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I went to three Capital Fringe Festival shows over the weekend. (I had previously seen Mr. Taken.) Here’s the run-down, plus a note about the neighborhood.

NoMa: All three shows I saw this weekend were at Gallaudet University, which is at the edge of the NoMa (North of Massachusetts Avenue) area. Since I hadn’t been over that way before and had heard that it’s the hot and trendy neighborhoods, I took advantage of good metro connections to walk around a bit before the first show I went to. Unfortunately, a couple of friends saw me walking in the wrong direction (i.e. away from Gallaudet) and called me, panicked that I was horribly lost. Now, to be fair, I do spend a good percentage of my time horribly lost, but I probably should have answered the phone and reassured them.

The highlight of the area is allegedly Union Market, which is pretty much hipster central. I wasn’t all that impressed with it, though it did provide good ice cream. There is a promising looking coffee place there. There are also some charming row houses along M Street Northeast. And the newish REI in the Uline Arena, which was the site of the first concert The Beatles played in the United States. Still, there isn’t really a lot to draw me into the neighborhood.


Ready to Serve: Ellouise Schoettler’s story is about a group of nurses from Johns Hopkins who volunteered to serve in France during World War I. Her research was extensive, based largely on letters from the nurses themselves. There was no shortage of drama, with descriptions of the nurses having to wear every bit of clothing they had to cope with the cold and mud, as well as patients with horrifying injuries that they could do little for. It’s important to tell the stories of women’s history and Ellouise does this splendidly.


Constructive Fictions: This play tells the story of Rabbi Barry Freundel, who is serving a 6 and a half year prison term after pleading guilty to peeping on and filming women in the bathroom of the mikveh. The set is his jail cell, which is rotated (without much real point, in my opinion) by four women, who comment on his explanation of his actions. They outline their stories, and, while they are supposed to be composites of his victims, there is a lot that seems identifiable to anybody who followed the media coverage. That’s a concern, since the playwright, A. J. Campbell, apparently didn’t talk to any of the victims. A bigger problem with the play is that Matty Griffiths, who played Freundel, didn’t seem to know his lines very well. That was obvious partly due to closed captioning, but also had the effect of throwing off the timing of the women.

Despite those problems, the play was interesting, with a shocking ending. Even more interesting was listening to people discussing it afterwards.

Life: A Comic Opera in Three Short Acts: Neal Learner’s light opera was the highlight of this year’s Fringe for me. Act One dealt with birth, as Joan is screaming in agony and Charles tries to reassure her everything will be fine. They reminisce about their meeting and reflect on how their lives will change. And then the twins show up, in a very cleverly staged way. Act Two has the kids growing up and asserting their personalities. Act Three dealt with death. This doesn’t sound particularly interesting, but it was well-written and well-performed. There were some questionable rhymes here and there, but I can forgive this in what was otherwise a quite charming and enjoyable show. This has been selected for the Fringe Extension, by the way, so you still have a chance to see it. I will definitely look for other works by the writer / composer, Neal Learner, in the future.
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Washington Jewish Film Festival: I made it to two movies this year. There were others I was interested in, but couldn’t make the schedule work for. The two I saw were both comedies - Moos and OMG, I’m a Robot. More about those when I do my quarterly movie wrap-up.

Laura Bush Killed a Guy: I went to see this one-woman play, produced by The Klunch, at Caos on Friday night with a friend. We had intended to have drinks and happy hour food at Hill Country BBQ, but there was a long wait for a table and the bar was too crowded, so we sought out something else. The Smith doesn’t do a happy hour and was too noisy. We ended up going to Pi Pizzeria, which was okay. As it turns out, I was wrong about what time the play started, so we could probably have managed Hill Country. So we ended up having a wait to get in to the theatre, during which two homeless guys got into a fistfight several yards from where we were waiting. Oy.

Anyway, the show was worth it. Lisa Hodsoll captured Laura Bush’s voice and manners effectively. Ian Allen’s script had three different versions of the traffic accident in which 17-year-old Laura ran a stop sign and hit another car, killing its driver. In one, it’s a deliberate plot. In the second, she’s drunk. Only the third version is a true accident. There are also multiple versions of how she met her husband. And then there is a lot of material about the Bush family in general, how she was treated by other dignitaries (Caroline Kennedy, in particular, snubbed her), and how she is pretty much the forgotten first lady. It was an interesting show and often quite funny.

Story Swap: The monthly Voices in the Glen swap was Saturday night. We even had a new attendee, who had found us via NSN. There was a good mix of stories, as usual. I told "Sawing Off Manhattan," which I had not done in a long time. I had played with the ending, unsuccessfully, so I decided that I won’t use it at the Folk Festival. If I want an American story, I can always tell a Bill Greenfield tale.

The Man Who: This play, written by Peter Brook and Marie-Helene Estienne, was inspired by The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks, but only some of the vignettes are based on patients Sacks wrote about. All four actors in this production at Spooky Action Theater played multiple roles, both as patients and doctors. The stories are really those of the patients, confronting the puzzling realities of neurological disorders. There was a talkback afterwards and it was interesting that the actors said they focused on performing the physical actions because many of the words were like speaking a foreign language.

Anyway, it’s an interesting show and worth seeing if you’re in the area in the next couple of weeks.

16th Street NW: I think 16th Street NW has to be one of the most interesting streets in D.C., at least from an architectural perspective. There are lots of grand old residences (pretty much converted to apartment complexes), assorted embassies, and interesting churches. Best of all is the House of the Temple, which has something to do with the Scottish Rite Freemasons and has a couple of sphinxes in front of it. Apparently, you can tour the building and I really ought to do that one of these days.

Overheard at Dupont Circle: Two men were embracing at the corner of 18th and Q. One said to the other, "Don’t die in Missouri."

Sleep, or Lack Thereof: I hate it when I wake up around 2 a.m. and never really manage to get back to sleep. Nothing was obviously wrong, but I just couldn’t seem to turn my mind to sleep mode. I did get up for a half hour or so and look at facebook, but, mostly, I stayed in bed, trying vainly to get a decent amount of rest. Sigh.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Celebrity Death Watch: John Bradshaw wrote self-help books, popularizing the idea of the "nner child." Katherine Dunn wrote the novel Geek Love, which I admit I didn’t like as much as everyone thought I should. Andre Brahic discovered the rings of Neptune.

Weather Whine: It was nice out Saturday morning. But we’ve had rain nearly every day for weeks. Sunday was sunny enough, but horribly windy. And this morning is very cold for May.

City of Angels: I went to opening night at Next Stop Theatre in Herndon of this Cy Coleman musical. I saw a touring production of it in L.A. in 1991. My recollection is that the production was fairly technology-heavy, using a lot of film and special effects, which made me wonder how it would work in this small theatre. The answer was, alas, not as well as it should have. The actual technology lack, however, had to do with the sound design, which left most of the cast overwhelmed by the otherwise excellent musicians. (This is a fairly common problem. I used to blame actors for not being able to project, but not when it affects pretty much all of them.) The book is still funny, though I find some of the lyrics less clever than I thought they were 25 years ago. In particular, I cringed a bit at "’ll be leading an ovation, at your asphyxiation" I may have been biased by my annoyance at David Zippel’s mediocrity for The Good-bye Girl, in which he failed to execute " Sondheim-lich maneuver."

The performances were a mixed bag. Katie Keyser was appropriately sultry as Bobbi, singing "With Every Breath I Take," a song that would have become a standard had this been a 1950’s musical, not a 1990 one. But she seemed less convincing as Gabby. The best performer was Katie McManus, who played Oolie and Donna. (I should probably mention, for those who are unfamiliar with this show, that most actors double, playing one "real life" role and one "movie" role. It’s reasonably easy to tell who’s who, since the movie roles are dressed in black and white, while the real life ones are dressed in color.) The actor who I had a lot of reservations about was Grant Laughney, who I thought overdid things as Buddy. But one can’t really tell whether that was him or misguided direction.

Overall, this isn’t a terrible way to spend an evening in Herndon. But it’s more of an if you’re in the neighborhood type of thing, than one worth driving any distance for.

EU Embassies' Open House: Saturday was the annual European Union Embassies' Open House. (The Around the World Open House was the previous weekend but I was too tired from my business trip to make it to that one.) I was somewhat time-constrained, due to afternoon theatre tickets, so my friend, Paul, and I based our visits on the length of the lines to get in. Luxembourg had a bit of a wait, and was, frankly, not all that interesting. Romania was better and we even got to talk with the ambassador (who was wearing a t-shirt!). Latvia had everything set up outside, with lots of food sample – grey peas (not bad), cheese, extremely good black bread, and, best of all, chocolate. I also enjoyed talking with a young man from Daugavpils (Dvinsk in Yiddish), which is where parts of my father’s family lived at times.

Slovenia had a particularly favorable wait to fun ratio – short line and lots to do. A lot of which was, of course, food sampling. Alas, we were too early for the wine and beer tasting. We moved on to Estonia, where I talked with a spinner about Estonian wool and we got (so-so) chocolates on the way out. Bulgaria’s line was moving slowly, so I ran over to Cyprus while Paul waited. Alas, there was not much to see there, unless you were a small child who could try on their traditional costumes. When I got back, Paul was still waiting to get into the Bulgarian embassy, but I thought it was better if I left for my theatre commitment.

I had fun, but one really should use the whole day if one can. With enough time, we could have gone up to Belgium, aka chocolate heaven.

110 in the Shade: My afternoon theatre commitment was to see 110 in the Shade with Chris, a friend and former colleague. It was an excellent production of a musical I like quite a bit. (I had seen Roundabout’s production with Audra McDonald and John Cullum and, of course, I have a huge collection of cast recordings.) This is a show that really depends a lot on the quality of the actress playing Lizzie Curry and Tracy Lynn Olivera was more than up to the task. She was especially good on "Love, Don’t Turn Away," "Simple Little Things," and"“A Man and a Woman." Ben Crawford was a charming Starbuck and did an excellent performance of "Melisande." All in all, a lovely show and it is always such a pleasure to see actual choreography. Unfortunately, we were at the last performance or I’d tell you to run out and see it.

Suspended Animation: I had vague plans to go to the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting on Sunday, but the topic was Ukrainian research, which isn’t particularly relevant for me. I could also have gone to knitting group. But I decided I just needed to get stuff done at home. So I only made it out of the house to do some essential grocery shopping, then alternated between reading (part of) the Sunday Washington Post and napping and didn’t really get much done at all.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Lots of catching up to do, not all of it in this one entry. But let us get started.

Celebrity Death Watch: Hal Hackady was a lyricist. In addition to Snoopy!!! The Musical, he wrote the lyrics to "Let’s Go, Mets." Of course, that’s the theme song from 1986 on and is not nearly as good as "Meet the Mets," but such are the times we live in.

Joshua Wheeler was the first American soldier to be killed fighting ISIL.

Esther Geller was an artist, who I only know about because my father lived with the family of another woman of the same name in Detroit when he first came to the U.S. and the Bostonian artist came up when I googled for the Detroit one.

Ted Ingram was the world’s oldest paperboy, dying at age 95. I would have thought that attaining such an age made him a paperman. Along similar lines, Edythe Kirchmaier was, at 107, the oldest known facebook user. Apparently, she had brought a few new wrinkles to social media.

Finally, the puzzle world has suffered yet another huge loss with the death of Henry Hook. He was one of the constructors who played a large role in the transformation of crosswords from memorization of obscure words to word play and the clever themes that lead to aha moments.

Out of Mourning: Yahrzeit for my mother was the 15th, so I am officially no longer in mourning. That allowed for the theatre-going binge which is one of the main things I have to write about. It would also allow me to go clothes shopping if I could manage to find some time to do so.

Theatre Binge, Part 1 – Moon Over Buffalo: I have a friend who is from Buffalo, New York. Therefore, she wanted to see a show called Moon Over Buffalo which was being done by St. Mark’s Players, a community theatre group on Capitol Hill. I should have done a little more homework before agreeing to come along. The play was written by Ken Ludwig, whose work is generally not to my taste. In short, I dislike farce and particularly dislike farce with theatrical settings (in this case, a repertory group on tour in Buffalo). And I really really hate humor that depends on a character being drunk. On the plus side, it was well-acted and I will give a particular shout-out to Lauren Devoll as Roz.

Sonoma: Before the farcical evening, we had dinner at Sonoma, a wine bar on Pennsylvania Avenue. They have a good happy hour deal, which would have been an excellent option. Except it is only available in the lounge and that was closed for a private event. So we ordered off the regular menu. I got a funghi pizza which had too much cheese and was too salty. We split an order of crispy Brussels sprouts, which were excellent. That used to be a vegetable I wouldn’t eat, but then a couple of years ago, I was coerced into tasting some and they’re really quite nice as long as they aren’t overcooked. But, overall, based on the pizza, I’d say there are better options for dining on the Hill.

USA Freedom Walk Festival: This festival is an annual Volksmarch / International Marching League event, which offers walks of varying distances (from 6 kilometers to a marathon) for three days in Arlington, VA and Washington, DC. I did the 12K walk on Saturday. The route was an excellent one, through Georgetown, up to the National Cathedral, and winding back on natural surface trails through Glover Archbold Park. I usually think I know the city pretty well, but this took me through parts of it I rarely or never get to, as well as some familiar ones (e.g. Embassy Row). I wish I’d had time to do one of the Sunday walks, but I had too much stuff to do at home.

Theatre Binge, Part 2 - And the World Goes ‘Round: My second theatre binge outing was to see this Kander and Ebb revue at Creative Cauldron, at ArtsSpace in Falls Church. What a lovely little theatre! And it’s only about a 15 minute drive from home. I was expecting this to be amateurish community theatre, but it isn’t. It was directed by Matt Conner, who is well-known (at least locally) as a musical theatre composer and the five cast members have all appeared with various local professional theatres. There were many familiar songs, but also some less so. Notably, I had not heard "Pain," a song about what choreographers do to dancers, before. The staging was also excellent. Overall, this was a delight and I will definitely go to future shows here.

Theatre Binge, Part 3 - Mark Russell at Fords’ Theatre: Next up was seeing PBS comedian Mark Russell perform at Ford’s Theatre. He’s been doing his mix of jokes and music parodies, mostly about politics, for a long time. The current crop of candidates makes for lots of opportunities for this sort of shtick and my only real complaint was that his show was rather disconnected. His best joke of the night was that Steven Spielberg is making a movie about Hillary Clinton. It’s going to be called "Saving Private E-mail."

By the way, as I was entering the metro to go home, I ran into an old friend, who had also been at the show. It was nice to catch up a bit as we waited for our respective trains.

Co Co Sala: Because of its proximity to Ford’s Theatre, we had dinner at Co Co Sala. We should have made appoint of telling the waiter we had theatre tickets, as the pacing was unnecessarily slow. I started with a glass of prosecco. The beet salad was disappointing, as it needed something more acidic. The tuna tartare was better, with a spicy dipping sauce. I ordered the cupcakes for dessert, not realizing this would be three full-size cupcakes. So I ended up bringing two of them home. Overall, it wasn’t bad, but I have had better meals there.

A Brief Note on Washington: I was at a symposium part of last week. Who knew it would be so much more complicated to get into the Commerce Department Building than it is to get into a Senate Office Building?

Theatre Binge, Part 4 - Beautiful: The final stage of this recent theatre binge was seeing Beautiful: the Carole King Musical at the Kennedy Center. I’m not a big fan of jukebox musicals and probably would not have chosen to see this on my own, but there was enough of interest this season for me to do a Kennedy Center theatre subscription. The book is pretty thin – teenage pregnancy leads Carole King to marry songwriting partner, Gerry Goffin. Their marriage goes wrong, but her career works out. There’s a parallel line on the relationship between their friends and rivals, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. The main thing is that the show is full of music that is sure to bring a nostalgic smile (and maybe some silent mouthing of words) from pretty much anyone of my generation. Let’s just say that every 50-something woman I know owned a copy of King’s album, Tapestry. There were earlier pop songs, some of them of the "I didn’t know they wrote that" variety. All in all, this was enjoyable fare and I was able to forgive it the lack of depth, e.g. a bare hint at the issue of white songwriters writing for black musicians.

More to Come: I made a trip down to Norfolk and Virginia Beach last weekend, but this is long enough already, so that will wait.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
One of the best things about taking public transportation is the conversations you overhear. (It can also be one of the worst, I know, but go with me here.) Tonight on the Orange Line featured two classic examples.

1) "It should be a great thing educating people about economics. But the sad reality is that you have to spend your time teaching Harvard students."

2) "It has two f's and two k's."

I assume the first was a disgruntled professor turned Congressional staffer. I hope the people involved in the second were doing a word puzzle.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I have been intending to do a catch-up post since before I went on vacation. But work has been crazy and vacation preparations are always crazy and vacation recovery has been slow due to work being even crazier. Oh, enough with the excuses.

Celebrity Death Watch: Doris Lessing won a Nobel prize in literature. I am sorry to say the only book I ever read of hers was about cats. Wanda Coleman was a poet. John Galbraith Graham was better known as Auraucario and wrote (British) cryptic crosswords. Dick Dodd was a drummer and was the lead singer of the Standells on "Dirty Water," which is, of course, played at Fenway Park when truth and justice triumph, i.e. the Red Sox win.

Nelson Mandela was, of course, the most significant celebrity we lost recently. What made him remarkable was his focus on reconciliation, his refusal to dwell on revenge. He was certainly far from a perfect person, with some questionable political alliances and some extremely challenging personal relationships (e.g. his first two marriages). But that emphasis on moving forward inspired a nation towards healing and progress.

Crossing: I saw this musical at Signature Theatre before I left. The concept involved several people in a train station. The catch is that they were from different periods of history. It was an interesting piece, but I wished that Matt Connor’s songs better reflected the different time periods of the characters, instead of all melting into a certain sameness. The exception was "Follow the Drinking Gourd," a gospel number performed brilliantly by newcomer Ines Nassara and long-term local diva Nova Payton. I definitely related to the concept of travel as a means of changing one’s life, but I wanted more depth. And when I rule the world, all musicals will be required to have at least one or two big dance numbers.

Tellabration: We put on a few storytelling shows this year for Tellabration. I performed in one at a bookstore near Dupont Circle. We had a decent sized audience, many of whom were local hangers-on and not one’s typical storytelling audience. It’s a little weird to be confronted with questions in the middle of one’s performance. But it went okay and was fun enough.

Other Stuff I Did in November: As a result of going to the condo association annual meeting, I actually finally met my next door neighbor. I’ve only lived in this place for 6 years. To be fair, she was working in Belize most of that time.

I went out to lunch with flyertalk friends at Zaytinya. One of them mentioned having a DC bucket list, i.e. things to do while he is in this area. I think the only D.C. thing I really should do and haven’t is Congressional Cemetery. And maybe some more of the reasonably nearby minor league ballparks.

I hosted a story swap at my place. That meant a cleaning frenzy. It is remarkable how quickly I can undo all the straightening up that takes days.


And now I am less than a week behind here.
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I have plenty of things to write about but I won't get to them for a few days.

I did, however, want to put out a reminder that the USA Science and Engineering Festival is this weekend at the D.C. Convention Center.

I am emceeing the main stage (designated Curie Stage on the festival map) on Saturday. I get to introduce people you have heard of.

I will also point you to Hall A, Booth 3557 at which my employer will answer the vital question, "Is the sky falling?"
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.
fauxklore: (baseball)
First, I did get around to uploading photos of the Dupont Circle Valentine's Day yarn bombing.

About the only significant thing I did the week before leaving was go out to dinner with the D.C. flyertalk crowd. Well, actually, there was someone visiting from northern California, but I see her on the East Coast all the time. There was one new person and I hope we didn't scare him too badly. We ate at BTS, by the way, which is a trendy burger joint in Foggy Bottom. I thought it was quite good and they have an excellent beer menu, including Big Daddy IPA. But the conversation is really the point and that was, of course, excellent.

I can get a piece of paper off my desk if I mention that my immediate reaction to seeing a "kangaroo wallet" in a catalogue was to speculate about what kangaroos have that they can't just carry loose in their pockets.

As for celebrity death watch, I can't say much for either Andrew Breitbart or James Q. Wilson other than that the latter was at least a more thoughtful and more civil Conservative pundit. But I can recycle a pun for Davy Jones and sing, "I'm a bereaver."

I have a couple of non-celebrity deaths to cope with, too - a friend's husband and a colleague. There is also the imminent demise of Melody Records in Dupont Circle, a place that has been way more responsible for exercising my credit card than I care to admit.

In more positive news, Fenway Park has been declared a National Historic Site! Yay! I should also mention the retirements of Tim Wakefield and of Jason Varitek. Tek, in particular, was one of my favorites for many years, probably because he played his entire major league career for the Red Sox. I wish him (and Wake) well for the future.

Speaking of baseball, I now have a ticket to a game at the new ballpark in Miami. No, I'm not obsessive, no, not at all.

Finally, I read today that the Grim Reaper walks at 2.4 miles per hour. (Before you ask, I've already forgotten where I read it, but if you insist I will claim it was an actual scientific reference.) I hope that is referring to flat terrain only.
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Let's see, I was halfway through the weekend before last. On Sunday, I went to see Really Really at Signature Theatre. This is a new play, written by a 26 year old wunderkind. It deals with the aftermath of a very drunken college party and is, essentially, a "he said, she said" date rape scenario, punctuated by the reactions of his and her friends. (More precisely, it was "she said, he was too drunk to remember what happened.") There are reasons not to trust any of the people involved, as well as implications that a difference in social class is a contributing factor. That was all pretty interesting, but the play didn't quite work for me for two reasons. One problem was that the ending removed the ambiguity and seemed to be done that way entirely for shock value. My bigger issue was that there was nobody to like.

Monday night, I went over to Looped Yarn Works in Dupont Circle. Along with The Phillips Collection, they were yarn bombing the area. We knitted and crocheted hearts (I crocheted four) and hung them around the area. You can see a little of the result at the Phillips blog entry. (I have some pictures but still need to upload them. And I am having internet issues at home, so it may be a while.)

And Thursday night was an MIT Club of Washington event at the Turkish embassy residence. The building is truly spectacular. It was built for Edward H. Everett, who made a fortune by inventing a machine to make crimped bottle caps for soda bottles. He gave free reign to the architect, George Oakley Totten, Jr. The result has lots of polished wood, marble, stained glass, original art, and pretty much everything you associate with rich people. There were the usual talks (one by the Deputy Chief of Mission, who was quite entertaining, and one by an MIT professor, who was less so) followed by a dinner of finger foods (miniature kebabs, domades, cheesy things, etc.) And, of course, the opportunity for conversation with intelligent people, which is the main reason I go to these things.

I went away for the weekend (to Las Vegas) but that will be a separate entry.
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I had my usual sort of hectic week, though I was reasonably productive (both at work and home).

Stories on Wednesday: I had a VASA board meeting (by conference call) on Wednesday evening. The logistics meant I ended up using my cell phone from the lobby of the Chevy Chase Pavilion (a shopping center next to the Embassy Suites), which worked okay. We got through the business we needed to. The main thing is that there will be a Gathering in 2012.

The reason I was over in that part of town for the call was that Willa Brigham was performing at the Friendship Heights Village Center. It made sense for me to call from somewhere near that venue. It also meant it was one of those evening when I end up eating a Power Bar for supper, which is annoying but survivable as long as it isn't too frequent. The highlights of Willa's show were some of her travel stories, in which she managed to get into interesting trouble. She also had a wonderful wooden hat, with a story about how she got it. I thought a lot of her material was entertaining and I liked her performance style, but I felt that what she told worked better as anecdotes within speeches, versus as stories themselves.

A Very Washington Thursday: Thursday evening featured an MIT Club of Washington event. MIT President Susan Hockfield was giving a talk at the Grand Hyatt. An email a few days beforehand warned of extra security due to "a distinguished visitor." It turned out that President Obama was speaking at the Women's Leadership Forum, behind held across the hall. The security was not actually all that onerous - just a walk through metal detector and bag x-rays. I thought Hockfield's speech was interesting, even if she had less cheering (and none of the press coverage) that Obama got. And conversing with intelligent people is always a good thing.

Speaking of Obama: His Middle East speech did not actually say anything. The term "based on" is a very useful out for almost anything. (That said, I think Jerusalem is a thorny and likely unsolveable problem. Not that anybody asked for my opinion.)

Conversation with my Mother: There were several police cars in her neighborhood the other day. Apparently. somebody drowned a cat in the swimming pool of a house on the next block. Describing the house, Mom said, "nobody lives there, since they're mostly all dead." Apparently, the police also found bones buried in the yard. My guess is that the bones will prove to be connected to the pig roasts that the people who used to live there had, though it would be more interesting if that weren't the case.

Bad Taste Department: One of my colleagues has taken to describing the Mark Center (the building we are moving to thanks to BRAC) as Auschwitz II. The other day, he was pointing out that the building will have showers. I found the comments offensive, but beyond saying, "that's not funny" I'm not sure about whether or not to pursue it with him.
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Most of this delay was because one of the things I did this past weekend was take some pictures. See, there was a Volksmarch to celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival and I braved the unwashed masses of tourists to walk around D.C. with a camera for a change. It was a particularly enjoyable walk, across the mall, around the tidal basin, and up to the Botanic Gardens and the Capitol.

After that route, I made my way over to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History and (finally) took some pictures of the completed Smithsonian Community Coral Reef. I added them to my coral reef set on Flickr.

I was intending to insert some photos here, but that function doesn't seem to be working, presumably due to the DDOS attack.

I came home and got some errands done, then went to a story swap in the evening. I used that as an opportunity to rehearse one of my stories for the Kensington Row Story Salon. There was the usual wide range of material and good conversation over snacks afterwards. Ralph is championing the need to revive the art of narrative poetry and we discussed that, which led to talking about sequels. That, in turn, led to a discussion of Flanders and Swann.

The major event of Sunday was seeing And the Curtain Rises at Signature Theatre. This is the most recent product of the American Musical Voices Project, which funds the development of new musicals. The story involves the development of the first American musical, The Black Crook in 1866. The show starts as a dreadful melodrama, Return to Black Creek but the producer takes advantage of a ballet troupe (living in the theatre after being burned out of their own venue) to create a spectacle. There are a few love stories woven in. The show was reasonably diverting, with a few genuinely funny moments, but the music was utterly forgettable. Still, it's good to encourage new musicals to be written and, with some work, this could be a nice second tier show, i.e. the sort of thing that gets done by summer stock companies and high schools.

By the way, I renewed my subscription to Signature for next season.

As for the week, I've been surprisingly productive at work during most of it. Yesterday was the exception. Because I was telling stories in Kensington after work, I drove in to work. And Neptune decided he needed new shoes about halfway to the office. That is, my car (called Neptune because it's a blue-green Saturn and I am a space geek) got a flat. Fortunately, I was reasonably near Sears. And I knew I was going to need new tires soon, so I just got all 4 replaced. Given that Neptune is 17+ years old and the previous tires were only the second set, I can't complain too much. (I also got new front brake pads, while I was at it. I knew that was coming up soon and I figured it was easiest to do it while the tires were already off.) This is why I have a reserve in my budget for contingencies.

I also had a return of my phone issues at work. In short, our building manager has now managed to disconnect my phone twice. While there is an advantage to the phone not ringing, there are times when I need to call people and it is a lot more convenient to do it from my own desk. At least this time, she knew how to fix it herself and didn't have to wait three days for Verizon to come out.

Then there was the joy of driving to Kensington after work. I have finally figured out how to get there without getting lost. (Let's just say that Arlington road signs leave something to be desired.) But there was an accident on the GW Parkway and another slog on the Beltway. All of the times I've gotten lost getting to Jane's house actually helped me there, since I knew how to get across Bethesda on surface streets. That was important since it also let me buy gas. And I got to Kensington on time.

The storytelling went fine. Liz started, with a mixture of personal stories and Hindu myth, plus other snippets about creating stories. I attempted to be seasonal, with a bad pun involving baseball. I followed that with my piece about my father's less than literal translations of the Passover Haggadah. Then I did some material from my "Fortune, Fools, and Fowl" program. That included an Armenian folk tale, a Bill Greenfield story, "Why I'm Not a Millionaire" and a couple of short poems about chickens. And, yes, I had my rubber chicken out, as sort of a prop, though there was not really a good place to put it. Overall, I had lots of fun and got laughs in the right places (and groans in appropriate ones).
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First, one thing I forgot to mention in the last entry is that I had been tipped off to the food trucks that gather in the parking lot of the LAX Crowne Plaza on Tuesdays at lunch time. This should be better known to my friends who work in that general vicinity. They change every week, apparently, but if the No Tomatoes Indian food truck is there, I can recommend their paneer tikka masala. (Other options included a couple of Mexican food places, a burger truck, and a Hawaiian-style barbecue place.) There are also tables set up and music playing.

As for yesterday, I didn't make it to zumba but I did finish the squares for the baby blankets. I mentioned my evening theatre tickets, so here is the brief review. I hadn't actually been to Landless Theatre (at the District of Columbia Arts Center in Adams Morgan) before, but when I saw their production of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog come up on Goldstar, I couldn't resist. It was, apparently, a challenge to get the permissions to put this on, but Landless has a reputation for a type of show this is somewhat consistent with. (They are probably best known for Evil Dead: The Musical, which was a big hit at the Capital Fringe.) Not surprisingly, this drew a younger, nerdier, and more casually dressed crowd than most theatre events. The theatre is only about 50 seats and it looked like all but two or three were filled. (It's running through March 27th, so you still have plenty of opportunities to grab a ticket, but I expect some performances will sell out.)

The internet musical is only 40 minutes long, but they made it a full hour by putting in the songs from Commentary: The Musical (which comes on the DVD) in between the acts. Those songs were in a different order than in the original but that didn't really matter. There were other minor changes in them to suit the cast. Most notably, "Better (Than Neil)" was sung by the actor who played Dr. Horrible, while it was done by Nathan Fillon on the DVD. In addition, "Nobody Wants to Be Moist" was moved into the main story (in the middle of Act Two).

Obviously, nobody goes to see this sort of thing unless they are already familiar with the musical itself, so the question is how it worked on the stage, versus the internet. There are limitations, but I'd say it worked surprisingly well. The staging was minimal, but imaginative and clever. For example, the set changed from the lab to the laundromat just by flipping disks on the wall from hazard symbols to pictures of washing machines. I also particularly liked how they handled the van. Charles Johnson did a notable job as the title character. Stefanie Garcia was sweet as Penny, but had trouble projecting her singing voice over the music. All of the performers looked like they were having fun. So was I.

I was walking back to the Woodley Park metro station but the Circulator bus had conveniently stopped just west of Columbia Road, so I grabbed it instead. The route, which goes through Columbia Heights and down 14th Street on the way to McPherson Square (where I got on the Orange), reminded me that I really don't get to those northern parts of D.C. much. I may go out a lot, but it still tends to be to a limited number of places. I'll have to remedy that some time.
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One thing that the Washington, D.C. area lacks compared to southern California is decent traffic reporting. In Los Angeles, pretty much every radio station (including NPR stations) has traffic updates during station breaks. Here, there is one news radio station with traffic reports every 10 minutes. Unfortunately, it is also a station whose other programming I don't much care for.

Before somebody kicks in and suggests google maps or the like, I was driving alone. I don't have a smart phone and, even if I did, there wasn't really anywhere to pull off and use it. The particular mess I was caught in was on route 4 just outside the Beltway yesterday, coming back from Solomons. After not moving for a while, I decided the best option was to go the opposite way around the Beltway, even though that's a longer drive. Once I was on the outer loop, I quickly found out what the problem was. The inner loop was completely shut down for a motorcade. I was a bit puzzled since a presidential motorcade would normally just go down Pennsylvania Avenue (which turns into Route 4) to Andrews Air Force Base, not the Beltway. Due to the lack of traffic reporting here, I had to wait until I got home to find out that it was actually the funeral procession for the Maryland state trooper who was shot while off-duty, working security at a restaurant in Prince George's County. The Washington Post had reported that the Beltway would be shut down for 3 hours for this - but only on the Dr. Gridlock blog and not on the traffic page. And they'd claimed it was going to be closed just to Pennsylvania Avenue, which shouldn't have affected my route. Sigh.

The only real impact was that I didn't have time to bake, so had to run into Pie Gourmet for something to bring to a story swap. (Hardly a sacrifice, since their pies are wonderful.) And I got home too late to nap and do laundry then, having to defer both of those essential activities to today.

I had been out that way for a volksmarch, by the way. This was the first one ever in Solomons and it covered the town and the island, as well as a nature trail along the salt marsh and through a native tree arboretum. It was really quite a nice route, but the directions were a bit confusing at times. They'd put up flags and ribbons on the nature trail, but not on other parts of the walk. It was also way too hot out, but that just meant drinking plenty of water.

I did another volksmarch today - the year round event at Mount Vernon. Due to the searing heat, I just did the 5 kilometer estate trail, instead of adding on either of the other two loops that are available. It's a spectacular route, worth the $15 admission to the estate. But I'd recommend going in much cooler weather, especially since the trails are fairly steep in several places. Avoiding the summer would also probably cut down on the number of tourists around.
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I took advantage of warmer weather today to do a Volksmarch in Washington, D.C. (It was drizzling, but that doesn't really bother me when walking.) There were a few options, but I decided that the zoo and the National Cathedral was the most appealing.

The zoo has really gone downhill, in my opinion. There is a lot of construction, so perhaps it is temporary, but it felt like nearly a third of it was closed. I did go to see the lions and tigers and pandas (oh, my!). And the cheetahs. I couldn't find the 2nd checkpoint at all since the construction meant there was no apparent way to get to the area where the sea lions, otters, Mexican wolves, and bald eagle allegedly are.

The walk up to the Cathedral was pleasant. I don't think I've ever actually gone into the building before, but I wanted to visit Woodrow Wilson's tomb so I could count this for the cemetery walk program. (My main motivation was using it to finish up the "Walking Europe in the U.S.A." program, since there is a Washington in England. As I've said before, Volksmarching is a great way for compulsive people to get some exercise.) The directions were not very clear so I ended up asking one of the volunteers, who pointed out a lot of features of the tomb I would not have noticed on my own (e.g. the seals of the U.S., New Jersey and Princeton).

I need to get out an walk more, as I definitely felt the uphill sections of the route. I also need new walking shoes.
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The predictions for this snow storm started out with 4-6 inches some time Saturday. By yesterday, it was 8-10 inches. Now, they're saying that 1-2 feet are likely. (That's 12-24 inches for the metric crowd.)

I can't tell how much we got overnight because that would mean going out and measuring which would mean putting on shoes or something. I'm tempted to do that just because our courtyard looks lovely in the snow and it would be nice to make the first footprints in the pristine cover before one of my neighbors goes and walks a dog or something. But the heaviest snowfall is supposed to start any moment now and it would only fill in those footprints, so what's the point?

Like everyone else, I ran to the store last night. However, I actually needed a couple of things since I promised to make cornbread for a potluck and I didn't have any cornmeal in the house. The entire population of Fairfax County was in the Safeway at the Pan Am Shopping Center, too. They'd run out of milk, for example. Not an issue since I keep powdered milk for situations like this (and they had plenty of soy milk in long life packages which nobody else seems to think of). While waiting ages in line with my cornmeal and heavy cream and scotch tape (not for the cornbread), I amused myself by looking at what people were buying. There was surprisingly little of the traditional milk, bread, and toilet paper.

Apparently, if the end of the world comes and you live in Fairfax County, it is vitally important to have potato chips and wine.
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One of the great things about living in the D.C. area is the opportunity to go to events at various embassies. Last night was an MIT Club of Washington reception at the Israeli Embassy. I had not known that this was the first embassy to purchase a plot on International Drive (where several others are located - in fact, the new Chinese embassy is across the street and I'd been over there before twice when I got my visa to go to Ghana).

The building is modernistic and rather plain, at least judging from the hall we were in. They had the reception catered by Kosher Mart in Maryland, so it was not particularly exotic, but the food was tasty and plentiful. It does raise the question of what the proper wine to have with a pastrami sandwich might be. (I waited until after the talk and had a glass of merlot.)

The talk was given by a representative from the trade ministry and was titled "From the Land of Milk and Honey to the Land of Tech and Money." The most interesting chart was probably the one on citrus vs. software, highlighting the transformation of the Israeli economy. It also reminded me of how much the socialist Zionists have declined in influence. Another interesting point had to do with the relatively low labor participation in Israeli society, which was attributed to cultural values of Orthodox Jewish men and Arabic women.

By the way, the ambassador and his wife came in briefly at the end of the talk. (They'd been at a reception at the Russian embassy.) All in all, it was a very nice event.

The trip home was a bit less pleasant. I walked back over to the Van Ness metro station and, while waiting for the Red Line, heard an announcement that there was "an incident" on the Orange Line to Vienna and all trains were holding. When the Red Line train came, the driver announced that there was single tracking on the Blue Line between Federal Triangle and Farragut West due to reports of someone struck by a train at McPherson Square. At Metro Center, there was no indication of any Blue or Orange Line trains running and an announcement that trains were turning back at Federal Triangle and at Farragut West. There was a claim that there were shuttle buses, but no indication of from where. (The Metro Center station has at least 4 exits, so this is significant.) I figured that the best bet was for me to take the Red Line back a stop to Farragut North, exit, and walk the one block to Farragut West. This did, indeed, prove to be a good approach.

Not that there was any more information at Farragut West, beyond confirmation that somebody had been hit by a train at McPherson Square. I waited on the Vienna platform with several other people griping about the loack of information. A train pulled in on the opposite platform and, when people got off, they announced it was going out of service. Then they announced it was going to Vienna, so I went across to that platform and got on. Then they announced it was going out of service and we all had to get off. But, before we did, they announced it really was going to Vienna. Which it did. (It switched back to the correct track between Farragut West and Foggy Bottom, by the way, so the ride home was quick enough.)

No metro issue can go by without my writing haiku about it, of course. Hence, these offerings:

Nearly once a month
some jerk commits suicide
using the metro.

This is really most
inconsiderate to do.
Please use gas instead.

(By the way, there was an article not long ago in the Post re: the psychological impact of metro suicides on the drivers of the trains which have struck and killed people. So it's not just the inconvenience to think about.)

Inconsistency
is the hallmark of metro's
info to riders.
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The Music and the Brain lecture series has started up again at the Library of Congress. Last night's lecture was by Richard Cytowic on synesthesia. I read Cytowic's book, The Man Who Tasted Shapes many years ago, so I was somewhat familiar with the subject. But we have apparently learned a lot in the 20 odd years since he wrote that book. In fact, he has a new book out, Wednesday is Mood Indigo, which he was signing after the talk. Anyway, he proved to be an engaging and interesting speaker, mostly focused on examples of the diversity of sensory experience. Seeing colors for numbers or letters is, apparently, the most common form of synesthesia, but he also talked about people who experience tastes with different sounds, some of which are linked to specific similar words (e.g. the word "application" might taste like apricots). Another specific set of examples he talked about had to do with items in an overlearned sequence, e.g. days of the week. But the real point of his lecture had to do with what synesthesia says about creativity and the possibility it could be at the heart of how people make metaphors.

By the way, the lecture last night included a special privilege. Normally, the talks are in the Whittall Pavilion, but the set-up for the evening concert last night (held in the Campbell Auditorium, which is next to and connected to the Whittall), so they moved the lecture to the Members Room. This is the room reserved for Members of Congress and the general public doesn't normally even get to see it. It's quite ornately decorated and I was glad I was there early enough to look around before the lecture and not be distracted during it.

After the lecture, I took advantage of being in the city to run over to Kramer's and pick up a copy of an entirely unrelated book. Save the Deli by David Sax is exactly the sort of thing Robert would like to read, since the decline of Jewish delis is one of his favorite subjects. I will, of course, read the book before giving it to him since that's just what we do. (Well, he's given me books without reading them, but he also reads a lot less than I do.) Anyway, that gave me a slight bit of noshtalgia (i.e. a bittersweet longing for the foods of yesteryear) and I did a google search on "nesselrode pie." That led me to this article by Arthur Schwartz which reveals the horrible truth about that apparently extinct food item. Namely, that the primary ingredient in Raffetto's Nesselro is, of all things, cauliflower. Who knew that Custom Bakers was serving us vegetables in sweet pie form through my youth?

As for today, I ran errands in the morning. The afternoon held the story swap that Voices in the Glen was putting on with the Beltsville public library. We got about 40 people at various times (including about 10 tellers), which is definitely a success for the first time putting on a swap there. The event was advertised as being for ages 6 and up, but nobody pays attention to that and there were some younger kids. Fortunately, most of them had left by the time I told. I had contemplated several different stories, but settled on "Ida Black" as being suitable, as well as something I didn't have to worry about anybody else telling. (It's more or less original, though based on a legend I stumbled across some years ago and later found other versions of in a booklet of "true" ghost stories. It involves a woman who is hanged for witchcraft and returns to dance on the grave of her accuser.) All in all, there was a nice mix of stories and I think most of the attendees had a good time.

No trick or treaters this year, alas. Last year, the only one I had was the little girl next door, but that family has moved away. There are definitely children in the complex, but most of them are from non-trick or treating cultures (primarily Korean and Indian immigrants).

And now for the horror of the World Series. Actually, it would be appropriate for the Source of All Evil in the Universe to win on Halloween, but I still don't want that to happen.

Post Hunt

May. 13th, 2009 08:54 pm
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I will miss the Post Hunt as I won't be back from Seattle until later Sunday afternoon. However, I believe some people on my friends list will be participating, so here's a bit of news.

They will be starting from Freedom Plaza, Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th and 14th. Apparently, they have gotten permission to route traffic around there. The closest metro station is Federal Triangle.

The map will be available for download (as a .pdf) late on Friday afternoon.

If anybody is planning to gather afterwards and while away the late afternoon, The Elephant and Castle pub at Pennsylvania and 12th is a decent watering hole. (They do have food, but I have never been there for anything other than drinks.)
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I will, eventually, write about my weekend excursion to Raleigh, but for now here are two items inspired by the season:

1) Cherries are such lovely trees
But the pollen makes me sneeze.

2) Cherry tree, very pretty
With its blossoms pink and white
But with blooming cherry flowers
Comes the yearly tourist blight.

(Yes, I plan to keep my day job.)

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