Saturday, November 30, 2013

Remembering Miriam

I'm remembering Miriam, my mom today. Ten years ago today she died. In some ways it seems like yesterday. In other ways it seems much much longer than 10 years.

I'm writing this as I sit in the National Gallery of Art cafeteria by the waterfall eating chocolate pudding.

Both are important in remembering her.

First, the chocolate pudding. Back in the day my mom would make chocolate pudding for dessert. Now this was not instant pudding but the kind you had to really make and cook on the stove. Once mom was done making it she would put it in the refrigerator to cool down. Now it was important to cover the pudding sot it would not get that hard gross layer on top of it. To prevent this from happening, she would cover the pudding with wax paper (yes wax paper which tells you how long ago it was). The big thing in our house was who would get to lick the pudding off the wax paper once the paper was pulled off the pudding. That's the reason for the chocolate pudding.

Second the National Gallery. This was her favorite of all the museums in Washington. She loved to come here. She loved to have lunch by the waterfall. She really liked the food and it is really very good. She loved the impressionists. And she loved to the Matisse Cutouts that were in the Tower in the East Building. So it seems very fitting to be at the National Gallery.

I made pumpkin cake as my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year. I got the recipe from my mom. I'm not sure who she got it from probably one of the teachers she worked with. She converted the original recipe to work in a 13 x 9 pan. I still have the original paper she wrote it on. Of course being a teacher it is written on note book paper. Along with the recipe are a few pointers on making the cake:

Baking soda is cheap to buy, baking powder isn't. IF you don't have the latter you might be able to borrow a bit from a friend in exchange for a bit of cake.

I can just hear her saying those things.
 My visit to the Gallery and having chocolate pudding helped me remember Miriam, my mom, for all the wonderful and great things she meant to me.

Jack and Miriam at my brother's wedding.

Monday, November 25, 2013

What are They Building Here?

There is work going on near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro stop. I can't exactly figure out what they are building here. It sort of looks like a bridge but if it is I don't know where it is going to go.

I'm going to keep my eye on it as the project progresses.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Kennedy Assassination — What I Remember 50 Years On

One of my earliest and most vivid memories is of the Kennedy assassination.

I was four at the time. I was home with my mom watching TV. It was a typical afternoon for us. We had eaten lunch and had settled down to watch the afternoon soaps.

In all likelihood we were watching the Secret Storm or maybe as the World Turns (I happened on to a video posted on YouTube of CBS' coverage and the first bulletin about the assassination came during As the World Turns).

My memory is a little sketchy about the series of event. But I do know that when it was announced that Kennedy was dead my mom started crying. She went up to the bathroom I’m assuming to regain her composure. I followed up after her. Not understanding what had happened but knowing she was very upset. I remember standing outside the bathroom door the knob probably coming up to my noise and being very very scared as to why my mom was crying. I certainly hadn’t understood what had been reported on TV.

The other very clear memory that I have is the plane with Kennedy’s body arriving at Andrew’s Airforce Base. They were in the process of taking the coffin off of the plane when my dad came home from work.

I don't remember much more than that. But these memories are very clear and distinct. I remember the fear I had because my mom was crying and I didn't understand why or what had made her cry.

Another thing I remember is a Thanksgiving 10 years later asking my relatives where they had been when the assassination took place and what they were doing. They told me and then talked about the Kennedy visit to northern Illinois

In 1960 when Kennedy was running for President he came to Libertyville the town next to where I grew up. He was there for a campaign rally:

Libertyville was predominantly Republican, but that day may have been an exception. In an open Chevrolet convertible, Kennedy arrived at Cook Park in the heart of downtown at 10:52 a.m., about a half-hour behind schedule. The park was described as a mass of color, filled with posters and signs, including a Kennedy banner draped across the grand entrance of the Ansel B. Cook Home, which served as the library.

I don't remember this but my mom took me and my brother to see Kennedy.

It is interesting to me how one event changed this country so much. Even 50 years later there is still a discussion of the impact this one event had on our country.

The events of the assassination are still  being discussed and debated. The conspiracy theories run the gamut from the Mafia to the CIA to the FBI to the Russians to the Cubans. You name it. I don't think any of them are right. I think Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I think part of the reason people believe in the conspiracy theories is it is reassuring in some way. There was some evil cabal that killed Kennedy as opposed to one nut. One nut who altered the course of history for this country and for the world as well.

One thing all can agree on is true the country wasn't the same after Kennedy's death.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination — The Kalb Report

Dan Rather and Marvin Kalb

A very interesting Kalb Report on the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination Here's a little information on the program:
A Conversation with Dan Rather on a Presidency, a Legacy and a Day that Changed America

On November 22, 1963 time stood still as the nation and the world grappled with the sudden and tragic loss of an extraordinary leader. Now 50 years since that fateful day, we remember the life and legacy of President John F. Kennedy.

Dan Rather was on the scene in Dallas that day, reporting for Walter Cronkite and CBS News, and helped break the story we could not bear to hear. On the next Kalb Report, two legends of journalism, Dan Rather and Marvin Kalb discuss reporting the unthinkable and the profound impact of the events of that tragic day.

Here's a little of Dan Rather's story on that day. He was at the end of the motorcade. At the point where it would pass under a viaduct and head to where Kennedy was supposed to make his speech. He didn't hear any of the shots. He did see the presidential limo race past him. And what he thought at first was make a wrong turn. When the rest of the motorcade didn't follow he knew that something was wrong. 

He was one of the first reporters to report that Kennedy was dead. Most TV networks waited until the official announcement from the government. Everything moved so quickly that there was no time to react to the story. Rather said that happened after that long weekend.

Kalb was at the State Department filing a story. When he found out what had happened he had to walk around the building to calm down. He was of coursed asked by the network if this could have been the work of the Russians or Cubans.

Rather does not think there was a conspiracy. To pull something off on this scale would have taken many people and after 50 years the truth would have come out. He think Ruby acted alone. He said something that was really important he said you are entitled to your opinion (saying this to the people that believe in a conspiracy) but you are not entitled to your own facts. The facts don't support a conspiracy.

Rather went on that the idea of a conspiracy came from the fact that the CIA and the FBI were not truthful with the Warren Commission. They didn't want to be seen as allowing the president to killed. And this was the first in a series of event where the government was less than truthful with people.

Both Kalb and Rather think that Kennedy would not have pulled out of Vietnam as some have said. He was an old fashioned cold warrior and would not have wanted to seen as the president who lost Vietnam. Rather then added an important point. That the war didn't become unpopular until casualties started to mount. That didn't happen until 1967-68.

The also thought that civil rights legislation would have been different. This I agree with totally. Johnson used Kennedy's death to push through the legislation. Another interesting point on if Kennedy had lived was would he have won reelection. If Kennedy hadn't died, he might have faced Goldwater but it is possible someone else could have won the Republican nomination.

Rather pointed out that one thing we should be proud of in this terrible tragedy was the peaceful passing of power. As Rather said tanks didn't surround the White House.

I'll have some of my own thought on the Kennedy assassination in an upcoming post.


Monday, November 18, 2013

A Fantastic Weekend at the Theater — Actually Theaters.

I decided to reward myself for a really rough week by going to two shows. Well one was a ballet. I just decided I deservied it and so I did it. After all that’s what credit cards are for.

 I saw Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at the Kennedy Center and If/Then at the National Theater.

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty

Saturday was Sleeping Beauty at the Opera House at the Kennedy Center. And this was not your mother’s version of Sleeping Beauty. This was completely and totally re-imagined. Sleeping Beauty starts in 1890 with Princess Aurora birth. When she finally wakes up it is the present. Interesting to have a cell phone and digital cameras in a ballet with music by Tchaikovsky. Also where a puppet plays a major role in the story.

Here’s a little more on the thinking about the story from Matthew Bourne himself:

“I said to myself, ‘Well, it doesn’t have a great love story: The prince comes on very late in the ballet and just wakes her up, and then they get married. That’s more or less it,’ ” he says. “Not a great story.”

The character of Princess Aurora too, can seem frustratingly passive from a modern perspective: Falling instantly in love with the stranger who has kissed you, after you’ve been meekly dozing for decades, hardly testifies to a developed personality, for instance. Bourne yearned for Aurora’s character “to be a little more complex.”

He also felt that, in the traditional ballet rendering, “the good-vs.-evil story peters out a little bit”: The evil fairy, Carabosse, makes her big entrances early on in the ballet, while the final wedding scene, crammed by Petipa with divertissements for storybook characters, lacks dramatic conflict.

Gradually, Bourne began to discern mythic and psychological depths in the story that intrigued him. The protectiveness of “Sleeping Beauty’s” king and queen seemed to speak to the ambivalence many parents feel as they watch their kids age out of childhood. The triggering of Carabosse’s curse, when Aurora pricks her finger, symbolizes the advent of sexual maturity.

And he became increasingly fascinated by the concept of Aurora’s long sleep — a narrative conceit that, to a choreographer, presented tantalizing possibilities for devising dances in the styles of different eras. The slumber also seemed an opportunity to create a great, odds-defying romance.

And here’s the reason for the puppet:

Bourne’s determination to bolster characterization led him to include puppetry in “Sleeping Beauty”: Rather than use a doll or faceless bundle to represent baby Aurora, as a traditional ballet production might, this production features a puppet.

I really enjoyed this.

Here are a couple of shots of the costumes in the show.

If/Then at the National Theater

Sunday was If/Then at the National Theater.

Here’s a little about the show and the try out at the National Theater:

The show, “If/Then,” is not only that most exotic of D.C. theater events — a commercial Broadway tryout — but also one of the most eagerly anticipated musicals of the season in New York, where it is scheduled to begin performances in March. First, though, it has to get on its feet here, in a month-long run beginning Tuesday that will start to gauge whether “If/Then’s” creators, the “Next to Normal” team of composer Tom Kitt, lyricist Brian Yorkey and director Michael Greif, have fashioned a hit, or still have a lot of work to do.

“If/Then” is built around the life of a 40-ish urban planner named Elizabeth, who leaves Phoenix and settles back into life in Manhattan, where the musical forks into alternate narratives, one taking her on a career-intensive path, the other on the road to love and family. It’s a valentine to New York and a contemplation of the choices one makes, what they lead to, what they close off: “Some Other Me” is the title of one “If/Then” ballad, a song redolent of the musical’s wistful sense of life’s shifting, overlapping possibilities.

You need to pay close attention to what’s going on in the show so you don’t get confused as to which path is being shown on the stage. As each path gets longer (for lack of a better way of describing it), it gets easier to tell them apart. There is some great staging and lighting techniques to let you know what is going on.

I like it. It was fun. There are a few things that need to be fixed which is the reason it’s here in DC.

Here are a few pictures of the cast as they came out of the National after the performance.

This is Jenn Colella who played Anne

This is Anthony Rapp who plays Lucas

James Snyder who plays Josh

Here's Indina Menzel.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ashes to Answers — National Fire Dog Memorial

I came across this wonderful memorial a couple of weeks ago.

Here's a little about the monument:

DC's newest monument is not on the mall. It's downtown, at a working fire station. The National Fire Dog Monument was recently unveiled next to Engine Co. 2, near Judiciary Square. The monument honors "fire dogs," or arson dogs, trained to detect accelerants used in intentionally set fires. The sculptor is from Colorado, where the idea for the monument originated. An fire investigator there was inspired by the work of his dog Erin, and later Sadie. The dog depicted in the statue is modeled after Sadie. The funds for the memorial were raised by State Farm and a group called the American Human Association. The memorial is located on the east side of the Engine Co. 2, at 500 F Street NW.

There was also an article in the Washington Post about the sculptor

Sculptor Austin Weishel’s toughest critics have four legs, not two. And unlike most human critics, they can express their disapproval by lifting one of them.

Austin is a Colorado artist whose latest work was dedicated last week at Fifth and F streets NW. It depicts an arson dog — that’s a dog that helps detect arson fires, not one that sets them — gazing longingly up at his handler.

Before it was unveiled here, the National Fire Dog Monument went on a cross-country tour, going on display in eight cities over 15 days. The life-size bronze figures were on a wooden base. When the tour was done, Austin noticed that the wood was criss-crossed with odd striations: scratches left by dog claws when owners pulled back their curious canines.

He considers it a success that dogs go up to sniff the bronze dog in his sculpture. His is certainly a hyper-realistic style.

“I want to put in every single stitch, make the eagle on the helmet and the badges on the collar as realistic as possible but still have artistic license,” said Austin, 24.

What’s remarkable is that Austin isn’t always capable of such detail in other parts of his life. He’s dyslexic and struggled in school.
I think this will turn into one of the hidden treasures in Washington. It certainly impressed me.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

An Apology from Metro

Well who would have believed this would have ever happened. An apology from Metro on the horrible "service" this last week.

Here's a little of said apology:

I know that the rail service provided in the last week has been bad for Red Line riders.  Delays for customers have been unacceptably long, inconvenient and frustrating. Today I spent several hours with senior leaders of the rail operating and maintenance team to get a full understanding of what went wrong and what we must do better.

Unacceptably long is an under statement. You can also add the ridiculous scheduling during the Veteran's Day holiday to that list as well.

This from an article in the Post:
Red Line riders said the problems on Wednesday and Thursday problems came on top of complaints about service on Monday. Anticipating that there would be fewer commuters because of the Veterans Day holiday, Metro reduced the number of trains. The result, some riders said, were packed trains, crowded platforms and longer commutes for those who were working. Orange Line riders had similar complaints.

A little more from the apology:
While communications have improved, we are taking further steps to enhance onboard announcements that will culminate with new technology on the new rail cars arriving next year.
Here's the problem I have with that. I have heard this same song for literally decades. We're going to do a better job communicating with the riders. The problem is they've never been able to do this. It seems to be beyond their understanding that when something like this happens they need to communicate with the rider what is going on. And time and time again they fail miserably at this.

 Next year something similar will happen and we'll hear the same excuses and promises. And the time after that and the time after that. I don't see it ever changing.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Metro Does It Again

I'd like to say I'm surprised but I'm not after what has happened this last week. 

Yet again problems on Metro.  I'm stuck at DuPont Circle because some sort of cable has fallen onto the tracks near the station. They are working to solve the problem. 

I went to my spinning class this morning. I figured out what train I would have to take to get to the new office on time after the class. I was pretty proud of myself. I got onto the platform at Farragut North in time to get the train I needed. 

But now this. 

I have to say this is getting really old. 

Reminds me of the slogan I thought up for them once: Always expect delays. They certainly are living up to that. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thinking About Last Week’s Election Results

Chris Christie won big. Really really big (no pun intended). He launched his presidential campaign so everyone said every where in pundit land. He would pose a huge problem for the Democrats in 2016 (never mind that we still have no idea who the Democrats will nominate or for that matter the Republicans). Why a problem for the Democrats you ask? Because Christie did really well among women (a group that Republicans are having a hard time with). He did really well among Hispanics. He did really well among blacks. (You have to view this in the spectrum of most Republicans doing unbelievably bad with these last two groups.) He even attracted Democrats. Thus Democrats should be quaking in their collective boots come 2016. Perhaps just a small reality check might be in order here.

I will agree to all of the above. But let’s add just a teeny tiny bit of perspective. He can attract women voters and they would vote in a Republican primary. He can attract Hispanics but I don’t see them voting in droves in Republican primaries. (Something about the way Republicans talk about immigration turns Hispanics off. Who knew?) I can’t see all that many blacks voting in Republican primaries. Democrats can’t see them voting in Republican primaries at all because in most states they can’t vote in them.

So in a general election Mr. Christie does indeed seem extremely formidable. But he has to get the nomination first. He has to get past the Tea Party and Mr. Cruz and Mr. Paul. In other words, he has a long way to go. The Tea Party is already going after Christie. They are going after main stream Republicans with a vengeance. Promising to primary the “moderates” of the party if they don’t cow tow to the Tea Party line.

The punditry all say that the Tea Party is loosing its place in the Republican Party. That main stream Republicans are taking them on (this is based on one primary election in Alabama). What a bunch of BS. If anything the Tea Party is doubling down. What happened in Virginia is a perfect example.

Rather than take away that they lost in Virginia because of the extreme positions of the candidates running there and that a moderate (again take them term with a grain of salt because we’re comparing Christie to the Tea Party) won in New Jersey, the Tea Party says it needs to fight harder. According to the Tea Party, they lost in Virginia not because Cuccinelli was a bad candidate but because main stream Republicans refused to support him with money. Further that these main stream Republicans wanted Cuccinelli  to loose. And then this looney tune idea was put forward, the American people spoke against Obama Care in the Virginia election. Showing that Republicans should do everything and anything to make sure Obama Care is repealed. This is after all what the results in Virginia show. Well, if that was the case, shouldn’t the Republicans have won in Virginia instead of the Democrats. But then again logic has never been the Tea Party’s strong suit.

What last Tuesday does show is that moderates of either party have a good chance of winning general elections. But the ideologues of either party who run for office have problems expanding beyond their base. That’s the lesson the Republicans should take from last Tuesday. The problem is per usual the Tea Party refuses to recognize what happened.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Another Fail By Metro

I knew there would be a modified schedule due to the Veterans' Day Holiday. I just didn't realize how screwed up it would be.

Once again some sort of track problem. This would be the third time in four days. You know you're in for a long commute when there isn't a train listed on the next train sign. And three trains service the platform going in the other direction. 

After about 20 minutes a train showed up. Only problem it is only going as far as Farragut North. 

And that means when a train finally does show up it will be completely filled. 

Wow Metro you sure know how to screw people over. But then again the goal of Metro seems to be to inconvenience as many people as often as possible without letting them know what's going on. 

If so you guys get an A+. 

Friday, November 08, 2013

A Commute From Hell — A Metro Epic Fail

I'm one of the first people to point out when Metro does what it is supposed to do. When things work. The prime example is the efficiency of getting people home after Nationals' games.

However, when Metro fails, it is usually on an epic scale and yesterday certainly was that.

I could tell something was wrong even before I passed the fare gates. The platform at Rhode Island Avenue was full of people. Never a good sign. When I got on to the platform sure enough there were delays in both directions.

A friend texted me saying that there was a track problem by Union Station. The suggestion was to take the Green Line to Gallery Place. In order for me to do this I would have to go to the Fort Totten station and then transfer to the Green Line. The problem was there were no trains running in either direction. It was like this for about ten minutes until, finally, a train pulled in going in the direction of Glenmont.

This train would get me up to the Green Line. I decided to take it. It seemed, at first, like a good idea. When I got to the Brookland stop, there was a train going into the city. It was sitting on the platform with its doors open filling up with people. This made me feel good about my decision.

Got to Fort Totten. Got to the platform for the Green Line trains. I just missed a train but still was feeling good about this. In a few minutes another train came along. I was in without much problem and actually got a seat. So far so good.

That's when my luck rain out.

The platforms at Gallery Place were completely filled with people. I don't think I've ever seen so many people on the platforms at that stop. And I'm talking about both platforms. It was just crazy.

I made my way down and decided to head toward the front of the platform thinking there would be fewer people there. Fewer being a relative term here. I finally made it to the front and hoped for the best.

As I said there was a track problem at Union Station. I checked the Washington Post using there ap on my phone to see if they had any information on what was going on. They did. A story said delays continued. That people should expect a 12-15 minute delay. Well I'd waited for 15 minutes at Rhode Island Avenue for a train. I started to get a little annoyed at this point.

As we all waited for a train, the platform continued to fill and fill and fill. Finally a train arrived. It was of course full of people. Hardly anyone was able to get on to it. There was an announcement from the train driver that there was a train directly behind this one and not to overcrowd the train.

Turns out there was no train directly behind him. The next train was about five minutes away. It too was completely filled. There was one more behind it but few people could get on it. Our side of the tracks had had its quota of trains and now trains were running in the other direction.

The platform continued to fill with people. I finally decided this was nuts. I was going to exit this station and walk to Farrragut North. In generally the number of people on a train goes down dramatically at that station.

First thing I had to do was get out of Gallery Place. That proved to be more difficult than I thought. I headed for the escalator. At one point I was stopped. People could not move in either direction. One person decided to push their way through and almost knocked someone on to the tracks.

Finally people started moving. I was able to get out of Gallery Place. No problems getting to Farrragut North. I missed the first train but was able to get on the second. By the time it reached DuPont Circle, I was able to sit down.

I left my house at 7:40 I got to my office at 9:20. It should have taken me about 45 minutes.

Once again there were few if any announcements. These came mostly from the train operators. Nothing over the loud speakers in the stations. Well I take that back there could have been an announcement at Gallery Place but the speaker that was right above my head wasn't working.

I realize things like this can happen. They happen way too often as far as I'm concerned. But once again Metro seemed incapable of telling people what the hell was going on.

Hopefully today will be a little bit better.

The platform at Gallery Place

Here you can see both platforms and see just how crowded the train is.

The platform on the left was the one I was on. You can understand why I left the station.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

It's Linus

Here's is a very cute picture of Linus. He is sunning himself. He loves me to open the front door and put a chair there so he can lie in the morning sun.

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like . . .

Yes, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas. In fact it has for a while now. Right after Labor Day all the Halloween stuff went up. But there was also Christmas stuff up as well.

What surprised me was how quickly all of the Halloween items in stores disappeared the next day. I think the Giant food store was the only place that had Halloween candy at half price. Just about everywhere else I went (and I'm talking about the next day) all the candy was gone.

It was of course replaced with Christmas candy. And of course decorations.

So there's a little of what's available right now to buy.

I'm a huge Peanuts fan but really buy the Charlie Brown tree.

Don't the last two things (I don't know how else to refer to them) get you in the Christmas mood. Nothing says Christmas more than a wreath of garish ornaments. And that silver fake tree just puts me in the holiday mood.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Fall Arrives in Washington

Some of the spectacular fall color around my house.

I had an interesting Sunday morning. I heard a loud pop outside. I got out of bed to discover I had no electricity. Went out to see how much of the neighborhood was out and saw a deer walking up 10th Street.

A very interesting way to start a Sunday.