May 1st, 2011

storyteller doll

Mish Mosh

I have an unexpected weekend free, so here's another catch-up entry.

Free Weekend: I had planned to go to Staunton for a VASA board meeting and stay overnight to do a Volksmarch today. The board meeting got cancelled. My condo is grateful for the attention.

Commuting: I've had a few annoying metro moments lately, suitable for haiku. Let's start with Friday's fun at Crystal City:

This morning, doors would
not open because the train
overshot platform.

I had been on time, but that extra stop to the airport and trip back made me late. I'd also had that extra stop earlier the week but had nobody but myself to blame:

It is bad enough
when I'm absorbed in reading
and miss my station.

Which is why it is a good thing I live at the end of the line. Except when the worst fellow passenger ever is also going to Vienna:

He took up four seats
then lit up a cigarette -
also needed bath.

Game theory: The Prisoner's Dilemma (a classic problem in game theory) came up at a meeting I was at on Thursday. It gave me an opportunity to point out that neither approach to it (both of which are valid) is entirely satisfying. Pareto died in exile and Nash spent much of his adult life hospitalized for schizophrenia.

Work comment of the week: One of my colleagues referred to a meeting as having been held in "one of those big sleeper conference rooms."

Disease trivia of the week: Armadillos can transmit leprosy to humans. I never did trust animals that think they need armor.

Books purchased: I took advantage of being at Dupont Circle on Friday night to do some book shopping. I found a book of Yiddish folk tales at Second Story Books (which is mostly a used book place). And I bought John Pollack's The Pun Also Rises at Kramerbooks, as well as Old Jews Telling Jokes which will make a reasonable Mother's Day present.

Theatre: The reason I was at Dupont Circle was to see National Pastime at the Keegan Theatre. This was advertised as a musical about a fictional baseball team, which is right up my alley. The show was reasonably entertaining, but nothing brilliant. The plot, such as it is, involves a struggling radio station in Iowa in 1933 which tries to save itself by making up a baseball team, whose games (in Europe to keep anybody from trying to go to them) they will have exclusive rights to broadcast. It works fine - until a reporter from Life Magazine wanders by. There are a couple of love stories woven in. One involves the person behind the scheme (the owner's daughter who happens to be a big shot lawyer from Chicago) and the station manager. The other involves the primary baseball reporter and the woman who does traffic reports and such. He doesn't act on anything until one of the thugs, hired to pretend to be a ball player and do on-air interviews, makes a move on her. Then he takes revenge by killing that player in the next game.

A lot of the humor comes about because the two guys doing the broadcasts don't know anything about baseball. So, for example, they don't understand the symbols for the positions when they cover the first game and say things like say things like x is at C and y is P-ing on the mound. And they take it too literally when the station manager throws a suicide squeeze into the script later on.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of little things that are distracting. It's hard enough to believe two adult American men in 1933 are that ignorant about baseball. It's even harder to believe that a woman lawyer would be able to run everything in that era. (And, really, to have her wearing a pants suit in much of Act 1? No.) There are plenty of anachronisms and errors. The team schedule, for example, makes no sense in that era of limited air travel. A radio station in Iowa (which is west of the Mississippi) could not be named WZBQ. And the flags everyone waves in a scene about how great being an American is were current ones, with too many stars. These are nits, but all of this could have been solved with competent editing. Just because it's a musical doesn't mean you don't have to do your homework.