul, men are showing their chins, women are showning their faces, and there's music everywhere.
It occurs to me that there's a generation of young children who have never heard music before. What will they make of it? Will they be instantly entranced? Will they be puzzled by these strange sounds? How will it affect their development...?
Film: (DVD) The GondoliersThis Australian production is good musically, but rather a mixed bag as far as the acting is concerned. The Duchess is played by a female impersonator who hams things up excessively. The Grand Inquisitor is also far too coy and hammy, and does a very exaggerated "Spanish" accent (nobody else uses a fake accent.)
The patter songs are mostly ruined by replacing Gilbert's words with material about Australian politics. The song "Small titles and orders" is given several undeserved encores.
The quartets and quintets were good, as were the costumes. The set was fair. There were mimes doing meaningless bits during the overture. Generally a fair to poor production.
Concert: Jack LangstaffRevels founder Jack Langstaff is 80, but still going strong. I had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with him a couple of times, most recently in the 1995 Christmas Revels. He doesn't do much concertizing these days, but it was worth the wait. Jerry Epstein accompanied on various instruments.
Operetta: H.M.S. Pinafore M.I.T Gilbert & Sullivan PlayersGood to see some of my old friends from MITGASP. I don't think this production was quite as good as the one George and I were in.
I took a bunch of photos.
Film: (DVD) The Unbearable Lightness of BeingHow did I miss seing this before? This is an absolutely wonderful film, set in Czechoslovakia in 1968. It is full of beauty and sadness and humor and cheerful sex and gorgeous music by Janacek. Not to be missed!
Travel: New York CityThis year Harriet's family Thanksgiving is in Manhattan. George had class that ran 'til 3, so we got a late start. We took the shore route to avoid driving into the setting sun on the Mass 'Pike. Hit lotsa traffic on 128 & 95, the whole trip took about 7 hours, including getting lost in Queens. Staying at the Empire Hotel, 63rd and Broadway, right in the heart of midtown.
We stopped near LaGuardia airport to check the map and find our way. As we were looking at the map, a guy knocked on my window, wanting to know if we had a funnel! He had run out of gas and gotten some in a plastic jug, but couldn't get it into his gas filler. He asked the right guy. We didn't have a funnel but I made one for him in half a minute by cutting the bottom off of a plastic Coke bottle we had in the car.
Thanksgiving. Actually saw the Macys Parade in the flesh for the first time. It was a lovely day, and the parade passed within a couple of blocks of our hotel.
We had Thanksgiving dinner at Marty & Donna's house, a good time was had by all. One somewhat spooky note was their young grandson's book of his crayon drawings, almost all of which were views of the World Trade Center towers being hit by an airplane.
We went down as close as we could get to Ground Zero (which wasn't all that close.) It was a solid mass of humanity all trying to see what little could be seen. We had lunch at a very proletarian Chinese restaurant right next to Ground Zero.
We took the Subway to Times Square to buy same-day tickets. Got way-in-the-back seats for The Dance of Death.
We went to get dinner, settling for a place called "Opera Espresso" just across from Lincoln Center. This turned out to be a very bad move. The place was one step up from a diner. Most of the party ordered pasta of some sort, but I asked for a cheeseburger (it is that kind of place.) For some unaccountable reason my cheeseburger was delayed and delayed, and only finally arrived after everybody else had finished eating.
Theatre: The Dance of Death by August StrindbergThis play, set on an island off the coast of Denmark was in many ways a precursor to Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf, as Daniel pointed out. It featured Helen Mirren and Sir Ian MacKellen, and was very good in its way.
Back from New York. Blue Colony Diner, Newtown, conn.
Photos of HMS Pinafore at M.I.T.:
Film: (DVD) 42nd Street 1933Amazing Busby Berkeley production numbers, amazingly bad acting, good fun nonetheless.
Film: (DVD) Spellbound Alfred Hitchcock 1945Ingrid Bergman as a psychoanalyst in love with her patient, amnesiac Gregory Peck. Lots of silly psychobabble, but it is Hitchcock. **** is wonderful as Bergman's mentor, Dr. ****
Nym Sing-Hardwick, Mass.Drove out to Hardwick with Harriet and George for the annual Christmas sing led by the inimitable Nym Cooke. Joy as always. I got to do my "king" solo in Good King Wenceslas, but messed up the third verse a bit...Nym had a new arrangement, and there was a page turn I couldn't handle too well whilst holding my royal staff in one hand.
We were actually early, which is a bit of a change...we often have had conflicts in the past. Last year we got lost in Worcester on the way up, but this time we made it OK. (I had downloaded detailed directions from Mapblast.com, then loaded them into Harriet's Palm so she could navigate while I drove.
Film: (DVD) TrainspottingMuch of this film was very funny, some pretty horrible (especially the dead baby.) It's a story of a bunch of Scottish smack addicts, but quite entertaining.
Our 22nd Wedding anniversary! We celebrated with a meal at Sol Azteca, in Brookline, where we used to go before Lamaze classes when Harriet was carrying Tova. Afterwards, we went to see:
Film: (DVD) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone 2001This was great fun, basically true to the very entertaining book.
Film: (DVD) SummertimeDavid Lean, 1955Katherine Hepburn as an Ohio spinster visiting Venice, having an affair with Rossano Brazzi. This Criterion DVD was a great treat visually--it's all shot in Venice, and the original Technicolor separation negs were used to make the DVD. It's a pretty slow moving story, mainly relieved by the images of Venice.
Music: Brandeis University Early Music SocietyA varied program of choral and chamber music. George played couple of different sizes of sackbuts, alto and tenor recorders. The performers were uneven, some had rather spotty intonation--but George was super. One of the pieces had him on sackbut as the only accompaniment for a chorus of a dozen or more.
Music: The Brandeis University Symphony OrchestraThis was a really fine concert. This orchestra has an astonishingly fine string section, that would put many professional orchestras to shame. The concert began with Brandeis senior Tom Dawkins playing the Beethoven 3rd Piano concerto, and it was a barnburner. Unfortunately, Beethoven unaccountably neglected to provide a trombone part, so George wasn't in this.
After the intermission, they played Dvorak's Symphony #6, op. 60, which was also a triumph--all the more so for having George on trombone. He played second chair, with two hired ringers filling out the section.
Film: (DVD) The Maltese FalconI've seen this lots of times, always a favorite. This is the first time I've seen it on DVD, and, more interestingly, the first time I've seen it since Tova has become a grownup. I was struck by the resemblance between Tova and Mary Astor, both in terms of their facial structure and their acting style.
Book: Souls in the Great Machine, Sean McMullen 1999This science fiction novel is set in Australia, about 2000 years in the future. A combination of war and technical catastrophe has set technology back to the equivalent of the late 18th century. Left over combat satellites have made the use of electricity virtually impossible, and religious strictures have banned combustion-based power generation of all sorts.
The widely separated city-states of South Australia are connected by railways. Some of the rolling stock is wind powered, the rest is pedal powered. Communication is by heliostats in great towers scattered around the countryside.
Life is further complicated by The Call, a mysterious recurring psychic compulsion that causes those its grip to wander off zombie-like into the desert to die. As a protection against this, people wear clockwork anchors that are released automatically after preset time periods.
All this changes when the Highliber, the chief librarian of one of the city-states creates a bio-mechanical computer, where prisoners with abaci run calculations in response to commands sent by an elaborate systems of cables and pulleys.
This was a little slow starting, but fascinating once I got into it. Definitely recommended for computer-savvy science fiction fans.
McMullen also wrote the excellent time-travel tale, The Centurion's Empire
Film: (DVD) Lolita Stanley KubrickI've got mixed feelings about this. It has been many, many years since I read the book, but I didn't get the feeling for Humbert's obsession that was conveyed by the book. Not sure how that could have been done in film, but I'd imagine that something more could have been done with voiceovers--but the Hollywood standards of the time were probably too strict to permit a true treatment of the book. Nonetheless, it was a pretty good film.
Plumbing problems again. Clogbusters came, ground out some more roots, and we're set for another while. I stayed home today and worked on the Harris Website, mainly a bit of reorganizing of the pages dealing with various sorts of hubs.
Film: (DVD) The Mirror has Two Faces Barbra StreisandA pretty lightweight, predictable film about trying to create a marriage without the physical dimension. Streisand was good, as was Lauren Bacall as her mother. An OK film.
Film: (DVD) Working Girl Mike Nichols, 1988A class comedy, featuring Joan Cusak as a big-haired Staten Island secretary with brains and ambition, who passes herself off as an executive while her Wellesley alum boss (Sigourney Weaver) is hospitalized. She puts together a 70 million dollar network acquisition while working with (and falling in love with Harrison Ford.
The plot is predictable, but the acting is excellent, and the film is quite entertaining.
Harriet, George and I bought this year's Christmas tree. We had gotten them in the past from the Unitarian church across the street from the bike shop, but I'm miffed at them this year. They've got two huge banners saying "Holiday Trees" Whatthehell is a "holiday tree?" Izzat for the 4th of July, or Martin Luther King's birthday, or what? PC run amok! We found a nice little scotch pine over at Sacred Heart.
Opera: (DVD) Turandot PucciniThis wonderful DVD came from the library. It was made in Beijing with a cast of hundreds, right in the Forbidden City. Quite a spectacle. I've never seen Turandot in any format before, though I am somewhat familiar with the big tenor aria "Nessum dorma." Indeed, I always used to despise Italian opera, but I seem to be developing a taste for it.
Oops! We had Christmas Revels tickets waiting for us, but got the time wrong...I thought the show was at 8, but it turns out that the later Sunday shows are at 5, so we missed it! Bummer! We mt Tova and Ethan at Sanders Theatre, but no show. Instead we went home and opened up Tova's Christmas present early:
Film: (DVD) Hedwig and the Angry InchI didn't really expect to like this much, but I did. The story of a 17 year old East Berliner who gets a (botched) sex change operation so he can marry an American G.I. and get out of East Germany. He/she becomes a rock musician, and is seen touring low rent venues in the Midwest. Lots of excellent songs, fine acting, whimsical animation. Recommended, but not to prudes.
Film: (DVD) Backdraft Ron HowardThrill-a-minute film about Chicago firemen. Lots of flames and hairbreadth escapes.
A nice Christmas. Tova and Ethan came over for dinner, we sat around the tree and distributed gifts, then went over to a friend's house for dessert.
My sister gave me a very nice Sun Hemmi bamboo & ivory slide rule, among other things. Harriet and I gave ourselves an Epson 890 printer, but we haven't set it up yet. I gave Harriet:
Film: (DVD) ShrekWOW! Buy the DVD! This film is wonderful in every respect!
Film: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001We don't go out to movies that much, but we made an exception for this one, and it really is a good one to see on the Big Screen, partly 'cause it's gorgeous, and partly 'cause much of it is very dark, and probably won't show up too well on video.
It's been over 30 years since I read the books, so I can't claim to be an expert, but it seemed pretty faithful to me. Indeed, I recall, when I was reading the book, I often got Sauron and Saruman confused, which is not possible in the film.
I loved the Elvish architecture, "ancient" ruins, and the subterranean scenes particularly.
Film: (DVD) Lawrence of Arabia (Part 1)This film has the reputation of being a grand spectacle, but Fellowship of the Ring is a tough act to follow. Raiders of the Lost Ark really marked a fundamental change in the pacing of action/adventure films, and older films such as this one often seem excessively slow-moving. I got this from Netflix.com, and didn't realize that they were only going to send disc 1 of a two disc film. No biggie, I'll get part 2 later.
I was very surprised to see Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) sharing dinner with his Arab guide and eating with his left hand...
Show: The Christmas RevelsFinally made it after our screw-up last week. This show was set in England of the Tudors. Act 1 featured Walter Locke as an excellent Henry VIII. Act 2 replaced him with Elizabeth I. It seemed to me that the show could have used more up-tempo material, but there were some very fine bits.
Film: (DVD) The Insider Michael Mann, 1999A loosely fact based film about the a fired tobacco executive/scientist who exposes the deliberate manipulation of nicotine by the cigarette companies, leading to the successful prosecution of the companies by the Mississippi attorney general. The lead character is Al Pacino as a television reporter trying, first, to get the story, and then to persuade CBS to air it despite threats of a lawsuit by Big Tobacco. A pretty good film.
Book: The Chip T.R. Reid, 1985, 2001I've been a huge fan of T.R. Reid's reports on NPR, and that's why I bought his book. It is a history/biography of the inventors of the integrated circuit. If you're interested in the development of modern technology, it has some interesting material, but for me it spent too much time explaining elementary stuff like the binary system and simple atomic theory.
|November-December, 1998||April-May, 1975|
|Books reviewed on this page:|
|The Chip||T.R. Reid||12/30/01|
|Souls in the Great Machine||Sean McMullen||12/17/01|
|Films reviewed on this page:|
|42nd Street||November 30, 2001|
|Backdraft||December 24, 2001|
|Battlefield Earth||November 4, 2001|
|The Day of the Jackal||November 5, 2001|
|Enemy at the Gate||November 11, 2001|
|The Gondoliers||November 15, 2001|
|Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone||December 2, 2001|
|Hedwig and the Angry Inch||December 23, 2001|
|How Green was my Valley||November 9, 2001|
|The Insider||December 29, 2001|
|The Maltese Falcon||December 12, 2001|
|The Mirror has Two Faces||December 18, 2001|
|My Left Foot||November 2, 2001|
|Lolita||December 17, 2001|
|Lawrence of Arabia||December 27, 2001|
|Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring||December 26, 2001|
|The Patriot||November 13, 2001|
|Shrek||December 25, 2001|
|>Spellbound||November 30, 2001|
|Summertime||December 5, 2001|
|This is Spinal Tap||November 1, 2001|
|Trainspotting||December 1, 2001|
|The Trouble with Harry||November 4, 2001|
|Turandot||December 22, 2001|
|The Unbearable Lightness of Being||November 20, 2001|
|Working Girl||December 20, 2001|
|Music reviewed on this page:|
|December 29, 2001||The Christmas Revels, Cambridge||Christmas Revels in Tudor England|
|December 9, 2001||Brandeis University Symphony Orchestra||Beethoven: Piano Concerto #3; Dvorak: Symphony #6|
|December 8, 2001||Brandeis University Early Music Society||Various works|
|November 17, 2001||M.I.T.G.a.S.P.||Gilbert & Sullivan, H.M.S. Pinafore|
|November 3, 2001||B.S.O., Federico Cortese||Ives: Ragtime Dances, Mozart Pf Conc #9 k271, Kurtäg: Grabstein für Stephan; Schubert, Sym. #4|
|November 2, 2001||Blue Man Group, Seiji Ozawa||Brahms: Symphony #1|
|November 29, 2002||Lorraine Bracco||The Graduate|
|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||Macbeth|
|May 26, 2000||The Huntington Theatre Co.||King Hedley II|
|September 3, 1999||The Publick Theatre||Nine|
|August 21, 1999||Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.||Sonata|
|August 13, 1999||Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.||Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You|
|May 22-29||Newton South/North High Schools||Richard III|
|December 18, 1998||Newton North High School||The Bone Violin, May F lies|
|November 12, 1998||Newton North High School||To Kill a Mockingbird|
|November 21-24, 2007||Plantation, Florida|
|September 25-28, 2007||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|August 18-25, 2007||Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts|
|November 22-26, 2006||Plantation, Florida|
|September 25-28, 2006||Las Vegas (Interbike)|
|June 10-20, 2006||Santa Cruz, California|
|May 5-7, 2006||Aurora, Indiana|
|November 23, 2005||Plantation, Florida|
|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||Indianapolis|
|November 24, 2004||Plantation, Florida|
|October 8, 2004||Santa Cruz, California|
|October 4, 2004||Las Vegas, Nevada|
|June 8, 2004||France, England|
|December 22, 2003||Halifax, Nova Scotia|
|November 27, 2003||Florida|
|October 31, 2003||Potomac, Maryland|
|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||Evanston, Illinois|
|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||Evanston, Illinois|
|September 30-October 2, 2000||Ithaca, New York|
|June 22-25, 2000||Urbanna, Virginia|
|October 7-13, 1999||Chicago/Evanston, Illinois|
|August 19-28, 1999||Ithaca, New York|
|August 12-13, 1999||Ithaca, New York|
|July 23-25, 1999||Bridgeton, Maine|
|November 25-28, 1998||Fort Lauderdale, Florida|