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Friday, November 7, 2014

Goodbye to The Prices Do DC

All things must come to an end.

Today is the last post I am planning to write for The Prices Do DC. I will also be ending our 3 other DC companion blogs - Counter Culture in the Capital, DC Book Looks, and DC Screen Scene.

I began The Prices Do DC when my wife Judy and I retired and moved to Crystal City 3-and-a-half years ago. I started it as a way to record all the interesting things we were doing in Washington. And we were doing, and will continue to do, a lot. Over the years, the blog evolved into the form you see here, but the essence was still always our DC activities.

At the same time, I began an educational consulting career. here in DC. Now, I plan to devote more time to that endeavor and so I am halting my DC blogging.

Over its history, The Prices Do DC obtained 126,527 page views. I thank each and every person who took the time to check out our page. I hope you enjoyed what you read as much as Judy and I did publishing it for you.

Although this is the end of The Prices Do DC, it isn't the end of my blogging. Our DC doings will now be chronicled in the new blog Been There, Done That DC. I will continue to write my blog There's Always a Price to Pay. I will continue curating my blogs The Merry Muckrakers Rag and Rock of Agers. In the near future, I will also be adding a blog about teaching and education. I hope you will join us at those sites on a regular basis. Writers always need readers.

When I was little, I used to watch The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans show. They had a great singing sign-off: Happy trails to you, until we meet again. I think that's appropriate here. So, until we meet again (or even for the 1st time), happy trails (and good reading) to you.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Sandra Cisneros Talks Dia de Los Muertos

Cisneros signs books for admirers 
Sandra Cisneros, the author of the classic The House on Mango Street who now lives in Mexico, believes she has an ideal slogan for her new land."Mexico - it's a good place to die," Cisneros says with a laugh.

"There, the dead co-exist with the living every day. The past and the present come together and mix," she explained.

The author appeared last weekend at the National Museum of the American Indian to read from her writings and discuss the ofrenda (altar) she created at the National Museum of American History as a tribute for her mother.  The altar will be on view until Jan. 12.

Cisneros appearance was part of a 2-day celebration of Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) at Smithsonian institutions in DC.

Raised in Chicago as a Mexican-American celebrating the language and the ways of her native land to the south, Cisneros says that she has come to believe that death is "letting go".  However, much is left for those who survive, she quickly adds.

"When a parent dies, suddenly you have a spirit ally that is with you always," she said. "I know that sounds new age-y, but it is our miseducation that has caused us to rename it superstition."

Cisneros told the packed auditorium that she was present in the room when her mother died. "There was a moving, a shimmering around the room. I had a feeling that was tender and sweet, not like my mother at all," she said, eliciting laughter from the audience.

Cisneros and me
"I became a writer because my mother was an unhappy mother," Cisneros said. Her mother was "an artistic soul" who was constantly going to cultural centers and events, she explained. "I used to think it was for our sake, but I realize now it was for her," the author, who was one of 7 children, said.

One of those cultural centers was the library. "To me the library was a wonderful house ... a house of ideas ... a house of silence," Cisneros said.

As a writer, Cisneros said she writes "whatever comes. I write this, I write that. The only reason I finish anything is because somebody in New York gives me a deadline. I began writing when I was most lonely in middle school. I wasn't the pretty girl ... I wasn't the smart girl ... I was the new girl with the bad haircut because my mother was always cutting my bangs crooked."

The audience, which was packed with avid fans, was pleased that Cisneros indicated that she has no intention to stop writing. "Each book gets me closer to the path I am supposed to be walking," she said.

Sandra Cisneros' Ofrenda for Her Mother
 @The Museum of American History


This Day of the Dead altar departs from the traditional public Mexican altar by featuring my mother’s personal space – her garden and bedroom – and personal objects as part of an homage remembering her as a dynamic creative being in her own right. Gathering the items here, some from my grandmother and great-grandmother, helped me look deeply and see my mother as a woman with her own life apart from her family and children. In the end, it served, as art often does, to transform grief to celebration. Thanks to my mother’s deep hunger to become an artist, she opened the path for me. This altar is my gracias to her.
- Sandra Cisneros






Monday, November 3, 2014

Dinosaur Prowls DC @National Geographic Museum

Welcome to this week's Monday Must-See, Must-Do post. On Mondays, we offer an entry about some current exhibit, event, or dining experience in DC you should take in. Sometimes, we will write the post. Sometimes, it will be taken from another publication. But no matter who is the writer, we believe Monday Must-See, Must-Do will showcase something you shouldn't miss. 




When the dinosaur hall at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum closed this April to undergo a $48 million renovation, Washingtonians lost a valuable provider of their Jurassic fix. That exhibit won’t be finished until 2019, but fear not, dinosaur obsessives—the National Geographic Museum has opened its own exhibit featuring a prehistoric carnivore so ferocious that scientists now say it could tear the Smithsonian’s puny Tyrannosaurus rex to pieces.
“Spinosaurus: Lost Giant of the Cretaceous” showcases a 50-foot-long skeletal model of its eponymous dinosaur, crafted after the discovery of new fossils found in the Moroccan desert and painstaking analysis of past remains and records. It’s the biggest known predatory dinosaur ever, nine feet longer than the largest T. rex on record. Sure, the two species were separated by about 35 million years—but that doesn’t mean we can’t fantasize about a good ol’ fashioned dino brawl, as the makers of 2001’s Jurassic Park III did when they had them square off in that oft-ignored sequel. (For the record, Spinosaurus won.)
To continue reading this story, which 1st appeared in the After Hours blog of The Washingtonian, click here.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Why Do Students Give Their Teachers Apples?

DC's Smithsonian museums (there are 17 of them here in the city) are among America's most visited and treasured places. But the Smithsonian also publishes a series of some of the most interesting, fact-filled blogs appearing anywhere on the internet. Each Sunday, The Prices Do DC re-posts an entry either about the Smithsonian or that 1st appeared in 1 of the institution's blogs. Hope you enjoy and maybe we'll see you soon at the Smithsonian.



The apple, that innocent bud of an Americana autumn, has pulled off one of the greatest cons of all time. As students across the country prepare to greet a new school year and teacher with a polished bit of produce, the apple cements its place in the patriotic foods pantheon despite its dodgy past.

A clever bit of biology, well documented in Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire, and a tireless cheer campaign of fall orchard visits and doctor-endorsed slogans saved the apple from its bitter beginnings in early America. Though its standing in society today is rivaled only by bald eagles and baseball, the apple’s journey to ubiquity was tumultuous.


To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Smithsonian.Com, click here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Do Ghosts Really Prowl DC-Area College Campuses?

Each week in our Saturday Supplement we re-post an entry of interest to both residents of the Washington area and visitors to DC that first appeared in another publication.


Many people might argue that the scariest thing about college these days is the cost. But colleges and universities across the country have long been the subject of a different kind of fear - the terror engendered by tales of encountering ghosts and other strange phenomena in the halls and classrooms of higher learner.

Of course, DC colleges are part of this supernatural tradition. As we bid goodbye to Halloween 2014, here are terror tales from 5 area colleges. WARNING: If you are attending 1 of these institutions or have relatives or friends who are, read at you own risk.

To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in In The Capital, click here.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Devil in DC

Welcome to this week's Friday Flashback. Each Friday in the Flashback we offer a post about some part of the past and its relationship to DC. Sometimes, we will write a new entry. Others times, we will showcase articles that previously appeared in The Prices Do DC or some other online publications. But no matter who does the writing, you can trust that you will learn something important from the Flashback. 



Satan has long been a staple of Halloween horror. And there is no greater the-Devil-made-me-do-it classic than The Exorcist, both the terrifying novel by William Blatty and the shocking movie by William Friedkin.

In both the book and film, DC, or more specifically the Georgetown section of the city, plays a major role.

For those who have spent four decades avoiding the story, it centers around the Devil possessing 12-year-old Regan, played in the movie by Linda Blair, and the attempts by Catholic priests to exercise the demon from her.

Blatty,a Georgetown University graduate, based the story on the reported exorcism of a young boy that took place in 1949 in Mount Rainier, Md. That story was written in the Washington Post by staff reporter Bill Brinkley.

A Jesuit at Georgetown told Blatty of the priest that performed the exorcism, which took two months to complete. Blatty was able to contact the priest in St. Louis and Father William Bowdern, whose hair had reportedly turned shock white during the ordeal, said that what he had witnessed was "the real thing." Blatty used only a few details for his novel, which sold 13 million copies in its initial release.

The Exorcist stairs
Blatty wrote the screenplay for Friedkin's film, which was set in the upscale neighborhood of Georgetown. Several scenes were also filmed at Georgetown University. The most famous site was the steep stairs which Karras the priest was propelled down during the exorcism ritual.

Fans of the film still visit the 75 steps at Prospect and 36th Street that lead down to M Street. Other sites still recognizable from the film include:
  • The exterior of the Prospect Street home near the steps
  • the Key Bridge
  • Dahlgren Chapel on the Georgetown campus
  • a bridge over the C&O canal 
The controversial film, during which the possessed Regan cursed, had her head spin completely around, vomited foul green goop, and masturbated with a crucifix, opened exclusively in Washington DC in January of 1974. Film critic Tom Shales of the Post described local police efforts to make sure no one under 17 saw the movie. 

Today, both Blatty and Friedkin appeared at a special screening in Georgetown to discuss the novel, the film, the sequels and the aftermath. Prior to the program, Blatty, now 85, sat down for an interview with Post writer Dan Zak.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

There's More to the Story
  • The real life accounts that served as the basis for The Exorcist. (from Smithsonian.Com)
  • 30 things you probably didn't know about The Exorcist films. (from Vulture)

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Make Mad Scientist Dr. Moreau Part of Your Hallloween


If you haven't yet made your Halloween weekends plans and you would rather observe your horror than participate in it, you will want to consider Synetic Theater's production of The Island of Dr. Moreau.

There are only 3 more performances scheduled for Synetic's reimagining of the classic mad scientist tale conceived by early science fiction master  H. G. Wells, whose major works deal with humanity's inability to cope with technology and the modern world.

There are many reasons to see the production. Here are just 4.

  1. You will get a rare chance to see Synetic's founding artistic director Paata Tsikurishvili perform as actor, as well as director. Tsikurishvili portrays Moreau.
  2. The Synetic performance offers the finest Halloween season movements seen since the rhythmic zombies in Michael Jackson's iconic video "Thriller."
  3. The play will let you ponder some of the great mysteries inherent in Halloween - the nature of good and evil, the difference between man and monster, the relationship between science and morality.
  4. There is blood (a lot of it), as well as the brilliantly choreographed fight scenes which Synetic is deservedly so well known for.
In his director's notes Tsikurishvili calls "the prescience of the story's themes as relevant and troubling today at the beginning of the 21st century as they were at the close of the 19th."

"Stem cell research, genetic manipulation, even plastic surgery - the human need and capacity for relentless, artificial, and accelerated improvement has become seemingly limitless," the director contends. "Wells recognized this capability in use, before it even fully existed, in our compulsion to control, manipulate and master."

"Dr. Moreau attempts this on his island (with his experiments) and its utter futility has a terrible irony since many of  these honest attempts to create, improve, and benefit ultimately cause nothing but destruction. This is the tragedy of Wells' tale. Dr. Moreau is a visionary, but, at the same time, his great intellect is warped by a complete loss of feeling and empathy," he added.

You might argue that since Synetic is located in the underground of Crystal City where we live, we might be biased in calling the company our DC favorite offering continual praise for so many of its productions. If that's the case, here are what others are saying:


"If you are looking for that edgynear-perfect evening out this Halloween season, it doesn't matter whether you've got a date to impress or a feisty teenager who loves gore-you really must check out Synetic Theater's The Island of Dr. Moreau."
- Broadwayworld.com

"[Paata] Tsikurishvili is as mesmerizing as ever." 
- The Washington Post

"Overall, Synetic's Moreau is an island of impeccably rendered terror, a hell house on the sea. Performances and production design work together flawlessly to create this creepy little delight. It's the perfect night of theatre for the Halloween season." 
- DC Theatre Scene

"The Island of Dr. Moreau exhibits both sensational performances and relevant themes. Combined with enthusiastic performances by dancers and actors alike, Synetic's most recent production is a show worth experiencing."
- Maryland Theatre Guide

"Long applause to Synetic for what it continues to do;  at times reaching beyond its past to find new sources of inspiration with words to digest." 
- DC Metro Theatre Arts

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