Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Update to Ice Cream Competition

Photos by Nicecream Factory
by Peggy Robin

Here's the outcome of the DC Scoop Best Ice Cream Competition at Union Market reported in this space yesterday. I urged everyone to turn out today and vote for Nicecream Factory. not solely out of familial self-interest (my daughter is part of the team) but also because it really is the best ice cream ... and the judges agreed! Nicecream WON the professional judging competition, beating out worthy competitiors such as Dolcezza Gelato (last year’s winner), Giffords, Dolci Gelato, and eleven others -- see https://www.facebook.com/nicecreamfactory.

For reasons not made clear at the time, the “people’s choice” voting was cancelled. So much for my push to get people to come out and vote on the grounds that we here in DC have too few opportunities express our will at the polls! Still, having professional chefs and foodies choose Nicecream was not a bad outcome!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Vote for the Best!

by Peggy Robin
Scoop from Nicecream Factory

Today’s column is out a day early to give everyone due notice of a great event – and an election – taking place tomorrow, Saturday from 1 PM – 4 PM at Union Market. It’s the great DC Scoop Ice Cream Giveaway and Competition, and you have a chance to cast your ballot -- and I urge you to take it. Here in DC we just don’t get enough chances to go to the polls and express our will. Sure, we can elect the members of the DC Council and Mayor, but the bills they pass and sign into law are all too easily overturned on Congressional whim – even the whim of a single representative (I’m talking about you, spoiler Congressman Andy Harris, R- Ocean City, MD, who single-handedly has put the kibosh on DC’s decriminalization of marijuana – see http://www.dcvote.org/news?mediaID=915 ).

So come out and vote for something that is your right to enjoy as a responsible consumer, without the worry that some meddlesome, self-aggrandizing politician from another state can take it away. Here’s the scoop on the event:

The 4th Annual DC Scoop on Saturday, July 19 from 1 – 4 PM
Union Market, 1309 5th St NE (Red Line Metro: NoMa/Gallaudet U./New York Ave)

Now we come to my true political agenda (as is usually the case with any campaign to get out the vote): I really want you to try the ice cream offered by one competitor, Nicecream Factory. It’s made by a new technology – flash-freezing with liquid nitrogen. The advantage to this method is that the ice cream is super fresh, made right in front of you. No long periods of churning as it freezes, mixing in air which dilutes the flavor. The ingredients --farm-fresh berries, or hand-stripped vanilla beans, or un-dyed pistachios– are added right before the ice cream freezes in a 60-second cloud of chill. When you get a spoonful a minute after it comes out of the mixer, you have never tasted ice cream so thick and creamy and packed with flavor. Here’s the Nicecream event notice on Facebook with additional info: https://www.facebook.com/events/1378964815722988/?ref=notif&notif_t=plan_user_invited.

So have a sample and make your choice – and I hope it will be Nicecream. And now I will let you in on the deeper reason for my unwavering support for this vote (beyond the case that it is indeed the best food innovation since the proverbially acclaimed sliced bread): Nicecream is the startup that employs my daughter as a “crafter” for the summer. But you have to trust me that I wouldn’t be calling for a Nicecream victory at the polls unless I truly believed it to be deserving of the number one spot…and I do!

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Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv, and on All Life Is Local, normally on Saturdays, with today as an exception.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Get Out! The Events Column


Rock Creek Park, photo by Thomas S. Mann
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 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @ fastmail.us.

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv
www.cleveland-park.com 



Thursday, July 17, 6 – 8 PM, “So, What Brought You Here?” A Conversation With The Artist. Join artist Judy Byron for a reception and vibrant conversation about cultural drifts and personal identity in the context of the exhibition, Continental Drift. At American University’s Katzen Art Museum, Massachusetts Avenue at Ward Circle. Free. More information at: https://www.facebook.com/events/289697601203586/ 

Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 7 PM, Author talk: Chesapeake Legends and Lore from the War of 1812. In the two hundred years following the War of 1812, the Chesapeake Campaign became romanticized in tall tales and local legends. In Baltimore, the defenders of Fort McHenry were reputedly rallied by a remarkably patriotic pet rooster. In Virginia, the only casualty in a raid on Cape Henry was reportedly the lighthouse keeper's smokehouse larder, while Admiral Cockburn was said to have supped by the light of the burning Federal buildings in Washington. Newspaper stories, ordinary citizens and even military personnel embellished events, and 200 years later, those embellishments have become regional lore. Join historian Ralph E. Eshelman as he searches for the history behind the legends of the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake. Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Ave NW, http://dclibrary.org/node/42894

Thursday, July 17 at 11:55 PM, Brew At the Zoo for Wiccans. The annual “Brew At the Zoo” Beer Fest may be sold out, but you can still enjoy real brew -- the kind that witches stir up in a giant cauldron at midnight under the moon -- at the first annual “Brew at the Zoo for Wiccans.” Come dressed as one of MacBeth’s “weird sisters” or come in your birthday suit or however you choose to celebrate this fusion of ancient Druidic rites and modern-day pagan festival. But don’t expect the Zoo staff to have a clue why you’re there -- or expect the Zoo gates to be open for this week’s extremely fake event.

Friday, July 18 at 1:00, 1:30, and 2 PM, Candyland at the Library! Play a life-size version of the famous board game. For ages 8 and older. Free Reservations required - please sign up at the Children's Desk or call 202-282-0021. More info: http://dclibrary.org/node/43472 

Saturday, July 19 from 10 AM - 12 PM, Rock Creek Park Ivy Removal. The Rock Creek Conservancy invites you to join in on the effort to save park trees from the chokehold of English ivy, an invasive vine that grows up tree trunks and will eventually weaken and kill the tree. Ivy cutting tools, gloves, and training on how to identify and cut English ivy will be provided. Ages 16 and up to use tools. Students can earn SSL hours, but please bring needed forms. Meet at the intersection of Park Road and Peirce Mill Road, NW. Dress for the weather but no sandals - wear boots or sneakers. Bring your own water bottles. Register at the Rock Creek Conservancy website: http://www.rockcreekconservancy.org/ 

Sunday, July 20 at 4 PM, President Lincoln and the Civil War Night Sky. Discover how President Lincoln and Civil War soldiers utilized the night sky during this Battle of Fort Stevens -- part of the 150th Anniversary Commemorative program series, led by Ranger Tony Linforth. Recommended for ages 7 to adult. Free. At the Rock Creek Park Nature Center, 5200 Glover Road NW, http://1.usa.gov/1zKxTH0 

Monday, July 21 at 7 PM, Preservation of Rock Creek Park. Historian Simone Monteleone will talk about how the Rock Creek Valley was protected from development as the city expanded during the 20th century. Rock Creek Park will celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2015. Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, corner of Connecticut Ave and Macomb St. http://dclibrary.org/node/42449 

Tuesday July 22 at 3 PM, Storyteller Donna Washington tells classic children’s tales including Rumpelstiltskin and Brer Rabbit, for ages 5-12. Free. At the Palisades Library, 4901 V St NW,
http://dclibrary.org/node/42995 

Tuesday, July 22 at 5:30 PM, The African American Heritage of Foggy Bottom, a walking tour led by cultural historian Bernard Demczuk. Free. Meet in Room 209 of the Multicultural Student Services Center of George Washington University, 2127 G St NW. Call 202-638-4183 to sign up.

All week long - the Capital Fringe Festival, https://www.capitalfringe.org/ continues through July 27, with hundreds of shows of all types -- drama, musicals, comedy, dance, improv, interactive, monologs, experimental theater -- you name it, it’s there, plus some things for which titles are inadequate. The listserv gives a special shout-out to The Goddess Diaries by local author Carol Campbell -- see http://bit.ly/WiD5Tt for more information.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Still Life With Robin: If You Build It, We Will Use It


Photo by Den Bosch (Netherlands)
via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

One of the great things about travel is seeing innovations other people have that we don’t…but could have if the idea could find backers and builders to make it happen here. Here are three things I’d like to see built in Washington DC – both practical and whimsical:

A bicycle-lift to help riders deal with  steep hills: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7j1PgmMbug8
Greater Greater Washington has made the case for importing this technology from Norway and putting it to use on steep slope of 15th Street, a popular route for bicycle commuters that could become even more popular if the uphill climb had an automated assist: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/23469/can-a-bike-escalator-help-riders-up-15th-streets-steep-hill/

While it would be useful for bikers to have help going up, this next idea makes the downhill side more fun – for pandas, that is:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=863000880396701.  We could start lobbying right now to have the National Zoo build this for Bao Bao. Why should our American panda grow up with fewer amenities than her cousins in China?

On the related topic of improvements to the Zoo, how about a way to make it easier for tourists who arrive by Metro to find their way to the Zoo entrance? It’s about a half mile from either the Woodley Park/Zoo Metro exit or the Cleveland Park Metro exit, and it’s not very clear when you exit the station, which way you should go. For tourists carrying backpacks or pushing strollers, it makes more sense to take the Metro to Cleveland Park and make the half-mile walk along a level sidewalk, but on the way back to the Metro, take the downhill route a half mile to Woodley Park. Right now there’s no source of transit information to convey these walking instructions to Zoogoers. The problem is similar to one that was solved in Japan by the creators of an “Augmented Reality” app called Penguin Navi, which shows the route to the Sunshine Aquarium in downtown Tokyo. Tourists on their way to the aquarium can turn on the app on their smartphone as they exit the subway, and simply follow the walking penguins on their screen as they lead the way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IK4-zPD_25U

Of course, anyone who created a National Zoo pedestrian app would not want to use penguins. Perhaps our Augmented Reality leader should be Rusty the Red Panda, who has already demonstrated his ability in real life to walk out of the Zoo and come back again: http://www.today.com/pets/welcome-home-rusty-runaway-red-panda-returns-exhibit-6C10592130

I’m sure there are many more enhancements, big as a bicycle lift or small as a virtual reality guide on a phone, that could be imported from overseas to improve life in the nation’s capital. If you’ve seen any good ones in your travels, by all means, let me know….

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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Get Out! - The Events Column

Photo of deer in Rock Creek Park by Thomas S. Mann
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 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @ fastmail.us.

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv
www.cleveland-park.com
  

Thursday, July 10 at 5 PM, March on the Brazilian Embassy to protest the obviously rigged results of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany played on Tuesday. Fans need to know: Were the players subject to brainwashing to make them believe the Germans were invincible? Or was there a blackmail plot to force them to throw the match? It is certain they could not have played that badly unless there was a conspiracy afoot! Rally to demand answers! Just don’t be surprised if a large mob fails to assemble, as this is the weekly fake event.

Thursday, July 10 at 7 PM, The State of Marriage Equality. Author and Brookings fellow Jonathan Rauch will discuss “Gay Marriage: Why It’s Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America,” at Southwest Library 900 Wesley Place SW.. http://dclibrary.org/node/42852 

Thursday, July 10 at 7 PM The Fort Reno Concert Series is back on! Tonight’s bands are Peanut Butter & Dave, Golden Looks, and Calavera Skull. Free. At Fort Reno Park at 40th and Chesapeake Streets. More info: http://fortreno.com  

Thursday, July 10 at 7 PM, A Year in Rock Creek Park -- The Wild Wooded Heart of Washington, DC. Book discussion with local author Melanie Choukas-Bradley. During her talk, Ms. Choukas-Bradley will highlight the capital city's historic and botanically diverse trees from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson's time to the present day, as well as share stunning visual images of trees through the seasons at the White House, Capitol, National Arboretum, Mount Vernon, Tidal Basin and other storied locations. Free. Chevy Chase Library, 5625 Connecticut Avenue NW. http://dclibrary.org/node/43010  

Friday, July 11 at 10:30 AM, “Reptiles Alive!” Get an exciting introduction to the world of reptiles. Learn snake secrets and laugh at lizard stories and turtle tales. Featured animals may include a boa constrictor, tortoise, exotic lizards and other amazing animals. For kids 5 - 12. Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW, http://dclibrary.org/node/42159 

Friday, July 11, workshops from 12:30 - 5 PM, 3-D Digital Printing. The DC Public Library’s Digital Commons program offers a demonstration and workshop on using a 3-D printer. Free. At the Georgetown Library, 3260 R Street NW. The program repeats on Saturday from 1:30 - 4:30 PM - check the website: http://dclibrary.org/node/43045 for times of the various workshops.

Friday, July 11 from 3 - 5 for kids, 5:30 - 8 PM for adults, Bastille Day Open House at Alliance Francaise, offering mini-classes, French placement tests, wine and cheese, music, and more. Activities for adults and children. Free. Alliance Francaise of Washington, 2142 Wyoming Avenue NW. http://www.francedc.org/Events/?id=266  

Friday, July 11 from 7 - 10 PM, An Evening of Jazz with the International Club of DC. Discover DC’s historic Dumbarton House while you enjoy the jazz club. The gardens and museum will also be open for an evening stroll. Cafe Bonaparte will be selling a selection sweet and savory crepes. Wine and champagne will be available for purchase from Tradewinds (Wine $6 per glass or 2 for $10, champagne $8) until 9:30pm. Water and other drinks will also be on sale. At Dumbarton House, 2715 Q Street NW. More event info and tickets, $20, at http://bit.ly/1xjn6Bk  

Saturday, July 12 at 10 AM, Story Time at the Police Station, featuring books and songs about the police and safety, presented by the librarians from the Chevy Chase Library.. Kids will meet a police officer and will get to sit in a police car. Free. At the Second District Police Station, 3320 Idaho Avenue NW. More info: http://dclibrary.org/node/42918  

Saturday, July 12, from 10 AM - 3 PM, The Annual Washington, DC Day of Archaeology Festival. Talk to archaeologists in person and learn about the science and art of doing archaeology. There will be engaging activities for children, including mock‐excavation, hands‐on artifact displays, crafts, and demonstrations. The archaeology of local prehistoric and historic inhabitants will also be featured. Enjoy live music, face painting, and visits from some of D.C.’s best food trucks! More info at: http://www.archaeologyincommunity.com. Free. At Fort Totten/ Fort Circle Park at the corner of Gallatin St. and South Dakota Ave. NE.

Saturday July 12 from 11 AM - 2 PM, Special Free Events at Peirce Mill, including children's games and activities, tours, videos, and demonstration of the waterwheel in operation. Food available for purchase from the Red Hook lobster truck. Free. Peirce Mill is in Rock Creek Park at Tilden St and Beach Drive. More info: www.peircemill-friends.org 

Saturday, July 12 from 2 -4 PM. Lloyd Pinchback book talk and signing. The DC Legendary Musicians, Inc. in partnership with the MLK Jr. Memorial Library’s Special Collections Department presents Lloyd Pinchback, DC Legendary Musician and author in a book talk and book signing of his latest book The Soul Searchers 1968 - 1978: A Decade of Memories. Learn about the early years of the band that dominated DC’s Go-Go music scene for over 30 years. Free. Location: The Martin Luther King, Jr. Library Black Studies Center, 901 G St NW, more info at http://dclibrary.org/node/43469  

Saturday, July 12 from 10 AM - 5 PM, The Annual French Festival at Hillwood, presented by the Alliance Francaise and Hillwood Museum. Live music and dance, plays, pantomimes, games, costumed players, and food, in celebration of France’s national day and Hillwood founder Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of French objets d’art. At Hillwood Estate, 4155 Linnean Ave NW. Tickets $18, $15 seniors, $12 Hillwood and Alliance Française members, $10 college students, $5 Children 6-18, free for children under 6 - at http://bit.ly/1kGhB7W

Sunday, July 13 from 5 - 6:30 PM, Patriotic Concert and Parade in the Park, presented by The Citizens Association of Georgetown, featuring Laura Tsaggaris and her band. Decorate your wagon, bike, trike, stroller and/or favorite four-legged friend for our patriotic parade to take place during half-time. In addition to great music, there will be a photo booth and prize give-away and free snow cones, free frisbees, free cupcakes and more. In Rose Park, 26th and O Streets NW. http://www.cagtown.org/content/concerts-kick-off  

Monday, July 14 at 6:30 PM, Author Talk: Chris Colfer, the award-winning actor and #1 New York Times best-selling author, hosts a Q&A and book signing of his new children's book, The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning, the third book in his The Land of Stories series at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, 901 G St. NW. Customers must have a numbered ticket to enter the signing line. Signing line tickets will be distributed by Politics & Prose Bookstore upon purchase of The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning. Fun for ages 7-12. Get tickets: http://bit.ly/1yUzrxE. Full details at http://dclibrary.org/node/43050.

Tuesday, July 15 from 11 AM - 12:30 PM, The Japanese Information and Cultural Center presents a Kamishibai “paper theater” with storytime and games for children, puzzles, and traditional toys from Japan. Free, but reservations required at http://conta.cc/1ng2Q0f. At the Japan Information and Culture Center, 1150 18th Street NW, Suite 100.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Independence Day(s)

Photo by Semnoz via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

My Fourth of July column may be a day late but let me make up for it by treating you to a fireworks display from a perspective you’ve never seen before. This video was shot from a camera mounted on a drone flying through the bursts in the sky. http://gearjunkie.com/drone-through-fireworks

While we celebrated the 238th birthday of our country yesterday, it’s worth remembering that not all guests at the party have been able to enjoy it in the same spirit – and this sobering lesson was perhaps most eloquently expressed in 1852 by Frederick Douglass in his speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? http://pages.uoregon.edu/mjdennis/courses/hst456_douglass.htm

More entertaining, though still dealing with issues that are serious at the core, is this video about what being an American means to those of us who live in something other than one of the 50 States. This 6:23 minute clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ASSOQDQvVLU educates us, not just about our own familiar plight of life without a vote in Congress here in DC but also covers the Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Marianas, plus a number of unincorporated, unorganized territories you probably never have heard of: Howland Island, Baker Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll, to name a few.

I try not to let DC’s lack of clout in Congress dampen my spirts for our national day. I just like fireworks too much. In fact, I’ll take any country’s celebratory day as a time as an excuse to light up the sky. During the first two weeks of July, oddly enough, there is a plethora of patriotic holidays for countries around the globe.  Take a look at the list:

Abkhazia                             July 4     1993       Liberation Day from Georgia.
Algeria                                July 5     1962       Independence from France.
Argentina                            July 9     1816       Independence from the Spanish Empire.
Bahamas                             July 10   1973       Independence from the United Kingdom.
Belarus                               July 3     1944       The liberation of Minsk during WWII.
Burundi                               July 1     1962       Independence from Belgium.
Canada                               July 1     1867       New Constitution creates Dominion of Canada
Cape Verde                          July 5     1975       Independence from Portugal.
Comoros                              July 6     1975       Independence from France.
France                                July 14   1789        French Revolution begins with fall of the Bastille.
Malawi                                July 6     1964       Independence from the United Kingdom.
Rwanda                               July 1     1962       Independence from Belgium.
São Tomé & Príncipe              July 12   1975       Independence from Portugal.
Solomon Islands                    July 7     1978       Independence from the UK.           
Somalia                               July 1     1960       Formation of the Somali Republic.
South Sudan                        July 9     2011       Independence from Sudan in 2011.
USA                                    July 4     1776       Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.
Venezuela                            July 5     1811       Declaration of independence from Spain.

[Credit: Wikipedia: http://bit.ly/1tP9wCf]

The first two weeks of July comprise just 3.8 percent of the year (14 days divided by 365 days), and yet 18 out of 196 countries, or 9.1 percent of all countries, have their independence day during that time period – which is to say, almost 2 and a half times the number of national days in that time as would be predicted by chance. Why is July such a popular time for national days? Perhaps because more revolutions are sparked during the heat of the summer when tempers tend to flare and people are more restive? Or it could be nothing more than a statistical anomaly, a number without a cause. Have I given some history Ph.D. candidate a research topic?

If I’ve piqued your curiosity, you might like to view this map of national days around the world, as shown on the website Vox: http://www.vox.com/2014/7/3/5867599/heres-a-map-of-other-countries-versions-of-4th-of-july. If you read the accompanying article, you will learn the answer to the bonus question: What two countries do not have a national day?  To all the rest, Happy National Day [Country], whenever that may be!

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

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

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 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at (events @ fastmail.us.

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv
www.cleveland-park.com  


Thursday, July 3 at 4 PM, Storytime in French for children of all ages and skill levels. Free. At the Cleveland Park Library at the corner of Connecticut Avenue and Macomb Street. More info: http://dclibrary.org/node/39169  

Friday, July 4 at 11 AM, Organ Recital at the Washington Cathedral, an annual Independence Day event, featuring Christopher Betts and Benjamin Straley, organists, with Washington Symphonic Brass and the US Navy Sea Chanters, hosted by the presenter of American Public Media’s Pipedreams, Michael Barone. Free. The Cathedral is at Wisconsin and Massachusetts Avenues. More information at: http://bit.ly/1mLAKoQ  

Friday, July 4, starting at 11 AM, Palisades Annual 4th of July Parade, including bagpipers, drummers, Caribbean dancers, vintage cars, decorated bicycles, horses, politicians throwing out beads and candy, and everything else you might want in a parade. Free. The parade starts at the corner of Whitehaven Parkway and MacArthur Blvd and ends at the Palisades Rec Center at Sherier and Dana Place. All you need to know is at http://bit.ly/1pYfVKE.

Saturday, July 5 from 11 AM - 5 PM, DC Meet Market is putting on a summer cookout party featuring a live art installation, BBQ by No Kings Collective, gelato from Dolcezza, root beer floats, live music, over 40 local vendors, and more. Free admission. At St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 15th and P Streets in the heart of Logan Circle. More info: http://www.dcmeetmarket.com/upcoming-events/  

Sunday, July 6 at 3 PM, Poetry Reading in Rock Creek Park. The Joaquin Miller Poetry Series features readings by James Allen Hall and Katherine E. Young. Free. At Rock Creek Park Nature Center, 5200 Glover Road NW, http://www.wordworksdc.com/miller_cabin.html#schedule  

Monday, July 7 at 7 PM, Know Your Alphabetical Streets. DDOT present a seminar on DC’s Street Naming System. You know that east-west running streets are named for letters of the alphabet, and you may also know the names of most or all of the two-syllable streets -- or at least the ones in Cleveland Park: Macomb, Newark, Ordway, Porter, et. al. After Yuma St, there’s the three syllable alphabet beginning with Albemarle, Brandywine, Chesapeake. But do you know the flower and plant alphabeticals? This fascinating 90 minute class will teach you some memory tips so you can rattle off all the streets in order, even those like Van Ness and Veazey, with two for the same initial letter. Plus you’ll learn why there’s no Xenon or Zebra Street. This event takes place at 2100 J Street NW, which you won’t be able to find because it doesn’t exist...and because this is weekly fake event.

Tuesday, July 8 from 2 - 4 PM, Iona Senior Services presents the first in the “Live Well in DC” series of seminars. Representatives from the Office of Tenant Advocacy will launch the series with a presentation on rental housing, legal rights, and how to live cost effectively in DC through rental assistance. This talk will help guide your future housing decisions and cut costs. Free, but reservations suggested. At Iona Senior Service Center, 4125 Albemarle St NW, see: http://bit.ly/1rZgbuh  

Wednesday, July 9 at 3 PM, Fizz, Boom Wednesdays! Participate in a science experiment, activity, or craft on alternating Wednesday afternoons at the library. Ages 5 and up. Free. At the Palisades Library, 4901 V St. NW, http://dclibrary.org/node/42982  

Thursday, July 10 at 3:30 PM, Duct Tape Designs. Children will make wallets, pens and more out of duct tape of all colors and patterns. For ages 6-12. Free. At Georgetown Library, 3260 R St NW. More info: http://dclibrary.org/node/43156  

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Where Have All the Real Books Gone?

Photo by Mattes (public domain) via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

I know there are many advantages to e-books: You can take hundreds of them with you when you travel. There are gazillions of public domain titles that you can download for free. If you’re reading a mystery and you start to wonder if the author had previously referred to a particular piece of evidence, you can search for the word and come up with it instantly. And when you are sitting on a plane and you’re engrossed in the autobiography of some controversial political figure, you don’t have to worry that the fanatic in the seat next to you will lean over and start a long harangue about how that socialist has ruined America. Or you can lose yourself in a weepy romance on the subway and no one will blurt out, “Oh, I loved that book…and I cried buckets when XXX died!”

On the other hand, living in a world of e-books can put one at a peculiar disadvantage -- one that I encountered for the first time, a short while ago. We were at a dinner party at the home of some acquaintances who, now that their children have grown, had sold their rambling old suburban house and moved into a small, chic, downtown apartment. In the process of downsizing, they had given away or sold almost all of their once-extensive library of books. All the titles that are most important to them, all the books that they would want to re-read, they have retained in the form of e-books. Giving up paper books has given them more wall space to work with, but it takes away something, too: it makes it much harder for new people to get to know them. Normally, I would walk into someone’s house and absorb so much important information about who they are, just by seeing what they read, what books they have kept over the years. If they’re the kind of people who save and display the books they’ve loved throughout their lives, I would practically have a whole biography in front of me -- from what they read as small children on up to the latest novel  they’ve finished. I would see their coffee table books about the places they’ve visited and loved and most want to remember. There would be well-thumbed and marked-up classics kept from the literature classes they took in college or even high school. I would note the how-to books on hobbies and interests. If they’re the type to buy self-help or advice books, I might even get a glimpse of the challenges they’ve faced in life.

With e-book collectors, though, there’s a large blank – or maybe some multi-colored wall hangings – where those all-revealing bookcases might have been. When a library becomes entirely private, locked away inside a password-protected electronic device, instead of taking up physical space in a room – or multiple rooms in a house – it’s as if the owner of those e-books is wearing a mask over the face. You have to work much harder at getting to know someone when you can’t see what they read.

If I want to get to know this couple better – and I definitely do – I will have to invite them over sometime. They can see all the books I still have lining the shelves of most rooms, and I hope that will start a lively conversation and perhaps reveal some mutual interests that we did not discover through our visit to their book-lessly spare new apartment. I may even lend them something to read … a nice way to continue a budding friendship, as we will meet again when the book is returned. I know there are some e-books that can be “loaned” electronically, but that just isn’t the same as handing over the hardback that you took with you to the mountains, or the dog-eared paperback that you found in the used bookshop in an alley in Brattleboro, Vermont. Physical books have their own personality, too, and when physical books pass back and forth between people, they can affect the relationship in ways that e-books just don’t seem able to do. Well, that’s my theory. We’ll have to see how it plays out in real life.

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