Monday, February 28, 2005

Our Story So Far

Well, boys and girls, yesterday's exciting adventure left Baslow resolved to undertake a Major Life Change in order to Get Much Healthier. Here is a report on his efforts so far:

a) Baslow took a long walk, camera in hand, around his neigborhood;
b) Baslow received much encouragement (and, so far, no ridicule) from Web well-wishers.(He is not certain whether the preceding link will work for people who are not registered users --- but try it and see);
c) Baslow had his son haul out the aerobic step platform while the family was gathered in the living room to watch the Oscars and spent twenty minutes slowly (anaerobically) stepping on and off the platform. His knees hurt a few times, causing him to stop for about half a minute here and there but he regards this as a good start;
d) Baslow made sure to go to bed by 11 PM (before most of the major Oscar winners were announced) in order to get seven hours of sleep by six A.M.;
e) Baslow awoke at six AM, did his back exercises, briefly checked his email, had a breakfast of microwaved frozen fruit (unsweetened), multigrain flakes, and skim milk, initiated his BalanceLog food diary on his PC and synced it to his Handspring Visor; performed his bathroom rituals, dressed, and headed for the health club by 7:30 AM.
f) Baslow arrived at the health club at 8:30 and drew quizzical stares from members of the staff who'd thought he had died, since it had been so long since they'd last seen him. He changed into a fetching outfit of gym shorts, tee shirt, gym socks and training shoes and headed for the elliptical exercisers;
g) He managed to maintain an average of 60 RPM for 28 minutes, until the cooldown period. The workout summary on the LifeCycle indicated that he'd consumed 490 calories and covered 2.6 miles during his session. He showered and headed to work;
h) At about 10:30 he had a bowl of fruit, fresh cantaloupe, strawberries, pineapple chunks, and grapes. He also had his first (and, he hopes, only) cup of caffeine for the day;
i) His blood sugar level at about noon was 126ml/dL;
j) For lunch, at 12:30 PM, he had a salad, a cup of skim milk, 12 ounces of water, and a whole-wheat roll with half a pat of butter (an indulgence, he knows). The salad had greens, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, tomato, mixed chickpeas and kidney beans, some roasted vegetables in a balsamic vinaigrette, and a bit of white bean salad;
k) He forgot to use the stairs rather than the elevator getting back to his office.

"Grab Your Camera and Start Walking"

I posted the current picture of me at my most obese on at about the same time as I composed the previous entry "Weighty Matters". Someone sent me a list of sensible suggestions, including "Grab your camera and start walking". So I did. This tour of my neighborhood, just before and during dusk, was the result.

Goose 07

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Weighty Matters

Weighing 300 pounds
Originally uploaded by baslow.
So begins the public humiliation/exhibitionism diet. Seeing the scale hit 300 lbs. (136.08 kg, 23.43 stone) is the latest wakeup call. I have to change the way I eat and I have to excercise regularly. I've tried these things before and enjoyed moderate success but I've always gained the weight back (and then some) over time. Perhaps if I invite the whole world to egg me on I will succeed in taking the weight off and keeping it off.

Note, 3/2/05: I seem to have perpetrated a miscalculation. 300 pounds is 21.43 stone.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"The Assyrians May Have Been a SCREAM"

Last night the assembled multitude that is the Baslow family attended a lecture on comedy by the estimable Julie Halston presented at the T.Schreiber Studio. The lecture was entertaining, educational, and a very valuable experience for aspiring performers. Among the things we learned:
a) The Assyrians could very well have been a very funny people but we will never know. They left their pots for us to study but not their comedy;
b) The Greeks knew a lot about what makes things funny. Aristotle was a Greek. therefore, Aristotle knew a lot about what makes things funny;
c) Jews are funny. We know this by making a list of funny people and noting how many Jews are on the list;
d) Joan Crawford was funny (but not, as far as we can ascertain, Jewish) -- we are just not sure how intentionally funny she was;
e) Rosalind Russell exhibited a mastery of the kind of intelligent and intelligible fast talk that made Thirties comedy fly;
f) Intelligent and intelligible comic fast talk has almost disappeared from the face of the earth. One of the few consistent contemporary authors of such dialogue is Charles Busch.
g) Standup comedy is a talent apart. Masterful, multi-talented stars of Broadway have expressed to Julie their envy of her comedian's ability to get the kinds of laughs she gets;
h) You can't teach anyone to be funny but you can teach them to be funnier;
i) Julie Halston is smart about being funny.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Snowy President's Day Morning

It started snowing last night and seems to have continued through to the morning. We all slept late and when Bev got up she immediately set to work making waffles. Ruth was up a little later and planted herself at the kitchen table to do a crossword puzzle. I prowled around taking pictures. We awakened Joel when the waffles were ready, gathered in the kitchen and had a boisterous (although somehow also cozy) breakfast. We all pitched in with the crossword puzzle and failed to compliment Bev adequately for the the delicious waffles.

We are ever more conscious that our time living together as a family is drawing to a close. I think that consciousness heightens our appreciation of the times we get to simply hang out with each other.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Music Theory

Music Theory 04
Originally uploaded by baslow.
On a cold February morning Ruth worked on her Music Theory homework.

A sequence of photos documenting thie epic event can be found here.

You can even view the whole thing as a slideshow, if you want.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ruth's Grand Slam

Yesterday we received word that Ruth had been accepted into both The High School of American Studies at Lehman College and into Bard High School Early College . Her scores in the SSHAT were high enough to have gotten her into Stuyvesant High School, had she listed it as her first choice (rather than Lehman).

There was a second night of celebration in the Baslow household last night. We are very proud of our Ruth.

Now she has to decide which school she actually wants to attend.

You go, girl!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ruth was accepted at LaGuardia High School!

Ruth - LaGuardia Acceptance Letter
Originally uploaded by baslow.
We are very proud of our girl! There was much excitement in the Baslow household last night. Calls of congratulations came in every few minutes. Ruth has applied to several other high schools so we will wait for their responses before Ruth makes her final decision. This is, in any case, wonderful news and a terrific affirmation. This is one talented girl we have here.

Here is the website of LaGuardia High School.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Harvard vs. Joel

I accompanied my son down to The Harvard Club Saturday morning for his college interview with the venerable and esteemed institution represented by that establishment.

We had not given much thought to Harvard when reviewing college possibilities. It seemed to be a larger place than Joel really wanted to attend and, furthermore, too steeped in tradition and too closely tied to "Establishment" values to be a good fit with Joel's personality.

We were, however, encouraged to reconsider our first instincts and to be more open-minded about Harvard by a recent graduate who called as part of a telephone sweep of high-SAT-scoring high school seniors. She told Bev, who took the call, that she had found Harvard to be a much different place than she had expected from what she'd heard about it. So Joel ended up applying to Harvard with, however, very little expectation that anything would come of it.

An interview appointment did come of it, though, and we found ourselves getting up earlier than usual Saturday morning to make it to the meeting at 10 AM. Joel has been getting less nervous, more assured, as he has weathered his college interviews. He approached this one with little of the trepidation attendant upon his first interview, with Brown, a couple of weeks ago. The fact that he doesn't have fervent hopes of getting into Harvard eased his mind.

Up until the time we walked up to the front door it hadn't occurred to me that we were going to be visiting the Harvard Club. All we had was an address and I hadn't thought about it much. Entering the place I had the impression of entering another era.

I am old enough (and bourgeois enough) to have been reared to have an immediate, almost Pavlovian, reaction of deference in the presence of old-style displays of wealth and power. I offer in evidence Exhibit A, an early photograph of me in "perfect little gentleman" mode. Joel, as far as I can tell, has no trace of such deference, much to his credit. The Harvard Club, built over a hundred years ago, seems very much an expression of wealth and power. I was cowed. Joel was not.

Although we only considered this later we were not dressed up to code. We were both wearing jeans. Joel was weaing Army-surplus boots. It was apparent to me that other kids who had shown up for interviews had given more consideration to their wardrobes. I saw ties, dresses, shined shoes. Joel was oblivious.

Everyone who spoke to us was unfailingly nice and pleasant. I detected no condescension or distance from anyone in the building. It wasn't the people, it was the architecture and the decor that made me feel as if I had to walk on eggshells.

I waited for Joel in a room that reminded me of the "Gentlemen's Clubs" I'd seen in period movies. After about forty minutes Joel emerged from his interview with two alumni and we headed out the building. I waited until we were half a block away before I asked him how it had gone.

He had done pretty well, he thought. He was relaxed, even cracked a few jokes. He was surprised, though, that they hadn't asked him why he wanted to go to Harvard; every other school interview had included that question. It was understandable that his interviewers had not heard of Bard High School Early College but they seemed not even to have heard of Bard! When they had asked him about BHSEC he told them about the college-level seminars he had taken, citing a class in Latin American History for which he had written a paper about Liberation Theology from the 1960's to the 1990's. This didn't seem to register with them, either. From Joel's description of their reaction I wonder if they knew what he was talking about. At another point in the interview they needed Joel to explain to them his references to John Cage's 4'33" (a subject, by the way, about which Joel can be very funny) and then to explain to them who John Cage was. Joel was surprised. I was surprised.

"Joel, did these people tell you what they do?" I asked.

"Yeah, they gave me their cards. They're investment bankers." Joel answered.

We can't judge Harvard simply by these two people, of course. In the event that Joel is accepted we will visit the campus, talk to any students and faculty we can find, do our research. It is clear to me, though, that whatever impression of Joel Harvard has garnered from this interview it did not enhance Joel's opinion of Harvard.

I'm sort of surprised.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Julie Halston Speaks!

Jim Caruso's Cast Party features a long conversation with Julie Halston. She now speaks of herself as, gulp, "a woman of a certain age". The discussion covers her time with Charles Busch's "Theater in Limbo", her stint in Gypsy, her roles in "Hairspray", her television appearances in "Sex and the City", and her various Broadway acquaintances. She assures us that there is "more to come". There damned well better be.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Gem of the Ocean

Gem of the Ocean
Originally uploaded by baslow.
Friday night the family went to see "Gem of the Ocean" by August Wilson. It was a remarkable play, mixing down-to-earth dialogue with magical historical ritual. It touched on topics such as allegiance and betrayal, being in touch with your history versus being ignorant of or alienated from it, and the handing down of values and traditions from one generation to another. It was frequently funny and often poignant. The performances were, each and every one, marvelous. Unfortunately, recent weather dealt the play a financial setback from which it could not recover and it closed on Sunday.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Secret History of the Credit Card

This website, about the Frontline program, "Secret History of the Credit Card" is a great resource. You can watch the entire show online, read a related New York Times article, and read some very useful supplementary material that will provide you with practical tips on managing your credit.

We're On The Money

The Big Penny - Study
Originally uploaded by baslow.
Tom Otterness here depicts the people at the top, sitting atop the Big, Big Penny which can be seen on Broadway and 91st St. until March.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Marriage of Real Estate and Money

Tom Otterness' sculpture is on display on Broadway until March. This cheerful couple can be found around Broadway and 91st St.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Mr. Baslow's Neighborhood

Inwood, New York, the place that Baslow calls home, figures prominently in this report from "Marketplace", a business and economics show from Public Radio International. It is official: Baslow lives in a "cheaper area of real estate".