February 8th, 2016

storyteller doll

Oh, Yes, I Should Catch Up

Celebrity Death Watch:Paul Terasaki was a notable scientist whose work enabled tissue typing and organ transplants. The personal significance is that I used to work for his brother, Dick. Paul Kantner and Signe Toly Anderson were both part of Jefferson Airplane. Bob Elliot was a comedian, half of Bob and Ray. Jack Elrod used to draw Mark Trail, the least interesting comic strip still around. Sir Jeremy Morse set Birtish cryptic crosswords under the pseudonym "Esrom." Apparently, Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse was named for him. Edgar Mitchell walked on the moon. Dan Hicks wrote the song "How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away." Margaret Forster wrote the novel Georgy Girl which was, of course, made into an unmemorable movie with a memorable title song.

Trivia: I got good feedback on my trivia game, with a few useful suggestions for minor tweaks. Now all I have to do is actually write the trivia questions.

Founding Farmers: I went to a Restaurant Week dinner with some folks from Flyer Talk at Founding Farmers in Tyson’s. It was not as great a deal as some other places since, even though you could order anything up to certain prices on the menu, their starter options did not include any of the soups or salads, just things like breads with spreads. The food was fairly tasty, but the service was abominable. The most egregious example was that one guy at our table had to ask for a knife for his lamb four times. So I probably won’t be going there again.

Used Bookstore Run: The weekend before last I finally did a used bookstore run. I got rid of about 50 books and acquired about 15 in trade. Which is, of course, going in the right direction, but ever so slowly.

Book Club: Our meeting got moved a week, due to weather. So it was this past Wednesday that we discussed Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller. Interestingly, this was probably the most divided we’ve ever been on any book, with a few people hating it, a few loving it, and a few in between. That does make for good discussion. Since I was the one who had suggested it in the first place, I was glad at least a few people enjoyed it enough to go out and get Fuller’s other books. Funniest moment of the discussion involved someone commenting on not having been to Scotland (which is where Fuller’s mother’s family originated) to which I responded, "It’s a lot like Zimbabwe." And, actually, in ways it is, both in terms of scenery (though Scotland has fewer kopjes) and tribalism.

Global Entry: I finally got around to getting Global Entry, which should simplify my travel life slightly. I did my interview late in the day at IAD, which was kind of a mistake because it meant driving directly into the sun. And after I had scheduled the meeting, I had a meeting come up in Chantilly, so I could have coordinated things better and not driven back and forth the complete length of two counties. But, oh well, it’s done and successfully so.

The Joys of Home Ownership: This weekend started with a plumbing emergency. My toilet needed to be reseated and resealed, as water was dripping from it into my downstairs neighbor’s bathroom. Plumbing is expensive. (I had heard water running, but thought I just needed to replace the flapper.) I will still need to reimburse my neighbor for repairs to his bathroom ceiling, too.

Genealogy Update: The Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Washington has an Assisted Research session at their next meeting, this coming Sunday. I’ve been working on my great-grandfather’s brother, Chaim Wulf Sczwarzbord, later Hyman Schwartzbord. My maven has helped me find a bunch of info and I believe this has also identified a mysterious family photo of Cousin Ray (a woman, who I now believe is likely his daughter, Ray Ginsburg). The document that really opened things up was one for a death of a U.S. citizen abroad, as he died in Israel in 1959. There are still plenty of open questions, particularly involving the uncle named Kalman Lewidra who he listed as the person he was going to when he emigrated to New York in 1909, but this work added a huge number of cousins to my tree.

Monsters of the Villa Diodati: I had seen And the World Goes Round at Creative Cauldron a couple of months ago, so I was excited to have the opportunity to see this new musical there. It was written by Matt Conner and Stephen Gregory Smith, who are familiar from Signature Theatre and is part of a series of "Bold New Works for Intimate Spaces." In case you don’t recognize the Villa Diodati, it was a large estate that Lord Byron rented on Lake Geneva in 1816. He was there with Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Claire Clairmont (Mary’s step-sister, who had an affair with Lord Byron), and Dr. John Polidori. Most of the show is from Mary’s point of view, though there are aspects from Polidori’s, mostly in the form of excerpts from his diary. (He was paid by a publisher to keep that diary.)

Of course, the famous thing that happened was a challenge to write ghost stories, which resulted in Frankenstein (and Polodiori’s short story "The Vampyre.") But the musical focuses on the complex soap opera between the people at the villa. Lord Byron comes across as a pretty terrible person, frankly, and there’s a nicely nasty scene between him and Mary with a song ("Monster") to show their enmity. Byron and Shelley have a complex relationship of their own, with definite sexual aspects. And then there is poor Dr. Polidari, who really doesn’t fit in at all. He has a particularly effective song ("Directions for John") about his life position.

Overall, this is an intriguing work. It was also well-staged, with clever set changes to move from Lake to Villa to boat and so on, making full use of a limited space. As for the performances, David Landstrom was excellent as Dr. Polidari. Sam Ludwig was alternately attractive and repellent as Lord Byron. Alan Naylor was a handsome Shelley and a good foil to the two women, Susan Derry as Mary and Catherine Purcell as Claire.

I’m looking forward to future shows at this venue (which is conveniently 10 minutes from my house) and, in particular, new musicals being developed there.