Who Can Turn The World On With A Smile?
Sitting on duty in Mem House, I found myself in a mood of 1970s nostalgia, so I fired up a couple of reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Hulu.com tonight; now that was a great series!
Sitting on duty in Mem House, I found myself in a mood of 1970s nostalgia, so I fired up a couple of reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on Hulu.com tonight; now that was a great series!
Just caught the midnight debut of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first "blockbuster" of the summer movie season. The film was reasonably entertaining, but it struck me as a fairly joyless affair, with the requisite elements of a super-hero flick dutifully assembled. There wasn't the spark nor the soul we saw at the center of last summer's Iron Man or The Dark Knight, though, which were two very different but equally admirable examples of how to pull off the genre with panache.
Rafael Nadal just dispatched Fernando Gonzalez to advance to the final of the Rome Masters 1000 event, where he'll face defending champion and world #3 Novak Djkokovic, who upended Roger Federer in a three-set semifinal earlier in the day. Nadal and Djokovic played in the Monte Carlo final two weeks ago; the Serb is the only player to get a set--though that's all he got--on clay this year from the man atop the rankings list. Could be an entertaining final tomorrow.
The Facebook people have seen fit to reactivate my account, so I am back after two weeks in the wilderness!
I am driving down to New Jersey this afternoon for a gathering of the Eight Schools Athletic Council. We have dinner and some meetings scheduled for tonight on the Lawrenceville School campus and then we'll huddle first thing in the morning with athletic administrators at Princeton University before heading back to Lawrenceville to wrap things up at lunchtime.
Yesterday I got the official notification of my acceptance into my program of choice at the University of Cambridge, so I'll be spending some time in England this summer immersed in books amidst some crumbly old buildings. I fished around on Amazon.com earlier today to find the best prices for my course books, though I dread the thought of lugging texts overseas and back! When I was at Stanford in 2008, I ended up shipping a dozen books back home so I wouldn't have to schlep them through Oregon, L.A., and San Diego.
Rafael Nadal posted a straight-set win over Novak Djokovic for his fourth Italian Open title in the past five years.
I've been reading Strokes Of Genius over the weekend and was struck by this passage describing Nadal's relationship with his coach, his paternal uncle Toni:
Toni was happy to tutor his nephew but immediately established a few ground rules:
- "If you ever throw a racket, we're finished. They're expensive, and when you throw a racket you don't just disrespect the sport, you disrespect all the people who can't afford equipment."
- "Losing is part of competing. You will lose. And when you lose, it's not going to be my fault or the fault of your racket or the balls or the courts or the weather. It's your fault, and you will accept it. Too many people in this world make excuses for their problems. You take responsibility and try and do better next time. That's all."
- "Have fun. When you stop enjoying this, it's no good. You'll find something else that gives you pleasure."
Wow. Pretty brilliant stuff from Uncle Toni. It cuts to the heart of understanding why Rafa Nadal is not only a great champion, but also a pretty grounded human being, too!
While traveling to central Jersey, I had about three hours solo in the car, which was a perfect chance to get caught up on my favorite podcasts and also listen to a couple of lectures that I purchased from The Teaching Company. I am a fan of both of these formats--podcasts and audio lectures--and used my time behind the wheel this afternoon to good advantage.
Our group of athletic directors from the Eight Schools Association (Andover, Choate, Deerfield, Exeter, Hotchkiss, Lawrenceville, NMH, and St. Paul's) ate dinner together and met for a couple of hours this evening, working our way through an agenda of business items. But the best part of our time together is the informal time in a local tavern after the official meetings have ended. That's when the free-wheeling discussions about what's going on in our schools are most useful. It's also when we cement our relationships so that we can deal with each other on the basis of trust in the course of our regular interactions.
Our ESAC group is on the campus of Princeton University this morning, meeting with the Princeton athletic director, his assistants, and a few Tigers coaches. We are meeting in the pressroom atop Princeton Stadium. This should be an interesting chance to discuss the recruiting landscape for prep school student-athletes among Ivy League universities.
Even on a wet day, Princeton University looks pretty impressive. I've spent a fair bit of time here over the years, usually staying at the Nassau Inn, right across from campus on the main drag. (I used to be a regular chaperone for the boys' hockey team when they'd play in the Lawrenceville holiday tournament each December and I've been here for various squash tournaments and clinics as well.) It's a pretty idyllic college town setting--even if it's not Williamstown!
We've just finished our annual ESAC meetings with a luncheon with the Lawrenceville Head Master (two words down here!). Most of our time has been spent in the Lavino Field House, pictured above. Now I am facing three hours on the road in the rain in an attempt to get home before a 4 p.m. practice.
Usually when I am away from the office for a day or two, I am swamped when I return by wave after wave of unanswered VoiceMail and e-mail messages. Our new phone system sends recorded messages to my e-mail in box now, which I can access along with my "regular" e-mail messages via the iPhone while traveling. So the transition back to the normal routine is a bit less harsh.
In today's post, I got the first shipment of the books I'll be using at Cambridge this summer, courtesy of Amazon.com. I'll confess to still getting a bit giddy whenever new books arrive for a class I am teaching or taking. I guess that's why I may never be a complete convert to Kindle (or whatever form e-books may end up in), as there is something tremendously satisfying about the printed page and the physical representation of ideas in book form.
Amazon announced the Kindle DX this morning, featuring a screen 2.5 times bigger than the regular version. This is supposedly optimized for reading newspapers, magazines, journals, and textbooks. As a regular Amazon customer, Lord knows I find this new product tempting, but the rumors about some sort of Apple-designed "media pad" in the offing--sort of a blown up iPod Touch--would make a commitment to the Kindle platform premature for me at this point.
The new Star Trek has landed, an impressive reboot at the hands of J.J. Abrams which captures the spirit of the '60s television show with spiffily updated visuals and a fresh cast. I took seven boys from Mem House to see the movie on its opening night, and even those not steeped in Trek lore like I am really enjoyed it. So Paramount may have what it wanted: the chance to introduce a new audience to "the final frontier."
A time travel element woven into the story basically gives the filmmakers a blank slate in reshaping the Trek universe. Assuming this movie meets its high box office expectations, its sequels presumably will be much better unencumbered by forty years of continuity given a rabid fan base eager to identify incongruities.
The movie itself was a blast: a great mix of character development, humor, well-paced action sequences, and sharp special effects. The Kirk/Spock relationship was at the heart of this story, but future films should have lots to work with in the new incarnations of McCoy, Uhura, Scotty, Sulu, and Chekhov--all of whom were skillfully incorporated into this version of the Federation flagship.
Star Trek will probably lure me back for a repeat showing in the theater, preferably on an IMAX screen.
I spent this afternoon with the Choate team at another one of my old stomping grounds: the Phillips Academy campus, where I taught and coached in the first year of my career. Our tennis matches with Andover are usually hard-fought affairs, and we managed to eke out a 4-3 victory in dramatic fashion, with our team captain closing out his #4 singles match 6-4 in the third set.
This was an especially gratifying win for the squad, as it represents a breakthrough this season: until today, we struggled to win the doubles point against better opponents and we had yet to assemble a team victory in a contest against a truly competitive rival. Things fell together for us against a very solid team, enabling us to climb to a 7-4 season record and secure our place in the New England playoffs next weekend. We'll hope to use this momentum in our remaining dual matches and in the tournament.
Another tennis practice this spring cut short by rain! We've been hit pretty hard by precipitation this spring here in Connecticut. We've played a number of our matches indoors and had a couple of practice sessions canceled outright because of this seemingly incessant rain. I am hoping the rest of May will bring us better weather!
I am delivering a mini-lecture tonight in conjunction with a former 60 Minutes producer about how television news covers a story. This is for a colleague's class on the media and democracy. We are looking at a segment from 60 Minutes about a drug trafficking scandal here at school in the mid-1980s, a few years before I arrived. My remarks will be centered around what I believe are driving story values in television news, with a focus on the three S's: sex, scandal, and schadenfreude.
While relaxing with my folks here at my cousin's house in East Hampton, I caught up on the president's remarks last night at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, when it's traditional for the leader of the free world to cut loose with some comedy. Obama did not disappoint. And Wanda Skyes was very funny too. It's all over YouTube, so check it out.
In response to the last post . . . let's just call this "The Federation Strikes Back."
A new combined men's and women's event on the pro tennis circuit is being played in Madrid as the final major tune-up before the French Open. The centerpiece of the new facility is a complex of three courts with a retractable roof called "the Magic Box," which is striking in its sleekly modern looks. Apparently outdoor tennis can become indoor tennis in about fifteen minutes should rain appear.
Just returned from New York City, where I saw The Merchant Of Venice tonight at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. This production was staged by Propeller, an all-male British acting troupe and it was fairly provocative. The play itself is problematic to a modern audience because of the blatant anti-Semitism woven into the story of Shylock. This staging was set in a prison, which worked pretty well--especially given with the all-male cast--and lent itself to a darker and more violent take on the play. Shylock sometimes has been played for comic relief, but this production cast him as an unequivocally cold villain bent on vengeance in the form of his "pound of flesh."
Andy Roddick is quietly putting together some nice results on red clay over in Spain this week. He's just earned a quarterfinal showdown with fellow newlywed Roger Federer tomorrow.
Saw Angels And Demons tonight at the local cineplex. It was well made and moderately entertaining: like Dan Brown's book, the fun is the Rome setting and the Vatican intrigue, but there's not a lot memorable within. This gets a grade of "B" at best.
Though it may not end up being any more meaningful than his win over Nadal in the Munich final two years ago, Roger Federer's 6-4, 6-4 victory over his Spanish rival had to be satisfying for a guy who hasn't won an event yet in 2009 and who has been owned by Nadal in their recent encounters. That said, Rafa made no secret this week of the difficulties he's been having controlling the ball in the Madrid altitude. He certainly looked flat in today's final. There was a moment when Federer served for the match at 5-4 in the second, went down 15-40, and it looked like one of those dramatic shifts Nadal has been able to summon in their past showdowns; the crowd seemed to be collectively waiting for Federer to collapse in a moment of slef-doubt once things got tight. But the Swiss player was tough when he needed to be. Yet I'll be very surprised if Federer is the one hoisting the Roland Garros trophy a few weeks from now.
Booked air travel, hotel, and tickets for a quick trip to the Windy City this September (leave Saturday afternoon, return Sunday night) to see Tosca at the Lyric Opera and Richard III at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It's the only weekend we won't have a cross country meet scheduled, so it's a perfect escape from school, if a brief one.
The sixth season of 24 wrapped up tonight in a two-hour finale, which was mediocre at best. Seems like this particular day was a series of threats, each one resolved in about 4-5 hours, but then leading straight into another crisis for Jack Bauer to solve. I liked Cherry Jones a lot as President Taylor, and it's always fun to see Janeane Garofalo, but this season was a bit unsatisfying in the end.
With no new episodes of Lost for many months to come, my Wednesday nights will be a bit empty for the foreseeable future!
This week I received the syllabus for the Shakespeare course I am taking for five weeks this June and July down in New Haven. A pretty ambitious schedule awaits: reading ten plays and writing two big papers and eight short ones. The first week and last week of the program will be trickiest for me, as my work at Yale will overlap with the Choate school year winding down in early June and my summer school teaching commitments in early July. So I am planning to get a head start on both my reading and writing.
Trouble tonight downloading music purchases from the iTunes Store. Also my AppleTV now has to re-sync all video files with my iMac over the wireless network. Usually these things work flawlessly. I hope this is a one-off problem.
The French Open starts on Sunday and the singles draws have been determined. Fans of Roger Federer hoping for a repeat of last week's win in Madrid (with a rare victory over Nadal on clay) are probably unhappy to see Novak Djokovic looming as a prospective semifinal opponent. My guess is Federer's best chance at hoisting the Roland Garros trophy involved having his two biggest rivals on the same side of the draw to beat each other up before the final. No such luck.
I saw Coldplay at The Meadows tonight (okay, officially it's the Comcast Theater, but I will always call it The Meadows). Chris and the boys were in good form, with a lot of energy and a clear effort to engage the Connecticut fans, apparently in an effort to make up for what they considered a crap performance in Hartford last summer. They clearly connected when they moved back to the lawn for a mini-set toward the end of the show.
The set list:
Life In Technicolor
In My Place
Glass Of Water
Cemeteries Of London
God Put A Smile Upon Your Face (techno version)
Talk (techno version)
The Hardest Part (Chris piano)
Postcards From Far Away (piano instrumental)
Viva La Vida
Green Eyes (acoustic)
Death Will Never Conquer (acoustic - Will on vocals)
I'm A Believer (acoustic Neil Diamond cover)
Viva La Vida (remix interlude)
Lovers In Japan
Death And All His Friends
Life in Technicolor II
The Escapist (outro)
In 2004, when the U2-branded iPod came out, iTunes also offered The Complete U2, a "digital box set" (discounted for us bold purchasers of the matching iPod). I bought it, of course, and now at last the whole thing is available for an upgrade to 256kbps-quality sound. I notice one can no longer purchase it new, however.
Saw the revival of Hair on Broadway this afternoon. The show has gotten good reviews, but I found it a little disappointing. There's a big push for audience participation, but it seemed like the production was trying a little too hard on this front. There are a few memorable songs--my parents must have seen this at some point, for I grew up hearing the cast recording--but a lot more disposable ones.
I am making a commitment to what I'll call on online book club: a group of folks from all over who are dedicated to working through 75 pages a week of David Foster Wallace's comic masterpiece Infinite Jest between June 21 and September 22. That seems like a pretty reasonable pace for just about anyone. Details are here for those interested.
My two favorite holidays are Memorial Day and Thanksgiving. Though it's not yet the summer solstice, today marks the start of summer in my mind. School is winding down, the weather is pretty spectacular, and there are pleasant distractions aplenty.
Today was pretty much a perfect day: woke up to the French Open, a Memorial Day parade through town, and Field Day events on campus. The afternoon was leisurely, with Mem Field buzzing with softball, frisbee, and sunbathing, followed by the annual Physics Phlotilla--in which students tried to navigate creatively engineered cardboard boats across the Science Center pond. Then an all-school picnic outdoors, capped by a dip in the waterfall for good measure.
Just two class days to go for me: today and Thursday. Tomorrow is senior speeches and the class trip to the beach. Thursday I am doubling up on my Constitutional Law classes, with a session after school for the "Super Bowl" case against the other section. This takes the place of Friday's meeting. So the end is near.
I have finally made it to the French Open, the only one of the four majors I have not attended (before today). I've been to the Aussie Open twice and Wimbledon a half-dozen or so times, and made countless trips to the U.S. Open over the years. I have a ticket to Court Suzanne Lenglen today--the second show court--and grounds passes the next two days, but will be angling for a Court Chatrier ticket, depending on the order of play. Today, Novak Djokovic completed his victory and Venus Williams got drummed out of the singles. Up later is #3 Andy Murray.
Had a bite tonight at Trackside Pizza, a cozy little brick oven pizzeria in Wallingford next to the railroad tracks. Most of the restaurant is an old Philadelphia subway car. The pizza is definitely worth the trip.
President Obama's nominee for the Souter seat on the U.S. Supreme Court looks like a brilliant pick, at least politically. Because Sonia Sotomayor has solid judicial credentials and because she is female and Hispanic, Republicans will have a tough time mustering opposition to her appointment without alienating two key voting blocs with which they have been struggling for support in recent elections.
I am about to head to Kennedy Airport for a night flight to Paris, where I will be spending the weekend enjoying some tennis at the French Open. Lest it sound like I usually do this sort of thing, I am treating this as a special one-off: cashing in some mileage points to do something I've wanted to do for years-- a "surgical strike" of a getaway. I'll keep you posted.
Here's the view from my seat on Court Suzanne Lenglen: Venus Williams about to serve. Note the rust red color of the court with shades of green all around it--a pleasant tableau!
The red clay is a great surface on which to watch professional tennis players compete. Even a big server like Andy Roddick (pictured above) whose match I watched today had to construct points carefully and patiently. A-Rod advanced to the fourth round of the French Open for the first time ever, and did so with thoughtful change-ups, entailing short backhand slices to elicit errors from his opponent.
My favorite place to get a cheap bite in Paris is the crêperie in the Latin Quarter pictured above. It's on the corner of rue de la Harpe and Boulevard Saint-Germain. Had a delicious ham and cheese crepe for dinner tonight!
I slept last night and the night before with my window open to the Boulevard Montparnasse below and the sounds of the street. Where I am staying a busy commercial center (the view above is from my window) off one of the major Metro stops in Paris. But the city noise doesn't bother me nor keep me from sleeping. As someone who grew up in a small town, chose an even smaller town for college, and spent a lot of my childhood on my grandparents' farm out in the country, I seem to gravitate toward cities when I travel now. I feel comfortable walking the streets of urban jungles all around the world and like the bustle and array of cultural and other diversions available. And public transportation can't be beat, especially where it's well implemented, as is the case here in Paris.
Stopped at one of my favorite Parisian haunts on the Seine this morning, the English language bookstore Shakespeare And Company--a mecca for expats and travelers in the heart of France. I ran into a school group from the Memphis University School, a bunch of juniors (it's an all-boys school) studying the Lost Generation, and was reminded of the central role Paris played in the lives and work of such American authors as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein (as well as Irish writer James Joyce). Lots of literary history in this place!
Heading down the stairs into the Metro station at Saint-Michel in the heart of the city, I noticed spray paint on the ground:
"Namaste" is a Sanskrit term (नमस्ते) meaning "I greet the divine within you (and within me)." This gave me a pleasantly unexpected moment of pause down in the Parisian subway on a Sunday morning.
One of the nice features of Grand Slam tournaments is the ability to watch the junior competitions, which are far off the radar of most spectators. For example, this afternoon I was one of just a few dozen on Court 3 watching Bernard Tomic (above), a 16-year-old Australian seeded second in the boys' singles and already tapped to be a top player in the world in the years ahead.
By the way, here are some photos I took of another 16-year-old phenom at the All-England Club in 2003: