Choral Works At The National Cathedral

First of all, I was glad to see that nets were gone at the Washington National Cathedral. For a long time, post-earthquake (which was in 2011 or 2012, I think), there nets strung up inside the Cathedral to protect visitors and worshipers from falling bits of cathedral. While appreciated, from a safety perspective, it took away a bit from the sense of awe, grandeur, and general aesthetics.

The last time I saw a concert here, it was period pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries, composed or performed for the French court (and played using period pieces). The music was beautiful, but the acoustics just swallowed the orchestra’s sound (maybe it was the nets).

This time, the sound just soared wonderfully. It was the cathedral’s resident chorus, plus New York Polyphony (an all male vocal quartet), a guest soprano soloist, strings (roughly the size of chamber music orchestra, which is to say, larger than a quarter, but smaller than a full orchestra), and the cathedral’s own organ.

The selections were actually dominated (marginally) by either pieces by contemporary composers or else by pieces arranged by contemporary composers. With a few, arguable, exceptions, they were religious works – often liturgical. I say arguably, because one of the works set some stanzas by Whitman to music and, especially in America, Whitman could be considered to be almost religious.

That said, there wasn’t as much variety among the pieces as I might have liked. At a certain point, one Ave Maria starts to sound like another. That being the case, I could make the argument that they might have been better off taking a longer piece by someone like Tallis and playing that as the entirety of either the pre- or post-intermission half.


Greatest Movie Fight Scenes

  1. Flash Gordon beats up Ming’s guards using kung-football
  2. Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in the Coliseum
  3. The Crimson Pirate leads the Spanish soldiers on a merry, if circular chase
  4. The greatest fight scene featuring an ex wrestler in an alley in a Marxist science fiction allegory
  5. The man with no name (Clint Eastwood) avenges his mule’s shame
  6. The Dread Pirate Roberts duels Inigo Montoya left handed
  7. William Holden, Dirk Bogarde and a Gatling gun (’nuff said)
  8. Strike me down and I shall only become more powerful than you can possibly imagine 
  9. A plane, an archaeologist, and a bald German mechanic
  10. From Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to House of Flying Daggers, all those bamboo forests are just ripping from A Touch of Zen

I’m Bummed About How ‘Castle’ Ended

What can I say? I loved Castle. I won’t attempt to justify that love, but it was really my only remaining connection to network television. Especially with my better half on far off foreign shores, I really only watch Netflix and Castle. And did you know that Nathan Fillion was in Firefly? Because he was.

But I’m bummed. Partly (mostly) because it’s gone, but also because of how it left. I really didn’t like when the show introduced extensive, overarching mysteries like, in this case, LokSat. I watch the show for the witty (and slightly homoerotic and non-gender normative) banter of Ryan and Esposito and to watch Nathan Fillion do spit takes and get really excited about stupid things. Things got too darn serious. I wanted to ‘mystery of the week’ stuff and most certainly did not want the tacked on ending to portray them gently aging into a traditional household.NATHAN FILLION

‘Elfstones Of Shannara’ By Terry Brooks

 It may be that, horror of horrors, I decided to read a Shannara novel because I read that MTV was making a television series based on the second book: The Elfstones of Shannara.

Many years ago, during a misspent youth, I read this first of the novels, The Sword of Shannara. Even as a callow youth, I could see that it was so shamelessly stolen from the Lord of the Rings that it seemed nearly unbelievable that no legal action had been taken.

The Elfstones is better, if not exactly original (‘Bloodfire’ beneath an ancient mountain in an evil land sounds remarkably like the fires of Mount Doom). I found a reasonable amount of enjoyment from the story. Like LOTR, there is a main quest and then a more military story. Here, the main quest feels surprisingly tension free and unstressful. On the other hand, the battles and the work if preparing for war and defense is pretty thrilling and tense.

Reading At Work

 I don’t read (except, infrequently, at lunch) at my regular job as minister of propaganda. However, I have a second job working for my better half, usually as a cashier/salesperson. On many such occasions, I read very nearly whatever I want and have recently been reading Remembrance of Things Past at Eastern Market. But lately, I have been at the Downtown DC Holiday Market and it is markedly more busy. It’s not impossible to read, but it is not conducive to the languorous hypnotism of Proust.

What turned out to be nearly perfect was the January 2016 edition of Asimov’s Science Fiction.

The big three of scifi are all owned by the same parent company: Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Asimov’s Science Fiction, and Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The last is thicker, but also a little more expensive, whereas the middle is so affordable as to be practically a negligible expense and is also named after the greatest science fiction writer of the last century (yes, I know we wasn’t actually a good writer, but he was so influential, especially in using hard science, that we have to give him his due), so the choice is easy. There are other magazines, like Lightspeed and Interzone, but they are but so easily found at my local bookstore.

So this edition was very, very good. Good writing, good ideas, good stories. One weak story near the end and there was a historicalish novella about Einstein that simply didn’t capture me and which I didn’t finish, overall, this boded well for the future of the genre.