Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis - Review

The Woolly Mammoth Theater is 265 seat venue in the Penn Quarter area of Washington, DC. The theater is so small that virtually every seat is a good seat.

I took the Mrs. to go see Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis at the Woolly Mammoth Theater. We attended the Sunday matinee show. About half the seats were sold. The show was competing with a Redskins game, beautiful, spring-like weather in November, and Thanksgiving weekend shoppers and vacationers.

Set in Bolton, England, a working-class town north of London, the play is about Josie, a dominatrix who reluctantly celebrating her 40-th birthday, and reconsidering her career options. The cast contains a series of whacky characters, including Martha, the obsessive compulsive house cleaner, Lionel, a regular customer, Brenda Marie, Josie’s mentally challenged daughter, Shelley Louise, Brenda Marie’s twin sister that has returned for the birthday celebrations and Timothy Wang, the Chinese Elvis impersonator.

The play is a dramady - part drama, part comedy. There are a number of serious moments, broken up by comedic activities.

Why did I want to go see the play? I figured any play featuring an Asian-American Elvis impersonator had to be funny. And I really wanted a good laugh. But wait, there is more! Tony Nam, a Korean American immigrant, plays Timothy Wang, a Vietnamese boat refugee living in Bolton, England and impersonating a Chinese Elvis. Did you follow all that? And where else but in America will you find a Korean American immigrant portraying a Vietnamese boat refugee turned Elvis impersonator with a fake, working class British accent?

The show is an incredible emotional ride. You laugh, you cry (or at least the Mrs. did), you experience highs and lows, and you are never quite sure how things will end.

The only thing I would change about the play is moving the location from Bolton, England to Washington, DC or the local city of the production. American actors trying to use fake working-class British accents didn’t work. I think it would have worked much better if the play was set locally and the actors used local accents. More people would be able to better comprehend and relate to the story and characters.

If you are looking for some good laughs mixed with some intense drama, go see the show.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Christmas Shopping and a Movie

Black Friday
Today is Black Friday - the day after Thanksgiving that kicks off the Christmas shopping season. The Mrs. and I headed to Montgomery Mall. She braved the hoards of crazy shoe-hunting women and got quite a bit of shopping in. I spent the morning doing something my tire replaced because of a shard of glass that was wedged in. How long it was piercing my tire, I'll never know. But thank goodness the Mrs. didn't insist on driving to Leesburg Premium Outlets! After shopping, we had a quick lunch at home and headed over to the Bethesda Landmark Cinema to see The Fountain.

The Fountain
Every once in awhile, I see a movie that makes me stop and think about life. Some of those movies include The Hunger and The Sixth Sense. The Fountain, while not as good as The Hunger and The Sixth Sense, was nonetheless thought provoking.

The movie stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, the fiancee of the director - Darren Aronofsky. The plot alternates between three time periods - 1) the 1600s and Weisz as Queen Isabella and Jackman as a conquistador, 2) modern day with Jackman as a cancer researcher-monkey surgeon (no, Jackman didn't play a monkey) and Weisz as his wife, who is terminally ill with brain cancer, and 3) Jackman as a bald 26th century astronaut-yoga afficionado.

A number of themes are presented for consideration in the movie. Life, death and rebirth. Contrasted with death, rebirth and life. The end of one life leading the beginning of another. Eternal life. Enlightenment. Journeying to the heavens and the afterlife. While someone quipped that 96 minutes felt like eternal life, the Mrs. and I were pretty satisfied with the solid performances and didn't feel the time drag by.

The themes are all thought-provoking. What is the meaning of life? Is there life after death? Whatever happened to the tree of life, as mentioned in the Bible, Genesis 3:22? Was it hidden when Eve and Adam ate from the tree of knowledge? The tree of life plays a prominent role in the movie.

The film conveys simple and honest themes. Live life to its fullest. Do not fear death. Seek out personal enlightenment and spirituality. Focus on the important things in life. Don't get so caught up in your work or your quest and lose sight of the present and what really matters.

The movie mixed elements of love stories, history and science fiction together. The writer(s) of the screenplay targeted a wide audience. One might even venture to say that the love stories appealed to the women and the history and science fiction aspects appealed to the men. But the Mrs. disagrees with my stereotypes, so I'll just wrap this up by saying that Weisz and Jackman have a pleasing chemistry that makes it highly plausible that it lasted for a millenium, at least.

Overall, the movie was entertaining, and left me pondering those unanswered questions. The movie has a few loose ends, such as how Jackman’s character went from modern-day scientist to 26th century astronaut and it's not really clear whether he changes the past in one scene or dreams it up. Nevertheless, it was still worth watching. At least at a matinee showing or when it comes out on DVD.

Good luck shopping this weekend - and going to the theater!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Phoenix, AZ to Washington, DC-Dulles 9:00 PM MST

Mountain v. Pacific Time
Arizona is one of two states that does not follow Daylight Savings Time. Hawaii is the other one. Parts of Indiana follow different Daylight Savings Times. So, during Daylight Savings time, Arizona is on Pacific time, but during Standard Time, it is on Mountain time.

Flying Home
I’m sitting in the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, waiting for my Ted flight to Chicago. From there, I’ll catch a connecting flight back to IAD. It’s a two segment redeye.

I wanted to catch an earlier flight to LA or San Francisco, and then catch the redeye back to IAD. That would have allowed me to sleep during the entire transcontinental flight. Unfortunately, the flights to LA and SF were overbooked, and the transcons from there to IAD were also overbooked.

So, I am waiting at the airport for my 11:59 PM flight to Chicago. Only 3 hours to go!

My brain is fried. Why you ask? Let me tell you why!

My body is still on East Coast time. So, I woke up every morning here in Phoenix at 5 AM. Plus I got to bed around 1 AM because of work. Getting 4 hours of sleep for the last few nights has tuckered me out.

3-Day Weekend - For Some
Phoenix is a nice city. It is apparently the 4th or 5th largest city in the U.S. now. I looked into flying the Mrs. out for the weekend to do some sightseeing. But I checked for flights from DC to Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego this weekend and everything was overpriced. And the return flights were all redeyes.

One of my colleagues looked into flying out to Las Vegas for the weekend. Finding a flight was easy. But finding a hotel was a major problem. The least expensive decent hotels were close to $300 a night. That’s a lot for a Vegas hotel.

What’s going on? This weekend is Veterans Day. And a lot of people appear to be taking extended weekend trips.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Washington, DC-Dulles to Phoenix, AZ

Wednesday, November 8, 2006 7:00 PM EST

I am on United Flight 953. Seat 9C – Economy Plus seating! Having the extra leg room in Economy Plus does make a difference. It’s a much more civilized way to travel.

I arrived at Dulles around 3 PM. The check in lines were long for everyone, General Members as well as Elites. The wait time for General Members to check-in their bags and get their boarding passes was 45 minutes. But only to about 10 minutes for me to get my boarding pass in the Elite line.

I expected the security lines to be long as well. Surprisingly, they were relatively short. Granted, it didn’t matter as I used the Premier security line and got right through. Traveling with status makes a big difference.

I am heading to Phoenix for another conference. I will be participating on a panel discussion. The conference is being held at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass. Trip Advisor reviews rate the hotel at 4.5 stars, which is nearly perfect. All the reviews have been very positive. The photos make the resort look beautiful. Alas, I won’t be staying there. The hotel is undergoing renovations due to mold problems and not enough rooms are available.

So I will be staying at the Buttes, a Marriott Resort in Tempe, AZ. The Buttes also received high reviews, although not as high as the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass.

The Day After
Yesterday, November 7, 2006, was Election Day. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 seats in the Senate were up for grabs. In early October, the polls began to indicate the Democrats would take the majority in the House and had an outside shot at taking the majority in the Senate as well.

The polls proved accurate last night. The Democrats captured the majority in the House, retaining every incumbent seat, and picking up a number of hotly contested seats and open seats. That’s quite an impressive feat.

Political analysts expected the Democrats to win three Senate seats from Republican incumbents – needing a total of six seats to win an outright majority. As of this writing, the Democrats have picked up five seats, and appear to be on the verge of picking up a sixth seat and capturing the majority. Senator George Allen of Virginia is trailing his opponent, James Webb, by roughly 8,000 votes out of over 2 million cast.

The last time the majority changed hands in both the House and the Senate, 4,000 Hill staffers found themselves out of jobs. We will have to wait and see what happens this time around.

I hope the Democrats and Republicans will work together and move the country forward. It’s time to put the blame aside and do what is in the best interests of the country.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Steamed Crabs and Chocolate-Covered Cheesecake

I took the Mrs. out to the Maryland Eastern Shore today. Our goals were to have lunch at the Harris Crab House and check out the Queenstown Prime Outlets.

The drive out to the Eastern Shore consists of a routine that starts off hurried and ends up relaxed.

  1. Hop on the Beltway.
  2. Take Route 50 East.
  3. Drive by the Bowie Airport and then Bowie.
  4. Notice the traffic changing from hurried commuters to people heading for more leisurely pursuits.
  5. Pay the $2.50 toll at the Bay Bridge and cross over to the Eastern Shore.
  6. Start letting all the stress from work go.
  7. Enjoy the nice foliage and scenery.
  8. Totally forget about your life in DC.
  9. Enjoy the rest of your time on the Eastern Shore.

Most people head out to the Eastern Shore to go to Ocean City, MD, or one of the Delaware beaches – Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany. I looked into getting a room at one of the beaches, but most were booked solid. The reason – The Annual Punkin Chunkin Contest. The event is held the first weekend after Halloween every year. The goal is to design a catapult or air cannon that will shoot a pumpkin the farthest. Another description is an excuse to play with food and go drinking out in the Delaware farm country.

The Harris Crab House
We arrived at the Harris Crab House a little after 12 Noon, and got seated in the non-smoking area upstairs. The downstairs was relatively full, but the upstairs was relatively empty when we got there.

After reviewing the menu, we decided to start with a half dozen steamed crabs and fried oysters. The crabs had that sweet taste combined with the spicy bay seasonings. We worked through the first six crabs in due course and order another half dozen. We thought about getting an entrée, but decided the dozen crabs and fried oysters were enough for the moment.

By the time we left, the upstairs was nearly full. Patrons could be seen happily cracking crabs and savoring the flavors. Definitely a fun time.

Queenstown Prime Outlets
After lunch, we drove a few miles down the road to the Queenstown Prime Outlets. The Mrs. did pretty well, finding some nice business outfits at Brooks Brothers. I had fun exploring the Rocky Mountain Chocolate store and the Pepperidge Farm store.

I wanted dessert after lunch, and decided to try the frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate store. It was quite the treat. A nice, dark chocolate enveloped a creamy cheesecake. I enjoyed the treat, but the Mrs. didn’t like the combination of flavors. That meant more for me to eat!

The Pepperidge Farm store was a lot of fun too. I picked up specialty cookies, Godiva Chocolates, bread and other goodies. It is the perfect store to encourage my chocoholism.

My name is Max, and I am a proud chocoholic.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

McCormick & Schmick – Happy Hour Review

McCormick & Schmick is an upscale seafood restaurant chain. There are about a half dozen locations in the Washington, DC-area. The restaurant is known for its Happy Hour.

I took the Mrs. out for Happy Hour at McCormick & Schmick. What makes Happy Hour unique at the restaurant is the food menu. There are five items on the menu ranging from a ½ pound cheeseburger with fries to chicken satay and oyster shooters for $1.95. And there are another half dozen items on the menu ranging from buffalo wings to mussels for $3.95. You can eat a lot of food for a reasonable price.

The burger was very tasty. Slightly crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. The fries were cut thin and also crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. We also ordered mussels and buffalo wings. The mussels were steamed in a broth and served with drawn butter. They were mouthwateringly delicious. The only disappointment was the buffalo wings. The presentation was nice. But the flavor just wasn’t there. They weren’t tasty at all. Most unfortunate.

Here are a few things to look out for:

  • Happy Hour runs from 3:30 to 6:30 PM. For those of you who don’t get off work until later in the evening, it’s hard to make it to the bar on time.
  • There is a two drink minimum, but it isn’t always enforced.
  • The price of the food is reduced, but the beers are full priced – around $6.00 each. We actually ended up paying more for the two beers than all the food we ordered.
  • The mussels were tasty. But many had broken shells. Most cook books recommend throwing away mussels with broken shells. Further, you need to be careful when biting into the mussels – because you may end up biting into a shell and chipping or cracking a tooth.

I will go back occasionally. But there are plenty of other restaurants in Bethesda the Mrs. and I want to try.