Tuesday, March 27, 2012

THE BANSHEE by Elliott O'Donnell

Elliott O'Donnell's claims that this stories are true don't always strike me as credible, but I have to admit that he's a darn good storyteller and his recountings of various legends is zesty fun and good reading on a cold windy night.

A banshee, for those who don't know, is an Irish legend of a fairy woman, normally attached to a particular family or locality, who weeps and moans, or sometimes sings, as a sign of a death. Banshees could be ugly hags or beautiful young women, they could be weeping and keening mournfully or cackling in maniacal glee, and sometimes are not seen at all. They do not cause a death (as they do when translated in D&D or Chill games), but merely foretell a death that is about to happen and that is inevitable, although in some legends they simply warn when someone is in danger of their lives. Although prevalent in Ireland, there are also legends of banshees in Scotland and in some areas of the United States...presumably, in places with heavy Irish populations.

O'Donnell's The Banshee is a book-length exploration of the folklore and legends of the creature, and while it often slips in to occult mumbo-jumbo and claims of personal experience, it's still a fun read. He discusses just what a banshee is, tales of them from history, the ideas of banshee personality, the nature of banshee hauntings, variations on the legend, and even has a chapter on poetry and prose involving banshees.

Naturally, I don't believe a word of it, but it is good reading, and in an odd way is also a good look into the mythology of the spectral being that foretells death, a folklore trope that's found all over the place. Many old families in the British Isles and elsewhere in Europe have legends of death portents, ranging from certain animals being seen in certain places, to weird supernatural beasts. I once read of a legend of three ghostly women (a young lady, a middle-aged woman, and an aged crone, all dressed in mourning clothes) who were seen knocking on the doors of the Intramuros neighborhood of Manila, and wherever they knocked a death soon occurred, and were supposedly seen knocking doors all over the city just before it was bombed in 1945. While O'Donnell would see that as a banshee-type haunting, I would see it as a repetition of the old folklore.

O'Donnell claims personal experience of banshees, and tells many "personal" stories purportedly heard from friends and acquaintances that may or may not be true, but at least they're shuddersome and entertaining.

The Banshee can be had in an overpriced print-on-demand bound version, but is out of copyright and can be downloaded for free from various online resources, including Amazon. (I read it on the Kindle.) If you're in the mood for some supernatural shudders, this is good fun. Just take it all with a grain of salt.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

BELOW SUSPICION by John Dickson Carr

The latest in my dip into Carr, Below Suspicion (1949) is actually quite an engaging story, if marred by some of Carr's usual flaws.

Womanizing lawyer Patrick Butler takes on the case of Joyce Ellis, who's accused of murder. It turns out that Ellis was the companion of elderly and hypochondriac Mildred Taylor, and that Mrs. Taylor died of antimony poisoning under mysterious circumstances. While it's possible that Mrs. Taylor took the dose accidentally, it seems unlikely, but the first part of the book is spent with Butler getting her acquitted of the murder.

Then..lovely Lucia Renshaw is also accused of murder by antimony poisoning, this time of her husband, a vile domineering creature whom she was on the verge of divorcing. Is there a serial poisoner on the loose? Who is it, and how are they doing it?

Horning in on the case is Dr. Gideon Fell, a detective that Carr introduced in 1933's Hag's Nook and continued to write about through 1967. Fell is a corpulent man who walks with two canes, wears a cape and a hat, and is very much based on G. K. Chesterton, both in appearance and personality. This is Fell's 18th appearance, so he's very much in the groove and readers are supposed to know who he is. (It should be noted that Fell is an amateur who gets called on by the police, something that's rather laughable today.)

The story holds up fairly well, and includes a visit to a raffish nightclub behind a blank door in a bad neighborhood that reminds me of stories I've heard of exclusive cocktail lounges that can only be accessed through the phone booth of a cheap hot-dog stand. (Really, there's one like that in New York.) It was also interesting looking at the timing of a murder by comparing taxis and public transport. Another interesting aspect was the postwar setting, a time when Merrie Traditional England was segueing into Modern England.

To its debit, it has the narrative leaps that one comes to expect from Carr, and one of his failings at a storyteller. Characters will suddenly KNOW things and make all sorts of logical leaps, and the reader can't figure out how those folks were able to guess all that stuff. It's not as bad as in some other Carr I've read, but it almost always happens.

The solution is fairly nifty, though. (MILD SPOILERS) It turns out that one of the murders was an accident that occurred in the midst of committing another. (END) It's something you don't come across often and it all makes sense. And there's some good Gothick atmosphere, as the plot involves a cult of Satanic witches whose covenstead must be invaded. That in itself is rather interesting; often the titles of Carr works promise all sorts of Gothick terrors, but the stories end up being mundane. Below Suspicion has a mundane title but the plot actually has some of the Gothick terrors that others are missing. I'll have to see if this crops up in other Carr works.

Below Suspicion is worth reading if you happen on it at the library or your favorite used book store, but I'm not going to make this Required Reading.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


The last of the "Chinese (four-letter-word) Murders" novels of the Judge Dee series, this is also a turning point in the series. Like others in this sequence, there is a supernatural framing story; in this case, an official receives an unexpected visit from his brother, an official assigned to Pei-Chow, who tells him the story contained in the novel. He then leaves...and then next morning a messenger arrives with news of the brother's death in the faraway city.

Dee has been assigned to the desolate, barren district of Pei-Chow, in China's cold north, for only a couple of months. He and his lieutenants are discussing a recent disappearance of a young girl, when a report is made of the discovery of a woman's headless body. As the novel proceeds there is also the death of a noted martial artist from poison, who leaves a clue in the form of a tangram arrangement. Then a chance encounter has Dee looking into a seemingly natural death from five years before, sure that somehow it must have been murder. Thus we have the three mysteries of the book:  "The Headless Corpse," "The Paper Cat," and "The Murdered Merchant."

The book's weak point is that it lifts almost completely whole a plot from Dee Goong An, so if you've read that you'll know, pretty much, how the murder was done and how it will end.

It does have its strengths, though. There's some great, memorable bits, especially an eerie scene with a snowman. There's a wonderfully-etched couple in the book, kindly hunchback Coroner Kuo and his beautiful and selfless wife, with whom Dee starts to fall in love. And we have the ruthless Mrs. Loo, of whom we have little doubt is guilty, but the real question is how long can she manipulate matters to her own end? And, most shockingly, is the death of Hoong Liang.

There is also real tension here. Dee's questioning of Mrs. Loo puts his career and life in danger, because if she is truly innocent, Dee's accusations of her will cause him to be executed. (Of course, considering there are more books in the series after this, it's easy to guess that he triumphs. In fact, the book ends with Dee being appointed President of the Metropolitan Court and leaving for the Capitol.)

But as with all the rest of the books in the Judge Dee series, this is Required Reading. (And my Judge Dee series is winding down; there's only a novella and two novels left for me to review...)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Night at the Movies!

It's a rainy but warm Monday night; spring has come early to the city. After a quick meal at the usual restaurant, it's off to the movie theater for some classics.

First up is George Melies' 1909 bit of fun Le Locataire Diabolique, or The Diabolical Tenant.

And then...a rarity that few people have heard of: the obscure 1919 supernatural anthology film Unheimliche Geschichten, or Eerie Tales!

Be sure to watch all parts of it. I'm astonished that this film is so unknown; I just happened on it on Youtube and was utterly impressed by it. It's a shame that this is so unavailable...and for pity's sake, not discussed in any reference books. It's almost like it's a secret.

After the movie ends, we head off to our usual cafe for coffee and drinks and discussion...the rain continues to fall gently, and sidewalk is littered with fallen petals from the trees, and we leave a wake in the damp air as we go up the block....

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Live from Calcutta! The Firpo's Balloon!

Browsing through Charles H. Baker, Jr.'s The Gentleman's Companion, Vol. II: Being an Exotic Drinking Book, or, Around the World with Jigger, Beaker, and Flask, I came across a recipe that I could actually try.

Baker claims to have first had this in Calcutta, at a dinner held at Firpo's, a popular nightspot for the Anglo community there. (He doesn't say when, but it is clear it was during the Hoover administration, so do the math.) It was called a "Balloon" because five of them was supposed to send one up bobbing on the ceiling.

Perhaps not pretty, but it does pack a whallop.
So, what's the recipe? Take one jigger each: good rye whiskey, absinthe, and Italian (sweet) vermouth. Pour in a shaker with two dashes of orange bitters and two teaspoons egg white. Shake vigorously over ice, then pour into a wide-mouthed champagne glass and serve. I've barely finished one and yes, it's potent. Five would have me on the floor, or on the ceiling.

A note about wide-mouthed champagne glasses: yes, they are hard to find these days. Everyone wants those silly flutes, which are supposed to hold the bubbles and keep the champagne from going flat. Here's a Dust & Corruption household hint: champagne flutes may look nice, but if you have a household where champagne sits around long enough at dessert to go flat, then you're better off not serving champagne at all and dispensing with the flutes. The tulip-shaped champagne glasses have a certain charm, but the wide-mouthed sort are delightfully multi-purpose, and can be used to serve mousse au chocolat or zabaglione at your parties. I found a set at an antique mall in Hagerstown, MD, some time ago and have thanked my lucky stars; look around and you might be able to find some as well. Old glasses like that are delightful at your table and bound to spark conversation.

Note the next morning: I had two Firpo's Balloons, and I woke with a ferocious hangover. Be warned.

Firpo's; I'm told it burned down in the 50s and was never rebuilt.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Blood-Spattered Bard; or, "An Adaptation of Julius Caesar" from Molotov

It's Shakespeare! It's full of beautiful language and symbolism! And, of course, it's a bloodbath!

An Adaptation of Julius Caesar, Molotov Theatre Group's latest good-natured atrocity, may seem like absurd mayhem on the surface, but underneath not only lie its roots in a classic tragedy, but also quite a bit of contemporary commentary, and quite a few solid performances.

Mark Antony, over the body of Julius C.

The surprising thing about it is that it starts off really seeming like fairly authentic, if condensed Shakespeare. We have Julius C. (a very well-cast James Radack, who physically fits the part perfectly; he has a profile that belongs on a Roman coin) ready to turn the Roman republic into a monarchy, with himself at the head. A clutch of conspirators, including Brutus (Brandon Mitchell), Casca (Evan Crump), and Cassius (Genevieve James, in what I would term a "trouser role" if she wasn't in a toga), fear for Rome's future if that happens, or at least say they do. So midway through the first act, we have the famous stabbing, the classic "Et tu, Brute?", and then the famous funeral scene. By now, I was wondering if and when it was going to veer off into Molotov territory, and I let out a little "oh" as Julius Caesar proceeded to rise from his coffin, sporting a set of fangs, and proceeding to bite the neck of Mark Antony (Brian Wahlquist).

Yes, you read that right.

The second act becomes, in a way, "Marcus Brutus: Vampire Hunter" as he struggles to free Rome from the threat posed by Caesar's vampire legion, dodging the advances of Caesar's converted wife Calpurnia (Jennifer Speerstra), and protecting his own wife Portia (Jessica Thorne), to whom Caesar wants to give the Lucy Westenra treatment. And a soothsayer (Angela Kay Pirko) is getting Renfieldized, while Cassius' ambition grows unchecked.

Cassius, Casca, and Peter, the short-lived Christian. That's me, from the back, in the lower right.

While it may sound utterly berserk, it's actually played very straight-faced and with great conviction. Genevieve James' Cassius is a standout as someone who rallies the well-intentioned for personal gain, and takes every opportunity to grab more power for himself. And, honestly, it's easy to forget it's a woman in that role, she vanishes into it so completely. Brian Wahlquist, as Mark Antony and several other roles, was also memorable; the "Friends, Romans, countrymen" speech that he delivers, which could descend into cliche and parody, is instead enthralling and sincere. James Radack's vampirized Caesar could easily be played for camp, but instead is a man profoundly wronged and consumed by two thirsts, for blood and revenge. Jennifer Speerstra is appropriately vampy as Calpurnia (both before and after), and Jessica Thorne's Portia is believable as the wife who craves the confidence of her husband, but who falls prey to the predations of Caesar. Brandon Mitchell is noble as Brutus, whose tragedy this really is; he's an essentially good and noble person who truly believes he acts for the good of Rome, but who is ultimately destroyed, not only by his decisions but by the company he keeps. Angela Kay Pirko's soothsayer is a wonderful portrait of wisdom mixed with derangement, so appropriate for the role. Evan Crump is solid as conspirator Casca, caught in Cassius' orbit while simultaneously resenting it.

A big plus is the script; Shawn Northrip's work not only keeps the themes of the original Shakespeare work, but also works in observations on the exploitation of religion for political and personal gain, and raising a valid question: are those who declare they act in the name of "freedom" really concerned with everyone's freedom? Or will they be willing to exploit others when it becomes convenient? (All certainly appropriate at this point in history...) Of course, classic themes of the destructive nature of ambition, and how the repercussions of an act of violence can ultimately turn on you, are all there, the sort of essential Bard that shines through. Northrip deserves kudos for that. Occasional riffs from Stoker and assorted Dracula movies are peppered here and there, but do not overwhelm the material (thankfully).

What's a Shakespeare tragedy without a battle?

But Kevin Finkelstein's assured and capable direction makes it happen. Thanks to him, the conviction and sincerity in the performances prevent the show from simply being a camp trifle, and instead make it a legitimate tragedy and lets the message come through. It's quite a high-wire act, and it comes off beautifully. This is remarkable work.

Alex Zavistovich, who I previously dubbed the "Tod Slaughter of the 21st Century," is behind the scenes on this one, doing the fight choreography, makeup, and effects, and there's quite a few effective moments of gore and spurting blood, not to mention a remarkable battle in the second act. Incidental music, that all sounds quite Roman, comes from composer Konstantine Lortkipanidze. And effective lighting is by lighting designer Jason Aufdem-Brinke, who also provided me with the photos in this review, taken on opening night.

Not quite the last act of Hamlet, but close.

If you're in the DC area, or can make it in, this is simply not to be missed. It's a great, funny melding of Shakespeare and a Saturday-night horror show, but with many legitimate things to say, and eye-opening performances. An Adaptation of Julius Caesar is simply not to be missed, no way, no how.

An Adaptation of Julius Caesar is playing 3/15 to 4/7 at the Shop at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave NW, Washington DC. Tickets are $20 a throw and can be ordered here; and you can always go to Molotov themselves for more information.

See 'em before the final curtain call!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Addition to the Calendar: The Mutter Ball!

Just found out about this. Philadelphia's Mutter Museum, a gloriously gruesome assemblage of medical curiosities, is having a ball on 3/31!

It features a performance by San Francisco-based songstress Jill Tracy, who I adore. Here's the painful part: tickets are $85 for just the dance party, $150 for the dance party and access to the Speakeasy Lounge, and $300 for a gala dinner and cocktail reception as well as the Lounge and dance party. Too much for me right now; if I'd known a few months ago I might have been able to make arrangements.

But the theme! "Medicine and Electricity in the Roaring Twenties." OH MY GOD I WANT TO GO! This is agonizing for me.

Anyway, if you can go, tickets and other information are at the 2012 Mutter Ball site. And if you do go, I expect a report.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Dust & Corruption Exclusive! William Patrick Maynard's THE DESTINY OF FU MANCHU

And again, Dust & Corruption has been given the chance to be the first-ever review of an upcoming book: Bill Maynard's The Destiny of Fu Manchu.

It's the last golden days of the 30s, with the rumblings of war growing closer and closer. (Chronologically, it's between The Drums of Fu Manchu and The Island of Fu Manchu.) In a prologue, there's a callback to the series' past with Dr. Petrie being abducted and facing a macabre menace in the Great Pyramid. This is classic Rohmerian stuff, combining criminal mischief with borderline supernatural elements in a brooding gothic setting.

Then it's a switch to the main body of the story. Our narrator, archaeologist Michael Knox, is holidaying in Corfu, preparing to be best man at a wedding. It's Greba Eltham (a character introduced in Rohmer's novels) and Spiridon Simos, another archaeologist. Kara Petrie is present as well. Of course, things go way off, and quickly. Soon Simos is dead (a victim of a weapon well-known to us, but unknown to westerners at the time this was set), and Knox is racing off left and right, trying to save his own hide. He starts off on the Orient Express, makes side trips to London and Berlin, before a final confrontation back in Egypt. And along the way we meet characters from previous Fu Manchu novels, including Nayland Smith, Sir Lionel Barton, and Bart Kerrigan, and a few real-life characters, like Adolph Hitler.

One fun thing about this is the character of Michael Knox. He's hardly the Courageous Hero type of narrator who pops up in these books. He a skirt-chaser and something of a coward, and just wants to get out of whatever it is that he's caught himself in the middle of. He has an estranged sister and is not above professional jealousy. He's not quite the poltroon that Harry Flashman is (who is?), but manages to be a breath of fresh air when you realize how cookie-cutter so many of Rohmer's protagonists are.

Some great settings here, too. Corfu is always a welcome backdrop (OK, I once read Mary Stewart's This Rough Magic, and followed it by viewing For Your Eyes Only, and fell in love with Corfu), and Egypt was always one of Rohmer's passions.

Plot-wise, I have to say it bogs down a bit in the middle, but that's minor. Like Bill's last book, it's not as much good vs. evil as it is evil vs. evil vs. good. There's factional struggles in the Si-Fan, with the Devil Doctor heading one and a surprising character heading the other. It also continues a theme from Rohmer's Drums, of Fu Manchu's actions against fascist leaders in Europe. (One difference is that in Drums, the main villainous dictator was called Rudolph Adlon; Maynard prefers not to mince his characters.)

One has a feeling that Michael Knox may show up again; I hope he does. Maynard's really having fun here, and it's great having the Devil Doctor back for more action. It's got a few minor faults, but overall this is a fun, enjoyable bit of pulp delerium. Worth looking out for.

The Destiny of Fu Manchu comes out April 2 from the good folks at Black Coat Press. Go give 'em your business.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Tribute to Poe

This bust of Poe overlooked the proceedings.
Saturday night was a delayed "Tribute to Poe" in Baltimore. It had been a scramble; they had planned a mock-seance with faux ghosthunters, but plans fell through at close to the last second because of logistical difficulties. So instead some local actors stepped up to the plate and got a tribute together. It was once again held in Westminster Hall, the deconsecrated church where Poe is buried; there were cracks about how they could do the show elsewhere, in a facility with better seats and better sound, but it just wouldn't feel right.

It was a sellout crowd, although I saw a number of empty seats (it seems some folks couldn't make it). It opened with a cello solo, which played hauntingly through the space. Then four actors took the stage, including my friend John Spitzer (who some in the DC cabaret/variety scene will know as Professor Sprocket), and tribute stalwarts Mark Redfield and Tony Tsendeas. (There was a lady on stage but I never caught her name, embarrassingly enough.) They did a marvelous four-way tribute to both Baltimore and Poe, one of those great examples of verbal choreography as they bounce from one person to the next with rarely a noticeable misstep. Lots of quotes from Poe's stories and poems flew out, expertly done.

There was a brief intermission, where I had a chance to chat with friends in the audience (Hi, Mike and Nora!), Then the Baltimore Men's Chorus assembled on stage, but there were some tense moments as the star of the second half, John Astin, was taking his time getting ready so there was quite a bit of stalling going on, including a number from the chorus that sounded rather out of the place but may have been an impromptu. But eventually Astin took the stage.

John Astin is quite a dear. He's devoted to Poe and studies his works, and has his own interpretations. He gave his own presentation. Sadly, it covered some of the poetry that was recited in the first half, making the show seem a bit repetitive. However, Astin also discussed George Bernard Shaw's defense of Poe; to Shaw, Poe was like Hogarth, someone you simply didn't question or criticize. One quote from Shaw that I managed to scribble into my notebook was that Poe was "never a mere virtuoso." Once he got past some of the repetitive stuff, Astin was fun and chatty, like an entertaining talk-show guest. The chorus did a rendition of "The Bells" that was well-done.

Poe museum director Jeff Jerome took the podium then; it was a stroke of luck we were having a celebration at all, as it turns out. (Last year they had been frank about how it might be the last...) A consulting firm had been hired to explore possibilities of making the museum self-sustaining, as if any museum is self-sustaining. I have to admit that going to the Poe House was scary for a long time, largely because it was in a bad neighborhood, but now it seems the area is being renewed, so it'll be more desirable for tourists. Still, they're waiting on the report, which is overdue, but it does look dire. Jerome ended his chat with a note of sadness and finality; I had a distinct impression he would be going into another line of work before long. (I caught remarks later that people would move heaven and earth to do another celebration, although one observed that this is likely the last with Jerome.)

It was unsettling, to be sure. I went to grab a late bite with Mike and Nora and some friends of theirs at a lovely place, Alewife, that was only a couple blocks away, but the sadness of the situation lingered with me on my long drive home. I'm going to write another letter to the mayor of Baltimore, and hope my readers do as well. And I hope some folks throw some fundraisers or make donations. The Poe House is part of our country's cultural heritage, and the Poe tributes celebrate American letters. It would be a damned shame to see them vanish.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

At the Phantom Cabaret: An Evening with Rasputina

It's been a wild couple of weeks, and most of us are eager to let loose a little. We gather in our favorite club, get our drinks, chatter and catch up on what's happened lately. Hugs and handshakes, kisses and smiles all predominate; we're happy to see each other, happy to be together. We're looking forward to tonight's headliner: Rasputina!

This song got under my skin after hearing it at random on the Clockwork Cabaret (check the podcast list on the side), and I just have to share it. I'm probably going to be breaking down and buying several of their albums in the not-too-distant future....

So anyway, we have a great time with the show, cheering and laughing, buying souvenirs at the intermission, even having a chance to shake hands with the band after the show. It's a great time. Afterwards we head out for a late bite, still talking and exchanging stories, basking in the glow of a happy evening.

Dust & Corruption Calendar for March 2012

I'm late with this. I've had a rough week at work; major deadline on Wednesday, and then two days of aftermath. Plus I had a nasty upset stomach that had me worrying I'd picked up a bug of some sort, but it seems it was just a passing bit of indigestion.

March is upon us; spring is around the corner. This is that time of year when the days get warmer, the nights are still chilly, and you see some early flowers blooming as you walk by bundled up in a coat and warm scarf. The ground is muddy and cold, no matter how warm the air gets. It will be freezing cold on Monday and 70 by Friday.

So it's Sunday here at the lair, I've got a pot of soup simmering for lunches during the week, and I'm finally ready to get started on stuff for March...

All month - Orchid Month at Hillwood Estate. Tours offered of the orchid greenhouse, and orchid-themed events through the month. And let's face it, orchids are creepy. Huysmans wrote about how evil and depraved they are. Hillwood Estate, 4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC.

All month and to July 8 - "Morbid Curiosity: The Richard Harris Collection" Collection of memento mori exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington St, Chicago, IL. Free.

3/3 - "The Pop-Up Museum of the Gowanus Canal." Curated by the Hollow Earth Society and Radio Transmission Ark. A playful re-contextualization of the museum exhibit. Thru April 22, at The Observatory, 543 Union St, Brooklyn, NY.

3/7 - Win a Date with Hot Todd Lincoln! Burlesque and comedy with my pal Todd and his gals. The Red Palace, 1212 H St NE, Washington DC. $10, doors at 8:30.

3/8 - Hellblinki plays the Red Palace! I adore them, and they're sinister and bizarre enough for any D&C fan. With This Way to the Egress. The Red Palace, $12, 8:00.

3/9 - Luster and Lust! Burlesque and comedy at the Red Palace. 2 shows, 8:30 and 10:30, $12.

3/14 - Gigi Holliday's Ladies Night Out! Spring Has Sprung! Burlesque and comedy, hosted by one of the up and coming stars of the local burlesque scene (and another one of my good friends). The Red Palace, $10, 8:30.

3/15 - "An Adaptation of Julius Caesar", the latest bit of fun from DC's Molotov Theatre Group. At The Shop at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC. Runs till 4/7. Purchase tickets here.

3/16 - "Occult Bloodlines: Sex with Fairies, the Celtic Faith, and the Nephilim." The title says it all. An illustrated lecture with Maja D'Aoust. The Observatory, 8pm. $8.

3/17 - St. Patrick's Day. I usually don't go out then; it's freakin' Amateur Night with dumb folks drinking green beer. I'm usually in watch Darby O'Gill and the Little People, one of the few Disney movies I can stand. (Others are The Moon-Spinners and The Sword and the Rose, since you asked.)

3/21 - "Bye Bye Luna." Baltimore's Gilded Lily burlesque troupe bids farewell to member Little Luna, who is moving to New Orleans. The Windup Space, 12 W North Ave, Baltimore, MD. $15, 8:30.

3/23 - "An Evening with Bill Plympton." OK, it's a personal thing, but I love Plympton's work. It's technically part of the 2012 Environmental Film Festival. AFI Silver, 8633 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD. 

3/23 - "Selling the Dead: Anatomy as Business in the Dutch Golden Age." Damn, I wish I lived in New York, all the stuff at The Observatory sounds so cool. An illustrated lecture by Daniel Margocsy of Hunter College. The Observatory, 8pm. $5.

3/24 - The Reason Rally. I'm going to be busy all day with this one; even managed to nab a ticket to "Mythbusters Live" at the Warner that night.