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February 11, 2016

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October 13, 2015

Coming to a National Mall Near You

UNITED STATES - APRIL 10: Visitors at the National Gallery of Art ride a moving walkway through the installation, "Multiverse," the largest and most complex light sculpture by American artist Leo Villareal. The work features approximately 41,000 computer-programmed LED nodes that run through channels along the 200-foot-long hallway. (Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

The National Gallery of Art is just one of the cultural institutions in D.C. offering free movie screenings. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The various Smithsonian and related government institutions around the capital region always offer a healthy serving of gratis good cinema in grand facilities such as the National Gallery of Art, the Freer and Sackler museums and the National Archives.

This week, it’s as simple as walking in the door to watch some interesting, influential or just plain weird movies at those spots. Full story

By Jason Dick Posted at 8:57 a.m.
Movies, Museums

July 24, 2015

Josh Oppenheimer Looks Into the Abyss With ‘The Look of Silence’

Josh Oppenheimer has an open invitation to the world with his new film, “The Look of Silence.”

“It’s saying, ‘look at the abyss,'” he says of the film, a companion piece and sequel to his Academy Award-nominated “The Act of Killing.” In that earlier movie, Oppenheimer spent years in Indonesia with perpetrators of the 1960s genocide of political dissidents there. Full story

April 14, 2015

Stephen Colbert Portrait Set to Leave National Portrait Gallery

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Colbert. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

A nation turns its lonely eyes to you, Colbert. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nation! It’s come to this. Stephen Colbert’s portrait is coming down from its rightful spot in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, on the second floor between the bathrooms and above the water fountain. Full story

Piero di Cosimo’s Breakout Show

"The Discovery of Honey" by Piero di Cosimo (Photo courtesy National Gallery of Art)

“The Discovery of Honey” by Piero di Cosimo. (Courtesy National Gallery of Art)

It took almost 500 years for one of the bad boys of Renaissance art to get a major retrospective. But if recent crowds at the National Gallery of Art are any indication, Piero di Cosimo may be starting to  emerge from the shadows cast by famous contemporaries such as Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo to take a long overdue star turn.

“Piero di Cosimo: The Poetry of Painting in Renaissance Florence,” features 44 altarpieces, portraits and mythological and allegorical scenes painted by an enigmatic figure who was described in his day as uncivilized, eccentric and prone to “building castles in the air.” Full story

April 9, 2015

‘Living in the Age of Airplanes’ Lands at Air and Space Museum

If you aren’t awestruck by the fact that a quarter million people are zooming through the sky right now with drinks in hand, you are probably part of the majority. However, Brian Terwilliger wants to change that.

Terwilliger is the director and producer of “Living in the Age of Airplanes,” which premiered Wednesday night at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Dressed to the nines, chatty people crowded under the museum’s planes hanging from the ceiling, getting their fill of drinks and appetizers before shuffling into the Lockheed-Martin IMAX theater. Full story

February 27, 2015

What to See and Do in Selma

The city of Selma prepares for the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The city of Selma prepares for the 50th anniversary of “Bloody Sunday.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

SELMA, Ala., — Every year, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., makes a pilgrimage here to walk the Edmund Pettus Bridge, tracing the fateful steps he took on March 7, 1965, when he and others marching in favor of voting rights were savagely beaten by state troopers and thugs.

Friends, activists and fellow members of Congress have frequently joined him over the years, but not in the numbers expected for the upcoming 50th anniversary, when about 100 of his colleagues and President Barack Obama are expected to help him mark the half-century mark since “Bloody Sunday.” If you’re heading there yourself, here are a few things to check out, including places where the Selma to Montgomery March was planned, as well as a great spot for a proper Southern breakfast. Full story

February 24, 2015

The Democrats’ Lost Opportunity in Birmingham

Wallace and Bentley adorn booth B-4 at Carlile's BBQ. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

Wallace and Bentley adorn booth B-4 at Carlile’s BBQ. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Walk into any barbecue place in the South and you’re pretty certain to find walls of fame and photos of the area’s local sports heroes. Dine at Carlile’s BBQ here in Magic City and you’ll see prominent politicians, mostly rock-ribbed Republicans, interspersed among the likes of Joe Namath, Bart Starr and Bear Bryant.

Booth B-4 provides the most vivid illustration of Carlile’s political tone. A contemporary photo of the current governor, Republican Robert Bentley, hangs just below a black and white photo of the late Democratic Gov. George Wallace, the long-time segregationist who recanted his views late in life but was for years a symbol, along with Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor, of white resistance to civil rights. (Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” immortalized Wallace’s status for fraternity party singalongs with the lyrics, “In Birmingham they love the governor.”)

By the cashier counter, former GOP Rep. Spencer Bachus gets a place of honor, next to a photo of singer Lyle Lovett, a Texan.

The city once dubbed “Bombingham” because of its Civil Rights Era violence was passed over last year in its bid to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Alas. And Carlile’s isn’t on the list of many Democrats here — “It’s usually not in my repertoire of where I take my visitors,” Rep. Terri A. Sewell, D-Ala., told CQ Roll Call recently, rattling off other ‘cue joints such as Dreamland and Jim ‘n Nick’s and Lannie’s in Selma. But imagine a gaggle of Democratic activists descending upon Carlile’s to eat pork butt and lemon ice box pie among the mugs of Wallace, Bentley and Bachus. Bipartisan barbecue!

The 114th: CQ Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress

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By Jason Dick Posted at 4:54 p.m.
Eat, Museums, The Sights

February 5, 2015

When Interior Decorating Questions Get Weird

Young's office boasts a gavel made from a walrus penis. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Young’s office boasts a gavel made from a walrus penis. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Some members of Congress go their whole lives without being asked about their office decorations. Others have it foisted upon them.

So it was when Roll Call and WAMU went to the Capitol to report on why members display particular pictures of parents, presidential memorabilia or patriotic nutcrackers. It just happened to be on the day The Washington Post published Ben Terris’ story about Rep. Aaron Schock’s “Downton Abbey”-inspired red Rayburn office digs. Full story

January 30, 2015

Kojo, Will and Roll Call on the Hill

The Folger will host Kojo at the Capitol (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Folger will host Kojo at the Capitol: In Partnership with Roll Call, WAMU’s Metro Connection, and the Folger Shakespeare Library. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

If the voice of Kojo Nnamdi sounds different starting Monday, it could because be he’s channeling the Bard.

Kojo, who once upon a time covered Capitol Hill for WHUR, will helm Kojo at the Capitol: In Partnership with Roll Call, WAMU’s Metro Connection, and the Folger Shakespeare Library amid the Folger’s dark wood, thousands of manuscripts, vivid oil paintings and stained glass. Full story

January 9, 2015

The Dangerous Lives of Satirists

Gibbons, right, helped honor Havel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Gibbons, right, helped honor Havel. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Foreigners are sometimes amazed at the suffering that we are willing to undergo here, and at the same time they are amazed at the things we are still able to laugh at. It’s difficult to explain, but without the laughter we would simply be unable to do the serious things. If one were required to increase the dramatic seriousness of his face in relation to the seriousness of the problems he had to confront, he would quickly petrify and become his own statue.”

— Vaclav Havel, “Disturbing The Peace”

Back in November, some people were confused to see ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons performing at the Statuary Hall ceremony to unveil the bust of Havel. Why would one of the guys behind “Tush,” “Jesus Just Left Chicago” and “Tube Snake Boogie” be present to honor the late Czech dissident and president?

Because Havel, an absurdist playwright, loved rock ‘n’ roll and he particularly loved tunes that had a sense of humor and ribaldry. For him, laughing at one’s self, others, and particularly the Soviet puppet state in Communist-era Czechoslovakia was an essential part of not just dissent — it was what made him and his countrymen human. Full story

April 30, 2014

Air and Space Museum Shows Off New Planetarium Projection System

Something new, something old. The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum on the National Mall has both at its newly renovated planetarium.

The Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum has a new toy: a brand spanking new digital projection system for its Einstein Planetarium: an 8K Full Dome Digital System. As part of its soft launch, it’s showing off what it can do with showings of “Dark Universe,” a 24-minute film narrated by new “Cosmos” host Neil deGrasse Tyson.

That’s 8K as in 8,000 pixels, or roughly twice as many pixels as the last-generation digital projection system the planetarium has had in place since 2002. The new system’s six digital projectors provide a neck-cranking and high-definition experience, as Tyson’s narration of the Carter Emmart flick illuminates the more than 90-percent dark “stuff” the universe is made of.

Smithsonian geoscientist Andrew Johnston gushed about the new system’s ability to also customize night sky and our own solar system’s orbital idiosyncrasies. Sean O’Brien, the Einstein Planetarium technician who made things go for a Wednesday screening, was able to show what the Earth’s artificial satellite ring looks like, as well as the trajectories of Saturn’s many moons, for instance.

And then there was the Zeiss Mark 6A projector, the original gangster of the planetarium. Located in the middle of the renovated Einstein theater, the old-school projector is a mechanical nostalgist’s delight, a contraption that looks like a combination of a mad scientist’s laser, Robby the Robot and Captain Nemo’s lifepod. It hums to life like a steam-powered tiger, rising up and projecting a night sky with the best of them.

The Zeiss Mark6A (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

The Zeiss Mark6A (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

A gift from the government of West Germany in 1976 for the U.S. bicentennial, the projector has been with the museum since it opened in 1976. The planetarium folks break it out a few times a week to show a different view of the night sky. It’s old, and most planetariums used versions of it for years, but have since all moved on to digital projection. Thankfully, the Smithsonian has kept its version, if nothing else than as a point of comparison. “It’s built like a tank,” Johnston said.

German ingenuity (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

German ingenuity (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call)

Johnston, whose affection for the Zeiss is obvious, says he frequently seeks out old, retired models for spare parts to make sure Air and Space can continue operating its own. While extolling the virtues of the new system and its abilities, Johnston says the Zeiss does something no digital projector is capable of just yet: “Nothing can get things as dark,” as the Zeiss he said.

In addition, it’s just kind of cool to have such stuff, especially in a museum. “It’s terribly important to keep such equipment,” Johnston said.

Ticketed presentations of “Dark Universe” are under way now and run throughout the day. Come for the new toy. Stay for the old one.

By Jason Dick Posted at 3:42 p.m.
Movies, Museums, The Sights

February 10, 2014

Archives Wishes Lincoln a Happy Birthday

Presidents Day: It’s more than just a long weekend dedicated to selling mattresses. To scope out part of the legacy of one of the two POTI who make up this most American of holidays, the National Archives is showing Jake Boritt’s “The Gettysburg Story” on Wednesday at its William G. McGowan Theater to commemorate President Abraham Lincoln’s Feb. 12 birthday.

Boritt’s film, screened last year on PBS, is a 60-minute chronicle of aerial, time-lapse and 3-D animation photography that tells the story of what happened on one of the bloodiest days of Lincoln’s presidency and helped turn the tide in the Civil War. Narrated by actor Stephen Lang (who starred in the films “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals”), the movie will be followed by a discussion with Boritt, Lang and Gabor Boritt, a Civil War scholar.

The screening starts at 7 p.m and is free to attend.

February 7, 2014

Calendar: Monuments Men Get Their D.C. Shoutout

When you think about it, “The Monuments Men” is the perfect movie for Washington: Educated nerds defeat the Nazis, save crown jewels of Western civilization.

George Clooney’s old-school World War II flick about the military’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program was released in theaters on Friday, including at the District’s great Uptown Theater. The city’s other cultural institutions, meanwhile, have geared up exhibits to provide some context for the real-life heroes that made the monuments men so monumental.

The National Gallery of Art, for instance, is unveiling an exhibit on Feb. 11, “The Monuments Men and the National Gallery of Art: Behind the History,” in its West Building Founders Room. The exhibit features photos, documents and other items.

Down the street, the National Archives has on display “The ‘Hitler Albums’ — Meticulously Documented Plunder,” a record of the Nazi’s Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, or ERR, the point agency for the Third Reich’s efforts to loot art in occupied countries.

The “Hitler Albums” were documents that catalogued the most priceless of the art for a planned museum dedicated to the Nazi leader. Thirty-nine of the albums were discovered by U.S. forces at the Nazis’ Neuschwanstein Castle and turned over to the MFAA. They’re on display until Feb. 19 in the Archives’ East Rotunda Gallery. Also on Feb. 19, Richard Edsel, author of “The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History,” the primary source for Clooney’s movie, will be part of a panel discussion at the Archives’ William McGowan Theater at 7 p.m., that will cover his books, the real-life MFAA, the film and his foundation, the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. A book signing will follow the discussion.

Roll Call Book Club Continues

Roll Call’s book club is back on Feb. 13, and in a new venue. Time Magazine’s Mark Halperin discusses his new book (co-written with New York Magazine’s John Heilemann) about the 2012 presidential election, “Double Down.”

A sequel to the duo’s “Game Change,” one of the definitive chronicles of the 2008 presidential race, “Double Down” weaves a complicated tapestry that reveals the humor and humanity of its principals, the people laying it on the line for a shot at the most important elected office in the world.

The event starts at 6 p.m. at Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. It’s free, but please register at Complimentary copies of the book will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis.

February 5, 2014

Abe Lincoln’s Morning Commute

The average American commute these days is about 25 minutes, according to the Census Bureau. Turns out, that’s about how long it used to take Abraham Lincoln to make his way from the Lincoln Cottage, where he stayed during the summers, and the White House.

According to Beth Roberts, an interpreter at President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home, it used to take Lincoln about 30 minutes from door to door. He was usually on horseback or horse-drawn carriage for the trip. “He didn’t always wait for his Cavalry escort,” Roberts said.

A statue of Lincoln with his equine transit vehicle, outside the Lincoln Cottage. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call.)

A statue of Lincoln with his equine transit vehicle, outside the Lincoln Cottage. (Jason Dick/CQ Roll Call.)

But 30 minutes? One would be hard-pressed to make it from the Soldiers’ Home near Petworth to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in a car nowadays, much less equine transit. It’s just one more way Lincoln can relate to the common man, we who toil with the trappings of D.C. traffic ourselves.

By Jason Dick Posted at 5:32 p.m.

January 22, 2014

Calendar: East Side King Meets Hitchcock and U.S. Royalty

And how does one withstand the latest polar vortex assault? Hunker down, hang out, listen to music, watch movies, eat beet fries and hoist a few drinks.

Real Life Monuments Men

The National Archives on Thursday, is showing a documentary about some of the real-life Monuments Men who helped safeguard Europe’s great art from the Nazis during World War II.

The Archives will screen “The Rape of Europa” at noon at the William G. McGowan Theater, a 2006 documentary about the Allies’ attempts to protect the continent’s cultural heritage.

Sound familiar? That’s the premise of the highly anticipated film by George Clooney, “The Monuments Men,” which is set to be released Feb. 7.

Both flicks look like they’re worth a gander. Free. The Archives is at Constitution Avenue, between Seventh and Ninth streets Northwest.

Toki Gets Taken Over

Austin-based food-trailer-turned-mini-dynasty East Side King roars into town Friday to take over Toki Underground at 1234 H St. NE. Visiting ESK chefs Paul Qui, Moto Utsunomiya, and Jorge Luis Hernandez will sling away for lunch and dinner from 11:30 a.m. until closing time. No reservations, and space is, as any visitor to Toki knows, small. It’s a first-come, first-served shot at noshing at some of ESK’s Thai Chicken Karaage, Beef Tongue Kare Kare Buns, Beet Home Fries, Fried Brussels Sprout Salad, Liberty Rie and Tori Meshi.

Get a ‘Rope’

Hill Center and Friends of the Southeast Library are showcasing some of Alfred Hitchcock’s pre-“Psycho” work over the next month, starting on Friday with 1948’s “Rope,” a Jimmy Stewart flick about the consequences of philosophical musings.

Future screenings will bring “Shadow of a Doubt,” “Strangers on a Train” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” to 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. Discussions will be lead by Tom Zaniello, facilitator of Capitol Hill Village’s Cinephiles film discussion group and author of a forthcoming book on Hitch. They’re all free, but register ahead of time for a spot at

D.C. Royalty

District-based U.S. Royalty celebrates the release of its newest album, “Blue Sunshine,” this Saturday with a show at the Rock and Roll Hotel at 1353 H St. NE, followed by an after party at Little Miss Whiskey’s Golden Dollar just down the street at 1104 H St. NE.

The show is $15 at Rock and Roll Hotel, with doors at 7 p.m. and show starting at 8 p.m. Spires opens. No cover at Little Miss Whiskey’s, where the party is slated to start at 10 p.m.

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