Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"Measure for Pleasure" at Woolly Mammoth Theatre

The best part? The scene changes: Lots of quick action, movement, cute costumes, new props and frills.

After that, the costume design and hair-dos. Live! On stage! Marge Simpson!.

The sets were outstanding: so many and varied, the color! The lighting was effective.

Which leaves the content. Yes, the content. Ahim (intentional). Not! Boorish, sophomorish, and just plain dull. Written by a male for a male audience only. Or, at least, that was the first act, since that's all we saw, leaving at intermission.

Thank goodness I was there for "pay what you can." Towards the end of the first act the audience laughter was minimal and what could be heard was stilted. Woolly can't win them all.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Rolling Thunder in D.C.

Willie Nelson was there! And there, and come to think of it, ..he was everywhere!

Or, at least, most of the riders looked like him: same age, hair, scarf, and gear. About half the motocyclists carried females on the backs of their bikes who waved and shot pictures of the bystanders, many of whom who cheered and waved back.

Many riders wore POW/MIA t-shirts to draw attention to forgotten soldiers.

Oh, what a glorious day it was! How could the weather, the temperature, the sky, have been any better?

One biker told me as many as 500,000 bikers , that's a half million, reader, were expected for the weekend. They came from all 50 states to commemorate the war dead, and it could be emotional, if you let your mind wander.

They rode fast and noisily up Constritution and around the mall to show their gratitude, sounding their horns and waving. From the south, the headlights came...non-stop.

As many as five flags streamed behind them, attached to their bikes, one, with ropes attached to the dash. Some of the flags were as large as billboards. Good thing the wind didn't blow the other way. Half a red Mustang and what looked like half a Hummer passed for motorcycles and were part of the parade.

Doesn't D.C. have a helmet law? Five riders or passengers, at least, were without helmets, including two children, riding with adults. Arms were uncovered. A Biker Mama told me a small accident could throw a passenger or a driver onto the pavement and rip off unprotected skin.

The scene on Constitution Avenue between17th and 15th had onlookers standing out in the street, unrestrained by police or fences (unlike between 17th and 18th), holding out their hands, hoping a biker or two would touch them. Unwary young teen males stood in one lane, their arms extended. Soon they were joined by adults wanting to pass the peace, and some riders slowed and did.

Looking up and down Constitution, north towards the museums and south towards the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the only visible traffic to be seen were rows and rows of hundreds of oncoming motorcycles, headlights flashing, moving north towards the museums, in the northbound lanes.

American flags on lampposts danced gaily in the wind: a modern-day scene reminiscent of Childe Hassam's flag paintings of New York City ("Fourth of July, 1916") which commemorates patriotism. where is our victory? Who are these supporting in the presidential race. They didn't strike me as Obama supporters, and I doubt many would support a woman, and even they, I hope, do not believe in a 100-years war, so who is their candidate? I hope they care and show their passion to end a war whose soldiers they honor are no more.

From the Rolling Thunder web site:

The major function of Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is to publicize POW-MIA issues: To
educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind
after all previous wars and to help correct the past and to protect future
veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war-missing
in action. We are also committed to helping American veterans from all
wars.Rolling Thunder®, Inc. is a non-profit organization. Members donate
their time because they believe in the issues we are working on.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Frida Kahlo Exits Philadelphia for San Francisco

Do not ever consider going to a "blockbuster" art show on the last day. The crowds, the lines, the time. Not worth it...uummmm, well, not every time.

Tickets were timed for entry, however, the museum still let in too many people at once, but since it was the end of the show, certainly “something” for viewers “rather than nothing” was welcomed.

On the final day of the Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art I took the Chinatown bus (another story) from DC to see Frida. A great, but it seemed, a small, show. Maybe the crowds and the jamming in front of each canvas distorted my impression: that and the tiny size of many of the paintings. Reading about the art beforehand in Hayden Herrera’s splendid biography, Frida, I expected bigger canvasses because they do become, at least to this reader, "bigger than life," like magnets pulling my heartstrings.

With hundreds viewing the paintings in the crowded galleries, it was impossible to stand back and view them, but given the small size of most, it would not have been productive. If you waited, you could get up close which was necessary to see many of the details.

The paintings depict Frida’s short, sad but quite passionate life in chronological arrangement. The largest, "Two Fridas," is huge in comparison and one she painted for a competition. One of the most fascinating, “Suicide of Dorothy Hale," has a gruesome history which Ms. Herrera explains from a description by Claire Booth Luce who commissioned it.

Other notables in the exhibit: "Henry Ford Hospital," "The Broken Column," "Frida and Diego Rivera," "A Few Small Nips," "My Nurse and I," "The Dream," "Without Hope," "Sun and Life," "The Love Embrace of the Universe."

Many small intimate family photographs of Frida and her husband twice, Diego Rivera, which have never been exhibited or published are displayed.

The exhibit includes between 40 and 50 paintings, many self portraits, but where was the "Trotsky" self-portrait owned by the National Museum of Women in the Arts? Did I miss it? The exhibit is the first in the U.S. of Frida Kahlo's art in 15 years.

At the end of the show, guests were “dumped” into a mad Frida retail shop, complete with almost everything one could imagine about, by, and "of" Frida including clothes. The clothes! Magnifico! Many, full length, and all, colorful and stylish in keeping with the star of the show. (Who shares the proceeds with the museum?) Nothing seemed exorbitantly priced. Long lines at the cashiers’ gave one reason not to purchase, especially for those in a hurry.

Anyway, next stop: The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from June 14 - September 18.

Side bar: I am in love with Philadelphia: The magnificent fountains, the statuary, the Phlash! Bus, the not-to-missed Reading Terminal Market ! Yes, even to return on the smelly, grungy, dirty Chinatown bus which lived up to its horrible reputation with its repugnant mobile restroom and dirty, unkempt waiting rooms with barking Chinese operators who speak, likely, deliberately, incomprehensible English, but the price ($28 RT) and the time (2.5 hours, almost on schedule) are right. Even without Frida, Philadelphia is too good to miss, yes, even on the Chinatown bus.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tom Hayden at Busboys and Poets

Hello Walls.

I hate to say it, but they were more interesting than Tom Hayden making an author's visit to Busboys and Poets Thursday night.

If his new book is anything like his delivery, throw out the sleeping pills. Zzzzzzzz.

Speaking in a monotonous tone with few dynamics or enthusiasm, Mr. Hayden, a name familiar to those who grew up in the 60s, read from his latest book, Writings for a Democratic Society: The Tom Hayden Reader which includes his works over the past 50 years. He spoke for about 15 minutes and then took questions from the 50 or so people gathered to see and hear an icon.

It was my first visit to the renowned coffee shop, and the walls were more intriguing than Mr. Hayden. Spread over one entire side is a mural of articles and images of revolutionaries (Bella Abzug, Nelson Mandela, and many others whom I could not see) plus framed art of more famous faces on the facing wall and three large drawings (Martin Luther King was one) facing the audience behind Mr. Hayden on stage. They were inspiring, enthralling and I felt rude staring so hard at them. My table mate, Glenn, told me the manager and owner, Andy Shallal, who was present, created the huge, fascinating mural. (Mr. Shallal in shirt and tie, stayed throughout Mr. Hayden's presentation, asking questions, and showing keen interest in the presentation.)

We sat in a carpeted "great room", the Langston Room, named after the venue's namesake, busboy and poet Langston Hughes. Wooden tables, low lighting, a tiled ceiling, and old-fashioned booths invited strangers to join strangers to carouse, drink, and eat before and during Mr. Hayden's presentation which made the evening all the more delightful. Table service was impeccable. I am always impressed by any restaurant which uses cloth napkins.

Mr. Hayden believes today's protests against the Iraq War are more effective than the ones during the Vietnam War (Ed's note: NOT), and likened the Iraq War to "an unspoken Christian crusade". Many evangelicals are embedded at the Pentagon, he said, and some call Muslims "wicked. They've taken over the chaplain's corps," he said. The Iraq War cannot be ended this year, and "it will probably take another five years" to get out. "Every five years there's a war."

Pressure to attack Iran is present in every possible way. "The neocons see this as their window of opportunity." If we don't (attack), the Israelis will. "We need to run the clock until November, but there's a danger between November and the inauguration. As it gets closer to the election, bombing (Iran) becomes more likely."

"The business of writing is to make people uncomfortable," Mr. Hayden said.

Crowd: 90% Caucasian, male and female in equal proportions more or less, average age: 32. All seats taken.

Tom Hayden was one of the "Chicago Seven", a co-founder of the radical group, Students for a Democratic Society, a member of the California state legislature (1982-2000), and the husband of Jane Fonda (1973-1990).

Busboys and Poets, a progressive, liberal, eclectic "think tank" bookstore and coffee shop is located at 2021 14th St. NW, between U and V streets, about a block from the U Street Metro Stop and also in Arlington at 4251 S. Campbell Avenue. There's a short, diversified menu with plenty of good food at reasonable prices. Its web site says sales proceeds go to a non-profit, "Teaching for Change". Ph. 202-387-7638

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Howard Fineman Promotes His New Book

Maybe it was the economy; or the location; or maybe it was the topic (Great American Debates); or maybe a surfeit of books about American politics in the Washington, D.C. area nowadays, but, whatever it was, Howard Fineman drew a crowd of fewer than 20 persons to his new book signing Wednesday night at the Tyson's Corner Borders bookstore.

When he spoke at Politics & Prose on Connecticut Avenue on the northwest side of town May 1, the crowd likely was double or even triple 20.

His title of his book is: The Thirteen American Arguments: Enduring Debates That Define and Inspire Our Country. Mr. Fineman is a columnist for Newsweek and a "pundit" who regularly appears on "Hardball" with Chris Matthews and "Countdown" with Keith Olbermann.

I got there too late for his book presentation. The Q+As are always the most interesting part, and I wasn't disappointed. The people who came were all senior citizens, average age, 65; all Caucasians, probably more males than females. The store was the least populated with customers that I've seen, and I'm a frequent visitor. Lots of empty seats.

Anyway, what did he say? No way, Hosea, that Condi Rice will be John McCain's running mate: Too much baggage and negative vibes which permeate the State Department, and lack of domestic policy experience.

George Bush is "too insecure intellectually and personally to listen to anyone who doesn't agree with him and who he doesn't know. I know him well and have covered him for years."

Obama appeals to a lot of Republicans.

The press went to sleep at the wheel after 9/11, and was bullied by the White House. The only Washington news outfit which reported events unafraid was Knight-Ridder: "Not the networks, not the New York Times." Mr. Fineman said an unnamed actress compared 9/11 for him to a "bad divorce" when judgment for several years afterwards was/is questionable.

Iraq: "I agree with Thomas Friedman with what he said this morning (in his column): We are in the Middle East where we are not loved, not respected. We're following Osama Bin Laden's play book."

"If we leave, the Iranians are going to come in and take over Iraq." (Ed's note: Well? So what if it does?)
"We were lied to. Colin Powell used up all his credibility at the U.N. He misled everybody. George Tenet is a buffoon. Cheney and all the others at the White House went to war against the C.I.A. No one asked about the consequences of our going 'in there' (Iraq)."

He reluctantly answered a question: "I know this sounds callous. I have to tell you, war is a great story" and it's much sexier (not his word) than no attack. When asked about the dwindling coverage of the war, Howard Fineman said: "The American people have become desensitized to it. They don't want to hear bad news."

I am as sure as rain that many, if not all the blurbs on the book jacket and most others, are written by persons who have never read the book which they acclaim. And when do these "authors" have time to write books? Not to single out Mr. Fineman, but I dare say many political books (and others) are written by "ghost riders" who sit down and slam something on paper just to get the damned things out to satisfy the publisher and earn money quicker. "Poor" Cindy McCain.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Movie Review: "What Happens in Vegas"

Not exactly "Washington Speaks" but a lark of a film:

"What Happens in Vegas" is fun and lots of laughs! If you need a good escape, this is it. The only real negative is the schmaltzy ending which you begrudgingly anticipate, but up until the beach scene, and the kneeling, it is a hilarious film

I probably would have never seen it had I not read the Washington Post's great review. A friend said the New York Times panned it, but movie reviewers are usually old fuddy-duddies anyway, and who cares? I went, I saw it, I loved it.

How in the world can a male look better than Ashton Kutcher? He looks so much like JFK, Jr. I swear, girls, you can feel his arms wrapping around you, and that alone is worth the price of admission! (Demi: How did you do it? I want to buy your book!) I hesitate to label this a "chick flick", for it almost qualifies, but the males in the crowd will love it, too, for Cameron Diaz is eye candy for them ("treats for all").

Rob Corddry from "The Daily Show" and Lake Bell as sidekicks add tremendously to the movie. There's even "Saturday Night Live's" I can't think of his name who plays Cameron's significant other, and does a credible job, but Judge Dennis Miller seemed almost lifeless to me, but that's maybe the way he is anyway.

For a couple of surprises wait before leaving until the credits are rolling.