The last Potomac Video storefront, a once-sprawling regional video rental empire, will be closing its Avalon location at 5536 Connecticut Ave. NW at the end of May.
(Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)
In an announcement made via its Facebook page, management confirmed the bad news. “As many of you have already heard, I sadly must announce that Potomac Video will be closing its doors for good at the end of May. Thank you to all for your loyalty and support. It’s been an honor to bring the best in world cinema to you. Please stop on by to buy some of our inventory or just to say goodbye! We’d love to see everyone. You are what we’ll miss the most!”
Once it’s gone, that’ll be it for full-service video rental stores in Washington, D.C.
Potomac Video was always known as a great resource for both cinephiles and casual movie-watchers. Once, while writing a story about political pictures, I was stumped in finding a copy of Franklin J. Schaffner’s “The Best Man,” a 1964 film starring Henry Fonda and Cliff Robertson based on Gore Vidal’s play. It was nowhere to be found online and hadn’t found its way into any kind of reliable DVD or Blu-ray rotation. But the MacArthur Boulevard location of Potomac Video had a copy — in VHS.
They took pride into holding onto such artifacts and amassed a catalog of some 50,000 titles by the time the closure notice went out on April 10. This made them out of step with the times, when movies and music are stored digitally, and as the economics of the movie industry moved steadily away from bricks and mortar. For those interested in some of those 50,000 titles, in VHS, Blu-ray or DVD, they’re all for sale.
The kind of attention to detail the staff gave at Potomac Video, whether it was through their categorizations by director, the extensive cult movie section, the staff picks, made it a place you could feel the passion for the movies. That’s something that doesn’t come through as well on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Perhaps video rental and sales stores will figure out a new model, like the bookstores and record stores have found new life in some quarters. Potomac Video’s website had long featured staff picks, blog posts, movie news and the like, an attempt to reach out to the community. For now, though, this is just sad, as the lights go out on the last of a breed.
It’s a point hammered home by the receipt you get from a Potomac Video purchase — which comes out on a dot-matrix printer.
Atlanta Braves fans rise up to defend their own! Justin Upton might be outfielder non grata in Washington, but he can take heart his aficionados will defend his right to not try. Also? Team die-hards are determined to shrug off Turner Field’s torching of Old Glory this week.
After the soon-to-be Cobb County Braves accidentally lit a giant American flag on fire with some ill-placed fireworks, the Internet lit up, too, including photos and snarky comments about the Braves’ patriotic conflagration. This included Roll Call After Dark, an unabashed Washington Nationals fan, who also took the opportunity to needle the Braves and their left fielder for an on-field foible that, while within the rules, was just kind of wimpy and an overly technocratic reading of the rules.
In an email received shortly after After Dark’s post went live with the subject line “Justin Upton and the Braves,” one reader stated: Full story
Former South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler, who served in the House and Senate as a Republican and trying to return to the Senate as an independent, stopped by Monday night’s Roll Call Book Club at Hill Center, which happened to be discussing Charles Wheelan’s “The Centrist Manifesto,” a book arguing for the need to elect centrists not affiliated with the two major parties to Congress.
“It’s tough running as an independent. You get classified as someone who can’t win,” Pressler said.
Pressler, second from right, at Monday’s Roll Call Book Club with, from left to right, Adam Yotter, Katie Conley and Kristen Harper. (Photo courtesy Katie Conley).
The match of aspiring lawmaker to book discussion couldn’t have been a better fit. Wheelan’s call for more pragmatic lawmakers hinges on a Senate-first strategy. He argues that with the Electoral College rigged against third-party candidates and the House an ungovernable and gerrymandered mess, centrists should focus on elected a handful or so to the Senate where they could help dictate the agenda in a closely divided body.
“Angus King proved this could be done,” Wheelan said of the Maine independent elected in 2012. “Now he needs some more people to play with.” Wheelan, a Dartmouth professor of public policy, isn’t just theorizing. He’s putting some sweat equity into it with The Centrist Project, a 501 (c) (4) set up to help elect centrists to the Senate.
Pressler wants to be one of those such independents. “I’m enjoying the race,” he said. “My wife is my driver. We’re adding volunteers.” However, he bemoaned the lack of independent polling in South Dakota, which he said would vindicate his desire to run, predicting he would finish ahead in a survey. One example of the challenge facing him, though, is funding. Commissioning a poll, he said, was something he didn’t have the cash for at this point.
One avenue of support available to him, though, might be those inclined to support The Centrist Project. After the event, Wheelan and Pressler headed to dinner on Capitol Hill, at Acqua al 2 near Eastern Market. Perhaps a vetting, perhaps just a friendly dinner.
“Particle Fever,” a documentary about physicists and the particle theories they love, captures a compelling and dramatic episode of modern science. Rep. Daniel Lipinski, an Illinois Democrat and unabashed fan of the film, is hoping the movie will not only make science fun, but make funding it fun as well.
“When people are excited about a thing, it makes you want to pay attention to it,” Lipinski said of the story of the experimental and theoretical physicists gearing up for the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, which in 2012 shed light on the Higgs boson, the so-called “God particle” and a sort of holy grail in the physics world.
Lipinski, who introduced the film at its Washington premiere last month, has been tracking the progress of the film for years, dating back to contact with friends and colleagues at Stanford University’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. Lipinski got his master’s degree in engineering from Stanford. “The whole idea was to get people engaged in making it a kind of reality show, showing that these scientists are real people,” he said. Along the way, the scientists just happen to have made one of the most significant scientific discoveries in history. Full story
For political junkies, it was all there — President Barack Obama’s relationship with Congress, the future of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the 2014 midterm elections, the Republican field for the 2016 presidential race and much more — during our Roll Call Book Club discussion with “Double Down: Game Change 2012″ co-author Mark Halperin on March 26.
Some of the highlights in three minutes include those topics:
Couldn’t attend? Lucky for you, we have video of the full discussion with Halperin, Roll Call Editor-in-Chief Christina Bellantoni, Capitol Hill Editor Jason Dick and a lively and engaged audience at the Hill Center:
COTTONWOOD, Ariz. | On this, the Republican congressman and the frontman for Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer agree: The Verde Valley is a great place to make wine.
Rep. Paul Gosar, the two-term lawmaker who represents central and western Arizona, and Maynard James Keenan,the Grammy-winning and platinum-album selling rock star who happens to be the hands-on winemaker/founder of Caduceus Cellars and Merkin Vineyards, can’t say enough about the wine coming from the high-desert land here.
“Northern Arizona, particularly the Verde Valley, has the right climate to make some very interesting wines, and when you combine that with the natural beauty of the red rocks, the running creeks and rivers, the western vistas, and Arizona hospitality, it’s a recipe for success! I can’t wait to watch as this industry continues to develop over the next couple years,” said Gosar, whose official website is peppered with imagery of the valley and references to its viticulture efforts.
Keenan is counting on such sentiment, as his roots in the Verde Valley grow. His mission statement reads, in part, “My art and music has been described as ‘thick, dense, rich, complex, engaging, emotional, and spiritual,’ by those who are fans. And an ‘acquired taste’ for those kind others who are not. Arizona is ‘thick, dense, rich, complex, engaging, emotional, and spiritual,’ as well as being an ‘acquired taste.’ We are a match made in heaven and surely these qualities will be reflected in the wine that Arizona will present to us.”
In addition to his Caduceus and Merkin labels and their attendant vineyards, he has tasting rooms here, in nearby Jerome and Clarkdale; supports Yavapai College’s nascent viticulture program, the Southwest Wine Center in Clarkdale, and founded wine cooperative Four Eight Wineworks and co-founded Arizona Stronghold with fellow area winemaker Eric Glomski.
His efforts with Glomski were chronicled in the documentary movie “Blood Into Wine,” which, in addition to oneophiles and chamber of commerce types extolling the power of the vine, got a little star power from the likes of Milla Jovovich and Patton Oswalt, fans of Keenan’s music and now his wine.
Charles Wheelan, the scribe behind “Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread From the Data” and “Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science” swings by for Monday’s Roll Call Book Club to talk about his latest offering: “The Centrist Manifesto.” Wheelan, a Dartmouth professor of public policy, is a bit fed up with the gridlocked shenanigans of the Republican and Democratic parties and calls for a centrist third party that can focus on the big issues, instead of just run for re-election and trade partisan snipes. If you think this isn’t exactly a novel idea, hear Wheelan out. He is, after all, the guy who successfully marries nudity and statistics. “The terminology may sound intimidating, but Wheelan handles it well and is a patient teacher. If you’re the kind of reader whose flagging interest can be revived by cracks about the Kardashians or the author’s faux self-deprecation, you’ll enjoy Wheelan’s style,” our own Randolph Walerius wrote of “Naked Statistics” last year.
“People ask me if I put ‘naked’ in the title just to sell books. The answer is, ‘yes!’” Wheelan cracked. He’ll discuss his book at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE starting at 6 p.m. We’ll serve snacks and adult beverages, and give out free copies of “The Centrist Manifesto” on a first-come, first-served basis. To register for this free event, click here.
Most Best of D.C.
The Washington City Paper’s Best of D.C. shindig is Wednesday at the historic Carnegie Library at 801 K St. NW, a block-party-worthy soiree of the city’s favorite beer, wine, burgers, oysters, bar, chocolate, gelato — you get the picture. Tickets are $80 for general admission. The $125 Very Important Person tickets are already sold out. Lots of local artists, performers and that admission fee gets you the open bar experience. For more information go to Washington City Paper’s website.
Undocumented Screening, Redux
Former Washington Post reporter Jose Antonio Vargas returns to the District for another screening of his compelling documentary “Undocumented,” which chronicles his uniquely American journey as an undocumented immigrant and his push for an immigration overhaul. On Thursday, he’ll host a screening of “Undocumented,” which has been updated since its initial release last year to reflect current events, at the Newseum at 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. The movie starts at 7 p.m. and will be followed by a panel discussion with Vargas, executive producer Janet Yang and FWD.us founder Joe Green. To RSVP, go to Eventfarm.
Not long for this world. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Then over the weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported that the owners of several Capitol Hill watering holes, Barracks Row Entertainment, was filing for bankruptcy. Depending on how things turn out, this could affect the Hawk ‘n’ Dove, Senart’s Oyster House, The Chesapeake Room, Park Tavern, Boxcar Tavern, Lola’s Barracks Bar & Grill, Molly Malone’s, Pacifico Cantina and the not-yet-open Willie’s Brew and ‘Que.
Next on the chopping block? (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Yipes. If you’ve got a favorite bar out there, better support it while you can.
“Big Men,” the latest documentary from filmmaker Rachel Boynton, is a sprawling chronicle of oil discovery and development off the coast of West Africa, a tall enough order for any filmmaker. But Boynton — whose last film, “Our Brand is Crisis,” showed how American political consultants sell themselves, and their tactics, in other countries — wasn’t satisfied with just that.
“I felt like I could do something better, something bigger, something epic,” she said in a recent interview. The result — which takes her and her “Big Men” crew from upstart energy company Kosmos’ bid to develop a big oil find in Ghana, to the dingy and dangerous Niger Delta to Kosmos’ offices in Dallas to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange — is also an exploration of human motivation.
“Everybody want to become big,” Egbema King Bini Pere III G.O.E. Tiemo, a key tribal figure in Ghana that Kosmos is trying to woo, tells Boynton. “It is an instinct in every human being, to be well to do.” The idea of being the “Big Man” in Africa is not new. The strong-man leader of V.S. Naipaul’s unnamed Africa nation in his seminal novel “A Bend in the River” is simply, “The Big Man.”
Boynton adds key context in “Big Men,” though, interviewing everyone from the AK-47 wielding Nigerian Deadly Underdogs militant group to the pinstripe-suited chairman of Warburg Pincus, the hedge fund that helped finance Kosmos’ venture in Ghana’s Jubilee Field. Her journey, from oil price boom days in 2006 through the capital-poor days of the financial crisis to 2011, shows how previous oil development in Nigeria weigh on Ghana’s development.
“So do you think it’s just human nature to fight like this? Over who’s going to get what?” Boynton asks at one point in the movie. The answer, as provided by the likes of Deadly Underdogs leader Ezekiel, Kosmos’ one-time leader Jim Musselman and a host of others, might be obvious by the end of the movie, but is delivered, as Boynton wished, in an epic way.
“Big Men” is playing at the Landmark E Street Cinema at 555 11th St. NW.
Amazing what a couple of days above freezing will do for everyone’s disposition!
Whether it’s planning some fun runs, mussing about among the cherry blossoms or gearing up for the return of the Washington Nationals, it’s nice to be able to go outside without cold weather gear, finally.
Run, Run, Run
One of the biggest outdoor activities of the season brings together not just the Cherry Blossom Festival crowds but members of Congress and the physically fit. April 6 is the annual Congressional Federal Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run, a massive foot race that raises money for charity that contains the Capitol Hill Competition race-within-the-race. Race organizers on April 3 will present the a check to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Room HVC-200 at the Capitol Visitor Center. Expect current and former members of Congress to attend. Congressional Federal CEO Charles A. Mallon Jr., is touting the 41 senators and 189 House members who are serving as honorary co-chairs of the race, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. The event starts at 10 a.m. Capitol Hill Competition runners can pick up their race packets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the same room. Full story
PHOENIX — For convention delegates traumatized by long commutes, far-flung venues and disparate hotel options, the prospect of drama-free access this time around is highly appealing.
It is perhaps with this in mind that Arizona’s largest city is touting its light rail system and dense downtown footprint to lure either party’s 2016 presidential convention, a relatively unforeseen twist for a place often associated with car culture and urban sprawl.
Roll Call After Dark is about what Washington does when it's not at work.
The District of Columbia is a cultural capital where you can you get your kicks from movies projected on the National Mall, lectures on vermouth or Russian avant-garde art. There's always something to do.
Jason Dick is the Hill Life editor for Roll Call and has also worked at Greenwire, CongressDaily and National Journal Daily during his time in Washington. @jasonjdick