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Sheldon Brown's Journal

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January 1, 2005

Harriet and I went on the annual CRW New Year's Day Ride, about 19 miles on the semi-deserted streets of downtown Boston, Charlestown, and Southie. Weather was great for the time of year, close to 50 degrees. I rode my Quickbeam with the Zzipper fairing on it, and was comfortable in a short sleeved jersey. I would have worn fingerless gloves but I couldn't find 'em.

Opera: (DVD) Wagner: Das Rheingold Lothar Zagrosek, 2004

This production from Stuttgart has fine performers, struggling to make sense of a totally idiotic set/concept/costumery. The set looks like the lobby of a mid-20th century Art Deco office building, with a large round fountain in the middle, and a sink on stage right. The fountain is supposed to be the mighty Rhine, I don't know what the sink is supposed to be. The opera opens with the Rhinemaidens flittering around in their pantsuits, pulling golden goblets and platters from the big fountain, bringing them over to the sink, washing and drying them, then putting them back into the fountain. Go figure.

The costumes are mostly early-mid 20th century business wear. Wotan is apparently the C.E.O. The Tarnhelm is a mirror in a rectangular wooden frame. The bridge to Valhalla is a stairway going down into a trap door. The whole production is a total travesty visually, which is a shame because the performers are really quite good, and to the best they can with the trash they're given to work with.

I'd still love to see a production of Der Ring with traditional stagecraft, castles that look like castles, gods that look like gods and the whole panoply of special effects Wagner intended.

January 2, 2005

Took Tova to the airport back to Santa Cruz. It has been nice to have the whole family together for a few days, we miss her a lot.

January 3, 2005

eBook: Homeward Bound Harry Turtledove, 2004

This appears to be the concluding volume of the World War series. Humanity has finally gained a technological advantage over the invaders from Tau Ceti, and an uneasy peace prevails.

This is my favorite Turtledove series. The concept sounds a bit goofy, but it is so well executed that I found it irresistible. I was sad to come to the end of it.

January 5, 2005

Opera: (DVD) Le Nozze di Figaro Mozart (Haitink, 1990)

I'm not generally a Mozart fan, but this was pretty good.

January 6, 2005

Film: (DVD) The Godfather Francis Ford Coppola, 1972

George had never seen this, and I hadn't seen it for many years. A great film, though no longer with quite the impact it had back before The Sopranos.

January 7, 2005

Clié Disaster

I've lost a number of the applications and other files from the 512 mb Compact Flash card I use in my Sony Clié NZ90. Finally it got so bad I had to re-format the card. This was a huge time sink, as I needed to then reload and re-register a lot of my software, but in the end it is working a lot better than it had been.

January 8, 2005

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Hindemith, Mozart, Bolcom. Hans Graf, conductor Sir James Galway, flute

A new Bolcom piece, "Lyric Concerto for Flute and Orchestra" and a Mozart flute concerto sandwiched in between Hindemith's Konzertmusik for Strings and Brass and the Mathis der Maler Symphony.

I like the Mathis der Maler a lot, this was the high point of the concert for me.

January 11, 2005

eBook: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Douglas Adams

This may be the funniest book ever written. Not the first time I've read it, I've been a fan since the original radio broadcasts were run on WGBH years back. Indeed, I am fortunate enough to have taped the broadcasts, and have nearly worn out the tapes over the years.

Film: (DVD) The Duellists Ridley Scott, 1977

An excellent "costume" film, set in the early part of the 19th century in France. A hussar takes an unreasoning dislike to a colleague, precipitating a series of inconclusive duels over a 30 year period. Great costumes and production values, good acting, good direction. I liked this quite a lot.

January 12, 2005

A rare foggy day, made me homesick for France.

Film: (DVD) I, Robot Alex Proyas, 2004

Well, they bought the title from the estate of Isaac Asimov, and also the Three Laws of Robotics, but that's about it. Good visuals, but lousy writing. Will Smith did the best he could with the dreck he was given.

January 14, 2005

Film: (DVD) Buffet Froid

I forgot that I had seen this 2 1/2 years ago...Not really worth a second viewing.

January 15, 2005

eBook: Shadow of Saganami David Weber, 2004

A sequel to the Honor Harrington series only recommended for hard core fans.

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January 16, 2005

Film: (DVD) The Adventures of Pluto Nash Ron Underwood, 2002

Eddie Murphy is the eponymous hero in this science-fiction action/comedy, set on the Moon in 2080. It's fluff, but it's a hoot. I liked it better than I expected to.

January 19, 2005

Film: (DVD) Cyrano de Bergerac Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1990

Seeing Buffet Froid made me want to re-view Gerard Depardieu in Cyrano, which I believe I saw dubbed on the big screen when it first came out. It is a very fine film, but I wish it had French subtitles or an English soundtrack. (It only has English and Spanish.) The French is hard to understand, possibly in part due to the Gascon accents. Both the French dialogue and English subtitles are in rhymed couplets. Trying to keep the two simultaneous rhyme schemes in my head at the same time was impossible.

January 20, 2005

Four more years. Ugh!

Film: (DVD) Égaré ("Strayed") André Téchiné, 2004

Based on a novel by Gilles Perrault, this is the story of a young war widow who flees the German advance on Paris in 1940 with her 13 year old son and 9 year old daughter. Their car gets strafed and bombed, so the family runs off the road, through the woods and finds an unoccupied house. The three of them, plus an illiterate 17 year old reform-school fugitive set up housekeeping... I liked this film very much, and recommend it highly.

January 22, 2005

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Ullmann, Shostakovich; James Conlon & Garrick Ohlsson

We picked this one because it featured the Shostakovich "Leningrad" Symphony (#7). We were 4 for this concert, because we had given a pair of tickets to George for Christmas. He brought a friend from Brandeis.

A major blizzard was in progress, so we left early to be on the safe side, and went to an Indian restaurant for a pre-concert dinner. I liked it better than I had expected. George became something of an expert on Indian food while he was in Bristol, so we let him be our guide.

The Shostakovich was just fine, but the big surprise was the 1940 Viktor Ullmann Piano Concerto. None of us had ever heard of Ullmann before, and the Concerto was a knockout, somewhat influenced by Janacek. It turns out that Ullman was one of the victims of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, a great loss.

The concert was very sparsely attended on account of the blizzard, and we moved down from the second balcony to the floor at the intermission. Got to sit on the cross aisle, with 15 feet of leg room, near the center...the seats I've always coveted.

The drive back, dropping George and his friend at Brandeis and then back home to Newton was somewhat challenging due to the snow conditions. Fortunately, there were very few other vehicles on the road. I must admit to taking particular pride, even to the point of vanity, in my snow driving skills. Had no problems as a result, hardly ever even engaged the ABS system.

January 23, 2005

Film: (DVD) The Godfather Part 2

January 24, 2005

Film: (DVD) Troy Wolfgang Petersen, 2004

I found this rather monotonous, may have been as much Homer's fault as Petersen's.

January 25, 2005

Somebody bought a very bad list of phone numbers. I got a call today from the Republican National Campaign Committee, asking for a $1000 contribution and permission to use my name in a newspaper advert! As if!

Film: (DVD) The Godfather Part 3

January 30, 2005

eBook: Emerald Sea John Ringo, 2004

This is part of a series that attempts to bridge the gap between the "sword & sorcery" and "hard science fiction" genres. It is set in a distant future Earth where nanotechnology has permitted people to turn themselves into dragons or merfolk or orcs for recreational purposes. The planet is governed by "Mother" a sentient computer network that evolved from the Internet.

As the result of a catastrophic war, the population has been drastically reduced, and electric power is now in crucially short supply, all controlled by "Mother." People who were in "dragon" or "mer" or other alternate physical form are now stuck in that mode. "Mother" has decreed that no form of explosives may be used, so swords, spears and arrows are the hot ticket. Low pressure steam engines are permissible, but only of limited utility, and difficult to produce because the whole infrastructure of industry had been allowed to wither away when power was cheap, and "replicators" could produce desired devices.

This is a nautical tale, involving a sailing ship which is a sort of aircraft carrier for dragons. I liked it quite a bit better than I had expected to when I saw the dragon on the cover (I'm a hard core "hard SF" fan, and get quite turned off when magic is invoked.)

Film: (DVD) Being John Malkovich Spike Jonze, 1999

I've seen this before, but worth seeing again...what a hoot! Very highly recommended.

January 31, 2005

Film: (DVD) Ivanhoe Richard Thorpe, 1952

I've been eagerly awaiting the DVD release of this film for quite a while. I saw it in the theatre during the first run, when I was 8 or 9, and it made a big impression on me at the time. Most particularly, I was infatuated with Elizabeth Taylor, who was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

I do remember that this was the first that I had ever heard of Saxons or Normans, and that I found it very exciting.

The film looks pretty silly to my adult eyes, especially after reading the book and listening to an audiobook reading of it at a later date. Nevertheless, viewed on its own terms as a hollywood epic, it was fun to watch.

Looks as if the extras budget was a bit skimpy for this film, the crowd scenes look rather fake.

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February 4, 2005

Film: (TV) Jet Pilot

A Cold War camp classic, with John Wayne as a U.S. fighter pilot and Joan Fontaine as a Soviet fighter pilot/spy posing as a defector. The plot is as silly as you might expect, but there's lots of cool footage of F86 Sabre jets doing their thing. The F86 was the hot fighter when I was a child, and during the Korean War, I still recall hearing the John Cameron Swayze doing the nightly news on TV. My favorite part was always when he'd give the day's score: "We lost 3 F86 Sabre Jets over Korea today, but our pilots shot down 12 MiG 15s." To me the F86 is still the most beautiful of airplanes.

February 5, 2005

Went in to The Computer Loft in Allston to order a new computer. I'll be getting one of the new G5 iMacs with a 20 inch screen, 250 gb drive, 1.25 gb memory and wireless bluetooth keyboard. I'm psyched! Should arrive within a couple of weeks.

The weather finally broke, today was sunny an in the 40s. The snow is melting, though there's lots left over from the blizzard, but I got to take the transmogrified IRO out for 26 miles, heading out through Weston, over Glezen Lane and along Water Row, my favorite local road.

The IRO was great, I was surprised at how much of the time I was spending in the top 3 gears (87, 100 7 115 inches!)

Mostly listened to Shostakovich on my iPod.

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Brahms, Rafæl Frühbeck de Burgos.

This concert featured three Brahms choral works: Nänie, Gesang der Parzen and Shicksalied. After the intermission it was the Symphony #1.

Unfortunately, we forgot we had tickets to this one, but Harriet's PDA reminded her about quarter to eight. We rushed over to Symphony Hall, but the garage we usually park at was full. Wound up going to the Prudential Center garage, probably half a mile away, so we missed the whole first half of the concert. Did get to hear the Symphony #1. A fine, lively performance of a work I've heard too many times.

Fortunately, my PowerBook taped the concert, so I got to hear the 3 choral works, and they're now ensconced in my iPod.

February 6, 2005

Another nice day, still a LOT of snow to melt though. I took the IRO for another 26 miler, this time down through Needham and Dover. Got lost a couple of times, but that's always fun. Everything looks different when the trees are bare and the ground all covered with snow.

February 8, 2005

eBook: The Last Kingdom Bernard Cornwell, 2005

This is the start of a new projected series of historical novels from the author of the Sharpe's Rifles series. Set in the late 9th century, in an England almost completely conquered by Danish vikings, this series will follow the career of Alfred the Great, through the eyes of a fictional Earl named Uhtred. I liked this book very much and can hardly wait for the sequels.

Bikers' Banquet at Redbones

This annual gathering of folks in the greater Boston bike biz is organized by Scott Chamberlain. This is the first year it has been at Redbones (previously at a Waltham taqueria) and it was, if anything too successful...they had to turn away latecomers, and it was very crowded. Nevertheless, a Good Time Was Had By All.
Nikon D70, e.i.1600 18-70 zoom 18 mm f3.5 0.3 sec
Nikon D70, e.i.1600 50 f1.4 manual Nikkor, 1/15 sec.

(Click for larger image)

February 11, 2005

eBook: Double Star Robert Heinlein, 1956

I'm not sure how many times I've read this book, but it is among my top ten favorite books of all time, and this probably won't be the last time I'll re-read it.

eBook: A Drift from Redwood Camp Bret Harte

A tale of the California Gold Rush.

February 14, 2005

Harriet and I went to dinner at Sol Azteca in Newton Centre, nice to get out on a "date."

Film: (DVD) Royal Wedding 1951

A Fred Astaire musical, mostly quite forgettable, except for his dance with a hat rack in a gym on an ocean liner. There's a major special-effects sequence on a rotating set where he dances up the walls and onto the ceiling of a hotel room.

Lousy script, lousy acting but some very fine dancing.

Re-dyed hair and beard.

February 15, 2005

Film: (DVD) Cloak and Dagger Fritz Lang, 1946

Gary Cooper as a nuclear physicist turned O.S.S. spy to try to keep the Nazis from developing The Bomb.

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February 16, 2005


Flew out to Indianapolis to speak to the Central Indiana Bicycling Association. The event was in a library, quite a good crowd, probably about 130 people.

I spoke for about two hours on a variety of topics, then repaired to a nice local brew pub for a couple of I.P.A.s. Glad I wasn't is somewhat surprising how tipsy I can get on a couple of pints, since I have stopped drinking on a regular basis. Anyway, the talk was quite well received, and a good time was had by all.

My hosts were very pleasant and hospitable.

February 17, 2005

eBook: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Douglas Adams

Volume 2 of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy trilogy.

February 17, 2005

Film: (DVD) King Arthur Antoine Fuqua 2004

An interesting romanesque take on the Arthurian legend. No less plausible than other versions. Battle scenes got kinda boring as they went on too long.

February 20, 2005

Harriet Fell on her Aluminum Bike

I finally got Harriet's aluminum bike together. This was the frame she built when she was at M.I.T. in the early 1970s, but it had never been completed as a ridable bicycle. It has been hanging on the wall in our living room for many years, ever since we got it back from the lawyers (it was an exhibit in the lawsuit between Klein and Cannondale.)

February 26, 2005

Film: (DVD) True Stories

Film: (DVD) Everybody's Famous

February 27, 2005

eBook: Life, The Universe and Everything Douglas Adams

February 28, 2005

Off to a good start this year on the bike, 304 miles so far.

Film: (DVD) Secret Society

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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:
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams2/17/05
The Restaurant at the End of the UniverseDouglas Adams2/27/05
Life, the Universe and EverythingDouglas Adams2/17/05
The Last KingdomBernard Cornwell2/8/05
Double StarRobert A. Heinlein1/11/05
Emerald SeaJohn Ringo1/30/05
Homeward BoundHarry Turtledove1/3/05
Shadow of SaganamiDavid Weber1/15/05


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

Films reviewed on this page:
The Adventures of Pluto NashJanuary 16, 2005
Being John MalkovichJanuary 30, 2005
Cloak and DaggerFebruary 15, 2005
Cyrano de BergeracJanuary 19, 2005
The DuellistsJanuary 11, 2005
Everybody's FamousFebruary 26, 2005
The GodfatherJanuary 6, 2005
The Godfather Part 2January 23, 2005
The Godfather Part 3January 25, 2005
Égaré ("Strayed")January 20, 2005
I, RobotJanuary 12, 2005
IvanhoeJanuary 31, 2005
Jet PilotFebruary 4, 2005
Le Nozze di FigaroJanuary 5, 2005
Royal WeddingFebruary 14, 2005
Secret SocietyFebruary 28, 2005
TroyJanuary 24, 2005
True StoriesFebruary 26, 2005


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

Music reviewed on this page:
February 4, 2005 B.S.O., Rafæl Frühbeck de Burgos. Brahms
January 22, 2005 B.S.O., James Conlon, Garrick OhlssonUllmann, Shostakovich
January 8, 2005 B.S.O., Hans Graf, James Galway Hindemith, Bolcom, Mozart


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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