Friday, December 23, 2011

The Georgetown Prep Christmas Concert

Kudos to the Prep Singers, A Cupola Hoyas, and the String Ensemble for a lovely Christmas concert in the beautiful setting of the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes. While all of the boys did a fantastic job, our favorite moment, of course, was when Z had a solo during a number performed by the freshmen Prep Singers. For everyone who has not heard Z's voice in a while, he sings bass, and really got down there for his moment in the spotlight.

~Steve

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fishing At The Summer Palace

Today it is Julie's turn to have a picture she took this past summer in Beijing selected as photo of the day over at China Digital Times.

The Summer Palace is a World Heritage Site, one of China's A-list tourist attractions. After living in such close proximity to the site over the years, the four of us have kind of turned the Summer Palace into our local, neighborhood park, going there for a walk on Christmas Day, that sort of thing.

It was during one such outing, to a back area of Kunming Hu, the lake that serves as the centerpiece of this dynastic retreat, that Julie spied a single man standing in the tall grass, throwing his line into the water. Nice picture, Jules!

~Steve

The Anglo-Saxon Hoard

In the summer of 2009, an amateur metal detector enthusiast made one of the greatest archeological finds of our time. Hidden under the dirt of a farm in central England was a hoard of gold that had been buried there some 1,600 years ago, during the Dark Ages. Valued at more than $5 million, the hoard is likely, over the next couple of decades, to contribute significantly to our understanding of life in that period after the fall of the Roman Empire, as the Anglo-Saxons generally left very little behind in terms of tangible evidence of their communities and ways of living.

For the next couple of months, items from the hoard are on display at the headquarters of National Geographic, down in DC. After checking out the exhibit, we all walked away much more in the know about the Anglo-Saxons and the hoard itself. (It's been a while since Mr. O'Connor's 9th-10th grade Western Civ class, where the year 1066 was forever ingrained in my head!)

One of the key lessons was how a cloisonne style was used to embed garnets (like those in the accompany picture) in metal pieces. These teeny-tiny garnets were crafted with incredible precision, so as to fit snuggly in sword hilts and other war-making items. All of this was done, it has to be emphasized, without the benefit of power tools! Anglo-Saxon scholars still are not quite sure how this craftsmanship was pulled off.

Speaking of pulling things off, it is absolutely crazy to think about ordinary folks uncovering such historically important treasures. Terry Herbert, whose metal detector happened to be in the right place. Those peasants who stumbled upon the Terra Cotta warriors while digging a well. Who needs National Treasure!?

~Steve

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Public Performance Near Panjiayuan, Beijing

The folks over at China Digital Times have, once again, chosen a picture I took as their photo of the day.

This photo, taken this past summer on an early Saturday morning, captures a public performance being put on by a band of school children. The children are wearing their school uniforms, complete with the ubiquitous red scarves. I stood behind their director to catch them playing in a small park on a street neat Panjiayuan, Beijing's famous dirt market, where Z has spent innumerable hours haggling with merchants over treasures that now adorn his room in Silver Spring.

As for me, as I have posted about before, trips to Panjiayuan are exercises in distractions. Not much interested in the trinkets, clothes, metal works, and other items on sale in the rows of small stalls, I spend my time trying to come up with tasks to keep me tuned in while the rest of the gang shops 'til they drop. That morning, I was on the prowl for some street breakfast food (a quest that was ultimately successful), when I came across those young players and their director. I was compelled to watch this little street performance, and inch into position to take a picture that is, for the day, being seen by China watchers from around the world. Pretty cool!

~Steve

The Silk Road

We had the chance last week, thanks to connections in DC and Beijing, to take in a performance put on at the Kennedy Center by the Gansu Dance Theater. The production was the company's rendition of a story of love and intrigue along that famous trading route that connected Asia, Europe, and points in between for many, many centuries. Here is how the promotional materials described the program...

Inspired by the magnificent Dunhuang frescoes, the award-winning classical Chinese dance drama
Silk Road is performed by Gansu Dance Theater. A tale of the friendship forged between the Chinese people and peoples of various countries along the Silk Road in the time of the Tang Dynasty, Silk Road follows master fresco painter Zhang, his daughter Yingniang, and Persian merchant Yunus.

Dunhuang is a city out in Gansu Province, an area in China's desert northwest that is home to some of the most famous frescoes in that part of the world. This past summer, we had the chance to visit the Yungang Grottoes in Datong, a place much closer to Beijing that also is quite an attraction due to its historic caves (click here and here for some of what we wrote about the experience).

After seeing the performance, which we all enjoyed (even if I myself have no idea what really transpired in the story line!), there now is the beginning of a movement to make Dunhuang the next major stop on our ongoing tour of China. Yes, Des, it will be the desert, and it will be summertime...But something tells me Julie and especially Z (our resident northwest China fanatic!) may now be driving the train!

~Steve

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ping Pong In The George

One of the side benefits of Z going to Georgetown Prep is that the school is like a small college campus, complete with a student center where the boys hang out. And, once in a while, this dad...

Our time in China has whetted our appetites for ping pong (see here, here, and here for some our "ping pong diplomacy"). Thanks to the table in "The George" (as the George Center is affectionately known), Z gets to play ping pong on a daily basis, during lunch and the long break between classes. (Never mind the issue about whether he should be eating better and getting a head start on homework!)

As for me, on those occasions when I swing by campus, for a football game, for a parent meeting, I make a beeline for the table, which, by the way, doesn't have a proper net. (You would think that the boys could secure and maintain a net for their table...I may have to start carrying one in the back of the minivan!)

With all of this practice, just wait until we get back to Yan Bei Yuan...We may actually be able to compete with Chinese retirees!

~Steve

Monday, December 19, 2011

"The Best Dim Sum Outside of Canton"

That is how Song Wei described this dim sum joint in the Chinese section of Brooklyn. Dude, you are so right! Get out there, Glenn!

~Steve

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where Are Conan O'Brien And The Fake Tina Fey?

Click here for the answer. At least we got to see where the Rangers practice...

~Steve