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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Michelangelo Makes It to DC

If you want to take in the magnificence that is Michelangelo in DC you still have some time, but you'll have to hurry. Michelangelo's sculpture David-Apollo will be on view at the National Gallery of Art until March 3.

The loan of the statue from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence was designed to open a Year of Italian Culture 2013 celebration here in Washington.

This is actually the 2nd time the rare marble statue has been on display at the National Gallery. It was also on loan  60 years ago to reaffirm the friendship and cultural ties that link Italy and the United States.

The subject of David-Apollo, like its form, is unresolved. Some scholars believe Michelangelo intended to create an Apollo drawing arrows from a quiver. Others contend that it was to be the biblical giant-killer David, a favorite Florentine symbol of resistance to tyranny.

Michelangelo carved the statue for Baccio Valori, who was appointed governor of Florence in 1530 after the Medici had crushed a resurgence in the republic. Having fought on the Republican side, Michelangelo needed to make peace with the Medici and sought to please them with the work.

The statue embodies a highly personal aspect of Michelangelo's work - his habit of leaving sculptures unfinished. Art historians know that the artists regularly took on more work than he could realistically complete and speculate that he left some of those statues unfinished because he sensed his finished work would not live up to his exalted sense of beauty and perfection.

Tales,Tidbits, and Tips
While you might not be in time to view the David-Apollo, you will have many more chances to take in Italian culture both in DC and other cities. To view a Washington Post article about the celebration click here. To see a listing of all events, click here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bound for Freedom's Light

We are going out of slavery,
We are bound for freedom's light.
We mean to show Jeff Davis
How Africans can fight
                           -- words adapted by Sojourner Truth

The deep, long-lasting scars of slavery
With the Emancipation Proclamation, the freedom of black slaves in the South became the dominating issue in the American Civil War. But African-Americans had been playing a role in the conflict since the early  days of the war, a role that only increased as the bloody days of brother-against-brother battles dragged on.

Initially, many Confederate officers took their slaves with them to handle routine daily camp chores. Beginning in the early months of the conflict, free blacks also served the Yankees as cooks and battle front laborers. After the proclamation in 1863, the Union Army opened its ranks to black enlistments. And in the final days of the war, the Confederates, in a desperate bid to avoid a crushing defeat, agreed to let blacks fight with their troops.

But black men weren't the only contributors. Freedom-advocating black women such as Harriet Tubman, worked as volunteer nurses. And Sojourner Truth left her Midwestern home to come to Washington to serve as a counselor to the growing number of freed people of color.

Currently, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the National Portrait Gallery is presenting the exhibition Bound for Freedom’s Light: African Americans and the Civil War. The installation focuses on the roles that individual African Americans played during the course of the hard-fought conflict.

And while famous names from Black history such as Frederick Douglas, Tubman, and Truth are integral to  the show of pictures and lithographs, the exhibition also includes compelling stories of others whose names may be less familiar.

One of the most dramatic pictures is of the scarred back of a former slave named Gordon, who in March, 1863 escaped from a Louisiana plantation. The soul-searing picture was taken when he was being examined by military doctors. At the time, it prompted one anti-slavery advocate to claim "this card photograph should be multiplied and scattered around the states. It tells the story in a way that even Mrs. (Harriet Beecher) Stowe can not approach because it tells the story to eye.

Lincoln in Richmond by Lambert Hollis
The final work in the exhibition is a drawing of President Abraham Lincoln entering the city of Richmond on April 3, 1865. In the work, Lincoln is greeted by jubilant now-free blacks. The scene prompted one eye witness to comment: "Probably no mortal ever received such a greetings of prayers and tears and blessings as that which was conferred upon Abraham Lincoln by those whom the war had emancipated."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
If you want to see Bound for Freedom you will have to hurry. The exhibition is set to close on March 2.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dining in DC: Taylor Gourmet

Having spent 6 decades in South Jersey and 4 years as a student at Villanova University, I became quite fond of Philly's famous sandwiches, especially cheese steaks and Italian hoagies. When we moved to DC a year-and-a-half ago, I figured I'd have to give up those City of Brotherly Love specialties.

But that was before my 1st visit to Taylor Gourmet. The initial Taylor sandwich shop was founded in 2008 by 2 Philadelphia natives Casey Patten and David Madden. After moving to DC in 2002, the pair searched for the authentic Philly hoagies they had grown up with. Finally, they decided to create their own restaurant and Taylor Gourmet was born.

Their initial shop in the Atlas District featured a decor of exposed brick and wood shipping pallets. The restaurant was opened up to the street by the use of a roll up aluminum garage door, which became a signature element for Taylor Gourmet. There are now 4 locations in DC, with more coming.

In a tribute to their native Philadelphia, all the sandwiches are named after Philly locations. For example, you can have the Broad Street (chicken cutlet with broccoli rabe and sharp provolone), or the Schuylkill Expressway (cold cuts with prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and sharp provolone) or the Market Street (roasted pork with roasted red peepers, arugula, and fresh mozzarella). While sandwiches are the mainstay with more than 40 varieties offered, there are 5 salads on the menu also named after Philly locations such as the Fairmount Park or the Franklin Square. Among the few sides offered the most popular is the 5 risotto ball dish.

Of course, the big question is how does Taylor Gourmet stack up to the Philly items they are based on.  The answer - really well. The sandwiches are consistently named a top sandwich in DC contests with best of categories. A Taylor sandwich was one of 2 food type winners in a 10-food contest between New York City and DC.
President Obama picks up his Taylor Gourmet sandwich
Interest in  Taylor Gourmet exploded last May when President Barack Obama visited the eatery as part of his push for more support for small local businesses.

So what sandwich did Obama pick? The president ordered a 12-inch Spruce Street turkey hoagie, prepared with prosciutto, roasted red peppers and provolone. Additionally, Obama left with seven more sandwiches to bring back to his lunch meeting with congressional leaders.

The Obama endorsement meant a significant spike in Taylor Gourmet's reach on social media, plus a 25 percent initial increase in sales at the 14th Street location that the president visited. And the visit itself went from trending in DC on Twitter to trending nationally within 15 minutes.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
What others say:
The Prices Do DC Rating
**** (4 rolls rolls out of 5)

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Roads of Ancient Arabia

Today, Saudi Arabia's economy is fueled by rich, vast deposits of oil. But centuries ago, the area's wealth was driven by the ready availability of incense, particularly frankincense and myrrh, those expensive Biblical gifts to the Baby Jesus.

Transport of those extremely valuable items created the need for an extensive network of roads which would let merchants distribute wares to Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and the Greco-Roman world. And it was that traveling network that lent its name to the recently departed exhibition Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at the Arthur Sackler Gallery.

The exhibition featured stone steles, monumental human statues, haunting gold masks, and finely forged bronze figures, as well as other artifacts and items dating back centuries.

As the show pointed out, the incense industry was the primary reason for the early prominence of the region. Incense was used across the then-known world for everything from sanctifying religious ceremonies to masking the stench of sewage. The incense transport road network was dotted with oases, way stations and flourishing cities. And the constant traveling back and forth led to exchanges that  influenced and expanded art and culture in the region.

Of course, the wealth and success of the area would not have been possible without the camel, often called "the ship of the desert." Arabs first used the camel for its milk, but in the 3rd millennium BC they began domesticating the animals for transport.

Eventually the incense trade diminished, but roads in the region gained an even greater importance with the advent of Islam in the 7th Century C.E. In that religion the 2 holiest cities are Mecca and Medina. In 631, one year before he died, the Prophet Muhammad traveled from Medina to Mecca. His holy journey, now known as hajj (pilgrimage), is a requirement for all Muslims to make at least once in their lifetime. So the roads of Arabia, instead of providing a thoroughfare for merchants, now became a means for pilgrims to make their most sacred trek.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
This exhibit had a special importance for us. We are trying to learn as much as we can about this area since we will be visiting there in September. During our 3-continent trip from Rome to Singapore we will be stopping to visit Jordan, Egypt, Dubai, and Oman. Of course, we will be using more modern methods of transport but who knows ... we may just ride a camel or two before we are done.

And the Award Goes to .......

Argo: The best movie of 2012
Even before the 1st envelope was opened at tonight's Academy Awards there had been 2 huge winners from the 2012 movie year, according to Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday.

With films such as Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, and Zero Dark Thirty, the 1st winner was the adult audience. "This was a great year for the garden variety film goer," Hornaday says. "Adults were a very big market. These were the kind of dramas most of us grew up with."

Hornaday appeared at the Newseum on Saturday to talk about the year in film and many of the Oscar nominees. It was the 3rd year in a row that Hornaday had presented such a program the day before the awards would be announced.

This year's 9 nominees were all strong pictures. But Hornaday contends the strength of movies reached into other genre categories such as comedies like Magic Mike, science fiction films like Looper, and thrillers like Skyfall, the latest in the long line of James Bond pictures. "What you want is diversity," she said. "Some years there has been a huge disconnect between what critics like and what the public likes, but it wasn't that way this year."

Hornaday says that there are film experts who believe the bounty of strong movies can actually be attributed to the failing economy of a few years ago. It can take 4 or 5 years for a film project to reach the theaters, which means many of these films saw their financing actually reduced. In turn, that reduction may have sparked an increase in creativity, the result of which actually made for a better movie. "My sense is that they (filmmakers) are really upping their game," Hornaday said.

The second big winner was Washington, D.C. which was a integral locale to 3 films - Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty - most favored to win the best picture award. "It was a great year for DC," Hornaday said. The critic said that Washington has long fielded a strong presence in stories and settings in films. "People have always had a fascination with the power behind the curtain. But what set these apart was the lack of cynicism. And this came at a time when Congress is stuck with such a bad odor," she contended.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Hornaday is an interesting and engaging speaker. But her real strength is in her cogent, informative writing. To check out Hornaday's recent writings including articles supporting her contention that audiences were the big winners in 2012 and a look at the Oscar under the influence of politics, just click here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Rocking at the 9:30 Club

It can get wild at the 9:30 Club, but they do offer earplugs for sale
The Washington DC area has several distinctive music venues. There are landmarks like the Birchmere, the longtime home of alt, roots, folk, country, and blues. There are halls now restored to their former glory like the Howard Theater. There are new locations, like the Hamilton, created from the cavernous basement of an old Borders store.

But none have quite as storied a history as the 9:30 Club, located in the musically hip U Street corridor in northwest DC.  Earlier this year, Pollstar named the 9:30 Club as the music nightclub of the year. It was 5th time the the venue has won the prestigious award. Last year, Billboard gave the 9:30 Club its top club award based on total attendance. It has been one of the top-attended clubs in the world for years.

Founded by Dody DiSanto and Jon Bowers, the 9:30 Club was the home for alternative, punk, and Go-Go music in D.C. during the early 1980s. The club's name was derived from its original street address, 930 F St NW, as well as the original show starting time of 9:30 p.m. The new 9:30 Club opened at its present V Street location in 1996. The opening night show was headlined by The Smashing Pumpkins.
Railroad Earth live
Tonight, I attended my 1st 9:30 performance when I accompanied my South Jersey friend and former teaching colleague Tarin Mason to see one of her favorite bands, the blue-grassy, Celtic-tinged, jamming Railroad Earth.

Even though I wasn't familiar with the songs, I enjoyed the performance which sounded like a cross-pollination of the Grateful Dead with Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Breakdown Boys. As befitting a band that has become a staple of the summer festival music scene, there was a ton of tie dye draped over many members of the noodle dancing crowd.

As for the club itself, it was crowded. The show was a sellout and empty space was hard to find. There are no seats, which was a plus for the spinning, weaving noodlers. The sightlines are great with the best vantage points for those who don't want to be directly in front of the stage available in the upstairs section. The bar was busy all night.  The club has a strict policy - you will be carded at the door, even if you are a 60-year-old attending a show with a friend younger than your son. So make sure to bring ID.

Tales, Tips, and Tidbits
If you want to take in a concert at a specific DC venue you can always check the venue website. But, if you want to seek out all the options, here are 2 good websites. The 1st is Eventful.com.  The 2nd is Songkick.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Harlem Shake, DC Style

Here's a quick quiz for all you wanna-be hipsters. What is the current video dance craze? If you answered Gangnam Style, you are so yesterday. The correct answer is the Harlem Shake, which went viral on YouTube earlier this month and this week made history when it became the 1st video ever to make it to the top of Billboard's Top 100 Pop Chart.

In an article in this week's Time magazine, it is reported that the craze began on Feb. 2 when a fan posted a self-made video of the 2011 techno track created by a producer-DJ named Baauer on YouTube. In the past 3 weeks, hundreds and hundreds of copy-cat videos have flooded the internet. Although there are countless creative differences, the videos all contain the song, flailing dance moves, and use of jump-cuts.

It seems everyone wants to show off their moves. And, of course, DC isn't exempt. There is the Harlem Shake at the White House (without President Obama). There is the Harlem Shake: Democracy Edition (recorded outside the Capitol). There is the Harlem Shake Washington DC Bar Edition (from the Hamilton). There is even a web site rating the best and worst Harlem Shake videos from DC-area college campuses.

Dunbar students rehearse their shake moves
Today, the senior class at Dunbar High School, where I serve as a consultant, filmed their own version of the video. The project was under the direction of staff members James Barnes and Charles Young. The main reason for the taping was a chance for a fun bonding activity for Dunbar students who are spending their final days at the high school. But Barnes said he could envision using the video as a friendly challenge to other DC schools to determine who are DC's best high school Harlem Shakers.

Now, the craze may seem frivolous and even nonsensical to some. But before you get too critical, check out a few of the videos. There's a good chance that you might enjoy yourself. And, if nothing else, it gets students who are often criticized for being inactive, shaking to better health.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
For those of you pining for the good old days, here is a video of Chinese activist artist Ai Weiwei with his take on the Gangnam style dance of yore, which in internet meme parlance, can mean last month. Ai Weiwei's major exhibition closed this weekend after a succesful run at the Hirshhorn.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Art from God?

The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly 
It has been praised as America's greatest work of visionary art. It is definitely the most iconic piece of art in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's impressive collection. Few people know its official name. But when visitors ask to see "the throne" or "that tinfoil masterpiece" museum workers know exactly where to direct them.

Located in the folk art section of the museum, James Hampton's The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly is, to put it mildly, a thought-provoking showstopper that creates a sense of awe and wonder in almost all who see it.

The work is even more surreal when you consider it represents Hampton's entire artistic output. The self-taught artist worked on his masterpiece for more than 14 years in a rented northwest Washington, D.C. garage while he worked as a night janitor.

Hampton's full creation consists of 180 components, only a portion of which are on view. What you do see is a central throne surrounded by symmetrical, glittering objects. The entire piece was created from scavenged  discarded materials like furniture pieces, hollow cardboard cylinders, old light bulbs, jelly glasses, shards of mirrors, electrical cables, insulation board, and desk blotters, all of which were then covered in aluminum or gold foil. Objects on the right side of the throne appear to refer to the New Testament; those on the left side to the Old Testament. Massive wings suggesting angels sprout from most components. Framed tablets line the walls.

Emblazoned above the central throne are the words "Fear Not."  Many of the objects were inscribed with words from the Book of Revelation. Hampton also kept a 108-page loose-leaf notebook he entitled St. James: The Book of the 7 Dispensations. Some of the text is in English, but most of it is written in an unknown script that to this day remains undecipherable.

Although he held a steady job and served in the military during World War II, Hampton was somewhat of a recluse who spent almost all his available time working on his shrine. A month after his death, the owner of the garage he rented came to find out why the rent had not been paid. Opening the garage door, he encountered Hampton's 14-year project.

In 1970, the work was donated to the Smithsonian. It was recently refurbished and is now back on display where visitors once again can marvel at the stunning results of what appears to be one man's faith of God and his hope for salvation.

Tales, Tips, Tidbits
If you would like to see (and perhaps try to decipher) Hampton's strange, inexplicable notebook, you can, since it has been placed on line. Just click here to see Hampton's text. Perhaps the sign posted on the wall of Hampton's garage offers a clue. "Where there is no vision, the people perish." (Proverbs 29:18 from the King James Version).

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Invisible Armies: Shedding Light on Guerrilla Warfare

When people learn the subject of Max Boot's new book, they have a question for him - What was the 1st guerrilla war? "Essentially guerrilla warfare is as old as mankind," Boot answers. "Tribal warfare was often the hit and run style of warfare that is very different than toe-to-toe warfare."

Boot appeared recently at the New America Foundation to discuss his latest work Invisible Armies: An Epic History of Guerrilla Warfare from Ancient Times to the Present.

Many people believe guerrilla tactics are a relatively new invention. "That is 180 degrees from the truth," Boot says, pointing out that conventional warfare only began about 5,000 years ago when Mesopotamia created the world's 1st organized military.

But Boot contends that in the past few centuries there have been major changes in the way insurgents fight, changes that he calls "the 3 P's - politics, propaganda, and public opinion."  And all 3 of those changes were evidenced as early as the American revolution. "The British didn't think much of the Americans slithering on their bodies and firing behind rocks," Boot says. "But the story that the war ended with a British surrender at Yorktown is a little incomplete. The British, who were the greatest military force of their time, could have exacted a terrible revenge on the Americans. But they didn't."

And the reason for that reluctance was politics. The members of the House of Commons, by an extremely close vote of 234 to 214, decided to discontinue military operations in their North American colonies. Public opinion in England had shifted from war to peace and America was allowed to establish its independence.

Two centuries later, a similar scenario played out when a powerful America failed to win its conflict in the tiny Southeastern Asia country of Vietnam. The reason - the protests for peace began outweighing the propaganda produced by the military hawks, public opinion turned against the war, and politics soon followed.

Boot says he contrasted 3 major types of warfare in his book - conventional warfare and 2 types of guerrilla fighters: insurgents and terrorists "Terrorists have even fewer resources than insurgent guerrillas so public opinion is even more important for them. There really was no such thing as terrorism before the 19th Century because there was no easy way for them to get their meaning out," he noted.

Comprehensive studies indicate that guerrillas rate of victory has increased in modern times from about 20% to 40%. "That shows the growing power of public opinion that allows a relatively puny power to bring down a superpower," Foot said.

With the last conventional war being fought in 2008 between Russia and its neighboring state Georgia, all the wars today would be classified as guerrilla in nature. "There are thousands of people dying in wars today. They are unconventional wars. It has been ever thus," Boot said.

The United States has spent the 21st Century engaged in 2 of those contests: one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan. Many people hope that will end when American forces are removed from Afghanistan in 2014. "Unfortunately, I'm not sure our enemies will accommodate us," Foot says. "Osama bin Laden may be dead, but Al Qaeda is very much alive."

In fact, bin Laden added new technological wrinkles to the idea of terrorists taking on a superpower. "Bin Laden may have been a very evil person, but you have to give him credit. He brought a modern management strategy. He took it to another level with computers and the internet and satellite TV," Foot said.

Perhaps the most terrifying fact about organizations like Al Qaeda or even small band of terrorists is that they have access to more powerful weapons today. "Technology allows ever smaller groups to be ever more destructive. It is not impossible to envision terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction,' Foot said. As an example, he cited the fact that a 20 kiloton dirty bomb denoted in New York City would kill as many as 600,000 people and seriously injure another 1.6 million. "It would make 9/11 look like Sunday in the park," he said.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
These days the possibility of cyber strikes crippling the United States is very much discussed. Foot was asked his opinion on the subject. "I think that is something we should be worried about," he responded.  "It doesn't require a massive amount of infrastructure. All you need is a laptop. I think this will certainly be a tool
of terrorists in the future."

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage

It was one of the oddest political couplings in American history - Dwight Eisenhower, the great World War II general and 2-term president, and his then-young vice president Richard Nixon. Ike and Dick. One revered by almost everyone and the other eventually driven from office by the Watergate cover-up and deep-rooted  psychological insecurities. Between them, they would seek the presidency 5 times, winning 4 of those elections. Their influence on the shape of America and the world was immense and their stories encapsulate most of the major events of the 20th Century.

This seemingly-strange, often-strained 19-year relationship between Eisenhower and Nixon is the subject of a new book Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage by Washington DC fiction novelist and former Washington Post editor Jeffrey Frank.

"This is a way to look at these 2 really interesting characters and this really interesting period," Frank said today at the National Archives, where he appeared to discuss his latest work.

The two candidates came to politics by very different routes. After leading Americans to victory in World War II, both Democrats and Republicans sought to have Ike - as everyone called him - run for president. According to reports, Harry Truman agreed to step aside if  Eisenhower would run as a Democrat in 1948. However, eventually Eisenhower identified himself as a Republican and easily captured the GOP presidential  nomination for the 1952 race.

Nixon was also a veteran of World War II, albeit, at 32 when the war ended, much younger than Eisenhower. He was convinced to run in his native California for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. After that success, he captured one of the 2 California Senate seats.

"In both elections he used the Communist issue (to smear his opponents)," Frank said. "In the 1950 Senate race, he played hard on the red issue. Some people never forgave him." In one of his more famous remarks from that tough campaign, he said his opponent was "pink right down to her underwear."

When he received the Republican nomination, Eisenhower was such a political neophyte that he didn't realize that he would get to choose his running mate. "He didn't know anybody. He had been in the war and hadn't really lived in America," Frank said. A number of names were suggested and Ike eventually chose the young, rising Nixon. Some of the factors in that decision included Nixon's age (he was 39 at the time, a strong contrast to the older Eisenhower) and he was greatly admired by the base of the GOP party. And, like Eisenhower, he was an internationalist, favoring a strong American presence in world affairs.

But even one of their first campaign photos revealed a rift between the two. The picture shows a beaming Nixon, who idolized Eisenhower, gripping Ike's arm while the soon-to-be president, who hated to be touched, let the distaste and awkwardness of the moment register on his face.

During the election, the GOP tried to portray the Truman years as corrupt and sleazy. One of their campaign slogans proclaimed: "Let's Clean House with Ike and Dick." However, soon Nixon found himself embroiled in a funding scandal. "Eisenhower wanted him off the ticket, but he couldn't fire people," Frank said. Instead, Nixon gave his famous Checkers speech denying any wrongdoing, survived the crisis, and became Vice President.

"If he hadn't survived, that would have been the total destruction of his political career," Frank said.

When Eisenhower prepared to run for re-election, he once again wanted to replace Nixon. He offered his Vice President a cabinet seat, contending that such a move would make Nixon a more experienced candidate if he sought the presidency in 1960. Nixon rejected the put-down and remained in the number 2 slot.

In 1960, Nixon did indeed run for president against Democratic challenger John Kennedy. Eisenhower did little to help Nixon's campaign. In fact, when asked by reporters to name a contribution Nixon had made as vice president, Eisenhower answered by saying "give me a week and I might think of one."

Kennedy narrowly bested Nixon in one of the most closely contested contests in presidential history. "This was his most devastating defeat and he never got over it," Frank said, noting that Nixon agreed with supporters who claimed the Kennedy team had stolen the election with the help of shady and illegal practices in key states.

But that was not the end of the story. As Eisenhower remained out of politics, Nixon slogged on. He lost a bid to become governor of California, but resurfaced to win the 1968 and 1972 elections. Eisenhower died in 1969, ending the connection between the 2 men.

Frank was asked if Eisenhower's actions showed that he detested Nixon. "It was not really dislike, but there was always a great tension between them," Frank said.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Today's talk had a special connection for me. Dwight Eisenhower is the only president I ever talked to individually. The story goes like this. After leaving the presidency, Eisenhower established an office in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. As a 9-year-old, I was vacationing with my family in Gettysburg. We were having lunch at the Lamp Lighter restaurant across the street from the Eisenhower office. Suddenly, a car pulled up and the former president exited. My mother urged me to rush across the street and meet the former president. With a Gettysburg map in hand, I did just that. I don't remember all of the conversation, but I do remember how I started it.  I thrust out my hand and proclaimed "Hi. My name is David, too." Eisenhower was gracious and signed my map. It is one of the 2 autographs I kept from childhood. The other? The signature of St. Louis baseball great Stan Musial, who was my Dad's favorite baseball player.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ai Weiwei: Art as Activism

Ai Weiwei's work fingers what is wrong in China.
An outraged Chinese government may be able to detain the physical presence of activist artist Ai Weiwei, but it can't contain the vision, voice, and spirit packed into his creations. And for one more week, you can experience the power of both the protest and playfulness of his works in the exhibition Ai Weiwei: According to What? now on display at the Hirshhorn Museum.

Chinese officialdom recognizes Weiwei's talent. He was instrumental in designing the Beijing Bird's Nest stadium for the 2008 Olympics. However, the artist has been highly critical of his country's stance on democracy and human rights. His artistic recounting, both in social media and more traditional art forms, of corruption and cover-ups has led to incarcerations and a beating that left him with brain injuries. Undaunted, Weiwei continues to turn his travails into art, even posting pictures of his injuries and X-rays on Twitter.
Weiwei's sculpture of surveiilance

For artists and intellectuals today, what is most needed is to be clear about social responsibility because that is what most people automatically give up. Just to protect yourself as an individual is very political. You don’t have to march in Tianamen, but you have to be clear-minded to find your own expression. --- Ai Weiwei

In his greatest attack on the Chinese government, Weiwei played an instrumental role in investigating the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which left 90,000 people dead or missing. Three of his works on display at the Hirshhorn deal with that tragedy. One is entitled "Snake City," in which Weiwei uses common student book bags in various sizes to create a giant snake to commemorate the thousands of students who perished in the disaster. He also manufactured a wall containing names of all the victims, as well as a taped remembrance of spoken names that takes 3 hours and 41 minutes to complete and plays on a continuous loop.
Snake of shame: Did faulty Chinese construction contribute to death total?

A name is the first and final individual right, our fixed part of the ever-changing human world. A name is the most basic characteristic of our human rights. No matter how poor or how rich, all living people have a name. --- Ai Weiwei

Another piece in the exhibition entitled "He Xie", represents the restriction of individual free speech in Chinese society. Literally, the term "he xie" means river crabs. But it is also a homophone for the word meaning harmonious, which in turn makes it a play on the Chinese party slogan "the realization of a harmonious society." In 2010, Weiwei, using Twitter, invited guests to a feast of 10,000 river crabs to protest the Chinese governments strict control of information. The artist was unable to attend for he had been placed under house arrest.

Extending a hand to those in trouble, rescuing the dying, and helping the injured is a form of humanitarianism unrelated to love of country or people. --- Ai Weiwei

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
If you are not at all familiar with  Ai Weiwei and his work, this trailer of the award-winning documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry is a good place to start.

(If you are receiving this post by email, click here to view the trailer).

Sunday, February 17, 2013

People Power for Safer Power

Power to the people to find safer energy for a safer future
Poisoned water
Poisoned air
We get sick
And they don't care
                        --- 2013 Environmental chant

Mother Nature won't get fooled again
With slogans, signs, speeches, and songs, thousands and thousands (organizers estimated the crowd at between 30,000 and 50,000) environmentally-conscious activists of all ages rallied in D.C. today, calling for President Obama to put a permanent halt to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and take more actions to stem global warming and climate change.

In addition to urging the president to act, the Forward on Climate rally, organized by 350.Org, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus, was also staged to show the depth of support for stronger environmental  protection.

The rally, being called the largest of its type ever in environmental history, was compared to Martin Luther King's historic Civil Rights march in DC 50 years ago during which Dr. King delivered his incomparable "I Have a Dream" speech. "They were fighting for equality; we are fighting for existence," Rev. Lennox Yearwood told the cheering, sign-waving crowd.

A pipeline of protest
Several speakers referred to President Obama's encouraging remarks on environmental concerns made during his recent State of the Union address. But there were also warnings if Obama doesn't act to halt the pipeline. "This pipeline, if it goes through - the first thing it runs over is the credibility of the president of the United States," said Van Jones, who worked for Obama as a "green jobs czar."

As proposed and supported by oil companies and the government of Canada, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport synthetic crude oil and tar sands from Alberta, Canada, through several U.S. states before terminating in Port Arthur, Texas.

Obama denied a permit application for the project last year, asking for further study. The president did not specifically mention Keystone XL in his address last week, but he did say "we must do more to combat climate change."
What does Democracy look like? This is What Democracy Looks like: Activist chant
Stop was the word
During a march around Washington and past the White House, the activists made their pipeline stand perfectly clear. "Hey hey, ho ho. The Keystone pipeline has got to go," they shouted. That chant mixed with others such as "Hey Obama, we don't need no climate drama" and large-group renditions of Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land" to form a soundtrack for the marchers, who clutched their signs tightly to avoid having them lifted to the sky by the brisk winds.

In front of the White House, the chants changed to "Mr.Obama, come on out, we've got things to talk about" and "Hey Michelle, tell your man, stop the dirty pipeline plan." While the marchers included people of all ages, much of the focus was on families and the future. Grandparents, who might have attended Civil Rights or Vietnam War protests in the 1960's, now walked the DC streets with their children and grandchildren. Many of the young marchers represented colleges, universities, and churches from around the country. There was also a strong presence from the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Atlanta groups.
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
To see videos and other articles about today's rally, just click here.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

Here is a sample of signs from the giant Forward on Climate climate rally held today in DC. We'll let the signs speak for themselves.












 



Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
If you are interested in learning more about climate and environmental issues, here are embedded links to the 3 organizations that sponsored today's rally, which is being called the largest such climate event in history.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Dining in DC: Mitsitam Cafe

If you were visiting the Smithsonian museums and wanted a unique, tasty meal, you'd probably leave the National Mall.  But you don't have to. You can head to the Mitsitam Cafe at the Museum of the American Indian, which last year was named best casual dining restaurant in all of DC..

Mitsitam, which means "let's eat" in the Native language of the Delaware and Piscataway People, features indigenous cuisines of the Americas. There are 5 food stations:


  • Northern Woodlands- Region that spans from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi and from Southern Canada to the Chesapeake
  • Mesoamerica- Home of the Papago or "Bean People" and spans from the American Southwest  to Mexico and Central America
  • South America- Region that encompasses the entire southwestern hemisphere
  • Northwest Coast- Region that stretches from Southern Alaska to Northern California
  • Great Plains- Region that stretched over the great landscape from Alberta, Canada to Texas
Each station employs the related cooking techniques, ingredients, and flavors found in both traditional and contemporary Native dishes.

We usually eat at the cafe if we are spending a full day on the mall. At our most recent visit, I put together a meal from the Northern Woodlands station. For an entree, I had maple brined turkey with cranberry maple syrup and green apple compote. The 2 side dishes were smoked turnip puree and bean an corn succotash.

Mitsitam is also great for vegetarians. There is a Plate of Color special which lets you select 4 vegetarian items. For example, at the South America station you could design a meal from options such as
fried yucca, sauteed kale, grille chaote squash, Peruvian lima bean salad, merken oil purple potatoes, white quinoa, or fava bean salad with ricotto pepper vinaigrette.

If you like your meal, but won't be coming back to Washington any time soon, you can pick up the The Mitsitam Cafe Cookbook, which was named  the best cookbook in the world at a recent competition in France. The book features the most popular recipes from the cafe.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
What others say:

The Prices Do DC rating::
  • ****^ - 4 1/2 plates out of 5

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Invisible War: Rape and the U.S. Military

The statistics are beyond shocking. The U. S. Department of Defense estimates that there were more than 19,000 sex crimes in the military in 2010. In fact, in today's military, a woman is far more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire.

"It is outrageous and it is an outrage," says Michele Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. "Honestly, I don't think it is being given the consideration it deserves."

But that may soon be changing, prompted in large part by the documentary The Invisible War, a film that has been nominated for an Academy Award and puts a face and a poignant, powerful story behind almost a dozen victims of military rape.

A special Washington, D.C. screening of the documentary, sponsored by the New American Foundation, The Hill, and Impact Arts and Film Fund, was held recently, followed by a panel discussion among the filmmakers, members of the U. S. Senate, and former military officials about what actions should be taken to expose and end a disgrace that "is putting a stain" on an institution that is supposed to represent the best of America.

Documentary director and writer Kirby Dick said he became interested in making the film after reading an article on the widespread occurrence of sexual assault within the U. S. military, predominantly directed toward women but sometimes occurring to male soldiers.

"The numbers were astonishing but what was even much more astonishing was that people hadn't heard about it," Dick said. He added that at first it was a challenge to find victims who wanted to tell their stories on camera. "They were afraid the perpetrators could come after them and they had such horrible previous experiences (in reporting the attacks to their superiors)," he noted. Eventually, however more than 100 people came forward "to tell these incredible stories."

The film has already had an impact on military decision making. Immediately after first viewing The Invisible War, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta ordered a change in reporting. No long will victims of sexual misconduct have to give their 1st report to their immediate superior.

Flournoy praised that change. "Under the old way, the commander got punished," she said. "The last thing you wanted to do is make a phone call that you've had a sexual assault in your unit. You are supposed to be in charge. It could affect your career." However, more needs to be done, she contended. "It needs to be -you're not going to  get promoted unless you've done everything in your power to get justice," she said.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, praised the power of the film. "Seeing it repeatedly has not weakened its force," Blumenthal said. "It has changed the conversation not only outside the military, but also inside the military."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said she is also working to bring changes to a system that fails to bring justice to vulnerable victims. "These are violent crimes by someone who is a predator," Gillibrand said. "Enforcing the status quo is  inadequate. It cannot be rationalized. It cannot be brushed away."

Dick said he hopes his film prompts public action. "It is hard for them (the military) to change without pressure from the outside," he said. "This is our country. This is our military. It is up to us to help the military."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
If you want to learn more about The Invisible War, check out these 2 trailers.


(If you are receiving this post by email and want to view the trailers, simply click here. You will be directed to the main blog page where you can access the videos). 



Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Day's Tale of Law and Love

Janice Canterbury and Nadia Malley  
The 3 couples stood off to the side, alternately smiling at each other and fidgeting, as couples having been doing since the very first I-do ceremonies. The ministers were in place, ready to do their duty. Cameras were out and held in the best positions to capture the special moments. The crowd of well-wishers and supporters edged closer, intent on catching every word on this crisp Valentine Day's morning.

There was only one more step, a mere formality for most couples seeking to be married at the Arlington County Courthouse. Under Virginia law, the couples would have to present their completed  marriage license forms to the county clerk for certification.

"Today (Valentine's Day) is a great day for people that want to get married to tell their stories and I look forward to hearing your stories today," intoned Clerk Paul Ferguson in the kindliest tone imaginable. "Unfortunately, the laws of Virginia do not allow Virginia circuit courts to grant marriage licenses to same-sex applicants. So, if that is part of your story, I will have to deny the application."

And indeed being a same sex couple seeking the right to marry was the biggest part of the story for Janice Canterbury and Nadia Malley of Arlington, as it was for the other 2 gay couples, who were also denied their ceremony under Virginia law.

With tape recorders and TV cameras rolling, Canterbury explained why she and Malley were taking part  in the Witness for Marriage Demonstration organized by People of Faith for Equality in Virginia and Equality Virginia.

"My partner and I have been together and lived in the same house here in Arlington for over 14 years," Canterbury said. "Our commitment to each other has withstood cancer, death of parents and pets, a house fire and a renovation, and an increase in our property taxes. And through it all, we have loved and cared for each other."

"We are out and open to everyone, with colleagues at work, our friends, our family and our neighbors. They all support us and were so excited about us taking a stand this day," Canterbury added.

"I know that Nadia and I will be together with or without a marriage because we love each other. We actually met over 25 years ago when we were volunteering at the Whitman Walker Clinic and helping counsel young gays and lesbians struggling with being accepted and accepting themselves. We know, all too well, the importance of having a recognized ritual within a community that honors and upholds our rights. We know we have love, but only a legal marriage can give us dignity as a valued couple and declare that we are, in fact, equal citizens under the law," she concluded.

After the rally, Canterbury and Malley were approached by members of the media for further comment. They said they were "cautiously optimistic" that the Virginia ban against gay marriage would be overturned. Asked by one reporter if they were aware of how politically complicated it is to get such a controversial law changed, Canterbury responded, "I understand it's complicated, but it's far more complicated for a couple who are gay or lesbian. We want to stand  up for our love and our rights"

"I don't think people fully understand," Malley said. "I have a pre-existing (medical) condition and I'm unable to get insurance. It's about love, but it's a real economic issue, too."

But even given the seriousness of the cause on this day of denial, Canterbury and Malley were still able to look on the light side of their rejection. They said the most difficult part of the process had been filling out the place on the marriage application that required an identification of the husband and wife. So how did they decide? "We flipped a coin," Canterbury said with a laugh.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
The ministers make their banner their message
Before the 3 couples presented their certificates, several ministers supporting gay marriage addressed the rally. Although each spoke individually, the collective message went something like this. God is about love. God is about commitment. Marriage is about love and commitment, so therefore God approves regardless of the sex of those seeking to wed. "It is way past time to change the law," said David Ensign, pastor at the Clarendon Presbyterian Church, who thanked the 3 couples for "being brave enough to step forward and risk the pain of hearing no when asking for what, by right, should be yours for the asking." In his remarks, Rev. Carlton Smith of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington cited the U. S. Supreme Court's decision in 1967 that overturned Virginia's ban on marriage between members of different races. "We don't want Virginia on the back of the bus again," Smith said.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Planet Taco: Mexican Food Goes Global

Tacos. From Alaska to Australia, from Morocco to Mongolia, from Boston to Barcelona to Bangkok and back, they're everywhere. Why they've even been sent to outer space to feed crews on the International  Space Station.

So who or what is responsible for this worldwide explosion in Mexican cuisine? Well, according to Jeffrey Pilcher, historian and author of Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food, the answer might surprise you.

"Clearly tacos are in the zeitgeist, but that happened because of people outside the Mexican community," says Pilcher, who appeared  recently at the Smithsonian Museum of American History to discuss his book at a special talk held in conjunction with the new Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 exhibition now at the museum.

Pilcher said 2 American groups are mostly responsible for bringing the tastes of Mexico to the rest of the world. The 1st are U.S. military men and women stationed overseas. "That's not surprising since so many of them train in the Southwest and Mexican food is so widespread there," he noted. The 2nd is somewhat more surprising - American surfers. It seems that when the surfers left the California coastline seeking endless summer waves in other parts of the world, they carried more than just their surfboards - they also brought a taste for easy-to-eat Mexican cuisine with them.

Today tacos are at the top of the Mexican food chain. But that development is relatively recent. Pilcher said references to the taco really don't appear in Mexico until the 1890s, which is about the same time they were introduced in the United States.

"People think of tacos as an authentic (Mexican)  food. There's a sense of comfort from thinking that Montezuma ate them. But tacos are as modern in Mexico as they are in the United States," Pilcher contended. "On one hand you do have tradition, but on the other you have modernity."

Pilcher said the word taco actually comes from a French word for "to pack down the powder" in a gun. The 1st tacos were consumed by miners who used packed gunpowder on their jobs, thus the name. "There are a lot of similarities between a good taco with habenero sauce and a stick of dynamite," Pilcher joked. But the concept has exploded to all corners of the planet. "Today there are tacos everywhere. We all need our dose of vitamin T.

The spice and heat associated with Mexican food provides a "sense of danger" that many eaters find attractive, Pilcher said. "New science is showing that chilies stimulate endorphins. Like a drug, eaters seek out hotter and hotter things."

Pilcher said he expects even more Mexican dishes will find their way to other countries. "As people around the world get introduced to basic Mexican cuisine they say 'this is Americanized'. Where can I find something more authentic? It will be interesting to see how these foods will change historically," the author said.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
If all this talk of tacos has made you hungry for some Mexican food, here is a list of some of the best Mexican eateries in the DC area.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Taco USA: A Lighter Look at Mexican-American Food

There's no question that Mexican food is wildly popular in all parts of the United States. So here's a question about Mexican cuisine. What were the 1st foods to make their way north of the border and onto American tables nationwide? If you answered tacos, tortillas, burritos, or enchiladas, you are wrong. The correct answer, according to Gustave Arellano, the author of Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America, is chili con carne (peppers with meat in Spanish) and tamales.

Arellano appeared recently at the Smithsonian Museum of American History to discuss his book. The special talk was held in conjunction with the new Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 exhibition now at the museum.

The author told a packed auditorium of food fans that he initially set out to write a book that made fun of Mexican fast food and such creations as the tater tot burritos in Wyoming. But his research quickly led him to shift his focus. "There is no such thing as authentic Mexican food," Arellano said. He said he discovered that like Italian and Chinese food, Mexican dishes are "simultaneously ethnic and, at the same time, 100% American"

So exactly what is the history of Mexican food in the United States? Obviously, the story has to focus on the Spanish heritage of the southwest. "Chili is the quintessential Texas food, but it is Mexican," Arellano said, citing the rise and fall of the chili queens in San Antonio as a major factor in that story. As for tamales, many sections of the country, especially large urban areas like Chicago, were the scene  of the sights and sounds of the hot tamale men hawking steaming buckets of their product as they walked the city sidewalks. Tamales became so popular that they were one of the major foods first canned. "We now have Mexicans all over the country so we don't have to subject ourselves to tamales in a can," Arellano said. "Americans have a 125-year love affair with chili and tamales."

Arellano said the 1893 Chicago World's Fair played a large role in bringing Mexican food to the American masses. "For many, it was the 1st time Americans were able to taste Mexican food," he said.  However, there were recipes for Mexican dishes in cookbooks in many parts of the country as early as the 1880s.

There is usually a 3-step process behind popular Mexican dishes. "First people hear about it and they want it, then they eat it, and then they assimilate it," Arellano said. Tacos, 1st introduced in the 1920s, and burritos in the 1960s followed that pattern. The late 20th Century introduced the mass production and sale of Mexican dishes by Taco Bell and Chipotle and new concoctions such as Doritos among others. Today, tortilla production is an $8 billion industry. "If you want to be rich, you have to sell Mexican food," Arellano, who also writes the humorous column Ask a Mexican, joked.

The irony is that some of the dishes popular in America were considered peasant dishes or "dirty" food in Mexico. As example, Arellano cited the "gentrification of Mexican alcohol. No proper Mexican would drink mescal. Now they're selling it in bars for $20 a shot".

Unlike some critics, Arellano said he supports businessmen from other ethnic groups who base their businesses on Mexican dishes. "People say 'Oh you are appropriating our cuisine. You can't hate them for that. They came across an idea and they ran with it. They were smart enough to do that," Arellano maintained.

Enterprising chefs are also creating unique Mexican dishes. "We're seeing tamales with lobster, with truffles, but it's still street food," Arellano said. Ethnic groups continue to make Mexican dishes their own. A new trend is Korean bar-b-que being used as taco filling. "I completely celebrate the rise of Asian-Mex for lack of a better term,"Arellano said.

Despite the success of Mexican food, an examination shows that prejudice still is part of that story. "Originally, if you called it Spanish it was OK," Arellano said. "Eventually the idea of eating Mexican food became acceptable.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
As part of the afternoon celebration of Mexican food, several taco trucks were parked outside the history museum. Arellano said he grabbed a couple of tacos at one and they were delicious. "Only in America can you have an American son of Mexican immigrants saying bueno for a Salvadoran making a taco,." he said.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Love the Game, But Change the Name

Despite protests of varying degrees, no professional sports team with a Native American-focused nickname has ever changed their name. Of course, that means the Indians in Cleveland and the Braves in Atlanta are still playing baseball, the Black Hawks are still skating in Chicago, and the Chiefs are still playing football in Kansas City. And then there is the special case of the Washington D.C. football team, which calls itself the Redskins, a name that carries the same demeaning connotation to many Native Americans that the n-word does with African-Americans.

"Redskins is most egregious except when applied to potatoes," says USA Today sports reporter Erik Brady. "It is disparaging and it is offensive."

Brady was one of 4 panelists who opened a community conversation about the Washington NFL team name at the symposium on Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports held at the National Museum of the American Indian.

To date, neither former owner George Preston Marshall or current owner Daniel Snyder has shown any willingness to drop the offensive term. But Brady believes a renaming of the franchise is inevitable. "Rich owners are accustomed to hearing what they want to hear and not doing what they don't want to do, but this is a racial epithet and he (Snyder) can't change the meaning," he said.

Native Americans have been protesting the name for decades and Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise has made his feelings on the issue clear for 10 of those years. He said he believes Snyder needs to be forced to change his stance. "He needs to be embarrassed into it," Wise said. "I'll write my butt off if you show up at the practice facility (to protest). Symbolism is so important in this culture and in this country. People say there are bigger things to worry about than names and mascots. But there is a reason to do this - it is called human compassion."

Rev. Graylan Hagler agreed that the name change is long overdue. "If someone says 'ouch' you don't ask them to define how its hurts and how much it hurts," Rev. Hagler said."You can't make something that is racist not racist. They (native Americans) say 'it takes away our humanity'. We should respond to their truth as truth."

Hagler, a long-time community activist, said that a boycott of team products could be an effective method of pressure. "We need to stop buying things that have the logo," he noted. "We need to withhold the cash."

District of Columbia Superior Court Judge Judith Bartnoff said the team name degrades the city of Washington. "The most prominent symbol of the real Washington is the football team and when you hear the fans, what they are screaming is a racial slur," Bartnoff said. "It is disrespectful and derogatory to Native people and undermines the community itself."

Robert Holden, the Deputy Director for the National Congress of American Indians, said "it's a local issue but it's being played out on a national stage. I don't think the owners understand that they are not honoring us. Honor like that - we don't need."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Obviously, given the popularity of professional sports, the symposium was widely reported in the media. Click here for The Washington Times account of the event. And, if you read the entire article, you can see my question which I posed at the symposium.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Washington Darkies? I Don't Think So.

Forrmer U.S. Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell
For Ben Nighthorse Campbell, the former U.S. Senator from Colorado, there is a moral imperative to change sports team names like Redskins or Savages that Native Americans find offensive. "These are derogatory words that simply should not be used," Campbell, the only Native American to serve in the Senate in the modern era, said. "Would you call the (professional football) team the Washington Darkies?  These words are wrong at the beginning and they are wrong at the end."

Campbell was one of more than a dozen speakers at a symposium on Racist Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports held at the National Museum of the American Indian.

There are other problems with appropriating Indian names for sports teams, Campbell contended. "They are named for us and use our image, but we don't get anything from it," he said. "Of course, we have been used a lot in American history."

Campbell described a dispute he was involved in to change the name of a Colorado high school from Savages. "We were not savages. We were the Indian people. I said if you want to use savages use your own picture. That's fine, but don't use our people."

"I know a little about sports," said Campbell, who was a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team. "And I often wonder about the difficulty of changing names.

The former senator noted that sports is not the only area with a naming problem. "There are more than 100 locations that use the word Squaw. Squaw comes from a part of a woman's anatomy. Nobody would want that name if they knew what it meant," Campbell noted.

In his remarks, Campbell commended Washington D. C. Mayor Vincent Gray who maintains that the Washington football team (who now plays its games in neighboring Maryland) would need to change its team name if it ever wanted to return to the district. But he had some harsh words for politicians who don't support such name changes. "I think there is a lot of cowardice on the part of elected officials," he said.

Campbell, an engaging speaker who interspersed his serious remarks with humor, drew laughter from the large crowd when he briefly described his work to change the name of the historic Custer battlefield in Montana to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. "I think that was the only battlefield in the whole United States named after the loser," Campbell said.

"We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go," Campbell said. "It's a long process, but I think part of it is a forum like this."

Campbell said some of the problems center around the differing outcomes of the American Dream concept. "For the immigrants coming here, there was a position of upward mobility. This was the land of opportunity. This was Eden. But the Indians had everything to lose and almost did lose everything. But 500 years before Columbus fell off the boat, there were sophisticated societies here. They didn't have writing or recording, but they didn't have many of the societal problems we have today. We could learn something from those people; we could be better."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
This is one of 3 posts dealing with the topics explored at the Racial Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports symposium. Campbell was part of the program entitled Case Studies on Addressing Indian Stereotypes in American Sports.The others posts deal with Mascot Origin Myths and a Community Conversation about the Washington NFL team name.

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