August 31, 2006


This Japanese-inspired teahouse is at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

We, the People

August 30, 2006

The National Archives building on Constitution Avenue is where you can see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. Many other vauable records are available there for study by anyone interested in genealogy and history.

Colossal Head 4

August 29, 2006

This is a replica of a 6-ton basalt portrait of a ruler from the Olmec culture of 1200 – 900 B.C.E. The original (one of 17 known) was excavated in 1946 by Smithsonian archaeologist Matthew Stirling and is on display in the Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa in the state of Veracruz, Mexico. The Olmec created these sculptures without iron tools.

This replica, which stands outside the Museum of Natural History on Constitution Avenue, was carved from welded volcanic ash by Ignacio Pérez Solano and presented to the Smithsonian Institution by the state of Veracruz in 2001.


August 28, 2006

They’re not goldfish although they are distant relatives; they’re young koi—carp. Tank upon tank of koi in various stages of maturity can be found at Lilypons Water Gardens in Maryland, and mature koi swim in the waterlily beds on the 300 acres of property.

Nishikigoi meaning brocaded carp refers to the beautifully colored and patterned fish that are prized in freshwater ponds. They can grow to as much as 36 inches in length, and you can pay anything from a few dollars to as much as several thousand for a koi depending on size and rarity.

Koi appeal not only to people, but also to predators, especially the blue heron. When you pay big bucks to stock your fish pond, the last thing you want is someone stopping by on the lookout for a meal, so as well as providing rocks and other hiding places for their fish, some owners dot fake koi around their ponds. (I guess you could call them “dekoi,” and I bet any number of people already have.) They are amazingly realistic. Made of plastic and nd suspended on a nylon filament anchored to the bottom of the pond by a weight, they move with the water currents and appear to be swimming. But one beakful and the blue heron stalks off in disgust.

Fighting City Hall

August 27, 2006

Barry’s Magic Shop in Wheaton, MD, has been part of the Washington, D.C. scene since 1974, and it draws customers from all over the Washington metropolitan area not only because of its superb stock, but also because of the friendliness of its owners, Barry Taylor (also a professional magician) and Susie Kang (also a professional photographer).

Imagine the dismay of the owners, their customers, and Wheaton residents for whom Barry’s has been a landmark for more than 30 years, when Montgomery County forcibly acquired title to the building Barry’s occupies and threatened the business with eviction. As part of a large-scale redevelopment project, the country wants to demolish the building to improve the alley connecting Georgia Avenue (the main drag) to the parking lot behind the building.

Montgomery County claims to want to assist Barry’s in moving to another building, but the owners say relocation will be a financial hardship to this family-owned small business: “We are unlikely to quickly find any suitable alternative business site which has the space and commercial access for anywhere near the rent that we have been paying under our [current] lease,” they explain.

Customers and Wheaton residents have rallied and written to local officials, and one (otherwise very developer-friendly) City Council member up for re-election has offered support. If he’s re-elected, his good faith remains to be seen.

If I understood Susie correctly when I spoke with her last Friday, any reprieve for Barry’s is temporary. Six or seven years from now, the Wheaton Redevelopment Program will eventually bulldoze Barry’s and other small businesses, among which are an aquarium and tropical fish store, a store selling supplies for professional cake decorating, a store selling current and old comic books, an Italian grocery, and several others. In their place will be office buildings and chain stores like Starbucks, Barnes and Noble, and Target.

Such is progress.

Housing development for the birds

August 26, 2006

These birdhouses are just a few of the ones placed in the Enid A. Haupt Garden of the Smithsonian Castle.

Another piece of history

August 25, 2006

Not nearly as old as triceratops horridus, but equally prehistoric to young people today—a typewriter eraser. Remember them? This one was sculpted in painted stainless steel and fiberglass in 1999 by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and it stands in the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art.

There’s a dinosaur on the Mall

August 24, 2006

Triceratops horridus roamed northwestern North America 65-70 million years ago when the climate was warmer and wetter. This sculpture was cast, using 3-D modeling based on computer scans, from the original skull of a triceratops in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History’s Dinosaur Hall. Fierce as he looks, he was a herbivore.

We need rain!

August 23, 2006

Another early morning shot. A gardener waters plants outside the Smithsonian Castle, which now houses the visitor center with orientation exhibits and a coffee shop.

Before the tourists arrive

August 22, 2006

The outdoor cafe at the Hirschorn Museum early on a Sunday morning. The Hirschorn is the Smithsonian’s museum of modern and contemporary art.