The Choate group spent the morning on Capitol Hill, visiting the Senate and House chambers as well as a congressional hearing. We also met with freshman Representative Chris Murphy (D-CT) and enjoyed a luncheon in the Capitol with some CRH alums.
On the ride back, we watched Mr. Smith Goes To Washington on the bus. I had forgotten just how good this film is.
Off now to the athletic center to run a late night make-up practice for cross country team members who were on the DC trip with me. Two days until our first championship meet!
Just unpacked the new toy. It's big and beautiful. I am setting it up in my study upstairs where the old G4 iMac used to live. Turns out I have to install Leopard from the included DVD.
It's hard to convey just how much I am enjoying Season 1 of Friday Night Lights. I watched a bunch of episodes while traveling to and from Washington this week and a couple more tonight. No doubt the coach in me finds this show centered around a high school team appealing, but beyond that, this is simply a great television drama about a small town in Texas.
The Choate boys prevailed in both JV and varsity races at our state meet: the Founders League Championship. The junior varsity was dominant in winning a 12th straight race in this event. The varsity posted a narrow win (a 2-point margin) over rival Loomis Chaffee, earned with some pretty amazing pack running.
I took a small Mem House contingent down the hill to Abbott & Cassello's for an eggs Benedict breakfast. The restaurant was more packed than normal, mostly because folks were thrown off by the time change. The extra hour of sleep was most welcome!
For the second tournament in a row, David Nalbandian knocked off both Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. I watched the end of the final against Nadal on Tennis Channel. Nalbandian was in fine form in crafting a 6-4, 6-0 over Rafa--the latter's first-ever loss in the city of Paris! Unfortunately, Nalbandian's season is now over, as he doesn't have the points to qualify for the tour championship in Shanghai next week, even though he is currently the hottest player on the circuit.
Choate Football assembled an impressive 48-7 win over Lawrenceville in a Sunday afternoon game. The Wild Boars scored all their points in the first half and never looked back. It was nice that the entire roster got to see some playing time.
Just 365 days until America elects a new president!
Here's to all of you who dare to question authority!
I am embarrassed to admit the fact that Election Day was today and it never really entered my consciousness all day. I guess I am more or less out of touch with local politics. The lack of federal or state candidates in this odd-numbered-year election slate kept my interest in 2007's electoral politics pretty near nil.
Much of my time this week is being devoted to preparations for the New England Cross Country Championships here at Choate. There's lots of work to be done on the actual course, particularly in the start/finish area. Moreover, there are race numbers and meet programs to be distributed, T-shirts to be sold, refreshments to be served, awards to be announced, and results to be disseminated on Saturday.
Just got in from a night at the Metropolitan Opera, where I saw Verdi's La Traviata. This is a tragic love story, and one of the most popular operas in the worldwide repertory. Renée Fleming was stunning in her handling of the challenging lead role of Violetta.
My parents leave for a European jaunt today: Portugal, Spain, and France. I've never been to Portugal, but I do like Spain and France an awful lot. So I'm a bit jealous.
This day is one of my favorite in the whole year. It's the final cross country practice of the fall, and after our weekly meditation session, I traditionally read the letters written to the team--"words of wisdom," if you will--from recent alums. Many are funny, some are touching, but all are wonderful connections to runners and teams past. As I read these missives aloud, I can picture very clearly each author sitting on the floor of the hockey locker room one or five or ten years ago, in the place where fifty current team members sit transfixed, eager to hear from their predecessors.
Tonight we staged the traditional pre-Deerfield Day pep rally, followed by the ceremonial burning of the dragon in a bonfire. Not sure why we burn a dragon, as Deerfield teams are known only as "The Big Green," but we have to burn something. You can see the smoke billowing out of the dragon's snout!
Well the New England meet is a thing of the past. This event, which took up more and more of my time the past couple of weeks, turned out successfully for the most part. The Choate team was somewhat disappointed with its collective performance, and I always feel guilty trying to give the runners the attention they need while we coaches are juggling the frenetic nature of playing host. But the weather cooperated, races went smoothly, and the reception and awards ceremony was as efficiently run as it's ever been. [Thanks to former Choate Cross Country parent (twice over) Jan Gelb for the above photo.]
After the excitement of the cross country meet, I unwound with a student production of The Importance Of Being Earnest, which was cleverly performed here on campus.
Not even 24 hours after the end of the cross country season, I am off to Simsbury for a noon meeting of the New England squash coaches. From one season, onto the next!
Mt Comcast digital cable package gives me On Demand service, so it was easy to watch last night's season finale of Curb Your Enthusiasm today instead. This is SUCH a funny show. I love the utter lack of political correctness in this series.
So yesterday I ponied up a pile of money to buy a legal copy of Adobe Creative Suite 3, which contains some pretty useful programs such as Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Acrobat, etc. The academic price was considerably cheaper than the regular cost, and I could fold this into my interest-free loan from the school for tech-related purchases. I opted to download the software from the Adobe website, but couldn't get the 2+ gig file to start to download. After a few calls to customer service that proved fruitless, Adobe is sending me a CD with the software I now own, but the company had the nerve to make me may $20 plus shipping for it!
After a Hamlet-like period of indecision about where to go for my annual post-Christmas travel adventure, I decided to stay a bit closer to home--I've spent the past three New Years in Puerto Rico, Rio de Janiero, and Sydney, Australia--in the Southwestern U.S. Specifically, I am going to Las Vegas for a few days on December 26, and then will drive over to check out the Grand Canyon (which I've not yet seen, believe it or not) and then to Santa Fe and Albuquerque through January 2. No exchange rate worries this winter!
While in Vegas, I will seeing the Cirque du Soleil Beatles-themed show "Love." Sweet.
Broadway shows have mostly gone dark lately, due to a strike by the stagehands. But I booked a ticket to the hottest production in New York right now, Jersey Boys, for January 17, so I am counting on a settlement before then!
Tennis Channel does a good job presenting coverage of the season-ending Masters Cup tourney, though the round-robin matches are aired at odd hours, given the 13-hour time difference with Shanghai. Highlights so far: Federer and Nadal each have dropped a match, but Andy Roddick has looked impressive in already nailing down a semifinal berth.
Sunday I met with the New England squash coaches.
Tuesday the Founders League heads of school and athletic directors gathered.
Today and tomorrow the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council has its annual meeting; the executive board meets this afternoon (I am a past president) and tomorrow is the general membership session. So I am heading up to Marlborough, Massachusetts overnight.
Thus I just taught my last class of the term, and will move into report-writing mode over the next few days.
I've updated my projected travel for the remainder of 2007:
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Here is a bigger version of the map, as well as my first pass at projected travel through March 2008. I need to decide where I am heading in early March before the tennis team trip (which likely will be to Bermuda).
This high-definition image of Earth from the moon was taken by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's lunar explorer Kayuga.
I received my subscription tickets today to the 2007-2008 season of the Handel and Haydn Society, a Boston-based chorus and period instrument orchestra that has been around since 1815. According to Wikipedia, the musicians are "most widely known for their performances of George Frideric Handel's Messiah, which the group . . . has performed annually since 1854." I'll be attending that on Friday, November 30.
I took advantage of covering duty in a very quiet Memorial House tonight to try to get all of my digital photos organized on a single computer using iPhoto. My hefty 750-gigabyte hard drive on the new iMac has plenty of space to hold the photos, and it has the new iPhoto '08 installed, so pics can be organized into events. The trick was to import all the metadata associated with the iPhoto Library files on three other machines so I didn't lose the editing (e.g., albums, cropped pictures, etc.) I found a nifty utility online called iPhoto Library Manager, which I'd strongly recommend to anyone grappling with the same sort of project. It's $20 well spent.
Well, after several hours of work, I've assembled all of my digital photos--over 33,000 of them!--into one iPhoto Library. I can probably "thin the herd" a bit, by dumping anywhere between 20% to 50% of the shots: the ones that are out of focus, poorly composed, or repetitive. That will take more time, of course.
When Roger Federer dropped a match to Fernando Gonzalez at the beginning of round-robin play at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai this week, it marked the first time in several years that the world #1 had lost two consecutive matches (he fell to David Nalbandian a couple of weeks ago). This development had tennis scribes and bloggers wondering aloud if the Swiss star had finally lost his mojo. But by swatting away Rafael Nadal yesterday and then red-hot David Ferrer--previously undefeated through the week, including a semifinal dismantling of Andy Roddick--in straight sets in today's final, Federer has made it abundantly clear who still wears the crown in men's tennis.
I went to a Beowulf matinee this afternoon and found myself pretty entertained. The film is "sort of" animated: it captures the movements and facial features (and voices) of real actors using the technology that brought Gollum to life in Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Because the whole frame is rendered in CGI, it has both the strengths and weaknesses of the approach. That is, at times it's clear you are watching people who aren't real because their skin seems a bit too waxy and their movements often lack grace (though there are scenes where the characters--especially Anthony Hopkins as Hrothgar--are presented with stunning photorealism; we've come a long way since Toy Story!). On the other hand, the "camera" is able to move in innovative ways and the filmmakers' visual imagination knows virtually no bounds.
My advice is to see this flick, but to catch it in 3-D, as it's pretty clear a lot of sequences, especially in action scenes, were designed to take advantage of this effect. In the conventional 2-D presentation I saw, it was obvious when the audience was meant to duck because, say, an arrow was being fired right out of the screen.
The film is a loose adaptation of the epic poem, but trusty Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary have given Bob Zemeckis a sturdy tale to spin with lots of good eye candy.
No exams in my classes this fall, so I am pretty much done for the term. I've got duty in Mem House tonight, some meetings to attend, and of course term-end reports to write, but most of the next week is unscheduled for me.
This morning Amazon delivered the 20th Anniversary edition of The Joshua Tree. Of course, I had to go for the high end (a.k.a. expensive!) package with 2 CDs, a DVD, and all the extra print materials.
Tonight I saw Julie Taymor's production of Die Zauberflöte at The Met. As you'd expect from Taymor, the opera featured striking visuals and lots of puppets (this is the same director who staged The Lion King on Broadway and in the West End). The sets and lighting were beautifully conceived. The Mozart music was pretty terrific, too; Diana Damrau was especially strong as the Queen of the Night (I'm learning to appreciate coloratura soprano). A delightful performance overall.
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In this morning's New York Times, classical music critic Anthony Tommasini praised the performance of Die Zauberflöte that I saw at the Met Tuesday night:
The Queen of the Night . . . is a fiendishly difficult and dramatically exasperating role. It’s a crucial but short part. The maniacal Queen appears, mainly, to sing two show-stopping, blazingly brilliant arias.
As required, the German soprano Diana Damrau stopped the show twice on Tuesday night in the Metropolitan Opera’s production by Julie Taymor, with Kirill Petrenko conducting. Just three nights earlier she had sung the last of several performances as Pamina in the Met’s “Zauberflöte” run. Pamina is a very different vocal assignment, requiring lighter and more poignantly lyrical singing.
In her Act I recitative and aria the Queen of the Night persuades earnest Prince Tamino to rescue Pamina, her daughter, who is being held by the pontificating, all-powerful Sarastro, Priest of the Sun. Ms. Damrau had everything, including a penetrating sound — bright but never hard-edged — and ample coloratura technique to execute the virtuosic passagework. The way she handled the dramatic recitative before the aria was especially impressive; every phrase was delivered with a rich bloom that nearly masked the wily Queen’s manipulations.
In Act II, infuriated that Tamino and Pamina are won over by Sarastro to, you could say, the light side, the Queen appears before her daughter to sing “Der Hölle Rache,” the ultimate avenging mother’s aria. With the consent of Ms. Taymor, Ms. Damrau, a complete artist, restored to this scene the calculating spoken dialogue that had been cut. Having established the dramatic context, she proceeded to nail the treacherous aria.
When a soprano can toss off the aria’s fearsome passagework, capped by frequent leaps to high F, with the kind of command Ms. Damrau displayed, it makes the Queen seem chillingly demonic. How else to explain such ability? Ms. Damrau has said she will now retire the role, which makes these appearances even more noteworthy.
Cartoonist Chris Ware provided this terrific Thanksgiving cover for The New Yorker last year:
I spent some time today getting caught up on my backlog of Heroes episodes; I had seen only the first episode of the new season, so it was nice to re-engage this show.
I caught the end of The Natural on TCM this morning. I remember Bernard Malamud--the author of the book--speaking when I was in college and how little regard he seemed to have for the film, which took liberties with the story's ending. It's got a great Randy Newman score, though, and certainly is one of Robert Redford's more memorable roles.
I just locked in the forthcoming Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac Special Media Edition at a price of just $25 plus some minimal shipping costs. Even though I already own Microsoft Office 2004 for Mac Student and Teacher Edition, I ordered another copy online for $124.99 (I get free shipping as an Amazon Prime member), but will immediately get a $100 rebate on this purchase. Then in January I will receive the new Office upgrade for free! It's about a $500 value at a fraction of the cost. And I didn't have to fight the Black Friday crowds for this deal, either.
This is the first year since 1993, I think, that I haven't spent this Saturday morning fighting for a parking spot near Van Cortlandt Park and taking in the spectacle that is the Foot Locker Cross Country Championships Northeast Qualifier. No Choate runners were up for it this year, so I got to sleep in. It's weird to miss this annual event, though.
No iTunes link for this one, but today's song is "Friends In Low Places" by Garth Brooks.
Perhaps it was a way of procrastinating while my term reports are awaiting attention, but I digested a few too many episodes of the new Gossip Girl show this weekend. The program is about the children of privilege on Manhattan's Upper East Side and is the same sort of soap opera that The O.C. was a few years back (though it's not as good).
Just finished reading, proofing, and filing my term-end reports. The process is entirely electronic now: word processed comments are pasted into a database via a web browser. When I started teaching, these reports were handwritten or typed onto NCR paper (with three colored layers that copied whatever was written on the top one).
Now I am about to head into Manhattan for an admissions gathering for the school.
First day of a new term . . . always gets the blood flowing!
I got the second boxed set of remastered Genesis albums today. Some vintage '80s pop here from releases such as Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance. I am admittedly far less interested in the post-Phil Collins Calling All Stations album. But these new editions have lots of extras on DVD, including band interviews, videos, concert footage, and the like.
Last Friday, Apple had a special Black Friday deal on iPod Shuffles. The price dropped below $70, so I picked up one of the Product RED editions and it arrived today.
I booked myself a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band when the tour returns to Hartford on February 28.
Tonight I saw the musical 1776 over at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam. The show is the story of the Founding Fathers and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. I had seen the filmed version growing up (it was shown in 6th grade, as I recall) but have never before seen 1776 on stage. The theater is quite intimate, and the production was quite lively and entertaining.
The Handel & Haydn Society's annual concert of Handel's Messiah just finished. I trekked up to Boston earlier tonight to Symphony Hall--regarded as one of the three finest concert halls in the world--for the oratorio and sat about seven rows back from the stage, near the center. Nothing like a little "Hallelujah" chorus to get one into the holiday mood.