Friday, September 23, 2005

OVERHEARD: Rosslyn Does Not Equal Rosalynn

I'm introducing Overhead, something I've been wanting to do for a long time, ever since the early days of DCist. I've overheard plenty of things on the Metro over the years and I certainly did incorporate more interesting transit observations into various DCist posts.

My favorite, perhaps is when I overheard a Congressional press office intern from California working for a New York representative tell her friends that she was chewed out for pulling articles from the Los Angeles Times and not The New York Times. Her defense: "I'm from California. How was I supposed to know there was a Times in New York too?" (paraphrased)

Today, I took my sister out for her birthday lunch and was riding the Orange Line back into the District from Virgina when a male 40-something tourist wearing a "Got Freedom?" t-shirt (playing off of the successful "Got Milk?" campaign) exclaimed to his kids while the train was stopped at the Rosslyn station: "Typical. They named a station after Jimmy Carter's wife!"

I would like to note that there is a key difference between Rosslyn (that concrete jungle at the other end of the Key Bridge) and Rosalynn (former first lady): an "a."

In fact, Virginia's Rosslyn traces its name origin to the Collegiate Chapel of St. Matthew (commonly known as Rosslyn Chapel) in Scotland, one of many such 14th and 15th century chapels built in Scotland, many built during the reigns of James I-IV. If you have some time to waste for personal enlightenment, check out this comprehensive site for everything related to these chapels, the Knights Templar and Scottish Freemasonry.

DAILY MUESLI: Pity Port Arthur

Good morning. Hurricane Rita's forecast track has been shifting up the coast since the last time I wrote about the storm. That means that the worst case scenario -- the storm's powerful northeast quadrant heading up Galveston Bay flooding Houston and waterlogging a quarter of the U.S. oil refining capacity -- probably won't materialize in a totally catastrophic matter, but regardless, the storm is still very powerful.

So pity the people of Port Arthur, Texas, which calls itself "Energy City." Hopefully people have left Port Arthur. Instead of that odd storm Hurricane Ophelia taking the letter "O" storm, I wish that Rita could have been "Hurricane Octopus," because this graphic from the Port Arthur International Port would fit somewhat better. But just imagine the octopus with the head of Rita Moreno, and you can see what the storm's going to do to Port Arthur and its future as a container port.

1.) Got brunch plans for Saturday? (Please note the Oculus doesn't endorse full-fledged socialism, but the Oculus does enjoy good music.) Head to Asylum for Champagne Socialism.

2.) I wanted to note that my old college paper, The Michigan Daily, has launched a set of blogs. Congrats ... and I'm a little surprised they didn't move on this earlier. But it's a good sign. Now if they could only improve the overall website.

3.) Don't expect many updates over the weekend. (Remember, Fridays are my Saturdays, and Saturdays are my Sundays ... and Sundays are my Mondays.) I have two house guests staying this weekend, including one independent journalist and longtime friend who is sure to remind me that despite all of the hurricane activity, there are still problems in Iraq. (But Dave also went to New Orleans ...)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

NAVIGATION: Human Google

Sometimes I wonder whether if I'm in the right field of work. It's not that I don't enjoy journalism, it's just that when I read an article like this, it seems that my question-answering skills aren't utilized as much as they could be. From this morning's New York Times, I found out that there are human researchers available at Google Answers, essentially on-call research personnel who answer people's random queries.

From The New York Times:
Mr. Sarokin once earned $120 for researching the need for a scientific expedition floating in the pack ice in the Arctic. Another effort brought $25 for turning up data on the number of computer crimes committed in 2004. Google imposes a cap of $200 on the fee, and it is not uncommon for people to offer the maximum if they need the answer quickly and want to grab the attention of the researchers.
These folks get paid. I offer my services for free, particularly for navigation questions.

To this day, I will get random cell phone calls from college friends or former colleagues at odd hours trying to tap my navigation skills. One friend who was driving to Montreal will often remind me of how I gave him directions (in roughly estimated kilometers) to downtown Toronto from the 401 when he decided to take a detour on a whim. Or back in high school while on a month-long Latin class trip to Italy, fielding requests from classmates during our free time at night to guide them away from our horrible hotel near Porta Maggiore to the Spanish Steps via Rome's subway so we could go drink. No payment for my services. Not even a Heineken.

So next time you ask me a random question, consider buying me a drink. I could be agitated at that very moment and just refer you to Google.

Be forewarned: My knowledge of the Moscow Metro (above) isn't as extensive, so don't try to throw a random question at me about the Zamoskvoretskaya Line from left field.

PHOTO: Shoes


ARCHITECTURE: Tokyo's Prada Aoyama

I remember reading something a while back about Herzog and de Meuron's Prada Aoyama in Tokyo and I wanted to take a quick, but closer look at this structure. The first thing that stands out is the honeycomb-segmented glass curtain wall. The entryway is incorporated into this curtain wall, so if you were on the sidewalk from a block away, you might be hard-pressed to figure out where exactly the front door is until you got closer.

From Studio International:
When night falls, the building glitters, shines and radiates like a festive beacon of style and fashion in the heterogeneous urban fabric of Tokyo.
Though I admire Washington's neoclassical themes repeated and transformed in newer structures in and around the city, sometimes I wish we would have one or two of these buildings around to totally stand out from the norm. K Street needs something like this. The National Association of Realtors headquarters building on New Jersey Avenue NW is the only building that's come close recently.

On a related note, Chicago's Billy Goat Tavern is gearing up to open its first non-Chicago location in the NAR building at 500 New Jersey Ave. NW next week, reports Roll Call's Hot Plate.

-- Primary image from
-- Second image from this Japanese website.

DAILY MUESLI: Fateful Trip to Weehawken Averted, But What About Hurricane Rita?

Good morning. The great battle over a minor correction in The Hill has concluded. A duel on the heights of the Hudson River's Palisades has been thankfully avoided. Two-party talks in Seoul have resolved the situation of which I've been writing about the past few days. (We fortunately kept Kim Jong Il's representatives out of the negotiations.**) The lesson here is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. And fighting for one's online record is important. Google, after all, (like Hadrian) will control everything in the known world someday.

1.) As I wrote yesterday, Houston has a very good chance of being in considerable danger on Saturday. While there were thoughts earlier on Wednesday that the Hurricane Rita strike zone would skew closer to Corpus Christi, Texas, now it looks like Rita will be taking a track closer to Freeport and Galveston. (Update, 8:44 a.m.: Now Rita looks closer to making a direct hit just to the east of Galveston Bay.) This spells trouble for Houston -- and in particular its south and southwestern suburbs (Sugar Land, Katy, Rosenberg, Missouri City and Manvel) -- as the powerful northeastern quadrant of the storm and its storm surge will steamroll over Galveston and Galveston Bay through Houston's massive port and energy complex (get ready to pay $5 a gallon) and into the heart of Harris County (which is the nation's most populous). This is going to be bad.

For experiment's sake, I will be watching closely over the Bay City, Texas, area. Though the city itself is located well inland, something tells me that that investors who thought securing prime property at the intersection of Creekside Drive and Seagull Road are reconsidering their decision. Looking at the satellite view on Google Maps, you can already see some sort of ominous fire burning off in the woods. Let's hope everyone's evacuated the subdivision, because those who stay will be sitting ducks when the Gulf of Mexico rolls over the Intercoastal Waterway and on farther inland.

The Houston Chronicle has been doing an excellent job at covering Rita. The Chron's science blogger, Eric Berger, had this to say late Wednesday night:
Unless the storm turns south or north in the next 24 to 48 hours we are set up for a truly horrific event. I am not going to sugar-coast this, my friends. If the storm comes ashore as forecast, it would essentially be the worst-case scenario described here.

As a Houston resident and property owner, I am truly mortified right now. If you are under a mandatory evacuation order, you should heed it.

The storm has gone from potentially bad on Monday to terribly bad today. Tomorrow will have to bring better news, won't it?

One can only think the a city that opened its arms so wide to the victims of the truly catastrophic Katrina deserves a better fate. We shall see ...
Scary stuff.

2.) "Very few aquariums are commercially successful," says Bob Masterson, president of Ripley Entertainment. But as the Financial Times reported on Tuesday, that hasn't stopped Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot, from coughing up $200 million to build the largest one in the world. Atlanta, that great landlocked Peach State metropolis which developed independent of a navigable waterway, will be getting a grand aquarium in November. If the entire Gulf Coast must resettle inland by the end of the hurricane season, then all of Neptune's creatures might as well come with them.

3.) In happier news, Super Furry Animals will be coming to the 9:30 Club on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Fantastic. Information Leafblower has the lowdown. I'm looking very, very forward to this show. (Neal, if I journey north to Philadelphia for the Wednesday show, you must promise to come down from Princeton.)

With SFA, I've been enjoying their older Welsh-language work as of late. (I wish I could sing without a traditional dependence on common vowel-consonant combos.)

From Ymaelodi Âr Ymylon, Mwng (2000):
Mae'n hnw'n dweud bo' ni ar yr ymlon
Yn weiston bach ffyddlon, yn arw ac estron
Ac mae hi'n llugoer yn llygad y ffynnon
Ond ar yr ymylon mae'r danadl poethion
I wonder if the band will eventually cancel its Nov. 15 show in Houston ...

4.) I agree with Articulary Loop, this is quite interesting. How can I get an ant colony to create natural herbicide and keep panda cub tourists off my front stoop in November?

5.) And this is simply genius. Who knew that the Olsen twins generated such a rapport with the greater Washington Square community? Who gets their dorm room?

** Diplomatic melodrama added for entertainment purposes only. Everything was resolved mostly amicably over e-mail.
-- Image of Weehawken, N.J., duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton from
-- Image of doomed Bay City, Texas, area from Google Maps
-- Photo of Olsen twins projection on E. 14th Street, Manhattan, from

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

GEOGRAPHY: Staring at Houston: Does Lake Pontchartrain = Galveston Bay?

All we know right now that unless some sort of pool of frigid water bubbles up from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, the hot surface water temperatures of the Gulf are going to maintain Hurricane Rita as a monster storm. Where ever Rita hits -- and my bets right now are on Brazoria or Galveston counties in Texas ... assuming the high pressure system that’s parked over the Southeast United States doesn’t do anything wacky in the next 72 hours -- it’s going to be bad. Look at what little-ole Tropical Storm Allison did to Houston in 2001 (above).

Some of the forecasts model take the eye of the storm to an area just to the southwest of Galveston. The closer the northeastern quadrant of the eye wall makes it to Galveston, the more devastating Rita will become. Just consider the geography. Behind Galveston sits Galveston Bay, and behind it the miles of bayous and low-lying swampy land that infiltrate Houston, Harris County, more than 5 million people and a 25-mile-long port complex that "is ranked first in the United States in foreign waterborne commerce, second in total tonnage, and sixth in the world." That’s right, more oil refineries that could be knocked off line for months to come ...

But let’s forget the oil and the economic consequences for just a second. Just as the Times-Picayune predicted a dire situation for New Orleans’ worst-case scenario, the Houston Chronicle too has considered its city's "Big One".
Houston's perfect storm would feed on late summer's warm waters as it barreled northward across the Gulf of Mexico, slamming into the coast near Freeport.

A landfall here would allow its powerful upper-right quadrant, where the waves move in the same direction as the storm, to overflow Galveston Bay. Within an hour or two, a storm surge, topping out at 20 feet or more, would flood the homes of 600,000 people in Harris County. The surge also would block the natural drainage of flooded inland bayous and streams for a day or more.
Coastal residents who ignored warnings to flee would have no hope of escape as waters swelled and winds roiled around their homes. Very likely, hundreds, perhaps even thousands, would die.

Sound familiar? Could Rita be a Carla, the post-1900-benchmark storm for the Houston region?

Fortunately, Houston sits slightly above sea level. But for anyone who has been to Houston well knows, it is not a dry place. One thing you will notice while driving the Sam Houston Tollway on the far outskirts of Houston’s exurbs are the great heights of its highway interchanges. Depressed highways don’t do so well in an area with such a high water table, so in grand Texan style, the highway interchanges soar higher than most Midwestern downtowns. It’s an impressive feat of engineering that’ll hopefully lead people away from of harm’s way. But that won’t do much to prevent a massive storm surge from inundating Galveston Bay and the Houston Ship Canal.(I just checked high tide for Saturday morning, and in Galveston Bay, they only seem to be 1.5-2.5 feet. Then again, I am no expert at tidal dynamics. But any high tide timed with a high storm surge is a bad combo.)

When I was in Houston in the fall of 2002, I had the pleasure of touring Transtar, which is the Houston area’s transportation and emergency management center. Its control room is simply amazing, with a huge control room, live camera footage and map displaying water gauges throughout the area. I had happened to be there during a time of flooding, and lights were blinking in one part of the county where the water was rising. Despite the minor emergency, Metro Police Chief Tom Lambert (left) took me and my colleagues at the time out for a fantastic Mexican lunch. From what I saw first-hand at Transtar, Harris County and Houston seem to be better prepared for such an emergency than New Orleans was. (But then again, New Orleans with Katrina was facing a doomsday geographic and hydrological scenario.) But after lunch, I couldn’t help notice how close the drainage ditches on the side of the highway sit to the restaurant. Houston is a saturated place. Mix in Rita, shake and stir, and the results are troublesome.

What does Brendan Loy -- who has been popularized as the blogger from South Bend who predicted the size and scope of the Katrina disaster as the storm was approaching the Louisiana coast -- have to say about Rita? Category 5:
Now, obviously Katrina has changed the panic vs. preparedness equation somewhat, as suggested by my padawan post and my dad's observation (confirmed by what I'm seeing on CNN in the airport terminal) that the cable news networks and even The Weather Channel are taking a "hair on fire" approach to Rita. Still, to see the NHC making such a statement in the discussion, this far in advance, suggests to me that they're very concerned about this storm. Speaking on the phone just now with a fellow weatherblogger (I'm not identifying him because I don't know if he meant his comments to be "on the record" or not, but he can identify himself in comments if he wants), he agreed and said, "Basically, that means it's going to be a Cat. 5, but they don't want to say that because they don't want to hit the 'panic' button."
Then again, it could go further south or east of the Houston area, so all guesses this far in the game are suspect. But they are uncomfortable nontheless.

Image of Tropical Storm Allison in Houston flooding from the city of Austin
Image of Galveston Bay from NOAA
Image of TransStar from the Federal Highway Administration

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

MEDIA: My Quest to Correct the Record

I sent a second e-mail to today in my quest to have The Hill newspaper correct its claim in a report from last week that yours truly is editor of the Washington Examiner. I first requested a correction in an e-mail on Sunday. On Monday, there was no response. Earlier today, I sent another e-mail to The Hill, as a second attempt. There was no response during the day. So tomorrow, if there isn't a response, I will call The Hill and ask whether anyone checks Conventional wisdom dictates that the Letters to the Editor e-mail is checked on a regular basis and valid inquiries responded to.

Now, I do not live, nor work, where there is a distribution point for The Hill. So theoretically, The Hill could have corrected the record in the print edition, but I would not have known that. But in my requests, I have requested that the error be corrected online. As of yet, the error has not been corrected. And my Internet record will reflect my supposed Examiner affiliation for the foreseeable future confusing Internet sleuths in the years to come.

Will The Hill wash away my request for a clarification of the record like their forgotten scribes Dick Carlson and Peter Regardie ... fka The Shadow?

We shall see tomorrow.

NEW YORK: Is That a Sinister Floating Island?

Via Curbed, it looks likes the 10-day debate at the 60th session of the United Nations may have stopped a floating island (that doubles as an art project from Robert Smithson) making its way past the United Nations, which sits on the East River.

Towelrod has more photos (including the one above) of "Floating Island," which was supposed to sail around the island of Manhattan but had an updated sailing schedule on Monday that avoided the United Nations headquarters.

I wonder if Defense Department authorities would allow a floating island on the Potomac to sail past the Pentagon? Remember during the Civil War, the Lincoln administration was very concerned that the CSS Merrimack, the first ironclad ship, would sail up the Potomac and shell the White House. The floating island in New York looks more like the Brooklyn Navy Yard-constructed USS Monitor (just with trees), but you get the point.

Low-profile sailing vessels = danger.

Battle of Hampton Roads image from NOAA

DAILY MUESLI: Rita, Oil and Adam Carolla

Good morning. As you may know, Hurricane Rita is moving through the Florida Straits and is taking aim at the Texas coast (check out for the latest). If the port of Houston and/or the greater oil refining capacity of the Galveston Bay region are shut down by a large storm (or Houston taken to its knees in Katrinaesque fashion) prepare to batten down the financial hatches. Crude spiked more than $4 a barrel on Monday.

"It looks like the US refining industry may be caught with its pants down, as it is only just recovering from Katrina, and now it potentially faces another hurricane threat," a London-based oil trader tells the Financial Times.

If you live in a home that will depend on heating oil this winter, start saving your nickels and dimes. It's going to hurt.

1.) Last night, both "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "Too Late With Adam Carolla" were not new episodes. As for the latter, I didn't shed a tear for being deprived of fresh content from Mr. Carolla. When "The Man Show" made its Comedy Central debut back in 1999, I though that the material would become very stale, very quickly and the show would not be renewed. But the show has endured for years and has languished, as has Mr. Carolla's career.

Ever wonder what Adam Carolla's like at dinner at a Hungarian restaurant in Los Angeles? From My Other Blog Is a Trans-Am:
His voice is actually more grating and cartoonish in person, and his friends are really racist.
There you have it.

2.) I'm still waiting for a response from The Hill newspaper, which in an article last week claimed that I am "Washington Examiner editor." If anyone who may read The Hill does spot a correction in the print edition, please let me know. So far, a request e-mailed Sunday to have the error corrected online has not been responded to.

3.) Seeking Irony has had really bad luck with the L2 buses on Connecticut Avenue. She recounts getting in touch with WMATA customer service to get to the bottom of the lack of buses and it is all quite interesting, if not maddeningly frustrating. Please be aware that supplemental holiday service for the L2 and L4 will change on Sept. 25.

PETWORTH: Please Get Out of My Cab

The intersection of New Hampshire and Georgia avenues in Petworth is only a 10-minute drive from the heart of 18th Street in Adams Morgan. But to many cabbies in this city, it might as well be a foreign country. I was with friends Saturday evening in Adams Morgan and needed to go to Petworth via cab. We caught one on Kalorama Road, hoping we'd be heading to 16th Street. But the cabbie took us to 18th Street telling us he would take us no further.

I could have tried to get his cab license number, but decided not to pursue the issue. So we got out and found a cab that would take us there. People who live in the city's outer wards know how cabbies can often discriminate because of race or distance (the farther the distance from Zone 1, the less liklihood that there will be a return fare waiting.)

So we secured another cab that would take us to Petworth, but the route he took was suspiciously odd, going south before going east and then north (via Kalorama Road, 17th Street, U Street, New Hampshire and Florida avenues to Sherman Avenue to New Hampshire Avenue). We called him out on trying to steer us from Zone 2 to Zone 1 (.pdf) and back into Zone 2, as if he were Benny, the cartoon cab in Roger Rabbit (above), except trained by the world's most ruthless tricksters. So in the end, we paid a couple extra dollars. But the tip was not generous and he knew that we knew he was screwing us, and in the end, that's a partial victory in the war against hawkish cabbies.

For a full victory, I would have:
1.) Taken down the cabbie's identificiation number.
2.) Asked for a signed receipt, with the amount charged.
3.) Filed a complaint with the Taxicab Commission
4.) Brought the offending cabbie to the deck of the USS Missouri for a treaty ceremony ending the war against the good citizens of the District of Columbia.

(As you go along in the process, you discover that your will to fight the system will wane.)

And now with the Katrina-sparked $1.50 fare hike, there is even more room for D.C. cabbies to mold fares in ways they see fit. But instead of trying to screw passengers for the sake of pure extortion, cabbies may be doing it for survival, as their earnings are being quickly consumed by their gas tanks. Cabbies are feeling the pinch across the nation. Except in the District, we don't have meters, just unwritten Byzantine codes, to properly measure a fare hike.

Monday, September 19, 2005

SHANGHAI: Expansion and Sustainability?

1.) From Shanghaiist, it looks like the massive city is getting ready for another large-scale expansion. This time, Shanghaii is planning on expanding itself by constructing an eco-friendly city on Chongming, China's third-largest island and connect it to the mainland by the world's longest suspension bridge and tunnel. Quite an impressive feat.

And the city doesn't look all that bad either, with that full moon and clear skies? More on the project here.

2.) With this project, you have to wonder what's with Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's glut of island-focused projects. The firm was selected back in May to craft a master plan for all of Bahrain, an island that's 3.5 times the size of the District of Columbia. It also has the Chongming project, for which it won an American Institute of Architects honor in January. (You must wonder if the rebuilding of New Orleans will attract the same kind of architectural drama that followed the destruction of the World Trade Center. Imagine this as Ground Zero for city and regional planners, all mixed in with Louisiana's history of vibrant personalities. Libeskind meets Huey Long (at left)?

3.) With all of what's happened with Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast, it's interesting to consider the massive scope of water-based disasters in China. In the 1930s, the Yangtze claimed 400,000 lives, and recently, 4,000 died in 1998 flooding. Many parts of the very populated Shanghaii region are are low-lying, making a Katrina-style disaster scenario there mind boggling. China has certainly had its low moments in the world of death and destruction.

4.) Shanghaiist also has noted the city's bad pollution and also recommends "The River Runs Black," a book by Elizabeth C. Economy on China's bad environmental record and dismal ecological future.

5.) In related Shanghaiist news, be sure to check out Dan Washburn's interview with Quasar Liang, Hooters Girl. She knows her name is "a television brand in the US." She doesn't like singing "I’m A Little Teapot" to customers. And thinks American customers are talkative because even before she started working at Hooters, she knew that "Americans are the most passionate and friendly. This may be because your country’s history," referring to the time since the landing of the Mayflower, as it started Americans' quest in "finding their freedom." (And she is forbidden to exchange phone numbers or e-mail addresses with Hooter's customers.) It is an eye-opening read.

DAILY MUESLI: Not Going to Edsall Road

Good morning.

1.) Unbeknownst to me, I've been named "Washington Examiner editor" according to The Hill newspaper (hat tip to Kanishka). As a former Roll Caller, I should be able to come up with some snarky comment about my former competitor, but I'll resist the temptation. The article is about Garrett Graff, founder of FishbowlDC and newly appointed editor at large at Washingtonian and I’m mentioned toward the bottom of the article. (For the record, I have not left Express and I don't think I'd enjoy the commute out to the Examiner's offices on Edsall Road.)

According to The Hill, Graff was "a former rival in the cutthroat college press." I guess that's sort-of correct. I was a news editor at The Michigan Daily at the same time that Graff was at the Crimson during the whole Harvard presidential search saga of 2000. One interesting side note is how the Harvard Independent, then-edited by now-blogger Matthew Yglesias, claimed that the Independent was working "in collaboration with the Michigan Daily" and then said that Lee Bollinger (above) would be leaving the Michigan presidency and heading to Cambridge. The Independent’s claim pissed off essentially everyone at the Daily because there wasn't any "collaboration" formal or informal to speak of, besides someone from the Independent trying to fish for information, if I recall the Daily's complaints correctly. (Oh the days of collegiate journalism ...)

2.) One of my favorite dark beers comes from Louisiana's Abita brewery. While there may be other places that serve it in D.C., Afterwords Cafe and DC9 offer Abita Turbodog. It goes excellent with Afterwords' Fettucini New Orleans. Abita Springs was spared by Katrina, and they're now crafting a Katrina-relief Fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale. If you see it, I recommend you try it.

3.) In unrelated beer news, Amanda over at Metrocurean notes the invasion of Iceland's Viking beer in D.C.

4.) Check out the design for this platypus habitat at the Healesville Sanctuary near Melbourne, Australia. It puts the National Zoo's panda habitat to shame. (via Daily Dose of Architecture)

5.) I made a surf-and-turf dinner for my great aunt on Saturday, with plenty of green vegetables. Word to the wise: When using a grill that hasn't been used for a while, be wary of crusted fat globulets that can explode in your face when you turn the propane on and press ignite.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

DUPONT CIRCLE: Grade X Buildings

While there are so many people out there who praise the Dupont Circle area for its architecture -- and there is certainly much to laud -- the immediate few blocks on its south side are a hodge podge of late 19th century landmarks and more modern structures. And most of the modern structures are a blight on the area. Because there hasn't been a new building built near Dupont Circle in many many years, Dupont Circle is stuck with what's there. And the snapshot we have in this photo says 1970s indifference.

At the corner of New Hampshire Avenue and 20th Street NW you have (on the right) the historic Heurich House, and (on the left) Bristol House, one of those apartment houses that is so unremarkable architecturally it is likely to be banned from AIA guides for all eternity. I think it is safe to say that the Bristol House, if ever threatened with demolition, will never have a Tom Wolfe come to its rescue in the same way Wolfe and so many others in New York have rallied to thwart the alteration of that ugly-yet-somehow-loveable Venetian-lollypop hunk of concrete at 2 Columbus Circle, declared as one of the United States' most-endangered structures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Imagine if the proper authorities in Washington, D.C., would follow the lead of George Ferguson, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, in trying to classify utterly worthless and eyesore buildings as "Grade X," perfect for public improvement or replacement grants.

From a 1994 memorandum by RIBA to Parliament:
We suggest that a pilot study is carried out into the encouragement of the removal or radical remodeling of buildings or structures that are perceived to be particularly detrimental to the appearance and character of conservation areas. This would entail the identification of such buildings and structures on a statutory "hit list"—Grade X listing. Grade X listed buildings and structures would be eligible for demolition/alteration grants where it helps to tip the economic balance and is seen to help with positive and appropriate regeneration.
The question there is who gets to decide what is ugly and what isn't. In the meantime, many of Washington's grand avenues will be scarred with countless Bristol Houses for generations to come.

I would declare many buildings as Grade X. At the top of my list would be the southeast corner of 13th and U streets in Northwest, scarred by probably the most unfortunate building in the U Street area. This building is of particular offense because it stands on an important corner, right above a Green Line station entrance and loudly calls out to people walking by that it never had any intention of contributing to the architectural vibrancy of the corridor it meant to serve. I find Benjamin Forgey's 2003 obituary for the corner quite fitting.