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The so-called “exotic” world never really existed outside the imagination of insulated inhabitants of the imperialist cultures that “discovered” such wacky-sounding locales as Kathmandu and Kashmir. Years of literature and films reinforced the notion that beyond the “civilized” confines of Western drawing rooms lay a world of unfathomable magic. Today, it’s impossible to conjure anything fanciful at the mention of places such as, say, Baghdad. Exotic has become tragic. Yet the gorgeous photos in Michael Wood’s latest book, In Search of Myths & Heroes: Exploring Four Epic Legends of the World, suggest that perhaps magical places did exist, and might still. Wood journeyed to find the historical truth behind Jason and his Argonauts, the Queen of Sheba, and King Arthur. In this lecture with video clips and a book signing, Wood will retrace his steps searching for Shangri-La. A hint: It’s not inside the Beltway. Wood speaks at 6:30 p.m. at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s Ring Auditorium, 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW. $20. (202) 357-3030. (Dave Nuttycombe)