Saturday, July 17, 2004

CONSTITUENTS: Tourists on Segways Coming Soon

Watch out Washington. Segway people movers are coming to a sidewalk near you. If you've been in Dupont, you've probably seen that random guy cruising the neighborhood on one. But more are coming. In fact, tourists en mass will be deployed on the futuristic contraptions soon, if everything goes according to plan for one tour company.

City Segway Tours is getting ready to host its first tours of the city and is searching for tour guides.

The tour company already has operations in Paris and Nice, and starts operations in New Orleans and Chicago this coming week.

USA Today wrote an article back in April about seeing Paris' tourist attractions while being one at the same time.

From USA Today:
"Touring around on Segways added a whole new dimension to the city and to our perspective as tourists," said Mary Ann Schaefer, 55, who lives in suburban Cleveland. "Now we could gaze as we rolled instead of as we strolled."

Friday, July 16, 2004

NORTHEAST: Chicago-Style Machine Politics?

Who said D.C. didn't have interesting ward politics? According to an online update from the The Common Denominator, two advisory neighborhood commissioners in Northeast were provided with trips to Orlando by the proprietors of a controversial halfway-house operated by Bannum Inc.
From The Common Denominator:
Bannum provided the trips to Orlando, Fla., in June 2002 to showcase operations at one of its halfway houses for federal prisoners to ANC commissioners Joseph Bowser and Rhonda Chappelle while Bannum was attempting to get zoning approval to open a halfway house in the District. The halfway house at 2210 Adams Place NE currently is operating while Bannum appeals a Board of Zoning Adjustment ruling that found the D.C. government issued permits for the corrections facility in violation of zoning regulations.
Bannum was fined $4,000 for the complimentary Orlando trips.
This reminds the Oculus of an ugly rumor (pushed by local bartenders) circulating around MCI-ville last year of payouts allegedly given to advisory neighborhood commissioners to approve a controversial new bar in the neighborhood. 
"Halfway house operator fined for providing ANCs with trips to Florida" [The Common Denominator]

COMMUTING: Do People 'Skell' in D.C.?

The Oculus was intrigued by a report in Gothamist saying that a so-called "skell" assaulted a MTA token booth clerk (with liquid fire) after being reprimanded for selling subway swipes.

From Gothamist:
And in other subway news, a token clerk told a man selling subway swipes at the West 23rd Street 1/9 station that selling swipes was illegal. The "skell," as the Post called the criminal, walked over to the token booth, poured something through the little slot where you give money and get your MetroCard, and lit the liquid on fire. Luckily, the booth had a "fire suppression" system that put the fire out. As Gothamist has said before, buy your own MetroCard - no swipes for you!
Do such things happen in D.C.? The Oculus believes that such skells have been known to pop-up from time to time at Union Station. Is there anyone out there who can confirm that "skells" work their craft on metrorail?

Can "skell" be used as a verb?

MEDIA: 'Express'ing His Need for Bus Fare

This morning, a Washington Post Express distribution guy was chatting up a storm while I was waiting for my bus, telling me that he was a little annoyed by the fact that friendly commuters he has gotten to know at his Express post over many months refused to to give him spare change for bus fare, like they will sometimes do when he is in need.

He explained that he gets paid $8 per hour ($160 a week) for four hours service Monday through Friday.

COMMUTING: WMATA Says Anchors to Blame for Farragut North Ceiling Collapse

The Washington Post reports that Wednesday's ceiling collapse at the Farragut North metrorail station has been blamed on the anchors that tie the 24 by 30 foot section of the ceiling to the superstructure above. But the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority doesn't know why they failed.
Other WMATA News ... The Post also reports that the Sierra Club will be out in force handing out fliers to commuters asking them to lobby their local officials to steer for funding to the cash-strapped WMATA to run the region's transit system.
Also, if you live out in Fairfax County, or plan on going to Vienna, please be aware that trains will only operate every 10 to 15 minutes between West Falls Church and the Vienna terminal station starting this evening and lasting through the weekend.
"Metro Ceiling Collapse Blamed on Anchors" [The Washington Post]
"Ceiling Collapses at Farragut North" [Oculus]

Thursday, July 15, 2004

DRINKING: Fans of Pittsburgh on U Street

As the Oculus reported last week, DC9, the newish club/bar on Ninth Street Northwest near U Street, is currently asking its customers what canned beer they would like offered. Currently the real race is between Schlitz (25 percent) and Iron City (34 percent).
Schaefer, Keystone Light, Busch, Natural Light and Miller High Life register anywhere between 3 and 15 percent.
According to My Life Is Beer, Iron City, Pittsburgh favorite local macobrew, has a user rating of 8.18 out of 10. (But be aware that rating is for the bottle, not the can.)
Which beer will be the new shabby chic beer for the eastern end of the U Street corridor? Vote and control the bar's destiny.
Speaking of DC9 ... The establishment will be stop No. 2 on the Oculus' first ever 90-30 bus pub crawl. More details on the crosstown exploration journey (from Barracks Row to U Street to Glover Park to Georgetown, all via the 90 and 30 buses.) will be forthcoming, but if you're up for the challenge, stay tuned. The event is set for Saturday, July 24. The more the merrier.

MEDIA: The BBC's Prime Real Estate?

Fox News has the Hall of States. CNN has their Union Station-area roof top. ABC has the top of the Chamber of Commerce building (along with many other news organizations.) Each has a prime view of either the Capitol or the White House for their live shots.
But watching the BBC, their Pennsylvania Avenue live shot is just beautiful. It trumps any news organization in town. It even avoids the ugly crane used for Capitol Visitor Center construction that CNN has difficulty avoiding.
So where is the BBC's Washington news room? You might think from the angle, that it's from the top of the Canadian Embassy. (An older live shot made it look like it was back at the Market Square/Navy Memorial area.)
Nope. According to a Scandinavian media source, the BBC's D.C. studios are back in the West End, more specifically M Street near the European Union's American mission. The "live" shot, made to look like a window over Katty Kay's shoulder, was taken with a simple television camera from a prime Pennsylvania Avenue perch looking toward the Capitol.
Their opposite camera shot, which they use when they interview guests, has a seemingly correct opposite vantage point, with the Old Post Office Pavilion in the background.
The BBC's D.C. address is 2030 M St. NW

ENVIRONS: Betty's Moving to Georgetown

The noted feminist Betty Freidan has moved out of her grand Kalorama apartment and is moving across the park. Her apartment in The Wyoming is listed at nearly $2 million. Her personal assistant tells the Reliable Source that the 83-year-old writer needs a smaller place. Her new digs? The Georgetown retirement home on Q Street, just west of the Dumbarton Bridge.

Earlier this year in a piece for The New York Times Magazine the writer Claire Messud reminisced about her old apartment in The Wyoming.

From The New York Times Magazine:
I am wistful, more wholeheartedly, for the graciousness of my former home, an apartment building called the Wyoming, which sits conveniently on the corner of Columbia Road at Connecticut Avenue: built, like many of the city's grand establishments, at the turn of the last century, it has an unsurpassable lobby, a cavernous and impeccably maintained confection of polished mosaic floors, luxuriously veined marble pillars (with a few trompe l'oeil pillars in plaster, for good measure) and chinoiserie murals, amounting to what one visitor likened, not unreasonably, to a bathhouse in Budapest. The Eisenhowers lived there, as do a number of contemporary writers and public figures, and it is said that the C.I.A. long kept an apartment overlooking the Russian Trade Federation across the road.
The Oculus would like to know whether residency at The Wyoming automatically qualifies you as a distinguised writer. And does anyone know what "chinoiserie murals" are? At least when you live there you get a great view of the Bloomberg White House Correspondents Dinner afterparty.

"Who Needs the Housework? Friedan's Moved to Smaller Digs" [The Washington Post]


At the same meeting where it approved a financing plan for Frank Gehry's stunning expansion for the Corcoran Gallery, the D.C. City Council also approved a plan to help construct a large retail complex, anchored by a Target supercenter. The Washington Post reports that the "DC USA" project will receive a $42 million subsidy for a giant underground parking garage. It would be one of the largest retail complexes in the city, serving as a retail anchor for much of the Northwest quadrant of the city east of Rock Creek Park. It is slated to open in 2007, eight years after it was first proposed. The DC USA complex would be at the corner of Irving and 14th streets, adjacent to the Columbia Heights metrorail station.

The council also approved a $25 million subsidy for a similar project in Southeast called Skyland. That project, in Ward 7, has "drawn interest" from Target as well.

"D.C. Agrees to Subsidize Corcoran Addition, 2 Retail Areas" [The Washington Post]

BANKING: More on Riggs

In the midst of being in a lot trouble (a $25 million fine for international money laundering, a Senate report finding that it helped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet hide funds) it seems that Riggs Bank is looking for a fresh start. The Washington Business Journal is reporting that Riggs could be sold this week for $700 million. Rumblings about the deal have sent Riggs stock up to a 52-week high. Potential buyers include KeyCorp., PNC Bank, National City, Wachovia and BB&T.

So is the lesson here: Help former Chilean dictators and see your stock price rise? I'm not sure.

"Riggs rises on more takeover talk" [Washington Business Journal]
"Riggs Helped Chilean Dictator Hide Funds" [Oculus]

ANIMAL WORLD: Call About Dead Dog Leads to Stuffed Animal, then to Neglected Dog

The Washington Post's Animal Report mentions the case of a brindle American bulldog on 26th Street Northeast. But it all started out with a stuffed animal mistaken for a dead dog.

From The Washington Post:
Responding to call about a dead dog in the back yard of a home where only a teenager lived, a Humane Society officer found not a dead pet, but a stuffed toy animal. A dog, however, could be heard barking indoors. The officer left a notice on the door of the home. When no response was received, she paid a follow-up visit and found a brindle American bulldog in the back yard, which was filled with junk and waist-high grass. The dog was being held at the society shelter. An investigation was continuing.

"Brindle Bulldog Seized" [The Washington Post]

TENLEYTOWN: Firehouse Plan Approved

The Washington Post reports that long-delayed work is set to begin on the historic 1901 firehouse on Wisconsin Avenue, just south of Tenley Circle. Right now, the structure is just giant pit and a partial shell.

From The Washington Post: Amy McVey, chairman of the 3E Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said the building's designation as historic has hampered efforts to complete the renovations quickly. McVey also said that the renovations are inadequate, and that the building needs to expand to accommodate the area's booming population.

"Work to Begin on Tenleytown Firehouse" [The Washington Post]

FOXHALL VILLAGE: Alert! Hide the Children! Genghis Khan Drives With Virginia Plates!

People in Foxhall Village are up in arms over the permit granted to a group of Mongolians from across the river to use the Hardy Park and Recreation Center for a picnic last Sunday. Apparently, like Genghis Khan, the Mongols made a mess.

From the Foxhall Citizens Association:
Upon enquiry, they had a permit issued by DC Parks & Rec. Headquarters, but there was not a DC staff member on duty - which would have helped, since trash they produced overwhelmed the capacity of the containers, provided for much smaller crowds. Why is DC issuing permits to groups that pay no DC taxes? Were there no parks in Fairfax County that would take them?

The Oculus recommends looking at the Foxhall Citizens' Association photo gallery of what they call the "Mongolian Hordes! (from Virginia)." Some of the Mongols are even playing basketball.

"Mongolian Hordes! (from Virginia)" [Foxhall Citizens' Association]

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

BANKING: Riggs Helped Chilean Dictator Hide Funds

Washington's local international bank, Riggs, is in a heap of trouble as Senate investigators are set to release a report showing how the bank helped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet hide financial assets when he was under house arrest in Britain.

From The Washington Post's Terence O'Hara and Kathleen Day:
The report, which includes the first account of Riggs's dealings with Pinochet, is the latest blow to an institution that once billed itself as "the most important bank in the most important city in the world." In May the bank agreed to pay $25 million in civil penalties for what federal regulators called "willful, systemic" violation of anti-money-laundering laws in its dealings with the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea. Several other federal investigations continue into the bank's activities and Riggs has hired investment bankers to explore a sale of the company.

"Riggs Bank Protected Pinochet, Report Says" [The Washington Post]

ARCHITECTURE: Corcoran's Gehry Wing One Step Closer to Reality

The Goodspeed Update reports that Frank Gehry's proposed wing for the Corcoran Gallery seems to be on track to becoming the capital's most edgy piece of modern architecture. The D.C. City Council has approved a plan for $40 million in tax increment financing to build the wing.

Groundbreaking is set for 2006. If everything goes according to plan, Washington will join Brooklyn in being part of the third-wave of Gehry-mania. Gehry's revolutionary architecture -- as if a metal artist had just sniffed a lot of glue while playing with modeling clay -- already graces Los Angeles, Bilbao, Cleveland, Dutchess County, N.Y., among other places.

When built, the Gehry wing, located awkwardly next to fairly bland Cold War-era government office buildings of the Northwest Quadrangle, will anchor the eastern end of the E Street arts corridor. The western end would be Rafael Viñoly's revamped Kennedy Center plaza. (That project would be considerably more difficult to construct as the E Street/I-66 interchange would have to be decked over.)

"DC Council Approves Financing for Corcoran Addition" [Goodspeed Update]
"The New Wing" [Corcoran]
"Rafael Viñoly's Selected as Architect for the Kennedy Center Plaza Project" [Kennedy Center]

MEDIA: Why Does The Washington Times Care About Traffic Cameras?

The Oculus has a theory as to why The Washington Times has such extensive coverage of the debate over D.C. traffic cameras. It's because it is very likely that many Washington Times editors, reporters and corporate staff (maybe even Rev. Moon) have received speeding tickets in the mail from the traffic cameras on New York Avenue. The Washington Times offices are located near the interchange of New York and South Dakota avenues.

Can't Rev. Moon afford better editorial office space closer to where news actually happens? Imagine what would happen if the slots super center would go in at New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road? Would the Times push that because it would inject some life into their corner of the District or would they deride the slots effort over political/moral grounds?

"Bill would limit speed cameras" [The Washington Times]

COMMUTING: Celing Collapses at Farragut North

One of the entrances to the Farragut North metrorail station is closed after a section of ceiling collapsed Wednesday afternoon. Nobody was hurt in the incident, but The Associated Press reports that a section of ceiling came cascading down onto the mezzanine between the escalators leading to the SW corner of the Connecticut Avenue and L Street entry and the farecard machines.

The other entrances are open for business.

Farragut North was the original terminal station for the Red Line when the initial metrorail segment opened in 1976. (The other was Rhode Island Avenue.)

Since the Red Line is the oldest line in the system, it is likely that Farragut North, and other stations, will see similar deterioration. In Upper Northwest, the Red Line is particularly prone to flooding. If you look in the trackside recessed lighting, you can see moss growing, particularly at Woodley Park. When the Red Line was bored through the heights of Upper Northwest, it was thought at the time that if enough concrete was piled around the tunnel, it would prevent water from seeping in. That was not the case and now the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority must battle water from waterlogging the tunnel serving the area's busiest subway line.

"Part of Ceiling Falls at Metro Station" [AP via WTOP]

ANACOSTIA: Mayor Gets OK for Redevelopment Corp.; Forgey Looks at Southwest

The D.C. City Council has given Mayor Anthony Williams the OK to form an Anacostia redevelopment corporation, charged with the job of rebuilding the city's waterfront from the Maine Avenue Fish Market to the National Arbortetum.

From The Washington Post:
The plan has generally been embraced by the federal government, which has allocated millions of dollars to clean the river and for roads and bridges and will be asked for hundreds of millions during the next two decades. Developers are also going to be expected to significantly fund riverfront projects. Support from the city will include valuable parcels of land, future tax revenue from new projects, and transportation, housing and community development dollars.

"Anacostia Shore's Evolution Launched" [The Washington Post]
Anacostia Riverfront Initiative [D.C. Office of Planning]

Forgey Examines the Southwest Waterfront. Washington Post architecture critic Benjamin Forgey takes a look at the city's Southwest waterfront in the third part of his five-part series on the Anacostia waterfront initiative.

Forgey starts out with such wit:
The Southwest waterfront is one of the few places in Washington where the city busily engages the water's edge.

A place where people live. An active, interesting place that people walk to from nearby streets, mingling with fish sellers, fishermen, folks hanging out at waterside restaurants and bars, families out for an evening stroll.

Oops. Time warp. That reality was eons ago. Back before much of the neighborhood was bulldozed in the 1960s to make way for something new.

In a nutshell, Forgey says that the area has such potential, but is a relic of old, failed planning ideas.

The overarching error, of course, was the failure to put people back in residences at the center of the waterfront. Post-World War II planners believed strongly that cities would be greatly improved if people were to live, work and play in zones that are separate and distinct. The Southwest waterfront is a testament to that idea.

"A Vision for the Southwest" [The Washington Post]

FROM THE EDITOR: Calling All Bloggers and Others

Bloggers, United. The Oculus has been in talks with some other blogosphere cohorts who are interested in rounding up a handful of committed bloggers who want to contribute to a better organized, more comprehensive site dedicated to the District of Columbia and its environs. National politics, of course, would be left to the countless policy wonks. (We're looking at you, Matt Yglesias.)

If you fit the non-wonk blogger profile, e-mail the Oculus at oculus [at] fastmail [dot] fm.

Pub Crawl. Mark Saturday, July 24 on your calendar. That is the date of the first-ever 90-30 pub crawl. More details will come later this week and next, but join the Oculus and Co. on a grand tour of the city. Starting on Eighth Street in Southeast, the tour will bar hop from Barracks Row to U Street to environs west of Rock Creek Park, all using the 90 and 30 bus lines. It's a challenge, but one that must be done. (While this has been an idea of mine for quite some time, I must credit DCSOB for reminding me of the 90/Party Express bus line idea.) And it will be associated with my birthday. Yeah, I'm going to be a quarter-century old.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

OENOPHILIA: Enjoying Wine, Half-Off

One positive aspect to the economic downturn has been that restaurants have been having a difficult time attracting customers. (Bad for the proprietor, good for the customer ...)While the D.C. economy is semi-isolated from such downturns, restaurants still must find novel ways to attract diners. And wine has been one way to lure them in.

The New York Times, in Wednesday's Dining section, notes that establishments have been either slashing their normal mark-up or offering half-price bottle nights. And District restaurants have been no stranger to this great deal as well.

The Oculus and Co. enjoyed some great bottles at Clyde's in Georgetown Sunday night, all at half discount. For five friends, you can often get four or five $30-$50 bottles for roughly $20 per person. The math works out something close to that. I think our discount was around $100. Regardless, it is a great deal to take advantage of.

You can find the Oculus at Chef Geoff's the last Monday of every month. Their wine list, is among the best in the city, and at half-off, it goes without saying that Chef Geoff's the best Monday night special in town. (Their $5 Downtown burger special is great too.) Maybe you'll run into NBC's Norah O'Donnell there, as her husband, Geoff Tracy, is Chef Geoff. The Oculus has also seen Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie there, though he was enjoying a domestic bottle at the bar with an RNC aide.

Want to Be a Wino? Here's a Quick List on Where to Take Advantage of Half-Price Wine in the District. (A debt of gratitude is owed to the Oculus' wine spy for cluing me into all of this ...)

Cafe Deluxe:
Monday, half-price bottles
3228 Wisconsin Ave., NW
(202) 686-2233

Chef Geoff's:
Last Monday of every month, half-price bottles
(Wesley Heights location) 3201 New Mexico Ave., NW
(202) 237-7800
(Downtown location) 13th Street Northwest between E and F streets
(202) 464-4461

Tuesdays, half-price bottles
730 11th St., NW
(202) 393-0975

Little Fountain Cafe:
Wednesday, half-price bottles
2339 18th St., NW
(202) 462-8100

Clyde's Georgetown:
Sunday, half-price bottles
3236 M St., NW
(202) 333-9180

New Heights:
While Woodley Park's New Heights doesn't offer a half-price bottle night, this summer they have been offering a $38 three-course prix fixe option that includes three glasses of wine.
2317 Calvert St., NW
(202) 234-4110

Sam and Harry's:
Weekends, half-price bottle for the rest of the summer
1200 19th St., NW
(202) 296-4333

There are other places, of course. It's always a good reward and an excellent way to explore the world of good wine.

"Once Out of Reach, Now Today's Special" [The New York Times]

WORKING: Minimum Wage Hike on the Horizon, Perhaps

Workers in the District who make the minimum wage may be in for a pleasant surprise. Starting in January, the minimum wage may be raised to $6.60/hour, if a measure that would do so makes it through the city council. So if you live near Glenmont and work, let's say, at Tenleytown, you won't be spending as much of your hourly wage on getting too and from work on the subway. It'll be like the transit fare hike never happened.

"D.C. Considers Hiking Minimum Wage" [WTOP]

COMMUTING: Don't Touch the Third Rail

Gothamist reported this morning on the unfortunate death of a man at the Spring Street subway station on New York's C Line (Eighth Avenue Local). The death was due to electrocution from the third rail, the conduit that supplies electricity to subway cars. The Oculus, who has transit-safety training from a prior life, is amazed that someone (and the guy was apparently drunk) managed to touch the third rail. Unless the conduit is deteriorated significantly, the cover protecting the part that can kill you should prevent such things from happening. But I wouldn't advise testing your luck. Track beds are for trains. Platforms are for people.

In case you are interested in ramping up on your subway safety skills, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has a fun Flash animation on its safety guidelines, including helpful hints on how to evacuate a subway car in the event of an emergency.

"Death By Third Rail" [Gothamist]

... An Artistic Statement or a Fed-up Civil Servant? In an unrelated piece of transit news, DCSOB snapped a photo of a necktie tied around the ceiling handrail on a Red Line train car.

Randolph responds to DCSOB's post with this explanation:
If the rules I learned in college are correct, I beleive it technically means that someone is having sex on the other side of that door. Given that the train travels across the city, above ground and under it, the tie use falls within the bounds of the rule, in an Amelie sort of way.

IN THE NEWS: It's a Bird, It's a Plane; Regulating D.C. Cops; Virginia's Vanity; Williams COS Charged

... Don't Freak Out, Those Planes Are Supposed to Be There. The military will be flying a Cessna and a Twin Otter over the District and inner suburbs for some sort of exercise. We can only hope that people at the Capitol have been alerted.

From The Washington Post:
The U.S. military said it will begin flying two small aircraft at low altitudes across the region today as part of a radar data collection project. The Cessna 206 and Twin Otter will fly over the District and nearby suburbs in Maryland and Virginia for a few hours during the morning and afternoon this week, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration said.

"Low-Level Flyovers by Military Set to Begin" [The Washington Post]

... Controlling the MPD. D.C. City Councilwoman Kathy Patterson, who chairs the council's Judiciary Committee, will introduce a bill that would regulate police activity during large-scale protests and other events. Patterson has been a major critic of how Chief Charles Ramsey handled the infamous Pershing Park round-up in 2002, something the Metropolitan Police has been taken to task on.

From The Washington Post:
The bill would set new standards for when police can disrupt an event and would limit the use of physical restraints for protesters, according to a news release issued by Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), who heads the committee.

"Bill Regulating Police at Protests Readied" [The Washington Post]

... Virginia's Vanity Plates. The Washington Times reports on the novelty of Virginia's vanity plates. They certainly go bonkers across the Potomac to drive in "style."

From The Washington Times:
State law forbids any obscene or offensive messages on license plates, which narrows the selection for Jimmy Buffett fans. Several of the specialty "Parrotheads" plates -- JIMMY, PARTY, WASTED and STONED --— have been taken; however, no one is allowed to drive DRUNK.

Please refer to why.i.hate.dc for full coverage of the Virginia vanity plate debate.

"Plates let drivers play politics on the road" [The Washington Times]

... Williams Chief of Staff Charged With Hatch Act Violations. The Washington Post reports that D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams' chief of staff, Kelvin Robinson, has been charged with Hatch Act violations when he urged mayoral staff to work for the mayor's 2002 re-election. Robinson says that he is leaving the Williams administratation for the private sector, but not because of the federal inquiry into his actions.

"Williams's Chief of Staff Charged" [The Washington Post]

... Briefly Noted. In his preparation to move to the capital city, my blogger friend Rob Goodspeed has relaunched his blog, the Goodspeed Update, with a D.C. focus.

WEATHER: Get Sue Palka on the Case, Pronto

This past Thursday evening, the Oculus noticed that the Sun Trust bank clock/temperature reader on Dupont Circle read 97 degrees. Obviously, the bank's thermometer must be near a tanning bed or one of those fast food heating lamps. D.C. weather can be bad, but it was not 97 degrees last Thursday.

This sounds like a case for the Fox 5 problem solvers. Maybe Sue Palka should get off the weather desk and help the poor denizens of Dupont Circle get accurate temperature readings.

Monday, July 12, 2004

BASEBALL: Montgomery County Official Says Old Dominion Is 'Dissing' D.C., Maryland

Adding to cross-Potomac baseball tensions, it appears that Montgomery County may go on record as supporting the District's bid to bring the Montreal Expos to D.C. over Northern Virginia's bid to draw the beleaguered team to a field near Dulles Airport.

The Associated Press reports that a GOP county councilman, Howard Denis, is pushing the county council to take action on his resolution on Tuesday.

"Nothing against Loudoun County (Virginia), but that's just too far away," said Denis. "Moreover, the way they're talking they don't even seem to want us. They seem to be completely ... dissing I think, not only the nation's capital but Montgomery County, saying that they could draw their fan base totally from northern Virginia."

"Md. Legislation for D.C. Baseball" [AP via WTOP]

"Quest to Lure Expos Marking Subtle Regional Divisions" [Oculus]

GAMBLING: And Who Didn't See This Coming?

Even if a ballot proposal allowing a slots super center on New York Avenue finds its way onto the November ballot, it is likely to go nowhere fast. The Washington Post reports that two key lawmakers, Virginia Reps. Frank Wolf (R) and Tom Davis (R) (Davis is chairman of the powerful Government Reform Committee), are indicating that Congress would step in and quash any move that would bring gambling to the capital city.

"D.C. Slots' Odds Poor in Congress" [The Washington Post]

MOVIES: U.N. Allows Kidman-Penn Film Access; U.S. Government Not Necessarily Movie-Crew Friendly; What About Craig T. Nelson?

Monday's Financial Times featured an interesting article looking into the intricacies of filming at United Nations headquarters in New York. The U.N., like the Capitol, for years has had a strict no-filming policy for motion-picture studios. (In the 1950s, U.N. officials denied an Alfred Hitchcock request to film "North By Northwest" on site, the FT reports.)

But the Nicole Kidman-Sean Penn thriller, "The Interpreter" was granted special permission to film at the United Nation's First Avenue headquarters, but only on the weekends. The FT reports that the weekend-only policy has created some challenges for the crew, including switching back country name placards in the General Assembly before the end of the weekend. (Wouldn't it be, afterall, confusing for the representatives from Malawi or Zambia to find out they had a new neighbor, Matobo, the fictional African state in the movie. Remember San Monique in "Live and Let Die"?)

But would something like this ever be allowed in Washington? Don't count on it. The United Nations needs money. The U.S. government has access to plenty. Which is why, perhaps, certain government institutions, like Congress, forbid the use of their facilities for for-profit non-news filming purposes.

Roll Call has had a few interesting articles the past year or so about different attempts to film at the Capitol, including a failed attempt by Discovery Communications to do a documentary featuring the construction of the Capitol Visitor Center as an engineering marvel. George Clooney and HBO's now-defunct pseudo docudrama "K Street" ran into some trouble back in 2003 when film crews were caught filming in Senate office buildings, Roll Call reported at the time.

But the District has been the scene of many other movies, at least off the grounds of federal property off-limits to film crews. has, to the Oculus' knowledge, the most complete listings of locations used for movie filming in the capital city. (Who knew that the Benito Juarez statue near the Watergate was in "Being There." Or that the Hall of States, the home of C-SPAN and Fox News, was used for the filming of the 1978 Sylvester Stallone movie F.I.S.T and 1993's "The Point of No Return.")

And who could forget about great prime-time television moments filmed in the capital city? What about last summer when CBS's "The District" (apparently a show starring Craig T. Nelson about the District of Columbia police department that nobody in the District has seemed to have heard of) transformed the rustic F Street patio of Kellys' Irish Times into a fashionable sidewalk cafe?

BUSH TWINS: Smith Point? In a Sign of Maturity, Jenna Resurfaces at Low-Key Georgetown Locale

Ana Marie Cox's report of Jenna Bush's social outing this weekend to Georgetown surprised the Oculus and others. After months and months and months and months of being absent from the Washington social scene, Cox reports that Ms. Bush was seen at Smith Point, the discreet but tony cellar bar on Wisconsin Avenue.

Ms. Bush's appearance that day came the same day as The Washington Times' front page feature photo of the president and daughter walking together -- her outfit suspiciously matching the color of The Washington Times' new "Brighter, Bolder" campaign on distribution boxes.

The Oculus is convinced that Ms. Bush's social outing is a sign that the Bush twins are getting ready to re-enter the Washingtonian social scene, just in time for campaign season. Gentlemen, gossip columnists, start your engines.

From Wonkette:
Jenna Bush was seen on Saturday night between 12:15 – 2:15 AM at Smith Point in Georgetown (where, ahem, you must be on a “guest list” to enter – puke). [Her] hair [was] cutely pulled back in a pony tail, swapping a little spit with a shaggy college looking student. Jenna kept slurping down the drinks, smoking cigarettes and stood in the corner with Shaggy for a good 10 minutes – little groping action - before sitting down at a table with her friends. Jenna was seen adding Shaggy’s number into her cell phone as well as entering a few of the surrounding ladies' numbers.

Coincidentally, the Oculus was at Stetson's Saturday night the evening Ms. Bush was across town in Georgetown. If you remember correctly, Stetson's was one of the bars where the Bush twins were caught underage. has an interesting account of investigating the Stetson's incident.
I was in Washington DC and went to Stetsons' Bar last night. I asked the doorman, "Hi I am from out of town, were you working here when Jenna and Barbara Bush came in?"
The Stetson hat wearing doorguy replied, "No, but they came by and had dinner here once."
Inside, I asked the bar guy the same question. He replied, "No, I got hired because of that! They got a couple of MIPs (Minors In Possession) and the Manager and a bunch of staff got fired." Apparently, a bunch of staff got canned, and the word on the street is because of laxness toward minors.

The Oculus can say that the Texas-themed bar is not lax on checking IDs these days. And to add to the partisan flavor of one of the Bush twin's least favorite D.C. watering holes, Saturday's doorman was reading Peggy Noonan's "The Case Against Hillary Clinton."

CRIME: Things Can't Be That Bad

While why.i.hate.dc may beg to differ, the crime rates in D.C. don't look that bad in comparison to what can happen in my homestate, Michigan.

From the Detroit Free Press:
Ten people were shot in an eight-hour period during the weekend in Detroit -- a number that police said was not excessive. One teen was dead. One other person was stabbed in the same time frame.

Last Monday, five people were killed in Detroit in a six-hour span.

The violent weekend began Friday evening when a 14-year-old allegedly used a rifle to kill a mentally-impaired man after an argument.

Keep in mind, this all has happened after nine people were shot at the June 24 Freedom Festival fireworks.

"10 are shot in 8 hours in city" [Detroit Free Press]

GEORGETOWN: A Hometown Ticket

The Georgetowner's newest cover features a photo of North Carolina Sen. John Edwards leaving his Georgetown home with his son Jack, with the headline "Hometown Ticket: Kerry Chooses Edwards."

While there aren't any stories to go along with the front page cover, The Georgetowner reminds its readers in an editor's note that this may be the first time a presidential-vice presidential ticket boasts two Georgetowners, and hence a "hometown ticket."

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry and his wife Teresa Heinz Kerry have a home on O Street. A block away on P Street, resides the Edwards family.

IN THE NEWS: Those Pesky Bank Robbers, Forgey Begins Examination of Anacostia Redevelopment, Cicadas Raining Down

... No Bonnie and Clyde, But Mavericks Nonetheless. Law enforcement agencies in the area are crediting a group of bank robbers' risky tactics, surprise timing and high-powered weapons as the reasons why they haven't been caught yet. In the past six months, six banks have been robbed between 10 a.m. and noon in high-traffic areas. Most recently, a stolen get-away van was, in dramatic fashion, set on fire in Upper Northwest after a Sun Trust bank on Connecticut Avenue was held-up.

"Robbers Stymie Area Police" [The Washington Post]

... The Other River.The Washington Post's architecture critic Benjamin Forgey begins the first in a five-part series on the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, the massive effort to transform the District's second river from a semi-abandoned, dirty, hardscrabble mess, to a showcase riverfront.

From The Washington Post's Benjamin Forgey:
[D.C. Office of Planning Director Andrew] Altman points to dozens of small and large projects that are completed, funded or underway in a mix of public and private development. He predicts that in the next five years these investments will produce 4,637 new residences, 613,000 square feet of retail, 3.2 million square feet of offices and 32 acres of new public parks.

And more is planned, including a new South Capitol Street bridge, a grand South Capitol Street boulevard, and reconfigured expressway links between Capitol Hill and Anacostia.

"The Ripple Effect" [The Washington Post]
Anacostia Waterfront Initiative [D.C. Office of Planning]

... Cicadas Still Coming.The Associated Press reports that although we all thought the Brood X cicada infestation was over and done with, we aren't out of the woods quite yet. Tiny white cicada nymphs, the product of female cicadas laying billions of eggs in the treetops above, will being hatching in the next few weeks and will rain down to the ground in order to dig their way down to their 17-year tree-root slumber. Though the cicadas were for the most part harmless, the Oculus wonders if the nymphs can tell the difference between treeroots and the human scalp when they land in your hair.

"Hatchlings from bygone 17-year cicadas to rain down" [AP via The Washington Times]

... Briefly Noted. Storms could bring flooding. [WRC/NBC-4] ... More Parking at National Airport? [Metro Source via WTOP]

Sunday, July 11, 2004

BASEBALL: Quest to Lure Expos Marking Subtle Regional Divisions

The quest to lure the Montreal Expos to the Washington area has been highlighting divisions between the District of Columbia and Virginia for their respective bids. The Post dives deep into the cross-Potomac rivalry.

From The Washington Post's Michael Laris and Lori Montgomery:
At play are not only different financing packages, surroundings and business models but also, for some, conflicting worldviews. In the District, many people openly mock the idea of a stadium near Dulles International Airport, which they view as the outer end of one of the most congested traffic corridors in the region. And in Loudoun County, where officials are careful not to directly deride the District, they nonetheless tout the wealth and population of the suburbs.

"Washington's Major League Divide" [The Washington Post]

OUT AND ABOUT: The Art of Leaving Adams Morgan

Did you happen to see an odd-looking guy standing waiting for the bus at 2:15 Sunday morning at the Duke Ellington Bridge? That happened to be the Oculus foolishly thinking that a 90 bus would come and take him back across the park. But, alas, it wasn't until 45 minutes later that he remembered that the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority doesn't offer Route 90 bus service after midnight to Wisconsin Avenue from Adams Morgan. (How are people going to get to the 24-hour Soviet Giant, taking the 30s?)

"Remember When You Stole Those Panties From Nordstrom's?" Despite the needless 45 minute wait, the Oculus heard some great dialogue and witnessed some interesting drunken actions from the Adams Morgan party-goer-exodus to the Woodley Park metro.

I saw two twenty-something women get nearly hit by speeding cabs after venturing into the middle of Calvert Street to hail them. What they didn't realize is that cabs are normally all occupied by the time they reach the Duke Ellington Bridge.

What else did the Oculus witness? Two couples fighting; three separate occasions of shirtless men desperately trying to court some women they found at the bar; three cars missing red lights; two cabs in a dual showdown as to who can make it quicker across the bridge; and my favorite: one girl saying to the other: "Remember when you stole those panties from Nordstrom's?"

When leaving Adams Morgan, life in an open book. And for the most part, your actions have no consequences ... Unless of course you nearly slam a piece of greasy Pizza Mart pizza onto the Oculus' shirt by mistake out of pure inebriation. (One patron of the pizza pie establishment on the sidewalk almost hit me with a slice on the shirt ... instead, only globuals of grease hit the shirt, doing enough damage.)