The sun is shining in London, SW19, for the first time in days. But no matches at Wimbledon today. In keeping with tradition, play is not scheduled for the middle Sunday of the tournament. Yes, it has happened a couple of times in the past twenty years that a backed up schedule has forced the All-England Club to open its gates on the Lord's day. And Centre Court was filled with die-hard fans those on rare occasons--those who braved the queue to get unexpectedly available tickets--and they filled the venue with tremendous enthusiasm for the likes of Connors and Agassi ("the people's Sunday," it was called).
Too bad the AELTC didn't opt to get back on track with scheduled matches today, for the forecast for the next few days is hardly encouraging!
In the course of the next six months, this website is getting a comprehensive overhaul--more than just a CSS makeover. Design and testing will be behind the scenes. Target launch date for the upgrade is January 1, 2008.
I wrapped up volume two in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy--The Subtle Knife--and will dive into the third novel tomorrow.
Mother Nature is not making life easier for the players over at Wimbledon. More rain today.
ESPN 2's coverage of The Championships starts at 7 a.m. here on the East Coast, and the network bills it as "Waking Up To Wimbledon." I reached for the remote first thing when I woke up and within minutes watched the men's second-, third-, and fourth-seeded players advance by finishing rain-delayed matches. So Rafa Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Novak Djokovic are still alive.
It being a rainy afternoon, I went to the movies and saw Transformers. The movie was reasonably enjoyable, but the last half hour or so just got boring (and too loud). The gimmick of watching a car become a giant-sized robot had lost its charm far earlier in the flick. I guess it didn't help that I missed the toy craze that inspired all of this.
Rafael Nadal climbed out from under a 0-2 deficit in sets to defeat Mikhail Youzhny today. As of the other night, I have a dinner bet on Nadal winning Wimbledon before Federer wins the French. I still think this could even be Rafa's year on the grass (yeah, I concede Federer has to be considered the favorite, but if the top two meet in the final, an upset is not beyond the realm of possibility). My worry now is that all the rain the courts have absorbed will hurt Nadal's chances, as the ball won't kick up off the courts with his heavy topspin, as it did in last year's tournament. The Spaniard also has a lot of matches ahead with not much rest, as his section of the draw is furthest behind schedule.
Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford have been at work just twenty minutes down the road from me in New Haven, filming scenes for the fourth Indiana Jones installment. I'm sorely tempted to head down for a look, but I'm sure security is tight and there's not much to see.
It was tough to see Andy Roddick go down in five sets after holding a 6-4, 6-4, 4-2 lead against Richard Gasquet. Though he should have been able to close it out in the third, the American did not play badly in defeat. His French opponent was dazzling off both wings with groundstroke winners and crisply struck passing shots.
Today is 7/7/07.
So Roger Federer advanced to the Wimbledon final in his attempt to equal Björn Borg's five in row between 1976 and 1980. He will face nemesis Rafael Nadal tomorrow in the championship. My pick is 60-40 for Federer, but I would not be surprised to see the Spaniard walk away with the title.
It's breakfast at Wimbledon once more: Federer vs. Nadal. The stakes are high. The sun is shining. Centre Court is ready. Showtime!
It looked like things might go the other way when Federer was down 15-40 on serve twice on in the fifth set. But the defending champion found another gear in the last few games to add a fifth straight Wimbledon crown to his impressive list of accomplishments.
This was a very entertaining match that really could have gone either way. It's a treat to see a rivalry like this develop. My hope is that Rafa takes the level of play he has shown on grass into the summer hard court season and the U.S. Open, where he has yet to have had the same impact he's had at Roland Garros and the All-England Club.
I am always struck how graceful these two athletes are in victory and defeat, too. They are both a credit to the game.
Oh, man, do I love this sport!
One sad note from Wimbledon: apparently, we have seen the last post-match interviews of the finalists by Bud Collins. NBC has opted not to renew Bud's contract after 35 years on the air at The Championships. The network wants to move away from scripted features in favor of more on-court action. I personally like the off-court coverage, the human interest stories, the behind-the-scenes looks. And of course, the wonderfully literate and urbane Collins has done a great job colorfully presenting (especially with his multi-hued trousers) this stuff ever since NBC moved him out of the commentary booth a decade or so ago.
As one who grew up on the network's coverage of the tournament--and also one who has gotten the chance to hang out with Collins a little bit--I am disappointed by this development. NBC is being penny-wise and pound-foolish, I am afraid. There's a reason the man is the dean of tennis correspondents and enormously popular with his peers. He adds class and color to NBC's presence at tournaments. Hopefully another network will find a good way to put his talents to use.
Thus was a neatly named shop I saw when I was in Tromsø, Norway a couple weeks ago. Turns out the shop even has a website: www.arctictattoo.com.
Not surprisingly, President Bush is not making his aides available for Congressional hearings, invoking executive privilege.
Not surprisingly, President Bush gave Scooter Libby a "get out of jail free" card last week, creating suspicion of a cover-up in the roots of the Iraq war and Plamegate.
Not surprisingly, President Bush's appointees to the Supreme Court have tilted the bench to the right, rolling back decades of progress in civil liberties.
Not surprisingly, Vice-President Cheney remains secretive and avoids any sort of accountability, concocting the novel argument that he is part of both the executive and judicial branches of goverment, and thus answerable to neither one.
Not surprisingly, New Orleans is still struggling to rebuild, highlighting the incompetence of the administration's handling of the Katrina crisis.
Nor surprisingly, an unpopular war in Iraq continues, America's credibility in the world erodes, stability in Afghanistan slips away, terror and bloodshed in the Middle East grows by the day.
Isn't it time for these guys to go yet?
I went to Mohegan Sun to see Rush in concert tonight. My friend Scott, who is something of a Rush expert as well as a drummer, was psyched to be seeing Neil Peart in action. It was an enjoyable show, with particularly strong production values, especially the great mix of video screens, computer animation, lighting, and pyrotechnics. I knew perhaps a third of the songs, but it was hard not to get swept up in the energy of the show. Here are a couple of pics from my Treo:
Here is the set list from last night's Rush concert at Mohegan Sun:
The Main Monkey Business
The Larger Bowl
Between The Wheels
Working Them Angels
Armor And Sword
The Way The Wind Blows
The Spirit Of Radio
One Little Victory
A Passage To Bangkok
I was watching the fairly engaging Spielberg On Spielberg documentary--which aired on TCM last night and I recorded on my DVR--when I realized I had to check in the kids in the house for curfew. While pausing the playback, I inadvertantly deleted the program from my ReplayTV. And the program is not scheduled to be rebroadcast again anytime soon. Stupid. Well I got to see at least two thirds of it, I guess, so it wasn't a total loss.
I took the kids in the Kennedy Institute program to see Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix today. It was pretty entertaining, but clearly darker than its cinematic predecessors. Imelda Staunton was spot on as sickeningly-sweet Dolores Umbridge. The stars of British acting were reassembled for the picture, but most of them didn't have much to do. The film is the shortest Potter flick yet, though the novel it was based on is the longest.
NBC burned off the last few episodes of Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip this spring. I recorded them on my DVR and am now catching up with the final gasps of the now-cancelled show. Too bad Aaron Sorkin's post-The West Wing project wasn't able to live up to its early hype.
Today means trouble for those who suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia, or fear of Friday the 13th!
Happy Bastille Day!
I saw John Mayer at the New England Dodge Music Center (which I still call "The Meadows") up in Hartford tonight. Ben Folds was the support act and did a fun, if largely forgettable, set. Mayer was in good form after a week's break in his tour, and of course Connecticut being his home state, he seemed fired up to play in front of family and friends. Sorta like Springsteen at the Meadowlands, I guess. Anyway, he opened with "No Such Thing" and worked his way through a good selection from Continuum as well as older standouts. Whenever I go to a concert, I have a mental checklist of what I hope to hear, and Mayer hit most of them ("No Such Thing," "Neon," "Waiting On The World To Change," "Georgia Why," "Gravity"). I confess to having a soft spot in my heart for "Daughters," and that was the obvious omission from my list. But it was a great show overall.
Most of my Treo snapshots from the night are worthless, but this one is passable:
Here is the set list from last night's John Mayer concert in Hartford:
No Such Thing
Good Love Is On the Way
I Don't Trust Myself (With Loving You)
Dreaming With A Broken Heart
Waiting On The World to Change
Bigger Than My Body
I Don't Need No Doctor
Slow Dancing (acoustic)
Your Body Is A Wonderland (acoustic)
I'm Gonna Find Another You
Two and three years ago, I would rush back from class late in the morning to watch the daily drama unfold in France, as Lance Armstrong extended his record streak of wins in fascinating battles. Last year, I was somewhat less interested, but Landis was a compelling character and made it interesting. In the wake of all of the scandal surrounding the sport, though, I have virtually no interest in this year's Tour de France. I fear the interest in cycling that Armstrong's achievements stirred here in the States have seriously waned.
Off to Washington, DC for the rest of the week with the J.F.K. Institute program.
I peppered the drive down to DC with Wizard of Oz references in antipation of showing the K.I. kids the Mormon temple looming over the Washington beltway illuminated in an eerie green, as in past years. The temple appeared right on schedule, bathed in light, but it wasn't as green as it was in the past, which made it a tougher sell as "the Emerald City." In fact, it looked much whiter, as it would in daylight (see the photo above).
I spent most of the day squiring the ten Kennedy Institute students around Capitol Hill.
Security concerns have made navigating around the Capitol complex pretty frustrating. I remember the days when I could take a group from a House office building through the Capitol basement, onto the Senate Subway, and into the Senate office buildings without being stopped. No more. Without an official escort much of the time, we had to keep heading outside to move from one building to another. And of course, the temperatures in July in D.C. tend to be soaring--making every such trip a brutal hike.
That said, there is always an excitement about being in the midst of the wheels of government when Congress is in session. We are meeting lawmakers and staffers as part of our official schedule, of course, but there are also chance sightings of (and sometimes meetings with) political celebrities. Today we saw U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Senator (and presidential candidate and former First Lady) Hilary Clinton. More importantly, even in these cynical times, people in and around government often exhibit an admirable sense of idealism about their work; this feeling is somewhat infectious.
I took the kids around to the monuments tonight. Evening is the best time to do this: it's a lot cooler, there are fewer crowds, and the venues are lighted for dramatic effect. The Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial--one of my favorites--was a huge disappointment, in that most of its fountain/waterfall features were dry and the lighting was not fully implemented through the site. But the Jefferson Memorial (pictured above), the Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial all looked great.
A priceless video piece on the chickenhawk phenomenon among College Republicans has been posted. Click here to view it.
Just over 24 hours until the release of the final Harry Potter tome. Apparently the Internet is buzzing with spoilers. Why anyone would go out of his way to find out the ending beforehand is a mystery to me. I am planning to scrupulously avoid TV and the Internet until I finish the book sometime after Amazon delivers it to me on Saturday morning.
For the most part, the drive from Washington back to Connecticut went quite smoothly. We managed to beat rush hour in New York and arrived in Wallingford around 4:30.
Look what was waiting for me in the mailroom this morning:
I am over halfway through the final Harry Potter installment and expect to finish sometime tomorrow. It's GOOD!
Okay, no chance the book will be ruined for me now. I pushed through Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows this weekend just so no one could spoil any surprises for me. (I still have bad memories of Tim Varacek telling me that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker's father before I saw The Empire Strikes Back in 10th grade.) Other than teaching my classes yesterday morning, I haven't done much but read since I got the Potter book in the Saturday mail.
Anyway, it was a very enjoyable read. Too bad that's the end of the saga. No spoilers from me, though!
After lunch, I turned on the television, which was tuned in to The Tennis Channel, which was replaying a 1970s World Team Tennis match between Ilie Nastase and Sandy Mayer. I was struck by the color scheme on the court--something the modern incarnation of WTT apparently has resurrected (see above photo). Kind of funky!
The Secret Servant arrived in today's mail; it's the latest in Daniel Silva's series of novels about Gabriel Allon, an Israeli spy. Good summer reading, I think!
Although my trip to Russia next month will be cheaper than it might have been--largely because the airfare is entirely covered by the "mileage points" I've built up on my credit card--I am paying dearly to get my tourist visa processed. It will cost me almost $200 when all is said and done. Living in a major city would be a huge advantage, as one could avoid using an expediter by going to an embassy or consulate to process the visa request in person (I actually did this in Sydney to get my India and Vietnam visas in January). But two separate trips into New York City to drop off and pick up my passports wouldn't be very economical, so I am resorting to an expediter in Houston, who supposedly will have my passport and a brand new tourist visa back to me within five business days.
Getting a Russian visa is a little more complicated than most, in that I needed to get documentation from the hotels I booked in advance (which in turn requires another set of deposits). Of course, the documents that were faxed back to me from the hotels were written mostly in the Cyrillic alphabet, so I hope it is what the consular officials want.
I bit the bullet and bought myself a subscription to the Metropolitan Opera, essentially booking tickets for six productions in the upcoming year, mostly on Thursday nights: Aida, La Traviata, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), War And Peace, Peter Grimes, and La Fille du Régiment. Taking advantage of the chance to pre-order additional tickets before the general public, I also lined up a performance of Tristan and Isolde in March. So I am getting immersed in the world of opera, I guess, and thus am committing to a bunch of trips into New York City. It's an expensive habit!
The newspapers are full of reports of high profiled people engaged in misbehavior.
The NBA is investigating allegations of gambling on the part of one of its officials, including bets on games he worked.
The NFL is reeling from the revelations of superstar Michael Vick's involvement in dog fighting.
Major League Baseball is fumbling around, trying to deal with the very real possibility of one of its most important records being broken by Barry Bonds, who has been surrounded by a mountain of circumstantial evidence of being "juiced" for years.
The Tour de France was rocked again on the doping front yesterday, as Tour leader Michael Rasmussen was kicked out of the competition by his own team for some pretty incrimininating behavior earlier in the spring.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the credibility of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez continues to erode, as the Senate considers charges of perjury (!) as his recent testimony is apparently contradicted by documentary evidence.
I just came in from a spell of reading--I am now close to finishing The Amber Spyglass, the third in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy--outdoors on a beautiful summer night. The temperatures lately have been perfect here in Connecticut: warm days, without oppressive humidity, and comfortable nights (good sleeping weather!). I was sitting in an Adirondack chair on the edge of Memorial Field in front of my house and noticing how very quiet the campus was. All the high school kids must have been at the final dance of the summer (they leave tomorrow morning) because hardly anyone was within sight in the course of nearly two hours. The birdsong was my background music, and as the sun set, I was treated to a spectacular canopy of deep blue clouds, pleasantly punctuated by streaks of pink, reflecting far above the sun that had moved below the horizon.
The atmosphere brought back memories of my youth: seemingly endless summer nights at my grandparents' farm in upstate New York, running around with my cousins, watching the fireflies emerge, and generally soaking up a carefree existence. I think this time following sunset may well be my favorite part of the day, at least in this part of the year.
No doubt part of my good mood is psychologically rooted in the sense of being nearly finished with summer school duties. Though I have projects I am working on, the knowledge that the month ahead is largely unscheduled is a great feeling.
Summer evenings can be pretty nice!
"Indiana Jones . . . I always knew some day you'd come walking back through my door . . ."
Apparently Karen Allen is back reprising her Raiders Of The Lost Ark role of Marion Ravenwood in the next Indy flick. Director Steven Spielberg invited the actress to join him and Harrison Ford in a satellite transmission from the film set.
I just finished off The Amber Spyglass. This trilogy is subversive in a very interesting way, taking a philosophical position that in many ways challenges the clearly Christian subtexts in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. A recommended read.
In J.J. Abrams' 2008 Star Trek reboot, Spock will be played by Zachary Quinto (Sylar from Heroes) and--presumably in some sort of framing sequence--Leonard Nimoy! Pretty cool.
In 1993, AT&T ran a marketing campaign called "You Will" that showed us the future of technology. At the time, it all seemed very much like science fiction, but almost 15 years later, most of these things have been incorporated into our daily lives (though most of it NOT by AT&T!). Check it out here.
I went to matinee to check out the cinematic version of The Simpsons, rather than finish my teacher reports. It was well done and consistently amusing, like one of the better episodes of the television series.
I went to one of my favorite local (well, it's 25 minutes away in Branford) restaurants and enjoyed Darbar for the first time since I visited India in the winter. It's probably the case that I measure all Indian cuisine--whether in London or Mumbai--against Darbar's food. I don't know if that's good or bad, but I know that I had a great meal tonight.
Having read the graphic novel Watchmen when it was released back in the mid-1980s and having taught the work over half a dozen times now, I will be interested to see how well it holds together on the silver screen. See the site for yourself.
One of these years I will have to make it out to that pop culture geekfest, the Comic-Con, which is taking place this weekend in San Diego. Although the event apparently is wall-to-wall people nowadays, there are so many huge movie and television previews and announcements made there that it's a highlight of Hollywood's year (as documented on an episode of Entourage last season). Plus having grown up on a steady diet of comic books, it would be a total nostalgia trip for me. While I would be in my element there, I am pretty sure nothing could get me into one of those costumes!
I overheard the older couple sitting behind me at dinner last night discussing how surprised they were with Hilary Clinton as a candidate: that they were unexpectedly warming to the prospects of her as a worthy presidential aspirant. Couple that with yesterday's David Brooks column in The New York Times in which he comments on this as a broader phenomenon: that Senator Clinton is carefully distancing herselves from her rivals--Democrats and Republicans alike--as having the requisite experience to lead as well the politically advantageous positions on the key 2008 issues. Here is a taste of the analysis offered by center-right pundit Brooks:
The biggest story of this presidential campaign is the success of Hillary Clinton. Six months ago many people thought she was too brittle and calculating and that voters would never really bond with her. But now she seems to offer the perfect combination of experience and change.
Iraq will still be a shooting war in 2008. Health care is emerging as the biggest domestic concern. This is natural Democratic turf. So as I travel around watching the Republican candidates, I’m looking for signs that they’re willing to try something unorthodox. Eighty percent of the time, what I see is the Dole campaign: Republican candidates uttering their normal principles — small government, military strength, strong families — and heading inexorably toward defeat.
Papers and exams graded, classes wrapped up, term reports filed, final faculty meeting over. I am now officially done.
Following the end-of-summer-session dinner tonight, I went down to New Haven to see Once, an indie film from Ireland with an enchanting romantic storyline and a great soundtrack. The movie uses music as a vehicle for the connections between the main characters and the songs are fantastic. My parents recommended Once, and it was worth the trip.
Another Broadway double header day for me.
This afternoon's matinee was Nixon/Frost about the mid-1970s series of interviews of the disgraced ex-president by British television host David Frost. The show is in its final week before closing, but Ron Howard is tackling a filmed version with same principals in August. Frank Langella won the Tony for Best Actor earlier this year for his role as Richard Nixon, and it did seem as though he was channeling our 37th president on stage. I was lucky to be seated in the fourth row, center, in the orchestra section. The production featured brilliant performances and was a very thoughtful play.
Tonight I finally got around to seeing Avenue Q, which won the Tony for Best Musical a few years back (in a huge upset, as Wicked was the overwhelming front runner for the award that season). The humor was deliciously subversive: a perverse cross between Sesame Street, Rent, and The Simpsons. I lucked out with my ticket again, as I was seated in the second row, right on the center aisle. A very enjoyable and funny show.
After a bit of early evening tennis, I was treated to a boat ride off the Connecticut coast and around the Thimble Islands. My youthful driver thought he'd surprise me with a boating trick and yanked the steering wheel suddenly to turn is into a 360 degree turn, but sitting up front and not expecting this, I went flying out of my seat and crashed my left shoulder into the side of the hull, HARD. So I am a bit banged up right now.
Tonight I am seeing The Police play in East Hartford. Nice!
Well, the Choate campus is a film set, anyway--at least this week. A production called College Road Trip has decamped to Wallingford to shoot a few scenes, with dozens of vehicles and trailers and lots of equipment now on campus. The Disney-produced movie stars Raven Symone (whom I have never heard of) and Martin Lawrence. Apparently just a bit of exterior location work is being completed here, but it sure seems like a pretty huge undertaking.
The Police were pretty much in the same category as The Beatles in my mind: a band I never thought I'd see in concert. This trio, which provided background music to so much of my life at the end of high school and the beginning of college, had little hope of ever transcending clashing egos to tour again--or so we all thought. I have seen Sting perform four times in concert--and even met him backstage at one of those shows--but seeing The Police was different. It was a thrill to watch Andy, Stewart, and Sting sharing the stage once more in an energetic set of classic hits.
The set list:
Message In A Bottle
Walking On The Moon
Voices Inside My Head / When The World Is Running Down...
Don't Stand So Close To Me
Driven To Tears
Truth Hits Everybody
The Bed's Too Big Without You
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic
Wrapped Around Your Finger
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da
Walking In Your Footsteps
Can't Stand Losing You / Reggatta de Blanc
King Of Pain
Every Breath You Take
Next To You