Donald Rumsfeld was the Secretary of Defense from 1975-1977 and 2001-2006. His memos were known within the Pentagon as “snowflakes” because of the volume with which they fell.
Pete Teets was the Undersecretary of the Air Force and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office from 2001 to 2005. I briefed him several times when I first came to Washington. I found him intelligent and committed to improving how we acquire space systems. (He died in December, but I seem to have missed having read about that until now.)
Renee Simonot was an actress, probably better known as the mother of Catherine Deneuve. She was 109 years old when she died and earned me 13 ghoul pool points.
Jackie Mason was a comedian and actor. He started his career as a rabbi and then played the Borscht Belt. I never cared much for his humor, personally, but several members of my family liked him.
Ron Popeil was an inventor of interesting things nobody really needed but bought because of his marketing. Admit it - you know someone who had a vvegematic or a pocket fisherman or the in-egg scrambler. The latter was a particular favorite of the gentleman with whom I conducted the world’s longest running brief meaningless fling.
Neal Conan was an NPR correspondent. He was a producer of All Things Considered and was the senior host of Talk of the Nation from 2001 to 2013. I did not know until reading his obituary that he had been married to Liane Hansen from 1982 to 2011.
Storyteller Death Watch: Arthuretta Holmes Martin was an excellent Virginia-based storyteller and activist. She died in early July of COVID-19. Please, get vaccinated.
I only learned recently that Wanna Zinsmaster died in December. She was in her mid-90’s, so that isn’t particularly shocking. But she played a major role in my development as a storyteller, as she organized a weekend workshop with Doug Lippman and Jay O’Callahan that I went to shortly after I had first stumbled upon storytelling. And I went to a couple of other workshops with Doug at her condo. I wish she had pulled together a story I heard her work on about her service in the Navy during World War II. While it had been some time since I’d last seen her, she was someone I will always treasure having known.
Ex-coworker Death Watch: I finally had a chance to catch up on reading the obituaries in the monthly newsletter of my former employer. I have only a vague memory of Nancy Reber, though I have a definite mental picture of her. I have a stronger (and, alas, somewhat conflicted) memory of John Stubstad, who I worked with briefly (after he had left the company) on a project that went nowhere (justifiably so, in my opinion). I relied a lot on information Dolores Modolo gave me in one of my jobs. The person whose obit I read who I worked with most closely was Nate Rosenblatt, who I spent a lot of time traveling to Boulder with in the late 1980’s into the 1990’s. He once had me teach a three-part class on some of the technical material I worked on and wrote a very nice note to my management, saying something like “everybody who attended left as a better engineer.”
A Yiddish Renaissance: The National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene put on an excellent on-line concert of excerpts from several of their shows. Adam B. Shapiro was as adorable as ever and there were several other prominent actors and musicians involved. The big news is that their upcoming productions include an adaptation of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis with music by Ricky Ian Gordon, a well-known modern opera composer who happens to be from my home town.
Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens: I went with a friend to try to see the lotus flowers and water lilies almost a month ago. It was beastly hot out and, because we went in the afternoon, most of the flowers were not in their full glory. Oh, well, it was still a nice walk. We went back to Virginia and retreated to frozen margaritas at a restaurant in Ballston.
TCC Meetings: The Washington chapter of the Travelers Century Club had an actual in-person meeting a couple of weeks ago. It was great seeing people and hearing about travels past and planned. There have also been virtual TCC meetings (over zoom). I went to one today about Greenland, which has been on my list for a while.
Storytelling: All three shows I was in recently went well. It was especially fun to perform in front of a live audience and I was pleased that a few non-local friends tuned in to the lifestream.
I also learned a few things about my process in developing stories from the two personal stories I told for the first time. For the Okay Boomer show, I knew where I wanted my story to go - essentially, to conclude that, despite my disdain for the way they dress, millennials have a lot of values I approve of. And I knew that a lot of the story would have to do with how clothing defined my identity over the years. But I went through a number of different ways I could start the story - from conversations with a friend where we mocked the clothes the younger generation wear to remembering how we had to learn to live with freshman when I was a junior in college to the futility of clothes shopping as an adult - before realizing I could bring in Julie Albright, the American Girls doll of the 1970’s to lead to my tween wardrobe.
In the case of the travel story I told (that was for the live show), I didn’t really figure out the ending until maybe 10 minutes before getting up on stage. So I found it interesting that a few people commented on how polished the story was.
IAJGS: I went to the virtual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies. The best presentations I went to were one by Michael Morgenstern on using The Forverts (a Yiddish newspaper), even if you don’t speak Yiddish and one by Steve Morse on preparing for the 1950 census (primarily focused on how to find enumeration districts). There are several other presentations I need to watch over the next month or so. Also, it turned out that the problem with the mentoring appointments was that the appointment system was fundamentally broken and was sending requests to everyone, not to specific people, because it was really geared to the staff of the commercial booths. I was able to help a few people with Lithuanian records, so I felt like I was reasonably useful.
Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience: I went with a friend yesterday to see this show. We had a little trouble finding the venue, but we’d left plenty of time. I’ve been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam a couple of times and seen various other of his paintings, including a large exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art a while back. I have also read his letters to his brother. So I didn’t expect to learn much from the exhibit, though I did enjoy several of the quotes from his letters that it used. Fortunately, the parts of the exhibit that animate the paintings were more worthwhile. There was one with a vase of flowers, morphing between the different floral paintings. And, at the end, there was a huge room with animations of several painting and accompanying music. I thought it was worth seeing, but still pales in comparison to the real thing. I was also rather disappointed that they repeated the discredited theory that he was color blind.
By the way, afterwards, we went to have lunch at Immigrant Food. They were ding restaurant Week so got a three course meal for $22 (plus tax and tip and, of course, whatever you spent on drinks). I had white sangria with my meal, which consisted of delicious harissa hummus, the Madam VP Heritage Bowl (coconut chicken curry with plantains, potatoes, pineapple, spinach, and chick peas), and flan. It was a nice change of pace, but I would order a different entree next time. (I’d had their Old Saigon sandwich the other time I was there - essentially a somewhat spicy banh mi.)
Still to Come: I took a driving trip around south central Pennsylvania. That merits its own post. I am going on another trip this week, so may end up combining the two.
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