Sunday, June 30, 2013

Drone art at the Corcoran

Drones at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum/Patricia Leslie

An art exhibit on drones closes July 7.
At the Corcoran Gallery of Art recently, about 100 turned out to hear Londoner James Bridle, artist, writer, and humanist, deliver a talk, “A Quiet Disposition,” about his self education on drones.  It was the launch for Mr. Bridle's exhibit on "unmanned aerial vehicles," which, among other things, are used to kill, herd livestock, help with land surveys, and assist in fire and crime prevention.
Five research-based projects form the basis of the show which include digital installations and training tools to identify drones.  Mr. Bridle, 33, coined the term new aesthetic.

With its proximity to the White House, the Corcoran makes an excellent drone art site at the corner of 17th and E where Mr. Bridle, with the aid of Corcoran staff, outlined a drone's silhouette. He is replicating drone sizes and educating people about them around the world. 
At the Corcoran's corner at 17th and E streets with a drone shadow outlined on the sidewalk.  Across the street and to the left are White House grounds/Corcoran Gallery of Art

A drone's shadow in Istanbul, 2012/James Bridle
In his talk Mr. Bridle presented drone images and information, part of his expanding knowledge about them, all of which he obtained from public sources.  
James Bridle speaking at the Corcoran Gallery of Art with a photograph he created. Public photographs of drones firing weapons are not available...unless, unless...Mr. Snowden?/Patricia Leslie
Rather than an angry mob burning an effigy at the stake, Pakistanis were pictured burning a drone in a photograph Mr. Bridle put up on the screen along with a headline from the Washington Post about America's "kill lists." [One estimate numbers drone attacks in Pakistan over nine+ years to be more than 350.  The number of deaths range from about 2,000 to 3,300.]
A lack of visual sense of what drones do is unsettling, Mr. Bridle said, whereas battlefield engagements are photographed and can be widely available.  This is "not a local issue," he said. "These are everywhere." 
The Smithsonian label says this one, the "Predator," flew 196 reconnaissance and attack missions over Afghanistan.  Designed for combat, it also "served" over Iraq and the Balkans/Patricia Leslie
[In the U.S. 42 state legislatures have debated their use, and six states have enacted drone laws. Click here for a report by the ACLU.]  
Before his talk Mr. Bridle visited the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum to check out its drones, a visit which he found “a deeply strange experience.” 
This drone, now an "antique," retired in 1999.  It's the RQ-3A "DarkStar," reminiscent of a giant stingray in the sky/Patricia Leslie
Mr. Bridle has initiated what he terms “dronestagrams” to record drone locations and strikes.  The results are not perfect but fairly close to reality, he said.
When the military considered honoring drone operators with a medal to be ranked higher than the Purple Heart, veterans objected.  After all, the operators guide their strikes from inside air-conditioned trailers hundreds or thousands of miles away from battlefields where troops fight, die, and are maimed.  However, Mr. Bridle said drone operators experience higher levels of stress. 
This is the X-45A, the first modern UAV, which flew 40 sorties, now at the Air and Space Museum.  Overheard at the museum:  A man said to his wife:  "Honey, come and look.  Here's what they spying on us with."/Patricia Leslie

The X-45A has two weapons bays/Patricia Leslie
Looking up at the X-45A/Patricia Leslie

“What interests the public is not necessarily in the interest of the public,” said Mr. Bridle. 
After Mr. Bridle's talk he answered questions from the audience, and then everyone walked over to a lovely reception in Gallery 31, the drone site at the Corcoran. It is not a huge show, but an enlightening one where you’ll learn something about drones. It sent me straight to the Air and Space Museum and scared me out of my wits.  What's left.
After a lapse of several years of dormancy while it debated mission and location, it is exciting to see the Corcoran come to life again, with an invigorated staff and events and to know it’s staying put, not to be converted to a hotel or drone landing pad at the White House.  
Welcome, Corcoran, to the new Drone World!  While you were napping, strange things were happening, and even stranger things now.  Please stand by.
Also at the Corcoran through September 29: War/Photography:  Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath.
What:  A Quiet Disposition
When:  Through July 7, Wednesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., with a late closing on Wednesday night at 9 p.m.
Where: Corcoran College of Art and Design and Gallery of Art, 500 17th Street, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20006
How much:  Gallery 31 is free, and the Corcoran's Gallery of Art is free on Saturday (in the summer) and on other days (the Corcoran is closed on Monday and Tuesday) admission is $10.75 for students and seniors, and $12.75 for adults via Ticketmaster
For more information: 202-639-1700
Metro stations:  Farragut North or Farragut West

Monday, June 24, 2013

A star-studded evening at the National Symphony Orchestra

Jean-Yves Thibaudet/Cincinnati
How was I so lucky to be able to attend the best performance of the year by the National Symphony Orchestra?  Or, at least, of the six concerts I heard?

My $11 seat three rows from the front at the Kennedy Center Friday night on the "piano side" was equivalent to a 50-yard chair when the Redskins play Dallas. 

Jean-Yves Thibaudet, born in Lyon, France in 1961 and "one of today's most sought after soloists," according to the program which quotes verbatim from his website, did dazzle with his performance of Camille Saint-Saens' Piano Concerto No. 5 in F major, Op. 103, "Egyptian."  His fingers raced up and down the keyboard faster than a fan's blades turn in summer, and the magical music we heard coming from the piano was truly astonishing, given the pounding inflected upon it by Thibaudet. He was up and down from the bench so frequently one guesses he never need exercise.

At the end the crowd roared, and the pianist, who has played around the world for three decades and recorded more than 50 albums, returned to the stage for three encores which ended the first part of the program.

At intermission in the aisle was a woman, about 80, complimenting Thibaudet's performance:  "I've traveled around the world," she said, and it was about time the National Symphony put on a really good show.  "Shut up," said the man (her husband?) as he guided her up the aisle with his hands on her shoulders.  "No one wants to hear you!"  (I was taken aback, more by him than by her.)

It was a spectacular evening, beginning with Edvard Grieg's familiar Peer Gynt, Suite No. 1, and ending with Witold Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra. 

Krzysztof Urbanski was the guest conductor

The guest conductor making his NSO debut was Krzysztof Urbanski, the music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the chief conductor for the Trondheim Symfoniorkester and the principal guest conductor of the Tokyo Symphony. Quite the showman himself who has won many awards and conducted all of Poland's major orchestras, Urbanski, age 29, was a a danseur at the podium to watch him weave and wave the baton and urge the orchestra to follow his commands.  His modern, upswept hair style might be worthy of an Oscar nomination.

Meanwhile,  Thibaudet's wardrobe, the program noted, was designed by Vivienne Westwood.  It included a diamond oblong belt buckle of about 2.5 by 1.5 inches, a diamond-filled emerald cut brooch (about 2 by 1 inches) hanging from a necklace, and a single diamond-studded earring. A black satin jacket and black patent-leather shoes complemented his score.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Another day on the National Mall

Lynda Farley of Edmonton, Kentucky stopped traffic on the National Mall Wednesday with her message about smokers' rights/Patricia Leslie

On the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol before several thousand Wednesday, Michele Bachmann waxed poetic into a microphone for a few minutes about the evils of the Internal Revenue Service.  Mrs.Bachmann went to work for the IRS after she finished law school so she could work inside the enemy and find out exactly what was going on, she exclaimed to the throng.  (Then, why did it take her 20 years to reveal her discovery?)

Tea Partiers covered the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday and listened to Michele Bachmann, among others, talk about the evil of taxes. President Ulysses S. Grant presided from his horse (on the left)/Patricia Leslie
Save the world, Michele Bachmann shall!  But not from her seat in the U.S. Congress since she's quitting.
A van with a message/Patricia Leslie
Meanwhile, a little further west, beyond the Capitol Reflecting Pool and parked on Third Street was a well-decorated (every spare inch) minivan occupied by Lynda Farley of Farley Road in Edmonton, Kentucky. 
Mrs. Farley's vehicle gained some attention on the Mall Wednesday/Patricia Leslie
Mrs. Farley, an advocate for smokers' rights, sat in the driver's seat puffing away on one cigarette after another, and giving to anyone who stopped at the passenger's window for a few seconds, a little American flag with her website printed on the wooden stick:  libertyvan. com.

Lynda Farley of Edmonton, Kentucky, funds her smokers' rights campaign with money from retirement and inheritance/Patricia Leslie

She has taken her smokers' rights message to 49 state capitols (Fairbanks, Alaska is the exception) and put more than 367,000 miles on her car ("two engines!") but a traffic citation for "books on my dashboard!" will keep her in Washington at least through her court appearance on Friday.
A dashboard of books violates the law in Washington, D.C./Patricia Leslie

(First we have national surveillance of every email and phone call we make. Next, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to inspect every morsel of food New Yorkers discard, in addition to checking trash, and that's just the beginning!  The government wants our light bulbs, and you better watch out for your coffee before it's taxed or banned, and now, it’s books we read!  Or pile on our dashboards.  Just like Orwell wrote about in 1984 whose sales, by the way, are up 3,000 percent ever since the national surveillance story broke.  Thank you very much, Edward Snowden.)

Anyway, Mrs. Farley, who left her husband at home with the dogs (18 Afghans which they breed), said the traffic cop tried to give her a ticket for obscured rear visibility until Mrs. Farley pointed out she has special cameras to show the view of the rear, so the traffic cop cited her for a crowded book dashboard, instead.  (Try Googling that.  And, if they wanna get you, they're gonna get you.  After all, this is a police state.)

"Look," said the tourist.  "Do you see what I see?" An large metal eagle with wings spread, and other items, on the minivan's attached wagon/Patricia Leslie
“Look,” said Mrs. Farley, lighting up another weed and proudly showing her copy of Rand Paul’s new book, Government Bullies, to an inquisitor:  “It’s autographed.”
A line of antique cars on the Mall piqued interest/Patricia Leslie
A few feet away and lined up on the Mall's gravel path were antique cars for passersby to photograph and envy. Nearby, the cars’ owners sat in lawn chairs on the grass or milled about while they piled hot dog lunches on paper plates.  They seemed somewhat dazed by all the activity and the Mall's competing factors.

Identification on this car said Dodge, but it looked like a Rolls Royce/Patricia Leslie

Little do they know what goes on here every day.  It's a great place to be. On the National Mall. 
God love it!
And us!
And them.
God bless the USA.
Anybody here old enough to remember the Corsair?/Patricia Leslie

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Friday night's jazz scene at the Sculpture Garden

Deanna Bogart and her band at the National Gallery's Sculpture Garden/Patricia Leslie

Every Friday!

I tell you:  Every Friday!  We've got to be there.
Good vibes, drink, ambience, people, people.

Dance with me, Henry.
All right, baby/Patricia Leslie

So what if all those country people are over at the National Building Museum whoopin’ and a’hollerin’. We got class at the Jazz Sculpture Garden.  Like last Friday when Deanna Bogurt and her band played the blues and jazz and her brand of "blusion."  We had a gooood time.
“Darlin’, that one’s mine! Don’t even think about taking a sip!”
“Oh, okay. Don’t we have enough for us each to have a pitcher?”/Patricia Leslie
If stretched from end to end, the legs of Louise Bourgeois's Spider, 1996, might equal the length of the beer line seen beyond/ Patricia Leslie

Ouch! Blisters and band-aids, all for the love of beauty in the beer line. What means comfort at a free jazzfest?/Patricia Leslie
 Chains on wheels? Or chains on heels? You got'em!/Patricia Leslie
The presiding officer of the day was President George Washington who held court from on high/Patricia Leslie

"Lovey, do you think there are sharks in this pond?"

"Silly, they only swim on Capitol Hill."/Patricia Leslie
She just looks like she's holding Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen's Typewriter Eraser, Scale X, 1999.  Does anyone here know what a typewriter eraser is? Or was?/Patricia Leslie

What better place to look at your newest National Gallery of Art catalogue than in the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden with good food and drink and sunshine to brighten your day?Patricia Leslie

What’s with Men in Red all of a sudden?/Patricia Leslie

A line at the men's room, I declare/Patricia Leslie
Whoops!  Wardrobe!  I want wardrobe!/Patricia leslie


Across the street National Archives watches with envy/Patricia Leslie

Upcoming Jazz Sculpture Garden programs run from 5 - 8 p.m.:

Hendrik Meurkens, June 21

Swingtopia, June 28

Ernest "EC3" Coleman and Friends, July 5

Juanita Williams, July 12

Euphonasia, July 19

Incendio, July 26

Brian Simms, August 2

Josh Bayer, August 9

Doc Scantlin's Palmettos, August 16

Dixie Power Trio, August 23

Bruno Nasta (jazz violin) and the U.S. Navy Commodores Jazz Ensemble, August 30

Where:  The Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art at the corner of 7th and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
How much:  No charge for admission
Food and beverages:  Available at the Garden and may be brought in with the exception of alcoholic beverages which may be purchased. Guards check bags.
Metro stations  Federal Triangle, Smithsonian, or Archives-Navy Memorial
For more information:  202-289-3360

Monday, June 17, 2013

Heurich House's got beer


Heurich House and Museum at 1307 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C./Patricia Leslie

This house is so much more than you expect.  The monthly event at Heurich House Museum is a Washington "find."

At first glance, $30 seemed like a big sum for a happy hour, an open beer house, and a look inside “the most intact Victorian house in the country," but the fee for the evening fete covers flowing beer “samplings,” tasty tiny treats (dinner for some) and the tours.

The tours!

"Come into my parlour, darling, and have a spot of bier with me."/Patricia Leslie

At your leisure, please.

“Drop on and off” whenever you like and listen to the docents describe the history and contents of Heurich House right off Dupont Circle. It is a glorious place to drink, eat, and learn some history inside the luxurious mansion where guests are kept at a minimum so you’re not bumpin’ and grindin’ in the beer lines.

Heurich House at 1307 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. has treats and brews/Patricia Leslie

And guests are not confined to the courtyard with its well-appointed butlers under a tent serving up the brews, but are invited to go inside the residence with beverages and carry them on all the open floors, and find replenishment in the kitchen, too.
The lovely courtyard at Heurich House and all its attractions make it difficult to escape and venture inside/Patricia Leslie

A brief stop in the kitchen with the docent.  Wait!  What's this?  Brew refills for the thirsty/Patricia Leslie

My kind of place, Heurich House.

If you’ve frequented the Dupont Circle area in the last 100 years, you’ve seen this house, no? And wondered, like me, about the inside and read the historical marker attached to the building, but the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday tours* do not mix well with your work schedule

Well, wait no more. (At least until June 20 for this month's “History and Hops” which, as of this writing, has only 39 places left. (Please click below for tickets.) Heavy Seas Brewery from Baltimore is Thursday's featured brewery. The soirees usually sell out in advance preventing walk-ins from walking in.)
A bedroom at Heurich House/Patricia Leslie

Heurich House (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) was built in 1892-94 by German immigrant Christian Heurich (1842-1945) who arrived in the U.S. in 1866 with $200.  He became an American beer baron, building a massive brewery on land which now separates the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge and the Kennedy Center. (Would that be in the Potomac River? I can't quite figure out the location. Maybe I've had too much of the brewmaster's brew.)

In its day the house, AKA the Brewmaster's Castle, was a “technological marvel” with "modern inventions" like full indoor plumbing, circulating hot water heat, an elevator shaft, and gas and electric lighting fixtures. It was Washington’s first fireproof house and has hand-painted ceilings.
Inside Heurich House/Patricia Leslie

Many family heirlooms are still here, and the first two floors are preserved intact with furniture constructed on site, according to a docent. (Once you visit, you'll understand…the size of the pieces.)

All the furniture at Heurich House is hand-crafted, and the wood in the dining room is walnut/Patricia Leslie

According to Kimberly Bender, the museum's executive director, the mantle and furniture in the dining room are oak, and the rest of the house, with its 30 more rooms and 15 never-used fireplaces (Mr. Heurich was afraid of fire), has furniture made of what's called “white mahogany” until someone can figure out what it is.

The docent was unsure what this setee is, but perhaps the sittee moved the curtain to allow cooler air to circulate? The first air-conditioned chair!  You know how stuffy chairs with three sides can be, rather like people/Patricia Leslie

Mr. Heurich lived in the house with Wife #2 (Mathilde who helped him build the house but who died shortly after its completion in 1894 as a result of injuries from an accident in a horse-drawn carriage) and Wife #3 (Amelia, the niece of his first wife, also named Amelia).  The year before she died in 1956, Amelia II deeded Heurich House  to the Historical Society of Washington which later deeded it to the Heurich House Foundation. The Heuriches (Amelia II) had four children and were assisted by German servant girls who lived on the fourth floor.
A doll's house at Heurich House/Patricia Leslie

The luggage room at Heurich House.  Mr Heurich crossed the Atlantic 73 times, and Amelia II, 44.  Their three children grew weary of travel and liked to stay home or at the family farm near Hyattsville, Maryland/Patricia Leslie

Mr. Heurich and Amelia II both died in the house whose longevity stands as an example of beer's benefits.  Mr. Heurich lived 102 years and outlived two of his three wives. As they say in Germany:  "Viva Bier" or, at Heurich House: "Practice moderation and drink Heurich's beer."
Looking out on the courtyard from the parlour at  Heurich House /Patricia Leslie

BTW, the Heurich Mausoleum, sculpted by Louis Amateis, at Rock Creek Cemetery is worth a look, too. It was part of the Smithsonian's Save Outdoor Sculpture! survey from 1993.

Other summer events at Heurich House are free Friday night movies in the garden (bring your own treats) and one-week camps for children ages 10-12 beginning June 24 and July 22 ($350).

What: Heurich House Museum

*When: 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. for the brew tours on the third Thursday of every month, and tours every Thursday and Friday at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., and Saturday at 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. with reservations, highly recommended

Where: 1307 New Hampshire Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20036

How much: $30 for the Third Thursday Happy Hour with tours, and $5 (unless you're a member of the National Trust, $3) for the tours on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.  Private tours are offered. Click here for beer tickets.

Metro station: Dupont Circle South

For more information: 202-429-1894 and check this
link for an extensive article on Mr. Heurich by Mark Benbow of Marymount University who also writes the blog,, which describes the Heurich Brewery, its history, and the beers manufactured there.
Heurich House at 1307 New Hampshire Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C./Patricia Leslie

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Signature Theatre's 'Company' is mixed

Company's group dancing is tops at Signature Theatre in Arlington/Scott Suchman

If you want to discourage anyone from getting married, Company is the play to see. I went expecting to hear more humor than reality.

The ending of this musical, now on stage at Signature Theatre in Arlington, is not a “happy" one.  Depending upon which way you lean, it's either "for" or "against" marriage, and it's left to the viewer to decide.  Throughout the presentation, however, most of the characters "suffer" marriage and all its pitfalls and are miserable.  (Hmmm, maybe an opportunity to appreciate your own relationship and strive to make it better?)

The music is routine and forgettable.

Company did earn six Tonys when it was nominated for 14 in 1971 (a record), so somebody up there must like it, but it is the composition, written by the notable
Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930) who based it on George Furth's book, which is mediocre. Who cares in 2013 what marriage is for a bunch of provincial New York dilettantes?

April (Madeline Botteri) and Bobby (Matthew Scott) up in the swing/Scott Suchman

Given the script, Signature's director, Eric Schaeffer, does an admirable job, yet the production lacks soaring flash and dash.   

"Bobby," or "Robert," acted and sung passably by Matthew Scott, is a 35-year-old bachelor who surrounds himself not with other singles, but with five married couples who, natch, try to get him to jump on their loveless boats and get married.  (Misery loves company.) Why would Bobby want to hang out with them? Why would anyone?

Bobby has three girlfriends, about par for today's course, and is smitten by none. Marta (Carolyn Cole), by looks and appearance seems out of sync with the other two (Jamie Eacker, also dance captain, and Madeline Botteri), and all three women deliver some of the strongest performances of the production, especially Botteri who plays the stereotypical air brain airline hostess whose bed romp with Bobby was about the best I've seen on stage. 

The three girlfriends, from left, Marta (Carolyn Cole), Kathy (Jamie Eacker), and April (Madeline Botteri)/Scott Suchman

The costuming (Frank Labovitz) is an excellent fit with the ordinary which mirror the show's general malaise.  Everyone is dressed up in muted grey and white or bone, except for Bobby in a dark blue shirt.  For the striking dance numbers (Matthew Gardiner), the apparel is classy. (One gratuitous scene was a female solo dance number which left me confounded as to its purpose.)

The set's frame (Daniel Conway) remains stationary, but that is immaterial since frequent scene changes of furniture and lighting shifts (Chris Lee) combine to deliver an abstract stage filled with triangles, shadows, and glorious cool mood lighting, presenting theatregoers with a viewpoint of watching a light show while perched on a refrigerator shelf or on a spaceship.  It's a rambunctious ride with large, changing photographs high on the backdrop to distract and create confusion. 
A nine-piece orchestra under the direction of Jon Kalbfleisch complements the production nicely without overpowering any voices. Matt Rowe's sound is inconspicuous, the best kind.

The production's highlights belong to the excellent group choreography, and the vignettes acted by Erin Weaver as Amy and Erin Driscoll as Jenny.  Women rule this show.  And three of the couples are really married:  Joanne (Sherri Edelen) is married to Larry (Thomas Adrian Simpson), Sarah (Tracy Lynn Olivera) is married to Harry (Evan Casey), and Jenny is married to David (James Gardiner).
Will she (Erin Weaver as Amy) or won't she? Marry Paul (Paul Scanlan) in Company/Scott Suchman

This production is not for the young, but for comfortably married old folks, i.e. "baby boomers" (certainly for not anyone considering d-i-v-o-r-c-e!) and theatre-lovers, too, especially in halls that are as seductive as Signature’s. 

Two years ago Sondheim’s Follies left the Kennedy Center after a month’s run,  bound for New York, so why can’t this go to New York, too?  It’s certainly better than Follies. 

What:  Company

When:  Now through June 30 every night with weekend matinees, too.  Dark on Mondays.

Where:  Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington, Virginia 22206

How much:  From $30.  
Click here for tickets.

Metro station: Pentagon and then, a short bus ride from there.  Use Metro's Trip Planner to plan a route.

Free parking:  At two nearby garages.  Check here. 

For more information: 703-820-9771 or email