Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Tree House

Tree House

I was glad to be back in Cary's and Theo's tree house last night. I took Continental from PDX to EWR, public bus to Newark's Penn Station, PATH to WTC, subways from Chambers St. to 88th on the west side.

I had dinner with David Lansky and his two boys, Ben in college, Sam in high school, and with Arthur Siegel, an active co-participant on edu-sig.

We discussed, among other things, the role of technology in the curriculum, the relevance (or lack thereof) of math courses. Sam shared his dissatisfaction with math courses that give no real depth, are entirely about doing well on some final test (in his case the IB exam). He once asked his teacher about some concept, and she told him not to worry about it, because this concept wouldn't be on the exam. Ben is seriously into English at Haverford, but assured us that many of his classmates are bona fide math and science geeks.

My goal was to make the 8:20 PM Amtrak to Rhinecliff, but I missed it by a couple minutes, trying to type my name on this touch screen interface at 34th St. Penn Station. So I hopped a subway to Times Square and took the cross-town shuttle (S), to Grand Central (enjoyed the wireless in the waiting area, with a $2 can of Bud). The Metrolink North on track 37, departing 10:02 PM for Poughkeepsie, brought me close enough for poor sleep-deprived Stu Quimby (a Toyman) to come fetch me, and bring me to the tree house. I slept well.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Spoon Man

Spoon Man

Artis in my living room, setting up for a performance. Photo by Don Wardwell, Canon digital camera, slow motion setting.

Artis, a busker, gave Nick a ride that day, coming down from Seattle, enroute to Bandon via Eugene. Nick phoned today from eastern Oregon, with Stallings, who is now doing a solo version of Hamlet (see my earlier review of his adaptation of King Lear).

The Aviator (movie review)

As in A Beautiful Mind, the screenwriters here have the daunting task of projecting the protagonist's psychic tailspin on the big screen. We see many foreshadowings that he'll be losing his grip, but not before he takes on the world and changes it significantly, and for the better.

To keep the storyline manageable, and maybe because the yet youthful DiCaprio would not seem quite believable as an old man, we never get to the concluding chapters in Las Vegas.

Congressman Brewster, well played by Alan Alda, was actually banking on Hughes snapping under pressure, making a public spectacle of his managerial incompetence. But this plan backfires. Fighting to keeping TWA on the map, versus a greedy Pan Am, contributes mightily to Howard's sanity. Here's a simple game with obvious villains. Hughes is restored to health by fighting in this political arena.

The movie-star women, though more complex than the greedy guys, are still a source of sanity in his life, though his mother takes a hit for maybe contributing to his ill-defined germ phobia (I understand Tesla had a similar problem -- or was it a fear of being poisoned?). My favorite line in the film: Ava Gardner walks into this apartment he's been flipping out in, sees tape connecting everything to everything (I'll guess this was a screenwriter fiction) and says with droll humor as she pours herself a drink: "I love what you've done with the place."

And then of course we have the airplanes, the simplest creatures of all (which the screenwriters compare with the women at least superficially -- both sleek). The planes are Howard's chief conduit to the exhilarating world of unforgiving physical principles versus human engineering and a desire to master them. When the plane, the woman, and bottled milk all come together (Katherine Hepburn at the wheel, high above Hollywood), he's in his element at last.