Barry’s in the WaPo

Here’s some good news: this week the Washington Post featured a story about the plight of Barry’s Magic Shop, making this the best publicity the case has received so far. Notably, the article includes the fact that the building housing the store was seized using eminent domain, an important consideration other stories have ignored. It’s also good to hear that Councilman Steve Silverman has the right perspective on the matter and may be doing something about it:

Silverman called Barry’s shop an “icon in the community” and said the council committee that approved the walkway project did not realize it would be displacing the magic shop. The council will look at the situation, he said, and try to help the parties come to a resolution.

“We’re in the middle right now of trying to pass a zoning change to allow revitalization of downtown Wheaton while preserving small businesses,” Silverman said. “And here the other arm of the government is looking at evicting Barry’s from its longtime home.”

Read the whole thing here.

Coming soon… posts that aren’t about Barry’s.

Vacation, and lobster blogging

I probably should have mentioned that I am on vacation for a while. Last week I was at Bryn Mawr for a stimulating IHS seminar, this time as a participant rather than as an assistant. I’m currently in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, sans my laptop and cell phone access and with only a dial-up connection at home. Next week I’ll be back in Arlington, catching up on a ton of barista shifts and moving to a new apartment over the course of just a few days. Blogging will be light till that’s over with, but after that I’ll be back with a lot of stuff to write about.

A fun part of being up here has been playing golf for the first time in two years and tennis for the first time in about nine months. To my amazement, I’m doing better at both than I was when I played semi-regularly. Somehow a two year absence has erased the wicked slice that for a long time took all the pleasure of golf from me. In tennis, my forehand and backhand are more controlled and powerful than they’ve been in a long time. And that’s even when playing immediately after a beer and a white Russian. Perhaps my new sports philosophy should be never practice and drink heavily. Alas, I doubt further testing will bear that out.

Finally, here’s a quicky for all of you eagerly awaiting the launch of Smelling the Lobster: if the blue lobster seemed rare, this two-toned beastie caught by a Maine lobsterman is even more amazing. Neat to look at, too.

[Via Slashfood.]

Hope for Barry’s

I’ve received another email from a council member regarding Barry’s, this one with some good news:

Thank you for contacting me to express your strong support for Barry’s Magic Shop. I know how special this place has been to so many people for such a long time. Please be assured that we really want Barry’s to stay in Wheaton and will do everything we can to keep the shop there. The Wheaton office is working hard to find a compromise to this dilemma. One recommendation is to keep the building where it is but shorten one side of the building by a small amount to allow the walkway to go through the area as planned. Another is to find a site in downtown Wheaton for the Magic Shop with the County paying for most of the moving expenses.

Wheaton needs some pedestrian improvements to help it in its redevelopment, and this walkway is important to these efforts. I am keeping your e-mail in my file, and will continue to monitor this situation so that we can end with a win/win resolution.

Councilmember Nancy Floreen

This is the first time I’ve heard of the county considering the more sensible idea of improving the sidewalk while keeping the building mostly intact, so I’m happy about that and hope the plan goes through.

The person who gets left out of the story though is the original land owner. It will be a sad irony if the land that was taken from him for a supposedly essential improvement is left standing, a seizure without a purpose. Even if things work out for Barry’s — and I hope that they do — it should be remembered that this guy has been completely screwed by the county. He is consistently ignored in the communications from planners, who are careful to make no mention of their use of eminent domain now that his land is securely in their hands.

A landmark of sorts

Back in October 2004 I wrote a post about the GMail drive, a program that allows you to use your GMail account as a drive for storing files. At the time, I expected the post to draw little attention and fade away forgotten. Yet for some reason, comments kept appearing on it long after it dropped into the archives, most of them apparently from India. What the heck was going on?

The title of the post is “Cool new GMail application.” “Application” as in computer program. But many foreign readers, desperate to get a GMail account, read it to mean an application form, a process you have to go through to get a GMail address. It turns out my post is the number one result on Google for the search phrase “GMail application.” Thus over the past two years the post has received a steady trickle of sometimes amusing comments like, “Iwish to join GMail freternity. Guide me how to go about it.” My favorites are the ones that offer reasons for why the commenter deserves an account more than others, like this one from Nanda:

I need an invitation to open a Gmail account.Please send me an invitation.I am a physiotherapist and this acxcount would be of more help to me in this context.

Or poor Nikhil:

my friends are making fun of me that i dont have Gmail so please send an invitation for me

I sent invitations to some of the commenters and wondered how long it would go on. Yesterday the post received its 200th comment. Number 200 certainly deserves an invitation, so congratulations to Navdeep Bansal for entering the Gmail fraternity! (Navdeep posted comment #199 too, but I won’t hold that against him.)

Everyone else, check out the post for one of the most surreal and unexpected comment threads ever to develop on Eternal Recurrence.

Eatfoo(d)

While it’s not quite as awesome as smellingthelobster.com would have been, tonight I can announce a new food weblog that I am writing for… www.eatfoo.com!

Eatfoo is the brainchild (and possibly lovechild, who knows what he does with those servers) of my friend David Barzelay. Wanting to write constantly about food but worried that he’d lose the interest of his blog readers, he had the idea to start a new site where he could publish his thoughts and experiences. Then he invited a few foodie friends to join in, me being one of them. We went public today; my first post is up, talking about the grasshopper tacos sometimes offered at one DC area restaurant.

I’ll be writing more about food and all things food related at EatFoo. I’ll occasionally cross-post, especially when the subject is food politics, but for the most part I’ll probably just link to new content in the sidebar. But if you’re into food writing, just go ahead and subscribe to the RSS feed. I think we’ve got a fun group writing over there that will put up some enjoyable posts.

Where the grasshopper isn’t just the name of a drink

One of my first ever food posts on my own weblog was about edible insects, so I guess it’s appropriate that I kick things off here with a post about eating bugs. That early post was about the cicadas that were then swarming around DC and the many ways to cook them up. I never got around to trying them out, but I admit to being a little tempted by the insect offerings at Crystal City’s Mexican restaurant Oyamel. The Washington City Paper describes how chef Joshua Linton gets authentic by serving up grasshoppers. The pre-Coloumbian fare is updated for modern palates by being wrapped in a taco, but even so it could be a bit unnerving to bite into this:

Fighting some deep-seated bug phobia, I bite into one of Oyamel’s grasshopper tacos, an item that executive chef José Andrés occasionally features on his specials menu. The tortilla is crammed with at least a hundred tiny sautéed chapulines, which are piled atop a layer of guacamole like dead soldiers in a mass grave. The taco is more about heat and texture than about the characteristic flavor of grasshoppers, whatever that may be. More than once, I pull out a grasshopper leg from between my teeth.

Believe it or not, the guacamole scares me more than the bugs. I’ve tried it on several occasions and never developed a taste for it. I’ll have to learn to like that before I tackle Linton’s taco. Until then, I’ll take my grasshoppers with creme de menthe.

[Via The Morning News.]

[This post was originally published at EatFoo(d) on 7/3/06.]

Barry’s a “trophy?”

Today I came across a thread about Barry’s Magic at the Genii Forum, a popular forum for magicians. It includes an interesting suggestion as to why Barry’s was targeted for demolition:

The project that will demolished Barry’s is from a plan sketched out in 1997. At that time it was just an idea of improvements that could be done along with other changes (i.e. add trees, etc.). It was also to include a special walkway across Georgia Avenue but that has not been funded.

The Redevelopment people are doing this now so as to create “trophy” piece that shows that they know how to: 1. buy a property 2. move some one out 3. get things torn down 4. get something built. What is a shame here is that this is such an insubstantial project—building a walkway, big deal. Most redevelopment people in this day and age, get things torn down for more dense development (i.e. condos, office buildings, etc.). This walkway project achieves none of that. Again, it is nothing but cosmetics and is the first project of the new director of the redevelopment authority. No one will benefit from this project except the “trophy” gained by the redevelopment agency director. It is some that he can point to to show what he has accomplished in his first 1.5 years in his job.

Impossible to verify, but plausible. More plausible than the need for a wider alley.