Interview with Social Secretary Amanda Downes on British Embassy Open House Day 2016

The British Embassy in Washington, D.C., held an open house on Saturday, May 14thThe annual event is run in conjunction with other European Union embassies in our nation’s capital. Members of the public can visit the residence, see the grounds, and enjoy many activities focused on U.K. culture. I interviewed Amanda Downes on behalf of Blogcritics prior to the open house to discuss the joyous occasion. She currently serves as the Social Secretary to Sir Kim Darroch, British Ambassador to the United States. Read the rest of this entry »

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Book Tour: Buzz Aldrin’s ‘No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon’

Christina Korp and Buzz Aldrin

Christina Korp interviews Buzz Aldrin at Sixth & I. Credit: Pat Cuadros.

This week, the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue set a couple of records by hosting an astronaut and a former Dancing with the Stars contestant in its sanctuary. The distinguished guest, Buzz Aldrin, was interviewed by Christina Korp, his Mission Control Director, about the memoir he co-authored with Ken Abraham. No Dream is Too High: Life Lessons from a Man Who Walked on the Moon covers his space flights, but also shares a lot of information about his early life.

There’s a lot of advice one can take from Aldrin, who landed on the moon in 1969. For starters, as he puts it, “Failure is an option.” He was rejected each time he applied to be a Rhodes Scholar (twice). He was also denied on his first application to NASA. Even after getting accepted into NASA, he was on the backup crew on at least a couple of occasions, which he likened to getting a “dead end assignment.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Marvel Men: Directors Joe and Anthony Russo on Bringing ‘Captain America’ to the Screen

'Captain America: Civil War' Poster

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Associates.

Directors Joe and Anthony Russo addressed a crowd of about 900 Marvel fans on Wednesday evening in Washington, DC. The brothers, known for their work on Community and Arrested Development, were at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) for a revealing interview with NPR critic Linda Holmes. The event was presented by Smithsonian Associates. Their latest film,Captain America: Civil War, opened the same day in U.S. theaters and it is expected to top the box office this weekend. Civil War focuses on the conflict between two respective groups of Marvel Universe characters, referenced by fans as “Team Iron Man” and “Team Cap.”

Joe and Anthony also comprised the team behind Captain America: Winter Soldier, which they themselves classified as a political thriller. In contrast, as Anthony Russo pointed out, Civil War was developed in the style of a psychological thriller. He and Joe provided guidance to the actors on scenes by mentioning films to them such as Seven, Fargo, Blow Out, and even The Godfather. The last film in that list may not seem as obvious, unless you liken Civil War to a breakup of a family. Read the rest of this entry »

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Alex Trebek and ‘Jeopardy!’ Come to DC for Power Players Week

Jeopardy! in Washington DC Promo Photo

Credit: ‘Jeopardy!’ and Sony Pictures.

For years, I’ve had the following item on my bucket list: “Attend a taping of Jeopardy!” Typically, you have to venture out to Culver City, CA, to see the famous game show. However, in the last five years, the iconic clue board, buzzers, and contestant stands have come twice to DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.

The first instance was in 2012, when I witnessed CNN anchor Anderson Cooper beat NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell and economist Thomas L. Friedman. That same afternoon, I saw Fox News anchor Chris Wallace win against Dr. Mehmet Oz and BBC America’s Katty Kay. These contests were among several panels in the highly anticipated Power Players Week: when well-known individuals in media, news, and politics compete and win prize money for charity.

Three weeks ago, I returned to DAR for another Power Players Week taping. I don’t know how the filming transpires in California, but it’s a unique experience in our nation’s capital. For starters, reporters and camera crews milled around onstage for interviews until the contestants took their places. When the familiar opening credits finally rolled, Jimmy McGuire from the Clue Crew walked out to run the practice games instead of Alex Trebek.

The first match-up consisted of Louis C.K. (Horace and Pete), CNN’s Kate Bolduan (At This Hour), and the Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. I loved their chemistry on-stage as they laughed about the clues that they missed in the practice game. It was also amusing when a clue winner forgot that he or she needed to pick the next clue. Senator Al Franken, political analyst Ana Navarro, and legal analyst Sunny Hostin were not so enjoyable during their practice. There was something about the exchanges between Franken and Navarro that felt slightly off compared to the joviality and easygoing nature of first group.


Alex Trebek. Credit: ‘Jeopardy!’ and Sony Pictures.

Alex Trebek, who turns 76 this year, managed the actual games and announced clues at a quick pace. However, the astonishing aspect of the taping is what he did off-script and off-camera. Trebek was very involved with the crew in catching errors; he reread clues for the sound team and pointed out dollar amounts to be removed from the board. “I love the power,” he joked. “Say it and it’s done!”

“We can chat or you guys can take naps,” he said to the audience when he strode to the front of the stage at the first commercial break. He would cast Kevin Kline, Johnny Depp, Kevin Spacey, or Betty White to play him in a biopic. “Get her out of here,” he quipped after a little girl asked who he knew from the Harry Potter films – yes, the late Alan Rickman. He looked out solemnly during another break and reminded everyone, “Canada is your neighbor.” Trebek would have made a brilliant and entertaining stand-up comedian.

Serious questions were also interesting. He spent the previous weekend rebuilding the washing machine. Dancing with the Stars reached out to him 3 times with invitations to compete. He’d like to have Kevin Spacey as a Jeopardy! contestant someday. He wisely refrained from weighing in on the 2016 Presidential election.

I can’t imagine what’s in store for Jeopardy! when Trebek eventually leaves the helm of what’s become the longest-running game show on American television. He’s been the host since 1984, before quite a few fans like me were even born. It’s truly amazing to see him in action with the crew, contestants, and audience. His current contract concludes with the 2017-2018 season. If that’s indeed the end, I highly recommend that you obtain tickets, which are free, for a taping session.

Be sure to check out Power Players Week when it airs the week of May 16.

This article was originally published on under the same title.

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Theater Review (Vienna, VA): ‘Creed Bratton (from ‘The Office’): An Evening of Music and Comedy’

Creed Bratton

Photo courtesy of Jammin Java

Creed Bratton concluded his east coast tour last week at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia. The actor and musician recently turned seventy-three and he is probably best known to younger audiences for his role as a fictional version of himself in The Office. He repeated a few quotes from the NBC hit series, most notably lines from the “Gay Witch Hunt” episode and even Steve Carell’s famous “That’s what she said.”

“Those first two years, I really thought I was working at a paper company,” he told the crowd. However, Bratton’s show was not a mere rehash of his best material from the television program.

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Theater Review (Bethesda): ‘Laughter and Reflection with Carol Burnett’

Carol Burnett

Photo of Carol Burnett, courtesy of the Strathmore

I first discovered The Carol Burnett Show around the year 2000, when I was 12 years old. I loved watching those half-hour reruns every weekday after school, admiring those greats of comedy from the 1970s: Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence, and of course, Carol Burnett. Mention the show to anyone who has seen it and there’s a good chance you’ll be reminiscing together the Gone with the Wind parody, the Tarzan calls, Mama’s Family, and other scenes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Wil Wheaton Pushes STEAM at the USA Science & Engineering Festival

Wil Wheaton

Wil Wheaton at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Credit: Pat Cuadros

Thousands converged upon Washington, DC, last weekend for the fourth USA Science & Engineering Festival. The Festival is regarded as the largest STEM education event in the country, with family-friendly demonstrations and talks. They focus on guiding young people with interests in the career fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In addition to educators and professional associations, well-known scientists and even entertainers offer their insights on these exciting opportunities.

Actor and blogger Wil Wheaton (Star Trek: The Next Generation; Big Bang Theory) was one of the celebrity guests at hand for the festivities this year. On Sunday morning, he introduced the winners of the Generation Nano Awards on behalf of the National Science Foundation and the National Nanotechnology Initiative. The competition required high school students to imagine their own superheroes with powers emerging out of nanotechnology. With the angle on comic books and visual design, it was fitting that legendary comic-book writer Stan Lee joined Wil Wheaton (virtually) to extend his congratulatory sentiments to the winners. Read the rest of this entry »

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