Friday, November 27, 2009

Bring Back Lenny Wirtz!

Here's the story of how a guy who had never refereed a game of any sort in his entire life ended up running up and down the court with DC 'Hood...

First off, what exactly is DC 'Hood? Well, DC 'Hood is a team of local priests and seminarians who enjoy playing basketball. These men regularly compete against parishes and schools from the area, sometimes even at the Verizon Center before the Wizards take the court. Their larger aim is to promote vocations to religious life, and halftime of each of their games features a presentation in this regard.

The other night, DC 'Hood took on a team of teachers, parents, and students from our parish. The four of us were in attendance most directly because Z's junior high choir was singing the national anthem.

Hanging out at the scorer's table before tip off, I was approached by one of the event's organizers...

Do you have any responsibilities tonight?

Uh, no...

Well, then, how would you like to referee the game?

Sure, no problem!

The biggest challenge I faced (other than the fact that I had no idea even where to stand!) was that there was no whistle for me to blow. Imagine a gym full of cheering kids and adults, and a bunch of competitors who are constantly yelling back and forth to one another. Now imagine trying to make yourself heard over all of that din, armed only with the power of your voice. Let's just say that during a number of sequences, the action progressed quite a ways before everyone on the court and in the stands realized that I had long ago stopped play...

Apart from these kinds of technical difficulties, there were quite a few calls I made that I should have let go, and quite a few calls I didn't make that probably deserved a "whistle." There were out-of-bounds calls where I surely sent the ball the wrong way. And I definitely found myself standing in the wrong place a whole bunch of times.

Lesson learned? I'm a much better referee when sitting on the couch!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walking In The Footsteps Of Bill Clinton

Much has been made in the Western media about the extent to which President Obama's visit to China was a tightly scripted and even controlled affair. As the story goes, the President Obama was ultimately unable, despite his clear preferences otherwise, to speak directly to the Chinese people and get out there into the public places of Shanghai and Beijing.

All of this criticism (whether it is on-spot or short-sighted) makes me wonder if there will be concrete, visible traces of President Obama's presence in these two cities the next time the four of us are in China.

I pose this question because we discovered on a number of occasions that there still are markers, more than a decade later, of the trip President Clinton made to China back in 1998.

It was in front of the stunningly beautiful Camel Hill, down there in the southwest paradise of Guilin, that President Clinton delivered a speech on the environment. As we found out, it is still a source of pride for the locals that the President of the United States came to their small city to give such a major address.

A day's trip down the Li River, in Yangshuo, the home of the most incredible limestone peaks you'll ever see, there was President Clinton again. You may recall that the four of us took an evening cormorant fishing expedition. Our guide for excursion was none other than the local fisherman who had accompanied President Clinton on a similar outing down and back up the river.

Back closer to home, there was the day last fall when we joined dozens of other Fulbrighters for a day at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Hopping into the cable car for the ride up to the top of the mountain, there was a totally unexpected sign of President Clinton that greeted us...


Regardless of what one thinks about the politics of the freedom of movement enjoyed, or not enjoyed, by these respective American leaders (I am making a much smaller observation here, without weighing in on the merits of the larger argument), it is clear that President Clinton got "out there" into China much, much more than President Obama. And it is also clear to the four of us that, because of the visible presence that President Clinton projected around the country, his was a visit that is still fondly remembered by many Chinese, even a decade later.


Monday, November 23, 2009

New Moon

Last week I found out that the new movie in the Twilight series was coming out. This fact did not really mean anything to me, since I had not read any of the books or seen anything but the first few minutes of the first movie. But quickly the excitement surrounding New Moon caught up with me, when two of my friends at school asked me if I wanted to come with them to see it at midnight on opening night. Since we had no school the next day, it wasn't really a problem that we would be up almost all night.

So there we were--my two friends, Z, Mommy, and I--going into a movie theater packed with teenage girls at 11:30 pm. Honestly, I don't even believe we actually went, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The movie itself was better than I had expected, and Genny, Gabbi, and I had a great time since we went together. Z and Mommy even enjoyed themselves.

For those of you who don't know anything about Twilight, it is a romantic series about vampires and werewolves and their place in society. There is some action, but it is mostly a love story chick flick.

In the end, though, the real fun turned out to be the drive home. We had agreed to drive Genny and Gabbi home since the movie didn't end until 2:30 am. We made it to Genny's house easily, but Gabbi's was a different story. For almost a half hour we were lost on the the middle of the night! After a few phone calls, though, we made it, safe and sound. Then, by the time we got home and rolled into bed, it was almost 4:00 am. I'm sure Mommy's class wondered why she looked like she only had an hour of sleep on Thursday. I guess she can blame it on vampires!