On the 20th Century

On the 20th C C and POn the 20th Century

On the 20th Century is an all American 1930’s musical with book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and music by Cy Coleman.

It has all the characteristics of the golden age of musicals, cool sets, colorful costumes, cheery chorography, plus Kristin Chenoweth. She and co-star Peter Gallagher are wonderful—hamming it up mightly.

As for the plot, I could explain it to you, but it’s not really relevant. Fun, Fun, Fun.

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Shows Spring 2015

 

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler

A Spool of Blue ThreadA Spool of Blue  Thread by Anne Tyler

The Whitshanks, Abby and Red and their four grown children, are a close knit Baltimore family driving (mostly) merrily along the road of middle class happiness.  However, when a domestic crisis brings an extended visit by the “black sheep” of the family, the wheels come spiraling off the bus.

In less capable hands, this would be rather conventional domestic tale,  but  Tyler is better than that. The Whitshanks may not be exactly like your family, but you’ll recognize every character.

What Other Reviewers Think

The Boston Globe: “Tyler’s characters are thoroughly three-dimensional. They are our own families; they are ourselves; and it is our own desperate desire to understand the people we love, as well as the people who hurt us and whom we hurt, that keeps us reading with fervor.”

Who Wrote It

Anne Tyler is the author of twenty novels including Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, The Accidental Tourist, and Breathing Lessons, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

May Home Sales

House with impatiensSingle Family Home Sales Davidson County May 2015

In Davidson County, there were 1003 home closings in May. This figure represents an increase from the 869 closings reported for the same period last year.

The average sales price increased to $317,409 from $264,628.

Single Family Home Sales Williamson County May 2015

In Williamson County, there were 499 home closings reported in May versus 417 closings reported for the same period last year.

The average sales price of $465,234  is slightly lower than last year.

Condominium Sales Davidson County May 2015

In Davidson County, there were 288 condo closings reported in May versus 252 closings reported for the same period last year.

The average sales price of $205,099  is 4% lower  than last year.

ADDITIONAL DATA

If you’d like more information about single family home sales in Davidson County, Area Two (I-65 to Charlotte Pike), Williamson County, or condominium sales in Davidson County, I’m happy to email you a comprehensive report.

The Audience

The AudienceTHE AUDIENCE

I’d watch Helen Mirren read the phone book, so tickets  to Peter Morgan’s play The Audience in which Mirren reprises her Olivier- winning role as Queen Elizabeth II was a must get for me.

Despite New York Times critic Ben Brantley’s less than enthusiastic  review of the production as a, “history-skimming chat show,” I thought it was wonderful.

“The audience” refers to the monarch’s weekly meeting with her prime minister–twenty minutes usually on a Tuesday. The play imagines these private conversations between the Queen and her PMs over many decades.

In her long reign, the Queen has been through twelve PMs (some served more than once.) For the benefit of American audiences, the program includes cheat sheet– brief biographical information about each PM as well an “interesting fact.”

Mirren,  who played the monarch in the 2006 movie The Queen (screenplay also by Mr. Morgan), portrays Elizabeth as discreet, hardy, empathetic, and with a mild sense of humor. Labor PM Harold Wilson’s comment to the Queen,    “You understand ordinary people, working people,” is however probably stretching the just like us with better jewelry analogy.

The Audience mirrenWith the exception of Judith Ivey, who as Margaret Thatcher is burdened with a ridiculous wig, unflattering suit, and a wavering British accent, all the PMs are quite capable of keeping up with Mirren. Rich McCabe as folksy labor leader Harold Wilson is especially good.

If Elizabeth is really like Helen Mirren, (and who is to say otherwise,) the UK could do worse.

The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

The Good Lord BIrdThe Good Lord Bird by James McBride

As you know, my book club is a serious group. But every year we try to select a light hearted book with no success. After the disaster that was Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,  we pretty much gave up.

But this year we chose a truly comedic novel without realizing it.

The Good Lord Bird, winner of the 2014 National Book Award, is a rollicking read in the tradition of Mark Twain.   The premise sounds a little off putting–a young African-American boy disguised as a girl  (Henry/Henrietta “traveling incog-Negro”) joins John Brown of Harpers Ferry fame. We know how that turned out, so at first glance not a ho, ho, ho kind of book.

But it is.  McBride is a master of both the slapstick and subtle, sometimes in the same paragraph. Brilliant

Note: not all the gals enjoyed The Good Lord Bird  as much as I did.

What Other Reviewers Think

The Washington Post: “A boisterous, highly entertaining, altogether original novel.”

Who Wrote It

James McBride is an accomplished musician and author of The Color of Water, Song Yet Sung and Miracle at St. Anna, which was made into a film by Spike Lee. McBride is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at New York University.

Condominium Amenities

 

Lobby at the Adelicia

Lobby at the Adelicia

Condominium Amenities

For condominium owners, it’s not just the location or the number of bedrooms, but the accompanying condominium amenities that make condo living special.

Until recently however, the only “amenity” offered at a Nashville condominium was an assigned parking space!

Well, times have changed! Condominium amenities which were considered “extras” a few years ago such as a pool, roof garden, or fitness center are now de rigueur.

De rigueur doesn’t mean cheap however. The monthly homeowners association (HOA) fee  for an amenity rich building is higher than one with limited services.

As such, when shopping for a condominium, consider what features are really important to you.

If you travel frequently, security may be your first priority. For the buyer of a smaller unit, having access to the condominium’s party room is the big selling point.

Whatever your needs, shop around. There is something for everyone.

Here is a list of eight desirable amenities around town.

Doorman

24 hour, three shifts of doorman (a/k/a concierge or security guard) will cost you, but you can’t beat the convenience of a truly full service building.  Whether it is someone to sign for your packages, let in the maid service, help with your groceries, or announce your guests, the personal touch is a welcome feature.

Security

Staff is not the only way to manage access to the building.  Many buildings utilize high tech options such as advanced video monitoring, key card or touch pad controlled entrances, and restricted parking.

Fitness Center at the Adelicia

Fitness Center at the Adelicia

Fitness Center

Fitness centers run the gamut from a set of weights and a tired treadmill to a fully equipped facility with a spa and changing rooms.

Pool

Whether for swimming, lounging, or meeting your neighbors, pools are a big favorite of condo owners.

Roof Garden or Private Park

Green space that you are not responsible for mowing, weeding, or watering—excellent! Sit back and enjoy the tranquility.

Residents' Lounge at the Adelicia

Residents’ Lounge at the Adelicia

Party Room

Party rooms have received a major upgrade from the bleak spaces of an earlier era of condo living.  Many look more like lounges with comfy seating, televisions, a bar, and a high end caterers’ kitchen.

Extra Storage

Whether it’s for out of season clothes, holiday decorations, or sports equipment, extra storage is a must. Some buildings have basement style storage; some offer more sophisticated climate controlled spaces.

Parking

Particularly in urban locations, assigned parking is essential. Most new condominiums offer underground, secure parking.  Two spaces is expected, three a bonus.

For information about two units currently for sale at the ADELICIA (#811 and #907), call Fridrich & Clark Realtor Karen Moore 615.300.7801.

Adelicia entrance close up

 

Those Confusing Condominium Fees

Pool at the Adelicia

Pool at the Adelicia

Those Confusing Condominium Fees

If you are buying a condominium for the first time, the monthly homeowner association fees can be confusing.

In evaluating condominium fees, the two key questions are:

  1. What does the fee cover?
  2. Is the fee adequate to meet the expenses of the complex?

 

Association fees vary based on how much “common” property the residents share.  In a high-rise building, the residents share the actual structure. In a cluster-home community, the “common” property is limited to the exterior grounds, and if applicable, the clubhouse, pool, and tennis courts.

WHAT DOES THE CONDOMINIUM FEE COVER?

In general, the association fee includes some of the following elements:

  • Insurance (association directors and officers, property, general liability, flood)
  • Common area, exterior, and ground maintenance
  • Pool, tennis court, and clubhouse maintenance
  • Some utilities
  • Staff payroll (security guard or doorman)

 

It is difficult to compare monthly condominium  fees at various residences without knowing which expenses are included. For example, the insurance premiums may be allocated in the monthly fee at one facility or billed as a separate annual assessment at another.

So where do you find this information? Your real estate agent can direct you to the best source of accurate information, which is the management company, or the president of the homeowners association. Once you’ve determined what expenses are included in the maintenance fee, you want to know if the fees are sufficient to cover the association’s obligations.

IS THE FEE ADEQUATE?

The question of adequacy is a bit trickier than merely knowing that trash pick up is or is not included.   Here are some suggested the questions:

  1. How much is the association fee, and what is the payment schedule (monthly, quarterly)?
  2. When was the last fee increase and by how much?
  3. How many homeowners are delinquent in their payments?
  4. Is there a reserve fund set aside for future repairs? If so, what is the current balance?
  5. When was the last major capital improvement? How was it funded?
  6. Any expenditures or repairs anticipated in the next 12 to 24 months?

 

The condominium’s managing agent has the answers to most of these questions.  But even so, I suggest that you request the condominium’s financial package and minutes of the past six Board meetings. (The Board minutes can shed light on issues of concern to the residents.)

The due diligence required to buy a condominium is not much different than a house.  The main distinction is that you are evaluating two properties, your individual unit and the overall facility. The good news is that Nashville offers a wide selection of condominiums. Shop around, and enjoy the lawn-free life!

 

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

Dead WakeDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson

100 years ago this month, while enroute from NYC to Liverpool, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine eleven miles off the coast of Ireland. The 787-foot, 44,000 ton pride of the Cunard Steam-Ship Company sank in just eighteen minutes taking over 1,200 lives. The incident is generally considered the catalyst for the USA’s entry into World War I.

In his new book on the subject, Dead Wake, author Erik Larson doesn’t reveal any new information about the tragedy, which has been covered exhaustively by historians over the years.  (Although he strongly suggests that the British Admiralty including First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, knew more about the sub’s movements than they admitted.)

Instead Larson has written a suspenseful tale of cat and mouse. The narrative alternates between Captain Walther Schwieger and his men in their claustrophobic transport  gliding silently beneath the surface of the water, and Captain William Thomas Turner,  his crew, and an assortment of guests blissfully cruising above.

Dead Wake is not as compelling as Larson’s earlier books In the Garden of Beasts or Devil in the White City. The last few chapters in particular feel a bit rushed as if Larson ran out of time or interest, but it is  still a pleasurable (and quick) read.

WHO WROTE IT

Erik Larson is the author of four national bestsellers: In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm , which have collectively sold more than 5.5 million copies.  His books have been published in seventeen countries.

WHAT OTHER REVIEWERS SAY

The Boston Globe: “Larson has a gift for transforming historical re-creations into popular recreations, and “Dead Wake” is no exception…Larson provides first-rate suspense, a remarkable achievement given that we already know how this is going to turn out.”

 

6 Things To Do On The First Night In Your New Home

Bathtub6 Things To Do On The First Night In Your New Home

After weeks (months, years?)  of searching, agonizing, and negotiating, you finally bought a house!

But as soon as the movers drive off,  the reality hits you.

OMG?! All of sudden the roof looks shaky, the carpet dirty, the appliances decrepit,  and the tiles in the bathroom are a most peculiar shade of green that you swear you never noticed before.

Relax.

Here are six things to do on your first night in your new home.

Plan a party

Plan a party —soon. My friend Ginna hosted a large party three weeks after her move-in date. There was no time for dillydallying—paint went up, furniture was purchased, and artwork was hung. There is no better motivator than a deadline.

Make the bed

Ah, just the sight a freshly made bed is soothing. A little island of calm among the mess.

Take a photo and post it on Facebook

Post a few photos of you amongst the boxes.   I guarantee you’ll receive many supportive and congratulatory comments from your friends. A few might even offer to help you unpack or bring dinner! (see below)

Have a picnic

This calls for a celebration, but you are too tired to go out to dinner. So order take out, uncork a bottle of wine (you did remember to pack the corkscrew in your purse?) and use your best paper plates!

Paper plates

Relish the mess

How many times in your life can you just let your house go!  Relish the moment–knowing how nice your home will look soon.

Remember why you bought the house

Look past the weird green bathroom tile and think about the first time you saw the house.   Remember how you envisioned your family sitting on the screened porch this summer? Remember how gleefully you anticipated double sinks? A separate laundry room? Walk-in closet? Gas cook top?

It will all happen—just as you envisioned! You just have to get through the first night!

Congratulations!

Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang

Empress Dowager Cixi, The Concubine Who Launched Modern China by Jung Chang

Empress Dowager CixiWhile rearranging the biography section of my library recently, I observed (not for the first time) that women get short shelf.

While the biographies of the men (Adams  through Warburg)  still require half a dozen shelves, the poor women barely take up one, short, shelf.

Why are there so few histories of women? One reason is that history is mostly written by men.

A particularly egregious  example of this is Empress Dowager Cixi, ruler of China for almost a half a century, whose legacy has not been well served by  Chinese or Western historians.

As her biographer Jung Chang  notes,

“The past hundred years have been most unfair to Cixi, who has been deemed either tyrannical and vicious or hopelessly incompetent –or both. Few of her achievements have been recognized and, when they are, the credit is invariably given to the men serving her.”

In her excellent biography, Empress Dowager Cixi, The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, Jung Change sets the record straight.

My short shelf  is now up by one.

The daughter of a government worker, Empress Dowager Cixi was not an heir to the throne of China nor as a woman could she be, but despite these handicaps, she successfully ruled one third of the world’s population for almost fifty years.

In the summer of 1852, the future Empress Dowager was a low ranking concubine in the court of Emperor Xianfeng. When she gave birth to his son, she was promoted to number two consort, second only to Empress Zhen. When her son inherited the throne in 1861, Cixi launched a coup against the regents and put herself in charge. And there she remained until her death in 1908.

Her long rule was even more remarkable because traditional Confucian political culture prohibited female monarchs, so Cixi governed through her young male heirs, first her son and later an adopted son. Not that anyone was fooled by this charade, but Cixi was careful to at least keep up the appearance of womanly deference.

Early in her reign (or her more accurately her son’s reign)  Cixi realized that China must modernize. The devastating opium wars brought home to Cixi the necessity of abandoning China’s long standing “closed door policy” and engage with the West.

Positioned behind the yellow screen from which she was obliged to conduct imperial audiences, the hardworking Cixi’s red inked decrees touched every aspect of Chinese life. Railroads, steam boats, telegraphs, and newspapers were introduced. The elitist educational system was overhauled. (At the time, 99% of the population was illiterate.) Commercial, civic, and criminal  laws were rewritten and trade policy established. Cixi also banished the ancient custom of foot-binding for women.

As an absolute monarch, Cixi didn’t have to listen to anyone, but she was remarkably open to ideas from both domestic and foreign advisors.

As Chang points out, Cixi make some mistakes. But unlike most imperial leaders, she admitted her mistakes and strove to make amends quickly.

Cixi’s reign was never dull. She endured and triumphed over revolutions, coups, betrayals, exile, famines, and foreign invasions.

A fascinating look at a dramatic period of Chinese history and a dynamic female leader.

WHO WROTE IT

Jung Chang is the bestselling author of Wild Swans and Mao: The Unknown Story (with Jon Halliday), which was described by Time as “an atom bomb of book.” Her books have been translated into more than forty languages and sold more than fifteen million copies outside mainland China, where they are both banned. She was born in China in 1952 and moved to Britain in 1978.

WHAT OTHER REVIEWERS SAY

The Sunday Times (London) “If there is one woman who mattered in the history of  modern China, it is the empress dowager  Cixi…[Her] conventional image is queried in this  detailed and beautifully narrated biography, which at long last restores the empress dowager to her rightful place.”

The New Yorker: “A woman whose energy, farsightedness, and ruthless pragmatism transformed a country.”

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