Books In The Field

That was the title and subject of an exhibition (now closed – I caught it on its penultimate day) at the Society of the Cincinnati, housed in the Anderson House, near Dupont Circle. The Society focuses on Revolutionary War history (Cincinnati comes from the Roman general, Cincinnatus, who you can look up on your own, but which connects to George Washington both resigning his commission and also only serving two terms). The books in question are the books used by Continental Army soldiers and officers during the war against Britain – mostly, as you might expect, books on military strategy and exercises and on medical/surgical techniques.

I am a sucker for exhibitions about books. I love looking at old books.

I will admit, it was a struggle to really linger over the volumes because my little one, unsurprisingly, is less enthralled by such exhibits than her father. I didn’t even try to complete a tour of the house later. But I hope to go back some day and see it all (the next exhibit is on Alexander Hamilton who is, of course, having a bit of a moment).


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.