Archive for the ‘History’ Category

One Million Expected For Inauguration Day; Tickets At A Premium

One Million People Expected For Obamas Inauguration

One Million People Expected For Obama's Inauguration

With Inauguration Day just around the corner, expectations are that a crowd of about one million will be in attendance. Thousands of tickets are being requested in the District as well as in Congressional Offices throughout the country. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) alone has received 26,000 requests for tickets.

People are going crazy and offering housing in the District for thousands of dollars. The DC Council has gone berzerk. They are fighting with Mayor Fenty over the 150 Inauguration tickets that he has been given to distribute. Whining is rampant. The juvenile City Council is even threatening to hold up legislation until Fenty splits the tickets 50-50 with them. The question we are left with is: How will January 20, 2009 actually turn out? Will it be a monumental day for a million plus to enjoy, or will it be a cold day that ends up indoors?

Following the election of Barack Obama, more than 10,000 students from The George Washington University charged the White House for an eviction party that got ugly. Can the Inaugural Parade’s designated “free speech” areas hold protesters, especially as such a controversial President-Elect passes by? I personally expect a lot of arrests on January 20th.

But the bottom line is that Inauguration is DC’s big day on the national spotlight. Preparations began the day after the election, and probably were being discussed behind closed doors for months before that. Out of the chaos, a moment in history will be born, and as DC’ers we’ll be in the front row.

Mark your calendar: American History Museum Reopens November 21

Each time I volunteer at the Smithsonian, someone will inevitably ask, “Where are Dorothy’s slippers?” and “Where can I see the first ladies’ gowns?”. On November 21, the Smithsonian Institution will kick off a three-day festival to celebrate the reopening of the National Museum of American History.

The first 1,814 visitors through the museum doors will receive a special gift in honor of 1814, the year of the Battle of Baltimore when the Star-Spangled Banner waving at “dawn’s early light” inspired Francis Scott Key. The old favorites like the American Presidency, Julia Child’s kitchen, Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, and America on the move will return on display with a new state-of-the-art gallery for the Star-Spangled Banner.

The museum closed in 2006 for an extensive $85 million renovation. The new interior features a skylit atrium and a grand staircase of metal and glass that connects the first and second floors. Artifact walls on the first and second floors will showcase some of the 3 million objects in the museum’s permanent collection.

So don’t miss the official ribbon cutting and plan to drop by between 10:00 am – 7:30 pm for the festivities.

Anthropologist Explains Crystal Skull Mystery

museum of natural historyFor those of you looking for answers, tomorrow afternoon Jane MacLaren Walsh will be available to talk about the Natural History Museum’s crystal skull on temporary display in the “Science in the News” case.

At noon, the documentary “Legend of the Crystal Skulls” will screen in the Baird Auditorium on the ground level of the museum. When the lights come up, Walsh will be available for what should be a very interestinga session of questions and answers

While the event is free, seating is first come, first serve.

The crystal skull is on display in the ground level of the Natural History Museum through September 1st. The museum is open until 7:30 pm daily thru the Labor Day weekend.

Heavy Metal: Renaissance Warfare at the Folger Shakespeare Library

armor exhibitWarfare today mirrors its state during Shakespeare’s time. Science delivered a period of transformation. As technology improved with the introduction of gun powder and the musket, the role of the armored knight and his physical strength lost its military usefulness.

Most of the custom made armor reflect the look of contemporary fashion. While these breast plates and helmets protected the wearer, they also served as vehicles for establishing social status and as a reminder of familial ties.

You can see these old suits in “Now Thrive the Amorers: Arms and Armor in Shakespeare” that runs thru September 9, 2008. The Higgins Armory Museum, the only museum dedicated to armor in the western hemisphere, lends from its collection of military treatises, fencing manuals, gilded arms and etched armor.

Three quarter armor, coats of arms, broad swords and rapiers line the walls of the Folger Great Hall. A free cell phone audio tour provides additional information on family ties, the day’s fashion trends, and Renaissance battle strategies.

201 East Capitol Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
Get directions ยป

Mysterious Crystal Skull Revealed

Crystal SkullIn 1992, a mysterious package was delivered to the National Museum of Natural History containing an unsigned letter and an enormous, milky crystal skull.

On display for the first time, the 31 pound Smithsonian skull dwarfs the crystal skulls on view at the British Museum in London and the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris.

Is this one of the legendary 13 Aztec skulls? Does a mystical healing energy emanate from this crystal object? Does it come from Atlantis?

Smithsonian anthropologist Jane McLaren Walsh thinks not. She began her investigation soon after the milky quartz skull arrived at the Smithsonian. She identified modern stone-carving tool marks and determined that the skull couldn’t have been carved before the mid-19th century. Instead, she believes the skull was manufactured in Mexico around 1960.

Is this really a story of New Age hype? Or could there be some truth to the skull’s mystique?

The crystal skull is on display in the ground level of the Natural History Museum through September 1st. The museum is open until 7:30 pm daily thru the Labor Day weekend. Why not head over there after work and check it out for yourself.

Cyber Seder with Carl and Elise

How is this night different from all other nights? For one thing, it’s the wrong darned night. Don’t let that stop you from attending the third annual Cyber Seder at This is the third year we have done a live cybercast of our Passover Seder. Unfortunately, we were out of town the first two nights of this important holiday, but we feel that it is important enough to continue the tradition that we are doing it on the third night to play catch-up.

Not sure what Passover or a Seder is? Read all about it here and then come join us. As long as we are here, your wanderings have not taken you too far from home, or at least a virtual representation of it. The broadcast will start at 6:30 and the actual Seder will commence at 7 p.m.

George’s basement

I was flipping around area websites, looking for possibilities for the weekend (even though it’s supposed to be rather frigid, it’s nothing compared to my winters in Chicago) and stumbled upon this tidbit of info.

Seems that Mount Vernon has been capitalizing on the success of the recent Nicky Cage movie, National Treasure: Book of Secrets. If you’re not familiar with the movie, there’s a scene where our intrepid puzzle-solving hero (Cage) decides he needs to kidnap the President of the United States (played by Bruce Greenwood) and does so at a garden party at Mount Vernon. And it revolves around a ‘hidden passageway’ in one of the estate’s basement rooms.

When I first saw the movie, I do remember commenting to my wife afterwards that in all likelihood, we’ll see several D.C. sites jump on the ‘free’ marketing bandwagon and promote themselves along with the movie. And lo and behold, Mount Vernon did indeed.

This weekend is the last available date you can go visit the site for the scene. There’s no additional cost – it’s included in the regular admission and you can only visit that space on the weekend. General admission to Mount Vernon is around $13 for adults and is well worth the cost – it’s a beautiful estate right on the Potomac.

It’s interesting – as usual – how movies portray things that are out of context with the real world. The room used in the movie, according to the website, was actually “designated as the ‘Cellar Kitchen’ on a plan prepared by George Washington at the time he planned additions to both ends of the building in 1774. This space appears to have been used as a kitchen for the slaves assigned to serve the Washington household.”

No mention of a secret passage, however. And I would suggest if you go check it out, don’t try – I’ve a sneaking suspicion that Hollywood made it all up…

Last Chance – Ansel Adams

Sunday is the last day to see the Ansel Adams exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery . Over 125 of his fantastic photos are featured in the exhibit, including many from his trips to the Grand Tetons (pictured), Yosemite and the Sierra Nevadas.

Much of the art displayed is from his personal collection, which is amazing to contemplate in this day of digital photography. The Mysterious M and I saw the exhibit back in October and it’s just inspiring even to amateurs such as myself. And frankly, I was more impressed with the Adams exhibit than the Leibovitz one next door (that one already closed up shop).

But that’s probably due more to the horrendous crowd that snaked through there – when strangely, the Adams one was all but ignored that day.

No matter. If you’ve not had a chance, go. Sunday’s the last day.

John McCain’s "Smokes for Kids" Program Started in Alexandria

This started with me looking for pictures of Dupont Circle rats on Flickr. You know how the web is. One thing leads to another and before long you are reading about John McCain giving a five-year-old a cigarette while a student at Episcopal High School in Alexandria.

At first I just chuckled but read on. The brief article is about the author’s father, who was McCain’s football coach and a very good role model during his formative years, even if they were mostly spent sneaking into the Gayety Burlesque Theatre in DC. Read a little snippet here and then go read the entire piece. It’s certainly a great tribute to a great man.

My own memories of John McCain are limited mostly to the occasions when he’d be assigned to our house to work off demerits–raking leaves, mowing our backyard, etc. One day I was innocently wandering around the campus and stopped to talk to some of the students at “Egypt”, the school’s designated outdoor student smoking area on the south wall of Stewart Gym, the school’s wrestling gymnasium. McCain was there with Rives Richie, another student and frequent guest at our house. The evil McCain asked me if I wanted to smoke a cigarette and handed me his. I took a puff, inhaling, choked on it and ran home. I could hear McCain laughing.

If you’ve got a creepy commercial, you’ve got a brand identity

Here is an old TV ad for the Saionitz & Kirk law firm that used to run all day long in between Lincoln Tech and Jhoon Rhee spots.

I recalled it being even creepier — there may have been a longer, more ominous version.

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