Archive for November, 2006

Washington, DC’s 4th Gift to the World – Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms Okay, okay, we admit it. It’s time to come clean.

Here in DC, we’re terrible re-gifters. Here we are, claiming the cherry blossom trees along the tidal basin as our gift to the world, when the first 3000 trees were in fact a gift to the city from the mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki in 1912 as a way to build friendship between Japan and the United States. Ozaki was a liberal who opposed the rising tide of Japanese militarism, and would be imprisoned during both world wars for his anti-war activities.

In 1965, twenty years after the end of WWII, Japan gave another 3800 trees to the US. In 1981, we gave cuttings back to Japan to replace trees which had been destroyed in a flood.

While the grove along the Tidal Basin is certainly the most famous, and the water and the monuments certainly add to the overall effect of viewing the blossoms, you have plenty of other options if crowds aren’t your thing. Yoshino cherry trees have been planted in smaller groves all over the area- they’re easy to spot because they bloom before almost anything else does. My personal favorite spot for hanami, or blossom viewing, is actually under the tree on the hillside across the street from our house. A blanket, a bottle of wine, and a picnic lunch make sakura season complete.

So, maybe this re-gifting thing isn’t so bad?

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What’s Good About Baltimore?

I know there are many-a-feelings about Baltimore around these parts. I have my own feelings – some positive, some negative – but what do you all say? What are some good and positive points about our neighbor one hour to the north? A comrade – currently a Charlottesville resident -is in the very early stages of considering relocating to Baltimore. Clearly the scenery will be a big change (and probably a downgrade, let’s just be honest), but we all know that while Baltimore is not favored by everyone, there must be some good/fun/interesting things about living in the city.

I’m talking aside form the “touristy” options – yes, I know the aquarium is good, but no one wants to go there more than once. Same with the club and bar scene that only 21-year-olds want to frequent. What are the other options?

Restaurants? Venues? Good dive bars? Local hang-outs and coffee shops? What are your suggestions for someone that might, maybe, possibly, be moving there – tell us where he should hang out.

Bring it.

Christmas tree farms

If you are looking to cut down your own Christmas tree this year, check out the following sites for more information.

Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Maryland Christmas Tree Association

Source: The Post

Does anybody have any tree farms to recommend? I have gone to a place off of Belmont Ridge Road in Loudoun County the last couple of years, but am open to other sugggestions.

bah humbug

You probably started receiving them before you left for your Thanksgiving celebration. The barrage of email messages demanding in all caps, bold letters, that you "SAVE THE DATE" for your company’s holiday party. Of course, there are only so many evenings in the month of December that can accommodate this kind of entertainment.

So along with this party, you’ve got invitations your significant other’s job, your friend-who-needs-a-date’s job, your family’s, highschool friends’, college friends’, post-college friends’, neighbors’, professional association’s, etc. So unless you’ve just read Danny Wallace’s "Yes Man" and decided to take it on as your life’s new mantra you face a dilemma… do you go to the office party or not?

Some might advise that you don’t even consider NOT going unless you have a justifiable conflict. The rationale is that the office party is supposed to bring together colleagues for a bit of camaraderie and some well-deserved recognition… and if this is not your idea of a great time, then just consider it work, put on your happy face, and go.

I disagree. Unless you work for a company the size of Dunder-Mifflin in Scranton, you shouldn’t feel forced to go. I mean will anyone really be that upset you’re not there?

And besides, nothing kills your holiday buzz faster than getting caught in the awkward small-talk conversation with those people from your office you just don’t really like. Admittedly you have to work with them during the regular 9-5 – but at least they’re paying you for that time!

Widen Your Point of View

I know, I know. It’s entirely possible that I spoke too soon about the best shot of the Air Force Memorial. I take it all back and throw this out instead: There is no best shot. I will say this however, a memorial of this size really lends itself to a wide angle lens or even a fisheye lens such as j6 photo has used here. His Sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 lens was perfect for the job here, not only because it captures the entire memorial but also lends to the swooping spires and exaggerates their lines. I could do without the bent human in the foreground, but sometimes you’re just not patient enough for people to clear out of your viewfinder (or sometimes people rudely step into it). Santa, if you’re listening, I’ll take a new Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens. Oh wait. I guess I’m Santa seeing as how I buy my own Christmas presents.

Washington, DC’s 5th Gift to the World–Music (Chuck Brown)

While some may debate the musical classification, influences, and origins of go-go, there is no question that Chuck Brown (1934 – ) was a fundamental force behind its creation. Brown was born in North Carolina, but moved to D.C. with his parents at age seven. He grew up listening to jazz and blues and took up playing the guitar. He began his musical career in the early ’60s, making his on-stage debut with Jerry Butler and the Earls of Rhythm. In "65 he began performing with a Latin-inflected band called Los Latinos, whose syncopated backbeat thrilled him.

Affectionately referred to as the "Godfather of go-go," Brown pioneered a musical blend of Latin beats, African call-and-response chants, rhythm and blues, and jazz whose heavy, complex, and non-stop rhythm arrangements inspired people to get up and get down to a brand new funk:

"I got sick and tired of watching people sitting around. Disco was too fast people didn’t want to get all sweaty, and they just sat down. So we cut the beat in half (and called it Go-go) because it never stops."

Go-go in this case is not the popular music of the 1960s that inspired a dance and fashion craze, but rather a music and social scene deeply rooted in our nation’s capital. Brown exploded onto the scene with his first hit "We the People" followed by the gold album "Bustin’ Loose"
and its number one single of the same name. Building on the international success of his mid-80’s album Go Go Swing, Brown went on several tours around the world to play packed international venues.

Today, the sound of go-go is still heard in clubs and dance halls, as well as on the playgrounds and street corners, of D.C. The music continues to hold a large international following and Brown spends much time touring Europe and Asia. In 2000, go-go music was featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and Brown was presented with the District of Columbia’s Mayor’s Arts Award for his pioneering contributions to the music of the city. The 2005 opening game for the Washington Nationals baseball team featured Chuck Brown singing "Bustin’ Loose" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch. Brown was the recipient of a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts that same year.

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Arlington Residents: Don’t park on the leaves!

The Arlington Co. web site reminds us not to park on the leaves that line many of the streets. The site also refers to a Post article from last December about a fellow who parked in a pile of leaves and lost his car to flames just minutes later. I’ve seen this happen elsewhere as well. It’s not pretty to see a burning car with the owner running around screaming, unable to do anything as firefighters douse the heap of junk.

It’s been quite a number of years since I was behind the counter of a car parts store, but as I recall, your catalytic converter can reach temperatures up to 1000 degrees. Why, that’s even hotter than two rats in a wool sock. The converter is essentially a chemical reaction box that restricts the flow of exhaust gasses, causing major heat build-up and thus danger when parked in leaves, which apparently ignite at around 400 degrees.

I am pretty certain that other areas outside Arlington can benefit from this warning as well, but since it was on the Arlington web site I wasn’t sure…

Union Station Christmas tree lighting

For the tenth consecutive year Union Station is hosting the Royal Norwegian Embassy’s Norweigan Christmas. Tonight, the Christmas tree gets lit at 6 p.m.:

Renowned actor, Earle Hyman, will flip the switch to light the 8,000 lights on the tree. The 80 year old actor is best known for his role as Bill Cosby’s father, Russell Huxtable, on “The Cosby Show,” but is also a distinguished stage actor. He taught himself Norwegian so that he could read Henrik Ibsen’s plays in the original language. The ceremony includes choral song and appearance by Ambassador of Norway, Knut Vollebaek.

Source: Norwegian Embassy Press Release

The model train that “winds its way through the mountains and fjords of Norway” has been running for a week now. There is also a life size ice carving of a polar bear today too.

Even if you can’t make it up tonight, it’s worth a trip to see Union Station all decked out for the holidays. The decorations beautifully complement the station. Thank goodness those who wanted to tear down this Beaux-Arts marvel failed.

A Soldier’s Last Stand

Solemn they stand in the grass, cold, white orderly. Tombstones at the Soldiers Home National Cemetery.

Would you know anyone there – the graveyard, I mean? I run by it often, yet I never see a living soul among the souls passed.

I have a friend who wants to be buried there, he wants to preserve green space as much as fall in line with his Army.

Me, I try to run by, run fast, and not think too much about that coming day.

Washington, DC’s 5th Gift To The World-Music (Bad Brains)

A tad less refined than Sousa or Ellington, my portion of DC’s 5th Gift to the World is just as influential to its respective audience. I’m here to write about Bad Brains.

Talking about the musical legacy of the Velvet Underground, David Bowie once said that during their original run not many people had heard VU but everyone who did went on to form their own rock-n-roll bands, himself included. The same could be said for DC’s own Bad Brains, the most influential East Coast Hardcore band.

Bad Brains was formed in 1979 by Dr. Know, a former jazz guitarist, who wanted to combine the chaos of live UK Punk shows and the protest song mentality of Reggae lyrics. To do so he recruited three other young, DC-born, african-american musicians – Darryl Aaron Jenifer (bassist), Earl Hudson(drums), and of course the legendary H.R. (vocals).

Taking their musical inspiration from the previously mentioned styles, Bad Brains crafted a hyper-kinetic speed-punk style that no one had ever heard before. Here was a band doing something enitrely new. Bad Brains live shows quickly took Washington by storm and the rest of the East Coast shortly there after. Combining their musical stylings with the Napoleon Hill’s Positive Mental Attitude pseudo-philosophy the Bad Brains were not only spreading a new style of music, but a new way of life. A positive self-reliance that offered some hope in an otherwise nihilistic scene.

In the early 80’s the reputation of Bad Brains spread across the United States. In every community their music reached dozens of Hardcore imitators appeared. The high point of Bad Brains’ hardcore phase was the release of their epic debut album, the ROIR Cassette. Released after 4 years of touring, their self-titled cassette was like a musical hand-grenade, the shrapnel of which lodged into thousands of American punks, creating wounds that would fester until American Hardcore was spreading through Ronald Reagan’s America like gang-green.

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