Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wanting More

Exclusive: What Potter author left out - Wild about Harry -

If, like me, you were happy with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but wanted to know more after turning the final page, the link above is for you. But don't read it if you haven't finished the book yet!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dig Doogie

Meet Mother Please | The New York Observer

In honor of Neil Patrick Harris being nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Emmy--well-deserved recognition for a guy whose hilarity is the glue holding the show together--I'm linking to the article above, which explains why you should be watching How I Met Your Mother. I hope it convinces you to rent the DVDs this summer and catch up with the only network sitcom I can be bothered to watch.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Early Review

For Harry Potter, Good Old-Fashioned Closure - New York Times

How I hate Michiko Kakutani right now.

No, she didn't pan the final volume of the Harry Potter series; she's seemingly liked them all along and while I sometimes disagree with her judgment, she gets what's great about the books as well as where Rowling occasionally errs.

But she reviewed it after reading it today. As in, she bought it at a bookstore in New York and read it. As in, someone--other than the Web sellers who have already shipped it to a few customers, and the amateur photographers who have already posted the book online--broke the heavy-handed embargo and sold the book early.

I wish we could do away with this midnight party stuff. Yes, it's all well and good to have a big debut for something, but this isn't a movie; it needn't be consumed en masse. It's a product, something we can each carry away from the store to enjoy in our own way and in our own time. And the copy you will read this weekend? It's probably already sitting in the back room of some store, from which you'll purchase it in a few days. Instead of reading it, you're reading this!


Why Bush Is A Loser -

Has there ever been a better headline?

In the piece above, David Corn goes after Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and head cheerleader for George W. Bush, for a piece in the Post suggesting that Bush's presidency will be viewed as a success. It's a quick summary of everything that has gone wrong these last six and a half years, followed by this slip of the knife:
The Bush-Cheney years have been marked by ineptitude, miscalculation, and scandal. A successful presidency? Bush will be lucky if he gets a public elementary school in his adopted hometown of Crawford, Tex., named after him. He has placed this country in a hole. Yet Kristol, with shovel in hand, points to that hole and says, Trust me -- we're about to strike oil!
The time of the crazies like Kristol is coming to an end. And even with all the harm they've done, isn't it fun to watch in their death spiral?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Out of Phase

CSO Bass Blog: Bad Dog!

For some reason, reviewers will barely touch Ravinia concerts these days. Last Friday night's Mozart/Mahler concert got no play in the Tribune and only a brief mention in the Sun-Times at the end of an article about other concerts. After covering the start of James Conlon's Mahler cycle with flair, Jon von Rhein at the Trib appears to have lost interest.

Had he been at Ravinia Friday night, he might have found his lack of enthusiasm warranted. The program opened with a Mozart violin concerto, and the Sun-Times noticed that it didn't ever really catch fire:
The small orchestra's tentative opening of the first movement, allegro aperto (cheerful and open), dragged along instead of celebrating some of Mozart's happiest moments. Veteran Ravinia performer Pinchas Zukerman drew out an attractive but uninspiring sound as soloist. A few unwelcome notes in the work's cadenzas -- as written by Daniel Barenboim -- even made Zukerman inspect his instrument with puzzlement.
This was the first time I've ever seen a Ravinia pavilion crowd not stand to applaud a soloist. Lang Lang, Itzhak Perlman, James Galway--all got standing ovations and calls for an encore. But the crowd this time around remained resolutely seated, refusing even to make the typical rush for the aisles to reach the bathroom before the intermission crowd lest it be misinterpreted as approval. Not a good showing.

After intermission, though, things seemed to be back on track. Mahler's Fifth Symphony opened with power and beauty, and through four movements things seemed to be humming along nicely. The trains even seemed to come by at just the right moments, and Conlon smartly waited them out before beginning each new movement. But then--perhaps to make up all the time lost to the trains?--he began whipping the baton around like a fishing pole with a violent pike on the other end of the line, dancing on the podium like a man possessed. On his blog, linked above, CSO bassist Michael Hovnanian says the orchestra was willfully refusing to play along with Conlon's chosen tempo:
It is my suspicion that there is a little bit of willful musical misbehavior coming from the orchestra and Conlon, trying to be the nice guy, is letting things get a little too loose. However, when a conductor needs to stop and explain what he is trying to do with his baton it is usually a bad sign.
The orchestra may have been misbehaving, but the results would have been bad whether it had obeyed or not. The playing of the orchestra was certainly off in the final movement--different sections were a bit ahead or behind--but the bigger demerit should go to Conlon, who was racing through the symphony's moment of triumph as if he had an urgent need to defecate. The result, not surprisingly, was a stream of shit. Multiple crescendos that most conductors allow to breathe suffocated one another, and instead of a well-defined feeling of exultation, audience members were left feeling harried and confused. A perfectly good performance was soiled. Still, half the crowd stood and cheered the orchestra. (The other half stood, too, but crowded the aisles faster than I've ever seen before, as if Conlon should have gone faster and gotten them to bed by 10.)

Conlon has anywhere from four to six opportunities to redeem himself between now and 2011, depending on whether he includes Das Lied von der Erde--a symphony in subtitle, but unnumbered to forestall Mahler's death from the Curse of the Ninth--and the unfinished 10th Symphony in his cycle. Up next is the Sixth on August 1. Here's hoping he uses the restroom before he takes the podium.