National Arboretum

onerfairwayAfter my trip to the Dogwood Collection earlier this month to get a snap of the plaque honoring Louisa King, I returned to get a look at the trees in bloom. Protip: The garden was peopleless at 8:00 of a Saturday morning, right after the gates opened.

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Waxy

What’s it like to record an aria on 120-year-old technology? Met tenor Piotr Beczala and soprano Susanna Phillips give it a try.

ArtsJournal

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Silver Line progress report: 43

Defects in precast concrete panels at five of the six stations under construction threaten to delay a 2020 opening of Phase 2 of the Silver Line.

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Underground Railroad Game

This play is not the first to treat its audience like children, but it is perhaps the first to do so literally, when the house lights come up and the house is addressed as a fifth-grade class beginning a teaching unit on the American Civil War.

Shallow, lacking nuance, weakly manipulative, and not nearly as shocking as it wants to be, the piece is not without its good moments.

  • Underground Railroad Game, by Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard with Lightning Rod Special, directed by Taibi Magar, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Washington
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Prairie

Chris Swan experiments in the ecology of vacant lots in West Baltimore.

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What do you see?

Always good advice: from Elisabeth Sherman with the Whitney:

So, if you have a… negative gut reaction, one of defensiveness or fear or anxiety or rejection, maybe try to move past that and see what’s available afterwards.

kottke.org

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Broadsides

An NEH grant will enable the digitization of an archive of 19th-century playbills in the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

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Many-headed

An individual of Physarum polycephalum joins Hampshire College as a scholar in residence.

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Friends

Bas Bleu remembers her friend David.

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Peirce Mill river herring 2018

downstreamNeil Fitzpatrick and Bill Yeaman led a walk to Rock Creek and the fish ladder established in 2007 to enable migratory river herring to swim around the man-made barrier of the dam at Peirce Mill. And our luck was great! Despite some muddy conditions in the stream, many Gizzard Shad (Dorosoma cepedianum) could be seen, working their way upstream. Alas, no acceptable photos acquired. (Note to future self: bring a longer lens and a little more patience.)

On our walk down the somewhat trippy Melvin Hazen Trail, the group spotted a single Louisiana Waterthrush (Seiurus motacilla).

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At the park: 94

From my report for last Sunday:

box 62, againThe birds appear to have hit the snooze button in response to the variable weather conditions. None of the nest has hatched out yet, while three new nests have started. Ever-popular box #62 is still incubating.


unhappy at box 60Unfortunately, it appears that the nest in box #67 has been abandoned. And the predator guard for box #60 was no match for a determined Common Raccoon (Procyon lotor), who consumed the eggs in the box. Box #60 is set rather low to the ground, on the bank of the channel; we should think about raising it or otherwise repositioning it.


We chased some paper wasps from box #67. I was cautious about seeing a wasp with yellow bands on the abdomen (as well as some wasps showing the more common all-black coloration), but it seems that several of the Polistes wasps in our area may show that feature, including the introduced P. dominula.

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Fall zone

Benjamin Strauss et al. present a harrowing quiz: outline maps of various coastal states under one possible climate change scenario, in which sea level rises by 170 feet over the coming millennia. The geophysical boundary between Coastal Plain and Piedmont is unmistakable; farther south, other states would be obliterated.

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Still ticking

I wrote up some notes on A Portable Cosmos, by Alexander Jones, a summary of what 120 years of studying the Antikythera Mechanism (one of my obsessions) have revealed to us.

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Angular

Cecil Taylor’s passing reminds me of my favorite passage from Craig Lucas, from scene 2 of Blue Window. It’s a good thing that I have a printed copy to refer to, because my recollection of the dialogue, from a production I saw 22 years ago, is faulty.

At a small gathering/party of friends, Tom has put a recording of Cecil Taylor on the sound system.

TOM. But I don’t know if you can hear it, but I mean, he’s literally rethinking what you can do with melody. He’s changing all the rules from the ground up.

* * *

TOM. Like a painter. He’s breaking it up, you know, and putting some parts of it in front of where they belong and he’s splitting up tonalities and colors, shapes —
ALICE. Splitting up did you say?
TOM. Splitting.
ALICE. No, I know, I was…
TOM. He’s literally challenging you to hear it, you know, rehear it. What is music?
GRIEVER. No, I know, but this isn’t like a famous melody? Or –?
TOM. Why not?
GRIEVER. I mean it isn’t like “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” backwards or something.
TOM. No…

For some reason I always want to remember that as “‘Mairzy Doats’ upside down and backwards.”

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The Pavilion

The Hub’s simple staging well serves Craig Wright’s wistful, spiritual three-hander, using a single movable set piece (a bench attached to pair of dock railings) to achieve some variety and levels. Helen R. Murray’s Kari shows some flintiness; but she takes her time with Kari’s tender, giddy closing monologue (“Do you remember that day in the spring of junior year…?”) and the result is masterful. Nora Achrati is called upon to embody a gaggle of different Pine City, Minnesota denizens, and she does a good job with the more naive characters like Pudge and Lisa, but she lacks the gravel and venom that Carla needs. Her second act opening monologue is quite thoughtful and fine.

Director Kelsey Mesa has chosen to present the show without the scripted intermission, blunting the force of Kari’s explosive first act closer.

  • The Pavilion, by Craig Wright, directed by Kelsey Mesa, the Hub Theatre, Fairfax, Va.

Deep shadows cast by the house lights make this black box performance space a bit too literal.

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