One of the hidden benefits of my work at athletic director is that I have a bit control over teaching schedule than most teachers. As such, I am not slated to teach on Wednesdays nor Saturdays, as those are game days, which are most likely to require my presence in the athletic office. So I teach Monday and Tuesday, get a respite, and then have two more days to close out the week. Not so today, when my blocks have an unusual Saturday class meeting scheduled to balance out the number of sessions between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks with the other teaching blocks. And with my luck, my classes start at 8 a.m. (though are mercifully over by 10 a.m.).
Congrats to the U.S. Davis Cup team for breaking a 12-year title drought. On the heels of yesterday's wins by Andy Roddick and James Blake, the Bryan brothers cemented the win over the Russians with a doubles victory to secure the winning point in this weekend's final.
One month until the Iowa caucuses. The Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have a lot of work ahead: while there are clear front runners, these races are still remarkably fluid.
Photos from Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull are starting to pop up on the Internet. My appetite has been whetted!
As a long-time fan of James Taylor, I've been enjoying his latest release on the Hear Music label from Starbucks. One Man Band is a CD/DVD package of familiar J.T. songs played in an intimate Western Massachusetts theater.
The season 4 DVD set of The Wire arrived in today's post. I have season 3 to get through before I tackle this one. Hopefully I'll be ready for the fifth and final season of the show when it starts airing on HBO in January.
After the Choate holiday alumni party I am spending the night in the apartment of an alum in Long Island City, across the East River from Manhattan. On the 24th floor of the building, this place has a wall of windows featuring a panoramic view of the river below and the city in all of its illuminated glory. The visual sweep ranges from the Brooklyn Bridge to the left to the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge and Randalls Island to the right. And Manhattan sure does look pretty from this vantage point.
I have two meetings in the city in the morning before heading home to Wallingford.
Hard to imagine there are some people who make a commute like this on a daily basis: I left Grand Central Terminal on an 11:07 MetroNorth train and arrived in New Haven just before 1 p.m. Since my car was back on campus, I waited about an hour for an Amtrak train to ferry me one stop north to Wallingford and then walked back to campus from the train station. Total cost for the trip was a modest $19 ($14 on MetroNorth and $5 on Amtrak).
Today is Pearl Harbor Day.
J.J. Abrams, who brought us Lost and Alias, as well as the last edition in the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible franchise, is helming a revision of Star Trek, due to hit screens next year. This is really something of a prequel, it seems, with younger versions of the original crew (Kirk, Spock, McCoy, et al.). Here is a photo of the new film's version of the U.S.S. Enterprise that's been making the rounds on the Internet:
This is the teaser poster for 2008's sequel to Batman Begins, which is to be called The Dark Knight:
Looks like Heath Ledger as The Joker will feature prominently in this picture.
Late this afternoon was the Festival Of Lessons And Carols in the Choate chapel, the traditional nativity program of readings and sacred music, which always puts me into the spirit of the season. [Thanks to Ian Morris and the Choate Photography Club for the above photo.]
Okay, cognizant that I am posting a third Indiana Jones-related blog entry in the last ten days, here is the new teaser poster for the forthcoming sequel, capably illustrated by Drew Struzan, whose work graced the posters for the earlier films (and Star Wars) as well:
The second season of the British series Life On Mars arrives on American shores tonight on BBC America. I am looking forward to seeing how it all wraps up, as this is the final season and we are promised a resolution to the central mystery of the series.
This is my last night in 2007 doing evening duty in Memorial House. I'll enjoy having a different rhythm the next few weeks, and then I'll be ready and eager to be back to the routine.
Choate always seems to put out a nice spread for special holiday dinners, like tonight's meal before the Holiday Concert. Today was the last day of classes, and students are free to leave campus first thing tomorrow morning. So tonight we feasted on roast beef and ham and all sorts of treats!
Tonight was the athletic department's Christmas party at a local restaurant. Our annual tradition is that everyone buys a $10 grab bag gift and we pass all the presents around as 'Twas The Night Before Christmas is read aloud, with the wrapped packages passed along every time the word "the" comes up. It's a fun time, especially after a couple of pomegranate martinis. This year, the grab bag present I ended up with was one of those oversized universal remotes, which hopefully I can use to replace the four (!) in my living room.
[Choate Photohraphy Club photo]
I spent the past 12 hours in the Johnson Athletic Center at the inaugural Eight Schools holiday boys' basketball tournament. With bad weather forecast for tonight, our schedule for the weekend has fallen apart a bit, but we've done a pretty good job hosting squads from Andover, Exeter, Deerfield, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, and NMH and the basketball games have been competitive and entertaining.
After a slow (30mph) drive up Interstate 91 through the storm, I arrived at Bradley Airport this morning knowing that my 9:12am flight to Detroit (for a connection to Nashville) was canceled. The Northwest Airlines rep I spoke to last night suggested I might have a shot at getting on a 12:30 flight, though, which would get me to my final destination around 4:30. SInce I am supposed to be taking a 4-hour course on legal issues in athletics that starts at 4:30, this midday departure might have gotten me where I needed to be, at least for most of the session. But that flight was wiped out by the weather, too, so I am here until a 4 p.m. flight and should arrive in Nashville a bit before 8pm.
After eight hours in Bradley Airport, it became clear there was no way I was going to make it to Nashville today. So I "volunteered" my seat, got a free round-trip ticket, a free night in a local hotel plus two meals, and a rebooked flight first thing in the morning.
Fortunately the hotel here in Windsor Locks has HBO, so I got to see the wrap-up of the Ricky Gervais series Extras--an extended "Christmas special" episode following two seasons, just like what he did for the Brit version of The Office--without waiting until Tuesday night to see it on my DVR (or I guess it would be available on Comcast On Demand, too). It's cool how he and Stephen Merchant get English celebrities to appear in totally self-deprecating roles. The show was typical Gervais humor: painful, awful hilarious, embarrassing moments of awkwardness punctuated in the end by deep-down-inside sweetness.
Well, I finally made it out of Hartford this morning. The NWA plane was packed for my 6:05 flight: no room in the overhead compartments and lots of carry-on had to be checked. There was a bit of delay for de-icing at Bradley and then when we arrived in Detroit, a jetway wheel was frozen so it took about an extra thirty minutes to deplane, as we had to move to another gate. No worries here, as I have a layover of a couple of hours before heading off to Nashville.
The Northwest terminal here at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport is attractive, spacious, and efficient. There is a tram the runs the length of the terminal on the upper level for rapid transfer between gates.
The big news this morning is that quasi-Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman has endorsed his friend, Republican Senator John McCain, for president. Maybe this will give a much-needed boost to the Arizonan's floundering prospects in Iowa and New Hampshire? Though I regard Lieberman as a lost cause politically at this point, I am always intrigued by cross-party alliances like this one. The breakfast Barack Obama and Mike Bloomberg had a few weeks back gave rise to speculation of the very interesting possibility of a Obama/Bloomberg ticket.
I arrived in Nashville about 11 a.m., and headed into the city to meet a pair of Choate alums--now sophomores at Vanderbilt University--for lunch. (As one of them has a strong aversion to any invasion of his privacy, I will refrain from mentioning names.) Anyway, we had a nice meal near Vandy in what clearly was the "college town" part of the city. Then I headed over to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center to check in the hotel and register for the convention. This place is HUGE. In fact, it's the biggest non-casino hotel in the U.S. There are literally thousands of rooms, with vast covered courtyards between them, which have rivers running through them and all sorts of fountains and waterfalls. Plenty of restaurants and shops are on the premises, as well. Too bad I will only end up spending one night here. Tomorrow I will try to see some of the city sights, as my flight home is not until the afternoon.
As an amateur classicist, I couldn't pass up the chance to see the world's only full-sized replica of the Athenian Parthenon. It was built for the centennial in Nashville and features a 42' tall statue of Athena within the main chamber. The place is kind of cheesy and kind of impressive at the same time. The impressive light brown concrete structure replicates the same mistake made by those who envision these ancient monuments as gleaming white marble; in fact, the evidence suggests this temple, like most similar buildings of the time, was painted an assortment of garish colors in its heyday.
This is the first trip via air I have taken without my Bose noise-canceling headphones since I picked them up on my way to Bermuda a couple of years ago. In my rush to get out the door Sunday morning, they did not end up in my bag. I used EarThumps--which I usually use in conjunction with my iPod--to watch my portable DVD player instead on yesterday's flights, and didn't really notice the absence of the QC2s. Today, however, on the segment from Nashville back to Detroit, I was more aware of the rumble of the jet, perhaps because I was seated further back in the plane. I'll be sure to pack the Bose headphones for my flight to Las Vegas on the 26th.
I finished the first season of Friday Night Lights on DVD last night (I know, A.K., it took me long enough!). I've got the first half-dozen episodes with me on my MacBook (transferred from my DVR) and have begun catching up with the folks of Dillon, Texas nearly one year later.
Want to see a cross between the early Beatles and Led Zeppelin? Click here. This is far out!
Once school is out of session, I finally have the time to read the books and watch the films and television shows that have been piling up in recent months, patiently waiting for my attention. While traveling, I have lots of opportunity to read voraciously or settle in with a DVD.
After reading a profile of the author in USA Today a week or so ago, I decided to give David Baldacci a spin. He writes political thrillers, similar to the ones by Brad Meltzer that I have liked, and his books are consistently at the top of the best-seller lists. So I picked up The Camel Club in the Detroit airport the other day and am almost done with it and ready to move on to its sequels. It's nice to throw in some commercial fiction alongside the highbrow "literature" I also enjoy reading. Though a bit formulaic, books like Baldacci's are about a world I know a little about; moreover, they are thoroughly researched and competently written.
I am back in Boston for another Handel & Haydn Society concert, this one of Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Jordan Hall, pictured above, is about a block away from Symphony Hall, where I saw Messiah performed a few weeks back.
The Handel and Haydn Society performed the first three of the six cantatas that make up Bach's Christmas Oratorio last night. Jordan Hall was much more intimate than Symphony Hall, and the musicians were pared down in number, as well, with just sixteen choristers accompanying the four soloists and fewer than twenty instruments on stage. A worthwhile concert experience.
Santa Claus came early, as my 5-disc deluxe version of Blade Runner arrived in the mail today. The flick is one of my all-time favorite films, and this collection features no fewer than five versions of the movie with loads of extras thrown in.
After my usual fall drought on the movie-watching front--things are just too busy at school between Labor Day and Thanksgiving for me to get to the cinema more than once or twice, it seems--I actually saw two flicks today.
First up was Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd. This was the sort of movie I found easier to admire than like. It was clearly an accomplishment in film-making, but I've never really taken to Stephen Sondheim's work (fellow Williams alum that he is) and this was a pretty grisly, downbeat movie for the holiday season. I'm surprised it's being marketed almost as a horror film when it is really a musical with a strong streak of black comedy.
Then in the evening, I saw National Treasure: Book Of Secrets. This features the sort of subject matter that is right up my alley: historical artifacts, a globe-trotting race to solve a puzzle, etc. Benjamin Franklin Gates is sort of a low-budget Indiana Jones. But when I look forward to a movie too much, I am bound to be disappointed. I actually watched the first National Treasure DVD last night and this morning in preparation, and this sequel was disappointing in contrast (though I enjoy seeing Helen Mirren in just about anything). If you go in expecting this movie to be mediocre, you'll probably enjoy it more.
A clever little film about the end of the world, which you can access here.
Just saw Charlie Wilson's War with my family. (We had a little more than 60 relatives gathered to celebrate my mom's birthday this afternoon and are staying over on the Connecticut side of the border, in Lakeville, tonight and tomorrow night.) The film has gotten good reviews, and thus I was probably expecting too much of it. It seemed a bit overrated to me.
Follow along here.
Merry Christmas everyone!
I am back at Bradley Airport, getting ready to fly to Las Vegas via Milwaukee. The airport is pretty deserted this time of day. Even though it's supposedly a heavy travel date, I guess most flights took off or arrived earlier in the day. I checked in about 45 minutes before my scheduled departure and was the only person going through security. A nice change of pace from the usual airport routine!
By the time my delayed flight arrived in Las Vegas, my luggage got to the baggage carousel, the shuttle deposited me at the rental car center, I picked up my Chevy Cobalt, I drove it across town and through the heavy traffic on The Strip, I checked in at The Mirage, and finally made it to the 18th floor, it's almost 2 a.m. (actually 5 a.m. East Coast time). So, this city's world-renowned nightlife aside, I am gonna crash!
On the second flight last night--which was over 3 hours long--I took a break from The Wire episodes to watch the DVD included with the latest James Taylor release, One Man Band. He presents a concert in his hometown of Pittsfield, Massachusetts with lots of storytelling and easy banter in between songs. Having seen him perform live at least a half dozen times, it's clear J.T. is in good form in this show.
I stopped at one of the local In-N-Out Burger establishments for lunch. As usual, the place was PACKED. Folks back east don't know what they are missing.
I walked most of The Strip today, taking in the splendor of all the major resorts that have been developed here in the last 20 years or so. Some evoke historical places (Luxor, Caesars Palace, The Venetian), others modern cities (Paris and New York, New York), and others fantasy locales (Treasure Island). Lots of places to lose your money: in the many shops (some of them very upscale), and of course on the casino floors.
Vegas is clearly more family-friendly than it used to be. Most major casinos on the strip have some big attraction to lure people in. The Mirage, where I am staying, is featuring the Cirque Du Soleil show about The Beatles, which I am seeing tonight.
Wow. I just returned from the 10 p.m. show of Love, the Beatles-themed Cirque Du Soleil presentation here at The Mirage. This was my first Cirque performance and Love was a big part of my reason for coming to Vegas. I was not disappointed. The music was amazing: over 2000 speakers created a lush soundscape in the custom-designed theater, using Beatles master tapes prepared especially by George Martin and his son. And the show itself was a visual spectacle incorporating dance, acrobatics, aerial wire work, costumes, make-up, masks, props, video screens, animation, projections, lighting, sets, and very impressive gymnastic stunts of all sorts. The stage constantly shifted on hydraulics to accommodate different set-ups between and within songs. The athleticism of the performers and imagination of the designers were great fits for some of the best of the Fab Four's music. An amazing 90 minutes. Highly recommended.
I spent a few hours this afternoon at the Las Vegas Hilton at the Star Trek Experience. This attraction added a new show--"Borg Invasion"--since the last time I was here in 1999, a companion piece to the original "Klingon Encounter." The former has some interesting 3D visuals involving the Borg cube and the U.S.S. Voyager. I also did the "Behind The Scenes" tour, which was an intriguing way to kill an hour.
Tonight was my second Cirque Du Soleil outing, Mystère. Another beautiful theater, with state-of-the-art equipment. This performance was more like the acrobatic show I saw in Beijing than it was like Love last night. A lot more gymnastic stunts, for one thing. I guess it was more of a traditional "circus" show. There were musicians playing live, though the New Age score got to be grating after a while. Impressive, I guess, but a bit disappointing in the wake of the Beatles-themed show the night before. Maybe I should have seen this one first.
I left Vegas after Mystère and drove into Arizona. My trek took me across the Hoover Dam, which is nicely illuminated at night.
My maternal grandmother used an expression that always struck me as old-fashioned: "Isn't that grand!" Well, the word certainly fits the visual spectacle that is the Grand Canyon. I had my first glimpse of the landmark this afternoon, and so can check off one of the items on my "life list"!
Today was mostly a driving day, with over seven hours in the car between the Grand Canyon and my Santa Fe destination. The trip was described to me beforehand as "boring," but I found the mostly flat landscape fascinating, as it's so different from what one would see in the Northeast. There were no deciduous trees, for one thing. Great expanses of desert or prairie were punctuated by colorful and dramatically contoured hills and mountains.
My rental car out here in the Southwest came equipped with XM satellite radio. I've been spending a lot of the time listening to the "POTUS '08" channel, which focuses on the upcoming presidential election. I got to hear a town meeting held by Barack Obama, whose articulate, thoughtful, and knowledgeable answers to foreign policy questions from the crowd elevated him considerably in my estimation. In contrast, this was followed by a Rudy Giuliani stump speech in Tampa, in which it was clear the former New York mayor is now far less than the man I came to admire in the fall of 2001; instead he has adopted every partisan bullet point possible rather than offering the maverick leadership we saw in a time of crisis.
That's what Christopher Plummer, who played Captain Von Trapp in the filmed version of The Sound Of Music, allegedly called it. Critic Pauline Kael lost her job at McCall's for blasting the film in her magazine review. I caught the tail end of the movie on TV tonight and I am still a sucker for it.
Okay, this is the last of my regular "Song Of The Day" postings. I've kept it up on a daily basis for the whole calendar year, but from now on these will be sporadic entries, when the spirit (or more precisely, a song) hits me.
I just watched the Coen brothers' latest, No Country For Old Men, based on a Cormac MacCarthy work. It's a gripping tale, set in 1980 in west Texas (not too far from where I am now), but those who get squeamish about realistic on-screen violence won't want to see this one. A strong effort, with an absolutely first-rate cast.