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Friday, July 18, 2014

DC's Ties to Freedom Summer

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


The 1964 Freedom Summer movement in Mississippi does not generally conjure up images of the nation’s capital. But a few of the organizers had strong ties to the District.
Long before Marion Barry became the “Mayor for Life” in Washington, D.C., he was a Civil Rights activist working with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee.
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Boundary Stones, click here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

National Book Festival Only Weeks Away

Even though there are still several weeks until the unofficial August end of summer, it's not too early for book lovers to begin making plans for the Library of Congress' 2014 National  Book Festival set for Aug. 30.

There will be several changes to this year's event. First, it won't be held outside on the National Mall. Instead, it will held inside the massive Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 

The move was made to protect the newly planted grass on the National Mall.According to the Washington Post, the Library of Congress staff tried to address the Park Services concerns, but no compromise was able to be reached.

Instead of a 2-day festival, this year's event will be held on one day only. However, since it is inside, the day-long celebration of books, authors, and reading can run later than it did on the unlit Mall. Presentations will be offered for 12 hours, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

This year, local independent book store Politics and Prose will serve as the official festival bookseller. This is the 1st time in the festival's 14-year history that an independent bookseller has won the contract for the event.

Last year, the festival attracted more than 200,000 visitors. Like previous years, this year's event will feature many of the country's best-known authors, poets, and illustrators such as E.L Doctorow, Rep. John Lewis, Richard Rodriquez, and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. For a complete list of speakers and times, click here

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Looking Back on DC's Most Historic March

For DC, it truly was a day like no other. Now, in an exhibition at the Library of Congress entitled A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, visitors can be transported through photographs to that most historic day in the Civil Rights Movement.

The photos, many of which have never been seen, are part of the Library's massive collection. In addition to the almost 50 photos on display, a video offers an additional collection of shots taken by both amateur and professional photographers who were on the scene on that August, 1963 day.

Officials estimate that more than 250,000 people marched and filled the area around the reflecting pool in front of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders talk about civil rights, jobs, and the American Dream.

That event still ranks as the largest non-violent demonstration for civil rights that the country has ever witnessed.

Here is just a small sample of what you will see at the exhibition which runs until Aug. 30.

It began with a march down Pennsylvania Avenue ...
... to the area around the Lincoln Memorial ...
... this is the view that Lincoln saw ... 
... and these signs from that force us to ask: is there still more to do ... 
... and the answer is we still have much to clean up.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It
Even More about the March

More Library of Congress information about the Civil Rights era

The jobs and freedom march recreated last August. Lookin

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hidden Gems @The Corcoran Gallery

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


Aaron Douglas Into Bondage 1936 oil on canvas 60 3/8 x 60 1/2 inches Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Museum Purchase and partial gift from Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., The Evans-Tibbs Collection 1996.
The Corcoran’s best-known works stop you in your tracks. That lofty tribute to democracy, Samuel Finley Breese Morse’s enormous “The House of Representatives,” practically shouts for your attention. So, too, does “Niagara,” by Frederic Edwin Church, so masterfully painted that you can almost hear the rushing water. And one can’t help but marvel over Giuseppe Croff’s “The Veiled Nun,” carved to make stone look like silk. 

But the weight of the museum’s most famous works is balanced by many quieter pieces, and with only three months left to see them, it’s about time they were paid their due. 


Here, the museum’s chief curator, Philip Brookman, and its manager of curatorial affairs, Lisa Strong, selected a few notable works that have helped made the Corcoran the institution it is today.


To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

150 Years Later, the Civil War Is Still in Focus at the Smithsonian

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.



It’s only one weapon among the 5,700 in the firearms collection of the American History 
Museum, but it speaks to the Civil War in a very personal way. 

Under the watchful eye of curator David Miller, I hoist the 1863 Springfield rifle musket to my shoulder and feel its weight, with deepening respect for those who used these muskets with deadly results. This particular weapon was owned by Pvt. Elisha Stockwell Jr., who lied about his age to sign up, at age 15, with the Union Army. He took canister shot in his arm (and a bullet in his shoulder) at Shiloh, marched with General Sherman toward Atlanta, and, at 81 and nearly blind, finally put pen to paper to write about his experience.
“I thought my arm was gone,” he wrote of the moment the grapeshot struck him, “but I rolled on my right side and...couldn’t see anything wrong with it.” Spotting ripped flesh, a lieutenant had Stockwell sit out a charge against the “Rebs,” possibly saving his life.
The musket young Elisha used also speaks volumes about the technology of the day. In a Smithsonian symposium last fall, Merritt Roe Smith of MIT argued that the creation of the technical know-how that could produce precisely tooled, interchangeable parts for hundreds of thousands of rifles, a feat the South couldn’t match, set the stage for explosive industrial growth after the war.
The Smithsonian’s observation of the Civil War’s sesquicentennial encompasses exhibitions at many of our 19 museums. For an overview of exhibitions and events and a curated collection of articles and multimedia presentations, check out Smithsonian.com/civilwar
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in Smithsonian.com, click here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

For The Sound of Summer, Nothing Beats the Bossa Nova

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.


Recording of the Jazz Samba album at All Souls Unitarian Church.
(Felix Grant Archives at UDC/Felix Grant Archives at UDC)
Nothing captures the sound, the mood or the languor of summer quite like the bossa nova. Invented along the beaches of Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s, the quietly swaying Brazilian music became a worldwide phenomenon a decade later and has never gone away.

Everyone knows that the flair and sensibility of the music come from Brazil. What is not so well understood is that the bossa nova craze was launched here in Washington.
On Feb. 13, 1962, a day that dawned with a temperature of 16 degrees, six musicians convened at a Washington church and, much to their surprise, created an album that has endured as the eternal soundtrack of summer.
“Jazz Samba” was released under the names of Washington guitarist Charlie Byrd and the album’s featured soloist, saxophonist Stan Getz, who flew down from New York for the day.
It was a casual undertaking, and no one had any inkling that it would become something extraordinary. 
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of the American Revolution

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 is the 3rd and final day for our official unveiling of By the Book DC, another companion blog to The Prices Do DC. The new blog will offer posts about the Washington book scene, including entries about local DC authors, new books about politics, vital national issues or DC life, discussions by authors from around the country who visit DC institutions to deliver book talks, or important American books (Washington, DC is the nation's capital after all) you should have read or should be reading regardless of when or where they were written.

If you like books and reading, we believe you will enjoy By the Book DC. If you use Facebook, the best way to get the most out of our new site is to click here and then like the page. Links to all our posts will be delivered directly to your Facebook page. If you don't use Facebook, links will also be posted on our Twitter page which you can follow. If you don't use either of those social media sites, you can bookmark or favorite By the Book DC and check it every so often since we won't be posting there every day. 

Today, we have Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Joseph Ellis talking about his latest book Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence.  This post will appear both here and in By the Book DC in full.

We hope you like By the Book DC and here's to you, good books, and great reading.


Joseph Ellis signs copies of his new book
after his talk at the National Archives
When Pulitzer Prize winning historian and author Joseph Ellis told his colleagues he was going to write a book called Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, his colleagues were less than supportive. 

"They asked - are you crazy? We already know how the American Revolution happened," Ellis said. 

But, after 6 months of research, Ellis was convinced that there were still some questions about the period that hadn't been definitively answered. His book is an attempt to deal with those questions and he recently appeared at the National Archives to discuss his findings.

Question 1: Was the American Revolution inevitable?

Ellis believes it wasn't. "It didn't happen in an evolutionary way, but in a revolutionary way," he said.

There were many in Britain who felt it would be best to compromise with the American colonies. "If that had happened, they would have invented the British Commonwealth 100 years earlier," Ellis said.

But others argued that British superiority and rule must stand. "They said 'there cannot be many Gods 
(or kings), there must be only one. Then they believed in an early form of the domino theory. Finally, they were convinced that Britain had the military might to squash an American rebellion easily," Ellis said.

"That side won and decided on a military solution to put the rebellion down. In retrospect, it was the biggest blunder in the history of British statecraft," the historian added. 

Question 2: Why did Americans congeal around the idea of revolution? 

Ellis says that much of the credit has gone to the popularity of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" pamphlet. "That's true, but everything happens in a social and political context," Ellis said. "The deciding factor was the (British) invasion. Many people felt they didn't declare independence from Britain, George III declared independence from them. The British Empire caused the American Revolution to happen."

Question 3: Why is July 4th celebrated as Independence Day?

Ellis says that actually many of the delegates didn't sign the Declaration of Independence until August 7. "Oh, and by the way, there was no signing ceremony," he added. So where did July 4th come from. Ellis said that the printer of the Declaration put that date on what was signed. Actually, Revolutionary leader and later American President John Adams believed that Americans would make July 2nd the celebratory day. 

"But then both Adams and (Thomas) Jefferson made it right by dying on July 4th," Ellis said with a smile. 

Question 4: How did the Americans pull off the military victory?

Actually, they didn't win militarily, Ellis contends. They just didn't lose. 

"The British thought it was going to be a cakewalk," Ellis said. And there was much to support that view. Britain had the world's best navy. It's fighting force was well-trained and augmented by Hessian mercenaries from Germany. Most importantly, those who figured that Britain would win looked at the experience factor.  The average British fighting man had 7 years of military service. That same time for the Colonial Army amounted to less than 6 months.

But the leaders of the Revolution never really doubted the outcome. 

"You can't kill us as fast as we can raise an army," John Adams said. "We don't have to win. You have to win."

Benjamin Franklin was even more direct with his remarks to British leaders. "You have said that we have no chance, but, in truth, you have no chance," Franklin said.

At the end of his engaging talk, Ellis was asked what George Washington might think of military America today if he were somehow able to visit this age. The historian said he was certain that after years of America engaging in wars with such small, distant countries as Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, Washington would be succinct with his response. 

"We have become the British," he would say. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Left-Right Alliance Would Be Unstoppable, Ralph Nader Says

Over the next few days we will officially be unveiling By the Book DC, another companion blog to The Prices Do DC. The new blog will offer posts about the Washington book scene, including entries about local DC authors, new books about politics, vital national issues or DC life, discussions by authors from around the country who visit DC institutions to deliver book talks, or important American books (Washington, DC is the nation's capital after all) you should have read or should be reading regardless of when or where they were written.

If you like books and reading, we believe you will enjoy By the Book DC. If you use Facebook, the best way to get the most out of our new site is to click here and then like the page. Links to all our posts will be delivered directly to your Facebook page. If you don't use Facebook, links will also be posted on our Twitter page which you can follow. If you don't use either of those social media sites, you can bookmark or favorite By the Book DC and check it every so often since we won't be posting there every day. 

Today, we have long-time public advocate Ralph Nader talking about establishing a liberal/conservative coalition to work for a better America, which he details in his new book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State . This post will appear both here and in By the Book DC in full.

We hope you like By the Book DC and here's to you, good books, and great reading.


Ralph Nader speaks at Cato.
While it wasn't as dramatic as seeing pigs fly or hell freezing over, it was extremely different. Ralph Nader, the long-time consumer advocate and associated with leading some of the most progressive, liberal causes in contemporary America was preparing to take the podium at the Cato Institute, the DC think-tank recognized as the bastion of free libertarian thought.

"The popping sounds you are hearing are heads exploding all over DC," Brink Lindsey, vice president for research at Cato joked as he introduced Nader to the packed auditorium. "Ralph Nader is speaking at Cato". 

Actually the odd-couple pairing did make perfect sense as it matched the theme of Nader's most recent book Unstoppable:The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

"Power structures believe in dividing, ruling, and polarization," Nader said. "It is true that the left and right disagree on many thing, but there are extraordinary numerous and extremely fundamental things on which they do agree."

As an example, Nader cited crony capitalism which allow the rich and corporations to control government. "The constitution says we the people, not we the corporations. Corporate welfare. Crony capitalism. The people fear that Wall Street is going to crush Main Street once again," he said. "The sovereignty of the people is being subordinated to the power of the corporations."

Another area of agreement, Nader believes, is addressing what he calls "suite crime" as aggressively as street crime. "In the financial crisis, nobody was prosecuted and nobody went to jail. Crony capitalism is inextricably linked to a double standard in the enforcement of the laws. The immunity and impunity of corporations brings down the very principle of the law" Nader charged.

Nader credits group like the Occupy Movement with calling attention to problems that a left-right alliance could help solve. "They raise the alarm, but it doesn't get visible," he said.

"So the questions becomes - how do you turn large scale majority opinion into operation?" the advocate said.

Nader acknowledged the process will not be easy. "Gridlock and paralysis make it more difficult. We'll have to ask ourselves issue by issue," he said. "It's very easy to elicit disagreement, but we now need to agree on where we need to turn for operational change for our country. At a high level of abstraction is where you get the most disagreement. But there is a lot we already agree on."

"People define themselves as powerless and they take themselves out of the equation. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy," he added. "The people have no idea how powerful they are". 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Marion Barry: The Life and Times of DC's Mayor for Life

Over the next 3 days we will officially be unveiling By the Book DC, another companion blog to The Prices Do DC. The new blog will offer posts about the Washington book scene, including entries about local DC authors, new books about politics, vital national issues or DC life, discussions by authors from around the country who visit DC institutions to deliver book talks, or important American books (Washington, DC is the nation's capital after all) you should have read or should be reading regardless of when or where they were written.

If you like books and reading, we believe you will enjoy By the Book DC. If you use Facebook, the best way to get the most out of our new site is to click here and then like the page. Links to all our posts will then be delivered directly to your Facebook page. If you don't use Facebook, links will also be posted on our Twitter page which you can follow. If you don't use either of those social media sites, you can bookmark or favorite By the Book DC and check it every so often since we won't be posting there every day. 

Today, we have former DC Mayor Marion Barry talking about his life and political career, which he discusses in his new book, Mayor for Life, co-written with author Omar Tyree. This post will appear both here and in By the Book DC in full.

We hope you like By the Book DC and here's to you, good books, and great reading.

Marion Barry speaks at the National Press Club.
When headline-grabbing, consummate comeback campaigner, and current DC councilman Marion Barry schedules a book talk in Washington, you can be sure it won't be your normal everyday literary presentation.

Such was the case recently when Barry appeared at the National Press Club to discuss his new book Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr. 

After arriving 25 minutes late, Barry delivered an engaging 1-hour performance that was part book talk, part political diatribe, part DC campaign rally, and part call-and-response religious revival. 

"A lot has been written about Marion Barry," the former mayor said to a room crowded with mostly his supporters. "These stories were about the what of my life, not the who of my life. This is about the who of my life. I tell it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly."

Barry wasted little time addressing the infamous incident that made him a national figure. In 1990, the then-mayor was arrested as part of a sting investigation by the FBI and caught allegedly smoking crack cocaine in a Washington hotel room. The videotaped arrest produced the memorable phrase "bitch set me up."

After a 6-month stint in federal prison, Barry—the "mayor for life" who served from 1979 to 1991—returned briefly to the private life. But in 1994 he was again elected by city residents to a four-year term as mayor. Now 78, he is serving as a member of the city council.

"My life didn't start at the Vista (Hotel). It didn't end at the Vista Hotel. That's just a small sliver. It happened 24 years ago," Barry said. "I apologized for what I did. This country is a country of 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th chances. We have and still have a few Barry haters. They can't find anything good. But there's always something good". 

Barry said his parents were poor sharecroppers in the South. He said he learned the idea of perseverance from his mother. "She would take care of (white) people's kids and she was told she would have to come in the back door. She said 'If I'm good enough to take care of your kids, I guess I'm good enough to come in the front door,'" the ex-mayor said, eliciting a chorus of "yes, Lord" and "you tell it, Mr. Mayor" from many in the crowd.

From his birth to his days as a student Civil Rights leader to his current term on City Council, race has played a central role in his life, Barry noted. "Race is a factor in everything that happens in DC," he said. Barry said that he is proud of the fact that he has helped young people get employment in the district and led the charge for more black businesses and workers. 

In fact, he believes that his push for more power for African-Americans was at the root of his targeting by the FBI. "I had a problem with the FBI in the Civil Rights Movement. We all did. But my real problems in DC started when I began shifting funds to the minority community," Barry contended.

The former mayor has never been shy about touting his own accomplishments. "I've run 13 races and only lost 1. The district was in bad shape (when I first took office) but look at it now. It took a lot of vision, a lot of work, and a lot of tenacity. When you look at the big picture of Washington DC, I painted a large portion of that picture. There is not 3 persons here tonight who was not affected by Marion Barry."

In 1994, running under the slogan "He may not be perfect but he's perfect for DC," Barry won back his mayor's job, garnering 47 percent of the vote. He said he never doubted his re-election. "In the Safeway (supermarket) I couldn't get out of there is less than 2 hours. Everybody wanted to tell me their problems. The naysayers are going to criticize, but I love this community and they love me back," he said.

Barry said that in addition to trying to set his personal record straight, he hoped his book would inspire others to overcome their troubles. "It's about hope and help," he said. "God blessed me to come back and serve the community. I want my life to be a lesson, particularly the drug situation. As long as I satisfy the people of DC, then they (the Barry haters) can write whatever they want about me. But I want people to know if Marion Barry can do it, you can do it, too."

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Heading Back to the County Fair of Days Gone By

This post 1st appeared yesterday in another blog we're writing - There's Always a Price to Pay. If this blog entry makes you nostalgic, click here for a list of county fairs this summer in the DC area.



I saw online today that the annual Cumberland County Fair is underway once again. Now I won't be going to the fair this year. It is too long a commute from Washington, D.C. to South Jersey.

But the fair had quite an effect on me during my formative years. It offered an exhilarating, exotic, stay-where-you-are travel adventure, a week-long glimpse into a world that was as foreign to me at the time as were the places I read about in Classics Illustrated or my science fiction collection.

When I was young, the fair was held on a large piece of land in my Bridgeton hometown. Off the dusty midway, you could ride elevated, spinning, dipping rides that delivered thrills I though were reserved for astronauts in the Mercury space program. For even more chills, there was the House of Horror. I imagined myself getting trapped in the House of Glass maze until some tattooed carney found me after closing.

Then there was my favorite place on the fairgrounds - the Side Show, where giant wind-waving banners and fast-talking, ticket-taking barkers promised mysterious strangeness never seen by modern man, let alone a pre-teen boy growing up in rural Upper Deerfield Township.

Who wouldn't want to see a bearded lady or a wild man from Borneo or a child with the skin of a reptile and the face of a lizard?

I was fascinated by the freaks and the geeks. They didn't fit in. They were outsiders. I found myself rooting for them. I envisioned that after the fair closed for the night, they all gathered together to laugh at the "normals" who handed over their dimes and quarters to be shocked and feel superior.

In my teen years, my fair focus changed to 2 ideas that were to dominate that time of my life - music and sex, or more accurately, playing music and contemplating exactly what is this sex thing I am supposed to be figuring out?

Frog Ocean Road - that's me in the center
The fair always held a Battle of Bands. One of the first live shows I ever played was in 1966 with my first band The Livin' End. My college-era band Frog Ocean Road debuted at the fair. I don't remember too much about that performance, but that probably has more to do with the substances we were smoking and ingesting that day rather than the passage of more than 40 years.

Nowhere did those concerns of music and sex join more directly than at the fair's one adult attraction - the strip show. The big tent for that forbidden show was located at the far end of the fairgrounds. The show was called The Coppertone Review. It featured scantily-clad girls who would gyrate and disrobe to the pounding horn-driven rhythms of the Coppertone Review Band. A few times a day, the girls would come outside the tent, displaying just a hint of the promise of what was inside. They would pose and dance for a few minutes to the band. Then the entire group would disappear back inside. You could often find me there, grooving to the band and lusting for the possibilities the girls' represented.

In my 16th summer, I borrowed an ID from an 18-year-old friend and finally headed inside the Coppertone tent. I don't remember everything about that night, but I remember enough. The mayor of Bridgeton, along with other town elders I recognized, were already inside. The featured performer was Chili Pepper ("She's Too Hot to Handle"). Ms. Pepper spent much of her stage time wiggling and writhing on a black-and-white zebra skin rug. I kept hoping for her pasties to fall off or her black g-string to slip. But they never did.  One-half hour later, I was back outside. I had seen my first strip show. And Chili Pepper and the other girls had reaffirmed a valuable life lesson - the promise and mystery of what is beyond the curtain (or, in this case. the tent flap) is often much greater than the reality delivered.

Toward the end of my teen years, the fair moved from Bridgeton to its current location in neighboring rural Deerfield Township. At that site, I had my most memorable fair encounter. My best friend at the time Tom Glass and I decided to sneak into the fair. We had plenty of money to buy tickets, but getting in for free sounded much more exciting. Besides, we were trying to be bad boys.

Tom said he had been told about a place in the outside fence where we could sneak under. We hitchhiked to the site and walked through the woods to the fence, where we found the place to wiggle in. Tom went first. Just as I was crawling through, we heard the sound of a horse. A fair officer was approaching on horseback. Tom dropped the metal chain-link fence on me and took off. The officer dismounted and got me untangled. I was covered with dirt and my shirt was ripped. He ordered me to follow him to the fair office.

Steve McQueen in The Great Escape
As I walked across the fairgrounds, I tried to see myself as Steve McQueen in the classic World War II movie The Great Escape. But it wasn't working. Steve McQueen had been trying to break out and I had been trying to break in. I might think I was cool, but McQueen actually was. And, unlike McQueen, I had a mother and father who would be furious with my actions.

Inside the office, I was questioned by fair officials. There was a single lamp on the table, but they never shined it directly in my eyes. Finally, they told me they were going to let me go with a warning if I would promise to tell others not to try to sneak in. Of course, I agreed. I was pretty sure Steve McQueen would have agreed, too.

I went back to the fair a few times after my teenage years, but it was never the same.

Things change. And the more time that passes, the bigger those change become.

Today, the rides at the fair pale in comparison to those at Disney or Great Adventure. It is politically incorrect to stare at freaks and geeks in side shows. Anyway, you can do that for free whenever you want to on the internet. People hesitate to hold events like Battle of the Bands for young people any more. There is too much of a chance somebody will bring a gun. When you have Pornhub and other graphic XXX-rated sites, who needs The Coppertone Review?

And if you want to be a bad boy (or girl), just call up your video game copy of Grand Theft Auto 99, steal the fast car of your choice, drive to a simulated fair, and blow away half the crowd there. You won't even get dirty or have your shirt rip. I'm just not sure what kind of memories you'll be making.

Monday, July 7, 2014

After 500 Years, Titian's Danae Can Still Produce a Blush @National Gallery

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


Is Titian’s “Danaë” a dirty picture or an example of great, elevated art? The truth is it’s a little of both.
The painting, which went on view at the National Gallery of Art on Tuesday, is on a four-month loan from Naples’s Capodimonte Museum in celebration of the commencement of Italy’s presidency of the Council of the European Union. Painted between 1544 and 1545, it depicts a naked woman lying on an unmade bed, a piece of fabric draped lightly over her thigh in a faint attempt at modesty.
What’s so sexy about the nearly 500-year-old canvas? 
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Washington Post, click here.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Uncle Sam: The Man and the Meme

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.



In honor of Uncle Sam Day, we tracked down the story of the familiar bearded figure with staff member Natalie Elder in our Armed Forces History Division.

He has been part of advertising for over 100 years, appearing on products ranging from cereal to car insurance. He's recruited Americans for military service and encouraged us to support the war effort. His name is mentioned in popular song. He makes regular appearances in political cartoons in newspapers across the country. He even hangs out in the hallways of this museum.

The image of Uncle Sam as a personification of our nation and government is widespread and instantly recognizable. But did you ever wonder about where he came from? Was he purely imaginary, or based on a real historical figure?

To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in the Smithsonian blog "Oh Say, Can You See?", click here.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Court Rules Against Test for DC Tour Guides

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.




You don’t need a special license to be a tour guide in Washington.
That’s the take of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, which ruled Friday that a Segway tour operator’s guides shouldn’t be required to pass a multiple-choice test and pay $200 in licensing fees to offer guided tours of the city’s monuments, museums and other points of interest.
The test requires applicants to answer a total 100 questions in fourteen categories: architecture; dates; government; historical events; landmark buildings; locations; monuments and memorials; museums and art galleries; parks, gardens, zoos, and aquariums; presidents; sculptures and statues; universities; pictures; and regulations. To pass, applicants must score a 70. (See seven sample questions.)
To continue reading this post, which 1st appeared in The Wall Street Journal, click here.

Friday, July 4, 2014

DC Stages a Birthday Party for America

Welcome to this week's Friday Flashback. Each Friday in the Flashback we will 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


It was a startling series of sounds, contemporary sounds that shattered the carefully established 1776 vibe. First came the screeching of police sirens, followed by a line of uniformed DC policemen on motorcycles rapidly turning the corner at Constitution Avenue and 7th Street. In these cautionary 21st Century times of terror, many in the huge crowd outside the National Archives on this July 4th morning turned nervously toward the noise. "Get to the right, get to the right," one of the officers shouted.

The din silenced the colonial Abigail Adams reenactor who had been sharing a dramatic reading of The Declaration of Independence with a Revolutionary clad George Washington. But in a matter of seconds, the wariness turned to cheers as the crowd discovered the reason for the interruption. The officers were escorting 4 large red-and-white Budweiser Clydesdale trucks which had transported the famous horses to DC to participate in a parade that was to follow the annual Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony. "Yeah, America; Yeah Bud," the American-flag shirted man next to me hollered, getting part of the crowd to join him in the cheer.

The crowd responds
An unperturbed Adams resumed her reading with Washington. When it came to the part where the revolutionary writers listed their specific grievances against King George and his British government, they were joined by reenactors portraying main document writer Thomas Jefferson, wise septuagenarian Ben Franklin, and firebrand John Adams. As the trio read out specific charges, the crowd, now well into the moment, replied with echoing boos and calls of "Here, here" and "Independence." At the conclusion of the reading, a reenactor portraying free Black and Revolutionary War private Ned Hector read a list of the 56 signers of the Declaration. The state-by-state lists were followed by shouts of "Huzzah" from the crowd, and in the case of South Carolina, one call of "Gamecocks."

Prior to the reading, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero explained the history of one of America's most historic documents. The original copy of the Declaration, written on parchment, was saved by the quick action of a civil servant when the British burned Washington in 1812. It remained in Washington until the start of World War II, when it was placed in the vaults at Fort Knox for extra protection. After the war, it was housed at the Library of Congress until it was brought to the Archives in 1952, where it has remained on public view ever since.

The Revolutionary colors
"Of course, there was that time in 2004 when Nicholas Cage stole it," Ferriero said, prompting laughter from the crowd with his reference to the popular movie National Treasure.  "But he returned it." However, the movie prompted the current most asked question at the Archives - can we see the map on the back?" Ferriero said that the map only existed in the minds of the movie makers. "I can assure you the only words on the back are 'original declaration 4 July, 1776,'" he said.

The ceremony began with a presentation of the colors and a powerful acapella rendition of "The National Anthem" by the United Air Force Band singers. There was also a performance of colonial period music by the 3rd U.S. Infantry "The Old Guard" Fife and Drum Corps which concluded with an updated version of "Yankee Doodle."

Everybody Loves a Red-White-and-Blue Parade

Patriotism and picture taking were the order of the day
Lady Liberty gets ready to ride through the streets of Washington
Nothing says Happy Birthday America like the DC Rollergirls
This Eagle of Freedom is ready to soar
Here  are the Clydesdales whose transport  trucks caused all that initial confusion
Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. We should all return periodically to reread (or, in some cases, read for the 1st time) these and all words from the document which created the country we now have today. Click here to do just that.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Patriotic Burger Bash of Competitive Eating

Today, at the Z-Burger in Tenleytown, eatery officials will be holding their annual Independence Day Burger Bash to determine DC's top hamburger eater. Here is an account of the 2012 event which was posted in The Prices Do DC. The temperatures will be the same, but the champion could be new.

It was about 20 minutes until the competition started. The competitors were spread throughout the room. TV crews and reporters were everywhere. The Mouth of the South, doing his best to live up to his nickname, was delivering a lively interview to a female Japanese news team. The shining symbol of his last victory was draped over one shoulder like a championship wrestling belt.

Outside, in the near 100 degree heat, the competition arena was being carefully prepared. Eight small glasses of water were placed near each of the 13 large, white name cards.  Red and blue balloons fluttered in the slight wind. The super-heated crowd swelled, finding the best place to watch their favorites. With about 8 minutes to go, the final filled aluminum trays were brought out and placed on the tables. This was brash. This was big. This was the annual Independence Burger Eating Championship, sponsored by Z-Burger and this year being held at the Z-Burger in Washington DC's Tenleytown section.

Furious Pete wolfs down a burger bite as The Mouth of the South, on left in overalls, watches.
Most of the cameras and the largest section of the crowd was directly in front of the center table where 24-year-old Pete "Furious Pete" Czerwinski from Ontario, Canada, would be trying to win the DC national burger competition for the 4th consecutive year. Czerwinski had finished first in more than 50 eating competitions around the world, including the Pizza Eating Championship in Rome Italy. He was also famed for eating a 72-oz steak in 7 minutes.

Next to him was his stiffest competition and the best American hope to capture the DC crown. That seat belonged to Dale "Mouth of the South" Boone, a 300-pound, 41-year-old competitor from Atlanta, Georgia. Boone had starred in the made-for-TV movie Gutbusters in Alaska. He had also appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Weakest Link and about half a dozen other shows. Boone, who has been competing as a professional competitive eater for 11 years, had finished 2nd to Czerwinski for the past 3 years. Many in the largely American crowd hoped this was Boone's year to bring that title back across the border.

The basic rules of the competition were simple. The winner would be the eater who could devour the most plain hamburgers and their buns in 10 minutes. All must completely finish a hamburger before they could start on the next one. The eaters could use or drink the water at their tables, but they would not be permitted to regurgitate any of the food back into the cup and then re-eat it.

Most of the enthusiastic crowd was prepared to witness serious eating. But several members of PETA circulated around the grounds, passing out literature urging spectators to go vegetarian or vegan.

With rousing sports-arena music blaring in the background, Metro DC DJ Jarrod Wronski took to the mike, employing his best ring announcer's voice to introduce the one female and 12 male competitors. Once seated,  they finished their last pre-task, unwrapping the 20 hamburgers in the tray. Behind each competitor stood a specially-chosen female wearing a tight red top and extremely short black shorts. These girls would hold up numbered cards as their competitor completely consumed each hamburger. That way the crowd could keep an unofficial tally of results.

"Crowd are you ready?" Wronski shouted. "Competitors are you ready? OK, begin."

Watching this contest revealed several different styles. Some of the competitors stood. Some sat. Some altered positions. Some drank sips of water before they ate bites. Others after. Some dunked the hamburger in the water and then ate. But for all, the eating was fast and the eating was frenzied.

With the song parody "Eat It" by Weird Al Yankovic as background, the contest approached the half-way point. "With 5 minutes to go, it's 9 for Furious Pete with the Mouth of the South at 7," Wronski explained, before exhorting the crowd to unleash an "Eat, eat, eat" chant.

"There's 1 minute remaining. Go, go, go, go," Wronski said, the crowd picking up his chant and the song shifting to Bruce Springsteen's "Hungry Heart." "Let's count it down. 10 ... 9 ... 8 ... 7 ...6 ..."
At 1, the competitors dropped any bits of uneaten burger to the table. However, the contest was not concluded. In order to be eligible for cash, prizes, and the title, the competitors had to refrain from throwing up for 2 full minutes.

Several minutes later, Wronski began announcing the top 5 finishers. With only numbers 2 and 1 to go, neither Boone's nor Czerwinski's name had been called.  "At number 2, with 13 burgers eaten it's Dale 'Mouth of the South' Boone," Wronski exclaimed. "And our winner, with 15 hamburgers, once again it's Furious Pete Czerwinski."

Wronski brought Boone to the mike. "Will you be back next year?" he asked.

"Of course," Boone responded.

Then it was the champion's turn. He said it felt "awesome" to win the DC title for the 4th time. He, too, pledged to return to defend the title. He finished by saying that he would be competing in a New York City July 4th eating competition the next day. "But right now, I don't want to think about food until tomorrow," he said.

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
As part of the Independence Day holiday promotion, Z-Burger offered a free burger, fries, and drink to everyone who witnessed the competition. As we stood in line for our free food, I noticed last-place competitor, 23-year-old Washingtonian Mark Rosenberg, joining a large group of his friends who had come out to support him. "The meat was so dry, so dry and I stink," Rosenberg, who finished only 2 hamburgers said. "But you had the most friends here," one of 2 females in the group said. "You know, you're right," Rosenberg replied. "I would much prefer that to any title." Now what was that about winning that Vince Lombardi supposedly said? Of course, he was talking about pro football, not professional eating.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Marty Stuart: Channeling Crazy Horse, Custer, and Johnny Cash

Stuart shows off his mandolin mastery
As a native of Philadelphia, Mississippi county star Marty Stuart grew up well versed in Choctaw Indian culture and lore. In fact, the 5-time Grammy award winner is part Choctaw himself.

During his 6 years as a member of Johnny Cash's touring band in the 1980s, Stuart was introduced by Cash to the Lakota Sioux people of South Dakota and their plight. The Lakota are among some of the poorest Native Americans in the country.

Indeed, Stuart was so taken by that area of the west that in 2005 he recorded his album Badlands, a concept album about the horrifying treatment of Native Americans, especially the Lakota Sioux.

All of this combined to make Stuart a perfect choice for an intimate concert at the National Museum of the American Indian this weekend.

The multi-instrumentalist Stuart, who received his start in country music as a teenager playing with bluegrass legend Lester Flatt, was joined by the 3 members of his band The Fabulous Superlatives - guitarist "Cousin" Kenny Vaughan, drummer "Handsome" Harry Stinson, and bassist "Apostle" Paul Martin.

The 90-minute, 22-song set featured selections across the gamut of American roots music: honky-tonking country, flashy bluegrass, and harmonious gospel. Obviously, Stuart's hits such as "The Whiskey Ain't Working" and "Tempted" were crowd pleasers. In a tribute to Cash, Stuart dedicated his version of "Ring of Fire" to his deceased friend and mentor.

Connie Smith
Stuart was joined on stage for a few numbers by his wife, country Hall of Fame member Connie Smith. Among Smith's tunes were a well-received rendition of her classic "Once a Day" and the gospel staple "Amazing Grace." Prior to calling Smith to the stage, Stuart, who said he actually told his mother when he was 12 that he would end up marrying the country legend, played "Choctaw Fair," which recounts his first meeting and subsequent marriage and life with Smith.

Stuart closed his show with a call for the audience to get close to the stage for an ethereal medley of 2 spiritually powerful tracks from the Badlands CD - "Hotchkiss" and "Ancient Wild"

Extra! Extra! Read All About It

Here is Marty Stuart's Setlist signed by both Stuart and his wife



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