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January 2, 2004

Film: (DVD) Amélie

I've seen this before, but it was definitely worth watching again, an absolutely charming film.

January 6, 2004

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

The second of the trilogy of Dune prequels that began with Dune: House Atreides. A must for Dune fans.

January 8, 2004

Audio Book How Few Remain Harry Turtledove 1998

I had previously read this book, and the rest of the series it begins. Harriet, Tova and I listened to the audio adaptation while driving to Nova Scotia, though we didn't have time to listen to the whole thing on that trip.

This is a masterpiece of the "If the Rebels had won the Slavery War" genre. It is set in 1881 and early '82, and deals with the "Second Mexican War" between the rump United States and an alliance of the Confederacy, France and Britain. The U.S. president is James G. Blaine of Maine; Longstreet is president of the Confederacy, with Stonewall Jackson as his commander-in-chief.

Turtledove is a master at imagining how actual historical characters would react to different historical "realities." This book, the first volume of the Great War/American Empire series, features:

All of these characters, as well as Turtledove's original characters, are well drawn and speak with very convincing voices. Sam Clemens's editorials really do sound like Mark Twain.

The reader of the CD audiobook, whose name escapes me, does a fabulous job of all the various voices and accents.

January 9, 2004

Video: (DVD) Upstairs Downstairs

Harriet and I have been running through the 5 seasons of this since early September, thanks to Netflix, and are sorry to reach the end.

January 10, 2004

Video: (DVD) Firefly 2002

I had seen one episode of this cancelled Fox series, and rather liked it, but somehow missed following up on it. My sister gave us the 4 DVD set for Christmas, and, after seeing the episodes in sequence I'm just blown away by how good it is! It's a science fiction series set about 500 years hence. Having much the flavor of a classic western, it follows a shipload of interstellar smugglers as they try to make a living and avoid death and incarceration. The special effects are good, but, as with most really fine TV, it's the writing and acting that really make it. The characters are all very different, very distinctive, and very interesting. The situations are generally not formulaic. We just loved this series, and it's a shame that Fox was so short sighted as to pull the plug on it. Very highly recommended!

January 12, 2004

Film: (DVD) The Affair of the Necklace Charles Shyer 2001

A "caper" drama set in pre-revolutionary France, this is not a great film, but it's not terrible either.

Simon Baker plays an aristocratic gigolo, a role very, very different from the dark and controlled Nick Fallin in The Guardian (a favorite TV show of mine.)

January 14, 2004

Art Exhibit: Rembrandt at the Museum of Fine Arts

This was a bit disappointing, as there were not too many paintings, mostly just tiny etchings that really needed a magnifying glass to be seen properly.

I am curious as to what Rembrandt used as a light source in his studio. The main light on his subjects seems to come from a higher angle than one would expect from a window. The effect is quite dramatic, and, indeed, many photographers (myself included) make use of "Rembrandt lighting" but I still wonder how he did it with the technology at his disposal.

Film: (DVD) Popeye Robert Altman 1980

Didn't much like this.

January 15, 2004

Book: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right Al Franken 2003

This book is wonderful fun, tweaking various right-wing pundits and the Republican administration with careful research and a rapier wit. Highly recommended.

Film: (DVD) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Gore Verblinski 2003

This Disney swashbuckler is loads of fun, if you don't mind a ton of historical inaccuracy. Recommended.

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January 16, 2004

Check up results

I went for a physical last week, kinda overdue. I've been on the Atkins diet for 14 months, down from 270 pounds to 220, 8 new holes in my belt and I feel great, but some concerned folks have warned me of possible side effects.

I got the results in the mail today, and looks like all is well:

January 17, 2004

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Mozart, Carter, Dvorak - James Levine

Levine has not yet officially taken the helm of the B.S.O., but he's already making some changes. The seating has been rearranged, in particular, as shown below.

This was a good concert. I'm not normally a Mozart fan, but this performance of the "Paris" Symphony (#31) did win me over. The two Elliot Carter pieces didn't do anything for me at first hearing, maybe they'll grow on me. I did record this concert from the broadcast on my Mac. The program closed with the Dvorak 8th Symphony, always a treat.

I'm so glad that the B.S.O. has landed Levine. I hope his health stays OK--he was conducting from a stool, which is not something I'm used to seeing.

Boston Symphony Orchestra

January 20, 2004

With New Hampshire following Iowa, it is looking like John Kerry will be the one. That's fine with me, if he can beat Bush, and I think chances are good for that.

  Here's a list that's making the rounds of the Internet:



For personal references, please speak to my dad or Uncle James Baker. (They can be reached in their offices at the Carlyle Group where they are helping to divide up the spoils of the US-Iraq war and plan for the next one.)

(Note: this information should be useful to voters in the 2004 election. Circulate to as many citizens you think would be helped to be reminded about his record.

January 21, 2004

Film: (DVD) Wit Mike Nichols 2001

I generally avoid films on depressing themes, and a film about a woman dying of cancer is not on my list of good-time topics. However, I'm a huge Emma Thompson fan, so I made an exception for this one.

Good thing I did! This is a towering masterpiece, one of the finest films I've ever seen. In particular, it should be required viewing in every medical school. Thompson's performance defies description. This is a truly great film.

The use of Ives's The Unanswered Question near the end of the story was highly appropriate.

January 24, 2004

eBook: (DVD) Dune: House Corrino Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson 2001

The conclusion of the Dune prequel trilogy that began with Dune: House Atreides. These are all of a piece, so I won't go into details. This concluding "volume" takes us up to just before the beginning of the original Dune.

January 25, 2004

Film: (Big Screen) Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Jackson, 2003

This concluding film of the trilogy was probably the best of the batch. While I find most of the battle scenes boring, the super-elephants were wonderful, as was the catapult and trebuchet duel. The big spider was also really well done.

I loved all of the architecture in this seriers.

One kvetch about all three films, however was the excessively blue color balance. I presume this was done for emotional effect, but it was too much.

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February 1, 2004

eBook: Ring of Fire 2004 edited by Eric Flint

This is a series of stories set in the universe of Flint's 1632. Lots of fun, but not the place to start out. This one probably fits best between 1632 and 1633

February 2, 2004

Opera: (DVD) Simon Boccanegra

February 6, 2004

I've been looking for a keyboard that would let me touch type with my Clie, tried a couple, that should have been compatible, but they weren't. I even posted an inquiry about this to a Clie listserv, with no luck. Then, last week, I received a reply to my posting that "Think Outside had a model that would work, using the IR port.

I went to their website, and was a bit dubious because the specified model said it was for the Pocket PC operating system, not Palm 5.0. I decided to chance it. It arrived today, and the software included was, indeed incompatible, but the hardware looked as if it ought to work.

I went to the Think Outside Website, poked around and found a Palm 4.0 driver, loaded it up and...voila! In fact, I'm typing this on the new keyboard right now, and will upload it to my Powerbook next time I hot sync.

February 7, 2004

I've got a speaking role in Thespis, the very first Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. This is the one where Sullivan's music has mostly been lost, except for "Climbing Over Rocky Mountain" which he re-cycled in Pirates. I play the role of 'Preposteros" a member of the theatrical troupe, the member who plays the "heavy villains." I've got a fair number of lines early on, though no sung solos.

eBook: Pompeii Robert Harris 2003

An enthralling historical novel. The hero is one Attilius, a Roman aqueduct engineer. It's full of fascinating details of the Roman water system and gives a realistic feel for what life must have been like in 79 AD. A major character from real life is Pliny the Elder, admiral, scientist and historian.

Concert: Ed Trickett

Nice to hear this old favorite. last time we saw him, was with the Bok, Muir & Trickett trio, but he's a fine solo artist as well.

February 8, 2004

Film: (DVD) Waking Ned Devine

Seen this before, but it's lots of fun, well worth another look.

First Thespis sing through. Nobody knows the music yet, tried to sing along with a score projected from Dave Jedlinsky's computer, but that was a bit tough.

February 10, 2004

eBook: For Us The living Robert Heinlein, 1938

Recently rediscovered first novel by the "grand master." The protagonist, a Navy flyer, goes off a cliff in his car in 1938, wakes up in 2086, where the United States has become a Utopia. The novel is highly didactic, mostly consisting of various 2086 experts explaining to him how the new system works, both socially and economically. The economics are based on the Social Credit" system endorsed by Upton Sinclair in his campaign for Governor of California (Heinlein was an active worker in this campaign, and made an unsuccessful run for the California Assembly around this time.) The protagonist gets in trouble because he still suffers from sexual jealousy, which is considered a serious mental illness in 2086. Die-hard Heinlein fans like me won't want to miss this, but it isn't recommend for general readers. If you haven't read Heinlein, start with "Citizen of the Galaxy" or "Double Star" or "Stranger in a Strange Land" instead.

Went to the annual Bikers' Banquet in Waltham. A good time was had by all, as ever, though a number of familiar faces were among the missing.

February 14, 2004

Off to Chicago

February 15, 2004

Film: (DVD) Remnant Population Elizabeth Moon 1996

A big corporation pulls the plug on a 40 year old colony on a distantEarth-like planet. They're not making enough money, even though the colonists (perhaps a couple of hundred of them) are doing OK. Orders are given to evacuate, and the colonists are to be transported in cold sleep to a different planet to start all over again. One 70-year-old woman doesn't want to leave, and the corporation doesn't much want her anyway, as they consider her useless. She manages to hide out as the final shuttle leaves, and has the entire planet to herself. That's as much as I'll write, for fear of spoilers, but I enjoyed this book very much, as with other Elizabeth Moon stuff.

My sister was interested in getting more capable image editing software for her PC, to use with her digital camera. I suggested the amateur version of Photoshop, variously known as "Photoshop LE" and "Photoshop Elements." Turns out this software costs a hundred bucks, but it is als available bundled with scanners that don't cost all that much more. It occurred to me that Arlene could very well find use for a scanner, and she jumped on the idea when I suggested it. We got an Epson ****** at Best Buy and set it up. It's working great, and Arlene is really grooving on the possibilities of Photoshop Elements.

Drove out to Northbrook to a Japanese restaurant called "Kegon" that Arlene had a coupon for. The coupon said it featured "Sushi & Steaks" so there was something for everybody. Actually, there was some confusion over the name, because the coupon stuck to the refrigerator had "Kegon" in a funny typeface which doubled up the vertical lines, so it appeared to say "IKIEGONI." I quipped that "any restaurant that begins with "Icky" can't be all bad. It was, in fact pretty good, though full of boisterous, birthday-partying pre-teens who appeared to be unchaperoned.

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February 18, 2004

Comedy: Mort Sahl

Went to the Steppenwolf little theatre for Mort Sahl's opening show. In his early'70s, Sahl is still on top of things, in some ways more so than I--his comments about Diane Sawyer and other contemporary TV "personalities" didn't do much for me, as I know nothing about the people involved.

He considers Kerry to be a right-winger, but doesn't consider anybody alive in the USA to be left-wing, sez they were all killed or exiled during the McCarthy era...

He had a great bit about Bush and Vladimir Putin:

"Putin spent most of his life in the KGB, and said: 'The first thing they taught us in KBGB school was to never give anything away by the expression of our eyes.'

After Bush met Putin, he said 'As soon as I looked into his eyes, I knew this was a man I could trust.'

Art exhibit: Northwestern University's Buck Museum-American Expressionism. This was a fabulous show of mostly political art from the 30s through the '50s, organized by theme.

The pieces related to lynch law were probably the most horrifying. I was especially struck by ****** Turnbull's painting of an African-American family hiding in the tall grass of a field while hooded clansmen searched for them with torches. Another of his powerful paintings showed a chain gang and its guards, understated but very powerful. ***** "Lynch family" depicts a grief-wracked African-American mother holding a blissfully oblivious baby. 2/16 Went cross-country Skiing very briefly. Only went a couple of hundred meters, I found the experience terrifying. I don't have good front/back balance at all, and am generally terrified of falling. This seems to have gotten worse since my fall from a horse last fall, which I still haven't completely recovered from.

Film: big screen The Triplets of Belleville Sylvain Chomet, 2003

Wonderful fun! This is an animated cartoon in which bad guys kidnap 3 Tour de France racers for nefarious purposes, only to be thwarted by the grandmother of one of them, and faithful dog Bruno.

February 19, 2004

Film: (DVD) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Stephen Norrington, 2003

I didn't expect much from this film, but it was even worse than I had expected. Sean Connery was its only redeeming feature, total bomb.

Dinner at Las Palmas in Evanston with Arlene and Mel. Somebody was having a birthday party, so there was a mariachi band, an extra treat.

Helped my brother-in-law install iTunes, and showed him how to use it. PC version appears quite similar to Mac version, and Mel is having a lot of fun with it.

February 20, 2004

Off to Minneapolis.

On the way to the airport, I saw a van with the ultimate in over-the-top corporate naming. The previous champion was "Perfection Auto Body", but when I saw the van with "Resurrection Health Care" painted on it, I think that tops every extravagant claim I've ever seen!

eBook: Trading in Danger Elizabeth Moon 2003

Trading in Danger Elizabeth Moon, 2003 I'm really becoming a big Elizabeth Moon fan. This one features Kylara Vatta, daughter of a shipping magnate, and cadet at the Space Academy of her planet. Through no fault of her own, she is forced to resign in disgrace, and her father puts her in charge of an aging, condemned freighter to get her away from the snooping news media for a few months. Her assignment is to deliver the ship to be sold off for scrap, but she has other ideas...

This was a lot of fun, highly recommended for fans of space-opera.

eBook: The Ship that Saw a Ghost Frank Norris 1902

This short story tells of a group of treasure hunters meeting a sort of 'Flying Dutchman' Didn't knock my socks off.

I'm out in Minneapolis for the Quality Bicycle Products "Frostbike" open house.

Dinner at Town Hall brew pub, very pleasant evening among mostly bike folks from North Carolina.

After dinner, a party at One On One, a combination bike shop/art gallery. I drank a bit too much excellent Minnesota beer.

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February 21, 2004

QBP (Quality Bicycle Products) open house. Caught most of a talk on fitting by someone from Seven Cycles. Can't say I learned anything new from it.

There was also a hands-on seminar on Campag Ergo brifters, which was highly worthwhile. Turns out the trick is to use a 3 mm allen wrench to wedge the release button in place while you wind up the counter spring.

February 22, 2004

Flew home via St Louis. I was surprised to see nasty racist graffiti in the airport men's room.

February 28, 2004

Mac Service

The CD drive on my Ti Powerbook croaked last week, so I again had the pleasure of dealing with Computer Loft in Allston. Being in the service business myself, I know the good ones when I find them, and this is definitely one of the good ones! Highly recommended for Macintosh repairs if you're anywhere near boston.

I brought my Mac in about noontime today, the tech was eating lunch, insisted on swapping out the drive right then even though his lunch was getting cold, though I told him I would be glad to wait, having a good science-fiction book in my Clié, and Computer Loft having comfy chairs for customers to wait in.

Concert: Brookline Chorus Vaughan Williams, Purcell

The first part of this concert was On Wenlock Edge, by Vaughan Williams. This is a piece for tenor (Aaron Shear) and small orchestra, using texts from A Shropshire Lad. I was unfamiliar with this piece, so I had looked it up on the Web, and had even downloaded the text to my Clié. This was fortunate, because the program only printed the text of the first of the six movements. It's a fine piece, somewhat gloomy and elegiac in tone. The performance was excellent.

After intermission, there was a concert performance of Purcell's Dido and Æneas, also quite good.

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November-December, 1998 April-May, 1975


The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
Ring of FireEric Flint2/1/04
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the RightAl Franken1/15/04
PompeiiRobert Harris2/7/04
For Us the LivingRobert A. Heinlein2/10/04
Dune: House HarkonnenBrian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson1/6/04
Dune: House CorrinoBrian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson1/24/04
Remnant PopulationElizabeth Moon2/15/04
Trading in DangerElizabeth Moon2/20/04
How Few RemainHarry Turtledove1/8/04


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


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

Music reviewed on this page:
January 17, 2004 B.S.O., James LevineMozart, Carter, Dvorak


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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