Small steps

It’s possible that I’ve overlooked this bin at my local Whole Foods, but I think not. Whole Foods has been partnering with the Cork Forest Conservation Alliance for some time now to collect wine corks for recycling. I’m really glad to see this new collection point in Reston.

Posted in Recycling and Sustainability
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Full of noises

Peter and Tuska are part of a colony on the planet Oasis. Far from being alien or exotic, living conditions on USIC’s base are designed to be stiflingly mundane, right down to the piped-in music:

They were sitting at a table in the USIC mess hall. Tuska was tucking into spaghetti Bolognese (whiteflower spaghetti, whiteflower “mince,” imported tomato sauce, imported herbs) and Peter was eating a pancake (100 percent local). The air was full of noises: the sound of rain pelting rhythmically against the windows, the mingled conversations of other employees, the clattering of metal trays, the scraping of chairs, the opening and shutting of doors, and Frank Sinatra crooning “My Funny Valentine.” It all seemed a grossly excessive amount of bustle and chatter to Peter, but he knew the problem was his perception, and he must try to get in the swing of it. The metaphorical swing, that is: no amount of effort could reconcile him to Frank Sinatra.

—Michel Faber, The Book of Strange New Things, chap. 17
Posted in Annoyances, Quotable
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Long Road Home

It was quite a pleasure to see a full evening’s program from Company E, after having seen this young modern-dance organization at the VelocityDC Dance Festival showcase. The opener, the duet “Alma,” introduces an intriguing twist: the floor is liberally scattered with Granny Smith apples. Finding a way to execute the piece within this self-imposed structural obstacle makes for a dance with a fresh, improvisational vibe—quite satisfying. The piece also flirts with that silly pass-the-orange game that our hip parents used to play. (The company has filmed a site-specific version of “Alma” at a temple in Shanghai.)

“Jerky Boy’s Dream,” a premiere, takes us into mid-century pop dances: frugs and jitterbugs. If the choice of music is uneven (The Tijuana Brass is lovely camp, but really, do we need to hear Mrs. Miller?), the fourth dance of the suite, in which the pair manipulate each other like love-struck marionettes, is very sexy.

Paul Gordon Emerson’s “Falling” is a beautiful signature piece for the company, executed this time by Vanessa Owen and Robert J. Priore: an insistently yearning, driving movement from stage right to left, with holy music by Arvo Pärt.

The evening’s other premiere, the ensemble dance “Dialogue of a Portrait,” is powered by late-century techno by Autechre and others. Seven dancers gradually amass in a tight pool of light before bursting into hard-edged, robotic movement: this is what social dancing will look like when there are twenty billion of us on the planet. But let’s hope we’re not wearing this unflattering makeup.

  • Long Road Home, Company E, Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, Washington
Posted in Dance, Reviews
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You’re standing on my neck

Chris Kopcow and I see eyes-to-eyes on Daria.

Since the show went off the air, there really hasn’t been too much like it.

Posted in Television
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[Insert fishing metaphor]

Geoffrey K. Pullum copy-edits a phishing attempt.

Posted in Annoyances
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Step back!

Lauren Ober interviews Randi Miller, the voice of Metro’s “doors closing” announcements.


Posted in Transit in D.C.
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New database

This looks promising: the New Play Exchange has just launched,

a crowd-sourced, open-access database of plays, playwrights, and producers built for everyone who makes, looks for, and loves new work for the theatre, will become available to everyone with access to the internet.

Posted in Theater
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Roslyn Sulcas profiles five top dancers with New York City Ballet.

Posted in Dance
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Neglected no more

Jimmy Carter talks to Diane Cole about his and Rosalyn’s work to eradicate Guinea worm disease.

Our main commitment at the Carter Center is to fill vacuums in the world. We don’t duplicate what others are doing. If the World Health Organization or the United Nations or the United States government or [other organizations] are doing work, we don’t get involved. We tackle problems that other people aren’t addressing.

Posted in Health and Medicine
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On deck: 13

another bookrackNew books on the shelf, thanks to Brett, Leta, Cleveland’s Horizontal Books, and Powell’s.

Posted in Like Life
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I’d go with Freedman’s Village Hwy

Eric Green wonders why major thoroughfares in the Commonwealth are named for traitors to their country:

It’s been suggested that Jefferson Davis Highway should be called the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial Highway (for obvious reasons) or Freedman’s Village Highway, to honor a camp, established in South Arlington during the Civil War, where African Americans fled to escape slavery in the South.

I’ll sweeten the deal: find new names for Jeff Davis Highway and Lee Highway and I’ll stop referring to DCA (officially Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport) as Strikebreaker Airport.

Greater Greater Washington

Posted in Local News and Views, Public Policy and Politics
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Home rule or House rule?

WAMU’s Metro Connection devotes a complete show to the vexed problem of self-determination for the 600+ thousand citizens of the District of Columbia, and its lack of voting representation in the Congress—from the 1965 Voting Rights Act to today.

A few weeks ago, I was asked what my favorite public radio program was. Partly to remind my questioner that much of what airs is produced by local member NPR stations, I nominated Metro Connection. With the production of this hour, the show has become my favoritest.

Posted in Equal rights for D.C.
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Quality, not quantity

The Economist’s Free Exchange blog interprets recent research which suggests that the economic effects of environmental regulation are not nearly as severe as those on the pro-business right would have it.

There are several possible explanations for the finding. One is that damage from environmental regulation is not great enough to change the overall productivity figures. A rule of thumb says a 10% change in the oil price is associated with a 0.2% change in GDP, so if green taxes push up energy prices by only a few cents, their macroeconomic impact might be modest. The effect on jobs, investment or trade, though, might be greater.

Another explanation may be that stricter environmental regulations do as much good as harm.

Posted in Economics and Business, Public Policy and Politics
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Follow the yellow brick road

Definitely an oldie but a goodie: in a 1990 paper for Journal of Political Economy, Hugh Rockoff put together a marvelous reading of L. Frank Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) as an allegory of the pros and cons of bimetallism as a progressive-era monetary policy (caveat lector: there are some scannos in this copy of the paper). (The Free Silver crowd argued for the [inflationary] return to silver coinage as a means to break out of the U.S.’s late-19th-century deflation.) Those of us familiar only with the 1939 film version might scoff, but when Rockoff reminds us that Baum gave Dorothy silver slippers to wear, not ruby, as she skipped along the golden road—well, the parallels begin to line up. My favorite is the explanation of Dorothy’s vanquishing the Wicked Witch of the West (William McKinley) with a bucket of water: in an era when dryland farmers of the Plains west of the 100th meridian claimed that just a little more rain would make their lands bloom, it all makes sense.

(Ah, it turns out that Rockoff was anticipated by Quentin Taylor and others.)

N. Gregory Mankiw, Principles of Economics, 7/e

Posted in Economics and Business, Prose Fiction
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Famous Puppet Death Scenes

A collection of short pieces of puppetry, all of them concerned with death—or more broadly and accurately, the evanescence of existence—from the broadly comic to the baldly conceptual. The company uses a variety of techniques and materials: some of them are rather steampunk and indebted to Edward Gorey, while others depend on such elements as an oversize popup book, a child’s play set of farm animals, or live-blown soap bubbles (chew on that, Joseph Cornell). (Some of the more obscure works of the Neo-Futurists find a certain affinity here.) Spoken English language is relegated to obscurity: perhaps the most effective pieces are wordless, narrated by grunts and gasps, or in a foreign language. Most of the time, the troupe is not concerned whether we see the manipulating hands or not: if it happens, it happens. While the interludes spoken by “Nathanial Tweak,” one of the few articulating puppets in the cast, lend little to the proceedings, the troupe’s ability to animate mute wood and plastic is strong.

Posted in Reviews, Theater
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