Friday, November 28, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Yet Another Holiday Gift Guide

Image from Yarn Graphics
via Mashable's 15 Weird Knit Gifts
by Peggy Robin

At this kickoff weekend of the holiday shopping season, you are bound to find gift guides everywhere you look. Before I head out to do my holiday shopping, I'm copying and pasting together this hasty column with a quartet of these lists that I hope you will find, um, if not entirely practical, then perhaps diverting. Here they are:

This first list is labeled "31 Life Changing Useful Gadgets," I'd say that's stretching things a bit, but at least a couple of these items do seem to solve an annoying problem of modern life, especially #24, The Trakdot Luggage Tracker -- that is, if it actually works as it claims to do.

List number two advertises itself as "Practical Yet Clever Gifts That Are Anything But Lame." If you go around calling attention to your cleverness as opposed to your lameness, you are bound to provoke people to argue the reverse. See what you think:"Clever" might well apply to the roll-up keyboard (#15), useful to computer-users on the go, and the same might be said for the swivel tray that fits into the car's cup holder (#28). But who needs a single-soda-can refrigerator that's also a USB port? (#17) It's not exactly lame....just superfluous. 

Many of the gifts on list number three fall into the category of "You gotta see these to believe 'em" -- -- a category which when combined with funny cats and porn, may comprise up to 90 percent of what's on the internet. Actually, two of the gifts on this list, #6 Kitty Socks and #28 Kitten Mini Skirt, are funny cat things, covering two categories at once. However, quite a few of the things -- most notably #15 Runny Nose Soap Dispenser and #23 "Crafting with Cat Hair" book -- could only be given to someone you would like to annoy so much that he/she will never want to do a gift exchange with you again.

Getting even more whimsical and impractical is the fourth and last of my list of gift lists, Weird Gifts That Knitters Can MakeUnfortunately, (well, on second thought, fortunately) there are no links to the patterns to create any of these oddities. That's too bad, because if you know people with pet turtles, they might really, really appreciate #8, the turtle shell sweater. On the other hand, if you know anyone who upon receiving #11, the scary knit clown mask, is happy to have it, perhaps consider a call in to an anonymous FBI tip line. 

I have one more list to share with you, but it isn't a gift guide. It's a list of "life hacker" tips. (You know about "life hacker" tips? They're those simple things you can do that are supposed to make life easier -- like how to fold fitted sheets perfectly and quickly each time. People love to post these kinds of lists on their Facebook page or Tweet them to their friends. This list is absolutely without question the BEST life hacker list I have ever seen; it's so good that after you have seen it, if you've ever recommended a life hacker list to your friends, you will feel relieved of the urge ever to do so again.  


Still Life With Robin is usually published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays. This one's a day early because it's a busy holiday weekend.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Still LIfe With Robin: The Theory of Movie Seating

Black hole illustration by NASA, public domain
by Peggy Robin

I had my first experience with reserved-seating at a movie theater, and (groaner alert) I have my reservations about it.

We went to see TheTheory of Everything at the Bethesda Row Cinema. Due to a massive traffic jam inside the Bethesda municipal parking garage, we arrived at the theatre much later than we’d planned, but fortunately, the show was not sold out. There were a still a few seats left in the first and second rows – so we were told by the box office clerk. She showed us a seating chart and asked us to pick the two seats we wanted. We selected the two center-most in the second row, paid, and got two tickets with our assigned seat numbers.  It was no different, now that I think of it, from getting seats for a live theater performance. I understand this has been the practice in Britain at the movies (or cinema, as they say) for quite some time now. That doesn’t make it a good idea, however.

Here are three downsides, as I see it:

First, when you have assigned movie theater seats, buying tickets takes a good deal longer and is far more of a hassle. I know, because I buy live theater seats online at least a few times a year – and it can be a time-consuming , even stressful process. You have to find the seating chart and check over what’s available, and make a choice, all while a ticket timer clocks your progress, counting down the time you have left. At some point it says, ominously, “you have three minutes left to complete this purchase.” Going to the theater is a big deal. It costs up to ten times as much as going to the movies, so this type of pressure is perhaps to be expected from such a costly outing. But going to the movies is supposed to be a more casual thing, something everyone can do, quickly and easily. It’s not supposed to be such a big deal.  Why make it one?

Second, you want to be able to change seats if you need to. What if the person in front of you is yakking non-stop to a seat mate? In a non-reserved theater, if the show isn’t sold out, you just pick yourself up and relocate to an empty seat. But in a reserved-seating arrangement, someone may come in late with a ticket for that seat. There’s enough competition in life over tightly controlled spaces without introducing more of it into what was once the escapist world of the movies.

My third point is about FREEDOM! (you are supposed to hear echoes of Mel Gibson charging when you read this). When you have assigned movie seats, you can’t make the kind of judgments you expect to be able to make over your personal movements. It’s a question of autonomy, which, in a free society, we are supposed to want to maximize as much as possible. When you have free choice of all the available seats, you walk into a theater and you get to assess the situation, according to your own sense of priorities and values. You can survey the layout of the theater, see if there are groups of teenagers and avoid them, or look for short people to sit behind, or put into play whatever personal strategies and preferences you have developed over the course of your life so far. You can look for people who don’t eat popcorn. You can stay away from people who play with their cellphones during the previews. You give up on all that when you are limited to your an assigned seat.

I’ve now been mulling this over for a while, but I just can’t think of any upsides, any reason that assigned seating would confer on movie-goers any advantage. You can already buy tickets online if you want to be assured that the show is not sold out. You can already plan to get there early if you are intent upon sitting in any particular section of the theater. Of course, it could be that I am not open-minded enough to recognize the advantages, and once I have more experience with the system, I will broaden my view. I expect I will get more experiences soon enough, as I predict this system will quickly spread to other theaters and eventually take over them all.  I hope I am wrong, but we’ll have to see about that.

One other prediction I am prepared to make right now: Eddie Redmayne will win the Oscar for Best Actor for The Theory of Everything. We’ll find out about that on February 22. 2015.

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

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Get Out! - The Events Column

Photo by Jon Harder (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 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv

Thursday, November 20 at 6 PM, The 41st Annual Conference on DC Historical Studies presents the Letitia Woods Brown Lecture by Professor Richard Striner, architectural historian and preservationist, on the successful campaigns to save the Art Deco Greyhound Terminal in downtown DC and the Silver Theater in downtown Silver Spring. $25 donation suggested. At the Historical Society of Washington, Carnegie Library, 801 K Street NW. Complete schedule of all conference events (November 20 - 23) at:; tickets for all conference events at

Friday, November 21, showtimes at "Food Chains," is a feature length documentary co-produced by Eva Longoria and Eric Schlosser (producer of Food, Inc. and author of Fast Food Nation) and narrated by Forest Whitaker, focused on the struggle of farmworkers against exploitation, hunger, and abuse in the supermarket industry. RSVP on the Facebook to get live schedule updates: After seeing the film, join the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and DC Fair Food for a Saturday evening vigil at Foggy Bottom Metro (Nov. 22 at 6 PM) to call on fast food giant Wendy's to join the Fair Food Program. The film is showing at the AMC West End (2301 M St NW), and will feature panels including members of CIW and DC Fair Food.

Friday, November 21 from 7 - 9 PM, Humanitini Happy Hour presents “Washington 101: An Introduction to the Nation’s Capital,” showcasing the first textbook devoted to DC history. The authors will discuss DC as national capital and local city, and the role of architecture, memory, race, and community in shaping its distinct identity. Humanitini: is the official after-party of the DC Historical Studies Conference. Free, but reservations required at In the Cullen Room at Busboys & Poets, 1025 5th Street NW. For more info:

Saturday, November 22 at 10:30 AM, Traveling Writers Workshop presented by the DC Poetry Project, followed by an open mic poetry reading. The Writers Workshop: The semi-structured writers workshop will meet from 10:30 - 11:45 AM and will be facilitated by DCPP organizers, members and other special guests. The workshop focuses on developing personal meaning in the writing process and strongly emphasizes process over final product. The Poetry Reading: The open mic for all begins at 12 noon. The doors and sign-up lists open promptly at 11:45 AM. Please come to share or just to listen and have fun! Poems may be on any subject, and you may read more than one, but we ask that you keep your time on the mic to three minutes. The open mic will go for as long as we have participants or until 1:30 PM.The program will regularly feature local, regional and national poets. Free. At Tenley-Friendship Library, 4450 Wisconsin Avenue NW,

Saturday, November 22 at 1 PM, The Kennedys of Georgetown Walking Tour, presented by Dumbarton House. Join Dwane Starlin, member of the Guild of Professional Tour Guides, for this delightful meander through Georgetown. Discover the homes and neighborhood spots frequented by President Kennedy and Jackie during their years in Washington. See where the couple became engaged, their Georgetown home, and where Jackie stayed after JFK's assassination in 1963. 2 hour tour. Comfy walking shoes a must! Meet at the corner of Q and 27th Streets, NW (by the garden gates). Tour starts at 1 PM sharp, rain or shine. Tickets $15 - Cash or check or prepaid via Eventbrite at Reservations not required.

Saturday, November 22 at 4 PM, Panel Discussion: Sculpture in an Expanding Field - New Perspectives in Sculpture and Installation at Katzen AU Museum. Join the Washington Sculptors Group as they examine the ever-expanding definition of sculpture in a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Elizabeth Tebow. This event is free and open to the public. At the Katzen Arts Center, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW. More info:

Sunday November 23 from 9 AM - 3 PM, Temple Sinai’s Holiday Fair. Homemade food, gifts, 30+ vendors, women’s clothing, jewelry, yarn. Children can do crafts while adults shop. Free. At Temple Sinai, 3100 Military Road NW. More info:

Sunday, November 23 at 1 PM, “North by Northwest” Walking Tour. The neighborhoods around the present Russian Embassy on Upper Wisconsin Avenue have a rich history of espionage involving well-known and little known personalities. Who was the beautiful young analyst in the Department of Justice who captured the fancy of the American public and the press? Was her motivation love or was it treachery? What is the background of the "tunnel" under the present Russian Embassy? Where and why was it dug? This walking tour will explore these areas, and will discuss stories of espionage and intriguing personalities involving the embassies, the apartments, and the restaurants of the area, and even the Washington National Cathedral. Note: This tour involves considerable uphill walking. Tickets $15 per person. No reservations needed - just show up at the park on the southeast corner of Massachusetts and Wisconsin Avenues, NW.

Sunday November 23 at 2 PM. “Thankful Turkey.” Celebrate Thanksgiving with Family Story Time and Crafts. Free. At the Georgetown Library, 3260 R Street NW. More info:

Sunday, November 23 at 4 PM, Local naturalist Melanie Choukas-Bradley speaks about her new book, A Year in Rock Creek Park: The Wild, Wooded Heart of Washington, DC. Her adventures during her year in the Park included canoeing under the Beltway to follow Rock Creek from the Potomac River to its source 33 miles upstream. Former U.S. Park ranger Scott Einberger will set the historical backdrop for Choukas-Bradley’s nature journey by recalling the establishment of Rock Creek Park in 1890, its purposely picturesque layout, and some of the notables who have enjoyed its trails and thickets. Einberger is the author of the recent book, A History of Rock Creek Park: Wilderness and Washington, DC” Both books will be available for sale (checks or cash only) and signing after the illustrated lecture, which is the Fall Lecture of the Chevy Chase Historical Society. Free and open to all. At the Jane E. Lawton Community Center, formerly the Leland Center, at 4301 Willow Lane in the Town of Chevy Chase. Refreshments will be served.

Monday, November 24 at 6 PM, Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier will speak about her experiences policing the nation’s capital. Presented by the American University Office of Community Relations and the Kennedy Political Union. Free, but reservations requested. In the Forman Theater, McKinley Building, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW,

Tuesday, November 25, starting at 4 PM, “Tuesday Is The New Black Friday: Holiday Door-Buster/Shop-a-palooza.” This year “Black Friday” --which used to start on the day after Thanksgiving but which, in recent years, has crept backwards to midnight at Thanksgiving’s end, and last year got going at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day-- is now set for the opening bell a full 48 hours BEFORE Thanksgiving, thanks to a collection of local merchants whose ultimate goal is to ring in the holiday shopping season on Labor Day. To see a list of stores whose doors will open for the annual Holiday Buying Stampede at 4 PM on Tuesday, go to To see a list of merchants who are sticking to Thanksgiving Day, go to: To see a list of moldering fuddy-duddies who are clinging to the literal-minded concept of “Black Friday” actually being on the Friday after Thanksgiving, based on some sort of outmoded, sentimental principle that their employees should be able to enjoy a national holiday at home with their families, go to:

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Still Life With Robin: Reason to Tweet

Photo by Faisal Akram via Wikimedia Commons
by Peggy Robin

When Twitter first became a thing (2006), I was not a fan. Having to confine your thoughts to 140 characters was too limiting – or so I thought. It would reduce communications to sloganeering, canned sentiments, and cliches. How could any form of expression stuck inside such a rigid box be anything other than shallow?

I have since come around, mainly because I came to see that Twitter isn’t about words: it’s about links, photos, and connections to other people and ideas. If you follow a Twitter member who is a journalist, you will receive links to that person’s articles – and they are often long, deep pieces. The “re-Tweet” of an article is an even more common in this form of social networking . A friend will read something that speaks to her --that contains new information, that takes on a current controversy from an unusual or intriguing point of view —and recommend it to others by re-Tweeting the author’s original Tweet. So I don’t need to follow the author to be alerted to the article; I just need to know someone who’s connected to that author. It’s the six-degrees-of-separation process on steroids. The 140 character limit forces the re-Tweeter to make the case in the most concise terms that clicking on the link will be worth the reader’s  time.  Because their introductory lines are so brief, Tweets are easy to scroll through in bulk. You just skip over anything that doesn’t immediately grab your attention. No one is ever offended if their Tweet is ignored.

Another thing I like about Twitter is that when you sign on, you don’t have to give much information about yourself or your connections. Unlike Facebook (whose members also use it to post links to articles they want others to read) you don’t have to worry about the company coming in and changing your privacy settings every other month without telling you.

So here I am, eight years late, jumping on the bandwagon. (Oops, did I type that cliché? Well, rather than edit it out I think I’ll keep it in to show it's just as easy to fall back on canned phrases in old media formats as in new ones.) I am particularly enthusiastic about Tweets that provide links to photos along with a news update. Right now the Twitter feed I am most likely to check is @unsuckdcmetro. It lets me know where and how the Metro is currently screwed up. On the practical side, this helps me plan trips; as an added bonus, it’s a frequent source of dark comedy.  A recent example:

Because I follow @washingtonpost on Twitter, I get links to articles/videos that may not make it into the paper – such as this Tweet with a link to a not-really-news video showing a local man’s encounter with a bear on election day: “Obedient bear is listening, open to taking directions from guy who tells it to scram”

DC Alerts @dcalerts is another steady source of updates on the local scene, tweeting on crime, water main breaks, road construction, emergency about a zillion other things that are really so limited in scope you have to wonder why they're in a city-wide alert system (example: on Wednesday, November 12 DCalerts told everyone of a “water outage on Bladensburg Rd NE between Douglass St and Channing St NE, impacting 7 businesses and a church.” 

But the beauty of this site is how easy it is to avoid looking at Tweets that don't interest you. Nothing is thrown in your face. You can always decide how much of anyone’s Twitter feed you want to see. You can un-follow, then re-follow anyone seamlessly, with a single click each time. You can go to someone’s feed without signing on to follow them, and if you have signed on to follow someone, you never have to go there if you don’t want to -- they'll never be the wiser. It’s everything Facebook is not: Quick, convenient, flexible, unobtrusive – a super-efficient way to get something across. And at times it delivers an unexpected little pay-off: a memorable picture you would not otherwise have seen; a funny line; a different take on something you thought you already knew. I leave you with these three Tweets from the past week:  

National Zoo ‏@NationalZoo: Orangutans get mental & physical fitness from the O-Line! Check out Kiko brachiating:#OrangutanCaringWeek 

GuinnessWorldRecords ‏@GWR (via @washingtonpost Did you miss it? Well, here's a roundup of all the awesome records broken on #GWRday this week   

…and without Twitter I would have totally missed the fact that it snowed in our area on Thursday:  Capital Weather Gang @capitalweather: Snow in Sterling!


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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Get Out! The Events Column

Photo by EliPatwood 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 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv

Thursday, November 13 at 6:30 PM, “See/Line,” a Red Line Project documentary about graffiti along the Red Line in Northeast DC. A question-and-answer period with director Saaret Yoseph will follow. Free. At the Takoma Park Library, 416 Cedar St NW.

Friday, November 14 at 6:30 PM, Oyster Adams Bilingual Book Fair Special Event: “Baseball Night at the Book Fair.“ Fred Frommer, OA parent and author of “You Gotta Have Heart: The History of Washington Baseball from 1859 to the 2012 National League East Champions” will be reading and signing books, preceded by Little League Players reciting the classic “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Visit for book fair dates and times and info on other special events.

Friday, November 14 from 5 - 7 PM and Saturday, November 15 from 3 - 5 PM, SoleilArt’s Art Open Housefeaturing artist Judith L. Smith's Bold Wall Expressions for Home, Retail and Corporate Spaces. Light refreshments. At General Scott Condominium, One Scott Circle NW #705, 2 blocks from Dupont Circle Metro. For more info call 202-234-4887 or visit

Saturday, November 15 from 9:30 AM – 12 noon, Geology Rocks: Two Different Walking Tours of Cleveland Park in One Day. The Tregaron Conservancy and the Cleveland Park Historical Society are proud to sponsor two free walking tours of the geology of Cleveland Park. Please register for the tours so we know to expect you; however this is not required! We plan to “rock”, so please wear comfortable shoes for walking. For “The Geology and Urban Hydrology of Klingle Creek: A Walking Tour of Cleveland Park’s Watershed” we will meet on 33rd Place in front of John Eaton School. The walk route is less than a mile long and most of it is downhill. The guide and map on this website shows the route and numbered points of interest. Followed by an afternoon walk at Tregaron. More info: RSVP for free tickets:

Saturday, November 15 from 10 AM - 4 PM, Palisades Library Celebrates 50 Years at the V St NW Location. Join us for Barefoot Puppets, Mark Greek from the Washingtoniana Room, the Sherier Mountain Boys, Palisades Community Band and more to commemorate our 50th anniversary on V Street NW. Library Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan along with Councilmember Mary Cheh, Friends of Palisades Library, and former Palisades librarians will share remarks beginning at 1:30 PM. See a 3-D printer in action and learn about other new technologies at the library. Giveaways, light refreshments, crafts, and fun until 4 PM. More info:

Saturday, November 15 at 11 AM, Oyster Adams Bilingual Book Fair Special Event: “Bilingual Storytime at the Book Fair” with local authors, Eileen Wasow presenting “Ana’s Day/ El día de Ana” and Frida Larios presenting “La Aldea que fue Sepultada por un Volcán en Erupción/The Village That Was Buried by an Erupting Volcano”. Both authors will read and sign books. Visit for book sale dates and times and info on other special events.

Saturday, November 15 at 5 PM, “The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace” Choral Concert by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, a benefit for homeless veterans. Light drinks and snacks will be provided. All proceeds benefiting Friendship Place, Free admission; suggested donation of $20 strongly encouraged.At Cleveland Park Congregational United Church of Christ, 3400 Lowell St. NW. For free tickets go to:

Saturday, November 15, 5 - 7 PM, Opening Reception: Kenneth Victor Young, Washington Color School Artist Rediscovered. The artist will be present. The exhibition will feature a retrospective of the artist’s paintings from the 1960s and 70s from museum and individual collections, as well as the artist’s private works. Kenneth Victor Young may be the most important rediscovery of a great talent from the Washington Color School of the 1960s and early '70s. Many of these paintings haven't been seen together since Young's show at Fisk University in 1973 and at the Corcoran Gallery in 1974. At Bethesda Fine Art, 5001 Wilson Lane 2nd floor, corner of Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda. More information at:

Sunday, November 16 from 9 AM - 1 PM, An Alternative Gift Fair will benefit families in need around the world, including in our local area, as well as in Africa, Central America, and the Middle East. Free. At St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, 3001 Wisconsin Avenue NW. More info:

Monday, November 17, all day, DC Government Appreciation Day. The DC Government has declared Monday, November 17 to be a holiday celebrating DC’s 40 years of Home Rule. All DC government offices will be closed and there will be a “Trash and Recycling Slide” in which city residents are asked to bring their bagged trash and recycling to the nearest city playground and drop it down the slide for pickup by city workers the following day. The Fort Totten Hazardous Waste and Shredding Facility will spend the morning making confetti out of shredded paper to be used in the afternoon at the the DC Government Appreciation Parade in front of the Wilson Building. Parking restrictions will not be enforced and all city speed/cams will be turned off. Reversible lanes will become a high-stakes game of chicken. For more information on government closings and traffic enforcement, go to You can also go to to check the holiday schedule changes, but you won’t find a word about DC Government Appreciation Day because this is the weekly fake event.

Tuesday, November 18 at 7:30 PM, “Stress, Drugs, School, and Other Teen Challenges,” a presentation by author and adolescent psychologist Neil Bernstein. Free. At the Media Center of Wilson High School Library, 3950 Chesapeake Street NW. For more info about Dr. Bernstein visit:

Tuesday, November 18 at 5:30 PM, The 37th Annual National Press Club Book Fair and Authors’ Night.Authors include: Maureen Corrigan, Matt Taibbi, James Webb, Mark Leibovich, Azar Nafisi, Gene Weingarten, and many others (see At the National Press Club, 529 14th Street NW. For tickets ($5 - $10) go to:

Wednesday, November 19 from 6 - 9 PM, “Politics & Art: A Jam Session in the Wilson Building”presented by Washington Performing Arts and At-Large Council Member David Grosso, featuring local bands SynchroniCity and the Roof Beams and dance ensemble SerendibDance. Free. At the John A. Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Wednesday, November 19 from 7 - 8:30 PM, The Books That Shaped America discussion series at American University features “Red Harvest” by Dashiell Hammett. This session is led by Erik Dussere, Associate Professor, Department of Literature. The Books That Shaped America series offers conversations for the American University and metro-DC communities about books that have helped shape American society. Each discussion starts with a focal text, but the conversations stretch far beyond the pages of the books themselves. Attendees are encouraged—but not required—to have read the featured text. Free and open to the community. You do not need to register and you do not need to have attended any previous sessions. In the Training & Events Room (115), Bender Library at the College of Arts & Sciences, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW. More info: 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Still Life With Robin: One Giant Leap Into the Future of Grocery Shopping?

by Peggy Robin

It was way back at the dawn of the Millennium (July, 2001 to be precise) that a plan was first announced to tear down the little Giant food store at Wisconsin and Newark and rebuild a big, new modern store on the spot. Now fast forward thirteen years…uh, no, I mean, creep-forward verrrry slowly the next thirteen years, through all kinds of setbacks and obstacles, protracted negotiations, court filings, financing snafus, traffic troubles, construction delays, and everything else that could get in the way, and we have finally arrived at Thursday’s Grand Opening, when everything at last seemed to come together in an event that was festive and fun. There was an in-store jazz band playing food-themed favorite songs. There were colored balloons, and free reusable grocery bags. Lots of tasty free food samples. Friendly Giant greeters and helpers in every aisle. We had the Mayor on hand, plus other notables, and lots of Giant executives looking justly proud. Everyone was smiling, everyone was shopping. There were aisles and aisles of things to buy, all enticingly laid out. What more could we ask for?

Actually, there is something. Not to sound ungrateful, but when I was thinking back over all the years that we waited for this store to become a reality, and all that went into making it happen, I have to say that I had come to believe, by the time the store opened, that it would be a lot more futuristic than it has turned out to be. I was struck, on opening day, at just how, well, standard-big-grocery-store this new Giant has turned out to be. How….Twentieth Century. The thing it most closely resembles is the big Westbard Giant in Bethesda. A nice store, to be sure, but something that’s been around forever. True, this new Giant has a wine & beer bar, and a Starbucks, and a fancy produce department with many types of exotic fruits I have not seen in other stores. But it in many more ways, it’s still basically the same old Giant, only a whole lot bigger, with wider aisles.

What was I expecting? I don’t know….but something, somehow high-tech-y,  with some amazing, innovative way to shop. Something better than the same age-old method of navigating the aisles with an unwieldy shopping cart, hunting for items, putting them in the basket, and then going through a long, slow check-out line. Here’s what I would really love to see in the store of the future (not that I have a sense of whether any of what follows is technologically feasible!): The shopping cart should be built along the lines of a Roomba, and controlled by a Smartphone app. First, you would use the Giant Shopping Cart app on your phone or computer to download your grocery shopping list, choosing your selections from what Giant shows to be in stock and on the shelves at that particular store. When you arrive at the store, you would transmit your list to the cart’s navigational system, which would then use its self-propelled motor to roam around the store, going to each shelf in the most efficient transit pattern, to retrieve each item on your list, using its automated grabber-arm to reel in the exact brand, size, and quantity you specified, at the same time keeping a running tally of the cost of the items so far. While your cart was on its mission, you would be relaxing at the wine bar, listening to the jazz quartet,  sipping your Chardonnay. When everything on the list has been checked off, the cart would return to you for inspection. Any items you did not want, you would simply remove from the cart for reshelving. If there were any items on the list that the cart failed to obtain, you would have the ability to walk over to that department or aisle and manually add a substitute product to the cart -- that is to say, you can still shop the old-fashioned way.

When you are ready to approve the whole cart-ful of items, you go to the pay app on your phone, hit “pay,” your credit card is charged, and that’s it – you’re done. No check-out line. You go straight to your car with your cart, put your groceries in the back, and drive off. And the cart, once it senses it’s empty, finds its own way back to the cart-bay for the next customer to use.

At some point in the above narrative, I’m sure some of you have wanted to interrupt: Why not just call PeaPod? The technology already exists to submit your shopping list online to the Giant’s popular delivery service, and you can get your groceries brought right to your door. Ah, but it’s not the same. It’s not a real-time shop, and there are just too many problems that you can’t correct until after the grocery delivery person has already left your house. First, you may not be able to schedule a delivery for the date and time you want. Then there’s that troublesome two-hour delivery window: whenever the truck arrives, you are going to have to drop whatever you are doing to let the person in and unload the groceries. You won’t see any mistakes in your order until you start putting your groceries away. Even if you are able to catch the drivers before he departs and send back any unwanted items, you still need to make a phone call to Giant to get your money back. All of these problems disappear when you have a programmable, self-driving shopping cart that you can control on-site.

That’s what I would call a suitable cart for a true 21st Century shopping experience. Will I have to wait another thirteen years for the pleasure? Giant, the ball is in your court.


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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Get Out! - The Events Column

Photo by The Culinary Geek (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 14,000+ members of the Cleveland Park Listserv should know about, email us at events @ .

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv  

Thursday, November 6 from 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM, Free Pie Tasting at the Slice of Life Thanksgiving Pie Sale from Food & Friends. Stop by for a bite and vote for Apple vs. Pumpkin Pie. The winner of our "In Pie We Crust" election will go on sale from 3 PM - 12 Midnight on Thursday. Your vote will enter you into a drawing to win a full Thanksgiving dinner for 4 plus 2 pies.  Location: Farragut Square (corner of 17th & K St, NW) You can also participate in the "In Pie We Crust" election on Twitter. Post about your favorite flavor and be sure to include @foodandfriends and #SliceofLifeDC. More info:

Thursday, November 6  at 6 PM, Art Deco in Washington and Baltimore, co-sponsored by Tenleytown Historical Society and Friends of the Tenley Friendship Library. Richard Striner, author of the recently released Washington and Baltimore Art Deco: A Design History of Neighboring Cities and an earlier book Washington Deco: Art Deco in the Nation’s Capital (1984) will share his considerable expertise on the subject. A founder of the Art Deco Society of Washington, Mr. Striner will touch on examples of the Art Deco style in our immediate area – including the Sears/BestBuy building in Tenleytown and the Pepco building in Friendship Heights, and will discuss his new book (not for sale at this event but available at a discount by calling 800-537-5487 and mentioning code NAF). Free. Tenley Friendship Library, 2nd floor. Corner of Wisconsin Ave.& Albemarle St NW.

Friday, November 7 at 7 PM, “Letters from War,” a Veterans Day Tribute, with readings of letters from Chapman University’s Center for American War Letters, and performances by “The President’s Own” Marine Chamber Orchestra and the National Cathedral Singers. Free and open to all, no reservations needed. The Cathedral is at Massachusetts & Wisconsin Avenues NW. More info:

Friday, November 7 from 11 AM - 9 PM and Saturday, November 8 from 10 AM - 4 PM: Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School’s annual Esprit de Noel Holiday Bazaar, featuring over 50 specialty boutiques, festive decorations, tasty treats, a moon bounce, car raffle, and lots of fun. Free. 1524 35th Street NW. More info:

Saturday, November 8 from 10 AM - 4 PM, Blessed Sacrament Holiday Bazaar -- a great neighborhood bazaar that benefits those in need. For kids: everybody wins game, plus fun car ride, candy guess, photo with Mr. & Mrs. Claus, and more! 25+ specialty vendors: jewelry, bath luxuries, scarves, bags, gifts, stationary, home goods, crafts, artisan goods, etc. Raffle baskets: iPad mini, money tree, Moms Day Out, $200 Macon Bistro Gift Certificate and more. Bake sale and delicious lunch from Panera Bread and Chick-fil-A. Huge used clothes and white elephant sale. At Blessed Sacrament, Western Ave & Quesada St NW.

Sunday, November 9 at 2 PM, Reception and Walking Tour for the Georgia Avenue Window Walk, a temporary public art project that engages residents, businesses and visitors to the community by placing art installations in storefront spaces along the lower Georgia Avenue corridor. Reception at 2 PM at 2608 Georgia Avenue NW; walking tour with artists and business owners starts at 3 PM. More info:; to read about the artists and installations, go to:

Monday, November 10 at 11 PM, “Art in Asphalt: The Beauty of Angled Lines.” Gain a whole new perspective on the simple, clean aesthetics of the parking lot as you view this curated exhibition composed entirely of images of large-scale open-air lots as seen, devoid of cars, from above. Staggered stalls, straight stalls, and angle-in rows, painted in vibrant shades of yellow or white will awaken you to the deeper meaning of the patterns you drive over and walk over every day without thinking. This gallery talk at American University’s Katzen Art Museum will include a tour of the museum’s underground lot after all the cars have gone for the day. So please park on the street. Free…unless you get a parking ticket. But that seems unlikely, as this is the weekly fake event.

Tuesday, November 11 at 7 PM, “Duct Tape Parenting: A Less Is More Approach to Raising Respectful, Responsible, and Resilient Kids.” Parent educator and author Vicki Hoefle speaks on hands-off approach to parenting with a focus on developing and deepening the relationship between parents and kids without anyone feeling like a doormat or a dictator. At Georgetown Day School, 4200 Davenport Street NW. Free. More info:

Tuesday, November 11 at 7:30 PM, Remembering Kristallnacht - Looking for Strangers: The Story of My Hidden Wartime Childhood. Holocaust survivor Dori Katz will share her story with at the annual Interfaith Kristallnacht Commemoration Service. Dr. Katz's talk is presented by Washington Hebrew Congregation’s  Amram Scholar Series in memory of the night in 1938 that the Nazis unleashed their first violent assault against Jews in Germany. Professor Katz was only two years old in 1942 when her father was arrested and sent to Auschwitz, and just three when her mother sent her to live, first for a year and a half with a Catholic family under a Christian identity, and then after a brief reunion, in an orphanage for nearly two years. She survived the horrors of the Holocaust hidden in plain sight. Co-sponsored by WHC, Annunciation Catholic Church, and St. Alban’s Parish. Free. At St. Alban’s Parish Church, 3001 Wisconsin Avenue NW. More info:

Wednesday, November 12 at 6:30 PM, Oyster Adams Bilingual Book Fair Special Event, "Animals at the Book Fair" with Walter the Critterdude and his Great-Horned Owl "Bubo" and 20 year-old Rat/Pine Snake "Gregory". Free. Visit for book sales dates and times and info on other special events.

Wednesday, November 12 at 7 PM, “Cannons For The Cause.” Martin R. Ganzglass speaks on his historical novel, set during the American Revolutionary War, which tells the story of a remarkable feat that helped end the hated eight-year British occupation of Boston; the 300-mile transport of 59 cannons, some weighing more than a ton, on wagons and sleds from Fort Ticonderoga, NY, to Cambridge, MA, during the brutally cold winter of 1775-1776. Free. At Tenley-Friendship Library, 4450 Wisconsin Avenue NW,

Wednesday, November 12 at 7 PM, Catherine Bell discusses her book, “Rush of Shadows.” World traveler, former Peace Corps. volunteer, and teacher Catherine Bell will be discussing her historical  novel, chronicling the violent clashes between pioneers and Indians in 1850s and 1860s California. Amidst the violence and greed of their people, two women, Mellie, a pioneer woman, and Bahé, an Indian, come to an unlikely understanding. Rush of Shadows is the winner of the 2014 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Fiction Prize. Location: Mt. Pleasant Library, 3160 16th St. NW, in the large meeting room on the main floor.

Thursday, November 13 at 7 PM. The Moor's Last Sigh, by Salman Rushdie, is the featured book for discussion in the Cleveland Park Library series "Literature of the English-Speaking World." The library has multiple copies of the book available for you to borrow. There is no cost to join the discussion series but please call  Cleveland Park Library at 202 282-3072 to register so that you can receive study questions from the facilitator in advance. Information about this series also appears on the Cleveland Park Library's web page About the book: The Moor's Last Sigh is vintage Rushdie -- fast-paced, allusive, stunning in detail, a saga of family feuding that spans generations and continents. Though not the best known of his work, it ranks with his finest fiction and won the Whitbread Prize in 1995. Free. At the Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, corner of Connecticut & Macomb.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Still Life With Robin: How to Enjoy an Election

by Peggy Robin

The election is just three days away but it seems like there’s about as much enthusiasm among the voters for these "midterms" as there is among college students for their midterm exams. (Want proof? Here’s a Gallup poll) Sure, there are always the hardcore political junkies who get hyped up over these contests, but for most of us, an election is mainly an endless parade of robocalls, a barrage of negative campaign ads on TV, mailboxes overflowing with junkmail political flyers, plus the occasional strangers showing up on our doorsteps on what otherwise might have been a quiet, restful Sunday afternoon.

I propose an escape from the constant election reality show that is at last coming to a close. I think you will find it much more amusing to watch a fictional election in movie format, and to that end, I put forth a full slate of contenders, all of which have been heartily endorsed by critics and the public alike. The five listed below are in alphabetical order, which you should try not to let influence you if you wish to rank them in your own order of preference – and I have also included a write-in line for whatever you think has been unfairly excluded. (Likely nominees are Bulworth, Primary Colors, Wag the Dog, The Contender, The Candidate, and Napoleon Dynamite, among others.)

□  The Best Man (1964). Gore Vidal wrote the screenplay to this drama about the behind the scenes maneuvering between political rivals, one a man of principle (Henry Fonda – who else?), the other a ruthless bastard (Cliff Robertson). This movie only gets better with age.  

□ Election (1999). The title race in this movie is a dirty-tricks-filled three-way fight for the presidency of a high school student council. And quite possibly the best movie portrait of a political schemer ever made. You need to see this movie so that you will get the reference when you hear a candidate in a real election compared to Tracy Flick. I’ll go further than that – you need to see this movie to gain insight into the soul of Richard Nixon. And some sympathy, too. 

□ Game Change (2012). Watching this movie about the McCain/Palin campaign is like getting into a time machine and going back to 2008 and reliving the whole frenetic ten-week period before the election in two short hours. Time flies when you’re watching others not having fun! 

□ The Ides of March (2011). Now that Beau Willimon, author of the original stage play Farragut North that George Clooney adapted to become this movie, has ascended to House of Cards glory, his connection to this somewhat neglected movie should help it attract the fans it deserves. It stars George Clooney, after all. And Ryan Gosling. And Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei,  Evan Rachel Wood, and Paul Giamatti. Tightly plotted, so atmospheric you can practically smell the ratty hotel carpets, fun to watch and a whole lot less time-consuming (at a mere 101 minutes) than 26 hour-long episodes of House of Cards.

□ The Manchurian Candidate. The mother of all conspiracy-driven election movie plots. I’m talking about the B&W 1964 version only – don’t waste your time on the 2004 remake. Try not to dwell on some of the casting decisions, either – such as the 36-year-old Angela Lansbury playing the mother of the character played by 33-year-old actor Laurence Harvey. They’re both so amazingly good in their roles, and you know that Lansbury will go on to reach the age of the roles she was playing and still come across as the shrewdest person in the room.  

□ Write-in choice: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­____________________________________________________.


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

Thursday, October 30, 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 @

Peggy Robin and Bill Adler
Publishers, Cleveland Park Listserv
Photo by Evan Sweigart
via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, October 30 at 6 PM, Halloween party with stories, music and a parade. Don’t forget to come dressed in your favorite costume! Free. At the Cleveland Park Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Friday, October 31 at 4 PM, Macomb Recreation Center hosts its 5th annual Halloween Haunted House(ages 12 and younger). Free. At 3409 Macomb Street NW. More info:

Friday, October 31 from 5 - 7 PM, The Chevy Chase Recreation Center’s first annual Halloween Masquerade Dog Show. Dogs (with their owners/families) will participate in a parade and "strut their stuff." Dogs will be judged in various categories and prizes will be given.Dogs must register with the site and can be registered the day of the dog show to select their entry categories. There will be Tricks and Treats for all! Contact: Gladys Shoatz, 202-727-7714. Free. At the Chevy Chase Recreation Center, 41st and Livingston Sts NW.

Friday, October 31 - For the complete list of Halloween parties, parades, and haunted houses at DC Recreation Centers, visit: 

Friday, October 31 at 5 PM, Rally to Promote Positive Images of Witches, Sorcerers, and Persons of Magical Proclivities. Every Halloween those tiresome old stereotypes get trotted out: Witches are warty, broom-riding hags; sorcerers are secretive and irresponsible with potions; ghosts and other persons of ectoplasm need to be barred from haunting or other manifestations that are part of their essential nature as spirits. This Halloween lend your voice to the growing movement to free society from these outmoded and harmful stereotypes and help to promote empowering self-imagery among the magically-abled. Rally begins at the Macomb Street Playground at 6 PM. This is the weekly fake event...sort of. The Macomb Street Playground’s Halloween event at 4 PM is real (see above).

Saturday, November 1, 8 AM - 3 PM. The United Methodist Women’s Annual Bazaar, Jewelry, Collectibles, Gifts, Housewares, Boutique Jackets and Accessories, Christmas and Handmade Items, Baked Goods, and Luncheon Cafe. Free admission. Plenty of free parking in the lot - enter on New Mexico Avenue, 3401 Nebraska Ave. (at New Mexico Avenue across from American University). More info

Saturday, November 1 at 7:30 PM, The DC A Capella Festival 2014, co-hosted by the Phantoms, Georgetown University’s first co-ed a cappella group, and the GraceNotes, GU’s first all-female a cappella group. Each weekend’s performance features different guest groups; programs include songs ranging from oldies to rock to pop, mixing traditional and eclectic styles and featuring debuts of new arrangements. At Gaston Hall, Healy Building, Georgetown University. Tickets: $10 general admission; $8 students.Also on next Saturday, November 7, same time and place. More info/ticket sales:

Saturday, November 1 at 10 AM Walking Tour of sites in Dinaw Mengistu’s novel “The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears.” The novel was chosen as the DC Reads series selection by the DC Library system and is also featured in the “DC by the Book” app, The walking tour begins at the cluster of trees between Rhode Island Avenue and P Street NW on the east side of Logan Circle. More info at The walking tour is free but reservations are required at .

Saturday, November 1 at 11 AM, Walking Tour of Woodley Park and the Washington National Cathedral, with a tour guide from Washington Walks, Meet outside the Woodley Park/Zoo Metro station - no advance registration needed, just show up and pay in cash when you arrive. Cost: $15 per person (kids 3 and younger free). $5 discount with US military or federal government ID. More info:

Sunday, November 2 at 1 PM, “Some Uses of Photography: Four Washington Artists.” Gallery talk with the curator and artists Jenn DePalma, Siobhan Rigg, and Sandra Rottmann on their work and the evolution of photography and the variety of techniques used today. This event is presented in conjunction with the Feminist Art History Conference. Free. At American University’s Katzen Art Museum, 3rd floor, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue NW. More info:

Tuesday, November 4 from 12:30 - 1:30 PM, “Smart Growth: Planning the future of DC’s oldest neighborhood.” Learn about “Georgetown 2028,” an 8-month planning initiative meant to guide the commercial development of Georgetown over the next 15 years. Will Handsfield, transportation director of the Georgetown Business Improvement District will discuss the making of the plan. Free, but reservations required at At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street NW.

Tuesday, November 4 at 8 PM, The Capital City Showcase presents “A Roast of the DC Mayoral Candidates” with some of DC finest performers and comedians standing in for the roastees: Chelsea Shorte as Muriel Bowser, Donnie Sengstack as David Catania, and Katheirne Jessup as Carol Schwartz. Free. At the Brixtonn, 901 U Street NW. The Brixton will be offering their Happy Hour drink specials from 7 - 10 PM. More info:

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 6 PM, Art Deco in Washington and Baltimore. Co-sponsored by Tenleytown Historical Society and Friends of the Tenley Friendship Library. Richard Striner, author of the recently released Washington and Baltimore Art Deco: A Design History of Neighboring Cities and an earlier book Washington Deco: Art Deco in the Nation’s Capital (1984) will share his considerable expertise on the subject. A founder of the Art Deco Society of Washington, Mr. Striner will touch on examples of the Art Deco style in our immediate area – including the Sears/BestBuy building in Tenleytown and the Pepco building in Friendship Heights, and will discuss his new book (not for sale at this event but available at a discount by calling 1-800-537-5487 and mentioning code NAF). Free. Tenley Friendship Library, 2nd floor. Corner Wisconsin Avenue, NW and Albemarle Street, NW. More info: