« September 2008 | Main | November 2008 »

October 2008 Archives

October 1, 2008

The Soothing Dulcitones of J.T.


After last week's Jackson Browne release, this must be the season for reviving the best-know singer-songwriters of the 1970s. This week James Taylor unveiled his first album in years, this one a batch of cover tunes he has performed in concert over the years. Supposedly some new material of his own is in the pipeline too.

October 2, 2008

The Polls Are Shifting

It's far too early for any candidate to be counting his chickens five weeks before an election, but in the last couple of days, there have been seismic shifts appearing in the state-by-state polls for the presidential race. Barack Obama has opened up significant leads in virtually every key battleground state, according to multiple polls.

Here are recent CNN/Time numbers in five critical swing states:

Florida: Obama 51%, McCain 47%

Minnesota: Obama 54%, McCain 43%

Missouri: Obama 49%, McCain 48%

Nevada: Obama 51%, McCain 47%

Virginia: Obama 53%, McCain 44%

If these figures hold--and they may well not--the Electoral College contest won't even be close.

October 3, 2008

Showtime For Caribou Barbie


Both vice-presidential nominees exceeded expectations in last night's debate (which garnered much higher television ratings than the presidential debate last Friday). Joe Biden was in very good form, avoiding long-winded answers and gaffes--both factors that have hampered him in the past. He also managed to treat his opponent deftly, neither appearing the bully nor overly chivalrous. Of course, expectations for Sarah Palin were so low, if she could speak in complete sentences and not fall off the stage, the night might be considered a success. She did more than that, conveying charm and an ability to convey her prepared talking points in a lucid manner. The format helped her considerably: Palin's embarrassing moments with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric the past few weeks were usually with follow-up questions that forced her to provide an answer that went beyond her prepared script. In the end, though, Palin's performance last night will alleviate worried GOPers. Biden probably enhanced the credibility of the Democratic ticket at the same time. I doubt this event will have much effect on the final outcome of the election; only the men at the top of the ticket or a major unforeseen event can move that needle at this point.


Sweet Airs That Give Delight


I just finished watching the second half of Shakespeare's final play. The Tempest. I drove to New York City after practice this afternoon, hitting Manhattan in plenty of time for the 8 p.m. curtain downtown. Unfortunately the West Side Drive was snarled in standstill traffic. Moving through the streets of the city wasn't exactly quick either. The upshot was I didn't arrive at the theater until 8:45. What I watched was very enjoyable. So I may have to head back down to see this play again--hopefully in its entirety--before its limited run ends later this month.

October 4, 2008

Night Game

It's amazing to me how a game played under portable lights can generate so much enthusiasm on our campus--especially if there's a dramatic win in the closing minutes of play. For only the second time ever, Choate hosted a night football game and filled the stands with kids, teachers, and parents. After a sluggish start--going down 0-14 in the opening stages of the game--the Wild Boars came to life as the sun went down, defeating Andover, 33-29.

October 5, 2008

A New Season Opens


This is my second season as a subscriber to the Handel & Haydn Society. Today I attended the "Celebrate Handel!" concert in Boston's Symphony Hall, with a program featuring a mix of the composer's coronation anthems and his arias from various oratorios. The orchestra plays with period instruments and the chorus was joined by soprano Gillian Keith.

October 6, 2008

On The Road Again

I'm putting in quite a few miles behind the wheel of my Ford Explorer these days: to Manhattan and back Friday night for a play, to Boston and back yesterday for a concert, to Worcester, MA, and back today for a NEPSAC Executive Board meeting, and then to Watertown, CT, and back for a League athletic directors meeting. A good chance to get caught up on podcasts and iTunes U. lectures!

October 7, 2008

Presidential Debates, Round II


It's looking more and more like "that one" will be our next president. There's a certain appeal to Obama's cool-headedness in a time of economic crisis, especially contrasted with the sometimes grumpy, emotionally erratic bearing of McCain. Most pundits seem to be scoring these contests on points. I think many (most?) voters are looking for non-verbal cues: looking presidential is about projecting confidence and demonstrating command of the issues. Though neither candidate scored a "knock-out punch" in these first two debates, the polls suggest Obama is enhancing his credibility as a potential commander-in-chief.

October 8, 2008

An Endorsement

The latest issue of The New Yorker contains an editorial endorsement for--surprise, surprise--Barack Obama for president. The piece itself is worth a read: it's a scathing indictment of the current administration and a point-by-point assessment of the relative strengths and weaknesses of Messrs. McCain and Obama. A sample:

What most distinguishes the candidates, however, is character—and here, contrary to conventional wisdom, Obama is clearly the stronger of the two. Not long ago, Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, said, “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” The view that this election is about personalities leaves out policy, complexity, and accountability. Even so, there’s some truth in what Davis said––but it hardly points to the conclusion that he intended.

Echoing Obama, McCain has made “change” one of his campaign mantras. But the change he has actually provided has been in himself, and it is not just a matter of altering his positions. A willingness to pander and even lie has come to define his Presidential campaign and its televised advertisements. A contemptuous duplicity, a meanness, has entered his talk on the stump—so much so that it seems obvious that, in the drive for victory, he is willing to replicate some of the same underhanded methods that defeated him eight years ago in South Carolina.

Perhaps nothing revealed McCain’s cynicism more than his choice of Sarah Palin, the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, who had been governor of that state for twenty-one months, as the Republican nominee for Vice-President. In the interviews she has given since her nomination, she has had difficulty uttering coherent unscripted responses about the most basic issues of the day. We are watching a candidate for Vice-President cram for her ongoing exam in elementary domestic and foreign policy. This is funny as a Tina Fey routine on “Saturday Night Live,” but as a vision of the political future it’s deeply unsettling. Palin has no business being the backup to a President of any age, much less to one who is seventy-two and in imperfect health. In choosing her, McCain committed an act of breathtaking heedlessness and irresponsibility. Obama’s choice, Joe Biden, is not without imperfections. His tongue sometimes runs in advance of his mind, providing his own fodder for late-night comedians, but there is no comparison with Palin. His deep experience in foreign affairs, the judiciary, and social policy makes him an assuring and complementary partner for Obama.

The longer the campaign goes on, the more the issues of personality and character have reflected badly on McCain. Unless appearances are very deceiving, he is impulsive, impatient, self-dramatizing, erratic, and a compulsive risk-taker. These qualities may have contributed to his usefulness as a “maverick” senator. But in a President they would be a menace.

You can read it in its entirety here.

October 9, 2008

The Seat Of State Government


I took Choate's American government classes up to Hartford on a field trip today. We checked out the State Capitol, met with State Senator Len Fasano, and then crossed the street to the Supreme Court, where we spent some time with the Chief Justice, Chase T. Rogers. Believe it or not, in all these years of teaching politics and government classes, this was my first time dealing with the Connecticut state government or visiting any of these landmarks.

On Not Counting One's Chickens

Lest Obama supporters become too optimistic 26 days before the election, check out this trip down memory lane from October 9, 2004.

October 10, 2008

The Surreal State Of World Finance

The Japanese market lost about 10% of its value today and the European exchanges are down 7-9% at this hour. Could be another rough day on Wall Street. It's a bit frightening to see all of this wealth disappear so quickly. Makes me glad I am not near retirement, I suppose!

October 11, 2008

Must Have The Precious

This is too funny: Gail Collins in her New York Times column on Thursday's presidential debate:

Remember how we used to joke about John McCain looking like an old guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn? It’s only in retrospect that we can see that the keep-off-the-grass period was the McCain campaign’s golden era. Now, he’s beginning to act like one of those movie characters who steals the wrong ring and turns into a troll.

During that last debate, while he was wandering around the stage, you almost expected to hear him start muttering: “We wants it. We needs it. Must have the precious.”


Light My Fire


A neat little app for the iPhone: a virtual lighter, with a flame that moves as you tilt the iPhone. This will be handy for concerts.

October 12, 2008

Return To Millville


I spent most of today on the campus of St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. My time there was filled with waves of nostalgia, as SPS was where I spent my most formative summer. This was where I started teaching after my junior year in college, the place I discovered what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. I was 20 years old and experiencing a prep school for the very first time. I was lucky to meet my mentor, work with a terrific group of kids, and given the chance to teach, to coach, to supervise a dormitory--things I've spent a fair bit of my life doing ever since.

October 13, 2008

Hitchens On Palin

In his endorsement of Barack Obama--a bit of a surprise, given his politics--Christopher Hitchens saves some of his most potent venom for the GOP's vice-presidential nominee:

[T]he only public events that have so far featured [McCain's] absurd choice of running mate have shown her to be a deceiving and unscrupulous woman utterly unversed in any of the needful political discourses but easily trained to utter preposterous lies and to appeal to the basest element of her audience.


I wrote not long ago that it was not right to condescend to [Gov. Sarah Palin] just because of her provincial roots or her piety, let alone her slight flirtatiousness, but really her conduct since then has been a national disgrace. It turns out that none of her early claims to political courage was founded in fact, and it further turns out that some of the untested rumors about her—her vindictiveness in local quarrels, her bizarre religious and political affiliations—were very well-founded, indeed. Moreover, given the nasty and lowly task of stirring up the whack-job fringe of the party's right wing and of recycling patent falsehoods about Obama's position on Afghanistan, she has drawn upon the only talent that she apparently possesses.


I Have Been Immortalized


My words now appear on the back of Choate Cross Country sweatshirts all over campus. Not my idea, I promise. And I couldn't order one of these for myself lest I be considered a megalomaniac.

October 14, 2008

Dr. Jones To You, Doll


Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull arrived on DVD from Amazon today. Sure, the final half hour of the movie kinda sucked, but this is Indy.

October 15, 2008

Take Two On The Scooter

So my Yamaha Zuma--which was stolen, stripped, and then recovered in August--is going to cost at least two grand to fix. So I have decided to get a new one. This model, which will arrive next month, is 125cc (the old one was 49cc) which means I'll have to get a motorcycle license. And here is what it will look like:

October 16, 2008

A Tease For Nerds


This week's Entertainment Weekly cover should make a lot of geeks happy. I am not gonna lie: I am looking forward to this flick and I hope J.J. Abrams isn't screwing it up.

October 17, 2008



I saw Oliver Stone's new movie, W, tonight. It paints a portrait of the man currently in the Oval Office that is alternately sympathetic and buffoonish. This is hardly a great film, but it's an interesting take on a polarizing figure of our time.

October 18, 2008

In Which The Top Two Seeds Fail To Reach The Final


Interesting tennis developments in what is usually the least interesting part of the season: the circuit's fall indoor European swing. Rafa Nadal wrapped up the year-end #1 ranking for 2008 today, even though he fell in the Madrid Masters semis to Gilles Simon, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (6), in what was reportedly one of the best matches of the year. In the other half of the draw, Andy Murray avenged his loss in the U.S. Open final by upending Roger Federer in three sets, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5.

October 19, 2008

Mr. Rich's Weekly Erudition

Frank Rich is brilliant, as always, in capturing the moment in our cultural and political life as a nation. Here's a snippet of the wisdom he dispensed in today's column:

The Bushian ethos that McCain embraced, as codified by Karl Rove, is larger than any particular vote or policy. Indeed, by definition that ethos is opposed to the entire idea of policy. The whole point of the Bush-Rove way of doing business is that principles, coherent governance and even ideology must always be sacrificed for political expediency, no matter the cost to the public good.

Like McCain now, Bush campaigned in 2000 as a practical problem-solver who could “work across the partisan divide,” as he put it in his first debate with Al Gore. He had no strong views on any domestic or foreign issue, except taxes and education. Only after he entered the White House did we learn his sole passion: getting and keeping power. That imperative, not the country, would always come first.

One journalist who detected this modus operandi early was Ron Suskind, who, writing for Esquire in January 2003, induced John DiIulio, the disillusioned chief of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, to tell all. “There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus,” DiIulio said. “What you’ve got is everything—and I mean everything—being run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis.”

New MacBooks


I'm in the Apple Store in lower Manhattan putting the new MacBook and MacBook Pro laptops through their paces. The displays are indeed "gorgeous"--as Steve Jobs is prone to say--and the multi-touch glass touchpads work brilliantly.

Seen On 13th Street, Greenwich Village


The Tempest Redux


Just finished seeing The Tempest at the Classical Stage Company in New York. This time around--unlike two weeks ago--I saw the part before the intermission, as well! Determined to see the play in its entirety, I took the train into Manhattan with two Choate students for the afternoon. This was the final performance of the limited run and there were a couple of well-known actors in the audience: John Glover and Sam Waterston (whose daughter Elizabeth was playing Miranda). The show was quite good, with innovative set and lighting design. The acting was solid throughout, as well.

Required Viewing

General Powell speaks articulately and elegantly without notes on the choice of presidential candidates and the issues before the country in this election:

Nice to see a leader like this "reach across the aisle" and "put the country first."

October 20, 2008

On Moral Diversity

A provocative presentation on morality and political preferences from the always worthwhile TEDTalks podcast series:

October 21, 2008

A Fascinating Look Behind The Scenes


Dave Gibbons, the artist who paired with Alan Moore to produce Watchmen, released a book detailing the laborious behind-the-scenes preparation of the graphic novel. The book, designed by the brilliant Chip Kidd, arrived from Amazon today.

October 22, 2008

On Media Bias

Sunday's New York Times has a good piece by Public Editor Clark Hoyt on the question of media bias. Here's a choice excerpt:

In political coverage, the accusations are always that the reporter or publication has ideological or party bias. But Cline has written that journalists have a whole set of professional biases that have nothing to do with politics. Journalists are biased toward conflict, toward bad news because it is more exciting than good news, and, obviously, toward what is new. When Obama was the new candidate on the presidential scene, The Times did some tough reporting on his background and record. But that was a long time ago, and memories fade. Palin was new much more recently, so the tough reporting on her happened closer to the general election, leading her supporters to complain that The Times was picking on her and giving Obama a pass.

Being human, journalists do have personal biases, and a long line of studies has shown that they tend to be more socially and politically liberal than the population at large. There is no reason to believe Times journalists are any different. But Tien-Tsung Lee, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Kansas, wrote in 2005 after reviewing the literature that “a link between reporters’ political beliefs and news coverage has never been convincingly established.”

You can read the entire article here.

October 23, 2008



I guess some folks working for the RNC are catching hell right now for the horrible symbolism associated with outfitting GOP vice-presidential nominee and "one of us" "Jane Sixpack" "hockey mom" Sarah Palin with $150,000 worth of fancy duds from stores such as Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. This stuff isn't gonna play well in an economic crisis, methinks!

October 24, 2008

This Might Qualify As A Guilty Pleasure


I generally try to steer clear of the screaming heads on cable television, but lately I have been viewing Countdown with Keith Olbermann in video podcast form every night. He's a bit off the wall, but certainly an entertaining alternative to the Bill O'Reillys and Sean Hannitys of the commentariat.

October 25, 2008

Time To Collapse

I am not one of those faculty who grouse about Parents Weekend and the ordeal of meeting families. In fact, I like it a lot. But there's no doubt that once it's over I am pretty much ready to collapse. I am now unscheduled until 3:30 on Tuesday, when my team practices.

October 26, 2008

The Simpsons Going Strong


Hard to believe this is the nineteenth "Treehouse Of Horror" episode of The Simpsons! This is often one of the best shows of the year for this series.

Watchmen Movie Teaser

I like the looks of this new poster:

October 27, 2008

A Different Take On America's Choice

Oh, the things one comes across on the Internet! Here is Obaman and Robiden, suited up to take on their foes:

Ten Days Later . . .

. . . I am still trying to figure out what this moment at the third presidential debate was all about:

October 28, 2008

Seven Days To Go


Closing in on Election Day! With a week to go, is the die cast? Or will there be unexpected shifts in the days ahead? Either way, this will be fun to watch.

October 29, 2008

Public Radio Pledge Drives Are So Annoying


Okay, I get it. Public radio stations need to raise money. But as one who has been greeted by NPR most mornings since graduating from college, I find the constant haranguing for dollars so tedious. And this last pledge drive for Connecticut Public Radio went on for extra days. Thank goodness it's over.

October 30, 2008

Halloween Eve


The tradition of "mischief night," as they seem to call the night before Halloween nowadays (at least around these parts) was never part of the tradition when I was a kid. All the mischief was on Halloween night itself.

This is a good part of the year. It's past the peak of the fall foliage and the first frost has made its appearance. Nights get cold, but days can still be warm. This is truly autumn.

October 31, 2008

Kevin Smith's New Flick


I checked out Zack And Miri Make A Porno tonight. I'm in the general category of Kevin Smith fan, though it's hard to put this with his best work. Some funny bits in the first half of the flick, but it gets a bit predictable and downright sappy by the final reel. The humor is typical of the View Askew movies: sophomoric, even scatological, but good-natured.

About October 2008

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

September 2008 is the previous archive.

November 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.