Friday, March 10, 2006

TRANSIT: ISO Volunteer Correspondents

YOU MAY HAVE SEEN on page 40 of today's issue of Express that we're looking for volunteers who ride public transit to send us interesting observations of their commute on a regular basis for a new feature. So I thought I'd spread the news here. If this is something of interest, read the description below.
Express is looking for volunteers with a knack for words to be our eyes and ears on the Metro, sending short weekly dispatches from their Metro travels. Think you've got what it takes? E-mail three writing samples to by March 15. Please keep them under 350 words and include "Commuter Dispatches" in your subject line.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

BIG BROTHER: So Many Fans in Norfolk!

JEEZ, RIGHT AFTER my previous post went up about the discovery of mustard gas artillery shells in Spring Valley, my site meter started lighting up from the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. I had no idea I had so many fans in Norfolk that are still using Windows 2000! Thanks for the traffic! I hope my readers realize that this information already was printed in The Washington Post, which has a considerably larger readership base than The Washington Oculus. Nothing sinister here folks. Unless of course you're talking about Curbed's spy shots from within the Hearst Building in New York. MSIE 6 Windows 2000
09 Mar, Thu, 14:36:50 gate2-norfolk. MSIE 6 Windows 2000
09 Mar, Thu, 14:42:21 MSIE 6 Windows 2000
09 Mar, Thu, 14:42:42 MSIE 6 Windows 2000
09 Mar, Thu, 14:43:51 MSIE 6 Windows 2000
09 Mar, Thu, 14:44:20 MSIE 6 Windows 2000
09 Mar, Thu, 14:46:22 MSIE 6 Windows 2000

SPRING VALLEY: More Artillery Shells

JUST AS I PLAN to head up to the Palisades to go take care of a sick relative tomorrow, I learn from today's Post of the continuing dangers lurking in the next neighborhood up the hill (and then down in the valley where Tim Russert and other notables live). That's right, more World War I-era artillery shells! Remember, it was in Spring Valley where mustard gas and other fun stuff was tested 90 years ago or so.

From the Post:
World War I-era ordnance and chemical warfare agents continue to be recovered in the Spring Valley community, with the discovery yesterday of a three-inch mortar round during excavation of a yard on Quebec Street NW. Four houses were evacuated and the neighborhood cordoned off until explosives experts removed the round, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said contained no chemical liquid.

The corps announced last month that two sealed containers found in a lot southwest of American University held small quantities of mustard and mustard breakdown products. Mustard was among the many chemical warfare agents the U.S. Army tested during its work in the area during the war.

Part of the community now constitutes one of the largest federal cleanup sites in the country.
Although the testing site sits upstream from the Dalecarlia Reservoir (which is part of the Washington Aqueduct system), the authorities say our drinking water is quite safe.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

ARCHITECTURE: Hearst Tower Spy Shots

I THINK THAT LORD NORMAN FOSTER'S Hearst Tower on W. 57th Street in Manhattan is one of the more interesting works-in-progress in New York at the current time. It's distinctive tower portion rises from the striking 1927 facade where William Randolph Hearst had planned a skyscraper to rise. Alas, the Great Depression got in the way.

Well, anyhow, a source of The Gutter, Curbed's architecture blog, (identifying herself as a construction worker at the site), snapped photos from the yet-to-be-finished interior. Exciting stuff, if you get giddy over such stuff. There's also a grainy photo of the building's new atrium, something architecture critic Paul Goldberger described in the New Yorker in December as something New York has not seen since Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim. I'd like to see it in person.

(Note: Readers might note that with my uneasiness with facadism, my praise of the Hearst Tower might be hypocritical. But Foster's design, in my honest opinion, is architecturally worthy of the historic sacrifice. A boring square box like 2000 Penn in D.C. which uses the facade of my family's old rowhouse on Eye Street for marketing, not so much. Anyway, a skyscraper was supposed to be built there in the first place.)

>> "Hearst Tower Spy Shots!" [The Gutter via Curbed]
>> Hearst Tower (New York) [Wikipedia]
>> Hearst Tower [Hearst Corp.]

Photo of Hearst building from Curbed

Monday, March 06, 2006

G STREET NW: 1-Plus Years Since Indebleu's Birth

ROCK CREEK RAMBLER reminds us that Indebleu has been around for a year with a quick note about the G Street NW restaurant's anniversary celebration, which is sure to be decadent if you want to fork over $100 for the privilege of going. The celebration is slated for March 16, but I distinctly remember their opening event as being just before Christmas 2004, which would be more than a year ago.

Regardless, I remember that opening event and all the schenanigans involved. Some fun quotes from the DCist review I wrote with Kanishka Gangopadhyay. Ahh, the memories.
... Saturday evening saw limos pulling up on G Street, photographers deployed to the entryway, all the while champagne greeted guests at coat check and at least one woman, painted as a forest nymph, walked about the place in A Midsummer Night's Dream-esque fashion. ...

From the video screen mirrors in the bathroom to the hooks on the backs of the dining room's chairs, every nook and cranny was thoughtfully planned out and it is a work of art that amazed guests. We even spied a waiter from Zaytinya taking multiple photos throughout the evening, suggesting that the chic Turkish tapas restaurant just a block away may be feeling a bit jealous and wanted photographic intelligence of its new neighbor. ...

It looked very much out of place and unnecessarily forced, as if party crashers were trying to forcibly transplant a White Party from South Beach on the nation's capital. Granted, the Bleu Group intends to introduce a new social dynamic within IndeBleu's walls, but we doubt if this is what was intended. But with more than 1,000 people in the place, you're bound to have some overly extravagant folks. So who were these folks?

"They are standing out like sore white thumbs," a party guest told DCist, referring to the "extras" from a "1991 Bobby Brown music video."
>> "Rambler Roundup: News Edition" [RCR]
>> "IndeBleu's Opening Wows Eyes, Palate" [DCist]

Photo of the opening party taken by yours truly, posted on DCist.

TAXIS: Unequal Court Houses

I JUST RETURNED FROM GRABBING COFFEE across the street from my office in the Court House section of Arlington. I'm not sure what the deal is with the corner of Clarendon Boulevard and N. Courthouse Road, but this is the second time in less than 24 hours that someone has asked me directional questions regarding court houses in Virginia. Just now, a taxi pulled up to the curb and a polite man with an English accent asked me how to get to the "Alexandria court house."

"Oh, you're in Arlington. Wrong court house. You want the federal court house in Alexandria?" I asked.

"Yes, the Alexandria federal court house," he replied.

SO I PROCEEDED to give the taxi rider -- not the taxi driver -- exact directions to the federal court house in Alexandria, which is at least a 25-minute drive from the Arlington County court house complex during the morning rush hour. (Clarendon Boulevard down into Rosslyn will run into Route 110 ... which will run into Route 1 ... and on into Alexandria.)

"395?" the cabbie asked me.

"Well, you could take 395 to King Street and on into Alexandria," I replied. But sensing that the man was in a hurry, I said ... "But that will take much more time."

"110 to Route 1?" the British passenger asked.

"Yes," I replied, full knowing that that quite possibly, the cab will be circling the parking lot of the Potomac Yard Shoppers Food Warehouse, after the driver sees the "Welcome to Alexandria" sign after you cross Four Mile Run on the Jefferson Davis Highway/Route 1.

So good luck getting to court. Isn't jury selection continuing today for the Moussaoui penalty phase at the Alexandria federal court house? (Research ... yes.) It’s so lovely when cab drivers have no idea where they’re going, especially when it’s their job to know such things.

AS FOR THE SECOND court house inquiry, on Sunday a woman on a bike stopped me on the sidewalk trying to find the movie theatres at Arlington Court House, which is tucked inside the courtyard of the Arlington County complex. Sort of tricky to find, but yet, not that tricky.

>> IN RELATED NEWS, D.C. cabbies are angered and are going to court. "Cabbie Residency Law Hauled Into D.C. Court" [WP]

Image of Alexandria's federal court house from the Alexandria City Public Schools

Sunday, March 05, 2006

SUNDAY READING: 'Da Vinci Code' Fallout

I'M NOT SURE WHAT THE STATUS of Dan Brown's novel in progress, "The Solomon Key," is, but as you may know that it's been reported to dive into some of Washington's more enduring conspiracy theories: Supposed evil Masonic plotting that's built into the 1791 L'Enfant layout of the nation's capital. (This has been written about before. Read David Ovason's "The Secret Architecture of Washington, D.C." or take a look at some of these conspiracy theories available online. It's all quite interesting, even for those who are generally skeptical of conspiracy theories.

Anyhow, I suggest you take a look at some other Dan Brown-related news happening in London: How his best selling novel "The DaVinci Code," a.k.a. literary crack for Metrorail commuters two years back, is on trial.

Says the Christian Science Monitor:
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh are suing Mr. Brown's publisher, Random House, alleging that the 2003 thriller was based on their 1982 historical work, "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail," which contends that Jesus Christ survived crucifixion and escaped to France to sire a dynasty with Mary Magdalene.
The CSM article explores some pretty interesting ideas, particularly whether history can be copyrighted, or in this case, whether the "architecture" of a work of non-fiction is proprietary. The case continues Tuesday. So take a look at that if you have some time.

Additionally, The Guardian in its Sunday edition notes something interesting: It had been first to report on the Jesus was married theory back in 1971.

Says the Guardian:
[Brown's lawyer] told the court the theory that Jesus was married had first been aired in an article in this newspaper in 1971. He added: "We say the claim relies on and seeks to monopolise ideas at such a high level of generality they are not protected by copyright." ... Sir George Williams ... began the full-page article: "A married Jesus? Not an unmarried virgin, but a married man as the incarnate Son of God for Christians. Why not? Does the immediate reaction of many Christians against the idea come simply from a conviction that it is historically untrue, that in fact Jesus was a celibate? Hardly. The reaction is too strong to spring from a mere concern with history. In any case, as we shall see, the evidence is, to say the least, indecisive."
Anyhow, if you enjoy these stories of theological mysteries and intellectual property, do read that Guardian article as well.

>> "Did 'Da Vinci Code' break British copyright code?" [Christian Science Monitor]
>> "Rebel theologian surfaces at heart of Da Vinci case" [The Guardian]

Map of D.C.'s conspiratorial layout from this website

MUSIC: The Subways + 'O.C.' Marketing + Stage Theatrics = Kindergarten at the 9:30 Club

THE FORMULA IS QUITE SIMPLE: Mix in an English rock band from Hertfordshire, a prominent appearance on Fox's ultimate marketing vehicle, "The O.C.," and expect a youth-filled spectacle at the 9:30 Club. That's what happened early Saturday evening at an early show at 815 V St. NW. featuring The Subways.

As I approached the club, I noticed that there were numerous people there who were considerably younger than me, many who were getting both hands branded with a huge stamp indicating they were not old enough to drink. That didn't matter to the kiddies, they wanted their Billy Lunn and Charlotte Cooper, though they probably didn't even know their names (I certainly didn't know their names, nor that they were featured on "The O.C." prior to arrival.). But when you're talking about "The O.C.," name-recognition doesn't matter. It's all about the music featured on the show. (In this case "Rock & Roll Queen" and "I Want to Hear What You Have Got to Say.")

MR. LUNN AND MS. COOPER were certainly pleased by the big turn-out, considering the early show, which started around 7:30 p.m., opened by Hives-esque Los Angeles-based The Shys (who weren't all that bad). Simple, modest "Thank you, D.C., you're wonderful!"s from Ms. Cooper eventually turned into crowd pandering by Mr. Lunn, who would later be seen leaping from stacked stage speakers to the 9:30 Club's balcony. By the end, these tactics to energize the crowd started to work. I'm surprised he didn't break his ankle jumping down to the stage, but many of the kids there ate it all up, probably thinking that all indie rock shows involve "impromptu" stage theatrics such as balcony leaping. But maybe all of Mr. Lunn's energy is actually genuine. And maybe Ms. Cooper's voice isn't as shrill when it isn't being amplified across a music hall.

I DON'T THINK I can ever respect "The O.C." until Rupert Murdoch forces the show's producers to fuse the plot line with that of "24." Then The Subways can make a return appearance playing "Oh Yeah" as Ryan and Jack Bauer save Marissa and Summer from terrorists trying to blow up Orange County's San Onofre nuclear power plant.