Search and

Sheldon Brown's Journal

arrow-left January-February 2006 arrow-right

Sheldon Brown photo

January 2, 2006

Film: (DVD) Casablanca Michael Curtiz, 1942

A few weeks ago I was startled to learn that our kids had never actually seen this film, though they had, of course, seen lots of references to it. I got the two-disc DVD version for George for Christmas to complete their education.

It has been quite a while since the last (of many) times I've seen this film, and it was a treat to watch it in a nice clean DVD transfer on our 35 inch Sony tube.

I think this has to be the best movie of all time.

January 5, 2006

eBook: Tales from Deadwood Mike Jameson, 2005

I bought this on impulse, 'cause I like the HBO Deadwood series so much, but it was rather disappointing.

Film: (DVD) The Woman Next Door Françl;ois Truffaut, 1981

Françl;ois Truffaut, Gerard Depardieu and Fanny could you go wrong? Well it turns out you can. Depardieu and Ardant are fine, but Truffaut was not at the top of his game when he made this film. Amazingly banal cinematography, even a couple of those iris fadeouts that I thought went out when talkies came in.

A rather gloomy tale of two couples who live next door to one another, but unknown to their spouses, Depardieu's character and Ardant's had had a hot love affair 8 years previously. Now they're both married to other people, each with a young son. Things go from good to bad to worse.

This is a very primitive DVD, no menus, no options. English subtitles are non-switchable, built into the image as if the DVD had been copied from a VHS tape.

January 6, 2006

Film: (DVD) Signs M. Night Shyamalan, 2002

Will I never learn? Much as I like science fiction books, Hollywood only very rarely makes a decent science fiction film. I had thought this might be one, but it turns out to be a run-of-the mill monster/horror job, with an obnoxious Christian religious message thrown in.

The story is a corny alien invasion plot, linked to crop circles, which are supposed to be guides for the aliens to tell them where to land. The aliens are here to kill humans and carry off their bodies for some unexplained reason.

It turns out that they are, like the Wicked Witch of the West, highly allergic to water...if it touches them it causes them to burn up. Given their intolerance for water, why would they pick our watery planet to invade? What will they do with the human bodies, which are, after all, mostly water?

What a stupid movie. Many thumbs down.

January 8, 2006

I've put up more images from the 2005 Cambridge Christmas here!

Christmas Revels Photos


Film: (DVD) My Blue Heaven Herbert Ross, 1990

A very silly comedy, with Steve Martin and Rick Moranis cast against type: Martin as an Sicilian-American Mafiosio, Moranis as an FBI agent. Lots of chuckles, very pleasant light entertainment.

January 9, 2006

Film: (DVD) Stella Dallas King Vidor, 1937

Barbara Stanwyck won the Best Actress Oscar for this sentimental tearjerker. She played a social climbing daughter of a Massachusetts mill-working family who marries Steven Dallas, a wealthy and socially prominent man. After she bears him a daughter, he gets a great job offer in New York, but for unexplained reasons, Stella is not willing to follow him there, so they separate, shipping the daughter back and forth by train (lots of railroad interior shots in this one.)

As they drift apart, Steven takes up with a former flame, a socially prominent widow with two sons.

Stella wants only the best for her daughter, but discovers that she is an embarrassment to her, due to her lower class upbringing, so she selflessly encourages her husband to divorce her, marry the widow, and take custody of the daughter so she can have the upper class life that Stella has always envied.

The daughter is too loyal to go along with this, so Stella has to pretend she is eager to get rid of her. The closing scene has Stella spying on the daughter's wedding through the window, while she stands on the sidewalk, unrecognized in the rain.

Stanwyck is good in this but most of the supporting actors are extremely hammy and over the top. Standards of film acting have changed mightily since 1937.

January 10, 2006

Went for an actual ride today for the first time in about a month. I was pretty much off the bike for the last three weeks of December due to Revels, and the weather hasn't been too cooperative, nothing but commuting and a couple of 3 milers. Today I rode the Raleigh International out to Weston and Wellesley, just under 15 miles, but given the state of my legs, that was enough, especially with the somewhat hilly route.

Listened to Bruckner's 7th on the iPod, Kurt Masur's BSO performance from last Saturday. Good performances, first time I've had the opportunity to listen to it.

January 11, 2006

Film: (DVD) Ed TV Ron Howard, 1999

An amusing comedy in which a struggling TV channell comes up with the gimmick of following a single person 24/7 in live TV. The gimmick is a bit reminiscent of The Truman Show.

January 12, 2006

Film: (DVD) The Leatherwood God William Dean Howells, 1916

This novel is set in frontier Ohio in the late 1820s. It is the story of a self-proclaimed "god" charlatan, based on an actual historical series of events.

Its chief interest is the depiction of life on the frontier in the early 19th century. Howells himself was born in this area not too long after the events of the novel, so he depicts the realities of day-to-day log-cabin life with real authority.

January 13, 2006

Film: (DVD) What's Up, Doc? Peter Bogdanovich, 1972

A classic screwball comedy starring Barbra Streisand. Quite funny, with a great comedy chase sequence through the streets of San Francisco. Good fun.

January 14, 2006

Concert: Boston Celtic Music Festival

Friend and neighbor Sean Smith invited us to hear his new band, Triple Play this morning. Turned out they were sharing the bill with Lady and the Pants, a family brand Cello, Violin and Guitar, a family who Tova and I had previously performed with in Revels.


It was an excellent, very lively show.

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Dawe, Schumann, Berlioz; James Levine, conductor

This excellent concert began with the premiere of The Flourishing Arts of Jonathan Dawe, a work that didn't knock me out on first hearing, but maybe it'll grow on me after I've heard it a few more times.

Then came a barn-burning performance of Schumann's Symphony #4, and they finished up with a blazing rendition of the Symphonie Fantastique. This was a great concert.

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

January 16, 2006

Film: (DVD) Taking Sides István Szabó, 2001

Harvey Keitel is great in this very serious film, dealing with the postwar de-nazification in Germany, specifically the great conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler. Excellent production values, a great re-creation of war-torn Berlin.

January 18, 2006

Film: (DVD) 13 Going on 30 Gary Winnick, 2004

I only ordered this from Netflix because I like Jennifer Garner. It's a female version of Big only not as good. Our protagonist at 13 wishes she was 30, and gets her wish. Unlike Big, she doesn't just appear in the same time in an older body. Instead she is transported from her 1987 self to the year 2004, where she has a complete history she cannot remember. She has become the editor of her favorit fashion magazine, has a fabulous apartment, fabulous wardrobe, basically everything she had dreamt of at 13. As the film unfolds, however, it develops that she has not been a good person, has no friends and many enemies as a result. The film could not be more predictable. Not recommended.

January 19, 2006

Film: (DVD) Secretary Steven Shainberg, 2002

I got this because I like James Spader in Boston Legal. He plays a weird attorney in this film too, only a rather darker version. This is basically a sado-masochistic boy-spanks-girl love story. Netflix seems to think it's a comedy, but I thought it was just weird.

January 21, 2006

Princess Ida Sing-through

This was an informal sing-through at M.I.T. I had the "role" of Guron, one of the brave but stupid brothers of Princess Ida. It was fun, though this is about my least favorite Gilbert & Sullivan operetta.

At the supermarket checkout, I saw this hilarious book title: Internet Poker for Dummies

January 22, 2006

eBook: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation Lauren Willig, 2006

A very favorable review in the Boston Globe induced me to buy this, thinking it was a historical novel of the Napoleonic Wars. I suppose it is, but it's basically a "bodice ripper" and I didn't much like it (though it did have a few nice sex scenes.) The basic plot is "Lois Lane loves Superman but despises Clark Kent." The title is a take-off of The Scarlet Pimpernel.

The three-week layoff from cycling during the Christmas Revels has left my legs much weaker than usual. Today I did a 22.6 mile ride out to Dover on the International, my longest ride of the year. Felt good. I listened to last night's BSO/Levine broadcast of the Missa Solemnis on my iPod. I wish there was an instrumental version of this, or that I didn't understand the Latin. It's wonderful music if you can get past the religious claptrap text.

Film: (DVD) Always Steven Spielberg, 1989

This might well be the worst film Spielberg ever made. A silly ghost story, mawkish to the extreme.

The West Wing, R.I.P.

I'm seriously bummed to learn that The West Wing has been cancelled, this is one of my all-time favorite TV series. I'll particularly miss Alison Janney's "C.J. Clegg."

January 25, 2006

Film: (DVD) The Aristocrats Paul Provenza, 2005

100 comedians tell their variations on the same scatological's the singer, not the song. Pretty funny, but maybe takes itself a bit too seriously.

January 26, 2006

Film: (DVD) Astérix et Obelix contre Cæsar Claude Zidi

Gérard Depardieu plays Obelix in this excellent adaptation. This DVD was in French only, but I was able to follow it pretty well, though I'm sure I missed most of the puns. I read the book but that was over 15 years ago. I found the Romans' accents harder to understand than the Gauls'.

January 27, 2006

Last week it was The West Wing, now NBC has cancelled The Book of Daniel. Will the number 3 network continue canceling all of their best shows? Can Conan O'Brien be far behind?

Film: (DVD) Notorious Alfred Hitchcock, 1946

Lets see...Hitchcock, Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, script by Ben could you go wrong? The answer is lousy writing. A very disappointing film, a major waste of talent. The dialogue seems completely phony from beginning to end.

January 28, 2006

Had a nice ride out to Water Row in Sudbury, rode the International, a bit over 27 miles. Listened to one of my fave operas, Smetana's The Bartered Bride on the iPod.

Film: (DVD) Notting Hill Roger Michell, 1999

A charming romantic comedy with Julia Roberts basically playing herself, and Hugh Flynn as proprietor of a failing London bookshop. Roberts is a bit wooden, but that works OK. I liked it.

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

February 1, 2006

eBook: 1634 The Ram Rebellion Eric Flint and Virginia de Marce, 2006

Baen Books offers what they call "Advance Reader Copies" of some of their books, sort of like getting to read the galleys of a book that has not been quite polished to final form. That's what this was. I'm a huge fan of the 1632 series by Eric Flint. This is the latest of the batch. Parts of it rather dragged, I'm afraid, but maybe this will be corrected in the officially published edition. This one deals with a peasant rebellion in Thuringia and Franconia, partly inspired by a series of "humorous" tales about a troublesome ram belonging to one of the Grantville residents. These tales are in the book, but are not all that entertaining.

February 2, 2006

Revels Sing at Doyle's

Off to Jamaica Plain for another Revels Pub Sing, good fun as always. I led the crowd in Passant par Paris, a French halyard chanty.

../revels Pub Sing at Doyle's

George Emlen leads the Singing

February 3, 2006

Just heard that Tova has been accepted into a doctoral program at M.I.T. with a Presidential Scholar Fellowship! I'm floating on air!

eBook: The Garotters Willam Dean Howells, 1885

This short play is a very droll farce, a sequel to The Elevator. Quite hilarious.

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Mahler Symphony #6, Bernard Haitink, conductor

A fabulous performance of a great work. We had tickets for the Saturday concert, but had to exchange them for the Friday concert due to a conflict.

February 4, 2006

eBook: The Princess Diaries Meg Cabot

I don't recall how this "young adult" novel found its way onto my Clié, I don't recall buying it...maybe it was some kind of special freebie offer a while back. Anyway, after finishing The Garotters I was looking for something else to read and found this. I must admit I rather enjoyed it! It's the story of the 14 year old daughter of a bohemian single mother, who suddenly finds that she is the only living heir to the throne of a small Monaco-like principality. It was a lot of fun, even if it is below my grade level...

February 5, 2006

Religion Run Amok

Well, they're at it again. The combination of religion and the lynch-mob effect has caused riots in several countries, directed against...the Danes, of all people! Hard to believe that people can get so nuts that they burn embassies over a silly cartoon!
|  Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when  | 
|  they do it from religious conviction. -- Blaise Pascal  |

February 8, 2006

eBook: Something New P. G. Wodehouse, 1915

A charming Wodehouse farce dealing with the theft of a valuable scarab from an English stately home. Most of the characters are Americans, and much of the language is American too, so I suspect that this book was "Americanized" much as with the Harry Potter books (...Philosopher's Stone -> Sorcerer's Stone...)

No Jeeves and Wooster in this one, but good fun anyway.

February 11, 2006

Wolfgang's Vault

This morning I heard about this fabulous site on NPR. Rock promoter Bill Graham had a collection of recordings of 35,000 concerts from mid 1960s on through the '80s, and this site streams selections from them. If you like baby-boomer music, this site is not to be missed!

Concert: Boston Symphony Orchestra Beethoven; James Levine, conductor; Jonathan Bliss, Piano; Miriam Fried, Violin; Ralph Kirschbaum, Cello.

This was a super all-Beethoven concert, starting with the rarely played Symphony #2, then the Triple Concerto, finishing up with a blazing performance of the Symphony #7.

This was not part of our regular series, we had exchanged tickets due to a conflict, and so we were not in our usual second balcony seats. Instead, we were on the floor, 3rd row, left of center just in front of the first violin section. This was an interesting change of vantage. The balance was, of course, off, with the first violins predominating, but this was made up for to some extent by the more precise differentiation of lines resulting from being so close.

The seats were pretty good for the symphonies, but turned out to be nearly ideal for the concerto. We were sitting about 3 or 4 meters from the soloists. It was a lot of fun to watch them as well as to listen to them. Kirschbaum often sang along silently in the orchestra parts, and Fried was very physical in her bright red dress. I didn't have a good view of Bliss at the piano, but whenever he had a long solo passage, Fried, his mother, had her face light up with a charming mommy grin.

All in all, a wonderful concert.

February 14, 2006

Film: (DVD) Finian's Rainbow Francis Ford Coppola, 1968

Fred Astaire and Petula Clark star in this film adaptation of the classic (but highly politically incorrect) musical. It's too bad about the libretto of this show, 'cause it's got some really great songs.

Astaire and Clark do well with the acting, but Clark's singing style doesn't work well for the musical numbers.

February 15, 2006

To Indianapolis

Flew out to Indianapolis to speak to the Central Indiana Bicycle Association, second year in a row I've done this. This year I used visual aids, viz. a slide show run from my iPod!

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

February 16, 2006

To Chicago

Flew from Indianapolis to Chicago to visit my sister and brother-in-law for a few days, always a pleasure.

Film: (DVD) Bad(der) Santa Terry Zwigoff, 2003

I usually like Billy Bob Thornton, but this unfunny comedy left me cold.

February 17, 2006

Art Institute of Chicago

Visited the Girodet exhibit, classic French kitsch.

Film: (DVD) Crash Paul Haggis, 2005

Pretty good, though a bit too much of the deus-ex-machina.

February 18, 2006

Film: (DVD) Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Steve Box, Nick Park, 2005

This animated cartoon had its moments, but they were too few and far between.

February 19, 2006

Book: Paper! Memory Lois McMaster Bujold 1996

This was the only one of the Miles Vorkosigan books that I hadn't read, the only one not available in electronic form. It's as good as the others, even in the inconvenient format. (Good airplane reading, though because it's exempt from the idiotic rules against using electronic devices in flight.)

February 23, 2006

eBook: Time Patrol Poul Anderson, 1991 (1960)

I'm a sucker for time-travel stories, and these are pretty good ones by one of the better second-string "golden age" science fiction writers. This is a collection of 8 short stories, some dating back to the 1950s, plus a novella, The Sorrow of Odin the Goth.

The stories are great fun, set in a wide range of different eras. I particularly liked the description of the break-through of the straits of Gibraltar, and the subsequent filling of the Mediterranean.

The novella was my least favorite part, it was too hard to keep track of the different characters and time scale as it jumped back and forth among various times in the gradual decline of the Roman Empire.

February 24, 2006

Film: (DVD) The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares) Denys Arcand, 2003

This was a rather fun film from Québec. The protagonist is a professor dying of cancer. His estranged son gathers all of his old friends together for a grand send-off. The film is somewhat reminiscent of The Big Chill. It is among other things an indictment of the Canadian health care system, and the general decline of society. Quite funny in parts.

February 25, 2006

Film: (HBO) Mrs. Harris

The Jean Harris/Herman Tarnower murder scandal. Sure looks like he had it coming. Pretty good film.

February 27, 2006

Film: (DVD) The Man Who Fell to Earth Nicolas Roeg, 1976

Very sloooow-moving artsy-fartsy science fiction film, somewhat redeemed by a few good nude scenes. Why is it that there's so much good science fiction in book form, and so few decent science fiction films?

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

Back to:

November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December September-October July-August May-June March-April January-February
November-December, 1998 April-May, 1975


The overall Booklist has been moved to a separate page.

Books reviewed on this page:
Time PatrolPoul Anderson2/23/06
MemoryLois McMaster Bujold2/19/06
The Princess DiariesMeg Cabot2/4/06
1634 The Ram RebellionEric Flint and Virginia de Marce2/1/06
The GarottersWilliam Dean Howells2/3/06
The Leatherwood GodWilliam Dean Howells1/12/06
The Secret History of the Pink CarnationLauren Willig1/22/06
Tales From DeadwoodMike Jameson1/5/06


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

Films reviewed on this page:
AlwaysJanuary 22, 2006
The AristocratsJanuary 25, 2006
Astérix et Obelix contre Cæsar26 Janvier 2006
Bad(der) SantaFebruary 16, 2006
The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions Barbares)February 24, 2006
CasablancaJanuary 2, 2006
CrashFebruary 17, 2006
Ed TVJanuary 11, 2006
Finian's RainbowFebruary 14, 2006
The Man Who Fell to EarthFebruary 27, 2006
My Blue HeavenJanuary 8, 2006
Mrs. HarrisFebruary 25, 2006
NotoriousJanuary 27, 2006
Notting HillJanuary 28, 2006
SecretaryJanuary 19, 2006
SignsJanuary 6, 2006
Stella DallasJanuary 9, 2006
Taking SidesJanuary 16, 2006
13 Going On 30January 18, 2006
Wallace and GromitFebruary 18, 2006
What's Up, Doc?January 13, 2006
The Woman Next DoorJanuary 5, 2006


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

Music reviewed on this page:
February 2, 2006Revels Pub Sing Doyle's, Jamaica Plain
January 21, 2006 M.I.T.G.A.S.PGilbert & Sullivan: Princess Ida Sing Through
January 6, 2006 BCM Festival-Lady and the Pants, Triple Play


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

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

Sheldon Brown's Personal Pages

Articles by Sheldon Brown and Others

Since November 8, 1998

Copyright © 2006, 2008 Sheldon Brown

If you would like to make a link or bookmark to this page, the URL is:

Last Updated: by Harriet Fell