Friday, April 29, 2005
PROUST AT ALLIANCE FRANCAISE
Alliance Francaise in New York is holding a panel discussion about Proust and a concert of his "favorite music." The concert was organized by Nurit Pacht and features Nurit Pacht, violin, Sharon Roffman, violin, Max Levinson, piano, Daniel Gortler, piano, Dov Scheindlin, viola, and Mark Kosower, cello.
The panel discussion is at 6:00 Friday, April 29th; the concert is at 8:00 and, in between, there is also a "picnic."
For information about the program, and for tickets, contact the Alliance website.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
GLOBAL AVERAGE TEMPERATURE
In media articles about "global warming" there are descriptions of "global average temperature" which is said to be increasing a few degrees.
This statement, unfortunately, is complete nonsense and quite confusing to the public.
It permits comedians like Dennis Miller to make hilarious jokes about global warming (on the Daily Show, a few days ago, for example).
There is no such thing as "the global average temperature". Such a concept is meaningless. (Some accounts do not even specify whether the change is supposed to be Fahrenheit or Centigrade.)
Since temperatures can vary twenty degrees or so (Fahrenheit) over the course of a day, a hundred degrees or more in one spot over the course of a year, two hundred or more on any one day around the surface of the globe (including bubbling geysers, for example), and by more than that in 3D when you include the range from the bottom of the ocean to the top of the atmosphere and occasional lava flows over the course of a year, it is really hard for the average person to relate to a 2 or 4 or 8 degree average temperature increase, if there really were such a thing.
Actually, what one can say is that there are many global average temperatures (and each one would show some kind of change from year to year.
For example, one could place thousands of sensors scattered around the globe and measure the temperature at local noon each day -- Or local midnight. One could average those temperatures over a year and get an annual temperature average by location; or average over all the sensors to get a daily global average temperature; or do both and get an annual global average temperature. Obviously the average temperature calculated from the noon measurements would be different from the average temperature calculated from the midnight measurements.
Similarly measurements taken over the oceans would give different results from measurements in barren land areas which would be different from measurements based in cities. And measurements taken on the surface would be different from measurements under the oceans or measurements of atmospheric temperatures at different altitudes.
Statements that "the earth is warming" need to take into account the variety of ways that these measurements could be analyzed statistically. A convincing argument would specify exactly which quantity was actually being measured and averaged. And then it would need to relate that to a reliable model of how that particular average is correlated to environmental change.
In practice, the actual measurements are usually one of three kinds. First, there are the measurements of temperature sensors scattered over the earth as described above. Using older measurements and connecting them to newer measurements for long-term studies of temperature changes can be problematic, because the older measurements are sparce, often biased by where they were located (eg cities), and hard to calibrate for accuracy and consistency with current measurements. But newer measurements (when used consistently and corrected for bias), over the last 30 years or so, seem to give global average temperatures which fluctuate less than half a degree centigrade from year to year, and may be accurate to a tenth of a degree when plotting a five year moving average. Thirty year trends using this kind of measurement show changes (a gradual increase) which are much greater than the fluctuations.
Second, there are historical measurements made by inference, for example by studying the composition of gasses stored in packed ice (eg. near the poles). Using these measurements in a consistent way to provide an "average annual temperature" gives a correlation between these temperature measurements and climate over long periods of time. These measurements show changes of around ten degrees centigrade or less from ice ages to periods of warm, virtually ice-free earth.
Third there are satellite measurements. These can measure temperature inferred from radiation, and may be looking at temperature at different altitudes from ground based sensors. These measurements of earth can be similar to measurements of temperature on nearby planets -- Venus and Mars -- allowing connections to be made between planetary science and earth science.
It would be helpful to the discussion if the media always used descriptions of things that could be understood and verified.
While global climactic modeling is still primitive, not precise, not always accurate, and not reliable for any interesting time spans, there is much that is well understood and certain facts that are undeniable.
The temperature of the earth, defined using almost any measurement consistently (eg. the average over many sensors spaced more or less evenly around the globe), depends heavily on the difference between the amount of energy from the sun that reaches us, less the energy we radiate back into space.
The more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the less energy we radiate. So more CO2 in the atmosphere tends to raise the temperature of the earth. (A substantial fraction of the CO2 in the atmosphere is due to the burning of fossil fuels by humans, especially humans in developed countries.)
Ice reflects energy back into space without absorbing it, and water absorbs energy efficiently without reflecting it. This gives an important positive feedback. So when H2O freezes and forms ice it tends to further lower the temperature of earth, and conversely when ice melts that tends to allow more heating of earth. As a consequence, once freezing starts, or melting starts, the process can accelerate.
Other factors that affect the temperature are heat from inside the earth released by volcanoes and other processes; changes in the energy absorption and radiation of the atmosphere due to chemicals, particles from volcanic emissions and cloud cover; the circulation of hot and cold water in the three dimensional oceans; the pattern of radiation and atmospheric circulation due to changes in the earth's movement with respect to the sun; and the amount of energy radiated from the sun to the earth.
The New Yorker is running a three part series on global warming (Part II is in the May 2, 2005 issue). It describes very real, measurable, changes in the ice mass at the poles. As ice melts, the oceans rise, and the energy dynamics of the earth change.
A substantial amount of the CO2 (and other gasses) in the atmosphere responsible for trapping some of the solar energy appears to be caused by human use of fossil fuels. Continuing to increase the CO2 leads to increasing instability in the environment according to the best climactic models.
Even without fully understanding the cause of the melting of ice on earth, or knowing what actions humans could take to prevent it, it should be obvious that a change in the energy dynamic of the earth, and melting ice causing a rising level of the ocean, will have dramatic consequences on the lives of many people on earth.
Even if we are not prepared to prevent a rise in earth's temperature, or to stop the ice from melting, we will need to deal, possibly quite soon (within years or a few decades at most), with the consequences of changing weather patterns and coastal flooding.
Part II of the New Yorker article deals with evidence of how severe the effect of a changing climate has been on some of the great civilizations of the past.
Friday, April 22, 2005
HAPPY BIRTHDAY SHAKESPEARE! LOVE'S WILL ONLINE
April 23, 1564 is the "accepted" date of Shakespeare's birthday, although it may not be the actual date he was born.
No matter. It's definitely his birthday season.
We have, on-line (requiring Flash, audio, and a speaker), a performance of love poetry by Shakespeare and other classic poets. It was created for Valentine's day, but makes a nice birthday celebration.
So, Happy Birthday, Bill!
Sunday, April 17, 2005
PEN & TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL -- BUSY INT'L WEEK IN NYC
PEN, the international organization of writers is having a meeting in New York this week with many of the world's greatest authors speaking in person.
THE TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL (TFF) also starts this week, beginning on the 19th with THE INTERPRETER, the Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn UN thriller directed by Sydney Pollack. TFF is one of the biggest, most event filled, film events of the year.
It is amazing that a city -- even one this big and vibrant -- can support so many huge events.
Here is the list of participants in PEN:
Please note: Participants and programs are subject to change.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Elizabeth Klosty Beaujour
E. L. Doctorow
Tomás Eloy Martinez
Ahmad Karimi Hakkak
Joseph Lemasolai Lekuton
Joan Margarit Consarnau
Pedro Rosa Mendes
Antonio Muñoz Molina
José Manuel Prieto
John Ralston Saul
Paco Ignacio Taibo
Ngugi wa Thiong'o
Barber van de Pol
Monday, April 11, 2005
After a successful run on 42nd Street's Theater Row in NYC, HURLY BURLY, David Rabe's important play, is moving to 37th street and previews start tonight.
This is a dynamic, exciting, energetic production by The New Group. The setting, direction (by Scott Elliott), and acting are terrific. The play is interesting and compelling from the moment you step into the theater... to the last moment of the play.
My advice would be to get seats as close to the stage as possible. I was sitting in the first row (in the 42nd street theater) and felt almost like I was part of the characters' world. (It is amazing how Ethan Hawke, and all the other actors were able to maintain concentration, a natural life on stage, and tremendous vitality, with the audience barely inches away from them.)
The New Group website calls this play a "shocking, brutally comic reflection on the decade (80's) of decadence." I found it neither shocking nor brutal, but rather a penetrating view of something that seemed very real. Perhaps that's my punishment for having lived through the 80's.
HURLY BURLY at 37 Arts Theater 450 W 37th St. NYC.
NYT ON DANGEROUS FOODS
Two articles in the New York Times on April 10 described very different, but very serious problems with food.
A front page article by Marian Burros described tests on eight samples of salmon that were being sold as wild in different stores. The tests showed that six of the salmon were farm raised. One appeared to have been raised in a farm and then caught wild. Only the salmon from Eli's Manhattan on the Upper East Side tested wild.
According to the article, in addition to salmon taken directly from a farm, millions of salmon escape from farms. These fish are caught as wild, but were raised on a farm.
A number of stories (here is a selection from google) have described farm raised salmon as potentially very dangerous.
The second article (on a back page) by Michelle York, describes a banquet of venison served in New York State. One of the deer that was used in the feast (as well as several others not used) tested positive for chronic wasting disease, the deer version of mad cow disease. According to the article, there are no known cases of people getting sick from eating infected venison. However, because of the similarity to mad cow and other prion diseases, it is a serious concern.
GALA AT CLASSIC STAGE COMPANY
The Classic Stage Company (CSC), one of New York's oldest theater companies, founded almost forty years ago, is having an exciting gala on April 18th.
It features a silent auction, a cocktail party and dinner, and a special event with F. Murray Abraham, Norbert Leo Butz, Blair Brown and Martha Plimpton.
CSC's current show is The False Servant By Marivaux, translated by Kathleen Tolan, directed by Brian Kulick, and starring Martha Plimpton, 'til May 7.
Also, currently on Monday nights, CSC is presenting open rehearsals of Hamlet:
April 11 - Rob Campbell as Hamlet, Directed by Daniel Fish
April 25 - James Urbaniak as Hamlet, Directed by Karin Coonrod
May 2 - Michael Stuhlbarg as Hamlet, Directed by Andrei Serban
Saturday, April 09, 2005
NOW PLAYING MAGAZINE
NOW PLAYING issue #1
There's a new magazine called NOW PLAYING that's brightly written, and has lots of preview information. It's pop culture of interest to the gaming crowd -- Computer Games Magazine is its older brother.
The first issue features articles on anime and Asian "product," "rising stars," comic book conversions to movies, game conversions to movies, and previews of lots of things related to games, comics, anime, Star Wars, games, comics, movies, more games and more comics and more anime; plus a little bit of music.
The "Rising Stars" were the star and director of Napoleon Dynamite, and -- paired with this shy, nerdy character -- Sunny Mabrey, a blond action beauty type (with a lead role in XXX: State of the Union) that catches your eye placed on the cover.
(Unfortunately, the insipid interview with this starlet is the one piece of bad writing in the magazine.
Starlets can be very interesting: they have to work hard to look beautiful, to learn to act well enough to anchor a film, and to succeed in a very tough business with a lot of good looking people. The trick -- when writing about a starlet -- is to concentrate on the details of the experiences and the hard work; and avoid lines like... "but she also wants to do more than just act. 'I'm also really into music' she notes.")
Typical of the better writing in the magazine is this quote from the website (a very good website with news, reviews, and a lot of specific information about many films comics, games, and other things).
From a review of Sahara...
"Sahara is the type of movie that underneath the title card establishing the setting of its opening battle flashback sequence as “Richmond, Virginia, 1865,” also requires the explanatory text, 'the end of the Civil War.' "
The magazine is densely packed, and nicely art-directed. It's look is not as radical as the first issue of Wired, but it has personality.
There's a reasonable number of ads in the first issue, though mostly about games, comics, and films, and they probably stem from the brother publication. It would be nice to see this magazine establish a broader ad-base, in line with its pop-culture, rather than merely game-culture coverage.
Good luck, NOW !
Saturday, April 02, 2005
HAPPY BIRTHDAY BRUCE ADOLPHE
Bruce Adolphe, a composer and host of presentations to children and adults for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, will be having a birthday celebration of his music on April 7, at the Rose Studio of Lincoln Center.
Funny, wise, witty, and eloquent, his lectures on chamber music for adults -- which continue next year after one more this season on April 6 (check the link for the complete schedule) -- are full of information and fun, while his performances for children are... well, full of information and fun.
The concert on his birthday should be most entertaining. (Tickets are $45; info at http://www.chambermusicsociety.org/events/performance_detail.php?id=327)
Friday, April 01, 2005
MELINDA AND MELINDA
Once again, Woody Allen has made a film that is worth seeing -- strong praise that is appropriate to few films. Creator of one of the largest bodies of great material of any film director (living or not), he has produced an idiosyncratic, personal, thought provoking, funny and serious movie.
Often hilarious, with someone (Will Ferrell) who can make "Woody Allen jokes" really work, this is not just a funny movie, this is also a tragic movie, exploring the same idea from both perspectives.
Set up in a frame, with four dinner companions discussing how a story can be interpreted from either a tragic view of life or a comedic one, the film intercuts between these two versions of the basic theme, with the same lead actress and different supporting casts.
The story is set in sumptuous apartments, amidst musical and tony parties, and theatrical people. It's fun to be -- for a few hours -- in the company of these people working on their lives. (Unfortunately for the box office, however, there are no killings, sexual body parts, or teenagers on screen in the film.)
Radha Mitchell (who plays Melinda ... and Melinda) is quite wonderful in this film, playing two very different versions of the same woman. She looks great, resembling a young Jessica Lange. And she carries her characters' very off-putting behavior in an attractive way.
It's a funny thing about jokes and comedians: If you tell a certain kind of joke once, it's original. If you have someone else tell your jokes the second time, it seems deja vu. But if you get to tell the same kind of jokes all the time (like Bob Hope, and Jay Leno, and Roger Dangerfield) or use the same actor as your muse and representative in several films (like Truffaut and Leaud), you get to be a legend. I'm hoping we see more collaborations between Will Ferrell and Woody Allen. It could burnish the legend.
It's time to resurrect the popularity of Woody Allen films.
I wanted to make some nice comments about TAXI, because I enjoyed watching it, and I think it got some bad reviews when it came out. It was funny, spirited, good-humored. harmless, enjoyable.
The trouble is, when I tried to write about it, I could hardly remember a thing that happened: there were some good looking bad guys (actually three very good looking bad girls); one scene where the best looking, baddest girl feels up the heroine; and Queen Latifah. That's it -- just about all I remember. I saw the DVD only a couple days ago, and could not remember even how it ended until I started talking about it.
Queen Latifah, though, is a great presence. Not just here, but in a whole bunch of films. More about that later.
Bottom line: Taxi, forgettable, but fun!