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Knowledge on the March, Slowly

Well you guys were absolutely no help yesterday in honoring John Nestor--late vigilante of the left lane--on Wikipedia. I understand: You all have jobs and lives while I sit around all day looking at YouTube. Last night before going to bed I posted an entry on Mr. Nestor--and the practice that came to be known as "nestoring"--on Wikipedia. I think I'll mention him in my column tomorrow so I can add another source to the listing. And thus knowledge expands...

Speaking of expanding, my column today is about how the Smithsonian probably doesn't want your stuff. You may think your stamp collection/butterfly collection/DeFranco Family memorabilia is world-class but curators probably don't agree. My late friend Kevin McManus did a similar story years ago for Weekend. He was bitten by the bug and managed to get the American History museum to accept his ratty canvas Lands End briefcase--as an example of late-20th century business attire, I suppose. I wonder if they still have it. And what would you donate to the Smithsonian?

They're doing some roadwork on a street near my house, installing a sidewalk and putting up a bus stop. Here's the sign that warns motorists:


"Bus stop improv." It sounds like a scary theater game, Second City meets the Ride-On. "Okay, we need some characters. A nun, a gangster and the president of Peru? Good. And a setting. A bus stop? Great." I think I'll walk.

In Other News...

Ex-Smithsonian Indian Museum director W. Richard West Jr. must repay the Smithsonian $9,700 for payments he should not have received. The report outlining West's transgressions includes a detail I hadn't seen about the former director's going-away video, produced at a cost of $30,000: "The bulk of the DVD's cost went to film the last 60 seconds, during which West transforms in appearance as he walks out of the museum, according to the [Inspector General's] report. At first, West is wearing a business suit and then outside the museum is donning full tribal regalia, including headdress." Special effects! Doesn't that sound cool if rather, um, unnecessary?

There's an interesting story nestled in The Post Food section today about a laudable charitable impulse that is colliding with reality. Some of Washington's top chefs agreed to develop frozen dinners as a way of raising money for the nonprofit D.C. Central Kitchen. But beyond the difficulties of developing a frozen dinner (or a good frozen dinner, anyway), there's the problem of getting it into supermarket shelves.

Over on the Flex Your Rights blog is a 7-point checklist on how to legally refuse a Metro station search (fedora tip to DC Blogs). It'll mean not riding Metro, or at least not entering that station. Flex Your Rights has one detail wrong, however. It says a man was shot by police on the London Tube in 2005 after running away, when, in fact, Jean Charles de Menezes was sitting there minding his own business, a horrible case of mistaken identity. A tragedy for all concerned, though more for the person who's shot than the ones who did the shooting.

By John Kelly  |  October 29, 2008; 8:06 AM ET
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One reads of people returning a book to a library after, say, forty years, with a letter expressing penitence and enclosing a check. Not all books find readers after that long a lapse of time. Some do, however.

Posted by: cktirumalai | October 29, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Bus Stop actually is an improv game. We used to play it theater classes in high school.

Posted by: Southwester | October 29, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

My word John, I think I'll propose "kellying" as a term for providing so many juicy topics in a blog entry that your hapless blogmates don't know what to comment on.

On the giving the Smithsonian your stuffissue, I just offloaded my weight in books to my alma mater. I had a collection of novels that I had collected. So, there is hope, if you don't mind paying the freight.

I loved the idea of the Indian Museum, but have been pretty disappointed by the way it was curated. Perhaps new leadership will bring either more coherence (from a eurocentric perspective) or better narrative for those hobbled by their previous museum experience.

Regarding poor Mr. DeMenzes, wasn't he actually running through a tube station when he was shot in the days after Britains tube and bus terrorist attacks. It was a tragic accident and I believe there is currently a trial going on in the UK with regard to the police's handling of it.

Posted by: mfromalexva | October 29, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the Smithsonian a non-profit? Where on earth did they find an extra $30 grand to pay for a video like that? I worked in a non-profit and when someone left our company, we all chipped in to get a pizza and sodas.

Posted by: megtheegg | October 29, 2008 5:00 PM | Report abuse

About giving things to the Smithsonian - in the 1960s I worked in an office in what is now the American History museum. Storage space was limited and pretty full, so the curators had to be careful about accepting items for the collection. Large items ended up at a warehouse in Suitland (you might want to ask for a tour out there -- I never saw it, but assume it's full of crates). One day, an elderly lady arrived and wanted to give us a set of six pearl-handled silver fruit knives. The curator told her we couldn't accept them. After a long bus ride to get to the museum, the lady was tired and exasperated and threw them across the room to me. "Here, you take them, then!" she said as she left. So I did. One handle has a chip on it. Old ladies will understand.

Posted by: OldLady1 | October 29, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

@cktirumalai: My favorite library book stories are those involving things left in the books by readers. Usually they are odd bookmarks: birthday cards, money. The weirdest one I heard of was an uncooked strip of bacon.

@Southwester: And does the game work that way, with the setting a bus stop? I guess every game ends with the bus arriving.

@Mfromalex: No, de Menezes wasn't running. He was just sitting in a Tube train. Early reports from the police said he was wearing a bulky coat on a warm day, the perfect way to hide explosives. That turned out not to be true either. He was dressed normally. They just got the wrong man. As for the Indian museum, my younger daughter went there with her art class the other day and was totally underwhelmed. She kept wondering where the art was.

@Megtheegg: I sometimes wonder how I would behave if I was the head of a big concern, even a non-profit one. Would I be tempted to travel to a lot of conferences? I think the answer is yes. I hope I wouldn't travel first class, though. And I hope I'd stay in cheap hotels. But just as absolute power corrupts absolutely, so, perhaps, does an absolute expense account.

@OldLady1: Those are the nation's pearl-handled silver fruit knives. I hope you'll be willing to part with them to help balance the budget.

Posted by: JohnFKelly | October 29, 2008 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm better than a land fill?

Posted by: OldLady1 | October 29, 2008 10:10 PM | Report abuse

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