You know what never gets old? Watching elephants walk around. We stopped by the National Zoo on Saturday and spent a few minutes by the pen.
Up until recently, I’d been extremely selective about the “Song of Ice and Fire” commentary and analysis I paid attention to. The Westeros.org wiki can be a spoiler-laden minefield to navigate while you’re still trekking through the existing books, and I have no regrets yet about allowing BoiledLeather.com into my life. I was wrapping up an epic read through the latter’s chapter remix of A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, though, and since it was my first time looking at both of those books, the goal had been to let as many shocks and delights unfold in their full glory as possible.
I’m 100% caught up on the series now, however, so I have no qualms about reading the new George R.R. Martin Flipboard magazine that Random House has launched. The publisher is actually backing two such author-themed ventures right now, one for Martin and one for author Margaret Atwood. And the more I think about them, the more I think these magazines mark a pretty smart move on Random House’s part.
Now, I’ve been on the fence and off again about Flipboard since I first tried it out on my first-gen (now aging, slow and nearly useless) iPad. At first glance, my thoughts were, “Why do I need an RSS reader that shows me fewer headlines at a time and requires more gestures and navigation to see everything I want to see?” Nevertheless, the interface and design have grown on me. Flipboard is a clever platform for tablet (and smartphone) reading when the content plays nicely with it. A lot of publishers just sort of show up, and some barely look like they care about being in Flipboard at all, but when it works, it works well, and I hope the library of accessible publishers who don’t make you click through to a web browser continues to grow.
Fan magazines like this new George R.R. Martin one seem like sensible fits, though, in theory. As I mentioned before, I’m not a big fan of Flipboard stories that require normal web browser viewing, but for magazine-type articles with curated content being mixed in, I could see “The World of Ice and Fire” working out really well. The iPad is where I do most of my novel reading these days, and having a magazine-like experience to complement that makes a lot of sense on Flipboard, both for reader use and an easy option for book publishers, who (let’s face it) can use all the help they can get to corral and connect with audiences these days. I’d love to see some similar Haruki Murakami and Salman Rushdie options show up to the party as well.
The highlight of this weekend so far was definitely watching the launch of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE). Here’s what it looked like over the U.S. Capitol Friday night as it was headed to the moon.
It’s not on our floor, but it’s right above the entrance we use every day.
I don’t know if everyone else noticed over the past week, but it was a pretty great week for new music releases. Not only did the new Pixies track “Bagboy” and its video hit.
Meanwhile, Nine Inch Nails’ new David Lynch-directed video for “Came Back Haunted” appeared as well.
I’ve been hanging on to a few of these observations for a while, but my better half has been urging me to put a post up about the things I noticed during our May trip to South Korea. The Seoul subway system, crowd behavior and public habits in general really blew me away. Korea is a beautiful place, filled with some of the nicest people I’ve ever met, as well as some of the liveliest personalities and wonderful Internet speeds.
That said, here are five things from the surface that left lasting impressions on me. Feel free to let me know if I’m right or wrong about any of these points:
1. The phablet reigns
When I opted to go with the iPhone 5 versus a Samsung Galaxy III the last time I was due for an upgrade. One of the big reasons I stuck with the iPhone was the one-handed manageability. Well, in Seoul this same concern was obviously not a big deal for a huge a population of Galaxy Note and other two-handed smartphone users who prefer more screen real estate and foldable covers to the puny, paper-thin 5′s.
2. So do comics on phablets (and wimpier phones)
I couldn’t help being a little envious of all the digital comics readers on the subway. For everyone playing puzzle games or reading ebooks on their smartphones and tablets, there seemed to be someone else nearby flipping through comics—most likely from Naver, I gathered.
3. Ajumma fashion
Ajumma culture in general thoroughly fascinated me. If there’s one thing you should be prepared for in the Seoul subway system, it’s that if you are mildy confused about where you’re going and a pack of 2-5 older Korean women are walking toward you at full speed, you need to step out of the way immediately. From the streets to hiking trails, ajumma fashion can consist of gigantic visors and complete face wraps to near Pauly D-level blowouts with bling-enhanced sunglasses and shiny (vinyl?) jackets. Whatever they’re wearing, these women command respect and will have it given to them.
4. Grills are way more awesome
I can’t get over how much cooler this grill we used on Geojedo was than the standard, skeletal things I’m used to back in the States. With a little wood, these things turn into absolute fire cannons.
5. Socks in Seoul are amazing
Well, these socks were, anyway.
I’ve made a pretty concerted effort to track down theatre options since moving to D.C. from Chicago about a year ago. We caught the “Ethereal Encounters” shorts at the Source Festival, Laura Marks’ “Bethany” at City Center in Manhattan and two shows from the current season at Woolly Mammoth downtown. The morning I rode the bus out to O’Hare to pick up my rental van to come here, I actually had the pleasure of sitting next to one of my favorite cast members from Chicago’s Neo-Futurists. We swapped some perspectives on Chicago vs. D.C. topics, and she recommended putting Woolly on my list after I got settled.
Admittedly, I waited most of the year before finally getting tickets, but “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” was about everything a theatre junkie with a ingrained fondess for professional wrestling tropes could ask for. The play introduced a season of shows that frame cultural perspectives in situations of conflict with larger power structures, and on Saturday afternoon we sat down for another installment in the series—Danai Gurira’s “The Convert.”
Gurira, of course, is already, an accomplished playwright, but as a Robert Kirkman reader and “Walking Dead” watcher, I knew her work best from her role as Michonne on AMC.
Director Michael John Garces did a tremendous job staging this show on Misha Kachman’s set. Crosses appear all over and within one another in the shapes, and the protruding plank into the audience provides some well-constructed depth and emotional weight to the play’s key moments.
A few of the casting choices were stronger than others, but the outpouring of soulful earnestness from actress Nancy Moricette, the visible internal conflict exhibited by actor Irungu Mutu, and a spectacularly understated and complex character performance by Dawn Ursula leave lasting impressions to walk away with.
It’s a play that uses blood and emotion to make its case in an indictment against colonialism—which I get. For me what this play did even more importantly, however, was to articulate the way familial and ancestral relationships were reconstructed for converts by Catholicism as a part of an over-arching forced integration of materialist and capitalist value systems that along with missionary work gave occupying sources their own narrative for justifying control over land and natural resources. In that respect, I didn’t encounter anything new or revelatory about the whats or whys of colonialism in “The Convert,” but the play did get under the skin of the hows and whos.
As a whole, I’d be interested in seeing a reworked version of the show if it ever goes through some editing and rewrites, particularly in the third act. There were some moments in the climactic exchanges where the actors’ emotions seemed to lack framework within the script to express what they were really feeling, and given their obvious physical acting talents that were present throughout the rest of the show, I left with the impression that something about what was going on could have been staged or better scripted to refine what was being communicated.
Nevertheless, it was a moving play. I have some reservations about Mike Daisey and will likely skip the next production at Woolly Mammoth, but I’ll definitely be back eventually.