Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inside the Jefferson Memorial

I had a few difficulties logging in today. Please accept this cell phone snap shot of Jefferson as my humble apology for the late post.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Among the Books: National Book Fest 2011

Every fall, the Library of Congress, along with the President and First Lady, hosts the National Book Festival on the Mall. This festival makes me so happy, happy to be a DC resident, happy to be a "book person," happy to be an American, happy to be alive. Just happy. At any time that I get upset and cranky because no one reads anymore, or no one appreciates the written word, or the neighborhood kids are playing on my law, I think of the National Book Festival, when thousands of people converge on the National Mall to celebrate books and reading and the writers that give voice to our dreams, desires, fears, and imaginations. Families attend together, bringing their tiny bookworms to story time or a concert in the children's tent, their tweens holding a skateboard under one arm, a book under the other. Parents stand in line to get their favorite books signed by the author and take a few quick snapshots. People attend with friends too, but mine were all indisposed, so I went alone this year.

This year I came for Garrison Keillor, host of Prairie Home Companion, which is as much a part of Americana as baseball and bluegrass. Though the theme of this year's festival was "Reading Out Loud," Keillor showed his chops as a performer by reciting lengthy poems, some his own, some written by others. Most of the time, he watched the sign-language interpreter, often stopping to say things like, "Show me beer-drinking" again. He then proceeded to recite poems such as "To Pee, to Piss, to Take a Leak," a decidedly un-highbrow poem in a long tradition of bawdy verse. (Ever read Chaucer?) The audience roared with laughter, not just at Keillor's eloquent prepubescent boy humor, but also at the performance of the interpreter as she signed "men aim up at the stars." When the applause finally died down, Keillor launched into a poem about sperm.

Most of the writers at the National Book Festival are just that--writers. Many of them don't do so well with crowds, or with reading their work aloud. Poets seem to have an easier time at this because they're sensitive to the cadence and aurality of language. Keillor, however, is all performer. He spoke, told stories, recited poems, and even sang songs. All that was missing was The Guy's All Star Shoe Band.

Michael Dirda, book critic for the Washington Post, introduced Keillor, and I may have been just as excited to see him as I was to see many of the award-winning authors.

Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet (1994), Yusef Komunyakaa is certainly one of those poets who recognize that poetry doesn't have to be a solitary experience, reading aloud poems about his experiences growing up in the south, the Civil Rights movement, and the Vietnam War.

PS. Just as a little side note, if you're interested in what I was doing while I was out of the District, you can check out my other blog, On Meandering.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Was I Saying?

Dan Rather

You may remember that I recently promised more about my visit to the National Press Building. Here are a few pictures I took from a special Kalb Report on "Anchoring 9/11." The panel, hosted as always by Marvin Kalb, included Charlie Gibson, Britt Hume, Dan Rather, and Frank Sesno. Of all the 9/11 memorials and events that were held in DC, NYC, Pennsylvania, and around the country--even around the world, this was probably the only one that could be considered "enjoyable." Most of the television specials seemed to be a mix of morbidity and sensationalism. The Kalb Report took a deeper look at how the media dealt with the events at the time, and how journalism changed in the decade that followed.

Marvin Kalb

To share some of my favorite moments of the evening...Charlie Gibson talked about how he and Diane Sawyer were anchoring Good Morning America on 9/11 and made a pact that if one of them broke down on air, the other one had to take over. They both felt an obligation and responsibility to be a voice of not only information, but also reassurance and comfort to America. On a complete different note, Charlie Gibson is hilarious. He seems completely good natured, friendly, and funny. It was also great fun to watch his face twitch, politely smile, and obviously turn completely away from Britt Hume while Hume defended the journalistic integrity of Fox News.

Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson (l) and Britt Hume (r)

The other thing that I found really interesting throughout the course of the evening was the obvious generation gap on the stage. Marvin Kalb was the last journalist hired by Edward R. Morrow. Dan Rather quoted poets and philosophers on stage, referenced his time covering the Vietnam War, and sounded like the wise old sage of the group. Frank Sesno, on the other hand, talked about the technological changes--his iPhone, iPad, and Twitter addiction--that have developed since his days as CNN's Washington Bureau Chief.

Frank Sesno

Monday, September 26, 2011

Home Is the Sailor

Home from the Sea
And the hunter home from the hill.
--Robert Louis Stevenson

My little confession: I've actually been home for nearly a week. But among the many things I did in the UK--spoke at a conference, visited some museums, took 1000 pictures--I also managed to catch a nasty cold. My ears still pop and squeak every time I swallow. But, I'm not going to lie. It was all worth it, and I'll try to have a few pics up at On Meandering in a few days. It's good to be back in the District though, and of course...back to photoblogging the District. As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

See Ya Real Soon

I'm away for a few days, so I won't be posting while I'm gong, but I hope to make it up to you with a bijillion pictures of Oxford and tales of my booming success.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Music for a Rainy Day

I few weeks ago, I spent a blustery day wondering around Penn Quarter. It was one of those days where it couldn't decide if it wanted to rain. There'd be maybe a half hour of grey skies and heavy winds, followed immediately by half an hour of torrential rain. You could mark time by raining-not-raining cycles. I was taking a rare day off, so when I heard a trumpet echoing over the cutting wind, I just followed the sound until I found it. I went over between songs and spoke to the man, as he sat on his bucket, graciously thanking whomever dropped a few coins into his bag. It didn't really matter to him if some people dropped change or a dollar bill or two, while others passed by. He knew he was performing for the whole neighborhood. His lips were raw and blistered from hours spent playing his trumpet, even in inclement weather. "I just want to share my music," he said, in a husky voice reminiscent of Satchmo himself.

For the past few days, it's been raining so hard that most of the Mid-Atlantic to North East coast is just a sea. There's so much devastating flooding all around DC, and my heart goes out to everyone who has lost their homes, after several weeks of pounding from earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, and now flooding. Thankfully, my area of DC doesn't flood, but I could use a break from the rain. So I thought it might be appropriate to share a few mournful brass notes to get us all through the day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Near the Gardens

It's not every day that I get to post pics from the White House. Just every day this week.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Friday, September 2, 2011

I Want to Believe

Not the most awe-inspiring photo, or the most aesthetically pleasing building, for that matter, but I always get a kick out of walking by it, and I always hum the X-Files tune in my head.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Far from Picturesque

I mentioned the Reflecting Pool in yesterday's post. This is what it looks like right now. Forest would have had a harder time running through that.