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Get Out: The week’s pocket picks

- - Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lecture

Jennifer 8. Lee

In 1983, a San Francisco judge was tasked with determining the city of origin of a classic American dessert. His courtroom was packed with representatives from Los Angeles and San Francisco, each group claiming that they knew for a fact that the tasty treat in question had been born in their city. According to author Jennifer 8. Lee, the evidence that clenched the ruling was "a set of round black iron grills." Applause, whoops and hollers accompanied the judge's declaration that San Francisco was, in fact, the home of the fortune cookie. Like a number of other dishes served in American Chinese restaurants, the fortune cookie is about as foreign as apple pie. And chop suey? It was created in America by Chinese immigrants around the turn of the 19th century. In Chinese, the name means "odds and ends." Ms. Lee discovered a plethora of revelations in her quest to find the origins of American Chinese food. Her investigations led her to write a book titled "The Fortune Cookie Chronicles" and the soon-to-be-released film "The Search for General Tso: A Documentary Film About Chinese Food in America." Ms. Lee will talk about both at the National Archives. Wednesday at the William G. McGowan Theater, Constitution Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets Northwest. Phone: 202/357-5000. Web: www.archives.gov/nae.

Festival

Old Firehouse Teen Center Block Party

The Old Firehouse Teen Center promises a "sensible cure for 'I'm bored.'" Boredom may be less of a burden now that school is back in session, but that's no reason to skip the center's 21st anniversary party. The event is free, features live music, fair food, rides and a talent show called "McLean Teens Got Talent." If you're not from McLean, so what? Cotton candy is an equal-opportunity treat. Saturday at 1440 Chain Bridge Road, McLean. Phone: 703/448-8336. Web: www.mcleancenter.org.

Comedy

Brian Posehn

Comic and character actor Brian Posehn (pronounced "po-sane") is not the father, or even the godfather, of alternative comedy. He is more like its well-meaning, neurotic uncle. In 2004, Mr. Posehn had something of a mass-market breakthrough playing the part of a Lurch-sized nerd on NBC's "Just Shoot Me." His dry humor got him a spot on Conan O'Brien's show, where Mr. Posehn said he had been a nerd for 30 years. "I know I'm 37, but I don't count the first 7. I don't think you look at a baby or a little kid and say, 'What a nerd. That kid's never going to get laid.'" It was dry and self-deprecating, a welcome change from the smug cool-kid comedy developed by "Saturday Night Live" players in the late 1990s. It has stood the test of time. In a 2006 sketch called "Metal by Numbers," Mr. Posehn, who got his start on MTV's "Half-Hour Comedy Hour" in the late 1980s, watches a music video by a group of tween rockers. "I hate this new stuff," Mr. Posehn says. "It's just metal by numbers. It's so easy, any idiot could this." Before Mr. Posehn can launch into a metal montage, his wife looks up from her magazine and says, "Honey, you're an idiot. Why don't you do it?" Saturday at the Arlington Drafthouse and Theater, 2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington. Phone: 703/486-2345. Web: www.arlingtondrafthouse.com.

Theater

'Let's Get Personal'

Annika B. Lewis bills her one-woman show, "Let's Get Personal," as "an absurd report from the happiest country in the world, with a personal commentary ranging somewhere between blind angles and clear views." Although this country does not exist, Miss Lewis' description of it closely resembles the United States, where success comes from a carefully calculated fusion of self-help, self-promotion and self-deception. Miss Lewis stars as an insanely chipper productivity expert who, in between politically charged monologues, leads the audience in satirical breathing exercises designed to help them reach their truer, deeper selves (which are, in the end, as gullible as their falser, shallower selves). With its emphasis on programming people to be orderly and efficient in their personal and professional lives, and its reference to "Newspeak," "Let's Get Personal" is a darkly funny riff on George Orwell's "1984." Friday and Saturday at the D.C. Arts Center, 2438 18th St. NW. Phone: 202/462-7833. Web: www.dcartscenter.org.

Movie

'An Affair to Remember'

To paraphrase Bernard of Chartres, every good movie stands on the shoulders of an older story. "An Affair to Remember," released in 1957 and starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, not only stands on the shoulders of 1939's "Love Affair," it is itself a perch for Nora Ephron's contemporary classic "Sleepless in Seattle." All three movies revolve around a pair of lovebirds who test their commitment by agreeing to meet at the Empire State Building. Ms. Ephron loved Grant and Kerr's chemistry so much that she made it the backdrop for her film. Friday at American City Diner, 5532 Connecticut Ave. NW. Phone: 202/244-1949. Web: www.americancitydiner.com.