First Impressions: New Mac Pro

Note: I know the Mac Pro isn’t really new, but it’s new to me, hence the title of this article…

Yesterday, I took delivery of a new Mac Pro. Replacing a Mac mini, about two and a half years old, this is only the second time that I’ve opted for Apple’s top-of-the-line computer. Back in 2006, I bought the first Mac Pro, and kept it for more than two years. I especially liked that computer because it could hold four hard drives and two optical drives. (You can read my posts from back in 2006, tagged Mac Pro.)

But, today, with Thunderbolt and USB 3, there’s only a small advantage to having internal storage. With an SSD for startup disk, and all my files that aren’t documents – my music and video files – on external disks, I don’t need the speed of internal hard drives.

The Mac pro is a small but hefty device. As always, Apple’s packaging is up to the standards of their design. The compact box contains the computer, and a rolled-up power cord, and a few bits of paper: there’s a brief quick-start document, and some guarantee papers. And, you get black Apple stickers with the Mac Pro:

2014-06-19 14.16.00.jpg

The Mac Pro is small and shiny, and it is indeed made to sit on a desk. You could certainly put it under a desk if you want it out of the way, but, for now, I’ll leave mine visible.

It’s got lots of connectors – four USB 3 ports; six Thunderbolt ports; one HDMI; and two Ethernet. It also has the standard audio input and output ports. And they’re very easy to access, as long as you keep the computer on your desk.

2014-06-19 16.56.04.jpg

When running, the Mac Pro is essentially silent. It makes about the same amount of noise as my Mac mini, which is a very quiet computer, but what impresses me is that, even when the Mac Pro is working hard with all eight cores, the fan noise is barely noticeable. Compare that to the Mac mini, which sounds like an exhaust fan when it’s working hard.

The Mac Pro is also quite cool; it gives off less heat in normal operations than my Apple 27″ Thunderbolt display. As I write this, I placed my hand on the top of the Mac Pro, and it doesn’t feel warm at all; when converting some videos with Handbrake, it’s a bit warm, but less than I expected, and still not much more than my display.

2014-06-19 17.04.34.jpg

Unfortunately, my first experiences with the Mac Pro were not very positive. When I first set it up, after running the Migration Assistant, to copy data from a bootable backup of my Mac mini, it didn’t see my Thunderbolt peripherals. Booting was very slow, and, after unplugging the Thunderbolt cables, re-plugging them, and restarting, it finally saw them. But then booting was continually slow; at one time, it took up to seven minutes. When it did boot fast, it took a tad longer than my Mac mini; about 15 seconds compared to ten. But it would boot slowly at random, so I called Apple.

The Apple support person was very nice, and very apologetic. He said that if a brand new computer – and a Mac Pro – does something like this, they don’t bother to troubleshoot it, but exchange it right away. While I was on hold, I did try a few things – booting without the Thunderbolt cables connected – and, while it did boot quickly at times, it wasn’t consistent.

I also noticed that, overnight, while it was sleeping, it rebooted. There wasn’t a power cut in my house, and I saw a number of Thunderbolt-related messages in Console. So my guess is that there’s something wrong with the Thunderbolt interface on my Mac Pro, and I’ll be getting a new one. (I’ve seen a number of web discussions about issues like this.)

Since it took twelve days from my order until delivery, Apple said they’d expedite the replacement as much as possible. I’ll continue using this as much as I can, but if it becomes unstable, I’ll revert back to my Mac mini.

Aside from the boot and Thunderbolt problem, this is a sleek, attractive, and fast computer. The main reason I want a faster Mac is to digitize my DVD and Blu-Ray collection (or much of it); the Mac mini just can’t handle that. It does more than I need, but what convinced me to go for the Mac Pro instead of the iMac is the fact that I have a Thunderbolt display already.

So, it’s not cheap, but the Mac Pro is one heck of a Mac, and one that will last me several years. I’m looking forward to getting one that works perfectly.

Why Apple Won’t Be Selling High-Resolution Music Files Any Time Soon

I’ve written about high-resolution music here several times, notably pointing out that it’s a marketing ploy to get you to spend more on music. Not everyone agrees, and I’m fine with that. One bastion of high-resolution apologetics is the Computer Audiophile website.[1] Chris Connaker, who founded the site, wrote an interesting article yesterday, explaining why he thinks High Resolution Audio Isn’t Coming Soon From Apple.

Chris makes the following points:

One. Wireless Carriers Don’t Want High Resolution Downloads (Or Lossless CD Quality Streaming)

Two. Record Labels Want Control And Revenue Again

Three. Beats

Four. Apple Has The High Resolution Content Only Because It Can

Five. Apple Isn’t A Specs Company

Six. Not Enough Apple Customers Care

Seven. iTunes Doesn’t Support Native Automatic Sample Rate Switching

I agree with much of his argument, though I think he’s mistaken about some of the points. I’m not convinced that wireless carriers have a problem with this. First, I can’t see a lot of people streaming high-resolution audio; any supposed gain in quality requires expensive equipment, and the ambient noise surrounding listeners when they’re mobile would eliminate any such quality. On the contrary, mobile carriers would love to sell users phone plans with higher data, at a price. Lower-priced plans have limited data, and to get unlimited data, you need to pay a pretty penny. (There are some exceptions, but all signs point to mobile carriers eliminating unlimited data plans.)

The iTunes issue is moot; Apple could add such a feature if they wanted to. And the point about Apple having high-resolution content is merely for their back end; they have this content to create Mastered for iTunes files, but they only have a very small amount of high-resolution content. They’ve only been requesting high-resolution files for a couple of years, and there are decades worth of music where high-resolution masters don’t even exist.

One point Chris misses is the fact that Apple announced a new audio library at the WWDC, which can use an iOS device’s Lightning connector to output music at 48 kHz; that’s not the high resolution audiophiles want; they want at least 96 kHz. If Apple’s developed the software and hardware to meet the specs of 48 kHz – that’s the sample rate for DVDs and Blu-Ray discs – they’re not going to suddenly increase that; they clearly thought about that limit.

But the biggest point is number six: Not enough Apple customers care. I’d go further: not enough music listeners care. High-resolution music looks good on paper, but any potential gains in quality are imperceptible, or require very expensive stereo systems. So it’s pretty much a non-starter to expect Apple to go this route.

On the other hand, I can see Apple selling music in lossless formats in the foreseeable future, as I recently discussed. Even though most users can’t tell the difference between 256 kbps AAC files and lossless, there’s a perception of having something inferior among enough listeners that it might make sense for Apple to sell lossless files as a premium product.

But all that is moot for now. Following Apple’s acquisition of Beats, I think the next place to look is streaming. Apple will surely be focusing their music efforts in that area as soon as the Beats deal is signed.

  1. I mean no disrespect; I think Computer Audiophile is an excellent website, and I recommend it highly.

The Two Key Tips for Being a Successful Freelance Writer

I’ve been a freelancer for nearly 20 years, and I consider myself successful. I make a good living from my activity, and my clients — magazines, websites, and companies — keep coming back to me and offering me work. Over the years, I have realized that there are two essential tips that a freelancer needs to know. If you get these right, you, too, have a good chance of having a successful freelance career.

Working as a freelancer is not for everyone. While the flexibility of working at home is something I would never trade – I’ve done my share of suit-and-tie corporate work – it does require a certain amount of discipline. I’ve seen freelancers fail because they simply couldn’t develop a routine that allowed them to get work done. Sure, when it’s a nice day, you might want to go outside, take a walk, laze around in the sun, because, after all, no one’s looking over your shoulder. And there are days when you can do this; if you done your work, or if you can do it later, it’s great to take some time for yourself. When you consider how much time you save by not commuting, you can use part of your day to enjoy yourself. But the work comes first.

Freelancing also requires a certain amount of financial discipline. You need to keep your books; you either pay an accountant to do it for you, or you learn to do it yourself. Personally, I have a combination of both: I do all the day-to-day accounting, and I have an accountant who takes care of checking my books and filing forms.

And then there’s the marketing. I won’t discuss that here, but that’s obviously the biggest hurdle that any freelancer faces. If you can’t find a market to get work, then you will not succeed.

I said there were two tips that could make you a successful freelance writer. I learned these very early in my career, and being aware of them has, I think, helped me get a steady stream of work. One still needs to be a good writer, of course, and have good ideas, but even good writers can get tripped up by not respecting these points.

Tip 1: never miss a deadline. And I mean never. Ever. I missed a deadline once, because of a health problem that was serious enough to prevent me from working. But that was the only time I missed a deadline; really. In my line of work — writing — missing a deadline can be problematic for people downstream. If an editor is planning on a story for a magazine, and a writer is late, it makes the editor’s life very difficult. They have to find someone else to write your story, or find a different story, because they’ve earmarked a certain number of pages for your article. Even for websites, which try and schedule new content at a certain frequency, not having the expected articles will pose problems.

For many years, I worked as a translator. Deadlines were often very tight, and things such as product launches, or the printing of annual reports, depended on having translated texts on time. If you miss a deadline, the whole process gets delayed, and people will simply not come back to you and offer you more work.

Sometimes you may accidentally miss a deadline, and it’s not your fault. There are times when you send an article to an editor and they never receive it. For this reason, if you send your work to a client or editor, and don’t hear back from them within 24 hours, email them again to make sure that they’ve received it. The onus is on the freelancer to meet the deadline; don’t depend on editors to remind you.

Tip 2: don’t argue with your editor. I’ve heard stories from editors about writers who argue about certain words, certain phrases, even punctuation that editors have changed. For me, the editor is my client and my boss, and I trust him or her to do what’s necessary to edit my work for their publication. When an editor sends an article back to me after editing it, I read through it carefully, making sure that he or she did not introduce any errors. But I don’t spend my time changing words, revising sentences, or reorganizing anything. The editor knows what they want; once I send them the work, it belongs to them.

While these two tips are about being a freelance writer, you can apply them to a lot of freelance jobs. The one about not missing a deadline is the first commandment of freelancing. As for the second one, as the saying goes, “the customer is always right.” I’ve had my share of pain-in-the-ass clients, and I’ve dropped some clients who were too annoying, or who made my work look bad by introducing errors after I’d signed off. If you’re a freelance writer, you’ll find plenty of clients who want to change your work. As long as it’s not wrong, let them.

Being a freelancer can be very rewarding. The “free” in freelancer is, if you’re the right kind of person, the best way to work. These two tips could help make sure that you keep getting work.

Shakespeare, from Theater to Cinema: Interview with John Wyver, Producer of the RSC’s Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon Productions

john-wyver-200x200.jpgJohn Wyver is the producer of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon series, which broadcasts live performances of plays from Stratford-Upon-Avon to cinemas in the UK, and around the world. I met with John in Stratford-Upon-Avon on the day of the first camera rehearsal of Henry IV part 2, to discuss the process of preparing and carrying out this type of production.

This is part one of a two-part interview. We discuss how the RSC began approaching cinema broadcasts, and the difference between being in the theatre and being in a cinema. In part two, to be posted soon, we look at the technical aspects of producing a play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for the cinema.

The broadcast of Henry IV part 2 takes place on June 18; you can find out more on the RSC website.

Kirk McElhearn: The first RSC Live cinema broadcast was Richard II with David Tennant. This was quite an event.

John Wyver: It was unquestionably an event, with David, and that contributed to the success of the cinema broadcast as well.

KM: Did they get David Tennant for this production planning it to be a cinema broadcast?

JW: No, as a principle, they program and cast for the theatre. Period. There’s no sense in which the possibility or the likelihood of a cinema [broadcast] influences the casting, or the productions, or the director, or whatever.

…as a principle, they program and cast for the theatre. Period.

KM: But they were certainly thinking about broadcasting this production before they started planning it…

JW: I have done a number of performance films for television, and did a production for Channel 4 of Gregory Doran’s Macbeth with Antony Sher back in 2000. It had been a very successful stage run, it had gone to the United States and Japan, it came to London, and Gregory Doran and Antony Sher wanted a filmed version of it. I’d done a couple of similar things before, and we started talking about how you might do something different with a staged piece that you wanted to make a screen version of.

We took the production, right after the end of the run, to the Roundhouse, in North London, which had been restored, but it hadn’t been reopened yet, so it was empty. We used the big round room and spaces underneath to shoot the whole thing, across two weeks, with a single camera, almost like a documentary film version of it.

That worked very well, Channel 4 were very pleased, it got some great reviews, and we thought we had a different way of doing stage productions on screen.

Greg and I wanted to do other things, so we tried to do his production of Othello, and his production of Antony and Cleopatra, in that way, but the broadcasters simply weren’t interested. In the early 2000s, there was a sense that theatre wasn’t of interest to television; it was too intractable to do. But, then, in 2008, Greg was planning Hamlet [with David Tennant], and we took that to the BBC initially, and we got a very lukewarm response.

The Metropolitan Opera had just starting to do live broadcasts [of operas to cinemas], so we thought, why don’t we try to apply that to the theatre. We spent a lot of the summer of 2008 planning that, but we had to get the individual permissions and agreements of all the cast, and one of the cast didn’t want to do it, and that made it fall apart. [That production of] Hamlet became a big success and we did, the following year, make it as a television film, so that worked out okay.

While Greg was very interested in exploring this, there wasn’t great enthusiasm within the company as a whole.

KM: The actors?

JW: Probably within the executive.

KM: Wouldn’t the actors want the additional exposure?

JW: Most, but it’s another demand on their time, it’s not completely straightforward for them, it’s another set of stresses and strains, but most of them are very pleased, particularly now. But then, it was a very new form and people were unsure whether it would work on the screen and whether the stage performances would look too big on the screen.

…it was a very new form and people were unsure whether it would work on the screen and whether the stage performances would look too big on the screen.

When Greg was appointed artistic director [in September 2012], he felt it was very important that the RSC go into this area. At that point, which was the end of 2012, David Tennant was already cast, Richard II was already in place, it was going to be Greg’s first production as artistic director, so it felt like the most sensible thing to try and begin these broadcasts with that.

Read more

Classical Box Set Bargain: Murray Perahia: The First 40 Years

512YSdnr2fL._SL500_AA300_.jpgI reviewed this set a couple of years ago; 73 CDs of Murray Perahia’s piano recordings, which, at the time, cost €115, was a great bargain back then. But the price has plummeted, and you can get it now on for about $55, and on Amazon UK for £84 (less from third-party sellers).

This is a no-brainer. Even if you only want Perahia’s stunning Mozart piano concerto set, or his late-career Bach recordings, you can’t beat this price. This set is full of great stuff, and is an attractive box set as well, with an informative book, and a handful of DVDs.

In Praise of the Dvorak Keyboard Layout


Hi, I’m Kirk, and I use the Dvorak keyboard layout. This has nothing to do with composer Antonín Dvo?ák, best known for his New World Symphony (and less well known for his string quartets, a wonderful collection of which is this one by the Emerson String Quartet). No, the Dvorak keyboard layout was created and patented in 1936 by Dr. August Dvorak and his brother-in-law, Dr. William Dealey, in order to make typing easier.

The Dvorak keyboard layout was originally designed to correct anomalies present in the QWERTY layout. For example, on a QWERTY keyboard, the E key, the one you type the most in English, requires that you stretch a finger. (This, and other differences, assume that you touch type.) Also, certain letter combinations can be hard to type on a QWERTY keyboard. Look where the letters THE are found. You type this word often, and the three letters are in very different locations. And with four vowels on the top row, you have to stretch your fingers much more often.

The Dvorak keyboard layout, as you can see in the image above, groups all the vowels and most common consonants on the middle row, where your fingers don’t need to stretch. 70% of letters you type are on this row, compared to only 32% on a QWERTY keyboard. The Dvorak layout also has all the vowels on the left, so you can often alternate typing, right-left-right-left, as you type consonant-vowel.

I started using the Dvorak layout in 1996, when I became a freelance translator. Realizing that touch-typing would be an asset, I proceeded to no longer look at my keyboard, but look at a printout of the Dvorak layout pasted on the bottom of my monitor. Since my keyboard has never had keys in the Dvorak layout, even looking at the keys wouldn’t help. It took a few months to be able to touch type, and it’s now second nature. I can type about 80 words per minute, and sometimes I can go faster than that.

While the Dvorak layout is available by default on OS X, and on Windows, this wasn’t always the case. In the early days, I had to add a keyboard layout to my Macs, and in some cases, this wasn’t easy. And now, the real difficulty I have is using an iOS device, where the Dvorak keyboard is not available. (Yes, I could jailbreak my iPhone and iPad, but I don’t want to do that.) Having fat thumbs, and using an unfamiliar keyboard layout makes it difficult to type on an iPhone, but I compensate by dictating as much as I can.


I’d very much like to see the Dvorak keyboard layout as on option on iOS devices. (You can use it with an external keyboard; this has been possible since iOS 4.) While it may not be obvious, I think that the ability to alternate from side to side, consonant to vowel, might lead to more efficient typing. I would at least like to be able to try to find out if that’s the case.

Some Thoughts on Streaming Music

Streaming music encourages detachment from the music; ownership encourages investment. When you flit around from one album, one song to another, you experience the music as mere entertainment. But when you own music, you’ve invested money in your purchase, which causes you to invest time in it as well. Instead of seeing the music is ephemeral, it enters your life, and you listen to it to see how it can change your life.

You may not like the music you’ve bought enough for it to become important to you; you may never listen to it more than a couple of times. But you may like it well enough that you listen to it frequently, and it may become a touchstone in your life. You can refer back to it easily: either by flipping through your shelves of CDs, or LPs, or by scrolling through your iTunes library, looking at what you listen to most, or what you’ve listened to recently, or just looking at what’s there, allowing each album, each artist’s name, each album cover, to elicit memories. With streaming, you don’t have that history of what you listened to, what you’ve invested your time in. So an album you listen to today may be forgotten in a year’s time.

In the end, it all comes down to how important music is to your life. If music, for you, it’s just a soundtrack, just background music, then streaming music will provide you the variety that you might want. But if music is important to you, if it contains an essential life essence for you, then you need to own the music you listen to in order to get to its marrow.

Audio Accessory Review: IsoAcoustics Desktop Speaker Stands

41dZ2CEYcrL._SX425_.jpgIn an article yesterday explaining how to position desktop speakers, I mentioned speaker stands from IsoAcoustics (, Amazon UK). These stands are practical and offer good insulation from vibrations. If you have full-sized speakers on your desk, I’d recommend getting stands like this.

You can set them to two heights: 3 inches and 8 inches. There are metal tubes that slip into rubber-lined holes in the top and bottom section of the stands, which provide a solid grip. The rubber also insulates vibrations, freeing up your sound a bit, removing any gassy boom you may have caused by vibrations.

2014-05-29 14.42.30.jpgThe stands come in three sizes: 130mm, 150 mm, or 200mm wide. There’s also a 230x430mm designed for studio monitors placed on their sides, or larger, heavier speakers anywhere (probably much larger than you’d use on your desk). Get the ones that fit your speakers best. You could get the smallest ones for most speakers, but they might be a bit less stable if you bump into your desk. (I got the 150mm size.)

Here’s a quick picture of one of the stands under a Focal Chorus 705v speaker on my desk. (I’d have taken a picture of the entire desk, showing both speakers, but my desk is too messy right now…) As you can see, it provides good support, and leaves space below the speaker as well. Theoretically, I could alleviate some of the mess on my desk by putting things there.

I do notice a slight difference in the sound with these stands; there is a bit more midrange, a bit less bass, and the soundstage is a bit more open than without them. Before I got the stands, I had the speakers on books, which do insulate well, but not enough. Don’t expect any major change in sound, though if you have speakers sitting flat on your desk, you will notice more of a difference than I did.

One thing to note is that you can tilt the stands a bit, using inserts that come with them. This allows you to tilt them back so the tweeters are pointing more directly at your ears. However, this requires that the speakers be of the appropriate height; since mine are fairly large, the tweeters are at exactly the right height with the stands set to 8 inches.

All in all, this is a good way to get speakers at the right height on a desk. If you want to get better sound, read my tips on how to position desktop speakers, and get a pair of these stands.

DVD/Blu-Ray Review: Richard II, by the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

1398854848976904_resize_265_265.jpgThe Royal Shakespeare Company has released the first disc in its Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon series, which features live broadcasts to cinemas of plays from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and subsequent releases on DVD and Blu-Ray. This release is Richard II, staring David Tennant. (, Amazon UK, iTunes Store) I attended a production of this play shortly before it was filmed, and you can read my review. I liked it, but was not overwhelmed by it; I felt David Tennant was excellent, but some of the company was weak, and the overall design didn’t really grab me.

But it’s worth discussing the quality of the production on the Blu-Ray (and DVD), which, to me, could hardly be better. I’ve become a regular at the RSC; I live a few miles from Stratford-Upon-Avon, and it’s my “local.” Since I moved to the UK just over a year ago, I travelled there often, then moved nearby, in part to have this wonderful theater a few minutes away.

Being in the two RSC theater’s is magical. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, where Richard II was filmed, has about 1,000 seats; the Swan Theatre, next-door, about 460 seats. Both have thrust stages, where the audience sits on three sides of the stage, in a horseshoe shape. Wherever you are in either theater, you’re very close to the stage. I’ve sat in many different locations for a dozen or so productions, and I’ve never been disappointed. Whether in the front row, or in the back, you get a great view.

From the first scene of the play on disc, it’s obvious that they’ve got it right. I immediately had the feeling of being there, in the theater, in the play. While Richard II starts with a shot from above the stage, which I wasn’t able to see in person, the rest of the filming recalled what it was like to be there, in person.

The camera work is excellent, the lighting perfect for both stage and film, and there is a judicious alternation of close-ups and long shots, letting you focus on faces – better than in the theater – in certain scenes, and giving you the big picture for others. The editing was tasteful; no quick cuts, as often seen in classical music videos, and the overall editing gives a great sense of the entire stage. And one part of the play benefited greatly from the film. When Richard II is in prison, he’s in a cell beneath the stage. A large part of the stage opens up to show him, and sitting where I was in the stalls, I couldn’t see inside. The boom camera, however, can show him there, giving me a bit more than what I got live.

The only criticism I would have was the sound. At times, actors weren’t miked perfectly, notably in the early scene when Henry Bolingbroke and Thomas Mowbray were kneeling, facing the king, with their backs to the front of the stage. While one of the bonus features on the disc mentioned that the actors were wearing microphones, it didn’t sound like it, at least not at this part.

The disc contains a number of bonus features. Some are videos, most of which were available on the RSC web site, but there’s a director’s commentary, with director Gregory Doran and producer John Wyver, discussing the play and the production. I only listened to a few minutes of it, but I’ll be checking that out in the future.

This is an auspicious beginning to a wonderful project. Artistic director Gregory Doran has begun a cycle of all of Shakespeare’s plays, without repeat, over the next six years, and if the Live from Stratford-Upon-Avon project is successful, we’ll have a wonderful complete set of filmed productions of the plays after that time. This will rival the only existing complete set of the plays, that produced by the BBC in the 1970s and 1980s.

If you like Shakespeare, grab this. If you just like David Tennant – and there were enough people who felt that way to make this production a sellout in both Stratford-Upon-Avon and London – get it anyway. It’s not the best Shakespeare play, but the quality of the filming makes up for any weaknesses in the production.

17 People (West Wing)

If you’re a West Wing fan, 17 People – episode 18 of season 2 – is arguably one of the best episodes. In fact, it starts a run of several great episodes at the end of the season, culminating with the Emmy-award winning Two Cathedrals, that ends the season (with a cliffhanger; but it’s obvious now what Bartlett’s answer will be at the end of that episode).

Jon White has created a brilliant analysis of this episode on his website Seventeen People. As he says, it’s the “best non-Dire-Straits-featuring episode.” (That’s a reference to Two Cathedrals, which features Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms over the last 5 minutes.) White shows just how much Aaron Sorkin could pack into a 42-minute West Wing episode: “It is, simultaneously: a story of intrigue, of persuasion, of drama, of comedy, and of romance.”

Seventeen People is about Toby Ziegler finding something out; something only known by sixteen other people. White fortunately does not say what Toby finds out, though if you’ve seen the West Wing, you know what it is. His analysis of this episode shows just how essential each and every line of the script is to the story, how President Bartlett has to juggle serious crises in addition to dealing with Toby. And how what Toby learns sets the stage for the next couple of years of his presidency.

If you’re a West Wing fan, you’ll find this analysis a brilliant break-down of the episode. If you’re not, read the introduction, and go buy The Complete West Wing on DVD (, Amazon UK). It’s $125 in the US, and only £48 in the UK. (Or, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can watch them free in HD; the HD versions are only available from Amazon Prime and iTunes, there’s no Blu-Ray.) Seriously, if there’s one TV series I’d take to a desert island, it would be The West Wing. If you haven’t watched it yet, you should.

Speaking of Two Cathedrals, here’s the last 5 1/2 minutes, the part with the Dire Straits music. I can’t watch this without tearing up, but also without appreciating the astounding direction by Thomas Schlamme, and the brilliant editing that tells this story. Watch the fluidity of the movement as Bartlett heads out of the Oval Office to his motorcade. Watch all the tiny details; the cigarette in the church, the shots in the press conference before Bartlett gets there. Watch Martin Sheen’s face and body throughout this segment, showing what makes him such a great actor, and how he totally inhabited this character. And the moment when Lea McGarry says “Watch this.”

If you’ve not yet seen the West Wing up to this point, it would be better to not to watch this, because there is a major spoiler…