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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Carnegie Hall

Rehearsal concert this afternoon with St Petersburg Philharmonic. A treat. Guest artist was the talented young German violinist, Julia Fischer playing her 1750 Guadagnini. New to me - as a crossworder I know only about Strads and Amatis.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007


A perceptive reader asks, "why do you have an ad at the top of your blog?" Because I earn money if people click on it, apparently! So - click away! I just recently noticed that it was an option and decided to try it. Lots of other blogs have them, and I haven't been bothered by them. I thought it would be interesting to see what kinds of ads would show up. Apparently the way it works is this: once Google approves your blog as ad-worthy, they "crawl" your blog to decide what kind of blog it is and pick ads that they think will appeal to the readership. I notice that right now it's an ad for "Beowulf" - a film, I think. Google must think this is a highbrow blog!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Spy Voice Trap

One afternoon last week I was assigned to collect six-year-old L. from first grade. I hadn't brought any presents with me (bad Grandmommy!!!) so I proposed a brief toy store expedition. He could pick out something (within reason) for himself and something for his sister, who was at her robotics meeting. (These are a select group of 9-year olds who, with the guidance of a Boston University engineering professor, are learning to write computer programs that enable robots made of legos to perform a variety of tasks, and to compete with other such groups. Imagine! )

Anyhow, he made a beeline for this. I can't vouch for what happened after I left, but it certainly got a good workout while I was there. It's a combination voice recorder/motion detector. Essentially you record a six-second message (easy to do and redo), then leave it hidden somewhere. When anyone comes along and creates "motion" in the path of the "beam", the trap is activated and the recording is played. Just think of the possibilities! Of course it wasn't long before there had to be a rule about not using when people were sleeping. Last heard there were plans afoot to hide it somewhere outside on Halloween to startle unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Good Fish

Daughter H doesn't often cook - she has other priorities and not much time. But when she puts her mind to it she's a whiz. Here's my birthday celebration: roasted Chilean sea bass on a bed of perfectly seasoned French lentils, with fresh steamed, buttered haricots verts. So OK, I did the beans, and chopped the shallots and garlic (who wants stinky hands?). What's a mom for, anyhow?
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War and Peace

Moving right along, bookwise, have we all read "War and Peace"? It seems there's an excellent new translation available, and there's a beautiful review by Michael Dirda in today's Washington Post. I was far too young and otherwise preoccupied when I first read it; I'm inspired to tackle it again.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Book Clubs and Birthdays

On Wednesday my friend Mary invited me to come as her guest to her book club meeting in Mantoloking, "down the shore". They were discussing "The Age of Innocence". She'd seen my stack of Wharton books here (I don't think she's a blog reader) and thought I'd enjoy it. Which I did!

I'm in a book club of my own, and I couldn't help but make some comparisons. Mary's club meets in the evening, and there's wine (everyone brings a bottle, and the hostess keeps the leftovers) and the hostess provides a simple dinner (good sandwiches and a pasta salad this time). Ours is a daytime group. We get a cookie, maybe.

And - novelty of novelties - they all read the SAME BOOK! Unlike my group. We all just report on whatever we happen to have read or be reading. Not to say that there aren't some interesting advantages to this, but, because of this difference, I had expected this group to be a little less superficial than ours. I'm not really sure that was the case. Maybe it was the wine? They went around the room (as we do) and gave everyone a chance to comment. In some cases this sparked further discussion, but not always. The talk was almost entirely about comparing "then" (1870's New York) to "now"; would Newland Archer have behaved differently today? How has society changed?

At the end, a birthday cake suddenly appeared. I was startled, since it was actually MY birthday and I didn't think anyone knew. But it turned out that it was also the birthday of one of the members. This other woman was turning seventy-seven - ten years older than I (though I will always be sixty-five where this blog is concerned) - and I had at first thought, from her looks, that she might be even YOUNGER than I! Increasingly (the closer I get) the seventies are not looking so fearful.

ADDED: Thanks to Nina and Annette for such thoughtful comments. My own read-what-you-want group, which functions, it seems, exactly like Annette's, may actually be the ideal model for a group of disparate, reasonably intelligent women, none of whom are trained literary critics. I learn about books that I might never have heard of, borrow the ones that sound appealing, and never feel pressured to read something I don't care about. There are certain books that we all seem to read, sooner or later, so that in a roundabout way those do ultimately get discussed in a little more depth.

Boston week in review

So there you have it. A collage is almost a better way to deal with it, since it already seems like a blur of overlapping images. Down on the bottom there, in the middle, you can see Nobel winner Orhan Pamuk reading "I Don't Want To Go To School Today" (from his latest book, "Other Colors...."). Wonder if he heard a certain six-year old laughing his head off way up there in the balcony?

The wedding reception was held in the Fogg Museum - you could go look at a Rembrandt if you felt like it, though you had to put the champagne down first. Pumpkin decorating and finger-casting were among the favored activities at the Newton Harvest Fair (I'm just guessing that's what it was called). A day in Marblehead was a change of pace, as was an afternoon at the new ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) where I neglected to take any photos. Terrific exhibit of Louise Bourgeouis sculpture and a show called "Design Life Now" which I'd missed during its tenure at the Cooper Hewitt.

The Red Sox were never far from anyone's consciousness; how could they be?

No photos from the 45th college reunion either. Fun to see old friends, though, and enlightening and thought-provoking to hear Radcliffe Institute Dean and terrorism expert Louise Richardson speak to us.

What else? Food, of course. Festive dinners at Upstairs on the Square and Aquitaine Bis and a Cambodian lunch at The Elephant Walk were highlights. And, on the last day, a visit from one-year-old first cousin twice-removed Cal with his mother and grandmother.

ADDED: Neglected to say that the wedding itself was held in the historic Kings Chapel at the top of Beacon Hill. There were trolleys to take us to the reception at the Fogg, but the driver of the one I was on got his signals crossed and took us by mistake to a hotel near MIT. The horrified mother of the bride (my friend) was able to redirect him, but in the meantime I was able to get a pretty good look at Frank Gehry's Stata Center. From my perspective a nice bonus. For sure worth another look, another time.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Shifting gears

I wish I could say that traveling was an easy, effortless thing for me, but it's just not so. It takes me forever to prepare for departure and close up the house - even for a simple weekend with family - and just as long to decompress upon return.

I'm just back from a wonderful ten days in Boston - ten days that included a planned convergence of daughters (so rarely all in one place at the same time), a family birthday, a college reunion, some fine dining, some fearless city driving, the usual delightful interactions with grandchildren, a first encounter with one of the youngest of the new generation of second cousins, and an elegant wedding with assorted peripheral events. Not to mention a bit of sightseeing and even some cultural stuff. Over the next few days I'll post a few photos with commentary, but mostly I will be attempting to slip back into my normal routines - if I can remember what they are.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Golden Ages that passed me by

I just came across this fascinating slide show of NYT book ads from what I am told was the "Golden Age of Publishing- 1962-73". Golden Age? Where was I? 1962 was the year I graduated from college. 1963: Marriage. Kids born in 1966, 1969, and 1972. 1973 was the year we moved to New Jersey, feeling more than a little dizzy and disoriented after 5 apartments and 3 houses, including outposts in Brooklyn Heights, St. Louis, Rochester, South Bend, and West Hartford. Looking back, it feels (has always felt) that 1973 was the beginning of my life as a grown-up. But what happened during those in-between years? Somehow I lived through them, in a kind of fog, pretty much oblivious to the culture, not to mention the counter-culture. No "golden age" for me, that's for sure!

Did I ever read a book during that time? Not many. So odd, since I've always thought of myself as a reader! Cookbooks, yes. Books on art and architecture (a growing passion that would lead to graduate school a few years later), yes. Stuff about raising kids, no doubt. But literature? History? Politics? Not on my radar then.

I wasn't completely unconscious. As I watch the slide show I do recognize the cast of characters, most of whom I caught up with later. But it's a Golden Age I never really know about. Strange.
Added: OK, to be fair, it was a golden age of book ADS, not of books themselves. Still.