Saturday, August 30, 2014

This 'n' That - August 2014





  • It's a slow time of the year, except for my work, which is crazy-busy. And we're expanding in unexpected directions, and I may require an assistant in another year or so.
  • I've expanded in unexpected directions as well; in the last two years I've gained far too much weight. I'm to see my doctor in a few weeks and I'll have a chat with him about possibly joining a gym. If I do, I may post photos of my progress, so be warned.
  • I haven't been out to the movies much this summer; the two flicks that stand out the most to me are GODZILLA (fun, but flawed; too much time spent on Lt. Bland) and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (fun, but I'm not over the moon about it as others are). Not many horror flicks that I've noticed; I saw AS ABOVE SO BELOW advertised at the local cineplex but then I found out it's yet another found footage film and I just groaned.
  • I went to a pen show in Northern Virginia earlier this month, which was very interesting, and came home with a vintage fountain pen and a hand-crafted ballpoint. They also have a lot of watches and pocket knives, as well as some women's jewelry. Fountain pen culture is interesting and I'll have to delve into it more. There's also a nostalgia convention in a few weeks locally, and a horror convention (Monster-Mania) here in October, so I should be having some fun.
  • Tomorrow is my 49th birthday. Next year I hope to have a big blow-out with few survivors.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August's Night Out at the Movies!

It's a humid night, the kind where you wish it would just make up its mind and rain already. But the sun is setting earlier, leaves are starting to turn and fall, kids are heading back to school. We're meeting at the usual restaurant, chatting and catching up. We compare used-book finds (A hardcover of Arsene Lupin?), concerts we've attended (Their performance of the Beethoven sonata was...well...a bit of a mess...), antique shows (What? Laura found a Viennese porcelain Muse?), museum trips (There's a wonderful little Daumier in that gallery that's so easy to miss...), and assorted other adventures (There's a seafood restaurant near the beach...nothing fancy but the food is amazing...). After our usual haggling about how to split the bill, we head up the street to that shabby old theater we love so much...

First up is a 1907 George Melies short, "The Eclipse."



And the feature presentation is 1933's "Sucker Money."



"Sucker Money" is an unusual beast. It was produced by Dorothy Reid, a marginally talented woman who husband, silent-film star Wallace Reid, had died from morphine addiction. She then dedicated her life and career to "message" films, including several antidrug flicks like the now-lost "Human Wreckage", or tackling prostitution in "The Red Kimona" (which was remarkable for its sympathetic treatment of sex workers). "Sucker Money" was her attempt to warn people about fake psychics and mediums.

That being said, she wasn't much of an actress, and even less a screenwriter, director, and producer. Sorry, folks.

The show over (at last!), we wander up the street for a final drink for the night...

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Creative Spirit Seance



Last night, I went with some friends to Baltimore's trendy Hampden neighborhood to attend a seance.

Of course, it was really a theatrical presentation. A hard-nosed skeptic like me wouldn't pay money to attend a "real" spiritualist seance. Long, long ago, I attended a performance at Wheaton, MD's late, great Psychic Ghost Theater for my birthday; that was great fun. It started off with a normal magic show, then a demonstration of a Victorian "spirit cabinet," and then a harrowing "real" seance that used a lot of the tricks that fraudulent mediums use. It's a wonderful memory that I carry with me.

This was, well, different. It's held in the upper floor of an old church (which turns out to be a private home rented out to productions), and it's a cool space. We were handed wires with which to sculpt into anything we wanted, and then gathered in a small area where host David London gave a talk on creativity, and then talked to us about the sculptures we created. Eventually he collected the sculptures and melted them in an "alchemical furnace" and dumped the molten result in a bowl of cold water. We were given pieces and told to look at them and think of what we saw.

It was like that, full of little creative exercises. We drew on triangles and they were assembled into a larger puzzle, after a trick in which an audience member identified the blank triangles from the drawn-on ones. There was a guided meditation followed by a ritual washing of hands (with the water turning black, supposedly our negative energy being washed away). We sat at an elaborate seance table where we did some summoning of spirits, an experiment in automatic writing, and finally a full-on seance where he gave a long, rambling speech on the nature of "the creative spirit" that I admit went in one ear and out the other.

It was odd, a mixture of magic show and Wiccan ritual. (Yes, I have a legit frame of reference; in my checkered past I was actually the high priest of a Wiccan coven for a while.) London later admitted there were some illusions that were supposed to go off during the full seance that didn't, and there were some parts of the show that didn't seem to quite connect. London joked about how it was a late show and some things weren't going right, so I suppose that would explain that.

I'm not entirely sorry I went, but at the same time it wasn't what I was expecting; I had thought it would be more illusions and less psychodrama. I found some of the New Agey-ness about it off-putting, but that's just me. There was a time in my life when I was very, very into that sort of thing, but those days are long behind me now. Along with a lot of depression and instability. Those were dark days.

Maybe it's your thing, or someone else's thing, but it really wasn't mine. And that's not a dismissal of David London's talents or his work into this show. It's just that I'm really not the kind of audience he should have had.

The Creative Spirit Seance plays to audiences of 12, and runs until August 30th. Tickets are $40.

Monday, August 4, 2014

August at the Phantom Opera House!

Tonight we're off to the opera! We got bargain tickets through a friend, had a festive dinner at a fun and inexpensive restaurant, and are now snugly ensconced in the opera house. The show is Weber's Der Freisch├╝tz, a German Romantic opera from 1821 based on a folktale about a marksman who uses cursed bullets.

In the second act, there's a famous scene where the hero and the villain descend to the Wolves' Den, an area in the forest noted for the ghosts and demons that inhabit it. There they meet with the Black Huntsman, Samiel, and make a bargain to forge the seven magic bullets with which the flawed hero, Max, will win a marksmanship contest and a prize that will enable him to marry his beloved Agathe. Villainous Casper (not a friendly ghost), however, has other plans, including not telling Max that the seventh bullet, once fired, will have Max carried off by Samiel, and buying Casper more time on earth. (He made a dark bargain with Samiel himself years ago...)

The music is stirring...in fact, here we go...



This scene is often described as the greatest Romantic depiction of supernatural horror, and it's a corker. I chose a video without action, leaving the listener to imagine for themselves how the action goes. After you listen, go read a synopsis or find a video of the scene, and see how close your mental image was.

The scene ends, the intermission arrives, and we rush to the bar for a glass of Rhine wine while calming our shudders. And vowing to investigate Romantic opera and music more. Bring back Romanticism!