Celebrity Death Watch: My notes on who to mention go back to Harry Morgan, who had a truly distinctive, immediately recognizable voice. I watched M*A*S*H regularly as a teenager and remember being sad when Col Potter's plane disappeared on his way home.
The literary world offered up the losses of essayist Christopher Hitchens and of Russell Hoban, who wrote some children's books but who I associate primarily with Riddley Walker. The political world has one sad death (Vaclav Havel, bridging the literary world) and one less sad one (Kim Il Jung). The more obscure deaths are those of Jerry Robinson, who created The Joker, and of Erica Wilson, who wrote needlework patterns.
The death I most want to highlight, however, is Cesaria Evora. The "barefoot diva" of Cape Verde had a phenomenal voice and brought a lot of attention to the traditional music of that nation. She was certainly one of the reasons I want to go there. (There are others - Cape Verdeans played a major role in the whaling industry and, hence, New England.) I'm sorry I never got to see her perform live.
Three Sighs for Transportation: I came home from an errand to discover that the right front tire of my car was flat. I'd gotten new tires in April and, thanks to the warranty, that meant getting it fixed at Sears would be nearly free. They told me it would be "an hour and a half to two hours." I came back after two hours (having had breakfast and picked up a couple of things at the adjacent mall) and they hadn't even started on it. In the end, I was there four and a half hours. Sigh.
I've also had a few occasions recently to take the red line of the metro. Single tracking before 9 p.m. on a weekday is annoying. I thought the argument for the weekend shutdowns they've been doing is that they would then not have to single track to do repairs. Sigh.
I also had a frustrating Amtrak trip to New York, with power problems that made the train about an hour late. The delay was not as annoying as the fact that there were no lights while they were doing repairs (at Baltimore). Sigh.
Work: The project that will never end hasn't.
New York: My trip to New York at the beginning of the month was for my 35th high school reunion. The gathering was small but it was good to see the people who were there. I also used the time to do two Volksmarch events in New York City. The midtown walk was, in general, predictable but pleasant enough. The Chelsea / Greenwich Village walk was more interesting, particularly as I had never actually been on the High Line before. It's a good thing I was time constrained as the route passed the Strand Bookstore, which is always potentially dangerous to my budget.
Theatre: I can't go to New York and not go to the theatre. So I saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway. It was lively and funny, albeit a bit crude. It did push some of my buttons about how Africa is portrayed in pop culture, but that is to be expected. I'll also suggest that it is a very bad idea to take a child under about age 15 to see this. But I highly recommend it for thick-skinned adults. (If you liked, say, "Avenue Q," you will enjoy this.)
On a related note, I saw Cannibal: The Musical at Landless Theatre. (It is related via Trey Parker, who also co-created South Park.) There is some lively music and some funny moments (particularly involving the encounter with the Indians) but it was a bit overdone. It turns out, by the way, that Parker got his history mostly correct, but I was still disappointed not to hear a reference to Alferd Packer having eaten the Democratic majority of Summit County.
On a very unrelated note, I saw Billy Elliot at the Kennedy Center on Friday night. As I said on Facebook, it was a good 2 hour musical but is, unfortunately, 3 hours. There is somewhat too much talk for the amount of music. And most of the music is unremarkable. I do think "Solidarity" is powerful and effective and both "Deep Into the Ground" and "He Could Go and He Could Shine" are well done. The piece I hated was "Angry Dance," largely because the volume was so high that my ears were actually ringing through the intermission. The dancing (by Kylend Hetherington the night I saw it) was notable, particularly in the dream sequence when Billy dances to Swan Lake with his older self. But the real show-stopper was Cynthia Darrow as Grandma, an earthy woman indeed.
Finally, I saw Hairspray at Signature Theatre yesterday. I had seen this on Broadway some years ago and wondered how it would be in this much smaller space. The answer is that Signature did their usual excellent job. The songs are catchy, the book is reasonably funny, and the performers looked like they were having fun. So was I.
MAD: There was a talk by Al Jaffee and Mary-Lou Weisman (who wrote a recent biography of him) at the DCJCC on Thursday night. His life was definitely not what one might have expected, having been brought from the U.S. back to her Lithuanian shtetl by his mother when he was 6 and living there until he was rescued by his father six years later. The High School of Music and Arts changed his life - and MAD Magazine made him famous. At age 90, he still writes "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions" and does the fold-ins. I feel privileged to have been able to enjoy s much of his work.