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Perched on the window ledge of a New York City skyscraper with only a few straps preventing him from plummeting to his death, Ivor Hanson must have the saying “the higher you climb, the harder you fall” constantly running through the back of his mind. Luckily for Hanson, window-washing is just his day job, and the artistic heights to which he once aspired—those of rock stardom—were never fully achieved. Chances are that few of the 9-to-5 office drones staring at the squeegee-wielding Hanson from the comfy side of the glass know that he once played drums alongside Henry Rollins in S.O.A. and Ian MacKaye in Embrace; fewer still probably understand the frustration of accepting the fact that what was once simply a gig to pay the bills has somehow evolved into a full-time career. In his memoir, Life on the Ledge: Reflections of a New York City Window Cleaner, Hanson chronicles his experiences washing the windows of celebrities, offering his thoughts on the meaning of life, New York, and everything from a perspective one can achieve only while strapped to the side of a building. Hanson’s dreams of mainstream rock success might have never left the ground, but, from over 100 feet above the city’s streets, he’s acquired an understanding of something no less lofty and far more fascinating—what it’s like to “stand out on the ledge and feel the wind’s tug; to look out and survey the city, to see it as the skyscraper does; to sense the quiet calm a silent high-rise offers once I’ve shut the window that connects me to everyday occurrences.” Hanson discusses his work at 7 p.m. at Olsson’s Books & Records, 1307 19th St. NW. Free. (202) 785-1133. (Matthew Borlik)

Thursday, Jan. 11

Emily Dickinson might have been a hermit, but she didn’t leave behind 63 cats and a collection of toenails or a deteriorating cabin in the woods for wayward hikers to stumble upon when she died. Instead, the introverted poet left a large collection of works portraying paradoxically astute observations on life—and, more often, death. Though much of Dickinson’s life can be gleaned through her letters and interpretations of her work, there are still many mysteries behind the woman who wrote, “Because I could not stop for death/He kindly stopped for me.” Under the direction of Meisha Bosma, BosmaDance fills in some of the holes with Violet in My Winter, a multimedia ode to Emily Dickinson combining music, video, poetry, and dance. The all-woman company prefers to focus on the female experience, and who better to commit a production to than the woman who quietly pioneered American literature from her bedroom. Stop for BosmaDance when the company performs at 8 p.m. at Flashpoint’s Mead Theatre Lab, 916 G St. NW; see City List for a complete schedule. $15–$20. (202) 315-1340. (Kim Gooden)

Friday, Jan. 12

According to two-time PEN/Faulkner Award recipient E.L. Doctorow, there are good stories and there are bad stories. If the author’s previous works are any indication, examining pivotal points in history through the eyes of fictional characters—as he did in Billy Bathgate and The March—makes for a good story. During a 2004 commencement address at Hofstra University, however, Doctorow was nearly booed off the stage after asserting that President Bush’s make-believe claims of WMD in Iraq made for a bad story. In his latest book, Creationists: Selected Essays: 1993–2006, Doctorow contemplates the nature of making, period—goodness or badness be damned. The 16 collected essays analyze the creation of classic works such as Moby Dick, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin, as well as the construction of the atom bomb and the comedic genius of Harpo Marx. Watch the stories unfold when Doctorow speaks at 8 p.m. at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre, 201 East Capitol St. SE. $15. (202) 544–7077. (Kim Gooden)

More than 80 years before envelopes filled with white powder sent the country into a panic, America had another encounter with bioweapons. As journalist Robert Koenig chronicles in The Fourth Horseman: One Man’s Secret Campaign to Fight the Great War in America, one Anton Dilger—a German-American doctor raised on a Virginia horse farm—used his medical skill and equine expertise to sabotage the American military’s horse-breeding efforts during World War I with anthrax and other deadly germs. Koenig, a journalist with a long history covering German affairs, traces Dilger’s path to infamy from his ironic roots—Dilger’s father was a decorated Union cavalier in the Civil War—to the rented house on 33rd Street NW in Chevy Chase where, as a secret agent of the Kaiser, he cultivated the pathogens he would eventually use to sabotage American war horses. More than that, Koenig explains the big picture: the historical importance of the war horse, the deeply conflicted feelings of German-Americans during the First World War, and the strategy and tactics of early-20th-century skulduggery. And, like just about every book of popular history released these days, The Fourth Horseman holds a contemporary lesson: A smart, socially adept, smooth-talking professional such as Dilger is just the sort of foreign operative that could do great harm to national security today. Koenig discusses and signs copies of his book at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Mike DeBonis)

After humanity has finally achieved the nuclear holocaust it seems inherently destined to inflict upon itself, it will be up to the archaeologists of tomorrow to reconstruct pre-apocalyptic life today. One must wonder what future HAZMAT teams combing over U Street would make of the remains of “There’s No Time for This” at Project 4 Gallery. Are there enough contextual clues for scientists to correctly label the stuff inside—crumpled photographs, smooth-sanded oil paintings, and installations of video, sound, and light—as art? The gym rope hanging from the second-floor ceiling through to the ground-floor lobby might give them pause, along with the snapshots that litter the gallery floor. It’s all in keeping with Gregory McLellan and Tim Pittman’s collaborative vision, an exercise in cynicism, irony, futility, and, well, exercise. A neon installation reading, no fags in heaven, for example, is the sort of piece that contemporary art antagonists love to hate: so wholly context-driven, even the commissioned manufacturers initially balked at the prospect of making the sign. The pair creates works about America at the peak of empire, from photographic detritus to globalization pieces—a made-to-order looped rug featuring a photograph of a security camera, or a depiction of garbage hand-stitched onto fabric, presumably by some poor Chinese peasant. Frustrated and fatalistic, McLellan and Pittman seem to play themselves as a pair of millenarian prophets with no time for the present—they’re greeting the end of art by cycling through as many modes as possible without ever really meaning it. But time may not be kind to them. For all their disaffected airs, the two rely on fairly trendy tropes—the textile work in particular—that place them squarely in the here and now. The exhibition is on view from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Saturday, to Saturday, Jan. 27, at Project 4 Gallery, 903 U St. NW. Free. (202) 232-4340. (Kriston Capps)

If “Fresh Paint: Process and Possibility” is any indicator, the current generation of painters buys its art supplies at Home Depot. Anthony Brock’s Rolling and Flying Matter, for example, looks like ’60s Sam Gilliam, sans canvas: Skins of swirled pink, crimson, and lime-green house paint have been crumpled into blobs and are either suspended from monofilament or attached directly to the wall. Byron Clercx layers dollops of cracked and peeling household latex on large pieces of plywood—imagine if Maggie Michael didn’t know when to stop and just kept adding paint until she’d packed the picture plane, edge to edge. There are a couple of standouts in this crowd: Kevin Kepple makes beautifully textured monochromatic webs of glue, ink, and varnish on wood panel. Christopher Hoeting builds strange hybrid objects from blurry photographs, thick acrylic gel, and sculptural supports. Greyback Dollar is attached to the wall by means of an elaborate system of iron rods and brackets; notches have been cut into the top and bottom edges of the piece’s four panels to make that system visible. But the rest of the artists offer work that’s either familiar and decorative—such as Pat Goslee, whose colorful overlaid systems of grids, stars, and snakeskin patterns are finely crafted but otherwise look like tributes to early modernism—or just plain harebrained, such as Tati Kaupp and Stefan Prosky, whose tentative, spirographlike drawings on rice paper were actually made by tiny solar-powered robots. This uneven show may not offer a glimpse of the future of painting, but it does at least highlight a broad range of approaches to making painterly objects. The exhibition is on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, to Saturday, Jan. 27, at the Arlington Arts Center, 3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington. Free. (703) 248-6800. (Jeffry Cudlin)

Saturday, Jan. 13

Baltimore’s Videohippos know how to capitalize on the psychedelic happening. Like any good trip, the band’s initial approach is a casual one: Drummer Kevin O’Meara and guitarist Jim Triplett set up a familiar rock ’n’ roll instrumentation with the sweet promise of relief from reality. But once the hallucinatory jams begin to drop, the audience members’ senses start getting skewed, and all visual and audio input is thrown into doubt. Is that a gas-mask microphone O’Meara is hollering into? Is Triplett playing a pint-sized toy ax? And where the hell did the Berenstain Bears footage projected onto the wall come from? Like the Exploding Plastic Inevitable—minus the whips, the chains, and Lou Reed—Videohippos create confusion for the sake of thrills. Sure, it’s a mess—but it’s a mess made for your benefit and one that you can safely come down from once the experience is over. Videohippos perform with Future Islands, Finfarum, and the Cats at 9 p.m. at the Warehouse Theater, 1017–1021 7th St. NW. $6. (202) 783-3933. (Aaron Leitko)

David Lynch may be a visionary, but a few “Lynchian” moments some drool over—Twin Peaks’ backward-dancing midget and Muholland Dr.’s gratuitous masturbation among them—are less cinematic signatures than half-baked surrealism. As Lost Highway proves, no man who casts Bill Pullman as a free-jazz saxophonist is infallible. It’s easy to dismiss the director’s public love affair with transcendental meditation as celebrity hooey, but his mini-autobiography, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity, is essential to understanding Lynch’s precious genius. Though not a field guide for the serious practitioner—complaints about Dune and enthusiasm for his latest film, Inland Empire, will keep Lynch’s work and the Buddhist classic Peace Is Every Step in different sections of the bookstore—Catching the Big Fish is a reader-friendly explanation of how an artist became captivated by a spiritual practice and how that practice informs his work. Lynch’s tidbits about his early career as a near-bankrupt-art-student-turned-auteur take on a Zen poetry; due to money troubles, he writes, a scene in Eraserhead features a character “on one side of a door, and it wasn’t until a year and half later that we filmed him coming through the other side of the door.” From a tight-lipped, willfully mysterious artisan, this offhand comment transcends mythmaking and enters the realm of memoir. Where else would one learn that Lynch conceived of Laura Palmer’s killer by watching his set dresser (Frank Silva, who went on to play the murderous Bob on Twin Peaks) move furniture? Lynch speaks at 6 p.m. at Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda. $12 (two tickets included with the purchase of Catching the Big Fish at Politics and Prose). (202) 364-1919. (Justin Moyer)

Sunday, Jan. 14

While some Iranians tinker with nukes or rewrite the Holocaust, the protagonists of Tahmineh Milani’s Cease Fire ponder an issue closer to their luxurious home: the state of their new marriage. Pretty Sayeh and hunky Yousef are well-educated but immature; when one intentionally drops a glass, what ensues is not an apology but the mass demolition of the household’s glassware and ceramics. Milani, who’s known for her feminist melodramas, here turns to satire to examine upscale modern Iran. Sayeh is thoroughly modern; Yousef is a little bit 8th century—although his real problem turns out to be that he’s not in touch with his feelings. For American viewers who have lived through decades of self-help strategies, the ensuing emotional breakthroughs may seem a little stale. But the movie offers a striking look at contemporary bourgeois Tehran—including what may be the first ever openly gay characters in Iranian film. The film shows at 2 p.m. at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th St. & Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-3200. (Mark Jenkins)

Monday, Jan. 15

Flex Mathews may not be in Kansas anymore, but he’s certainly enjoying his trip down the golden road. Since relocating to Washington from the Midwest years ago, the aspiring MC has found love in the pages of URB Magazine and onstage at the 9:30 Club opening for Lupe Fiasco. On his debut EP, The Handsome Grandson, Mathews spits over DJ/producer Damu the Fudge Munk’s loping boom-bap beats with a poised nonchalance, evoking vintage Jeru the Damaja or local hip-hop hero Head-Roc. Though Mathews offers plenty of love to the ladies (“Catwoman”) and plenty of spite to the dick riders (uh, “Dick Riders”), his most interesting tune is the bittersweet nostalgia token, “Up in My Room.” Bemoaning the fate of careerist MCs, Mathews retreats to the teenage bedroom that birthed his rap dreams, noting that “reminiscing just might be the key to your soul.” No place like home, indeed. Flex Mathews performs with Son of Nun at 9 p.m. at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW. $6. (202) 667-7960. (Chris Richards)

Tuesday, Jan. 16

Looking back at the Little Nemo in Slumberland comic strips, it’s easy to admire Winsor McCay’s creation: In large, colorful, finely drawn strips, the title character suffers through bizarre fantasies (say, a giant turkey eating the family home) but always wakes up, safe in bed, in the last panel. Though Nemo’s dream world taps into the freaky and frightening aspects of childhood—showing “dreams that we all had as children but few of us remember,” Where the Wild Things Are creator Maurice Sendak once wrote—Swann Foundation Fellow Katherine Roeder explores the comic’s less ageless sources in her talk, “Wide Awake in Slumberland: Fantasy and Mass Culture in the Work of Winsor McCay.” McCay’s nocturnal playland, Roeder contends, draws from the commercial world his early-20th-century readers saw around them, incorporating the designs of amusement parks, department stores, and print ads—which goes to show that even the most surreal fantasies have mundane roots. Roeder speaks at noon at the Library of Congress, Madison Building, 6th Floor Dining Room A, 101 Independence Ave. SE. Free. (202) 707-9115. (Joe Dempsey)

Wednesday, Jan. 17

Ever seen those guys hawking Louis Vuitton knockoffs on the corner and wondered how they manage to keep shop? In a panel discussion at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Teri Agins, Chris Sprigman, and Susan F. Wilson debate how much protection fashion design—an industry that draws on trends and influences—should enjoy. Agins, author of The End of Fashion: How Marketing Changed the Clothing Business Forever, focuses on fashion’s shift from couture to mass production (e.g., today the average woman can tote a copycat designer bag, albeit of inferior quality, that doesn’t cost more than her entire wardrobe). In this democratization, high style can be more affordable and actually legitimate when designers befriend department and chain stores, as with Karl Lagerfeld and H&M. Sprigman, associate professor of Law at the University of Virginia, discusses how fashion can be copyrighted, and Wilson offers her enforcement experience as director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Intellectual Property Rights. Reconsider whether imitation is the highest form of flattery when the discussion begins at 7 p.m. at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW. $20. (202) 639-1700. (Kim Rinehimer)

Thursday, Jan. 18

Exhibits come and exhibits go, but the African bush elephant in the rotunda of the National Museum of Natural History has been scaring 2-year-olds witless since Eisenhower was president. In today’s museum scene, though, predictability is the endangered species. From face-lift candidate the National Museum of American History (which old timers still call History and Technology) to whiz kids such as the International Spy Museum, D.C.’s museums are finding new ways to attract and connect with visitors who’d rather be home playing Wii than queuing up to see old pages of the Bible. Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and National Archives Experience Director Marvin Pinkert are joined by pooh-bahs from the National Portrait Gallery, the National Museum of African-American Culture and History, and the Newseum for the panel discussion “New Culture: The Museum Renaissance”—where, presumably, no one will address why the Seinfeld “Puffy Shirt” is on display at the National Air and Space Museum. The discussion begins at 7 p.m. at the National Archives’ McGowan Theater, Constitution Ave. between 7th & 9th Sts. NW. Free. (202) 357-5000. (Andrew Beaujon)