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February 2017 Archives

LBJs


And so it begins, the first LBJ post of the 2017 campaign...

*First, let me note that Dixon's run in Quill Theatre's production of The Compleat Wrks of Wllm Shkspr (Abridged) ends today, and it has been a highly enjoyable time for him. The show has gotten great reviews, and it has given Dixon yet another chance to play Hamlet, though he has not yet done so in Hamlet, despite that fact that he has appeared and is even as we speak appearing in Quill's traveling production of Hamlet. (He's playing Laertes and one of the Players in the latter.) Here he is in Compleat Wrks, being mad, or perhaps pretending:

dixon compleat wrks.jpgAnd yes, those are my shoes. I'd better get them back.

*As one of the sponsors of Game Club at Seven Hills School, I have been refereeing and often playing a wonderful cooperative game called Pandemic. I first played it with Ian & Adriana while we were at the beach this past Thanksgiving, and I was lucky enough to get a copy for Christmas. The 7HS crew seems to be enjoying it, and one reason, I suspect, is that it's a game where the players team up against the game itself, trying to treat and eventually cure the four terrible diseases breaking out all over the globe, using their varied special abilities to exploit their resources in the best way possible. It's a challenging game, but it's definitely winnable, and it's one that everyone from grade 5 to grade 8 seems to be enjoying, so I'll recommend it here.

*Our local movie palace, the Byrd Theatre, is hosting classic films on Wednesday nights, and so far we've been to see two that I don't think I'd ever seen on the big screen before: The Philadelphia Story (a long-time favorite in our house) and To Kill a Mockingbird (which we saw with Kelly's mom while she was visiting.) The sheer pleasure of watching a great movie in a theatrical setting is one I had somehow managed to miss, but I'm really glad we're getting the chance.

*I don't think I'm alone in struggling to find the right balance between paying enough attention to politics and paying too much attention. I've seen several columns to the effect that Americans have long had the luxury of paying almost no attention to politics, which is an idea that a) applies almost exclusively to those Americans whose lives are most insulated from the vagaries of politics--i.e., those who are white, straight, male, and economically comfortable, and b) is frustratingly accurate for far too many people. These columns have, however, pushed the idea that we can no longer afford that luxury, and on that I'm in total agreement. The problem is that our current political landscape is so rife with fresh horrors--a veritable rain forest of the appalling--that one can easily focus too powerfully on one such horror, ignoring other equally horrific elements, or otherwise spend so much time and energy shifting one's gaze from horror to horror that dizziness, exhaustion, and/or despair can set in. I mean, for cabinet posts alone, I went through a whirlwind of outrage and Senator-calling that left me halfway unclear whether I'd already called Mark Warner about opposing Betsy DeVos, told Tim Kaine to oppose Jeff Sessions, or perhaps called Ben Carson and told him to oppose Mitch McConnell (which every American really ought to do on principle.) Needless to say, there are days when I feel blue, hot, and righteous in my resistance, while on other days I greet the news of the latest outrage the way I'd greet the news that the bridge is closed; it's not going to stop me from traveling where I need to go or doing what I need to know, but it's going to be a colossal frustration that demands more of my attention than I like, and it's likely to affect the way I do my job. Keep watching this space to see how well I manage the balancing act, and thanks for your patience while I work it out.

*If you're unfamiliar with Postmodern Jukebox, the re-interpretive musical collective directed by keyboardist/arranger Scott Bradlee, you'll probably want to spend a few minutes checking them out before reading the rest of this. Here, let me offer a few options:

*a vintage jazz version of Cage the Elephant's "No Rest for the Wicked"
*a New Orleans-style reworking of Guns n' Roses' "Sweet Child O'Mine"
*a bluegrass "barn dance" treatment of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines"
*a 1950s doo-wop cover of Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop"
*a terrific jazz/blues revisiting of Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" (with four-handed bass solo!)

Now that you've enjoyed that taste, let me inform you that the group delivers a terrific live performance. There are apparently multiple touring groups, so you may or may not see any of the performers above at your particular venue. (We did get Robin Adele Anderson, who sang the Thicke and Cyrus tunes above, and Casey Abrams, the singer/bassist on the Trainor cut). The basic idea, however, is consistent: to reimagine (relatively) recent pop songs in earlier styles. If that was all that was happening, PMJ would basically be a very talented cover band, but they deliver far more: it's a visual showcase for vintage dresses, tap dancing, physical comedy, and showmanship of every sort. On Friday we were treated to the sight of the insanely talented Chloe Feoranzo, a clarinetist/saxophonist who might top five feet, standing with a foot on Abrams' chest while delivering a blistering clarinet solo for "Sweet Child O'Mine," a drumsticks vs. tap shoes percussion contest, and a wide variety of booty shaking, as well as the amazing pipes of singer Dani Armstrong, whose version of Radiohead's "Creep" has to be heard to be believed. Even if you know nothing about these particular songs, you will enjoy your two hours. Trust me on this.

*Another musical triump of a different sort: in 1988, when I was working at Record Bar, one of the staff's favorite pieces of background music was the new album from Toots Hibbert, leader of Toots and the Maytalls. The album was titled Toots in Memphis, and it consisted of songs from the Stax/Volt vaults, including tunes by Otis Redding and Al Green, all done with a reggae spirit--not surprising, given that the rhythm section consisted of Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and Mikey Chung. I bought the album, but a few years later, when we were short on rent, I sold a few CDs to cover the difference, and my copy of Toots in Memphis was one of the casualties. Little did I know that almost immediately the disc would become all but impossible to find, and I have spent the last twenty years hoping I might turn up a copy in a used bin somewhere, rather than pay the $40 a copy currently fetches on Amazon.com. Last weekend, I'm happy to report, such a copy finally turned up, and I am once again able to hear Toots & Co. cut loose on "Love and Happiness," "Hard to Handle," and "Knock on Wood."

*My life list went up by one, you'll be happy to hear, after a number of intrepid birders reported a large and nearly all-white gull hanging out on the James River near the T. Potterfield pedestrian bridge. I got up early last weekend and hauled my scope out onto the bridge to check out the reports, and as I looked out at one of the remaining supports from the original 9th Street Bridge, I saw it: huddled in amongst a group of Greater Black-backed Gulls was one bird with a white back and a black-tipped pink bill: a young Glaucous Gull. I also went looking for the young Painted Bunting that had been reported on Belle Isle, but I struck out; the Cooper's Hawk I saw hanging around the island was most likely responsible for that.

*For some reason, I am running out of socks. I have plenty of athletic socks, and even a fair number of woolen socks for hiking and/or skiing, but ordinary workday socks have begun to vanish. This must not stand!

*Finally, if any of you enjoy Mexican food, Asian food, and the fusion of the two, let me recommend an eatery in RVA that you must not miss: the improbably named Wong Gonzalez. Order the hot and sour soup. You will not regret it.


1:33 PM
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Say What?


My latest column for Audubon.org, in which Robyn Hitchcock and the Pigeon Guillemot meet the Great Vowel Shift in a desperate quest for a correct English pronunciation of bird names.

guillemot.jpg



12:07 PM
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