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Monday, September 15, 2014

Movie review: 'Herb & Dorothy 50 x 50' is worth a look

Dorothy and Herb Vogel at home with art/photo from
You may have read about Herb Vogel (1922-2012)and his wife, Dorothy Vogel (b. 1935), contemporary art enthusiasts who bought over decades almost 5,000 works of art with their public service salaries, and stored the pieces in their New York one-bedroom apartment.

And you may have seen the documentary by Megumi Sasaki about them and their collection, Herb & Dorothy, which won several awards at five film festivals after its release in 2008.

A sequel, Herb & Dorothy 50 x 50, opened last year, produced and directed again by Ms. Sasaki, who gathered about $220,000 from crowd sourcing to make it.

The Vogels started their collection after they got married in the 1960s, and rather than choosing works based on income potential, they bought what they liked, what they could afford, and what they could take home on the subway or in a taxi.
The Vogels in earlier years/photo from
Herb was a postal worker and Dorothy, a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library.

They acquired mostly conceptual and minimalist art, and some post-minimalist pieces. Some of the artists represented in the collection were Chuck Close, Barbara Schwartz, Picasso, Judith Shea, Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman, Lorna Spencer, and Bettina Werner to name a few.  (Wikipedia lists many more.)

In 1992 the couple chose the National Gallery of Art as a repository for their assembly since it does not charge admission, does not sell art, and is accessible. 

The Vogels wanted the public to own their collection, and because of its size, they began a collaboration in 2008 with the National Gallery of Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, on their "50 x 50" project to distribute 50 works each to a museum in all 50 states (totaling 2,500).  

It is publicly unknown how the choices of the museums which received the Vogels' art were made, however, it is perplexing that about 65% of them (32) charge admission which violates one of the Vogels' tenets.  (One, Kentucky's Speed Museum is closed for renovation until 2017.)  

The museums which do not charge admission (17) are  the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama, Arkansas Arts Center, Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut, Southern Illinois University Museum, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Spencer Museum of Art in Kansas, University of Michigan Museum of Art, and Weisman Art Museum in Minnesota.

Also not charging are Daum Museum of Contemporary Art in Missouri, Joslyn Art Museum in Nebraska, Donna Beam Fine Art Gallery in Nevada, Hood Museum of Art in New Hampshire, Weatherspoon Art Museum in North Carolina, South Dakota Art Museum, Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art in Utah, and the University of Wyoming Art Museum.

Those museums which each house 50 of the Vogels' gifts of art for the public and charge admission (32) are:  the Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, California, Columbia (South Carolina) Museum of Art, Montclair (New Jersey) Art Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Delaware Art Museum, Plains Art Museum in North Dakota, Hawaii's Honolulu Museum of Art, Robert Hull Fleming Museum in Vermont, University of Alaska Museum of the North, Phoenix Art Museum in Arizona, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Perez Art Museum in Florida, High Museum in Georgia, Boise Art Museum in Idaho, Cedar Rapids Museum of Art in Iowa, New Orleans Museum of Art in Louisiana, and Maryland's Academy of Art Museum.

Also charging are Harvard Art Museum in Massachusetts, Milwaukee Art Museum in Wisconsin, Mississippi Museum of Art, Yellowstone Art Museum in Montana, New Mexico Museum of Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery in New York, Akron (Ohio) Art Museum, Oklahoma City Museum, Portland (Oregon) Art Museum, Portland (Maine) Museum of Art, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Blanton Museum of Art in Texas, West Virginia's Huntington Museum of Art, and the Seattle Art Museum in Washington. (For more information go to Wikipedia or the Vogels' 50x50 website.)

After Herb died, Dorothy announced that she was closing the collection.  The 2013 film shows their apartment where the Vogels kept their purchases stored in boxes, under their bed, in closets, and wherever they could find space. 

Once the art was removed for transfer, the film's before and after scenes show what a grand difference art can make to sad and barren walls and surroundings.

A comment about the music in 50 x 50 by David Majzlin: It is magnificent, floats, and never obscures the message, capturing by instrument and note, the mood and style of the Vogels whose gifts are enthusiastically welcomed by the people of the United States, especially those who have accessibility.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, do we have to?

The sad and lifeless Pentagon Memorial/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Every year it's the same.

Every year we relive the horrible memories of that terrible day.

We recall the fires, the planes crashing into the buildings, the smoke and ruin, the unbelief and helplessness we experienced then and which we experience every September 11.

You think we've forgotten?  That anyone can forget September 11?

Do you think the terrorists would be pleased we recognize their vicious attack all day every September 11 with pictures, video, and words?  That we memorialize their actions with our constant reinforcement of what happened? That this might have been on their agendas?  That the reminders serve to strengthen our enemies and offer incentives to do it again?

Why don't we recall the deaths of our 4,489 soldiers and the 32,021 wounded in Iraq after Bush and Cheney struck that nation on March 19, 2003?  Why don't we honor those brave men and women, their families, and  their sacrifices with memories?  We forget them, but we don't need pictures and words to instantly recall the goals of the terrorists on that beautiful September morning that is always the same.



Monday, September 8, 2014

Down on Mark Warner's farm

"This big piggy went to market, that little piggy stayed home, this big piggy ate roast beef, that little piggy had none, and this big piggy cried:  'I'm getting all et up!'"/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Somewhere in Northern Virginia a few folks turned up for Lisa Collis and Mark Warner's pig roast on their farm/Photo by Patricia Leslie
They are lined up for.../Photo by Patricia Leslie

Uummmm, uuummmmm, delish and oh, so tender. Sunglasses, not roasted/Photo by Patricia Leslie
In addition to the big roasted piggy, dinner on the grounds included burgers, dogs, the fix'uns, coleslaw, marinated tomatoes with cucumber and onions, sodas, beer, homemade lemonade, and, on the table above, watermelon and brownies/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Not everyone wore blue at the picnic, just those surrounding Virginia District Attorney Mark Herring (center) who wanted to talk some commonwealth politics. Among other notables, whom Senator Mark Warner welcomed to the roast, were Sue Langley, Jennifer Boysko, Stephen Spitz, Bruce and Kathy Neilson, Linda Burchfiel, and Paul Jameson/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Darn it all, I forgot my suit/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Ahoy, matey! A bath house!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Always popular popcorn/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Inside this vat are all the chemicals heated up to douse the popcorn which makes it so distasteful to eat and so delish to consume/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Face paints, anyone?/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Asked the lad:  "Why do people complain about walking up the steps?" which descended to the dock. Answered a senior citizen: "Because they are old." (Not the steps!)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Guests could canoe, kayak, and ride a paddle boat on the Rappahannock River/Photo by Patricia Leslie
On the Rappahannock/Photo by Patricia Leslie  
The beautiful and lovely pines provided welcome shade on a hot day/Photo by Patricia Leslie 
All good things must come to an end/Photo by Patricia Leslie
On the Rappahannock/Photo by Patricia Leslie 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Nats on fire, outasite, and streaking through the sky

It's time to play ball again at Nats Park/Photo by Patricia Leslie

It's a good thing the fire stations are in the vicinity of Nats Park.

That team is streakin' hot, and they are streakin' right this very minute as I write, shooting like the stars they are, coming home from Los Angeles in the nighttime sky, riding on a comet crest of hard work and determination.

Doncha think we should be there to welcome them at the airport tonight (which airport?) after their miraculous win, 8-5, in 14 innings which Manager Matt Williams said was the longest game in Nats' history, and I am so eat up with baseball this summer, I cannot believe I watch the post-game show. (Which airport?  We should be there with streamers and flags and confetti and fireworks.)

The Nats, really, are so much fun.  They are a really big show, and thank goodness they are coming home.

When the Nats defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks again (1-0) a couple of weeks ago, it was a thriller of a thriller, like an excruciatingly fantastic movie or book except we were there

It was the bottom of the ninth and the score was tied, 0 - 0, when D.C.'s own Denaaaaard Span stole another base (he is #11 this year in MLB's stolen bases), and there he stood atop second when Ren-DOAN hit a grounder over to third which Arizona caught and ripped over to first when the ball went astray, like into the dugout which meant!!!!...It meant (I learned the rule from my new friends from Nashville and Owensboro, Kentucky who came to sit with me in the rain) we got two bases which carried Denard to home plate, and just like that...ZapPow! We won another game.  (Have you ever noticed when the teams are doing great, "we" join them and they become "we"?)

Don't you love it the way Denaaard Span gets ready to bat?  He waves that bat around like a stripper waving a...whatever it is they wave around. A boa?/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Denard gets ready to steal another base/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Earlier, poor Jayson Weeeeerth lay in the dirt, which, from a distance, reminded me of a napping Golden Retriever, but no, actually it was home plate, where he hit himself in the leg (with the bat or the ball?) and collapsed and rolled over for a few seconds.  No one immediately came to his aid, and, amazingly, he stood up soon thereafter and batted away.  I thought he'd be replaced, since he put the hurt on him, but, no, that's not the way it works.  He kept at it.  Like they all have this season.  Like they did tonight...again!!!!
Poor (well, not really) Jayson Werth kneels and prays before he bats.  Not really.  He rises from the dirt after he conked his leg or his ankle or something in the Arizona game August 21. He got up and kept goin' like the Nats did tonight in L.A. Go, Nats!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jayson's got a big fan following out there beyond first base where he stands in the outfield. If you get a seat in those parts, he might even pitch with you. Bring your glove! And don't keep the ball. He stands there with his hands on his hips like he is just disgusted that a fan would keep the ball he threw.  It happens.

Jayson Werth plays pitch with the crowd beyond first base/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jayson Werth plays pitch with the crowd beyond first base/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Why don't they have a contest about Jayson's hair? 

Come on.  Why is he growing it so long? Don't you think that big pile of red/orange might slow him down? When he is running real fast, and it's blowing in the wind, don't you think it might impede his speed? Maybe it's because he looks like Jesus he can get away with it, and he runs with the force, because he walks sooooo slowly you'd never imagine he can run fast when the time is ripe or right. 

When Jayson finally decides to cut his hair, he could sell it at auction and raise a heap big pile of dollars for Children's Hospital or his favorite charity. Just thinking.
The armed forces acknowledge the cheers and recognition bestowed upon them at every Nats game/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Never in my life have I been as enthused about baseball as this summer.  I know all the players' names and have attended six, repeat, six games this season and for sure, won't miss the Bad Braves when they come to town next week and have gathered a group of five to go with me. I hope Kimbrel is the pitcher.  That stance!  He reminds me of a bird dog. 

Anyway, I know the batting order and the positions the guys play and can identify them. This truly is a miracle.  Nashville's Bert Mathews would be proud of me.

Question:  Why do baseball players spit?  What other sport finds players spitting?  Just asking.

And then there is Soriano.  Sexy Soriano. I don't know why it turns me on so much when he rips out that shirt at the end of a game, (Prithee:  Does he do that when the Nats lose?  But Carolinda doesn't like it) but I've been a huge fan of his ever since I read that story about him in the WAPO and the steam machine.  (Prithee:  Does he take that machine on the road?  It might require its own aeroplane.)

I love the way he slooowly walks to the pitcher's mound (he and Werth could have a slow-walking contest) like he is in a space ship, and momentum is forcing him to put one foot in front of the other. Soriano never loses his cool.  Soriano soars!

You see what all you are blowin' in the wind, slow walks, the racing presidents, throwing balls with the big guys, mustard and dogs (I took that part out), beer, steam machines, a cup or two of a cold one, wins, sex, and how about some baseball?  It's all there!

Plus, my son from the West Coast taught me the cheapest way to buy Nats tickets:  StubHub.  The price you see is the price you'll pay (no fees).  I've been an exclusive user ever since.  Easy.  Prices for the Phillies and the Braves start at $6.  Can't beat it.  What a cheap date.  (Where is George?)
Every fourth inning at the Nats home games finds a presidents' race/Photo by Patricia Leslie

I just hope our Nats shake the Bad Braves' albatross next week and run all over them.  Especially Kimbrel.  Will somebody, please, throw that guy a bone.
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

McLean celebrates Middle Eastern Food Festival

At the entrance to Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, 8502 Lewinsville Road, McLean, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Hundreds turned out for the first day of the 21st annual Middle Eastern Food Festival at Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in McLean to order up some of the best-tasting home cooked food in the area.  Couples from northwest D.C. and Alexandria said they had been attending the festival for years.  "Nothing can keep us away from good food," said a woman who drove almost an hour with her husband for their annual visit to the church to sample lamb and other delicacies on the menu.
A chef said 25 lambs were cooked for the annual Middle Eastern Food Festival at Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Lamb kebabs were on the menu at the Middle Eastern Food Festival at Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The menu included vegetable burgers, $7.50; chicken shish kebab, shawarma with beef and lamb or chicken, kafta (beef and lamb) sandwiches, priced from $8.50 to $9; a la carte items: spinach pie, $3; hummus, $3; fattoush (a delicious Arabic salad), $3; meat pie, $3; hot dogs and chips, $3; kibbeh, $6.50; and entrees ranging from mujaddara (lentils and rice) at $7.50 to baked eggplant, $10, to a roasted lamb dinner, $15, and more choices.
On Saturday night customers waited in a long line for 6 p.m., the magic hour for lamb servings which will be available all day on Sunday, according to the website. Dancing to live music, and wine and Lebanese beer at $5 added to enjoyment.
Guests dined indoors and out at Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Cooks at work in the kitchen at the Middle Eastern Food Festival at Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean.  In true Greek fashion, festival volunteers smiled and warmly welcomed all/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Arabic pastries at the Middle Eastern Food Festival at  Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean/Photo by Patricia Leslie

While adult dined, children rode swings and ponies at Holy Transfiguration Church in McLean/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Clothes, books, olive oil from southern Greece, and jewelry were some of the non-edibles sold at Holy Transfiguration's annual fundraiser in McLean/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Jewelry for sale at Holy Transfiguration's annual fundraiser in McLean/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church, 8502 Lewinsville Road, McLean, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Tours of the church were given several times during the festival.  If you miss this year's event, there is next Labor Day weekend when Holy Transfiguration always celebrates Middle Eastern food. 
What:  Middle Eastern Food Festival at Holy Transfiguration Church
When: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m., August 30, and 12 - 6 p.m., August 31, 2014
Where:  8502 Lewinsville Road, McLean, VA
How much:  No charge to attend.  
For more information:  703-734-9566 and www.
Parking:  Limited along Lewinsville Road and in the church lot. Parking is safer and easier on neighborhood side streets.  Be careful walking along and crossing Lewinsville Road, and hold your dear ones' hands.
Costume Discounters

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Amazon Amafan

A laptop battery for sale at Amazon

Last Friday I called up HP to buy a new battery for my HP laptop.  HP didn't have it, and the woman gave me the names and phone numbers of three vendors which might.

Like old car parts that are hard to find, if producers stopped selling the parts, the marketplace would be forced into buying more computers. Have you ever thought about that?
I wondered out loud if Amazon might carry the battery, and the HP woman said, "Oh!  You do not want to buy it there!  They will sell you one which isn't the right size, and it may damage your computer.  You don't want to go there."

I did.

I called HP's vendors, and after listening for a nanosecond to garbled menus (I can't stand those things) at the first two, hung up and went on to the third where I located a human.

"That will be $125 for that battery," he said. 

$125? That's all?  What a bargain.  Thank you very much and getoutahere! I can buy a new computer with a little more.

Ahem, how long will delivery take?

"We can get it to you next Thursday or Friday."

You've gotta be kidding.  Next Thursday or Friday?  Via donkey cart?  That is too long. 

"We can send it faster at a higher rate."  What a surprise.

At Amazon I found the battery pronto and decided the $20 (!) charge was not a huge investment and if it broke my computer, so what?  It's 4.5 years old and would give me an excuse to buy a new one.  And while it is true that the battery reviews weren't so hot, if one lasts six months, that would be enough time for me to buy a new computer and six batteries to equal the charge for one at HP's vendor.

The battery arrived on Tuesday, not Thursday or Friday per HP. It works fine.  Goodbye HP and vendors.  Hello Amazon.  It saves to shop around.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

'Johnny Cash' onstage at Barter Theatre

The cast from Ring of Fire:  The Music of Johnny Cash, now on stage at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia.  From left are Mark T. Baczynski, Emily Mikesell, Katie Deal ("June Carter Cash"), Jason Petty ("Johnny Cash"), and Gill Braswell
For all Johnny Cash (1932-2003) music lovers, the show now playing at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia, Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, is one they will like.
The Barter Theatre, Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Rather than a musical, it's a posthumous concert featuring many of the star's hits, but not enough to enliven the first act which includes lesser-known tunes.

Jason Petty is an outstanding "Johnny" who looks, talks, and realistically brings back the "Man in Black," with a quick journey through Johnny's life told in words and song.  (It's unclear if Johnny Cash actually said or wrote the lines attributed to him in the presentation.)

Strangely absent are "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "Understand Your Man," (Ghost) "Riders in the Sky," "Orange Blossom Special," and "One Piece at a Time,"  replaced by songs not as well known like "Straight A's in Love," "Delia's Gone," "Cocaine Blues," and "I Still Miss Someone."

Closing the first act is bathroom humor (yes, it is) with "Flushed from the Bathroom of Your Heart" and "Egg-Suckin' Dog" received enthusiastically by the audience which is finally rewarded with "Ring of Fire" sung in excellent harmony by "Johnny" and his bride-to-be, "June Carter Cash," the lovely, dashing Katie Deal who delivers an exceptional performance.

The second act takes off with music by the multi-talented cast which presents “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues, ”  "A Boy Named Sue," and "Jackson," among others.

Stationed on stage the whole time are Steve Sensenig on keys and David Streng on drums.  Their presence and instruments are distracting, but perhaps designed to fill half the set which does not vary from a framed barn, with the exception of the backdrop of photographs which change from farmland to sky to clouds, etc., in a tired technique now commonplace in many productions. 

Other musicians, Mark Baczynski and Gill Braswell, have speaking and singing parts, but when they pull and strum the strings on their guitars and bass, those undeniable talents  take over.

Meanwhile, Ms. Deal and Emily Mikesell, Johnny's "mother" and "Minnie Pearl" and bassist extraordinaire and fiddle player to kill, almost steal the show, sometimes overshadowing the star who seems almost listless at times.  But, perhaps that's the way "Johnny" really was. 

Throughout the production, "June" gazes longingly at her man with stars in her eyes, and their warm relationship translates well on the platform to produce a genuine bond. 

Period costuming (by Howard Tvsi Kaplan) refreshes the show periodically.

People pay for what they want to hear and why producers don't give it to them is perplexing. Since Johnny Cash is dead and not likely to bring out any new hits which some stars (Bob Dylan) like to introduce to fans (most of whom don't want to hear them), why not replace the lesser-knowns with Johnny's biggest numbers, the ones people know and love, the ones they come to hear?

Ring of Fire lived a short life when it opened in New York in 2006, but Variety predicted better success for the play when it moved to its country fan base which certainly includes Abingdon, Virginia.
The Barter Theatre, Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Ring of Fire was created by Richard Maltby, Jr., conceived by William Meade, and adapted from the Broadway production by Richard Maltby, Jr and Jason Edwards. Other members of the Barter Ring of Fire production team are Amy Jones, director and musical director; Andrew Morehouse, lighting designer; Derek Smith, set designer; Miles Polaski, sound designer; and Kristy Goebel, stage manager.

For more reviews of other plays in the region, go to DC Metro Theater Arts.

WhatRing of Fire:  The Music of Johnny Cash

When:  Now through September 6, 2014

Where:  Barter Theatre, 127 West Main Street, Abingdon, Virginia 24210.  From Washington, drive out I66 West and down I81, about 5.5 hours if you don't stop to eat, and look out for the state troopers, lined up along 81, comparable to crocodiles ready to pounce and bite speeding motorists.

Tickets:  Start at $34.  Call 276-628-3991 or purchase them on the Web.

Note:  The Barter runs simultaneous plays, and you may also want to see Driving Miss Daisy.  Check  the listings on the calendar.

For more information:  276-628-3991

Accommodations:  Prices in Abingdon range from the plain to the fancy.  There's the lovely, quaint "fab 50s" motel on the hill at Exit 19, the Alpine, with old-fashioned but newly modernized huge rooms, and lawn chairs outside each door for guests to use for gazing a spell at the peaceful hills and farmlands.  Mountain air arrives in rooms via open windows.  If it's fancier digs you prefer (with ghosts), check out "The Martha" (as in "Washington"), across the street from the Barter.  Built in 1832 for a general's residence, it became a woman's college until it was overtaken by the Great Depression, which was the same time the Barter opened.

"The Martha" is one of several places in Abingdon which offer theatre packages. ("Martha's" start at $445, and it's a good deal.)   

A room with a view at the Alpine Motel, Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The "fab 50s" Alpine Motel with bush-covered sign on the hill, Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
"The Martha,"  Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The sitting area for the suite below at "The Martha," Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
A suite at "The Martha," Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie
The library at "The Martha," Abingdon, VA/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Abingdon was founded in 1776, and Wikipedia says it was likely named after Martha Washington's ancestral home in Oxfordshire, England. The U.S. town lies about 20 miles north of the Tennessee border above Bristol and prides itself on its old homes, historic shops, and tree-lined streets whose light posts hold baskets of flowers which fall gracefully to the streets.  Abingdon has good places to eat, see, browse, and visit, including a gentle nearby mountain trail, the Virginia Creeper, which is an easy delight to bike or walk down.
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