Archive for May, 2011

A Day in Portland

May 31, 2011 Leave a comment

I have already written about our first half-day in Portland, last Friday. Now I’ll go over the highlights of our one full day there, Saturday.

1. Heathman Restaurant. We couldn’t get in the night before, but no problem Saturday morning. We had a fine breakfast. Then we headed up to the room and got ready for our outing.

2. Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center. We drove up to the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood, which includes the Portland New Chinatown/Japantown Historic District, and parked just a block up from the center. It opened at 11:00 and we were there a few minutes early. At 11:00, we headed in. There’s an on-going exhibit, Oregon Nikkei: Reflections of an American Community, that we were enjoying when a guide came up to us and asked if we’d been to the center before. Once we said no, she began to give us a tour. This was a mixed blessing, given that the exhibit itself seemed up to that point to be extremely well laid out, with excellent explanations of the photos and objects. She raced us ahead, not allowing us to absorb all the items, but she also had much to say that was of interest. Then another group walked in and she dropped us in mid-sentence. Fair enough. By that point, we were on the threshold of the exhibit we had come to see, a temporary exhibit scheduled to end a day later, Taken: FBI.

The exhibit is no longer listed online at the Center’s website. Too bad. Here’s a series of photos someone has posted. It was a small exhibit, focusing on a handful of the men and one woman who were rounded up by the FBI on December 7, 1941. Some of the relevant background is laid out in a series of signs as one enters the exhibit, the key point being that already in the 1930s, Roosevelt gave the FBI permission to start collecting information on Japanese Americans, so they would know who to pick up first if war came. Mind you, the people to round up were not dangerous. They weren’t spies, or collaborators. They were simply successful members of the community, community leaders. Those focused on in the exhibit led exemplary lives. Extraordinary lives even. As you read about how each of them lived before the war, and how they tried to restore their lives afterwards, the message of national madness, irrationality, and hysteria comes through clearly.

How could it happen? Well, the exhibit takes pains to remind the reader of the racial stereotyping taken for granted 70 years ago, not that that justifies anything. Only in the final exhibit signage is it hinted that we really haven’t advanced all that far, as we continue to narrow the rights of certain ethnic groups in response to war, a war we now find ourselves in that by definition will never end. And indeed we seem willingly to take away everybody’s rights. Witness last week’s extension of the Patriot Act.

But back to the internment of Japanese Americans. Just a week before our tour, the acting solicitor general of the US, Neal Katyal, wrote about errors made by his office at the time of Pearl Harbor.

The Ringle Report, from the Office of Naval Intelligence, found that only a small percentage of Japanese Americans posed a potential security threat, and that the most dangerous were already known or in custody. But the Solicitor General did not inform the Court of the report, despite warnings from Department of Justice attorneys that failing to alert the Court “might approximate the suppression of evidence.” Instead, he argued that it was impossible to segregate loyal Japanese Americans from disloyal ones. Nor did he inform the Court that a key set of allegations used to justify the internment, that Japanese Americans were using radio transmitters to communicate with enemy submarines off the West Coast, had been discredited by the FBI and FCC. And to make matters worse, he relied on gross generalizations about Japanese Americans, such as that they were disloyal and motivated by “racial solidarity.”

See also the LA times editorial on this last Friday.

3. Japanese American Historical Plaza. From the center, we walked two blocks over to the Willamette River to see the Japanese American Historical Plaza, a part of Portland’s Waterfront Park. As the park site explains, “On August 3, 1990, the Japanese American Historical Plaza was dedicated to the memory of those who were deported to inland internment camps during World War II. In the memorial garden, artwork tells the story of the Japanese people in the Northwest – of immigration, elderly immigrants, native-born Japanese Americans, soldiers who fought in US military services during the war, and the business people who worked hard and had hope for the children of the future. A sculpture by Jim Gion, Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience, also graces the plaza.”

We walked around, read the poetry on the stones, took in the atmosphere, examined the Gion sculpture. Most people milling around were overflow from Portland’s Saturday Market , which was in full swing just south of the plaza. We’d gladly have checked it out, but time was running out on our parking meter, and we had to get on with our plans. We could easily have spent the full day in Portland. Or we could have spent the day visiting wineries. We had decided to try to squeeze both in, and it was time to head out of town for our one winery visit.

4. Red Curry Thai Restaurant. We weren’t looking to eat Thai food. All we wanted to do was drive out past Beaverton to Ponzi Vineyards, where we thought we might hook up with our niece Leigh Anne. But when we were on the highway headed out to Beaverton, she texted us that she was a ways out, so once we got off the highway, we decided to stop at the first reasonable restaurant to eat lunch and kill time. The first reasonable restaurant turned out to be Red Curry. In fact, it was the first restaurant period. Just past the exit was a new strip mall. We turned in, found a 7-11, an Indian food market, and Red Curry. It didn’t look like much as we drove past. It’s extremely narrow, though deep, and we couldn’t see much. Once we walked in, we found it to be surprisingly elegant. I see now that it’s been open only two months. The reviews at urbanspoon that I’ve just been looking at sum it up well: “A very nice, elegant Thai restaurant in the ‘burbs! Nice decor and tasty menu!” “Don’t let the small store front fool you. They did a very good job decorating the place. The food can rival some of the better Thai restaurants.” “just the best food ever. … a fantastic meal. Service was very gracious. Decor is way above caliber for a restaurant in an office park.” We weren’t looking for much, but we had an excellent meal.

5. Ponzi Vineyards. Why Ponzi? No good reason, but there were reasons: (i) It must be the single closest winery to downtown Portland. As one heads west, past housing developments, one crosses Roy Rogers Road and all the development ends. I missed it, but Gail says there’s a sign saying you’ve entered an agricultural district. And moments later, there’s a turn down a small road that deadends at the winery entrance. (ii) The hotel gave us a card for a free tasting for two. Not that the tasting would have been so expensive. But we decided to take advantage.

The tasting room was crowded, and became even more so while we did our business. They start everyone off with a free tasting of their pinot gris. Then one can get a three-wine flight for $10. This is what our card entitled us to for free, so we took it. A rosé, a white, a red. I think they call their first one their rosato. Next was their new release arneis, which we were told would be sold out within the week. And then their lower end pinot noir. From there we could pay another $5 for their pinot noir reserve and $2 for their dessert wine, the gelato. We tried them. Then we asked how the reserve compared to the next level up in their pinot noirs, which was not available for tasting. She did pull from somewhere a chardonnay for us to taste unasked. And then we proceeded to choose wines to make up a case, with the 15% case discount. Four of the gelato, a few of the higher end pinot noirs, three of the arneis, a chardonnay, another white. Now we have some tasting to do.

6. Japanese Garden. We never did meet up with our niece. It was time to head back to Portland so we could visit the famed Japanese Garden. First we had to find it. I knew it was in Washington Park, just above downtown. I suspected we could get off US 26 at the zoo exit before reaching downtown, on the assumption that the zoo is in Washington Park, and then drive around until we found the garden. But I didn’t trust my suspicion. Or listen to Gail’s advice to take Canyon Road, the next exit. Instead, we drove right into downtown, back out to the park, but entered the park on a road that bypasses everything and puts you right back onto US 26 heading out of town. At that point, when the zoo exit appeared again, I took it. This had the benefit that we did in fact get to drive through much of the park and see what it has to offer. The zoo. The children’s museum. The world forestry center discovery museum. The arboretum. Holocaust and Vietnam memorials. The famous rose garden. And finally, the Japanese Garden. We couldn’t find parking, and suddenly we were right out of the park, into a fancy residential neighborhood that looks down from the hills to downtown.

We parked, walked back to the shuttle stop, took the shuttle up the steep hill to the garden entrance, paid our $9.50 apiece, got a map, and entered. Map in hand, we followed the suggested route and saw many of the sights. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the amazing view that would have awaited us on another day of Mount Hood, sitting above the city. We never did see Mount Hood. It was quite a weekend of weather, with showers, hailstorms, sun, rain, but never views of the Cascades. And our time in the garden was probably the hottest, sunniest time of the entire trip. Highlights? Gosh. It’s all really quite lovely. I’d like to go again earlier in the day. We were near our limit in terms of taking in new sights by the time we got there.

We walked down the hill to the tennis courts, considered going down below the courts to the rose garden, but decided instead to call it a day. Minutes later, we were back in the Heathman.

7. Lacrosse. This was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. Normally, that means I’m watching the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship semifinals. I wrote last week about the earlier rounds. We had already missed the first semifinal, in which Denver’s historic ride came to an end against Virginia, 14 to 8. But we were in our room in time to pick up the Maryland-Duke semifinal. Maryland won an amazingly low scoring game, 6-3. Time for dinner.

8. Pearl District. We headed up to the Pearl District, anticipating a meal at one of Portland’s renowned brew pubs. Alas, when we got to Deschutes, we were looking at a one-hour wait. We headed back to Henry’s Tavern, which sits within the old Blitz-Weinhard Brewery building. The doorman had warned us didn’t have the greatest food, though it did have the largest beer selection. And the wait was only 15 minutes. Soon we were seated. What we didn’t know was that we would then have a 40 minute wait for our appetizer, hummus and bread, which Gail wasn’t convinced we even needed. And 3 minutes later, our dinner came. A fiasco. The waitress apologized, I suggested we needed more than an apology, she said yes, of course, the manager already knew and would be coming to discuss adjustments. When the manager did come, she told us several tables had the same problem. The bread, it turns out, is really a thin pizza, essentially, with herbs but no toppings, and the pizza guy somehow flaked out. She assured us we wouldn’t have to pay for it, and we could have dessert on the house, which we did. Not the best experience. What can you do? Maybe next time we should wait at Deschutes.

9. Hotel. We had anticipated wandering through Powell’s Books after dinner, it being just the next block over. But dinner was so long that we were ready to call it an evening. We headed back to the hotel and our day came to an end.

Categories: Food, Garden, History, Travel, Wine

Portland Art Museum and Tony

May 31, 2011 1 comment

I wrote Thursday night about how, in getting ready for our Friday-Sunday trip to Portland, I looked up what was going on at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. I discovered that the center has several components, the principal one being the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which abuts the Heathman Hotel, where we would be staying. The hall seats 2776 and is home to the Oregon Symphony, which gets a rave review from Alex Ross in the latest New Yorker for their recent appearance in Carnegie Hall.

I thought maybe we could see them, but they weren’t performing this past weekend, at least not in Portland. Instead, the symphony was sponsoring a special appearance by Tony Bennett and his band. After consulting with Gail, I bought tickets. There were no pairs together on the main floor, so we checked in the balcony and got the last two seats in the dress circle, which consists of the first four balcony rows. (As we would discover, they hang down below the level at which one enters the balcony. The rest of the balcony seating rises way above the entry level.) I had never thought I would go out of my way to see Tony Bennett, but this didn’t qualify as out of the way. All we would have to do was walk next door from our hotel. The more I thought about it, the more excited I got.

Friday, we pulled out around 11 AM and headed south, stopping for lunch in Centralia and arriving at the hotel around 2:45. The Portland Art Museum is just a couple of blocks from the hotel. Once we were unpacked and settled, we headed over. The museum has an older building and a 2005 addition, connected underground. We wasted a few minutes figuring out how to get around, but eventually worked our way through the underground passage to the new building. I think we might have proceeded differently if we took even a moment to look at the map the receptionist handed me. The old building houses the older art — Asian, Native American, American and more — but we found ourselves embedded among the newer art, from a modest display of impressionists on to contemporary artists. An enthusiastic guard urged us to take the elevator to the top and work our way down, which we dutifully did, but which had the consequence that we viewed the art in reverse chronological order.

Highlights? Let’s see. Among many, a 1981 George Segal sculpture, Helen with Apples, that I can’t seem to get a decent image of from their online catalog. A Roy Lichtenstein Goldfish Bowl that I can’t find an image of. A large 2010 piece by Anselm Kiefer, Entrance to Paradise, that dominates the basement passageway between buildings. This seems to be on loan from Eli Broad. I can’t find an image of it either at the museum site or the Broad Foundation site. Oh well. Maybe I should move on. One more thing. There was an excellent selection of photos from the Fae Heath Batten Photography Bequest.

We headed back to the hotel. It was 5:30 by then, with Tony starting at 7:30, so we had to figure out a dinner plan. Just get room service? Go down to the hotel restaurant? We decided to go down, got changed first, and then headed to the lobby. To our alarm, but not surprisingly, what with those 2776 people due to descend on adjacent Arlene Schnitzer Hall within the hour, all the hotel eateries were packed — restaurant, bar, lounge. It was hopeless. We decided to retreat to our room for room service. As we waited for the elevator in the library, Gail nudged me. I couldn’t figure out why. The elevator door had opened, but a couple was coming out and I couldn’t very well run over the couple standing in front of us who were also waiting to get on. I looked at Gail in puzzlement. Then the couple blocking our way moved on to the elevator and we followed. Suddenly I knew what the nudge was for. The door shut and there we were, sharing the elevator with Tony Bennett and his wife. I said hi, he said hi back, we ascended. We had 8 pushed. They had 9. Do I make conversation? Leave them in peace? We chose silence. Then, as we reached 8, Tony wished us a good evening and I reciprocated. If I didn’t know it was him — if moreover I hadn’t checked concert events the night before and had no idea he was in town — I would have known the moment he spoke to us. There was no mistaking that voice.

I proceeded to spend the next few minutes imagining all the missed opportunities, all the comments I could have made, like that we were definitely going to have a good evening, we were going to hear my favorite singer. Maybe it’s just as well we didn’t make a fuss.

After dinner, we walked over to the concert hall and took our seats. Just after 7:30, the lights went out and the band came on: Lee Musiker on piano, Gray Sargent guitar, Harold Jones drums, Marshall Wood bass. A voice over the PA system then asked us to welcome Antonia Bennett, Tony’s daughter. That was a surprise, and not an entirely welcome one, especially because we had no clue how much of the program she would occupy. Four songs, as it turned out. She was okay, but nothing special. On the other hand, the band was fabulous. She thanked us after the fourth song, headed off stage, and Tony came on. I can’t imagine a more receptive (or older) audience.

The rest was pure magic. Okay, so, he’s 84. His voice is fading. His stamina too, no doubt. But he sure knows how to pace himself, how to entertain us, how to put on a show. For many songs, he would barely sing, which is to say, he changed pitch a little, but it was as much talking as singing. That voice, though. And the band. It worked. He would sing quietly, the band would play at just the right level to ensure audibility, then perhaps he’d hit a climax and shout out three words, leading into a musical interlude during which they cranked it up, and just as quickly they’d settle down and he’d sing softly for the rest of the song. Add in a few well timed twirls, a few steps, and he had us in his hands. Antonia came out once for a duet with her father of Sondheim’s Smile. He wove in some of the expected songs: The Way You Look Tonight, The Best is Yet To Come, I Left My Heart in San Francisco. And for his final encore, he talked to us about how this hall, this intimate setting, is where he likes to perform, not arenas or TV shows to millions. (It turns out that he was on TV just the night before, on American Idol.) He then asked the tech to shut down his microphone, and he closed with an unmiked performance of Fly Me to the Moon. I didn’t really think a concert hall that seats 2776 was quite the level of intimacy he had in mind, though it sure beat a sports arena, and he was indeed audible. Hearing him unmiked was a splendid way to end the evening. We walked out grinning, in awe of his consummate professionalism. If he makes it to Seattle, I will happily hear him again.

Categories: Art, Museums, Music, Travel

Tony Bennett

May 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I suppose I’ve grown up with Tony Bennett. He’s always been there, in the background. Emphasis on background. Mostly I hear him these days because I listen almost every Saturday (online) to WNYC’s broadcast of Jonathan Schwartz‘s four-hour radio show, and invariably he plays Tony Bennett at some point. You can’t count on it quite the way you can Schwartz’s playing of Sinatra, or Nancy Lamott, but more often than not, there’s Tony. I figured that’s about as close as I would get to him, and that was fine with me.

But that’s about to change. We decided a couple of days ago to head down to Portland this weekend. We don’t get there much. We went in the mid to late ’80s when Gail’s sister lived there. Thanksgiving 1985, five months after we were married. We won’t forget that. The coldest Thanksgiving ever, what with the 17 inches of snow that fell here in Seattle 10 days earlier and the constant sub-freezing temperatures that followed. We took the train down on Thanksgiving morning and never warmed up. June 1987. Another unforgettable day, making the drive down for our nephew’s high school graduation, with Gail 8 1/2 months pregnant, and returning immediately afterwards. We were a little early on the way down, so when we saw a sign for Fort Vancouver National Historic Site at the next I-5 exit as we passed through Vancouver, Washington, we veered off and visited. Well worth it. We always thought we’d get back soon. But 21 years passed before we found ourselves down there again, for an overnight visit three years ago that didn’t go quite as planned. A story for another day.

Anyway, we’re off to Portland again, prompted largely by Gail’s interest in seeing an exhibit at the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center before the exhibit ends on Sunday. The show is Taken: FBI. From the webpage: “This exhibit brings to light the experiences of the families of 118 individuals in the Portland area and 17,477 in the western states taken into custody by the local authorities, then imprisoned by the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice directly following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.”

We booked a room at a downtown hotel. In reading about it, I learned that it abuts the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. Tonight I decided to see what’s playing at the center. Two events popped up. Riverdance is in town, performing tomorrow night through Sunday afternoon, though at another theater, not the one next to our hotel. The Portland Center for the Performing Arts seems to cover several sites. What’s next door to us is the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, described as follows:

The beautifully restored Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, opened in 1984, was originally the Portland Public Theatre, built in 1928.

The Italian Rococo Revival architecture was said to be the national showcase of Rapp & Rapp, renowned Chicago theatre architects. Visitors are greeted by a 65 foot high “Portland” sign above the Broadway Marquee, which contains approximately 6,000 theatrical lights. … The Arlene Schnitzer Hall is home to the Oregon Symphony, White Bird Dance Company, Portland Arts & Lectures, and many more local performing arts groups.

It’s hard to resist Riverdance. I mean, Riverdance! Wow! But the whole point of my web search was to see what playing next door, and that’s not Riverdance. Who is it? Yes, Tony Bennett, one night only, tomorrow night.

Do we go? Why not? I don’t know when we’ll have the chance to see him again, but it sure won’t be next door to our house. There weren’t many seats left, other than singles. We took a pair in the front part of the balcony. This is going to be a great trip.

Categories: Music, Travel

The Lacrosse Front

May 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Denver vs. Johns Hopkins, May 21, 2011

This is the time of year when I write a post (or more) about the NCAA men’s lacrosse championships. I let last weekend’s action go by without a post. Time to catch up.

First, my traditional stage setting. Until recently, seven schools dominated the sport: Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Maryland, North Carolina, Princeton, Syracuse, and Virginia. They were the only schools to win the championship. But more than that, they accounted for almost every championship game appearance, the only interlopers until 2005 being Maryland schools, once each: Loyola, Towson, and Navy. And the super seven accounted for almost all semi-final appearances as well.

But the game is changing. It is a growing sport at the high school level across the country. As a result, there is a larger pool of talented players, and more schools are competitive. As one example of the sport’s move westward, Notre Dame was a quarterfinalist in 1995 and 2000 and a semi-finalist in 2001. More recently, it has joined the super seven as a power, making the quarterfinals in 2008, then going undefeated in 2009 and being ranked #2 but being upset in the first round of the tournament. As for their performance last year and this year, more in a moment.

The school that has been on the verge of breaking into the elite throughout the last decade is Duke. They were runner-up to Hopkins in 2005, losing by a single goal. 2006? Well, you know. There was that scandal that dominated the national news, and the program was shut down in mid-season. In 2007, they returned to the championship game, losing once again to Hopkins by a single goal. Another one-goal loss to Hopkins in the 2008 semi-final and a blowout loss to Syracuse in the 2009 semi-final added to their frustration. But last year, they upset #1 ranked Virginia by a goal in the semi-final, landing in the championship game opposite Notre Dame.

If you’re following, you understand that this means the two teams who had been knocking at the door had simultaneously arrived in last year’s championship game. One of them would break through. After 60 minutes of regulation play, they were tied 5-5. Finally, Duke scored, winning their first championship and joining the super seven as a member of the new elite eight.

Then there’s Denver. Bill Tierney, the long-time Princeton coach, shocked the lacrosse world by uprooting and moving to Denver before last season. At Princeton, he had won national championships in 1992, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1998, and 2001, the team finishing as runner-up in 2000 and 2002. This year, in only his second season at Denver, they were one of the top teams in the country. Might they be knocking at the door next?

Well, there you have it. The setup. Let’s turn to this year’s tournament. The NCAA invites 16 teams, 8 of which are seeded 1 through 8. In the first round, the 8 seeds play at home, each hosting one of the unseeded teams. That took place last weekend. The quarterfinal games are played at two neutral sites, two games at one site and two at another. Then the semi-finals and finals are held on Memorial Day weekend, in recent years at some NFL football stadium — the home of the Eagles, the Ravens, or the Patriots.

Of the elite eight, only Princeton didn’t qualify for the tournament. It was an off year for them. Joining the other seven elite programs were Notre Dame and Denver. These were the top 9 teams, but only 8 could be seeded and thereby get to host their first-round game. Maryland had won the ACC tournament, beating North Carolina and Duke. Yet, they were the odd team out, not being given a seed. The seeds in order, 1 through 8, were Syracuse, Cornell, Hopkins, ND, Duke, Denver, Virginia, and UNC.

Last Saturday, Maryland wasted no time showing they should have been seeded, beating host UNC handily. The other seven seeds all won, Virginia having the toughest time, eking out an overtime win over surprising Bucknell. That set up this weekend’s quarterfinals. Yesterday, at Hofstra’s stadium on Long Island, Cornell (seeded 2) would play Virginia (7) and Hopkins (3) would play Denver (6). Today, at the Patriots’ stadium in Foxborough, Syracuse (1) would play Maryland and Notre Dame (4) would play Duke (5) in a rematch of last year’s championship game.

I watched parts of all four games. In yesterday’s opening game, Cornell opened a 4-1 lead, but Virginia came back with 10 consecutive goals to take a 10-4 halftime lead. Cornell fought back, outscoring Virginia 3-1 in the third quarter before succumbing 13-9. The second game was stunning, as Denver flew to a 6-1 lead early in the second quarter with 6 straight goals. Hopkins settled down and closed to within a goal at 8-7 midway through the third quarter, but Denver responded with a 5-goal run to make the score 13-7, finally winning 14-9. This was a landmark in lacrosse history, a team from the mountain west making the semi-finals, and doing so by beating the team with the greatest tradition in the game. Unbelievable.

Today, Syracuse and Maryland opened the action at Foxborough with a hard fought defensive struggle. Syracuse started the scoring with a goal late in the first period and another late in the second. But Maryland, held scoreless for the first 26 minutes of the game, finally got two goals of its own in the final four minutes of the first half. They followed with 2 more in the first half of the third quarter to open a 4-2 lead. Syracuse closed to 4-3 late in the third period and then Maryland scored a shocking goal with 1 second left in the period to lead 5-3. Syracuse fought back, shutting out Maryland in the fourth quarter and getting the tying goal with 1:03 left in regulation. They had the momentum and looked poised to win, as would befit their #1 seed. Alas, Maryland controlled the ball throughout the first overtime period, scoring the winning goal three and a half minutes in.

The last quarterfinal was Duke vs. Notre Dame. Another low scoring game, tied 4-4 through three periods, at which point Duke started to take control, scoring 3 goals to open up a 7-4 lead. ND got a goal with 16 seconds left, by which time the result was determined.

Great weekend. Four great games. And all four top seeds lost. Next week, Virginia will take on Denver in one semi-final, with Maryland and Duke in the other. Two schools from the old super seven, one from the new elite eight, and one taking center stage far earlier than anyone would have dreamed. After what Denver did to Hopkins yesterday, no one will be counting them out.

I wouldn’t dream of predicting the results. I know only that we’re in for three exciting games. I suggest you watch.

Categories: Sports

iPad News

May 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I suppose this post may have limited interest, but I just want to comment on four improvements the last ten days have brought to my iPad life.

1. OmniOutliner for iPad. Two Thursdays ago, The Omni Group brought its indispensable OmniOutliner program to the iPad. OmniOutliner for iPad was originally due to come out last summer. Those of us whose lives depend on OmniOutliner and who use iPads have been desperately waiting for months. There are workarounds, like converting outlines on the Mac to opml format, then using some other program, such as Carbon Fin, to upload the outline to their server and then pull it down to one’s iPad or iPhone. Doing this means sacrificing a lot of OmniOutliner’s formatting options, but it works for simple outlines. Now there’s no longer a need for these workarounds. Hooray!

I have to confess, though, that I haven’t yet integrated OmniOutliner for iPad into (what I’ve learned to call) my workflow. I love having it. I’m just not using it much. Part of the problem is that although there’s no need to change the format of an outline, one still has to upload it somewhere, to one’s iDisk account for instance, then import it into OmniOutliner for iPad. This is an impediment.

2. The New Yorker. The iPad implementation of The New Yorker was supposed to be well done, a sign of things to come, both for other Condé Nast magazines and for magazines in general. But I wasn’t going to pay $6 to find out. I mean, I already subscribe to the print edition, I can read it online in a browser, so why pay again for the iPad version? The broader issue was the Apple Store’s lack of a magazine subscription option, so that one had to buy each issue of the New Yorker for the iPad separately. That changed last week. I awoke Monday morning to news from The New Yorker that iPad subscriptions were now available, and that moreover print subscribers were eligible to get iPad subscriptions for free. I downloaded the New Yorker iPad app, opened it up, and signed up immediately. This was a bit cumbersome. One needs to enter one’s address, the subscription number off a magazine label, and one’s online login name and password. Then, once eligibility was verified, I had to log in again using the login name and password. I didn’t realize at first that this last step was needed, so I was confused about why I couldn’t download any issues. But once I figured that out, I downloaded the still-current issue.

In the past, I wasn’t too thrilled about the online availability on a Monday morning of the New Yorker issue dated the following Monday, the print version of which typically wouldn’t arrive until Thursday or Friday. What was annoying was that by mid-morning on Mondays, I’d be reading on various blogs about some article or another, and I could either find it on my computer and read it on the big screen — not my idea of how to enjoy The New Yorker — or wait until later in the week, ignoring all the online discussion of the article in the meantime. Well, now I can just download the latest issue Monday morning and start reading on my iPad, a much more pleasant experience than reading at my computer. And sure enough, last week there was an article that made a lot of news, Jane Mayer’s piece on Obama’s war against whistleblowers. I could read it right away.

As it turns out, I decided to wait on reading Mayer’s article until the print issue came. And then when it did, I went ahead and read the article on my iPad, which made no sense at all.

I should add that being able to download and read new New Yorker issues on Monday mornings is a mixed blessing. it kind of gets in the way of getting on with the week.

3. OmniFocus for iPad. When it comes to workflow, OmniFocus is the center of my life. I won’t try to explain why. See my post on The Toad from almost a year ago to learn why. Suffice to say that all the facets of my life are organized on it. And what really makes it work is how the data syncs across all platforms — my iMac at home, my iMac at school, my MacBook Air, my iPhone, and my iPad. I always know what I need to be doing, wherever I am.

And last week The Omni Group brought us a major update to OmniFocus for iPad, for free. It has some wonderful new features. Organizing my life was never more fun. Indeed, the real danger of OmniFocus is that you fall in love with organizing life rather than living it. But that’s a problem I had long before OmniFocus showed up.

4. iPad 2. To top off an exciting week of iPad developments, last Thursday morning Gail and I received our new iPad 2s. (We’ve passed our iPads on to the kids.) I got mine synced and ready to go right away. I chose the white one. Gail got a traditional black one. Has this changed our lives? Well, I have to admit, not much. Yet. They are noticeably thinner and lighter. They have built-in cameras. But for the most part, I do with the new one what I did with the old one. It’s still a little too large to hold comfortably in one hand when I’m lying in bed, which I mention only because this means I still prefer reading books on my Kindle.

Okay, that’s the news.

Categories: Life, Magazines, Technology

Another Death at Guantánamo

May 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Obama signing order to close Guantánamo, January 21, 2009

[Doug Mills/The New York Times]

An Afghan prisoner at Guantánamo died yesterday, apparently by suicide. In the NYT At War blog site, Andrew Lehren writes unquestioningly today that the detainee

had worked as a courier for senior officials for Al Qaeda in Pakistan, a job similar to those who ultimately were instrumental in leading the United States military to tracking down Osama bin Laden, according to government documents.

The United States government, in 2009 federal court filings, portrayed him as a courier who worked with senior Qaeda officials in Pakistan and Iran, delivering correspondence and supplies. He also helped guide soldiers into Afghanistan.

Lehrer provides no substantiation of these accusations. Do we really believe whatever the government says about Guantánamo detainees? If the guy is so obviously guilty, why was he never charged with a crime? Fortunately, the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg provided a little more sanity.

Inayatullah, 37, was one of the last captives brought to the controversial camps in southeast Cuba by the Bush administration. He arrived in September 2007, and was described as an Al Qaeda emir in Iran who planned and directed the group’s terror operations.

His lawyer, Miami public defender Paul Raskind, countered that the man who died was never known as Inayatullah anywhere but in Guantánamo, never had a role in Al Qaeda and was in fact named Hajji Nassim and ran a cellphone shop in Iran near the Afghan border.

Rashkind also acknowledged that his client had a history of psychological problems that the military recognized at Guantánamo. “I have no doubt it was a suicide,” he said by telephone while traveling in St. Louis.

The Afghan’s mental health problems became so profound last year that Rashkind arranged to bring a civilian psychiatrist to the base to work with the man.

“This is really a sad mental health case … starting from childhood,” he said. At Guantánamo, “they treated him pretty humanely, I’d have to say.”

Legal sources familiar with the case added that the Afghan had spent long stretches in the psychiatric ward at Guantánamo and had previous episodes where he had tried to harm himself.


Less is known about Inayatullah than most Guantanamo captives at this stage. Publicly released Information on him, aside from the report of his death, comes from a single Sept. 12, 2007 Pentagon press release that announced his arrival at Guantanamo as the alleged confessed al Qaeda “emir,” or chief, in Zahedan, in southeastern Iran, near the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The press release alleged he “collaborated with numerous senior al Qaeda leaders” and had a personal hand in “global terrorist efforts” — notably smuggling foreign fighters between Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq.

He was never charged with a crime and was never known to undergo a combatant status review tribunal at Guantanamo, a procedure designed by the Pentagon to evaluate whether he met the criteria for indefinite detention as an “enemy combatant,” a standard established early in the administration of President George W. Bush. …

His attorney, Rashkind, called his case “an outlier” in the prison camp processes, partly because he was brought there so late in the camps’ history and partly because of his mental health issues. He was never designated for trial nor for indefinite detention nor release, Rashkind said.

“To me this is a human tragedy,” said Rashkind, who has defended four Guantánamo captives. “I don’t think he belonged there at all.”

Was I dreaming or did Obama issue an order when he took office to close Guantánamo in order to “restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war, even in dealing with terrorism.”? Let’s see. According to this NYT article on January 22, 2009, it really happened.

What a disgrace!

Categories: Law, Torture

Three Emperor Cousins

May 16, 2011 Leave a comment

If you read my report From the Book Front a month ago, you might have been anticipating a post about Jennifer Egan’s novel A Visit from the Goon Squad, which I had suggested was next on my reading list (and which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction just a couple of days later). If it were on my Kindle, I bet I would have read it in the following week. But it isn’t, and I seem to have a strange difficulty lately picking up physical books, so it has gone unread.

Instead, thanks to my friend Werner’s suggestion and its availability on the Kindle, I unexpectedly find myself reading Miranda Carter’s tri-biography George, Nicholas and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I. (Published last year in the US, but in 2009 in the UK under the title The Three Emperors: Three Cousins, Three Empires and the Road to World War One.)

Werner wrote to me last week that he had just finished it and had been unable to put it down. I got home and downloaded the opening sample, but evidently to the wrong device, so when I went to read it that night, it wasn’t there. I saw Werner the next day and we talked awhile about the book. This time, when I got home, I decided to forget the sample. I paid for and downloaded the whole book.

I was soon reading about the difficult labor in 1859 of Queen Victoria’s oldest child, eighteen-year-old Vicky, and the birth of Victoria’s first grandchild, Willy, eventual Kaiser Wilhelm II and grandson of soon-to-be Kaiser Wilhelm I. A couple of days ago, I read about the childhood of Victoria’s grandson George, the eventual King George V, and now I’m on to the childhood of the future Tsar Nicholas II. Not new stories, to be sure, but stories well told so far.

I wrote yesterday about our seeing The King’s Speech two nights ago. It was fun to read about the young George in the morning and then watch him in the evening as his life came to a close. I seem to have skipped over some important details in-between. I’m counting on the book to fill in the gap.

It’s a bit jarring to realize that just two weeks ago we (well, not me, but some of us) were watching the wedding of George’s granddaughter’s grandson. Time moves right along, and as it does, one realizes that Prince William isn’t so far removed from Queen Victoria. With more than a few twits in between.

Categories: Books, History

Bernard Greenhouse

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I was sad to read yesterday that cellist Bernard Greenhouse died on Friday. He was a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, which I saw many times in my last few years in Boston.

The NYT obituary explained that when the trio was founded in 1955, the piano trio literature was not widely performed.

Piano trios faced their own obstacles. For chamber-music lovers, the string quartet, with its evenly married sonorities and vast repertory, was the ensemble of choice. The sonic challenge entailed in combining a violin and a cello with a piano, akin to pairing gentle breezes with a thunderclap, was something performers were rarely willing to take on.

As a result, there were few high-level piano trios at the time the Beaux Arts began. Those that did exist were generally shotgun affairs, created when three prominent soloists converged in the recording studio and dissolved immediately afterward.

Though born of similar circumstances — it was convened primarily to make recordings — the Beaux Arts was different. Its players remained together, dedicated to performing the neglected trio literature, which encompasses works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak and Shostakovich, among others.

After making its debut at Tanglewood, the Beaux Arts became a fixture of concert stages throughout the world; in New York, it performed regularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It seems I fell in love with chamber music at a good time, given that my favorite chamber pieces of all were the Brahms piano trios. Speaking of which, watch the video below, featuring not the Beaux Arts Trio (I couldn’t find them), but Eugene Istomin, Isaac Stern, and Leonard Rose. Not a bad alternative.

Categories: Music

The King’s Speech

May 15, 2011 1 comment

We don’t see too many movies. Gail would be happy to, but I never seem eager to get to the theater. Unless it’s new Bond or Pixar. Last year was our worst year ever for Oscar-nominated movies. But I realized yesterday that they must all be out on DVD, so off I went to rent The King’s Speech. Best movie. Best director. Best actor. Best screenplay. Must be worth watching. After dinner, we fired up our movie system and entered the world of 1930s Britain.

The audience response hereabouts wasn’t so good. Joel took off halfway through. Gail split her attention between the movie and her iPad. I stayed true to the end, fascinated by the buddy story of King George VI and Lionel Logue. I think the depiction of their relationship was well done. And Geoffrey Rush was superb as Logue. Helena Bonham Carter was pretty good too. (Say, did you know she’s the great-granddaughter of Herbert Henry Asquith, the British prime minister early in the twentieth century?) It could be, though, that the movie is not so easy to take seriously at home, without benefit of the big screen. Can the king’s stuttering really be the major issue facing Britain during the depression, as war approached? In September 1939, in the wake of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, was everyone really so concerned with how the king would handle his speech about the coming war? Maybe so. I don’t know. Yet, much as I enjoyed the story’s narrow focus, it did seem a bit frivolous by the end.

Coincidentally, earlier in the day, I was reading about King George VI’s youth in a book I had just started two days before. Or maybe not coincidentally, now that I think about it. that could be what made me think to see The King’s Speech. More on the book in another post.

Categories: Movies

War Criminals Ascendant

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s bad enough that in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing, Bush’s old torture crew came out of the woodwork to take credit. But worse, we’ve had guest appearances in the news this past week from criminal Secretaries of State.

I don’t know why Condi Rice thinks she deserves a free ride for her lead roles in lying about the basis for the Iraq War and sanctioning torture. But there she was a week ago, holding forth at Stanford Law School about international relations. She did not go unchallenged, as you can see in the video above. Whatever a viewer may think about violations of the rules of decorum, at least the protestors got their facts right.

And now Henry, shameless violator of international law, is back, cashing in yet again with a new book On China, reviewed by Max Frankel in today’s NYT.

I know Condi and Henry will never be held accountable. I know they will not show remorse for their actions. But why must we continue to reward them?

Categories: Politics, Torture, War