Monday, January 09, 2006

Mr. Spinozist Goes to Washington

I arrived in our nation’s capital yesterday evening.

Unlike the iconic Mr. Smith, I didn’t here to clean the place up; when it comes to corruption I am content to express sardonic ridicule. Nor am I here to see the confirmation hearings of Samuel Alito, though it would interest me greatly; if I had sufficient time or insomnia I’d be interested to watch the whole thing live or in late-night C-SPAN rebroadcasts. Nominally, I am here for something greater than Politics: Science, specifically the 207th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

In fact, however, like many pilgrims to this place where levers of power are pulled, the attraction is something even greater than Science: Mammon. Or, as a minor character in my secular holy book puts it, “the spondulicks the cash the moolah the bread the bread.”

In fact, perhaps a more extended playful likening of this passage unto ourselves is warranted. In the quote below the minor character Hawthorne Crossley is broadcasting rock music, in the days of its adolescence, from a rusty tin can of a ship off the coast of England because of the illegality of such broadcasts on the mainland. In the wee hours of the night he reaches out over the air to his mother, who was shamefully abandoned by his father to follow unnatural proclivities (and has since degenerated into unnaturalness of her own). Hawthorne is caught in the middle, between loyalty to his mother who dutifully raised him under difficult circumstances, and the financial support of his depraved father needed to support his righteous work:
If you’re listening, Antionette Corinth, you witchy insomniac, and I know you’re listening because you always are, then this one’s for you. This comes to you from Hawthorne with love… This one is to honor your genius, O queen of the black arts, princess of the pentangle, Baroness Samedi, priestess of Wicca, adept of the secrets of the Great Pyramid, dispenser of all good things, dressmaker extraordinaire, O Mother who gave us suck. We took your name and you at once let it go, espousing, instead, the noble Corinthian tradition. Mother forgive us for we are royally arseholed. Forgive us Mother for we have taken the shilling of him what done you wrong. As you have surmounted your bitterness towards him, as you have found it in your mighty soul to transcend your most righteous anger, so also let us not come into your bad books, if that’s at all possible, because we really needed the spondulicks the cash the moolah the bread the bread. Forgive us Mother for we are soldiers of the Queen our Father and this is wonderful 199, Radio Freddie, and for all you night owls and our own dear Mum here’s Manfred Mann to promise us that god is on our side.
In the present application of this passage, the mother is likened to all you dutiful taxpayers, who may wonder why your hard-earned money is being spent on work like ours; the father is likened to our unnaturally corrupt government; and Hawthorne is likened to research groups like ours doing righteous work eminently worthy of government funding.

You see, a recompetition of the program under which our collaboration’s work is funded will be occurring over the next few months, so our fearless leader is leveraging this AAS meeting’s fortuitous location in Washington by arranging for a special poster session showcasing our collaboration’s most glorious work. The idea is to present an overwhelming united phalanx (facilitated by matching mandatory Microsoft PowerPoint poster templates imposed upon all collaboration members) designed to impress not so much our fellow scientists—we’ve never done anything like this for any other conference—but specially invited representatives from the relevant funding agencies.

Anyway, the bottom line: tell me what you like or recommend in Washington, D.C.!



701 Ninth Street, N.W. (

Middle Eastern tapas = tasty. In particular, the lamb over eggplant-and-cheese puree was incredible -- and I don't even (generally) like eggplant. Also very good were the shrimp in some kind of tasty white sauce and the many different funny little falafel-like thingies.  

Comment by Kaimi | 1/09/2006 09:10:00 PM  

Kaimi, you won't believe this... Earlier this evening I just suggested this place to my dinner companions for tomorrow, it being ranked #12 out of 807 at ... 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 1/09/2006 09:26:00 PM  

That's pretty funny. It was a very enjoyable dinner - I recommend it.

I just came back from a conference in DC. Aside from Zaytinya's, I ate a La Tosca (Spanish tapas, also quite tasty), Lebanese Taverna (not bad, a little less expensive and less nice than the other two), and some Thai place whose name I cannot recall (and that wasn't really all that special anyway -- there are probably dozens of places in DC where you can get a plate of perfectly serviceable pad thai for $9).

I was also planning on going to an Asian-Spanish fusion place down in the same neighborhood as Tosca and Zaytinya, called Zo-something-or-other. It was recommended to me by some people who should know, but I didn't have time to get there. It's on the same block as Tosca, which is a few streets over from Zaytinya.  

Comment by Kaimi | 1/09/2006 09:38:00 PM  

Kaimi, those sound like great suggestions. I need to take advantage, since there's not much of international flavor in the Knoxville area. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 1/09/2006 09:49:00 PM  

Go to Adams-Morgan and chow down on injera--both Ethiopean and  the Eritrean. The Natural History museum is awesome (what a skeleton collection!). So's Union Station, on the verge of which you'll stroll past the imposing facade of the Supreme Court. The back end of the White House is impressively cheesy-phoney-bunker-like, tricked out with dishes and pill boxes painted white. National Geographic often has neat things on exhibit at their HQ--stuff from Shackleton or the dino expeditions they've sponsored. The National Gallery of course. Skip the Kennedy Center.  

Comment by MT | 1/10/2006 10:40:00 AM  

Welcome to DC, Christian. I recommend the war memorials and the Roosevelt memorial (it's worth the hike). The new WWII memorial is nice. And the Vietnam Veteran's memorial is THE SINGLE PLACE I recommend any visitor go to DC even if they see nothing else. I can't take the walk next to the wall without getting emotional. 

Comment by LisaB | 1/10/2006 12:10:00 PM  

Sorry, one more. The new Museum of the American Indian. 

Comment by LisaB | 1/10/2006 12:12:00 PM  

.........Joseph Smith never found golden tablets.....start with that and begin again......don't be fooled like all the your eyes.....God is right before you......Truth is all that matters. 

Comment by Oberon | 1/10/2006 12:23:00 PM  

MT,  LisaB, thanks for the great suggestions. I think I'll play hooky part of the day tomorrow and see at least a couple things.

Oberon, WTF? Did you accidentally comment on the wrong thread? And next time perhaps you could try to say something a little more substantive. 

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 1/10/2006 10:46:00 PM  

Oh and Kaimi,  Zaytinya was indeed very good.  

Comment by Christian Y. Cardall | 1/10/2006 10:47:00 PM  



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