✔ Pick of the Pack
Event: Underwater Santa
Taking your child to the mall to pose with a Santa stand-in is as American as getting audited by the IRS, and can be about as enjoyable. If your offspring insist on plopping down on the big man's lap yet again this year to rattle off a list of unattainable wants, consider mixing it up by taking your dear, sweet, delusional children to see Santa underwater at the Olney Swim Center. In exchange for bringing $5 worth of canned goods to the swim center, which will teach your young ones the value of giving to those who have even fewer toys than they do, kiddies will get a short lesson in scuba and a chance to pose for a picture with an underwater Santa. No, this isn't an allusion to the North Pole melting and drowning Santa's workshop, just the Olney Scuba Adventure Dive Club doing what it does best.
Dec. 4 at the Olney Indoor Swim Center, 16601 Georgia Ave., Olney, Md.
Concert: Tori Amos
Few American singer-songwriters have had as many second acts as Tori Amos. When she first came onto the scene in the mid-'90s, she was classified as "just another New Age flower poet," a label she all but endorsed when she told Spin in 1996, "The music is the magic carpet that other things take naps on." In the late '90s, Miss Amos began experimenting with dark electronica melodies and even darker lyrics (1999's "To Venus and Back" features a song about murdered female factory workers in the northern Mexico city of Juarez; a prescient track, considering that Juarez is now the most dangerous non-war zone in the world.) In September, Miss Amos released "Night of Hunters," her best album since "To Venus and Back" (she has released six albums over the last decades, none of them quite as well received). "Night" features classical influences, a more mature lyrical style, and guest appearances by Miss Amos's daughter, Natashya Hawley, who is shaping up to be one heck of a singer herself.
Dec. 5 at DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D St. NW.
Event: Repeal Day celebration
On Dec. 5, 1933, Utah became the final state to ratify the constitutional amendment that made God's gift to man - Ben Franklin said beer "is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" - legal once again in these United States. While this anniversary is not particularly special, the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild is right in celebrating it as if it were. After all, freedom commands its own celebration every time a person of legal drinking age puts stein to lips. That said, admission to the ball will run you between $100 and $150. Steep, yes, but that sum gets you unlimited cocktails by some of the country's best mixologists (bartenders-cum-scientists, for the uninitiated), including D.C.'s own Gina Chersevani, of PS 7's Restaurant; Chantal Tseng, of the Tabard Inn; and Owen Thomson, of Think Food Group.
Dec. 3 at Halcyon House, 3400 Prospect St. NW.
Concert: Andrea Bocelli
Italian singer Andrea Bocelli never could see well, and was fully blind at the age of 12. Like the blind man in Raymond Carver's short story "Cathedral," Mr. Bocelli is as much a lover as any man who can see, and you can hear it in his voice. It's a tenor that hovers above genre and accompaniment, whether he's partnering with a pop star or a symphony orchestra. Critics, particularly the New York Times' Anthony Tommasini, has suggested that Mr. Bocelli is actually a poor man's opera singer. "The basic color of Mr. Bocelli's voice is warm and pleasant, but he lacks the technique to support and project his sound. His sustained notes wobble. His soft high notes are painfully weak. Inadequate breath control often forces him to clip off notes prematurely at the end of phrases." And while it's true that he's no Luciano Pavarotti, this listener says that Pavarotti's thunderous tenor - which put the "more" in "amore" - has frightened more hearts than it melted.
Dec. 2 at the Verizon Center, 601 F St. NW.
Author reading: Daniel Kahneman
Nobel winner Daniel Kahneman's focus is not on what we think, but how and why. "When you are asked what you are thinking about," he writes in "Thinking Fast and Slow," "you can normally answer. You believe you know what goes on in your mind, which often consists of one conscious thought leading in an orderly way to another. But that is not the only way the mind works, not indeed is that the typical way." More often that not, argues Mr. Kahneman, the thoughts we can put a name to are the product of processes we never think about. "The mental work that produces impressions, intuitions, and many decisions goes on in silence in our mind." Move over, Jack Handy, Mr. Kahneman's thoughts are even deeper than yours.
Dec. 7 at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW.
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