Metro Woes

Dec. 12th, 2018 07:18 pm
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I went out to dinner with flyertalk friends last night. The metro was majorly screwed up - a cracked rail outside Foggy Bottom, leading to single tracking. It took me 45 minutes to get to Rosslyn, at which point I bailed and got a Lyft to the restaurant.

Mussel Bar is sort of lost on me, as I don’t do mollusks. The people who got mussels enjoyed them, though. I got onion soup, which was a bit too salty, and tuna tartare. The conversation was good and that’s more the point of these things.

I was luckier with metro going home. They were still single tracking, but I got to Ballston Station just a couple of minutes before my train.
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The Cheery Metro Driver: There’s this one driver I sometimes get on the Orange Line who is notable for his cheeriness. In the morning, he has a spiel that includes things like, "as I always say, think great, be great." In the afternoon / evening, he has something to say at each stop, e.g. "Clarendon welcomes you," or "Ballston greets you with a warm hug." It’s silly, but it does make me smile.

Retirement Planning: My company is changing our retirement plan. I took advantage of a free consultation with Fidelity on the options for the new 401(K). I don’t think I learned much I didn’t already know, but it did help me figure out what to sign up for. The thing I am still unsure about is what to do with the existing 403(B). I can leave things where they are or roll them over to an IRA. I think leaving them where they are makes the most sense, because there are some pre-1987 contributions, which have different rules re: required minimum distributions. On the other hand, that increases the complexity of the calculations and it may not make that much of a difference.

Coffee Makers: One of my friends asked on facebook for advice about replacing a broken coffee maker. I wrote:

I'm usually making coffee just for myself, in which case I use the Vietnamese drip coffeemaker I bought for a quarter in the market in Saigon.

But if I am making coffee for a group, I love the Bodum Santos stovetop vacuum coffee maker. It has the advantages of being beautiful and making fabulous coffee, as well as looking complex so it impresses people.

She said that was a very Miriam answer. But to add to it, I actually have a lot of coffee makers, none of them automatic or electric. I use the simple Melitta filter pretty often, too, either letting the coffee drip directly into a mug or into a pot, depending on how many people I am making coffee for. It has two advantages over the Vietnamese drip pot. First, it is faster. But, more importantly, you can just throw out the filter and grounds, instead of having the mess of cleaning grounds out of the coffeemaker. I also have a little plastic drip coffeemaker that I use for extreme travel situations, e.g. camping or visiting relatives who think instant coffee is drinkable. That and a small baggie of coffee I have ground before leaving home has saved my life – and that of the people I was visiting.

The other one I use fairly regularly is an ibrik, i.e. the copper thingie used for making Turkish coffee. That’s quick, but takes a bit of skill. It also requires a much finer grind of coffee beans, which my grinder can’t really achieve, so I have to get the coffee for it ground at the roaster. I think it works best with a darker roast than I normally drink – practically burnt, though not quite Starbucks level of burntness. I recommend using Ethiopian harrar beans, though Yemen moka would be even better if you can find them. (For drip coffee, I primarily use Indonesian coffee beans. Haitian beans are also good for drip coffee.)

I am not a fan of the French press method. And please don’t even mention Keurig in my presence.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Bill Fischer held the Major League Baseball record of pitching 84 1/3 consecutive innings without giving up a walk while playing for the Kansas City Athletics in 1962. He was later a pitching coach, including 6 years for the Red Sox. Roy Bailey was a British folk singer, known for celebrating his working class roots. Olivia Hooker was the last survivor of the 1921 Tulsa race riot and went on to become the first African-American woman in the Coast Guard. Nicholas Roeg was a film director, best known for The Man Who Fell to Earth. Betty Bumpers was a pro-vaccination activist. Ricky Jay was a magician. Stephen Hillenburg created SpongeBob SquarePants. Bernardo Bertolucci was a film director whowon an Oscar for The Last Emperor and also directed Last Tango in Paris.

Ken Berry was an actor. I will always associate him with the TV show F Troop, but he had a broad career, including Broadway, films, and television. An interesting bit of trivia is that he served in the Army and ended up in Special Services, where his Sergeant was Leonard Nimoy.

George Herbert Walker Bush was the 41st President of the United States. He had a lengthy career of public service, including as a Navy aviator, a congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, and Director of Central Intelligence before becoming Vice President under Ronald Reagan. While I disagree with much of what he did politically (e.g., I think the war on drugs was a disaster for American cities), I think he did show a certain amount of pragmatism (e.g. agreeing to needed tax increases) and, unlike the current administration, he did respect our system of government. I should also note he earned me 18 ghoul pool points. (I have reloaded with Doris Day.)

Puzzle People Death Watch: Barbara Selfridge (Banterweight) died of a sudden heart attack the last week of November. I remember having a discussion with her once re: our similar tastes in pocketbooks. Rebecca Kornbluh (Arachne) also died recently. She was a crossword puzzle champion and a constructor of cryptograms and cryptic crosswords. I remember having a pleasant breakfast conversation with her at the Milwaukee NPL con this past summer.

Leftovers, Part 1 -Elections: A few weeks ago, I had a list of things to write about. One of them was the elections. I am reasonably pleased with the outcome of the midterms. The most important result for me personally was Tim Kaine defeating Confederate whacko Cory Stewart in the Senate race here in Virginia. I also want to note that there were three Democratic women who defeated Republican incumbents to win Congressional seats from Virginia. Abigail Spanberger defeated David Brat, Jennifer Wexton defeated Barbara Comstock, and Elaine Luria defeated Scott Taylor.

Leftovers, Part 2 – How Jeff Bezos Will Screw Us Over: I’m sure you’ve heard that Crystal City is going to be half of Amazon’s HQ2. What you may not realize is that Crystal City is where I work. They’ve already been closing some things to put in a movie theatre and a supermarket, which are good things in things in the long run, but annoying in the short run. They’ve now fenced off the building I used to work in because it is being renovated to become part of Bezosville. This adds a minute or so to my walk from the metro to the office, which matters when it is cold out.

If this would make my condo value go up, I’d be happier about it. But I don’t think Vienna is cool enough for Amazonians. It should be, given that we have a good coffee roaster (Café Amouri), an independent bookstore (Bard’s Alley), and a great acoustic music venue (Jammin’ Java). And we have awesome transit options – the metro and the W&OD Trail, to name two. But those young’uns seem to want to live in the city instead of hearing owls nesting in the courtyard at night. (Well, I haven’t verified that it’s an owl. It’s possible that one of my neighbors has developed a disturbing vocal tic.)

All I can do is go into wait and see mode.

Leftovers,Part 3 – How the Virginia Department of Transportation is Going to Screw Us Over: I heard about this at our annual condo association meeting. They are planning to change our exit from I-66. Admittedly, it is a bit of an issue right now, because you have to move all the way to the left pretty much immediately when you get off the highway to turn onto our street. But the solution they are proposing is a traffic circle. That is horribly pedestrian (and bicycle) unfriendly. I wonder how the Amazonians feel about traffic circles?

Obligatory Metro Rant: They are doing track work on the Yellow Line bridge. Which shouldn’t affect me. Except that, instead of thinking logically and realizing that would mean a lot more people taking the Blue Line so they should run Blue Line trains more often, they are actually running them less often than normal. Grrr.

Earworm of the Day: A colleague just relocated here from Los Angeles. When I asked him how his commute is, he told me it involves a bus and two trains. My mind immediately transformed that to "two buses and a train" and this is now stuck in my head.

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Celebrity Death Watch: Alene Duerk was the U.S. Navy’s first female rear admiral. Ron Dellums was a Congressman from California for many years and later served as mayor of Oakland. Yaakov Elman was a Talmudic scholar. Mary Carlisle was an actress, primarily in B-movies.

Baseball News: I am inordinately happy that Ian Kinsler has been traded to the Red Sox.

Good News: For reasons involving some sort of statewide softball event, the NPL con next year is moving back to the original dates. Which means I can go. Yay!

Bad News: Metro is going to be doing major track work from August 11 through the 26th. This will screw up my commute for a week. I am hoping that the Fairfax Connector people will run bus service to the Pentagon like they did the last time that there was so little service. But I haven’t seen anything announced.

Just Gnus: Contrary to what I was taught by my 3rd Grade teacher, the "G" is not silent.

The Story of the Gun: You might note that GUN is an anagram of GNU. Which has nothing to do with this show, a monologue by Mike Daisey, currently playing at Woolly Mammoth Theatre. I saw it on Tuesday night.

Daisey likes to refer to himself as a storyteller, but he does use notes so some of us would question that. I don’t really care how he is characterized. He’s entertaining and thought-provoking, even when I disagree with him.

Anyway, Daisey starts out with talking about the history of guns in America and, specifically, makes the claim that guns were essential to the white European conquest of America and to the enslavement of Africans. There are a number of reasons why this is a simplistic claim, starting with the role of disease (both deliberately spread and otherwise) among indigenous populations. And the importation of slaves is intimately wrapped up with tribal warfare between various groups in West Africa. For example, the Abomey were waging war on and enslaving other African tribes long before Prince Henry the Navigator had set out from Portugal.

Suppose you do accept the historical premise. What does that have to do with debates about guns now? Daisey doesn’t really answer that question. Instead, he attacks Alexander Hamilton. One of my rules is that one should not attack what one is not familiar with, so his jibes at the current musical were annoying.

He’s better when he talks about the gun culture of northern Maine, where he grew up. That is tied in with hunting and his rant about deer, which he describes as fast cows, was actually pretty funny. I will, however, admit that I like venison, so his claim that our failure to domesticate deer is proof that their meat doesn’t taste good, is another point on which I disagree with him.

The real point came in a story about his father and the use of firearms for suicides amongst veterans. There was actual emotional resonance there. But there are still a lot more questions in what he had to say than any suggestion of answers. As I said above, Daisey is provocative, though I’ve preferred other of his monologues to this one. (To be fair, I was tired. And, while the show was advertised as 90 minutes, it was actually 2 hours.)

Airplane Kerfuffle: Alaska Air is being accused of anti-gay discrimination for allegedly moving a member of a gay couple because of a straight couple who wanted to sit together. Except, as usual, there is more to the story. For one thing, it does sometimes happen that glitches result in two people having the same seat. How that gets resolved involves a number of factors. For example, I was upgraded from business class to first class once under those circumstances. Why was I upgraded and not the other person, who showed up after I was seated? Presumably because of my frequent flyer status. I’ve also had people try to poach my seat and ask wouldn’t I mind a middle seat in the back instead of my aisle seat in a section of the plane with better seating so they could sit together? (I might be willing to move to keep a parent and child together on a short flight. But I will not budge if someone steals my seat without asking beforehand.)

In this case, there are several possibilities. For example, the two men could have had tickets that were not on the same passenger name record (PNR) making it less clear that they were traveling together. Only one of them could have been upgraded. Et cetera.

Bottom line is that there is no evidence of discrimination. And, in fact, Alaska has a particularly good reputation with respect to LGBTQ issues. They don’t, alas, have a good reputation with respect to using twitter effectively.
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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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Celebrity Death Watch: Barry Crimmins was a comedian and an anti-pedophilia activist. Orin C. Smith was president and CEO of Starbucks for a few years. David Ogden Stiers was an actor, best known for playing Major Charles Emerson Winchester III on M*A*S*H. Sir Roger Bannister was the first person to run a mile in under four minutes.

Harvey Schmidt was a musical theatre composer, whose best known work is the score for The Fantasticks, though I might argue for 110 in the Shade as a better score. I was particularly peeved about his death, since I have his lyricist partner, Tom Jones, on my ghoul pool list.

Ahhhscars Night: This is an annual Oscars-themed party put on by the California State Society. My friend, Paul, has figured out that his wearing a tux will entice me to go out on a weeknight. It was a pretty nice evening – good food, good dance floor (though my ankles are not up to as much dancing as they used to be, sigh), and an excuse to get dressed up. I went with a cocktail dress this year, instead of the long gown which is too much hassle to put on by myself. I wore my great-grandmother’s necklace and a pair of outrageous earrings. The music was a bit too loud some of the time, but one expects that as this sort of thing. Overall, it was a fun evening.


Book Club: This meeting’s book was Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. This is a non-fiction work about an informal slum near the Mumbai airport and several of its residents. I thought the book was interesting, but depressing. It’s been over 20 years since I’ve been to India (and I haven’t been to Mumbai at all), so I had hoped things had changed. But, no, there is even more disparity in wealth, along with all the effects of urban migration and on-going political corruption. I can’t really blame people for trying to take advantage of the system, given what few opportunities they see for themselves. The author is going to be giving a talk in Arlington in April and I am going to try to go.

Hellish Commute Day: Wednesday was a total nightmare for commuting. There was a disabled train at Ballston and it was in a position that meant they couldn’t single track around it. So all rail service on the Orange and Silver Lines was suspended. I gave up, walked home, and drove in, so I was only about 15 minutes late to a meeting. Given where I was going, it made sense to take 50 – but even had that not been more direct, the toll on I-66 apparently got up to the $48 range. (I am not sure exactly how much it was, since the newspapers only talk about tolls between the Beltway and the District and it would, presumably, be less to get off in Arlington.)

Wind Storm: We had a pretty horrendous wind storm this weekend, with the worst being during commute hours on Friday. I was fortunate, in that we only lost power for a few minutes. The guy who has the office next to mine had a tree fall on his house, which is, apparently, totaled. The Federal Government shut down. My company did not, nor did they bother to send out any info until nearly 10 a.m. I have had previous indications that our corporate leadership in Los Angeles has never grasped the concept of time zones, but that is particularly egregious. I made the executive decision to work from home, which is something I dislike doing. It gave me a chance to catch up on some reading, and kept me out of the way of flying branches and parts of signs and such.

Becoming Dr. Ruth: Things let up enough by early evening to brave the outdoors and I went into the city to see Becoming Dr. Ruth at Theatre J. The metro was running more smoothly than I expected and it wasn’t bad getting to Dupont Circle. The play was written by Mark St. Germain and starred Naomi Jacobson, whose performance was a tour de force. I pretty much forgot that it wasn’t Dr. Ruth Westheimer standing there, crawling over packed cardboard boxes and telling the story of her life. This was a life with lots of challenge and trauma, but the overwhelming takeaway is one of determination and positivity. This was an intelligent, charming, and witty evening of theatre.

Light Years: This was the new musical I was most looking forward to this season, entirely on the grounds that it was written by Robbie Schaefer of Eddie From Ohio. The actual show was rather different from my expectations. It’s more of a song cycle than a musical per se. It’s autobiographical, with an emphasis on Robbie’s relationship with his father (played by Bobby Smith, a long-time Signature favorite), a Holocaust survivor who tells him stories, but not the stories he most needs to and longs to hear. Near the end, there is that one important story, which hearkens back to an earlier song in the show and had me sobbing. I do have some quibbles, however. Did Robbie have a mother? Well, she gets mentioned once in passing, but she seems to have played no role in his emotional life. And there are hints of Robbie’s own sacrifices for his family, but not enough details there. Still, I found this an absorbing and moving (and tear-jerking) show. I am fully aware that some of my reactions have to do with my own relationship with my father, who was also a Holocaust survivor, so I can’t generalize to how others might react.
fauxklore: (travel)
I flew to Albuquerque on Friday. Because it was a fairly last minute trip and ABQ is not exactly a well-served airport, I ended up buying a one-way flight on American via DFW and using miles for a return on United. Mostly, this reminded me how much I hate American. To be fair, I don't have status with them and I am unwilling to pay for an allegedly better seat (another $42 for a middle seat a few rows closer to the front? really?) so it isn't a fair comparison. But their seats are less comfortable than being crammed into a typical third world bus. I did manage to get an aisle seat (only middles available when I booked) but even there, the customer service was crappy. The first time I asked, the gate agent told me to ask again in a half hour. United actually knows how to keep lists and add people to them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bethesda station
has the worst escalators
in the whole system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixed WMATA News: On the plus side, they changed the bus schedule for the route I take. On the minus side, the new “Rush Plus” on the metro completely screws anybody who lives along the western side of the Orange Line and needs to connect to the Blue Line. They claim it benefits more people than it hurts, but my experience is that about half the people on the trains I take get off at Rosslyn to go to the Pentagon or Crystal City and will now end up waiting 20 minutes on a crowded platform. (Yeah, the trains are supposed to be 12 minutes apart at worst, but they were 12 minutes apart before when they were supposed to be every 6 minutes.) The upshot is that I will probably end up taking the bus more often.


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