Friday Photo: Fringe Edition

What It Is - Capital Fringe Festival 2014

The Mount Vernon home of the Capital Fringe Festival.

The Capital Fringe Festival is moving from its home on New York Avenue to a new location in the Trinidad neighborhood. It’s a win for Fringe, which currently occupies a tumbledown collection of old buildings soon to make way for development. It’s a loss for Northwest DC, which will see funky theater replaced by boring condos.

I have many fond memories of Fort Fringe. I was an event photographer for Fringe one year and spent many hours snapping at the Baldacchino Tent Bar. This outdoor bar was where everyone met before and after shows, where you could find friends, photogs and performers mingling together under a big tent.

It’s not too late to experience the gritty magic of the Capital Fringe Festival. Check it out July 10-27.

Bike Therapy: Visualize Your Ride, Your Life

happy hipster

A cyclist enjoys a fall day in Washington, DC.

Can you write your way to the ride you want? To a certain extent, I think you can.

That’s Mary Gersemalina on Chasing Mailboxes, a great blog devoted to biking, run-commuting and coffeeneuring.

In her post, Mary talks about visualizing the ride that she wants. She doesn’t want it to be a story of failure, where she doesn’t measure up to faster riders. Instead:

I wanted my story to be about working through whatever unexpected challenges the ride offered.

Mary is shaping her narrative through positive visualization. Rather than dwelling on what could go wrong – a broken chain, a flat tire, a hot day – she focuses on the positive nature of the experience and her own strengths, imagining how she will tell this story when she’s done.

We are the stories that we tell ourselves. The mind is good at telling you what you can’t do. These stories limit our potential. While this negativity may have saved our ancestors from being eaten by lions, it’s not so useful today.

With her visualization exercise (imagining telling the story of this ride), Mary gets past her negative thoughts, recognizing that while there will be problems, she has the strength to overcome them.

In addition to being the queen of coffeeneuring (where you bike to different coffee shops), Mary also created the Errandonnee Winter Challenge, in which you pledge to conduct twelve errands by bike. The opportunity to be a part of this positive, group activity caused me to set aside my preconceived notions about winter cycling (it’s too cold, dark) and start using my bike for just about everything.

The experience of conducting ordinary activities by bike turned what was once a weekend activity into an everyday one. By completing twelve errands over twelve days by bike, I got to be a part of the errandonnee narrative. Rather than believing that winter was too cold for biking, I now have the errandonnee story: you can do anything by bike, any time of year.

Hey it's my #errandonnee patch! #bikedc

The coveted Errandonnee patch.

And I got a patch.  Never underestimate the power of tchotkes on human behavior.

Biking is therapy for many people. It’s a joyful exercise that combines the thrill of accomplishment (I biked all those miles) with the pleasure of seeing the changing landscape. We’re problem-solving primates who like to move – biking is ideal for that.

And scientific research has demonstrated that everyday cycling makes you happier.

Bikes are happiness engines that provide rich rewards for anyone who will ride them.

Tour de Fat Recap: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Mohawk nation

More than 7,000 people descended upon Yards Park in Washington, DC for the third annual Tour de Fat. For those unfamiliar with this unique event, it is a celebration of bikes, beer and fun sponsored by New Belgium, the Colorado-based brewer of Fat Tire.

I’ve attended every year for it brings together two of my great loves: bikes and beer. Here’s what it was like: Continue reading

Friday Photo: Tour de Fat Edition

the couple that bikes together, stays together

The couple that bikes together, stays together. Maybe.

What can you expect at tomorrow’s Tour de Fat?

  1. A fun and safe bike ride around DC with people in costumes. Last year, we did a wonderful loop around Lincoln Park.
  2. Wacky bike-based entertainment, music and games. The photo above was from a corral of impossible bikes to try out.
  3. Delicious beer from New Belgium. This year they’re going to have some interesting seasonal varieties.

Everything kicks off at Yards Park in DC starting at 11 AM. Check out my photos from last year to sample the frivolity. Look for me on my beloved foldy bike. See you there!

Bureaucracy Kills Filmmaking in DC

U.S. Capitol at dawn

You can’t film here.

“As a result of this new policy, film and television producers will think twice before deciding to film in the District,” Palmer wrote. “Why? In a word, ‘Bureaucracy.’”

That was Crystal Palmer, head of the DC Office of Motion Picture and Television Development, on the failed effort to get House of Cards, a DC-based series, to actually film in DC.

I don’t blame Palmer. As the article indicates, filming in DC isn’t the one-stop shop it is in other states and cities. Producers have to deal with countless government agencies (state and federal), various police forces (state and federal), DC councilmembers looking for payoffs, organized interest groups and the NIMBYest of neighborhood organizations in the nation. And they have to navigate these competing bureaucratic interests on their own.

Instead, producers come to DC, shoot a couple of exteriors and establishing shots (like the great opening credit sequence in House of Cards) and then decamp to Baltimore or a California for the rest.

As a Washingtonian, this bothers me. House of Cards does not look like DC to people who live here. The city in the Netflix series looks too gritty and worn – like Baltimore. And we don’t have a Cathedral Heights Metro stop. I stopped watching 24 the season it was set in DC because it was obviously, ridiculously LA – the buildings were too tall and DC does not have a sprawling waterfront district that looks like Long Beach.

TV viewers may be surprised to learn that Washington does not have the sandy hues of a Burbank back lot. It’s greener. There’s more marble. It rains.

We’re no longer able to depict this nation’s capital on film due to the leviathan security state that has grown up over the past decade. The U.S. Park Police, Secret Service, Capitol Police and other agencies have blocked off vast swaths of the city that used to be open to the public and to filmmakers. They’d prefer a capital without people. The loss is not just to directors and producers – it’s to all of us who deserve to see Washington on film.

Friday Photo: Chicken Curry Edition

Chicken curry at Teaism, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC.

Chicken curry at Teaism, Dupont Circle, Washington, DC.

I am not earthy nor crunchy. Veganism seems very sad to me. I don’t meditate and my one attempt at yoga ended in sweaty failure.

Yet, I like Teaism. It’s a small, Asian-inspired eatery near Dupont Circle. It’s the type of place where you’ll find women in earnest conversation about changing the world over a pot of Lapsang tea.

While I get chicken curry most of the time, the bento boxes are also delicious. And if you feel too healthy and ommmm-like afterwards, you can always go around the corner to Dolcezza. Their gelato will restore your faith in gluttony.

Savage Harvest: Among the Cannibals

Carl Hoffman, author of Savage Harvest

Carl Hoffman, author of Savage Harvest

Humans were made to eat like Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, not farmers.
– Chris Kresser, Your Personal Paleo Code

Americans are in love with the Stone Age. They long for the nirvana of the Paleo era, when we ate nothing but free-range mammoths and were strong, healthy and free of neuroses. Chris Kresser claims that our health has declined since the Stone Age while doomster Jared Diamond has called agriculture “the worst mistake in human history.”

It’s the ultimate form of liberal guilt. Our civilization has ruined the land with freeways, processed food and vaccinations. And there’s far too many of us. Man is a plague on the earth, according to Sir David Attenborough.

If only we could go back to when we lived as hunter-gatherers and ate nothing but locally-sourced organic food.

You can. And it all takes is a trip to New Guinea.

Savage HarvestIn researching his book Savage Harvest, author Carl Hoffman spent months with the indigenous Asmat people of New Guinea in his quest to solve the mystery of the disappearance of Michael Rockefeller. When he vanished in 1961, Rockefeller was one of the wealthiest men in the world and was collecting primitive art for his new museum.

Hoffman told the fascinating story behind this mystery at Salon Contra, an arts salon sponsored by Philippa Hughes of the Pink Line Project. He spoke before an intimate audience of the culturally curious who sipped white wine and politely asked questions.

To understand what happened to Rockefeller, Hoffman realized he had to understand the Asmat people and their culture which, until recently, included head-hunting and cannibalism. Living in huts in a swamp, the Asmat subsist on the sago palm and small crabs. Hoffman said he didn’t see a green vegetable for months. (There’s some speculation that cannibalism is a necessity for hunter-gatherers who don’t get enough protein and fat.)

In the patriarchal Asmat culture, the women do all the work, traveling every morning to the sea to cast nets for crabs. Most children are unschooled. The men spend the day smoking, drumming and engaging in sex with each other.  While nominally Catholic, they believe that spirits cause people to die and that the world must be balanced between the living and the dead. This need for vengeance to balance out the world has had tragic consequences – the Asmat live in two feuding villages separated by a no-man’s land.

But they are also known for their beautiful woodcarvings, which is what drew Rockefeller to the region in 1961. In Savage Harvest, author Hoffman retraces the steps of Rockefeller in an attempt to solve the decades-old mystery of his disappearance. It’s a true journey into the heart of darkness, conducted by a man who immersed himself inthe spiritual world of the Asmat.

Before you seek nirvana in the Stone Age, check out Savage Harvest. Read this fascinating mystery from the comfort of your air-conditioned home, with a glass of clean water at your side, protected from cannibals, and ponder the benefits of civilization.

Matt Mullenweg Is a Very Dangerous Man

Matt Mullenweg is a very dangerous man.

At the inaugural WordPress for Government and Enterprise meetup on May 6, the co-founder of WordPress & founder & CEO of Automattic, discussed the amazing journey of WordPress from a home-spun blogging tool to the world’s most successful enterprise content management platform.

Mullenweg believes in democracy. He believes in competition. He believes in open-source. All dangerous notions in Washington, DC, a city devoted to closed-systems, insider deals and imperial government.

WordPress is free. Government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on complicated content management systems that don’t work. “Why is the free thing better than what your agency spent $5 million on?” Mullenweg asked.

WorePress LogoFor him, users drive software. They are always right. Users will decide whether WordPress survives or fails – and he accepts that. “You win because you’re the best,” he said.

I asked him how government could avoid debacles like healthcare.gov. He called for more transparency, imagining a world in which hackers could fix the doomed health care site and develop their own, better vision.

No one got fired for healthcare.gov. Why should they? The project managers at HHS followed all the policies and procedures for government procurement and contract management. You can’t blame the contractors either – they were just doing what the feds told them to do, as crazy as it must’ve seemed at the time. Healthcare.gov was built according to all the regulations and was a $1 billion failure.

The world is moving in Mullenweg’s direction. We, as consumers, pick winners and losers – not the government. Yet, we have a federal bureaucracy designed for the 1930s.

Walter Russell Mead calls this “the blue model“. He writes:

The core institutions, ideas and expectations that shaped American life for the sixty years after the New Deal don’t work anymore. The gaps between the social system we inhabit and the one we now need are becoming so wide that we can no longer paper over them. But even as the failures of the old system become more inescapable and more damaging, our national discourse remains stuck in a bygone age. The end is here, but we can’t quite take it in.

Big Government doesn’t work in a world that’s become small, dynamic and user-driven. For example, Mullenweg works with a distributed team that gets together once a year. He doesn’t even know what some of his employees look like. In contrast, government spends millions on buildings it doesn’t use and struggles with implementing even the most basic of telecommuting policies.

Working in government, I have an old Dell wired to an ethernet jack. We don’t even have a working copier. Office supplies are locked away. Wi-fi is forbidden.

At home, I have a MacBook Pro, wi-fi, WordPress, a digital camera, Dropbox, an iPad and a host of other tools – as well as better coffee. The consumer market provides me better tools than a billion-dollar bureaucracy.

If government is to survive, it must be reformed. We can no longer afford a massive, unresponsive federal state that’s tied down by endless rules and regulations.

Government must become responsive to citizens. It must adopt the WordPress model that users are always right. Citizens pay for government and they deserve better.

If government does not reform, debacles like healthcare.gov are not only likely – they are inevitable.

Governments like China fear WordPress for the openness and free expression it provides. The American government should fear it too. WordPress demonstrates a new, more democratic and more user-driven way of working together. It’s impossible to go back to the blue model. Matt Mullenweg is a very dangerous man.

Middle Men: Stories of Purgatory in LA

“I look at you and I think: middle management.”

That was that was the insult a friend of mine received. It was perfect. After all, no one in America aspires to be a middle manager. Why would you? Middle man – the title alone speaks of failure. You couldn’t make it to the top so now you manage the work of other people. You spend eight hours in a cubicle and write TPS reports.

Middle men are also replaceable, the type of jobs that get supplanted by technology. Instead of going to Sears and talking to a middle man, you just order what you want from Amazon.

middle menIn his short story collection, Middle Men, Jim Gavin explores the world of men stuck somewhere between their dreams and reality. Appropriate for a book on purgatory, these stories are primarily set in Los Angeles. The sun-blasted landscape of the city looms large in Middle Men. Characters escape to the freeway or Del Taco to ease their troubles.

In an interview at the end of the book, Gavin explains that Middle Men is about mastery. It’s about growing up, learning a trade and accepting your fate in a very uncertain economy. The men in the book start out young dreamers – they’re slackers and standup comics and aspiring screenwriters – and end up grizzled vets grimly hanging on to their piece of the American dream.

There are a couple of great short stories in the book – Illuminati and Elephant Doors – that perfectly describe the entertainment business in Hollywood, stripping away the glamor and revealing an industry in which very few find success. As a failed screenwriter in the book says, “Nothing always happens. The literature of Hollywood is depressingly consistent on this point.” Middle Men should be required reading for anyone seeking fame in LA.

You root for the men in Middle Men, trying to make it in a strangled economy with few opportunities. You believe in them. They’re trying. They haven’t given up the idea that they can be better. And that America can too.

 

Three DC Brewvet Destinations

Brewvet is a beer and biking challenge with the aim to get you to explore new neighborhoods and try delicious new beers. The rules of Brewvet are simple:

  • Eight separate bike rides to a different location
  • Buy or consume a beer at each location
  • Ride a total of at least 40 miles.

You have from May 1, 2014 through June 10th, 2014 to complete this challenge. Like the equally whimsical coffeeneuring challenge, the aim of Brewvet is to turn cycling into a fun adventure.

Where to go in DC? Here are three ideas for Brewvet rides in Washington:

1. Glen’s Garden Market
2001 S St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Grilled cheese and beer at Glen's Garden Market #errandonnee 10

Four-dollar beer. And not just any beer, but amazing local beer on draft, including DC Brau, Port City and 3 Stars, all of which you you can enjoy with a grilled cheese on their outdoor patio. Located north of Dupont Circle, you can also pick up organic snacks and sandwiches in the market. They also fill up growlers if you want to take beer with you. I really love this place. Afterward, I suggest a stop at Dolcezza Gelato to round out your urban adventure.

How to get there: If you’re coming from Virginia, get to the White House then take the 15th Street Cycletrack north and make a left at R Street. Maryland riders should get off Rock Creek Parkway at P Street.

2. ChurchKey
1337 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

Weekend remnant - chicken and waffles

Saturday afternoons are the ideal time to visit this popular Logan Circle bar. It’s usually not crowded (especially around lunchtime) and their beer selection is the best in the city. I usually get anything by Bell’s Brewery. Also, they have four-ounce pours and low-alcohol beers if you’re concerned about biking while drunk. If you have friends without bikes, there’s even a Capital Bikeshare stand across the street.

How to get there: ChurchKey is at 14th and Rhode Island, a block from the 15th Street Cycletrack.

3. The Bier Baron
1523 22nd Street NW
Washington DC 20037

Bier Baron

The Bier Baron doesn’t open until three on weekends and the food is mediocre. But, they have a great beer selection from all over the world, a comfy vibe and it’s just a block from Rock Creek Parkway. This makes it a perfect Brewvet destination, especially if you’re coming from MD.

How to get there: Get off Rock Creek Park at P Street, make a left and it’s on your left.

Those are my suggestions for DC – what are yours? Where should I brewvet to in MD and VA?