February 16th, 2016

storyteller doll

In Which I Travel, Go to the Opera, and Wake in Terror

Celebrity Death Watch: Vanity was a singer and primarily known as a protégé of Prince.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali was the Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1992-1996. There were lots of questions about how effective he was, including the UN failure to act in the Rwandan genocide, but also inadequate responses in the former Yugoslavia and in Somalia. He was the only UN Secretary-General who was not elected to a second term in office.

Antonin Scalia was a Supreme Court justice and a major voice for conservative opinions. As much as I despise many of his judgements, I do admit to his intelligence and his literary skill. He was the subject of a play (The Originalist) and an opera (Scalia / Ginsburg). There is, by the way, no justification for Obama waiting for his successor to name a replacement and certainly no historical precedent. Pushing such a move should only hurt Republicans in the Senate who will be seen as obstructionist.

Business Trip: I spent much of last week in Los Angeles. The trip was largely for one meeting, but I also sat in on a review for an upcoming launch and got a firehouse of program info from my management. It also provided a good opportunity for me to meet a couple of customer folks and for me to get to know my boss better. So, as exhausting as it was, it was definitely worth the effort.

Other L.A. Stuff: I suffered a bit of weather shock. When I flew out on Tuesday morning, it was raining when I left my house, sleeting when I got on the bus to IAD, and snowing when we took off. When I arrived in L.A., it was in the 80’s. And I came home to extreme cold, with temperatures in the 20’s or below.

I also took advantage of the trip to go to Community Storytellers on Thursday night. There were a fair number of people there and some good stories, but we had to end early to avoid getting locked in. Of course, we then did the traditional stand and yak in the parking lot for ages afterwards.

Lost in the Stars: I got home, dropped my bags in my house, and ran off to the Kennedy Center to see the Washington National Opera production of Lost in the Stars. I’m not a big opera person, but this is Kurt Weill and it was an option on my theatre subscription. It does raise the question of where the barrier is between opera and musical theatre, but, frankly, I don’t think the line matters. If I enjoy something, why should I care how it gets characterized?

Anyway, for those unfamiliar with Lost in the Stars, it is based on Alan Paton’s novel, Cry, the Beloved Country. The plot involves a black preacher, Stephen Kumalo, who travels to Johannesburg to search for his son, Absalom. Absalom has fallen in with a bad crowd, which leads to him killing a white man (who is, in fact, a friend of his father’s). He refuses to lie about the matter and ends up sentenced to death. This being apartheid era South Africa there are various racial undercurrents, which are handled rather awkwardly, perhaps because the show was written in 1949. Even more awkward is Stephen’s crisis of faith, which gets resolved all too easily.

I was impressed with Eric Owens as Stephen Kumalo and with Sean Panikkar as The Leader. But the real scene stealer was Caleb McLaughlin as the child, Alex. Overall, this was worth seeing, but there are some tedious moments to sit through for things like the glories of the title song.

Jewish Genealogical Society: The JGSGW meeting on Sunday was part assisted research workshop (in which I made a bit more progress on Chaim Schwartzbard and his children, though there is still confusion due to things like his having one son named Harry and another named Harold) and part speaker program. The topic of the latter was Family Search and I thought the presentation was fairly basic, but I did learn a few useful tidbits.

Recurring Dream: Or, more accurately, recurring nightmare. Three times in the past week, I have awoken in a panic from a dream in which I was trying to check in for a flight only to discover I had left my passport at home.