Thursday, June 28, 2007

Eli graduation video

This is pretty priceless. Unfortunately, I made a mistake with the music. It should have stopped when Eli was talking, but doesn't. Try to listen to E through it.

Slam story on Yi Jianlin

I did a story on Chinese basketball player Yi Jianlin for Slam. he will be a top 10 pick in tomorrow's NBA draft. You can read it right here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Eli's graduation

Eli graduated last year. They have ceremonies when the kids move from one “Kay Stage’ to another and first grade is the end of Key Stage 1. So they had the full shebang last Thursday and it was a really sweet event.

MY grandfather, the late, beloved Poppop used to harrumph about graduations: “What’s the big deal? You’re supposed to graduate.” Something to that, I suppose, in a curmudgeonly way, though there s a lot to be said for simply marking life’s passages.

But with Eli… well, it wasn’t a given that he would be moving on until the last week or so.

He has worked so hard in school the last two years. A lot of it has not come that easily to him and he has been a good soldier for the most part and has come so far. So we felt really proud.

His teacher, Sarah Jane Basso, has been incredibly supportive and is a real wonder in the classroom. She gave he and his best bud Race, in a similar boat to E all year, speaking parts, which we did not know about. It was a nice surprise (only about 4 kids per class had them) and he did a great job with his, stepping up to the mic and reading loud and proud.

Eli and Race were very, very sweet with each other this year, really supportive and helpful and close in a very mature way that sort of astounded me, actually. So it was nice that they got to share this together. Unfortunately, Race’s mother Jacqui couldn’t be there. She raced home to the US a week earlier than planned due to a death in the family.

Video coming soon.

Original Instrumental

This was our opening cut. I wish I had the whole thing on video because I think it was really good. I named it "Mai Shi Jao Shi" which basically means no problem... literally "nothing happening, it's no thing."

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sara's graduation

One really nice thing this spring has been that Becky’s little sister Sara has been here. She and her boyfriend John, who are both students at U-Michigan School of Architecture, are here studying the same for a summer program, along with students from an art institute in LA, and, I think, the University of Toronto.

They are based in this fledgling arts area in a little village n the northeast side of town, not at all far from us. We’ve only seen them a handful of times but it’s been really nice every time. Sara spent most of the day here Saturday, including Anna’s birthday party (yes, pictures of that are coming, sooner or later).

It’s a real pleasure to have Sara here. She was 3 or 4 when Becky and I started dating and it’s been a pleasure to watch her grow up, even if it is jarring to realize she is now older than B and I were when we got together. She has always been one of my favorite people. This weekend, they are joining us on our trip to Xi’An with Greg and Laura and family which will be very nice.

Last Friday, they had a semester-end open house of sorts at their studio space and we took everyone down there. It was nice. The kids were a bit of a novelty, maybe even more so amongst grad students than they are amongst Chinese folk. The students cracked me up.. very nice and pretty stereotypical. The professors were pretty much right out of central casting as well.

I have to say also that the more hip, trendy design stuff I see around here, the more I respect our dear old friends Craig Winkelman and Jane Beck. They had this aesthetic vision in 1988 when I met them. I enter hotsy totsy restaurants here and they look like Craig and Jane’s Jersey City loft from 15 or more years ago.

Sara with one of her projects. Neither Becky nor I
could understand what it was about. It was either
mumbo jumbo or Sara operates at a much higher
intellectual plane than us. "Both" is also an option.
Beautiful work, though.

Sara with one of her two projects, a quilt she
sewed based on an old map of the area. I
remember when her elderly neighbor taught
her to quilt years ago. Who'd have thought that
folk skill learned as a preteen in Bay City would
lead her to a display in some overly hip modern
art space in Beijing?

This giant shirt was cool. Kids loved it.

Sara and John

Mei mei

Eli is in love with John. They build castles together.

It's still hard for me to believe Sara isn't as
old as Jacob is now.

Jacob got into the spirt of things and took sectional
pictures of all of us. They really could have been an
exhibit there, if we had blown them up huge.

He also shot this fly on the table.

"Soulshine" with Jacob

Our gig Saturday was our first with full rhythm section and it was great.. our best, by far. Unfortunately, while I got some video, none of it really captures us at our finest. But I'm pretty fond of this one, for obvious reasons.

Bensons Visit

Oh my good ness. So much happening so fast now. I’ll be catching up on posts slowly all week.

First, the Benson/Whitmire family is here. They are our first friends to visit with kids. They arrived Saturday afternoon. Jacob and I picked them up and he was so happy and excited he almost burst out of his skin. He saw them coming and ran past the security guard. Laura saw him coming and tried to give him a hug but he pushed her away and sprinted into Gabie’s arms.

Gabe Benson has been Jacob’s best friend since they were six months old and he is so very, very happy to have him here. It’s really sweet. Gabie’s little brother Nathaniel is also making Eli and Anna very happy. So we’re happy bunch now, heading into the final week of school.

Just about four hours after arriving, they gamely made it over to he Orchard for the first half hour or so of a Woodie Alan gig. They’ve been ok with jetlag.

Tomorrow morning, Benson family will go on to Sichuan for 4-5 days and we are meeting up with them in Xi’an on Saturday –where we will also be joined by Becky’s sister Sara and her boyfriend Jon. So busy but good times here.

Gabie got into the swing of things in Ritan
Park. This exercise equipment has been one
of my kids' favorite spots since we arrived in

Another longtime favorite.. this liquid art thing
is huge here for kids. I don't know why it's never
made it to America. I fear toxicity.

Inside the Panjiyuan "Dirt" Market. A very cool,
really wild place.

Just another bag of Panjiyuan Buddha heads.

Help Slam help kids

This is a great initiative being run by slam’s Managing Editor Susan Price – a big blog fan. I urge everyone to click on over and make a donation. You can’t go wrong funding playgrounds. I’ve made my donation and urge you to give yours. And make sure you tell them slam sent you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Jacob wins photo contest

The winning photo, though I did a better crop
on the entry.

The proud winner; the photo;
the subject.

They have a photo contest every year at the kids' school. Last year, Jacob and I both entered two shots n the Travel category. He was a finalist and I was not, a fact he often reminded me about while traveling. "I'm a better photographer, dad. You better let me take this one."

All year, he would take a photo and say, "that may be good for the contest."

We created his own folder in my photo software, deciding to review them all when it was time to make our choices and enter photos.

But when the entry form came out last month they had new categories -- and travel was not amongst them. So much for those beautiful shots of the Sichuan peaks, or the Yangtze snaking to the horizon. The categories now were "My Beijing," "Creative" and "A Day in the Life of DCB" (their school).

Jacob had ideas for creative such as "I can take a stuffed panda to school and photograph it on a desk."

I finally told him to take my camera to school for a day and shoot stuff for A Day in the Life of DCB.

He did so and, amongst other things, took a fantastic shot of his best friend here Lucas Pos making a great saver. I though it was really nice and I knew that DCB really emphasizes sports, so I figured he had a good shot. He named the photo “Shot of a Shot” and we turned it in. I was too busy to get anything together for myself.

Anyhow, they handed out the awards last Sunday at a little fair at the new campus. That was the day we went to the Botanical Garden and Jacob kept saying “ We have to get to school by 4 because that’s when they’re giving out the photo awards and I think I won.”

We got there and they had 35 finalists (out of about 120 entries) framed and displayed in the lobby. 4:00 came – and Jacob won. He was absolutely beaming. He is going to be insufferable this year, but we were very proud of him and happy for him.

Another going away party

A bunch of guys from PA: Tom Kirkwood (Shawney),
visiting friend Dave (Moon Twp/Pittsburgh), Greg Madden
(Moon Twp/Pittsburgh).

Kate Kirkwood, Becky, Tracy Madden, who is
Cleveland bound.

Caroline Madden (center) with two Kirkwoods
and Jacob. She has been a good friend of Jacob's
for two years, whether they will admit it or not. We
are very sorry to see them go.

People are leaving left and right, for vacation and for good. t's really one of the most jarring things about living here. Our kids have school through next week, but other int'l schools finished last week and the place is emptying out. Because we are coming home in August this year because of Josh's bar mitzvah, we won't see most of our friends for two months. And many will be gone when we return, with a new crop of expats taking their places.

The Madden Family are bound for Cleveland n two days. They are Pittsburgh natives and have been good friends. We haven't socialized with them as much as some others, but we all like each other a lot and I really enjoyed having them here. Always good to know a Steelers fanatic is close at hand. Greg is a very thoughtful guy and has been very good to discuss school and other kids issues with.

We had them and osme others over for abarbecue good bye dinner on sunday night.

Woodie Alan is also going to miss Greg; he has been one of our biggest fans and most ardent supporters. People from Pittsburgh have impeccable taste in music.

Botanical Garden

We went to the Beijing Botanical Gardens last weekend. it was very pleasant, a beautiful large park filled with Chinese families picnicking and enjoying their Sunday afternoon. We only saw a small corner of it, really.

Near the large rose garden, there was a dancing fountain. Jacob would not go in at first -- "there are naked people int here!" Indeed, there were lots of Chinese toddlers running around naked and a bunch of older kids in their underwear. But Anna and Eli and their friend Talia plowed ahead and were having so much fun that Jacob threw caution to the wind and ran in there with the naked boys.

They had a blast, so much so that we had to drag them away and ended up seeing little more of this large and beautiful park other than the fountain and the ice cream stand next door.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Go Ben

More news on my nephews' athletic exploits. Ben Kessler ran a 5k in 33 minutes last night. Laura says he sprinted most of the time. He was the youngest kid in the race, not surprising since he's 6.5. He stands an excellent chance of being the only person related to me to get an athletic scholarship (I am betting on lacrosse).

Monday, June 18, 2007

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

A clip from last week's gig at the Stone Boat. we were a quartet, minus our percussionist. New bassist worked in and he was really good. I like our sound on this song. obviously, the light was a little too low for good video, however.

Discovering a new cousin

As I wrote before, a lot of people have been passing through town and we have been trying to see as many of them as possible. Tomorrow, Tom Weber of the WSJ arrives for two days. We’ll have a dinner with him and maybe I can get out to the Wall with him as well.

Last week, one of the visitors was Brad Barnblatt. He is a second cousin of Becky’s. They had never met, or even really knew about each other. He grew up and still lives in San Francisco. His grandparents were Moe and Tonia Saslove. Moe was Becky’s grandma Sonia’s brother.

Grandma Tonia nagged Brad into getting gin touch with us on his trip and it was good she did. We had a really nice dinner with him, his wife Portia, who is from Shanghai and two of her friends. We ate at Xiao Wang Fu’s inside Ritan Park, then moved down to the Stone boat for the Woodie Alan gig. They stayed for the first set, and I think they had a good time.

We had a really good gig, by the way. We had a new bass player because Mr. Li disappeared – his phone quit working. The new guy was really good and we felt relaxed, had a good crowd and played ell. The Stone Boat is really a super sweet place to be on a nice summer night. We play there again on July 20.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Falling Behind

Hey, I know I need to do some posting here. Things are speeding up man. The school year is rapidly drawing to a close. We have two more weeks to go. Really hard to believe that we are nearing the end of year two in China. Fast. fast.

Meanwhile, friends are already starting to scatter to the winds (the other two big intl schools are wrapping up already). And we are losing a crop of friends.. off to Cleveland, Singapore, Sydney, who knows where else. A sad part of living here. I remember when we moved to Ann Arbor, Danny Rosen asked how long we were there for. We told him, honestly, that we didn't know.

"We don't get close with people here for Masters any more," he said. "They come, we get close, they're gone. You've got to be in a PHD program."

He was kidding, but there's an element of truth there.

Of course, we ended being on a more of a masters plan and it's safe to say they didn't regret getting close to us, but I can already see the concept behind his thinking. A new crop of folks will be arriving over the summer, and we will b firmly entrenched as the vets.

Eli doesn't know ityet but one of his main boys, Hugo, is out of here in a month. They just decided and haven't told their own kids yet. (I hope Hugo is not a blogstigator or I'm in trouble). After they do, we'll tell Eli and I know it will be tough. Eli is still crying for Jackson and Ben Kessler. We have vacationed with Hugo's family the last two Chinese New years and they are moving to Singapore, closer to all the great beach spots, so we'll try to keep that going.

There have also been some visitors passing through and I have met a couple of them and missed a couple -- sorry Gideon and Barbara. This city is so big that sometimes people are staying a hotel that is the equivalent of being in Brooklyn or even Nassau County from Maplewood, so it's not always possible to just pop down and grab a meal.

Next Saturday, the Benson/Whitmires are arriving (that's jacob's best, oldest friend Gabie and his family). Everyone is very excited.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Anna and Eli Int'l Day

Eli proclaimed this the best day ever. They had a blast, with all the kids dressed up in some sort of clothes from their homeland. Notice Eli and Anna rocking the NBA jerseys.

I couldn't attend, as it was the morning of the baseball press conference I wrote about prior so Becky took over for me, attempting to teach a large crop of 5 and 6 year olds how to hit a baseball. I'm not sure how well that went but everyone had fun.

There was cotton candy involved, as well as cupcakes and God knows what else.