Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 171/365 - Go Fly a Kite

Today was the Forty-Third Annual Smithsonian Kite Festival on the grounds of the Washington Monument. Too bad the weather was less than optimal for kite flying -- chilly, misty rain, and not much wind. Still, everyone there seemed to be enjoying themselves. This is one of those DC events I always mean to take part in but I forget about it until the last minute. This year at least I was able to take photos of it. Next year, I'm buying myself a kite and joining in the fun.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 170/365 - Ion

Tonight I went to the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harmon Hall to attend a performance of the play "Ion" by the ancient Greek playwright Euripides, as recently re-translated by David Lan. For a play that's over two thousand years old, it's awfully funny and entertaining. The story arises from, as many Greek tales do, a liaison between a male god and a mortal woman. Their resulting offspring, left abandoned in the wilderness by his mother, grows up to become a temple attendant who knows neither his name nor his origins.

When his mother, now queen of Athens, accompanies her husband on a pilgrimage to consult the oracle of the temple her lost son serves, the action is set in motion and leads to joy, jealousy, confusion, murderous plots, reunions, and divine intervention. Not to mention more than a few laughs. The play is very irreverent for its time, openly criticizing the gods for their hypocrisy in punishing the sins of mankind while they flagrantly sin themselves and reciting the timeless plaint against a heaven that allows the wicked to prosper while the righteous suffer.

The performances in "Ion" are uniformly excellent. There is not a single off note or weak actor amongst the cast. The set design is simple but effective and the descent of divine characters from the rafters of the theater is handled well, as is the use of puppets to relate the prelude to the play. The costumes are done in a way that neatly marks the divide between the spiritual and the mundane, the permanent and the impermanent, with the gods and temple servants arrayed in the traditional dress of ancient Greece and the visitants to the temple attired in modern clothes.

The play is short, clocking in at a well-paced 90 minutes without intermission, and the Harmon Center itself is a very pleasant, convenient, and effective venue. Even though "Ion" concerns a time and a people that have long since passed, it remains relevant today. In fact, given that the play in essence concerns the circumstances and consequences of an unwanted pregnancy, it's hard to see how it could be any more contemporary.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200 and processed using the watercolor effect on an old version of Microsoft's Photo Editor program)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 169/365 - Ida Maria & Glasvegas in Concert

There was a double bill of Norwegian rocker Ida Maria and Scottish band Glasvegas at the Black Cat tonight and I went, largely on the basis of a single song -- Ida Maria's "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked."

Before heading over to the gig I stopped by Al Crostino, a small Italian restaurant and wine bar on U Street, for dinner. It turned out to be one of the best meals I've had in a while (and it gave me a chance to slurp down a couple glasses of prosecco). The pasta e fagioli (pasta and bean soup) was comparable to the version I had in Venice and the Osso Bucco with soft polenta was one of the best dishes I've had in DC. The polenta in particular was mindblowingly delicious. I was running late for the concert, so I didn't have time to try any of their desserts, but now I have an excuse to go back. I'd rate Al Crostino as the second best Italian restaurant I've been to in DC, after Galileo.

As for the show, Ida Maria was as good as I'd hoped. She played a short, full throttle set that was pure attitude, energy, and rock and roll. And the live version of "Better When You're Naked" didn't disappoint. With the way she sings I don't know how she has any voice left. She must have vocal cords of steel. Glasvegas isn't really my thing, so I left about 20 minutes into their set. A lot of people there seemed to like them (although I did notice I wasn't the only person leaving early), but to me all their songs sounded the same. They were just kinda mopey and dull and the vocals were very muddy and indistinct so I couldn't tell you what the hell they were singing about. They seem to try and cover their shortcomings by amping up the volume. It's rock so it's supposed to be loud, but playing 'stadium loud' in a small-ish club like the Black Cat is neither big nor clever. It's just L-O-U-D.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 168,365 - Oh No, It's Godzilla!

As you may be able to surmise from today's photo, my cable is still out so I continue having to find ways to amuse myself. For this shot I used one of my white dress shirts as a backdrop and then set my stuffed Godzilla on it and took a photo. You can't tell it from this shot, but if you press his chest his eyes light up red and he makes the Godzilla sound. It's totally cool!

For the illustrations, I used Microsoft Paint. This is the sort of drawing I used to do all the time in grade school, although then I'd draw the Godzilla as well. I loved the old Japanese monster movies when I was a kid. You could usually skip the first hour of them because that was mostly just talking. The second hour was when the good stuff happened -- monster on monster fights; tanks, jets and rockets firing (always to no effect); and cities being laid waste.

I think my favorite movies were "Godzilla vs. King Kong" and "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster." Ooh, and I almost forgot Mechagodzilla. Godzilla + Robot = Awesome!

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 167/365 - Kickball!

I have officially leapt over the precipice into the yawning chasm of geekdom -- I joined an adult kickball league. I'll be playing in the Washington Monument division of the DC chapter of the World Adult Kickball Association. We play our games near the Washington Monument (duh) on Sundays starting the first week of next month. My friend Adriana and I signed up together so we could get placed on the same team. That way neither of us had to be the 'new kid' on our own.

It should be fun. I figure it will get me outdoors and get me some exercise if nothing else, plus I'll get to meet new people to drink beer with. Every division has a designated after-game bar to hang out in. Ours is the Exchange over by the White House. Given that I haven't played kickball since I was in the sixth grade, it's a near certainty I'll be terrible at it so hopefully my teammates won't take kickball uber-seriously. I mean, it is kickball after all.

The woman in charge of our division said there are still plenty of openings, so if you've ever considered making a fool of yourself in front of a bunch of tourists now is the time to sign up. And we've even got one spot still left on my team if you're interested!

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 166/365 - Oh Noes!

For this week's self-portrait we have documentary proof of me being forced to amuse myself due to the fact that my cable is out. I look like an African tribal version of Mr. Bill here. I ordered this mask from a catalog years and years ago and I think it came from Ghana, but I can't remember for sure. It looks cool hanging on the wall but it sucks as an actual mask because, unless you have a hammerhead shark somewhere in your family tree, the eyeholes are wayyyyyyy too far apart.

Getting back to my lack of cable miseries, apparently the line running to my apartment has been cut somewhere. The cable was out when I woke up yesterday morning and when I called it in they scheduled to have a technician come by this afternoon. Perfect, not a prob. My boss is really cool and understanding so I just went into the office this morning, picked up some files, and told him I'd be working at home.

So then the technician comes, plugs a monitoring device into my cable socket, and then tells me the line has been cut somewhere and there's no signal coming to my apartment. Yeah, I kinda figured out that last part for myself when both my tv sets had black screens. Unfortunately, wiring issues are handled by people in another division so there's nothing he can do but report it to HQ and then they'll send the wiring folks to look into it and they'll be in contact to schedule a convenient time for me if they need to enter my apartment, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Thanks, Comcast!

In fairness, the technician guy was on time and he was really nice and he apologized for the fact that I'd basically stayed home for nothing. I think I'd have felt better if he'd been late and been obnoxious. Then I could've vented my spleen on him.

So in the meanwhile I'm stuck with no cable and no one to really be mad at, apart from the mysterious saboteur who apparently cut or unplugged the cable line somewhere between where it enters the building on the roof and where it reaches my apartment ten floors later.

Oh well, at least I'll be able to watch tonight's episode of '24' on-line. Assuming the DSL doesn't suddenly go out as well, anyhow.

(Taken with my Nikon Coolpix S200)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Twice on Sunday Bonus Photo - Rialto Bridge

This week's extra shot from my archives is a photo of the Rialto Bridge I took on my recent trip to Venice. For several hundred years this was the only bridge spanning the Grand Canal.

Day 165/365 - The Circus Is in Town

I've always wanted to run away and join the circus just like Toby Tyler but I've never had the nerve, so tonight I just settled for going to the circus instead. The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus was in town playing the Verizon Center and I had a front row seat. It was a pretty good show this year. You could see a few Cirque du Soleil influences here and there, but it still hung on to its good old cheesy circus charm.

The lion (or in this case, tiger) tamer is always one of my favorite parts. This year's tamer was okay, but nothing special -- no jumping through flaming hoops or sticking his head in their mouths. A friend and I once went to a psychic fair and a lady there 'read' my past lives for ten bucks. She told me I'd been a lion tamer in the circus as well as a chariot racer in ancient Rome, an Islamic scholar in the medieval mideast, and a female silk weaver. I'm 99.9% certain it was hooey (she probably has a list of lives thought out in advance and then picks a few at random to tell the suckers), but still it was cool to be told I'd been a lion tamer.

My other circus favorite is the human cannonball, but they didn't have one in this year's show. It's sort of an odd thing to have as a favorite. There's a five-minute build-up for a two-second payoff and it's really just a guy flying through the air into a net, but I love it. Even without the human cannonball however it was a fun time. I ate a couple hot dogs and a box of popcorn, saw the circus, and thought about running away with it for the thousandth time.

(Taken with my Nikon D80)