Note From Jon


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Doctor is Out

The Ironic Introduction, The Broken Couch, Whatbag and the Great Poster Caper. I'm getting all choked up so I'll let the photos do the talking...

Monday, January 28, 2008


The Mission: Liberate the Dr. Dremo’s poster for proud display in our house, as a remembrance of the countless GoodTimes that Dremo’s has facilitated (and because the totem pole and silo are probably too difficult to transport to our backyard). Yes, I realize there is an auction on Monday, but I’ve got a class and besides isn’t it more fun this way anyway?

James formulated the plan…

Phase 1) Inconspicuously remove staples over the course of the evening

Phase 2) Shortly before departure, take the sign down and stash it (the theory being that if we are caught at this highly visible stage, nothing has been “stolen”—simply removed from the wall)

Phase 3) Profit! … I mean, exit with our booty!

The plan was proceeding flawlessly: Staples removed, unwanted lower sign discarded beneath a pool table (after nearly giving us away by half-falling off the wall), none of the scores of patrons, or any staff, harassed us—despite a constant line of folks waiting to use the restroom directly opposite the sign.

Sarah executed Phase 2, and by midnight there was a Macy’s bag containing our priceless cargo stashed beneath my chair.

Now all we had to do was leave…

We divided into two squads, with James, Kristin and I tasked with closing out our tabs upstairs, while Dave, and our newest friends Danielle and Tim, were instructed to stay downstairs and guard the bag “with their lives”.

The bartender was bringing me my check when Tim appeared beside me saying, “The bag is gone! Did you ask a guy in a green shirt to get it for you!?!” Are you serious? Someone was trying to steal what we had rightfully stolen liberated! No chance. Tim was after him as I closed the tab and took off in pursuit toward the front door.

“That’s him” Tim pointed and I moved to confront the thief, who at this point wasn’t carrying our bag anymore. “Hey, did you take my bag? My friend says he saw you grab a Macy’s bag from under my chair” (admittedly not the strongest opening) “What bag?” But it was clear from the bugged out look on his face that he knew exactly what bag I was talking about. Now as an aside, I have a borderline phobia of confrontation (at least with strangers) and it’s pretty ridiculous that I was risking a fight in a bar over a poster… but apparently it was the principle of the thing!

So here I found myself in an endless conversation loop where I demanded he swear to me that he didn’t take my bag and he repeated the only words he knew: “What bag?” I tried to explain to Whatbag that if he didn’t steal anybody’s bag then the answer was “No” and the question “What bag?” was irrelevant. But other than Whatbag’s eyes bulging impossibly farther and farther out of his head, nothing was happening. While I was curious if his eyes would eventually explode from their sockets, Tim decided to take the new approach of returning downstairs to extract a confession from Whatbag’s friends.

Tim walked off and Whatbag started right after him. I tailed them both and the questioning began all over again with his friends, who even went as far as to smirk at one point, but who wouldn’t give up the game. Even Danielle and Kristin jumped in, with Kristin boldly rifling through their pile of coats to see if the bag was stashed amongst them (I noticed a girl could get away with that. I doubt Tim or I could have without it coming to blows).

Exasperated, I was about to give up when James arrived on the scene and was informed that his brilliant plan was being foiled by a thiever of thieves. Let’s just say that James shared all of my passion for regaining the poster… and none of my qualms about confrontation. James was fired up! I actually have to credit Whatbag for not buckling under this pressure—although from the frozen expression on his face and the fact that he wasn’t even uttering his trademark phrase anymore, he may have just been in a trance… or dead.

With Whatbag now playing opossum, we transitioned to the new phase “search the bar”. Retracing our steps back upstairs and scanning the packed bar we realized a search was futile. Whatbag probably couldn’t have gotten the bag out of the bar because he’d have had to wait in the line out front to reenter (Yes, Dremo’s had a line and a cover for probably the first time in its existence). So that gave us a glimmer of hope… until Tim crushed it by relating the sequence of events: Whatbag grabs the bag. Tim grabs his arm (how bold do you have to be to keep stealing something when someone catches you and grabs your arm!) Whatbag makes a break for his friends a few pool tables away, where he pauses before heading upstairs. Tim pursues but as he now admits... can’t remember if Whatbag had already ditched the bag with his friends. If he had then it could easily be long gone out the back door by now. Hope is fading.

James is still determined and tells us to leave for the next bar while he returns for a final showdown with Whatbag. I’m trying to talk him out of it while Danielle and Tim drift over to a random table on the platform by the front door to see if anyone saw anything. No they didn’t see anything and a search around their pile of coats predictably doesn’t turn up the bag (after all this was just one random table in the bar that had nothing to do with Whatbag’s group downstairs). Alright, let’s go. Danielle and Tim walk away… “Wait, what’s that down there?” a voice from the table calls out…

Now, if I am a Hero, then apparently my superpower is allowing those around me to find hidden objects, because only finding lost keys in a bush at a football stadium, is more unlikely and fortuitous than Danielle’s instinct to question the one table in the whole bar with a vantage point of the hidden stash! It turns out that from the corner seat of the table next to the front door that Danielle had questioned it was just possible to make out the edge of a white bag tucked in a nook between the platform and the sheet metal wall. Tim twisted his arm around the corner of the wall and regained our long lost treasure!

The bag was ours! All was right in the world… except where was James? Oh yeah, he was down confronting Whatbag and his posse alone! I tried to reach him in time. Thankfully things hadn’t gotten out of hand and I pulled him away to let him know the good news. We began our triumphant exit. And then James turned around. “I’ve got to let them know we stole it back!” This seemed like a bad idea right? But there was no talking him out of it. My mission was to get the ladies and Tim outside and make our getaway while James informed the thieving thieves that we’d had the final theft, before making his own getaway and rendezvousing at a bar up the street. Who knows how they’d react, so I pushed my way back to Kristin, Tim and Danielle who were waiting by the door. “We’ve got to go, now!” I urged them, but Tim and Danielle held up unfinished glasses of beer! Shit! They chugged them down when I explained the situation and we were finally out the door with the bag…

While driving off, my Prius rang (it hooks to my phone and turns into one of the most expensive Bluetooth headsets in the world). It was Dave! Holy sh!t, Dave! We’d forgotten all about Dave! And he’d given up on us and just gone to his car… which had been stolen (by Arlington County—a.k.a. towed)! We agreed to pick him up a couple of doors down at the Wachovia. We pulled into the Wachovia lot between Wilson and Clarendon Blvds and suddenly we saw an afroed black man running along the sidewalk. James! That was James running! I pulled up and yelled after him. Then it occurred to me… James is running away to my right. My car is straddling the sidewalk he is running along. Dr. Dremo’s is off to my left. Now what exactly could James be running from? In my mind, I could picture Whatbag’s bulging eyes glaring in my window. I slowly turned my head… And while I can neither confirm nor deny that there was an angry posse barreling down the sidewalk towards my car, I can confirm that Dave and James jumped into the car and the six of us—along with one liberated poster—bottomed out the Prius as we tore off down the street… Good Times indeed!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Yellow paint doesn't taste as good as you'd expect...

...and other lessons from paintball:
  • Wear kneepads
  • Play in the winter when layers absorb the impact

  • Check with Alexandra if you want a funny caption; her comment on this photo, "Big Bird shat in your mouth!"

  • Best bet I've heard in a long time was agreed upon at post-paintball dinner. King declares he and his wife don't ever want kids. Joel tells King they'll change their minds. They establish the bet which is hereby witnesseth and recordedeth: Each New Year's Day, starting on January 1st 2009, $10 will be owed. If King has no children (biological or adopted), Joel will pay King. If King has a child, thenceforth King will pay Joel. This agreement shall be in effect so long as they both shall live.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Back to School Day

Round Two of volunteering on Martin Luther King Day of Service was won by the racist unenlightened corporations. Last year eight friends took the day “on” to paint Hine Middle School. This year I was on my own—alright, well I was a group of one—joining the JCC volunteers at Ferebee Hope Elementary School in Anacostia. I still had a fun and fulfilling time, but it was tinged with the disappointment that this isn’t a more respected national holiday. Regardless, I plan to keep the tradition going and at least for myself make the association between MLK Day and volunteering as strong as Thanksgiving turkey and fireworks on the Fourth. And perhaps in the future, if not recognizing the holiday, more corporations will at least take after National Geographic and offer their employees a floating volunteering day.

The bookend to my school day was yet another return to Woolly Mammoth Theatre, this time to see Nilaja Sun’s one-woman show about the school system entitled “No Child…” For those keeping track, yes, that would indeed be my third trip to Woolly Mammoth in three weeks and my second one-woman show in two weeks, and yes, as satirized in Nutshell, the two Woolly Productions involved both a ghost and a dysfunctional family! Apparently I am addicted, or else my New Year’s Resolution somehow evolved into see-woolly-more (rather than free-willy-more?). Although I enjoyed “No Child…” and think Nilaja did an outstanding job portraying the characters, the piece itself really didn’t cover any new ground for me. That’s not to say it isn’t an accurate portrayal of the struggles of teaching (I know my middle-school-theatre-teaching sister could identify), just that in my mind it will be hard to top the depiction of the inner-city school system from Season 4 of The Wire…

Notes to Jon:

  • On the surface (which is all I saw) both the school and the neighborhood were in much better condition than I had expected
  • For a small group (like 1) I think the JCC is a better option than Greater DC Cares. At least for the school I was at, the volunteers seemed to be an assortment of friendly individuals or small groups, whereas my impression from last year with Greater DC Cares is that it was much larger groups. Greater DC Cares did provide lunch though…
  • Woolly Mammoth must be instituting a frequent attendee program because our seats were right in the second row, despite being about 80 people back in line (after arriving at 6:10).

Monday, January 21, 2008

Almost Heavenly

My triple-header Thursday night (lecture, climbing, and party-at-the-soon-departed Dr. Dremo's) kicked off with a lecture entitled "How I killed Pluto, and why it had it coming" by Michael Brown. Actually Michael's team discovered Eris, a (now-classified-as-dwarf) planet that was bigger than Pluto and touched off the whole reclassification brouhaha (as he put it, "Pluto was just collateral damage"). This was my second favorite lecture in the Carnegie Institution for Science's (free) Capital Science Lecture series (the first was last year's lecture by Steven Squyres on the Mars Rovers). Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, those of you who missed the lecture due to the snow or other asundry* excuses—which is all of you, since I went alone—can now watch it in their archives (along with the lecture by Michael Gazzaniga that I wrote about in October—but sadly not last year's Mars Rover lecture)

*Need to have a sidebar about whether asundry is a word or not. The dictionary says it isn't, but a remarkable number of people, myself included, (mis?)use the phrase "various and asundry". Many people use the apparently correct "various and sundry", but I want to know why I, and so many others, have it wrong...

I'm sure one reason I especially enjoyed the lecture is because Pluto's deplanetification is somewhat near and dear to me. Some of you may remember my psychic trivia ability, but for those who don't, "I'll digress very quickly because that's what I do best... except for the quickly part" (one of Michael's jokes that I enjoyed and felt was a good one for me). At a Fado's Pub Quiz in late 2004 the question was asked "What is the smallest planet?". Now what kind of question is that? In 2004 everyone knew Pluto was the smallest planet (In the world I choose to believe in at least). So... this must be a trick question, thought I. I then preceded to spend the next 20 minutes convincing my team that Mercury was the smallest planet because a) if the answer was Pluto it wouldn't be a trivia question and b) I vaguely remembered an article in the 90s about how Pluto wasn't technically considered a Planet anymore. My team went along with me and we lost those points. But as we all know now, I was not wrong... I was prescient. Incidentally, the next month, when I spent 20 minutes arguing (correctly, this time) that Titan was a moon of Saturn and not Jupiter (based on the Cassini-Huygens probe article I'd read that day!) my team wouldn't believe me based on my Plutonic reputation and we lost points again.

Here are some notes from the lecture:
  • If the trivia question, "What is the ninth largest celestial body orbiting the Sun?" ever comes up, answer Eris (pending future discoveries... which Michael predicts, actually).
  • If you are photographing the stars to find new bodies... be sure to take a second picture of the same sky later on.
  • Eris is named after the Greek Goddess of Discord and Strife (because of the astronomical debate that ensued?)
  • Michael had the most to gain from Pluto staying a planet (along with Eris), he'd have been the only living person to discover a planet... and even he thinks the right decision was made. His argument was that if you take away one of the current 8 planets the whole solar system feels the impact and if you take away anything else then no one notices (although he thinks the "planet" classification is basically aesthetic, and the right classification is something like "big things - Jupiter thru Neptune", "medium things - Mercury thru Mars", "small things between Mars and Jupiter" and "small things beyond Neptune")
  • Many more that I may post later but won't bore you with now (after all if you are intrigued you should probably go watch the whole lecture online).
And in other "Heavenly" news, I kicked off the 2008 ski season with a trip back to one of the runs I grew up skiing on at Liberty Mountain. Enjoy the slideshow and notes below:

  • MLK Weekend is a great weekend to ski locally (Liberty or Whitetail). Two years running there have been virtually no lines, presumably because everyone goes long on that weekend (the 22° high might have contributed as well)

  • "The South Pole" was open at the base of the back side and served burgers, hot dogs and chicken sandwiches along with chips and hot chocolate, which seemed to satisfy the group and saved us a trip back to the front of the mountain
  • I liked the 160cm parabolic skis I rented, but didn't get to try them on moguls and I think the edges might have been a problem on ice
  • Camera batteries die almost instantly in cold weather... but will work again for a few more shots each time the camera is warmed up
  • For Apres Ski at McKee's Tavern, order the French Onion Soup (if you can handle soup for $8.50) and stay away from the Crab and Artichoke Dip!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

You Don't Know Until You've Tried

Chock another one up for Facebook. I believe the official tally is now 4–1 . Despite my previous contempt for all things FaceSpace-y, it has helped hone my vocabulary and geography skills , reconnected me with friends of decades past—including most recently, the Prince from my Indonesian dancing photo, who I’d published an article about, one that he may have been unaware of… until now (gulp)—and now Facebook led me to the best one-(wo)man play I’ve ever seen, The K of D by Laura Schellhardt.

I actually haven’t given anything away yet because it was the first one-person show I’ve seen. Never seeing a one-person show isn’t from lack of theatre exposure actually; I was quite the thespian in high school and even co-wrote a show. I guess it is like when people don’t like food… that they’ve never tried, or how I didn’t like Facebook… before I joined. I didn’t like one-person plays… and so I never went to see one.

Facebook changed that in a rather unusual way; I stumbled across the “Are YOU Interested?” app on several of my friends’ profiles, and decided to try it. While the app is probably one of the worst executed on Facebook, it serves its purpose of connecting you to people you wouldn’t otherwise have an excuse to talk to (without being a stalker). The app lets you browse through women (or men, if you are into that sort of thing) who are interested in finding out if you are interested in them (well interested in their photo at least since that’s all you get—unless you take the time to look up her their profile outside of the app). From the amount of participants who list themselves as being in a relationship (or married) I’m thinking the app may be viewed more as an ego booster than a tool to connect people. Nonetheless, as I clicked through photos I came across one that was clearly taken on stage, and which looked vaguely familiar. Her name was Kimberly Gilbert, and I’d seen an advertisement for her show during last week’s theatrical frenzy.

After confirming where I knew the photo from, I contacted her to offer encouragement for the ambitious project she was undertaking… to spend two hours alone on stage performing all fifteen characters. She sent a friendly (if self-promoting) message back and since I didn’t have specific plans during tonight’s Pay-What-You-Can performance I decided to put aside my prejudices against one-person plays and hope that it would be more like trying mussels for the first time the other day (pleasant) than clams (which taste exactly how I always imagined—sometimes you can know you don’t like a food without tasting it)

As it turns out, you do need to be in line by 6:15 for PWYC performances at Woolly Mammoth… and my 6:30 arrival was one person too late to get the last of the tickets. But Laura (my friend, not the playwright) was sport enough to wait for the half hour until we’d know if any of the reserved production tickets would be available. Eventually we were told that the production tickets were all used, that there wouldn’t be any more, and that the best they could do was half-price tickets to a show in a couple of weeks. We only stuck around to phone James with the bad news… which turned out to be just long enough for them to come up with two (though not three) of the tickets we wanted. James sacrificed to stay longer at work and so Laura and I filed in with the last two tickets to the sold out show…

“This could either be really good… or really bad” Laura commented, echoing my thoughts as the lights went down. I just hoped it was funny at least. And why wouldn’t it be funny; after all, let’s see, it’s a show about a girl whose brother dies… uh oh.

I know, I know, after a ridiculously long lead-in even by my standards… what did I think of the freakin’ show already!?! I loved it. Read her blog. Go see it. I have no reservations about this show (unlike the previous show, Nutshell, at Woolly Mammoth that I discovered I’d seen Kimberly in). Then, come back and read the rest of this entry because a) it might contain spoilers and b) remaining in a sitting position as long as you’d need to read this could result in an air embolism when you stand up.

As I mentioned Kimberly plays all 15 characters who take part in this urban legend set in a small town in western Ohio. A town which is described as [having drive-in movie theatres… which are closed because not enough people drive in, and having drive-thru liquor stores… which don’t have that problem]. Yay! It was going to be funny. But even funny shows, actually especially funny shows, can be terrible when they suddenly get serious. And while there were quite a few serious moments, they were never jarring, and they were quite often poignant. Listening to the scene in which a starving dog dies literally left me breathless—thanks in large part to the impeccably chosen sounds for the barks and yelps as the dog transitions from rage, to fear, to madness, to desperation.

I imagine it’s not easy for an actor to develop accents and mannerisms for fifteen characters, but it’s essential when the actor has to switch between them, sometimes for as little as a single word, and often in the middle of another character’s line. Kimberly nailed them all (well 14 of the 15 at least, her intonations for Judith “Actually” were too similar to my favorite character, Steffi Post, though it was obvious from the context who was who). In addition to the verbal gymnastics, Kimberly’s yoga apparently paid off because she was able to continue acting while essentially imitating the Karate Kid’s Crane Kick, balancing on one leg while swirling the other in a circle.

One of the things that I don’t like about one-person shows is that they tend to be rather boring from a technical standpoint. This show wasn’t and I was as impressed with the designers, Marie-Noelle Daigneault (Set & Costume), Andrew Griffin (Lighting), and Matt Otto (Sound) as I was with Kimberly and Laura (the playwright this time). The set was projected onto white sheets strung across the front of the theatre, through which they successfully conveyed chopping down a tree, capturing a firefly, light reflecting off the surface of the lake, rain, a villainous silhouette, and the flight, perch, and ultimate demise of a heron. The mobile of origami boats, which are a symbol in the show, is also a nice touch on the otherwise bare stage.

The sound was just as impressive, and required timing with (or by) Kimberly to kill a buzzing mosquito, silence a croaking frog, and repeatedly ring a bell. And I’ve already mentioned the sounds of the dying dog which stole the show for me.

And now since we are both tired, I’ll end with some of my favorite moments from the show:

  • The secret pygmy language which the twins speak, reminiscent of the poem Op-Talk by Rives.
  • The playwright’s observations that urban legends are usually rural, are always told by someone other than the person it happened to (well maybe), always contain enough detail to be believable but never have any proof, and rarely focus on what happens afterwards.

  • Herons tempt their prey by swirling the water in front of them with their leg.

  • Children travel in packs… like wolves… and this pack contained some memorable characters.

  • Becky Ray Voss who moves [from candy cigarettes, to pall malls, to packs a day… with an occasional hit of Meth, and eventually to standing reservations at three hotels on the rowdy side of town].

  • Brett, who records everything in his notepad and is constantly flipping back through it to recall previous events. I actually went “awwww” when we learn that Brett’s notepad was stolen.

  • Quisp, who names periods of time by taking the most memorable event and putting the word “the” in front as in, Summer of The Death.

  • Steffi Post, the “like” addict whose father owns Chrysler. Steffi obsessively pulled her hair when she spoke, often spoke in Darrenisms (or at least mispronunciations), and quivered orgasmically to any prospect of violence.

  • Mrs. McGraw’s character is another great one. She’s the local school teacher with an unhealthy obsession for maintaining her teacher-of-the-year streak (kind of like the unheathly obsession I have for noticing that the teacher who corrects her husband's grammar describes an upset person as "mad" instead of "angry") even staking out the new teacher who has taken her idea for a summer reading program. Mrs. McGraw seems to be primarily interested in keeping her 10-year streak going in order to accumulate more silver bracelet prizes which she tries on one after the other in a disturbing manner that is one of the funniest scenes in the show.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

It's a Festivus Miracle... George's Camera Returns!

Thanks to everyone who is still checking for George's camera that wandered off during the holiday party; you can now resume your normal lives. After nearly a month on vacation to destinations unknown (sadly any photos after our party appear to have vanished so we can only speculate what fun he's been having), he reemerged on the fireplace mantle this morning. Rumors that his return is related to the cleaning service coming yesterday are unsubstantiated at this hour. The reunification ceremony will occur at George's convenience—so long as it is before next year's holiday party (at which point—as per tradition—he would become part of the annual lost and found gift). In the meantime, enjoy the last photo he took (and the last I'll post, I promise) of our former decorations...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Busy? Who, me?

It’s been a busy 24 hours. I’ve experienced 30 plays, one lecture, and two of D.C.s finest quick-eat establishments—Julia’s Empanadas and The Amsterdam Falafelshop. It certainly helps that 29 of the plays were performed in just over an hour as part of the umbrella work Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, which is the longest title of a piece I remember seeing: so long in fact that on the ticket it merely lists it as the initials (or acronym, if you can figure out how to pronounce it) TMLMTBGB.

My audience-member marathon began with Journeymen Theater’s preview of Pedro Calderon de la Barca’s Life’s a Dream. While arriving at Golden Hour (6:30 pm) is helpful for parking it isn’t necessary for getting a preview ticket to the show (unlike my previous experience with a Pay What You Can at Woolly Mammoth Threatre when a 6:30 arrival meant a line around the corner and no shot at a ticket). While I don’t intend to review the show, Darren and I did feel it was worth our time and money. Some memories from the show include,

  • experiencing a play from the 1600s translated into English, which I assume gives a rough idea of what it must be like for a foreigner to watch Shakespeare translated into their native language (able to focus on the plot rather than deciphering the lines),
  • actor Rex Daugherty providing the comic highlight of the show when he makes the best of his imprisonment by turning his manacles into musical instruments,
  • and Darren eventually realizing that the two main actors were in the previous play he saw: Ambition Facing West (which may lead to the creation of our own personal IMDB—okay, a spreadsheet—of DC theatre).

The marathon continued today with Peter Mumby’s lecture on Thresholds and the Resilience of Coral Reefs . While perhaps not as juicy as his lecture a couple days earlier on Parrotfish sex, this one certainly captivated the audience of scientists, and was even presented clearly enough for me to follow along (though I wish someone would write a wiki on “coral recruitment” so I knew exactly what that meant). To sum up my understanding of the lecture, there are two stable equalibria for a reef ecosystem: coral dominant or algae dominant. A reef will approach one of these states depending on which side of a threshold curve it falls on. A reef’s location relative to the curve is determined by the existing percentage of coral coverage on one axis and the percentage of the reef that can be grazed by local fauna (primarily Parrotfish in the Caribbean) in a six month period on the other axis. The resilience of a reef is defined as the probability that it will stay on the coral dominant side of the threshold. Because of the threshold nature of the system, a small change for a reef that is right near the threshold will have far greater consequences than a larger change for a reef that isn't near the threshold. The important thing to consider when managing a marine ecosystem or determining the cost effectiveness of management options is to prevent the reef from crossing the threshold towards the algae dominant stable state. Trust me, his presentation was much more compelling—at least to the ladies, probably because of his accent. But hey, this is called Note to Jon after all and I want to remember the lecture…

But the highlight of this endurance event was definitely the 29 plays of TMLMTBGB (we ran out of time to see the 30th play, which in this case would have been #26 My Family in 2D). We were led to our seats by Greg Allen, who AB mistook as an usher, but who actually is the Founding Director of the Neo-Futurists (oops), which have been performing variations of this show in their home town of Chicago since 1988. The show was then introduced by a handsome, articulate man (the description he asked us to use, as best I can remember) who encouraged the audience to go right home after the performance and tell everyone to get on the internet and purchase tickets to the show before it ends this weekend since tickets are going fast and every performance deserves to be sold out… and since I agree with that assessment I am doing just that. Without spoiling any of the 29 plays (which the audience request by numbers that literally hang above the stage, and which must be performed before the 60 minute timer runs out, or you just don’t get to see them all!), if these are on your menu, don’t let them be the one(s) hanging from the clothesline when the buzzer sounds:

  • Mr. Science Demonstrates Othello, which wins for best use of props,
  • The Dobler Effect, which involves about the most intimate audience participation you can get away with legally,
  • Pastie On My Dick, which shouldn’t require much imagination,
  • Low Stakes/High Drama, which is exactly that,
  • Veterans Day: July 4th Edition, which is a poignant change of pace,
  • The Lamb May Lie Down With the Lion (But She Doesn’t Get A Lot Of Sleep), which I really hope isn’t autobiographical,
  • and, my personal favorite, Moonlit Threatre Presents: The Apollo 11 Lunar Landing, which will ensure that you never think about a moon landing the same way again.

AB is the proud owner of the numbered sheet for the concise play, Republican Compassion in Action, and through my die roll on the stage at the end of the show I am responsible for ensuring that 3 plays will be swapped out on the January 11th performance (it’d have been 6 plays if I remembered to let AB blow on the die). So go check it out and if you find out what The Chair is or you get to see My Family in 2D, let me know…

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Christian & Gospel? That’s not what iLike!

A cautionary tale…

I nearly had an accident on the information superhighway last night (yes, I’m aware no one calls it that anymore). It all started when I added the iLike Facebook application in an effort to find out when bands I like are touring through DC (previously this hadn’t been much of a problem since most of my favorites—e.g. Morphine, Judybats—had disbanded during my post-college musical hiatus). iLike seemed rather promising. It was free unlike Pollstar and a bit more polished than tourfilter, and most importantly it seemed to have an entry for every band I like (except for Matt Palka—get on there Matt!), along with most of their concert schedules (though not, for example, tonight’s Ceann show at Murphy’s). I finished selecting my favorite artists and it took me to a page that listed headlines about my selections… and that’s when the trouble began…

Imagine my delight to see the headline that James had released a new album called Journey on January 1, 2008. James is one of those college bands that disbanded, but that I knew had recently reunited. And so here to kick off my new favorite year was this long anticipated album. Brilliant! iLike even had a convenient link for me to purchase the album from iTunes or Amazon. Having sworn off DRMed music from iTunes, I went to check in on Amazon’s MP3 download service, which a friend had mentioned just days before. One click of the direct link from iLike I was looking at the new James album on Amazon… albeit in CD form, but prominently advertised was a link to the MP3 download version. BAM, there it was, the new James album in all its 256 kbps DRM-free glory for just $9.99 (exactly the same price as iTunes even). And there hovering tantalizingly before me was Amazon’s revolutionary patent-worthy (yeah, right) “1-click” button. Just like that, in three clicks from my facebook profile to downloading a new album. Cyber syzygy I tell you!

My mouse slid towards the button as my eyes drifted to the cover art for the music that I would soon own (I mean, be licensed to enjoy for personal use etc. etc.). Hmmm. That’s funny. On the cover are photos of five lovely black women… who were most definitely NOT in the brit pop band that I saw at WHFStival fourteen years ago! Thankfully this discontinuity queued up in my brain about one instruction before the neurons would fire to command my finger to purchase… what turns out to be a new Christian & Gospel album by The James’… beautiful music I’m sure, but not what I was looking for…

Now if I can figure out how to tell iLike that James != The James’ and prevent others from being wrongly separated from their hard-earned duckets…

Monday, January 7, 2008

"I get a wish for each shooting star, right?" - Mary

What’s that Mary? Only three days in and I’m in danger of missing the best meteor shower of 2008? Well if 2008 is going to be the best year ever (and hopefully everyone is still thinking it will be at this point!) I’d better check out the Quadrantids…

Apparently this year everything was perfectly aligned for a viewing. And by everything I specifically mean Dave having the day off on Friday so he volunteered to drive the slumber bus. Perhaps even more impressive than the meteors was having us all spot Mars and wave a Happy Fourth Anniversary up to Spirit, still plugging away on the surface.

While I’ve got some notes below to hone any future star gazing experiences, it’s awfully hard to complain about spending the night bundled with good friends, chatting, and gleefully exclaiming each time one of the dozens of meteors we saw streaked across the sky (can they really just be particles the size of sand grains igniting in the atmosphere!?!)

If the last couple of nights are any indication, maybe 2008 really will be the Best. Year. Ever.

Notes to Jon:

  • Raven Rocks Rd out past Purcellville is not an ideal viewing spot (unless you’re up for hopping barbed wire fence). The entire road is lined with houses, fences or Posted No Trespassing signs. And there’s a depressing amount of light pollution out there.

  • Don’t forget to stop for hot beverages before you leave all the mega gas stations behind.

  • When borrowing Darren’s air mattress… remember that he doesn’t store the pump with the mattress…

  • When your roommate has two cases of foot warmers sitting around the house… grab a few before spending three hours out in 17 degree weather no matter how many layers you’ve got on.

  • Charge the batteries on your camera… and the backup set

  • If a pole is obstructing your view… pretend it’s a sailboat mast!

  • And never let a few hours of sleep get in the way of an unforgettable experience surveying the stars with friends…

  • The Meteroid (or Asteroid, depending on size) is the object in space, the Meteor (or Fireball, depending on brightness) is the visible event that is seen, and the Meteorite is any part of the Meteroid remaining on the ground after impact. Ironically, I looked these up not in conjunction with this trip but when a verse from Joanna Newsome's song “Emily” defined them poetically (though perhaps incorrectly depending on your opinion).

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Top o' the Mutton

Spending the night without electricity or indoor plumbing may not be a typical New Year’s Eve… but I hope it becomes one. Kevin secured Mutton Top Cabin for our friends to welcome 2008 and, while I did break the low-key dress code, I think it was exactly the New Year’s everyone was looking for.

The trip began with a detour to Big Al’s Tavern near Stanardsville (which Jeff correctly pronounces STAN-erds-ville) to watch the Redskins advance to the playoffs. We sacrificed for our loyalty though when the access gate was locked, leading to a fully laden half-mile uphill hike in the dark and the rain (I had anticipated this though and safely waterproofed my tuxedo’s garment bag).

We dried off over a salacious game of Bag o’ Nouns (which involves three rounds of guessing the same words in the styles of catchphrase, password, and finally charades). Some highlights of each round included a debate over whether “quattro” was a valid word for explaining “foursome”, “heterosexual” as the password for the noun “Darren Biggs”, and that it helps to have Jan Louis around if the word is “hog fat”.

After waking up to the panorama of hills humping up like whales through the cloud-filled valley, Linny picked out a short water-filled hike off of Skyline Drive that would get us back in time for her to prepare her trademark pho for lunch (tuxedos and pho, probably two things that have never been in Mutton Top before). While the Brown’s Gap->Doyle’s Run Trail->AT loop turned out to be a couple miles longer and farther down the drive than expected, we still got back before the lunch crowd mutinied, and everyone agreed Linny’s pho was worth the wait (though there was some disagreement on how it should be pronounced…).

I spent the early evening sawing and splitting firewood before contributing potatoes and asparagus for dinner. We gathered around Sarah’s crotch-warming bonfire, and then after dinner AB and I changed into our ironic attire for the rustic festivities. While we failed to go through with some of the photo ops we’d discussed (prom pictures with the outhouse as the background, and before and after photos of the-outhouse-as-supermans-phone-booth) it was nostalgic standing in front of Joel’s 2008 banner with about six cameras trained on us as our eyes darted from one to another trying to guess which would go off next.

We timed our countdown off of a consensus of cell phones and satellite-synced GPS clocks (which spent most of their time searching for signals). In the revelry I managed to get four New Year’s kisses which I believe is a record for me and hopefully bodes well for my New Year’s resolution of more nookie in 2008 (though, while fun, various photographic reenactments and the Alexandwich don’t technically count).

As they roll in, I will link to my friend’s photos and accounts. Including for the first time ever Dave's photos! In my opinion he got the best ones, and he came up with some damn funny captions for them as well...

Thanks to everyone who worked so hard setting up this trip and doing all the necessary chores during it (and of course to PATC and all the volunteers for making this possible). Happy New Year everyone and here’s to 2008!