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I failed at this last year, but I have done it several times in the past and decided to give it another go. The idea is to send something to someone every postal day of February (so Sundays and President's Day are excluded).

If you would like mail from me, send me a message with your address. I will attempt both legibility and wit, but do not guarantee either.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Mason Lowe was a professional bull rider, who was killed by a bull. John Bogle founded the Vanguard Group, popularizing index funds. Mary Oliver was a Pulitzer Prize winning poet. Glen Wood was a NASCAR driver. Brian Stowell was a linguist who, among other things, translated Alice in Wonderland into Manx. Tony Mendez was the real-life spy who the movie Argo was based on. Nathan Glazer wrote important books about American ethnicity, with something of a focus on Judaism.

Should Have Been Celebrity Death Watch: Anne Thomas died yesterday. She was an amazing woman – a storyteller, a writer, a world traveler, an activist – who didn’t let being a paraplegic get in the way of anything she really wanted to do. I will miss her and her stories.

Desserts: We didn’t get much snow on Saturday, so there was no sugar in the snow. As for other desserts, I got as far as making cranberry bread pudding. Mostly because I had cranberries that needed to get used up.

Gulf View Drive: On Friday, I decided I was in the mood to go to the theatre and a quick look at Goldstar showed me that the Washington Stage Guild had a production of Gulf View Drive by Arlene Hutton on offer. I had really enjoyed See Rock City, so this play made a lot of sense to see. (They’re the second and third plays in a trilogy. While I haven’t seen the first, Last Train to Nibroc, they stand alone quite well.)
As I expected, this was an enjoyable evening . There are interesting issues, including domestic violence and racism, but the focus is still on family dynamics. The performances were uniformly very good, with Laura Giannarelli especially convincing as the domineeringly awful Mrs. Brummett. It’s playing through February 9th. I recommend it to D.C. area theatre goers.

Lunar Eclipse: I didn’t stay up for last night’s lunar eclipse. I’ve seen a lot of lunar eclipses, for one thing. And it was insanely cold out.

Fruit: Today is Tu B’Shvat, which is that Jewish equivalent of Arbor Day, though actually the New Year for Trees. It’s traditional to eat fruit. When I was a child, we’d get trays in Hebrew school that had a lot of dried fruit – figs, prunes, dates, raisins, apricots, and bokser (carob), if I recall correctly. The only ones of those I liked were apricots and bokser. I’ve been making a point of eating fruit every day and have this mental debate about whether dried fruit counts. I’ve decided it does, but only once or twice a week. I didn’t think of it when I was grocery shopping, but I might have bought some dates (which I do eat nowadays), as well as the kiwi fruit that I did got this week. (Mostly because it was on sale.) I still have a good supply of clementines, too.

Now I am really craving bokser.
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Despite my Red Sox fandom, I have not lived in New England since 1980. However, when I visit Boston, I do feel like I belong there.

Not a Good Weekend to Look at Social Media: A lot of my friends from the puzzle community are at MIT for the Mystery Hunt. A lot of my traveling friends are in Singapore for SinDo (a big annual frequent flyer party). I am home. And I don’t get Monday off. And I need my vacation time for a trip in February. But it is still annoying to think of all the fun that friends are having while I will spend a lot of the weekend communing with housework and whining about the weather.

Weather: Supposedly we got another inch and a half of snow last night. While it was snowing when I walked home from the Metro station, it was mostly wet stuff that wasn’t sticking. And I didn’t see any real signs of it this morning on the sidewalk or street. I did, however, remember that I keep intending to collect a bunch of freshly falling snow in a pie tin so I can make sugar in the snow. (This is a New England thing – you boil maple syrup and pour it over a pan of fresh-packed snow and it turns into incredibly good caramel.) There didn’t seem to be enough snow last night for that and I had forgotten last weekend when it would have been feasible. This coming weekend’s forecast doesn’t look very likely either. But I should still make sure to buy pickles and sharp cheddar cheese (which are the perfect go-withs) when I go shopping.

Speaking of New England Things: Durgin Park, a very old Boston restaurant, closed last weekend. The food was never exciting and the waiters were surly to the point of hostility. But it was a classic. In honor of its memory, I am planning to make Indian pudding. And Grape Nut pudding, which I would have done last weekend if I had found a big pan to use as a bain marie. (Again, for those unfamiliar, both of these are essentially egg custards with corn meal and molasses in the first case and Grape Nut cereal for the latter.)

I also have some Granny Smith apples in the house. Which are the right and proper thing to use for apple crisp or apple brown betty and I admit I don’t really know what the difference between the two is.
I should probably cook something that isn’t dessert. I also have things other than cooking to do this weekend.
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I put away the laundry, did the hand washing (e.g. nylons), and even changed the bed linens. The latter is a chore that takes about 3 minutes, but which I can procrastinate on for days.

I am almost caught up on puzzles (with just this weekend’s to do, though that does include a Hex cryptic).

I think I am ready to submit my 2019 ghoul pool list.

Most importantly, I made it to knitting group, which had rather high turnout. I made a lot of progress on an amigurumi project, though the face embroidery still needs to get done, which is always the pain in the ass part. I probably have to search for some suitable yarn or thread for that. (I am being vague because this is a gift for someone who sometimes reads my blog.)

I plan to spend another hour or so on newspaper reading before going to bed.
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I managed to do a load of laundry, but I still need to finish putting things away.

Other than that, I spent much of the day alternating between reading newspapers and magazines and taking naps. I’ve also been working on my ghoul pool list. I did pretty badly this year, though I’m still ahead of our Australian players.

I am trying to believe I will be more productive tomorrow.
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1) If you have not been at the previous 3 meetings on a project, perhaps you might want to keep your mouth shut instead of whining about a topic we already spent six hours hashing out an agreement on.

2) I ignored much of the yammering above and bit my lip while writing Christmas cards. At some point, I wrote something in my notebook that started out having to do with the meeting and ended with "best wishes for a great 2019." I guess I don't multi-task as well as I think I do.

3) I need to find my National Park Passport book. It will, of course, be in the last place I look.
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At least I got out of the house and did the most critical grocery shopping. I was really motivated by the annual NY Times puzzle supplement. Not that I’ve actually ever gotten around to doing last year’s or, for that matter, the year before. I take them with me on vacations but never get around to them. Maybe this time...

I even managed to cook a reasonable dinner. I had taken a chicken breast out of the freezer yesterday, but it hadn’t finished thawing by 7 p.m. so I ended up eating an apple and some nuts for supper instead. Tonight, I cooked the chicken and, happily, remembered the bottle of Nando’s periperi sauce I got as a gimme at the South African embassy back in May. I had it with some steamed green beans. I bought too many of those so I think I will throw them in a curry with potatoes, carrots, and onions tomorrow night.

I did not, however, get through writing Christmas cards. Or sorting out the annual begging letters. Or catching up on a billion other chores.
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Going back to the 5 questions meme, these are from lillibet. Feel free to ask me up to 5 questions and I will attempt to answer them.

1) Do you have a favorite month? If so, which and why? I like September, because I get to celebrate my birthday. Between that, the Jewish holiday season, and too many years of school, it logically feels like the new year to me. April is close behind because of warming weather and baseball.

2) If you had to leave the US, where would you settle? Israel is the most obvious place for me to go, since I’m eligible for citizenship there. And I have plenty of family around. Other possibilities are South Africa or Uruguay.

3) What kind of flooring do you prefer? Tile, carpet, hardwood, stone, other? Describe a particular favorite floor. I like the feel of carpet. Either 1970’s style shag carpeting or thick karakul wool carpeting. (I have a karakul wool area rug I bought in Namibia that I am still completely n love with after 20 some odd years.) But my all-time favorite floor was the radiant heat bathroom floor in a hotel room in Norway.

4) What's the nicest hotel you've ever stayed in, and why? Albergo Atlantic in Bologna, Italy was fabulous. The location was convenient, price was reasonable, room was clean and quiet. A decent breakfast (admittedly, a cold one, but that is typical for Italy) was included. The staff was friendly. It’s across the street from a good gelato place. And it's in Bologna!

Runner-up is The Library Hotel in New York. How could I not love a hotel that asks "fiction or nonfiction" when you check in? The only reason that it isn’t the winner is that it’s pricy.

5) What is the most interesting thing you've learned in the past week? Probably not interesting to anyone but me, but I found my great-great-grandfather’s birth certificate (from Ostrolenka, Poland) and, hence, I’ve identified my his parents. (That’s my maternal grandfather’s mother’s father, for those who are keeping track.)
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Work is busy but frustrating.

I have been in sort of a swirl of trying to get caught up on the chaos that is my condo, but getting distracted by other things (mostly reading things on-line and catching up on crosswords) instead. I had particularly good intentions for Saturday, but spent much of the day in suspended animation, i.e. alternating between reading and napping.

Sunday, on the other hand, was a swirl of activity. The morning was One-Day University, with three presentations focused on the theme of Genius. I will write more about those below. I was supposed to rush from there to rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling show, but realized I had misremembered when One Day University ended, so opted to run my story (which is not a new one) over the phone on Monday instead. That gave me roughly an hour at home to get some housework done before heading to Arlington for dinner and trivia at Heavy Seas Alehouse with some Losers, i.e. devotees of the Style Invitational. I was clearly tired as I badly misinterpreted a cocktail I ordered. Any Port in the Storm turned out to have ginger syrup and golden ale, not ginger ale. I was thinking it would be sort of like a Dark and Stormy, but it was too sweet. We did, however, win at trivia, even though we were completely hopeless at a fill-in-the-blank lyrics component, which involved a rap song none of us had even heard of.

FDR: The first was by Jeffrey Engle of SMU on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He started by pointing out that a lot of politicians – including George H.W. Bush, Osama Bin Laden, and Kim Davis – have claimed to be acting in the name of freedom, but that most never define what they mean by freedom. FDR, however, was very specific in his Four Freedoms speech, which he noted came 10 and a half months before Pearl Harbor. Those four freedoms are, of course, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Anyway, his main point was that FDR’s success was due to his skill with rhetoric, his optimism, his pragmatism / flexibility, and his empathy. Regarding the latter, he believed that bad things can happen to people through no fault of their own, probably because of his own experience with polio. (By the way, Professor Engel noted that people actually did know FDR was paralyzed, even if they didn’t see photos of him in a wheelchair.) As for political ideology, FDR stated that he was: 1) a Democrat and 2) a Christian. He thought aerial bombing was immoral, but realized it was a valuable tactic. Similarly, he (and the Democratic party of the time) believed in a balanced budget, but was willing to experiment with government spending to end the Depression.

Overall, this was an entertaining talk, especially because of a lot of trivia Engel threw in. For example, he talked about how disliked William Jennings Bryan was as Secretary of State because he was a teetotaler who banned alcohol from diplomatic parties. And he noted that "Make America Great Again was Warren G. Harding’s campaign slogan.

Marie Curie: The second talk was on Marie Curie by Susan Lindee of the University of Pennsylvania. She started out by pointing out that genius is a social category. That is, just being great at what you do is not enough. You have to work to get the recognition, too.

Anyway, Maria Sklodowski and her sister, Bronislawa (who became a doctor) were encouraged by their father in their studies. Originally, Maria was supposed to work as a nanny to pay for Bronislawa’s education, but their father got a good job, enabling her to enroll in the Sorbonne instead. She got top grades in math and physics. Her need for lab space led to her introduction to Pierre Curie and she married him in 1895, a little over a year after they met. Fun trivia is that they spent their honeymoon on a bicycling trip, complete with fashionable biking outfits.

The Curies shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with Henri Becquerel. Pierre insisted Marie (as she had modified her name from Polish to French) be included. In 1896, Pierre was killed in a cart accident after slipping on a wet road. (By the way, this was the day before the San Francisco earthquake and fire, so was a bit overshadowed in the news.) Marie went on to win the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She also went on to a scandalous affair with Paul Langevin, who was married. The affair resulted in five duels, only one of which involved Langevin himself. Langevin eventually did go back to his wife, by the way.

Other notable things Marie did included creating x-ray wagons for use on World War I battlefields (and drive one herself, as well as teaching other women how to drive them and read the x-rays), writing a biography of Pierre, and persuaded an American journalist to raise money to buy her radium for her research. And she had two daughters, one of whom, Irene, shared a Nobel prize with her husband, Frederic Joliot-Curie, while the other (Eve) wrote a biography of Marie. Eve’s husband, Henry Richardson Labouisse, Jr., went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965 on behalf of UNICEF. More fun trivia is that Irene’s daughter, Helene, married Michel Langevin, the grandson of Paul Langevin.

Final point was that Marie Curie never made any statements about the rights of women. However, she did hire a lot of women in her lab, which may be more practical feminism. And she was very good at promoting herself, which is why we know more about her than a lot of other women in science. That goes back to the idea of genius as a social construct. Self-promotion is, alas, an element of genius.

Mozart: The final lecture was on Mozart and was given by Craig Wright of Yale. He started with having us sing, which was a good way to make sure everyone is awake after a couple of lectures. Unlike the other lecturers, Professor Wright gave an actual definition of genius as involving a person whose creative works or insights change society in some significant way (for good or ill) across time and across cultures. He then went on to talk about two types of cognitive processes in music – 1) perceiving and replicating music and 2) creating music. I’m not sure he is completely correct about the first of those. I believe that I perceive music well, but I am not good at replicating it. That is, there are various tests I do well at, e.g. of the ability to perceive intervals But I am no good at the mechanics of reproducing those to sing or play an instrument by ear. Mozart was very good at both aspects of the former, reportedly having perfect pitch, which enabled him to hear a piece once and them play it. And his manuscripts are lacking in corrections.

Wright than discussed aspects of creativity, which he said is facilitated by opportunity, motivation and an active and vivid imagination. Some of the things he talked about as far as creative thinking are associative thinking (which also included verbal, as well as musical, sounds in Mozart’s case), combinative thinking / synthesis, homospatial thinking (which he defined as multiple strands of information superimposed in one temporal space), iconoclastic thinking (including scatological thinking), and dhildlike thinking. The latter two could be combined as a lack of barriers to imagination. He showed various examples of these aspects of Mozart’s work throughout, including clips from the movie Amadeus. One of the most interesting was an animated visualization of the Jupiter Symphony.

At the end, somebody asked what other composers Wright would consider geniuses. He cited Mahler, Beethoven, and Bach. I’ve been pondering that question all week. I think there’s an inherent difficulty in thinking about it because we can’t really hear a piece of music the way people heard it when it was first written. I value the revolutionary aspect of genius, which is why I’d put Balakirev on my list for his work fusing traditional (Russian) folk music with classical practice, leading to whole idea of nationalistic music. So, while I think Mussorgsky was the most musically talented of The Five (or would have been if he hadn’t fallen to drink), Balakirev is the more historically important.

I am not entirely consistent, however, because I’d list Gershwin above Berlin, even though the latter is the one who really emphasized jazz and ragtime as fundamentally American music. And, yes, Mozart and Bach belong on the list, too, because I am a product of Western culture.
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  1. I went back to the periodontist on Wednesday. The area that had the laser surgery is healing well. And I'm done with the giant amoxicillin pills.

  2. I changed the furnace filter this week. I know you're supposed to do it every month, but I don't manage to get around to it. Anyway, it was long overdue and it was pretty disgusting when I took the old filter out.

  3. I ordered check refills. It had been over three years, so maybe it isn't surprising that the website address the old ones had for reorders was no longer correct. Surprisingly, the directions on the bank's website were actually helpful. I don't write a lot of checks, since I pay most of my bills automagically. So I figure the new supply will probably last me as long as I live in my current place.

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Celebrity Death Watch: Ward Hall was a sideshow impresario. Chelsi Smith was Miss Universe 1995. Peter Donat was an actor, best known for his television work, though his involvement in the American Conservaory Theatre in San Francisco was also significant. Adam Clymer was a political correspondent for The New York Times. Marin Mazzie was a musical theatre actress. Virginia Whitehill was a women’s rights activist. Dudley Sutton played Tinker Dill in the British television series based on Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy mysteries. Maartin Allcock was the lead guitarist for Fairport Convention and also played keyboards with Jethro Tull. Arthur Mitchell founded the Danc e Theatre of Harlem. George Hatsopoulos wrote an influential textbook on thermodynamics. John Cunliffe was a British children’s author, best known for Postman Pat. Charles Kao won a Nobel Prize for his work on fiber optics for communications.

Denis Norden was an English humorist. I have fond memories of listening to him and Frank Muir on My Word many years ago. I particularly remember a story about Rene Descartes, whose wife told him not to eat the miniature quiches at a party as she was saving them for a late night snack. He explained this request to a friend by saying "I think they’re for 1 a.m."

Health Kvetch, Part 1: I had a (routine) doctor’s appointment on Friday last week. That included getting my annual flu shot, in my left arm. I also got the first shot of the new shingles vaccine, in my right arm. My left arm itched around the injection site until Monday. My right arm was sore whenever I lifted it until Tuesday.

Health Kvetch, Part 2: I had laser gum surgery (LANAP) yesterday, in hopes of it dealing with an infection both less expensively and less painfully than other options. The procedure wasn’t too bad and, so far, the recovery is not terrible, though icing the affected area much of the day yesterday was mildly annoying. (I took part of the day off from work, but did call into a couple of meetings from home.) However, the periodontist said the maximum pain is usually at the 3rd day, so we will see. So far, the pain has been pretty minimal, which might be due to taking Tylenol as a precaution. The other annoying parts (aside from the whole periodontist thing) are: 1) the huge antibiotic tablets that I have to take for a week and 2) having to eat a soft diet for 7-10 days. Hopefully this will prevent the need for worse things.

Museum Day – National Museum of Women in the Arts: Saturday was the annual Smithsonian-sponsored Museum Day. This means free admission to a large range of museums throughout the country. You have to get tickets in advance, which means you need to choose what museum to go to. The trick is to make sure you are going to something that normally does charge admission, which rules out the overwhelming majority of museums around here. I chose the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which proved to be a good choice. Some of my favorite pieces were Red Ice (a photograph by Deborah Paauwe), Jo Baker’s Bananas (textile art by Faith Ringgold), 4 Seated Figures (sculpture by Magdalena Abakanowicz), Carrots Anyone? (artist’s book by Susan Joy Shore), and Wonderful You (painting by Jane Hammond, in which she imagined herself as various mythical and mythological characters). All in all, it made for an enjoyable couple of hours.

JGSGW: The first Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington meeting of the season was Sunday. The topic had to do with Shoah memorials in the former Soviet Union. But there is more value in the general schmoozing before and after the meeting.

Everything Else: I think I am finally caught up on puzzles from when I was gone. I am not, however, completely caught up on reading mail (both e and snail varieties).

Last night was book club. After reading an 800+ page book, we’ve decided to set a 400 page limit on future selections.

I should probably say something about baseball. And/or politics. But anybody who knows me at all can already figure out my opinions.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Oliver Knussen composed an opera based on the book Where the Wild Things Are. Melanie Kantrowitz was a poet and activist, writing a lot about Jewish women. Marion Woodman was a psychologist who wrote The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter, an excessively Jungian analysis of eating disorders. Peter Carington was the Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988. John A. Stormer was a propagandist, best known for None Dare Call It Treason. Henry Morgenthau III was a television producer. Carlo Benneton co-founded the clothing company that bears his name. Nathaniel Reed co-wrote the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

Puzzle Follow-up: If you are interested in the puzzle I brought to the NPL con, here’s a link to it.
road to bocon puzzle

While I am Linking to Things - a Friendzy: Here is ghost_light’s birthday friendzy. Probably of more interest to the LJ crowd vs. DW but lots of us use both, n’est ce pas? And lots of people could use more friends.

Weather and Baseball: We had one hell of a storm yesterday afternoon. Fortunately, it was fairly brief, but my power must have gone out at home for a few minutes (based on the kitchen clocks) and there was a lot of flooding. It did stop hours before the All-Star Game, at least. I will admit that I don’t really care about the All-Star Game, but my obsession with Jewish baseball players has me happy that Alex Bregman was the MVP.

Speaking of Treason: I am not quite convinced that Trump’s remarks at the press conference with Putin, disturbing as they were, qualify by the constitutional definition. The question is how one defines an actual enemy. Without a war having been formally declared, I could argue that Russia is not officially an enemy, no matter how much I believe they are in practical terms. Lawyers complicate everything.

Further Proof I am Tired: I saw a reference to a DC superhero show and it took me a minute to realize they were talking about comics, not the District of Columbia.

Ch-ch-changes: I’ve decided to write about only new graze snacks, as I was finding it hard to find things to say about the umptyumpth bag of microwave popcorn.

I need to get better control of my time and space. I am not sure how to do that, but I am thinking I should aim for leaving one unscheduled weekend a month. What I really want to change is the rotation of the earth, but I’ve been advised that is not within my bailiwick.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Steve Ditko co-created Spiderman. Claude Lanzmann was a documentarian, best known for Shoah. Shoko Asahara was the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo cult, and was (along with 6 of his followers) executed for the sarin attack they perpetrated in the Tokyo subway in 1995. Vince Martin was a folk singer, best known for his work with Fred Neil, including "Tear Down These Walls." Alan Johnson was the choreographer for several films by Mel Brooks. Tab Hunter was a 50’s heartthrob actor.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game: What with the Fourth of July being a Wednesday and my having my vacation time committed, I stayed in town. There are plenty of things I could have done, but the one I couldn’t resist was watching the Red Sox play the Nats. That did mean braving a certain crowd level on the metro, but I can handle that.

I’ve generally gone for the cheap seats at Nats Park, largely because of the views of the Capitol. Unfortunately, there has been so much construction in Southwest that you can just barely see the dome now. So I may switch my strategy in the future, as I can get a fine view of construction cranes in lots of other places. That would also make it faster to get to the better selection of concessions down on the field level concourse.

In the celebrity department, Elizabeth Dole made an appearance on behalf of a charity involving people who care for wounded veterans. And members of the cast of Hamilton sang the national anthem. There was, inevitably, a bit too much of gratuitous patriotic display. I will rant about that some time, but there are other things that are higher priorities for rants right now. (As a teaser, top of that list is my utter disgust at the discharge of dozens of immigrants who enlisted in the military with a promise of citizenship.)

As for the game itself, the Red Sox won, which is, of course, important for the state of the world. (Why, Scott Pruitt resigned the very next day! See!) What mostly made the difference was Eduardo Rodriguez, who pitched well. Erick Fedde, who started for the Nats, lasted just over an inning, claiming an injury, though it isn’t apparent what (if anything) happened.

Other Life Forms: I went to see this play at Keegan Theatre on Friday night. The story involves two couples on dates, arranged via an on-line dating service. One date is going well; the other, decidedly not. Vegetarians, libertarians, geologists, space aliens – there are all sorts of types who could be just wrong for you. Though, personally, I could easily see myself being attracted to a vegetarian, space alien, geologist, which has nothing to do with the play at hand. (I have dated vegetarians, geologists, and libertarians. I have not knowingly dated a space alien, though I have had my suspicions.) But to get back to the play, there’s a major plot twist that comes midway through Act 1.

Overall, this was a very funny play, though the second act got a bit preachy. It was still fun, overall. I should also note that the performances were excellent, particularly John Loughney’s as Jeff.

The Weekend: This was a rare weekend with nothing scheduled. I think that was the first such weekend since January.

I had good intentions involving all sorts of getting things in order, but my ambitions were outweighed by my need for regular naps. I did go out to see a movie in an actual theatre on Saturday (The Catcher Was a Spy about Moe Berg), to do some grocery shopping, and to have lunch with a friend. I was also supposed to help her with some paperwork, but she was having computer issues.
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How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying: I saw the Kennedy Center Center Stage concert production (i.e. minimally staged) on Friday night. Yes, the sexism is problematic, with secretaries whose sole ambition is marrying a tycoon. But there is plenty of humor, along with great songs and outstanding performances. They did cut "Cinderella Darling" – and I’d rather they had cut "Paris Original" – but there’s still the fun of "Coffee Break," "Grand Old Ivy," and "I Believe in You."

As for the performances, I was very impressed by Skylar Astin as J. Pierpont Finch and Michael Urie as Bud Frump. Betsy Wolfe played Rosemary well, though this production made her seem particularly predatory and, hence, less likeable. And then there’s Nova Payton, who is one of the biggest stars among local performers here and whose scat singing in "Brotherhood of Man" stole the show.

All in all, a fun evening.

The Flushies: Saturday was the Flushies, the "awards show" for the Style Invitational. I stopped off at Pie Gourmet on the way over to pick up a strawberry-rhubarb pie for the potluck. I should probably have brought an appetizer or main dish, as there were disproportionately many desserts, but that’s how it goes sometimes. There was lots of good conversation, followed by sing-alongs of parody songs, award presentations, and a game. In short, this is a good group of people to socialize with.

Memory Lab: On Sunday, the JGSGW had a session at the Northeast DC Library on how to use their Memory Lab. This started with a talk about archiving and preservation, which had some helpful info on things like naming files and selecting formats and such. Then we got a demo of both the audiovisual equipment, which you can use to digitize videotapes and cassette tapes (and copy data from floppy disks), and the high-resolution scanner. I probably won’t be able to make an appointment to use things for a while, given how overcommitted I am, but this is a great resource, and I am glad I went to the program.

Farewell to a Friend: Sunday night, I went out to dinner with some FlyerTalk friends, including two people visiting from Australia. The two locals included a guy who is moving to Bangladesh. I’m missing his official going-away party (due to a business trip) so was glad I got to see him. After dinner, we went over to his condo, which has and amazing view, including DCA and some of the monuments in the city. It was a fun evening and I was glad I got to see him before he leaves.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Ed Charles played third base, including a stint with the Mets, including their 1969 World Series. Louise Slaughter was the oldest member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Sammy Wilson won a Tony for playing Paul in the original production of A Chorus Line. Frank Avruch played Bozo the Clown in Boston through the 1960’s. Charles Lazarus founded Toys R Us. Louis Kamookak discovered the wreck of HMS Erebus. Wayne Huizenga founded Blockbuster Video. Zell Miller was the Governor of Georgia for much of the 1990’s. Seo Min-woo was a K-pop singer. Linda Brown was the subject of a Supreme Court case on segregation. Stephane Audran was an actress, best known for Babette’s Feast. Peter Munk founded the largest gold mining company in the world. Anita Shreve was a novelist. Stephen Reinhardt was a liberal judge. Connie Lawn was the longest-serving White House correspondent. Ron Dunbar was a songwriter whose works include "Band of Gold" and the execrable "Patches."

Rusty Staub played baseball as part of the original Montreal Expos. He came over to the New York Mets in 1972 and was one of the more notable players for them during my high school years. I have a bobblehead of "Le Grand Orange," acquired when I went to a game in Montreal. He was also the first Mets player to get over 100 RBIs in one season.

Steven Bochco was a television producer, most famous for ensemble shows like Hill Street Blues and L.A. Law. He also created Cop Rock, which is worth a look for the musical aspect.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and the second wife of Nelson Mandela. She was a controversial figure, largely because of the human rights violations committed by her security detail. In addition to her praise of "necklacing," she is said to have ordered kidnappings. She also got involved in fraud related to a funeral fund.

Intern Reception: I went to a reception last week for MIT students looking for policy internships. This appeared to be the year of the economist, with nobody interested in space. I did enjoy several conversations, both with people I knew (including one from an unrelated and, hence, unexpected connection) and who I didn’t. But the most interesting moment of the evening was when a young woman leaned too close to a candle and her hair caught on fire. Nobody was injured, fortunately.

Pesach: As my father used to say to my mother, America is not as rich as they always told us. Here it is a major Jewish holiday and we don’t even have any bread in the house.

Interplanetary Addresses: I get a fair number of invitations to events, not all of which are anywhere near where I live. Not everybody remembers they are posting invitations to international websites or email lists. Therefore, it is not uncommon to get invited to something with the address being given only as, say, 2100 Main Street.

I have developed the mental habit of interpreting such things as 2100 Main Street, Mars.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 1: I was taking a shared taxi to Island Park. I expected to be dropped at the train station, but the driver turned down Carolina Avenue. When we reached my house, I asked to be let out, but the driver wouldn’t stop. Instead, he continued to the corner and turned left onto Austin Boulevard – but in the oncoming traffic lane. I finally got him to stop by opening the rear right-side door, while he was still moving slowly. I threw $40 at him and left. Also, the house numbers were wrong. My house was 127, instead of 60, and the house next door was 241, instead of 66.

Don’t Analyze This Dream, Part 2: I was somewhere in China with my mother. I had arrived a day earlier, so had already taken the river cruise included in our tour package, but I went with her again. Everyone had to show their passports to be able to board the boats and an American man objected. Then we were in the apartment of a man named Anuku and his mother said he spoke such good English because he had studied at Virginia Tech. He had a tattooed Delta on his arm to prove that.

Commute Hell: There was apparently smoke in the tunnel near Virginia Square, so the Orange Line was shut down from East Falls Church to Clarendon. I was smart enough not to think that shuttle bus service would work, so I took the 29N to King Street, where I could get the Blue or Yellow Line to work. It was slow and crowded and reminded me of how much I prefer trains.

Weird Words: Some friends on facebook have been discussing words that they mispronounced because they've only read them, not heard them. I have to admit that I find myself wondering what sort of life people are living that words like "hegemony" or "antipodes" come up in conversation.
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I had a rather hectic week. (So what else is new?)

One Day University: Saturday was One Day University. This time they did it at Lisner Auditorium, which is a good choice as the seats are reasonable comfortable and it’s easy to get to by metro.

The first speaker was Stephen Kotkin of Princeton, His talk was on American Foreign Policy: Where Are We Headed? He had a strong emphasis on the role of economic considerations, starting with the Clinton-era theory that as other nations got wealthier, they would become more like us. He focused on Iran, Russia, and China. His major points were that Iran is constrained by the Sunni-Shia conflict and the potential for Kurdistan to be a disruptive force in the Middle East. In short, he concluded that it shouldn’t be a priority. As for Russia, he said we can’t ignore it, but we overfocus on it. China, however, is an economic powerhouse and we should prioritize remaining competitive with it. The way to do that is to invest in infrastructure and scientific competitiveness. While he was an entertaining speaker, I thought his graphics were terrible. I also wish he had talked more about emerging nations. When someone asked a question about India, for example, his answer was entirely focused on their role as a buffer against China. I was also concerned that he made it all about economics and ignored moral questions, e.g. the Russian invasion of Ukraine. So I found his talk interesting but not entirely convincing.

The second speaker was Jacob Appel from Brown University on Ethical Dilemmas and Modern Medicine: Questions Nobody Wants to Ask.. He summed the issue up with two questions: 1) When do people have a right to healthcare that society refuses to give them? And 2) When can people refuse care that society wants to give them? Then he talked about several examples. Issues include the cost of treatment, quality of life, chance of recovery, whether or not the reasons somebody gives for their decision should matter, and how long-held someone’s beliefs are. My personal bias is to go with somebody’s stated wishes, whether or not I agree with them, but that’s easier said in theory than in practice. At any rate, I thought his talk was very interesting and the highlight of the day for me.

The third speaker was Carol Berkin, who is retired from Baruch College. Her talk was on What The Founding Fathers Were Really Like (and what we can still learn from them today). I have a quibble with her definition of founding fathers, as she focused entirely on the people who were at the Constitutional Convention. That leaves out a number of people who were important to independence, even if they may not have shaped the later form the United States took. But within her framework, the people she singled out as particularly notable were Benjamin Franklin, James Wilson, Robert Morris, Alexander Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, and (partly) James Madison. She had quite a lot to say about Gouverneur Morris, though I’d be somewhat more convinced had she pronounced his name correctly. At any rate, her key point was that most of the men at the Constitutional Convention were fairly ordinary, albeit rich. Still, 5 or 6 geniuses out of 55 delegates seems remarkable to me. Do we have anybody of that intellectual caliber in Congress nowadays? She was a good speaker, but I found her unconvincing, overall.

There was a break for lunch, during which I walked over to a Korean dumpling place I’d been meaning to try. Since when is it socially acceptable for somebody to occupy one of 6 seats at a restaurant while eating their own food out of a Tupperware? The food was just okay, by the way, so, for future reference, I would probably go to Beefsteak or Roti instead. Or maybe try one of the food trucks that were lined up around the corner.

The last speaker of the day was Anna Celenza from Georgetown University, speaking on The History of Jazz: America’s Greatest Original Art Form. This was the talk I was looking forward to the most. Perhaps it was the post-lunch haze or perhaps it was overly high expectations, but I was disappointed. She had some good points about the role of technology (specifically, recording, including piano rolls) in th spread of jazz She touched on several interesting topics (e.g. the racial divide in jazz, the role of agents) and ignored others (orchestration, role of women). Overall, her approach reminded me of my high school history teacher who spent months on the French revolution, 2 days on World War I, and one day on everything since.

Volunteer Training: Sunday saw me back in the city for a training session for the upcoming U.S. Science and Engineering Festival. The training was fairly painless. By the way, I think I was one of a handful of volunteers there who was not accompanied by school children. (I think the minimum age for volunteers is 13, but some of those kids looked younger to me.)

Work and Snow: We got a spring snowstorm on Wednesday. That meant the second day of my two-day meeting this week turned into a telecon. If I’m going to work from home, that’s probably the best sort of work to have. I was even able to reorganize my scarf drawer while listening to one of the presentations.

I was also busy because I had to cover a meeting for my boss and draft inputs for a semi-annual report. When I tell people that I go to meetings and write email for a living, I am only half in jest.

A Minor Ambition: Just once, I would like to finish reading the Sunday Washington Post on Sunday.

Now I am ready to search my house for a bag of pencils that I hope the other dimensional beings have returned. And to pack for my excursion to Connecticut for the ACPT.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Nini Theilade was a ballerina. Morgan Tsvangirai was the leader of the political opposition in Zimbabwe. Gunter Blobel won a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Billy Graham was an evangelist. Emma Chambers was a British actress. Sridevi was a Bollywood superstar. Nanette Fabray was an actress and singer and probably best known for her work with Sid Caesar. Shmuel Auerbach was an influential Israeli rabbi. Barbara Alston sang "Da Doo Ron Ron." Eido Shimano was a controversial Buddhist leader, who was forced to resign from his role in the Zen Studies Society after a sex scandal.

Cynthia Heimel wrote humor pieces for a wide range o publications. Her book, Sex Tips for Girls was a big influence on me

Prince Henrik was the Prince Consort of Denmark. He’s only significant because he scored me 20 ghoul pool points due to a quick trade. Since the rules this year let you reuse somebody after a trade, it was an easy way to get on the board. Instead of putting I.M. Pei back on the top of my list, I reloaded with Stirling Moss on the grounds that his retirement from public life probably means he is down to mere weeks. I have been known to be wrong about this sort of thing, however.

About Arming Teachers: I’ve already written my opinions about gun control and the latest massacre hasn’t changed them. I do want to say, however, that the idea of arming teachers as a countermeasure is a terrible one. If there is a school shooting, police who respond will have no way of identifying teachers and are likely to shoot anybody who is brandishing a weapon.

About Punishment and Civil Disobedience: I also have a quick comment about students getting suspended for participating in protests. I believe they should be punished as long as the punishment is exactly the same as for any equivalent action, e.g. other unexcused absences. Part of civil disobedience is being willing to accept those punishments to bring attention to the issues being protested. Compare to Gandhi serving jail time in South Africa for refusing racially-based registration.

Visiting Escribitionist: I met [personal profile] lillibet at Belga Cafe for cocktails and conversation when she was in town. I tried a cocktail called Yuzu Making Me Crazy which consisted of Untitled No. 2 Gin, balsamic, yuzu, beet syrup, and plum bitters. It was lovely, both in taste and appearance. The conversation was equally lovely, covering people and places and ideas.

Month of Letters: I have failed this year, though I have a couple of days left to write to people. I thought I could catch up and just never managed to. Which is about where I am on housework, too.

Election Security: Thursday night, I went to an MIT Club meeting on election security. There was good conversation beforehand. The talk itself was also interesting, covering mathematical techniques for ensuring accuracy of voting. But I do wish they did these things at a better location than Maggiano’s, which I think serves up vast amounts of mediocre food and overpriced mediocre drinks.

Storytelling: I did Saturday night’s Better Said Than Done show, which had a theme involving love, marriage, and commitment. My story had to do with DLL, a MUD I played on in the 1993 time frame and on which my character and another character had a rather unusual wedding. There was a wide mix of stories and a responsive, albeit smallish, audience. Overall, it was a fun evening.
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Celebrity Death Watch: John Mahoney was an actor, best known for his role on Frasier. Alan Baker was a mathematician, who focused on number theory and won the Fields Medal. Craig MacGregor played bass for Foghat. John Gavin was an actor who was in several classic films and later became ambassador to Mexico. Reg E. Cathey was primarily a television actor, who won 3 Emmys for performing in House of Cards.. Jan Maxwell was a musical actress, who I saw perform as Phyllis in the Kennedy Center production of Follies. Vic Damone was a pop singer, who had a number of hits in the late 1940’s and throughout the 1950’s. Marty Allen was a comedian.

John Perry Barlow was a lyricist for the Grateful Dead and an internet activist, particularly notable for co-founding the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I also recommend his List of 25 Principles of Adult Behavior though I will admit to not being entirely convinced of all of them. I don’t think love forgives everything. Nor do I think that mission is necessarily more important than happiness I do think that, however, that "Concern yourself with what is right rather than who is right" is good advice.

Happy Birthday, Neptune: My beloved blue-green Saturn, named Neptune because I am a space geek, officially turned 24 this week. That merited a present, in the form of a radiator flush (along with a slightly overdue oil change).

Joe Biden: Tuesday night, I went to hear Joe Biden talk at The Anthem. This is a newish venue at the District Wharf. (Actually, the whole wharf is newish.) Their directions were somewhat confusing, as the signs they said to follow were invisible so far as I could tell. Anyway, I got there in plenty of time. There was also some confusion over seating as the usher managed not to realize that the seat numbers were repeated in different sections.

Anyway, the format was Biden being interviewed by William S. Cohen, former Senator from Maine (and former Secretary of Defense). The whole thing is somewhat of a book tour, and everybody was given a copy of Biden’s recent book, Promise Me, Dad. But I gathered that there is an ulterior motive of stirring up interest in him making another bid for the presidency. I’d rather he didn’t, largely because of his age, but also because of his long-running tendency towards hoof-in-mouth disease, i.e. frequent gaffes. He didn’t make any particular gaffes that evening, though I was irritated at one of his vocal tics, man. What I did like was his emphasis on collegiality and his examples of being able to have friendships across political lines. Overall, I was glad I went, though the ticket was more expensive than it should have been.

Book Launch:Thursday night involved another book-related event. Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi is a young adult novel that has been getting a lot of buzz in the puzzle community. It was easy enough for me to go to the launch party at Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle. The place was packed and I believe that they even ran out of copies of the book. Ahmadi was interviewed by political journalist Ema O’Connor and joined by Azaf Nafisi, who wrote Reading Lolita in Tehran. Crosswords, alas, only got discussed at the very end in response to a question. (Cruciverbalist Finn Vigeland was Ahmadi’s college roommate, by the way.) There was a lot more about being a child of immigrants and, specifically, the Iranian community. It was an interesting discussion, and I expect I will have more to say after I’ve finished reading the book.

See Rock City: I saw the Washington Stage Guild production of See Rock City on Friday night. I was a little hesitant about it being the second play in a trilogy since I hadn’t seen Last Train to Nibroc, but it was fairly easy to figure out enough of the background for this one to make sense. The play involves a young couple, back from a belated honeymoon during the latter days of World War II. The play involves the twists in life (starting with their failure to make it to Rock City) amid the pressures first from the war and later from its ending, both of which disrupt their lives in unexpected ways. The most immediate pressure has to do with their mothers. May’s mother, who they live with, is cheerful and supportive, while Raleigh’s mother refuses to accept both his ambitions and his physical limitations. I’m hoping they do the third play next year, as I’d really love to know how everything works out.

4,380 Days: I continued my theatre-going by seeing 4,380 Days at Signature Theatre on Saturday. This is a complex political play by Annalisa Dias, part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. The story is about an Algerian man being held without charges at Guantanamo. It’s mixed in with stories of the fall of the Numidians during the Punic Wars and of an atrocity committed by a French colonel during the conquest of Algeria. The prisoner, Malik, tells his story to his lawyer and the two men strive to understand each other and the horror and tragedy of his imprisonment. The ancient history is told by a character named The Woman and her situation, including her relationship to The Man (who she tells this to) is confusing and somewhat distracting. I thought that part might actually be the hallucinations that Malik has a result of the sleep deprivation he suffers, but none of the reviews I read drew that conclusion.

Anyway, this is a powerful and disturbing piece. There is a particularly brutal scene right before the intermission and I think that scene may have been why about a quarter of the audience didn’t come back from the intermission. For those who did stay, there was a lot of discussion after it was over. I’ll recommend it to people who can handle a provocative piece.

Other Stuff: I am swamped with housework. And work work. I did get various chores done during part of the weekend, as well as going to rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling show. (Bottom line, which I knew already, is that my story needs more story work.) Too bad I need to do things like sleeping, too.
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Celebrity Death Watch: John Bindernagel was a cryptozoologist, who researched Bigfoot. Stansfield Turner directed the CIA in the late 1970’s. Peter Mayle wrote about living in Provence. John Barton cofounded the Royal Shakespeare Company. Dorothy Malone was an actress, best known for Peyton Place. Jim Rodford played Bass for Argent, The Kinks, and the Zombies. Naomi Parker Fraley was the inspiration for Rosie the Riveter. John Coleman cofounded The Weather Channel. Paul Bocuse popularized nouvelle cuisine. Connie Sawyer was an actress, who continued working in film comedies into her 100s. Ursula K. LeGuin was a science fiction writer. Lari White was a country singer. John Morris was a film composer. Isaiah Zeldin founded the Stephen S. Wise Temple, a major Reform synagogue in Los Angeles. Jerry Butler was a porn actor who was married for several years to Lisa Loring, known for playing Wednesday Addams on The Addams Family. Rick McKay made documentaries about Broadway. Mark Salling was an actor on Glee. Victor Sidel cofounded Physicians for Social Responsibility and was active in opposing nuclear warfare. Nicholas von Hoffman was a journalist, whose career included writing a column for the Washington Post. Dennis Edwards sang with The Temptations.

Hugh Masekela was a South African jazz trumpeter and one of the finest musicians anywhere. His song "Bring Him Back Home," considered an anthem to free Nelson Mandela, is probably his best known. He played a wide variety of music, collaborating with people ranging from Herb Alpert to Paul Simon. It was a privilege to have heard his music.

Mort Walker was a cartoonist, known for Beetle Bailey and Hi and Lois. He also had a major influence on Hallmark Cards.

Ingvar Kamprad founded Ikea. I can’t count how many people have been joking about assembling his coffin.

Louis Zorich was an actor who was best known for his role on Mad About You. Among other roles, he played the Russian Constable in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, played Mr. Maraczek in one of the revivals of She Loves Me, and recorded selections from the novel Moby Dick for Folkways Records. He was also married to Olympia Dukakis.

Obit Poems: What all of the above-mentioned have in common is that they weren’t on my ghoul pool list. I checked and didn’t score last year until February 6th, so I am not particularly disheartened. And only 6 out of the 20 players have scored so far this year.

But, speaking of competitions, I entered several obit poems in the Washington Post Style Invitational and none of them inked. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I can’t inflict them on you. I think the best of these is the one for J. Geils, but it does assume a familiarity with "Love Stinks."

Clifford Irving wrote a bio
Claimed to be of Howard Hughes
Now his bio is completed -
Cliff’s real bio, not fake news.

G is for Grafton, the mystery writer
Exploring the crime world, from A to Y
Too bad she never finished the alphabet
Instead of for Zero, her Z’s for good-bye.

Polish-born diplomat
Zbiggy Brzezinski
Advised Jimmy Carter
Committed no crimes.
Still he was hated
By doggerel poets
For having a surname
Permitting no rhymes.

And so it goes
To J. Geils goodbye
This thing they call death
It’s gonna make you cry
Death stinks, yeah yeah
(Death stinks)
Death stinks, yeah yeah

Three Shakers lived at Sabbathday Lake -
Frances Carr was one of those few.
Their practice of complete chastity
Means that there’s now only two.

Restaurant Week Dinner at Cedar: I went out to dinner at Cedar to take advantage of restaurant week. It started out with four people, but one cancelled and another no-showed (and still hasn’t gotten back to me, so I hope he’s okay). I felt slightly guilty about two of us occupying a four-top, but so it goes. Anyway, I had a smoked salmon appetizer, which was quite good. My main course was elk and pheasant sausages, which were tasty. The accompanying vegetables were, however, too salty. For dessert, I chose the chocolate mousse. That was fine, but their coffee was not very good. Still, overall, the food was good enough that I’d go there again. It appears that they have a pre-theatre menu, which could be convenient.

Unscheduled Time: Last weekend was unscheduled. Well, other than a friend coming over to get some things she’d been storing at my place. I did get some household things done, but I am still very far behind. I didn’t go out during the week, but I am still nowhere near caught up. And it doesn’t look like I will have another free weekend until at least May.

Month of Letters: Of course, I have inevitably made myself busier by taking on another project. The Month of Letters is something I’ve done before and involves writing an actual physical letter every postal day of February. That is, one doesn’t have to do weekends or Presidents’ Day. I’m mentioning it here because there may be somebody who is interested in seeing if my handwriting is really as bad as I claim it is. (Actually, I do aim for both legibility and wit in these.) If so, you can send me a message with your address and I’ll add you to my list.

My paternal grandfather was a shoemaker. Shouldn’t that make me entitled to have elves?
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Celebrity Death Watch: Benjamin Barber was a political theorist who wrote the prescient Jihad vs. McWorld in 1995. Vinod Khanna was a Bollywood actor. Jonathan Demme was a film director. Seeing Something Wild and Swimming to Cambodia in the 1980’s is what made me conscious of the director as a way of choosing what movies I might want to see, an approach that has, generally, stood me in good stead.

Idan Raichel: I went to see Ian Raichel at the Barns at Wolf Trap last night. It was an interesting concert, since he is best known for things like The Iden Raichel Project, MiMa’amakim, and his collaborations with Vieux Farka Toure. In other words, for big group fusion collaborative music. This was just him and a piano (and some electronics, particularly with respect to percussion). He gets characterized as "world music" because of those collaborations and he had a few things to say about that characterization. For example, he noted that Edith Piaf is world music to Filipinos. (This is, by the way, why I have trouble with the term. But it was a helpful one back when there were physical record stores to browse in.)

Overall, it was an enjoyable concert. He was clearly having fun singing and playing – and talking, though not, generally, about the songs themselves. And the Barns is a lot less annoying than the Filene Center, as it doesn’t take ages to get out of the parking lot. (And, when I do, I am going in the opposite direction of almost everybody else there, since I cut across the back roads of Vienna to get home.)

Speaking of Concerts – That Facebook Meme: As you probably know, there’s a facebook meme that involves listing 10 concerts you claim to have been to, with one of them being a lie. It’s the sort of thing that I think works well for facebook, assuming other people use it the way I do, as a way of keeping up with friends from scattered parts of their lives. I’m not going to play the game here, but I would like to make some observations.

First off, my lie was Ry Cooder. His 1995 album, Talking Timbuktu with Ali Farka Toure, pretty much defines my adult musical tastes. But he’s never been playing somewhere that I could get to when he was there.

As for the ones who were true, Ari Shapiro is better known as an NPR reporter, but he sings cabaret, notably with Pink Martini. He has a good voice. And he looks like the groom doll on a wedding cake.

I saw Arlo Guthrie as part of the HARP tour – Holly Near, Arlo Guthrie, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger – around 1984 at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. I think I actually went to that concert with my brother.

Elvis Costello was at the Chicago Theatre this past October.

Eric Bogle was either at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley or McCabe’s in Santa Monica. Possibly both. At any rate, it was somewhere in California and somewhere between 1982 and 2002. The thing I do remember distinctly is that he sang "Do You Sing Any Dylan?" (which, google tells me places the concert after 1992, so it must have been McCabe’s after all) and "Bloody Rotten Audience" (and, yes, I know Tony Miles wrote the latter).

I saw Garnet Rogers at Jammin’ Java. Don’t expect me to remember when, but maybe 2009 or so? I remember being disappointed, though I think Garnet has always disappointed me simply by not being his late, great brother Stan (who, alas, died before it ever occurred to me that there was such a thing as Canadian folk music).

John Denver is the most embarrassing on this list. I went with three friends in high school, and did not find it embarrassing at the time. What can I say? Tastes change as we age. Anyway, it was about 1975 at Madison Square Garden. I know that Robert Redford was at that concert, by the way, because another friend, who was supposed to go but whose parents were not comfortable with the whole thing and vetoed the idea, had a huge crush on him. When we told her we had seen him there at the arena, she dropped the schoolbooks she was holding.

The most interesting on the list is Kongar-ol Ondar. I took a tour of Siberia, Tuva, and Mongolia in 2000. Part of that included going to Na’adam Festival events in Kyzyl. That meant watching Tuvan horse races and Tuvan wrestling (complete with eagle dance) and, of course, listening to Tuvan throat singing. We went to the national concert, where the only Westerners there were the 4 of us (me, a guy from Milwaukee, a guy from Princeton, and our Czech tour leader), a French musicologist, and an American radio producer. We got a lot of attention, but nobody got anywhere near as much attention as Ondar did.

Nobody was foolish enough to guess Pierre Bensusan. In addition to being my favorite living musician, I may have mentioned in the past that I’ve probably seen Pierre perform a couple of dozen times. I think the first of those was at the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley. I know I saw him a couple of times at McCabe’s and several times at Jammin’ Java, and at various other venues, including the Takoma Park Community Center. Alas, I missed his most recent performance in this area.

Finally, I saw Tom Paxton at the Barns at Wolf Trap a couple of years ago. I think I had seen him previously at McCabe’s, but I’m not sure. I remember thinking the Wolf Trap show was not very energetic and deciding I didn’t need to see him again.

The One That Got Away: I expressed some surprise (on facebook) at how many of my friends could identify exactly when and where they saw certain performers. As you can tell from the above, I am, uh, vague on a lot of the details.

So one friend pointed out that I do more things that most people, leading to more opportunity for confusion. Which, while true, reminded me of something I failed to do. In late 1981, there was a big Royal Shakespeare Company production of Nicholas Nickleby that played in New York. It was absurdly expensive by the standards of the time (100 bucks, I think) and took 8 ½ hours over two days. My parents went to see it and brought my brother, who was living in New York again by then. I was in grad school in Berkeley, but my father was so impressed with the whole thing that he offered to fly me to New York and pay for the ticket. I turned him down.

The thing was that, back then, flying cross-country was a big deal for me. And the idea of doing it just to go to a play was ridiculous. I was also hesitant to go to the theatre alone. No, it was just too too crazy a thing to do.

Adult me is beating my head against the wall, of course. I think a lot of what changed was all the business travel I ended up doing, which sometimes involved things like flying cross-country for a 3 hour meeting. (In one case, that meeting involved getting a briefing from a person whose office was catty-corner from mine.) And then there were all the years of carrying on the world’s longest-running brief meaningless fling. If you and the person you are involved in live on opposite sides of the ocean, you can get a lot more used to doing things alone.

Remembering this makes me appreciate the craziness of my life even more.


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