DC at Night

DC at Night

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Look at the Dark Side Over the Rainbow @National Women's Art Musuem

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. 

Call it the anti-Disney effect.
While a rash of films such as Maleficent have tried to remake villains into sympathetic antiheroes, “Soda_Jerk: After the Rainbow,” opening September 19 at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, has the opposite goal: to reveal the heart of darkness in the star of the family film The Wizard of Oz.
The 1939 classic helped Judy Garland—17 when she starred as Dorothy Gale—earn a permanent place in people’s hearts. Yet, as is well documented, her life wasn’t nearly as rosy as her character’s, a contrast the exhibit explores.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Washingtonian, click here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Star Trek Model: Boldly Going Nowhere (For a While)

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.

On September 11, 2014, the studio model of the Star Trek starship Enterprise, which has been on public display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum since 1976, was removed for conservation in preparation for its new display location in the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall, which will open in July 2016. The announcement of the artifact’s inclusion in the transformed Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall was made on April 3, 2014.

The eleven-foot-long studio model was used in filming the original Star Trek television series, (NBC, 1966-1969). Paramount donated it to the National Air and Space Museum in 1974. Initially displayed beginning in September 1974 in the Arts and Industries Building’s Life in the Universe exhibit, this significant cultural icon has been displayed in various locations in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC since that building’s opening in July 1976, although it has also been off display occasionally. Since March of 2000, it had been in a custom-built display case on the lower level of the Museum’s store.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Smithsonian.Com., click here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Crystal City Seeks to Become Tech Center

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 publica

Mitchell N. Schear is responsible for 20 million square feet of real estate in the Washington area, but on a recent morning, he was sitting at a sidewalk cafe near his Crystal City office in loafers, talking about how excited he was about the new neighborhood bar.
Highline, as the venue has been dubbed, will be the latest outpost of Geoff Dawson’s long string of local bars and restaurants, one that includes Bedrock Billiards, Ripple, Rocket Bar and Iron Horse Tavern.
When it opens later this year at 2010 Crystal Dr., Highline will also be the latest drop added to Schear’s Crystal City petri dish, where he is trying to grow a hub of technology companies to fill his company’s ample available office space.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.

Friday, September 26, 2014

DC's Own Roberta Flack

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. 

In the Washington, D.C. area, she’s often called, “Our Roberta,” a brown-skinned, florescent woman with a striking Afro, working as an image of her singing style.
Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Roberta Flack started playing the piano at an early age. When she was five, her family moved to the Nauck community in Arlington and she took up the organ, lending her musical talents to Macedonia Baptist Church. At 15, she entered Howard University with a full music scholarship and, by 19, she was a college graduate.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in WETA TV's Boundary Stones, click here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

U Street: Like Harlem, a Home to Great Black Literature

When you consider the Harlem Renaissance, you naturally think of New York City. But many of the writers most closely associated with that time also have strong ties to Washington DC.

Langston Hughes, possibly the greatest black writer of that period lived for a time in DC. So did his female contemporary Zora Neal Hurston, the author of the classic Their Eyes Were Watching God. Jean Toomer's novel Cane was set in Washington.

Although the black writers roamed around the capital, the area they were most associated with was U Street and its surrounding neighborhoods of LeDroit Park and Shaw. U Street itself was known as DC's Black Broadway from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Last week, a special literary-themed walk was offered as one of the DC By the Book Tours, designed by the DC Public Library. The tour was part of a week-long program featuring 4 walking tours which were operated as part of the annual week-long  Walkingtown DCsponsored by Cultural Tourism DC.

The tour was designed and led by Kim Roberts, an editor of the Beltway Poetry Quarterly. Roberts is also one of the prime movers behind the DC Writers Homes project.

At each of the tours 14 stops, volunteers would read a passage from an author associated with that location. As a special benefit, readers got to choose one of 2 books for their efforts - To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee or Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz. The books were courtesy of the DC Library.

The YMCA where
Hughes roomed
For example, outside a YMCA where Hughes once had a room, the description was highlighted by this excerpt from Hughes' autobiography, The Big Sea.

I arrived in Washington with only a sailor's peajacket protecting me from the winter winds. All my shirts were ragged and my trousers frayed. I am sure I did not look like a distinguished poet, when I walked up to my cousin's porch in Washington's Negro section, LeDroit Park ... Listen, everybody! Never go live with relatives if you're broke! That is an error.

Or here is a poem "I Sit and Sew" by Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson, the wife of noted black poet Paul Laurence Dunbar, who worked for a time at the Library of Congress.
I sit and sew—a useless task it seems,
My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams—
The panoply of war, the martial tread of men,
Grim-faced, stern-eyed, gazing beyond the ken
Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death,
Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath—
But—I must sit and sew.

I sit and sew—my heart aches with desire—
That pageant terrible, that fiercely pouring fire
On wasted fields, and writhing grotesque things
Once men. My soul in pity flings
Appealing cries, yearning only to go
There in that holocaust of hell, those fields of woe—
But—I must sit and sew.

The little useless seam, the idle patch;
Why dream I here beneath my homely thatch,
When there they lie in sodden mud and rain,
Pitifully calling me, the quick ones and the slain?
You need me, Christ! It is no roseate dream
That beckons me—this pretty futile seam,
It stifles me—God, must I sit and sew?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

DC Critic Takes a Look at the New Fall TV Season

Watching TV then ... 
... and watching TV now
DVR. OnDemand. Streaming. 800+ channels. Watching on giant home screens. On computers, laptops, and tablets. Even on your phone.

There is no doubt that the way people are watching television is changing. But some things still remain the same. Even though more shows are beginning in mid-season and summer than ever, fall is still the biggest time for introducing the most new shows. And that means viewers must decide which of the new offerings are worth their time.

Many people turn to TV critics to help with that choice and, earlier this week, Washington Post TV critic Hank Stuever appeared at the Newseum to offer his 2014 picks and pans.

Stuever explained his process for rating shows. "Some of it is my thoughts and my tastes and reactions, but I really look at - is the show good at what's it's trying to be. That is the Golden Rule - is a show good at what it's trying to be," Stuever told the audience at the Inside Media taping.

So what shows are the best at being good at what they are trying to be this year?  Stuever singled out 4 examples.

Madame Secretary (CBS)

"People have wanted a new West Wing. It's an appetizer for The Good Wife and it hits the same audience."

Transparent (Amazon)

"I really do like this show. Jeffrey Tambor (as a father changing to a woman) has the most self-absorbed adult children. I think this is Amazon's best effort so far."

Gotham (Fox)

"The pilot captures exactly what it is trying to be. It's an origin story and it's riffing on the whole Batman story."

Black-ish (ABC)

"-Ish is an interesting way to put a show together. It's on after Modern Family. It's remedial about race, but after the summer we've had, I think America is ready for something remedial about race."

OK, so there are some hits. What about sure misses? Stuever singled out 2 - Scorpions on CBS ('It gets stupider and stupider and then it implodes") and NCIS: New Orleans ("gumbo from a can").

Of course, Stuever readily admits that his judgments could be wrong. "I put a caveat on the whole fall season because I've only seen what they (the networks) will let me," Steuver said.

Stuever believes TV is becoming more reflective of our diverse American society. "You sort of see the fruits of everyone else's hard work over the last 3 decades to have TV shows that look like the viewers who watch them." he said.

To support his contention, Stuever pointed to ABC on Tuesday night, which is being called "Shonda Rhimes Night" since the new show How to Get Away with Murder (starring Academy award-winner Viola Davis) will be joining hits Grey' s Anatomy and Scandal in the lineup. All 3 shows are being produced by Rhimes, a black female TV executive.

"You've never had 2 black women back to back as stars in a show," Stuever said."Before, blacks could be best friends, but rarely the stars."

The critic also provided insight into how he goes about doing his job. He has a computer and a TV at his desk in the Post building. He also watches TV at home. "Organization is the key to any job. I try to look way ahead and then I try to look up close. I have to make instant decisions right away. Sometimes I have to decide if I want to review a show based on 5 or 10 minutes. But I take as many notes now as I did when I was a features reporter," he explained.

Stuever said that some of the show previews are sent to him as a computer link with an encrypted password. Others arrive on DVD. "It's about 50/50 now," he said.

Of course, with all the new channels and new shows out there, the job can get overwhelmingly at times. Such was the case with the PBS Ken Burns documentary on the Roosevelts. "I had to binge watch it to review it. I loved it, but just like in college, I let it sit on my desk all summer," he said with a laugh.

Then there are always people who can't believe a person can get paid for watching TV.  That is especially true when groups of young students tour the Post building. "I can see what they are saying - 'see that guy. That man gets paid for watching TV all day," Stuever said.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Celebrating Banned Books Week

Even with the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution, America has been, and continues to be, the scene of literary censorship and book bannings. While much of the focus is on books written for younger readers, almost all our American classics - Huckleberry Finn, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes of Wrath, Catch-22, have come under fire from critics who wanted them removed from school or local library shelves.

But the champions of the freedom to create, express, and read whatever one wants have a powerful weapon in their arsenal in the censorship wars - Banned Books Week.

Launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries, Banned Books Week is the national book community's annual celebration of the freedom to read. 

And as it has since the inception, the DC Public Library is taking part in the week by staging a series of events calling attention to the problem of censorship.

UNCENSORED: The Art Exhibition is a temporary public art event at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. The Great Hall has been transformed into a gallery, showcasing works of art by local D.C. artists pertaining to the theme of censorship. In addition to the Great Hall, the exhibition space will include the large entryway windows and parts of the second floor. 

Here are just 3 examples of what you will see in the exhibit, which will remain on display until Oct. 18.

Pay No Attention by Halsey Barryman

A sign painter by trade, Berryman generated a few samples of signs using quotes from George Orwell's 1984. He then incorporated these into an installation of hand-painted signs based on quotes that deal with censorship and are found in a number of banned books.

Kathryn Cote

Cote created a sculpture painting that explores the concept of the "wallflower" as it pertains to literary censorship. Each panel is covered in a series of small, paper roses which have been constructed using printed news articles and academic journals discussing controversial topics that appear throughtout the often-challenged young adult book The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Janelle Ortiz

Censorship of art reached a pinnacle with the Nazis in World War II. To rid works the Nazis did not favor they burned them. Setting fire has also been common for many other censored and rejected items including books. For this exhibit, Ortiz built a pedestal from traditional materials and burned it prior to the installation.

Other events for the week include:

The Birmingham Jail Players Present:
A Celebration of Our Freedom to Read
Wednesday, 6 p.m.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library

A group of lively DCPL employees who came together for King Week earlier this year, reunite to celebrate Banned Books Week by reciting excerpts from the works of their favorite challenged authors. Come hear the words of such authors as Kurt Vonnegut, Judy Blume, Mildred Taylor, Toni Morrison, and many more. They will be joined byAzar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran, known for her outspoken defense of the freedom to read and the power of literature to change the world.

Teen Reading
Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.
Mt. Pleasant Library

Are you a teen who loves to read? Do you need to earn some community service hours?
Join the Mt. Pleasant Library Teen Book Club!
This week we will celebrate Banned Books Week by reading books that have been challenged or banned in school and public libraries. Grab a related book and come chat Wednesday, Sept 24 at 4:30 p.m. in the Teen Space on the Lower Level. Library staff will have some favorites out on display and you can always ask for suggestions at the Information Desk. 

I Read Banned Comics
Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Northeast Library

Join us in focusing on freedom of information and expression by bringing your favorite graphic novel or comic and sharing a little bit about why you like it with others.  Come and hear about what others love and why.  We'll also have some great suggestions for those who are just curious about the popular genre and those who are veteran readers.

Read-Out! Harry Potter
Tuesday, 6 p.m.
Benning Library

We will be reading some of our favorite banned books at Read-Out! this month. Come by and listen to the first chapters of 
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's StoneCaptain Underpants, and other banned favorites. This program is appropriate for children ages 8-12 and will take place in the children's story circle. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Taffety Punk Gives Some Sympathy to the Devil

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. 

Imagine the Devil as a foul-mouthed standup comic, grabbing the mike and launching into raunchy riffs on good and evil. "Know all those Slayer fans making those (Devil-horn) signs. Well, I hate heavy metal," Satan says with a demonic laugh.

Or envision him as an exasperated CEO, dealing with incompetent underlings on the phone (red, of course, this is the Devil we're talking about). "What do you mean you're in Georgetown and just possessed a 12-year-old girl? The President of the United States is just a few blocks away, you idiot."

Marcus Kyd taking on the Devil's work and words
These are just 2 of the scenarios in Taffety Punk's presentation of The Devil in His Own Words now being presented at the Capitol Hills Arts Workshop through Oct. 4.

Taffety Punk's engaging, 1-character offering is a reworking of a play the company performed when in debuted in DC in 2004.

The source material is taken from the words of some of the world's greatest writers. Here is a partial list:
  • "The Devil and Daniel Webster" by Stephen Vincent Benet
  • "The Devil and Mr. Chips" by Charles Dickens
  • "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • "The Devil and Tom Walker" by Washington Irving
  • "Paradise Lost" by John Milton
  • "The Painter's Bargain" by William Makepeace Thackery and
  • "The Mysterious Stranger" by Mark Twain
Of course, given the subject, there are also frequent references from the alpha and omega books of The Bible - "Genesis" and "The Book of Revelation."

The Devil in a different light
But even with the best material, it's always really up to the actors to convey the story to the viewers. And Marcus Kyd more than meets that challenge. For 80 minutes, alone on stage with just a handful of well-utilized, quirky props, Kyd portrays the Devil's wiles and guiles in all their facets.  He creates a Devil that is by turns genteel, seductive, ominous, cranky, and ultimately despairing. The intimate stage at the Arts Workshop helps intensify your 80-minute face-to-face with Mr. Satan.

In the hands of Kyd and director Lise Bruneu, this is a play that will make you think. Long after the lights go out you will still be considering aspects of good and evil, God and the Devil, faith and despair, hope and humanity's role in wickedness through the ages.

And perhaps the best part of The Devil in His Own Words is you don't have to sell your soul or engage in any other kind of Faustian bargain to enjoy a night of thoughtful theater. It will only set you back 15 bucks. Any sympathy you later show the Devil is optional.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Happens to a Smithsonian Temporary Exhibit After Its Display Time Is Over?

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.

Have you ever wondered about the afterlife of a temporary exhibition? What happens when the display case is opened back up and the objects that spent months nestled together start the next phase of their museum life?
The exhibition I'm talking about in particular is a "History Highlights" exhibit which went on display on June 1, 2012, marking the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts of the USA, and was taken down in April 2014.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in the American History Museum's blog Oh Say CanYou See, click here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

DC Holds a State Fair: Who Knew?

The D.C. State Fair is becoming a little less Petworth and a little more Portlandia.
The fair, which started in 2010 to showcase D.C.'s home growing/baking/crafting talent, will take place Sept. 20 at Old City Farm & Guild on Rhode Island Avenue. There, the District's picklers, knitters and gardeners will convene for a veritable Pinterest board of categories: "Funkiest looking vegetable." "Jam & jelly contest." There's even a contest for "Hats for newborns. To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Eleanor Roosevelt and the Bonus Marchers

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. This post 1st appeared on Sept. 10, 2011.

Bonus marchers tussle with police
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt
In 1932, as the nation lingered in the desperate depths of the Great Depression, thousands of World War I veterans and their families marched on Washington to demand immediate lump-sum payment of their military pensions. To the consternation of President Herbert Hoover, who was about to embark upon a difficult reelection campaign, the ragtag army camped in tents and shacks along the Anacostia River, and began trying to pressure the White House and Congress by marching up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. Unfortunately, the bill to pay them their benefits passed the House but was overwhelmingly defeated in the Senate in June.

What some called the Battle of Washington made a powerful impression upon soon-to-be First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband would unseat Hoover in the fall of 1932. According to biographer Blanche Wiesen Cook,  Mrs. Roosevelt wrote that the incident "shows what fear can make people do," and she was determined to do whatever she could to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. 
It wouldn't be long before she got her opportunity.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Boundary Stones, click here.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

House Speaker Delivers His Plan and Orange You Glad He Did

Cameras ready to capture John Boehner speech at AEI. Hope they can capture deep orange.
With the possible exception of Halloween pumpkins, nothing in DC is more associated with the color orange than Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, he of the tan face that belies his can-get-cold Ohio roots.

Here are just some examples of that deep color association:

"President Obama is visiting the hometown of House Speaker John Boehner. Obama plans to give a speech and then visit the tanning bed that Boehner grew up in." -- Conan O'Brien

"The world's saddest tangerine." -- John Stewart

"John Boehner will be the new Speaker of the House. It is the highest elected office ever to be reached by an Orange-American." -- Daily Show correspondent Olivia Munn

"Rep. John Boehner is the new speaker of the House. Turn-ons include tax cuts and spray tans." -- Craig Ferguson

"Isn't fall in DC great? The colors are brown, gold, and orange. And that's just in John Boehner's face." -- David Letterman

"You know who Boehner is, right? He's the orange looking guy. See, for Republicans that counts as diversity." -- Jay Leno

So that's why I was so excited to finally encounter Speaker Boehner in person today. He was scheduled to deliver a speech entitled Resetting America's Economic Foundation at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) .  I had made the invited guest list and I had never seen an orange man.

But despite my fondness for many of the comedians above, the funny thing was that in person - on this particular day at least - John Boehner wasn't orange. He wasn't orange when he entered the packed room surrounded by aides and Secret Service agents. He wasn't orange as he sat in the front row listening to AEI President Arthur Brooks introduce him. And he wasn't orange during the 20 minutes he delivered his remarks which outlined 5 ways the emerging energy boom here in the United States offers America "a once-in-a-generation opportunity to resent its economic foundation by addressing the debt, reforming the tax code, fixing the legal system, reigning in excessive regulations, and strengthening the country's educational system to empower Americans and renew our country's future."
Boehner gets ready to speak: No orange here ...
... and Boehner speaking: Still no orange here either.
I looked; I really did. I wanted to see orange. But try as I might, there was no orange to be seen.

So what about Boehner's words? They seemed to please the heavily pro-Republican crowd that packed AEI. But not everyone thought Boehner was right. Here is what the progressive Think Progress group had to say about the remarks:

What Boehner Says: “Let’s fix the whole tax code. Make it pro-growth and pro-family. Bring down the rates for every American, clear out all the loopholes, allow people to do their taxes on two – yes, two – sheets of paper.”
What Boehner Does: The Speaker does not lay out any details of what kind of tax reform he supports, but a look at his support for the Ryan Budget plan is enough: it would raise taxes on middle class families by an average of $1,358 to pay for a $286,000 tax cut for millionaires. This isn’t just unfair—it’s a recipe for economic stagnation. A tax cut for the rich has no measurable effect on growth while a tax cut for everyone else actually does boost the economy.
What Boehner Says: “We have to solve our spending problem. For 53 of the last 60 years, we’ve spent more money than we’ve brought in…It is stealing from our kids and grandkids, robbing them of benefits they’ll never see and leaving them with burdens that are nearly impossible to repay.”
What Boehner Does: There are two sides to any budget deficit, spending and revenue, a reality Boehner has willfully ignored as Speaker. He famously refused a “Grand Bargain” with President Obama in 2011 that would have cut federal spending by $2.2 trillion because the President asked for $650 billion more in revenue and said in 2013 that “the talk about raising revenue is over.”
And speaking of robbing kids, it’s worth noting that Boehner has refused bills that would help state and local governments halt teacher layoffs.
What Boehner Says: “We’ve gotten to a point in America where litigation has become a first resort instead of a last. The costs are staggering: Americans are spending more per person on litigation than just about any other country, and it’s not even close. Our liability costs are more than 2.5 times the average level of Eurozone economies. Not something to be proud of.”
What Boehner Does:The Speaker should first take his own advice on frivolous lawsuits before he begins offering policy prescriptions on litigation. After all, he led the charge this summer to win approval of a resolution authorizing him to sue the Obama Administration for waiving the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. The lawsuit is the definition of frivolous—not only is it likely to lose, but Boehner doesn’t even support the employer mandate he is suing to enforce!
Extra! Extra! Read All About It

More on Speaker Boehner's AEI speech

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Our Constitution as a Hinge of Human History

An artistic capturing of the debate behind the U.S. Constitution
Most every American is aware of the significance of the date July 4th, 1776. But Yale professor and noted Constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar believes that the date Sept. 17th is even more important.

"You've all heard a lot about July 4th, but not enough, it seems to me, about Sept. 17th," Amar says.

And why is that date so vital? On that day in 1787, our American Constitution came into being.

Constitutional expert Amar
This week, Amar delivered a standing-room only lecture at the Library of Congress entitled Magna Carta and the American Constitution, one day before the capital's annual celebration of Constitution Day.

The professor did briefly address the Magna Carta, but the bulk of his remarks centered on the Constitution, which he called "the hinge of human history."

"At the time of the Constitution there was very little democracy around the planet. There was us, and the British, and the Swiss. Basically, people were groaning in chains. Thugs were in control of the planet. Today, 1/2 of the planet by land is democratic. The world we live in is a world made by America," Amar said.

He even joked that our time designations B.C. and A.D. refer to that fact. "Before the Constitution and After the Document," he said, eliciting much laughter from the crowd.

He said people today don't comprehend how revolutionary the document was. "The very familiarity has blunted their (the creators and signers) audacity," Amar said.

Amar said the most amazing fact of the Constitution is that it was put to a vote of the people. "The Declaration of Independence is pretty impressive, but it wasn't put to a vote. In 1776, it was a case of either you are with us or against us. If you weren't for independence, you either had to leave or shut up," he explained.

But that wasn't the case with the Constitution. The vote was preceded by vigorous, vocal debate. "You could say whatever you wanted - like 'Ben Franklin is a senile old coot' - and no one could shut you down. Free speech is baked right into our Constitutional Cake," Amar noted.

But the Constitution is not only a text, it is an ongoing act as well, Amar maintained. "It is a deed. It is a doing," he said.

"The Constitution is crowd-sourced. It is Wikipedia. Who gave us our Bill of Rights - opponents to the Constitution. For certain things, many heads are better than one," the professor added.

But despite the brilliance of the document at that time, there was a major flaw. "There was a serpent in the garden and that serpent was slavery," Amar said.

He noted that the controversial Electoral College - which still exists - was an outgrowth of slavery and the 3/5ths clause, which meant that although slaves could not vote, they could count as 3/5ths of a person when determining the number of representatives a state could have in Congress. Without that compromise, the North would have politically dominated the South.

"Our Constitution was conceived in liberty, but conciliatory to slavery," Amar said. "It created a system that rewarded slavery and slavery corrupts. It's a cancer that grows and grows. The system (of united government) fails because of slavery."

But after the divisive, bloody Civil War, the Constitution was reborn with former male slaves now having the right to vote. "It was a new birth of freedom," Amar said."But we were not done in 1867. What about women? Well that came with the 19th Amendment."

"We are the product today of many generations of Constitutional improvements," Amar said. "The process is still ongoing. We can ask - what should our Constitution look like 40-score years from now?"

Extra! Extra!  Read All About

More About Professor Amar's Thoughts on the Constitution

Amar participates in a panel discussion Is the U.S. Constitution Still Working at the National Archives. Click here to see that event.

Amar talks Constitution with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report. Click here to see what happened.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

When an Intentional Walk Becomes an International Wok

Take me out to the ball game
Take me out with the crowd
Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack
I don't care if I never get back

For the 2nd time in 3 years, the Washington Nationals have won the Major League Baseball National Division Eastern Conference title. And that means the Nats will be playing extra games in October. And extra games means more chances to eat at Nationals Ball Park.

Now while it's true you can still get peanuts, crackerjack, and of course, ball park perennial favorite the hot dog, the food choices at today's ball parks are much more varied than ever.

Intentional walk becomes International Wok
Want proof that this is no longer your grandpop's baseball park, here are some examples from the concessions available at the Nationals' home field:

  • local iconic half-smokes from Ben's Chili Bowl
  • Chesapeake Company crab cakes
  • barbeque from Blue Smoke
  • herb-crusted roast beef from Capitol Carvery
  • cauliflower sandwiches from Chef Mike Isabellas' G Sandwich Shop
  • jerk chicken from Jammin Island Outpost
  • shawarma and falafel sandwiches from Shawafel
  • tacos from El Verano Taqueria
  • sushi from South Capital Sushi and
  • pad thai and drunken noodles from International Wok
Even hamburgers are given a special treatment at Shake Shack, which claims its mission is to preserve the culinary traditions of classic American burgers while adding its own spin.

Before the season started, Jonathan Stahl, senior director of guest experience and hospitality relations at Nationals Park told WTOP 103.5 FM "We kind of want to change the perception of the ballpark experience and ballpark food. It's not just food that's been sitting out on a warmer ready to go."

But despite the new culinary choices, don't expect a lyrics change to the ball classic "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

I'm certain even the most rabid anti-traditionalists would agree that "buy me some peanuts and crackjack" sounds better than "buy me some falafel and drunken noodles." When it comes to a national pastime, some things just aren't meant to change.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Walking DC's Literary Past

The now-gone Gaety Burlesque
Did you know that the nondescript J. Crew store on F Street was once the original site of the 9:30 Club, the scene for some of DC's most legendary rock shows? Or that the location was a setting for a scene in noted crime noir writer George Pelecanos' novel Shoedog?

Or were you aware the ultra-chic, uber-expensive, upscale City Center complex now coming to life is on a spot that was once at the heart of DC's seedy red-light district, an area then populated by bars where naked women and men danced day and night? Or that famed Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes was a frequent visitor to one of the burlesque houses in the neighborhood?

Well, the answer to all of these questions would be yes if you had taken one of the DC By the Book Tours, designed by the DC Public Library.

The goal of the project, which is a collaborative effort among local librarians, experts in DC fiction, and city historical organizations, is to create a crowd-sourced map of literature set in DC that illuminates the city's geographical and social history.

Today, we accompanied librarians Tony Ross and Kim Zablud on their 2-mile tour entitled Downtown's Nightlife. As we walked the area that is now home to exclusive restaurants, elegant hotels, and expensive condos, Ross and Zablud explained the changes that had occurred in the area that was once the center of DC's sordid nightlife scene.

The best part of the tour is that it was interactive. At selected stops, tour participants read a brief excerpt from a short story or novel using that site as a setting. For example, here is what Pelecanos wrote about the old 9:30 Club:

Constantine could see some club action on F Street, the lettered block that ran to 9th. A group of kids stood halfway down the block, most of them smoking, leaning against the gated front of a shoe store. They wore flannel shirts, all of them; it looked to Constantine as if the boots they wore on their feet were the same style he'd worn in the Marines. One of them yelled something at him, and the rest of them laughed.

Downtown's Nightlife is one of 4 tours now offered. The others are:

  • Foggy Bottom
  • Georgetown and                     
  • U Street                
This week all 4 tours are being operated as part of the annual week-long Walkingtown DC sponsored by Cultural Tourism DC.

Of course, having expert guides is the best way to take any tour. But you can undertake the tour on your own. The library has designed and is offering an app (DC By the Book Tours) that is available in the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Happy 200th to the Star-Spangled Banner

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.

On a rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President's house. It was another chapter in the ongoing War of 1812.
A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key's tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13 as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away.
"It seemed as though mother earth had opened and was vomiting shot and shell in a sheet of fire and brimstone," Key wrote later. But when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of "the dawn's early light" on September 14, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory.
Key put his thoughts on paper while still on board the ship, setting his words to the tune of a popular English song. His brother-in-law, commander of a militia at Fort McHenry, read Key's work and had it distributed under the name "Defence of Fort M'Henry." The Baltimore Patriot newspaper soon printed it, and within weeks, Key's poem, now called "The Star-Spangled Banner," appeared in print across the country, immortalizing his words—and forever naming the flag it celebrated.
To continue reading this story, which 1st appeared in Smithsonian.Com, click here.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It
More on the Star Spangled Banner
Fragments of the Star-Spangled Banner may still be floating around. (from USA Today)
Is it time to ditch the Star-Spangled Banner? (from Politico)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hobby Lobby Leader Has Big Plans for Bible Museum

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's web site.

Steve Green is standing in the basement of the eight-story Bible museum he’s building in Washington. Plans for the $800 million project are coming together nicely: the ballroom modeled after Versailles, the Disney-quality holograms, the soaring digital entryway with religious images projected on the ceiling, the restaurant serving biblically-themed meals.
But one detail is bothering Green, and there’s nothing he can do about it. The building, he says, is not quite close enough to the National Mall. It’s just two blocks away, and from the roof it feels as though you can take a running leap onto the U.S. Capitol. Still, if it could just be a little closer. Green knows how much location matters.
“One thing I learned in our real estate office is, sometimes being a block down the street can mean a lot in terms of sales,” he says. “The Mall is where there are a lot of visitors. It’s not as visible to the Mall as we’d like, but it’s close.”
Green knows plenty about sales. He is president of Hobby Lobby, the multibillion-dollar craft store chain his father founded. But he’s just now learning the power of holding Washington’s attention. Earlier this year, Hobby Lobby became a household name for non-scrapbooking reasons when the company took on the White House in a controversial Supreme Court case over whether employers had to include no-cost coverage of contraception to employees. The Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby’s favor in June, and among religious conservatives, in particular, the Pentecostal Greens were hailed as heroes.
To continue reading this story, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.

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