Most people’s daily interactions with birds are probably limited to shooing pigeons away from a freshly waxed car or wolfing down a chicken Caesar salad at lunch. But birds of all feathers have been inspiring artists for centuries, a fact the American Art Museum explores in its new exhibit “The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art.” The show, opening Friday, uses a variety of media—paintings, collages, large-scale sculpture installations—to explore how artists choose to depict birds, as well as their relationship to the world and humans’ relationship to them. The exhibit, according to curator Joanna Marsh, takes its name from a line in the poem “The Bird at Dawn” by Harold Monro, the contrast speaking to birds’ dual natures: exotic and commonplace, abundant and endangered.
Some of the most striking works include peacock sculptures by San Francisco artist Laurel Roth Hope. The intricate forms on close examination reveal themselves to be made from drugstore beauty items—glittering wings fashioned from metal hair clips, painted fake fingernails mimicking the birds’ iridescent hues, gold necklaces forming the sweeping tails—drawing a cheeky parallel between the tools women use to beautify themselves and the showy features that allow male peacocks to attract a mate. There are also two large installations by Oklahoma sculptor Petah Coyne constructed of funereally dark silk flowers and cascading black velvet and studded with contorted taxidermied birds, which Marsh says are inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Though many of the works are fantastical, like Fred Tomaselli’s otherworldly yet playful avian collages, the exhibit also hints at sobering truths about mankind’s destructive relationship to the natural world and the winged creatures who inhabit it. That theme is most evident in a poignant sketch by David Beck of a dodo, the “disastrously trusting” 17th-century bird that died out just 80 years after humans discovered it and has since become a poster animal for extinction. Another bygone species, the passenger pigeon, also features; the last-known of its kind, a specimen named Martha, is on display in the Museum of Natural History, and the 100th anniversary of her death this year was part of the inspiration for the exhibit. The birds appear in the opening work, a wall mural by James Prosek commissioned for the exhibit and called “What once was is no more: Passing like a thought, flight into memory”; and in Rachel Berwick’s haunting “Zugunruhe,” a tree encased in a hexagonal mirrored box, its branches laden with dozens of amber resin birds—created, Marsh explained, from casts of real taxidermied passenger pigeons. (Zugunruhe is a German word describing the restlessness and anxiety birds exhibit before migrating.)
The Smithsonian has a long history with avian-inspired art, owing in part to the proclivities of two of its past secretaries: Spencer Fullerton Baird and S. Dillon Ripley were both ornithologists by profession. “The Singing and the Silence” draws on both that institutional legacy and modern iterations of the artistic tradition to present birds in a way they’re not often seen—and encourage viewers to think of them as more than just a fact of life.
The Singing and the Silence: Birds in Contemporary Art is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum October 31 through February 22. For more information, visit the gallery’s website. See images from the exhibit below.
Thursday, October 30
DANCE: Brightest Young Things continues its Super Best Friends Forever group deejay nights, this time at Cafe Saint-Ex. The thinking here is that we all like (at least some) good music, so a few people will play a few songs, and that’s all there is to it. This week there’s a spooky theme, because of course there is. Free. 7:30 PM.
PUMPKIN CARVING: As you can probably guess, the vast majority of events this week have some sort of Halloween bent to them: First up is Hotel Helix’s tenth annual pumpkin-carving contest. The pumpkins are pre-scooped, so all you gotta do is jab some knives into yours and hope for the best. Winners will get gift certificates, and there’ll be special zombie cocktails, discounts on seasonal drafts, and happy hour prices on other beers. Free. 6 PM.
Friday, October 31
SCARY MOVIES: Lots of places are screening actually good scary movies today. Check out our roundup for details on where to go so you can avoid shelling out for Ouija.
COMICS: Don’t know what to be this year? Be a comic book character! Town Tavern is hosting a very mini Comic-Con DC party. For $15, you’ll get open bar from 9 to 11 PM, with happy hour prices before that. Free. 5 PM.
BIKE: If you’d like to be spooky but also get some exercise, join the Night of the Bicycling Dead bike ride, which starts at BicycleSpace, heads around town, and eventually ends at a zombie party at Bardo Brewpub. Be sure to trick your bike out with pumpkin lights or some sort of ghost-sound-making device. Free. 7 PM.
FILM: Union Market hosts its last drive-in movie of this season—unsurprisingly, it’s a Halloween-ish one: The original Ghostbusters will be projected on its giant wall, by popular demand. As always, it’s free if you walk up, ten bucks if you bring a car. 8 PM.
RETRO HALLOWEEN: Why dress up as something modern or spooky when you can be all retro at Malmaison’s Flashback Friday Halloween party? Be a zombie who wears leg warmers and a tracksuit, or a grungy Frankenstein. Or just dress up like yourself but from the ’80s and/or ’90s. Technically, time traveler is a costume! Tickets ($20) are available online. 10 PM.
Saturday, November 1
MARKET: DC MeetMarket features more than 40 local vendors and craftspeople, Thanksgiving crafts for the kids (yes, it’s already time for Thanksgiving stuff), food trucks and barbecue, and a couple of deejays. Free. 11 AM to 5 PM.
CHRISTMAS: November 1 is also somehow the time to start worrying about Christmas! Somehow! Anyway—if you’re down, the Czech Embassy is hosting a Christmas market featuring mulled wine, Christmas cookies, and lots of trinkets and decorations that’ll come in handy in roughly two months. Free. 10 AM to 4 PM.
DRINK: One night of Halloween is not enough: Give it a second go at the Clarendon Halloween Crawl, which hits Mad Rose, Spider Kelly’s Whitlow’s, SoBe, Mister Days, Hard Times, and more. Your ticket gets you specials on food and drinks at every bar and a sweet “haunted” mug to put said drinks in. Tickets ($15) are available online. 2 to 9 PM.
ZOMBIES: Blind Whino hosts Zombiefest 2014, featuring two floors of dancing and music (Congo Sanchez from Thievery Corporation will deejay), a zombie factory that will turn you into the living dead if you don’t know how to zombify yourself, a live painting, and one free zombie drink with admission. Tickets are $15 in advance or $30 at the door. 8 PM.
Sunday, November 2
ROCK OPERAS: The Baltimore Rock Opera Society presents Electric Pharaoh, an original garage-rock/electronic music opera that follows a young pharaoh in Egypt as he tries to figure out what the heck the deal is with the pyramids. Tickets ($20) are available online. 6 PM at Atlas Performing Arts Center.
TV SHOWS: If you haven’t had enough zombies for one weekend, here’s one last chance—you can watch The Walking Dead at Little Miss Whiskey’s. They’ll project the hit show on a giant screen with surround sound, so it’ll feel extra-apocalyptic. Free. 8:30 PM.
Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at email@example.com, or find him on Twitter at @jason_koebler.
In case you needed another reason to look forward to the Wizards’ Verizon Center game against the Milwaukee Bucks this Saturday, here’s one: The team has just announced that Grammy-nominated hometown rapper and “die-hard Wizards fan” Wale will serve as a “creative liaison” for the upcoming season. What does that mean? His songs will be featured in the team’s intro video, he’ll help design merchandise and collaborate on social-media promotion, and he’ll also participate in charity projects with the team.
But here’s the part you’ll actually care about: Wale will perform live at the Verizon Center Saturday as the part of the pregame player introductions. Freedom High School’s marching band will also perform outside the F Street entrance to the Gallery Place Metro, and the Wizards girls will be available for photo ops.
Wale’s “creativity and vision will help enhance our in-game experience, and his commitment to the Washington, D.C., community is a perfect blend with our charitable pillars,” says Joe Dupriest, Monumental Sports senior vice president, in a press release. The artist himself adds, “As a D.C. native and lifelong Wizards fan, this is truly an exciting and organic relationship for me. We’ve got some exciting projects up our sleeve that will roll out throughout the season.”
Tickets to Saturday’s 7 PM game are on sale now, starting at $25. A concert and a basketball game for the price of two cocktails? Sounds like a good deal to me.
For two years, Inertia Dolce, the red-wigged alter ego of 28-year-old William Dennis, has been the runner to beat in DC’s annual High Heel Race, last year finishing the three-block hoof down Dupont Circle’s 17th Street in 49 seconds. Dolce—who, as Dennis, is general manager of the Dupont brunch spot Level One—competes for a third straight title on October 28. A former Division 1 cross-country and track-and-field runner at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Dennis was born fast, but he gave us a few tips anyone can use.
Pick function over style.
“A common mistake is that people wear a regular high heel,” says Dennis, who sports calf-high boots—albeit with five-inch heels—to support his ankles. “You don’t have to worry about it flying off or buckling.”
Walk the course.
Before race day, he advises, “walk up and down the bike lane of 17th Street. That’ll give you a feel of the ground.” Scope out the manholes—like the one outside Floriana restaurant—and small cracks that can prove treacherous.
Duct-tape your soles.
“Putting duct tape down there helps keep you from slipping.” Especially when wet—the race goes on, rain or shine.
“Make sure they’re thick enough that your foot’s not sliding up and down.” Dennis wears athletic socks over nylons, topped with an ankle brace to keep his foot “as stable as possible.”
Have a cocktail.
With all the pre-parties and celebrations, you’ll spend a few hours in heels: Dull the pain with a cosmo or two.
Watch out for saboteurs.
“Last year, these four competitors come up and say, ‘You’re not going to win this year.’ So they stand in front of me, and as I’m taking off, one of them elbows me in the chest!”
Dominate with grace.
Dennis plans to retire if he wins again. “Some people are like, ‘You can’t win again. It’s not fair.’ ” But for this year, he says, “it’s still a race—I’m going to go for it.”
See photos from this year's race, and find out who won, in our earlier post.
This article appears in the October 2014 issue of Washingtonian.
On Tuesday night, eager crowds gathered in Dupont Circle to watch one of Washington’s most fun—and glittery—Halloween traditions: the annual High Heel Drag Race. DC mayoral hopeful David Catania served as the grand marshal this year, and opponent Muriel Bowser also made an appearance.
Who finishes first isn’t really the point (it was first-timer Scott Teribury, for the record)—at the drag race, everyone’s a winner, especially the spectators, who get to take in the jaw-dropping costumes without any of the exertion. They're generally a mix of topical ensembles, Halloween classics, and some that mostly seem like an excuse to walk around covered in as many rhinestones as possible. This year we spotted Mean Girls’ Plastics-as-Santas, a turnip-toting Michelle Obama, and Racing President Woodrow Wilson, who somehow managed to balance his giant head on two-inch heels (the minimum required height).
So you want to see a scary movie on the big screen this Halloween. Great! Only problem is, your big-budget horror options range from the mediocre (Before I Go to Sleep, a Nicole Kidman/Colin Firth thriller currently rated 53 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) to the laughably bad (Ouija, clocking in at 10 percent—proving once again that Clue is the best and only board-game movie you need) to the pretty much inexcusable (Nicholas Sparks’s The Best of Me*).
Instead of shelling out for yet another bland studio slasher flick, head to one of Washington’s independent cinemas to catch ’60s classics, foreign films, and a daylong marathon, all on Halloween itself.
Psycho and Spike at the Angelika Pop-Up
Friday, October 31, 7 and 9:30 PM
The Union Market theater screens the classic slasher film—the original, not the best-forgotten Vince Vaughan version—two times Halloween night. Everyone who buys a ticket will get a Spike Mendelsohn-curated goodie bag stuffed with exotic-sounding things like chocolate bacon and sushi popcorn. Definitely a step up from the usual nervous-eating movie snacks.
People’s Choice at Union Market
Friday, October 31, 8 PM
The popular drive-in movie series concludes its fall series with a Halloween screening—and wants you to pick the movie. Visit Union Market’s Facebook page by Friday to vote on your choice of Ghostbusters, The Addams Family, or Edward Scissorhands, then follow the usual drill on Halloween evening.
AFI Silver Theatre’s Horror Marathon
Friday, October 31, multiple times
Skip your office's awkward costume contest and head to AFI for a day’s worth of scary flicks: At 3 PM is Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow, followed by his animated short Frankenweenie at 5:10. The evening brings the ’80s cult hit Beetlejuice at 7, the “rom-zom-com” Shaun of the Dead at 9, and Roman Polanski’s iconic Rosemary’s Baby at 11.
Shaun of the Dead at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse
Friday, October 31, 9:30 PM
Virginians get a separate chance to catch the adventures of pasty Brits/unlikely heroes Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with this screening. Bonus for folks with kids: Between 5 and 8:30, check out a family-friendly haunted house hosted in the main theater, done up to look like it’s been through a zombie outbreak. Admission is $2 and includes a tour, a treat, and a free pass for a future movie.
Night of the Living Dead at Angelika Mosaic
Friday, October 31, midnight
Schlock-horror king George A. Romero cut his teeth on this 1968 zombie flick that spawned several gruesome sequels. This one’s in black and white, so you can tell your parents you did something arty for All Hallows' Eve in addition to all those Jell-O shots.
The Monster Squad at E Street Cinema
Friday, October 31, 11:59 PM
Time to get meta: This 1987 horror comedy is about a group of adolescent scary-movie enthusiasts who find themselves battling Count Dracula, Wolfman, and other beasties for control over the balance of good and evil. I’m guessing the truly frightening part is leaving the fate of the world up to a group of teenagers (no disrespect to Buffy and the Scoobies).
Friday, October 31, multiple times
The supernatural thriller based on the book by Joe Hill (son of horror master Stephen King, responsible for the most terrifying clown of all time) stars Harry Potter as a guy who’s both suspected of killing his girlfriend and growing magical horns on his head. Reviews are a bit mixed, but Daniel Radcliffe’s performance has been getting good buzz.
Friday, October 31, 5 PM
Maybe The Ring scared the pants off you when you first saw it, but it’s lost that initial punch. Frighten yourself anew at the Freer, which screens Ringu—the somehow-even-scarier Japanese film on which it was based. The movie starts at 7, but get there early to learn about spooky items from the museum’s collection, make your own Halloween mask, and try food from the Tokyo in the City truck.
Bonus: Saw 10th Anniversary Re-Release
Friday, October 31, multiple times
The film that begat an impressively long-running torture-porn franchise turns ten this year, and returns to select theaters—including AMC Loews Georgetown, Regal Gallery Place, and Regal Ballston Common—for a one-week run starting Friday. If you’re itching to relive Saw in all its dismembery glory, check theater websites or Fandango for showtimes.
*Yes, I realize it isn't a horror movie—what's scary is how Nicholas Sparks keeps making people shell out to see the same story over and over (and over) again.
Find more ways to celebrate in our Halloween Guide.
Listening to British composer Elizabeth Bernholz’s pitch-black electronica music is the audio version of staring into a warped funhouse mirror—in a good way. If you didn’t get your fill of the macabre during Halloween, the body-horror tracks off her latest album, Unflesh, are an effective follow-up. Black Cat; November 16; $12.
The three-time Emmy-winning writer and former Daily Show correspondent just released his second standup special, Wyatt Cenac: Brooklyn—which he also directed—on Netflix. Before you see him perform his new material live, read our Q&A to find out more about the multitalented funnyman. Black Cat; November 23; $20.
Companhia Urbana de Dança
Think tutus and tap shoes aren’t quite your bag? This all-male troupe’s grit-meets-polish blend of hip-hop, modern, and capoeira, rooted in the favelas (slums) of Brazil, will give you a new understanding of dancing’s athleticism. Dance Place; November 9; $25 to $30.
Best known for playing closeted ad exec Salvatore Romano on Mad Men, Batt is also a Broadway veteran. Once you see his zany, autobiographical “Batt on a Hot Tin Roof,” that mere supporting-actor role will cease to feel like the most interesting thing about him. Strathmore; November 20; $35.
American Opera Initiative: Three 20-Minute Operas
Washington National Opera’s trio of short-form world premieres is part of a mission both culturally and economically important: introducing the genre to younger audiences not used to spending their dollars at the opera. The stories focus on an Iranian-American couple in Silicon Valley, a woman torn between her new husband and her vengeful family, and an aspiring politician trying to erase his late father’s checkered past. Kennedy Center; November 21;
$15 sold out.
In case you couldn’t tell by now, Saul is my favorite character on Homeland, so I’m freaking out a bit after this week’s episode. Here’s where we found everyone this week.
Best moment: Spotting Carrie’s target was great, but I can’t really give Saul credit for that, since the whole thing was probably just a trap. I’ll give him points for ordering orange juice at the juice bar, I guess.
Worst moment: Saul, WHY DID YOU GO IN THAT BATHROOM?! Maybe that guy just had some bad pizza and needed a little time in there; you never know.
Number of flights home he’s missed: Two (not by choice this time).
Best moment: I think I can speak for us all when I say that Quinn is at his best when he’s telling off Carrie. Loved all of the sass in his “Have fun.”
Worst moment: Quinn seems to be the only person who understands how manipulative/terrible Carrie is, yet he still (maybe?) loves her.
Number of angry voicemails he left Carrie: Two.
Best moment: I liked Carrie’s story about Brody being another journalist. She gets points for creativity, at least.
Worst moment: It’s getting hard to tell when Carrie is actually feeling genuine feelings and when she’s trying to play Aayan. Telling him about her daughter in order to manipulate him into opening up to her is about as low as it gets, though.
Number of times she thought about baby Frannie: ONE! Baby Frannie is finally back on the radar. We also learned her full name is Francis after Carrie’s dad, which is actually kind of sweet.
Other important plot lines to note:
- Speaking of baby Frannie, the ambassador’s husband carried out the first task of his blackmail duty this week, snooping around Carrie’s apartment. He took photos of a picture of baby Frannie and of Carrie’s meds to send back to the woman from the ISI. I hope they’re not planning to use baby Frannie to get to Carrie, because that plan seems destined to be ineffective.
- Carrie screwed everyone over this week by not answering her phone. Quinn and Fara were feet away from tracking a cleric’s car—oh, just the same car that had Saul in its trunk—but they couldn’t do it without her help. I find it hard to believe that not one person was traveling with the former director of the CIA, but apparently that’s the case here. When is everyone going to realize Saul is gone? Forget about Aayan’s terrorist uncle, who’s sick anyway—Saul’s safe return is really all I care about at this point.
What were your favorite and least favorite moments of last night’s episode? Let us know in the comments.
Is Bess a bleeding heart? I found myself wondering that this week, as our heroine ignored protocol and the security of her and her staffers’ jobs as she jumped through flaming hoops to achieve her goal. Yes, that goal was saving the lives of 50,000 innocent people (as the show continually reminded us), and yes she managed to pull it off, but you have to wonder: How many passes is POTUS going to give her before her blatant disregard for the art of politics gets her fired? Let’s recap.
The main plot this week centers on the small Republic of West Africa (RWA), which is about to embark on a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Beko people. Bess gets the inside scoop from Henry’s old religion professor, now a priest, who says his niece and her two small children are fleeing from the impending violence and begs for her help. Bess is mostly PO’d that Henry let her get ambushed in her own home, but pledges to find out what she can. Meanwhile, she has to prepare for her first speech before the World Affairs Committee, which is so important that her staffers have prepared her lovely, polished remarks that say absolutely nothing. She’s also dealing with an increasingly twitchy Blake, who’s combing through Nadine’s call history and e-mails from when she worked for Secretary Marsh. Despite his skin of sass, Blake is apparently unable to act normally when he’s doing something suspicious, and Nadine immediately figures out that she’s being left out of the scheduling loop.
Bess meets with the RWA diplomat, who tells her (shocker) that his country has no plans to kill a subset of its population. So instead Bess goes to her CIA agent friend, who tells her the situation is about to get very dire. Bess goes to POTUS and Russell Jackson to try to convince them to get involved, rather than pledging aid after the catastrophe happens, and Jackson reminds her the region has zero resources that would justify US involvement.
Henry tries to get some reporter friends interested in the story, but Bess does him one (or several) better: Seeing that she won’t get what she wants by the usual means, and panicked about the impending slaughter of innocents, she uses her World Affairs Committee speech as a Hail Mary pass to explain the situation and entreat the attending nations to “have the courage” to address the conflict. The RWA diplomat gets up and leaves in a huff, but she manages to sufficiently convince the French representative, who pledges air support—as long as the US also gets involved. “I’m working on it,” says Bess.
Later that night, she gets the titular "cal" to come to the White House, where Jackson is waiting for her—to fire her, Bess assumes, though to her credit she refuses to let him condescend to her even in her dire situation. But Jackson grudgingly tells her she managed to convince POTUS to contribute “logistical aid." All’s hunky dory, right? Not so much: Turns out Henry’s former professor, in addition to giving him a B in college (!), has also been using the refugees he’s been helping to safety in Europe as drug mules, a fact that’s outed on national TV. Jackson wants the US to pull the support completely—“your half-baked rhetoric won’t matter if this intervention goes south and turns into Mogadishu,” he says—but POTUS doesn’t want the blood of 50,000 people on his hands, so he agrees to contribute air support.
Henry goes to visit his professor and rips him a new one for lying to him and trading one evil for another by allowing drugs to pass into other countries. “This is my little patch of darkness,” the priest says, by way of justification, but Henry isn't having it. He says he’ll pray for the people of RWA (the first mention I can remember of him being actively religious), but otherwise, “you and I are done.”
Not so fast, Henry: The African troops are being blocked at the border of RWA by warlords, who’ve made a deal with the junta, and the US refuses to engage them by air. So Bess enlists Henry to convince his priest friend to offer them a better deal: payment by the US, delivered indirectly, of course. It’s ultimately successful; Bess gets to keep her job, all those innocent people get to keep their lives, and POTUS looks like a hero. Henry even decides to forgive the priest.
As for Nadine? Blake finds a record of a call between her and the unbelievably named Constantin Stahl, one of Marsh’s biggest backers, made while Bess was trying to salvage the Iranian peace talks in episode five. Is she a spy? No—just hyper-competent, which is why Stahl was offering her a job . . . which she turned down. Over Scotch in Nadine’s office, Bess confesses that she had her investigated, and Nadine counters that she figured it out thanks to Blake acting like “a Chihuahua who just peed on the carpet.” Up next in the investigation queue: Secretary Marsh himself.
A few thoughts:
This week in What Are the McCord Kids Up To?: Almost nothing, though Stevie does make an appearance as the world’s sagest teenager, quoting back to Bess some oddly Dolly Parton-esque advice from her childhood.
“I wanted us to have the other talk tonight.” It’s safe to say Bess has lost whatever headway she’d made with Russell Jackson. Man, does that guy want to fire her. Though I appreciated his “No Blood for Foil” bumper sticker idea.
Want Nadine to be totally honest with you? Just give her a glass and a half of Champagne.
The Daisy/Matt dalliance continues to be a thing. Let’s hope Matt gets better at flirting soon.
Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.
Monday, October 27
HALLOWEEN MOVIES: Dodge City continues its Halloween Movie Mondays with screenings of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, The Witches, The Craft, and Suspiria. If you can sit through all of those, you either really like scary movies or you like homemade sloppy Joes, popcorn, candy, chili cheese dogs, and cheap High Life/whiskey shot combos. Free. 8 PM.
Tuesday, October 28
DRAG QUEENS: The annual Drag Queen High Heel Race down 17th Street is this week—you’re welcome to run in it, but watching is probably just as fun. Before the race, there will be a parade, and afterward you can bet on some drinking and dancing. Free. 7 PM.
HALLOWEEN: The Dignitary is hosting a Halloween happy hour to raise money for early childhood education support for at-risk children—each $15 entry buys a child a backpack filed with school supplies. There’ll be door prizes, special Halloween cocktails, lots of decorations, and people wearing either costumes or orange and black. Tickets ($15) are available online. 6:30 PM.
Wednesday, October 29
TRIVIA: Sixth & I Synagogue hosts Trick or Trivia, which is mostly about trivia rather than tricks (though you are encouraged to wear a costume). If you’re into ghosts and goblins and horror movies and candy, this is probably designed just for you. We, the Pizza will provide food for everyone who plays. Tickets ($15) are available online. 7 PM.
Thursday, October 30
COMEDY: Bier Baron hosts HA!lloween, a theme party/standup comedy show in which everyone should get dressed up and get absolutely slayed by the comedians, in the safest possible way. Tickets ($10) are available online. 6:30 PM.
Know of something cool going on around town? E-mail Jason Koebler at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find him on Twitter at @jason_koebler.