Pope-Leighey House and Woodlawn Plantation

Posted by barb on Jun 28, 2005 in Around DC, Pictures

While Dad was in town, Andrew and I decided to take him to the Frank Lloyd Wright house near DC. Dad has always admired FLW’s designs, but has never seen one of the houses up close. The Pope-Leighey house is one of FLW’s Usonian houses — “modestly scaled”, affordable, and well-designed houses.

Pope-Leighy House

It was interesting to go there with Dad, who has been a carpenter his entire life — over 40 years. I’ve heard him lament many times about architects. The problem, it seems, is that while architects may be able to design buildings that look good, they frequently aren’t in touch with the more practical aspects of home building. It seems that FLW wasn’t much different. As we walked around the outside, there were several things that Dad pointed out as being impractical or just not a great idea. For example, the outside walls when down on top of the foundation. While it looked kind of cool, Dad mentioned that this is a good way to get water into the house, unless it’s sealed in some way (i.e. caulking), which had not been done on this house.

But overall, Dad really liked the house — he likes the way the FLW designed houses for their lot, and tried to use whatever was in the lot (like a hill or trees) to compliment his design with help of Eventscape.

Here’s a picture Dad by the side of the house, and one of the window by the children’s room. There weren’t many full-sized windows around, but the small row of windows seen in this picture ringed the entire house. From the outside, I wondered how there could possibly be enough light in the house, and yet this ring of small windows were more than sufficient.

Dad at the Pope-Leighy House   Pope-Leighy House

Afterwards touring the Pope-Leighey house, we toured the Woodlawn Plantation. This was a plantation on land that George Washington gave to Martha’s granddaughter, Eleanor “Nelly” Custis Lewis, and her husband Major Lawrence. It was still a nice tour, with a knowledgeable tour guide and period furniture in the house (some of it original). As with the Pope-Leighey house, pictures were not allowed inside, but here are a couple of the house and grounds:

Fountain at the Woodlawn Plantation   Woodlawn Plantation house



Mickey Mouse times 75

Posted by barb on Apr 3, 2005 in Around DC, Pictures

Despite the threat of rain, Andrew and I went out to see the Mickey Mouse statues that are in town through April 30. Unlike the panda statues, the Mickeys are all collected in one location — the Reagan Center in downtown DC. Apparently this is the only place, besides Disney World, where all of the Mickeys will be displayed together — the other cities on the tour only get a selection of the Mickey statues.

I’ve posted an album of all the Mickeys, and here are a few of my favorites:

Lots ‘o Mickeys
Lots 'o Mickeys Lots 'o Mickeys
Circle Vision TRON Mickey
Circle Vision Mickey TRON Mickey
Space Mickey
Space Mickey



Panda in new habitat

Posted by barb on Mar 12, 2005 in Around DC, Pictures

Andrew spied one of the Pandamania Pandas a few months ago in the lobby of a nearby office building. We were finally able to take a picture of it today on our way home from the movies.

This is the “Clean Panda” that was outside RFK Stadium and that we saw on our 9th panda-hunting trip.

Clean Panda in its new habitat



75 Mickeys!

Posted by barb on Mar 5, 2005 in Around DC, Pictures

After the DCIFF sessions, Andrew and I stopped at the Shops at 2000 Penn to browse at Tower and grab dinner. While there, Andrew spied this Mickey statue:
New Mickey

Turns out 75 Mickey statues were made for Mickey Mouse’s 75th anniversary. Those Mickeys are going to be in DC from March 19-April 30. Yay! The statue we spied is a 76th Mickey that will be on display with the others.

The Shops also had on display some cool kites for the Smithsonian Kite Festival, coming up on April 2.
Kites at the Shops at 2000 Penn   Kites at the Shops at 2000 Penn




Posted by barb on Mar 5, 2005 in Around DC, Movies

The DC Independent Film Festival kicked off last week, so Andrew and I decided to catch a couple sessions today. We caught two shorts fests: “Politics, Conflict, and Controversy” and “Cinematic Love & Death”.

I suppose I should have been prepared, during the first session (politics, conflict and controversy), for films with a message. I wasn’t. I’ve been a writer for a long time (not paid, not published, but a writer, none-the-less), and I know that a good story comes from, well, a good story. It needs strong characters with real problems and conflicts. If there’s a “message” to the story, it will come through the problems and conflicts that the characters encounter. There’s no need to hit the reader over the head with the message. Most of these filmmakers have not learned this lesson yet. Nearly all of them had a message and felt that they needed to shout their message at us stupid viewers.

Having said that, there were a couple noteworthy pieces during the first session:

  • Convictions: Prisoners of Conscience was a documentary about protestors at Fort Benning Georgia who are regularly arrested and face federal prison time for their peaceful protests.

    In some ways I felt that the actually content of the protest was missing — I got a general idea of what they were protesting (the School of the Americas), but there wasn’t enough “evidence” to make me support the protestors. On the other hand, the documentary was really about the protestors, not the subject of their protests, at least that’s what I gathered. In that sense, it was well-done with an underlying arch that brought the film from beginning to end and told the story of the protestors without shoving anything down our throats.

  • Daughters of Abraham was a documentary about two girls in Iraq — one a suicide bomber, the other her victim, both looking so similar that they could have been sisters.

    This one was also more powerful than the “fiction” shorts that had a message to convey. Here, there was a message of sorts, but the filmmaker did not take sides. Rather we got to see both girls’ parents talking about their girls. We get the sense that the parents of the bomber, while sad that they lost their daughter, were supportive (not necessarily proud) of their daughter and her convictions. On the other side, we see the grieving parents and classmates of the victim.

    This one was not as well crafted as Convictions: Prisoners of Conscience, because at times it seemed that some material was just thrown between scenes of the parents without a real plan for connecting events.

The second session was much more enjoyable than the first, though two of the pieces were almost indecipherable. Particularly enjoyable:

  • Handshake — an animated short about two people who get entangled due to a simple handshake.
  • Samuel de Mango — Samuel grew up eating only mangoes. His mother grew mangoes. He hated mangoes. When he finds that he’s interested in the married woman next door, he decides that his only escape is suicide. Unfortunately, all those mangoes in his system make suicide difficult.

All in all, a fun afternoon. We’ll probably be back for another session or two next weekend.

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More Smithsonian Museums!

Posted by barb on Dec 31, 2004 in Around DC, Pictures

To cap off a very good year, Andrew and I visited two Smithsonian museums that neither of us had visited before: the National Museum of the American Indian and the Postal Museum.

We started at the American Indian museum. It just opened a few months ago, and it’s still very busy. We had to line up to get in, but the line moved fairly quickly. The crowd inside, however, kept growing the entire time we were there. There was a dancing demonstration at about 1PM, when we were leaving, so that might explain the crowds, or it could just be that the museum is so new.

Unfortunately, my impressions of the permanent exhibits was not very positive. Our Lives aimed to show where and how modern Native Americans live, was overcrowded with both people and information. The second I walked in, I felt overhelmed by the number of panels to read, and there was no clear feeling of where to go first. Andrew and I merely made a circle of the exhibit and walked out a few minutes after walking in.

The exhibit I wanted to enjoy was Our Universes, which dealt with the different ways that different tribes describe the universe and their place in it. There were about 10 different viewpoints covered in the exhibit, each with a separate small room, sometimes mimicking the tribe’s meeting place or “religious” house. However, each room was so small that the presence of just three people made it all but impossible to see and read the materials, and made me clausterphobic. We only made it through 4 or 5 of the alcoves before I needed to leave this exhibit as well.

I think the only exhibit we both thoroughly enjoyed was Native Moderism featuring the art of two modern Native American Artists: Allan Houser and George Morrison. That’s one of Houser’s sculptures pictured below.

The National Museum of the American Indian  Scultpture at the National Museum of the American Indian

From the American Indian museum, we trekked up to Union Station for lunch. There was a huge toy train running that we could see from our balcony seat at America (a restaurant featuring dishes from across the US).

Model Railroad at Union Station

The Postal Museum is just across the street from Union Station, so rather than trekking back to the Mall, we made a quick decision to change plans (we were already a bit tired from all the walking). Neither of us was expecting much from the Postal Museum, frankly, but it was rather enjoyable.

The main exhibit starts in the woods of early America. The earliest postmen walked through the woods, notching trees with an axe so that following postmen could follow. The exhibit follows the history of the postal service, from letters delivered to a central post, like a pub or general store, in town, to rural home delivery. At the end of this main exhibit, there was a fun exhibit on direct mail which I had to spend a lot of time at (much to Andrew’s chagrin) — but, hey, I learned that to ship an overcoat in the early days, it was often cut in half and sent in two packages because sending one that was that heave was more expensive. And early mail-order catalogs were used for text books in some rural communities, and as, um, toilet paper sometimes.

The travelling exhibit was on the first postage stamp — if I was a collector, I would probably have quite enjoyed this. However, I’m not a collector, so I found it a bit boring.

This picture is from a collection of fun mail boxes — the Muffler Man:
Mailbox at the Postal Museum


State Trees and African Art Museum

Posted by barb on Dec 24, 2004 in Around DC, Pictures

I had today off, so Andrew took it off as well, and we trekked downtown.

Me and Andrew in front of the White House Christmas Tree  White House Christmas Tree

A few years ago Mushi and Jeff had stopped for a day on their way up to New York to see his family for the holidays, and we went down to see the White House Christmas tree. None of us had known about the “state trees”, though. These are smaller evergreen trees decorated with ornaments sent in by representatives of each state. I have pictures of the trees on Flickr. The pictures are roughly in alphabetical order by state, but I changed around some of the pictures to make the lay-out work better (some trees have two pictures, while others have just one — I wanted the trees with two pics to be side-by-side rather than on different lines).

The most interesting trees had ornaments that were hand-made. Some were obviously done by children, others by adults, but these were infinitely more interesting than obvious store-bought ornaments. States that submit ornaments that contain little scenes, or that are paper/ornaments arranged inside the big plastic holders should glue the scenes/papers in place — these ornaments are on the trees in the cold for a long time, and get jostled around. On some trees it was hard to imagine what the ornaments started out as. Also, to the parties submitting ornaments, I found that the trees that had bows added to the big plastic balls protecting the ornaments looked prettier. Those big plastic balls are kind of ugly and distracting, but by adding bows, they looked more like part of the tree instead of a necessary evil.

After warming up by the old Yule Log, we walked to the American History Museum for lunch, and the went quickly through the Castle, where there was a replica of the Arts & Industries Building made out of gingerbread.

Then we made our way to the African Art Museum. Neither of us had been there before, so we wanted to finally visit. They were between travelling exhibits, so we only got to see the permanent collections, but those were impressive. I quite liked the masks and the Art of the Personal Object. The architecture of the building itself was impressive. It is built into the ground, rather than upwards, so you descend to view the collections. There is a lovely fountain at the bottom in an atrium that is open all the way to the roof, with a sky light. We’ll likely visit again when they bring in new exhibits.

Atrium at the African Art Museum  Sculpture at the African Art Museum


Holiday Vaudeville

Posted by barb on Dec 17, 2004 in Around DC, Pictures

I dragged Andrew to the Kennedy Center this evening for the free Millenium Stage Holiday Vaudeville performance.

Upon arriving, we were given a small paper bag containing a kazoo and wrapped mint. We were told that everything would be used during the show, so we weren’t to get rid of any of it (like tossing the mint’s wrapper).

There were four performers/groups during the one-hour show. The host/emcee was Sean Grissom, a cajun cellist. He performed a few songs between the other acts, including a piece off of his “Celtic Cello” CD which Andrew bought.
Grissom called up Artis the Spoonman first. The Spoonman plays, as you might suspect, spoons. Ordinary spoons.

Next Grissom led the audience in an unforgettable rendition of “The Little Drummer Boy” (or, as he called it, “The Little Cellist Boy”). Here is where we used our candy wrappers, creating the rhythm. However, I must say that we sucked. I had lots of trouble keeping the rhythm, and usually I’m not too bad at that. You can imagine the rest of the audience.

Then Grissom brought up AJ Silver, who does trick roping and whips. Next Grissom lead the audience in “Jingle Bells” on our kazoos. I got the hang of it about halfway through.

Finally the Alexandria Kleztet. The big finale was “Auld Lang Syne” with the audience on kazoos again. At the end we did a mock New Years Eve with a count down, and the audience popping the paper bags at zero.

A very fun show! Almost all of the performances at the Millenium Stage are simulcast on the Internet and archived, so you can watch it if you dare.

Afterwards, we walked out on the terrace overlooking the Potomac.
Kennedy Center Fountain


Udvar-Hazy Center

Posted by barb on Nov 25, 2004 in Around DC, Pictures

Several years ago, I discovered that the best day of the year to visit the Smithsonian Museums is on Thanksgiving Day. Yup, they are open. In fact, the only day they are closed is Christmas Day. And, since everyone else is travelling or spending the day at Grandma’s house, the museums are relatively empty. No pushing, no shoving, minimal children running around unattended, and a great chance to see the exhibits.

This year we decided to go out to the Udvar-Hazy Center, an extension of the National Air and Space Museum near the Dulles Airport in Virginia. The Center is still somewhat under construction — there was a nice display of helicopters with no explanatory text for any of them. They opened the McDonnell Space Wing just a few weeks ago, so my Aunt and Uncle missed it (they went when they came up for the wedding in September).

A few pictures:

Outside the museum — a sculpture and “wall of honor” Lockheed Blackbird (Andrew’s favorite)
Outside the Udvar-Hazy NASM Annex Blackbird
The model used for the Close Encounters of the Third Kind mother ship. This picture turned out really well — it’s actually not very well lit, especially considering the plaque invites visitors to look for the fun objects the makers put in, like an R2-D2, VW Beetle and submarie. Me by the space shuttle Enterprise. This one was not actually flown in space, but designed to be tested in the upper atmosphere. It doesn’t have the heat tiles that the space-bound shuttles have, but still impressive.
Close Encounters Mothership Me by the Enterprise


National Book Festival

Posted by barb on Oct 9, 2004 in Around DC, Books, Pictures

Andrew and I went downtown for the National Book Festival organized by the Library of Congress.

Science Fiction & Fantasy pavillion

This event has been happening annually for the past three years (this is the fourth festival), and each year more authors and a greater variety of genres are added to the schedule. This is the first year that there has been a Science Fiction & Fantasy Pavilion, with eight featured authors. This might explain why this is the first year Andrew and I have gone.

We started the day by buying copies of Frederik Pohl’s newest book (not even available on Amazon last weekend), and then made our way to the Teens & Children Pavilion, where E. L. Konigsburg was giving a reading.

E.L. Konigsburg at the Book Festival

I remember reading Konigsburg’s Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth when I was in grade school, and I absolutely loved it! I re-read it last year before releasing another copy through Bookcrossing on Halloween. She read from her latest book, The Outcast of 19 Schuyler Place. From the two excerpts she read, I’m very much looking forward to reading it! She also relayed a touching account of having lost both her editor of thirty years and her husband of fouty-five years within a year of each other, both from pancreatic cancer. This is the first book that she’s published that neither of them saw the finished copy.

We left Konigsburg’s Q&A session a bit early to line up for her signing. That was an affair! She was scheduled to sign from 11 AM – Noon. We were in line at about 10:45 AM. My book was signed at about 12:10 PM. Andrew left a bit early to catch Frederik Pohl’s reading. (I was bummed to miss part of it, but I’d been in line so long, it was becoming a moral imperative to get my book signed.)

I missed out on Pohl’s reading, but Andrew said that it was a bit stilted. However, I did make it for most of his Q&A session, which was quite good. At 84 he’s a lively guest, if not entirely optimistic about the future of the human race.

Next, Neil Gaiman read from a work-in-progress, Anansi Boys. I don’t know if I’m a Gaiman fan or not, but Andrew is, so we stayed for the reading. The only thing I’ve read by Gaiman was Good Omens, written with Terry Pratchett. I hated, hated, hated that book, but it’s hard to know if it was because of either of the authors or if I just didn’t like the way they worked together. I’ve since read more of Pratchett and have enjoyed some of it. But, Gaiman’s reading was quite fun, and Anansi Boys is comedic, at least the portions he read (not his normal style, according to Andrew), and sounded like something I might want to read. We’ll see.

Fredrik Pohl signing my books

I left while Gaiman was reading a second excerpt so that I could line up for Frederik Pohl’s signing. This line went faster than Konigsburg’s line, though I’m not sure why — perhaps there was less chit-chat, and there certainly seemed to be fewer people slowing down the line with pictures. I had Andrew snap one while Pohl was signing my books.

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