Embassy of Romania: Thursday night I went to a dinner at the Embassy of Romania, which was cosponsored by the MIT Club of Washington and the Harvard Club. You can tell events organized by the latter because they tend to be less organized. The ambassador talked about the history of Romania and was reasonably interesting, but the sound system was terrible. The buffet was quite good – a few types of dips, rice, vegetables, chicken, stuffed cabbage, mamaliga (i.e. polenta), and tiramisu and some sort of strudel-like things for dessert. It was a nice enough event, but I prefer there being tables to sit at when eating.
United Catering Operations: On Friday evening, I flew to Denver to go to a Frequent Flyer Giving event involving a tour of United Catering Operations. My flight out to Denver got delayed by a mechanical problem, so I didn’t get in until 11 at night and it took another half hour to get to my hotel. Fortunately,, the tour was worth it. We had to wear lab coats (personalized with our names, so we got to keep them) and hair nets. We went through various coolers and food preparation areas. United also caters for Frontier Airlines, British Air, Icelandair, as well as preparing food for the deli department at King Sooper and for the Air Force Academy. We had activities at some stations. For example, I put bread out on a conveyor belt for sandwich making for King Sooper and sliced cucumbers for a salad in the test kitchen. There were also trivia questions along the way, with chocolate coins as prizes. At the end, we got a tasty lunch (including rare bison on crostini, a salad with pears and acai and pomegranate dressing, a very tasty steak with asparagus, and triple mousse cake for dessert). There was also a charity auction, but I am trying to downsize. They gave everyone swag bags with a small Polaris pillow (which they discontinued because buttoning the pillowcase was too slow a process) and a couple of amenity kits. Then it was back to the airport and my flight home, which got in a half hour early. Overall, a fun but exhausting trip.
The Mistress Cycle: On Sunday afternoon, I went to see this show at Creative Cauldron. It’s more of a song cycle than a conventional musical, since there is a very minimal book. The piece tells the stories of five women, at different times and places in history. Ching (a composite character) was a 14-year old concubine in 12th-century China. Diane de Poitiers was the mistress of King Henri II in 16th-century France. Lulu White was forced into sex work at the age of 13 but went on to become a successful madam and the richest woman in New Orleans at the end of the 19th century. Anais Nin was the 20th century French writer of erotica. And Tess Walker was a composite of a modern 30-something woman.
I have some qualms about treating all of those characters as mistresses. I’d argue that there is a difference between the choices that some of the women (notably Anais Nin) made and being sold as a concubine. I also wish that the music had been more varied. Lulu White did get bluesy numbers (perfect for the vocal talents of Iyona Blake, who played that role) and Ching’s solos (especially "One in a Line") had a distinctive voice (and were well-performed by Justine Icy Moral), but the rest of the songs were a bit monotonous. That’s a pity since the performers were all quite good. Erica Clare was very expressive as Tess, so I wish she had had more interesting songs to sing. I thought the show was provocative and worth seeing, but the score didn’t excite me.
MIT School of Engineering Reception: Finally, Sunday night was a reception at the Willard for the MIT School of Engineering, in honor of selectees to the National Academy of Engineering. The food was pretty good (especially the desserts) and the conversation was lively and intelligent. The main talk had to do with increasing diversity in STEM. Overall, it was a pleasant evening out.
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