April 2nd, 2011

storyteller doll

Catch-up Part 1: Out and About

So much for getting my next entry up more quickly. My excuse is that I've been busy, both at work and play. The play part is, of course, more interesting to write about.

Actually the two worlds intersected a bit on the night of the 21st when I went to the annual reception for MIT's Washington summer intern program. I had known that the person who is leading one of the projects I'm working on right now is an MIT alum,so I wasn't surprised to see her there. But I hadn't known she had been in that internship program. I also ran into somebody who used to work for my company. Aside from that, I saw several people I see infrequently, had reasonably intelligent conversation (including that with some of the students) and enjoyed the free food and drink. Well, not completely free, as I did leave with one resume.

The rest of that week was spent mostly trying to catch up on things at home, including sleep. I went to an actual movie in a movie theatre on Friday evening. I do see a fair number of movies, but they are usually either on airplanes or at film festivals. In this case, I wanted to see Win Win because Tom McCarthy wrote and directed it. (He was also the writer and director of The Station Agent and The Visitor. The latter is, in my opinion, a near perfect movie.) The story involves a lawyer who, under stress of a midlife crisis with both his practice and the high school wrestling team he coaches failing, makes an unethical move. As a result, he ends up meeting a sullen teenager, who proves to be an excellent wrestler. The movie is really about what it takes for people to feel in control of their lives. It was interesting and humorous, with fine acting by Paul Giamatti in the leading role. Overall, this is a small movie with no big surprises, but still charming.

The weekend also featured a crafts day at a friend's house and a story swap, which gave me a chance to try out a piece about making chicken soup that I am thinking of using as an introduction to a Chelm story which also involves chicken soup. On Sunday, I went to a storytelling house concert. Bernadette Nason was visiting from Austin, Texas. She told two stories about living in Libya and encounters with chickens. She was entertaining, though I'd have liked a bit more on what she was doing in Libya. (She told me afterwards that she was working for an oil company.)

Monday evening saw me driving to Maryland to see The Yankles at the Baltimore Jewish Film Festival. This movie involves Charlie Jones, a disgraced baseball player who, as part of a community service requirement for his parole after a jail term for drunk driving, ends up coaching a Yeshiva baseball team. The team's leader and star player, Elliot, is a former minor leaguer who went to Israel after his mother's death, got religion, and decided to become a rabbi. Elliot's sister had been Charlie's girlfriend before his arrest, but is now exploring her Jewish commitment enough to question her involvement with him. And their father, a former ball player himself, is hostile to religion and believes Elliot's rabbinic studies are a waste. So, again, this is less a movie about sports than about relationships. I thought the film handled both baseball and Orthodox Judaism well, with just a couple of minor slips on the latter. (There was a Q&A afterwards with the brothers who made the movie and it was very interesting to learn which of the people in it were and weren't Jewish. Let's just note that the filming was done in Utah to save money.) Overall, it was pretty funny and reasonably worth dealing with the long drive on a weeknight.

Finally, I went to see Green Sneakers last night. This is either a short opera or a song cycle and my sole reason for going to it was that it was written by Ricky Ian Gordon, who is from my home town. The piece, for baritone, string quartet, and empty chair, is about the 1996 AIDS-related death of Ricky's lover. I can understand why the opera world likes this work, which has plenty of emotional resonance. I had some qualms with this production, however. The Adelphi String Quartet did not seem entirely up to the task and, in particular, the violins were rather screechy. (I listened to CD excerpts on Youtube, so believe the fault was the performance, not the score.) I know this is nitpicky but I was also distracted by the costuming, as the sweater that baritone Ian Greenlaw was wearing clashed with his shirt, tie and jacket and did not really fit correctly. (Other aspects of the staging were also distractions and I don't know whether those are the fault of Urban Arias or of stage directions in the work itself. It is undignified for a baritone to have to move an armchair around the stage.) I will note some pieces in the song cycle did make a strong impression on me. "Sportswear" is amusing, a glimpse at how trivial matters can frustrate us during stressful times. "Provincetown" struck me as a good summary of what those times were like for a lot of people. And the finale, "Epilogue: Sleep," was an effective closing. Overall, this was an interesting work, though not really my sort of thing.

There's other stuff to catch-up on but I need to get out of the house if I'm going to get into the city (to do a Volksmarch) before the tourists are out in force.
storyteller doll

Catch-up Part 2: Random Thoughts

A transit system birthday haiku:
The Metro System
is now 35 years old
and showing its age.

Celebrity deaths: There are a lot of recent celebrity deaths. In the political world, I'll note both Warren Christopher and Geraldine Ferraro. In show biz, there was Farley Granger and, of course, Elizabeth Taylor. (Oddly, I think the only one of Liz's movies I've seen is A Little Night Music.) The literary world lost Dianna Wynne Jones. And, most significantly to me, the sports world lost Lou Gorman, the general manager of the Red Sox from 1984-1993.

A strange work-related thought: If the sky is falling, will that create orbital debris?

A strange work-related quote: "Anything human-created in space would have had to be launched."

Another incomprehensible note to myself: I have no idea why, but I wrote down the phrase "SoLo(W)" in my planner.

A strange observation prompted by a voicemail message I got this week: It must be particularly inconvenient to have a lisp if your name starts with "S."

Trivia about the Old Dominion: Someone asked me this a couple of weeks ago and I just got around to googling the answer. Virginia has 95 counties and 29 independent cities.

Not really a political observation: Antonin Scalia was ticketed for his role ina 4-car accident on the George Washington Parkway this week. I wonder if he will fight the ticket.

Good news in the book world, part 1: Politics and Prose (a very good independent bookstore in D.C.) has found a buyer. Actually, a pair of buyers.

Good news in the book world, part 2: The newest No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel, The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party is just as charming as the previous books in the series. I particularly liked how Charlie (one of the apprentices at the garage) was handled.

I still have other things to write about, but will do so separately.
storyteller doll

Quarterly Update

Looking back at my goals for the year, here's where I am:

1) I wrote a travelogue, but I am still (again) 4 behind. Sigh.

2) I only made it to 7 dance classes during the last term. Still, that is better than nothing.

3) I read maybe another 20 pages of the Apocrypha.

4) I finished the Volksmarch Museums program. I also did 2 more Gardens events, 3 Historic Churches events, and 3 more Artistic Heritage events.

5) Decluttering progress is slow, but some does happen whenever I am home.

6) I have not even cast on socks, though I did buy an instruction book for the ones I plan to make.

7) I have worked a little on one of the 4 sweaters in progress. It's the one I call Frankensweater and has the virtue of being (reverse) stockinette stitch, so I can work on it while carrying on a conversation.

8) I've submitted 2 entries to the Washington Post Style Invitational. No wins yet, but I do try to set goals that are within my control.

Overall, I'd say that I'm not doing too badly, but I really do need to spend more time at home. (As if I didn't know that.)