fauxklore: (travel)
I flew to Albuquerque on Friday. Because it was a fairly last minute trip and ABQ is not exactly a well-served airport, I ended up buying a one-way flight on American via DFW and using miles for a return on United. Mostly, this reminded me how much I hate American. To be fair, I don't have status with them and I am unwilling to pay for an allegedly better seat (another $42 for a middle seat a few rows closer to the front? really?) so it isn't a fair comparison. But their seats are less comfortable than being crammed into a typical third world bus. I did manage to get an aisle seat (only middles available when I booked) but even there, the customer service was crappy. The first time I asked, the gate agent told me to ask again in a half hour. United actually knows how to keep lists and add people to them.

I also hate that they have about 37 boarding groups before they get to group 1. (Okay, group 1 is actually just the sixth group to board. But, still.)

We got to DFW about 20 minutes early and then had to wait 40 minutes for our gate. Fortunately, I had plenty of time. And my connecting flight was in the same terminal. So it wasn't too stressful to get to the onward flight.

I stayed at the Hyatt Place near ABQ because 1) the friends I was carpooling with the next day were staying there and 2) it was cheap. I'd been there before and it is, er, adequate. My major complaint is their lack of thermostats with numbers on them. I know exactly what temperature I like a room to be. With a slider that just says "warmer" or "colder," I can't get it right. And, yes, I am a pea princess when it comes to this.
But they are friendly, their airport shuttle works, and did I mention that it was cheap?

The reason for the trip was Groot's memorial service. This was at Bosque del Apache, a National wildlife refuge outside Socorro. It's sad that it takes funerals and such to see various old friends, but I am glad I was able to make it. And I was, frankly, inspired by hearing how many lives he had touched. There isn't a much better thing to say about someone's life than knowing they made a difference to others.

There was also music and good food (awesome posole) and a herd of cranes flew over, which was most appropriate. (By the way, I googled what the collective noun for cranes is. And, really, herd seems way too unpoetic, but who am I to argue?)

Later, back in Albuquerque, we went to dinner at Scalo. The food was good, but I really shouldn't have gotten the insalata caprese to start, as that made the meal just too much food. The veal picatta was very tender, but I had to ignore most of the pasta that came with it. I did still get dessert - a hazelnut semifreddo. And they have good coffee, which is something all too rare at restaurants.

Flying home on United was much more comfortable. Though the flight from ABQ arrived at some extreme corner of terminal B, from which it was more than half a mile to the train that connects things to the real airport. And getting home from IAD was annoying as I could see an Orange Line train across the platform at East Falls Church when the Silver Line train arrived there. And I could see it close its doors and depart about 6 seconds before the Silver Line train doors opened to let me out. That meant standing out in the cold for 18 minutes for the next train.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Richard Hatch was an actor in Battlestar Galactica among other things. Sir Peter Mansfield won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2003. Mile Ilitch owned much of Detroit or at least its sports teams (the Red Wings and the Tigers) and a mediocre pizza company. Damian was a British pop singer. Al Jarreau was a seven-time Grammy winner for his jazz and R&B music. Raymond Smullyan was a mathematician and wrote books about logic puzzles, e.g. What is the Name of This Book? and This Book Needs No Title.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Howard Margol was a major force in Lithuanian-Jewish genealogy and responsible for a lot of the resources I use regularly. He was helpful in answering questions and teaching others how to do their research. May his memory be for a blessing.

Storytelling – The Grapevine: I made it to darkest Maryland (actually, come to think of it, Busboys and Poets might be on the DC side of Takoma / Takoma Park) Wednesday night to see Jeff Doyle and Anne Thomas tell. I also told "The Three Sisters" in the open mike. Jeff told two stories involving encounters with bears. Anne did a few personal stories about disability. Overall, an interesting night.

Storytelling – Short Story Slam: Thursday night had me back in darkest Maryland – Bethesda, to be precise – for the story slam that Michael puts on monthly. I have mixed feelings about this sort of thing, since a part of me objects to competitive storytelling. But there was plenty of good material on the theme of matrimony. Michael led off with a particularly funny piece about getting married in Communist China, including what he referred to as "emergency sex education." I told an abbreviated version of "Border Crossings." I actually tied for the third highest number of votes, but since the top two vote-getters went over the time limit, it came down to the tie breaker, and I had the shortest story so won first prize, which was exciting. Overall, it was fun and worth the exhaustion the next day.

JGSGW: I spent most of the weekend between suspended animation (i.e. catching up on sleep) and trying, not very successfully, to get some housework done. But I did make it to the JGSGW meeting on Sunday, which had a presentation on debunking myths about Jewish genealogy. I can’t say I learned much, but it was entertaining. And the time for networking was potentially useful.

Weather Whine: I would rather it were consistently cold than this annoying up and down we’ve been having. It got up to 70ish on Wednesday and then dropped to the 20’s on Friday but was back in the 60’s all weekend. This morning it was 30-something (but 25 with the wind chill factor) when I left for work. Just make up your bloody mind for a few days in a row, please.

Metro: Both storytelling events last week involved the Red Line, which meant changing to the Orange Line for the rest of the way home. That’s fine, but they were single-tracking around McPherson Square at night and things aren’t synchronized, so I had 15+ minute waits at Metro Center both nights.

Friday had a different annoyance as they turned the Orange Line train I was on into a Silver Line train. I was napping, so missed the announcement. Fortunately, I woke up at McLean, so only had to go back one station to switch, but they shouldn’t do this. Especially as they already run twice as many Silver Line trains as Orange, despite ridership on the Orange Line being several times higher.

Today started a new SafeTrack surge, which means no Blue Line service for 18 days. I had an early meeting at the Pentagon, so took a bus which was way more crowded than I’d ever seen it before. That worked, but was still annoying. In short, expect me to be grumpy for the next several weeks. It’s still better than driving.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Janet Waldo was the voice of Judy Jetson and Penelope Pitstop, among a large number of acting roles. George Voinovich was the governor of Ohio through pretty much all of the 1980's, after which he became a U.S. Senator.

Metro: Surge #1 is over and was not too annoying, thanks to the temporary bus service from Fairfax Connector. Except that last night I was coming from the city and had the usual lengthy wait for a train at Foggy Bottom, complete with inadequate information. It didn't really affect tme, but they were announcing a train as being a Blue Line one, when it was actually Silver. The exact same thing happened this morning at Rosslyn, which was more irritating as I was already in a bad mood and running late due to multiple Orange Line screw-ups. To wit: 1) despite there allegedly being no track work, there was still single tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston, 2) the announcements only were addressing a different (and supposedly resolved) track issue, 3) none of this info was on the rail alerts, and 4) the two trains before mine skipped Ballston, so my train ended up with Tokyo-level crowding.

The next surge includes two weeks of no service between Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery. They are suggesting people stay on the Orange (or Silver) Line to L'Enfant Plaza and then take the Yellow Line south. Which only adds about 35-40 minutes to the trip. There are a couple of alternatives I know of, but the most useful one is that I am actually going to have to deal with that mess for two days, due to a mixture of travel and a conference.

Kinky Boots: I went to see Kinky Boots at the Kennedy Center last night (which is why I was waiting for the metro at Foggy Bottom in the first place). Anyway, the show has a book by Harvey Fierstein and music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper. It tells the story of a young man, Charlie Price, who inherits his family's shoe factory and decides to save the livelihoods of the long-term factory workers by entering a niche market. And what niche market is that? High heeled boots for drag queens. See, he had met Lola, whose footwear needs inspire ideas that will be just the thing for this upcoming show in Milan. Winning over the workers, who aren't necessarily comfortable with Lola, is only part of the problem. See, Charlie has to convince himself, too.

You know that everything is going to work out just fine, including Lola's father issues, Charlie's love life, and, of course, the factory. This is pretty much your average feel-good, everything works if you just accept everyone musical, with some gorgeous shoes thrown in. And I say that as a devotee of flats. The score is also fairly predictable. Lola gets some big, showy numbers, while there's a little more thoughtful material about what being a man is ("Not My Father's Son"). The music was pleasant enough for the most part (though the production numbers weren't really my style), but not really memorable.

Adam Kaplan did well as Charlie, but was (of course) overshadowed by J. Harrison Ghee as Lola. I did find myself wondering if the casting was intended to be color-blind or whether Lola being black was supposed to add even more to the whole lack of acceptance vibe. The performer I need to especially single out is Tiffany Engen as Lauren, the factory worker with a crush on Charlie. She was a phenomenal dancer and really conveyed the emotions behind her apparently hopeless feelings.

The most interesting thing about this show is that it's touring here right now, while La Cage Aux Folles is playing at Signature Theatre. Drag queens, self-acceptance, Harvey Fierstein - do I see a pattern here? And that apparent coincidence is why I found myself wondering whether Kinky Boots is anything more than a rehashing of the same old same old. It's not a bad show, but why bother when Jerry Herman's music gives you something to inflict an ear worm on yourself with? (To be fair, I've never really seen the point of drag shows and I've been accused of being the straightest person on the planet. Stilettos don't make me feel good - they make my feet hurt.)
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Joe Fleishaker appeared in several Troma films, e.g. Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead. Mell Lazarus drew Miss Peach and Momma. Actress Beth Howland actually died in December, but her death was only announced on May 24. She was best known for her role in the sitcom Alice, but I think she was more significant for being the original Amy in the musical Company, singing the patter song "Getting Married Today." Dave Swarbrick played the fiddle with Fairport Convention. Theresa Saldana was an actress, who is probably most famous for surviving being stabbed by an obsessed stalker. Peter Shaffer was a playwright, whose work included Amadeus and Equus. Gordie Howe was a hockey player. Muhammed Ali was a boxer and a poet. You didn’t really need me to tell you that, but what you might not know is that I won a bet on the first Ali-Frazier fight when I was in junior high. I bet on Frazier only on the grounds that Ali had been out of the game for so long.

JGSJW: The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington had their annual potluck luncheon on Sunday. The event started with an interesting talk on Jews in China, covering both historical and modern communities. Then there was a brief business meeting, before lunch. I had been assigned to the dessert group and baked blondies, with a new recipe that I found disappointing. There was an after-lunch game show, but I couldn’t stay for it, since I had another commitment. Anyway, it was a nice event, with plenty of good conversation.

Washington Folk Festival: That commitment was to tell stories at the Washington Folk Festival, in Glen Echo Park. My set was titled "Calculating Women," and I advertised it as stories of real, imaginary, and complex women who face the world with cleverness, with, and a touch of mathematics. I told mostly folk tales (including Maltese, Jewish, German, and American ones), plus the story of Sophie Germaine. I realized afterwards that I had completely forgotten about one of the stories I intended to tell. No wonder I finished a few minutes early. Anyway, it went reasonably well.

SafeTrack: The metro hell that started Saturday was tolerable during the work week, largely because the Fairfax Connector added on a temporary express bus from the Vienna Metro to the Pentagon. So far the bus has not been absurdly crowded, i.e. nobody has been forced to stand on it. It’s fairly chaotic at the Pentagon station at the end of the day, however. And they don’t actually appear to adhere to their schedule very accurately, though it’s still better than the metrobus I used to ride.

MIT Club Annual Meeting: Wednesday night, I braved the metro to go the MIT Club of DC Annual Meeting, which was at Maggiano’s. It’s not a restaurant I care for – large quantities of mediocre food – but the conversation was good, and I even made a potentially useful work-related connection. The featured speaker was Dava Newman, the Deputy Director of NASA. She emphasized Mars, but did speak a fair amount about uncrewed missions and even mentioned some of their work on aviation. The questions were, alas, too focused on Mars, but I’m not surprised about that.

By the way, I had very good Metro luck getting home, with just a four minute wait at Friendship Heights and a two minute wait at Metro Center.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Saturday was our local (Washington, D.C.) puzzle tournament. It was kind of a pain getting to GWU for it, since Metro had started "SafeTrack" (for which I have much ruder names), meaning trains were scheduled to run every 18-20 minutes. Which would be fine if they were running more often than every 45 minutes. Because, in addition to the scheduled single-tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston, they were also single-tracking between Clarendon and Foggy Bottom due to flooding in the Rosslyn tunnel. I had left myself plenty of time and was still able to go over to Bourbon Coffee on L Street to get some decent coffee before things started.

The first puzzle, by Peter Broda and Lena Webb, was straightforward enough. The theme wasn’t especially interesting and, frankly, one could probably solve it without ever figuring out what the theme was. Still, I solved cleanly and felt I was off to a good start.

Puzzle 2, by Andy Kravis and Neville Fogarty, was somewhat more my speed, with a theme that invoked puns in the style of Merl Reagle. It was my favorite of the day and, again, a clean solve. I found Puzzle 3, by Sam Trabuco, a lot less enjoyable, largely because I thought several of the answers were a stretch. I did, however, solve it cleanly. Things were going quite well and, in fact, after the first three puzzles, I was 6th on the Outside Track (out of 77). Admittedly, I was probably behind almost everyone on the Inside Track (i.e. the people who can solve the easy puzzles in about the time it takes me to pick up my pencil), but I was still pleased. On another pleasant note, somewhere in there (I think it was between the second and third puzzles), there were miniature pies.

Last year, I had been unable to find the Jose Andres veggie fast food place, Beefsteak, but now that I knew where it was, it made a good lunch destination for a few of us. You can build your own combo, but for a first time visit, it made sense to try one of their predesigned bowls. The kimchi-wa is described as containing rice, corn, carrot, cabbage, edamame, bok choy, garlic yogurt sauce and is topped with scallions, sesame seeds, corn nuts, kimchi, and soy ginger dressing. This was very tasty and proved to be quite a lot of food. I will definitely eat here again.

Things had been going swimmingly, but then came Puzzle 4, by Erik Agard and Joanne Sullivan. I figured out the theme fairly quickly, so that wasn’t a problem. The issue I had was a lot of difficult fill. Maybe other people know who the President of Nigeria is offhand, but it isn't the sort of thing that comes trippingly to my fingertips. In fact, I did get that answer, more or less letter by letter. But I got hung up in the upper left corner, largely because I got too attached to a particular wrong answer. So I ended up with 4 wrong squares and, to show how big an impact one puzzle can have, dropped from 6th to 34th on the Outside Track.

Puzzle 5 was a team effort by all the constructors and, fortunately, I found it more straightforward. I solved it cleanly, which brought me up to 21st on the Outside Track and 60th overall. That put me at the 49th percentile overall, which is mediocre, but it is better than last year when I’d been 61st out of 100 competitors, i.e. at the 29th percentile.

Overall, I had a good time, even though none of the puzzles really blew me away. At the end of the day, I stopped in at Whole Foods to buy a couple of things and then waited the better part of a millennium (okay, 40 or so minutes) for a train. They were still single-tracking through the tunnel, though Metro had apparently decided during the day that actually informing people of this was too much effort. Not that it mattered all that much, but I was exhausted when I got home.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have a couple of metro haikus that have been sitting in my notebook for ages, but I don't think I've posted here.

Tourists - please do not
block the escalators by
standing three abreast.

I wonder where they
buy the sound distorters they
use for announcements.

So the big metro news is that they announced plans for something they are calling SafeTrack that will allegedly address the safety problems in the system. That should be a good thing and is certainly necessary, but I have some reservations about the actual plan and a lot of skepticism about it making any sort of difference other than screwing up everybody's commute for at least the next year (and, more likely, given this is WMATA we are talking about, the rest of our natural lives).

First thing is that they will be closing the system at midnight every night, starting at the beginning of June, instead of staying open until 3 a.m. on weekends. There goes the safety argument, since that is likely to hugely increase the number of drunk driving accidents. I base that claim on the condition of a large percentage of the people I see on Metro on Friday or Saturday nights. Let's just say that there are a lot of highly intoxicated George Mason students on the Orange Line.

They are also talking about having maintenance workers start at 8 p.m. on weeknights. That sounds like it requires (unannounced) single tracking, based on the way they've been doing this for the past several years. During which we've experienced horribly inadequate night and weekend service with no apparent improvements as a result of the alleged work. (I say "alleged" because it's rare that one actually sees anybody working when passing through the single tracking zones. And we all know the system has continued to deteriorate.) They typically advertise trains every 20 minutes, but I always seem to be waiting at least 35 for those trains. When I spend twice as long waiting for trains as actually on them, I get annoyed.

But that's the least of it. They're shutting down or single tracking segment by segment. And, of course, my segment (the western end of the Orange Line) gets the longest stretches of single tracking - a total of 89 days, plus another 16 days of 1/3 of normal service for a shutdown at another segment. And the Blue Line parts of my commute will be affected by two shutdowns, one of 18 days and one of 7 days. The most egregious part of their plan for the latter is to run a shuttle bus only between Pentagon and Arlington Cemetery during a shutdown between Pentagon and Rosslyn. On any given day, about a dozen people (and those are largely tourists, so barely count as people) get off the train at Arlington Cemetery, versus the 30,000 who go from Rosslyn to the Pentagon (or further south). Oh, sure, we can go to L'Enfant Plaza and take the Yellow Line, but that doubles the length of my commute, which is already 25% slower than it was just a few years ago.

Okay, but it's necessary. The thing is that this will do absolutely nothing about the real need, which is an additional track through the core of the system. Nor does it do anything about train malfunctions (e.g. doors not working properly) which are the most frequent source of major commute delays.

But most significantly, why the hell should I believe this will be effective when all of the shutdowns and alleged track work of the past several years haven't been?

To be honest, I don't have a better answer. Just expect me to be even grumpier over the next year as I continue to endure commuting. Driving would start to look more appealing, except that the Virginia Department of Transportation hasn't repaved many of our local roads since the days of Thomas Jefferson.

And, oh yes, if you don't live here, please stay away.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am still jet-lagged, so that probably limits how interesting I am. Or am not.

Celebrity Death Watch: Bob Ebeling was a NASA engineer whose warning prior to the Challenger disaster was, alas, ignored. Rob Ford was the mayor of Toronto and followed in the mayoral path so clearly set by Marion Barry of Washington, DC. Andy Grove was the leading force behind the dominance of Intel. (He was also, by the way, a Shoah survivor.)

Day Without Metro: Metro welcomed me home from vacation by shutting down the rail system completely for a day in order to inspect cables that should really have been inspected during the weekend shutdowns we’ve had damn near every weekend for the past decade or so. I could get to work by bus if I were willing to spend enough time at it, but I opted to drive. And, really, it didn’t seem much worse than normal, perhaps because I timed things well. My only real complaint about the shutdown is that they waited until 4:30 in the afternoon to announce it, which is well within normal rush hour. And, indeed, I heard that a number of people had not gotten the message.

By the way, the real winner on public transit that day was apparently Capital Bikeshare. Too bad there are no bike sharing stations within 10 miles of my house.

Travel Planning: I have figured out plans for short breaks over Thanksgiving and Christmas . One is a trip to Martinique, based on a ridiculously low airfare from BWI. The other is a reasonably priced trip to Key West. In both cases, I expect hotel costs will balance the air deals, but so be it.

I am also thinking that my birthday will require a national park trip, but I’ve only gotten as far as narrowing it down to four possibilities for that. (The Key West trip will include an excursion to Dry Tortugas N.P.)

Oh, and before someone asks why the short breaks? I have, um, negative 60 something hours of vacation after the South Pacific excursion. I have commitments for at least 5 more days before the end of the calendar year.

MIT Summer Interns: Monday night was the annual reception for MIT’s DC summer intern program. Unfortunately, there weren’t any candidates looking for space policy related positions this year. It’s still good to mingle with students and other alumni.

Android Question: This isn’t something really important, but it’s been bugging me. When I go to my task manager and click "end all," my tablet will sometimes tell me it is closing 20-30+ applications. Those are apps I never actually opened. The weirdest part is that clearing the memory will sometimes increase memory usage, rather than decreasing it. None of this has any big impact on functionality, beyond sometimes needing to clear memory to get mail or webpages to load. But I would still like to understand it.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have other things to write about, but let me drop a quick note re: how miserable this week has been for commuting. Monday was tolerable, but the metro was running on a holiday schedule, which meant long waits at Rosslyn for connecting trains.

Tuesday, the cold weather caused a different problem. But it is best to say it in my preferred poetic form:

Cracked rail outside East
Falls Church this morning. Single
tracking. Late to work.

And, of course, I just missed my connection, so:

It is as cold at
Rosslyn station as it is
outside. Brr, brr, brr.

Was it any better going home? Well, I had an errand to run near Union Station. I got on the Yellow Line at Crystal City and then:

Someone unconscious
on train at Archives. Single
tracking, long delays.

So yesterday I had a meeting for which it made sense to drive in. (I can get to where it was by bus, but that eats up a lot of time and is only worth it if meeting is at beginning or end of the day, not in the middle.) Things were slow coming in, for no particular reason. Going home was the issue. It wasn't even snowing until I was halfway home, but it was still slow. And, once there was a bit of sticking snow, it was just a slippery, nasty crawl.

Note that we got a whopping 1.2 inches of snow and it messed things up badly enough that it took me twice as long as normal to drive home. We are expecting 24-30 inches in the storm that is going to clobber us this weekend.
I am not going more than about 200 feet from my bed.

Please, buy me a condo in Punta del Este, Uruguay?
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I’m leaving for Recouvery tomorrow, so I wanted to get caught up before then. Here is what I’ve been up to.

Las Vegas: Vegas is a good destination for mileage running as: a) airfares are reasonable, b) the distance is enough to be worth accumulating PQM but not so far as to be punishing, and c) you can entertain yourself there easily between gambling and people watching. So I did a quick trip over the holiday weekend, flying there on Friday and back on Saturday. The down side of the trip was that this is summer and the temperature was roughly like walking on the surface of the sun. My key people-watching observation was that it is apparently a thing now for young women to forgo carrying a purse and, instead, tuck their phone into either a bra strap or their cleavage. I feel old.

Knitting: I was home on Sunday so went to knitting group. I finished another of the large afghan squares, but I am still well off the pace I had intended. There was also lots of entertaining conversation.

Metro Woes: Monday morning was a mess, since Metro does not know how to handle irrops. I don’t blame them for the selfish person who decided that being struck by a train would be a good way to end his miserable life. But if you announce you are single-tracking through a station, you should not then send one shuttle train in 40+ minutes, have that train go one station and then sit another 40 minutes, and then offload everyone to wait for a train that is then too crowded for people to get on.

Thinking suicide?
Please find some other day to
Do it – not by train.

Aside from the impact to my commute (which, let’s face it, is what really matters), it isn’t very nice to inflict that trauma on a train driver.

Also, my experience on the overcrowded train I squeezed onto suggests that the residents of Fairfax County have stopped spending money on deodorant, using it instead to buy garlicky food for breakfast.

Story Slam: Last night I went to the Storyfest Short Story Slam in Silver Spring. I’m not really crazy about the competitive aspect of story slams, but I do like to know what is going on with all storytelling in the area. The theme was "Song and Dance" so I told my ballet story. Or, more precisely, an abbreviated version of it, since the slam has a 5 minute time limit.

The event was better than I had anticipated. The stories that had problems had the usual sort of problems with personal stories, e.g. no real idea of what the story was about, leading to a lack of a real ending. But, overall, there were several satisfying stories. From the standpoint of a teller, I thought the audience was a good, highly responsive one. I should also note a particularly high level of diversity among the attendees, which is (sadly) all too rare. I will definitely go again, schedule permitting.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: Casey Kasem probably didn’t originate the pop music count down, but is widely associated with it. Tony Gwynn was one of a handful of baseball players who remained with a single team (the San Diego Padres) his entire Major League career. Ultra Violet was an artist and Andy Warhol’s muse for more than 15 minutes.

Yemen Blues: Thursday night saw me at the DC Jewish Community Center to see Yemen Blues perform. This is a fusion band, led by Ravid Kahalani. I’m not entirely sure how one would characterize their music, which is why the "world beat" label is handy. The largest influence is Yemenite (duh), but there are West African rhythms and blues and other jazz forms. The percussion was particularly notable and there was one piece I can best describe as an intriguing battle between Middle Eastern and Latin percussion. There was also some notable oud playing. My one complaint was that the space was not really conducive to movement and this was music that demanded to be danced to. From my Israeli folk dance days, I know that the dancing of Yemenite Jews was traditionally very constrained in space and primarily up and down, with the explanation that the people did not love the land, so they danced as if their feet were on fire. So maybe that was suitable after all. (Actually, I do have another complaint. The concert started 20 minutes late. That’s a lot on a weeknight. But it was good enough that I will forgive them.)

Ordinary Days: Friday night I schlepped to Bethesda to see Ordinary Days, a musical (really a song cycle) by Adam Gwon. It was worth the effort as the show was thoroughly charming. The story involves two pairs of New Yorkers. The best of the characters is the semi-hysterical grad student, Deb, well-played by Erin Weaver. The free-spirited Warren is her foil and helps her to see that there is beauty in the small things in life. The other couple, Jason and Claire, are less satisfying characters. For one thing, he belongs in, say, Iowa and he’s really only in New York because he fell for her. But, more significantly, there is some great trauma that keeps her from letting him in and we don’t find out what the twist is until almost the end of the show. The revelation (in the song "I’ll Be Here") makes her a lot more sympathetic, but I found it hard to believe she’d been with Jason an entire year and not told him about it. But, overall, that’s a minor flaw. The music is lovely. And there is plenty of wit in the lyrics, along with delicious subtle tidbits, e.g. when Deb, who is doing her thesis on Virginia Woolf, makes a reference to having a room of her own. A show like this is a good reminder of why Gwon is considered one of the rising stars of the musical theatre world.

And, look, unlike everyone else in the greater Washington D.C. metropolitan area, I managed to write about the show without using the word "extraordinary!" (But it is.)

Ah, Metro – Last Monday night’s Red Line Haiku Version:
Metro’s web site claims
single tracking starts at 10.
Half hour wait at 9.

Ah, Metro – Friday night’s Haiku Version:
Track fire delayed Blue
Line. Had I known, I would have
taken the yellow.

Bethesda station
has the worst escalators
in the whole system.

(Yes, I understand that Metro’s priority is to get people out of the stations. But there was really no reason for both working escalators to be going up at 9:30 at night. Walking down the half mile long non-working escalator is hard on the knees of this grumpy old person.)

The Weekend: I spent much of it sleeping, though I did get some errands done. And I made it to knitting group where I showed off my "it’s not stash, it’s souvenir" yarn purchase from Italy. I have this idea for a patchwork jacket using these odds and ends I have picked up in various places. It will be a while before I start on that project, but I am already referring to it as A Coat of Many Countries. What I actually did was crochet afghan squares because I need to destash a bunch of acrylic and that is a good way to do so. And it is also brainless enough that I can do it while talking.

Moral Dilemma of the Week: Neptune needs a bath. Normally, I look for a group of teenagers doing a car wash for charity. Well, Arlington County has banned charity carwashes because of the impact of run-off on the Chesapeake. Fairfax County has not done so yet, but I do actually care about the Bay. Apparently, commercial carwashes are okay because they have ways to capture grey water. But I still feel like I’d rather have my money going to a school band or the like than to Mr. Wash.

The Prostate Dialogues: Last night’s outing was to see Jon Spelman’s one-man show at Theatre J. I know Jon and I admire his storytelling, so I can’t give this an unbiased review. It’s a brave show, with a surprising amount of humor. In addition to his experience with prostate cancer, the work deals more generally with issues of aging and mortality and what manhood is. I’m not sure how somebody under, say, 50 will react, but I found lots to relate to, even without a prostate. By the way, there was a talk-back, but I didn't stay for it because going out on a weeknight means enough sleep deprivation as it is.

Commute Miracle – the Tuesday morning haiku version:
bus to the Mark Center came at
seven forty-three.

Some Like It Hot: I like hot weather, but the current heat and humidity, which is reminiscent of Benin, is too much, even for me.

Books and Gelato: Since I was already over at Dupont Circle last night, I stopped in the used bookstore there. And I found a copy of Don Camillo Meets Hell's Angels. I didn't even know about that one. Afterwards, I stopped in at Dolcezza Gelato. The cinnamon was good, but the winner there was the strawberry tarragon, which may be the only good pink thing on the planet.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
The metro can be
efficient when there is no
track work. Like today.

I got to Union Station about an hour before my train and stopped at McDonald's to buy a bottle of water. Harry Shearer had a running joke about Santa Monica being the "home of the homeless" and that description definitely applies to the Union Station Mickey-D's.

The train to NY was fine, except that the wi-fi was not working. (It was not my ineptitude. They made an announcement.) The Long Island Railroad worked as well as ever, too.

Mom gave me the quick disaster tour of town. I then helped her change an ink cartridge in her printer, made her reset her facebook password and will try to teach her how to use her cell phone in a while. On the plus side, there was NY pizza for dinner (and a long wait for delivery).

Further proof I am a bad daughter is that, on seeing several boxes of stuffing mix on the dining room table, I asked Mom if she is planning to stuff an emu.
fauxklore: (Default)
I'd intended to get to some of the longer catch-up stuff, but today completely got away from me. So here is a brief anecdote from the day.

There's a local a capella group named After the Storm. They consist of 2-4 black men, who I'd guess are in their mid 50's to early 60's. The only reason I know their name is that Washington Post columnist John Kelley wrote a piece about them. They perform primarily at metro stations. I used to see them a lot at the Crystal City station and every now and then at Vienna. But it's a long time.

Tonight I had an errand to run downtown after work and was stressed out because both transportation and the errand itself took about twice as long as they should have. But I was changing trains at Metro Center on my way home - and two of the guys from After the Storm were singing on the platform. It cheered me up instantly. I gave them a few bucks and told them how glad I was to see them. I got a thanks and a hug in return.

Keep your ears open in the Metro this holiday season for the best renditions ever of Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.
fauxklore: (theatre)
This is mostly the theatre-going part of my catching up. But, first, a couple of other items.

Baseball: The Nationals had a mid-season deal to get tickets for three games (one each n July, August and September) and a cap for about $45. So I braved the Fourth of July tourist crowds and went into the city to see them play the Giants. The game was an exciting one, with the Nats winning 9-4. I had some issues, however, with my seat, as it was right behind one of the protective pieces of plexiglass, leading to annoying reflections blocking my view at times.

Celebrity Death Watch: There are lots of celebrity deaths to report. Doris Sams played baseball in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, which inspired the movie A League of Their Own. There may be no crying at baseball, but there is at funerals.

Nora Ephron wrote amusingly bitchy feminist essays, along with some movies. I didn’t always agree with her, but her work was usually interesting.

Lonesome George was the last Pinta tortoise, so his death also means the extinction of his sub-species. I saw him when I went to the Galapagos. He looked sad, but I think tortoises inherently look sad.

Andy Griffith was, of course, most famous for his TV performances as the sheriff of Mayberry. I once went to Mt. Airy, North Carolina (his home town) and ate lunch at a diner that had dishes named after the characters from his show. By the way, unlike most tourists, my interest in the town had to do with two of its other residents. It was also where Chang and Eng Bunker, the Siamese twins, settled.

The celebrity death I most want to highlight was that of Richard Adler. With Jerry Ross (who died at a young age of pneumonia), he co-wrote The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. Anybody who knows me at all, knows why the latter is among my favorite Broadway musicals. (Note that the Red Sox are playing four games against the Source of All Evil in the Universe this weekend.)

First You Dream: Speaking of musicals, I saw First You Dream at The Kennedy Center a couple of weeks ago. This is a revue of Kander & Ebb songs, without any particular narrative and with very little dialogue. It was enjoyable, largely because of some excellent performances, notably by Matthew Scott and Heidi Blickenstaff. I particularly want to note Scott’s performance of the Hungarian bit from “Cell Block Tango.”

There is some incongruity, however, as the songs are taken out of context. For example, I suspect that most of the audience had no idea that “Go Back Home” (from The Scottsboro Boys) is sung in the musical by a teenager who has been sentenced to death for a rape he didn’t commit. Similarly, the selections from Kiss of the Spider Woman gave no indication that they are sung by a political prisoner.

Still, the songs are enjoyable in and of themselves and I admit to having particularly liked a few unfamiliar songs I don’t actually know the context of. Some highlights include “Ring Them Bells” from Liza with a Z, “Military Men” from Over and Over and “I Miss the Music” from Curtains. (Okay, I do know the context of the latter – and I also know that the show was completed by John Kander after Fred Ebb died, making it particularly poignant.) The greatest show-stopper was “Boom Ditty Boom” from 70, Girls, 70), which was an incredible showcase for Karma Camp’s choreography. I really need to be more familiar with this show, since the description I’ve read of it sounds quite entertaining. (And I also like the song “Coffee in a Cardboard Cup,” which is from it.)

I will also admit to disliking the title song and feeling hit over the head with its message, but that was a minor flaw in an otherwise enjoyable evening.

The History of Invulnerability: All I knew about this play at Theatre J was that it had to do with Superman creator Jerry Siegel and how he (and artist Joe Shuster) were pretty much screwed over by Harry Donenfeld and National Allied Publications. There’s actually a lot more to David Bar Katz’s play, including a provocative Holocaust story, involving a young boy in Auschwitz-Birkenau whose smuggled comic books leave him fantasizing about Superman rescuing him. The structure is a conversation between Superman and his creator, which also brings in Siegel’s estrangement from his real-life son. Is Superman Siegel’s true son, a god, or a golem?

Given the complexity of the play – and the shocking moments in it – I am loathe to write a lot of details about what happens. I will say that I found myself saying, “wow” out loud at the end of the first act and having more mixed reactions when the play ended. Those reactions were both entirely due to the Holocaust sub-plot.

All in all, I’ll recommend it for what it has to say about creativity and the response to being a powerless outsider. I can also commend the performances, especially by David Deblinger as Siegel. But be aware that this is a dark and disturbing piece, not a light romp through the comics.

The Music Man: Finally, I saw The Music Man at Arena Stage on Tuesday night. I had a bit of frustration with the box office as I had bought the ticket via Goldstar and the guy at Will Call initially gave me a balcony ticket for The Normal Heart instead and I had to actually argue with them (showing my receipt) to get what I had paid for.

Anyway, there aren’t any real surprises in this production. It’s familiar material, intended to balance the season budget with a sure-fire blockbuster. Kate Baldwin is excellent as Marian the librarian and Burke Moses is a competent Harold Hill. I do have two complaints about the production. The first is the modernization of the costumes, which is an annoying anachronism. (Marian wearing trousers? No.) My bigger issue is having left out the overture. It is bad enough that so many musicals are written without overtures nowadays. Why delete them from shows that are intended to have them? Especially since they are often a good way to get the laggards in the audience to shut up.

The most thrilling moment in the production, by the way, came at the end of the curtain calls, when the doors opened and an actual marching band came in, playing “76 Trombones.”. They do not, apparently, do this every night. I heard that the band in question was from New Jersey and in town for the Fourth of July parade the next day.

Note to self: check Nationals schedule before going to Arena Stage, as the ballpark is one stop away from the theatre. It’s bad enough that I have to deal with metro crowding when I go to ballgames. But that is the subject of another rant.

A Very Brief Transit Rant: The Washington Post has a transit columnist called Dr. Gridlock. His repeated advice to people who complain about Metro annoyances is to tell them just to drive. That’s like criticizing people who want to improve public schools by telling them to send their kids to private school.

My biggest complaint, by the way, is about riders who won’t let people off before they board the trains. Hence, this haiku:

Basic courtesy
Is all too rare among those
Who ride on metro.


Jun. 20th, 2012 12:43 pm
fauxklore: (Default)
Once again, I have a long list of odds and ends to write about. I will save the travel and theatre related ones for their own posts.

Celebrity Death Watch: Mobster Henry Hill died of natural causes, which is somewhat surprising. He was the subject of the book Wiseguys (and the movie based on it, Goodfellas) and, more relevant to why I mention him, lived in my home town for a few years. The other celebrity death to note is Rodney King. The acquittal of the policemen who beat him triggered the L.A. riots, which was certainly one of the scarier experiences of my life.

Should Have Been Celebrity Death Watch: Most of you will never have heard of storyteller and cowboy poet Mark Wilson, who passed away last week. He was a smiling presence at a number of storytelling events in California. Mark always dressed in cowboy style (hat and boots) and spoke with a quiet Western drawl. He was always kind and caring and will be missed.

Animal Death Watch: Someone mentioned to me what he described as another black bear fatality in his neighborhood, involving a police officer. I assumed that meant a bear had killed a cop, but he clarified that the cop had killed the bear. I am sure someone out there is ranting about police brutality. In a related story, my boss witnessed an entire family of ducks (mama and 12 ducklings) get wiped out on I-70 over the weekend. Robert McCloskey must be rolling over in his grave. (And, yes, we talk about this sort of stuff in our weekly staff meetings.)

Ceu: I went to hear Brazilian chanteuse, Ceu, perform last Tuesday night at Sixth and I. The opening (and accompanying) band, Curumin, were competent but not really exciting and way too loud. Her voice is great and I wish I could have heard it without the ear piercing background.

Artomatic: This is an art show that happens roughly annually , moving locations to take advantage of unused office buildings. This year was of particular interest since they are using the building I used to work in. I went on Wednesday night with two friends, one of whom worked there with me. (The other worked for my company until our recent lay-offs. Her husband worked with me in that office building, too.) I will spare you much about our conversation, some of which led one of the others to remark, “why aren’t we writing for The Big Bang Theory?
As for the art, this is an unjuried show so is quite a mix. One of the usual highlights is the Peeps Show, i.e. exhibit of peeps dioramas done for the Washington Post’s annual competition. A lot of the most interesting art at the show uses found objects, which is why creative people have so much trouble throwing things out. I am, by the way, contemplating exhibiting at a future Artomatic, but I do not use anything weirder than magnetic tape (which is, by the way, a real pain to crochet with).

Three Things That Seem Unrelated But Are Not : 1) I had to drive to darkest Maryland for meetings on Thursday and Friday. Getting to my destination (near Baltimore) took 40-50 minutes in the morning. Getting home took about 2 hours. I apologized to my car. 2) There were several signs up at the company I was visiting about an upcoming seminar on being an openly gay professional. This would have been unknown not all that many years ago. Some changes are good. 3) Suppose a man likes to wear a crochet kippah but is losing his hair? What does he do if there isn’t enough hair left for bobby pins? (This last is related because the thought was triggered by a man who was at one of the meetings I went to.)

Lateness: We got asked to include something in a report on why the report is late. The real answer is that it sat on the desk of the person asking for 2 months before he looked at it. “It’s your fault” was already deemed an unacceptable statement to include. (Lateness is a chronic problem in my organization, by the way. Boss Standard Time is 15 minutes late. As a prompt person, this drives me nuts.

Other Random Work-related Thought: Is the phrase “primary back-up” an oxymoron?

Mixed WMATA News: On the plus side, they changed the bus schedule for the route I take. On the minus side, the new “Rush Plus” on the metro completely screws anybody who lives along the western side of the Orange Line and needs to connect to the Blue Line. They claim it benefits more people than it hurts, but my experience is that about half the people on the trains I take get off at Rosslyn to go to the Pentagon or Crystal City and will now end up waiting 20 minutes on a crowded platform. (Yeah, the trains are supposed to be 12 minutes apart at worst, but they were 12 minutes apart before when they were supposed to be every 6 minutes.) The upshot is that I will probably end up taking the bus more often.
fauxklore: (Default)
I really didn't intend to go so long without posting here, but life has been hectic.

Celebrity Death Watch: My notes on who to mention go back to Harry Morgan, who had a truly distinctive, immediately recognizable voice. I watched M*A*S*H regularly as a teenager and remember being sad when Col Potter's plane disappeared on his way home.

The literary world offered up the losses of essayist Christopher Hitchens and of Russell Hoban, who wrote some children's books but who I associate primarily with Riddley Walker. The political world has one sad death (Vaclav Havel, bridging the literary world) and one less sad one (Kim Il Jung). The more obscure deaths are those of Jerry Robinson, who created The Joker, and of Erica Wilson, who wrote needlework patterns.

The death I most want to highlight, however, is Cesaria Evora. The "barefoot diva" of Cape Verde had a phenomenal voice and brought a lot of attention to the traditional music of that nation. She was certainly one of the reasons I want to go there. (There are others - Cape Verdeans played a major role in the whaling industry and, hence, New England.) I'm sorry I never got to see her perform live.

Three Sighs for Transportation: I came home from an errand to discover that the right front tire of my car was flat. I'd gotten new tires in April and, thanks to the warranty, that meant getting it fixed at Sears would be nearly free. They told me it would be "an hour and a half to two hours." I came back after two hours (having had breakfast and picked up a couple of things at the adjacent mall) and they hadn't even started on it. In the end, I was there four and a half hours. Sigh.

I've also had a few occasions recently to take the red line of the metro. Single tracking before 9 p.m. on a weekday is annoying. I thought the argument for the weekend shutdowns they've been doing is that they would then not have to single track to do repairs. Sigh.

I also had a frustrating Amtrak trip to New York, with power problems that made the train about an hour late. The delay was not as annoying as the fact that there were no lights while they were doing repairs (at Baltimore). Sigh.

Work: The project that will never end hasn't.

New York: My trip to New York at the beginning of the month was for my 35th high school reunion. The gathering was small but it was good to see the people who were there. I also used the time to do two Volksmarch events in New York City. The midtown walk was, in general, predictable but pleasant enough. The Chelsea / Greenwich Village walk was more interesting, particularly as I had never actually been on the High Line before. It's a good thing I was time constrained as the route passed the Strand Bookstore, which is always potentially dangerous to my budget.

Theatre: I can't go to New York and not go to the theatre. So I saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway. It was lively and funny, albeit a bit crude. It did push some of my buttons about how Africa is portrayed in pop culture, but that is to be expected. I'll also suggest that it is a very bad idea to take a child under about age 15 to see this. But I highly recommend it for thick-skinned adults. (If you liked, say, "Avenue Q," you will enjoy this.)

On a related note, I saw Cannibal: The Musical at Landless Theatre. (It is related via Trey Parker, who also co-created South Park.) There is some lively music and some funny moments (particularly involving the encounter with the Indians) but it was a bit overdone. It turns out, by the way, that Parker got his history mostly correct, but I was still disappointed not to hear a reference to Alferd Packer having eaten the Democratic majority of Summit County.

On a very unrelated note, I saw Billy Elliot at the Kennedy Center on Friday night. As I said on Facebook, it was a good 2 hour musical but is, unfortunately, 3 hours. There is somewhat too much talk for the amount of music. And most of the music is unremarkable. I do think "Solidarity" is powerful and effective and both "Deep Into the Ground" and "He Could Go and He Could Shine" are well done. The piece I hated was "Angry Dance," largely because the volume was so high that my ears were actually ringing through the intermission. The dancing (by Kylend Hetherington the night I saw it) was notable, particularly in the dream sequence when Billy dances to Swan Lake with his older self. But the real show-stopper was Cynthia Darrow as Grandma, an earthy woman indeed.

Finally, I saw Hairspray at Signature Theatre yesterday. I had seen this on Broadway some years ago and wondered how it would be in this much smaller space. The answer is that Signature did their usual excellent job. The songs are catchy, the book is reasonably funny, and the performers looked like they were having fun. So was I.

MAD: There was a talk by Al Jaffee and Mary-Lou Weisman (who wrote a recent biography of him) at the DCJCC on Thursday night. His life was definitely not what one might have expected, having been brought from the U.S. back to her Lithuanian shtetl by his mother when he was 6 and living there until he was rescued by his father six years later. The High School of Music and Arts changed his life - and MAD Magazine made him famous. At age 90, he still writes "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and does the fold-ins. I feel privileged to have been able to enjoy s much of his work.
fauxklore: (Default)
And, of course, I won't write about those items in order.

Better House and Office Keeping: I am trying to do in-processing for my new job and out-processing from my current job. This is all very chaotic and stressful and threw me into a brief "why am I doing this?" moment. Then I got asked to cover a last minute meeting yesterday and remembered why I was doing it. It wasn't that it was that terrible a meeting. It's just that the only reason we needed someone there had to do with politics, not usefulness. That will, of course, never happen with the new job :)

I have also verified that Pink Martini provides the best soundtrack for office cleaning, assuming one does not mind the earworm side effect. (Which is, curiously enough, "Amado Mio" rather than "Sympathique.")

Metro haiku: Summer brings crowds and bad behavior. Hence, I feel compelled to offer this etiquette lesson.

There are 50 folks
standing in this car. Don't take
up a seat with bags.

Company: I went to see the filmed version of Company on Sunday afternoon. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I still prefer live theatre for the immediacy and intimacy. Also, Stephen Colbert is not much of a singer. My biggest quibble is that you are so close to the faces, you are forced to see where they hid the mikes in people's hair. Inevitably, I find myself thinking it looks like the actors have bugs on their faces.

Still, it is a great score and I do recognize that productions like this do provide access to shows for people who live in places lacking in theatre. Or people who think theatre is too expensive. (Although $18 for a movie version is awfully steep. I actually got $12 off by using a free movie coupon I had from some refund offer or other.)

Two other comments re: the show:
1) the theatre I saw it at stopped it for intermission several minutes too early, making an odd interruption to the scene with Amy's wedding. Very bizarre.

2) While "Another Hundred People" is a definite show stopper, it is also profoundly depressing.

Shakespeare: No, I did not go to a Shakespeare play. It may be surprising but I have seen exactly one Shakespeare play in my life. That was a production of Measure for Meaure that I saw on a particularly bad date in my undergraduate days. (The badness was entirely on my part and can be summarized as 19 year old Miriam still cared too much about other people's opinions, so did not give a fair chance to a guy who some of her friends did not care for. But she really wanted to see the play. I like to think I've grown up. Or at least stopped talking about myself in the third person.)

Anyway, what I did go to was the MIT Club of Washington Partners and Patrons event Monday night, which featured Michael Kahn, the director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company, as the speaker. He gave a lively and entertaining talk about the theatre environment in Washington. Curiously, I'd had a conversation on pretty much the same subject with a couple of folks at Dulles airport a couple of weeks ago. The short version is that there is a lot of theatre in Washington, but people who don't live here don't seem to know that. In a way, I think that is advantageous, since it allows theatre companies to put on more challenging shows, instead of the splashy big productions that tourists flock to.

Another interesting point came up during a conversation after the talk. Most of theatre companies can ease their financial burden by mixing a few big shows with ones that have small casts. But all of the classical pieces that a company like Shakespeare Theatre Company does have large casts, so their finances are inherently more challenging.

Finally, during the talk Michael Kahn mentioned that their upcoming production of The Merchant of Venice is set in 1920's New York. The logic is apparently a similar ethnic mix. This made me at least somewhat interested in the show, though I have no idea where I would find time to see it.

Quote of the Day: Found in a memo in my office, was the description of a program as having "not managed to deliver anything except schedule delays."

Mish Mosh

May. 1st, 2011 08:36 am
fauxklore: (Default)
I have an unexpected weekend free, so here's another catch-up entry.

Free Weekend: I had planned to go to Staunton for a VASA board meeting and stay overnight to do a Volksmarch today. The board meeting got cancelled. My condo is grateful for the attention.

Commuting: I've had a few annoying metro moments lately, suitable for haiku. Let's start with Friday's fun at Crystal City:

This morning, doors would
not open because the train
overshot platform.

I had been on time, but that extra stop to the airport and trip back made me late. I'd also had that extra stop earlier the week but had nobody but myself to blame:

It is bad enough
when I'm absorbed in reading
and miss my station.

Which is why it is a good thing I live at the end of the line. Except when the worst fellow passenger ever is also going to Vienna:

He took up four seats
then lit up a cigarette -
also needed bath.

Game theory: The Prisoner's Dilemma (a classic problem in game theory) came up at a meeting I was at on Thursday. It gave me an opportunity to point out that neither approach to it (both of which are valid) is entirely satisfying. Pareto died in exile and Nash spent much of his adult life hospitalized for schizophrenia.

Work comment of the week: One of my colleagues referred to a meeting as having been held in "one of those big sleeper conference rooms."

Disease trivia of the week: Armadillos can transmit leprosy to humans. I never did trust animals that think they need armor.

Books purchased: I took advantage of being at Dupont Circle on Friday night to do some book shopping. I found a book of Yiddish folk tales at Second Story Books (which is mostly a used book place). And I bought John Pollack's The Pun Also Rises at Kramerbooks, as well as Old Jews Telling Jokes which will make a reasonable Mother's Day present.

Theatre: The reason I was at Dupont Circle was to see National Pastime at the Keegan Theatre. This was advertised as a musical about a fictional baseball team, which is right up my alley. The show was reasonably entertaining, but nothing brilliant. The plot, such as it is, involves a struggling radio station in Iowa in 1933 which tries to save itself by making up a baseball team, whose games (in Europe to keep anybody from trying to go to them) they will have exclusive rights to broadcast. It works fine - until a reporter from Life Magazine wanders by. There are a couple of love stories woven in. One involves the person behind the scheme (the owner's daughter who happens to be a big shot lawyer from Chicago) and the station manager. The other involves the primary baseball reporter and the woman who does traffic reports and such. He doesn't act on anything until one of the thugs, hired to pretend to be a ball player and do on-air interviews, makes a move on her. Then he takes revenge by killing that player in the next game.

A lot of the humor comes about because the two guys doing the broadcasts don't know anything about baseball. So, for example, they don't understand the symbols for the positions when they cover the first game and say things like say things like x is at C and y is P-ing on the mound. And they take it too literally when the station manager throws a suicide squeeze into the script later on.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of little things that are distracting. It's hard enough to believe two adult American men in 1933 are that ignorant about baseball. It's even harder to believe that a woman lawyer would be able to run everything in that era. (And, really, to have her wearing a pants suit in much of Act 1? No.) There are plenty of anachronisms and errors. The team schedule, for example, makes no sense in that era of limited air travel. A radio station in Iowa (which is west of the Mississippi) could not be named WZBQ. And the flags everyone waves in a scene about how great being an American is were current ones, with too many stars. These are nits, but all of this could have been solved with competent editing. Just because it's a musical doesn't mean you don't have to do your homework.
fauxklore: (Default)
A transit system birthday haiku:
The Metro System
is now 35 years old
and showing its age.

Celebrity deaths: There are a lot of recent celebrity deaths. In the political world, I'll note both Warren Christopher and Geraldine Ferraro. In show biz, there was Farley Granger and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor. (Oddly, I think the only one of Liz's movies I've seen is A Little Night Music.) The literary world lost Dianna Wynne Jones. And, most significantly to me, the sports world lost Lou Gorman, the general manager of the Red Sox from 1984-1993.

A strange work-related thought: If the sky is falling, will that create orbital debris?

A strange work-related quote: "Anything human-created in space would have had to be launched."

Another incomprehensible note to myself: I have no idea why, but I wrote down the phrase "SoLo(W)" in my planner.

A strange observation prompted by a voicemail message I got this week: It must be particularly inconvenient to have a lisp if your name starts with "S."

Trivia about the Old Dominion: Someone asked me this a couple of weeks ago and I just got around to googling the answer. Virginia has 95 counties and 29 independent cities.

Not really a political observation: Antonin Scalia was ticketed for his role ina 4-car accident on the George Washington Parkway this week. I wonder if he will fight the ticket.

Good news in the book world, part 1: Politics and Prose (a very good independent bookstore in D.C.) has found a buyer. Actually, a pair of buyers.

Good news in the book world, part 2: The newest No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party is just as charming as the previous books in the series. I particularly liked how Charlie (one of the apprentices at the garage) was handled.

I still have other things to write about, but will do so separately.
fauxklore: (Default)
I've been continuing the clean-out of the recipe files. In addition to being a good way to procrastinate on other housework, it has turned up a few things worth trying. One was a green chile and cheese casserole that was sort of like a crustless quiche. It was okay - better reheated over the next few days - but not exciting enough to replace other things I make with similar ingredients.

The weather turning cooler turns my thoughts to soups and I made pumpkin soup yesterday. This involved cutting off the top and hollowing out a small pumpkin (about three pounds) and filling the interior with layers of toasted French bread and Swiss cheese. Cream gets poured on top of that, with pepper and nutmeg to season. Then it's baked at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for a little over 2 hours. The recipe didn't say to do this, but I put it on a pie plate, which was a good thing since the cream boiled over a little. You scoop out some of the pumpkin flesh with the cheese and cream when you eat it. This was pretty tasty, but not really worth the amount of work and time involved. I think I'll save my French bread and Swiss cheese for onion soup in the future.

After having my soup supper, I braved the metro to go to the Voices in the Glen Scary Stories concert. It was slightly challenging to get into he Vienna station, which was packed with people returning from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. (I am, by the way, glad that I did not attempt to go to this, as the people I know who did never made it onto the mall due to the crowds.) Apparently, large events on weekends don't cause trains to run more often. Combined with the track work on the Red Line, I got to Takoma just a little bit before the concert started.

Bill Mayhew started things off with a nice little jump tale, followed by a seasonal joke. He really should have had more time. He was followed by Jane Dorfman telling "Mary Culhane and the Dead Man," which she does very well, making this one of the highlights of the evening for me. She also told a local legend called "The White Dog." Ralph Chatham finished off the first half with excerpts from a novel by Jack Vance. This didn't really work for me, because there were too many things happening to keep track of mentally. I should note that, in my opinion, literary stories often suffer from the differences between written and spoken language. Ralph told well - but the material just isn't the sort of thing I can listen to well.

After a break for cookies and cider, the evening resumed with Anne Sheldon telling the English folktale, "Tibb's Cat and the Apple-Tree Man." She followed that with the other highlight of the show, a Robert Frost poem called "The Witch of Coos." It was definitely not what I was expecting from Robert Frost and was wonderfully creepy. We moved from creepy to just yucky with Tim Livengood telling "The Dissolving Rat." Finally, Margaret Chatham told Jane Yolen's "Mama Gone" (a literary story which does tell well, because Jane Yolen understands oral language) and "How to Turn Into a Witch."

All in all, it was a nice mix of stories and a fun evening, worth putting up with metro's inefficiency for.
fauxklore: (Default)
I should have mentioned that somebody developed a playlist of songs from our undergrad days to play at our class dinners at the reunion. The only song on that playlist I remember hearing multiple times is "We Will Rock You." I probably noticed it because it is my least favorite song of all time.

Anyway, I did promise to post my haiku entries from the Tech Challenge Games. Two of the topics (the MIT Energy Initiative and Ray Stata / The Stata Center) did nothing for me. My try at the Large Hadron Collider was pretty feeble:

Will it create a
black hole and destroy the earth?
First, get it running.

On the topic of Obama at MIT, I came up with:

Hope and change? Now the
President knows which Cambridge
school he should go to!

But the really inspiring topic was the iPad. The first of these is weak, but I'm pleased with the other two:

The main thing Apple
padded is not the features
or apps. It's the price.

The Mafia is
using ipads to plan hits
The real killer app.

Apple is going
to make a larger version -
the i-maxipad

I was able to get back to my more normal haiku topic during the week, alas:

Reported smoke at
Federal Center Southwest
No trains are stopping

And Amtrak offered up a surprise, too:

The quiet car is
actually quiet on
Thursday afternoon


fauxklore: (Default)

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