I'm just about ready for my trip to London. I leave Wednesday evening for six days in the greatest city in Europe (my biased opinion, but hey, it's my blog). I'm working on a major network server upgrade for my job, and the upgrade requires some of us to travel to the overseas offices to do the work. I'm only going to London; one guy from New York is going to Paris, Rome, and Frankfurt. If I'd thought about it, I would have requested Paris and tried to schedule the upgrade so that it was the same weekend as the end of the Tour de France. But I'm happy with London. I know the city, I speak the language, and the people in that office are friendly and fun to hang out with. I get to fly business class and stay in the same fancy hotel I stayed in the last time I was in London, the St. Martin's Lane Hotel. You can check out the entire Ian Schrager group of hotels on their web site. Aside from its location in Leicester Square and its comfortable rooms, the hotel features the best hotel bar I've ever seen. The Light Bar is (or at least was in 2000) a hip hangout for models, celebrities, and hotel guests. Basically it was a swanky club that would never let me in, except that they have to allow hotel guests. So I got to drink and drool over attractive models and the occasional celebrity partygoer (John McEnroe walked right by me several times). I hope it's still as popular as it was then. If not, at least the drinks are good and my firm is buying.
Liz and I saw Finding Nemo on July 4, in the small multiplex at 86th and 3rd. The movie was wonderful: great for little kids who will like the story and the colorful fish, but entertaining for adults who will appreciate the celebrity voices and more sophisticated gags. Liz pointed out that the lobsters who walk through one scene speak with New England accents. I missed that one, but there are many other such jokes. I liked it even more than I enjoyed Monsters, Inc.. It's another triumph for Pixar and Disney, which makes me wonder how Disney's bottom line would look without the Pixar films on the ledger. IIRC, the last few Disney-produced animated movies have not been so successful, but everything Pixar does is cinematic gold.
Last night, we attended the New York Philharmonic's free concert in Central Park. I think the threat of rain kept people away, because we arrived in the park around 6:30 and found a good spot underneath a tree about 150 yards from the stage. Usually showing up that late means you're forced to squeeze in between early arrivers or find a spot far away from the stage, where you can't hear anything. Also, the audience listened to the announcements from the stage to please keep quiet so that we could all enjoy the music. The first time we went to one of the free concerts we were far from the stage and surrounded by noisy groups, so we hardly heard any music. This time, every note was clear, and the music was fantastic. It was an all-Russian composers program: Borodin, Tchaikovsky, and Moussorgsky. The Tchaikovsky violin concerto was exceptional: the soloist, playing on a 1715 Stradivarius, had a clear tone and total command of this difficult work, and the orchestra was excellent as always. I know every note of this concerto, as it's one of my favorites, and this performance was energetic and compelling. I don't know about anyone else, but I was hanging on every note. The second half of the concert was Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, another of my all-time favorites. Listening to this piece brought back memories from my childhood of my brother and I trying to play it on the piano and studying the orchestral score, comparing it with the piano original. For the record, my brother had more success at the piano than I did, to my eternal chagrin. What I love about this work is that it's so chordal: since it's originally for piano, it's full of great chords for brass, winds, and even strings in some places. There are huge, booming chorales for brass, quiet harmonies for winds, lumbering marches for strings. For about a half hour, I was 14 again, sitting in front of the stereo in my room with the score, discovering the finer points of orchestration.