Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Give Till It Hurts

If you're in DC, come to the Velvet Lounge on 10/7 for a benefit show for the Edgar Allan Poe House.

The line-up so far: Lenorable, Dance for the Dying, Nunchuks, Lions & Tigers & Whales. Admission is $8, quite reasonable compared to the burlesque shows I'm always hitting that are anywhere from $10 to $20.

I just found out about it today, but I'm already clearing my schedule to make it. Look for the chunky redhead, I'll be around somewhere.

Something else...

Horror hunk Joe Zaso is part of a movie being put together, AMONGST THE LIVING, that needs support.

It's no stretch of the imagination that this is gay-themed, and I'm always for good gay-themed horror (yes, there's been too much crapola out there, but I'm always hoping). Plus Joe is a good guy, the first in line on Facebook to wish me a happy birthday when I turned 46 a few weeks ago. So, basically, I have a friend trying to get a gay-themed horror flick off the ground. Won't you give a quick contribution on Kickstarter?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Night at the Movies: A Bit of Sci-Fi

Our monthly excursion! Cool weather has hit with an almost audible "womp!", and we've dug out jackets and sweaters. The breezes redden our cheeks as we exit the restaurant, full of pear tart and other delicacies, and we duck into our favorite theater for tonight's special.

We've got a bit of old-fashioned science fiction today; actually, this is rather charming. It totally fits the definition of steampunk, and yet it wasn't made as such. For its time, it was futuristic. It's that whole "days of future past" thing. So sit back and enjoy the 1909 classic, "The Airship Destroyer."

After our fill of thrills, we wend our way, laughing, into our favorite coffee shop for a hot drink and some conversation before we part ways into the chilly night...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Judge Dee: Beggars & Swords, Pavilions & Pearls

We're back in China again, in one of Dee's busiest periods of his career. From 668 to 670, he investigated not only the Bell murders but a number of other cases as well, some of which are covered here.

First off are two short stories. The first, "The Two Beggars," has Dee spotting the seeming ghost of a beggar in his house, which inspires him to look closer at the reported death of a beggar nearby. It's got a decent plot, with good info about the Lantern Festival, a well-etched characterization of the victim, and a nice explanation for the ghost. It's kind of a sad story as well, with the theme of hopeless, frustrated yearning that pops up here and there in van Gulik's work. The second, "The Wrong Sword," has Dee's assistants witnessing what at first seems to be the accidental killing of a young boy, who's part of an acting troupe doing acrobatic tricks. (In the Dee works, there's little difference between being an actor and being an acrobat/dancer/juggler.) They look closer, and there's ugliness underneath it all. The ending is nasty but there's a nice look at the lives of traveling actors of the period...although Dee's assurances to the innocent survivors at the end seem almost like rubbing salt in their wounds.

Next up is the novel The Red Pavilion, in which Dee and Ma Joong are passing through the pleasure resort of Paradise Island (no, Wonder Woman does not live there, and they're not in the Bahamas). They're to spend a couple of days relaxing while on their way back from a visit to the Capitol, but then Dee's friend Magistrate Lo is there, and must beat a hasty exit for some reason, and asks Dee to cover a few things for him, while Dee stays in a luxury suite that gives the novel its title.

The Red Pavilion has its three separate cases, but the separation is tenuous at best. "The Callous Courtesan" is about Autumn Moon, the "Queen Flower" or chief courtesan of the island, who is an unpleasant personality, and who is found dead in Dee's locked bedroom. Why? Was she poisoned, or killed somehow? "The Amorous Academician" concerns a mysterious death that happened a week earlier in that same room; in this case, an egotistical young scholar seemingly committed suicide, something quite out of character for him. Was he really murdered? By whom? And "The Unlucky Lovers" concerns itself with an unsolved murder that happened in that room decades before; who was the real culprit?

They're all very well intertwined, but I have to say that the solutions are uninspiring and bland. The real attractions are its looks at the worlds of courtesans and businessmen who run the pleasure resorts of the period. Magistrate Lo is always good company, and there's also two exceptionally good minor characters, enforcers for the local constabulary who are known as the Shrimp and the Crab. They're worth the reading alone.

The Emperor's Pearl takes place in a town near Poo-yang, during the Dragon Boat races. Dee and his wives are enjoying a game of dominoes on the official barge when crime interrupts...

Three cases again! "The Dead Drummer" gives us the mystery of a drummer for one of the boats who suddenly dies during the race, and they realize he was poisoned. Who did it, and why? "The Murdered Slavemaid" has a woman hiring Dee for a service (he's disguised as a wandering martial arts teacher) only to have him be too late to prevent her murder or to catch the criminal. Who was she, and why was she killed? And "The Emperor's Pearl" is the mystery of a treasure, a pearl of exceptional size and beauty, that's supposedly in the area, hidden away for years after it vanished from the Imperial Palace. Is it really there? Where is it? Would someone kill to have it?

The milieu is mostly that of antique dealers, with some weird sexual perversion going on. Sheng Pa, the roguish king of beggars from The Chinese Bell Murders, reappears, and has a romance going on with a frail court lady. (I'm only being partly sarcastic.) And there's other mysteries, of a supposedly haunted house, a woman who suddenly went insane, and others that are finally resolved in a dramatic confrontation.

This one is solid work, never spectacular or terrible, but a good piece of literary craft.

Coming up: two more from Poo-yang...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dust & Corruption Calendar: September 2011

OK, I've thought about doing this for a while, and I'm finally doing it, scouring the listings of everything I know and putting down stuff that would be of interest to my readers, if I have any. If anyone has something they want to push, drop me a line. This is DC-centric, of course, but I found some stuff out from the great wide world. Naturally, I won't be making everything, but you might be able to spot me here and there.

9/7: Shaken & Stirred Burlesque, with Gigi La Femme. The Delancey, 168 Delancey St, New York, NY. Performances at 10:30, 11:30, and 12:30.

9/8: Conjuring & Circus: Books, Prints, Posters & Apparatus Auction. Bloomsbury Auctions, 24 Maddox St, Mayfair, London, UK. More information here.

9/9: Sticky Buns Burlesque presents: An Evening of Variety, with Mab Just Mab and magician Spencer Horsman. At Illusions, 1025 S. Charles St, Baltimore, MD. Showtime 9:00, $15

9/10: Plant sale, if you're into that sort of stuff. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallen Ave, Wheaton, MD. 10am to 3pm. Plus Brookside is a great place to walk around.

9/10: Washington Sinfonietta presents a Mozart program. National City Christian Church, 5 Thomas Cir NW, Washington, DC. Concert starts at 7:00, tickets $20. 

9/10: Nerd Nite DC: Dinosaurs, Comics, and Viruses. An evening of learned presentations with musical interludes. DC9, 1940 9th St NW, Washington, DC. Showtime at 6:30, tickets $10.

9/10-11: Small Press Expo, "The Premiere Event for Graphic Novels, the Comic Arts, and Cartooning." (Not exactly my thing, but I know we have some comics fans out there....) Bethesda North Marriott, 5701 Marinelli Rd, Bethesda, MD. One-day ticket $10, two-day ticket $15. More information here.

9/11: Takoma Park Folk Festival, with a wide variety of music, crafts, and food. (I almost always go.) Takoma Park Middle School, 7611 Piney Branch Rd, Takoma Park, MD. 10:30am to 6:30pm, free.

9/14: Capital Tassels & Tease: Back To School Edition, a monthly showcase of emerging burlesque & variety talent. The Red Palace, 1212 H St NE, Washington, DC. Doors at 8:30, tickets $10.

9/16: DCVariety Social Aide Society Benefit, an auction & fundraiser for variety performers without health insurance. The Red Palace, 1212 H St NE, Washington, DC. Showtime 9:30, tickets $15.

9/17: Gay Day at Hillwood Estate, in which the museum honors its partnership with the GLBT community. Family Garden Party from 10:00 to noon, afternoon festivities from noon to 6:00. Hillwood Estate, 4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC; tickets $15.

9/18: 27th Annual Kalorama House & Embassy Tour, a chance to peek inside a number of historic homes & embassies in DC's Kalorama neighborhood. Noon to 4:00; tickets $40, available from the Woodrow Wilson House, 2340 S St NW, Washington, DC.

9/19 DC Science Cafe: "Life as We Don't Know It", a talk on the search for extraterrestrial life. Busboys & Poets, 5th & K Sts NW, Washington, DC. Showtime 6:30, admission free.

9/22: Through the Weeping Glass, a new film by the Quay Brothers, receives its Philadelphia premiere at the Mutter Museum, 19 S 22nd St, Philadelphia, PA; more details here. Other showings in New York at the MoMA on 9/24, and in Los Angeles at the Cary Grant Theater on 9/27.

9/24: Museum Day, in which participating museums nationwide offer free admission. Locate museums near you at Museum Day.

9/24: The Tilted Torch presents Kaleidescope Kabaret, an evening of light-based performances, burlesque, and music. The Red Palace, 1212 H St NE, Washington, DC. Doors at 9:00, showtime at 10, tickets $10 in advance, $15 at the door.

9/24-25: Dahlia Show & Sale. (Hey, I like them, they're pretty.) Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallen Ave, Wheaton, MD.  Saturday 2:00 to 5:00; Sunday 9:00 to 3:00, sale of cut blossoms at that time.

All month: "The Gothic Spirit of John Taylor Arms," exhibition of prints, drawings, and copperplate, closing 11/27. National Gallery of Art, 401 Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC. Free.

All month. "Tea." Exhibition of tea utensils from Asia, at the Freer Gallery of Art, Jefferson Dr & 12th St SW, Washington, DC. (Near the Smithsonian Castle.) Free.

Got something coming in October? Let me know!

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Phantom Serenade for September

It's Labor Day weekend, and our little group is taking a long walk in the park, debating good-naturedly if we should be mourning the passing of summer or welcoming the coming of autumn. A few late-blooming roses can be seen in the flower beds, seeming simultaneously bright and cheerful, and wistful reminders of the garden's past glory.

We wander and chat, but before too long we hear music nearby, and find a local musician under a tree, strumming away....

(I scanned YouTube for versions of this song; I fell in love with the Thomas Moore poem, and wanted to hear the song...and let me tell you, there are soooo many oversung and overproduced versions of this, ranging from over-the-top operatics to the dreadful "Celtic Women." I normally like Celtic music but that stuff just sounds so hollow and soulless to me; yeah, they have nice voices, but it's a bit too far divorced from the folk roots of the music. Anyway, there's a couple of nice videos of simple, straightforward versions, but I liked this one the best, despite the less-than-spectacular sound quality. There's something about a musician under a tree, one instrument, one voice, singing a lovely old song...)

After some music and a chat, we continue on our way, as the shadows grow long, humming the song now dancing in our memories. There's comfort to be found in old tunes like that, and it will sustain us for a while to come.