« June 2008 | Main | August 2008 »

July 2008 Archives

July 1, 2008

The Delegation From Bhutan


When I walking across The Mall in Washington, DC last week, en route to the Holocaust Museum, I saw an exhibit on Bhutan being set up adjacent to the Smithsonian. Today I met with the Bhutanese prince--a 2003 Choate grad who is currently the heir presumptive--who headed Bhutan's delegation to the this festival. Today was his first time back on campus since graduating and he wanted to see some familiar faces.

Blast From The Past


I unleashed my inner geek this afternoon by setting into an episode from Season 1 of Babylon 5, a sci-fi show I followed a bit back in the 1990s.

July 2, 2008

Shades Of The Manchurian Candidate

It can't be too comforting to learn that our government's approach to the interrogation of suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay mirrors the techniques the Chinese communists employed in the 1950s! See this morning's New York Times for details.

When Will We See The Beatles On iTunes?


We are still waiting for The Beatles catalogue to appear in digital form. First, the Apple Corps/Apple Computer lawsuit got settled. Then the McCartney divorce settlement was finalized. And in the meantime the solo works of the Fab Four popped up in the iTunes Music Store. So what's the hold up for the main course? We have heard rumors of a Yellow Submarine-themed special edition iPod and remastered tracks for a couple of years now. And we know Steve Jobs is a big fan of The Beatles. Since I already have the complete collection of Beatles tunes on my iPod, the eventual release won't make much a difference to me, but you have to wonder when pop music's seminal group will join the 21st century.



Rafa Nadal's performance against Andy Murray today did nothing to make me reconsider my view that he has an awfully good shot to win this year's Wimbledon. Murray was riding a wave of confidence and had the support of the home crowd (some 50% of the British public watched his come-from-behind win on Monday night) but Nadal never lost more than two points in any of his service games.

July 3, 2008

Shakespeare In Love


Last night I fired up the DVD of Shakespeare In Love and just finished it this morning. I haven't watched the entire film since I saw it in the cinema when it came out a decade ago. I remember being miffed that the movie upset Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture honors at the Oscars, but I now can appreciate how clever and touching this film is.

July 4, 2008

All's Well . . . Sort Of


I drove up to the Berkshires to see my first show at the Shakespeare & Company campus in Lenox. I hit a snarl of traffic en route to Tanglewood, which slowed me down, but arrived in plenty of time before the performance. I like the facility and the concept behind the organization (as well as the discounted tickets for teachers!), but the production of "All's Well That Ends Well" struck me as a bit messy: too long (at almost three hours) and suffering from the addition of songs that were often a poor fit for the play. But there was some good acting and some nice comic bits in it as well.

Lunch With Tucker

Tucker Bryan ("HELLO TUCKER") felt left out that I did not mention in this blog that he treated to me to lunch at Half Moon Cafe yesterday when he visited campus, so here is Tucker's fleeting taste of fame.

July 5, 2008

Heading West I.

Had a breeze of a flight from Hartford to Charlotte this morning, with an aisle seat and an empty seat next to me. The plane arrived 30 minutes early, so I can really take advantage of the free wireless network in the terminal. I only got two hours of sleep last night, so I imagine I'll be asleep most of the way to San Francisco.

Heading West II

The second segment of my trip west was also uneventful, again with an open seat next to me and a flight that arrived early. I am taking public transportation--a combination of the AirTrain, BART, and CalTrain--to the Stanford campus in Palo Alto and will have the weekend there to get settled in before my seminar starts Monday morning.

Settling In At Stanford


I am now getting comfortable in my assigned quarters right on the Stanford University campus. I'll be spending the next two weeks here as a Coe Fellow, studying early American history in a seminar.

The Incomparable Natalie Dessay


I caught the San Francisco Opera's production of Lucia di Lammermoor this evening in the ornate War Memorial Opera House. Though I found the third act dragged a bit, there is no doubt that Natalie Dessay, the soprano whom I saw in the spring in La Fille du Régiment at the Met, is a spectacular talent.

July 6, 2008

Bone Tired

I took the 12:01 CalTrain from San Francisco, which takes about an hour to get to Palo Alto. It's cheap ($5 or so) and efficient. But the campus shuttles don't run on the weekends here at Stanford, so I had to hoof it for about 30 minutes to the dorm complex where I am staying.

And on my way to the opera earlier this evening, some bad advice from my iPhone's Google Maps routed me to the wrong part of the city on foot, which I had to take a cab to correct.

Bottom line: I'm more than ready to crash (especially given the time differential on the West Coast, my early departure, and a long day of travel).

Magical And Magnificent


The just-concluded Wimbledon men's singles final was, quite simply, a contest of extraordinary beauty and drama. This marathon struggle was wrapped up with a ferociously fought fifth set in the gloaming, with the final points played in the lingering light past 9 p.m. local time.

As these two great players appear to be such grounded human beings, I'd have been happy to see either one host the familiar golden trophy on Centre Court (though I was pulling more for Nadal today). One has to feel for Federer: after he weathered the fourth-set tiebreak and seemed to find the range on his shots, I really thought he would prevail in the fifth. It looked as though he was about to do just that not long before the end, as he pressed on Nadal's serve, coming within two points of an incredible sixth consecutive title. But I think Rafa is in his head, especially after the demolition Federer suffered in the Roland Garros final. At some level, Roger had to be worried the Spaniard was just not going to go away as he did on this day each of the past two years. Nadal's success on the clay and his improved showing on Melbourne and through the spring U.S. hard court swing had built his confidence (as had his improved backhand and serve) toward the moment of victory here.

For Nadal, this result represents a tremendous achievement: proof that he can bag a major somewhere other than Paris. It also seems to represent a changing of the guard. Nadal has two Slam crowns in 2008 compared to Federer's none (both lost in the semis Down Under in January). Roger has but two victories in minor events to show for his season thus far while Nadal has a pile of Masters Series wins. (And remember Djokovic, who was close to unseating Nadal as #2 just weeks ago? His second-round loss at Wimbledon now has dropped him off the radar!) No matter what the computer says, there's little doubt Nadal is the best player in the world right now.

Federer will need to do some serious soul searching tomorrow morning. His greatest rival has beaten him in his own home: the greensward of the All-England Club. Will this turn of events spook the Swiss like McEnroe's dethroning of Bjorn Borg in 1981 resulted in Borg's packing up his racquets for good? Or will Federer bounce back to win Olympic gold and emerge with yet another U.S. Open trophy? I'd surely love to see another Rafa/Roger showdown on the last Sunday of Flushing Meadows.

Welcoming Dinner


The group assembled for our Coe Seminar--a total of five teachers from around the country, plus the professor, her hsuband, and a grad student facilitating the seminar--enjoyed a spectacular dinner at Evvia Estiatorio, a Greek restaurant just off campus in Palo Alto. The seafood appetizers--calimari, octopus--were spectacular and the lamb shank I had for my main course was so tender it just about melted off the bone. The white wine from Santorini was quite good, and the Greek red was a good match for the lamb, too. I could get used to dining like this!

July 7, 2008

Keys To The Kingdom


Stanford has issued me "visiting scholar" credentials so I can access all the University's resources during my stay here. Pretty cool.

Further Thoughts On A Masterful Match


I am still ruminating over yesterday's dramatic and awe-inspiring men's singles final at Wimbledon. I watched amidst a crowd of teenagers in a common room in the student union here at Stanford; it was a noisily partisan crowd--divided roughly equally between Federer and Nadal supporters (I was sitting next to a Spaniard!). The boisterous room turned out to be a fun place to watch this showdown as it climbed to dizzying heights of competitiveness. And throughout the last three sets, I was texting back and forth with a pair of former Choate Tennis captains: we shared our amazement at the events unfolding before us.

On West Coast time, I actually missed the first two sets and most of the third. When I woke up (after a late night out in the city and still dragging from the time change) I assumed the match was ended. But the rain delay gave me a chance to settle in for the drama still ahead. As play resumed, it looked like Rafa would win in three sets. Then Federer forced a fourth. Nadal pulled ahead in the tiebreak only to tighten up while serving at 5-2. But he still fought his way to match points, which Federer fearlessly erased. I was convinced at that point the Swiss would carry the day in the fifth set if it finished before darkness. He got close. But Nadal was not to be denied.

And the two combatants were class acts all the way, both during the battle and in its aftermath. Rafa was wonderfully self-effacing and deferential to Roger in his post-match interviews. Federer, while clearly devastated, was equally sporting.

One question now emerges: can Roger Federer really be considered the greatest of all time when he may not be the greatest in his own era? His time on the stage is hardly over, but it's difficult to imagine he can recapture the aura of invincibility he has had for over four years now.

July 8, 2008

Online At Last

After navigating countless hurdles to get my own MacBook connected to the Internet here at Stanford, I am finally up and running. It boggles my mind how I can be surfing the web five minutes after checking into most hotels anywhere in the world, but at one of the most tech-savvy universities around, it took some 72 hours to get me connected.

Oy Vey!


Saw the above on a shelf in a grocery store in Palo Alto and had to snap a photo with the iPhone. Priceless!

Home Away From Home


My seminar here at Stanford has a pretty steady diet of daily reading, but I've found the perfect place to spend a few hours each afternoon and evening: the Bender Room on the fifth floor of the Bing Wing, part of the Green Library. This quiet, sparsely populated space has a comfortable mix of tables, study carrells, and comfy couches and reading chairs, along with air conditioning, wireless access, and superb views of the university's main quad and the nearby foothills. It's perfectly quiet. And there's probably not a better place on campus to see the sunset this time of year.

July 9, 2008



Stanford has been a training ground for some of the world's best athletes (e.g., Tiger Woods, John McEnroe, et al.) So it's not surprising that this week Michael Phelps and the rest of the U.S. swimming team about to compete in the Beijing Olympics are here on campus for training sessions before they head off to the Far East.

Competitive swimming was something I was seriously involved with for about 5-6 years in my youth. I got to be reasonably accomplished in the sport, too.

I don't know if the Olympic team's practice session will be at all open to the public, but if they are, I hope to catch a glimpse.

It's Been A While . . .


. . . since Sports Illustrated featured tennis on its cover. In the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, it was pretty much expected after Wimbledon, the U.S. Open, and occasionally the French. So it's gratifying to see both Nadal and Federer gracing this week's cover of the magazine.

July 10, 2008

Eating Crow

ESPN.com columnist had the misfortunes to write a piece trashing professional tennis before a weekend featuring the spectacular Williams/Williams and Federer/Nadal classics. In his latest podcast, he now acknowledges it was "maybe the dumbest column I've ever written."

Pixar Magic


As I'm doing a LOT of reading in American history each day, I like to unwind at the end of the night with a DVD. Over the past two days I watched Cars, the delightful animated Pixar flick from a few years back, which I missed in its theatrical release. It's got beautifully rendered (and extraordinarily lifelike) scenery, terrific voice acting from the likes of Owen Wilson and Paul Newman, and a charming story celebrating the historical Route 66 in the Southwest. The film also features a great soundtrack with strong contributions from Sheryl Crow, Randy Newman, James Taylor, John Mayer, et al.

July 11, 2008

iPhone 2.0 Update


I loaded the new 2.0 software for the iPhone while in my seminar this morning. For a short while, my device was "bricked" due to Apple's overloaded servers, as tons of folks worldwide eagerly activated their new 3G models or upgraded their original iPhones. But by the time we finished our discussion of slavery in American history, my iPhone was up and running.

There are still some kinks to be worked out: I haven't yet successfully linked to my Exchange account back at school (though I am not sure I want all that e-mail following me wherever I go anyway), it would be nice if the calendar colors (yay!) corresponded to the colors on my iCal screen, and the "pushed" data to and from MobileMe could be smoother. But the new App Store works well and there are some nice features added to the 2.0 version of the operating software.

The only casualty of this process was the loss of my ringtones, since I usually sync the iPhone to the iMac "mother ship" back in Wallingford and here in California I had to use the MacBook "road warrior" instead. I'll get those tones back when I get home, I guess. All the rest of my data and iPod music and videos are still with me.

A Considerate Inventor?

The chart below represents an online personality assessment I completed at PersonalDNA.com. It turns out I am a considerate inventor. (Rolling the cursor over each color in the "personality map" below indicates how I rate in different criteria.)

Here are the descriptions:

Your imagination, self-reliance, openness to new things, and appreciation for utility combine to make you an INVENTOR.

You have the confidence to make your visions into reality, and you are willing to consider many alternatives to get that done.

The full spectrum of possibilities in the world intrigues you—you're not limited by pre-conceived notions of how things should be.

Problem-solving is a specialty of yours, owing to your persistence, curiosity, and understanding of how things work.

Your vision allows you to identify what's missing from a given situation, and your creativity allows you to fill in the gaps.

Your awareness of how things function gives you the ability to come up with new uses for common objects.

It is more interesting for you to pursue excitement than it is to get caught up in a routine.

Although understanding details is not difficult for you, you specialize in seeing the bigger picture and don't get caught up in specifics.

You tend to more proactive than reactive—you don't just wait for things to come to you.

You're not afraid to let your emotions guide you, and you're generally considerate of others' feelings as well.

You do your own thing when it comes to clothing, guided more by practical concerns than by other people's notions of style.

Generally, you believe that you control your life, and that external forces only play a limited role in determining what happens to you.

and here:

You trust others, care about them, and are slow to judge them, making you CONSIDERATE.

You value your close relationships very much, and are more likely to spend time in small, tightly-knit groups of friends than in large crowds.

You enjoy exploring the world through observation, quietly watching others.

Relating to others so well, and understanding their emotions, leads you to trust people in general, even though you're somewhat shy and reserved at times.

Your belief that people are generally well-intentioned contributes to your sympathy regarding their problems.

Although you may not vocalize it often, you have an awareness of how society affects individuals, and you understand complex causes of people's behavior.

You like to look at all sides of a situation before making a judgment, particularly when that situation involves important things in other people's lives.

Your close friends know you as a good listener.

They've Gotta Have It, I Guess

As I understand it, the Apple Stores opened at 8 a.m. this morning to sell the new iPhone 3G. These pictures document the line at the main Palo Alto store (there's a smaller one in the Stanford Shopping Center) at 7:00 at night!

The Silver Screen


The Stanford Theatre is an old-fashioned movie palace on University Avenue, the main drag here in Palo Alto. It somehow avoided having its solitary spacious theater, complete with a balcony and ornate décor, chopped into a multiplex like the haunts of my youth. This place even has a pipe organ that rises from an orchestra pit and a real live organist entertaining the crowd between features. In honor of the centennial of Jimmy Stewart's birth, a few films starring the actor are being shown all summer. Tonight I saw two of them: Strategic Air Command (1955) and No Highway In The Sky (1951), the latter of which also starred Marlene Dietrich. The first of the double feature was to the 1950s Air Force what Top Gun was to naval aviation in the 1980s: a love letter featuring lots of beauty shots of the planes soaring through the clouds--basically a long form recruiting ad! (Turns out that Stewart was an avid pilot who rose to the rank of general in the Air Force Reserves.) The second, a black-and-white classic, was more enjoyable; it was a witty and suspenseful film about an absent-minded scientist living in Britain who thinks he discovers a flaw in an airplane design, and then finds himself on one of those planes on the brink of catastrophe.

July 12, 2008

The Tennis Players Arrive


Right here on the Stanford campus, a stone's throw from where my history seminar meets, they are gearing up for a professional tennis tournament to be staged next week. The Bank Of The West Classic, a WTA Tour event, is the first event in the U.S. Open Series and features Serena Williams and Lindsay Davenport, among others. It will be nice to have quality tennis within walking distance of where I am staying all week!



Just saw the new Will Smith movie, Hancock. It received mixed reviews, and so I went in with low expectations and found it reasonably enjoyable. It was nice not knowing the key reveals in the plot beforehand.

Hellboy II


Two double features in two days! I stayed at the cinema after Hancock to see Hellboy II. I really like Guillermo del Toro's work. He has an identifiable visual style that is well-suited for a film like this. It was well paced, with lots of action, excellent special effects, and thoughtfully developed character bits. Better than the average summer blockbuster fare.

Friel's Masterpiece


The Stanford Summer Theater is running a Brian Friel festival, with the Irish playwright's Translations kicking things off this week. I had seen this work staged twice before: in its 1996 revival at The Abbey Theatre in Dublin and again with a touring company in New Haven a few years back. This production featured a mix of professionals and Stanford students and alums and held up quite well. It's a brilliant play, really, about the role of language in Ireland in 1833 as the British Empire is mapping the countryside, reshaping the landscape with anglicized names.

July 13, 2008

Computer Nostalgia


Here in Silicon Valley, I was reminiscing this morning about my very first computer, which I bought in December of 1985. It was then called just "the Macintosh" and just after I purchased it, I was able to upgrade the internal memory from 256K to 512K. Wow! There was hard drive, of course. A few years later a I bought a 20-megabyte external hard drive, which could store virtually everything I had in digital format. (In contrast, the iMac now in my study at home can handle 750 gigabytes of storage; that's 37,500 times the capacity!)

This Weekend's DVD Treat


I am making my way through the Pixar films I haven't seen. This weekend I watched Ratatouille, which was a charming tale about a Parisian rat who aspires to be a chef. These Pixar guys are consistent in turning out splendid animation films. I can't think of one that's been a disappointment. Disney was wise to cut a deal with Steve Jobs and his company once Michael Eisner retired; these movies are the spiritual heirs to the Disney animated classics of bygone days.

The Championships, One Week Later


Seven days after the monumental men's singles final at Wimbledon, I am still relishing that match. It substantially changed the landscape of the men's game in 2008. Consider that Roger Federer made the semifinal round at the Australian Open and then the finals at both Roland Garros and Wimbledon--for most mortal players, a spectacular campaign--but according to his lofty standards, the year has turned into into a "disaster." He'll enter the second half of the season with a some pressure to win the remaining big events: the U.S. Open, in particular, but the Olympics and ATP Masters Cup too. Theoretically, Nadal can only improve in what has been his least impressive time on tour the last few years. Can he cement his status as the world's best player by walking away with the trophy at Flushing Meadows?

July 14, 2008

An Elegant Weapon


One of the most inconsequential, but also coolest, apps for the iPhone is the PhoneSaber, which uses the accelerometer to activate sounds that makes your device sound just like a Jedi's weapon as you move it through the air. It's a free download from the App Store.

The City By The Bay


I met my sister at the Ferry Terminal, where her office is, and she gave me a tour of the city--first on foot, then by car--before we sat down for a sushi dinner. Pictured above is the famed City Lights bookstore, ground zero for the beat generation (Kerouac, Ginsberg, et al.).

July 15, 2008

Some Perspective, Please!


The reaction to the cover of the latest issue of The New Yorker has been one of outrage, from both the Obama and McCain campaigns, and around the blogosphere as well. Maybe because I've subscribed to the magazine for over twenty years now, I've gotten used to such snarkily provocative cover images. But it seems to me the satirical statement has caused far too big a deal. As comedian Bill Maher said in this morning's New York Times, “If you can’t do irony on the cover of The New Yorker, where can you do it?”

July 16, 2008

The Return Of The Dark Knight


Two days until the new Batman flick arrives. Reviews have been mostly very positive, especially for Heath Ledger's performance. I won't be rushing out to see this at midnight tomorrow; in fact, I probably won't get to see it until this weekend in Oregon. Maybe, if I'm lucky, I'll find an IMAX theater that's screening it.



I went over to the East Bay this afternoon to check out Berkeley. Choate grads Tagan and Cathal Blake showed me around the campus and its environs, including a spectacular--if fog-covered--view from the hills of the sunset out to the west.

July 17, 2008

Getting Prepped For Oxford


I received travel info for my week in Oxford in August. I will be staying in Merton College, one of the oldest in the university, and need to send my laptop info so Internet access in my quarters can be arranged. I guess it's a case of old world meeting new!

The Choate Alumni Network

One of the interesting by-products of my career is knowing people pretty much anywhere I travel. I have connected with a few Choate students and alums here in the Bay Area already, mostly because my Facebook status indicated I was in town. Tonight I met Calen Ipalook '06 (and Stanford '10) in downtown Palo Alto, where we caught up at a pretty good sports bar. I am meeting one of my former tennis captains for breakfast tomorrow morning.

July 18, 2008

Shakespeare Under The Stars


I am back in Oregon for the first time since 1992 (when I got a speeding ticket here while driving from Seattle down the coast to Los Angeles). It was tough to get out of the Bay Area, with lots of traffic slowing me down before what was already a long drive. I traveled through wildfire country in northern California, and the air was thick with smoky haze.

I arrived in Ashland later than expected and consequently missed the first hour of The Comedy Of Errors in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the country's most prominent regional theaters. This particular production was set as a western, with a bit of music added into the mix. It worked pretty well within the madcap framework of the play and generally the show was quite entertaining.

July 19, 2008

Behind The Scenes At OSF


I took the backstage tour at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this morning, which was an illuminating couple of hours learning how things work in this theater company. Ashland itself is a scenic town just north of the California border, with a nice mix of shops and eateries--quaint without being precious. The actual playhouses are impressive: an outdoor 1200-seat theater with a based on the Tudor original building in London called The Fountain. Then there's a modern 600-seat indoor theater called the Bowmer. And finally The New Theater is a black box that can be configured all sorts of ways for a small audience. The OSF puts on almost a dozen plays each season, mixing Shakespeare productions with American classics and some experimental works.

Living Up To The Hype


Wow. I just saw a matinee screening of The Dark Knight. This is a staggeringly good film, one that lives up to some of the over-the-top positive reviews it has been getting. The late Heath Ledger deserves the kudos he has received for his portrayal of The Joker, but the whole cast is good: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and especially Aaron Eckhardt as Harvey Dent. The visuals are terrific and the thematic elements hold together quite well. Good stuff!


Black And White


I saw Othello tonight at the OSF outdoor theater (it's pretty cool to see the sun going down in the hills behind the stage as the action of the play unfolds). The actor playing Iago was especially excellent, delivering a deliciously manipulative and malevolent presence. I had seen this play staged once before, in modern dress, in the Paul Mellon Arts Center back at Choate about five years ago. Perhaps because I've gotten more immersed in the works of Shakespeare since then, I came away from this performance with a lot more appreciation of the work.

July 20, 2008

All Things Watchmen


I've taught the graphic novel Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, for about a decade now in my course The Use And Abuse Of Power. Of course, I read it as it came out in monthly installments when I was in college, too. But the work is getting a massive dose of hype now as a filmed version is getting prepped for a 2009 release. The cover of the new Entertainment Weekly features the movie cast in its Comic-Con-themed issue.

In addition, you can see a pretty intriguing trailer for the Watchmen film in all sorts of different formats here.

And, as if that's not enough, there's a "motion comics" version of the graphic novel available on iTunes here (the first installment is free for a limited time).

Tracktown, U.S.A.


I just finished watching Without Limits, one of two biopics about running legend Steve Prefontaine, in the new home of Scott and Dawn Mattoon out here in Eugene, Oregon--a fitting place to see this film, as it was where Pre rose to prominence as an athlete (and where he was tragically killed at the age of 24 in an auto accident). Got to see the University of Oregon campus, including Hayward Field (which just hosed the Olympic Track & Field Trials a few weeks back).

July 21, 2008

Surfing The Web In Portland

I drove from Eugene up Interstate 5 to the Portland International Airport, where the gods have smiled on me to provide free wireless Internet access! I still don't get why every airport in the country doesn't get on board this bandwagon . . .

Showdown In Toronto?


The top male tennis players in the world are converging on the Canadian Open--er, sorry, officially it's "the Rogers Cup"--this week. As it's a Masters Series event, the highest ranked guys are all required to compete. The tourney is much earlier on the summer circuit this year than normal, as the pro schedule was shuffled around due to the Olympics.

Defending champ Novak Djokovic will no doubt be eager to bounce back after his disappointing Wimbledon outing. Last year's finalist and 2006 winner Roger Federer will also be looking to re-establish himself after his own disappointments in those two majors (albeit these "disappointments" entailed losing in the finals, not early exits like Djokovic suffered!). And a certain newly-minted Wimbledon champion from Spain, Rafael Nadal, who won this event in 2005 incidentally, expects to be in the mix as well.

Federer can derive a bit of comfort from the fact that #3 seed Djokovic is in Nadal's half of the draw. Could be an interesting week of tennis!

'Til The Sun Comes Up Over Santa Monica Blvd.

I made it to southern California. The flight to LAX was pretty straightforward. I scoped out the Pacific Ocean and then got a bite to eat and ambled around the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica before heading up Santa Monica Boulevard to my hotel in Hollywood. In spite of the hassles of L.A. traffic, I always enjoy driving through Beverly Hills and Hollywood. The latter is certainly still one of the poles of American culture, and the billboards above Sunset Boulevard always indicate what's hot or what's just around the corner in the entertainment world.

The Final Frontier


This poster--one of a series of four--has effectively whet my appetite for the Star Trek reboot, directed by J.J. Abrams (Alias, Lost, MI3) and due to hit screens next May. The movie, which depicts a younger crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise, represents Paramount's effort to breathe much-needed new life into the rather tired franchise.

July 22, 2008


Just took part in a 45-minute conference call with the headmaster, business manager, and development director back at school. I think only one of the four of us was actually on campus during the "meeting" (which was about the funding stream for an athletics-related building project we are in the middle of right now). With e-mail and teleconferencing, it's easy to do some aspects of my job--those that I tend to handle in the summer months, certainly--from just about anywhere. I always feel like I've gotten away with something when, for example, I wrote all my winter term teacher and adviser comments in between sessions by the pool in Palm Desert, or when I "attended" an evaluation meeting from my hotel room in Saigon.

Local Flavor


Does anything say California more than lunch at In-N-Out Burger? Just enjoyed a "double double" in Orange County while en route to San Diego.

Troubling Times For The ATP?


This week the New York Times has been running daily articles in the Sports section covering the antitrust lawsuit waged by the German Tennis Federation against the ATP, the governing body of men's professional tennis. Seasoned observers are suggesting that if the ATP loses, the entire men's professional circuit could be blown up, to be replaced by who knows what!

Star-Crossed Lovers


I sat through a generally competent production of Romeo And Juliet at The Old Globe Theater in Balboa Park tonight. High points were the set design and the actors portraying Juliet, Mercutio, and the friar. The piece seemed to drag, though, in part because the pacing was a bit off in places; and when "the two hours' traffic of our stage" runs almost three hours, I think some judicious cuts are in order.

July 23, 2008

Ringtones Galore


I probably should have figured this out before, but a bit of web surfing just taught me how easy it is to make my own custom iPhone ringtones from songs I've ripped to iTunes using the latest (iLife '08) version of GarageBand.

Comic-Con 2008


I am heading into the city to pick up my Comic-Con registration badge at the convention center. This may well be the geekiest thing I've ever done. But I figured since I am out here on the West Coast in July, I might as well check out ground zero of American pop culture. About 125,000 people are expected, so I'll have some company!



Tonight at Comic-Con, Fox previewed the premiere if one of its new shows for the fall line-up, Fringe. This series was created by J.J. Abrams and his usual collaborators and is sort of an X-Files meets CSI type of show.

July 24, 2008



Now that Roger Federer has lost his first match on the North American hard court summer circuit, can we say he's officially in a slump? He dropped a three-setter in Toronto to France's Gilles Simon, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. Hard to remember Federer losing back-to-back matches.

The Swiss player has a lot of points to defend in the second half of the year and his primary challenger, Rafael Nadal, can earn a lot more points if he simply plays better than he did last summer. Given what must be sky-high confidence on the part of the new Wimbledon champ, it's hard to imagine that won't happen. There may be a new #1 in the rankings sooner rather than later!

Smilin' Stan


Got to be in the same room with Stan Lee--who played a part in the creation of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the Avengers, the X-Men, etc. Pretty cool. He was on a very entertaining panel with Scottish comics writer Grant Morrison, who also has a pretty impressive corpus of work behind him.

Squandering An Opportunity


With Roger Federer out of his quarter of the draw early, Andy Roddick had a good chance to advance to the finals. No more. He was was upset by 44th-ranked Marin Cilic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Doesn't look like Roddick having a very good 2008.

A Clever Spoof

Here is Vanity Fair taking a friendly swipe at the controversial cover on its sister publication, The New Yorker:


The Latest From Joss Whedon


I downloaded "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" from iTunes last week and watched its three episodes over the past day or two. It defies description, really--a musical that's about 45 minutes long from the point of view of a cheesy super-villain who has to deal with an obnoxiously arrogant super-hero. Perfect to digest in bits on the iPhone while waiting in line!

July 25, 2008

Watchmen Panel


Warner Brothers packed a 6500-seat hall to capacity here at Comic-Con for a panel presentation with the director and cast of Watchmen, due in theaters next March. Original illustrator Dave Gibbons joined the panel as well. The fans present were treated to an extended sequence from the recently-released trailer footage. We also got free Watchmen T-shirts. Yay!

Rush Fails Rock Band

This is too rich: the Canadian trio Rush attempted to play its hit song “Tom Sawyer” on the video game Rock Band and failed to complete the song after 30 seconds, scoring just 31% on “expert mode." See it for yourself here.

Kevin Smith In The House


Director and raconteur Kevin Smith entertained the Comic-Con faithful in a pair of back-to-back presentations today. The first, a "visionaries" panel featuring directors Judd Apatow (The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up), Frank Miller (The Spirit), and Zach Snyder (300, Watchmen) along with Smith preceded a session on the forthcoming Zach and Miri Make A Porno, directed by Smith and starring Seth Rogen. Most of the cast of Zach and Miri was in attendance, too. The clip from the film was very funny, but Kevin Smith stole the show at both panels with his razor-sharp wit and self-deprecating humor. For a taste of the hilarity, check out his Q&A sessions on this DVD combo: An Evening with Kevin Smith/An Evening With Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder.

Another Casualty In Canada


Just after Time released its list of the "100 Olympic Athletes to Watch," the only tennis player featured, Novak Djokovic, loses for the first time to Andy Murray at the Masters event in Toronto. The early departures 2007 winner Djokovic and 2007 finalist Federer are shifting a lot of ranking points the way of Rafa Nadal (who beat Richard Gasquet handily after dropping an epic first-set tiebreak in today's quarterfinal) this week.

A Triumphant Tour


I haven't seen any television coverage of Obama's tour of Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, and Europe. I suppose the images play especially well--particularly the footage of the speech in Berlin before a throng of 200,000--but just reading about the trip this past week in The New York Times and USA Today suggests this went about as well as the Obama campaign could have wished: its candidate came across as presidential, statesmanlike, and possessing a command of foreign policy. We'll see how all of this plays out back home.

July 26, 2008

California Taking The Lead

California has become the first state to ban the use of trans fats in food preparation in public establishments. As this is such a big state, it will mean restaurant chains and food processors will be forced away from the use of these poisonous substances, rather than establishing a dual supply chain. The law takes effect in 2010 for restaurants and a year later for non-packaged food sold on a retail basis. This is a good development for the health of the country.

The Nerd Prom


No doubt Comic-Con is, indeed, the nerd prom. Costumes are a big deal here. This week I've seen dozens of imperial stormtroopers, Batmans, Robins, Supermen, and Wonder Women. I've eaten lunch next to Starfleet officers, Princess Leias, elves from Middle Earth, pirates of the Caribbean, Predators, Jedi knights, and multiple versions of Indiana Jones (and even his father). I can't tell you how many different Jokers are on the premises this week.

I have been impressed by the diversity of people here. Bucking the stereotype of the overgrown adolescent geek living in his parents' basement, all over the place you can see little kids, teenagers, senior citizens, and everyone in between. Lots of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are prominent here. And no shortage of women, either, contrary to the clichés.

And the range of interests represented at the convention is equally diverse. There's certainly a fair number here with at best a passing interest in comics--theoretically the centerpiece of the event. There are people into video games, television shows, Japanese anime, fantasy, Star Wars, vampires, and about everything else in the world of pop culture you can imagine. The hot ticket panels are those involving blockbuster films and TV shows with cult followings (such as Lost, The Office, and Battlestar Galactica).

That's Alls I Can Stand

I think I've hit the wall on this Comic-Con experience. The first day or so was pretty cool. But the lines to get into the rooms for panels have become intolerable and the novelty of the whole event has worn off. I guess Saturday is the peak day, when attendance is at its highest. I've had enough.


I did catch a great presentation this morning by Dave Gibbons and book designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd about the forthcoming Watching The Watchmen, a behind-the-scenes account of the creation of the graphic novel (or, as we called it in the 1980s, "comics"). I've already got it pre-ordered on Amazon.

Parting Shot From CCI


This prop from the recent Iron Man movie decorated the Marvel booth on the floor of the exhibit hall. The other similarly impressive such prop on display was the Owl-ship from Watchmen in the Warner Bros. booth.

This Old Bag


I've acquired a lot of bags over the years from my tennis suppliers, currently HEAD and adidas. Once these became available with wheels, my life on the road got a lot easier! The particular bag pictured above has been all over North America, traveled to Africa and back, went to Europe a few times, and even circumnavigated the globe with me. After some two years of use, it's now pretty beat up and the telescoping handle fell off somewhere between Portland and L.A. on this trip, which makes the bag nearly impossible to roll on its wheels. Thus I've contacted HEAD and a replacement (with the updated Tour Team orange/gray/black/white color scheme) is already on its way so I'll have a functional bag with wheels before I leave for the U.K. in two weeks.

So Long, West Coast

I've been away from home for three full weeks now and had a thoroughly enjoyable time in California and Oregon. My fellowship at Stanford was a terrific experience (I shipped the formidable stack of books I read while there back to Connecticut to reduce the travel load). And while I was out here I saw four plays (three Shakespeare, one Friel) and an opera. I also connected with my sister in San Francsico, the Mattoons in Oregon, and a whole bunch of Choaties in Palo Alto, Berkeley, L.A., and San Diego. Attending Comic-Con had its high points, though to poach the title of a David Foster Wallace essay about being on a cruise ship, I think it was "a supposedly fun thing I'll never do again."

As always, when one travels for any length of time, it's great to come home.

Fly By Night

(Nothing like the title of a Rush song to start the blog entry.)

I am taking the red-eye from San Diego to Charlotte and then an early morning flight from there to Hartford. I eschewed my usual aisle seats in the hopes I'll find the window seat conducive to sleeping through most of the flights. I have a long day tomorrow, as I have to go to New York City in the evening for the closing night performance of Damn Yankees.

July 27, 2008

Early Morning Layover

Made it into Charlotte after just four hours or so in the air, and thankfully I slept through most of that. I have a two-hour flight up to Hartford. Even if I catch some shuteye on that segment, I'll still be pretty bushed, so I'm confident a nap will be on the agenda once I get back to Wallingford.

You Gotta Have Heart


Just saw the final performance of City Center's three-week summer run of Damn Yankees starring Sean Hayes, Jane Krakowski, and Cheyenne Jackson. This was a show I had never seen before, though I was somewhat familiar with a couple of its songs. As these things go, this was clearly light entertainment. It was hardly the best show I've seen on Broadway, but certainly sufficient for a summer night's entertainment.

July 28, 2008

No Carpal Tunnel Syndrome For Me


I’m “writing” this blog entry using my new software called MacSpeech Dictate. By just speaking normally into the microphone headset, the software turns my speech into text for use in just about any application I can use on my Mac. So I can use it to write blog posts, answer e-mail, dictate letters, draft teacher reports, or just about anything else I can imagine without using the keyboard. I can also use the microphone to give the computer commands such as “open Microsoft Word” or “copy selection” or “quit this application.” The software accurately recognizes about 99% of words spoken. This is pretty cool!

July 29, 2008

Potter Flick #6


You can see the trailer for the next Harry Potter film here.

July 30, 2008

If It Makes You Happy


Sheryl Crow just finished a set of about an hour-and-three-quarters, mixing tracks from her new album, Detours, with some of her best-known radio hits. The concert, held under the big tent at the Bank of America Pavilion right on Boston Harbor, opened with James Blunt on stage with his four-piece band for about an hour. Blunt did a creditable job delivering familiar songs from his debut album with a handful from his sophomore effort, performing with admirable energy. I have long liked Sheryl Crow's music, but this was the first chance I had to see her in person. I came to appreciate the Detours songs a lot more having heard them live, but the highlights of the night included hearing some of my favorites: "If It Makes You Happy," and "Soak Up The Sun," which she saved for the end of the set.

July 31, 2008

Beach Reading


This morning Amazon delivered the latest installment in the Gabriel Allon spy novels by Daniel Silva, Moscow Rules. I am just a few chapters in, but already immersed back into the world of international intrigue against the backdrop of fascinating European settings. The Allon character is Israel's top assassin, who also happens to be one of the world's top art restorers, in the employ of the Vatican at the outset of this particular story. These Silva thrillers are enormously entertaining and I'm already enjoying settling in with this one over the course of the next few days.



Roger Federer was somewhat lucky to get through his first match in the Cincinnati Masters tournament the other day, as Robbie Ginepri served for the match in the second set before letting the #1-ranked player off the hook. Today, however, Ivo Karlovic prevented another escape, as his huge serves enabled him to hold on to a third set tiebreak and pull off the upset of Federer. The on-court temperature was above 110º, and this clearly had a debilitating effect on the 6'10" Karlovic, but he wisely realized all the had to do was to keep banging in his serves in the third set to get to a tiebreak, and then take his chances there; in fact, Karlovic hardly contested Federer's service games. This stratagem paid off, as three unforced errors from the backcourt from the Swiss player's racket gave the #16 seed the win.

Watching the match, it was clear Roger is still lacking in confidence. He didn't play badly, but when things got tight at the end of the third set, he gave away points ordinarily you'd expect him to find a way to win.

It now appears that the #1 ranking in the men's game will change hands sooner rather than later, particularly if Rafael Nadal wins this week's Masters event, in which case he will appear atop the ATP rankings next Monday. Otherwise, at some point in the coming weeks, we can expect to see a changing of the guard.

About July 2008

This page contains all entries posted to As Far As You Know in July 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

June 2008 is the previous archive.

August 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.