Planet Word

Reading this week:

  • House of Glass by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

The other week my super amazing girlfriend’s absolute best friend in the whole wide world was visiting us, and so we went to Planet Word! Planet Word was certainly an interesting take on a museum, and it was interesting to see a different way of presenting information to people.

First, despite the name, Planet Word is not a whole planet, but in fact only comprises part of a school building. You turn the corner into a courtyard where you discover a tree-looking thing. Hanging from the tree are a bunch of speakers. They are motion-activated, so as you stand under the speakers you hear different recordings and tracks and I suppose that really gets you into the mood.

Instead of discreet displays like at uh, a traditional museum, Planet Word is comprised of a series of rooms that explore a wide range of different aspects and uses of language. At the top is a picture of a room about jokes and wordplay. In one bit of the room you pose with pictures of different idioms and then other people have to guess what the idiom is all about. What’s in the picture is a station where you and your partner tell jokes to each other. The screens give you different jokes to tell and it is a game where you score a point if you make the other person laugh. As you can see, the jokes are of the utmost quality so it is a very competitive game. What made me laugh every single time is not how funny the jokes were, but I started laughing because every time my super amazing girlfriend told a joke she would be very proud of herself and laugh at it herself, and it was extremely cute, because she is super amazing.

For me though I think the part I had the most fun in was a section on advertising. There were some displays around the edges of the room, but the center of the room was comprised of a spiraling set of screens that taught you about different aspects of advertising copywriting, like wordplay and double entendre. Once you reached the center of the spiral, and had thus achieved master of the advertising artform, it invited you to make an ad of your own around a couple different potential themes.

Haha butt!

I immediately tried to see what bad words it would let you put on an ad copy. I didn’t try way too hard, because I was afraid of getting us kicked out or revealing too much of the world to the little kids running around, but still I found it extremely entertaining. Right above you can see the masterpiece I finally contributed the world of Planet Word. Once your ad goes up it slowly moves along the spiral for all your museum compatriots to see. For you, my loyal readers who might want to go to Planet Word someday, it does have a word filter, but for some words it is more aggressive than others. It wouldn’t let me type “Poop,” for example, but it would let you put in very simple variations, like “Poopv.” It also of course blocked words like “Fuck,” and wasn’t tricked by the same simple variation like “Fuckv.” Art arises from limitations, and since I had also learned something about subtlety or something (I think) from the spiraly course on copywriting, I decided that a simple “BUTT” would suffice to convey my message to the world.

One of the other big sections of Planet Word was a stylized library. This library had a small selection of books, but the neat part was that if you took a book and put it on the table, as my super amazing girlfriend is aptly demonstrating above, it started projecting on it and became all interactive and stuff and that was pretty neat. They even had my childhood favorite book, The Way Things Work, and so that was very nice to see again. Around the room too they had these displays where if you said a quote, it displayed a model scene from that book. They had scenes from The Little Prince and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, among others.

They had a number of different rooms besides those, but I won’t spoil all of them. You know I don’t know if I learned anything in particular from this museum, but it is nice to go to a place that tries a new way of being a museum and a new way of presenting information. It was fun and interactive and a nice way to spend an hour or two. I only wish I had written down some more of the jokes from the game so I could deploy them again later. At parties or something, you know?

GW Textile Museum

My super amazing girlfriend reminded me to take a context photo.

I noticed this place when I went out to lunch with a former boss on the day that we saw Doug Emhoff. It is GW University’s Textile Museum! I am a fan of textiles, my super amazing girlfriend is a super amazing fan of textiles, so when we discovered there was a whole museum dedicated to textiles, we had to go! Unfortunately, it isn’t open on weekends. But fortunately due to my many long years of naval service, this great country of ours gave us a day off to celebrate the day that was 14 days before the first World War ended. So we went to the textile museum!

The textile museum was really good! I knew it was going to be good when we walked in and the guard explained to us that they “have a lot of textiles.” He then immediately recommended that we descend into the basement to let our textile journey begin. Down in the basement is I think their special exhibits space, and they had going a display where contemporary textile artists were taking inspiration from some older textiles to design new clothes and the like. It was pretty neat! Even neater though was the section in the basement they had that showed you how various textiles were made. They had a good chunk of hands-on things in this part of the museum. I liked the exhibit in the photo above, where you could touch both the raw materials that textiles were made of and then the finished fibers on the bottom. Pretty neat to see how various bits of trees, animals, or cocoons get turned into the comfy shirts we all know and love.

They also had a cabinet full of various textile samples, as is being demonstrated by my super amazing girlfriend in the photo above. That was neat to be able to put hands on all the stuff! So all in all a very cool part of the museum that at first glance I thought was going to be mostly for kids.

With the basement exhausted, we got in the elevator to skip over the ground floor and go up to the second floor, where the majority of the textile collection begins in earnest. It is quite the range of textiles from all over the world and from a huge wide range of time periods. If you wanna look at some textiles, do you have the right place for sure.

The two above textile examples are both from the Kuba people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and both from the mid or early 20th century. On the left is a Tcaka, which as the parenthetical on the plaque noted is a ceremonial dance skirt. On the right is a “royal belt or girdle.” Hard to tell from my tiny picture but it features shells from both the Atlantic and Indian oceans, meant to display the breadth of the chief’s control. So that is pretty neat, and a good example of how the museum certainly doesn’t take a narrow view of what a textile is.

Speaking of which I was pretty stunned to get up close to the piece right in the photo above, which at first I thought was contemporary art but turns out to be a 500 year old Incan khipu! I didn’t think I was going to see one of those up close anytime soon, and here they have it right on the wall. It is well documented on this blog that I like old stuff, and this museum had a lot of old stuff, with textiles thousands of years old. Besides the khipu, they had a notable collection on display of Incan and Inca-era textiles, and it was just stunning how fine those textiles were. If you want to see some old fabric from just about everywhere, this is the place to go.

Side by side with the ancient textiles they also had a huge range of contemporary textiles and textile art. It really let you see how this cultural technology spans the whole era of human civilization. I took an absolutely terrible picture of it, but my favorite art piece in the place I think was “Attitude” by Lia Cook, which you can see on the museum website here and her website here. It is a lot cooler to see in person because due to both the way she creates the image on the fabric, and the texture of the fabric itself, it has a very cool 3D effect that is fantastic to see when you can navigate your head around the piece.

One piece I did get an okay photo of is the below one, which is “Waterscape VI” by Shihoko Fukumoto, and is apparently “indigo dyed, hand woven linen and paper plain weave.” Like the Lia Cook piece, due to the texture of the textiles I think you really gotta see all these pieces in person to get the sense of how they are constructed, especially in the below example to get a sense of lighly the “waterfall” threads are woven in there to give a sense of how water flows in real life. It’s really great!

After getting our fill of textiles, we swung by the museum shop where you can buy, uh, textiles. And also some books on textiles. It is a very nice little shop! We didn’t get anything, but only because we have enough throw pillow covers for now I think. It is not a huge museum but it does have a fantastic collection of textiles defined very broadly, and the range of objects and the way they display them all together really makes you think about much of a throughline this technology has been to people everywhere. Check it out if you can!


Our friend bought us a box of cat goodies to celebrate our new family member; Tink appreciated the box for sure.

Reading this week:

  • Born in Blackness by Howard W. French
  • Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina Gappah
  • Children of the Forest by Kevin Duffy (this dude wants to have sex with a pygmy)

Dearest readers, I have a new light in my life, a new joy and a new obsession. As I warned in the final paragraph of my latest Cat Café post, my super amazing girlfriend and I have adopted a cat!

Tink came to us from Mt. Purrnon Cat Café, where she had been rescued from a hoarding situation. She was apparently hugely popular there, and there was quite a lot of interest to adopt her. We decided to not change her name because she knows it (and will even come when in the mood), but I do tend to refer to her as “Tinkerbell” in a very high-pitched voice because I wuv her and her fuzzy widdle tail so so much.

Tink is 6 and knows what she likes already, which is high-up places and cuddly couches. We were very excited to discover that she is so bookish, given that we have so many books (this is the guest room bookshelf). She has her spot on the couch, and also her spot on the cat tree we got her, and also a lovely cat bed that she just nestles right into, but her absolute favorite spot is on a pillow on top of the couch. She appreciates luxury like the aristocat she is.

Look at this perfect baby angel.

One of her favorite activities, besides hanging out in the vicinity of us, is to hang out on windowsills, where she can observe the outside. She is an indoor cat, and seems to be a little afraid of the outdoors when the balcony door is open, but very much likes to watch all the birds from the safety of the windowsill. We got her a whole windowsill cushion so she could keep an eye out for intruders for us while my super amazing girlfriend works at her desk:

All in all she is the world’s most perfect cat, and is also absolutely the world’s smartest cat, and the cutest, and we love her a whole lot, and we would do absolutely anything for her, because of course we know she would do the same for us. I don’t actually think she likes being held like a baby much, though:

And that’s Tink!

Ford’s Theater

Speaking of assassinations, the other week my super amazing girlfriend and her super amazing mother and I went to Ford’s Theater. It was a fairly interesting place!

My super amazing girlfriend had gotten us timed tickets for 11:30, so after a leisurely morning we showed up, picked up our audio guide, and entered the theater. Unbeknownst to us (probably just me?) the place has a whole museum in the basement. I thought it was just going to be the theater. But you enter through the ticket line and then head down some stairs and there is a whole floor of exhibits about Lincoln’s presidency. I thought it did a pretty good job of detailing stuff, not that I know a whole lot more than the average bear about Lincoln’s presidency. There were a fair number of amusing anecdotes and the biggest takeaway for me is that I want to pick up a biography of Grant at some point.

The museum had a number of interesting things. The photo at the top is a statue of Lincoln they had, and I guess I didn’t get the memos about leaving pennies. I think this is so Lincoln can gaze upon his severed head? Not sure. At the very start of the museum, which starts (chronologically) with Lincoln entering DC for his inauguration, they had a set of brass knuckles, a knife, and some goggles that were offered to him for his protection:

He turned them down but he should have accepted them. Everybody already agrees Lincoln is a badass with an axe, so why not brass knuckles too? Real missed opportunity there. On a more solemn note, they also of course have the pistol that Booth used to kill Lincoln:

Ford’s Theater is still (or actually once again) a working theater, and apparently there was a play that day, so the museum was closing early. This hustled us through the rest of the museum and upstairs to the theater itself, where a very upbeat National Park ranger was answering the same questions I am sure they get 1000 times a day. You can go over and see the box where Booth shot Lincoln, which has the furniture from that night. You can also look up at the box from below, to get the same perspective everyone else had:

And uh, yeah. Then we went to the gift shop, which did have a lapel pin. This is a very short post and I am sorry, I don’t have a lot to say about Lincoln because man a lot has been said about him. Ford’s Theater is a very good museum and lets you see the spot where an act was carried out which killed a very mortal man but which had such a monumental effect on American history it starts to make you reconsider the Great Man theory. Then you can wander over to see the Chinese restaurant where they conspired to enact such a despicable deed.