Via DCist, another organization dedicated to linking Montgomery and P.G. County suburbs with light rail. See also the Inner Purple Line. My predeliction is for heavy rail, but I look at the twisty alignments that are being discussed, and I consider the graceful, older neighborhoods involved, and I begin to think that light rail is the better choice.
Compare the Anacostia light rail project in the District, for which ground has been broken (but, disturbingly, with little progress to report since 2004), and the Columbia Pike initiative in Arlington, in the planning stages.
Via The Morning News, the International Astronomical Union goes all inclusive on us, and decides Pluto can still be called one of the planets, albeit as part of a new second-class category called plutons, reports Alok Jha.
Via ArtsJournal, I am gratified to read that the New York revival of The Fantasticks in the Snapple Theater Center at Broadway and 50th Street will capture much of the ambience of the old Sullivan Street venue. The new space puts the audience on three sides, as in the original, using 199 seats recycled from a cinema. But there are some improvements onstage and back-:
The Snapple Theater Center boasts full dressing rooms backstage for the entire cast, not just a show curtain around the one female cast member’s changing area as at Sullivan Street.
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This revival also uses two key props rescued from the original run: the China silk curtain, on which [composer Harvey] Schmidt painted the show’s logo in his distinctive spiky handwriting, and the plywood disc that has a moon painted on one side and a sun on the other, which is used to suggest the two themes of Act I and Act II.
Fred Lewis’ preview piece for Silver Spring Stage’s Coyote on a Fence from last April features lighting designer Don Slater, including a correctly-exposed photograph of Don shining a lighting instrument in the direction of the camera.
Less is more: David Pogue, presbyopic, gets grumpy about text sizes on laptop computers. Leta’s parallel crusade is against print designers: the type on show programs, business cards, and food product labels is getting teeny-tiny.
Via Lifehacker, a lightweight way to draw bar graphs in Excel.
Ooh! Ooh! And some elaborations on the theme.
Leta and I are tweaking the short monologue The Gold Lunch that I will be doing at the one-act festival two weekends from now. Once we got past some initial flabbiness on my part (Leta would say, “You’re not connected to this. You sound like Jaclyn Smith on Charlie’s Angels.”) we found a groove for it.
What is still difficult, what we are working and reworking like a fussy passage in an oil painting, is the opening 60 seconds. I’m giving this from atop the customary 3-level podium (John B. is building it) all lit up like Oscar night. This is the piece’s expository passage, where the Medalist (as we’re calling Ron Carlson’s anonymous narrator) has to sell the audience on the idea that Eating Lunch with Your Ex-Wife is now a medal sport in the Olympics. Once he gets us through that section, he can go on (from a set dressed with a lovely tile table and chairs that we found in the theater lobby) to show how he won the gold.
But it’s that opening minute (out of maybe 13:00, tops) that is killing us. Leta has tried suggesting any number of images—Lou Gehrig’s farewell at Yankee Stadium, the kiss-and-cry area just off the ice at a figure skating competition, Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech, getting a mic shoved in your face by Mary Hart at the Emmys—to motivate what happens. We’ll find something that works, eventually.
I found a suitably smudgy recording of the national anthem to play for the opening music, but Leta kiboshed my recording of Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man” for curtain call. We’re going to try some Blossom Dearie instead.
Via scribble, scribble, scribble, John Freeman interviews the semi-reclusive Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Joe Queenan’s bedside bookstand must be a library table: at any given moment, he’s reading two dozen books.
The closest I can come to understanding my reading habits is the possibility that I became addicted to starting books as a child because books usually take off like a house on fire but then ease up around Page 70. The Iliad kicks off with Achilles’ decision to go off and pout, denuding the narrative of its star performer, so it is understandable why a thrill-seeking kid might set it aside and take a crack at Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. Most books written by journalists start off with two good chapters, followed by loads of padding, then regain a bit of momentum for the big roundup. This is because editors encourage writers to frontload the merchandise, jamming all the good stuff into the early chapters, the only chapters that will ever get read. I was once told that readers regularly abandon books around Page 60, vowing to get back to them later. Well, I do get back to them later. I started Lord Jim in high school and finished it when I was 52. Gratification delayed is gratification all the same.
If you’ve ever wondered why all the underground stations of Metro look so much alike, and why you can’t just glance out the window and find where you are from the color of the posts (as in Chicago, for instance), you have the Commission of Fine Arts to thank, in part. The CFA had oversight over Harry Weese’s station designs, and reviewed them at critical points in 1967, according to Zachary M. Schrag’s excellent The Great Society Subway: A History of the Washington Metro. Certain members of the CFA, among them architecture critic Aline Saarinen, admitted that they had little experience with underground transit—she took hired cars in New York—and yet she said, “I don’t really believe if I’m on a subway I come to and say, ‘Oh, that’s the blue station; I’ve got to get off here.'” (Schrag, p. 91)
Of course, our out-of-town visitors sometimes take the Red Line/Orange Line/etc. designations too literally, and wonder why the stations aren’t the same color as the line designation, instead of their impressive and uniform concrete gray, brick red tile, and granite.
Via Tangled Bank, Coturnix interprets research by Joshua Tewksbury and Gary Nabhan into the two-part evolutionary strategy of hot chili pepper plants: the fruits are brightly colored, soft, and sweet-smelling in order to attract birds, but unpleasantly spicy to repel mammals. The team fed peppers to birds (a species of thrasher, specifically), which passed the seeds in a viable state; but the seeds of peppers fed to packrats and cactus mice were usually partially digested.
Via The Morning News, 5ives is back in semi-regular posting, including Five things that make me smile.
Alas. Seth Stevenson says “Sucks is here to stay,” and he’s probably right. (Via Bookslut, and no, the irony is not lost on me.)
So long to Rollo, from guest blogger Charlie. Rollo was a good dog, and he learned early on that I wasn’t the one who was going to give him a treat.