The apparatchiks, too, were an eternal type. The tone of the new ones, in their TED Talks, in PowerPointed product launches, in testimony to parliaments and congresses, in utopianly titled books, was a smarmy syrup of convenient conviction and personal surrender that he remembered well from the Republic. He couldn’t listen to them without thinking of the Steely Dan lyric So you grab a piece of something that you think is gonna last. (Radio in the American Sector had played the song over and over to young ears in the Soviet sector.) The privileges available in the Republic had been paltry, a telephone, a flat with some air and light, the all-important permission to travel, but perhaps no paltrier than having x number of followers on Twitter, a much-liked Facebook profile, and the occasional four-minute spot on CNBC…. The New Regime even recycled the old Republic’s buzzwords, collective, collaborative. Axiomatic to both was that a new species of humanity was emerging. On this, apparatchiks of every stripe agreed. It never seemed to bother them that their ruling elites consisted of the grasping, brutal old species of humanity.
—Jonathan Franzen, Purity, pp. 448-449
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Sheila Callaghan’s new play, a satire of gender roles and social expectations about mental and physical fitness, features some high-energy set pieces: white girls rapping about how to satisfy them, a dance club that morphs into a Paris boîte in the 1920s, a food fight with heads of lettuce. There’s a rejuvenation regimen with just a few nasty side effects that suggests the grotesqueries of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. What the play lacks is any sort of emotional journey for Meredith, Tori, or Sandy to embark upon.
It’s only in the second act, when a well-executed reversal develops, that we see much in the way of human feelings: it comes in the form of a lovely monologue by Janet Ulrich Brooks, looking back on the life of her first act character (Sandy) through the eyes of Sandy’s son.
Women Laughing Alone with Salad, by Sheila Callaghan, directed by Kip Fagan, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
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One of the highlights of Kent Boese’s walking tour of the Park View neighborhood was the fancy architectural detailing on the 10th Precinct Police Station. The building was built in 1901; the architects were A. B. Mullet & Co.
I volunteered to assist on two tours this year for WalkingTown DC. Farley Earhart led the other, a nice loop around Tenleytown, a village centered on a crossroads that predates the federal city.
Robert E. Simon, the developer who started the beautiful community where I have lived for the past 30 years, has passed away, according to Michael Neibauer’s report. If Reston hadn’t come into being, I’m not sure that I would still be living here in the D.C. metro.
People of a certain age tend to look back elegiacally at the things that have gone: the store you used as a kid that closed, the room that became a memory. But those small, personal disappearances, however poignant, are not the same as losing biodiversity. Brands are not butterflies. Changes to city skylines are not the same as acres of beetle-blasted trees: Though they are caught up in stories about ourselves, trees are not ever just about us.
For Sunday, a short and sweet stroll along the Madison Run Fire Road at the foot of the Blue Ridge. Saturday’s rains freshened the green stuff everywhere.
The fire road follows the run up into the park; at this time of year, and after periods of drought, the run was more like a crawl. As you walk almost directly east into the park, the stream is on your right and some rather impressive cliffs, broken up by talus slopes, are on your left.
The group ID’d Wavy-leafed Aster (Symphyotrichum undulatum); see the wavy, clasping leaves on the right. I could not keep up with the group’s mania for keying out desmodiums and yet more asters, although I began to recognize Desmodium paniculatum. We found an interesting assassin bug, perhaps Apiomerus sp., that refused to stay in focus for my point-and-shoot; it was hanging out on a Gerardia pedicularia.
Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides), working its way into the crevices of this outcrop, is quite beautiful.
Lynn Cameron led a (slightly damp) walk on two Augusta County trails in the George Washington National Forest for my first day of field trips with Virginia Native Plant Society. Tom Wieboldt, Curator of Vascular Plants at Virginia Tech’s Massey Herbarium (and descendant of William A. Wieboldt), assisted with many of the IDs, including this goldenrod, Solidago curtisii. Eastern Hemlocks in this area seem to be doing OK; Lynn says the Forest Service is applying a treatment against insect pests.
Our destination on the first walk was this striking view of Hone Quarry Ridge, with Shenanadoah Mountain in the distance. A bouncy drive on Forest Service roads then took us to a driving top atop Reddish Knob, which was (as expected) fogged in.
We then pushed on to a second short walk in the headwaters of North River, a tributary of the Shenandoah. The group turned up this brightly-colored guy, an adult Red-Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) in its terrestrial red eft form.
Bonus bird for the trip: Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus), sauntering along the fire road as we drove for home.
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A couple of orb weaver spiders have taken up residence in webs strung across my back door. This one is a bit longer than a centimeter from head to abdomen; the other is significantly smaller, but its markings are similar. Here’s hoping that someone familiar with mid-Atlantic arachnids can help me out with an ID.
From time to time I would remember a TV series from my childhood with a fairly simple premise: whatever the problem at hand might be, it could be solved by hopping into an airboat and zipping through the bayous to the other end of the county. Sky King of the wetlands, as it were. But the name of this series eluded me.
At long last, after a bit of stumbling about with the Googles, I turned up the name of the series: Everglades!. It ran for 38 episodes in 1961-62. Some sources connect it to Ivan Tors, producer of Sea Hunt and Flipper, which makes sense, because when I would describe this show to my friends, they would say, “Oh, you’re talking about Flipper.” But Flipper didn’t know how to pilot an airboat, as far as I can remember. (The IMDb entry says that ZIV Television Films produced Everglades!, but a Tors connection is not out of the question.)