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It’s been two years since I last went to this annual event, which traditionally closes the weeks-long National Cherry Blossom Festival. The last time I was there, the Sakura Matsuri was held on Pennsylvania Avenue right next to the Old Post Office Building (which was then undergoing renovation into the Trump International Hotel—you can see those giant blue TRUMP signs in the background of some of the photos I took during that event).
Since that time the event has been relocated. It is now held at the Navy Yards near Nationals Park. I don’t know if Donald Trump have had a hand in that festival’s relocation or not but it doesn’t matter because I don’t have to see those Trump International Hotel signs.
Like previous Sakura Matsuri festivals, this one was a celebration of all aspects of Japanese culture including anime, J-pop, J-rock, kendo, and traditional Japanese crafts. There were also a lot of cosplayers walking around. Here are the photos I took of the Sakura Matsuri.
I went to my second Dr. Sketchy’s event in 2017 but it was my first one in DC for this year. It was raining that day so I didn’t do much walking around in DC other than walking from the Dupont Circle Metro station to the Bier Baron.
This is the rare Dr. Sketchy’s event in that all of my drawings are perfectly safe to view at work or school. That’s because the model for this event, Alyssum, is a belly dancer not a burlesque performer. Alyssum is also a contortionist so I have some drawings where she’s posed in some pretty unusual looking positions.
Alyssum made a costume change where she posed in this pretty colorful outfit.
Alyssum made one more costume change where she was dressed in a mermaid-themed outfit.
Unlike all of the other Dr. Sketchy’s I’ve attended in the past, there were no contests at this one. It was pure drawing the entire time. Alyssum is also a jewelry designer and artist and she had some of her work on sale at that event. (I didn’t buy anything because of tight finances.) You can view and buy some of her work here and here.
I found out on Facebook about a dance protest that was being organized by the LGBTQ activist group Werk for Peace. They were protesting the Trump Administration giving plum jobs to homophobes along with its policy towards Muslim immigrants. The protest started at the Trump International Hotel and it ended at the White House. It was a pretty joyous protest despite the fact that it was bitter cold outside. (The temperature was in the low 30’s.) The high point was when they played Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” and people were cheering and dancing outside the White House. Here’s a short video of the protest when the people initially gathered and danced outside the Trump International Hotel.
Here are my still photos, starting with the Trump International Hotel.
The next photo shows the pickup truck that led the protest as it blasted dance music.
The protest went down Pennsylvania Avenue as people were literally dancing in the streets.
The employees at the White House Gifts store came to the front door and cheered the protesters on. One of the protesters (draped in a rainbow flag) ran over to the store and embraced the employees.
The protest ended at the White House as people were dancing in the streets while holding anti-Trump signs.
This next photo made a humorous reference to the non-existent Bowling Green Massacre.
I’ll admit that this protest was small compared to the Women’s March on Washington but I don’t mind because I wasn’t crammed in as much and there also seemed to be more of a sense of joy as people were cheering and dancing. It also didn’t receive as much media coverage, aside from this WTOP story.
Here is my first Throwback Thursday post of 2017. Since tomorrow is Inauguration Day where Donald Trump will be formally sworn-in as President of the United States, I’m going to feature this photostory that I created back in 2013.
I originally created a series of short photostories for a contest that was co-sponsored by Makies and SlickFlick.com. As I detailed in this blog post at the time, the gist was that we had to create an all-ages friendly photostory using at least one Makies doll and upload it on to SlickFlick.com using the SlickFlick app for iOS.
I took the photographs using my Canon Digital Rebel DSLR camera and downloaded them on my MacBook. I did some editing in Photoshop and saved the photos in iPhoto. Then I synced the photos on my iPad, uploaded them online using the SlickFlick app, and wrote captions for the photos while I was still in that app.
Since both Makies and SlickFlick.com were located in London at the time, I thought they would like seeing Victoria giving a humorous tour of my current hometown of Washington, DC. I photographed Victoria at the National Theatre (which was hosting performances of the hit Broadway show Monty Python’s Spamalot, which was another way I reached out to whoever was doing the judging in London), the White House, the Washington Monument, and the Tidal Basin. Since the contest was held in the spring, I had the extra opportunity of photographing Victoria among the blooming cherry blossom trees.
I remember the Grand Prize was a free Makies doll. I entered it because I thought it would be cool to create a second Makies doll as a companion to Victoria. It was a pain that the deadline was just a few days before Tax Day in the U.S. but I managed to get both done in time. I didn’t win but I wasn’t super disappointed because, in a sad irony, the contest winner was announced on the same day as the Boston Marathon bombing. (Of course that bombing took place on Tax Day.)
I originally wanted to create one photostory but I had problems uploading it with the SlickFlick app because it kept on crashing. I ended up editing the photostory into shorter segments and uploading the separate segments. (Despite my efforts I still had to deal with frequent app crashes. It took me four attempts to upload one of the photostories online because it was crashing so much.)
Recently I decided to visit SlickFlick.com for old time’s sake only to discover that the site no longer exists. I haven’t used the SlickFlick app since 2013 so I have no idea if it still works or not. I still have the original photos on my hard drive but I didn’t have the captions I wrote using the SlickFlick app. Fortunately I was able to recover my photostories thanks to the Internet Archive. I updated the original links that I posted in that blog post announcing my photostories but I decided to re-upload my photostory on social media for wider exposure since I worked hard on that photostory and I know that not everyone likes to visit the Internet Archive.
I imported the photostories into iMovie and combined them into one photostory (which is what I originally wanted in the first place) then uploaded it on both YouTube and Facebook. The only thing I added was background music, which I got for free from YouTube. I also edited that video into shorter segments so I could upload them separately on Instagram since Instagram has that one minute limit on each video.
As for the original contest sponsors, SlickFlick.com is now off-line (the URL redirects to a blank page where, if you click on this button, you get redirected to Heroku.com). Makies announced that it was relocating from its original location in London to the U.S. but it has been a year since Makies made that announcement with no new updates about that move. I have a feeling that they were waiting out the results of the election before making the move and it’s possible that Makies may have had a change of heart with the incoming arrival of President Donald Trump starting tomorrow. Personally I wouldn’t blame Makies for having cold feet and ultimately deciding to nix the idea of moving to the U.S. I wish the site was back up because it was kind of fun designing avatars, even if only one of my avatars actually became a real-life doll.**
So, without further ado, here is my 2013 photostory Victoria the Makies Doll Goes to Washington.
**UPDATE (February 27, 2017): Makies has recently announced that it’s going out of business, which you can read about in full detail right here.
A long time ago I learned that going downtown on Christmas Eve is the best place to be on Christmas Eve because everything is relatively empty. That’s because so many people tend to pack into the suburban shopping malls doing last-minute shopping while the stores in the city are empty. I’ve spent previous Christmas Eves in both Baltimore and DC and it’s the same situation.
I thought about a lot of places I could go to on Christmas Eve. In Baltimore I could go to the Walters Art Museum, Fells Point, or the Ripleys Believe It or Not! Odditorium. In Washington, DC I could go to any of the Smithsonian museums, Chinatown, or Georgetown.
But then it rained on Christmas Eve, which put a damper on a lot of things I would’ve loved to have done (especially going to places where I would be spending a good bit of time outside) and I was not in the mood to do a lot of driving in such lousy weather. I ultimately decided to go to Union Station and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum mainly because both places were located next to each other so I could take the Red Line Metro to the Union Station stop. I exited on to the lower level, where I found that it wasn’t very crowded at all.
I hadn’t been to Union Station in a long time. I was looking forward to eating sushi for lunch at the Hibachi stand followed by going to Vaccaro’s Italian Pastry for dessert. Except when I arrived I found that half of the lower level where all of the fast food type places are located had been blocked off. While there are still places where one can get a quick bite to eat, there are far fewer choices than before. (That’s not to mention that both Hibachi and Vaccaro’s are both gone.) I ended up going to a Chinese food stand where I ordered orange chicken with two side dishes. But I ordered my lunch around the same time that they changed employees and I told the replacement employee that I had told the other one that wanted the orange chicken. She had me try the tofu and led me to believe that it was one of the side dishes. So I ordered the tofu as a side dish and told her that the orange chicken would be the main dish. Except when I got my meal and went to one of tables I found that this employee had given me the tofu as the main dish. The tofu was okay but I would’ve preferred the orange chicken. On top of it, the green beans side dish was undercooked. I made a mental note of never ordering anything from that place again.
After lunch I did some more walking around. I found out that the reason why the lower level had been cut in half was because Walgreen’s had moved in and opened this giant store.
There was one large aisle dedicated to purchasing every kind of Washington, DC souvenir that you could think of.
I’ve been to various Walgreen’s stores over the years but this is the first one I’ve ever been in that actually has a sushi bar that makes fresh sushi on the premises.
If it hadn’t been for that less-than-thrilling Chinese lunch I had already eaten, I would’ve tried the Walgreen’s sushi for the hell of it.
I made my way to the upper level where the upscale shops are located and I found that they were not crowded at all.
Since my last visit to Union Station I saw that the DC Lottery had opened its own store where anyone can buy—what else?—lottery tickets.
I decided to eat some dessert. Since Vaccarro’s Italian Pastry was gone, I thought about going to the Corner Bakery instead since I’ve eaten their desserts in the past and I found them quite good. But I found out that it was replaced by a French pastry place known as Le Pain Quotidien. I found their Christmas-themed dessert display to be quite charming.
I ordered the sea salted chocolate and caramel tart and it was wrapped up in this nice looking box. The tart was excellent.
I saw the Christmas tree that was a gift from the Norwegian Embassy.
There was also a special exhibition documenting the joint U.S.-Norwegian explorations of the Polar Regions.
There was a large toy train layout that I found to be quite lovely.
On my way to one of the exit doors I saw this pigeon who somehow may its way inside Union Station. It was walking around among the various people on the floor like it was going shopping or rushing to take the next Amtrak train. I thought it was quite a hilarious scene.
Outside of Union Station is this futuristic looking dome where one can rent a bike.
Right next door to Union Station is the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. It’s one of the newer Smithsonian museums that had opened in recent years but I never got around to stepping foot inside until Christmas Eve.
I don’t even know what took me so long to visit this place (especially since I’m a local resident). I’m glad I finally did because the interiors are absolutely breathtaking.
As you can guess by the name, this museum is dedicated to the history of the U.S. Postal Service and postage stamps. Naturally stamp collectors will get the biggest kick out of this museum but there are plenty of things on display to wow those who aren’t into stamp collecting.
This museum features Owney, a homeless dog who became the mascot of the U.S. Postal Service for a time until his death over 100 years ago. Here’s a bronze statue of the dog.
And here’s the real Owney, as preserved by a taxidermist.
Owney was the Grumpy Cat of his day—a beloved animal celebrity who received attention and presents (in the form of special tags indicating where he travelled to) everywhere he went. The next photo shows the many tags he received and are currently on display draping his stuffed carcass.
The gift shop also has a smaller stuffed animal version of Owney for sale.
I didn’t buy that stuffed animal but I did buy a short book on the dog’s life for only $4.
Since I arrived at the museum on Christmas Eve, I got a chance to see the museum’s Christmas tree with surrounding poinsettias.
The one exhibit that excited me the most was the one on PostSecret: The Power of a Postcard. That’s because, through my past involvements with Artomatic, I know that PostSecret originally started as an Artomatic exhibit that was put on by the writer Frank Warren. That exhibit was such a phenomenal success that it overshadowed the other Artomatic exhibits that were on display that year. That exhibit was eventually turned into a series of books and I remember the times when he held book signings at various Artomatic events mainly as Frank Warren’s way of showing appreciation for the event that started it all. (You can read about those book signings here and here.)
Now PostSecret has turned into a Smithsonian exhibit, which is pretty cool. The next photo shows just a small portion of the postcards that Frank Warren has received over the years.
Here’s something that was actually sent on a coconut.
I’m still amazed that something I’m familiar with from my involvement with Artomatic has become a Smithsonian exhibit.
The photos I took are just a small sample of what’s currently on display at that exhibit.
There was an area that was especially made for stamp collectors. One can view the various stamps currently on file in a special room. The stamps are in a case that one can pull out and they are organized by nation, year, and type of stamp. I can imagine a hardcore stamp collector spending at least two days in that area alone just looking at all of the stamps on file.
That area also had the world’s first postage stamp on display. It was a British stamp known as the Penny Black and it was released in 1840.
There was a hands-on exhibit where one can design a stamp on a touch screen computer. Here is the stamp I designed.
There was even an area that’s designed for anyone who’s thinking about starting his/her own stamp collection and one can get the first stamps for free. First you get an envelope like this.
Then you go through this bin picking out stamps you’d like to put in your envelope.
I have a confession to make. The rules of picking out free stamps basically said that each person was limited to six stamps in order to make the free stamps available for everyone. There were so few people in the museum the day that I was there that I actually broke the rules and picked out seven stamps. I wasn’t caught (mainly because there were so few people there) and I got away with it. I’m not saying that what I did was right or correct and if there had been a ton of people in the museum that day I would’ve obeyed the rules. But I fell into temptation because there were so few people and, besides, I only took one extra stamp and not like—let’s say—30 extra stamps.
Here are the stamps I picked out. I’ll admit that I was inspired by the recent elections and the incoming President Donald J. Trump Administration along with all the doubts swirling around him as to whether he will even follow the Constitution. So I chose this stamp commemorating the 175th anniversary of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
As a former Journalism major in college and current blogger, this next stamp really appealed to me. It features a quill and ink along with the words “The Ability to Write-A Root of Democracy.”
I picked out this stamp featuring George Washington since he was not only one of the Founding Fathers but he was also the first President of the United States and he set the tone for how the succeeding presidents should always follow the Constitution.
I picked out this stamp featuring Martha Washington because she was not only the first First Lady but I’m sure she went through her own trials and tribulations while supporting her husband first as a hero of the American Revolution then as President of the United States. It’s like the old saying goes: “Behind every man is a woman.”
I picked out Thomas Jefferson because he was also a hero of the American Revolution, a Founding Father of this nation, and he was instrumental in including many rights that we Americans take for granted (such as the freedom of the press) and could possibly be threatened under Donald Trump’s presidency.
I picked out Benjamin Franklin, another Founding Father who was the first Postmaster General. Plus I’m currently running the weekly Benjamin Franklin Fridays in this blog where I include quotations from his Poor Richard’s Almanack book.
I chose Susan B. Anthony because she was a suffragette who fought hard to win the women’s right to vote.
I chose one foreign stamp. This one is from France and it features Marianne, the French symbol of freedom who provided the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.
I basically hung around the museum until it was closing time. By that time the rain had stopped but it was still cloudy outside and the ground was wet. I was treated to a nice Christmas Eve sunset as I took the Metro back home.
Like I wrote in a prior entry, that particular Sunday was a busy day for me. I started off with going to Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School (link is definitely NSFW) and I ate an early dinner while I was at the Bier Baron. After the event ended and I finished eating, I decided to get back on the Metro and head to the White House so I could check out the National Christmas Tree.
Even though I’ve lived my entire life in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area, I’ve only been to the National Christmas Tree two other times. One of them was when I walked past it one spring or summer day but that was in the off-season when it just looked like a typical pine tree. The other was when I went during the winter holiday season and that was when Bill Clinton occupied the White House.
Yeah, I know it’s kind of pathetic that I live in the area and I haven’t made more of an effort to actually visit the National Christmas Tree. This year I decided to actually schedule a visit since next year a new Trump Administration will take control of the White House and Trump seems to have gone out of his way to continue with pissing off people on Twitter. I just want to photograph the Washington, DC area as it is now before Trump takes over because I have a feeling that the DC area will never be quite the same as it is right now.
Like I wrote earlier I last went to the National Christmas Tree when Bill Clinton was in office. While the White House has always had a fence around it, there was a time when you could walk close to the fence then cut through this fenced alleyway over to the Ellipse where the National Christmas Tree is located. Thanks to 9/11 the entire downtown area has become more fortified, including the White House. Basically one now has to walk one block away from the White House, turn a corner, then walk another block back towards the Ellipse side of the White House. This new path definitely increases walking time to get to the National Christmas Tree.
It didn’t help that on the night I went there were even more cutoffs because of a scheduled motorcade of limousines carrying certain VIPs to and from the White House. Living in the DC area you get used to having streets and sidewalks get periodically blocked off to make way for these special motorcades. Here is what it was like at the intersection of 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest.
I eventually made my way back towards the White House on the Ellipse side. My feet were sore but all that walking was worth it once I reached the National Christmas Tree.
Surrounding the National Christmas Tree were a variety of toy train layouts resembling small villages and towns with a toy train running through each.
There was a display of smaller trees with each one representing a U.S. state or territory.
The next photo shows the tree that represented my home state of Maryland.
The one other time I went to the National Christmas Tree during the winter holiday season I remember that there was a giant lit Yule log and I could warm myself by the fire. I didn’t see any Yule logs or bonfires this time around but I encountered something that I didn’t expect. There was a tent sponsored by Google enticing people to do some computer coding in order to get a free cup of hot chocolate.
This exhibit was somehow tied in with the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. (Although, for the life of me, I didn’t see how doing some computer coding was in any way related to visiting National Parks Service places like the Lincoln Memorial or Mount Rushmore or Yosemite.)
Basically you had to queue up outside and wait until someone opened the tent door and let you inside. Since I went on a Sunday night I didn’t have a long wait outside. Once I was inside the tent I had to wait some more until a station with a Chromebook (you can definitely tell that Google sponsored this) opened up.
Once I reached the next available Chromebook I found that it was opened to the Made With Code site. I definitely recognized that webpage because I had previously visited it on World Emoji Day back in July and I created my first personalized Emoji. Using the Blockly programming language (another indication that Google sponsored this) I created this Christmas-themed Emoji.
The next step was to wirelessly send my newly created Emoji to the nearest hot chocolate dispenser.
A screen at the top showed a selection of recently created Emojis. I found the one I created and chose that one.
Here’s where the cool part came in. The hot chocolate dispenser poured out the drink while creating special foam at the top that resembled my newly created Emoji.
There were some specially provided tables where you can center the hot chocolate and take a picture of it.
Given that cool looking foam featuring an Emoji that I personally coded myself, it was almost a shame to drink the hot chocolate. I was just glad I had my smartphone with me so I could photograph it for posterity and drink my free hot chocolate without regret. (As for the hot chocolate itself, it was okay but I’ve tasted better hot chocolate at Starbucks. I can’t complain too much about it since I got it for free.)
There was a stall that sold the official 2017 White House ornament. It was nice looking but I didn’t buy it since I have a small artificial tree these days and it can’t hold too many ornaments.
The last picture I took that night was of a life-sized nativity scene that was placed near the National Christmas Tree.
Every day I hear news about Donald Trump and they become more horrifying by the day. From his cabinet choices (such as appointing Rick Perry head of an agency that he once called for its abolishment) to Trump’s refusal to read the daily intelligence briefings on the grounds that “I’m, like, a smart person”, it is so obvious that he is the one person who had no business of ever running for president in the first place—let alone finding people who were willing to vote for him. Donald Trump is the first president-elect in history who has no prior political or military experience. If all that weren’t enough, there are already divisions within Trump’s organization and the man hasn’t even taken office yet.
Donald Trump can’t take the time to read the daily intelligence briefings yet he can find the time to meet with people like Kanye West and Anna Wintour. He also finds the time to complain on Twitter about Alec Baldwin impersonating him on Saturday Night Live.
There have long been accusations of Trump being too cozy with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Now there are accusations that Russian hackers may have somehow thrown the election to Donald Trump. These allegations are so serious that members of the Electoral College are demanding to see the evidence before they go to their scheduled meeting on December 19 to give the final vote on who will become the next President of the United States.
I don’t even know what to think anymore, other than the fact that I agree with the headline of this article that appeared in Teen Vogue (of all places): Donald Trump Is Gaslighting America. I am especially worried because I live pretty close to Washington, DC so I have a bird’s eye view of whatever fuckery will come down. Donald Trump is making me feel nostalgic for George W. Bush—and I thought Dubya was the worst president ever. If Donald Trump actually makes it to the White House (and that’s a big “IF”), I don’t know if the United States of America as I’ve known it all my life will survive. I’m especially not heartened by Trump’s history of multiple bankruptcies and his numerous failed companies.
By the way, I read this interesting article on Politico.com on how Hillary Clinton’s campaign totally blew the election by ignoring working class areas like Michigan. I still maintain that if the Democratic National Committee hadn’t gone out of its way to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination, Donald Trump would be going back to being a full-time celebrity pretending to be a real estate developer working in Trump Tower.
Thanks for nothing, DNC!
One day after I went to the Bladensburg Waterfront Park, I decided to do another short nature trip close to my house to check out the fall foliage. This time I went to the National Arboretum located on the outskirts of Washington, DC. When I started out the weather was cloudy but it was relatively nice. By the time I got to the National Arboretum this big windstorm started, which blew everything around. Despite the constant wind I got out of my car and walked around the area any way because I was already there. But there are a few photos where it’s obvious that it was windy that day, such as the water ripples in the fountain outside the Visitors Center.
Basically I parked my car in the Visitors Center lot, walked around the area near the Visitors Center, got back in my car, drove to the other side of the park, walked around the area some more, then decided to leave when I grew tired of dealing with the constant wind. I also took a bunch of pictures. I’ve been to the National Arboretum before (you can read about it here and here) but they have been all in the springtime. This was the first time I ever went in the fall and, given all of the lovely fall foliage I saw around the park, I should’ve gone to that place at times other than spring. As these pictures show it’s absolutely beautiful in the fall. Even the dark clouds couldn’t muffle the beauty.