Saturday, February 28, 2015

Still Life With Robin: Call It Spring

Photo by Michael Malak, public domain
via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

Yes, it’s true: Tomorrow, March 1, is the first day of spring.

“Oh no!” I hear you all object, “The first day of spring this year falls on March 20 -- the vernal equinox.”  You run to your wall calendar and point the date to see confirmation of what you believe to be true.  You Google it and that’s the answer that comes up:

But you haven’t won the argument yet! It’s spring on March 20 only if we’re talking about the “astronomical spring.” I’m talking about the traditional old English definition of spring, also called meterological spring (see: or climatological spring (see (  The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains all three terms well:

To me, March 1 is the better date, and here are my reasons:
  •  March 1 is a fixed date, while the equinox can float around the calendar, from the 20th to the 21st or 22nd and in some years, even the 23rd. This leads to a lot of unnecessary confusion, uncertainty, and even anxiety about when spring will arrive.
  • We all know flowers bloom in the spring, but there are plenty of types that bloom before March 20. If spring starts on March 1, there’s no anomaly to contend with – all those crocuses are indeed spring-blooming flowers!
  • Welcoming spring on March 1 takes nothing away from the Vernal Equinox. You can still mark that date as a special event -- which it is. So let’s not conflate that astronomical event with the start of the new season, and then we’ll have two distinct and equally worthy events to celebrate.
  • Starting seasons on the 1st leads to a nice, tidy division of the calendar into 4 seasons, each 3 months long, making for concise descriptions of the seasons, avoiding cumbersome calculations and pro-rating of 3 weeks of the month into this season and one week into that season – much better for bookkeeping.
  • By tomorrow the sub-freezing temperatures will have passed and we’ll be warming up all week, possibly hitting a high of 62 F on Wednesday ( Now that’s spring-like weather!
  •  And finally, most importantly, by March 1st we are really, really sick of winter, and are more than ready to call it spring. Let’s not delay by another it three weeks!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Get Out! - The Events Column

Photo by By Bonnachoven
via Wikimedia Commons
We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,800+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv
Thursday, February 26 at 7:30 PM, Talk by Atallah Shabazz, Ambassador-at-Large of Belize and daughter of slain civil rights activist Malcom X will speak on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of her father’s assassination. In the Theater of the Arts Auditorium of the University of the District of Columbia, 4200 Connecticut Avenue NW. Free but reservations requested at

Friday, February 27 at 10 AM, Memories of the Kids of Birmingham, 1963 - Speaker: Ann Jimerson. Tenleytown resident Ann Jimerson spent four years of her childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, during the early 1960s when her father, a minister, moved her family to Birmingham to participate in the civil rights movement. Her website,, collects first-person accounts from people, both black and white, who were children in Birmingham during those turbulent times. More info: At Wilson High School in the Library Media Center, 3950 Chesapeake St NW.

Saturday, February 28 from 10 AM - 2 PM, Janney Elementary School Book Sale. Fiction and nonfiction for children and adults, CDs, DVDs and more. Great bargains. At Janney Elementary, 4130 Albemarle Street NW.

Saturday, February 28 from 10:30 AM - 1:30 PM. Temple Sinai`s Annual Authors` Roundtable. This year participating authors are: Ruth Kassinger, author of A Garden of Marvels, Laura Lippman, author of Hush Hush, Naomi Harris Rosenblatt, author of Bless the Bitter and the Sweet: A Sabra Girl's Diary during the Last Days of British Rule and the Rebirth of Israel, and Lauren Francis-Sharma, author of Til the Well Runs Dry. Temple Sinai is at 3100 Military Road, NW.  Tickets $18 available at: More details at  

Saturday, February 28 at 1:30 PM, Steve Dryden, author of "Peirce Mill: Two Hundred Years in the Nation's Capital," will discuss the slaveholding legacy at Peirce Mill and what is known about the people who were freed when the District became the first jurisdiction below the Mason-Dixon Line to end slavery. Free. At Peirce Mill, 2401 Tilden Street NW,

Sunday, March 1 from 3 - 5 PM Anne Henninger lecture on espionage during the American Revolution. Free, but please rsvp to mayhugh2 @ verizon dot net. At Abner Cloud House on the C&O Canal at Canal and Reservoir Roads NW. The Colonial Dames of America will also be conducting free tours of Abner Cloud House, the oldest original building along the Canal, between 1 - 3 PM.

Sunday, March 1 from 5 - 7 PM, Leap Day Birthday Party, a celebration for everyone unlucky enough to be born in a leap year on February 29. What do people do if they’re born on a day that disappears from the calendar three out of four years in a row? They are forced to celebrate on the wrong day….but it’s not such a bad thing if they can get some public recognition of their plight. Now “leaplings” (that is indeed the correct term for those born on February 29 -- see and their families will be honored at a public birthday party and picnic to take place at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, where NPS rangers will sing Happy Birthday to You. Free cake and ice cream, but you must register and submit proof of your February 29 birthday at

Wednesday, March 4 at 4 PM, Purim Party at the Cleveland Park Library. Children ages 3 and up, come dressed up as a hero or a villain and listen to stories of princesses (and princes!) who rescue themselves and their communities. You will also get a chance to make your own paper crown.
Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW,

Wednesday, March 4 at 7:30 PM, "Civil War to Civil Rights: The Last Great Speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr." On the 150th anniversary of our sixteenth president’s second inaugural address, explore how the powerful words of Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., still speak to the polarizing divisions of our nation—and call today for a unified American identity. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews moderates this free panel discussion focusing on Lincoln’s address and King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. Presented by Ford’s Theatre and Washington National Cathedral. Free, but registration required at At Washington National Cathedral, Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenues NW. More info:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Still Life With Robin: Fill in the Movie Blanks - A Pre-Oscar Game

Carol M. Highsmith [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

In the run-up to the Academy Awards show, we’ve been fairly inundated with essays from critics arguing for their favorites. I’m as happy as anyone to play this game, and to make it more fun, I have put my argument for the Best Picture choice in the form of a fill-in-the-blank quiz. Here goes:

This year there are eight movies in contention for the Oscar for Best Picture – but as you will see from this fill-in-the-blank sentence below, seven of them are essentially the same movie, as long as you select the appropriate answer to fill in each element represented by a blank for each of the seven nominated films.

Great man _______1._______, who has an extraordinary talent for _______2._______, overcomes _______3._______, but despite his triumphs, still struggles with _______4.______ in the movie _______5._______.

Here are your scrambled choices:

1.  A. Alan Turing
     B. Stephen Hawking
     C. Martin Luther King
     D. Chris Kyle
     E. “Birdman” Riggan Thomson
     F. Drummer Andrew Neyman
     G. Lobby Boy Zero Moustapha

2.  A. marksmanship
     B. playing the drums
     C. cryptography
     D. hotel service
     E. cosmology
     F. acting
     G. leadership

3.  A. the limitations of a progressive disability
     B. the Nazis’ Enigma code
     C. his teacher’s cruelty
     D. his enemies on the battlefield
     E. dismissive people around him and his own self-doubts
     F. bigoted laws, officials, and mobs
     G. a series of cartoonish disasters, including being pursued by a relentless assassin

4.  A. society’s racial injustices
     B. society’s intolerance of homosexuality
     C. re-integration into civilian life
     D. his marriage(s)
     E. hallucinations, depression, suicidal impulses   
     F. the need to prove himself in front of an audience
     G. loneliness and longing for a departed time and style

5.  A. Selma
     B. Birdman
     C. Whiplash
     D. American Sniper
     E.. The Imitation Game
     F. The Theory of Everything
     G. The Grand Budapest Hotel

That leaves the one movie that is strikingly different from the others: Boyhood. It’s not about a great man; it’s about a fairly ordinary boy, with no outstanding abilities. Sure, he’s a good photographer but he’s no prodigy. He overcomes some commonplace challenges – his self-centered and childish parents, having to move a bunch of times, getting dumped by a girlfriend for a better looking lacrosse player. But there’s no triumph over anything….and not a whole hell of a lot of plot, either. The one thing that is strikingly different and really quite remarkable about the movie is that it was filmed over the course of 12 years with the same actors, starting when the main character, the boy, was just 6 years old. You get to see this child grow to just-on-the-cusp of manhood in the course of a mere two hours and 46 minutes. That is what makes it like no other movie experience ever, and why it is my choice for tomorrow night’s Best Picture.

However, I think it’s slightly more likely that the Academy will pick Birdman, on the premise that a bunch of people in the film industry will find the story of an aging actor trying to be taken seriously to be far more engaging than the undramatic life of a fairly typical kid growing up somewhere in Texas. Of course, I could be wrong and when it comes to the Oscars, I frequently am. The real fun comes when they open that envelope and say, “The Oscar goes to….”


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Get Out! - The Events Column

We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,800+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv

Thursday, February 19,  6:30 PM, Bolling v. Sharpe: 60th Anniversary Panel Discussion. Join us for a moderated panel discussion on the 1954 Supreme Court decision Bolling v. Sharpe and its legacy 60 years later on the DC public school system. For some quick background on this landmark civil rights case about equal access to quality education, see Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, corner of Connecticut and Macomb Street,

Friday, February 20 at 10 AM, Buds Story Time at Casey Trees Hill Center. Buds is a tree-focused story time aimed toward an audience of toddlers and preschoolers (2 - 4 years). The story time will feature 3 - 4 tree and environment focused books interspersed with songs and a craft project. Each family will leave with a list of seasonally appropriate “scavenger hunt items” to track down while exploring the Hill Center on their own after the Buds program has concluded.  Instructors: Priscilla Plumb, Youth Programs Manager, Casey Trees, ISA Certified Arborist. Buds will be held in the Art room of the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, 2 blocks east of the Eastern Market Metro. Free but registration required:

Saturday, February 21 at 10 AM. The Rhodes Tavern Troubadours perform toe-tapping, award-winning, original roots rock for the whole family, including “Snack Time” and “Turn it Up, Mommy.” At the Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Ave. NW. Tickets $7 - $9 at 

Saturday, February 21 at 12:30 PM. Carillon Recital Carillonneur Edward Nassor performs Preludio No. 7 in G major by Flemish composer Mathias van den Gheyn. At Washington National Cathedral, Wisconsin & Massachusetts Avenues, best heard from the Bishop’s Garden area. Free.

Saturday, February 21 at 6 PM, Washington Is For Wusses - A Talk and Hands-on Demonstration on the Real Way to Deal With Snow, presented by Boston snow removal contractor Bob Parker (pronounced Pahka). Mr. Parker has flown in from Boston to coach DC-area homeowners on the right way to shovel a walk, clean off a car, use a snowblower, break off icicles from gutters, or apply salt -- all done with endless sarcasm directed at the usual level of panic Washingtonians habitually exhibit in the face of laughably small levels of snowfall. Please note: This talk will be cancelled in the event of 2 or more inches of snow. For more information on Boston’s take on snowfall in Washington, see To check on the time and place of this event, and whether or not it’s still on in if Saturday’s snow sprinkles arrive as expected, see

Sunday February 22 from 2 - 4 PM, Chinese New Year Parade, featuring the traditional Chinese Dragon Dance, Kung Fu demonstrations, live music, and much more. Take Metro to Gallery Place/Chinatown. Parade goes along H and 7th Streets,

Monday, February 23 at 12:30 PM, Smart Growth: Off the Rails. A discussion of the pros and cons of streetcars, buses and the steps to achieve a mixed-use, walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented community. At the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. 202-272-2448. $10 non-members, free for members. Registration required:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Still Life With Robin: Name That Storm, Redux

Photo by Paul Jerry via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

This is the third year that The Weather Channel has put forth a list of names for the snowstorms of the season. The first time they did this, in the winter of 2012-2013, I joined a worldwide chorus of voices led by the top scientists at the National Weather Service and the media mavens over at Accuweather (the Weather Channel’s chief competitor) to decry this action – but not for any of the very sound reasons given by professional meteorologists (such as the lack of consistent criteria to distinguish a snowstorm worth naming from one that will remain unnamed); it was simply that I didn’t like the sound of the names picked by the people at The Weather Channel. Like Freyr, the Norse God of Sunshine, for heaven’s sake! Or Orko, who, according to Wikipedia, is “a fictional character from the Masters of the Universe franchise….not part of the original toy collection on which the show is based, but...created by the show's writers as a comic relief.” Then there was Q -- as in Avenue Q, the Broadway puppet/live musical. And Yogi, as in Bear. Way too many of the names on the list were inapt, cartoonish, or just plain dumb. That, to me, was the most objectionable thing (see my Oct 6, 2012 comments at  

When the second year of storm-naming produced an even sillier-sounding list, I doubled down on my objections in a complaint found here:

But at the start of the 2014-2015 winter storm season, I didn’t think I’d need to give the subject a third airing. It just didn’t appear on my radar as the winter storm season got underway. Nobody outside of The Weather Channel seemed to be latching onto the practice, in any event. So it seemed as if it might just fade away.

Then the weather turned, and some whopper storms came through, and suddenly, all kinds of people were calling them by those Weather Channel names. By the time we got to the middle of the alphabet, I was hearing about Winter Storm Juno all over the place, not just on the Weather Channel. The phenomenon was big enough to be noted in Nate Silver’s statistical blog, 538 -- though the commentator, Harry Enten, was just looking for some way to make it stop. As the article pointed out, using the name is still far from majority practice, but it’s definitely on the upswing from previous years. While it may not yet have reached a tipping point in usage by news organizations, it’s spreading rapidly among amateur weather followers on Twitter. It’s easy to see why it would catch on there: You can type a Tweet about a blizzard so much faster when you can reference it by name, e.g., hashtag Juno. Once you’ve named it, it’s no longer necessary to identify it by region, date, or storm-track. That’s a big deal in a medium that restricts you to 140 characters.

So now, seeing the utility of the practice in new media, I’m ready to embrace it – greatly assisted by the much-improved list of names announced by the Weather Channel's storm-naming team this winter. It seems to give credence to a couple of old sayings, “Practice makes perfect,” and “Third time’s the charm.” As I write this, we are coming up on Winter Storm Neptune – not a bad name for a weather phenomenon that can roil the seas, believed by the ancient Romans to be controlled by the fierce and unforgiving god Neptune.

Here are all 26 names of the 2014-2015 list ( put forth by the Weather Channel, followed by my brief comment:

Astro. Not off to a good start, for those of us who remember Astro as the Jetsons’ dog. With this name The Weather Channel immediately recalls the kinds of names that made their two previous years’ choices so laughable.

Bozeman. It’s a town in Montana, well known for deep snows – and a perfectly suitable name for a blizzard.

Cato. An ancient Roman statesman/writer/philosopher….or a present-day libertarian think-tank. If you use the think-tank as your reference, then think of all the chaos that would result if federal disaster aid didn’t exist for blizzard victims.

Damon. Known from an ancient Greek tale of a man willing to bet his life on his friend’s loyalty and honor. Perhaps the “willing to face death” aspect of the story is the part that serves as the link to dangerous weather ahead.

Eris. The Goddess of Discord, the one who got the ball rolling (or apple rolling) for the Trojan War. Good choice for a name of a destructive force of nature.

Frona. Short form of Sofronia, a character in a 16th Century Italian epic poem called Jerusalem Delivered. Sofronia is a Christian maiden willing to sacrifice her life to save the Christians of Jerusalem from massacre during the Crusades. While the setting may be far from wintry, the action seems stormy enough.

Gorgon. A snake-haired monster. Not bad… Any famous monster’s name works well for a winter storm.

Hektor. The Trojan warrior slain by Achilles. Just as any monster’s name would work, so would any famous warrior’s name.

Iola. Greek, for violet-colored dawn. Hard to see how wintry white ice imagery fits in with that, but it’s still better than “Rosy” or “Sunny.”

Juno. Wife of Zeus, known for her jealous rages. The imagery works for me.

Kari. From the Greek name Makarios, meaning "blessed" or "happy". But also suggestive of the Stephen King character “Carrie” who could throw objects around with her mind.

Linus. Possibly the worst one on this list. Forget Greek mythology. You know as well as I do that if you hear the name Linus, all you can conjure up is the image of that little kid from Peanuts, the one who can’t go anywhere without his security blanket.

Marcus. A Roman name formed from Mars, Mars, the god of war. Excellent name.

Neptune. The Roman god of the sea – fearsome in its winter rages.

Octavia. As you know if you’ve read or watched I, Claudius, the relatives and descendants of Octavian (Caesar Augustus) were a ruthless, power-mad bunch – and so their names lend themselves well to wintry blasts.

Pandora. In Greek mythology, a character who loosed trouble on the world when she opened that box and let all the bad stuff fly out.

Quantum. Perhaps because the phrase “quantum mechanics” makes most of us think of the atomic bomb? OK, it’s hard to come up with Q names. The trouble with this one is that “Quantum” just isn’t a name.

Remus. In Roman legend, Remus and his brother Romulus were raised by a she-wolf, although now the name more often calls to mind the kindly, folksy story teller of the Uncle Remus fables – so not the a great choice.

Sparta. Greek city-state that was the principal enemy of Athens during the Peloponnesian War. Fierce, unyielding, etc.

Thor. From Scandinavian mythology, god of thunder and rain. This is the best of the bunch.

Ultima. Feminine form of the Latin ultimus, meaning last, or furthest. Well, it sounds more like the name of a luxury car, but again, you’ve got the problem of a paucity of U names, so let’s accept it and move on to….

Venus. From Roman mythology, the goddess of love. As we know on this Valentine’s Day, love can be turbulent and dump a whole lot of trouble on you if you’re not careful.

Wolf. Whether the pack-hunting canine or the hyperventilating CNN anchor, either way a purveyor of dread.

Xander. A short form of Alexander, as in “the Great” – the conqueror, war-maker, bringer of destruction.

Yuli. Russian for Julius. Putting a Russian spin on the name of the noble Roman Julius Caesar adds that Cold War chill to it.

Zelus. From Greek mythology, the personification of rivalry, jealousy, or zeal – all qualities associated with storminess.

To sum up this year’s batch: Eight are good to excellent names; twelve are adequate /acceptable; and just six are so bad they should have been reconsidered. We will revisit this subject next year and see if The Weather Channel will continue to improve its game.


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Get Out! - The Events Column

Grover Cleveland, Photo by
Frederick Gutekunst, Library of Congress
We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,800+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv

Thursday, February 12 at 7 PM, “Literature of the English Speaking World” Discussion Series continues with  “Runaway,” by Alice Munro (Canada). The facilitator is Professor Phil Burnham of George Mason University. About this session: The Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 2013, Alice Munro is the anchor to our series. In a collection set in Ontario about the lives of restless girls and women, our concluding text brings us back to North America with stories that, while set in a place closer to home, are exquisite and extraordinary in their own right. The Book Discussion Series is free and open to all -- you don't have to be a member of the Friends of the Library or have gone to any of the previous discussions to attend but you do need to register -- please call the library at 202 282-3072. More info:

Friday, February 13 at 4 PM, Valentine's Day Crafts. We will make bookmarks and 3-D heart ornaments.This program is for children of all ages. Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW,

Saturday, February 14 from 11:30 AM - 3 PM, Chinese New Year Family Festival. Welcome the Year of the Sheep with an afternoon of fun, featuring craft activities with the Confucius Institute, a reading corner with the DC Public Library, puppet performances by the Shaanxi Folk Arts Group, calligraphy demonstrations by John Wang, traditional dance performances by the Fairfax Chinese Dance Troupe, and much more.  Get there early to see the Lion Parade around the building (weather permitting) by the Young Han Lion Dance Troupe, followed by an Awakening Ceremony to start the festivities. Free. In the Kogod Courtyard of the Smithsonian American Art Museum at 8th and G Streets NW. More info:

Saturday, February 14 at 7 PM, Bassappella: The Art of Solo Bass. Experience the full spectrum of electric bass in this Valentine’s themed spectacular featuring music from Bach to Daft Punk and U2. Performed by Levine faculty artists Christopher Brown, electric bass and Manny Arciniega, percussion. Special $10 tickets for members of the Cleveland Park listserv with the promo code “CPFriends” during  online registration at or $20 at the door. Location: Levine Music, 2801 Upton Street NW.  

Sunday, February 15 at 4 PM,  Planetarium program: “Under African Skies.” Sure we know about the stars and constellations in the northern hemisphere, but below the horizon each night in the southern hemisphere, there's a different view of space. Join a park ranger for a unique look at sub-Saharan Africa's night sky and star stories in honor of Black History Month. The African American "Night Sky to Freedom" will also be discussed. Recommended for ages 5 to adult. Free. At Rock Creek Nature Center, 5200 Glover Road NW. More info:

Sunday, 11 AM - 12 Noon, Georgetown Presidential Stroll. Come for a one-mile walk through Georgetown and see some of the historic spots connected with presidents, with a focus on George Washington in honor of his birthday. Meet at the Fountain at the Georgetown Waterfront Park (at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and K Street). We will walk rain or shine; remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring a bottle of water and dress appropriately for the weather. Free. More info:
Sunday, February 15 at 4 PM  the Gerdan Trio in Concert. The violin, guitar and tylynka (a shepherd's flute from the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine and Eastern Europe) are among a few of the instruments that will be featured as the Gerdan Trio presents a free concert. At Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, One Chevy Chase Circle NW (Connecticut Ave. between Patterson and Oliver Sts).

Monday, February 16 from 10 AM - 4 PM, Presidents’ Day Guided Tours of Woodrow Wilson’s House. Dust off your top hat and dig out your pince-nez: the President Woodrow Wilson House invites visitors of all ages to dress as their favorite President or First Lady on Presidents’ Day. Those showing up in costume will receive free admission. Regular admission fees to those not in costume: $5 - $10. Woodrow Wilson House is at 2340 St Street NW. More info:

Tuesday, February 17 at 12:30 PM, Pancake Races at the Washington National Cathedral. Join in the fun for the last day of frivolity before Lent as the Cathedral celebrates Mardi Gras with pancake races on Shrove Tuesday. Location: On the west front grounds of the Cathedral. Staff, school students, clergy, and others compete in races including the Gargoyle Gallop and the Satterlee Special, in attempts to win the grand prize of the Golden Skillet! Free and open to all. The cathedral is at Wisconsin & Massachusetts Avenues. More info:

Tuesday, February 17 at 4 PM, Chinese New Year Celebration at the Georgetown Library. 2015 is the year of the Goat! Help us ring in the Chinese New Year with stories, crafts, games and fun! This program is recommended for ages 5-12. Free. The Georgetown Library is at 3260 R Street NW,

Tuesday, February 17 at 4 PM, Mardi Gras Celebration. Come and make masks, enjoy music, and eat King Cake. We will show off our masks with a "second line" parade to music from the Big Easy. Free. At Tenley Friendship Library, 4450 Wisconsin Avenue, NW,

Wednesday, February 18 at 3 PM, The Great Combined Valentines/Presidents/MardiGras/
ChineseNewYear Parade will toss all the top February celebrations into a blender to create this crazy-mixed-up melange of marchers for many things. The parade will be headed by 44 costumed American Presidents (Grover Cleveland will be there twice, representing his two non-consecutive terms), who will toss out Valentine’s candy hearts to the crowd. They will be followed by a New Orleans band playing hot jazz on a float while bikini-clad beauty queens toss out Mardi Gras beads. Next comes the Chinese Lion Dancers celebrating the Chinese New Year of the Ram, also called the Year of the Goat or the Year of the Sheep, which is why there will be a herd of goats AND sheep, kept in line by a troop of talented sheepdogs, bringing up the rear. The Parade will start at the corner of J Street and District of Columbia Avenue, but since neither of these streets can be found on the map, you know this has to be the weekly fake event.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Still Life With Robin: Improving the Story

Photo by Steve Depolo
via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

The flap over NBC anchor Brian Williams’ inflated story telling has reminded me of a favorite story I used to hear from my aunt, who had a summer house in Old Saybrook, Connecticut. This one, unlike the Williams’ story, was not an especially newsworthy one, or even a significant one; but it was a story much improved in the telling by placing the narratorr at the center of the action.

Here’s how my aunt would tell it:

I was in line at the local ice cream parlor in Old Saybrook when who should come in but Katharine Hepburn! I knew she had a house nearby but I had never seen her in person before. Well, I didn’t want to seem star-struck, so I went ahead and ordered my ice-cream cone, trying to seem as cool and casual as I could – though I was really in awe of her. I paid for my cone while she ordered hers. Here my aunt affects a very creditable Katharine Hepburn voice, both classy and imperious: “I will have the rocky road  -- make it a double scoop.”  As she was waiting for the counter boy to make her ice cream I went to take a bite of mine, and suddenly realized I didn’t have it. I knew they had handed it to me, but what had I done with it? Katharine Hepburn turns to me, giving me this little grin, and says – pointing to my pocketbook, “You put it in theyah.” I opened my bag, and there was my ice cream cone, melting all over everything….”  I had to laugh – everyone in the shop was laughing, including Katharine Hepburn, but  of course I felt like a complete idiot!

I used to retell the story, myself, though, not as well as my aunt, and without the good Hepburn imitation. If anyone brought up Katharine Hepburn in conversation, I would say, You know, my aunt once ran into her in an ice cream parlor in Old Saybrook….” and I’d repeat the story. Until one day someone said to me, “You do realize that this story has been around the internet for years, and your aunt just appropriated it for herself.”

At first, I could not believe it. My serious-minded aunt, a professor of English, a trained classical pianist, on the boards of so many community organizations – spreading a false story! The whole encounter was so plausible, too. Katharine Hepburn did indeed have a house in Connecticut not far from my aunt's house in Old Saybrook. Yet a quick visit to showed me the whole apocryphal tale, in all its specifics, down to the flavor of the ice cream. Except for the celebrity at the heart of it. The movie star who caused the flustered woman to drop her ice-cream cone into her bag was not Katharine Hepburn. It was Robert Redford. Or Paul Newman. Or in some versions, Jack Nicholson. See:

This revelation came to me several years after my aunt had passed away – and has made me wonder what other great stories my aunt told in her life need to be questioned. Were they all embellished?

I’m not quite sure what the moral of this story is. Looking back on it, it seems to me there was little downside to my aunt’s fondness for this particular fabrication; I am sure she got a lot of pleasure from retelling the story with herself at the heart of it, and she certainly got a lot of laughs from others from the way she told it. Of course, it would all be very different had she been in the business of news reporting!


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland ParkListserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Get Out! - The Events Column

"Cello Closeup" photo through Wikimedia Commons
We wanted to share some events and activities that list members might be interested in. Have a great weekend -- and week beyond, too. If you know of an event that the 14,800+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv

Thursday, February 5 at 4 PM, Manga Madness. Interested in manga, anime and everything Japanese? Join us at the Tenley Library for a celebration of all things otaku. Read manga, watch anime, and have fun! Light refreshments will be served. Free. For ages 11-19. The Tenley Friendship Library is at 4450 Wisconsin Ave. NW.

Thursday, February 5 at 8 PM, “Put the ‘R’ Back in February” - A Linguistic Exercise Class. Are you one of those people who pronounce the second month of the year as “Feb-YOO-ary”? Did you know that you are pronouncing it incorrectly? While most dictionaries list the R-less form as an acceptable variant, those of us who enunciate carefully will say, “Feb-ROO-ary.” You can learn to do so in this intensive, single-session workshop. Come prepared to limber up your tongue. We will work through a series of exercises guaranteed to banish that barbaric “YOO” and turn February into the melodious month it tROOly was meant to be. And we will serve BREW, too -- or we would, if we were really putting on this event. But let’s not have a BROO-ha-ha about this week’s fake event. For more (real, not fake) information about the proper way to say February, see

Friday, February 6 at 1:15 PM, Friday Music Series presents Cellist Tobias Werner and Pianist Lura Johnson. This program includes Gaspar Cassado’s “Suite for solo cello”; Ludwig van Beethoven’s Variations "Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen" from Mozart's opera Die Zauberflöte for piano and cello; Robert Schumann’s “Fantasy pieces Op. 73 for cello and piano,” and Astor Piazzolla’s “Le Grand Tango” for cello and piano. Free. In McNeir Hall, New North Building at Georgetown University, 37th and O Streets NW. More info:

Saturday, February 7 from 10 AM - 5 PM, Celebrate “La Chandeleur” also known as “Crepe Day” at the Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens. Hillwood and Alliance Française de Washington invite families to celebrate this holiday in festive French fashion amidst Hillwood's spectacular gardens, magnificent mansion, and exquisite French treasures. Snack on a tasty treat of sweet crêpes. Hear classic French tales inspired by scenes from La Fontaine fables that are pictured on tapestries covering chairs from France displayed in the mansion. Explore Hillwood's French treasures through interactive, docent-led family-friendly gallery talks and a printed activity guide. Decorate a plate with fanciful designs and flourishes inspired by Hillwood's French Sèvres porcelain. Tickets, $5 - $18 include 3 crêpes per person - available online at

Saturday, February 7 from 11 AM - 1:30 PM, African-American History Hike, led by Rock Creek Park Volunteer Lisa Struckmeyer. Dress for a 2.5 -3 mile, moderate hike and pack a lunch if you like! Lisa will cover African American history broadly, for perspective, and specifically with regard to Rock Creek Park's only African American land owners, prior to government acquisition. Meet at Peirce Mill, Tilden Street at Beach Drive. More info:

Saturday, February 7 at 1 PM, Friends of the Cleveland Park Library Annual Meeting. Guest speakers: Richard Reyes-Gavilan, DCPL Executive Director; A new vision for DCPL & a renovated MLK Library. Jeff Bonvechio, DCPL Director of Capital Projects & Facilities Management. Update on the Cleveland Park branch re-build: When and for how long? Community input? Interim branch? Ask questions, offer suggestions. Free and open to all. In the first floor meeting room of the Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Sunday, February 8 from 3 - 7 PM, St. Patrick’s Day Parade Fundraiser and Sunday Fun Day at Kelly’s Irish Times Pub. Come celebrate Irish culture and help to support the 2015 parade by joining in on the food, fun, drinks, laughter, with drawings, prizes, live auctions, and live music by Pete Papageorge. More info at $5 donation suggested. Kelly’s Irish Times is at 14 F St NW.

Monday, February 9 at 4:30 PM, “Picturing America: The Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965.” This program aimed at children ages 6 and up will describe the struggles of African Americans to gain the vote in the South. We will analyze and interpret the photograph "Selma to Montgomery March for Voting Rights in 1965" by James Karales. We will read "This is the Dream" and "A Sweet Smell of Roses" and listen to recordings of "We Shall Overcome" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing."  Free. At the Petworth Library, 4200 Kansas Avenue NW. More info:

Tuesday, February 10 from 6 - 7:30 PM, “Know Your Sources: News Literacy and Media Framing,” a class led by Anastasia Kolobrodova as part of the DC Public Library and Knowledge Commons DC program. Where do you go to catch up on the world each morning? The Washington Post? Twitter? CNN? The media you consume is a choice, and these choices can sway your thoughts and attitudes toward current events. This class will cover recent research on media sources; explore the news landscape in America (traditional media vs. news startups vs. social media); and compare articles to see differences in coverage. Free, but reservations required at At the Mount Pleasant Library, 3160 16th St NW.

Tuesday, February 10,at 7 PM, “Is DC Still Chocolate City?” discussion moderated by author Natalie Hopkinson, with panelists Dan Silverman of, and Latoya Peterson, owner and editor of How will the District’s recent years of urban development and gentrification alter the racial, cultural, and political map of the city? This panel discussion is part of the District of Change Discussion Series, produced by former Slate editor David Plotz and author Hanna Rosin with support from the DC Public Library Foundation. Free but reservations at At the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library at 901 G St NW.

Wednesday, February 11 at 7 PM, Local author Kenneth Daigler will speak about his book “Spies, Patriots, and Traitors” which delves into the intelligence operations of the Revolutionary War. You may know about the battles and politics of our Founding Fathers, but do you know how they obtained vital information that helped lead to independence? Mr. Daigler is a retired CIA officer so he speaks both as a researcher and through the lens of a modern counterpart of the persons discussed.  Further, in conjunction with Black History Month, his talk will elucidate the little known role that Black Americans played in the intelligence efforts of our nascent country. Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, Connecticut Avenue and Macomb St NW,

Wednesday, February 11 at 7:30 PM, “Screen Issues: Taming the Electronic Monsters in Your Home.” Many kids, given the opportunity, would spend hours in front of a screen—whether on the computer, their smartphone, playing games with or chatting with friends, battling video games or passively watching television. Because they won’t set their own limits, parents need to do the job. Learn how to bring the screens under control and slowly allow your child to develop self-control with technology. Presented by Wendy Lubic of the Parent Encouragement Program, part of the The Wilson High School Mental Health Speaker Series.Free. In the library/media center of Wilson High School, 2950 Chesapeake St NW. More info:

Thursday, February 12 at 7 PM, Literature of the English-Speaking World series continues with “Literature of the English Speaking World” Discussion Series continues with  “Runaway,” by Alice Munro (Canada). The facilitator is Professor Phil Burnham of George Mason University. About this session: The Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 2013, Alice Munro is the anchor to our series. In a collection set in Ontario about the lives of restless girls and women, our concluding text brings us back to North America with stories that, while set in a place closer to home, are exquisite and extraordinary in their own right. The Book Discussion Series is free and open to all -- you don't have to be a member of the Friends of the Library or have gone to any of the previous discussions to attend but you do need to register -- please call the library at 202 282-3072. More info: