Monthly Archive for March, 2009

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln

For she so loved her trumpet that she sold it for a cup of Thai iced tea. And to give it a chance to be in show business. After years of being toted from school to school, teaching K-12ers about music, and years more of languishing in the gig bag in a closet, Jenna’s trumpet (with its valves still working, thank you very much) was rescued from obscurity and thrust into the hands of, well, Stephen Gregory Smith, on stage at Ford’s Theatre in Frank Wildhorn’s The Civil War. Because there’s no horn player in the orchestra, and the synthesized trumpet calls they were using made the entire cast cringe and cover their ears. Stephen plays, but his trumpet was lost 5 years ago when his house burned, so he put out a call and J answered. It’s like karmic payback for the bass amp and cabinet I got for free so they would have a good home.

So Stephen has a trumpet again, in recompense of which we were invited to the dress. Sadly, I can’t recommend the show. Most sadly because such a grouping of vocal talent I have never seen on one stage. Everyone in the cast was spectacular, solo and chorally. When they broke into an a capella section with the entire cast spread across the whole stage, and remained in perfect harmonic and rhythmic sync, I knew this was a special group of singers. The orchestra was also excellent. Which makes it all the more frustrating that the sound was a disaster.

Everyone sounded like they were singing from the single array of speakers hung above center stage. Even the people closer to me sounded that way, which means it’s more than just incorrectly tuned delays. There was a presence hump like that on a camel, leaving us with no bass (more the pity since the bass player rocked) and no high end for the consonants. Every single belt song (and many there were), male or female, consisted of an undifferentiated series of unidentifiable vowels. Despite the very expensive-looking (and hideously obtrusive) rock-n-roll style head mics, which ought to at least have helped the sound. Beyond that, I’m pretty sure something somewhere in the system was overloading; the harshness was more than I can put down entirely to bad EQ. This ain’t community theatre, folks. There’s no excuse for 1970’s quality sound.

But how about the lighting, you ask? Well shit, with several hundred fixed instruments and at least a dozen intelligent lights, you’d think it might be really nice. But then you might see the show and ask yourself “what’s the point of beautiful moody backlighting for a sad song if you then blast the person in the face with a white follow spot?” And, if you’re like me, you won’t have an answer. WTF, is it an Equity requirement or something that the lead singer must always be lit by a soft-focus follow spot? And we all have to work together to pretend that it doesn’t spill onto anyone or anything else on the stage? Feh.

And, new rule. Nobody is allowed to use projectors in the theatre ever again, with the single exception of the people who did Sunday in the Park with George up at Studio 54 last year. They got it right. Everyone else, including this one (Aaron Rhyne, apparently), get the PowerPoint disease when given a projector. Guess what guys, we’re here to see the actors, not your projections. So stop it with the motion during quiet solos! And remember, there’s a fine line between clever and stupid.

The show itself is a musical revue, which is fine, but don’t expect it to “bear witness to the struggles of the past, and actively connect those struggles to our lives in the present day,” as the director says. The only parts that were emotionally engaging for me were when they turned on the lights in Lincoln’s box and the cast turned toward it while a narrator read lines from various of Lincoln’s speeches. That worked, but can hardly be considered a stroke of directorial genius. I mean, you’re in Ford’s Theatre speaking lines from Lincoln. What else are you gonna do? And other than that, the show was not emotionally engaging. It was just a group of incredibly talented musicians (most of whom are very talented actors too) singing their hearts out and asses off. If the sound did them justice, it would be a very enjoyable evening.

Things I Hate, Part 1

I hate when secretaries send out emails to the entire branch, division, center, or world without putting any effort into organizing them. I give you exhibit A:

Headers, headers, everywhere

Headers, headers, everywhere

I just got a slew of these things in the last two days. C’mon, people, you’re expecting a couple hundred people to read this. Put a little effort into just including the part that matters!


Fly, Little Discovery, Fly Like the Wind!

Now ain’t that a purty sight!

It would be more heroic if it were something that could get to the moon, but it's still pretty.

It would be more heroic if it were something that could get to the moon, but it's still pretty.

Yes, I know that image is everywhere, but I don’t care! It’s a great shot, and it was created on government time so it’s not under copyright.  Too bad the launch is scrubbed until tomorrow.  I sure hope it goes up then, cause a month after tomorrow my astronauts go up to fix HST.  And if this is delayed past tomorrow, SM4 starts slipping too.   Which is okay for a couple days, but after that the trophy wife won’t get to go with me to watch.

Also, check out the EXIF data:

Exposure: 0.003 sec (1/320)
Aperture: f/2.8
Focal Length: 200 mm
ISO Speed: 500

Holy carp! Those are some bright fuckin’ lights!

UPDATE: Launch is delayed until No Earlier Than March 15. And SM4 doesn’t actually slip unless this guy slips past somewhere in the 3/17 to 3/20 range.

Liver Lovers

It was in my mid-thirties that I started finding I had to finish a night of drinking with a glass of water unless I wanted a headache in the morning.  Then it was a couple glasses of water, eventually getting to the point where it’s pretty much a 1-for-1 proposition now.  Which is okay, I just have to remember. Still, I miss being young.

But that’s not what I’m on about here.  It’s what I noticed two weeks ago in Japan: I drank most every night (cause, y’know, Japan), and didn’t have to worry about it.  So why is that?  I think it’s because Japan is so heavily into heavy drinking, even among the middle-age set, that the country as a whole has adjusted its social and brewing fabric appropriately.  Every glass of Japanese beer comes with a built-in glass of water!


Best Weekend Evah!

Hey look, a new entry!  I’m not dead after all.

Good times last weekend, atsa fer sure. So much so that it calls for an ordered list!

  1. Special talkback performance of One Red Flower, with author Paris Barclay, Bernard Edelman (who edited the book the play was based on), Robert Santos (the guy who commissioned the book), Debbie Brudno (wife of character Alan Chisolm), and Stephen Gregory Smith, who played the lead in the Signature production a few years ago.  It went great!  Everyone thought it was very well done, and the veterans all approved.  The only thing we did wrong was the way they tied their pants to their boots, and having them wear ponchos in the field in one scene.  Great party afterwards, thanks to the prep help from Y.T. and the setup help from all the not-appearing-in-this-play KAT folk.
  2. Baby gorilla!  Mandara keeps poppin’ ’em out down at the National Zoo, so we went with Y.T. to see the new girl.  Hey, a girl baby!  That’s a first.  Cute as kittens.  Man, I don’t see how anyone can watch any apes for more than 10 minutes without jumping to the assumption of common descent.
  3. Mandara still recognizes Jenna.  Long story, involving an ape teaching a person how to say hello, a long absence, the startling realization that apes do double-takes, an even longer absence, and a slow but certain recognition.  Jenna kinda melted.  And I reiterate what I said above about evolution.
  4. Another good performance of the show, and Mary Ann Redmond at the Harp & Fiddle in Bethesda, with Y.T. again.

I’m not expecting to top all that any time soon.