The Georgetowner’s David Roffman Honored for His Work

  -David Roffman, a local journalist, philanthropist and former co-owner of The Georgetowner will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Georgetown Business Association on Wednesday, June 16. The award will be presented at a celebratory luncheon at the City Tavern Club, located at 3206 M St. from 11:30 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The event will be hosted by former presidents of the GBA including Tom Bryan, Judy Horman, Billy Martin, Paul Cohn, Linda Greenan and Brad Altman. Tickets are $50 for members and $65 for non-members.

That’s A Wrap: DC’s Film Festivals

On June 22 there will be a little taste of Kazakhstan in Washington. Perhaps a little Korea or India better suits your taste? If you are looking for something a little rushed, there is a 48 Hour challenge, or if you just have a few minutes, some DC Shorts. For those in the know, these don’t refer to restaurants or urban athletics but an underappreciated trend in the cultural life of our city. While nobody was watching, except for those who attended them, Washington has become something of a film festival mecca. Each year, according to Jon Gann, organizer of the seven-year-old DC Shorts — in which all entries have to be under 10 minutes — there are approximately 75 film festivals in the D.C. area. Nobody seems to quite know many exactly because there are new ones all the time. “I get calls every week from someone saying, “I want to start a film festival. How do I do it?” He credits the cheap accessibility of technology, film schools pumping out people on a mission to make their great opus, and a thirst for something other than the latest canned Hollywood profit enterprise. And it is not just film festivals. There are regular screenings and documentary award gatherings like the CINE Awards, Emmys, and Kennedy Center Honors awards. Perhaps the most prestigious U.S. documentary festival, Silverdocs, takes place in Silver Spring each summer, and the world’s largest documentary conference, RealScreen, takes over a downtown hotel each spring. And all this in a town that traditionally “frowns on people who wear black,” jokes Lauren Cardillo, an independent film maker and one of the folks behind the CINE Awards. Award-winning documentary makers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine (Sundance-winning “War Dance”) see it as the difference between watching a movie at home and going to the film screening — where the audience has a richer experience and the ability to interact with the moviemakers themselves. “For us it is also an amazing experience to watch people react to our work.” Susan Barocas, who heads the DCJCC’s 16-year-old Jewish Film Festival, which had 60 films last year, also says it provides an alternative route to get movies seen as the distribution network has consolidated, squeezing out the small filmmaker. Credit is due to National Geographic and Discovery, which about two decades ago laid the foundation to make D.C. a hive for independent filmmakers. Yet, to quote comedian Rodney Dangerfield, we still get no respect when it comes to filmmaking, even though D.C. is closing in rapidly on L.A. and New York in festival stature. Filmmaker Sean Fine says that when he is asked at festivals elsewhere where he is from, people seem reluctant to believe that D.C. could be a hub for filmmakers. But if L.A. has its Hollywood, and New York its Tribeca, DC has its Potomac, and these days lots of great little movies run through it. The next time you see an eclectic mob strolling out of an embassy wearing a pensive smile, nod knowingly. Or wait for the next showing — another film is likely already being cued up. Don’t miss these festivals coming up in Washington: DC Shorts festival (September 9-16) — Truly independent short films, created by new and established filmmakers with a special focus on films by Washington D.C.-based directors and writers. ReelAffirmations (October 14-23) — Films focusing on the GLBTQ experience. Arabian Sights Film Festival (October 9-18) — Offering the newest and most provocative films from the Arab world (an offshoot of the D.C. International Film Festival). Washington Jewish Film Festival (December 2-12) — New and award-winning films from around the world, telling unexpected stories on the Jewish experience and debunking stereotypes. Capital Irish Film Festival (December 2-12) — Featuring the work of contemporary Irish directors. Produced by Solas Nua. Amos Gelb is the director for the George Washington University’s Semester in Washington Journalism program. Contact him at [gallery ids="99141,102759,102770,102767,102764" nav="thumbs"]

Undercover Dining

  -The appointment was for 12:30 p.m. at a fairly new restaurant in Georgetown. The reservation was under the name of Fred, but the rendezvous was with Tom Sietsema, the Washington Post’s food critic. Depending on what he writes, Sietsema is either the most beloved or the most reviled man in the Washington restaurant universe. Right on time, there’s a tap on my shoulder. “Hi, I’m Fred,” he says. “Nice to meet you.” Fred-slash-Sietsema is dashingly dressed, and not looking at all like a man who eats out 13 times a week. He is trim and fit, and not by accident. “The day the Washington Post hired me, I hired a personal trainer to work me out three times a week. It is more a professional necessity than a personal indulgence,” he says. He also gives himself a break, sometimes skipping lunch on Saturday. This lunch is one of what Sietsema calls his first takes, his first visit to a restaurant. He normally tests a restaurant at least three times before writing a review, believing anybody can have a bad day. But he also makes sure he sees restaurants at their worst and that is Monday, the slow day of the restauranting week. The dining room is virtually empty as we are led to our table. In the 1990s Taiwanese movie, “Eat Drink Man Woman,” the best chef in the country has lost his ability to taste the food he cooks. I wondered the same of Sietsema. Can he still tell good food from bad? Doesn’t it get boring to eat out all the time? Like one of his reviews, which mixes considered praise with cutting criticism, his answer is a contradiction. He doesn’t get bored because “you have to love this to really do it well.” At the same time, “I eat mediocre food so you don’t have to.” But when we pause to consider the menu, it is clear that familiarity hasn’t dulled Sietsema’s approach. At first glance watching him casually scanning the menu is like watching a rerun of “Colombo,” where you know the innocuous look around the room has revealed some hidden truth nobody else can see. But then as Sietsema continues to study the menu I realize I am actually watching a museum curator examining a newly found piece of the Dead Sea scrolls, relishing in the discovery of seeing something potentially wonderful for the first time. Almost out of nowhere, a hyper-attentive waiter springs over to offer his advice and promote what he believes are the unique characteristics of some of the dishes. Sietsema orders. We order some of the recommendations but also a few “benchmark” dishes to check how the restaurant is on the basics. It is said the best spies do not stand out. Sietsema has same low-key manner. But it becomes clear very quickly that this is not just a job most people would envy. To Sietsema, this is a sacred trust — keeping chefs honest, and serving the people. And despite the obvious thought that it would be fun to eat out all time, it is a job, “most food is generally somewhere in the middle. Some of it can be good, most just ok.” But he has to try it all. It is a little ironic that in a town where power and perception are currency, one of its most powerful journalists doesn’t write about politics. There is no doubting Sietsema’s clout. When he wrote a wonderful review of an Indian restaurant newly opened in what had been a funeral plot for a number of restaurants that preceded it, it was suddenly impossible to get a table. But when he dismissed the service at one of the most prominent restaurants in the city, taking away one of his impossibly hard-to-win stars, even people who couldn’t afford to eat there noticed. “It’s the small mom and pop restaurants I feel most responsible towards,” he says. But it is not bad reviews he worries about. He is concerned that if he gives a good review, small restaurants will be overwhelmed by a wave of expectant — and often disappointed — customers. He generally gives his smaller reviewees a heads up a few days before the review comes out. I have a very personal relationship with food. But when the first course arrives I realize Sietsema is in a different class. As I dive into what promises to be a tasty appetizer, I realize he is just isn’t here to eat. He is here to taste. To experience. He seems to have an almost cold analytical relationship with what sits before him. Our adrenalined waiter reappears concerned because Sietsema has barely nibbled. Sietsema is ready with a disarming reason: “Saving space, big breakfast.” In reality, he has what he needs. “Where I grew up all the food was beige,” Sietsema, raised in rural Minnesota, says. His mother was a great cook but there was no history of gastronomy in his family, although he fondly remembers occasional visits to the city where his dad would treat them to great restaurants. His arrival in Washington is the classic D.C. story. He spent a semester interning here during college, fell in love with the city and decided to stay. A professor had a contact at the Washington Post that landed his first job, which led to being assistant to the legendary restaurant reviewer Phyllis Richman. His main job was to try out the recipes (“That’s when I learned how to cook”). Stints followed in Milwaukee, San Francisco, Seattle (where he was food critic for Microsoft’s before returning to take over at the Post. Today he is a virtual one-man industry with his biannual roundups, video blog (which was just a whimsy that seems to have taken off), and a seemingly never-ending stream of other writing. He makes at least one trip out of town a month to add variety. The first bite of the main course proves as disappointing as the appetizers. Sietsema is clearly not impressed. He takes several more bites and puts down his fork. This experience unfortunately is not uncommon. While D.C. has been growing as a food town, Sietsema says it is a growth more of quantity than quality. Both Georgetown and Downtown are becoming, he says somewhat dismissively, like Bethesda, where there are a lot of restaurants, but not many are really good. He believes the most exciting areas gastronomically in the city are the up and coming Logan Circle and H Street N.E. corridors. Part of the problem, he says, is that too many chefs try to be too fancy. Sietsema could be the personification of the food critic in the animated movie Ratatouille. In the climax of that film, the legendary and feared critic is wowed by the simplest of dishes. For Sietsema, likewise, a simple burger or well made roast chicken will impress more than rich and ambitious sauces, which he says are like a crutch. Dessert is offered, promoted, encouraged. A house speciality, nothing like it anywhere else. Sietsema listens attentively and as the waiter heads off shares a glance to say he deserves effort points, if nothing else. Unfortunately, our waiter’s ardent proselytizing is once more undermined by the food. I suddenly realize Sietsema is going to have to endure this food at least twice more. Just as suddenly I am feeling slightly less envious. When the bill comes, it raises another interesting question: how does he pay without revealing his undercover identity? And yet for a decade, Sietsema has been able to eat in anonymity. He credits eating with different people (the best part of the job, he says), 15 OpenTable restaurant reservation accounts and never calling from his office, since the prefix is identifiable as the Washington Post’s. On occasion he uses disguises, but he says they take over an hour to get right and he only does those rarely. But there is still the point of paying. Cash is the obvious answer, but it turns out he also has a rather clever, but legal, credit card trick. All the same, he has had some close calls, and he is certain he has been recognized by a waiter or two. But fortunately they tend to move on, he says. His biggest concern is leaving his dry cleaning, which has his name on the label. As critic-for-a-lunch, I have assumed an air of authority and casually write off this restaurant. But Sietsema gently chides me. Everybody has a bad day, he reminds me. He reiterates a point made early in the meal that it is not just the food. People tend to be forgiving if the overall experience is good. He will be back, and I get the distinct impression there will be fresh chance to win those coveted but stingily awarded stars. But as Sietsema heads off, without a far more impressive second act, those stars are looking pretty dim.

Bed Bugs: Learnings from the Little Ones

A teenage George Washington quickly abandoned an infested bed in the Shenandoahs more than 250 years ago. Today, area residents of all ages are jumping in their jammies. This region is already among the top ten areas hit by the recent bed bug infestation, and it’s predicted by an exterminator president to approach the notoriously overrun New York City in a year or two. Denizens disturbed by the news, a.k.a. “Attack of the Blood Sucking Bugs,” should take something FROM the creatures for a change. A Little Perspective: Tell a formerly infested acquaintance that you might have bed bugs. She’ll gasp in horror and drop urgent work and needy kids for you, her new top priority. Bed bug crises were likely atop her and many others’ list of the year’s “Ten Worst” as they lost time, health and sleep in taxing bug battles. In the past, those pests were more common. But they were less commented upon. Poverty, war and acute hunger relegated bed bugs to a smaller part of the daily struggle for those in World War II concentration camps, Toronto homeless shelters and Freetown refugee camps in Sierra Leone. Even now bed bugs strike everyone, but they have a penchant for the poor despite their infrequent travel. So, for many of us, appreciation is in order. Commitment to Fight for Freedom: As horrifying as the experience is, the bugs disappear from many Washingtonians’ homes in just weeks with proper treatment. For many, the hundreds to thousands of dollars – explicitly excluded in home insurance policies – is costly but affordable. Not so for others. One third of DC children live in poverty (defined by a family of four earning less than $22,000 a year). Sixteen percent of kids live in families earning half that, leaving no money to spare, according to Children’s Law Center Executive Director Judith Sandalow. The DC government and private landlords are usually responsible for vermin issues, but often unresponsive. Many of those families devoutly scour and clean – an approach woefully ineffective in wiping out rodents, rats, and roaches from multi-unit housing. Ridding bed bugs may pose an even tougher challenge. Given the cost and complexity of eliminating them from apartment buildings, two kinds of property managers could emerge, says American Pest President Matt Nixon: “People who knock bed bugs back enough to rent the unit and those people who want to completely eliminate the problem.” Legislation pending in New York, like requiring landlord disclosure and mandating home insurance options, seems to solve only part of the problem. So stay informed and active on the issue. Save Your Stigma - The intense secrecy surrounding bed bugs may be true to the city’s huge defense presence. Tenants don’t disclose to landlords fearing reprisal, and infested individuals are silent with schools, offices and friends for fear of the stigma. Landlords sign confidentiality agreements with exterminators and may not confide in their tenants and shoppers, fearing lost revenue and liability. But such secrecy might speed the spread and deepen the shame. Destigmatization comes from awareness, education and time. The DC government has launched a public service announcement and held training. More effective than such campaigns is often the coming out and commitment of a celebrity, like Magic Johnson with AIDS. The infestation affects places more than people, so maybe the insect icon will be a building. Victoria’s Secret temporarily shuttered a Manhattan store, and high-end Bergdorf Goodman is being patrolled by bed bug-sniffing beagles. Until then (and after), be open and accepting. Plan to Declutter: Bed bugs – and all vermin – love the dirtier living conditions and hiding places that come with clutter. While cleaning up won’t prevent or reduce an infestation, it could slow the spread and facilitate treatment. Americans accumulate piles of paper and mounds of mish-mash. Adorable tchotchkes and a “really great deal” make them weak in the knees. Abroad, a more minimalist aesthetic often prevails despite less space. And in Europe, biking and walking to stores often eliminates overloading as an option. Shopping and splurging makes sense, of course, but be smart about it. Professional organizers would advise such strategies as ditching one clothing item for each purchased, and cleaning different home areas periodically. Avoid the graphic pictures of teeming bed bugs. But think about the how we can protect our sanity and our community to create constructive change from the critter crisis.

Stewart-Colbert Rally

These photos provide a sampling of the estimated 215,000 people that attended a rally organized by Comedy Central talk show hosts Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Saturday October 30, 2010 on the Washington Mall. (All photos by Jeff Malet [gallery ids="99379,99395,99396,99397,99398,99399,99400,99401,99402,99403,99404,99405,99406,99394,99393,99392,99380,99381,99382,99383,99384,99385,99386,99387,99388,99389,99390,99391,99407" nav="thumbs"]

FotoWeek DC Goes Global

In its third year, FotoWeek DC has already proven to be one of the most comprehensive and innovative photography festivals, not only in Washington but the world. The week-long festival takes place November 5 – November 13 and is comprised of programs that include monumental photo projections on the façades of DC’s famed architecture, all-night photo experiences, evocative exhibitions of award-winning images, as well as lectures and workshops led by internationally renowned photographers. During the festival’s inaugural year, its awards competition was limited to the metro area. Theo Adamstein, President and Founder of FotoWeek DC, quickly realized that, in order for the festival to reach its full potential, they needed to think on a larger scale. “Photography is a universal language,” Adamstein said. “No matter where you are, how you grew up, if you can snap a photo, you can communicate.” The competition’s international appeal is evident, as this year FotoWeek DC received over 6,500 submissions from 34 countries. The International Awards Ceremony will kick off the festival on November 5, preceding the much anticipated launch party at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art & Design, the festival’s official partner. Taking into account the broad, global scope of entries, the events this year will highlight the shifting growth of FotoWeek DC as a hallmark for the photography industry. It is clear there is a greater emphasis being placed on key genres such as social justice causes and environmental issues, as well as fine art. NightGallery, an exhibition which projects colossal images onto the façades of significant local architecture, will be showcasing these themes. “NightGallery is a visually dynamic theater, presenting large-scale projections of powerful photography that address important issues and themes from around the world,” said James Wellford, Senior Photo Editor of Newsweek Magazine and curator of the show “Projections of Reality,” which will be featured in NightGallery. “The images offer the opportunity to experience a series of visual stories that poignantly reflect upon our shared human condition.” Wellford is accompanied in the NightGallery exhibition by three other distinguished photographers: Cristina Mittermeier, Executive Director and a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and curator of the environmental program “Life Live Here”; Andy Adams, Editor & Publisher of; and Larissa Leclair, photography writer and curator, whose fine arts show will feature work published on over the past four years, entitled 100 Portraits — 100 Photographers: Selections from the Archive. The NightGallery exhibition will be on display at eight Washington locations, including the Corcoran, whose programs will include “The City Unseen,” and “Literary Adaptation: 1920 – Contemporary Times,” both produced by nineteen students from the school’s BFA program. Along with the Corcoran, NightGallery can be seen on the Newseum, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, American Red Cross, National Museum of the American Indian, Satellite Central (3333 M Street NW), the Human Rights Campaign building, the House of Sweden, and Dupont Circle, located right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of the city. NightGallery literally turns an entire city into a massive canvas of work. By partnering with FotoWeek DC, the Corcoran will serve as FotoWeek Central. It will be open to the public at no cost during FotoWeek, including Monday, November 8 and Tuesday, November 9 — days when the gallery is typically closed. Visitors will be able to view the award winning work from the International Awards Competition, listen to lectures by renowned photojournalists, and participate in workshops or portfolio reviews, where amateur and professional photographers can register to have their work critiqued by some of the best in the business. A second location, the aforementioned Satellite Central, will feature FotoWeek DC programs as well. The 7,000 sq. ft. building will house a series of events to complement those taking place at the Corcoran. Satellite Central will showcase projection theatres, exhibitions, lectures, FotoBooks, special events, a thumbnail display including every photo submission to the International Awards Competition, and the 10-hour photo marathon known as NightVisions. Photographers from any background can burn the midnight oil from 8pm on Saturday, November 6, to 6am on Sunday, November 7, for NightVisions. Participants will literally create a photo exhibition from start to finish overnight by taking photos, editing, having them judged, and printing by the next morning. The purpose of the NightVisions program is to recreate the adrenalin rush of a photo student’s end-of-term all-nighter or a professional’s laser-focused intensity against a drop-dead deadline. “It’s all about sucking it up, creating an image, meeting the deadline, and doing something great,” declared Washington photographer Peter Garfield, one of NightVisions’ originators. With the plethora of programming and partners involved with FotoWeek DC, this festival has evolved into something larger than life. Whether you are a photographer trying to make it big, a professional hoping to learn from the best, or just a casual passerby who is moved by a giant image you see on a building, the beauty of this festival is its accessibility, connection to people, and the power of telling a story without words. [gallery ids="99428,99438,99437,99436,99435,99434,99433,99432,99431,99430,99429,99439" nav="thumbs"]

NBA: Wizards vs. Cavs photo slideshow

Gilbert Arenas made his first regular season appearance at the Verizon Center as the Wizards battled the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday Nov. 6, 2010. The Wizards led 95-93 with 3 minutes 16 seconds left, but ended on the short end of a 107-102 score before an announced crowd of 14,442. Al Thornton led the Wizards scoring with 23 points. Mo Williams of the Cavs led all scoring with 28 points. (All photos by Jeff Malet [gallery ids="99495,99509,99510,99511,99512,99513,99514,99515,99516,99517,99518,99508,99507,99506,99496,99497,99498,99499,99500,99501,99502,99503,99504,99505,99519" nav="thumbs"]

Veterans Day at Arlington National Cemetery – Photo Gallery

The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held each year on November 11th at Arlington National Cemetery . The ceremony commences precisely at 11:00 a.m. with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns and continues inside the Memorial Amphitheater with a parade of colors by veterans’ organizations and remarks from dignitaries. The ceremony is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces. (All photos by Jeff Malet [gallery ids="99521,99535,99536,99537,99538,99539,99540,99541,99542,99543,99544,99534,99533,99532,99522,99523,99524,99525,99526,99527,99528,99529,99530,99531,99545" nav="thumbs"]

Reading Tea Leaves at TBD

The announcement of Jim Brady’s departure from TBD is not just the old “different direction” story. It is akin to Roger Ailes leaving FOX, Aaron Sorkin leaving the West Wing, or Steve Jobs leaving Apple. TBD, Brady’s visionary idea for the next great media thing, was a truly online local news organization that leveraged all those much-ballyhooed elements of new media — blogs, linking, social media etc. It really was a different concept. Brady was not just the head of TBD but its guiding light. Previously the online editor for the Washington Post, he made his reputation by nurturing the old media dinosaur into a viable new media incarnation but moved on when new management took a left instead of the right he was trying to steer. Brady is an unrecognized pioneer of modern media. Then Robert Albritton, backer of Politico and arguably the most imaginative and inventive media executive working in the American media business, had the foresight and brilliance to buy into Brady’s idea for TBD about two years ago, putting his money where everybody else’s mouth is. So here is what rings hollow about Brady’s departure. Brady was said to be a technology guy, while Albritton wanted to focus on content generation. But Brady actually is that rarest of beings: the content guy who is equally as comfortable with its technology. Was it simply a personality conflict, a financial equation, or Albritton’s looking for a right when Brady was going left? Was it literally a rejection of Brady’s vision by the paymaster? It’s all possible and just business. But I would suggest that this is now a critical moment for the new TBD idea, which was a truly new concept in online-driven, locally focused journalism in a sustainable form. Just as Politico is the personification of its leaders John Harris and Jim VandeHei, TBD was Jim Brady. Albritton seems more than committed to growing his newest adventure, but TBD runs the risk of so many other new media incarnations today: To start with a promise and an idea but evolve into something not much different from traditional legacy media, just with fewer unions for bosses to worry about.

Washington Wizards Defeat Philadelphia 76ers 116-114 In OT Thriller

The Washington Wizards came back from a 15 point fourth-quarter deficit and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in an overtime thriller at the Verizon Center in Washington DC on November 23, 2010. See our slideshow of exclusive action photos of the game. (All photos by Jeff Malet / [gallery ids="99563,104709,104714,104719,104724,104729,104734,104739,104744,104749,104754,104759,104764,104769,104774,104779,104704,104699,104694,104800,104796,104639,104792,104788,104644,104649,104654,104659,104664,104669,104674,104679,104684,104689,104784" nav="thumbs"]