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Celebrity Death Watch: Elder Roma Wilson was a gospel musician. Ntozake Shange was a poet and playwright, best known for For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf. Bernard Bragg co-founded the National Theatre of the Deaf. Whitey Bulger was a gangster. Roy Hargrove was a jazz trumpeter. Raymond Chow was a film producer in Hong Kong, credited with discovering Bruce Lee. Donna Axum was Miss America 1964. Francis Lai wrote the score for the film A Man and a Woman. Evelyn Y. Davis was an activist shareholder and corporate gadfly, who at least once made the list of 25 Most Annoying Washingtonians. Micheal O Suilleabhain was an Irish composer and musician. Wallace Triplett was the first African-American to play in the NFL.

Willie McCovey was a baseball great, primarily playing first base for the San Francisco Giants. He holds the National League record for grand slam home runs. There’s an inlet outside of Whatever Telephone Company It is Named For Today Ball Park in San Francisco that is known as McCovey Cove.

Little Shop of Horrors: Before going away, I saw Little Shop of Horrors at The Kennedy Center. This was part of their Broadway Center Stage series, which are concert versions, i.e. minimally staged, with actors sometimes referring to scripts. The most notable part of the staging was that, instead of using puppets for Audrey II, the person playing the plant wore a suit and gloves to represent it. That worked better than I might have expected, though I still prefer the puppetry. Anyway, it remains a fun show, with an enjoyable score. The performances were also quite good, with Megan Hilty doing an excellent job as Audrey, very much akin to Ellen Greene’s intonations. Josh Radnor was also good as Seymour. Lee Wilkof, who played Mr. Mushnik, was the original Seymour off-Broadway. And Michael James Leslie embodied Audrey II (the plant). Overall, it worth the late weeknight.

NYC Weekend – Part 1: Nancy Drewinsky and the Search for the Missing Letter I had a trip to New York already planned when I realized that I could just go up earlier on Friday and see this Fringe show, written and performed by my friend, Robin Bady. Robin is an excellent storyteller and this piece has to do with how the McCarthy era affected her family. She was too young to be really aware of what was happening as her father, an engineer, was suspected of being a communist, along with several of his colleagues. The answer is complex and her attempts to find out the story were met with reluctance to talk about what happened. It was an interesting story and well-told, though still somewhat of a work in progress. I hope to see how Robin develops it further as time goes on.

NYC Weekend – Part 2: Museum Going Saturday was a dreary day – cold, with heavy rain. Fortunately, New York has plenty of museums to spend such days in. I started with the Guggenheim on the grounds that I had never been there. The architecture is as much a draw as the artwork. The main exhibit was of works by a Swedish artist named Hilma af Klint. The most interesting of her work was from a series called Paintings for the Temple, which was based on her involvement in mystical philosophies like Theosophy, leading her to a mixture of abstract symbols and characters. They reminded me of the magical symbols I used to draw on the corners of my papers in school during a flirtation with witchcraft in my early teen years.

There was also an exhibition from the Thannhauser Collection, which included Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and other art, including several pieces by Picasso. Overall, I enjoyed the museum, but it was crowded and the admission fee is on the high side.

I walked a few blocks north to the Jewish Museum, which is free on Saturdays. I started with their permanent collection, which had several interesting pieces. I was particularly taken by a portrait of an Ethiopian Jew by Kehinde Wiley and by a sculpture called Venus Pareve by Hannah Wilke. I should also note that I was impressed with how much art by women was part of the collection. I also really liked an exhibit of excerpts from television shows having to do with psychotherapy.

But the main reason I had gone to the museum was to look at a temporary exhibit of work by Marc Chagall and other artists active in Vitebsk in the period just after the Russian revolution. Having been in Vitebsk in early September, I felt almost obliged to see this. And, of course, Chagall has long been one of my favorite artists. The exhibit also included works by Kazimir Malevich and El Lissitzky and others. There was a good mix of works and I thought the exhibit (which runs through early January) was well worth seeing.

By the way, I was just leaving there to meet a friend for coffee when I heard about the Pittsburgh massacre. I will write about that and other political matters separately.

NYC Weekend – Part 3: They Might Be Giants The actual reason for the trip to NYC had been to see They Might Be Giants at Terminal 5, a cavernous night club in the extreme western part of midtown, a land populated largely by auto dealerships. I think of them mostly as a novelty act, due to songs like Particle Man and Istanbul and Why Does the Sun Shine? All of those were part of the show. But there was a lot of other material, not all of it funny, and much of it too loud for me. I liked the second set better than the first, but I am really too old to go to concerts that don’t start until 9 at night. Also, I was completely earwormed by The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

NYC Weekend – Part 4: Restaurant Going Friday night a bunch of us had dinner after the show at Cowgirl in the West Village. I got Frito pie, which amused Robin, who was unfamiliar with this wonderful dish of chili (vegetarian in my case, though they also have beef) with cheese and sour cream and the like served over an actual bag of Fritos. I also had a very good IPA, but I don’t remember what it was and they don’t have their drink menu on-line. If you want Tex-mex food in Manhattan, this would fill the bill, but it was on the noisy side.

Saturday night’s dinner before the concert was at Inti, a Peruvian restaurant on 10th Avenue. I got a very nice grilled chicken dish, with garlicky vegetables. Surprisingly reasonable prices for mid-town Manhattan, too. I’d eat there again.

Before leaving on Sunday, I had brunch with friends at Pete’s Tavern in the Gramercy Park area This is one of several places that claims to be the oldest restaurant in New York. The fried chicken sandwich was very tasty. Overall, everyone seemed happy with their food and drinks (I went for Irish coffee) and the conversation was lively and entertaining.

Business Trip: I got home about 9 at night, which meant rushing around to unpack and pack for a business trip to Layton, Utah. Aside from being exhausted and having a fairly intense work schedule, there’s not really anything to say about that. I was originally supposed to come back Thursday night, but the trip got extended because our team had to outbrief in the late afternoon. I spent most of Saturday in a state of suspended animation.

WBRS Reception: I did drag myself out of the house on Sunday, first to go grocery shopping and later to go to a William Barton Rogers Society reception (related to giving to MIT) at the Spy Museum. There were heavy hors oeuvres (particularly good spicy tuna cones, as well as veggie tacos served in lime halves), along with lots of intelligent conversation. The main feature was a talk by Eric Alm, co-director of the Center for Microbiome Informatics and Therapeutics. His main point was that indigenous populations tend to have a more diverse microbiome population than people in the more developed world. He also had some interesting data on how quickly one’s microbiome can change in response to travel or illness. Fortunately, he didn’t mention any changes in response to dessert.

Things Still to Write About: Voting. Condo association annual meeting. How the Virginia Department of Transportation is going to screw us over. How Jeff Bezos is going to screw us over. Possibly a locked entry re: work.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Madeleine Kamman was a cookbook author. Gary Beach was an actor, best known for playing Roger De Bris in The Producers on Broadway (and on film). Burton Richter won a Nobel Prize in Physics. Adrian Cronauer was a disc jockey and inspired the movie Good Morning, Vietnam. Shinobu Hashimoto was the screenwriter for Seven Samurai and Rashomon.

Jonathan Gold was a restaurant critic in Los Angeles. I read him regularly in the L.A. Weekly and in the Times when I lived there and often looked at his reviews when I was going to be visiting. His reviews covered a wide range of restaurants, including some lesser known ethnic cuisines. He was also the first food critic to win a Pulitzer Prize. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer just a couple of weeks before his death. On a personal note, one of his reviews led me to Jitlada, which I still think is one of the best Thai restaurants in the U.S.

Dave: I went to see a new musical at Arena Stage on Friday night. Based on the 1993 movie, Dave is the story of an ordinary good guy whose resemblance to the president of the U.S. leads him to a stint acting in that job after the real POTUS has a stroke. He’s manipulated by the Chief of Staff and the Communications Director, until he decides he can actually do good. That leads to an interesting situation with the First Lady, too. Obviously, the premise requires a lot of suspension of disbelief, but this was an extremely funny show, with a fairly lively and tuneful score. I thought Drew Gehling was very appealing in the title role, but the most notable performances were by Mami Parris as Ellen (the FLOTUS) and Bryonha Marie Parham as Susan (the Communications Director). I also want to call out Douglas Sills as the Chief of Staff, Bob, and Josh Breckenridge as Duane, the Secret Service agent. Overall, this was a total hoot - an enjoyable evening out.

Too Much Rain: I was supposed to go to a story swap in Montgomery County on Saturday, but it was pouring and there were three accidents between my house and the Beltway, so I turned around (well, not literally – I exited the Beltway and drove back home). I did grocery shopping on the way home, but managed remarkably little housework once I got home. I also had a phone rehearsal for an upcoming storytelling event, which was helpful because the story in question was in the "here are a bunch of mosaic tiles but I have no idea how they fit together" stage. I also have an out in the form of permission to tell something else if I can't find the grout in time.

Fun House: Every summer, the National Building Museum has some sort of installation. I loved the miniature golf courses they did a few years ago and liked the maze they followed it with. A friend wanted to do the Fun House this year. It was, frankly, disappointing. I liked the marble track in the Playroom and thought some of the other features were fairly entertaining, especially the door in the bathroom that opened to show a shower of plastic balls being blown around. I never managed to find the kitchen, which was shown on the guide in one of the other rooms. The biggest draws were the pool and jacuzzi which were, essentially, large ball pits. But there were way too many children there, which made things less than relaxing. Overall, I didn’t think it was worth $16.

Supra: After the Fun House, we had lunch at Supra, a newish Georgian restaurant I had been wanting to try. I started with a cocktail called Tarkhuna Twist, that had gin, tarragon lemonade, luxardo maraschino, and tarragon oil. It was just okay – sweeter than I would have preferred. As for food, we got eggplant stuffed with walnuts (particularly delicious), beets with smoked cheese and salad, salmon with a tomato and walnut sauce, and imeruli (a type of khachapuri, i.e. cheese bread). My friend also ordered a side of turkey bacon, which I ignored. The food was very good and I would happily eat there again. It was more expensive than the Fun House, but well worth it.


Jan. 17th, 2018 04:16 pm
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Celebrity Death Watch: Anna Mae Hays was the 13th chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps and the first woman in the U.S. armed forces to become a general officer. France Gall wa a French singer. Doreen Tracey was one of the original Mouseketeers. Keith Jackson was a sportscaster, particularly known for college football. Dan Gurney was a race car driver and is credited with creating the tradition of spraying champagne on the podium after the race. Dolores O’Riordan was the lead singer of The Cranberries. Edwin Hawkins was a gospel musician, best known for "Oh Happy Day." Jo Jo White played basketball, largely for the Celtics. Jessica Falkholt was an Australian soap opera actress. Her greatest significance is that she’s the first person anybody scored on in this year’s ghoul pool.

Joe Frank was a radio personality. I used to listen to his show, Work in Progress, on KCRW when I lived in Los Angeles. He was always interesting and, often, quite funny. There is apparently a documentary about him scheduled to be released this year.

Ghoul Pool – 2018: Speaking of ghoul pool (a contest to predict what famous people will die in the next year), the entry lists are now out of the beginning of the game embargo, so I can reveal mine. Note that the number indicates how many points a person is worth and you get an extra 12 points for uniqueness, i.e. being the only participant to have someone on your list.

20. I.M. Pei
19. Robert Mugabe
18. Ed Kranepool
17. Honor Blackman
16. Beverly Cleary
15. Dervla Murphy
14. John McCain
13. Johnny Clegg
12. Al Jaffe
11. Herman Wouk
10. Jimmy Carter
9. Javier Perez de Cuellar
8. John Paul Stevens
7. Tom Jones (the lyricist, not the Welsh singer)
6. Lawrence Ferlinghetti
5. Norman Lloyd
4. Jerry Herman
3. Olivia de Haviland
2. Sheldon Harnick
1. Sara Paretsky

The Pajama Game: Looking back, I realized I never wrote about the production of The Pajama Game at Arena Stage, which I saw just before leaving for my vacation. It’s a problematic show to modern sensibilities. I’m tempted to retitle it to something like "Sexual Harassment at the Sleep-Tite Factory." I also find a lot of the lyrics to be full of cheap, amateurish rhymes ("A new town is a blue town…")

But – and this is a huge redeeming factor – there is fabulous choreography. I was particularly pleased to see that Donna McKechnie, who played Mabel, still has it at age 74. (I saw her as Cassie in A Chorus Line back in the 1970’s!) The most striking dance moves, though, came from Blakely Slaybaugh as Prez (the union president).

I do prefer the modern sensibilities and deplore the sexism. But I also miss the days when people broke out into spectacular dance moves with little provocation. In fact, I often wish that people in real life would spontaneously broke into song and dance. It would certainly liven up many a design review.

Losers’ Post-Holiday Party: Getting back to the present time, Saturday night was the annual post-holiday party for the Style Invitational Losers. As usual with potlucks, I have a long debate with myself over what to bring. Someday I will use up the spring roll wrappers that I bought way too many of because I misunderstood the package labeling. But this time, I went for quick and easy in the form of stuffed mushrooms. You just take baby bella mushroom caps, arrange them on a baking pan. Fill each cap with some alouette (or similar) cheese. Dip the cheese-stuffed end in panko (Japanese bread crumbs). Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes or so.

As for the party itself, it was conveniently metro-accessible. Or, conveniently if the Red Line weren’t running only half-hourly over the weekend, so I got there later than I intended. Still, I was in time to get food and, more importantly, in time for the sing-along, which is always a highlight of these things. Throw in lots of intelligent conversation, both with people I already knew and those I hadn’t met before, and it was a good time.

One Day University: On Sunday, I went to One Day University. This time out, it was at the Lansburgh Theatre and consisted of two lectures. The first was The Presidential Library given by Joseph Luzzi of Bard College. I had actually heard Luzzi lecture (on a different literature topic) previously and he’s quite a dynamic speaker. He posed a few general questions about the relationship between reading and ability to be an effective leader. He discussed several presidents in depth, focusing on what they read. George Washington, for example, used Cato as a model of manhood. He also collected etiquette books. Thomas Jefferson read pretty much everything. Lincoln was, of course, an autodidact. As a counterexample, Warren Harding’s reading was limited to things like Rules of Poker. Buchanan and Fillmore supposedly both read a lot, but neither was much of a leader. Grant didn’t get mentioned, but I find it hard to imagine him reading much of anything beyond the labels on liquor bottles. (Apparently, he got in trouble at West Point for spending his time reading James Fenimore Cooper, instead of his textbooks.)

Luzzi compiled an American Library List that included some obvious authors (Locke, Rousseau) and works (Plutarch’s Lives, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, The Bible). He also recommended things like Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and Ben Franklin’s autobiography. Fictional works which got mentioned included Great Expectations and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Didn’t any presidents appreciate the real Great American Novel – namely Moby Dick?

Anyway, Luzzi’s conclusion was, essentially, that good readers make good leaders. He made four points to support this: 1) reading fundamentally suggests a person knows he doesn’t know everything, 2) readers are curious, 3) reading supports collaboration, and 4) reading puts one in another’s shoes. As a self-confessed biblioholic, I tend to agree.

The second speaker was Mark Lapadusa of Yale University, speaking on How to Watch Movies Like a Film Professor. He started out by pointing out that this applies to seeing a movie repeatedly and, for first viewing, one should just enjoy it for what it is. Then he showed various film clips and talked about aspects of them. The films he discussed were Casablance, Citizen Kane, Psycho, Dr. Strangelove, and The Godfather (Both I and II). That’s a pretty wide assortment of styles and subject matter. He touched on one subject that I have a long-standing interest in, namely film music, specifically in the case of the shower scene from Psycho. If he’d had time for questions, I might have asked him more about that.

I was also a little disappointed that he didn’t talk about source material. For example, The Godfather is one of a handful of movies that is generally considered far more successful than the novel it is based on. Casablanca was based on an unsuccessful play. What makes a film adaptation successful and why do so many movies based on bestsellers fail either by being too true to the novel or not true enough?

I had a chance to discuss the lectures a bit more after. I had gotten into a conversation with a woman named Ann before the program. We ended up sitting together in the auditorium and decided to go out to lunch (at China Chilcano – tasty Peruvian / Asian fusion food) afterwards. It was nice to have the opportunity to digest some of what I’ve heard. All in all, an excellent way to spend part of a day.

Murder Was Her Hobby: I took advantage of being in the city to go to the Renwick Gallery and see their exhibit of the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death by Frances Glessner Lee. This is a series of miniature rooms depicting what may or may not be murder scenes. They were built to be a teaching tool for forensic science and are incredibly detailed. Apparently, Lee even made underwear for the dead bodies. Because they are still used for teaching, the exhibit does not include solutions to the cases. There were a few where I thought I had a good idea of what had happened, but I was completely puzzled by the majority of them. So much for all the hours I’ve spent reading murder mysteries!

The craftsmanship is amazing and the exhibit included flashlights to allow for closer examination of the crime scenes. However, there wasn’t very much thought given to the flow through the room, so one was stuck standing and waiting for people to move for long stretches of time. It would have been better to set things up so people moved only in one direction through the exhibit. And it would have been much better to limit the number of people allowed in at a time. Even with these annoyances, it was worth seeing the exhibit and I’m glad I took the time to.
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Celebrity Death Watch: Glenna Sue Kidd played for a number of teams in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. William Baumol was an economist and came up with a theory about why services will always increase in price, unlike goods. William David Brohn arranged and orchestrated music for a number of Broadway musicals, notably Ragtime for which he won a Tony. Powers Boothe was an actor, primarily on television. Stan Weston designed G.I. Joe. Henry Chung was the owner of Henry’s Hunan, a well-known San Francisco restaurant (now a small chain) that is credited with bringing Hunan cuisine to the U.S. Baba Chuck Davis founded the African-American Dance Ensemble.

Non-celebrity Death Watch: Ella Raino Edwards, better known to most of us as just Ellaraino, was a storyteller and actress in Los Angeles. She was a powerful presence. She apparently died in mid-March, but I only just heard about it.

I knew Trisha O’Tuama from the early days of the net. She was active in several Usenet groups (e.g. soc.women and talk.bizarre) and also on a couple of mailing lists I was on. She was provocative and didn’t take any crap from anyone. I met her in person only a couple of times and she wasn’t at all abrasive then. Even though we hadn’t interacted much recently, I will miss her.

Errata: People I grew up with have corrected me on teachers. Second grade was Mrs. Redman and fourth was (initially) Mrs. Hundt. The gym teacher was apparently Miss Parkman.

Kaleidoscope: On Friday night, I saw Kaleidoscope at Creative Cauldron in Falls Church. This is a new musical by Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith, the latest in their "bold new works for intimate spaces" series. The story involves a Broadway star on her final solo tour. Except she is suffering from dementia and can no longer remember her lines. So her daughters and her granddaughter keep the tour going at home. Florence Lacey did a fabulous job as Evelyn Throne, who is confused about what is going on and sees her memories as a kaleidoscope of disjointed images, which she can’t put together into a cohesive story. This sounds depressing, but there was plenty of warmth and humor to balance things. The music was lovely, too, though I wish there had been a song list in the program. The most memorable song was "One More Walk Around the Garden," in which Evelyn progresses from walking on her own, to using a cane, to a walker, to a wheelchair as the song goes on. I must have gotten something in my eyes. I have recommended this theatre highly before and this is yet another wonderful show there.

EU Open House: Saturday was the annual European Union Embassies Open House. I went with my friend, Cindy, and we started at the Embassy of Spain. They had an exhibit on architecture, but the real point of these events is food and swag. In this case, they were charging for almost all of the food. (We did get some free bags of Spanish potato chips.) The food was cheap, though – three bucks for a plate of vegetable paella and another 2 for a glass of wine. And it was definitely worth it.

We moved on to the Embassy of Poland. I was interested in a project that is digitizing a book signed by Polish residents in the 1920’s as a gift of friendship to the United States, though I didn’t find any familiar names on the couple of pages I looked at for Tykocin. There was a 1920’s theme overall, with appropriate costumes and music. They also had free food samples, with sauerkraut and mushroom pierogie, plus cake.

Lithuania had a small area on culture, mostly involving choral singing and folk costumes. They had quite a lot of food, including some delicious borscht. There were also potatoes, sausages / dried meat (which I ignored), herring, cheeses, brown bread, and Lithuanian beer. I continue to believe that my ancestors left largely in search of hops. (Sorry, but I am not a fan of the lighter, sweeter beer styles.)

Those three embassies are close together, but our next stop was further, so we wanted to get a shuttle bus. They had neglected to put up a sign for the bus stop, so there was some confusion involved, but we did eventually succeed in getting to the Embassy of Malta. That one was, frankly, not all that worth it. They had a guy lecturing in a too small, too hot room, and a film playing in another room. They did give us little packets of Maltese date and pistachio cookies as we left, however.

We took another shuttle over to the Embassy of Portugal. They had a bit of a line and we waited a while to get in. Fortunately, it was well worth it. They had better (or, at least, larger) tote bags to add to the ones we’d collected. And they had a drawing where you could win a basket of food and wine, though most people (each of us included) just got a t-shirt. As for food, they had bread and cheese, custard tarts, and, best of all, port wine.

We split up at that point because we wanted to go to different embassies. I went to the Embassy of Hungary, where the main exhibit was an outdoor one on Hungarian dog breeds, the most appealing of which is the Kuvasz. As for food, most of what they had was for sale, though they did have good cheese biscuits for free.

I could probably have made it to one or two more embassies (depending on lines) but I was tired and decided to just go home, where I promptly napped for a couple of hours.

Objects of Wonder: Sunday’s venture was to the National Museum of Natural History for a Chavurah event. Objects of Wonder is as much about how the museum handles its collections as about the objects themselves. There were a wide range of things to look at, including stained samples of types of wood, a stuffed lion, a painted house from a native American community in the Pacific Northwest (complete with an associated story on an audio loop), and pretty much samples of everything the museum offers, with the exception of dinosaurs and mummies. (Given my dislike of mummies, this was no loss.) I think the most bizarre bit of information was that they estimate the age of whales by the thickness of their earwax.

After going through that exhibit, we checked out another one nearby, with winners of a competition for nature photography. I particularly liked a photo of a leopard descending a tree. There were also some great polar bear photos. My animal biases may be at work here.

Then we went out to lunch. We ended up at Tadich Grill, which was a bit pricy, but good. I had some excellent arctic char. The weather was lovely and we sat outside enjoying it. All in all, a lovely day out.

What I Didn’t Do This Past Weekend: I didn’t get any housework done, though I did manage grocery shopping. And I didn’t get enough sleep. Sigh.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
The Trump Card I went to see Mike Daisey’s latest monologue at Woolly Mammoth on Thursday night. If you are at all familiar with Daisey’s work, you know that he has no qualms about being provocative. The thing that makes this piece more than just a rant is that Daisey tries to understand both how Trump became what he is (e.g. his father’s racism and dishonest business dealings, combined with Roy Cohn’s mentoring) and his supporters’ frustration with feeling left out of the American conversation. A lot of the emphasis is on Trump as a performer and his success at being what he is. Interestingly, there is nothing about his wives and children, though there is plenty of material about his sexual assaults. The left does not get off lightly here, either, with accusations of smugness (mea culpa) and a bit of an attack on NPR. It’s an interesting piece and was worth seeing, though I don’t think Daisey is likely to change anybody’s mind.

Trip to Chicago: A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that: 1) I had never been to the Art Institute of Chicago and 2) it would be easy to remedy that. A quick bit of research also found an Elvis Costello concert to go to at the historic Chicago Theatre. Plane tickets are easily acquired, as are hotel reservations. In this case, I stayed at the Hilton at O’Hare, which is located conveniently on the airport grounds. I had some qualms about the travel when the American Airlines plane caught fire at ORD Friday afternoon, but my United flight was actually fine and, in fact, arrived about 20 minutes early. By the way, before leaving IAD, I checked out the new Turkish Airlines lounge and had an excellent supper of lentil soup and baba ghannoush.

I had intended to have breakfast at Wildberry Pancakes and Café, but the wait for a table was an hour and a half, so I went elsewhere. Then I drifted over to the Art Institute. I am a great believer in docent tours, so took the tour of the Modern Wing that was on offer when I was there. They define Modern as, essentially, early the first half of the 20th century. The tour started with Picasso and Braque and cubism (with a few touches of other things Picasso did, including a bit of insight into his various mistresses). After passing through the Russians (e.g. Kandinsky), we continued down to the Contemporary collection, which included Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollack. I will have to admit that the latter is pretty much my least favorite artist of all time, but so it goes. The most memorable piece was a sort of sculpture by Felix Gonzales-Torres named "Untitled" (Portrait of Ross in L.A.). This consists of a stack of wrapped candy and viewers are encouraged to take a piece. Talk about absorbing the artwork!

After the tour, I stayed in the Modern Wing for a bit, going back to look at some things we had skipped, e.g. a couple of works by Chagall, notably White Crucifixion. Of course, the most significant Chagall work at the museum is the America Windows, six stained glass windows, which are beautiful and vibrant and the definite highlight of my visit.

There are lots of other famous works at the museum, of course, though American Gothic is off on tour right now. I did see such things as Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks and Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jette. I also made a point of visiting the Thorne Miniature Rooms, which depict both European and American rooms from various periods. They are quite exquisitely detailed, but the crowds make them harder to enjoy than they should be.

Anyway, the whole museum is quite overwhelming and I didn’t attempt to see everything. As it was, I spent about 5 hours there and was pretty exhausted at the end of that. Had I been staying downtown, I could have gone to my hotel and taken a nap, but I didn’t think I had time to schlep back to the airport and back to the city. So I was rather tired for the Elvis Costello concert.

First of all, I should note that the Chicago Theatre is pretty spectacular. Unfortunately, the sound system doesn’t measure up to the ornate décor. There was a good mix of material, including pretty much everything off the Imperial Bedroom album. The most notable video images on the screen above the band were for "Watching the Detectives," which used a wide range of noir / pulp covers. That nourish theme was nicely followed by "Shot With His Own Gun," by the way. But I think the performance highlight of the evening was "This House is Empty Now." Overall, it was a reasonably good evening, but the sound system really did put a damper on things.

For what it’s worth, travel home was also straightforward and hassle-free, though I didn’t get upgraded.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I am, of course, remarkably busy and, hence, behind on writing. This should get me more or less caught up on things I am willing to write about publicly.

Celebrity death watch: There are several interesting celebrity deaths to note. Muriel Siebert was the first woman to have a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. I have to admit I had not realized that newsman David Frost, who is probably most famous for his interviews with Richard Nixon, was still alive until he wasn't. Another "end of an era" death to note is that of science fiction writer, Frederik Pohl. In my opinion, he was more significant as an editor than as a writer, but I'm also not a big science fiction person, so my opinion is only semi-educated. Cal Worthington was a car dealer whose commercials in California featured his "dog" Spot (various animals, most memorably a lion and a hippo) and a catchy "Go see Cal" jingle. And Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet who translated Beowulf.

Reno Mileage Run: In late August, I did a quick trip to Reno. This was pretty much a mileage run, but Reno is a good place to do that to since you can arrive late at night and depart early in the morning without bothering with a hotel room. In this case, I took a shuttle from the airport to the Peppermill and gambled all night, coming out about 20 bucks ahead. The travel also went fairly smoothly, despite a delay in the first leg that made the connection a bit tighter than I'd have preferred. All in all, with a good price on the ticket, it was a fairly painless way to rack up some miles.

Baseball: Goldstar often has discount tickets for baseball games, so provided a cheap way to see the Nationals play the Mets. It was a bit of a pain picking up the ticket, since the third party ticket office is all the way around the ballpark from the main box office with confusing signage. But cheap is cheap and I even got a free t-shirt. This game was a case of divided loyalties for me. The Mets won and I was pleased that their victory was largely due to a 2-run homer by Ike Davis, who is more or less the Art Shamsky of our times. (So, sue me. When in doubt, I always root for Jewish baseball players.)

Zaytinya and Men's Collars Over the Years: The Smithsonian American Art Museum / National Portrait Gallery was presenting the movie Wings, the first ever best picture Oscar winner. I made plans to go with a couple of friends. One of them joined me for lunch at Zaytinya beforehand. This is the Mediterranean outpost of the Jose Andres empire and is every bit as good as his other places. They were continuing Restaurant Week, so it was also excellent value. All of the food was good, but particularly notable dishes included the baba ghannouge and adana kebab.

We had time before the movie to look at a little of the museum. I've been to that museum a lot, so imposed my favorite exhibit there (David Beck's MVSEVM) on my friend. We also looked at the patent models and the portraits of the Presidents. I usually speculate on men's facial hair, but she focused on the collars, which don't lie flat until the late 19th century. There may be some correlation with beards. There are also changes in neckwear, but there is something of a chicken and egg problem here.

I'll write about the movie separately, since I seem to still be seeing enough movies to make them worth their own quarterly wrap-up.

Dinner in Singapore: The MIT Club of Washington provided a slightly early birthday dinner for me, in the form of an event at the Embassy of Singapore. The talks included a short one by the ambassador on the history of Singapore, followed by a marine biologist discussing sustainability. The food was reasonably varied, with meat, chicken, fish and vegetable dishes. Plus galub jamum for dessert. Good food and intelligent conversation always make for my sort of evening.

Speaking of Birthdays: I'm 55. As a few people pointed out, I'm eligible for the over-55 menus at various chain restaurants I don't normally eat at.

Culpeper Volksmarch: I am trying to get caught up on the baseball walks program, so did a year round event in Culpeper. The route was quite hilly and, therefore, kicked my butt. I also need new walking shoes as my feet were killing me for the last kilometer or so (of 10). But the walk served its purpose as (among other things) it passed the childhood home (with historical sign) of Eppa Rixley, who pitched for the Phillies.

Story Swap: We had our regular story swap on Saturday night, which is always fun. I need to find some time to work on some new things. In lieu of that, I told "Why I'm Not a Millionaire." Jane had an excellent Norwegian story.

Miss Saigon: This was the first show of the season at Signature Theatre. They did a reasonably good job, given the limitations of the score. Diana Huey was impressive as Kim, as was Tom Semsa as The Engineer. I also want to note Chris Sizemore as John. I think the score is pretty weak and some of Richard Maltby, Jr.'s lyrics are remarkably amateurish, e.g. rhyming "moon" and "fortune." I can also quibble with the orchestration in a few places, as I firmly believe that a song lyric referring to "a song played by a single saxophone" should not be accompanied by keyboards and percussion (in addition to the saxophone). Still, I thought Karma Camp's choreography for "Enter the Dragon" was impressive and I got all teary-eyed during "Bui Doi," a song about the plight of street children. My bottom line is that Signature did as well as possible, given the limitations of the material.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Much of what has kept me occupied the past couple of weeks has been the Capital Fringe Festival. It makes sense to actually write about Fringe shows while they are still going on, so people can follow my recommendations (or not – there are critics I read specifically so I can do the opposite). In the interests of that, here are write-ups of a few fringe shows, but I am seeing more this weekend.

I did a couple of non-Fringe things, too. It was easier just to stick them in chronologically.

Celebrity Death Watch: Several people have noted the deaths of MIT Professor and acoustic researcher Amar Bose, anti-Semitic White House reporter Helen Thomas, and sex researcher Virginia Johnson. I have seen less mention of modeling agency founder (i.e. glorified pimp) John Casablancas or of Nixon attorney Leonard Garment.

Fringe – The Burlesque of Broadway: I love Broadway and this got good reviews. I had not quite grasped that the dancers performed to recorded music – and, for the most part, didn’t even lip synch. I did appreciate that they were not all rail thin. In fact, one of the best of them had an actual belly. But I still think burlesque is the sort of thing that would be more fun to do (uh, for a very carefully selected private audience) than to watch. In short, this was not really my sort of thing.

Fringe – Funny Stories 2: Two of the three stories James Judd told were funny. One of those involved a childhood book report and how it led to his discovery of soap operas, with a particularly amusing description of what he learned from them. The other had to do with a shark diving trip. The third story he told involved his obsession with a dermatologist, who turned out not to be what he seemed. While not funny, the story was interesting, but the gimmick of presenting several alternative endings didn’t work for me. Still, the show was well worth seeing and that third story is new, so I am sure he will polish it as he goes on telling it.

Fringe – Impossible to Translate but I’ll Try: My disclaimer here is that Noa Baum is a friend, so I am not an entirely objective reviewer. Still, I think it is fair to say that her collection of true life Israeli stories was well structured and well performed. I particularly like her story about how she met her husband. I also appreciated her framing of the stories, with the final piece echoing the first one. This was quiet, straight forward storytelling of the highest order and very enjoyable.

Ann Arbor Art Fair Do: As I have mentioned before, a Do is a flyertalk party. This one involved having a room in the downtown library for discussion of miles and points and such, plus a dinner and a brunch. I had a weather delay getting into Detroit, but it didn’t matter because it just resulted in a shorter wait for the Michigan Flyer bus from DTW to Ann Arbor. The bus runs several times a day and is only $15 each way, so is quite a good deal. I took advantage of the trip to shop my way through about 2/3 of the art fair, which is huge and varied. I even found a few odds and ends to buy, restraining myself largely via by having taken just a small backpack for the trip. I learned a couple of things and enjoyed seeing some folks I had not seen in a while (and meeting others). There was a lengthy delay getting home, which meant having to take a taxi from DCA home, since we arrived after the metro stopped running. I emailed US Airways for compensation and they only took a couple of days to send me a voucher for 50 bucks (which is about what my taxi fare was). That’s not fantastic, but it’s satisfactory. (United is generally more generous with compensation – e.g. I got a $325 voucher for the Denver fiasco, part of which addresses the hotel charge I incurred as a result of the late cancellation – but they also take longer. I’ve never succeeded in getting as much as an apology from American.)

Fringe – Old Time British Music Hall: Old jokes, bawdy songs – exactly my sort of thing. This was extremely entertaining, with my only quibble being a minor one about the ordering of the musical numbers. Since "Lost It at the Astor" and "Yo-yo" involve pretty much the same joke, it didn’t really benefit the show to put the two of them together. The funniest piece is "A Fowl Lament," which involves the dilemma of various people associated with the pheasant plucker. This is my favorite of what I’ve seen so far this year.

Miniature Golf at the Building Museum: The National Building Museum has miniature golf in the summer. Within minutes of finding that out, I sent an email to several friends (basically, techie women I don’t currently work with day to day) with the subject line "We Have to Do This." Fortunately, they agreed and a group of us went on Wednesday night. There are two courses and we did the Green Course. It was pretty entertaining, with the holes designed to address futuristic views of the city. We also ate at Hill Country’s Backyard Barbecue just outside the museum. I would definitely go back and do the Blue Course.

Fringe – Social Media Expert: This play involves a group of people who work for a burger chain, plus their friends and their twitter feed. There are some interesting questions about the meaning of social media and what kind of power people and companies do and don’t have as a result of using tools like twitter. I particularly liked the mockery of Powerpoint in a few of the scenes. But the script could be tighter, particularly in the final 20 minutes or so., where it got a bit preachy. I felt like I was eavesdropping on millennials. Sorry kids, but you are not as profound as you think you are.

Fringe - &Afterwards: This was another pure storytelling piece. Kevin Boggs grew up in Jonesborough, Tennessee (home of the National Storytelling Festival) and moved to the gay mecca of Dupont Circle in the 1990’s. This is essentially a coming of age story, about Boggs finding out who he wanted to be. The most interesting story mixed in with his own involved a Bosnian refugee waitress and how she got to "go home large." Overall, this was an interesting piece which I would have enjoyed more had it not been for the noise outside the theatre sometimes drowning out the soft-spoken performance inside.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
If I don’t wait an entire month to write stuff, the blog posts get shorter. I am pretty much caught up on what I've been doing, though I am heading to the NPL Con imminently so will be uncaught up again.

Pink Martini: I started off July by seeing Pink Martini at Wolf Trap. The sultry summer evening was well accompanied by the sultry music. There was lots of familiar material (some of which is still stuck in my head over a week later) but some new stuff, too. The only problem is the usual one with Wolf Trap. Namely, it takes me 10 minutes to drive home, but first I have to spend 30-40 minutes getting out of the parking lot.

When Art Danced With Music: The National Gallery of Art has an exhibit on Diaghilev and the Ballet Russes and I went with a couple of friends this past weekend. The exhibit was impressive, with paintings, backdrops, costumes and film excerpts. The latter were very helpful in seeing the rest in context. The key point is that Diaghilev had no particular artistic talent himself, but was able to bring together composer, choreographer, designers, dancers, etc. to influence the development of ballet. That prompted one of my friends to say, "so he was the systems engineer of the ballet!" I love that as a way of explaining what systems engineering is about. Anyway, it was an excellent exhibit, even if I think Picasso’s costumes for Parade are too absurd to dance in.

Not Quite Knitting: I went to knitting group on Sunday. I attempted to wind a hank of a complex yarn into a ball, but the swift fell apart just after I started. I managed not to have the right needles with me for any of the yarn I’d brought to work with. And I seem to have lost half a sweater in my living room. This was not my finest hour.

In Memorium: My colleague, Young Shin, passed away in his sleep on the Fourth of July. The memorial service was last night. It’s something of a tribute to a person when a few hundred people show up for their memorial. He was an interesting character and we’d had many discussions about history and language, among other topics. I know he was extremely proud of his children and I hope they can take some comfort in the deep feelings he had for them.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Now that June is over, maybe I should write something about it. It was a relatively unbusy month, but unbusy for me just means that I didn’t go out on weeknight, other than one happy hour for a former colleague whose contract was not renewed. That should probably have been called an unhappy hour. But, anyway, much of the month was spent recovering from jetlag.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Colorado: The final weekend of the month featured my periodic pilgrimage to a big party given by friends in Colorado. It also ended up featuring the worst domestic travel experience of my life, which I will write about separately. But all worked out in the end – I got there and had a good time, with lots of good food and lots of good conversation. My contribution to the former was a box of chocolates from a newish place near where I live. My contribution to the latter included travel recommendations and literary recommendations. But when the talk turns to computer programming, I have nothing to say.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Completing March, I had a bunch of travel in the latter half of the month, partly to feel safe about meeting the terms for the United challenge I was doing (which I did succeed at).

It started with a theatre binge in New York, for which I actually flew up to JFK, which is not as convenient as the train, though the Air Train into the city makes it tolerable. Before the theatre going, I had time for my usual midtown stroll, which involves a number of personal touchstones. I feel reassured whenever I go to New York and my favorite places – the Chrysler Building, the Salmon Building (which I only learned the identity of within the past year), and (most of all) the library with its lions – are still there.

The motivation for the trip was the Encores production of It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman, a musical I love the score of. I love the score even more after seeing this production. Encores does concert versions of forgotten musicals and their interpretation of “concert version” means cutting out a large part of the book, though they leave enough dialogue to make things easy to follow. One of the things I particularly love is the orchestration, which has 3 French horns, 3 violas, and none of those twerpy violins. (I took viola for a couple of years in school, so am biased against those screechy guys who stole the melody while I got to play three notes every 10 measures.) The downside is, of course, the earworms that got set off and I hereby apologize to everyone who had to listen to me humming “You’ve Got Possibilities” and “The Woman for the Man” for the next week. (I also love “The Strongest Man in the World” but it is not quite as sticky. In fact, the only song from this show I don’t much care for is “It’s Supernice.”) Anyway, the staging was clever (using a cardboard figure to do the flying, for example), the cast was right on the mark, and the show was sheer fun. There was a talkback afterwards and a particular thrill is that Charles Strouse and Lee Adams were there. By the way, a fun bit of theatre trivia is that all of the scientists referenced in the song “Revenge” are real, although the dates of the Nobel prizes are changed.

As if that wasn’t enough theatre fun, after getting my New York deli fix (ah, full sour pickles!) I went to the Musicals Tonight! production of Strike Up the Band. Anybody who knows me knows that I believe that the Gershwins were the pinnacle of American music. This was also a concert production in the more conventional sense – actors carrying scripts, a piano instead of a full orchestra – but it was still a lot of fun. The production used the 1927 version with some of the 1930 songs (e.g. “Soon”). I haven’t verified it, but I suspect consistency with the 1990 studio cast recording. At any rate, the show does have a bit of a Gilbert and Sullivan feel to it (which is a good thing) and is very very funny. The performances were, however, a bit uneven.

In the morning, I flew from EWR to BOS, where I met up with [livejournal.com profile] ron_newman and [livejournal.com profile] nonelvis (who had, somewhat surprisingly, never met before) for brunch in Somerville. After food and lively conversation, I took a long walk, using slightly vague directions, to Mount Auburn Cemetery. The only real issue was figuring out where to get off the path around Fresh Pond and return to the street. It had been years since I had last walked around the cemetery, but it was as pleasant a walk as I remembered it being. Then I walked up to Harvard Square, browsed at (but did not) books at the Coop, and got the T back to the airport for my flight home.

I spent the first Pesach seder with friends. The highlight was a discussion of Chad Gadya which centered on whether or not two zuzim is a good price for a kid. I admit to not knowing the exchange rate for the zuz and I am not up on the price of goats in any currency, but it was still amusing late night conversation. The second night was saner.

Then I did a quick day trip to Louisville, Kentucky. I did the two-state Volksmarch event there. I opted for just the 11 kilometer version because I needed the extra time to tour the Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory. The factory tour is highly recommended. I got to see them making opening day bats for David Wright of the Mets! They were also putting the finish on Ryan ZImmeran’s bats. I’m now more conscious of how customized bats are for major league players. I continued a little beyond where the walking route did and succeeded in finding the plaque that commemorates the writing of “Happy Birthday.” The walk also had a stretch through parks along the Ohio River and crossed a bridge to Indiana (and back).

The trip home featured a flight delay on the first leg from SDF to CLE. Since I was concerned about my connection, I asked about being protected on a flight from CLE to IAD, which was scheduled for an hour after my CLE to DCA leg. Instead, the agent rebooked me on Delta via DTW. The DTW flight got to DCA just a half hour after my original flight and I credit Delta flights to Alaska Air, so that’s okay, but it was weird. (Looking at flightaware after the fact, it looks like I could have easily made my original connection, by the way.) I am still working on getting original routing credit from United.

Finally, my friend Suzanne flew out here and we did a couple of training walks for the One Day Hike. We did 13 miles on Saturday and 8 on Sunday, which is decent. But, of course, walking 31.1 is still going to be challenging. Challenge is good.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
Insert usual excuse about being too busy to catch up here.

So, let’s see, what have I done over the past few weeks? Let’s start by finishing up February.

Flyer Talk Dinner: We had the usual frequent flyer conversation, along with pretty good pub grub and beer at American Tap Room in Clarendon. The most amusing conversational item was a discussion about what to do with your butler at a high end hotel on a point stay. The one time I had that experience, I think I ignored that amenity completely.

Movies and Poets: The Smithsonian American Art Museum had a free showing of The Artist. I will write about that separately when I get to the catch-up entry on movies. But it was a good excuse to check out the exhibit on Modern American Poets at the National Portrait Gallery, which is a wing of the same museum. I’d say the selection was fairly predictable (e.g. Walt Whitman, Carl Sandburg, Ezra Pound), but it did include excerpts from their works, along with their portraits. I was pleased that they included Lawrence Ferlinghetti and disappointed they left out Reed Whittemore. I also sought out the exhibit on Amelia Earhart, which was fairly interesting, but small.

Ballet: My Washington Ballet subscription continued with a mixed repertory program. The main feature was Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” which is set to a group of Sousa marches. I prefer more narrative to my ballet viewing, so this isn’t really my thing. There were several short excerpts from ballets like “Le Corsaire,” which are really just a forum for dancers to show off their most impressive skills. My favorite piece of the evening was “Cor Perdut.” That was partly because I really like the music, which had a North African feel. I also thought that the choreography (by Nacho Duato) matched the music particularly well.

Milwaukee: My United Airlines challenge brought me to Milwaukee for a quick weekend visit. Why Milwaukee? 1) It’s a cheap flight in winter and 2) I had never really spent any time in downtown Milwaukee. I stayed at the Hyatt. I spent much of the day Saturday with an old internet friend, Theresa, who I had not met in person before. We explored the Central Library, part of the Marquette University campus (notably, the Joan of Arc Chapel) and miscellaneous other downtown architecture, e.g. the Public Market. Marcia, who I know from internet things and who I had last seen 20 some odd years ago and who Theresa knows from college, joined us for dinner at the Milwaukee Ale House. Their Hop Happy ale is aptly named and the food was above average pub grub. After dinner, we came back to the Hyatt and ate delicious frozen custard and talked until I kicked them out on the grounds of exhaustion.

On Sunday, I went to the Milwaukee Public Museum, which is mostly a fairly old-fashioned natural history museum, with bits of local history thrown in. It was a perfectly reasonable place to spend a few hours. But I remain puzzled over why their section on the South Pacific, which includes Vanuatu, Samoa, Kiribati, the Solomon Islands, etc., fails to have any mention of Fiji.
The trip home, by the way, involved a long delay at CLE, due to a mechanical problem with the incoming plane. It was a good thing I had actually driven to DCA since arriving five hours late meant the metro was closed.

Eivor: The Kennedy Center has a series of events right now called Nordic Cool. This included a free concert by Faroese singer, Eivor. Free? Faroese? Of course, I had to go. I liked her more traditional material, with just drum and voice, best. I also checked out some of the exhibits on the Terrace Level, which included a sampling of photography and design from the Nordic region. I was disappointed to see a lot more people playing Angry Birds on ipads than were playing with the Legos, but maybe I was just there at the wrong time.

Dante’s Inferno: I saw this one man show, performed by Bill Largess as part of Washington Stage Guild, listed on Goldstar and couldn’t resist checking out such an intriguing concept. It’s certainly an acting tour de force, as Largess uses a mixture of pure performance, props, and even puppetry to take the audience on a 90 minute journey through hell. The most dramatic moment was the story of Ugolino, forced to gnaw on his enemy’s skull through all eternity. Some of the encounters with demons, however, seemed to go on just a bit too long. It’s not the frivolous sort of show I usually go to, but I was definitely impressed.
fauxklore: (storyteller doll)
I got home from vacation on Wednesday, January 2nd. Instead of recovering from jet lag like a normal person, I went out Friday night. I talked a friend into going with me to Jammin' Java to see two local a capella groups. The Chromatics have something of a specialty in songs about astronomy, but they also did several other things, including an excellent version of "Safety Dance." The Tone Rangers are a personal favorite. I was pleased that they sang "Helen" (a song that gets stuck in my head every time I hear it) but the real highlight was their new Neil Diamond medley.

On Saturday I went into the city to meet up with a storyteller who was visiting from Phoenix. We had breakfast at Eastern Market and I am pleased to say that both the blue bucks (buckwheat pancakes with blueberries) and the atmosphere are as good as ever. If you've never been, this is the best place to eavesdrop on a slice of Washingtonian life. We followed with coffee at Peregrine, where an old friend of hers joined us. Then we walked around the market (which has a lot of crafts vendors and a flea market on weekends), which included my purchase of a pint of pickles because there is a place there which is almost up to New York standards. Finally, we went on to the Library of Congress and walked around the Great Hall and the Reading Room overlook. I really ought to get a reading room card. Why? Because it's cool and I can.

After they left, I stayed and checked out the current exhibit ("Words Like Sapphires") on Hebrew manuscripts at the Library. It was well worth looking at, with a wide range of pieces. The most famous is probably the Washington Haggadah. I also appreciated the thoughtful commentary on the pieces exhibited.

Sunday was knitting group. I knitted a triangle for the yarn bombing project and crocheted most of a piece for another project I am being slightly secretive about.

And during the week I was off to Los Angeles for a business trip. The travel itself was undramatic, but tedious. In addition to the design review I was there for (and time calling into another meeting), I was able to sit down with a couple of people and get good info. I also had time for dinner with Mary Joan one evening and lunch with Milo the next day. And the timing of the trip was perfect for going to Community Storytellers. There was a small group, but it was great to see everyone.
fauxklore: (Default)
As I mentioned briefly in my last entry, I went to Las Vegas last weekend. The trip came about mostly because: 1) I wanted to go somewhere warmish over the holiday weekend and 2) I had a United ecert (a discount certificate given as compensation for a problem on a previous flight) making the fare reasonable.

My flight out was delayed about 45 minutes for a mechanical problem but, as I've said before, I really do prefer that they fix the planes. I had an exit row aisle seat, so I was comfortable enough. The movie was In Time, which involves a futuristic society in which time is literally money. Everybody is genetically engineered not to age past 25 and, on turning 25 a clock goes on in their body (with a count down on it shown on their arm). They can earn or be given more time and the economic barriers become time zones. The rich in New Greenwich are, essentially, immortal, while those in the ghetto of Dayton have to live day by day. A bored rich person gives his time to a ghetto dweller, who is then accused of having murdered the rich guy. The premise is interesting enough and it held my attention, but, overall, I found the movie too violent for my tastes.

I stayed at Harrah's, which was just adequate. I'd gotten a good price, however, and it's not like I spend a lot of time in the room and awake when I'm in Vegas. I spent much of Saturday doing a Volksmarch covering the North Strip. I was surprised at how much demolition had gone on. Presumably this will lead to construction at some point. I should add that the reason it took much of the day (aside from getting a later start than I intended) was that I did stop for a few gambling breaks and a bit of browsing at expensive shops and the like.

Saturday night, I went to see Cirque du Soleil's Viva Elvis show at the Aria. Frankly, this was less impressive than other Cirque shows I've seen. There was one excellent trampoline act, involving guys dressed as superheroes since Elvis allegedly liked comic books. And there was a very impressive aerial act involving a very scantily clad man and woman. But, overall, there was less spectacle and more straightforward dancing than I'd expected or wanted.

I ventured downtown on Sunday in order to see the new Mob Museum. This was a rather mixed bag, with some general history on the rise of organized crime mixed with a lot of Las Vegas specific history. The highlight is the courtroom where the Kefauver hearings were held in the 1950's. They show a film that includes actual footage of the hearings and I found that fairly entertaining. There were also various gruesome elements throughout the museum, including very graphic descriptions (and photos) of mob hits. Overall, I thought they did a fairly good job and it was worth a few hours.

I stayed downtown afterwards, having a disappointing sushi dinner at Island Sushi and Grill and watching part of the Fremont Street light show, as well as gambling at various of the casinos. I should also mention having walked past the Heart Attack Grill, which was in the news recently for someone having actually had a heart attack while eating there. Their gimmick is highly caloric food, with a free meal for anybody who weighs over 350 pounds. And they make their customers put on hospital gowns over their clothes. It escapes me why anybody would find this a good idea. By the way, I also puzzle over the advertised "buffet of buffets," which offers 6 buffets in 24 hours for about $50. Sure, it's cheap. But how could anybody possibly eat a buffet every 4 hours? My brother in his younger days might have been able to, but I'm not sure even he could now.

I had intended to go to the Roman baths at the spa at Caesar's Palace too, but clothing optional spa-going and tampons are a pretty squicky thought, so I left that for a more biologically suitable time.

Overall, I had an enjoyable weekend away and stayed well within my budget. My flight back was actually a connection via Denver. I got upgraded on the LAS-DEN leg, but not DEN-IAD. I should also mention that the movie on that last leg was The Big Year, which I really enjoyed. I'm not a birder (though I have a couple of good friends who are) so I can't testify to the accuracy of the bird information. But I understand the obsessive pursuit of a goal that other people may find incomprehensible, so this story of three men competing to see the most birds in a year resonated with me. It's not an uproarious laughter sort of comedy, but was just warm and quirky.
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I do some things besides going to the theatre. For one thing, there is always work. If only it weren't for that unfortunate addiction to a middle-class lifestyle ...

Anyway, the obvious celebrity death for me to mention is Leslie Nielsen. He was a genuinely funny man and a couple of his movies (notably Airplane) are deserved classics.

I have a couple of more specialized names to remember, though. The NPL'ers will be interested in the obituary of Frank W. Lewis, who wrote cryptic crosswords for The Nation. And many Jews of my generation grew up with the "art" of Morris Katz on the walls of their homes. As a teenager, going to the Catskills with my parents, I was vaguely impressed by the speed at which Mr. Katz could slap paint on a canvas, using palette knife and toilet paper, but I never cared much for the results. (My parents most questionable artistic acquisition, however, is a lithograph of a chicken plucker. I frequently refer to this as the single ugliest picture in the known universe.)

Speaking of art, I went on the MIT Club of Washington's tour of the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the American Art Museum on Tuesday night. The exhibit consists of a number of works from the collections of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Rockwell's art isn't really my thing, but the docent's spiel was interesting. She emphasized the connection between Rockwell's work and the movies. But what I found most interesting was how much effort he put into setting up the scenarios he painted, making extensive use of photographs (which he then painted from). By the way, I also had time before the tour for a quick look at the new acquisitions at the National Portrait Gallery (which is the other wing of the American Art Museum). I continue to be impressed by the photography of Alec Soth.
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1) I should have mentioned that I also went to see the exhibit of Madeline Albright's pins in the Smithsonian Castle on Sunday, since it was closing that day. The story is that she used her choice of jewelry to send subtle (or not so subtle) messages to people she was meeting with. As someone who wears pins a lot, I was interested in seeing where my taste and hers overlapped. I generally like funkier, less traditional ones than she does.

2) My district has a particularly nasty Congressional race this time out. What makes it especially annoying is that we used to be represented by Tom Davis, a moderate Republican, who retired because he felt increasingly unwelcome within the Virginia Republican party. Gerry Connolly (a Democrat) won the office two years ago. As far as I can tell, he's done okay with it. I don't particularly like the man (and, yes, I've met him since he came down to my polling place the last couple of elections) but will vote for him given what an extreme right wingnut is running against him. (Where does the Virginia republican party get these people? We have an attorney general who wasted money redesigning award medals to cover up the breast of the goddess depicted on the state seal. And Keith Fimian, the candidate in question, who wants to ban not only abortion but contraception. Not that he has a chance in hell of that, but it reflects an attitude.)

But what bothers me is the campaign literature I've gotten. The Democratic Party of Virginia has sent me at least one and often two or three flyers a day - all of them with Keith Fimian's name and a summary of some of his more repellant positions on them. For a change of pace, they sometimes send out some about his various failed business enterprises. The kicker is that none of this campaign literature has Gerry Connolly's name on it!
If you know your candidate is so poorly liked that you feel you can't mention him, perhaps you should have looked for someone else to run?

3) One of my pet language peeves surfaced again yesterday. "To flush something out" comes from a hunting term and has to do with using the dogs to get the birds to fly up so you can shoot them. That is, you are creating a stimulus that gets that something out of hiding. If what you want to do is fill in the blanks in an outline, you want to flesh thing out.

Not Cake

Oct. 18th, 2010 04:50 am
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This is one of my hodegpodge entries - basically everything but cake.

Follow-ups: Ron solved the mystery of my "303/357" note to myself. That's a battery size and I wrote it down when I needed to replace the batteries in two of my travel alarm clocks.

I solved the mystery of "3200-11" myself by (duh) googling it. It's a DoD Instruction having to do with test ranges.

I also did a bit of research on "boughten" and found it is northern U.S. dialect. I will note that I use it only as an adjective and almost entirely in relation to food items, though I could stretch to referring to a boughten sweater (as opposed to a hand-knit one).

Sometimes the headline says it all: "Car eating rabbits invade Denver airport." The story explains that the rabbits eat soy-based wiring found in some late model cars.

Weird thing to wonder about: Suppose a transsexual decides to convert to Judaism. What would an Orthodox rabbi do? I am, of course, assuming the person's history is known to the rabbi, but the question becomes harder in some ways and easier in others if it is not.

Fun with names: I was amused to learn that one of the largest manufacturers of glass for the defense industry (e.g. in night vision glasses) is Schott.

Celebrity death watch: I am slightly annoyed (though not at all surprised) that Barbara Billingsley (who played June Cleaver on Leave It To Beaver) got a lot more attention than Benoit Mandelbrot (who did much of the key mathematical research on fractals).

Story swap: I went to the Voices in the Glen story swap at Michael's on Saturday night. There was a reasonably good turn out and the swaps are always fun. A particular highlight was hearing Eve's son, Jonathan, tell "Birds of America." I also enjoyed Bill's story about Elizabeth Bathory.

Coral Reef Update: The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Exhibit is open at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History! It was supposed to open on Saturday but there was a water main break on Constitution Avenue, so the museum was closed. I saw the reef yesterday afternoon and it is lovely. The community reef is the biggest part of the display and is huge. I was able to find some of my contributions. And my name is spelled correctly on the plaque, which is always a plus. The exhibit runs through April 24, so you have lots of time to check it out.

USA Science and Engineering Festival: The inaugural USA Science and Engineering Festival is next weekend. There will be booths on the National Mall and around Freedom Plaza and Wilson Plaza and in the Mellon Auditorium. I'm volunteering and will be at the Mellon Auditorium info booth all day Saturday, so stop by and say hello if you're there. And you should be there. It looks like there are a lot of cool interactive exhibits and plenty of performances on four major stages and several smaller ones. (In case you are wondering how I came to be involved, the call for volunteers went out to a local MIT email list. I went to the volunteer training yesterday, which is why I was already in the city to check out the coral roof.)

Amazing Race: I haven't been to Kiruna, Sweden, though I've been to Sweden and I've stayed at another Ice Hotel (in Quebec). My wrap-up is behind a cut since some people may not have viewed the episode yet.

Read more )


Sep. 18th, 2010 09:10 pm
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I have decided that I am not going to apologize for these round-ups of odds and ends. I have never denied having a short attention span.

Celebrity Death Watch: Edwin Newman died. He was an influential newsman and his book, Strictly Speaking was a nicely curmudgeonly tome on the English language. I often disagreed with him, but I found his writing interesting. And I appreciated his fondness for puns. (In one essay, he included the line, "Quoth the Reagan, 'nevermore.'")

I'll also note the death of Irwin Silber, founder of Sing Out! magazine.

Why I Love Engineers: At work, I sometimes have occasion to track down the expert on some obscure technical subject. Apparently, not a lot of people ever talk to these people, because they always seem so eager to educate me on their subject. Despite being a big picture person myself, I actually enjoy this.

Quote of the Week: The context was how long it would take to coordinate some document or other. The guy whose office is next to mine said, "It's been like that since the Pentagon had three sides."

Things That Are Free: September is Library Card Sign-Up Month. Here in Fairfax County, you can sign up on-line and they will mail the library card to you.

Next Saturday (25 September) is Free Museum Day. That is less significant here, where many museums are already free. But it is useful in other places. (Note: you have to download a ticket from the site, which gets you free admission for two.)

Transportation: I bought a charter membership in Capital Bike Share. I'm not sure how useful it was actually be, but I wanted to support the idea. The location map is a bit odd. There are several stations in Crystal City (including two within a block of a my office) but the distances between them are too short to really make sense for a bike. But there are none in Rosslyn, which would actually be good biking distance from Crystal City. There are none in Alexandria, either, but I assume that is because of political boundaries. My most likely use is to go to a matinee at the Atlas Theatre (which would be a quick ride from Union Station and is not a particularly pleasant walk). But, as I said, I like the idea and a charter membership is just $50.

Thugs, I Say. Thugs: The New York Times had an article on the link between criminality and the Source of All Evil in the Universe. Okay, just their caps, but it is still a sign of identifying with thuggery.
fauxklore: (barbie sweater)
There was a workshop at the Museum of Natural History this afternoon on curating the Community Coral Reef, which will be part of The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef exhibit. I went down and dropped off the last of my contributions. I saw a couple of people I know from the group at one of the local yarn stores. I also got to see some interesting pieces other people made, e.g. one made from yellow caution tape.

It looks like the process of putting together the community reef will be interesting and challenging. This has been a very fun project ot be involved in. And, as I have said before, how often does one get to make something that will be exhibited in the Smithsonian?

If you are interested in what my little bits of this look like, I've overcome my resistance to flicker and uploaded photos.
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I'll write about Conpac separately. This entry is about all the other stuff I did while out in Seattle.

As I mentioned in the previous entry, I drove down to Olympia to do the capital volksmarch there. I stayed down that way overnight, the only notable part of which was my difficulty in finding the hotel since their directions omitted a crucial turn. On Wednesday, I drove up to Tacoma and explored the Museum of Glass. The architecture of the museum is interesting. as are the outdoor installations around it. The most famous of those is the Chihuly Bridge of Glass. The bridge connects the museum with downtown Tacoma (which has a few cool old buildings, notably Union Station, and is lined with niches filled with Dale Chilhuly's work.

The exhibits inside the museum were organized into three gallery spaces, plus the hot shop where you can see glass artists at work. Having seen glassblowing many times (and taken a glass blowing class myself), I didn't stay long in the hot shop. Instead I moved on to the galleries, which had three exhibits. The first of those was a mid-career retrospective of Preston Singletary's work, which is focused on translating traditional Tlingit designs into glass. I particularly liked some of the sand carved glass pieces. I also thought that some of his work, e.g. a figure of raven stealing the sun, did a fine job of highlighting glass art as sculpture.

The second exhibit was of pieces from the museum's permanent collection. As one would expect, this covered a wide range, though all of the art is contemporary. The final exhibit was my favorite. The museum has children design creatures (in crayon) and then selects one each month for their in-house artists to make. The designs are, not surprisingly, often colorful and whimsical. They are also particularly challenging for the artists since the children aren't constrained by expectations of what glass is supposed to look like. By the way, the artists make a second copy for the child's family. Aside from this being fun, I think it has interesting things to say about the creative process.

I returned the car and took the (newish) light rail to downtown Seattle for the con, which worked well. There was time on Thursday to do a downtown Seattle volksmarch, which covered most of the obvious things to see in the central part of the city. The route wound through Seattle Center before going to waterfront and I detoured through Olympic Sculpture Park (part of the Seattle Art Museum) along the way. That was somewhat disappointing as I am not particularly fond of modern sculpture. There's the typical Calder stabile and the obligatory odd object by Claes Oldenburg (in this case, a typewriter eraser), but too any of the pieces look like somebody randomly threw large blocks of metal on the ground. I was particularly annoyed by an untitled Roy McMakin piece that consists of a concrete bench next to a "plastic" armchair and a "cardboard" file box (rendered in metal and enamel). I'm not about to start the "what is art?" debate here, but that piece is definitely not my sort of thing.

I was also disappointed in the aquarium. (The walk passed by it, so I stopped in.) The best exhibit is their giant octopus and the outdoor area has things like puffins and otters (both sea otters and river otters). I usually favor the colorful coral reef displays and, of course, seahorses. There were just a few of the latter (and none of my beloved leafy sea dragons) and, while the coral reef tanks were fine, the area was filled with screaming children. I'd probably have liked the whole thing better had I been there when it was less crowded.

From the waterfront, the route continued up to Pioneer Square (with a checkpoint at the Klondike Gold Museum), through the International District, and back to downtown. Overall, it was a good way to fill a few hours and walking made me particularly appreciate the Pacific Northwest weather.

Most of the other things I did were con-related, though I did also fit in an excursion to Archie McPhee. And. after the con, [livejournal.com profile] miz_hatbox was kind enough to invite me to hang out with her and her family. I will tell you that should she ever invite you to dinner, you should definitely accept, as she is an excellent cook as well as a fine conversationalist. Our conversation ranged from a parlor game involving bad combinations of conventions (e.g. allergists and cat fanciers) to potential uses of stainless steel wool to the idea of people wasting their talents to, well, pretty much everything. By the way, we had made an excursion to the supermarket and I was able to buy lapsang souchong tea! My colleagues will once again have to endure that fine smell of burning rubber tires in the morning.

As for the trip home, United failed to upgrade me, but I did have an exit row aisle. When I discovered that the reading light didn't work, the flight attendant refused to give me a skykit (United's compensation mechanism) because the middle seat next to me was empty and had a functioning light. (That it also had a large man sprawling into it was of no interest to the FA. I will check with the Flyertalk crowd before dashng off an email to customer service to ask for compensation.) At any rate, the flight was otherwise as fine as a redeye can be (i.e. barely tolerable). Due to the holiday schedule, I had a long wait at Dulles for the first Washington Flyer bus, which I used to get breakfast. And then I had a 20+ minute wait at West Falls Church for the train. So I was especially exhausted by the time I got home and immediately took a nap.

Now it's time for grocery shopping and unpacking and possibly another nap.
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I took yet another weekend trip. The excuse for this was The Brooklyn Reality Tour. This was a flyertalk event that has gotten good buzz in the past and Dan was threatening that it would be the last one, so I figured I'd go up for it.

Since I can never make things simple, I decided to stop in Philadelphia on the way up. I keep thinking there was something specific there that I wanted to do, but I couldn't remember what it was. So, I took the train up Thursday night, used a free night at the Hyatt at Penn's Landing, and spent Friday morning doing a Volksmarch through the western part of Center City. This was an especially nice urban walk, taking in the Parkway museum district (e.g. the Rodin Museum, the Franklin Institute, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and going along the Schuykill River along Boathouse Row. The weather was pleasant and there really are few nicer cities in the U.S. for walking. (Boston and Charleston, S.C. are the other great walking cities that come to mind, in case you wondered.) The only catch is that there are lots of historic signs to read and lots to look at, so one can't just zip through the route quickly. I was also reminded of another reason I like Volksmarch as I would never have thought to go into the lobby of the Comcast building without the route instructions to do so. (They have a changing set of interesting displays on TV screens.)

I should also mention that, this being summer, I've been in an ice cream mood. On Thursday evening, I tried the Franklin Fountain on Market Street, which had excellent ginger ice cream. On Friday, I sampled Bassett's, which claims to be the oldest ice cream maker in the U.S. Their cinnamon ice cream was tasty, but the texture was a bit gummier than I prefer.

The Hyatt had given me a late checkout, so I went back to shower before heading back to the train station. I had time for a quick visit to the Fabric Workshop and Museum on the way. The temporary exhibit by Paula wilson was nice enough, but my favorite piece was an item from their permanent collection that was made of glass and spider silk. (Unfortunately, I didn't write down the artist's name.)

Once I got to New York, I checked into the Hilton Garden Inn, satisfied my need for periodic doses of deli food at Ben's, and meandered around midtown for a while, much of that time spent browsing in Kate's Paperie. (This is a paper store on West 57th, more or less around the corner from Carnegie Hall. I could spend a lot of money there if I let myself.) Eventually, I made it over to Studio 54 to see Sondheim on Sondheim. I'll write about that separately, as it triggered some general thoughts about musical theatre.

Saturday was the Brooklyn Reality Tour. This involved a 50 passenger bus and lots of conversation about frequent flyer miles / hotel points, in between Dan's lectures on Brooklyn. Stops included the Brooklyn Promenade, Coney Island, and East River State Park, as well as several food stops. We had a lavish lunch at Casa Calamari, a bakery stop at Teena's Cake Fair, pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens, and a second bakery stop in Little Italy on the way back to the drop-off in Manhattan. Abbondanza! (By the way, Teena's was supposedly the last place that made nesselrode pie. I bought a few bowtie cookies there, but ignored the other bakery.) The most entertaining part of the day was our poor bus driver trying to manipulate the bus through some narrow streets. He did clip one cross-walk sign, but he did great and put up with us well. All in all, it was a fun weekend.


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