Saturday, September 01, 2007


I slept as late as possible today. Then I polished off the final dregs of the fresh garden veggie soup I've been nursing since in-laws filled my sink with produce two weeks ago. Sunshine came home hungry so I also ate an abbreviated dinner. After dinner we went to see Lila Downs* in concert at the Rosslyn Spectrum. I'm not sure we parked legally. Lila Downs is basically an ethno-cultural course in Latin Musical tradition masquerading as a tiny powerhouse of baffling ability.* She was surrounded on her tiny stage by top-notch musicians providing island and Norteño sounds with electric fiddle, alto sax, trumpet, some hot classical drumming, the usual contingent of guitars, and one massive harp. She did everything in her power to direct our attention to this talented band, but her star consistently outshone them. It is true that Lila Downs can sing just as high or low as she wants to. It is true that her vocal instrument possesses more range and complexity than any other instrument on stage (abundantly clear when she out-sang that harp). But what I found most charming was her nimble delivery. It's one thing to sing operatically low phrases punctuated by bursts of haunting, Theremin-esque self-harmony, but Lila Downs can do it in disparate voices, narrating on some meta-level her impressions of the character vocalizing. This boon to Down's exploration into traditional ballads is hard to overvalue. There's an innate theatricality to these boozy overtures she really delivers: she's on her tippy-toes in a flowery halter top stretching up to her microphone but also convincing as an amorous drunkard in the kissing-alley behind your house. It's magic. After the show,1 we were happy to discover our car hadn't been towed, and we immediately embarked on an all-night drive to Kentucky. [Cavin]

Friday, August 31, 2007


Yesterday we were to hang out with a group of Sunshine's coworkers during happy hour. Events like this seem to spring up about twice a month. Notice is circulated on an internet list frequented by Sunshine's orientation class. I've gotten to the point, finally, where I know most of the people I see at these things. We go to them when schedules permit. Yesterday, the schedule permitted a little too well. Sunshine gets out of class, for a few weeks at least, at twelve thirty on Wednesday afternoons. Yesterday we promptly returned to the institute for my very last shots. One dose of Japanese encephalitis later, plus a half-hour wait for someone to assess the vaccination site for skin reactions, I was finally finished with my shot schedule after eleven injections and fourteen diseases. I must still endure one more each of hepatitis A and B, but not before next February at the office in Vietnam.* After my appointment, we were very early arriving at the nearby happy hour bar, a fancy self-serve Italian-like Café franchise called Vapiano* which looked to be constructed from plastic barn wood and nice red luggage. We were so early the place was completely empty. The gimmick here is to give each customer a "membership" card they may then swipe at any of several food stations to log orders. They are then given a beeper to alert them when to pick up their food. This innovation is similar enough to taking a credit card to the food court that I'm not suitably amazed. We had plenty time to talk it over since no group of coworkers ever arrived for the happy hour. Later we discovered the group was at another Vapiano downtown. So we left to get Italian food from a better restaurant. [Cavin]

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Yesterday I saw Jim Jarmusch's pared existential buddy movie Stranger Than Paradise (1984),* a low-cost eighties independent nod to nouvelle vague, combining a chilled French art house atmosphere with some warmhearted wonkiness out of mean street anti-intellectualism. Stranger Than Paradise began life as a short subject by the same name. Willie (Lounge Lizard John Lurie) must open his dank NY single-bedroom flat to his Hungarian cousin Eva (Eszter Balint) on a stopover for the duration her aunt’s post-surgical recovery. Willie fancies himself a member of the City's hipster scene; he won't let Eva cramp his style or remind him of his immigrant reality. Eva rises morosely to the challenge of insinuating herself into Willie's admiration, a feat she accomplishes by watching TV all night and shoplifting smokes from the neighborhood grocery. This short film, re-titled "The New World", is the first of three chapters in the feature-length anthology Stranger Than Paradise. Chapter two, "A Year Later", finds Willie and his friend Eddie (Sonic Youth Richard Edson) raising money stiffing poker buddies. Before long they reach their monetary goal and borrow a car to visit Eva in Cleveland. Willie and Eddie stay at Eva's aunt's, eternally taxed by her disinterest in speaking English to her guests. The third chapter, "Paradise", comes immediately after the events of the second: Willie and Eddie decide to spend their remaining money taking Eva south to Florida where it's warm and there are dog races. This movie is an assault of moribund tedium: minutes pass between actions in simultaneously under- and over-exposed grainy contrast that bleeds value into one-point perspective. Jarmusch makes use of the old vague construction, two boys and a girl, as desexualized points of a triangular interaction becoming increasingly divorced from its background, its plot, then itself as the movie proceeds. [Cavin]

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Sunday night, we all ate a marvelous dinner at highly regarded downtown Mediterranean fusion restaurant Zaytinya* where we nibbled a spectacular array of tapas-sized dishes until reeling under the culinary weight of it all. Highlights included grape leaf-wrapped goat cheese, yellow tomato soup, fennel cooked shrimp, and Turkish pide. After the meal we noticed the Metro system was moving rather oddly. In addition to scheduled light service owing to Orange Line improvements in northern Virginia, many Blue Line stops south of Rosslyn weren't operating. We still managed to get home okay. Mom left DC Monday after a nice Thai lunch and I spent my afternoon uploading new photos to Flickr and switching files to my new computer. Today I headed up to Maryland for the Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972).* When we all decided to see roller derby on Saturday, it supposedly preempted seeing the Godfather that night. But today, when I arrived at AFI's Silver Theater,* I discovered that all showings of the Godfather, scheduled as part of a program honoring Al Pacino (the recipient of this year's lifetime achievement award) are cancelled. The prints have been recalled in an effort to bolster interest in a restored nationwide re-release next year. While I won't get to see this movie (or its sequel) on the big screen, you very well may. There were other movies to see, though, and I read the newspaper over coffee while I was waiting. Apparently, power surges caused several Green Line metro stations to close on Sunday and Monday, due to smoke. At the same time, power fade on the Blue Line left something like seven trains without power. Nobody knows just what's happening. When I was looking for a story to link* tonight, I discovered that fires have also been breaking out. [Cavin]

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Yesterday, after breakfast, we rode the metro into DC for an exhibition related to the cultures encountered by Portuguese explorers which is currently displayed in the Sackler slash Freer Galleries. This knot of mostly underground exhibition space, while baring separate names, is so inextricably woven that it shares a website.* I'm often confused as to which museum I'm in at any given time. The problem is intensified by the fact that the African Art Museum* and the Ripley Center's International Gallery* share space with the Sackler and Freer beneath the Haupt Garden behind the Smithsonian Information Center castle.* There's really no way to tell, a few floors in, which hallways belong to which museum. Somewhere in this mess is the Portuguese program we were aiming for,* but I got started looking over the other exhibits on the first floor of what must certainly be the Freer Gallery, and by the time they closed two hours earlier than we thought they would (what happened to the extended summer hours?) we hadn't gotten any nearer to our goal. Oh, well. I got to see two eight-foot wooden deity statues, numerous dancing Sivas, several fine James Whistler canvasses, and a dagger completely fashioned out of inlaid meteorite. Once the Smithsonian police had kicked us off the site, we took the metro on to the National Portrait Gallery* to see the traveling exhibition* of art from the British Portrait Gallery.* This was amazing. It was impressive seeing portraits of Lord Byron, William Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens I'm used to seeing gracing their collected or biographical works. But it was the life-size commission of Dame Judi Dench, centered on twelve feet of white canvas, dominated one of the most impressive rooms I've stood in. Soon, Smithsonian cops kicked us out of there, too. [Cavin]

Monday, August 27, 2007


I ate a nice breakfast at the Original Pancake House* before roller derby yesterday. Sunshine had been trying to get me into this little breakfast eatery for months now. I used to eat at greasy spoon-type establishments often, but after the fresher, healthier food I became accustomed to in México, I've been having trouble redeveloping my taste for things like oily potato wedges and loose, milky, yellow eggs. This has mostly been no problem since I rarely find myself awake in time for breakfast anyway. The Original Pancake House is the other kind of breakfast place, quite to opposite of a greasy spoon: a squeaky clean family affair franchise with a menu ninety percent devoted to whipped cream and fruit breakfast confections dusted with powdered sugar. I ordered off the other ten percent of the menu and it was pretty good. I had spinach crepes containing just a hint of aged cheddar cheese sauce. There were potato pancakes on the side--hash browns mashed into a patty, basically--and these were served with apple sauce, which is only natural according to Sunshine. I do not, apparently, know a great deal about the meal of breakfast. Mom had an omelet that was, without exaggeration, the size of a steering wheel. Sunshine had something called a "Dutch Baby," which is basically a vitamin-packed strawberry fruit salad in a delicately upturned pancake bowl accompanied by little pots containing butter, lemon, and settling puff of confectioner's sugar. Lemon? Today's breakfast was much more in accordance with what I'm used to: it was actually lunch. We ate at the Lost Dog Café* where I had a melted cheese sandwich with basil on pita with a bowl of gazpacho. This meal was comfortably devoid of applesauce or anything else odd or unnatural to me. [Cavin]

Sunday, August 26, 2007


Just in from a down-n-derby afternoon at the Dulles SportsPlex, where the Cherry Blossom Bombshells* took on the Secretaries of Hate* in three punishing periods of good ol' American roller derby madness. A quick recap of amateur flat-track rules follow. Context: a bout is played between two teams of up to fifteen skaters; each bout is broken into three twenty-minute periods consisting of unlimited two-minute jams; each jam is played between five rotating members from each opposing team, each including one pivot and three blockers (comprising the pack), and one jammer. There are referees for every major position. Content: players have thirty seconds to assume position for the next jam; the jam begins with the first whistle, when the eight-member pack, led by the two opposing pivots, starts to skate around the track; a second whistle starts the two opposing jammers several seconds later. Their job is to catch up to, and then make their way through, the clustered pack, to then lap the cluster and repeat. The skaters in the pack either assist or block them, depending on team affiliation. Results: the first jammer to make it through the pack without penalty in the initial lap becomes the lead, and is bestowed with the power to end the jam for strategic reasons; referees can also do this; during the second lap through the pack, the jammer scores one point for every opposing team member passed without penalty; minor penalties forfeit the point, or forfeit lead availability in that first turn; four minor penalties add up to a major, resulting in bench time. There should be no pushing, grabbing, elbowing, or tripping. Today, nimble Bombshell jammer Deja Bruise* was unstoppable--and her defenders unavoidable--around the bright blue oval. The Bombshells delivered a crushingly lopsided, if amiable, victory. [Cavin]