fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Burt Shavitz had bees (and a related business). James Tate was a poet. Ernie Maresca was a songwriter, notable for "Runaround Sue" and "The Wanderer." Omar Sharif and Roger Rees were actors.

Thing I Want to Make: I just discovered these toy animals made from sock yarn. They’re knitted in a tube and tied like balloon animals, which is just such a cool concept.

I also want to make these crocheted toys, which are done with hexagons and pentagons pieced together. The stegosaurus and the giraffe are particularly cute.

Of course, I should probably finish the three sweaters and two afghans I have in progress first. Come to think of it, make that four afghans. Or maybe five. Um, yes, I have a short attention span and a lack of time to spend playing with yarn. (I did get some stuff done at knitting group on Sunday, but I spent much of the weekend napping, reading the newspaper, doing a few chores, and did I mention napping?)

Reasons to Retire, Part 9753: The things that are frustrating are often things other than work itself. Today’s top annoyance has to do with telecommunications infrastructure, otherwise known as our internet being deadly slow. How bad? It just took me an hour and 17 minutes to get into my corporate website for long enough to enter my time in my timesheet, a task that normally takes about 6 minutes (and really should not take more than 2).

And don’t get me started on our VOIP phones. I am an old person who believes one should not ever have to reboot one’s telephone.

Weather Whine: We are in the midst of the annual block of 90/90 days (i.e. 90 degrees Fahrenheit, 90% humidity). I have, of course, set the air conditioning to stun, but it is still annoying.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Jean Redpath was a Scottish folk singer, who frequently sang on Prairie Home Companion. Sandy Wilson wrote the musical, The Boy Friend Andrew Kay was a leader in the early computer industry with his company, Kaypro.

Of course, the big name was Joan Rivers. I saw her guest hosting on The Tonight Show in the early 1980’s on a trip to L.A. with a friend. For a good look at her life and career, I recommend the documentary, Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, which also has segments on Fanny Brice, Molly Picon, Sophie Tucker, Gilda Radner, and Wendy Wasserstein.

Tunnel Book Workshop: I did a weekend workshop at The Art League and produced my first tunnel book. Most of Saturday was making the cover and general planning for the interior, while Sunday involved putting the interior together. The overall concept is sort of like a pop-up book and sort of like a diorama. I went with a futuristic, space travel theme. Mostly because I am me. It was a fun class, though I was a little irritated with the instructor’s political commentary while we worked on things we didn’t need her help with. One of the reasons I do stuff like this is for the opportunity to actually finish something, so the overall experience was satisfying. I still need to take photographs, but that means clearing out some of the space in my house with better lighting, so it is not happening soon. I should also mention that I have ideas for at least two more tunnel books – one involving baseball and one involving shoes.

The Big Maze: I went with a couple of friends to the National Building Museum to do The Big Maze, which was this year’s summer installation there. It was pretty cool, though not as cool as last year’s miniature golf. We solved it reasonably quickly and went through a second time, before going up to the second floor to photograph it from above. Afterwards, we looked at a few exhibits and had dinner at the Hill Country Barbecue pop-up outside the museum. Overall, that made for a pretty entertaining evening.

By the way, one of my friends drove. And we discovered that the area near the museum has the most confusing parking meter signs on the planet. Let’s just say there was a lot of ambiguity about whether you had to pay after 6:30 p.m.

Rolling Down to Old Maui: Then I flew to Maui for a few days. This was a good use of a United RPU (a type of upgrade certificate). The second leg, from SFO to OGG, got delayed a couple of hours for a mechanical issue. It’s annoying, but I do want them to have a fully functioning navigation system, especially when flying over the ocean. The other annoyance was that google maps had omitted a critical step in the directions to my hotel, but I figured things out.

My primary sightseeing goal was Haleakala National Park. The drive to the summit was slow and twisty, but interesting. (I did not attempt to do it for sunrise.) I was feeling the altitude a bit, so I did just a couple of short hikes, including part of the Shifting Sands Trail. The actual summit had an interesting view of the Maui Space Surveillance Complex, too. There was another lookout point with a lot of amazing silversword plants. I am a big fan of the national parks and this was a good example of why.

My other sightseeing mostly involved wandering around Lahaina. You can buy a brochure that details a walking tour, with various historic plaques along the way. The Baldwin House Museum was not particularly interesting, but the Wo Hing Temple was more interesting. The Lahaina Heritage Museum was the highlight of the actual sites, with a lot of information on local history. Lahaina is portrayed as a whaler’s port, but the whaling industry lasted only about 40 years there. It’s still a pretty cool town.

By the way, there are two gelato places in Lahaina. The lilikoi (passion fruit) gelato I had at Ono Gelato was better than the coconut gelato at Hawaii Gelato. Neither was particularly outstanding.

Overall, it was a pretty relaxing long weekend. There was even an internationally configured 757 on the way back, with lie flat seats. Unfortunately, that was a late afternoon leg and the red-eye from LAX home was a crappy domestic plane. The really annoying part of that, though, was the 2 guys in the row in front of me, who spent the whole night whining loudly about the lack of entertainment on the plane and what were they going to do for all those hours and why had they paid $21,000 for this trip to have this one leg in a plane like this and so on.


The Happiest Place on Earth: I got back on Tuesday morning and left on Wednesday for a business trip to Orange County. The trip wasn’t too bad, overall, but I learned that IAH apparently no longer has any sort of wifi (i.e. not even pay wifi). And Avis gave me a Chevy Captiva, which is a full-size SUV, and, hence, a pain to park. It was also really difficult for me to reach the ticket thingie on the hotel parking lot because I was about a full arm length above it.

My Birthday: The meeting I’d traveled for was on my birthday. So the company bought me birthday dinner (at a Mexican restaurant near Disneyland). When I came back to the hotel, Marriott had left me a small bottle of champagne and two chocolate covered strawberries! Loyalty does have its rewards.

Rose Valley House Concert: I came home on Friday and then drove up to Philadelphia on Saturday to go to a storytelling house concert at the home of Megan Hicks and Jack Abgott. They were, as always, gracious hosts. The two tellers were Granny Sue, who I’d met before, and Tommy Pryor, who I hadn’t. Granny Sue sang a couple of ballads and told a mix of stories – an excellent variant on "The Walking Catfish," a ghost story, and "Rindercella." Tommy read a couple of pieces from his book, I Hate the Dallas Cowboys and told a ghost story. Overall, It was a lovely evening and I’m glad to hear they are planning more house concerts.

LimmudFest Baltimore: I stayed up in the Philly area Saturday night and drove down to Baltimore on Sunday, for LimmudFest, a Jewish learning event. I had the usual dilemma of wanting to be in multiple places at once. The best sessions I went to were one on genealogy and one on Jewish-themed Broadway musicals of the 1960’s. For example, I had completely forgotten about the existence of The Zulu and the Zayda and I’d certainly never heard any of the music from it. There was only one session I was very disappointed with, largely because the presenter didn’t stick to any given topic, much less the one the session was advertised as addressing.

Whew! No wonder I haven’t had time to write anything for the past couple of weeks.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
This will be brief, as I am thoroughly swamped between work and a few projects right now.

Celebrity Death Watch: Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi was pretty much the founder of new age Judaism. Edouard Shevardnadze was a Soviet foreign minister and became the president of Georgia, a role he continued in through much of the 1990’s.

Long Weekend: I actually stayed in town for the Fourth of July weekend. Admittedly, that is mostly because I had been away the weekend before and I’m leaving on another vacation next weekend. I had all sorts of grand plans for catching up on household odds and ends. I got a few things done, but mostly I read and caught up on sleep. The catch is that I screwed up my normal sleep cycle in the process, so I am now more exhausted than I might otherwise be.

Sprang: On Sunday, I drove to Alexandria to take a class at the Art League on sprang. This is a fiber technique I had vaguely heard of before, but really had no idea what it entails. It turns out to be more related to weaving than to other things, though it involves only a warp and no weft. You pretty much make the loom yourself, using a picture frame, dowels, strings, barbecue skewers, velcro, and twist ties. It was difficult to get started (possibly because, unlike the two other women in the class, I have no weaving experience), but once I did (with lots of help from the instructor) it was pretty straightforward and enjoyable. I ended up with a small drawstring bag. And, of course, I bought the gear for doing more of it, though Lord only knows will find the time.

I also managed to make a crucial wrong turn when trying to take what should have been a shorter route home. This will not surprise anybody who is familiar with my sense of direction, but I will still blame Virginia road signage.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I’ll apologize up front for the length of this, but I have lots of things to catch up on. As I have said before, if you have more than two interests in life, you are doomed.

Celebrity Death Watch: Reubin Askew was a progressive governor of Florida, back in the days when such a thing was possible. Fred Phelps headed the Westboro Baptist Church, known for anti-gay bigotry. James R. Schlesinger held a number of government positions throughout his career, most notably as CIA director and as Secretary of Defense (and, later, Secretary of Energy.) After his government career, he was chairman of the board of Mitre. From my personal standpoint, his most notable position was as chair of the Position, Navigation and Timing board (which oversees GPS) and I have drafted at least a few white papers dealing with his recommendations.

Gene Feist founded the Roundabout Theatre Company, which has produced many notable performances, particularly revivals of musicals. David Brenner was a Canadian comedian. And Mitch Leigh wrote Man of La Mancha. His musical failures include Home Sweet Homer. He also wrote the Sara Lee jingle. Nobody doesn’t like Mitch Leigh. (Whose birth name was, by the way, Irwin Michnick, but that scans even worse.)

Non-celebrity Obituary: Kevin Brooks passed away last week. He was a storyteller who had a Ph.D. from MIT (via the Media lab) and worked at Motorola. I only met him briefly,, but I saw his dedication to storytelling and to Laura Packer, his widow. He was a bright, creative, and kind man and his loss will be sorely felt in both Boston and Kansas City.

Loveland: Loveland is Ann Randolph’s one-woman (plus an off-stage male voice) show, currently at Arena Stage. She plays Frannie Potts, whose talent is facial gesturing to sounds. Frannie is on a plane trip from California to her home town in Ohio and the story is a mixture of incidents on the plane with flashbacks involving Frannie’s relationship with her mother. This was billed as a comedy and it did have some funny moments. Unfortunately, most of the humor was a lot cruder than I’d prefer and I suspect thinner-skinned people would find a lot of the show remarkably offensive. I am sure Randolph knows this and is doing it deliberately. Or, at least, I hope anybody who would include a bit in which someone plays the harmonium to nursing home residents while singing, "listen to the drone, it will help you die," is being shocking intentionally. (I will admit I laughed at that bit. Then I went home and took three consecutive showers.) I didn’t stay for Randolph’s brief writing workshop after the show because her material was too far from anything I’d ever want to do.

House of Blue Leaves: I saw tickets on Goldstar for a production by the Providence Players of House of Blue Leaves, a play I remembered enjoying the previous time I saw it. They did a good job, with notable performances by Adam Downs as Artie and (especially) by Jayne Victor as Bunny. The play is a bit dated in some ways, but it is still an interesting dark comedy. I’m uncomfortable with the treatment of mental illness in it, but I recognize that one is supposed to be uncomfortable with that.

Chavurah Movie and Dinner Night: My chavurah had an outing to the Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival. We saw a movie called Under the Same Sun, which I will write about as part of a movie wrap-up in a day or so. Afterwards we had dinner at Noodles and Company, which isn’t really the most congenial atmosphere for mingling and conversation, though I do like their Indonesian peanut noodle sauté (which I get with tofu).

MIT Summer Intern Reception: The annual reception for MIT summer interns who are interested in the blend of technology and policy is always interesting. Unfortunately, none of this year’s crop of interns was interested in space, so I don’t think I was very helpful to them. There were a couple who expressed an interest in energy, but the overwhelming majority this year were interested in health care. That’s not surprising, but it is disappointing. Still, there was a lot of intelligent conversation (including some with fellow alumni) so was worth going to.

Corcoran Tour and Reception: The MIT Club of Washington had a reception at the Corcoran Gallery and a tour of the collection. The reception was quite lush, with things like smoked salmon and chocolate truffles. Interestingly, they serve only white wine to minimize risk of damage to the artwork. The museum highlights tour was excellent. Our docent was both informative and entertaining. My favorite piece was a sort of pastiche of Van Gogh painted by Robert Colescott. That probably says more about my tastes (dark humor and modernism) than it does about the collection, which is heavy on 19th century American art.

Minor Yarn Frenzy: A friend cleared out her stash and gave me 15 pounds of yarn she didn’t want. In exchange, I gave her old towels to donate to the animal shelter she sometimes volunteers at. About half of the yarn was stuff I could use. The rest of the yarn included rather more novelty yarns (ribbon yarn, pompon, muppet fur, etc.) than I would do anything with, but I know other yarnoholics and most of it has been distributed to grateful crafters. I have someone to send the rest to, but need time to package it and mail it off.

Baltimore Rock Opera Society: Friday night, I went to see the Baltimore Rock Opera Society production of Grundelhammer at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria. Because it is easy (and free) to get to Old Town from my office, I had some time to shop beforehand. Shops along King Street include both a used bookstore and a yarn store, so you can imagine what happened. I also stopped at Mischa’s, because I had been running low on coffee. I am now restocked with some of Sulawesi’s finest. I also had time for dinner at Eammon’s, which has excellent fish and chips.

As for the show, it was somewhat over the top, but quite entertaining. The premise was a sort of medieval society where battle is fought with guitar riffs. The young son of the true king, Benedon, has to defeat the evil king, Lothario, who secures his power by feeding enemies to a monster (The Grundle). That way Benedon can save the kingdom (and, of course, get the girl). I’ll note the performance of Christopher Krysztifiak as Benedon, who showed a surprisingly wide range for this type of thing. This was also a complicated show technically, with elaborate puppetry (including some very amusing shadow puppets). The downside is that the scene changes took forever. Since they started almost a half hour late and the scene changes probably added up to an hour total, it made for a very late night.

Better Said Than Done – Into the Woods: I was part of a storytelling show on Saturday night. I told a story about our annual summer camp raft trip down the Delaware River. While I had told the story before, I reworked it a lot, which ate up a lot of my mental energy for a couple of weeks. One of the people I used to work on stories with used the phrase "kill your darlings" to refer to the need to cut out material that may be good but just doesn’t belong in that story. It was good advice to keep in mind and I was reasonably happy with how the story turned out. The audience reacted well, too.

I should also note that it was an excellent show, overall. It’s always interesting to me how many different ways a general theme can be interpreted and what a wide range of material and styles there are.

Old City

Dec. 28th, 2013 01:39 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
There are several companies doing free tours in Barcelona. In my experience, free walking tours are usually good because the guides want good tips. I ended up going with Runner Bean, largely because they limited the groups to reasonable sizes. My guide was an Irish woman who moved to Barcelona for her boyfriend. So she spoke good English. She was definitely entertaining as she had 2 tour participants play the roles of Wilfrid the Hairy and Charles the Bald. In addition to history and art, she pointed out interesting shops and commented on the Catalan independence movement.

I found All You Knit Is Love on my own and bought some locally dyed wool. My only other ourchase was chocolates for the office. I did drink some hot chocolate, too. Cacao Sampxa's Aztec hot chocolate was wonderful - dark and nearly as thick as chocolate pudding. It was very restorative after all that walking.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Another look at the bag revealed that it did not have the sort of flat bottom that would make it useful for groceries, so I ended up tossing it.

I did major grocery shopping yesterday, which was annoying because I had a coupon for a free 5 pound bag of flour and the check-out clerk kept insisting that a "store coupon" must be for a specific store and, not, therefore usable at Safeway. It took a while to get a manager and apply the coupon.

The weather was less of an event than predicted. But I still fell into winter domesticity mode.
I did a couple of loads of laundry and baked brownies. Today I went to knitting group, though I only worked on untangling some yarn, not any actual knitting. And I came home and baked lemon-spice tea cakes.

I am on the hook to bake bread for a potluck on Thursday. I also intend to bake pumpkin whoopie pies since that was the winner of a quest for what to do with a cream cheese frosting made with ginger liqueur. And I have plans for carrot bread, too (more of a sweet bread than a real bread).

Bazaar Day

Dec. 4th, 2013 12:42 pm
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have never really grasped the whole souvenir shopping thing. Experiences are far more valuable than things, in my opinion. Combined with my on-going efforts to declutter my life, I limit my purchases.

However, I love real markets and there is sort of a running joke about my photos of fish. So the Egyptian bazaar, aka the Spice Bazaar, was worth a look.

I also went to the Grand Bazaar, which is wonderful for its architecture and irritating for its touts. Hint: tourists probably don't want to buy socks. (Actually, I have bought socks at border crossings to get rid of non-convertible currency, but that is different.)

Me being me, I was prepared with a map to Kurcu Han Bufe, which has a yarn bazaar. There was a lot of cheap acrylic, but there was some decent wool, too. And yarn is useful for cushioning fragile things in your luggage.

Remember. When you buy yarn in another country, it's not stash, it's souvenir.

P.S. I did also buy a couple of silk scarves. So I didn't completely fail tourist 101
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Now that June is over, maybe I should write something about it. It was a relatively unbusy month, but unbusy for me just means that I didn’t go out on weeknight, other than one happy hour for a former colleague whose contract was not renewed. That should probably have been called an unhappy hour. But, anyway, much of the month was spent recovering from jetlag.

Celebrity Death Watch: Frank Lautenberg was a senator from New Jersey. Iain Banks wrote science fiction. Richard Ramirez, better known as The Night Stalker, was a serial killer. Gary David Goldberg created Family Ties and, more significantly to me, the short-lived Brooklyn Bridge. Alan Myers was the drummer for Devo. Marc Rich was pardoned by Bill Clinton for various financial crimes. The most bizarre story of June (well, in this category) was that of Bollywood actress Jiah Khan who committed suicide by hanging herself from a ceiling fan.

Crafty stuff: June 8th was International Knit in Public Day. For attending the event in a local park, I got a gift card from the sponsoring yarn store. I also made it to knitting group once and resurrected a UFO. (That’s knitter talk for an unfinished object.)

Not Quite the Beatles: I went out to dinner with a group of friends and then to see a Beatles tribute band at a free concert. I mostly enjoyed the music, but I really wish Americans would not attempt to speak in accents they haven’t mastered. I also have deeply mixed feelings about the whole concept of tribute bands.

Company: The final show in the Signature 2012-2013 season was Company . This was an excellent production of one of Sondheim’s greatest works. There is a lot that is dated in the book, of course, and I’ve never figured out how Bobby actually knows all these people. But who cares when there are so many delights in the score and such sparkling wit in the lyrics? The gimmick in this production is that the married couples were all played by actual married couples. Matthew Scott was very good as Bobby, but the real highlight was Erin Weaver as Amy, whose rendition of “Getting Married Today” stole the show. My one (very minor) disappointment was that Carolyn Cole as Marta could have enunciated better in her performance of “Another Hundred People,” which is, by the way, one of my all time favorite Sondheim songs.

Baltimore: The Red Sox were playing the Orioles, so I couldn’t resist a trip to Baltimore. I drove up a few hours before the game and walked over to the Lexington Market to have lunch at Faidley’s, a classic Baltimore experience. Lexington Market is allegedly the oldest continually operating market in the U.S. and the neighborhood is a bit sketchy (though not nearly as bad as some people make it sound). Standing up at a market table to eat well-prepared seafood is what it’s about.

Then I walked down to Camden Yards and visited Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, a pop culture museum next to the ballpark. There’s an interesting collection, largely organized by decade, but not many of the individual items are labeled. The 60’s and 70’s rooms were of the most interest to me for obvious reasons. But the real delight was the comic book collection for a different reason. See, for years, I have told people about this brief period in the early 1970’s when D.C. Comics tried to be relevant. That included things like Wonder Woman giving up her powers and studying martial arts and Lois Lane having herself changed into a black woman (via some machine). The ultimate attempt at relevance came when Green Arrow (who shared a comic book with Green Lantern) arrived home to discover his ward, Speedy, shooting up heroin. Nobody ever believes me about that. But there it was right in that display case – that classic cover with Green Arrow lamenting that his ward was an addict. I am vindicated.

As for the baseball game, the Red Sox won but it was weird. There was a highly dubious call in favor of Dustin Pedroia, for example. And, while John Lackey recovered from a slow start, Andrew Bailey nearly blew it in relief in the 9th. Still, they did win, so I was happy.

Storytelling and Minor League Game: The Workhouse Arts Center had a summer arts day event and I was part of a storytelling program at it. I thought it went well and enjoyed the other stories / tellers on the bill. A couple of friends had come along (independently of each other) and one of them stayed around afterwards to join me on a crawl through the galleries and a quick look at the museum which discusses the facility's former use as a prison. I’d like to do some research on the suffragettes who were held there when I get some time.

I took advantage of being only a few miles away to go to the Potomac Nationals game that evening. One nice thing about minor league baseball is that you can walk up at the last minute and get a seat behind home plate for 11 bucks. Of course, you still have the opportunity to pay way too much for mediocre junk food to eat during the game, but so it goes.

Colorado: The final weekend of the month featured my periodic pilgrimage to a big party given by friends in Colorado. It also ended up featuring the worst domestic travel experience of my life, which I will write about separately. But all worked out in the end – I got there and had a good time, with lots of good food and lots of good conversation. My contribution to the former was a box of chocolates from a newish place near where I live. My contribution to the latter included travel recommendations and literary recommendations. But when the talk turns to computer programming, I have nothing to say.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am slowly catching up on things. Being perpetually busy does not help.

Celebrity Death Watch: The celebrity deaths I want to note for May include Dr. Joyce Brothers (newspaper psychologist and boxing trivia maven), Andrew Greeley (Catholic priest and author), and Jean Stapleton (actress, best known as Edith Bunker). But the one that stands out the most for me is that of Billie Sol Estes. Unless you are a fan of the Chad Mitchell Trio, the name may not mean much to you, but the short version is that he was convicted of fraud for a scheme involving mortgages on non-existent fertilizer tanks. As the song goes,"“Here’s to the greatest biggest embezzler of all." (By the way, this isn’t just me. My mother made a point of mentioning his death when I called her after getting back from my vacation and we sang, "Hey Billie Billie, Hey Billie Billie Sol" together. That may be proof of a congenital basis for earworms.)

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Ralph Chatham is gone. I’m somewhat at a loss for what to say. Ralph was a storyteller and organizer / promoter of storytelling events, retired naval submarine officer, and physicist. He spent a couple of years at DARPA and worked on things like the Grand Challenge (involving autonomous vehicles) and training tools for language learning. He told Jack tales, personal stories, and literary stories. He shared my fondness for Saki and Gilbert and Sullivan and narrative poetry. I carpooled with Ralph and his widow, Margaret, to many an event and he was always full of wide-ranging conversation. His death was not a surprise as he had been diagnosed with brain cancer about a year ago, but it is still a huge loss to our community. I am honored to have called him friend.

The Yeoman of the Guard: The first weekend in May featured a trip up to Delaware to see The Ardensingers’ production of The Yeoman of the Guard. The significance of this is that I have now seen every extant Gilbert and Sullivan operetta live, which is a life list item. (The "extant" qualifier is there because of Thespis which is mostly lost, though there are sporadic attempts to recreate it.) Anyway, the production was fun. I thought Jay Anstee was good as Colonel Fairfax, but Jeffrey Grant stole the show as Wilfred Shadbolt. I also want to note Mary Punshon as Elsie Maynard. My favorite song from this show remains "A man who would woo a fair maid."

By the way, I stayed up that way (well, a bit further south) overnight and stopped in at Delaware Park for dinner and a bit of gambling. It was amazingly crowded. I’d have thought that the spread of casino gambling to Maryland would have an impact, but it didn’t appear to.

Maryland Sheep and Wool: Part of the reason for staying overnight in Delaware was to make it more direct to stop off at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival on Sunday morning. As I have probably explained before, this is the largest fiber festival in the Eastern United States and is something of a cross between a county fair and the world’s largest yarn store. I was trying to stick to just buying things I needed for a couple of specific projects but a couple of other things (e.g. a book of patterns for knitted dinosaurs) jumped into my bags. Afterwards, I stopped off at knitting group and showed off my purchases.

Washington Jewish Music Festival: I made it to two shows at this year’s WJMF. The first was Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars Klezmer Bhangra Extravaganza. This featured Deep Singh on percussion and vocalist Manu Narayan, along with the klezmer band. The mash-up of Yiddish and Indian traditions (with a hefty dose of jazz thrown in) worked amazingly well. My only complaint is that the set-up at the Jewish Community Center had nowhere to dance.

The second show was a Broadway sing-along. Joshua Morgan led things at the piano, with Bayla Whitten and Will Gartshore as song leaders. I was disappointed for two reasons. The first was that I thought Morgan did too much shtick. Shut up about how much of the audience you’ve slept with, stop the rambling stories about your horrible auditions, and let everybody enjoy singing! The other issue was some dubious choices of songs. Many of the selections were fine and obvious (e.g. "If I Were a Rich Man") but there were several that were chosen without much thought of their singability by amateurs. I found it particularly egregious to choose "Children Will Listen" as one of the Sondheim selections. "Comedy Tonight" would be a much better choice. Not that the event was a complete flop, but I’d give it a B-minus. Since the premise is one you would think would be an easy A for me, that’s a significant miss.

Ballet – The Sun Also Rises: This was the final show of my Washington Ballet season subscription. An adaptation of a Hemingway novel seemed an unlikely choice for a ballet, but it turned out to be my favorite of the season. (Well, maybe tied with Dracula.) The score (by Billy Novick) suited the story and Septime Webre’s choreography meshed with the music and atmosphere and scenery. I expected the Pamplona scene to be visually exciting (and it was, with added video). That the rest of the ballet worked as well as it did was both a surprise and a delight.

I should also note that prior to this season, I would have said I favor going to ballet programs that consist of a few one act ballets. But it has been the full-length ballets (both from the Washington Ballet and other companies) that I’ve enjoyed and the mixed repertory programs I’ve found unsatisfying. It appears that I need to rethink my strategy.

Story Swap: I know I went to a story swap. I know it was a small group, possibly because of weather. I have to admit I don’t remember anything else specific about it.

Pro Musica Hebraica: I go to this series largely to support the idea of presenting Jewish classical music. The spring concert featured the Apollo Ensemble performing Jewish baroque music from Italy and Amsterdam. If you are at all knowledgeable about the subject, you are already muttering something about Salamone de Rossi, who is pretty much considered the first major Jewish composer. There were also pieces by Marco Uccellini, Giacobo Basevi Cervetto and M. Mani, as well as by non-Jewish composers (notably Lidarti and Handel) touching on Jewish themes. Many of the pieces were rescued from fragments in the Etz Chayim library of Amsterdam and much of the appeal of the evening (and of the series) was getting to hear rarities. I continue to question what (if anything) makes much of this work identifiably Jewish, but I suspect the answer is similar to the one Howard Schwartz gives regarding Jewish stories. To wit, a story is Jewish if it is told (or written) by a Jew, involves Jewish times (e.g. holidays) or places (all stories set in Jerusalem are Jewish until proven otherwise) or has some other Jewish connection. That still leaves me puzzled over Bernstein’s Mass, but so be it. Getting back to the concert at hand, I should also note that I particularly appreciate the extensive notes by Professor James Loeffler of the University of Virginia.

Vacation: And then I flew off on a trip to Singapore (with a side trip to Melaka, Malaysia), Australia (Perth for OzFest, followed by taking the Indian Pacific Railroad to Adelaide) and Hong Kong / Macau. I accomplished another life list item by drinking a Singapore Sling at the Long Bar of the Raffles Hotel. It was very pricy (SGD30 ish with the service charge) and decidedly not worth it.

Which brings me to June and other things I need to catch up about later.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Continuing the catch-up, I have not been a slacker with respect to doing things so far in March. While I have had to dedicate some time to Pesach cleaning, I have (alas) found that time largely by falling behind on household paperwork. That is not an ideal situation, but it’s a question of priorities.

Anyway, here is what I have been up to lately:

Priscilla, Queen of the Desert: As part of the United challenge I’m doing, I found a cheap way to add two airports by doing a mileage run between Philadelphia and Seattle. To make this slightly less insane, I actually spent a little time in Philadelphia. A quick bit of web searching revealed a production of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Academy of Music. It was convenient to stay at the Doubletree (right across the street) and a pleasant walk from the 30th Street Station to the hotel.

The stage show is pretty true to my faulty memory of the movie, which is both good and bad. Let’s just say that I walked out humming the costumes. There’s plenty of spectacle, if you like that sort of thing, and I can’t question the talents of the principal performers. Wade McCullom was especially impressive as Tick / Mitzi. But the score is a compilation of bad 80’s music, including “I Will Survive,” which is my second least favorite song of all time. (Before you ask, “We Will Rock You” is worse.) Overall, I understand why people who like this show like it, but it’s really not my sort of thing. (I also have to admit that I have never understood the appeal of drag shows, which probably doesn’t help.)

By the way, the major virtue of the Doubletree was location (and a reasonable price for that location). I took advantage of the location in the morning to get in a pleasant walk, including breakfast at the Dutch Eating Place in Reading Terminal Market. If you are one person, the line moves quickly. If you don’t want to wait in line, they do take-out and you can sit at the food court seating, which is just as atmospheric but provides fewer random conversations with strangers.

Mileage Run: My flights between PHL and SEA (via ORD) were a pure mileage run. That is, I never left the airport in either Chicago or Seattle. I got upgraded from PHL to ORD after I had already taken my coach seat, which was surprising. I did not get upgraded on the ORD to SEA leg, but it was a 757 so there was, at least, free entertainment and I watched Skyfall. (Again, I still need to do a movie wrap-up).

I had enough time in Seattle for dinner at Anthony’s. Wild salmon fish tacos are quite a step up from ordinary airport food. I contemplated getting a little chocolate from The Dilettante, but nothing leapt out at me as essential.

The upgrade on the SEA to ORD segment had cleared 48 hours in advance, so I got as comfortable a sleep as I might on a domestic red-eye. The long layover at ORD was a perfect opportunity to use a one-time United Club pass and I took advantage of a yogurt and (stale, alas) bagel breakfast and purely medicinal coffee, while watching The King’s Speech on my tablet. The last leg was the least comfortable as I was not upgraded and there was a rather large fellow in the seat next to mine. But it’s a short flight and I survived. After which it was a train from the airport to 30th Street, Amtrak, and the Washington Metro home to commune with the Sunday Post and collapse with exhaustion.

Yiddish Music Concert: A couple of days later, I was off to the DCJCC for 100 Years of Yiddish Theatre Music with Zalman Mlotek and Cantor Arianne Brown. When I bought the ticket, I figured this was a sure thing and I was correct. From the first moment, which featured a mash-up of “Az der Rebbe Elimelech” with “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” I was hooked. There were sing-alongs for the more familiar songs (e.g. “Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen”) and the enjoyment of listening to unfamiliar songs and English supertitles to help those who needed them. The unfamiliar material included everything from summer camp songs to an excerpt from the Yiddish version of The Pirates of Penzance. The only downside is that I was humming the WEVD theme song for the rest of the week. (I also bought a few CDs. Earworms are lurking on them.)

Greenlandic Music: I mentioned the Kennedy Center’s “Nordic Cool” series previously. One of the free Millennium stage performances was by Nanook, a band from Greenland. That sounded interesting enough and free music is, of course, low risk. I enjoyed the performance, which was pretty much standard rock music in style, but I don’t feel like I need to go out of my way to see them again in the future.

Storytelling Weekend: Since, G-d forbid I might actually spend a weekend at home, I was off to Lynchburg for the Virginia Storytelling Gathering. The drive was annoying due to traffic for the first section and idiots who don’t bother to dim their brights when there is on-coming traffic on the more rural sections. It was also challenging to find my hotel, which was just off the main road but difficult to see at night. And, of course, they hadn’t bothered to put a phone number on the confirmation email. The GPS in my tablet would have been of some use if I’d either downloaded a map of Lynchburg earlier or had a data connection. But, lacking those, it told me only that I was in Virginia. I managed to find someone in a gas station who knew where it was and discovered I’d driven back and forth past it at least six times.

The conference center for the Gathering was easier to find only because I had gotten directions at the hotel. The event included a mix of story swaps, performances, and networking. I taught my workshop on “The Serious Matter of Being Funny,” which went okay, though I may have condensed more than I needed to in order to fit the time constraints. Anyway, it was great seeing everyone who was there and to meet a few new folks.

The drive back on Sunday was easier, which was a good thing as I had the annual business meeting for my local storytelling guild. That was efficient and productive, as well as sociable. That then allowed me to commune with the Sunday Post and collapse with exhaustion. (You may detect a theme.)

A Quiet Week: Then I had a slow week. I went out one night to a reception with a friend for one of his alumni associations (followed by coffee and conversation). And I spent one night working on yarn bomb assembly. Normal people probably don’t consider a week in which they go out after work two nights to be a slow / quiet one.

More to Come: This is long enough, so my write-ups of my trip to Miami for the World Baseball Classic and some more theatre going will take another entry. And, yes, I still plan to write about movies and about dating and about some recent reading. But first I need to finish reading the Sunday Post and collapse from exhaustion.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
The Story Surge will get its own entry, but here is some general catching up.

Crafting 1: I did manage to make some hairpin lace. I am now slightly obsessed with it and engaging in a project that I cant yet talk about publicly. If you might want some of the results of it, let me know.

Crafting 2: Margaret Fisher taught an excellent freeform knit and crochet class in association with the Artisphere yarn bomb project. I ran into someone I used to work with there and it was fun to reconnect. (I have since seen her at the main yarn bomb get-together.) The interesting part was that I completely failed to recognize her out of the context of work, until she mentioned somebody else I used to work with.

Crafting 3: Looped Yarn Works was advertising that they'd do another Valentine's Day yarn bombing of Dupont Circle. I went a bit overboard and crocheted 32 hearts, strung together in various ways. That was mostly because this pattern is so easy and quick, with each heart taking me under 5 minutes to crochet. Then the weather sucked and they didn't put them up as far as I can tell.

Crafting 4: I did finish a giant orange circle (made with a doily pattern intended for thread) for the yarn bomb and am now working on knitting a rodent of unusual size.

Food Pornography 1: I went out to a Restaurant Week dinner at Lincoln with a few flyertalk friends a couple of weeks ago. I am attempting to try specialty cocktails and got a Shoemaker's Rickey, which was okay but not enough to persuade me to switch from G&Ts. The mushroom beignets were amazing. Beet salad was a bit disappointing, as there were too many dissonant flavors and not enough emphasis on the beets. Stuffed lamb chops were delicious but came out long after everyone else's third course. Fudge cake for dessert was excellent, as was the mocha custard with it, but the passion fruit gelee on the plate was too sweet. Overall, I would definitely be willing to eat there again.

food Pornography 2: I tried a Wild Ophelia Smokehouse BBQ Potato Chips chocolate bar. The 70% dark chocolate was good, but the potato chips mostly added crunch without significant smoky barbecue flavor.

Antarctic Exploration: I went to a lecture at National Geographic. David Roberts was discussing his book Alone on the Ice, about Douglas Mawson. Having read Mawson's The Home of the Blizzard, I can't say that I learned much new, but there were photos and bits of film by Frank Hurley (whose first expedition it was and who, of course, took the iconic photos from Shackleton's Endurance expedition among others.) One new thing I did learn is that Hurley's mother tried to talk Mawson out of taking him along. Anyway, I remain impressed by Mawson's strength and accomplishment, managing to return to his base safely after both his companions died and most of his supplies fell into a crevasse with the first of them. I definitely need to check out the museum exhibit on him when I am in Adelaide in May.

Mileage Running: Yes, I did another trip to add another airport (and some miles) for that United challenge. That one was to Las Vegas. I stayed overnight at the Tropicana, which is now a Doubletree and was kind of a mixed experience. The room was okay but there are shutters, not blinds, and things don't get as dark as I'd prefer. And they charge a resort fee, which is especially obnoxious since some of the things it includes (e.g. free internet) I would get free as a Hilton elite member anyway. The casino there is small and not especially modern, but that is less of an issue since it is across the street from the MGM Grand. But I may try staying downtown the next trip I take out to Vegas.

Ballet: I have a subscription to the Washington Ballet this season. Thursday night (Valentine's Day), I saw L'Amour (love, baby). This started with the world premiere of a one-act ballet based on Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Laclos (which I read many years ago as part of a class on Evil and Decadence in Literature). The music was by Vivaldi, which is suitable in period but didn't really work in tone for me. The bigger sin - and one which is not uncommon in modern ballet - was sections in which the dancers danced to no music at all. Still, the ballet was reasonably true to the plot of the novel and Jared Nelson was an expressively wicked Valmont.

That was followed (after intermission) by a short piece called Opposites Distract which was my favorite of the evening for its matching of dance to the slightly jazzy, slightly Latin-inflected scrore by Ottmar Leibert.

Finally, there was a piece called Under Covers which featured dancers performing in and around beds to a variety of covers of pop songs. I had mixed feelings about this. Part of that was that I hated the concept of three young Asian women dancing in baby doll pajamas around an older white man. (There was a bit of balance with three men dancing in the dreams of a woman, but the costuming had them in tuxedos.) And, while the dance to it was fine, the cover of "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" by Johnny Cash was the worst cover of that song I have ever heard. (I don't normally hate Johnny Cash, but this was simply awful.)

So, overall, it was a mixed night, which is about what I expect for mixed ballet programs.

Theatre:I saw Shakepeare's R&J at Signature Theatre yesterday afternoon. This is a provocative play, involving four boys at a Catholic military boarding school who act out the forbidden play late one night. When this was originally written and performed in the late 1990's, the gay aspect would have been far more shocking. Seeing two young men smooching nowadays (as they play Romeo and Juliet) is less controversial, so the issue is mostly one of their setting and their own reactions to their emerging sexuality. The whole thing is done with a fair amount of humor. At times I did find it hard to follow since I got a bit lost as to which of the secondary characters was which. (It might help if I had ever actually seen the actual Shakespeare play.) I also had some issues with the ending, which deals with the aftermath of the night. Is one night enough to make someone reject his entire background? It seems too easy, too conflict-free for Student #1 / Romeo to walk away from his regimented life.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I keep meaning to write blog posts, but then I end up being too busy actually doing things.

This week included the yarn bomb get-together on Wednesday night, at which I completely failed to remember how to make hairpin lace. I looked at a tutorial when I got home and, of course, it is amazingly easy as long as you remember the hook goes in the loop from the bottom. This week for sure.

On Thursday night, I went to see The National Ballet of Canada's production of Alice in Wonderland at The Kennedy Center. It was an interesting evening, but I'd describe it as a triumph of special effects and puppetry, rather than dance. Not that the dance was bad, but the choreography was nothing particularly memorable, while some of the effects were (e.g. the Cheshire cat being done as several puppets animated by black-clad dancers). I also thought it was a bit longer than it needed to be. And I was puzzled by the transformation into a love story between Alice and the Knave of Hearts, which seems to be done largely to allow for a lot of pas de deux.

Saturday night was storytelling. The theme this month at Better Said Than Done was "15 Minutes of Fame." There was an interesting mix of stories, ranging from attempts at stardom to bad encounters with famous people. I told my Jeopardy! story. That got lots of laughs, so I'd say it went well.

And then I did a mileage run, hitting 3 more airports for that United challenge. I flew IAD to CLE (Cleveland) to TPA (Tampa) and back via JAX (Jacksonville). I remembered that my Star Gold card gets me into Lufthansa's lounge at IAD, which was handy since I was actually there during a time it was open. (It closes from noon to 5, so is usually of little use.) I was upgraded on all three of the flights I could have been on, also. (TPA to JAX was on a SAAB 340, so has no first class to be upgraded to.) The catch came on the last leg, when the incoming flight was delayed due to a mechanical problem, leading us to be 2 1/2 hours late. Then we had a long wait for someone to come to ramp and pull us into the gate. I'd taken the whole day off but had actually intended to get caught up on some stuff at home, so I was peeved. Still, I do want them to repair the planes I'm going to be on, so I can't really complain.

I can, however, complain about the shuttle to the Hampton Inn - Tampa. Hotel shuttles don't circulate at TPA, so you need to call. Which would be fine if the front desk clerk had not put me on hold, for 27 minutes. I need to figure out who at Hilton Honors to complain to about that.

Despite such joys of travel, I actually made some future travel plans. The near term one (well, April) involves going to Portland, Maine for Sharing the Fire. This is a storytelling conference I've wanted to go to forever and, for a change, it didn't conflict with anything else. The longer term and bigger plan is a trip to Turkey. Let's just say there are very very good fares to Istanbul right now. It will be on Delta, who I don't normally fly, but I can credit the miles to Alaska Air, which is even more of a win. Oh, I also finally bought my train ticket for the Indian Pacific for my post-OzFest excursion.

So that's the basic catch-up. Now to quietly collapse with exhaustion.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I spent last weekend mileage running. Star Mega Do 4 had this challenge for bonus miles if participants fly to or through 20 different airports on United. While the miles involved are realistically not worth it, its the type of challenge that appeals to the obsessive side of my nature and I decided to go for it. I'd already had three airports in January (since I flew JFK to IAD on United after my return from Israel on El Al and I flew to/from LAX on a business trip). Last weekend was close to a pure mileage run. I flew DCA to ORD to SFO to RNO on Saturday. Things were slightly risky because it looked like the first flight might get delayed, but they went with a shorter turn around time for the late arriving plane and I actually got to Chicago slightly early. I got to Reno about midnight and was flying out (RNO to DEN to IAD) at 6 a.m., so just got a taxi to the Atlantis and killed four and a half hours at the casino, easily staying within my gambling budget). Then there was a mechanical delay with the RNO to DEN flight, leaving me with about a 2 minute connection time, but United held the connecting flight for the 15 or so of us who were on it, so it all worked out.

This weekend was focused on errands. I did a used bookstore run, selling 31 books and acquiring 15. (Part of that was because I wanted to use up some previously acquired credit.) A couple of those books were even ones I had been looking for. I also had to run over to another bookstore to drop off flyers for an upcoming event. And there were less interesting chores like grocery shopping.

Today was knitting group and we were doing a destash sale. The idea was to bring yarn (and books and notions) you no longer wanted and try to sell them to other folks there. In the course of looking for things to destash, I uncovered a baby sweater that I think my mother must have knitted and given me for finishing. (I believe that because I have no memory of having knitted it myself. And because it is pink, though not a horrible pastel pink. And I have no idea who else would have given it to me.) I brought that along and did finish it, as well as finishing crocheting an amigurumi piece. I also knitted a hexagon for the Artisphere yarn bomb, mostly because I wanted to see how a particular pattern would work. I'd brought three skeins of yarn to destash, sold 2 of them, and donated the third (lime green muppet fur) to the charity pile at a local store. I did buy one skein and a pattern book, however.

I still have a ton of things to get done, but at least I had some productive activity. Which makes up for a work week where I felt like I was spinning my wheels, largely because of a couple of long meetings.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I think I've figured out how to do these, since I've been using the same format for a few years.

Behind a cut due to length )
fauxklore: (Default)
This is intended to get me completely caught up here, a state that may last, oh, 15 minutes or so.

Frequent flyer meets business travel: I had a quick business trip to Denver a few weeks ago. I managed to arrange my flight out to be on a plane that Captain Denny Flanagan was piloting. It’s always good to be reminded that there are people working for the airlines who care about customer service. (And it was nice to chat with him before the flight.) I also used the trip as an opportunity to have dinner with friends who live out there, which is always nice. The work part was pretty intense, however.

Michael Chertoff: The former Director of Homeland Security gave a talk at an MIT-related reception I was at recently. I didn’t find anything he said particularly surprising, but I did think he completely dodged a question someone asked about the balance between security and privacy.

Domestic politics: Romney’s selection of Paul "Privatizing" Ryan as his running mate pretty much confirms my theory that the Republican Party no longer welcomes its former moderates. However, I doubt that the selection of a vice presidential candidate has much, if any, impact on who people vote for.

International politics: The first American company to open a franchise location in Libya is Cinnabon. This makes perfect sense if you think about local tastes. That is, of course, what makes it all the more surprising.

Women and the Olympics: There have been lots of stories this year about women and the Olympics. It was not until I read an article by Sally Jenkins in today’s Washington Post, however, that I learned a particularly appalling bit of history. In 1976 Margaret Thompson Murdock was the first woman shooter to make the American team. She tied with her team captain, Lanny Bassham. The rules prohibited a shoot-off, so Bassham was given the gold and Murdock the silver. To his credit, he pulled her up on the podium with him, but sheesh!

Story swap: There was a bonus story swap at Eve’s house Saturday night. We started outside around the fire pit, but moved inside when it began to rain. (The rain also prevented viewing the Perseids.) There were several travel related stories and lots of interesting conversation. This reminds me that I should someday put together a piece about places not to eat Chinese food, starting with Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. A particular highlight for me was Jake’s impassioned explanation of why donkeys might be chickens, which made his lawyer father proud of him and has the rest of us laughing hysterically.

Not laughing over traffic:: The Virginia Department of Transportation was doing their usual weekend work, otherwise known as how to screw up my drive home on the Beltway. What annoyed me the most is that the sign indicating that 3 of the 4 lanes were closed was after the exit I could have taken to avoid the mess. Of course, being Virginia, if they actually put up a useful highway sign, they would have to plant a tree immediately in front of it.

Pearl yarn: I got a notice from one of m local yarn shops that they had some of the Zealana pearl yarn, a limited edition created for the 30th anniversary of Vogue knitting. This is 50% crushed pearls, embedded in tencel, and only 500 skeins were made. Each skein is numbered and comes in a presentation box. If you think I could pass this up, you don’t know me very well. I was over there right when they opened. That was a good thing as they only had 20 skeins and I was number 18 in line. It is gorgeous and I think it was worth the 40 bucks. Not that I know what I am going to do with it. The best idea I heard from one of the other lucky purchasers was a bridal veil, but I am not exactly in need of one of those, alas.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: I’ve wanted to see this musical for some time, so took advantage of a production at Elden Street Players in Herndon. I found this very enjoyable. David Yazbek’s score suited the plot (based on the movie) well. In an earlier era, "Like Zis, Like Zat" would have gotten some radio play and "What Was a Woman to Do" would have had some life as a novelty piece. While the early set-up introducing the two con men is a bit longer than it needs to be, the book is funny, with several fairly subtle jokes. The performances were good, too, especially by Tom Flatt as Lawrence and Janette Moman as Muriel.

Travel planning, part 1: Helsinki: My annual birthday excursion this year is a long weekend in Helsinki. In the course of researching what to do, I have discovered a number of bizarre possibilities, some of them related to the city being the World Design Capital for 2012. Those include a walking map highlighting fonts on various signs (and, yes, I am enough of a geek to have downloaded the map), an exhibit titled "Flush: Design of Public Toilets," and an iron age market. There is also an event described as "urban festival brings together design and traditional Finnish rug washing piers." Even without the special events, Helsinki has some oddities, like a Hotel and Restaurant Museum. As someone who has driven out of my way to see things like the world’s largest towel (at the Cannon Towel Visitor Center in Kannapolis, North Carolina) and the water tower of the town of Joe, Montana, I expect to be in my element. (I’ve also downloaded walking tour brochures and directions to the largest yarn shop in town.)

Travel planning – part 2: Israel You may have read about the cheap fares that were available for a little while last week, due to a contractor failing to load fuel surcharges into an on-line system. Since I had already been looking at fares to Israel, I snagged a ticket. I have lots of planning yet to do, of course.

Travel planning – part 3: I also got frequent flyer tickets for Ozfest next year. This was fairly complex because I wanted to do a few things on the way to Perth and back. I’ve got one ticket (using United miles) to Singapore and back from Hong Kong. And I have another ticket (using American miles) from Singapore to Perth and Adelaide to Hong Kong. I’ll have almost a week in Singapore, which should allow me an excursion to Malaysia, too. I plan to take the Indian Pacific train from Perth to Adelaide. Finally, I will have a few days in Hong Kong, which should be enough time to eat lots of dim sum. Or maybe look for traditional Hong Kong rug washing piers.
fauxklore: (Default)
The meme runs like this:
Comment to this post and say you want a set, and I will pick seven things I would like you to talk about. They might make sense or be totally random. Then post that list, with your commentary, to your journal. Other people can get lists from you, and the meme merrily perpetuates itself.

[livejournal.com profile] cellio gave me Musical perception (you have a singleton LJ interest there), a place not on Earth you would like to travel to, nalbinding, decadent food, MIT, a superpower, a favorite board game.

Musical Perception: Actually, I have a broad interest in perception. I mentioned musical perception, specifically, for two reasons. One is that I went to many of the lectures at the Music and the Brain series that the Library of Congress had a couple of years ago. The other is that music is a particularly complicated art form.

The type of questions that intrigue me can be talked about in other contexts. For example, why do we like what we like? I can just as easily ask why Caravaggio's paintings blow me away as I can ask why I was drawn to Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" the first time I heard it. As another example, I've pondered the question of what defines Jewish music. I can ask that question just as well of, say, Jewish food.

But the most fundamental question that intrigues me has to do with my inner experience. I can never know that somebody else actually hears the same things I do when listening to a piece of music. By the same token, I can't know that somebody else's experience of a given color is the same as mine. Because music has so many aspects (pitch, rhythm, timbre, etc.) it seems like a particularly fruitful area to explore.

A Place Not on Earth I'd Like to Travel To: I expect that the question was intended to bring up space exploration, but I think that the deep sea would be as intriguing. I've been on a couple of tourist submarine rides and both were awesome.

Nalbinding: This is one of the most obscure crafts I pursue. I usually describe it as what the Vikings did because they didn't know how to knit, but the same technique is used in a lot of places, including Papua New Guinea. It is, essentially, a detached buttonhole stitch, worked with a single needle and short lengths of yarn or thread. I learned it because I saw a class being offered at the Montpelier Fall Fiber Festival a few years ago and couldn't resist learning something I knew nothing about.

Decadent food: There is nothing more decadent than perfectly ripe fresh berries, but there is a lot to be said for good chocolate. Good chocolate is the major argument in favor of the continued existence of Belgium.

MIT: I chose MIT for a simple reason. I intended to major in chemistry, but I also knew there was a good chance I would change my mind. I figured that anything I did would still be in the math / science arena and MIT is universally strong in those domains while the other school I seriously considered (Yale) is less so. The Boston area was also a big draw. (I was very attracted to Dartmouth, but worried about the lack of Jewish community in the local area, for example.)

It was a good choice for me. For one thing, I did change my mind about what I wanted to do and ended up majoring in mechanical engineering. For another, I think I did a good job of taking advantage of the cultural environment in Boston. I'd also say that I fit well into the campus environment. What I appreciate most about MIT is that people there are passionate about what they're doing (which isn't necessarily what they're studying). From what I've seen via the MIT Club of Washington and encounters with a handful of current students, that's still true.

A Superpower: My first thought was, "but, wait, isn't the U.S. the only superpower left?" Then I realized what the probable intent of the topic was. I think the superpower I would most like to have would be the ability to instantly understand and communicate in any language.

A Favorite Board Game: While I love all the modern games, there is still something about backgammon that tops anything else for me. Part of it is memories of many hours spent playing it with particular people, some of whom are, alas, no longer with us. But mostly it's the simple fact that it is a game of skill when I win and a game of luck when I lose.
fauxklore: (theatre)
Most people I know are trying to go out more. I am trying to go out less. The last cuple of weeks prove that I have not succeeded at that. Let's start with the weekend before this past one...

The Secret Garden: On that Friday night, I went to see the St. Marks Players perform The Secret Garden. The score of this musical is absolutely lovely and I know it well enough to have stopped wondering if the book would make any sense to someone who didn't know the source material. Overall, they did a good job, with particularly strong performances by Alex Stone as Dickon and Emma Kelly as Mary Lennox. A few of the other performers had trouble being heard over the orchestra. That is at least partially the fault of the sound system, but must be frustrating to people who don't know the show and want to hear the lyrics. But, all in all, this was well worth seeing and I was humming bits and pieces of the score for a few days afterwards.

Killing Women: This was a new play, produced by Pinky Swear Productions, which I saw Saturday afternoon at Spooky Action Theatre. The concept, involving sexism in the murder for hire business, was promising. To quote a cartoon I once saw, "it's not easy being a wife, a mother, and a hit man for the mob." There were also cute little nursery rhyme parodies between scenes, e.g. "The Lying Cheating Husband" to the tune of "The Itsy Bitsy Spider." But, overall, the play lost its focus along the way and had a very weak ending.

God of Carnage: Sunday brought me to my beloved Signature Theatre and their production of Yasmina Reza's dark comedy about two couples whose discussion of a playground incident between their sons deteriorates into an illustration of the savagery lurking beneath the surface. I will admit that I am not sure what to think. The play is extremely funny, but it is also decidedly over the top. I like to think that we're better than this so it is uncomfortable watching the nursery antics of supposed serious grown-ups. I should note that the performances were all excellent, with all four actors seeiming very natural. I will particularly call out Paul Morella as Alan, the self-absorbed lawyer who takes every cell phone call and refers to his own son as a savage. I guess the bottom line is that this is entertaining but disturbing.

Roberto Rodriguez and the Cuban Jewish All Stars: When I saw this listing on the calendar for the Washington Jewish Musical Festival, I couldn't resist. (For anyone who doesn't know, my grandparents met and married in Havana.) The mixture of klezmer and Latin music was, indeed, right up my alley. It would be impossible to listen to this music sitting still and about the only thing that could have made for a better evening was more room to dance. All that energy on a Monday night, no less. Wow!

Friendship Heights Village Storytelling: On Wednesday night, Jane Dorfman filled in for Stephen Hollen, who had a family emergency. She told mostly Celtic stories and did so with her usual charm and grace. It was worth the schlep to Maryland.

Stitch and Pitch: Friday night was Stitch and Pitch at Nationals Park. This is a promotion to get women to come to baseball games by encouraging them to bring their needlework. I don't really need that incentive, but the ticket price was good. The Nats managed to lose to the Orioles, but the game was close enough to be exciting. And I did get through several rows of my second attempt at the socks.

Flora the Red Menace Saturday afternoon brought Flora the Red Menace at 1st Stage in Tyson's. I was glad I had left myself extra time to get there, as the theatre was fairly hard to find. (It is hidden among gyms and auto body shops.) I really wanted to like this show, which was Kander and Ebb's first. Alas, I found much of the score uninspiring and I was annoyed at the failure to provide a happy ending. That may be more realistic, but I still like shows with a nice uplifting final love song.

Story Swap: Saturday night was the monthly story swap. In this case, it was at Marc's. The lovely weather meant we could sit in a circle outside. Bill made the mistake of bringing up werewolves, prompting me to tell "Uncle Morrie and the Werewolves." This may not have the worst puns I've inflicted on people, but it must come close.

Knitting: Finally, Sunday brought knitting group. I finished the toe increases on the socks and worked a little more on Frankensweater. There was also the usual banter.

Everything Else: There has been much time filled with work, errands, and life in general. There has not, alas, been enough sleep, but I am trying to get caught up on that, too.
fauxklore: (Default)
Working (A Musical) After the science festival, I walked over to Dupont Circle to see Keegan Theatre's production of Working (A Musical). I'll admit to some skepticism about how the Studs Terkel book would transfer to the stage. While I am not normally a big fan of either Stephen Schwartz or of revues (and this is sort of a revue, consisting of vignettes by a number of people, talking and singing about their jobs), I was charmed by the sincerity and strong character development. While none of the songs was particularly memorable, I found the score pleasant enough. I also want to note the choreography by Kurt Boehm, especially for the song "Millwork."

Knitting Group: Sunday afternoon was knitting group. I showed off the completed amigurumi uterus (see previous entry) and worked on Frankensweater. As usual, a good time was had by all.

Shopping: I needed to run over to REI after knitting group, because the rain jacket I bought in 1996 had finally breathed its last. They didn't have exactly the same one, but I found something acceptable enough. While I was over at Fairfax Corner, there was an art show going on and I bought a photograph of peppers for my kitchen. I also stopped in at Comfort One and bought a pair of cork shoes. All in all, that made a surprisingly productive shopping trip.

The Tannahill Weavers: Finally, I drove to darkest Maryland (okay, just Rockville) to see The Tannahill Weavers perform at St. Mark's. As always, they put on a good show. The entire audience was singing along (when appropriate) and tapping fingers or toes. It was a great example of the energizing power of music.
fauxklore: (Default)
amigurumiuterus2 by fauxklore
amigurumiuterus2, a photo by fauxklore on Flickr.

Amigurumi uterus. I crocheted this to give to a male politician who needs one of his own, so he won't feel obliged to try to control mine. The consensus of my knitting group is that Ken Cuccinelli (attorney general of Virginia) is the right person to receive this.

fauxklore: (baseball)
Celebrity Death Watch: I have three celebrity deaths to mention. The least famous is Dora Saint, better known as Miss Read. She wrote several novels of English village life. I admit that I haven’t read any of them, but the descriptions I’ve seen suggest I would like them and I’ve made a note to check for them the next time I’m at the library.

Second is Jonathan Frid, who played the vampire Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows. This was the only soap opera I ever really got into. One does have to wonder if they might stake him just to be safe.

The most publicized death was that of Dick Clark. Some of my friends may recall that I was on a current events trivia game show he hosted in 1991. Those things go by in a blur but the two things I remember saying about him at the time were: 1) he was much much more personable than Alex Trebek and 2) he wore about 2 inches of pancake makeup. (By the way, I came in second and won $1400, having missed a question about Woodrow Wilson’s second wife’s maiden name. Or maybe it was his first wife. I would not have known either at the time.)

Cool Washington Moment: The space shuttle Discovery was ferried to the Udvar-Hazy Center (the branch of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum out by Dulles Airport) on Tuesday morning on the back of a 747. They did a fly-over around the National Mall and up and down the Potomac. I (and everyone else in my office) watched the passes up and down the Potomac. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me so I can’t add to the plethora of photos on-line. You will have to trust my word that it was awesome.

Miami Baseball Trip: Having been to a game at every major league ballpark requires maintenance. It was easy enough to fly down to Miami to catch a game at the new Marlin’s ballpark. The actual travel down had all the routine annoyances – the inevitable hour delay for my American Airlines flight (though I did miraculously end up with an empty middle seat next to me), the bland (but cheap) rental car complete with poor ergonomics, and an Alamo clerk who was entirely unfamiliar with the local area and gave me directions that led to it taking me 30 minutes to get to my hotel 10 minutes away. A good night’s sleep at an above average Hampton Inn refreshed me and I set out to do some sightseeing.

I’d been to Fort Lauderdale a couple of times and changed planes at MIA several times, but had never actually gone to Miami. The obvious thing to do was to walk around the Art Deco District in Miami Beach and I had downloaded this walking tour from National Geographic, which proved to provide a good overview. My taste in architecture is more subdued, but I do think the style suits the climate and I understand why people like it. And, of course, I am all in favor of historic preservation. It was a bit windy and drizzly, which also cut down on crowds. The rain ended by the time I had lunch and I walked a bit more along the beach before leaving the area.

That left me time for a bit of random driving around downtown Miami before going over to Marlins Park. I prepaid for parking, which made it reasonably simple. I’ll have to rate it in the same group as the better modern ballparks, probably a bit below PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The retractable roof and retractable wall of windows with views of downtown are nice features. The home run sculpture thingy is horrible and wonderful in equal measures but qualifies as local character. I also liked the Bobblehead Museum except for them having Yaz in the top row where he was hard to see. There was a “taste of Miami” food court, though I am still unsure about the idea of ceviche at a ballpark. They get downgraded for having cheerleaders and for a lack of fan enthusiasm, which extended to about half the crowd not even bothering to get up for the seventh inning stretch. Admittedly, the team did not give them a lot to be enthusiastic about, with Carlos Zambrano walking three batters in the first and Heath Bell blowing a 4-1 lead in the ninth, aided and abetted by Logan Morrison’s fumbling of a fly ball. The only Marlins player who I was favorably impressed by was Emilio Bonifacio. Not that I was really all that impressed by the Astros, either. This was a game that fell into the “I don’t really care who wins” category, allowing me to focus on the quality of the play, which was barely up to major league level.

I also want to comment briefly on people watching, which is always entertaining. There was a woman a few seats away from me who appeared to be a poster child for bulimia. She was quite thin but ate three entire pizzas and some sort of chicken nuggets and fries. It was fascinating to watch in a bizarre and disturbing way. Another woman, sitting more or less in front of me, spent the entire game alternating between reapplying makeup and what I can only describe as attempting to arrange her boobs inside the very short dress she was wearing. I can only imagine what the (male) partners of these two women were thinking.

By the way, my flight home was oversold and I thought about volunteering to get bumped. But I had gotten up at 4 a.m. to get to the airport and getting home for a nap was a higher priority than a $300 voucher. I consider this a sure sign that I am getting old.

Knitting Activism: I did not actually take that nap (except for a brief one on the plane) because there was knitting group to go to. I finished the body of the amigurumi uterus and crocheted one fallopian tube, inserting a pipe cleaner for shaping. I figure there is about another hour or so of work until it is done. The idea is, of course, to send it to a male politician on the grounds that if he had a womb of his own, he might stay out of mine.

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