Greater Greater Washington

Breakfast links: Count ourselves lucky


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.
Irene's aftermath: Nearly 500,000 DC area residents lost power this weekend. (Washington Times) ... Metro faced few problems and few customers. (WMATA) ... New York suffered flooded tracks and stations. (MTA) ... Amtrak resumed service between DC and Philadelphia, but track flooding has halted service from there to Boston. (Amtrak)

MLK memorial a "failure"?: NYT critic Edward Rothstein calls the MLK memorial a "failure" and too "authoritarian" instead of inspirational. Though perhaps King should look stern gazing across the Tidal Basin at a former slaveowner, suggests Lydia DePillis. (City Paper) ... Post letter-writers have conflicting opinions as well.

MoCo may criminalize criminality: Lest mobs of marauding teens pillage Montgomery County stores, county councilmember Craig Rice proposes criminalizing mob theft. Unsurprisingly, theft and criminal conspiracies are already illegal. (Washington Times)

Dry tavern goes dark: A Shaw restaurant has closed until it receives its liquor license. DC is delaying the license due to allegations that the restaurant illegally served alcohol at a charity event before it opened. (City Paper)

Fairfax planning Silver Line parking: The county wants private landowners to create commuter parking lots near the new Tysons Metro stations. Ultimately, the county should create frequent feeder buses to connect to neighborhoods. (Post, Falls Church)

Tourism trumps education in Richmond: Except when granted a waiver, most public schools in Virginia may not open before Labor Day. The state implemented this law to protect the tourism industry. (Post)

MetroAccess drivers tired of long hours: MetroAccess drivers will protest alleged safety problems due to long hours scheduled by MV Transportation. WMATA contracts with the firm to manage MetroAccess. (TBD)

And...: 15 candidates are running to fill Leslie Johnson's Prince George's Council seat. (Examiner) ... Metro has installed bright lights at the bottom of newly-rehabbed escalators. (DCist) ... Bike parking is a must-have for many New York condo buyers. (NYT)

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Eric Fidler has lived in DC and suburban Maryland his entire life. He likes long walks along the Potomac and considers the L'Enfant Plan an elegant work of art. He also blogs at Left for LeDroit, LeDroit Park's (only) blog of record. 

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RE MLK

New memorials always get some flack when they first open. Give it time.

by TGEOA on Aug 29, 2011 9:23 am • linkreport

I don't see why starting school after Labor Day is necessary a detriment to students. I assume in Virginia that just means they end school later in June. Also Virginia isn't alone in doing this as many schools in the Northeast start the Wednesday after Labor Day. While its nearly not as hot in June on Long Island as it is in Virginia, don't most schools have air conditioning and at the least opening windows? Moreover, are students in Maryland getting more days of school by starting in August? I doubt it.

by Matt on Aug 29, 2011 9:36 am • linkreport

@ MLK: The memorial is fine. Complaining about not seeing King's feet is not serious. I like the placement and that King is between Lincoln and looking at Jefferson. I also like the visualization of the mountain of despair/hope thing. Also, the monument will make this part of the tidal basin more interesting. It was kinda wasteland.

That said, the monument is hopelessly classical. Thank god there are no stupid roman columns, but please can we get some more modern art on the Mall? I thought the Vietnam Mem was a good start, but the WWII Mem is horrible, and while the MLK is better, there is no sign of any influence of modern art.

by Jasper on Aug 29, 2011 10:09 am • linkreport

I agree wtih Matt. I don't see what the problem is with the post-Labor Day start to the school year in Virginia. In fact, starting the day after Labor Day seems logical. You don't have the start of the school year disrupted by a three-day weekend. And, you avoid the expense of having to cool down schools during the peak of August heat. (Or even earlier, since teachers return to school a couple of weeks before studens do.) My hunch is those who push for this are more interested in being spared a week or two of daycare/summer camp expense than boosting academic achievement.

by mvm on Aug 29, 2011 10:15 am • linkreport

Re: Silver Line Parking

While I'm no fan of parking lots for the Silver Line in Tysons, it's okay if they are only temporary. Once the line starts reaching capacity and the bus/bike/ped improvements are in place, the parking lots have to go. My concern is that people will get used to the lots so it will be difficult politically to take them away. Also, having parking may reduce motivation to build out the planned bus/bike/ped improvements.

Let's remember that the success of the Silver Line is contingent on getting commuters to come to Tysons by rail, not getting residents from McLean/Vienna/etc. to take rail to DC from Tysons (there will be enough of that without even trying).

PS -- thanks for posting my link tip!

by Falls Church on Aug 29, 2011 10:16 am • linkreport

I visted the King Memorial yesterday and I would hardly call it a "failure".

A "failure" would have been to make it just another tomb-like structure.

As for the dedication, the crowds yesterday made it obvious that the people decided to hold their own informal dedication.

by ceefer66 on Aug 29, 2011 10:20 am • linkreport

Re: Silver Line Parking

The advantage of having private land owners renting space to commuters rather than a public agency is that commuters are more accepting of businesses taking away a service or amenity than of a public agency doing the same thing. The politics of a public agency transitioning an asset from one use to a higher and better use are aitch ee double ell.

by jnb on Aug 29, 2011 10:26 am • linkreport

If the date is driven by standardized tests in the Spring, why have a lot of school after the tests are given? No one pays attention after exams.

Anyway, kids should have more school. The debate shouldn't be over starting a week earlier or ending a week later. How about both, except a month? Have school go year round, except for 6 weeks off in July/August, plus longer break at end of December and in March/April.

by ah on Aug 29, 2011 10:29 am • linkreport

"Anyway, kids should have more school." Why? What's the basis for that assertion? Are you really suggesting, for example, a 67 year old needs to be in school 46 weeks out of the year??

by mvm on Aug 29, 2011 10:33 am • linkreport

@Jasper

That's not necessarily a new phenomenon. The Supreme Court building caught a lot of flack for the same reasons when it was built in 1935. (It also didn't help that neoclassicism was popular in Germany around this time)

On one hand, architectural consistency is nice. Classical architecture is generally pretty "safe." On the other hand, DC's forays into modernism haven't all been particularly successful -- the Forrestal building immediately springs to mind.

Metro's design is nice too, although I imagine that we'd also like it if the pylons were replaced by roman columns, and the ceiling vaults contained ornate classically-inspired carvings. Much of Metro's architectural "niceness" comes from the use of modern construction techniques, the emphasis of good lighting, well-planned passenger flows, and high ceilings. "Modern" design isn't really required for any of that.

The Vietnam Memorial is among my favorites on the mall, and is probably my favorite war memorial anywhere, if only because it happens to have an extremely high degree of architectural uniqueness, and is the only war memorial I can think of that directly conveys the "war is bad" message.

On that front, I find the WWII memorial horrifying. The gold stars, bronze eagles, grand plaza, and inexplicable division of the monument into states are all a bit much. Unsurprisingly, I suppose, the WWII memorial was designed and constructed with the same mindset that led to America's involvement in two foreign wars of aggression.

The MLK memorial is decidedly "meh" for me. Not great. Not awful.

by andrew on Aug 29, 2011 10:34 am • linkreport

Irene was a dud over here in the Eastern Shore, Sure there were power outages and damage from downed trees but it was well below what was being hyped in advance. A hand full of limbs from a trees on my property and 9.1" in the rain gauge.

WMATA should install those lights on all of the pylons in island platform subway stations.

by Sand Box John on Aug 29, 2011 10:38 am • linkreport

@ andrew:Classical architecture is generally pretty "safe." On the other hand, DC's forays into modernism haven't all been particularly successful ... I find the WWII memorial horrifying.

Here, you contradict yourself. You say classical stuff is safe. True. But then you agree that the classical WWII mem is terrible. So, staying classic is not safe. It still leads to horrible monuments.

Any memorial is a potential bad design. But, I find it weird that a modern country as the US is so hesitant to embrace modern monuments.

by Jasper on Aug 29, 2011 10:43 am • linkreport

Re: "King's Dominion Law": The issue here is that as vacation days are added during the academic year, school are nibbling away at summer vacation. Fifteen years ago most schools started after Labor day: so the start day creeps at rate of roughly one day per year. In 15 more years it will start in early August.

The school schedule does not exist by itself; consideration must be given to the more important needs of breadwinning parents. This law addresses that.

Other states have similar laws. I think they should pass it in DC.

by goldfish on Aug 29, 2011 10:47 am • linkreport

RE: MLK memorial:
We must remember that art is art.
Well, on the other hand water is water isn't it?
And east is east and west is west.
And if you take cranberries and stew them like applesause
they taste much more like prunes than rubarb does.
Now uh...now you tell me what you know.
-- Groucho Marx in "Animal Crackers"

by goldfish on Aug 29, 2011 10:54 am • linkreport

can we get some more modern art on the Mall?

No.

there is no sign of any influence of modern art.

Good.

The WWII monument will age well. A modern art WWII monument would have been a disaster because the actual people they're memorializing don't relate to it.

DC's forays into modern art have been a huge mess. We know what we're good at, and we should stick to that. Leave the modern experimentation to local memorials elsewhere in the country.

by JustMe on Aug 29, 2011 11:02 am • linkreport

Both the MLK memorial and The WWII memorials are postmodern in their design. The MLK's obnoxious literalism would be unacceptable to the high priests of Classicism or Modernism.

Both were better as originally proposed, but DC's Design-by-Hearing process beat the uniqueness out of them. Maya Lin succeeded in with only getting a few statues added to its grounds.

by Neil Flanagan on Aug 29, 2011 11:15 am • linkreport

Parking at Tysons near the rail stations will achieve a number of positive goals. First, since development at Tysons will be cyclical over time, the ability to park at the stations will result in more Metrorail riders than there would be without parking. Adding parking gives resident of nearby communities access to the Silver Line. Fairfax County DOT has said that many nearby areas will not likely have any bus service, or even easy walking or biking.
Adding parking puts land not developed into use and puts money in the landowners' pockets. The more profits the landowners are, the more likely we will see the necessary public facilities needed to support Tysons.
The R-B corridor in Arlington had many of these parking facilities for years. Once the land was ready for development, the lots went away and the development occurred. The same can happen at Tysons.

by tmtfairfax on Aug 29, 2011 11:32 am • linkreport

Are you really suggesting, for example, a 67 year old needs to be in school 46 weeks out of the year??

School should be year-round with no summer vacation. Kids ending up forgetting 1/4 of what they learned the previous year during summer vaca, so the first 1/4 of the school year is spent re-teaching what everyone forgot from the previous year. Also, it would make better use of our fixed school infrastructure. Summer vacation is a remnant of our agrarian past when kids were needed as extra hands on the family farm during the summer.

That said, all learning at school doesn't need to take place behind a desk with a teacher lecturing up front. Especially for 6-7 year olds. There's no reason why kids of that age can't spend 52 weeks a year learning -- their brains are much better suited for learning than petrified adult brains -- but we need to find teaching methods that are better suited for children of that age.

by Falls Church on Aug 29, 2011 11:34 am • linkreport

...but we need to find teaching methods that are better suited for children of that age.

Like unstructured play-time on the beach...

by Tina on Aug 29, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

Philip Kennicott's review of the MLK Memorial in the Post wasn't as bombastic as the NYT, but it hits on the real issues of the design. He also highlights the positive contributions of the design in terms of public space:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/mlk-memorial-review-stuck-between-the-conceptual-and-literal/2011/08/05/gIQAv38JgJ_story.html

Like too many memorials, however, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is stuck uncomfortably between the conceptual and literal.

And:

It was very much a mobile army of metaphors that King deployed. To the listener, they are pure poetry. But they were never meant to be pinned down in the way that creating a $120 million memorial based on one trope pins down an image.

The image also created visual and design challenges that no one figured out how to solve. A mountain should be big, but a memorial near the Mall must be in scale to its surroundings — and given that the entire plaza rests on more than 340 pilings driven through marshy muck some 40 to 50 feet into bedrock, the mountain couldn’t get much larger even if the relevant authorities had approved something more colossal. Metaphorically, it seems as if the Stone of Hope ought to be smaller than the mountain from which it is hewn, but because it contains a statue of King, it must be big enough to be impressive.

The result is a mishmash that looks a bit like King is attached to a giant door that has been pushed out of a rather meager hillock. The seams joining the 41 blocks of granite that make up the stone and the 118 blocks that make up the two sides of the mountain give both sculptural elements a somewhat flimsy, cobbled-together feel, as if they were intended for a roadside attraction, not a monument on the nation’s most symbolically rich ground.

You could see this coming for years, and it was clear during the approvals process that plenty of people on the oversight committees were feeling queasy about the design.

by Alex B. on Aug 29, 2011 11:52 am • linkreport

@Falls Church: Especially for 6-7 year olds. There's no reason why kids of that age can't spend 52 weeks a year learning

During summer they do learn things, but not schooling. Everybody should get a vacation, even teachers.

Yes the school year has vestiges of farming, but I do not think we are ready to shed the rhythms of the seasons. Likewise, with the invention of electric lights, we no longer need work during the day and sleep at night -- but try to work the graveyard shift. Using your all-year school model, when do kids get a chance to learn things not taught in school? When do they get a chance to spend time with family away from home?

by goldfish on Aug 29, 2011 11:56 am • linkreport

@ Tina:Like unstructured play-time on the beach...

For two months continuously?

by Jasper on Aug 29, 2011 11:59 am • linkreport

Metro's...emphasis of good lighting

Are you serious? It's dark as hell in most stations.

by Blind Bat on Aug 29, 2011 12:03 pm • linkreport

@Jasper 'But, I find it weird that a modern country as the US is so hesitant to embrace modern monuments.

Quite the contrary ... A country with no real 'ancient' buildings or monuments has to try to create some ... The civilization and culture we find here is for the most part an extension of the European civilization and culture ... yet we've left the monuments and architecture that give witness to this past civilization and culture back in Europe ... so, maybe we have a subconscious need to recreate those monuments and archtecture here ... linking us to 'our' past?

vs. our European cousins who still have these things around them ... and maybe have a greater need to create monuments and architecture which differentiates the current generation(s) from past generations?

Just my thoughts...

by Lance on Aug 29, 2011 12:17 pm • linkreport

@Jasper - @ Tina:Like unstructured play-time on the beach...
For two months continuously?

okay, With swimming lessons, sailing lessons, watercraft safety instruction, nature hikes, nighttime bon-fires, star-gazing and game playing on rainy days. Yes! Take me there! Eden awaits.

by Tina on Aug 29, 2011 12:18 pm • linkreport

I agree with Tina. Kids *need* a summer vacation.

Besides, we all got the summer off when we were younger. How unfair would it be to just suddenly take that away for the generations in schools now?

Also consider the impact this would have on camps and other organizations that specialize in summer activities.

by Roger on Aug 29, 2011 12:32 pm • linkreport

Here, you contradict yourself. You say classical stuff is safe. True. But then you agree that the classical WWII mem is terrible. So, staying classic is not safe. It still leads to horrible monuments.

I should have been more clear. Classicism is safe in terms of aesthetics. If you build a neoclassical memorial, you won't hear any particularly vocal critics against the school of architecture chosen, or necessarily many complaints about it being "ugly."

Personally, I tend to agree. I take no particular offense to the style used to compose the MLK or WWII memorials. The individual components are very nice, and even the WWII monument is a very handsome structure as a whole.

However, when you add these pieces up, and then consider the conceptual purpose of the monument, the appropriateness of neoclassicism starts to fall apart, or in the case of the MLK memorial, the pieces don't add up to a completely satisfying whole.

However, "UGLY MEMORIAL DESIGN PROPOSED" makes a much more sensationalist headline than "Maybe we shouldn't built a triumphal monument to a conflict where 70 million people died?" I'm not entirely sure that it would have even been politically feasible to construct a more modest (or intentionally ugly) WWII memorial.

Criticizing the design of MLK memorial during the planning process would have been tough too, simply because it's hard to get a feel for these designs when they're on paper. Instead, everyone focused on the statue, which was really the only part of the memorial that anybody knew about before it was opened to the public.

Personally, I'm a big fan of the FDR memorial.

by andrew on Aug 29, 2011 12:38 pm • linkreport

With swimming lessons, sailing lessons, watercraft safety instruction, nature hikes, nighttime bon-fires, star-gazing and game playing on rainy days.

While those are all worthy things, not every parent can afford the requisite time or money. The quality of a child's education shouldn't be so heavily dependent on the resources of the parents.

Using your all-year school model, when do kids get a chance to learn things not taught in school? When do they get a chance to spend time with family away from home?

We could intersperse a couple more weeks off throughout the school year like kids already get for Christmas and Easter, so they can spend time with family. Also, why couldn't more of the things that are not taught in school be taught in school?

That said, I'd support allowing parent's to take young children out of school a few weeks a year to "home school" them on things they can't learn at school. When I was in first grade, my parents took me out of school a few weeks early before summer vacation to go on our family trip to India. My teacher was totally ok with that on account of the fact that the international travel would be educational than the last few weeks of first grade.

by Falls Church on Aug 29, 2011 1:19 pm • linkreport

@FallChurch?While those are all worthy things, not every parent can afford the requisite time or money.

Agreed. But why should families who do have the privelege of owning a cottage on the lake be penalized? I know not all kids benefit from long summers off. But some do. Immeasurably. Exactly as you describe in travel to India. So you think international travel is acceptable but swimming in the lake every day and going on nature hikes with your kooky scientist auntie isn't?

by Tina on Aug 29, 2011 1:30 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church: We could intersperse a couple more weeks off throughout the school year like kids already get for Christmas and Easter, so they can spend time with family.
But then they would miss the lessons, and be behind the class. Children taking different weeks off creates a nightmare for the teacher (who is there to make sure every kid gets taught each unit); that is the purpose of the academic schedule.

Also, why couldn't more of the things that are not taught in school be taught in school?
Because schools are there to teach academics (i.e., the "3 Rs"), while parents are there to teach values and other practical tools for living. Schools are not set up to teach archery or sand castle construction, nor should they be.

by goldfish on Aug 29, 2011 1:52 pm • linkreport

yes what goldfish said about maintaining a school schedule. You can't have different kids taking off at different times all throughout the school year to go do worthwhile things with their families. However there are schools, even public schools, that teach archery and have competitions and I totally support that.

by Tina on Aug 29, 2011 2:03 pm • linkreport

On year-round schools: I'd note that the one educational sector in which the United States is the undisputed international leader--college--gets by with 150 instructional days a year. K-12 is generally 180 instructional days a year.

I think it's also a myth that we take summers off to accommodate farmers. To begin with, planting often happens before Memorial Day and harvest after Labor Day: doesn't seem optimized to me. In the early 19th century, educational institutions were predominately by and for the upper classes, and as education expanded to become more widely accessible, the new broadly-serving institutions copied the methods and practices of the existing, upper-class-centric ones. The upper classes have always "summered" elsewhere, just as popular vestiges of the upper class--symphony orchestras and the like--also break, or go elsewhere for the summer (Ravinia, Tanglewood).

By the time students are high-school age, student paths are so divergent that it is a good thing to allow three months to focus on one thing. It might be summer school, or a job, or an internship. It might be a sports camp or an arts camp or working in a research lab, or the chance to concentrate on one subject area of particular interest. It might be lazy days at the family beach house, or spending the summer with the aunt who lives in Italy. There are numerous worthwhile and enriching ways a summer could be spent, and one size does not fit all.

For younger kids, I'd agree that learning is not exclusive to the classroom, and that unstructured play time is as valuable as vocabulary drills. And I think it's rather cruel to have widely disparate school schedules for different grade levels, which sort of binds up any family plans when different aged children are in different school calendars.

by thm on Aug 29, 2011 2:04 pm • linkreport

@Tina

I'd support counting as "home schooling" taking young children out of school for things like nature walks with a kooky scientist aunt. That way privileged kids could continue enjoying their privileges while everyone else gets more education.

@goldfish

It would the responsibilitu of parents taking their kids out of class to ensure they don't fall behind. That should be feasible if we're only talking about young kids. Also, I think its possible to teach kids family values without summer vacation. Also, constructing sand castles or playing with legos could absolutely be part of school for young kids. I went to a montassori school where kids were allowed to learn on their own in that manner.

by Falls Church on Aug 29, 2011 2:19 pm • linkreport

I'd be fascinated to see the effects on overall student performance and engagement if year-round school were enacted. Unfortunately, we're too stubborn in our ways.

As for the comment about teachers needing a "vacation," most teachers that I know take on other jobs during the summer or teach summer courses anyway. So wouldn't they rather have nice blocks of vacation (say, 2-3 full weeks every 3 months), rather than a huge gap of time during which time children forget half of the material they were forced to cram for final exams? Not to mention the burden on parents, who have to find (and often pay good money for) activities to occupy their children while they continue at their jobs. It's an unnecessary waste.

We're going to fall behind as a nation because of our sinking primary and secondary education systems. One way to jolt the upcoming generation into shape would be a

by swester on Aug 29, 2011 5:06 pm • linkreport

@ Falls Church: It would the responsibility of parents taking their kids out of class to ensure they don't fall behind.

Keep in mind that pedagogy builds circularly. You can miss two or three days without disturbing this, but a week out and there is a big hole that is not easily made up without study during the absence. But study during time off defeats the purpose of the vacation (I assume you know this).

The built-in off time during school year is there for very good reasons: it provides more efficient use of class time, and a break that both student and teacher need, to pursue other interests, to let lessons sink in, and to provide needed family time (I avoid the loaded term "family values"). It has worked well for generations, and it should not be changed.

by goldfish on Aug 29, 2011 5:15 pm • linkreport

Perhaps Dr. King looks angry because he was carved by unpaid Chinese stonemasons.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/23/AR2010112304298.html

by TJ on Aug 29, 2011 9:35 pm • linkreport

as for Kennicott's review of the MLK memorial, these quotes of his tell you the extent of his analysis,

" An imaginative landscape architect could have translated the mountain and stone concept into something more abstract." Kennicott just doesn't do critical analysis if it's not abstract. In fact he goes on to add,
"and all it would take is a few hours with a jackhammer to find one inside this unfortunate statue."

As for the politics of any of these memorials, I don't know of any layperson (that means 99% of the population) who get's any of these polemical issues of abstraction vs. figural or facist vs. communist etc. The WW2 memorial is a nice place to hear the sound of water and study some sculpture. It could easily be improved, but if the crowds are any measure, it's holding it's own.

by Thayer-D on Aug 30, 2011 5:26 am • linkreport

"can we get some more modern art on the Mall?"

There is modern art on the Mall. The Hirschorn Museum and the National Gallery both have sculpture gardens. IMO, the Hirschorn, which is lowered, is less successful than the NGA, which has multiple entrances, a cafe and a fountain which is a lively skating rink in winter.

by Bob on Aug 30, 2011 11:47 am • linkreport

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