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Monday, March 31, 2014

Raise the Mininum Wage, Demonstrators Urge

Carrying signs and shouting slogans such as "Can't survive on 7.25," a group of about 40 AFL-CIO workers demonstrated outside of the Heritage Foundation today, calling attention to their campaign to raise the federal minimum wage for American workers.

Amaya Smith, a media spokesperson for the AFL-CIO, said the group chose its protest site because Jim DeMint, head of the Heritage Foundation and a tea party chieftain, has refused to engage AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka in a debate about the idea of raising the minimum wage for workers to $10.10 an hour.

DeMint was selected because the labor group believes a high profile debate outside of Congress would display the broader ideological contrast at the heart of the issue to the country and the Heritage head, who is one of the country's most prominent tea partiers,  has indicated he is in favor of doing away with any federal minimum wage entirely.

"We have challenged Mr. DeMint to a public debate on the minimum wage and he hasn't answered," Smith said.

A demonstrator lets his sign speak for him
The labor spokesperson said that current polls indicate that more than 60 percent of Americans are in favor of raising the wage to the proposed amount. "It's not going to take care of everything about poverty, but it is a good first step," Smith explained said.

While some shouted protest cadences - "Hey, hey, ho, ho, puny wages have got to go" - and answered call-and-response chants from leaders with megaphones, others handed message sheets to passersby, urging them to contact their Senators to support Senate Bill 460, the Fair Minimum Wage Act.

"People who work full time should get paid enough to support their families," the handout read. "But full-time workers making the current wage of $7.25 an hour bring in just $15,080 a year before taxes. That's not nearly enough to live on."

"Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour will lift up working families and improve their standard of living," the handout added. "And with the extra income, minimum wage workers can spend more, boosting our economy."

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Smithsonian Sunday: Prehistoric Dinosaur King Headed to DC

DC's Smithsonian museums (there are 17 of them here in the city) are among America's most treasured and visited 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 that initially appeared in one of those highly-readable blogs. Hope you enjoy and maybe we'll see you soon at the Smithsonian.

This April, Smithsonian's Natural History Museum will welcome 7-ton, 38-foot long new resident—a 66 million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil, which will serve as the centerpiece for the museum's new 31,000-square-foot national fossil hall, slated to open in 2019.

In preparation for the skeleton's arrival, the museum unveiled “Tyrannosaurus rex: Say Hello to the Nation’s T. rex!” on January 16, a display that features a cast of the incoming dinosaur's skull. The display will remain visible in the museum's Constitution Avenue lobby until the skeleton's arrival on April 15. 

On April 28, the current fossil hall will close to the public, in order for renovations to begin—but, thanks to a variety of exhibits which the museum has planned, the public will still be able to view various dinosaurs and fossils even during the renovations.

To continue reading this post, click here

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Saturday Supplement: DC - the Silicon Valley of Museum Startups?

Each Saturday, The Prices Do DC posts an entry that appeared in another publication that is of interest to both residents of the Washington area and visitors to DC.

The Washington area rivals Silicon Valley in ideas for a particular kind of start-up — the museum start-up. It’s the dream of folks with a notion they can’t shake, that they’re sure will catch fire and attract legions of visitors.
They want to add to the existing mix of Smithsonian museums, the National Gallery of Art, and the Spy Museum. Right now there are efforts underway to build: a Bible Museum, a National LGBT Museum, a National Museum of the American People, an Armenian Genocide Museum of America. There are new, futuristic efforts, like the Museum of Science Fiction, and ones that are decades old, like the National Women’s History Museum, the idea for which took root in the mid-’90s, when female lawmakers tried to get a statue of suffragettes moved from the Capitol basement to the Rotunda. There’s the National Museum of the American Latino, the Irish American Museum of Washington, D.C., and others, in various stages of planning and execution.
What does it take to turn an idea for a museum into bricks-and-mortar reality? What’s the alchemy that allows some start-up museums to break ground, while others never reach escape velocity?
To continue reading this story that first appeared in The Washington Post, click here.
BONUS FEATURE

With all the startups underway in the area, which ones seem to have a shot at opening their doors within the typical museum-goer’s lifetime? Since Washington loves to pick winners, we asked Martha Morris, assistant director of museum studies for the George Washington University and co-author of “Planning Successful Museum Building Projects,” to handicap their chances, with comments, on a scale of 1 to 5.

Click here to see the results.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Flashback: Tea and the Cherry Blossom Fest

This post originally appeared in The Prices Do DC on March 25th of last year.

This is a teapot?
Tea. It is the 2nd most-consumed drink in the world ranking only behind water. People began first brewing the drink some 50 centuries ago. The ancients believed, and research today is confirming, that tea not only is a thirst-quencher, but also provides a myriad of health benefits. In fact, until the 5th century A.D., tea was primarily used as a remedy.

However, China's upper class soon adopted the fashion of presenting packages of tea as highly esteemed gifts and of enjoying drinking tea at social events and in private homes. At around the same time the Chinese tea ceremony began to develop, the tidings of tea began to spread to Japan, which soon adopted green tea as its national drink.

The connection between tea and Japan made tea the perfect topic for the Smithsonian American Art Museum to examine last weekend as its event to kickoff the National Cherry Blossom Festival, an annual weeks-long Spring celebration to commemorate the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the mayor of Tokyo in 1912. The event was co-sponsored withTeaism, a local tea shop located just blocks from the museum. 

In the 1st part of the program, experts from Teaism explained the history of tea and answered questions about the drink. The information included:

  • all tea comes from the same plant, the Camelia Sinesius, which is native only to China and parts of Japan
  • the flavor of tea depends on factors such as location, altitude, climate, and the plucking and processing methods
  • there are 4 types of tea - white, green, oolong, and black
  • there is no such thing as herbal tea - what most people call herbal teas are really herbal infusions and don't contain any tea leaves
In the 2nd part of the program, museum guides explained the history behind the institution's collection of artistic tea pots. While some of the teapots are fully functional, others were created for beauty only. As you might expect, many of the colorful, ornate tea pots feature Japanese elements and design. Pictured below are 3 of our favorites.





Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Despite the unexpected Spring snows and colder-than-average temperatures in much of the Northeast, the DC Cherry Blossom is underway. Forecasts now call for the peak bloom to be some time around April 3. If you are interested in attending any of the events associated with the celebration, click here for a calendar.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Signed, Sealed, Delivered @The National Archives

Did you know that Saddam Hussein sent a congratulations card to President George H. W. Bush? Or that Richard Nixon formally applied to be an FBI agent? Or that Michael Jackson got a patent for a special performing shoe?

Well, if you didn't, you would if you had visited Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures, the newest exhibition at the National Archives.

Last week, the archives held a special tweet-up preview of the exhibition, which officially opened Friday and will be on display through Jan. 5.

Here are some pictures we took which will give you just a small sample of what you will see if you visit the exhibition.










For even more information on the tweet-up and the new exhibition, check out this Storify by clicking here.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Helping The Grandkids Do DC

DC is a great city for hosting your grandkids. So much to do and so much of it for free. Of course, there is the National Zoo. But on the most recent visit from our 6-year-old granddaughter Audrey and our our 4-year-old grandson Owen, we headed for the National Mall. Here is what we did.

Kids love riding trains and subways. So. of course, we traveled by Metro.

Our 1st stop was the Smithsonian Castle. Both our grandkids love Legos, so the Lego model of the castle was a big hit. Then, we used one of the scale models of the National Mall area to talk about where we were going and what we were going to do and see. We usually pick one place and then let them choose one place on the mall per day.

Their choice was the National Museum of Natural History. Our 1st stop there was the new Q?rious science education center . Then it was on to the natural fossil hall for a last look at the dinosaurs displayed the way they are now. The hall will close on April 28 and won't reopen until 2019. Owen also got to preview the T-Rex coming to the museum in April.

Our choice for the kids was the National Museum of American History where we took in a special show from a one-eyed puppet master that was part of the ongoing Puppetry in America exhibition, which is on view until April 13.  Then is was upstairs for a look at Miss Piggy in the American Stories exhibit, Audrey loves Miss Piggy and we had just seen the new Muppet movie the night before.
And no matter how many times we visit the history museum, Audrey wants to see Dorothy's ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
The National Mall also has whole series of walls that are just perfect for climbing. Here Audrey and Owen wave goodbye to the mall until their next trip to DC.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Smithsonian Sunday: A Look at the new Director

David K. Skorton, president of Cornell University, a cardiologist and a jazz musician, was named the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution last week. He will succeed current secretary G. Wayne Clough, who will retire at the end of this year.
Skorton, a specialist in congenital heart disease, will be the first medical doctor to lead the Smithsonian. He will take over as secretary in July 2015.
He is an "extraordinary fit for the Smithsonian," said John McCarter, former president of Chicago's Field Museum and the chairman of the nine-member secretarial search committee appointed by the Smithsonian's Board of Regents. The Smithsonian said an acting secretary will be named to run the Institution during the six months between Clough's departure and Skorton's arrival.
To continue reading this post which first appeared in Smithsonian.com, click here.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Saturday Supplement: March Monument Madness


Welcome to Monument Madness, The Washington Post’s challenge to see which one of the region’s monuments stands above the rest. (Figuratively, at least; the Washington Monument would clearly win a height contest.)


The Monument Madness selection committee (okay, three Weekend staffers) settled on four categories — our version of the NCAA's regions — for the 32-monument bracket: presidents and Founding Fathers, war and peace, arts and sciences and a grab-bag category called “What the heck is that?” The field proved extremely difficult to narrow down, but the committee settled on three ground rules: The memorial must be outdoors; it must be honorary, not just a sculpture; and it can’t be in a cemetery. 
The selection committee determined the winners in the round of 32, and we’ve already witnessed some tremendous upsets: Who could have predicted the Maine Lobsterman sneaking past labor union leader Samuel Gompers
The matchups that follow are the tournament’s Sweet 16. Polls are live through Tuesday; the Elite 8 begins Wednesday. We’ll crown a champion based on your votes on April 1. 
To read the rest of the entry originally posted by The Washington Post, click here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Flashback - Puppetry @The Smithsonian

This post 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC last month. It makes an appropriate Friday Flashback entry since this weekend our grandkids Audrey and Owen are visiting us from Atlanta and we will be taking them to see this exhibit, as well as a special workshop on puppetry.


Puppetry is one of the oldest types of performance art in America. Now, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, a new exhibition traces the history of the subject from colonial times to the TV shows of today.


Early American hand puppets
The earliest traditions of puppetry were established by immigrants from Great Britain, France, and Italy who traveled from town to town putting on street and park performances. In the early 20th Century, puppets and their puppet masters became an integral part of vaudeville stage performances across the country.

In the 1930s, Edgar Bergen and his sidekick Charlie McCarthy brought the idea of puppetry to the new media of radio. In 1969, Jim Henson and his staff brought the Muppets to the children's show Sesame Street. With Kermit, Oscar, and the beloved duo of Bert and Ernie, puppet popularity encountered an explosion which continues to today. In fact, it was the donation of 21 of Henson's most beloved creations to the museum in October of last year which paved the way for the current exhibition.

The California Raisin made sure they were heard through the grapevine in 1986
The exhibit, which delights youngsters of all ages, examines puppets from the beginnings of America until today. Included are examples of:
  • Asian shadow puppets
  • hand puppets
  • marionnettes 
  • paper puppets
  • ventriloquist's puppets
  • finger puppets 
  • stop-motion puppets and
  • Muppets
But no matter what the type of puppet is used, the art of puppetry really depends on 3 factors: a puppet, the imagination of a manipulator, and an audience willing to suspend belief and accept the puppet as "real."
Youngsters who get excited about the exhibit, can indulge their puppetry fantasies at the special gift shop

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Question of Race in the 21st Century

Ever since our founding as a nation, race has played a key role in the American experience. That is still true today, but as we head through a rapidly changing 21st Century, the question of race takes on a new urgency.

"It's not a question of numbers, it's a question of status," says Roderick Harrison, a senior research fellow at the Civic Engagement and Governance Institute's Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.

Harrison was one member of a Center for American Progress panel which recently examined the changing meaning of race in the 21st Century. He was joined by:

  • Rinku Send, the president and executive director of Race Forward: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation
  • Julie Downing, an associate professor in the Department of Latina/Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and
  • Hillary O. Shelton, the Washington bureau director and senior vice president for advocacy of the NAACP
Much of the discussion focused on the best ways to get an accurate census counting of American minority citizens. In 1960, census takers simply checked the box of the race they thought their interview subjects belonged to. Now, census respondents choose their own racial identity, which obviously is more accurate. 

But problems still remain."We have Latinos not wanting to be recognized so there is an under-reporting of Latinos," Downing said. They say 'I am an American citizen and I want my citizenship to be recognized. I don't want to be discriminated against."

Then there is the growing number of Americans who come from mixed races. They may view themselves as white, but not all Americans will do so. "When many people see Barack Obama, who is racially mixed, they see black. Or when they see Tiger Woods, they don't see Thai. They ask is he going to be eating fried chicken at the Master's," Harrison said.

But why is accurate reporting of minorities so crucial? The answer, the panel concluded, is quite simple - to solve a problem you must first be able to accurately measure it.

"We need that information to see how close we are coming to full inclusion and full parity," Harrison explained.

The panel members agreed that while race relations may be better than they once were, there is still much room for improvement.

"I am afraid we're going to just stop at accepting diversity and not move forward in terms of equity and justice," Send said. "We can't just date our way out of inequity. People say it will all even out over time and that is just not going to happen. The problems we're dealing with are institutionalized and systemic. We need to change the rules to take apart the hierarchy."

Harrison said fear is also exacerbating whites negative fears toward non-whites. Much of that is fueled by projections that by the mid-21st Century, there will be more non-whites in America than whites.

"They (many whites) see this change as destroying their America. They say these people are taking over. They see growing diversity as a threat to their privilege. It is a this is mine, this is not yours attitude," Harrison said.

The current hard economic times in America is also factoring into widening of racial divisions. "Under the pressures of economic distress, there is a search for scapegoats which always ends in the finding of minority populations who are either the cause of the problem or a barrier to the solution," Harrison said.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Viewing the Cosmos @National Geographic

"The cosmos is all that there ever was and ever will be." --- Carl Sagan.


If you are a fan of the awe and mystery of man and the universe, then you should head to the National Geographic Museum where an engaging exhibition on the TV show Cosmos is now on display.

The exhibit examines both the original airing of the series with Carl Sagan and the new version with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, which is now showing on the National Geographic channel.

Sagan's series, which debuted in 1980 and ran for 13 weeks, remains the most globally successful American public television series of all-time. It has been seen by more than 800 million viewers around the world. Sagan's accompanying book spent 70 weeks on the New York Times' best-seller list and was listed by the Library of Congress as one of the 88 books that shaped America.

Actually, there is a close personal tie between Sagan and Tyson, who is the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York, has become a favorite guest on both The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report for his ability to explain scientific concepts, and is the first scientist with more than 1 million Twitter followers.

When Tyson was applying to college, he was accepted at Cornell University where Sagan was then a professor. Sagan wrote Tyson a personal letter, inviting him to tour his lab. Even though Tyson decided to attend Harvard University, Sagan's outreach made a deep impression on him.

"I learned the kind of person I wanted to become," Tyson says. "I have this duty to respond to students who are inquiring about the universe as a career path the way Carl Sagan responded to me."

Both men have been described as those rare scientists who can "bring the universe down to Earth like no others."

In their essence, both the original Cosmos and the new version, which began airing this month, present the world of our universe as explained by science.

"Cosmos is a saga of how wandering bands of hunters and gatherers found their way to the stars," says Ann Druyon, a writer who worked on both versions of the show.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The US, Russia, and the Ukraine: What's Next?

A protester holds a sign reading "Yesterday Stalin, Today Putin" at a Turkish protest of Russian actions in Crimea
The current explosive situation created in the Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin is the most serious European crisis since the end of the Cold War. That was the consensus displayed by a distinguished 6-person panel at the Heritage Foundation, a group which included the Estonian ambassador to the U.S., the former ambassador to NATO, a Ukrainean political commentator and TV anchor, and 3 Russian scholars.

The panel agreed that Putin's decision to place special troops in Crimea as a prelude to a vote for that territory to secede from the Ukraine and join Russia, (a move that was approved Sunday) was a blatant power grab orchestrated by Putin and Russian officials and must be met with the strongest actions possible short of all-out war.

Russian troops are tightening their Crimean grip
"This is a violation of international law and those that violate international law should pay for that," said Estonian ambassador H.E. Marina Kaljurand. "Putin's pretense of protecting Russian nationalists is ridiculous. We have to keep the pressure on Russia."

"It may sound like a slogan, but after what is happening today in the Ukraine, the world is not the same place anymore," Kaljurand added. "Other countries are wondering - who is next?"

The Americans on the panel agreed that other countries  - friends and foes alike - will be closely watching actions that the United States, along with the European Union and NATO, takes to reign in Putin.

"What we are seeing is big," said Kurt Volker, former U.S. ambassador to NATO. "Putin will see how far he can go. It is easy for people to say 'this is bad,' but Putin has taken Crimea and that is a fact. We must be prepared to take actions if we want our words to mean anything."

"I think we are looking at a new kind of warfare that is unheard of in the modern world," said Ukrainean TV commentator Evgeny Kiselev. "These (Russian) soldiers appeared from nowhere and very possibly will disappear back into nowhere. This (the Crimean takeover) was a covert operation by elite Russian troops. They were very polite, but they were very insistent and determined.

"The question is - who is going to defend us?" Kiselev asked.

Earlier, during the dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Ukraine had agreed to give up its nuclear weapons. Russia kept theirs, creating a complete imbalance in power in the region. Several panel members indicated that nuclear bans may be in jeopardy if countries decide that the Ukraine give-up leaves them defenseless against Russian onslaught.

"He (Putin) is being like a small child. He is trying to establish when he's really going to be punished," Kiselev said. "But he is a small child with nuclear weapons," Ariel Cohen, a senior research fellow in Russian and Eurasian studies, at the Heritage Foundation responded. All voices on any Russian responses concur that decisions must take into account that nuclear threat.

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow for the American Foreign Policy, believes that if Putin is not stopped in the Crimea, he will authorize other takeovers. "This is a logical culmination of Russian policy," Blank said. "This is the beginning, not the end. And passivity only encourages other actions. Liberal democracy is a great threat to Russia and this action no longer makes European war unthinkable. Any appeasement is wholly misplaced and dangerous."

Luke Coffey, a Margaret Thatcher political fellow at Heritage, believes the Ukraine situation is consistent with Putin's world view. "Some things never change," Coffey said. "They are coming in to take what they believe is already theirs. This is imperial Russia, not Cold War Russia."

Coffey said he is concerned that European nations won't be able to stave off Russian action without strong American help. "New York City spends more on policing than 13 of the 28 NATO nations spend on defense," he noted.

'It is important to remember that any actions we take is a not a provocation; it is a response. We need to defend our alliances and send a strong signal," he added. "If I were to sum up this whole thing in a tweet right now, it would be: Russia is playing chess, the E.U. is playing checkers, and the U.S. is playing golf."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Smithsonian Sunday: Why Carl Sagan Is Irreplaceable

DC's Smithsonian museums (there are 17 of them here in the city) are among America's most treasured and visited 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 that initially appeared in one of those highly-readable blogs. Hope you enjoy and maybe we'll see you soon at the Smithsonian.


We live in Carl Sagan’s universe–awesomely vast, deeply humbling. It’s a universe that, as Sagan reminded us again and again, isn’t about us. We’re a granular element. Our presence may even be ephemeral—a flash of luminescence in a great dark ocean. Or perhaps we are here to stay, somehow finding a way to transcend our worst instincts and ancient hatreds, and eventually become a galactic species. We could even find others out there, the inhabitants of distant, highly advanced civilizations—the Old Ones, as Sagan might put it

No one has ever explained space, in all its bewildering glory, as well as Sagan did. He’s been gone now for nearly two decades, but people old enough to remember him will easily be able to summon his voice, his fondness for the word “billions” and his boyish enthusiasm for understanding the universe we’re so lucky to live in.
He led a feverish existence, with multiple careers tumbling over one another, as if he knew he wouldn’t live to an old age. Among other things, he served as an astronomy professor at Cornell, wrote more than a dozen books, worked on NASA robotic missions, edited the scientific journal Icarus and somehow found time to park himself, repeatedly, arguably compulsively, in front of TV cameras. He was the house astronomer, basically, on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” Then, in an astonishing burst of energy in his mid-40s, he co-created and hosted a 13-part PBS television series, “Cosmos.” It aired in the fall of 1980 and ultimately reached hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Sagan was the most famous scientist in America—the face of science itself.
To continue reading this post, click here.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Saturday Supplement: Is It the End of Fests on the Mall?

Folklife Festival on the mall 
Tightening of National Park Service restrictions on the use of the Mall for festivals and other activities potentially threatens the annual summer Smithsonian Folklife Festival, according to Smithsonian officials.
Though the festival will still be held on the Mall this year, in a letter this month to the National Park Service obtained by The Washington Post, Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough recounted years-long Smithsonian efforts to minimize the festival’s impact on the Mall, but raised concerns about its viability there in the future.
“We recognize that the National Mall is not only a national landscape, but also widely regarded as a gathering place for free expression. The challenge for the future is to balance the use of the Mall for democratic expression while maintaining its appearance,” the Feb. 6 letter reads.
To continue reading this entry which originally appeared in The Washington Post, click here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Flashback: A Bite of Baseball Fandom

This post 1st appeared in The Prices Do DC on Sept, 17, 2013. It makes an appropriate Friday Flashback entry since this weekend we are not in DC, but in Clearwater, Florida at spring training for the Philadelphia Phillies.

When it comes to baseball fandom, whom you root for is often a matter of geography. Born and raised in Los Angeles? Chances are good you will be a Dodgers or Angels fan. Came into the world a couple hours drive to the south and you're probably a San Diego Padres fan. A couple of hours north and you could well spend your entire life following the San Francisco Giants.

Of course, the phenomenon isn't related only to the West Coast. Colorado, Houston, Chicago, St. Louis, Atlanta, New York, Boston, it doesn't matter - born there, attend your 1st games there, stay there, your allegiance often remains there.


The old Connie Mack stadium in Philadelphia
So, since I was born in Philadelphia and spent the next 6 decades in neighboring South Jersey, it wasn't surprising that I was a Phillies fan, just like my mother and father before me and my son after me. When I was 8, I was struck with baseball fever. I avidly collected baseball cards. I devoured every issue of The Sporting News. I could tell you more stats than you would ever need to know. I played organized Little League, sandlot baseball, and backyard wiffle ball. When no one was around, I would take a glove, a wall, and a rubber ball and create a whole series of 9-inning games. If it was raining, there was this board game with dice that would let me continue my baseball passion.

I loved going to games at the old Connie Mack stadium with my Dad and his friends, 2 of whom were pro baseball scouts (one for the Reds, one for the Pirates) and one of whom, Goose Goslin, was an actual Baseball Hall of Famer with his bust in Cooperstown, NY. They all taught me how to truly appreciate the magnificent nuances of the game.

But while I loved the game, in reality, I was only a slightly-below-average player, (my farm league team went 0-16 and my error cost my Little League team a championship). However, I remained a super fan. Well, at least until my teen years when rock and roll music and playing keyboard (the rock women who ignored me for the singers were much hotter than the baseball groupies I never had) replaced baseball as my American pastime.

Although I gave up my super label, the Phils remained a part of my life. If I watched a game on TV, there was a 90 percent chance the Phils were involved. The horrible sense of loss I felt when the Phils blew the pennant in 1964 in one of the greatest collapses in baseball history still surfaced every so often in my memory. When I took my son to a baseball game, unless we were on vacation, it was to see the Phils.

But 3 years ago we retired and moved to Washington, DC. Suddenly, it was the Washington Nationals, not the Philadelphia Phillies, who were the home town team. When I turned on the local TV, the game was the Nats and whomever they were playing. The sports pages I read were now reports of the Nats in the Washington Post, not stories of the Phils fate in thePhiladelphia Inquirer. Quickly, I came to know more about the new Nats than I did the Phillies. And the Nats ballpark was only 5 Metro stops and one train change from our apartment.

The new Nationals Park in DC
All of which brings us to last weekend. My wife found us incredibly low-priced tickets to all 3 games of the 2013 final series between the Phillies and the Nationals . So I would have 3 chances to test out if my allegiance to the Phils had faded to be replaced with a new fondness for the Nats.

I decided on a plan. To test out which team I was really now a fan of, I would post different positions on my Facebook page depending on the score. I would then feel which one felt right. It would also give me chance to see if I would have any family (one of whom would be sitting next to me for all 3 games) or friends if I really did switch from the Phils to the Nats. Here is a game-by-game account of that game plan.

Game 1 (Nats 6, Phils 1)
  • My FB post - Phils up 1-0 in the top of the 1st. Go Phils
  • Replies - 7 likes
  • My post - Ramos homerun puts Nats up 2-1. Go Nats.
  • Best Comment - "Oh now you're a Nats fan. Figures. You always were slimy."
  • My post - Zimmerman homerun makes its 3-1. Nats rule
  • Best comment - "Hey, tap that guy in front of you on the shoulder (I had previously posted a picture of where I was sitting) and ask him if he thinks you are more stupid or more ugly, you turncoat".
  • My post - Nats up 6-1 after 5. I am a Nats fan. I have always been a Nats fan. In fact, I was a Nats fan before there was a Nats team.
  • Best comment (tie) - "You mean you were the Expos sole fan" (The Nats were once the Montreal Expos). No wonder Montreal couldn't keep the franchise. But what's more alarming is that you were pro-Canadian" and "You were a greenheads fan if I recall, not a gnats fan."
  • My post - Great night to be a Nats fan
  • Best  comment - "You weren't one when you went in. Are you going to change your sex, too?"
Game 2 (Phils 5, Nats 4)
  • My post - Ruiz just hit a 3-run double. Phils up 4-1. Glad I have always been a Phils fan.
  • Best comment - "Seriously, you're bordering on being hidden from my timeline with your flip-flopping bullcrap". 
  • My post - I think these Nats fans must be feminists. They keep shouting "less gonads, less gonads". 
  • Best comment - "All this flipping and flopping may be affecting your hearing. Maybe hormones? Perhaps taking their advice would help?"
  • My post - Phils win 5-4. I am a Phillies fan. I have always been a Phillies fan. I will always be a Phillies fan.
  • Best comment (tie) "You, David Price, are now, have always been, and will continue to be a fair weather Jersey/Philadelphia sports fan" and "Next thing ya know you'll be a Republican, too". 
Games 3 (Nats 11, Phils 2)
  • My post - Phils up 1-0 with Nats at bat in the 2nd. Glad I am a Phils fan.
  • Best comment - "Hope you don't break you leg hopping on and of that bandwagon. Wait, on 2nd thought, I do".
  • My post - Nats up 4-2. Let's go Nats.
  • Best comment - "Did you just turn your reversible shirt inside out again?"
  • My post - Nats up 10-2. I am glad I am a Nats fan
  • Best comment - "I wish they had a tongue-sticking-out, finger-sticking-up icon on Facebook. But they don't. Use your imagination". 
So all this brings us to the 7th inning of the final game of the series. I had tried keeping my Phils fandom. I had tested out a new Nats card. But I still wasn't certain. Time was running out. There was only one thing to do. I jumped from my seat and headed to the concession area. I stopped at the Ben's Chili Bowl stand. I bought a DC half-smoke with everything on it. Then I headed to the Taste of the Majors. I bought a Philly cheesesteak wid' onions. I headed back to my seat. If my heart and my head couldn't decide, I would let my stomach make the choice. 

My wife looked at me. "You're unbelievable," she said, reaching for the Tide Stick she knew she would soon need. I ignored the comment. I couldn't let a few stains stand in the way of a major league decision like this. I figured the fairest way was to eat a bite of the Philly steak, then a bite of the DC half-smoke (home teams always bat last, you know). In the early eating innings, it was close. They were both good. But by about the 8th bite, with cheese dripping from my chin and chili staining my pants, it suddenly became clear. I liked DC half-smokes, but I loved Philly cheesesteaks. I was, had always been, and will always be a Phils fan, for better or worse, in their sickness and their health, in their winning and their losing, until death do us part. Or until at least next season. There is always peach pie (Atlanta Braves), deep dish pizza (Chicago Cubs) Texas beef brisket (Houston Astos) and quesadillas (Arizona Diamondbacks). 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sting, Paul Simon Sing Late into the Evening

Sting and Paul Simon on stage
When you think of a partner for Paul Simon, you probably see Art Garfunkel. You probably don't consider Sting. But tonight at the Verizon Center, Simon teamed with Sting to perform more than 25 songs that they had made individually part of the rock and roll discography.

After the duo played a 3-song opening - "Brand New Day," "Boy in the Bubble," and "Fields of Gold," Simon addressed the sold-out crowd.

"Welcome DC to this experiment we have been conducting," he said. "Two bands, changing the set list up. I've learned a lot. I've learned to have sex for days. (a reference to Sting's claims for Tantric benefits). And it's all because of that man."

"You've changed too, right," he added, turning to Sting.

"Not really," Sting said with a laugh.

Then for the next 2-and-a-half hours, the duo alternated playing heir hits. The 14 other performers from the 2 groups shuttled in and out depending on the tune. There were so many combinations that you would have needed an advanced math degree to keep track of them all.

For Sting fans, there were both his solo hits and the songs made famous with his old band, The Police. Here's a sample - "Englishman in New York," "Driven to Tears," "Fragile," "Message in a Bottle," and "Roxanne," To me, the high point of the Sting portion was a magnificent "Hounds of Winter."


For Simon fans, there were solo hits and songs he had popularized with his long-time partner Art Garfunkel. Those included "Mother and Child Reunion," "Graceland," "The Boxer," "Me and Julio (Down by the School Yard), "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," and Simon's high point "Call Me Al."


Throughout the night, as they switched from on-stage to off-stage, Sting and Simon talked about their new musical touring union.

Sting was particularly poignant as he described how much Simon's music has meant to him. He said that some songs always remind people of a certain time and place in their lives. He then proceeded to talk about when he and his Police bandmates first came to America.

"We were touring all over America. Staying in shitty motels and and playing to empty clubs," he said. "And this song speaks to much of that." He then broke into a solo performance of Simon's classic of "America."

The duo performed a 3-song encore with all 14 band members. It started with a gospel-tinged "Bridge of Troubled Waters. That was followed by an exhilarating "Every Breath You Take." After the last notes of the 3rd song, an extended jammy version of "Late in the Evening," the 14 backing band members headed backstage.


Simon and Sting, each with an acoustic guitar in hand, approached the front of stage. "Rock and roll began with a couple of voices, a couple of guitars, and a mike," Simon said. "I think that's the way we'll finish tonight." He and Sting then offered a beautifully harmonious rendition of the Everly Brothers "When Will I Be Loved."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Preview of Nationals Baseball by Their Man in the Booth

Johnny Holliday, left, with partner Ray Knight
For almost a decade, DC-area sports announcer Johnny Holliday, who has been the voice of the Maryland University basketball team since 1979, has co-hosted the Washington Nationals pre- and post-game baseball shows on the MASN network. So who better to ask how the Nationals will fare this year under the leadership of the new first-time manager Matt Williams.

"I expect them to do really well and win the division, if they stay healthy which is the key to any team," Holliday says. "This guy (Williams) is no nonsense. He can relate to these guys. He's not that much older than them. Davey (Johnson, the former manager) was old school. This guy is new school."

Holliday appeared last weekend at the Newseum to share his thoughts about baseball in the nation's capitol and the upcoming season, which begins in 2 weeks.

The award-winning announcer said he would be "disappointed" if this team doesn't improve on last year's record. "All these guys I work with would be a friend of yours. They're not big-headed baseball players. They believe in community," he noted.

If the Nationals can consistently play winning baseball, Holliday believes the city will support them. DC has long been known as a football town, where the the NFL franchise is the king of sports.

"I hope it becomes more of a baseball town," Holliday told the crowd who came to hear his remarks. "I think if you give them (the fans) a winning team, people will come. The Redskins haven't put a product on the field for years that appeals to me."

Part of the problem with baseball may focus on the fact that not once, but twice, DC lost its baseball team. When the team left in 1971 , Holliday says he was convinced Major League Baseball would authorize a quick return to Washington.

"I thought it will only be a matter of a couple of years (until DC got back a pro baseball team)," This is the nation's capital. You've got to have baseball in Washington," he said.

But Holliday was wrong. It wasn't until the Montreal Expos were relocated to DC in 2005 that baseball made a Washington return.

Holliday was asked what effect the newly instituted instant replay will have on the game. "I hope it doesn't delay the game. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out," he said.

The Nats pre- and post-game shows are extremely popular with the fans. Holliday said much of the credit for the success should go to his partner, former major leaguer Ray Knight. "Ray's done everything as a player. I just set him up and let him go. The show is all spontaneous which I think gives it a strong flavor," he said.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Smithsonian Sunday: Beyonce Bounced from Cool Category

DC's Smithsonian museums (there are 17 of them here in the city) are among America's most treasured and visited 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 that initially appeared in one of those highly-readable blogs. Hope you enjoy and maybe we'll see you soon at the Smithsonian.


Beyonce: Cool or not?
Everyone knows what "cool" looks like. It’s a pair of legs encased in worn jeans, slung over the sides of a Harley. A cigarette rimmed with red lipstick. The dark tint of a jazz musician’s sunglasses, which he wears onstage–at night–as his saxophone cuts through the din of a smoky club.
The term, which was first coined in the 1940s by Lester Young, the lead saxophonist in Count Basie's orchestra, has become ubiquitous in today’s slang. It’s also grown nebulous, conveying everything from a sign of explicit approval–“Cool!”–to an object’s cultural cache. But what makes a person... cool? 
Together, Frank Goodyear, a curator of photography and co-director of the Bowdoin Museum of Art, and Joel Dinerstein, a professor at Tulane University, have tried to answer that question. “American Cool,” an exhibition that the two co-curated at the National Portrait Gallery, is a collection of 100 photographs of men and women who’ve exemplified “cool” throughout history.
“When we use the word cool today, especially as an adjective, we’re tending to refer to something rather than someone,” says Goodyear. “What do we mean when we say someone is cool?’”
To continue reading this post, click here.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Will This Be the Year DC Elects a White Mayor?

Each Saturday we offer online articles not originally published in The Prices Do DC which are of interest to both Washington area residents and visitors.
Tommy Wells showed up one evening last fall at a home in Barnaby Woods, a wealthy, predominantly white neighborhood west of Rock Creek Park, where some 30 people had come to hear the DC councilman explain why he should be the District’s next mayor. This wasn’t Wells’s territory—he represents Ward 6, a racially mixed area that stretches from Capitol Hill to the western bank of the Anacostia River. Wells was here because he’ll need votes from Barnaby Woods, and other communities like it, to prevail over his many rivals.
After he made his pitch, a middle-aged white man approached Wells with a question that the councilman, who’s also white, has been hearing a lot these days: “Do you really think a white candidate can get elected mayor in DC?”
Outside Washington, the musing might sound reminiscent of “a different century,” as the event’s host put it to me. But inside the District, and particularly in the minds of its most longstanding residents, there may be no more germane a question suffusing this year’s mayoral race.
To continue reading this story 1st posted by The Washingtonian, click here.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Friday Flashback: Dave Barry Goes 'Insane'

Each Friday, we repost an entry that previously appeared in The Prices Do DC. Last night, author and humorist Dave Barry appeared at Politics and Prose to discuss his new book You Can Date Boys When You Are Forty. Here, we capture Dave when he appeared at Politics and Prose in February of last year.


Dave Barry has long been called the funniest man in America. And while that title could be debated, there's no doubt that Barry was the funniest man in Washington D.C. last night as he appeared at Politics and Prose to promote his new novel, Insane City, the story of a Miami destination wedding gone horribly and hilariously wrong.

Whether he was talking about the Miami that serves as his fictional book setting and also his real-life home or answering questions from the audience, Barry kept his fans in fits of convulsive laughter.

"I have a theory about book tours and why publishers want you to go on them," Barry said. "Your book will be worth more if you are dead." But despite his tongue-in-cheek claim to the contrary, Barry appeared to be enjoying his night with his fans, many of whom have been reading his books and humor column for decades.

Speaking of Miami, Barry said he "moved there in 1986 from the United States." He said polls such as one that revealed that 67% of Americans view Miami as a dangerous place bother local residents. "It hurts," he says. "We want to track those people down and kill them."

One of his favorite Miami pastimes is watching local drivers. "They appear to be observing the driving rules of their individual country of origin," Barry noted. He said he is particularly fascinated by the legions of New York City residents who now make Miami their home. "They come from New York where they never drove a car. Then they retire to Miami and after they have lost most of their sight, hearing, and the rest of their senses, they decide to start driving. Of course, it's pretty easy to get a driver's license in Miami; it comes with a Happy Meal."

He said every week there is a story about an elderly driver crashing into a building or a swimming pool. And the reason is always the same - the driver confused the gas pedal with the break. "Now, we've all had that happen to us, but how long does it take you to figure it out," Barry said.

He said his favorite real-life driving adventure involved a 78-year-old man in a Chevy Cobalt who was ...... wait for it ... discovered driving on the runways of the Miami International Airport. "That's not something you want to find at an airport," Barry said. "I can't get near a plane with a bottle of shampoo and this guy is driving between 747s."

Barry just started his book tour and already 2 only-in-Miami stories have hit the headlines. The 1st focuses on the 10-year-old daughter of a narcotics officer who submitted a science project determining which of 3 dogs was the best at sniffing out cocaine. "The school officials were upset, but apparently there was no prohibition against using cocaine in a science project," Barry said. "I don't think that would happen in Cleveland."

And then there is the ongoing story of the Python Challenge. It seems that some people (and by these people "I mean idiots," Barry says) believe that pythons make great pets. When they realize the error of their ways, they dump the snakes in the Everglades, which, since there are no predators for them, has become "Disney World  for pythons. I mean, they eat alligators. There are probably 100,000 pythons out there now."

The situation became so dire that authorities came up with the idea of the Python Challenge - a contest where people could be licensed to hunt pythons after they took (and here Barry is not making this up) an online course in how to kill pythons humanely. More than 1,000 hardy hunters signed up. To date, a whopping 37 pythons have been killed. "Basically, the pythons are winning the Python Challenge," he said.

Barry says the wild times in Miami made it relatively easy to come up with the situations inInsane City. "There really isn't much of a stretch anywhere in the book," he claimed. Barry cited his friend and fellow humor writer Carl Hiassen who claims "you don't need an imagination to write a novel about Miami. You just need a subscription to The Miami Herald."

The author says he never knows how much to reveal about a new book at a book talk because "I am here to sell the things." However, after reading a short passage from the novel, Barry said an orangutan is intricately involved in the plot. "When they make the movie, I think the orangutan should be played by somebody important like Brad Pitt," he said.

During the extended question-and-answer period, Barry was almost upstaged by 10-year-old Neil, who had 2 questions for the author, who after hearing both questions, said he was sure Neil's parents would be putting him up for adoption soon.

"You said you are proud of Miami and yet you called your book Insane City. So which one is it?," Neil asked.

"Well, it's called sarcasm which is something you will learn about right after sex," Barry, who couldn't contain his own laughter, said. "In fact, those 2 things are close."

But Neil wasn't finished. "My parents told me you used to be a comedian (howls of laughter from the crowd). Do you have any advice for a young comedian?," he asked

"You're doing pretty well right now," Barry responded. "I wouldn't change a thing."

One woman asked how he continued to be funny. "The key to humor writing," Barry deadpanned, "Is - if you can't think of another joke, then you might have to get a job"

Another woman asked him if he had always been funny. "I know this is going to come as surprise to you, but I've always been something of a wise-ass. If I could say something that would make kids laugh, I would say it. Some teachers liked it; some didn't. I had 2 different teachers who told me the same thing in pretty much the same words - 'that's funny, David, but you can't joke your way through life."

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
Two Daves together.
I think Dave Barry is uproariously funny. In fact, my wife has banned me from reading Barry in bed because I laugh too loudly. Obviously, I was excited to see him at Politics and Prose. But in addition to being a wildly popular writer, Barry was also a founding member of The Rock Bottom Remainders, the greatest (and indeed the only) rock band every made up of best-selling authors. In addition to Barry, the group also included such writers as Stephen King, Mitch Album, Ridley Pearson, and Amy Tan. A few years ago, Judy and I saw the Remainders at the Electric Factory just before they decided to retire. After his book presentation, I got a chance to talk to Barry about his 2nd career as a 3-chord rock and roll guitarist. I asked him if there was any truth to the story that jealousy between Album and him over Tan had led to the break-up. "No, really it was just a lack of talent," he said. "Amy put it best - 'some bands sing to save the whales; our singing would kill the whales.' We were a different kind of band. Some bands rehearse a lot before they play. We didn't. We would get together at the bar after and talk about how we should have played. We used the rumor method. There were rumors that some of the songs contained chord changes. And sometimes we would change chords. But we didn't usually change to the same chords at the same time." For a long period of time, Warren Zevon played with the Remainders. Zevon, who died in 2003, is one of my favorite song writers. So I was interested to know about Zevon's time with Barry. "Warren was, how shall I put this, crazy," Barry said. "The thing I remember most is that Warren could never find anything. He would be driving and he would be lost and he would call us and I would put my wife on the phone and she would ask 'Warren, where are you?' and Warren would tell her the street and she would say 'you're going the wrong way; turn around and then call us.' And, in a few minutes, he would call back and my wife would ask "what street are you on now?' and he would tell her and she would say "Warren, you're still going the wrong way." I told Barry I knew his musical career began with a band - Federal Duck -that he was in when he attended Haverford College on Philadelphia's Main Line. "There were people in Federal Duck who could really play. I wasn't one of them." I told him I attended Villanova University, which is located just down the road from Haverford. "We played at Villanova a lot," Barry said. "Those Villanova frat boys could vomit better than anyone else." I asked him if there was any chance the Rock Bottom Remainders would reunite. "We're waiting for a groundswell or even one request," Barry said. I said, if the reuniting was a question of money, I would contribute a quarter to the effort. "That might do it," Barry said. "That's about what we got for every job."

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I am a retired educator and journalist who is enjoying his new life in DC. So much to do here and so much for free.

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