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.
In lieu of some longer reviews right now, here a few scattered thoughts on what I’ve been reading and otherwise seeing or hearing the last few weeks:
- Ezra Claytan Daniels’s serialized Upgrade Soul comic on iPad: Andrew Hayward clued me into this one via his review at Mac|Life. It’s a slightly animated multimedia version of a comic with surreal and sci-fi elements, and it makes much better use of its medium that most other motion comics or similar narrative presentations that you’ve probably run into. I recommended trying an issue and seeing if it’s to your liking.
- Girls is back on at HBO, and I’m caught up with the first two episodes of Season 2 as of today. It’s interesting that show dived right into responding to last season’s race criticism by introducing Donald Glover’s new character Sandy. Nevertheless, it’s been a pretty shallow response as far as the writing goes. They’re upping the ante as far as Adam’s creep factor goes, but right now this is still a show my heart’s only about half into whenever it’s on.
- It started reading George R.R. Martin’s A Feast for Crows, and was quickly steered toward reading the book simultaneously with A Dance with Dragons by Sean T. Collins. I’m reading Sean’s chapter remix sequence at the moment, and it feels very natural. Also, I think this is the approach that any real Tyrion lover should take, based on what I’ve seen so far.
- For $2.99, the new Archaia take on Shotaro Ishinomori’s Cyborg 009 was a pleasant digital surprise. I picked up issue #0 from comiXology, not realizing that the new comic came with 60 pages of the original manga packed into the file as well. I’ll definitely be with this one for at least a few issues, but both the old and new material were a steal for the price.
This is just a beginning-of-the-year signal check to let you know I’m still blogging out of Washington, D.C. If you’re one of a handful of people I’ve bumped into online or off in the last few months, I’m still running the editorial department over at Industry Dive. (Check out Education Dive, Food Dive and Utility Dive, among our many other sites to see what that involves.)
As you can see on Flickr, we crafted a “Gangnam Style” PSY pumpkin this year—and just in time for his re-aired appearance on Saturday Night Live tonight, though that was completely coincidental.
It’s barely visible from the street, but I think we’ve got the only jack-o-lantern in the whole building, so it it does stand out at night as a tiny pair of illuminated sunglasses with a bow tie.
Here he is with the lights out.