Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mountain lions on Wisconsin Ave.?

Saw this post on a neighborhood list serve this morning:

Mountain lion sighting in McLean Gardens on the edge of Glover Park

I just wanted to report that last week there was a mountain lion sighting in McLean Gardens on the edge of Glover Park. I know it sounds crazy but two people were witness to the cat. [It] seems to be a young one, not fully grown. He was sighted at around 1:00 pm on October 17th. This seems to coincide with the two sightings reported in the news in August this year, one in Loudon County and the other in DC in the District Heights area.

I don't really believe it can be possible. Perhaps it was an oversized fat cat? Otherwise, sounds like Zanesville all over again...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Three years later

It's been three years since we lost Anne Pressly. Will simply redirect to some thoughts I had at this time last year: Sweet Anne

Friday, October 14, 2011

I want to go to the Hundred Acre Wood

This morning, I found myself in the car before 7 a.m. That's a pretty rare occurrence. Did you know that the sun isn't even up by then? It felt like the middle of the night. I would have much preferred to be cozy in my bed still sleeping, but there I was.

When the sweet voice of Garrison Keillor came on NPR for the Writer's Almanac, I was no longer sorry to be driving around at dawn. Thanks to him, I learned that on today's date in 1926, A.A. Milne published Winnie-the-Pooh. I have such a soft spot for that book and the movie. Pooh is my favorite fictional character; I'll admit one of my many terms of endearment for my pup is "Pooh Bear." (And whatever happened to that little Pooh paperweight with the red T-shirt I made in sculpture class in high school? Mom??)

I love the story of how Milne, a British children's storyteller, modeled the story off his own son and his son's stuffed bear. Amazing what a significant piece of children's literature history was inspired by moments he observed in his own home. The original art of Ernest H. Shepard has also left a lasting legacy. As Garrison Keillor shared, the first story of Pooh ran in the Christmas Eve edition of The London Evening News in 1925. I used to kind of want to see the Hundred Acre Wood for myself as much as I used to wish I could transport myself to Oz to meet all of L. Frank Baum's magical creatures.

In a reminiscent kind of mood, I had to reread some Pooh stories. I'll leave you with this lovely line:

"Winnie-the-Pooh sat down at the foot of the tree, put his head between his paws and began to think."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guest post from Julia Cooke: St. Louis' Gateway Arch

Recently reconvened with writer New York-based and longtime friend Julia Cooke in St. Louis for a Hoya roommate's wedding. Hurricane Irene left her stranded in the Midwest for an extra day, which gave her the chance to visit the gateway to the West. She was kind enough to share her experience visiting the St. Louis Arch via a guest post.

Check out more of her work at www.julia-cooke.com.

St. Louis skyline from the rooftop terrace of the Chase Park Plaza hotel, August 27, 2011
(Photo is mine; words below are Julia's)

Among the very expensive items that I absurdly covet -- absurd because I understand full well that unless I win a lottery, I will not own them -- are a bright blue Bottega Veneta purse and a marble-topped Eero Saarinen Tulip table. The mid-century modern designer's table feels modern and contemporary to me, simple lines and an elegant but unpretentious feel, much along the lines of his iconic Gateway Arch (or, officially, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial) in Saint Louis, Missouri. I may never host a large family dinner around a marble-topped Tulip table in my dining room, which right now is too small for one, anyway, but Saarinen has made masterpieces that are more accessible. This 1968 sculpture -- at 630 feet the tallest national monument we have --  is one of them.

When I was in Saint Louis last weekend for a friend's wedding, to the arch I went. It's stunning from the outside: a twisting, angular triangle that's wide and sturdy at the bottom and soars up high into a slim, precarious curve at the top, the world's largest architectural structure that's designed as a self-supported arch. From far away, only the looping top of it can be seen over the city skyline, swooping over the horizon. As I walked up to its base through the park greenery that surrounds it, I saw that it's actually much broader where it meets the concrete than it seemed, large enough for, say, an elephant to hide behind. I couldn't quite see the whole thing as I looked up to follow its line of glinting stainless steel against the blue sky and shaded my eyes against the sun. I wondered what it would look like in cloudy weather; less striking, of course, but then maybe it would disappear into a slate-grey sky, the Mystique of national monuments.

I paid the $10 entry fee to be shuttled up to the top of the arch in the tiny, sixties-futuristic-pod-like elevators that fit five stooping, seated people. I was already there, so I couldn't just stand around at the base, I reasoned. I meandered through the kitschy historical museum-y area, distracted, wondering what it'd be like up at the top; waited in line to enter my teensy little elevator, into which I jammed with three other people, knees knocking together as we all shared a glance that expressed our gratefulness that our fifth seat was emtpy. We faced each other, awkward in our little circle, shoulders stooped in the white-painted, flurorescent-lit, egg-like elevator, and off it jerked. One window in the door of the pod showed the entrails of the structure, all beams and wires and steel stairs, and the egg rocked back and forth as it made its way up the curve of the arch to the top. At this point, I was no longer stunned by the smooth lines of Saarinen's design. I was wondering what had posessed me to think that heading to the 620th foot of the spidery legs of this thing -- supported by only its own weight! -- was a good idea.

By the time I reached the top, my hands were sweaty and I was in no mood to stay. But my companion was entranced, and couldn't believe that I -- a girl whose reading doesn't pause when my plane hits turbulence, who didn't break a sweat when my flotation device on one scuba trip sprang a leak -- was practically whimpering at the top of the St. Louis arch. Eero Saarinen, for God's sake. A far more intelligent man than me, and he deemed it okay, and there were park rangers up there, too. There were sticky-fingered children leaning into the six-inch high windows that lined the eight-foot wide space, loud teenagers taking pictures and shouting that WOAH there was the stadium, and there I was, standing in the middle of the passageway, breathing deeply and reminding myself that it would be over soon. Because: it moves. The top of the St. Louis arch trembles, shivers, shudders ever so gently in the wind. The thought that underneath where my feet stood was nothing but ai r-- it terrified me, and I wanted nothing more than to return to terra firma. So I moved slowly, deliberately over toward the elevators. We stood in line, and within a few minutes, a metallic crunch announced the arrival of the elevators, and I slipped in, this time even more squeezed by a fifth tourist with a large camera in his lap, and we jerked and slunk our way back to the bottom, where I got out of the elevator, walked back through the kitchy history area, emerged into the sunlight, and sat down on a bench to face the glinting metallic majesty of the St. Louis arch.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Zoo animals and the quake

I love the National Zoo's detailed description of the animals' behavior both before and in the aftermath of the earthquake. Would NOT have been wanting to be in the snake house: "All the snakes (including copperheads, cotton mouth, and false water cobra) began writhing during the quake. Normally, they are inactive during the day."

More at the zoo's website here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


DC and apparently the East Coast from SC through Mass was just rattled by a 5.9 (estimated) earthquake. Evacuated the office as the building increasingly shook. I'd estimate lasted under a minute. Can't say I really knew what I was doing -- growing up in Montgomery County, MD, we weren't exactly taught survival strategies for such situations. Blizzards and black ice, we got that covered. The ground shaking under us? Not so much.

The PR machine for the epicenter's town of Mineral, VA - population 478 - is really on top of it. I guess they don't get the chance to be the subject of an international news story too often.

Seems like the National Mall is still evacuated and Amtrak has ceased service. No serious damage and nobody hurt -- that I've heard -- but have already heard some pretty interesting stories of where people were and how they were reacted: Sitting in the stirrups at the gyno's office? Check. Trying to fly out for your own wedding? Check. Watching your paintings fall off the walls? Check. Open forum to post yours here.

P.S. Should we be worried about an aftershock?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

DC stereotypes map

Disclaimer: I am not the genius who came up with this.

Check out the DC Stereotype Map, it's pretty spot-on. Guess I'm supposed to be one of those drunk Catholic girls. But I don't get the ducks reference.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Warwick Sabin for State Rep.

Proud to report I've just learned that Warwick Sabin, publisher of the Oxford American magazine and former editor of the Arkansas Times -- and a brilliant guy I'm fortunate to call a friend -- has announced he's running for a seat in the Arkansas House of Representatives. It's my district (Hillcrest) and is currently occupied by the wonderful Rep. Kathy Webb, who is term-limited.

He's perfect for the job.
Warwick Sabin
Sign up for updates at http://www.wsabin.org/

There's also a Facebook page.

Spread the word!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Literacy Action of Central Arkansas in Arkansas Life magazine

A big congratulations to everyone at Literacy Action of Central Arkansas for this fabulous profile in the August edition of Arkansas Life magazine. The piece details this too often under-the-radar nonprofit, the staff and tutors that dedicate themselves to helping more Arkansans learn to read and write, and how large the need is for more volunteers to get involved.

If you live in Arkansas, I hope you'll read it and consider becoming a bigger part of this wonderful organization.

And if you don't, send a contribution or get involved with your own local literacy council. Every time you open the newspaper to read an article, go online to Google something, or even just check the movie listings, dont' forget -- the need is everywhere.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

WMATA can please

It's a rare day the DC Metro presents an opportunity for praise. OK that might be a slight exaggeration, but it gets a lot of bad press what with the single-tracking and the supposed medical and other emergencies, and don't even get me started on the escalators.

So it's got to be 100 degrees outside, and WMATA actually ends up pleasantly surprising me today. (Tangent - Sometimes the a/c isn't working on the Metro. Picture it - a train full of tired, rushing commuters sweating in their work clothes and packed to the gills. Sweating. Because there's no a/c. And it's summer. In D.C. And it's humid. Ok I'll stop.)

So back to my happy uplifting story. As the Red line rolls into Medical Center on its way out of the city this afternoon, the conductor comes on the speakerphone. Now, normally, I can't understand a word those guys are saying. I often wonder why they even bother talking.

But this time, the guy said the train would be going out of service at Grosvenor (the first outdoor stop in Maryland), so he suggested that riders who were riding beyond Grosvenor should get out at Medical Center (still underground) to wait for the next train, so they didn't have to suffer the heat wave stifling on an outdoor platform. Very kind of that conductor. Very thoughtful indeed. Today I liked the Metro.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bastille Day in Bretagne

Bastille Day. Perfect, an excuse to wax nostalgic about France. Now I transport myself back to a July 2006 excursion to a several-hundred-year old chateau in Brittany in northwest France.

Le chateau
Tangent - I have a pet peeve with languages that change other languages' proper names. If it's called Bretagne in French, then why do we call it Brittany? Some desire to conjure images of a washed-up American pop star instead of an idyllic, Celtic-infused, verdant corner of France? I doubt it. Must be some kind of weak attempt to make foreign names easier to pronounce. We could make some effort to embrace the names originally bestowed upon places by those who named them in the first place. Anyway, back to Treguier.

Treguier is a hamlet near Saint-Brieuc; a bit further east, the walled city Saint-Malo might be somewhat better known. Treguier is a port town on the Treguier River, which goes out to the English Channel. It's pretty isolated; getting there affordably requires flying to Paris and then renting a car to drive the maybe six hours, if I remember correctly. There are trains (of course - because it's Europe, and Europe has an awesome transit system), and Brest even has an airport you can get to from the UK and Spain, but it's best to have a car for exploring the outlying towns.

Monet's Giverny gardens, on the way out of Paris
The medieveal fort at Fougeres, also on the way to Treguier
Treguier's town square's prominent features are a statue of the town's famous son writer and philosopher Ernest Renan and a large and gorgeous cathedral built in the 14th and 15th centuries - typical of such a town, but the age and endurance over so many centuries still amazes me every time. There's probably only a few thousand people that live in Treguier, and it's so small in geographic terms, it's one of those places you can pretty much get to know living there a week and even start to recognize people on the street.

The view from outside our chateau
The food is amazing, a mixture of fresh seafood (Dover sole, anyone?) and shellfish (oh so many moules, my favorite) and lots of delicious cheeses I could never name and fresh produce from the weekly market where are all the vendors set up shop, then move onto the next town the next day. We followed the market to its stops nearby in places with names like Quimper and Morlaix. I think I gained four pounds in like 10 days on that trip. A little frivolous we were with the wine and cheese before dinner every night. We got some beach hikes in there too, though, and a ferry from coastal Paimpol took us to the Ile-de-Brehat, where at low tide, the boats sit completely ashore.

Paimpol, my favorite town in Bretagne
Ile-de-Brehat - those are not toyboats, and yes that is a castle on the hill 
Timber-framed houses in Lannion
Celtic festival leading up to Bastille Day, in Ploumanache
I was in Treguier the night of Bastille Day, frankly, the only time in my life that the holiday has been on my radar. As the town erupted in fireworks, every inhabitant gathered "downtown" at the harbor to dance together and celebrate France. I'll never forget the juxtaposition of having flown from the United States, where I had just celebrated the fourth in the American heartland, with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra playing traditional pops music backlit by fireworks over the Arkansas River, with the French version of their national holiday. Though I had no personal relationship with France and barely spoke the languge, I felt like I was celebrating two countries that year. The people of Treguier loved having visitors in town for La Fete Nationale, and having been there just a few days, we felt kind of at home there and a part of the party.

Crepes and cafe in Treguier outside the cathedral on the square
Remind me why I ever came back?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strings on a rooftop

This was the scene on a Dupont Circle rooftop Saturday night -- D.C.'s Second String Band crooning American folk music to an audience of about 30 that I felt pretty damn awesome to be a part of. It was super VIP. A couple friends invited the band to play on their roof as a send-off for their European debut tour. The city looked very different from up there, and it was like if you weren't on that roof that day, you were totally missing out on the fact that this little gathering was going on nine stories above Connecticut Ave.

The band defines "second string" this way: "The squad of players available to replace the starters." They define a "second string band" this way: "The squad of players who play string music from the fringes, giving that music the center stage."

Sounds about right. I think I fell in love with folk music that night. Or maybe it was bluegrass. I don't know enough about it to know the difference. Regardless, it's the type of music that you can be sitting there roasting in the middle of hot and sticky D.C. 90 degree heat, but you're sort of transported to Arkansas or Louisiana for a couple hours, lost in the guitar, the fiddle, the mandolin (maybe?). I keep hearing about Gillian Welch. I might need to go on a downloading spree. I've always been a fan of strings -- I think my favorite instrument is the electric violin -- so of course I loved the Second String Band. The songs have a similar sound, but each is distinct. They write almost all their own music. The covers they played were recognizable but often only slightly so. And it's definitely the type of music you have to see in person because it's kind of a whole experience to be a part of.

That didn't stop me from buying the cd, and as you won't get the chance to hear the band live until they return from Europe, you should probably get a copy too. Check them out at http://2ndstringband.com/.

Signs of summer

 I think David Simon and Edward Burns put it pretty well in The Corner:
"On the Fourth, when every right-thinking Marylander has steamed crabs in celebration"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Obama's words at Joplin, MO

I meant to post this a long time ago, after President Obama spoke on May 29, 2011 at the memorial service following the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, in May.

It's Monday, so here's some thoughts to start the week:

"How we respond when the storm strikes is up to us.  How we live in the aftermath of tragedy and heartache, that’s within our control.  And it’s in these moments, through our actions, that we often see the glimpse of what makes life worth living in the first place."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reduced Shakespeare Does More than Shakespeare

The Reduced Shakespeare Company may have made its name delivering a quick and dirty summary of the bard's greatest works, but these days, the comedic trio is shrinking movies into one-liners, too. Until July 3, the Kennedy Center's smaller and more intimate Terrace Theater plays host to Reduced Shakespeare Company in Completely Hollywood (Abridged).

The show was honestly one of the most hilarious things I have ever seen -- and I am not a big stand-up comedy fan. The lines are mostly scripted of course, but it's also a little bit of improv, a touch of miming, plenty of cross-dressing, some awkward audience participation, a lot of very funny costumes and props, and ongoing hysterical banter among the three sole cast members, Dominic Conti, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor.

The show is advertised as referencing 187 movies in 100 minutes. So many of the lines, actors' names, scores, theme songs, and even poses and body language were so incredibly well-known, they were quickly recognizable to all. Of course, I didn't catch all the allusions, but that's what makes the show fun for various ages; there was laughter among the older crowd when my brothers and I were sitting there clueless, but when some lines snuck in from Gaga, we had our chance to chuckle knowingly.

As described in the playbill, "WARNING: This show is a high-speed, roller-coaster type condensation of Hollywood (the movies and the mindset) and is not recommended for people with heart ailments, back problems, film degrees, inner ear disorders and/or people inclined to motion sickness. The Reduced Shakespeare Company cannot be held responsible for expectant mothers."

"Completely Hollywood (Abridged)" through July 3 at the Terrace Theater

Monday, June 27, 2011

Washington Post covers Faith Shared in D.C.

Very prominent coverage in today's Washington Post of Faith Shared at the National Cathedral, a joint program planned nationwide by the Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First to promote interfaith harmony and counter Islamophobia. The story begins above the fold on the front page of Metro, covers almost the entire page as well as continues later in the section.

Full text below, but have to see the story online (or in print!) to check out the beautiful photos of leaders of different faiths leading a service together in the famed National Cathedral.


Interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral promotes religious tolerance

By Isaac Arnsdorf, Published: June 26

As worshipers entered Washington National Cathedral for Sunday morning’s service, some crossed themselves and some took photographs, some wore ties while others wore shorts and a few even wore yarmulkes.

In the center aisle, in place of the baptismal fountain, candle-lit stands bore three books: a Bible, a Torah and a Koran. When a visitor asked a nearby usher what to do, the usher replied: “This is a totally different service than what we usually do. There’s no wrong answer.”

Instead of Communion, the service featured readings from each of the three Abrahamic faiths, part of a project to promote religious tolerance through similar interfaith services at about 70 churches nationwide. The effort aimed to counteract negative stereotypes and hostile rhetoric targeting American Muslims in the past year, notably the controversy about plans for an Islamic center near Ground Zero in New York and the burning of a Koran by the Rev. Terry Jones in March in Florida.

“What we have done together in this great cathedral this morning, along with others in similar services in houses of worship across our nation, can alter the image and substance of our nation, as well as our religion,” said the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, one of the organizations that sponsored the project. “Today’s beautifully written liturgy, informed by Islam, Judaism and Christianity, declares unambiguously . . . we are not scripture burners, rather, scripture readers.”

A local rabbi and imam joined Gaddy and the cathedral’s Episcopal clergy on the dais to share their messages of mutual understanding and respect.

“For nearly a decade now, since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we Americans have known without a doubt that any hope for a peaceful world will require profound engagement among the world’s religions,” cathedral Dean Samuel T. Lloyd III said.

The service began with a traditional call to prayer in the three religions’ terminology — a Hebrew “Bar’chu,” an Arabic “Azan” and a Latin “Spiritus Domini” — all sung in ethereal tones that swirled through the cathedral’s soaring nave.

Then Rabbi Amy M. Schwartzman of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church read a passage from Deuteronomy about showing kindness to strangers. Imam Mohamed Magid, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, chanted a passage from the Koran about the value of diversity.
“God could have made all of us look the same and go to the same temple or same church,” Magid explained. “But God willed that humans are diverse.”

Gaddy said he hoped the readings would underscore the commonalities among the three traditions, especially their shared message of tolerance and compassion.

“No one verse or one passage in any book of scripture should be allowed to hijack or hold hostage the central truth, the overarching as well as pervasive moral mandate, which emerges from the full sweep of truth in those books of scripture,” he said. “Cherry picking isolated texts . . . allows mean-spirited people to turn the scripture of our religions into weapons.”

Almost 1,000 people attended the service, an average turnout for a summer Sunday. Among them were people actively involved in interfaith dialogue groups, as well as those who were surprised to find the Jewish and Muslim elements of the service.

Ken Bagley, who with his family was visiting the District from Connecticut, just happened upon Sunday’s service.

“It was a neat opportunity to hear all three perspectives in one service and to see how alike they are. You too often hear about how different,” Bagley said.

Alex Huddell, a 21-year-old student at American University, said she had never heard the Koran chanted, except “maybe in movies.”

“It was interesting and beautiful to listen, even if you didn’t understand, to the different rhythms and styles,” Huddell said. “I’m Christian, but I feel a lot of embarrassment about the way Christians sometimes marginalize other religions. So it’s nice to hear there are some leaders in the faith community who are trying to promote the same message of acceptance.”

Pete Carlson, a member of the cathedral’s congregation, said he was inspired by the service and hopes to attend more interfaith events.

“It was even more moving than the normal service here on Sunday,” Carlson said. “It felt like we were a part of something much bigger and much older.”

Lloyd, the cathedral’s dean, said a Muslim reading also will be part of the cathedral’s memorial service for the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pictures from Faith Shared New York

A few photos below of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York, where Faith Shared New York City was held today:

Children's Sculpture Garden
 The serviced was led by the Rev. John H. Vaughn, Executive Vice President of the Auburn Theological Seminary. He was joined by the Rev. Canon Thomas P. Miller, Canon for Liturgy and the Arts at the Cathedral, and Imam Adamu A.M. Suleimana, originally from Ghana and now a practicing imam in New York and Georgia. All shared thoughts on the importance of interfaith cooperation and harmony. The service also included Jewish, Muslim and Christian readers from Face2Face.
Imam Adamu A.M. Suleimana, left, Rev. John Vaughn, and Rev. Tom Miller (Courtesy David Karp)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

TOMORROW: Faith Shared in NY 3:45 p.m. 6/26/11

To all my New York readers:

I am writing to invite you to a very special event I have been helping out with that will be TOMORROW (Sunday) at 3:45 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine at Amsterdam and 112th.

All across the country tomorrow, churches will be bringing together leaders of different religious faiths in one service on one single day in order to celebrate religious harmony and send a message to counter the Islamophobia that has dominated much of the news of the past year.

This is going to be a really nice service and a FANTASTIC excuse to see this beautiful, world known church that is among the five largest in the world.

All the info on the event and the project on a national scale are below (more available at www.faithshared.org).
Hope to see you tomorrow!

Faith Shared – June 26, 2011

The Cathedral joins dozens of churches across the country uniting
to promote mutual understanding and respect among faiths

New York, N.Y.  – This Sunday, June 26, Christian clergy at churches across the country will host readings from the Qur’an and other sacred religious texts as they welcome their Muslim and Jewish colleagues for Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding.  Faith Shared is a project of Interfaith Alliance and Human Rights First, seeking to send a message both here at home and to the Arab and Muslim world about Americans’ respect for all faiths.

The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City is among dozens of churches and other houses of worship across the country who will be participating in this project this weekend.  A full list of participating houses of worship can be found at faithshared.org.  Below are details on the Cathedral’s event:

            WHAT:            Faith Shared: Uniting in Prayer and Understanding

            WHEN:            3: 45 p.m., Sunday, June 26, 2011

            WHERE:         The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine
            1047 Amsterdam Avenue at 112th Street 

            WHO:              The Reverend Canon Thomas P. Miller, The Cathedral
                                          Church of Saint John the Divine
                                      Mary Burns Hoff, Partnership of Faith in New York City
                                      Muslim and Jewish clergy from NYC

WHY:              To promote mutual understanding and respect among
                                         different faiths

Faith Shared seeks to counter the Anti-Muslim bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past year and led to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases, violence.  This countrywide, daylong event will engage faith leaders on the national and community levels in a conversation with their houses of worship, highlighting respect among people of different faiths.  This event will help counter the common misperception abroad that most Americans are hostile to Islam.  It will send a message that Americans respect Muslims and Islam, as they respect religious differences and freedom of religion in general.

Faith Shared is designed to reflect the mutual respect shared among so many Muslims, Christians, Jews and other Americans, as they stand together to oppose the negative images that have dominated domestic and international news.

“This has been a year filled with darkness.  Threats to burn the Holy Book of one faith.  Bullying that has caused unbearable pain to many – even death,” said The Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.  “In this City, in this country, in a world where we can build things up rather than tear them down, bring people together rather than divide them, and sow seeds of compassion and mutual respect rather than violence and death-dealing hatreds, we must do whatever we can to renew our capacity to respect the dignity of every human being.  May we – through services such as this one - renew our commitment to be stewards of Creation, a gift entrusted to us across generations and across traditions.”

“The anti-Muslim rhetoric that has pervaded our national conversation recently has shocked and saddened me,” said Interfaith Alliance President Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy.  “Appreciation for pluralism and respect for religious freedom and other human rights are at the core of our democracy.  We believe that demonstrating our commitment to those core American values will help counteract the intensified level of negative stereotypes and anti-Muslim bigotry in our recent public discourse.

“With Faith Shared, congregations will send a clear message to the world that Americans respect religious differences and reject bigotry and the demonization of Islam or any other religion,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke.  “This message about the fundamental importance of religious freedom around the world is especially timely as President Obama prepares to reaffirm the United States’ support for democracy in the Middle East starting with a speech later this week.”

At its core, this project will bring together Christian, Jewish and Muslim clergy to read from and hear from each other’s sacred texts.  In doing so, they will serve as a model for respect and cooperation and create a concrete opportunity to build and strengthen working ties between and among faith communities moving forward.

Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance has 185,000 members across the country from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition. For more information, visit www.interfaithalliance.org.

Human Rights First is a leading human rights advocacy organization based in New York City and Washington, DC.  Since 1978, we have worked in the U.S. and abroad to create a secure and humane world -advancing justice, human dignity, and respect for the rule of law.  All of our activities are supported by private contributions.  We accept no government funds.  Visit our web site: www.humanrightsfirst.org.

# # #

Saturday, May 21, 2011

What is it about Little Rock?

I know, I know, I write about Little Rock all the time, and those who know me beyond the anonymity of the blogosphere also know that that city is often on the tip of my tongue.

There's just something about it.

On a recent trip there, I think I finally figured it out:

Little Rock encompasses a finite space.

There are no sprawling suburbs (unlike D.C., where it's not an exaggeration to say that some live as far as West Virginia to find affordable homes), and everyone sort of generally occupies the same space. For a city of only 200,000 or so, there are always so many things going on at once, that you know you'll run into people wherever you go. You can't sit down at a restaurant without spotting a familiar face, and not only that, whomever it is more than likely will stop and say hi. It's the South, it's only polite. Rushing off while staring at your Blackberry just isn't an acceptable excuse. There's no hiding in Little Rock. Call it a pro and a con, but mostly, it's a good thing.

It makes it easier to stay in touch with people. Making plans is as simple as suggesting meeting for coffee or a drink in 10 minutes. That's how small the city is geographically. There are only so many places to go. You might even recognize the bartender.

Even on my beloved Pinnacle Mountain, as I hiked through a rare snowfall this past January, practically alone on the mountain, I ran into the other dentist in my dentist's office. I'd never met the guy before, so the funniest thing was that we actually figured out we had that connection. How did we begin talking on a frigid January day where we both probably should have been home drinking hot chocolate? I don't really know. But it's not that much of an oddity that we did. It'd be stranger if we hadn't. It'd be too simplistic to say Little Rock's a small world; it is, but there's also something about a shared sense of space, a common appreciation for surroundings, a larger need to connect with other humans than to be alone.

Perhaps I'm waxing poetic because I was in town for special occasions: the wedding of two very close friends and the Jewish Food Festival, where the state's entire Jewish community (count it, 1,800 or so plus a few thousand others munching on the kugel and hamantashen), was in one place, so I saw so many old friends at once. Happy times in beautiful weather; it doesn't get much better than that -- anywhere.

Sometimes it seems that so few people get the chance to live somewhere they never would have dreamed they'd end up, and then to become a part of that place and for it to become a part of them. People in Arkansas say it's a hidden treasure and we don't want too many people to get their hands on that secret, but I don't think people who've never been there can even begin to understand what I'm talking about here. Every place has its stereotypes. Forget about them.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Passover picnic at the drum circle

Two great things. You can't really go wrong. Thanks to Moishe House DC for hooking it up.

In honor of Passover and the glorious (and final) arrival of spring in DC, the good people at Moishe House who arrange Jewish and other themed activities for young professionals in the area hosted a Passover picnic at Meridian Hill Park today. I don't think anyone ate the gefilte fish (isn't once or twice a year at seder enough?) but the Israeli salad and the chocolate dipped matzah were pretty delicious.

The sun was shining, people were playing frisbee and football, and pups were everywhere (I should have brought Clyde).

Note the guy juggling oranges and the crazy yoga going on at left.
And then, the best thing of all, a ragtag crowd of drummers was gathered to put on what I hear is a regular Sunday afternoon jam session.

I really want to call them drummists, not drummers, because while I'm not sure that's a real word, they were serious artists. It was amazing to watch. They created a rhythm that they'd go with for a while, and then someone would switch to something new, and others would follow or go off in a different, but always complementary direction. The way they could so easily and quickly sync with one another was so impressive to my pretty non musically inclined mind. And the drums themselves were interesting to look at. If I had to guess, I'd say there were drums that had been crafted in several faraway countries.

I need more Sundays like today in my life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

DCist notes a Metro ad faux pas

Along the same lines of some of my earlier posts on things that annoy me about the Metro and the people I like to refer to as the coffee militia, I couldn't help but chuckle at news DCist reported on how an ad on Metro for a coffee brand had to be fixed so that it didn't appear to condone coffee consumption while commuting:

Mixed Messages on Metro: Modified! 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Book review: Vanity Fair

Recently undertook reading Thackeray's classic and extremely long Vanity Fair. It took me four months, I kid you not. But it was good. And it's amazing to me how a book written in 1848, more than 160 years ago, contains so many of the themes -- the negative themes, I mean -- we still see everyday as we go about our lives interacting with each other: competition, jealousy, desire for social status, elitism, and of course, vanity. There are the good things too -- love, romance, dedication to family, pretty clothes and fancy jewelry, gallivanting across the European continent... But as a commentary on the social castes of society and what's wrong with the system, it does make you wonder if not much has really changed.

At least we can't buy political posts anymore.

Some quotes that stuck with me:

"The world is a looking-glass, and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it, and it will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly, kind companion; and so let all young persons take their choice." -page 17

"Are not there little chapters in everybody's life, that seem to be nothing, and yet affect all the rest of the history?" -page 60

"Never lose a chance of saying a kind word." -page 209

And the priceless last paragraph:
"Ah Vanitas Vanitatum! Which of us is happy in this world? Which of us has his desire? or, having it, is satisfied? -- Come children, let us shut up the box and the puppets, for our play is played out." -page 809

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bill Clinton = serious Hoya fan

Georgetown lines up for one last home game of the season.
The Hoyas did not win today. The game got close toward the end, and we thought we might have had it, but alas, 58-51 Syracuse was the final. It was rough. And those Orange fans are vicious, sore winners. But all was not lost because our favorite Hoya, President Bill Clinton (SFS '68) came with his blue and gray. Catching a glimpse of him leaving the Verizon Center was a pretty awesome silver lining.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Moats and boats and waterfalls

Everyone needs a little bit of this in their lives. Thanks so my dear JDH for sharing:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Borders to close = My library to grow

It makes me sad every time a bookstore -- yes, even a bigtime corporate one -- announces it will be closing. When even Borders declares bankruptcy, as was reported yesterday, it really begins to seem like our only option one day is going to be buying books online -- or worse yet, being restricted to paperless electronic books.

I am not a Kindle reader. There's little I love more than the smell of a new book, and I look at a computer (or iPhone) screen all day, so why would I also want to stare at a screen to read a book? There's nothing cozy about a digital book, even if it does make carting around numerous tomes at once a lighter load.

But enough with my soapbox about why I love the real thing. I'm a card carrying member of more than one public library system (Aren't you? If not, you should be ashamed of yourself! What a public treasure you're missing out on), and I'm the first to admit that books are expensive. So why am I admittedly -- if somewhat ashamedly -- excited that Borders is closing some of its stores? Because that means books for cheap!

According to the Associated Press, Borders is going to close 200 of its 642 stores over the next few weeks and begin pricing merchandise at clearance levels as early as this weekend. That's a short window to buy a lot of books. DCist says three of those locations are right here in the DC metro -- 1801 K Street NW, 5333 Wisconsin Avenue NW, and White Flint in Kensington. On a totally separate note, I wonder what's going to take over what are going to be huge available retail spaces. Yet another silver lining.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The little things

This morning on the Metro...I was sort of immersed in my crossword and John Legend. And then I looked up as the train stopped at a station and realized that what had been a pretty empty non-rush hour train had filled up. I pulled my purse onto my lap to give the guy who had just gotten on the seat next to me. And he smiled. So gratefully. As if I had done something out of the ordinary or made some major concession. It kind of made my day. And it was one of those once-in-a-while Metro experiences that makes you wonder. Who was that guy? Where was he on his way to? And did he have any idea how nice his smile was?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The words, the ink, the newsprint

Do you know when I don't mind staining my hands black with inky residue? When I'm reading the New York Times. Or really, I just have to be touching the New York Times, that hallowed publication of journalistic perfection.

This Sunday, my amazing journalism school classmate who now works at the world's best newspaper -- seriously, he works there, as in, his paycheck comes from the New York Times Co. -- took me on a tour of the NYT building. I think the event stroked his ego a bit; I was in reporter's ecstasy the entire time, and he didn't miss it.

Here's the multiple-level newsroom:

My friend, the NYT staffer, refers to the above as "pods," not cubes. These Times guys really have to be cutting edge, don't they? Surprisingly, however, there's no huge masthead in NYT font hanging anywhere above such pods. On the other hand, more than one friend who visited the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted it felt like the type of newsroom you see in a movie. (Throw me a bone here -- there has to be something that makes the Dem-Gaz superior to the NYT.)

You don't need to be too high up in the hierarchy to get a nameplate at your desk, which I found awesome. I've never had a nameplate anywhere I've worked. And I want one.

The dictionaries of Will Shortz!
I just want to say that as life-changing a moment as visiting the desk of the puzzlemaster himself was,  even cooler was getting to meet him when he came to the Clinton Library to play word games with his Little Rock disciples.
The works of Israeli graphic designer Noma Bar on display at GallerySeven. An interview with Bar can be found here:
New Yorker's Cartoon Lounge blog, Sept. 24, 2008

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

And this year in Arkansas, birds fall from the sky!

From the New York Times:

For Arkansas Blackbirds, the New Year Never Came
The New York Times, January 3, 2011

Times Square had the ball drop, and Brasstown, N.C., had its descending possum. But no place had a New Year’s Eve as unusual, or freakishly disturbing, as Beebe, Ark.
Around 11 that night, thousands of red-winged blackbirds began falling out of the sky over this small city about 35 miles northeast of Little Rock. They landed on roofs, roads, front lawns and backyards, turning the ground nearly black and terrifying anyone who happened to be outside.

The rest of the story