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The library is collecting pictures for its American Folklife Center. By Tanya Pai
The Library of Congress wants to see how you celebrate Halloween. Image via Shutterstock.

While for people of a certain age, Halloween has become an excuse to wear 40 percent less clothing than usual, October 31 involves plenty of other rich cultural traditions. And the Library of Congress wants to document them: Starting Wednesday, the library’s American Folklife Center is seeking photographs of Halloween and Dia de los Muertos celebrations around America to include in a new collection that illustrates “contemporary folklife.”

What to do: Between now and November 5, photograph yourself and your friends/family trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, decorating your house with those impossible-not-to-get-tangled-in fake spiderwebs—pretty much any activity that shows how you celebrate the holiday—and upload it to Flickr under a Creative Commons license using the tag #FolklifeHalloween2014. AFC will comb through the submissions and archive its favorites; a selection will also be shared on the Folklife Today blog starting in November.

To up your photos’ chance of being chosen, keep in mind that the photos should show both how you celebrate Halloween and what makes the celebration special—the haunted house you set up in your front yard, the pan de muertos that’s become an annual family project. (As AFC’s Stephen Winick wrote in a blog post explaining the rules, “Photos of a festive meal are good, but photos of a festive meal with a distinctive holiday centerpiece are better.”) And because the goal is to highlight contemporary celebrations, keep the photos current.

Here are the full rules for submission via AFC:

  • Title: Give your photo a title.
  • Short Description including photographer and location: Include a brief description. What is significant about the image? Where was it taken? Who is the photographer?
  • License: For potential inclusion in the collection, please license the photo under a creative commons license.

This is a good chance to show off your photography skills and maybe be a part of the annals of history. At the very least, it’ll get more eyeballs on that homemade Hazmat costume you worked so hard on.

Posted at 12:35 PM/ET, 10/22/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
All the views, none of the vertigo. By Caroline Cunningham
See this view without standing in line. Photograph by Flickr user HarshLight.

It’s long been known that anyone can browse the Library of Congress’s digitized archives online from anywhere in the world—but now virtual tourists can access the Washington Monument observation deck’s spectacular views from the comfort of their own couch.

EarthCam, a live-streaming video and time-lapse camera provider, has partnered with the National Park Service to place a camera in a preexisting hole in the monument’s pyramidion. The all-weather HD camera system is encased in a tube of aerospace polymer material and is promised to have no impact on the monument.

You can check out the camera’s feed from the EarthCam website. As a bonus, through October 31, you'll be able to spot a 10-by-6-acre face that stretches between the Lincoln and the World War II memorials. “Out of Many, One,” a landscape portrait by Cuban American artist Jorge Rodríguez-Gerada, was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery and constructed out of 800 tons of soil and 2,000 tons of sand.

The National Stone, Sand and Gravel Association also played a role in the camera’s installation, eager to help publicize of Rodríguez-Gerada’s work and the use of sand and stone in its creation. 

The Washington Monument isn’t the first in the District to claim an EarthCam—viewers can also take a look at the feed from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Check out a time-lapse video filmed at the top of the Washington Monument. 

Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 10/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Al Green, Tom Hanks, and Lily Tomlin are among the individuals recognized this year. By Tanya Pai
Photograph of Hanks by Featureflash/Shutterstock; Tomlin by Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.

On Thursday, the Kennedy Center announced the five people who will be recognized at this year’s Kennedy Center Honors ceremony on December 7. Soul singer Al Green, actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, ballet dancer Patricia McBride, musician Sting, and actress Lily Tomlin are this year's honorees, and will be received by President and Mrs. Obama at the White House before the gala. 

In a press release, Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein lauded the recipients as “five extraordinary individuals who have spent their lives elevating the cultural vibrancy of our nation and the world.” 

Last year, the KenCen revised the process used to select honorees, after organizations including the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda criticized the lack of diversity among recipients. (Until 2013, just two Latino artists had been chosen in the event's history.) Members of the public are now permitted to make recommendations, which are then narrowed down by a committee composed of artists, past Kennedy Center Honors recipients, and members of the arts center’s board. 

Tickets to the gala can run thousands of dollars, so if you don't have a few spare Gs lying around, you can watch the ceremony during a two-hour broadcast on CBS Tuesday, December 30, at 9 PM. 

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 11:40 AM/ET, 09/04/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Happy birthday to DC's littlest giant bear. By Tanya Pai
Happy birthday, Bao Bao! Photograph by Connor Mallon/Smithsonian National Zoo.

The birth of a giant-panda cub is big news around the world, and Washington is no exception. After Mei Xiang and Tian Tian's first cub, Tai Shan, was sent to China in 2010 a few months before his fifth birthday and their second cub, born in 2012, lived for just six days, Bao Bao, born in 2013, has been a huge source of excitement for Washingtonians and tourists alike—not to mention a generator of sweet, sweet merch dollars.

Bao Bao's first birthday is Saturday, and she's come a long way from her helpless, hairless early days. She weighs 40 pounds and can now eat solid food, climb trees, and stand on her hind legs, according to Smithsonian Magazine's recap of her first year. To celebrate her progress, the zoo is hosting a birthday party at which guests can try bear-themed snacks and decorate cards for Bao Bao and her keepers. The zoo is also asking people to tweet with the hashtag #BaoBaoBday to show their support for panda conservation efforts. 

This might be one of the few occasions Washingtonians have to celebrate with Bao Bao's birthday with the guest of honor present: Though giant pandas can live for 20 or 30 years, this particular baby bear is scheduled to be sent to China in 2017.

Click through the slideshow for some highlights from Bao Bao's first year, and check out the links below for more about giant pandas.

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

How the Giant Pandas Get Their Names
A Timeline of Giand Pandas in the United States
Bye, Bye, Butterstick: Tai Shan Goes to China
Will Any Pandas Stay Here?

Posted at 05:03 PM/ET, 08/21/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Its 2014/15 season will be its last. By Tanya Pai
Brian Childers stars in An Evening With Danny Kaye, at American Century Theater until August 16. Photograph by Johannes Markus.

On Wednesday, the American Century Theater announced that it will close its doors after the conclusion of its upcoming season. The Arlington theater, founded in 1994, says its mission is “to promote 20th-century theater as a vital part of our cultural dialogue.” According to a release by the theater, the decision to close after the 20th-anniversary season was made jointly by the board of directors and artistic director Jack Marshall

The decision, according to the release, is not due to financial reasons but instead “by a sense that the theater has accomplished what it set out to do.” Says Marshall, “We find ourselves fourteen years into the 21st century, and, in light of our artistic and cultural achievements we think that upon the completion of our final season we will have proved our point, made a difference, and accomplished our mission. Too many organizations fail at the hardest thing, which is knowing when to say goodbye. For The American Century Theater, we think that time has come.”

In its 20 years, the theater has produced more than 100 shows, including two that have evolved into continuously running productions (one of which is the current production, An Evening With Danny Kaye, running through August 16). The upcoming season has yet to be announced. 

Find Tanya Pai on Twitter at @tanyapai.

Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 07/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Fishy fun for cheap. By Tanya Pai
See the puffins at the Baltimore Aquarium for less this summer. Photograph by Flickr user geopungo.

Looking for some family fun this summer? Here’s one option: Now on Fridays you can get into Baltimore’s National Aquarium after 5 PM for $18.12 a person. The special rates, offered weekly July 11 through September 12, are to commemorate the bicentennial of the 1812 Battle of Baltimore and “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

This is good news for Washingtonians who’ve been missing their glimpses under the sea since the DC aquarium closed last September to renovate the building. Around 1,700 of the animals in the Washington collection were moved to Baltimore, so you can visit many of your old favorites, including Brownie the loggerhead sea turtle and Toby the rare blue lobster. Other animals on exhibit include puffins, stingrays, sharks, dolphins, sloths, and tamarins, to name a few.

Regular tickets to the Baltimore Aquarium are $34.95 for adults and $21.95 for children, and while the discount is only available for entry after 5, guests are allowed in the aquarium until 9:30 on these nights, giving you plenty of time to hang out with your fishy friends. All the regular activities and exhibits are included with admission, and there’ll also be a “star-spangled scavenger hunt” and snacks and drinks (yes, including beer and wine) available for purchase. Purchase tickets online until 7:30 the day of or at the ticket counter until 7:45. 

If the discount still doesn’t quite fit your budget, just wait a couple of months: The aquarium’s annual Fridays After 5 program, when tickets are just $12, resumes on September 19.

Posted at 11:55 AM/ET, 07/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus the Belgian Embassy is throwing a rival party. By Tanya Pai

Last week, Team USA managed to advance to the knockout stage of the World Cup, despite losing to Germany. Their next—and possibly last—game is Tuesday, July 1, as they take on Belgium at 4 PM, and Mayor Gray, the Downtown DC BID, DC United, and other city organizations are hosting a free watch party at Freedom Plaza on Pennsylvania Avenue between 13th and 14th streets, Northwest. The game will be shown on a large-screen projector, and Fresh FM’s Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis will serve as emcees for the “pre-game kickoff,” beginning at 3, according to a press release. Lawn chairs and blankets are allowed—and probably a good idea, as Tuesday’s forecast is for a high of 96 and Freedom Plaza is mostly concrete. DC Water will provide water stations around the plaza during the game. Our suggestions if you feel like braving the heat: Get there way before 4, and don’t even think about trying to drive, as roads around the plaza will be closed during the game (Metro to Metro Center or Federal Triangle instead). 

The Belgian Embassy, like Germany before it, is hosting its own watch party in the National Portrait Gallery’s Kogod Courtyard, beginning at 4. The embassy tweeted an invitation to soccer fans on Monday afternoon; American and Belgian food and drinks will be for sale, and, perhaps most important, there’s air-conditioning. Again, driving is likely to be a pain; the nearest Metro stop is Gallery Place/Chinatown. 

See also: Where to Watch World Cup Games in Washington

Posted at 03:30 PM/ET, 06/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
In town for a White House visit, the band made time for a few drinks on Thursday night. By Francesca Saunders

Thirsty people who stopped by Georgetown’s Ri Ra Thursday night got a surprise bonus with their beer, when alt-rockers the Foo Fighters dropped by unexpectedly. 

Frontman Dave Grohl, recently in the news for his drama-free reunion with Courtney Love at his former band Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, discovered the Georgetown bar Wednesday while he was shopping for a shirt to wear to the White House, the reason for his DC visit. (The Foo Fighters are also the Friday headliners at this weekend’s Firefly Festival.)

According to Ri Ra manager Emmet Power, Grohl, who grew up in Springfield, Virginia, liked the bar so much he decided he had to come back. Thursday night around 9, Grohl showed up to Ri Ra again, this time with a couple of his band mates—drummer Taylor Hawkins and bassist Nate Mendel—and several of their crew members.

The band stayed in Ri Ra’s upstairs whiskey room until around 3 AM, chatting with bar-goers and taking pictures with the staff. Ri Ra staff closed off the bar around 10:30 to keep the band from getting overwhelmed by people, but Power says Grohl, Hawkins, and Mendel, whom he called “the nicest people you could ever meet,” seemed happy to spend time with fans. 

Grohl also talked with Power about Kurt Cobain, got behind the bar to pour himself a Guinness, and even gave his support to Mayo Gaelic Football Club’s quest to win the Sam Maguire Cup, Ireland’s Senior Football Championship, posing for a photo with Ri Ra employee Aideen Murray while holding a “Mayo 4 Sam” sign. 

At the end of the night, after all the customers had left, staffers and the Foggy Dudes, the band playing at Ri Ra last night, convinced Grohl to perform an acoustic version of “Everlong” (now on YouTube) for an audience of seven—a slightly smaller crowd than the one the band will be playing for this weekend. 

Posted at 03:30 PM/ET, 06/20/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Concerts, gospel brunch, and more fun to have with your dad. By Tanya Pai
Show Dad you care by taking him to one of these cultural events. Image via Shutterstock.

Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 15, and there are plenty of ways to say thanks to the man who raised you besides just a card—though one of those never hurts. Here are a few culture-focused ideas for celebrating your pops, from opera to comedy to art exhibits.

Morning-meal fun isn’t just for moms. This Sunday, treat your father to some soulful tunes with his soul food at the Hamilton’s gospel brunch, featuring a buffet of Southern specialties, a complimentary mimosa or Bloody Mary, and a performance by the Gospel Persuaders ($40 to $50; 10 and 12:30). The Howard Theatre also offers a buffet brunch with music from the Harlem Gospel Choir ($35 to $45; doors open at 11:30). 

If jazz is more your dad’s speed, take him to this Friday’s installment of Jazz in the Garden, which features blues fusion pianist and Maryland native Deanna Bogart

Indulge his hippie side on Saturday, when country legend Willie Nelson comes to Merriweather Post Pavilion. The show also features Alison Krauss and Union Station and Kacey Musgraves, so there’s something for country fans of all ages. 

Americana buffs will want to head to the National Museum of American History on Saturday, when the original manuscript for Francis Scott Key’s “Star-Spangled Banner” goes on display to mark the 200th anniversary of the flag’s raising at Fort McHenry. 

For the opera-loving patriarch, the Kennedy Center presents the world premiere of An American Soldier, an opera by Huang Ro that tells the true story of Chinese-American soldier Danny Chen’s time in Afghanistan. $30; June 13 and 14. 

Tim Russert’s book Big Russ & Me: Father & Son: Lessons of Life was published ten years ago, and to mark the occasion, Russert’s son Luke—also a journalist—will be at Politics & Prose on Sunday to talk about the book and the legacies of his father and grandfather. 

The Crime Museum celebrates Father’s Day all weekend with a look at famous sports-related crimes throughout history. The first 50 fathers to show up accompanied by one or more of their children get a free money clip. Friday through Sunday

For those who prefer their crimes fictional, Signature Theatre presents Cloak & Dagger, a “screwball musical comedy” whodunit that spoofs 1950s film noir. $40 to $94; June 12 through July 6.

Now playing at E Street Cinema is Chef, which stars Jon Favreau (who also wrote and directed) as a big-name chef who quits his restaurant job and attempts to revitalize his career and life by opening a food truck with the help of his ex-wife and son. Rolling Stone calls the film “the perfect antidote to Hollywood junk food.” 

Both Mom and Dad will enjoy “Summer of 69,” a new show from husband-and-wife team Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally—provided they have a tolerance for raunchy humor, that is. The Parks and Recreation costars team up for the musical comedy show, coming to DAR Constitution Hall on Friday. $37.50. 

Also on the comedy front is the Capital City Showcase, a variety show offering performances by local comedians, musicians, and more. Saturday’s installment at the DC Arts Center featuring funny men Dylan Meyer, Shahryar Rizvi, and Mikey Larrick. And Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse has two shows by Nate Bargatz, whose comedy career was inspired by his magician dad and who has appeared on Comedy Central and Late Night With Conan O’Brien. $20; Friday and Saturday. 

If you and your dad have always connected over sports, the World Cup is going on all weekend. Take him to one of these watch parties and bond over cheap beer and your love of America (or whatever team you’re rooting for). 

Posted at 01:30 PM/ET, 06/11/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Who’s speaking at graduation this weekend, from newscasters to politicians. By Tanya Pai

Katie Couric is the commencement speaker at American University’s School of Communication. Photograph via s_bukley/Shutterstock

Many local colleges and universities are holding their graduation ceremonies this weekend, and just like cash-filled envelopes from relatives and someone showing up naked under their robe, big-name commencement speakers are a given. This year’s run the gamut from entertainers—such as Sean “Diddy (or is it Puff Daddy again?)” Combs, who addressed graduates and received an honorary doctorate at Howard University’s May 11 ceremony—to billionaires (David Rubenstein) to local politicians/possible presidential hopefuls (Martin O’Malley). Several schools’ websites will stream the remarks, in case you want to tune in. Hopefully none of these speakers will be quite as contested as the one planned for Rutgers University, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, who withdrew from the engagement after student protests (though at least it wasn’t Snooki again). Did we miss someone? Let us know in the comments. 

American University
May 17
Katie Couric (whose new documentary, Fed Up, is now playing at E Street Cinema)
—School of Communication
Washington Week’s Gwen Ifill—School of Public Affairs
Crisis management expert Judy Smith (the inspiration for Scandal’s Olivia Pope)
—College of Law

Catholic University
San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers

Georgetown University
May 17
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew—School of Public Policy
Former defense secretary Robert Gates—School of Foreign Service
Former AOL chairman Steve Case—School of Business

George Mason University
May 17
The Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein


George Washington University
May 17
Chef José Andrés

Marymount University
May 18
Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank


Trinity Washington University
May 17
DC Public Schools chancellor Kaya Henderson

University of Maryland
May 22
Maryland governor Martin O’Malley

University of Virginia
May 17
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning

Posted at 02:36 PM/ET, 05/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()