Archive for the ‘Essential DC’ Category

Happy Holidays Washingtonians

Christmas DC at dusk from Flickr user Shane Bee

"Christmas DC at dusk" from Flickr user Shane Bee, Creative Commons

Hello from my stomping ground in North Haven, Connecticut. I knew I was home when two little girls ages four and 18 months woke me up yelling that Santa had come. 4:07am. My stomach was still grumbling from the massive 7 inch Santa cookie I ate while playing Saint Nick only a couple hours before. Living in DC makes coming home to a small suburban town like North Haven almost surreal. There is something to be said for spending time with family and old friends, but going from Inauguration fever in DC to “are all the roads going to get plowed?” fever in No.H. is nothing short of unnerving.

Today is at once a day of celebration and a day of sobering reality for the families of those folks who fell victim to the mayhem of Christmas Eve. Millions of families nationwide had to make cutbacks and sacrifices in light of tough economic times, but some resorted to theft and violence. NBC Washington reports 5 robberies in 90 minutes in wealthier Northwest neighborhoods in DC, an elderly man who was beaten to death near the Watergate Hotel, and a shooting occurred at Westfield Mall in Wheaton. These incidents only represent the tip of the iceberg. Here in Connecticut, my sister reported from her job at Burlington Coat Factory that dozens of people attempted petty theft during the day yesterday. It is a desperate time and many are suffering for it.

Today we would be right to spend a few minutes counting our blessings and thinking about the other families who will be struggling to put food on the table after pushing budgets to the limit for Christmas. We should reflect upon the family who will not have a grandfather at the holiday table today, and who will never look at the Watergate Hotel the same way again. And then we can celebrate; this is, after all, a holiday. We should enjoy being with those whom we don’t see often enough. We should enjoy the good food and gifts.

I set out to write a happy and upbeat Christmas post, but I guess it is a good thing that it is tempered by the reality of our current state of affairs. Holidays are not an escape from reality. If anything, they get us closer in touch with the realities of the economy, a culture of crime, and continually strained family values. Yet that understanding allows us to celebrate good fortune and togetherness, and therein lies the true meaning of Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

In praise of the Ginkgo

props to avlxyz on flickr for the image

props to avlxyz on flickr for the image

In the category of clearly underappreciated, the Ginkgo tree has taken a beating in the DC blogosphere lately, here and possibly here. And so I feel the need to post a defense.

According to Casey Trees, there are about 4,200 Ginkgo trees in DC.  As one of the Earth’s oldest plant species, Ginkgos make excellent street trees.  The Ginkgo tree was also a favorite of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. And they’re yummy — Ginkgo nuts (aka “white nuts”) are roasted and eaten as snacks, and the extract from Ginkgo biloba leaves has all sorts of health benefits.

The city has a Ginkgo injection program that — okay — could have more resources and be more effective.  It has to be difficult to treat that many trees at just the right time.  But if everyone could step carefully when the fruit falls, we can all enjoy the beautiful foliage, cleaner air, reduced stormwater runoff, carbon sequestration, and cooler climate.  Trees!

How Not to Park

Recognize this car?  It’s a late model black Ford Escape with North Carolina tags, and it’s been parked on my street for several weeks.  We’ve discussed this with the meter maids parking enforcement personnel who ticketed it on a regular basis, but the car stayed put.  It’s also been blocking the street sweeper every Thursday, which implies these have NOT been issuing warnings since the beginning of August.

So today we called 311.  Turns out the vehicle was reported stolen six weeks ago!  The very helpful officer who arrived with a tow truck speculated that someone parked for an evening out in Adams Morgan, got a little tippers, and couldn’t find it again.  Or perhaps it was a vicious practical joke, or a sudden and incapacitating injury.  Sadly, we’ll never know.

The wackiest part?  The car was unlocked the entire time.

Inaugural Ticket Info

preserve, protect, and defend

preserve, protect, and defend

UPDATE:  In comments, I was reminded that Tom Davis is leaving the House due to retirement, not electoral defeat.  I stand corrected!

The election is over, the winner has finally been announced (within the hour!  boy, that was a relief…but I digress).  But the plans for Inauguration 2009 have been in the works for some time.  You may have noticed the platform going up on the South Side of the Capitol building.  You may have noticed the nice, fresh, even pavement on Pennsylvania Avenue.  You may even have noticed the repainted bricks on Penna. Ave.’s many crosswalks, so that they will be nicely bright red when the parade is broadcast (now in HD!).    State societies will be just some of the myriad groups to put on their best at inaugural balls galore.  The whole city will party down!  If you haven’t been here for an Inauguration yet, you’re in for a treat (as long as you’re ready to be patient for extra security and traffic).

If you want to be a part of the festivities, you can contact your Senator(s) or House Representative to request a ticket to the swearing-in ceremony which will take place on the Capitol’s south side, at noon on January 20, 2009.  This year’s theme is “A New Birth of Freedom”, and will begin celebrations of the bicentennial of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, our 16th President.  The folks in charge of the ceremony (the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies) have a website up, where you can learn about past inaugurations and look at photos and artifacts from ceremonies past.  The Inaugural Parade, organized by the Armed Forces Inaugural Committee, is a show in itself.  Will the Obamas walk as many recent presidents have done?  Or will they ride in bulletproof luxury, a la Bush 2005?  (Open cars seem to be out.)

And don’t forget, whether you’ll be partying the days and nights away in celebration, or drowning your sorrows, it will be a four-day weekend for most of us!  (January 19 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.)

Check your representative or senator’s website for details!

DC:  Eleanor Holmes Norton


Sen. Barbara Mikulksi
Sen. Benjamin Cardin

Gilchrest, Wayne T.; Maryland, 1st
Ruppersberger, C. A. Dutch; Maryland, 2nd
Sarbanes, John P.; Maryland, 3rd
Edwards, Donna F.; Maryland, 4th
Hoyer, Steny H.; Maryland, 5th
Bartlett, Roscoe G.; Maryland, 6th
Cummings, Elijah E.; Maryland, 7th
Van Hollen, Chris; Maryland, 8th

Jim Moran, VA 8
Frank Wolf, VA 10
Tom Davis, VA 11 — he’s been defeated retiring and is referring requests to the new Representative, Gerry Connolly.

Maybe There Is Some Hope For The Nationals

Mike Bauman over at wrote an excellent article last night about the upcoming World Series between the Rays and the Phillies. He called it “Fresh matchup offers must-see baseball.” Here is the general gist of the article:

You hear a lot of talk about “ratings,” as though the game is played primarily to provide successful television programming. This is also definitely not about that and it can be proven.

Ratings took a hit when the Yankees did not reach the postseason. The departure of the Cubs after three games of a Division Series did not help the ratings. The departure of the Dodgers after the NL Championship Series will not help the ratings. The departure of the Red Sox after the AL Championship Series will not help the ratings.

A pattern has emerged here. The biggest-market clubs are not winning. This is not a crisis. This is growing parity. This is increased competitive balance. This is baseball in the new millennium. It is better than it used to be.

Bauman is absolutely right. This World Series is a wake-up call to any team that has been suffering, and any team that has either a small market, or a large market that it has not grown into yet. The Devil Rays have been a small, young expansion team in a large market. This year they exploded, posting 98 wins when they have never won more than 70. Here they are in a World Series. I have NEVER seen Tropicana Field even close to full, and now you can’t get a seat. Washington Nationals take notice!

As I explained in my offseason plan for the Nats, they could be next. Many of the pieces are in place for our local baseball team to charge on to the national scene and compete with teams like the Mets and Phillies. If the Rays can bash heads with the Yankees and Red Sox, and come out on top, then the Nationals can also persevere. In the years to come, others can and will pick up the slack of a weak “big market.” The only question is… who?

Shear Madness I Tell You!

Its Madness! Shear Madness!

It's Madness! Shear Madness!

After 9,000 performances at the Kennedy Center, along with a ton of shows elsewhere, I must have been the only guy in the world who had not seen Shear Madness yet… until Saturday. It is an audience driven Barbershop murder mystery that touches on current events and pop culture to produce a hilarious, interactive exhibition. The actors have an amazing ability to separate their feelings from their characters, which creates an atmosphere friendly to back and forth jabs between those on-stage and in the crowd.

If you haven’t seen it yet, join the 8 million who have experienced Shear Madness. You will not regret the decision. Shows are Tuesday-Friday at 8pm, Saturdays at 6pm and 9pm, and Sundays at 3pm and 7pm. Tickets are $40 and you can order them online.

Get your creative juices flowing on Saturday at the 2008 Arts on Foot

On any given day, if you’re craving a little art and culture, there is always an exhibit or performance or demonstration to quench your appetite.

Well this Saturday, plan to venture to Penn Quarter for an extravaganza of art and crafts and performances.  Bombard your senses with 2008 Arts on Foot, a one-day visual and performing arts festival that kicks off the DC fall season.

In addition to the outdoor festival on F street between 6th and 9th Streets, the following venues will also feature activities, exhibits and performances:

Smithsonian American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery: The museums will host booths at the street festival that offer hands-on activities for children.

National Theatre: Come to the inaugural performance of Saturday Morning at the National. Carrie’s Dream is a true story of an African-American girl growing up in the rural south. This interactive show features sing-alongs and reflects the humor and struggles of a family coping with life in a segregated society. Performances are at 9:30 and 11:00 am. Though free, tickets are required and will be distributed 30 minutes before the show on a first come, first served basis. The Helen Hayes Gallery at the National Theatre is located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.

Warner Theatre and Woolley Mammoth Theatre: Take a back stage tour of the theaters. See the Arts on Foot events schedule.

Old Post Office Pavilion: Enjoy live performances by the Levi Stephens Band (alternative soul), Phaze II (smooth jazz), Uncharted Waters (smooth jazz funk), and Kirk Lamkin & Pulse Level (smooth jazz). Performances take place on the Pavilion Stage and are free to the public.

Canadian Embassy: Picture enthusiasts will enjoy a collection of 330 images entitled – 50 Years of American Photojournalism. The photos capture moments from the civil-rights movement, the various wars from 1939 – 1989, and famous people.

Landmark E Street: The DC Shorts Film Festival presents free family films with genres ranging from animation to sci-fi to comedy to experimental. Free tickets will be distributed at the DC Shorts booth at 10:00 am on a first come, first served basis.

National Gallery of Art: At 12:30 pm, catch “O Dia do Desespero (Day of Despair),” a documentary style film about the final hours of Camilio Castelo Branco’s life. The movie speculates on the creative process of the 19th-century Portuguese writer.  Then at 3:00 pm watch “The Last Conquistador ” which follows the  controversy over sculptor John Sherrill Houser’s most important commission, the world’s largest equestrian bronze of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate. Filmmaker John Valadez will be present to lead a discussion after his film.

National Museum of Women in the Arts: Visit the NMWA booth on 8th and F Streets to create your own unique artist’s accordion book.  All materials provided for you to create a masterpiece.

In addition to all the arts activities, don’t miss the wine tastings and culinary demonstrations. A fun-filled day for all ages!

"I am the Bat-Man"

Queuing for The Dark KnightYesterday, when leaving the noontime showing of The Dark Knight at the Uptown Theatre, a friend and I noticed the queue for the next showing.  Eager Batman fans braved the muggy heat, winding all the way round the corner and up the hill on Newark Street NW.   I was already nearly crippled by nostalgia; the first Batman film opened on the day before I graduated from high school, and I waited in just such a line for hours on end.  My friend, however, was thinking back on more recent times.  She remarked that it put her in mind of the lines we’d stood in over the years.  Various Star Wars films, Independence Day, the all-day Lord of the Rings marathon.   We always want to sit on the right side of the balcony, and time our arrival at the theatre (queuing as needed) accordingly.  I can’t think of a better place to see movies (epics, action, sci-fi) in all their larger-than-life glory.  If only it had digital projection…What are your favorite Uptown experiences? 

You can voice your 1st Amendment rights in D.C., just as long as you’re QUIET!!!!

In the wonderful wisdom that is the D.C. Council taking their lead from the President in trying to *hush* dissent in the Capitol, preliminary approval was given to quiet noisy demonstrations within the city. As WTOP reports, that the measure is aimed at getting demonstrators away from residential neighborhoods and limit “non-commercial public speech” to 80 dB at a distance of 50 feet. The initial ordinance was proposed by Tommy Wells (Ward 6) and supported by Mary Cheh, Kwame Brown and David Catania in 2007, but was now just voted upon for enactment.

So what you’re saying, is that, while folks who decide to at least exercise their right to be heard in a public forum, “non-commercially”, must do so at a whisper, but some “commercial” entity, blaring music and using a loudspeaker, can do so wherever and whenever they want in D.C.? Let’s take a glance at what 80dB’s really gets you. [Note: Contrary to the “quick facts” posted on Councilmemeber Wells’ site, and increase in decibels is not a simple “doubling” but a logarithmic scale increase… which is a much different mathematical consideration… so much for politicians fact checking before trying to enact laws.]

original photo by rev_bri
10dBA – Normal Breathing
20dBA – Mosquito or Rustling Leaves
30dBA – A Whisper
40dBA – A Bubbling Brook, or a Refrigerator
50dBA – Normal Conversation
60dBA – Laugher
70dBA – Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA – City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA – Motorcycle or Lawnmower

So, what they are proposing, is that you can protest in D.C., as long as we can’t hear you above the din of the traffic in D.C.. WTF?! Ice Cream trucks are louder than that… granted other cities are cracking down on those too. Granted, I always wanted the ice cream truck in my neighborhood to play “Helter Skelter” or come around like L.A.’s ice cream truck of satan.

D.C. readers, what’s your view on this… pleasant relief or curb to your Constitutional rights to be a pain in the ass?

DSC_5644.jpg — Originally uploaded by rev_bri

Astronomical Miscalculation

DC @ Night

Someone who I thought was a reliable source of astronomical facts (and knowledgeable of the black magic behind them) said that on Friday, March 21st the full moon would pop up over the horizon and line up nicely with the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, and the Capitol. You know the view. Now I know this photo has been taken a billion times by many, many other photographers, but did that stop me from wanting to try? Absolutely not. I wanted my own shot of this view so I drove up to the Iwo Jima Memorial with camera gear in tow.

A little to my surprise I discovered about fifty other photographers up there, all with their cameras, tripods, and telephoto lenses, many identical to mine. I felt a little silly setting up my gear next to these guys (and three girls) so that we could all get basically the same shot, but as Ron Burgandy says, “When in Rome.”

We were all ready, fingers anxiously placed on our camera’s shutter buttons (or remote chord buttons as it were), shots lined up, apertures set, shutter speeds set, ISO’s set, when all of a sudden, “Where’s the damn moon?” Someone shouted, “Hey, it’s over there!” The huge orange globe lumbered into the sky about 3-4 frames to the right of where we’d all hoped it would be. I think the term that best sums up our disappointment is “WTF?”.

All in all, it was still fun to go up there and see the full moon from such an awesome vantage point. I managed to get some interesting shots anyway, and can only hope that later in the year I’ll get to try again.

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