January 15th, 2016

storyteller doll

Whew!

I have been busy. I say that as if it will surprise anyone. But it always seems to surprise me. In addition to work, here's what I've been up to over the past week or so.

Celebrity Death Watch: Florence King wrote about Southern womanhood. William Del Monte was the last known survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Dan Hagerty played Grizzly Adams.

You don’t need me to tell you about either Alan Rickman or David Bowie. I would characterize both of them as having earned their celebrity – Rickman as an actor of impressive range and Bowie as having gone beyond just singing and writing songs to producing complex works of great originality. I am, however, a bit concerned about how much attention their deaths got. In particular, I think Bowie’s was reported almost as if he had been a head of state.

Going Away Luncheon: My former management finally got around to taking me out to lunch last week. We went to Jaleo, since it is my favorite place close to the office. The lunch special is an excellent deal – sandwich and soup, chips, or salad for 11 bucks. The mushroom garlic soup was amazing. The roasted lamb sandwich was also excellent. Given that it is just about a block from the office, I am amazed at how many of the group had never been there before.

Losers’ Party: As many of you know, I was very proud when I get ink in the Washington Post Style Invitational contest in 2014. I’ve got just one ink so far, but that was enough to make me feel justified in going to the annual post-holiday party this past Saturday night. It is always a bit weird going to a social event where I don’t know anybody, though a few people might recognize my name. (Name recognition would be because of the associated facebook group, not my single ink.) But it was fine. People were friendly and there was plenty of intelligent and amusing conversation. It made me more likely to go to some of the Losers’ brunches, if my schedule ever works out.

JGSGW: I finally got around to joining the Jewish Genealogy Society of Greater Washington and went to their monthly meeting on Sunday, which had a talk on DNA testing. That let me also do another thing on my genealogy to-do list. Namely, I bought a test kit, though I have yet to do the cheek swab and send it in.

Chinese Space: The MIT Club of Washington seminar series was Tuesday night. This month’s topic was The Chinese Space Program. The speaker (Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation) was entertaining and informative. Mostly, he emphasized that China sees space as essential to their role in the world. He was skeptical about prospects for international collaboration, which led to what I think was the quote of the night - "Hotlines work best when they are cold." His claim was that the Chinese just don’t answer the phone when things are going badly. Unfortunately, a lot of the questions were more general about the Chinese economy and not specifically space-focused. Still, the seminar series continues to be worth going to.

Elizabeth Ellis: Elizabeth Ellis was the featured storyteller at The Grapevine on Wednesday night. There was an excellent turnout. In fact, I think they even had to turn a few people away. She is known for her advice to structure a program as: 1) ha ha, 2) aha, 3) ah, 4) amen. Her mix of stories, ranging from being dressed for a video shoot by a professional with no idea of how to deal with a large woman to an historical piece about George Washington Carver to a lovely family story, exemplified the effectiveness of that technique. There is a good reason she is one of the premier tellers in the country.

I’ll also mention that the open mike preceded the featured teller this month. I took advantage of the Powerball drawing (which I did not win, alas) to tell "Why I’m Not a Millionaire." Ah, I do love inflicting truly atrocious puns on a willing audience.

A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder: I had really liked this musical on Broadway when it first opened, so I was happy to see the touring company at the Kennedy Center. I enjoyed it immensely, both for the staging and the performances. It’s not anything revolutionary, but it’s a lively and clever piece, with echoes of Edward Gorey and Gilbert and Sullivan. I want to particularly note Adrienne Eller’s performance as Phoebe, a role that could be annoying in the wrong hands (or voice, I suppose).

By the way, composer Steven Lutvak is going to be performing on the Millennium Stage in a week and a half and I’ll be very interested in seeing what else he might be working on.