Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Rubi Girls, James Bond and Marion’s pizza

I thought I’d mention a few fun things I did this past weekend, lest you get the impression from Sunday’s post that my life’s all gloom and doom.

Saturday evening I saw the Rubi Girls at the Dayton Art Institute. The highlight of the evening was a special 10th anniversary showing of the Rubi Girls documentary film by Jonathan McNeal (aka Ileasa Plymouth), followed by a live performance, all in the Renaissance Theater.
Taj Mahal and me in my brand new t-shirt
The proceeds of the evening were split 50/50 between the Rubi Girls to support AIDS organizations and the DAI towards a new sound system (which, as I’ve noted before, is desperately needed). The Rubi Girls were fun, as always, even doing a rendition of the ever-popular Rubi Dance.

After the show, everyone moved to the Gothic Cloister for the after party. Souvenir t-shirts were on sale, the bars were flowing, the Rubi Girls were mingling, and everyone was enjoying the food catered by Dana Downs of Roost Modern Italian. Unfortunately this was the last time we’d be able to enjoy Dana’s food at the DAI, as they have parted ways (see “Restaurant owner says lack of revenue, disagreements doomed Art Institute partnership”) and Leo Bistro is now managed by Elite Catering, with a new menu lacking favorites such as the Branh Mi sandwich (ginger lemongrass pork, carrot daikon pickle, siracha mayo, bacon jam, yum!), which luckily I had one last time the week before. I do like going to Roost itself but I’ve really enjoyed having Leo Bistro right across the street. I will try out the new Elite Catering Leo Bistro in the hopes that it’s worth patronizing.

Martin Bevis peforming on the Wurlitzer Organ at Victoria Theatre
I spent Sunday afternoon with my mother. First we went to Victoria Theatre to see one of their Cool Films. This weekend was James Bond weekend and the Sunday movie was Live and Let Die, the first Bond film to star Roger Moore, my favorite of the James Bonds, perhaps because Sean Connery was before my time. The movie was preceded by Martin Bevis performing on the Wurlitzer organ and then a Bugs Bunny/Wile E. Coyote cartoon. I liked James Bond but something I didn’t realize watching Bond when I was kid is how inept the criminals in this film are: if you want to kill James Bond, don’t stick him on a rock in a pond full of crocodiles and then walk away—just shoot him!

After the movie, Mother and I went to Marion’s Piazza to use our 48th anniversary 48% off coupons. To celebrate their anniversary, Marion’s used to sell pizzas at their 1965 prices, but they switched a couple years ago to offering a discount matching their anniversary—here’s hoping they keep the current policy for their 100th anniversary and that I’m still around! Marion’s was born the same year I was, and I’ve been eating Marion’s pizza all my life (the sausage may look like animal droppings, but it’s delicious!). You can read another fun Marion’s memory here. The deal with the anniversary coupons is that you can’t phone in orders but have to place them at the restaurant. Marion’s is very efficient, though, so the line moves quickly. I was wearing my brand new Rubi Girls t-shirt, and interestingly three different people, including the manager at Marion’s, asked me about it. The Marion’s manager wanted to know if I was one of the Rubi Girls. Another person said they loved the Rubi Girls. A third person asked if I knew Josh Stucky aka Dana Sintell (I do); it turns out she went to high school with him but amazingly has never seen him perform!

So there you have three fun things to do whether you live in Dayton or are just visiting. Actually folks who aren’t native Daytonians often don’t like Marion’s, but they’re crazy!

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

I bought a CD at the Dayton Art Institute last night

Doing so wasn’t something I’d planned, but I got an email yesterday from the Dayton Art Institute reminding me that their first Twilight Concert was that evening, and I didn’t anything better to do, so I went. The program didn’t look especially interesting—it just listed “Gem City Chorus” and “Jeremy Collins, guitar”—but I live right across from the DAI and have a membership, so I figured I might as well go.

I walked over early so that I could stop at Leo Bistro for a drink and a bite to eat before the concert. Leo Bistro is the DAI’s fancy new bar/café, replacing their old Café Monet and in a much better location, at the front of the building off the rotunda, where the gift shop used to be. Leo Bistro’s run by the same people who own Roost Modern Italian, and the food, although limited in selection, is good. During the DAI’s flood exhibit I would walk over to have dinner at Leo Bistro about once a week, but since that exhibit closed, evening traffic at the museum’s been a bit sparse (lunch is still hopping though), and so Leo Bistro has reduced its evening offerings to a short bar menu. I had a glass of Casa Bianchi Malbec and the pepperoni and mozzarella arrancini.

That put me in a good mood for my stroll through the permanent exhibits—during which I did not encounter a single person although I did spy a large group of women in a cloister—on my way to the Renaissance Auditorium for the concert. It might have been because of the big media frenzy about the coming derecho, but not many people came to the concert. I know the audience was outnumbered by the 50 or so members of Gem City chorus, and I suspect we may also have been outnumbered by the museum staff as well.

I snagged a seat in the middle of the second row, which turned out to be an excellent choice because the concert turned out to be all acoustic. A poor woman struggled with a couple microphones for about 10 minutes before the concert but finally gave up. Actually performances in the Renaissance Auditorium don’t really need amplification (I know, having sung there with the Dayton Gay Mens Chorus). It’s a fairly small space and we were a rather small audience.

Jeremy Collins
That was the setup for the best part of the evening. The featured guitarist, Jeremy Collins, was on stage directly in front of me, so it was like having a private recital just for me.

Collins did his first piece, “Winter Dream” from his CD of the same name, in the dark. I guess the same woman who couldn’t manage the microphone also wasn’t up to the challenge of the lights. Collins mentioned being at a competition once where the power went out and a fellow competitor did his entire performance in absolute pitch black. We still had some light coming in from the doors on either side, so we could still see Collins, but the darkness made the performance seem even more intimate.

What we couldn’t tell from DAI’s rather sparse description on its website and in its email was that “Jeremy Collins, guitar” is actually a classically-trained guitarist as well as a composer. Think of a violinist’s vibrato and you’ll have some idea of how Collins plays guitar. “Winter Dream” was his own composition, made even more interesting because, as Collins explained, he adjusted the tuning of his strings for the piece, adjusting one a half tone down and another a full tone up (or something like that). I played violin in elementary school through high school but had never heard of non-standard tuning—the Suzuki Method doesn’t cover scordatura. Whether because of the alternate turning or just because it was classical guitar well played, I very much enjoyed Collins’s music.

The stage lights finally came up, and Collins did three more pieces. His other pieces weren’t his own compositions. The first was “Fandango” from “Tres Piezas Españolas,” by Joaquín Rodrigo and was what you might expect of Spanish guitar music. The second was “Elegy” by Alan Rawsthorne, who died while composing it (Collins said it was uncertain who completed it but Wikipedia says Julian Bream did)—it was a touch modernistic for my tastes. The last was “Introduction and Caprice” by Giulio Regondi, who Collins explained was rather noted for composing guitar pieces that were difficult to play, perhaps because guitars were smaller when Regondi was composing. I liked this piece very much as well. And that was it—the rest of the concert was the Gem City Chorus, although I’d have been happier if it’d been all Jeremy Collins.

Not that the Gem City Chorus was bad, but I wasn’t enchanted by them. Choral music can be fun if you’re part of the group singing or if the jokes are geared towards you (as those by gay choruses are towards me), but the Gem City Chorus jokes about men thinking women can’t drive well or about hearing aids fell on deaf ears as far as I was concerned. The woman who’d (luckily) been unable to set up a microphone for Collins did manage to set one up for the chorus, but fortunately it wasn’t on while they sang, only as various chorus members came up to do various bits of explanation. Given the loudspeaker’s horrible tinny sound (like a public address system, not a theatre’s sound system), they’d have done better to have avoided the mike and instead just spoken clearly and loudly. I did particularly like one of their songs, a rendition of Melissa Manchester’s “Come In From the Rain” sung by their “large quartet” comprised of 7 of their section leaders.

So after the concert I decided to buy a CD, Winter Dream, from Collins. I liked what I’d heard of his music and wanted to hear more, and I felt a little sorry that he’d trekked up from Cincinnati for such a small turnout. If you’re curious about scordatura, you should definitely check this CD out as each of his pieces on it use different tuning. You can read more about Collins and some background on the compositions on Winter Dream in this MasterWorks Festival interview with him.

And you should definitely come to the Dayton Art Institute for one of these concerts. Worst case it’s just a pleasant diversion. Best case you might learn something and discover something fun.

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Choices and Black Friday

What Thanksgiving is all about to many Americans

2011 Walmart riot

2012 Walmart riot

One choice, made each Thanksgiving weekend by millions of Americans including my own sister, is to brave the Black Friday crowds in search of bargains. Part of my family’s Thanksgiving tradition is that my sister pores over the Black Friday ads, mapping out a plan of attack, and then, very early the day after Thanksgiving (or now very late on Thanksgiving night), she drags my brother-in-law along for the fun. I don’t think they’ve ever gotten into a Walmart riot, but so what if they did? They certainly wouldn’t be alone.

Another choice is to abstain from the craziness of Black Friday. I myself have never gone Black Friday shopping in search of bargains.

Closeup of one of Stephen Knapp’s Lightpaintings
on display at the DAI
Instead this year I went across the street to the Dayton Art Institute, renewed my membership, saw some Lightpaintings by Stephen Knapp, and had a nice quiet final lunch at Café Monet. (Final because Café Monet, run for the past few years by Elegant Fare, is closing this Sunday, to be replaced by Leo Bistro to be run by the owners of Roost — I’m actually looking forward to the DAI’s new community space and restaurant but I did like Café Monet.)

If you haven’t seen a Lightpainting, you really should go to the DAI to see some. Light flows through pieces of glass mounted to the wall with stainless steel brackets. The colors are fabulous, and, to paraphrase Knapp’s explanation of his work, the glass and the brackets add depth to the works that make them not just paintings of light but rather pieces of sculpture to be viewed from many angles.

I could say that my choice for Black Friday is better the choices made by those who riot over cheap goods at Walmart, but I won’t because I have a position of some privilege. I can well afford to turn my nose up at $2 waffle irons because I can afford to pay for a membership at the DAI and to dine out there for a quiet relaxing lunch, having conveniently ordered my Christmas presents online from Amazon.com, a corporate behemoth which may not be quite so bad as Walmart but which nonetheless has its critics (no, I didn’t do my Christmas shopping locally, so go ahead and judge me).

I also know some of the folks who riot, or almost riot, over things I’d find it ridiculous to riot over. Just this past Saturday at my church’s monthly food pantry folks arrived as early as 3 o’fucking-clock a.m.! to stand in line in the cold until we opened our doors for intake at 7:00 and for selecting food at 7:30. Some of those folks had heated words about who should be before whom in line, words which almost but not quite came to blows. We served a record number of households, 85 of them, and luckily we had enough food for everyone.

So I shouldn’t judge others. I have plenty to eat, I don’t have to queue in line for free food or cheap goods. I can choose to have a peaceful Black Friday, and for that I’m thankful.

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