an evening with the crowds at the united states botanic garden

Saturday, December 28:  This afternoon we head downtown to the United States Botanic Garden.  Beside the Conservatory is a garden called Bartholdi Park, where we catch some interesting views of both the conservatory and the U.S. Capitol, along with some berries, dried flowers and a famous fountain.  Bartholdi Park is named for French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who is best known for designing the Statue of Liberty.  He was actually working on the Statue of Liberty at the same time he was creating this fountain, originally called the “Fountain of Light and Water.”  The fountain was completely restored and modernized in 2011 as part of an ongoing effort at the U.S. Botanic Garden to demonstrate the best practices in gardening, energy efficiency, and effective use of natural resources.

Click on any of the photos below for a full-sized slide show.

We’re surprised to find a long line to get into the Conservatory.  Luckily, we don’t just mindlessly get in the line.  I walk up to the front entrance to scope out the situation and find the line is for the model train exhibit.  We don’t care about the model trains, so we bypass the line and head directly into the conservatory, where there is no escape from the hordes of people.  Just inside the main entrance is the Garden Court which features replicas of the reflecting pools and important Washington buildings, including the Capitol, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian Castle and the White House.

We head further back into the Conservatory to the World Deserts, filled with succulents, grasses, shrubs and other flowering plants.

We wander, sometimes stuck at a dead standstill because of the crowds. In the Garden Primeval, we find a reconstructed Jurassic landscape of ferns and other ancient plant groups that have survived for 150 million years.

In the Orchids area, we find a beautiful display of mythic plants. The Botanic Garden’s orchid collection numbers about 5,000 specimens, with hundreds on display at any given time.  Sadly, I can’t take many good pictures because the of the waning light.

We stroll through the Jungle, a tropical rainforest that overtakes an abandoned plantation. The Conservatory dome rises to 93 feet and has a mezzanine level from which to view the jungle canopy.  Adam decides not to go up on the metal catwalk because he did a case study in an engineering class where a metal catwalk collapsed, and he feels there are too many people on it.  Mike, Alex and I go up despite Adam’s warnings.  It’s really only crowded in one area; once we bypass the crowd, it’s much more sparsely populated. Lucky for us, we survive the dangers.

Finally, we head outdoors to take a walk past the U.S. Capitol.  It isn’t often I see it in blue light.  A big Christmas tree is twinkling a rainbow of colors on the lawn and crowds of people are milling about everywhere.  I guess because the temperature is a rare 54 degrees today, people have decided to come outdoors in droves.

Alex is doing his normal hand stands everywhere, and a woman walking beside us says to him: “Stop showing off!” She tells of her Danish grandfather who could do hand stands up the stairs in his younger years; he continued doing hand stands until he was 90. He was such a character that he used to lie on his balcony at his nursing home in the nude because he said he “needed the sun.” He lived to 96. I think Alex is hoping to be doing hand stands until he’s 90. 🙂

We head to a small dive of a bar, called Space Bar, in Falls Church that’s known for “two dozen taps + infinite grilled cheese.” Baffled, I look at the beer menu and don’t have a clue what to order.  I usually drink Bud Light Lime, which some people would argue isn’t beer at all.  We have to order at the bar, so Mike goes up and tells them, “My wife is looking for a girly beer that is very light, something along the lines of Bud Light Lime.”  The bartender recommends a Sly Fox Royal Weisseale, which I would describe as similar to a Blue Moon (which I also like).  Beeradvocate describes it as having “flavors of banana and cloves with an often dry and tart edge, some spiciness, bubblegum or notes of apples. Little hop bitterness, and a moderate level of alcohol. Poured into a traditional Weizen glass, the Hefeweizen can be one sexy looking beer.” Wowzer!

The boys are now both of legal drinking age, so they both order Great Divide Yeti Imperial Stouts. According to Beeradvocate: Russian Imperial Stout, this is the “king of stouts, inspired by brewers back in the 1800’s to win over the Russian Czar.”  It boasts “high alcohol by volumes and plenty of malt character… with huge roasted, chocolate and burnt malt flavours.”

Adam takes a drink of his Yeti and makes a contorted face. I sip it as well; I want to immediately spit it out.  Adam says, “That tastes like Star Wars.  I mean it tastes like literally eating a DVD of Star Wars.”  I can’t help but laugh out loud, because it’s so off the wall, but so true.

The menu at Space Bar is all grilled cheese sandwiches, as they say, of infinite variety.  I enjoy every bite of my grilled Portobello & red onion and garlicky spinach with Havarti and cheddar on rye.  I’m glad it’s about time for New Year’s Resolutions, because I need to change my bad eating habits and try to get in shape in the coming year. 🙂

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the korean war veterans memorial {travel theme: still}

Tuesday, December 17: Ailsa’s travel theme (Where’s my backpack?) for this week, Still, brought to mind the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  The Korean War is considered to have ended when the Armistice was signed on July 27, 1953, but there has never been a peace treaty.  South Korean and American troops still face off against North Korean troops today at the 38th parallel, commonly called the DMZ.

The Korean War Veterans Memorial sits in Washington, D.C.’s West Potomac Park, just south of the Reflecting Pool on the National Mall. It commemorates those who served in the Korean War.

The main memorial is in the form of a triangle intersecting a circle. More than 2,500 photographic, archival images representing the land, sea and air troops who supported those who fought in the war are sandblasted on the 100 ton wall of highly polished “Academy Black” granite from California.

the main memorial of the Korean Veterans War Memorial
the main memorial of the Korean Veterans War Memorial

Within the walled triangle are 19 stainless steel statues, each larger than life-size, between 7 feet 3 inches and 7 feet 6 inches tall; each weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. The figures represent a squad on patrol, drawn from each branch of the armed forces; fourteen of the figures are from the U.S. Army, three are from the Marine Corps, one is a Navy corpsman, and one is an Air Force Forward Air Observer. They are dressed in full combat gear, dispersed among strips of granite and juniper bushes which represent the rugged terrain of Korea (Wikipedia: Korean War Veteran’s Memorial).

17 stainless steel larger-than-life statues represent a patrol squad
17 stainless steel larger-than-life statues represent a patrol squad
patrol squad in Korea
patrol squad in Korea

According to History.com, on June 25, 1950, the Korean War began when some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel, the boundary between the Soviet-backed Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the north and the pro-Western Republic of Korea to the south. This invasion was the first military action of the Cold War. By July, American troops had entered the war on South Korea’s behalf. As far as American officials were concerned, it was a war against the forces of international communism itself. After some early back-and-forth across the 38th parallel, the fighting stalled and casualties mounted with nothing to show for them. Meanwhile, American officials worked anxiously to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. The alternative, they feared, would be a wider war with Russia and China–or even, as some warned, World War III. Finally, in July 1953, the Korean War came to an end. In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. The Korean peninsula is still divided today.

patrol squad in Korea
patrol squad in Korea

The United Nations Command, supported by the United States, the North Korean People’s Army, and the Chinese People’s Volunteers, signed the Armistice Agreement on 27 July 1953 to end the fighting. The Armistice also called upon the governments of South Korea, North Korea, China and the United States to participate in continued peace talks. The war is considered to have ended at this point, even though there was no peace treaty.  North Korea nevertheless claims that it won the Korean War (Wikipedia: Korean War).

patrol squad
patrol squad

Since the armistice, there have been numerous incursions and acts of aggression by North Korea. In 1976, the axe murder incident was widely publicized. This involved the killing of two United States Army officers by North Korean soldiers on August 18, 1976, in the Joint Security Area (JSA) within the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The U.S. officers had been part of a work party cutting down a tree in the JSA. Since 1974, four incursion tunnels leading to Seoul have been uncovered.

In 2010, a North Korean submarine torpedoed and sank the South Korean ROKS Cheonan, resulting in the deaths of 46 sailors.  Again in 2010, North Korea fired artillery shells on Yeonpyeong island, killing two military personnel and two civilians (Wikipedia: Korean War).

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial

I was living and working in Korea during both of the 2010 incidents, which made for some very unsettling moments: north korea sinks the south korean navy ship cheonan and North Korea attacks the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong.

Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial
the main memorial
the main memorial

It’s a shame that North Korea still to this day bullies South Korea, one of the world’s economic success stories.  Having lived and worked in South Korea, and having taught many South Korean students, I feel a kinship with the South.  I hope that the still-tense situation at the 38th parallel will, one day soon, be resolved peacefully.

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the national mall: the smithsonian castle, the enid a. haupt garden, & the national carousel

Saturday, December 7:  The Enid A. Haupt Garden is a 4.2 acre garden in front of the Smithsonian Castle in Washington, D.C.  Created in 1987, the design of its three distinct gardens reflects the cultural and aesthetic influences celebrated in the Smithsonian Castle and the surrounding museums.

entrance to the enid a. haupt garden
entrance to the enid a. haupt garden
enid a haupt garden and the smithsonian castle
enid a haupt garden and the smithsonian castle
the enid a. haupt garden
the enid a. haupt garden
the enid a. haupt garden
the enid a. haupt garden

The Fountain Garden is modeled after the Alhambra, the 14th century Moorish palace and fortress in Spain (andalucía: granada’s alhambra).  It sits beside the National Museum of African Art.

the fountain garden
the fountain garden
sculpture in the fountain garden
sculpture in the fountain garden

The Moongate Garden, beside the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gets its design inspiration from the Temple of Heaven, a 15th century religious complex in China (**the journey, “moon fresh” jerry, the temple of heaven & an acrobatic extravaganza).

the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
view of the Castle from the Moongate Garden
view of the Castle from the Moongate Garden

The Andrew Jackson Downing Urn was designed in honor of Andrew Jackson Downing, who in 1850 transformed the Mall into the nation’s first landscaped public park using informal, romantic arrangements of circular carriage drives and plantings of rare American trees.  Downing’s design endured until 1934, when the Mall was restored to Pierre L’Enfant’s 1791 plan.  Downing, the father of American landscape architecture, designed the White House and Capitol grounds.

Andrew Jackson Downing Urn
Andrew Jackson Downing Urn
Andrew Jackson Downing Urn
Andrew Jackson Downing Urn
Andrew Jackson Downing Urn
Andrew Jackson Downing Urn
parting shots of the smithsonian castle
parting shots of the smithsonian castle

Near the Smithsonian Castle is the Carousel on the National Mall.  The Carousel on the Mall was built by the Allen Herschell Company in 1947.  It’s known as a traveling machine.  The horses are four abreast, all jumping.  The Sea Dragon, added later, is the most popular seat on the carousel.   It is the only operating carousel in Washington, D.C.

the Sea Dragon on the Carousel on the National Mall
the Sea Dragon on the Carousel on the National Mall
the national carousel
the carousel on the national mall
the carousel
the carousel

Finally, in the middle of the National Mall, I can see the Washington Monument at one end and the Capitol at the other.  The Washington Monument’s 500 tons of scaffolding is now coming down, little by little.  The scaffolding enabled workers to perform $15 million in earthquake damage repairs, beginning early this year. The monument will reopen in spring 2014.

the Washington Monument, with the scaffolding half removed
the Washington Monument, with the scaffolding half removed
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

Stay tuned for further episodes of Washington’s sights as I eventually carve out time to revisit them all. 🙂

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an afternoon at the hirshhorn museum & sculpture garden

Saturday, December 7:   The current exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum is Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950.  The exhibit has been running since October 24, 2013 and will run until May 26, 2014. I thought this an appropriate exhibit to visit on this day, 62 years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

the current exhibit at the Hirshhorn
the current exhibit at the Hirshhorn

The Hirshhorn’s website describes the exhibit thus: While destruction as a theme can be traced throughout art history, from the early atomic age it has become a pervasive cultural element. In the immediate post-World War II years, to invoke destruction in art was to evoke the war itself: the awful devastation of battle, the firebombing of entire cities, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan, and, of course, the Holocaust. Art seemed powerless in the face of that terrible history. But by the early 1950s, with the escalation of the arms race and the prospect of nuclear annihilation, the theme of destruction in art took on a new energy and meaning. In the decades since, destruction has persisted as an essential component of artistic expression. Damage Control: Art and Destruction Since 1950 offers an overview of this prevalent motif (Hirshhorn: Damage Control).

The Hirshhorn
The Hirshhorn
the center of the cylindrical-shaped Hirshhorn
the center of the cylindrical-shaped Hirshhorn

Sadly, I wasn’t able to photograph the exhibit, except for this repeating film, showing a beautiful girl in a flowing chiffon dress sashaying down a city street, bashing car windows with a long-stemmed flower that in actuality must be an iron pole.

one of the continuously running films at the exhibit
one of the continuously running films at the exhibit

In another continuously running film, a well-heeled man sits in his modern apartment and stares at a tomato.  In alternating scenes, a pony-tailed man, a poor artsy type, sits in his messy apartment staring at a chunk of tree bark.  The two men meet in a studio and sit in chairs facing each other; a woman in black acts as referee and signals them to begin.  They both stare and stare at each other.  Suddenly both of their heads explode off their bodies, blood shooting everywhere.  Yikes!

In a series of three photographs, a Chinese man holds a Ming dynasty vase, in the second he starts to drop it, and in the third, the vase shatters at his feet.

In several dark rooms we see films of atomic bombs exploding and a truck dragging a violin by a chain through a field.

Destruction, destruction everywhere.

I prefer the exhibit in the basement of the museum, adjacent to the gift shop.  Barbara Kruger’s “Belief+Doubt” fills the surfaces of the lower lobby with massive-type anti-consumerist statements—for example, “YOU WANT IT. YOU BUY IT. YOU FORGET IT.”—some of which extend into the newly relocated museum bookstore.

Belief+Doubt
Belief+Doubt
Kruger's Belief+Doubt
Kruger’s Belief+Doubt
Kruger's Belief+Doubt
Kruger’s Belief+Doubt
Kruger's Belief+Doubt
Kruger’s Belief+Doubt
Kruger's Belief+Doubt
Kruger’s Belief+Doubt
Kruger's Belief+Doubt
Kruger’s Belief+Doubt
Kruger's Belief+Doubt
Kruger’s Belief+Doubt
Kruger's Belief+Doubt
Kruger’s Belief+Doubt next to the gift shop

On the third floor, I look in vain for a bronze sculpture by Rodin, called She Who Was Once the Helmet-Maker’s Beautiful Wife.  I ask the guard because most of the third floor is cordoned off.  He thinks the museum still has the piece, but he says that most of the 2nd floor permanent collection had to go into storage to make room for the Art and Destruction exhibit.  In 2001, I attended a poetry class at the Hirshhorn where we were assigned to write a poem about something in the museum; I wrote a poem about that sculpture.  I wanted to post the poem on my blog with an accompanying picture, but alas, it was not to be.

I do see a few other interesting pieces on the third floor.

a spiral of bottles
a spiral of bottles
a painting from a bird's eye view
a painting from a bird’s-eye view

I wander outside to the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, which features works by artists including Auguste Rodin, David Smith, Alexander Calder, Jeff Koons and others.

Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden – The Burghers of Calais
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden
Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden

I circle the bunker-like museum one last time and find a couple of other sculptures on the grounds.

sculpture outside the Hirshhorn
sculpture outside the Hirshhorn
sculpture outside the Hirshhorn
sculpture outside the Hirshhorn

It’s been a long time since I last visited Washington’s FREE museums, so it’s nice to see them again with fresh eyes.  After leaving the Hirshhorn, I wander for a bit around the National Mall, huddled against the cloudy and blustery day.  Tomorrow, snow, sleet and freezing rain are forecast.  It’ll be a good day to stay indoors. 🙂

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the united states capitol

Sunday, August 25: Since I returned home to the USA at the end of July after three years living abroad, I’ve been posing as a tourist in my own country.  I’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area for most of the last 25 years, and though I don’t live in the city itself, I live in one of the largest of the metropolitan area suburbs:  Fairfax County, Virginia.  The monuments in Washington seem commonplace to me since I’ve seen them so many times.  In fact they seem so commonplace that I’ve hardly ever bothered to photograph them.  Isn’t it funny how sometimes you don’t even notice the things in your own backyard?

Today I venture into Washington on a Sunday morning in search of photos for the Instagram Weekend Hashtag Project: The project is called Partwatching and the goal is to take creative photos of people interacting with art.  I’m heading for the National Gallery of Art, where I hope to surreptitiously capture people interacting with art.   However, before going there, I decide I’ll talk a little stroll around the United States Capitol, the iconic symbol of Washington.  I’ve taken the tour of the interior before, but today I just walk around the grounds out front.

The United States Capitol, according to The U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, is a symbol of the American people and their government, the meeting place of the nation’s legislature. It is built in neo-classical style with a white exterior.  Construction of the U.S. Capitol began in 1793. In November 1800, the U.S. Congress met in the first completed portion, the north wing. In the 1850s, major extensions to the North and South ends of the Capitol were authorized because of the westward expansion of our nation and the resultant growth of Congress. Since that time, the U.S. Capitol and its stately dome have become international symbols of our representative democracy.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

Though it has never been the geographic center of the federal district, the Capitol is the origin by which the quadrants of the District are divided and the city was planned (Wikipedia: United States Capitol).

The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial is a presidential memorial at the base of Capitol Hill, honoring American Civil War general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant. The sculpture of Grant on horseback faces west toward the Lincoln Memorial, which honors Grant’s wartime president, Abraham Lincoln; together, the Grant and Lincoln memorials define the eastern and western boundaries of the National Mall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial

A striking feature of the central statue is Grant’s calm attitude amidst the raging fighting going on around him. This is not surprising because Grant was known for his calmness and coolheadedness during battle. In sharp contrast to Grant are the sculpture groups on either side, Cavalry Charge and Artillery (Wikipedia: Ulysses S. Grant Memorial).

Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Cavalry Charge in front of the U.S. Capitol
Statue in front of the U.S. Capitol
Artillery Sculpture in front of the U.S. Capitol

Standing on the grounds of the Capitol and looking West, I can see the National Mall stretching before me, with the Washington Monument, covered in scaffolding, standing between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Mall and the Washington Monument
The Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument

I hop into a small traffic circle with a garden and a statue, behind which looms the dome of the Capitol.

the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol

I love the view below of the National Mall and the Washington Monument.  The Monument is like an alien object now; it’s covered in black scaffolding while it undergoes repairs due to structural damage from the 2011 earthquake.  My first reaction when I saw it upon my return was the same irritation I felt when I went to Angkor Wat and found its front facade covered in scaffolding and green netting.  But… now that I’ve gotten used to it, I think I like it!  Maybe they should keep it like this forever. 🙂

the Mall and the Washington Monument
the Mall and the Washington Monument
The U.S. Capitol
The U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol
steps up the U.S. Capitol

I then head to the National Art Gallery, in search of people interacting with art.