Archive for the ‘D.C. culture’ Category


Sabbath Night at the Jefferson Memorial

Posted by: Rayleen


I’m to the point in my thesis writing (eek! the deadline is fast approaching!) where I’m writing about Thomas Jefferson’s views on religion. So, tonight for a nice Sabbath activity, I went downtown to visit him at his memorial.

Here’s a view of the under-construction Washington Monument from the Jefferson Memorial.

Washington Monument from the Jefferson


And this is the Jefferson from the Martin Luther King Memorial.

Jefferson Memorial from MLK Monument





Fourth of July in Washington, DC

Posted by: benjamin

My brother, sister-in-law and four year old niece visited for the Fourth of July. We told the little one we were going to our country’s birthday party.   It was extremely entertaining and satisfying to see her get so excited about our independence. When we saw the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives, my brother told her that was our country’s first birthday card. We were amused, to say the least.

I’ve been on the Mall for the Fourth several times before. The crowd of 400,000 people in the dead of summer is crazy business. We set up on the Arlington Cemetery side of the Memorial Bridge this time. It’s close to Arlington Cemetery Metro stop, which is further down on the blue line from the rest of those leaving the Mall after fireworks. It’s an iconic view paired with a fair exit strategy.

Our spot was fantastic. I’d recommend it and may even go there next year. Just don’t spread the word too much. The crowd was a palatable size and the view was beautiful.

It started like this at 8:00pm while we awaited the start of the 9:15 show.

Then it looked like this.

Then the show unfolded like this.

Our country’s birthday party was a smash.

Friday Chief Justice Roberts upset the weather gods with his healthcare decision surprise. Kidding, kidding.  The timing and wrath of Zeus of the severe storm that pelted the DC Metro area at least makes me smirk about it.  Check out the Capital Weather Gang’s pic of the action.

As I was coming home for the evening on Friday, my date had to swerve to miss fallen limbs in the road. I might have screamed a little. I lost electricity just for one day, but others are still without it.

The Washington Post is currently hosting a contest to name the derecho storm that pounced so quickly.

It seems we’re setting a tradition for naming storms as we did in 2010 with Snowmaggeddon and Snowpacalypse 

My fav is in the lead:

Derechosaurus Wrecks

My friend, @kgaglione,  prefers Derecho Malfoy.

Severe weather like this can be almost fun, if no one gets hurt of course. I get to bust out my emergency preparedness paraphernalia!

Mormons are big into “being prepared in all things.” This includes emergency preparedness. We are counseled to have a 72 hr kit and at least one year of food storage.

Here’s my stake’s website to help be prepared. (Stake is a regional unit made up of several wards or congregations.)

The idea is to store up during times of plenty, like Joseph of Egypt, to be ready when the skinny cows show up. Never mind.

Food storage helped my family when I was mid elementary school age. After several years of too much rain in Florida, my farming family was unable to repay their loans. Then, the subsequent year, our  broker stole the crop he was supposed to sell on the market. It was devastating for us. Years later, I remember my parents talking about how they didn’t know how they would buy milk. We ate from our year supply of canned tomatoes, pasta and peaches. I don’t remember it much. I just remember being a happy kid and swimming in our cousins’ pool when my Dad came home from the fields. But, we consider the ability to retain our house and not go hungry at the same as a blessing of obedience to a prophet’s counsel to store up food.

I have probably about 2 months of food storage currently in my garage, including lots of water. But I have yet to bring myself up to speed on how to actually cook with this food. I don’t really know what to actually do with all that wheat, but hey I’m a work in progress.:)

My roommate’s friend Anna, well she’s my friend too, jokes that her food storage plan is to buy cigarettes and alcohol and she’ll just barter when the time comes. (We crack up at this because Mormons don’t smoke or drink.)

I have an emergency kit in my office (the backpack below). Now I’m near Dupont Circle, but I used to be at Farragut park closer to the White House, an easy target of attacks. I figured if Jack Bauer was ever scaling my the outside of the law firm’s building, I’d should be ready to throw him a line…or maybe a bit of beef jerky. Plus, I have sporty shoes in the bag. There’s no way I’m hiking home to in heels in the event of an emergency.

Then I have a 72 hour kit in my car. It’s in bucket form because you’re supposed to haul your waste to a safe spot in the bucket when sewage lines are trashed. Yuck. I just cringed a little.

Amazon has a list of bare essentials for an impending Zombie Apocalypse.  You could purchase the lot and just befriend a Mormon for your food preparation. You’ll probably have to listen to their gospel message at some point if this is your plan, just sayin’. Or, store up food and then barter with Anna for your addictive substances.  I hear her price is going to be pretty steep, though.

Doesn’t all this sound fun?



Jenny Oaks Baker is graceful, talented, beautiful and full of faith. Let’s now add Grammy-nominated to that list.

A few years ago I attended a fireside (an infrequent evening Church meeting) in the northern Virginia area for LDS young single adults that featured Jenny. Before she came in, I was disagreeing with a friend who insisted Jenny Oaks Baker has four kids. There’s no way she has four kids, she’s way too young, I told him. What I didn’t say was there’s no way that petite woman has four children. I met her once before for a work event where she played at the New York Historical Society. Turns out, he was right. Part of the fireside included each of her four adorable children playing their instruments.

I run into Jenny every now and then in the northern Virginia area and just beam at her like an uber fan. She’s candid, which I love, and she freely shares her faith in the Lord, which I love even more. I’m always flattered that she remembers me.

I’ve been following Jenny via Facebook as she’s been shopping for modest dresses for her newly made music video and the Grammys red carpet. She was holding out revealing them until the big day and I’ve been anxiously awaiting the results of her search for modest and elegant dresses.

She totally nailed it. Modesty is so beautiful, especially as Jenny Oaks Baker does it.

See her featured in the Washington Post Grammys Fashion report.  Her dress is ravishing.

I love the black dress in her “A Whole New World Music Video”…and the red one. Okay, I like them all.

Check it out.

Here’s an article including a video where Jenny freely shares her faith in Christ.



Tonight I attended a lecture at sixth&iwhere Michael Shermer talked about his new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts to Gods to Politics and Conspiracies.It was a full house with at least 200 people in attendance, maybe 300.  In it, he argues that the brain naturally looks for patterns as it processes its environment.   The brain then forms these patterns into belief that people confirm with self selected proof, ignoring evidence to the contrary.  Further, through these beliefs, the brain can even produce experiences perceived as supernatural, especially when the social human is alone or sleep deprived.

My friend invited me to attend with him. This was a response to my prior invite for him to attend a panel discussion with me at the Religious Freedom Education Project out of the Newseum. I don’t frequently attend atheist discussions with my Saturday night, though it’s likely something I would have done if Michael, the author, was on campus during the week.

Believe it or not, in the Q & A, Michael asked me whether I wear Mormon underwear.  After a bit of an exchange, I said that I blogged about it and wanted to provide those links for anyone from the sixth&i event who may visit the MormonInside tonight. I’m planning on writing a response to Michael’s remarks within the week, so be sure to come back.

Mormon Underwear: A Constant Personal Reminder to Always Remember Jesus Christ and Keep His Commandments

MacGyver Groupie and Lengthy Leggings

How’d we get to “magic mormon underwear” in the Q & A, you ask?  Good question. It was quite priceless, actually.

I’m in the process of choosing a thesis topic in my master’s in American Studies program at Georgetown University.  I want to do something with public school education, the Constitution, and religion. I’m concerned with the taboo status of teaching morals in the public school system. As a result of this problem, we are creating a generation not bound to a sense of moral or civic responsibility.  If this trend continues, the experiment we call America will fail because our form of government relies on the people’s civic virtue and engagement. Whose morals should get priority in such a prime forum?  America’s, of course; shared values embodied in the Constitution should be the promoted ethics. I’m ruminating arguing that religious communities are a vibrant source within American society to contribute to the development of civic virtue, though it is not the only source.  Since secularists often portray religionists as stupid or ridiculous and because religion is increasingly portrayed as ruining everything, the potential of religious communities increasingly goes untapped in countering this problem.

That background motivated my question.

The mission of the host organization, the Center for Inquiry is to “foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry and humanist values” and the author described how morality, or in other words treating someone respectfully, is a natural means for humans to perpetuate genes. So, I asked how his views would contribute to an educational approach moving forward. As students increasingly think within a scientific method framework,  how should morals, which are value judgments, be taught?

In addition to referring me to Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape, he suggested using the scientific approach in determining what makes a good society. North and South Korea measurablely demonstrate some political forms are better than others in achieving good health, well being and personal freedom, he said.

Then in jest, he said something along the lines of how it was difficult to determine morals because some people like the Mormons “morally” lead  teenage girls into  polygamist relationships;  a system where the man wouldn’t otherwise “be getting any.”

Unable to with hold my smile, I thanked him and said that I happened to be Mormon and that as we discussed tonight there are various views and religious sects in the world and I am not part of that sect. :)

He responded laughingly and the room also filled with a sense of amusement. He recovered a bit by saying that those are the Mormon fundamentalists and all the mainstream Mormons he knows have been really nice people.

He then asked if I wore the underwear.

I said, “You’re asking me about my underwear?” I intended for this to be a playful way of feigning offense at an otherwise very impertinent question from a middle aged man of a young woman (if it wasn’t religious clothing).

A man sitting closely in the pew (yes they were pews, sixth&i is a synagogue) attempted to help me understand Michael’s question and said something about “magic mormon underwear.”

I said, “Yes, I do wear a reminder of my covenant with God.”

The whole thing was really priceless. :)

I just spent a few minutes googling the term “magic mormon underwear.” I’m not sure who started this term, but it’s really disrespectful.

Calling the reminder of my covenant “magic mormon underwear” is kind of like saying you’re going to beat up my mom. It’s rude, but I roll with it.

After we stood in line for my friend to get his book signed by the author, we talked a bit with a man born into the Jewish community, but who does not accept any of the beliefs. He told us that secularists are now building community in the same way that religious groups do. I suggest that as this group gains more of an identity and they seek to encourage rationality in society, they couple it with showing respect of beliefs or practices special to others, even if they don’t see any scientific value. Maybe secularists could consider that my attitude and behavior with regards to wearing the garment may contribute to making me nice, like Michael noticed in other Mormons.

Maybe a religious practice is not so ridiculous if it contributes to the creation of a peaceful and civil society.  Not every religious practice is akin to jihad.


Duck Beach is….

Posted by: benjamin

This last weekend close to a thousand Latter-day Saint young adults descended on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Legend has it, the genesis of this phenomenon grew out of a small group of singles from the Washington, D.C. area who pooled their money and rented a large house on the coast. What this group calls “Duck Beach,” though it’s actually Corolla Beach, has expanded to draw young single adults from New York, Boston, Huntington Beach, Palo Alto, Provo , and other hubs of Mormon single-dom. This year, I met a group of 20 newbies to the Duck scene from Phoenix. There were also some LDS locals hitting the beach.

The house rentals vary in size and splendor.

Duck Beach is….recently hitting headlines

A few weeks ago, I had the thought to post about Duck. After all, it’s practically a staple in DC LDS young single adult  life, but I didn’t want to advertise to the Internet that a group of trusting young people were hitting up crowded house parties in a specific location on a particular weekend. But then this article in the Daily Beast reported it. The author compared it to Jersey Shore, only minus the alcohol and sex. Isn’t that what makes Jersey Shore, Jersey Shore? The Washington Post also noted it in its strangely written article about the new 23rd street chapel in Crystal City.
I guess the word is out. An otherwise sparsely populated beach on the Outer Banks annually fills up with wholesome fun. Just don’t tell any sex offenders. I’d like to have some sense of security as my friends and I vacation.

The weather is changing. When spring weather hits, my mood-o-meter peaks out at this-is-the-life-if-it-could-possibly-get-any-better-I’d-have-no-room-to-hold-the-happiness. The Masonic George Washington memorial in Alexandria in winter is now only a memory.

Changing weather means wardrobe changes.  Some girls in my ward host a “fashion-free-cycle” where they invite women (well, anyone really, but only women show up) to go through their closet and pull out clothes they haven’t worn in a while. They set up their darling front room with tables and racks and everyone fills it up with give-aways. Whatever isn’t recycled at the end of the evening gets donated to Goodwill.

Latter-day Saint (Mormon) women consider modesty first in their choice of clothing. It’s quite an easy task in the winter, but gets to be a bit more of a challenge in the warmer months. In the post  ”Mormon Underwear: A Constant Personal Reminder to Always Remember Jesus Christ and Keep His Commandments” I explain how and why covenanted faithful Latter-day Saints live modestly inside and out by wearing a sacred reminder under their clothing. This means when it comes down to wearing something new and trendy and wearing this reminder, called “the garment,” a faithful Latter-day Saint will always, always choose clothing that respects the sanctity of the garment. In other words, you don’t dismiss the garment to rock a halter top on Saturday night and then pick it up again on Sunday.

This means that LDS women layer—a lot. And my latest layering tool is leggings. I love them. I’m not very tall, so often dresses are long enough to cover the garment—if I don’t move at all that is. Leggings make it possible to wear my preferred dresses without flashing the reminder of my covenant to the world.

I wonder how long I’ll hold onto leggings after they go out of style. You know, like those people who sport the MacGyver mullet while they’re singing along with the BlackEyedPeas.

You don’t know who MacGyver is?

That’s okay, he’s not still around. If he were, he’d likely have used my leggings to descend a Pakistani compound camelflouging the world’s worst terrorist to take him out with a paper clip and some duct tape.

Actually, that might be hot.

You can have your MacGyver mullet in 2011 if I can have my leggings in 2019. Deal?

“Excuse me, is that your bag?”

Is this phrase burned into your psyche? No? That could only be possible if you don’t ride the DC metro rail system where the perky recorded woman’s voice asks us to quiz our fellow commuters when we see any unattended bags.  We’re all fighting terrorism together. So if you “see something, say something.”

There are other DC metro rail practices. For example, don’t be an “esca-lefter.” This means if you are standing on the escalator, stand on the right to allow those walking up a left side passage. Tourists have a difficult time with this one. If you come to visit, remember conformity to social norms isn’t always something you should resist.

You guessed it. I’m not an escalator stander. And I especially feel like a champion when I’m not a stander at the Rosslyn metro stop. That escalator is a tremendous beast and it’s a definite stroke to my ego when I trek up the left side the whole way up.  Just this last week a white bearded cheery man standing on the right….ahem, as I left him in my dust…said to his companion, “here comes someone with energy!” I flashed him the most sugary smile I could muster at the moment.

You see, I’m one of those former high school athletes that still has the heart of a champion, but sits in front of a computer for about 8 hrs a day, not realizing those days are long since passed until I try to bust it out like the good old days and end up heaving for air.  When I knock it out on the metro, I reassure myself “I still got it!”

Get the logic?

Get that it’s my ego?

Yeah, that’s an easy one to call, but the problem with the ego is that often others can see it when you can’t. That’s why Christianity often describes pride as causing blindness.  It doesn’t make everyone blind, though, just you. Heads up.

It revolutionized my life and my spirituality when I started to be aware of my ego and my weaknesses. Once I was able to be aware of them, I could start to work on changing them.

The closer I’ve gotten to Christ, the more convicted I am by my weaknesses. But, the Holy Spirit provides enabling power to do things that I wouldn’t be able to do on my own. It’s amazing how the Lord makes demanding requirements of us and then gives us the power to meet the requirement’s demands.

As I personally engage in this ongoing process, I have to “dig deeper” like Shaun T says in those Insanity videos. (It’s a great workout and I love the powerjacks.) Digging deeply inside myself makes me better aware of who I am and helps me understand more of who I can become as I access the power of Christ‘s Atonement in my life.

And my favorite part about it is it makes me more secure because I view myself more as a work-in-progress rather than in need of masking imperfections. This makes me better able to give of myself in relationships that are important to me. Because of digging deeply and working with the Lord on my weaknesses, I see others more for their potential and increase in patience and admiration for them. It also makes it difficult to offend me. And I love that.

This week in my Religion and Politics in the U.S. class, we discussed New Age religion. The book we read, What Really Matters by Tony Schwartz described some retreats where people purge themselves of repressed emotions by specific practices. I thought it was fascinating and wanted to discover any of my own repressed emotions, so I can liberate them, but I was skeptical of the sweeping claim.  I told the class I was doubtful that in several weekends, you could identify years of repressed emotions and get over them, if you really wanted to. My classmate who is a man in his upward 60′s responded saying he had done such weekend retreats and in several weekends you can have cathartic experiences that reveal all your repressed emotions. The caveat was you have to go in willing to submit yourself to the process. He said it’s important to do such activities in groups because you can often see yourself and your weaknesses in other’s behavior and personalities. Now that’s being willing to lay aside your ego. It was a much softer and humbler side of this man than I anticipated was present in him.

It would be tremendously easier to remain on the surface of myself and with the world, but I find that intensely dissatisfying. How do people live their whole life without searching for deeper meaning? Do they feel numb instead of alive? The American economic model lends well to superficial living, materially, emotionally and spiritually. It takes work to go a different direction.

Digging deeper is a much better way to live. I highly recommend it.

But I’m not ready to give up feeling like a champion dominating the Rosslyn metro escalator. If you see me coming, be sure to stand on the right and make room for my ego.

This weekend with some friends I attended a free improv workshop sponsored by Washington Improv Theater.  Our group came up with some good material that led to genuine laughs and I crushed on our cute instructor for the class’ duration.  It was a really enjoyable time.

To prep for our evening o’ fun, I watched this Tina Fey interview.

I really like Tina Fey. She’s very talented and doesn’t seem to be self absorbed.

I found more support for my opinion of her in this interview. In describing her experience with Chicago’s Second City, the mecca of improv theater, she said:

“To be improvising in front of a paid audience, you learn to be fearless, you learn how to fail because you mostly fail. You mostly flop. You’re going to perform over a thousand scenes when you’re there and you’re going to remember those five scenes when it went really well. You learn not to be afraid to fail…”

She’s my kind of girl.:)  There’s a great deal of success in the action of trying, rather than being paralyzed by fear. Who cares if it’s not perfect? Nobody’s perfect, save Christ. Improv wouldn’t be interesting if the performers were perfect, anyway. What would that mean?

This box was in the corner of our improv classroom.

I wonder what that means too.

We are able to access God by stepping out and taking a leap of faith, though it may feel like impending failure. You could offer a thousand prayers and remember those 5 times that the Holy Spirit washed you with peace. Knowing God starts with yourself. It starts with choosing to reach out to Him in a fearless way, even if you have fear.

I asked my friends if they agreed with the box’s spray painted idea.

PB said that you wouldn’t have to be humble if you only looked inside of you. The Atonement shows the great distance between God and ourselves. Reaching outside ourselves to access the Atonement is the only way we overcome our fallen nature.

WT said that when you come to know yourself, you can see the divinity in you as His child and it also causes you to look at others with spiritual eyes as His children.

What do you think of the phrase “I found God in myself”?

(We also walked passed this church marquis.)


D.C. Culture Snapshots

Posted by: benjamin Tags:

Here are a few snapshots of some enjoyable spots in our nation’s capital.

Fino Italiano 3011 M Street NW in Gerogetown

I met up with some fellow classmates at Fino to divvy up the workload for an upcoming project.  One group member suggested meeting there because the “cappuccino is pretty good.” Since I don’t drink cappuccino because it’s a form of coffee and I’m a Mormon, I expected to order some other beverage.

Ends up, it is his go-to restaurant and he was hosting us.  He said he grew up in New York where you frequent one favorite restaurant. They gave us the best table and knew this classmate’s favorite dishes. I think it’s cool when the servers are not young college kids, but look like they could own the place.  It makes the place seem fancier to me. Well, I got my classmate’s favorite, the Lobster Ravioli.


It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. If I named off my life’s most memorable meals on one hand, this would make the cut. I recommend stopping by.

Another great place is Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections at 1529C 14TH Street NW Washington, D.C..

This chocolate bar caused a smile.

Since I’ve been cutting back on sugar and since it was the weekend, I indulged a bit and got some ice cream.

The Rita Hayworth was deeelisssshus. I wonder what deliciousness lies in the other chocolate divas.

You should find out.  Go on. Do it.