July 1, 2012
Before leaving Beijing, we attended the traditional Opera that is no longer performed anywhere in China but Beijing. It is considered old-fashioned, an old art. There were no pictures allowed of the opera, nor the beautiful costumes on display in the lobby. Cast members entertained us at our tables while we enjoyed refreshments. A teapot with a three-foot long spout was used to dramatically pour our tea into tiny cups without splashing or spilling a drop, much to our delight. On stage, one very acrobatic act performed in slow motion, with every muscle in coordination, had us holding our breath. The performers painted faces were allowed to show no emotions; their lips could not move, not even to take a breath. You could see their nostrils flare as they took in air during extremely strenuous moves. It put us on the edge of our seats. The opera is part singing, part acrobatics and part storytelling. One story (all printed in English on screens at the side of the stage) involved a hateful government edict presented to the people. They conspire to steal the key and change the offensive edict. This is important because in old China, it was the only form of protest the people had, through their art. One act was a about a Shogan who falls in love with his concubine. Another “social issue.” It was wonderful. Viki told us most people skip the Opera, but, I would certainly recommend it if you have a chance to see it.
The next morning, we flew to Xian, pronounced shy-ann. Realize that the soldiers were discovered in 1974 and they have been designated the 8th wonder of the world. Xian was once the capital of China during the first of thirteen dynasties, the Ching Dynasty. Here, underground, lay the roots of the dynasty, for over 2000 years. The photo of a photo taken by the archaeologists shows what the soldiers looked like as they began to uncover this phenomenal treasure.
The soldiers are displayed in the pits from which they came and covered over by a roof. This photo shows the immensity of this pit. They carried weapons because the soldiers were ready to do battle for their emperor when he died. The soldiers were destroyed by the incoming faction of government after the Emperor who ordered the armies built, died, while inspecting the army. The soldiers weapons were removed, then the figures were broken up and covered over.
This photo shows the depth of one of the pits. There is six pits open to the public if I remember correctly. There is 8,000 soldiers, over three hundred chariots, wagons, and horses, jade armor, animals, dancer, acrobats plus other people, statesmen or persons important to the Emperor.
A flash only carries so far and it is difficult to get really good pictures of the soldiers. But the immensity of the task and the visible definition of the clothing, the hands, the features overwhelms. I find myself continually amazed at the wonders people crafted when given inspiration, and that I should have the privilege of seeing them.
The soldiers, when first removed had color in their faces and clothing. The Chinese government is building a new museum for the soldiers because they’ve lost their color from exposure to light and air. The roof leaks in places and since the discovery, they’ve found 73 more mounds, 16 of which they’ve opened up and reburied until they have perfected a technology to preserve the color and prevent deterioration of the figures. The rest will not be opened until they have the financial reserves and technology to care for this enormous treasure. The Terracotta Army is also a UNESCO site. UNESCO means this is a world treasure, to be preserved for all mankind and funded and preserved by shared funds. That designation carries a lot of responsibility and cooperation between countries around the world and benefits all of us.
Some of the best views of the warriors are replicas from the museum store.
You can buy one of these and have it shipped back to the United States. The replicas are a treasure as well as the man who discovered the soldiers and had to turn his farm over to the government. He was given the official job as book signer. He is a small man, very quiet, doesn’t say much. He is no longer allowed to have his picture taken because his eyes were damaged by so many flashes. A cute story about him: He was told President Clinton would be visiting and he was taught a bit of English to greet the President. He learned to say “How are you?” He was coached that the Clintons would likely say, fine, thank you and he should answer, I’m fine too. But, Clinton said “Hello”. And the farmer, who was nervous said, “Who are you?” And Clinton said, “I’m Hillary Clinton’s husband.” And the farmer said “Me too!”
The Provincial Shaanxi History Museum, adjacent to the pits, holds this team of horses. All under glass, tough to get a decent photo of them.
And this chariot driver. The detail in the clothing, the hands, the faces…truly awesome. All of these figures were modeled after real people. They were fired in kilns and then painted.
The horse to me has a wary expression as though aware of a stranger’s approach.
I was surprised at how little from the pits was in the museum. Hopefully that will change as they rebuild and restore.
One of the best things about the museum was their noodle lunch. A guy on each end of a long counter holds a hunk of noodle dough like this. This cook was quickly shaving off a piece of dough into hot broth with a special tool that made wide noodles.
This guy on the opposite end of the system, had the same size hunk of dough, that he forced a hole in the middle and then began stretching it. He stretched, and stretched and stretched until it spontaneously separated into this four foot long strand of fine noodles. It was a real show to watch. I tasted both soups and they were equally delicious. I guess it doesn’t take much to impress Westerners. I loved it. Is it any wonder Marco Polo decided to bring this wonderful food back to Italy?
I fell in love with the exquisite pottery in the museum. This piece is a pillow, believe it or not.
My second favorite was a depiction of what an ancient Chinese home would look like, with animals encased in the same abode.
Notice the precisely rendered hooves on this horse. This artist loved horses, you can tell.
And the musicians on a camel. Whimsical.
For more pottery, click the link below:
April 28, 2012
After heavy rains, I couldn’t mow or have weed eating finished. Had my guys repair fences and remove a huge spread of blackberry bushes around the property. They chipped away at a couple of old stumps I’m always running into. I like things to be ship-shape when I leave, but the maintenance here is heavy.
I caught up on the inevitable paperwork inside, while they worked outside. Time to play picture roulette and see what comes up in my files.
A big hole in the ground.
My daughter and grandson in a haze of smoke around the campfire.
Not sure why I took a picture of this barn in Monroe, Washington. Maybe because the silo looked like a space ship. I do like old barns, but, I think I’ll toss this one out of my files.
Sexy shoe? Now, that’s more like it.
I grabbed this from a story about this famous painting having been recovered after many years of being “disappeared.”
The gate to an animal sanctuary. Just read a horrible story of the abuse elephants suffer. This, after an elephant shocked by an electric fence turned on her new rescuer and killed her. If it were up to me, no animals would be allowed to be used in side shows and circuses for profit. It all too often ends up in horrible misery for the animals. In fact, this recent episode about the abused elephant was that she was being cared for and calmed before being sent to this very sanctuary here in Calaveras County.
A Matt Bors cartoon. Whoops, hadn’t thought of anything political for a whole day. Well, it is pretty funny.
Another shoe picture. Well, with that, I’d best hot foot it into the kitchen and get my house spruced up before I leave.
March 24, 2012
We’re a small town with big town ideas, thanks to the Croshaw family that owns an independent grocery in Murphys and Angels Camp. They invited Niman Ranch meats, Clover Farms Dairy Products, Knudsen Juices , and all things natural and organic to open the closest thing the Mother Lode has to a Trader Joes and Whole Foods Market in one store.
A Niman Ranch representative was cooking up apple gouda cheese pork sausage, chorizo and other organically certified meats for everyone to sample. The Niman Ranch networks with 650 independent farmers and ranchers who raise hogs, cattle, lamb and poultry according to strict animal handling protocols and environmentally sustainable practices; many are 2nd and 3rd generation family farmers.
I quit eating pork and beef for the most part a long time ago. I eat a hamburger twice a year; corned beef for St. Patricks, and an occasional slice of ham. Now, I don’t have to feel guilty about it. It was never that I didn’t like it. It was always about the horrible way meat is raised and handled, and all the antibiotics and hormones in our meat. Don’t know if you heard they are going to let “pink slime” back into the school lunch program. That’s the offal of the butchering process doused with ammonia to kill the bacteria, then rinsed, ground, and put into your hamburger products. Its what they normally use for dog food. Arrgh!
Besides this gorgeous selection of organic fresh vegetables, there are salad dressings, oils, vinegar, condiments, frozen foods, canned everything, cereals, nut butters and flours and dry bulk foods in bins.
Want spices? You can measure out small quantities into a plastic bag, just like in a whole foods store.
This man was handing out samples of his home made salsa, already established locally in a neighboring county for several years. His family makes fresh, homemade fire roasted salsas, with nothing in it but vegetables, vinegar and salt.
And here are candy bars that boast seven ingredients, like chocolate, butter, cream, sugar, coconut, etc, no xanthum gum, sucrose, glossigens, waxlujhoywewr, higiebogthen, and ten other things you cannot spell or pronounce.
A fantastic spread of falafal, dips, humus, goat and other cheeses, berries, grapes, strawberries, eggplant, stuffed grape leaves, hmmm, the carrots tasted like those we grew as kids. Naturally sweet and tender. Yum!
I wanna try and honest-to-god hot dog with real pickle relish and mustard on a bun that doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth.
Your grocery bills could be a bit higher, but your medical bills will be smaller. The more we support sustainable, wholesome foods, the more competitive the price will become. So, come to the grand opening this weekend, take advantage of the specials and the coupons they are handing out, and make healthy choices for yourself and your kids whenever you can.
December 8, 2011
I think it’s ridiculous. Of course, anyone who dares criticize pets and pet practices is in for a firestorm of …hate! Yes, hate. If you dare offend a pet lover, you are in big trouble.
I usually just smile and avoid discussing the subject, but my values do not include treating pets like humans. When I saw this display while shopping, I almost gagged. I can’t imagine the dog or cat being comfortable in the expensive adornments they are forced to wear. Pet owners ferociously defend this type of clothing and jewelry, maintaining THEIR pet loves to get dressed up and loves the attention. I maintain animals are psychologically changed by the treatment they receive. And, I will concede that to dress up an animal for a short time for a parade or the holidays isn’t going to harm them. It seems overboard and warping of a dog’s basic needs to coddle pooches and cats, and treat them as though they are human, which by extension includes dressing them in jewelry and fancy clothing. People expect them to act human-like and ignore their basic instincts.
I’m a practical person. Dogs and cats, horses as well, had an important function as domesticated animals. And they still do, as companions, medical assistants, rescue animals, and just unconditional love. Isn’t that enough? It is noble. They seem to be natural healers.
What does it say about us as humans that there are food banks begging for food; some have quit taking applications because they just can’t meet the needs. Many children are living in cars and struggling with parents stressed because the family is at risk. So, does it seem okay to spend $15 to $30 or more on doggie jewelry? I can’t imagine teaching my children, if I had young children, that lavish spending on an animal is a part of family life. Especially in times like these, even if you can afford it. I think giving to a charity comes first and deliberately ignoring that type of spending teaches a basic lesson about moral choices.
We taught our children and my kids have taught their children that giving and sharing is part of everyone’s responsibility. If your children love animals, teach them about Heifer International where you can buy a sustainable animal for families in Slovakia, Malawi or the United States. $500 buys a heifer, $50 buys a share. $120 buys a goat, or $10 buys a share. Wouldn’t be nice to know some little boy or girl can get a constant supply of milk in India? Or $10 buys a share of a pig in Thailand. $20 buys a flock of chickens in Honduras. Another great close to the ground charity is Oxfam, providing loans, work, education, clean water, self-sustaining practices, working with peace keeping organizations in countries at war. It seems to me that not enough Americans have been hungry enough in our collective memory to consider that the amount of money we spend on pets per year, over a billion dollars, could feed or educate a small country.
I’ve had pets all of my life. I’m not a pet hater. I love pets. I just think we should put the price of a pet in perspective. The land to grow the corn and wheat they eat. The detriment to wild birds from predatory cats. Consider the horror stories of people who don’t know how to care for pets and abandon them or mistreat them by neglect. The medical resources used to treat them. The continual cost of animal control by every county and city in the U.S. is a direct result of the mishandling of pets by humans.
Go ahead. Get out the whip!
December 7, 2011
In the 1950′s, Andy Warhol made the prediction: “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” It is one of his better known and oft used quotes and resonated with the public. I think everyone feels they deserve “their 15 minutes of fame”, or attention or fun in the sun at some point in their lives. Real fame is a double-edged sword anyway, as famous people will tell you. Better to have your fifteen minutes, which, in a round about way, brings me to Jim and Ginnie Palumbo, friends from New Jersey, I met through my partner, Jim. Last night they appeared on the Dr. Oz Show. I am not a television watcher but was alerted ahead of time and managed to catch a glimpse of them with Dr. Oz.
What Oz did was pass out test tube tasters of an unnamed “sports drink” and then asked audience members if it gave them the expected energetic lift. Ginnie agreed that it had, but also commented, “well it tasted a little like seltzer.” The power of suggestion, of course, is very powerful in a setting like this.
Oz hugged her and said, “I’m glad you said that because that is what you are drinking is seltzer.” The whole point of that particular segment was to make people aware of what they are swigging, mega amounts of sugar and caffeine and many marketing lies, just like he “lied” because his seltzer was not really a sports drink. Diabetes is epidemic in this country as is obesity. Sports drinks are major contributors. So, if you are hooked on them, watch out. They give you a high and then drop you like a yo-yo. Dr. Oz claimed he decided to look into them when he noticed severe interruptions in his sleep patterns after trying sports drinks.
So Ginnie got part of her fifteen minutes on the National Dr. Oz show. Her husband Jim was across the aisle from her, but each time the camera picked him up, it zipped by so quickly, I couldn’t get in a shot with my camera. But, I thought the show was fun. It was a delight to see someone I knew on the show and I enjoyed the show to the end, learning not only about sports drinks, but vitamin b, winter’s affect on your skin, healthful anti-aging foods and foods that counter belly fat. Dr. Oz, about whom I know nothing, seems interested in naturally healthful foods, using this one show as a predictor. I enjoyed the show.
As for Warhol, He eventually got tired of that quote in the 70′s and then said, “I don’t use that line anymore. My new line is: “In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous.” He also said, “I’m so superficial.” A telling line for someone who was quirky and famous for getting away with anything in the snobbish art world. His own quote, “Art is anything you can get away with.”