January 11th, 2009

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Fashion Illustration

Today's Style and Arts section of the Washington Post has sketches of ballgowns designed for Michelle Obama. These are amateur drawings and I have no reason to believe that they will have any influence on what she will actually wear at any inaugural ball. Which is a good thing because the winning illustration has particularly peculiar proportions, even by the distorted standards of fashion illustration. I did the numbers in centimeters because it was easier to measure it that way.

Her head is about 1 cm. long in the picture. The area from her neck to her waist is about 1.2 cm. The waist is 0.5 cm wide. And the length from the waist to the bottom of the gown is 12 cm.

I must have forgotten the part of the inauguration traditions in which the first lady enters on stilts.
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I Want a New Drug

I like making up names for products that don't exist but should. Hence, the following two names for drugs that Eli Lilly or Merck should get cracking on:

Lyricease - a cure for earworms. (This is particularly urgent because, even though I didn't much care for Legally Blond, the song "Omigod You Guys" keeps breaking into my skull. And I walked around for three days this past week humming Ralph McTell's "Streets of London.")

Knitarrest -stops that urge to do just one more row, one more row, one more row until next thing one knows it is hours past bedtime.
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Question About Weeks

On Friday I was talking to one of the meteorologists at work and complained that it seems that the crappy weather is always on the weekend, when it is less convenient for me to deal with. She said that there really are some weather patterns that are 7 days in length. That led us to speculating about weeks.

Years are easy - there's the sun. And the moon determines months. Yes, both are approximations but they are close enough. The question is whether there is any actual physical basis for a week being 7 days. If it had to do with weather patterns, one would expect a different length of weeks in cultures in different climate zones. If you have a monsoonal pattern, for example, you might have a week that is shorter or longer than people have in temperate climates.

None of us knew the answer to this, but I wonder if there are (or have been) cultures in which a week is 6 days or 9 days or anything other than 7. Wikipedia is marginally helpful (and suggests the answer is "yes") but not entirely satisfying. This is more a subject for cocktail party chatter than actual serious inquiry, by the way.

By the way, I had sent an email to someone to cancel a meeting and titled it "need to cancel 21 Jan" without putting in the word "meeting". He replied that I shouldn't cancel January 21st because that would create the calendrical equivalent of a black hole. He did, however, give me permission to cancel April 15th.
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West Side Story

Today's theatre going was significantly more satisfying than yesterday's. I went to the National Theatre to see the pre-Broadway production of the West Side Story revival.

I've often said that West Side Story is the 2nd best musical of all time. I may have to change my mind. Sorry, Guys and Dolls, but this was an astonishing production.

What I think made the difference is that Joey McKneely has reproduced the original choreography by Jerome Robbins. And what choreography it is! Robbins knew how to use stillness as well as motion to create mood. For example, the opening prologue makes the Jets seem incredibly menacing and much of that menace comes in frozen instances.

The gimmick of this production is that parts of it are in Spanish. That makes sense, of course, but there are some inconsistencies. For example, one would expect at least the parts of "America" that Rosalia sings to be in Spanish, but that song was performed entirely in English. Perhaps the producers felt that Sondheim's lyrics would lose too much in translation, while the actual lyrics for "I Feel Pretty" (translated as "Siento Hermosa") are less important. At any rate, the concept worked well enough and even people with little to no Spanish should have no trouble following what's going on. (My Spanish was up to catching about half the words, but I also know the show quite well. So I was trying to judge by reactions from the people around me.)

As for the performances, the one I really have to note is Karen Olivo as Anita. She was simply sizzling in the role and I predict that she has a fine career ahead of her.

I also have to comment on the scenic design, which is simple (for the most part) and stark. The rumble scene is handled especially well, with the highway overpass and chain link fence providing a grim urban environment.

This is only running here another week. But it's opening on Broadway in March and it should be one of the hot tickets.