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November 1, 2003

My brother's art show opened, seemed quite successful. Lots of traffic, sold 8 paintings!

The venue is Glen Echo park, an old art-deco amusement park, closed in 1964 when the owners refused to integrate. Recently the National Park Service has acquired the property, and is gradually renovating it, including the "Yellow Barn Studios and Gallery."

Went out to a family dinner afterwards in a nearby Italian restaurant, l'Appetito. It was a pleasant evening, even if they were incapable of cooking a rare steak properly.

November 2, 2003

Fixed-Gear Ride

Some of my Internet friends organized a fixed-gear ride for me. About 30-40 folks showed up on a gorgeous day, mostly on fixed-gear bikes. Harvey Sachs lent me his 1938 Paramount, with a Sturmey-Archer ASC hub. It was about a 25 miler, mostly in or near Rock Creek Park.

Afterwards, a bunch of repaired to the house of one of the riders...sorry I didn't catch his name. I did get to admire his beautifully restored 1922 Steinway grand player piano, which was quite stupendous.

In the afternoon, I went over to the gallery and took some video of the exhibit, then helped take the exhibit down. My SUV upgrade came in handy for transporting the paintings out to Richard's new studio near Germantown.

November 3, 2003


Walter the Horse

My sister-in-law is a devoted horsewoman, keeps her horse on a farm near Germantown, Maryland. I had never actually ridden a horse, and was game to give it a whirl. Marget obtained permission for me to ride Walter, a rather large (17 hands) 9-year old of uncertain pedigree and gentle habits. We got along great, and after some instruction I rode him around the practice ring for a while. Thanks to good instruction, and to Walter's biddable nature, I was able to control him quite well in the ring, doing various maneuvers with no problem. Folks were full of praise for how fast I was picking it up, and I asked to go out on the trail.

We rode down a bit of dirt road, and up to a sloping field of new-mown grass. It was going great, and I tried to get Walter to trot a bit. He was game, but it was uphill, and my 220 pounds was more than he's used to carrying, so he'd only trot for a few steps before dropping back to a walk.

We made it up to the top of the hill, and that's where things got out of hand...I tried to trot again, but didn't take into account the downslope, and Walter went into a canter.

I wasn't ready for this, and things started happening too fast for me to think through the proper my bicycle reflexes kicked in, inappropriately. I shoulda leaned back and pulled on the reins, but instead I leaned forward, in hope of handling the bouncing better. This made it impossible for me to pull on the reins. In addition, I was starting to slide off to the side, so I think I tried to grab on with my feet...which Walter understood as instruction to go faster!

I'm told that I fell "very well" an did a nice rolling landing, but a 59 year old guy falling off a fast moving 17 hand tall horse is gonna get hurt. I was pretty stunned and sore, but at least I didn't break anything!

I know you're supposed to get back on, but there was no way I could have mounted with out something to stand on, and I was very sore, so I walked back to the barn.

I put a substantial dent into my helmet, almost lost Igor when one of his zip-ties broke, and broke my glasses.

November 4, 2003

Flew back home from DC, shaved my head for the last time this's getting too cold for the Sinead O'Connor look, I'm afraid.

November 5, 2003

eBook: The Pit: A Story of Chicago Frank Norris, 1903

This was my first exposure to Norris. I'd heard of The Octopus, which is the beginning of the "Wheat" trilogy, but couldn't find a downloadable version of it, so I started in the middle.

The "Wheat" trilogy basically follows a crop of wheat. The Octopus deals with the farmers who raise it, and their struggles with the railroads. The third volume, I forget the title, deals with the arrival of the wheat in Europe and how it reaches its ultimate consumers.

The Pit focusses on the Chicago commodities market, and the way the price of the wheat is manipulated. Norris sees this as very like a war, with the traders as soldiers in opposing "armies" of bulls and bears. He uses quite colorful language in describing these struggles, in which the wheat itself is an unconquerable force of nature.

Of course there's also a personal story of a young woman from Western Massachusetts who marries one of the grain traders, after having a flirtation with an artist (named "Sheldon Cortrell"...don't run into a lot of Sheldons in novels!)

It was a good story, well told, and I had not realized that Chicago was that important that long ago (though it is a city I know fairly well, and like very much.)

November 7, 2003

#1 Sheldon!

I don't know why I never tried Googling on just "Sheldon" but it turns out that my site comes up as the firs two hits!

My recovery from my horseback adventure isn't proceeding as quickly ad I would have hoped. This morning my right hip/groin area was still very painful, though the headaches are gone and I'm otherwise OK. I began to be concerned that I might have actually broken something after all, so I went in for an X ray and visit with my doctor. Fortunately, no bones are broken, but it appears that I've got a pulled ligament, and that it might take a while to mend.

November 8, 2003

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Hans Graf, Claudio Bohóquez

Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich. Due to a traffic jam, we missed the Tchaikovsky's Hamlet Fantasy, but both the Shostakovich 'Cello Concerto #1 and Tchaikovsky's Second Symphony were treats.

November 13, 2003

eBook: Gunpowder Empire Harry Turtledove, 2003

This is the first of a new series called "Crosstime Travel." The basic premise is that there are an infinite number of parallel time tracks, and folks in the late 21st century have figured out how to travel between them. They do this stealthily, primarily as a source of natural resources and raw materials. The protagonists in Gunpowder Empire are a family who act as agents in an alternate reality where the Roman Empire never fell.

This book has much the flavor of a Heinlein juvenile (which is a good thing, as you'll know if you ever read a Heinlein juvie.)

It's also a bit reminiscent of Household Gods in its description of the protagonists' difficulties in adjusting to life in the Roman Empire.

The fundamental flaw in this concept is that Turtledove posits a universe in which the Roman Empire survives to the late 21'st century, but with zero technological change aside from the development of matchlock firearms.

Ballet: The Kirov (Mariinsky) Ballet from St. Petersburg

A friend of Harriet's gave us tickets to this fabulous program. It featured productions that they originally brought to Paris in 1909-1910, revolutionizing the art.

The 3 1/2 hour show began with "Chopiniana", reputedly the first "abstract" ballet, followed by The Dying Swan and Spectre de la Rose. After the first intermission, they offered Scheherezade, which was quite gorgeous, and the program closed with Stravinsky's The Firebird.

I most enjoyed Scheherezade. Ballet is not my favorite art form, but this was a treat indeed.

November 15, 2003

Film: Master and Commander - The Far Side of the World Peter Weir, 2003

This has to be the best filmic depiction yet of warfare in the age of sail. Russel Crowe is a very convincing Jack Aubrey, though Paul Bettany was perhaps a bit too pretty for Stephen Maturin. The film did probably shine the spotlight a bit to much on Aubrey, to the detriment of Maturin...but it is hard for a single film to show the depth of character that a 20 volume series of novels can. I greatly hope that this team will do more of the canon, and I'll certainly buy the DVD when it becomes available.

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November 21, 2003

It's getting a bit cold for the shaved head, so I've started letting my hair re-grow, while still shaving my mustache.

Film: (DVD) Belle Epoque Fernando Trueba 1994

A sunny film set in Spain during the early '30s. A deserter takes refuge in the house of an old man with 4 daughters, has various dalliances with them. Interesting characters, a generally charming film.

November 23, 2003

eBook: The Hornet's Nest Jimmy Carter 2003

This is a historical novel of the Revolutionary War, mainly set in South Carolina and Georgia. The northern theatres of the war are better known, and mostly involved larger forces, but the southern theatre was probably more vicious in its intensity, partly because the forces on the Tory side were mostly Americans, with a greater personal investment in the conflict (and better understanding of guerilla tactics) than the British conscripts and Hessian mercenaries that carried the brunt of the fighting in the north.

The book is somewhat horrific, but a good read for those interested in the history of this era.

It does seem as if some editor had looked over the manuscript and advised former-president Carter to stick some sex into the manuscript. He has done so, but it has a bit of a pasted-on air.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book, and it has only added to my high esteem for the author.

November 26, 2003

Off to Florida

Flew down to Ft. Lauderdale for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Tova and Ethan flew in from California a few hours after we arrived, their room is across the hall.

The hotel offered ethernet connection to the Internet, so I was able to keep up with my email pretty well, though the connection itself was quite flaky.

Email volume is currently in excess of 2000 messages daily, most of it spam. I'm running Eudora 6.0.2, which features a reasonably effective spam filter, fortunately.

November 27, 2003

Thanksgiving dinner at a very upscale kosher restaurant, can't recall the name. My steak was excellent, but many of the other diners were disgruntled with their meals, and all were disgruntled at the prices.

November 28, 2003

Drove down to South Miami Beach, doing the tourist thing. Went to a rather amazingly sybaritic place called Nikki Beach.

This beach-side restaurant is quite lovely, but seemed to be as much about sex as about anything else. In addition to tables, one could get served at curtained outdoor beds, or one of half a dozen teepees. I can only imagine what it's like at night!

We had a nice lunch there, sat in the shade of an arbor, then went for a swim in the ocean, which was less oppressively warm than I've sometimes found Florida beaches. The water was also cleaner than is often the case.

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Film: (big screen) Timeline 2003

Well, I wasn't crazy about the book, and the film didn't thrill me either. A bit too heavy on the "mad scientist" theme, and mainly about hand-to-hand fighting.

November 29, 2003

Flew back home.

November 30, 2003

Opera: Candide Leonard Bernstein

I've long loved this show, but never actually seen a production. This was done by Opera Boston, at the Majestic Theatre (which has been extensively refurbished since I appeared there in the 1999 Sea Revels

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December 2, 2003

Film: (DVD) Alien Resurrection Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 1997


December 5, 2003

Film: (DVD) Benjamin Franklin: An American Life Walter Isaacson, 2003

A very fine biography of one of my great heroes.

Franklin was an astonishing human being, and over the course of his lifetime he had three separate careers, each one of which would have made him a legend by itself, but the triple-threat he represents makes him unique.

First, he was the Ted Turner of the age, rising from a printers' apprentice to the head of the major publishing empire in America. He became the most famous and successful American writer of the century, and also, as postmaster, created the first efficient postal system among the colonies, later states.

Second, after making his fortune, he retired at an early age to devote himself to science and invention. His contributions to science are often overlooked now that they have all become commonplace parts of our lives, but these were what gained him international renown, and made him the most famous American of the 18th century.

On the theoretical level, he was the first to identify the polar nature of electricity. It was Franklin who coined the terms: "Positive," "negative," "charge," "conductor," "condenser," and "battery." He was the first to develop a practical theory of electricity, and to raise it above the level of parlor magic.

We no longer live under the constant fear of lightning, so it is hard for a modern person to realize the astounding effect that the lightning rod had on society. Probably no other non-medical invention ever has been so beneficent and saved so many lives and so much property.

Other theoretical work that Franklin accomplished was to discover that lead was a poison; that colds were contagious; that evaporation caused cooling. He also used his time on his various transatlantic voyages to chart the Gulf Stream, by taking regular temperature readings of the sea.

On the practical level, aside from the lightning rod, Franklin invented bifocals, the stove, various other gadgets including a remote arm for reaching items on high shelves. He even invented daylight saving time, though he meant it as a joke!

Third, after two careers that would be enough for most people, he embarked on the career of statesman/diplomat, that put him on the hundred-dollar bill.

He spent many years in England, acting as agent for the governments of Pennsylvania and later other colonies, and none worked harder than he to prevent the necessity of the Revolution. In this he failed, but in retrospect, nobody could have succeeded.

When it became clear that the British government was intransigent, he was among the first to call for independence and unity among the colonies. Indeed, even before this, he was actively promoting a plan of union among the fractious colonies, but they weren't ready for it.

After returning to Philadelphia, he became a prime mover in the Continental Congress, and did much to stage-manage the creation of the Declaration of Independence.

Once the Revolutionary War was under way, it became clear that the colonies were pretty much outclassed as a military power by the British. It was not possible to throw off the British yoke without a strong external ally. Franklin was the man for the job, and off he went to Paris as our first ambassador.

In Paris, he built on his scientific renown, and skillfully cultivated an image as a homespun savant, wearing simple dark clothing and a fur cap amidst the extravagances of the Ancien Regime court. The French nobility ate it up! He completely charmed them, and by skillful diplomacy managed to inveigle Louis into supporting the Revolution that would ultimately lead to his own downfall and decapitation. The military and financial aid the French provided made the difference between victory and defeat...and it is hard to believe it would have come to pass without Franklin.

Through it all, he maintained a sunny disposition and good temper that endeared him to all who fell within his orbit. We will not see his like again.

December 8, 2003

Film: (DVD) Impromptu James Lapine, 1991

I enjoyed this a lot. Set in mid 19th century France, the central characters are George Sand (Judy Davis), Alfred de Musset (Mandy Patimkin), Liszt (Julian Sands) and Chopin (Hugh Grant with a charming Polish accent.) It also features Emma Thompson as the Duchesse d'Antan. It is very strange to see her playing a flighty upperclass bimbo, but she pulls it off against type.

Fine acting, good story, great production values. Highly recommended!

December 9, 2003

Film: (DVD) Place Vendome Nicole Garcia, 1998

A French thriller, dealing with the diamond trade. Catherine Deneuve stars in this somewhat difficult-to-follow mystery film. Recommended for Francophiles only.

December 10, 2003

Opera: (DVD) La Bohème Puccini 1994

The Australian Opera comes up with another winner. Previously, I've been knocked out by their production of Die Meistersinger, which is probably my favorite opera.

This production is set in the 1950s, which actually works pretty well with the concept. I've never seen a whole production of La Bohème before, and the latter part of it (like so many operas) is too gloomy for my taste, but he music is wonderful (much of it very familiar) and the production is full of energy and spirit. A very fine job of filming opera.

December 13, 2003

Film: (DVD) Triumph of the Wills Leni Riefensthal 1934

This is a seminal work of propaganda, a "documentary" of the 1934 Nazi party conference in Nürnberg. Riefensthal pioneered many of the techniques that have since become clichés of propaganda techniques.

December 15, 2003

Film: (DVD) American Me Edward James Olmos 1992

I got this from Netflix because the blurb seemed to indicate it was about the Zoot Suit riots of 1943, but that turned out to be only peripheral, and mostly it was a very depressing prison movie. I didn't care for it.

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December 18, 2003

eBook Dune: House Atreides Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson

This is one of a trilogy of prequels to Dune, by Frank Herbert (Brian Herbert's father.) It starts a generation before Dune, with an adolescent Leto Atreides as the heir apparent to the ducal throne of the planet Caladan. Anyone who enjoyed Dune will enjoy this as well.

December 22, 2003

North for Christmas

Harriet, Tova and I were invited to spend Christmas in Halifax with the family of Tova's boyfriend. We didn't care to drive it all in one go, it's close to 700 miles. Stopped in St. Stephen New Brunswick (just over the border from Calais (pronounced "Callous") Maine for dinner in a rather wretched diner. Spent the night in St. John, N.B. at the Howard Johnson Motor Lodge, which was pretty nice, and pretty cheap.

Here's the view from our hotel room:

St. John New Brunswick

December 23, 2003


Had a pleasant enough drive to Halifax, listening to Harry Turtledove's How Few Remain on CD. Got a bit lost near the end, called up and explained where we were...Ethan's mom asked if there was a Tim Horton's and a Dairy Queen there...we said yes, and agreed they would meet us in the Dairy Queen parking lot, then guide us to the house.

Unfortunately, specifying the Dairy Queen near the Tim Hortons in that part of Canada is like arranging to meet somebody at Starbucks in the U.S.A...they were thinking of a different DQ & TH! Eventually we sorted it out and went to the house.

Ethan's mom has had a new house built in a suburban subdivision, a very nice little place on a good sized lot with woods all around it. A nice place to spend the holiday.

We spent the evening with Earl and Sylvia, old friends of Moira's from her native Cape Breton Island. It was a delightful evening, very pleasant company and home made music. I hit it off particularly well with Earl, and we had a grand old time. Earl plays sax, his son plays electric bass. Tova and I did our version of "I Once was a Very Abandoned Person" from Ruddigore, and I sang Stan Rogers's Wreck of the Athens Queen.

December 24, 2003

Christmas Eve

During the day we drove out to Peggy's Cove, a spot so scenic it makes Marblehead look like New Jersey by comparison, especially in the highly photogenic fog!
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December 25, 2003


Had a nice Christmas with Ethan and Moira. Earl and Sylvia came by in the afternoon with their daughter.

eBook Dune: The Butlerian Jihad Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson 2003

Another Dune prequel, but this one is set 10,000 years before the rest, at a time when the galaxy has mostly been taken over by robots. The Jihad is the revolt of free Humanity against robotic domination, leading to the prohibition of all forms of computers in the Dune universe. I didn't like this as much as Dune: House Atreides but it does provide interesting background. This is to be part of a different prequel trilogy, but the other two books don't seem to be available yet.

December 26, 2003


Drove to Bangor, stopped at the White House Best Western, behing Dysart's Truck Stop. Liked both places. The Best Western had an excellent WiFi connection, and I was able to check my mail with great far the easiest on-the-road connection I've ever found. Dysart's had a good stake for dinner, and good bacon and eggs for breakfast.

December 27, 2003

Home! The new southbound Big Tunnel just opened last weekend, and this was our first chance to try it; also our first southbound trip over the Zakim bridge.

669 miles, 10:42 driving time.

Film: (DVD) The Pianist Roman Polanski 2003

True story of a Jewish pianist and how he survived the Holocaust in Warsaw. Pretty grim, as one might expect.

December 28, 2003

Music: The Christmas Revels

Another great show, this one with a Scottish motif.

Video: (DVD) Firefly-The Complete Series

My sister and brother-in-law sent us this 4 DVD set for Christmas, and what a fine gift it is! I had seen one episode during the brief run of this series, and had liked it well enough even though I didn't know the back stories of the characters, but seeing it in proper sequence reveals that it is a really excellent piece of work. A science fiction series about a band of interplanetary smugglers, the characters are wonderfully disparate, and the stories are very imaginative. Production values are also excellent, and it's a damn shame that Fox TV didn't give the show more time. It is MUCH better than any of the Star Trek series. Very highly recommended.

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The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
The Hornet's NestJimmy Carter11/23/03
Dune: The Butlerian JihadBrian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson12/25/03
Dune: House AtreidesBrian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson12/18/03
Benjammin Franklin: An American LifeWalter Isaacson12/5/03
The Pit: A Story of ChicagoFrank Norris11/5/03
Gunpowder EmpireHarry Turtledove11/13/03


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

Films reviewed on this page:
Alien ResurrectionDecember 2, 2003
Belle EpoqueNovember 21, 2003
La BohèmeDecember 10, 2003
ImpromptuDecember 8, 2003
Master and Commander - The Far Side of the WorldNovember 15, 2003


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

Music reviewed on this page:
December 10, 2003Australian Opera (DVD) La Bohème
November 13, 2003Kirov Ballet, St. Petersburg Chopin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stravinsky


November 29, 2002Lorraine BraccoThe Graduate
November 23, 2001Helen Mirren, Ian McKellnThe Dance of Death-August Strindberg
September 30, 2000Tova/Black Box Theatre, Cornell UniversityThe Maids-Jean Genet
May 30, 2000Kelsey Grammer/Colonial TheatreMacbeth
May 26, 2000The Huntington Theatre Co.King Hedley II
September 3, 1999The Publick TheatreNine
August 21, 1999Orange Tree Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sonata
August 13, 1999Firehouse Theatre, Ithaca, N.Y.Sister Mary Ignatius Explains it All For You
May 22-29Newton South/North High SchoolsRichard III
December 18, 1998Newton North High SchoolThe Bone Violin, May Flies
November 12, 1998Newton North High SchoolTo Kill a Mockingbird


November 21-24, 2007Plantation, Florida
September 25-28, 2007Las Vegas, Nevada
August 18-25, 2007Truro, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
November 22-26, 2006Plantation, Florida
September 25-28, 2006Las Vegas (Interbike)
June 10-20, 2006Santa Cruz, California
May 5-7, 2006Aurora, Indiana
November 23, 2005Plantation, Florida
September 26-29, 2005Interbike, Las Vegas, Nevada
August 26-28, 2005'Bentride 2005, Bath, N.Y.
July 21-24, 2005Family Reunion, Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
April 29, 2005Cirque de Cyclisme, Greensboro, N.C.
February 16, 2005Indianapolis
November 24, 2004Plantation, Florida
October 8, 2004Santa Cruz, California
October 4, 2004Las Vegas, Nevada
June 8, 2004France, England
December 22, 2003Halifax, Nova Scotia
November 27, 2003Florida
October 31, 2003Potomac, Maryland
October 10, 2003Las Vegas, Nevada
September 21, 2003New York, N.Y.
November 27-30, 2002New York, N.Y.
October 8-13, 2002Evanston, Illinois
October 4-8, 2002Las Vegas, Nevada
July 3-9, 2002Canso, Nova Scotia
May 24-27, 2002Long Island, New York
November 21-24, 2001New York City
October 16-19, 2001Cape Cod, Massachusetts
September 29-October 3, 2001Las Vegas, Nevada (Interbike Show)
June 16-23, 2001Nags Head, North Carolina
October 5-14, 2000Evanston, Illinois
September 30-October 2, 2000Ithaca, New York
June 22-25, 2000Urbanna, Virginia
October 7-13, 1999Chicago/Evanston, Illinois
August 19-28, 1999Ithaca, New York
August 12-13, 1999Ithaca, New York
July 23-25, 1999Bridgeton, Maine
November 25-28, 1998Fort Lauderdale, Florida
1988-89France, England
1980Yucatan, Mexico
1975England, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Turkey

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