Saturday, May 05, 2007


The last few days with Frank have been a treat. We spent a good deal of time frequenting the Smithsonian strip* along the National Mall: perusing the crowded collections of the Smithsonian National Air and Space* and Natural History* Museums. We saw a bunch of really neat things, too: the stuffed remains of the first monkey to survive spaceflight* (exhibited in nosecone capsule situ), the Hope Diamond,* John Glenn's space suit,* Triceratops skulls,* the Spirit of St. Louis,* the stuffed remains of a spectral bat* eating the stuffed remains of a pinky mouse,* moon rocks,* a diorama model of a dinosaur variously labeled as either an Albertosaur or Gorgosaur,* and lobbies crowded with tour groups in matching t-shirts.* In one special collections room of Air and Space is a small portion of the currently-under-construction Museum of American History,* a pop collection that includes the Ruby Slippers,* ENIAC,* R2-D2,* Kermit the Frog,* and Abraham Lincoln's hat.* After two straight days of museum sightseeing, my head was buzzing with plaque-sized information bites, and pondering the tragic duckbilled Trachodon, that grade school favorite and pitifully menaced Cretaceous common victim.* Is it a conspiracy that Trachodon is most often represented as prey: prone between the jaws of a Tyrannosaur or mortally wounded beneath the clawed hind feet of a Velociraptor flock? I mean really, it isn't as if all the dinosaurs we discover aren't already dead. But here we have created a dinosaur fall-guy which through consistent popular depiction seems more mortal than most. I've been thinking about the poor brute since seeing that diorama of either Gorgo- or maybe Albertosaurus snacking on another duckbilled morsel. Interestingly, when I looked it up, I discovered that the presumed genus Trachodon has been mostly debunked as a mistake of the original assemblers.* Poor guy. [Cavin]

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


Sunday we headed over to a weekly flea market slash craft fair southeast of the capital. I bought six refrigerator magnets and Sunshine got a nice t-shirt picturing a boy and a well-armed octopus. We ate the worst Indian food I've ever had, which was really not all that bad compared to the worst the rest of the world has to offer. After getting a little sunburned, we went downtown to see Year of the Dog* at the E Street Cinema* (this comedy steers-the-course even when the going gets tough: sometimes it doesn't even bother trying to be funny. This makes it mildly transgressive, but also a solid downer--its unsympathetic cast is never redeemed, their existential plights never resolved. Plot: a caring introvert spirals out of control when her sole companion, an affable little dog, unexpectedly dies). No pun intended: after the movie we ate at the Lost Dog Café, a deli-type place with really incredible pizzas and an expansive selection of world beers. Some portion of the proceeds goes to rescuing dogs. It's also thematically decorated with funny animal paintings. Mom's DC vacation was almost over after that. We all got together during Sunshine's lunch break on Monday for a large Vietnamese meal at Four Sisters in Eden Center (which is becoming a tradition). Then I got right back into my usual thing: mom dropped me off at the metro station as she headed out of town, and from there I headed on up to Silver Spring to see a couple of movies. Now it's Tuesday, and I've finally caught this Update Column up just in time to mention that we are expecting our friend Frank to arrive any minute, and I'll probably hang the "out to lunch" sign on the blog door tomorrow and Thursday. [Cavin]

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Saturday night we went to a friend's birthday party after a nice dinner at Luna in Dupont Circle. The birthday boy and his wife are just back from Ashgabat (that's the nutty capital of Turkmenistan). He's a coworker of Sunshine's and she's Belarusian. The party was in the next building over. This is the couple we saw Grindhouse with a few weeks ago; the couple who brought that nice bottle of really ethnic vodka to our Miss USA Drinking Game. In this vein, I was interested in seeing what types of drinks would be available at the party. I was not disappointed. One of the offerings was an odd Belarusian drink in a small dark bottle. I was told it was very herbal and that nobody really liked it. I am pretty sure I was being talked out of trying it, but I had to; so they had to break the seal on the bottle for me to do so.* I wish I could remember what I was told it was called. The bottle was in Belarusian, of course, labeled in Cyrillic and for me totally indecipherable. I did not drink very much: a pinky finger in the bottom of a red plastic cup. I am pretty sure that I did not like it, but I hate to leave it at that. The experience was pretty complex. It tasted a little like toasted unsweetened molasses boiled with bay leaves until it was the color and consistency of soy sauce. I was told it's very good in tea. Other drinks at the party included a sixty-year anniversary bottle of Belarusian vodka in an opaque green bottle fashioned like an army canteen, and the charming Amarula, a South African Bailey's-like cream liqueur made from the fruit of the marula tree. [Cavin]

Monday, April 30, 2007


Friday evening, mom, Sunshine, and I headed out to the Courthouse Theater to see Hot Fuzz* (this successfully funny, eye-poppingly black comedy can't quite decide between horror and action spoof, with each successive tidbit borrowing from the cohesion. Nonetheless, working better as a straight movie than parody, it maintains human charm and wicked narrative even while feeling its falsest. The audience, including me, broke occasionally into applause). We came home in the pouring rain, ready for an early day on Saturday. By early I mean "before noon." Some time ago, mom ran across this painting, which struck enough of a chord for her to still be talking about it while we were casting about for things to do Saturday. The linked version of the painting hangs in the National Gallery of Art,* so we spent the day there. I was alarmed at first: we discovered half the eastern wing of the main floor closed for renovation. This includes the eighteenth and nineteenth century Spanish and French galleries, plus the American and British stuff. This, of course, included the painting my mother wanted to see; as well as this one, my favorite John Singer Sargent (which I call Woman Watching TV), and this, my favorite by James McNeill Whistler. All my other favorites were there were I'd left them: this and this by Paul Gauguin, this by Claude Monet, this by Edgar Degas, this by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and, of course, this odalisque by Auguste Renoir. I was still lamenting the renovation when Sunshine pointed out that a selection of art from the closed area was on display in the special collections rooms on the ground floor. Sunshine reads signs. All my whining worked: everything we'd wanted to see had been culled out to be displayed in this highlight. [Cavin]

Sunday, April 29, 2007


Yesterday, my mother arrived just in time for a nice dinner at Lebanese Taverna.* She has come up to DC for a belated birthday celebration, and she will be staying here until Monday. So of course we overdid it a little in the middle eastern food department, ordering pretty much everything on the menu that we really love. By the time all of our order had arrived, there were something like eleven plates littering the table. We ordered shankleesh (feta cheese warmed and rolled in sumac, paprika, and other spices), fattoush (green Lebanese salad with a pomegranate vinaigrette dressing), lebneh (a thick yogurt sauce with lemon), fatayer b’jibne (blended goat cheeses in a fried dumpling), manakish bel zaatar (unleavened bread thickly spread, like a pizza, with thyme and cumin in oil, served with olives and an onion yogurt sauce), mehshi bel zeit (a number of fresh vegetables stuffed with herbs, rice, and feta, baked in tomatoes with rosemary and pine nuts), and French fries (but hey, with a delicious crushed garlic dip). Everything is always so good at the Taverna that I cannot come up with a favorite. Maybe it is the bread service: an occasionally refilled basket of fluffy hot pita that pours steam from its pocket when its gently pulled apart. I also ordered my favorite boutique drink concoction in the area: a blend of gin and lemon juice served shaken in a martini glass rimmed with rich, dark sumac shavings called an "Oasis." Our dinner was about two hours long, and each one of us ate until we were bloated, but there was so much food left over that we still have leftovers in our fridge. But not for long: just writing this Update guarantees that I will eat those leftovers shortly after posting it. [Cavin]