fledge capable of flying, from Middle English flegge, from Old English -flycge; akin to Old High German flucki capable of flying,
Old English flEogan to fly -- more at FLY
intransitive verb, of a young bird : to acquire the feathers necessary for flight or independent activity

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Barnum & Bailey...Gilbert & Sullivan...Gumby & Pokey...Lavern & Shirley...Dolce & Gabbana...Sundance Kid & Butch Cassidy...Abbott & Costello...Rogers & Astair...Ernie & Bert...

...Spongebob & Patrick...

And so on and so on...

"Me and Jenny goes together like peas and carrots." - Forrest Gump (1994)

Why can't I post more often? I have plenty to post! It's because of the disposal. I won't do anything until I install the new disposal. How hard can that be? A wrench, a screwdriver, a basic knowledge of plumbing and electricity...all of which I don't have--yet. I am waiting until all these things fall magically from the sky. And then I will have a working disposal! That's the plan right now.

Okay, yes, I am in a little place of inertia. I have five new designs in front of me, each of which I need to tweak. I mean, TWEEEEEEAAAK. Fine-tune what's way outta tune. Retrace, recut, restitch, rethink, resketch, rinse, repeat, retrace...Oh look! Something shiny. I'm a bit too easily distracted.

Huh? Oh, hello! You're still there. Okay, I'll post some about something that was just about the coolest thing to have happened this past summer. A summit meeting of sorts: Reagan/Gorbachov, Eisenhower/Khrushchev/De Gaulle, and Luzi and Anna!

It was so AWESOME (awesoemaweseomawesomesawsome) to meet Nic (Nic, yes, you know; Luziapimpinella-Nic!) personally and spend time with her family. "Family"... having just written that word, yeah, okay, I'll throw it out again: Meeting Nic was like meeting family. Hello, yes, we've just met, but, well, a handshake won't do. C'mon bring it in for the hug, cousin! Anyway, on the Hildebrandt family tour of the California, Cousin Nic stopped by our neck of the Golden State.

And what is Nic really like? I don't need to tell you; you already know. She really, really is like that! Happy and loving and creative and full of energy and color and sparkle. Just follow the energy and color and the sound of a camera shutter and there's Nic. And she's a cheap drunk. Okay, okay, let me explain: "Cheap drunk" to me means someone, who doesn't need a lot to get them inspired or happy or motivated--"intoxicated," if you will. Nic can get excited at the littlest things, the littlest bit of graffiti or a rusty neon sign or a little sea shell. It's infectious.  And so fun to be around. And an inspiration. A beautiful person inside and out.

Come on back, anytime, Nic. You're family.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Of fang gu and flea markets

The weeks fly by, don't they? School has started and so has the homework and the lunches and the backpacks and the gym uniforms and the carpools. Soccer is in full swing and I'm refereeing again (I'm getting to like the power. Heady stuff). And I'm psyching myself up for Halloweenthanksgivingchristmasnewyearseve looming right there on the horizon. But I had time today to think back on the beautiful summer that just passed. I have one post that I definitely owe you, about a very wonderful visit I had his summer. But I need to give that some time and thought. So, today, back to China and one of most of y'all's favorite pastimes: Flea marketing.

The story of China, the very beginning of the story, the one that resonates in the Chinese consciousness (or so I understand from the couple of books I've read), is not a beginning at all, but a continuation. The Shang Dynasty of about 1766-1122 BC, which has the oldest written history of China, is known as the "second dynasty". There always seems to have been a "something before" that was China. All together, something like four or five or six thousand years of linear, continuous China. So, China is old, really old. But Mao Zedong, wanting to leap greatly forward and create a fully new society, attempted, from 1966 to about 1976, to force his vision of a New China into reality by, among other things, sending out his Red Army to destroy every bit of ancient and antique pottery, embroidery, furniture, calligraphy, statuary, porcelain and painting the Red Army could get their Revolutionary hands on. Museums and cultural sites were burned to the ground. Many people destroyed their family heirlooms for fear of being horribly punished if caught possessing them. Many aspects of traditional Chinese culture, such as calligraphy, painting, kite-making and so on, ground to a halt and have since lost much of their prominence in daily life and customs. 

Although today's Chinese government remains firmly on the Mao-Zedong-was-great-for-the-Chinese side of the argument (in fact, there is no argument), even the current government admits there may have been one or two excesses at the time, publicly admitting that the destruction of cultural sites, heirlooms, antiques and customs was maybe one of Mao's less than totally awesome ideas. Today, in a flip of the cultural integrity coin, the Chinese government is trying to reign in the bleeding of cultural things from the land. In an attempt to keep China's rich cultural history for the Chinese people, it is illegal today for any foreigner to own and/or take any cultural relic out of the nation. Previously, anything made before 1911, the end of the Qing Dynasty, would have been illegal to remove from China. Today, any item of "cultural significance" cannot belong to a foreigner. Technically, anything culturally of any significance "belongs to the Chinese people" and is therefore subject to confiscation. So, "culturally significant", eh? That's pretty broad. Even an original 1970s alarm clock graced with Mao's cherubic face might be considered culturally significant for the Revolution by the signifying powers-that-be (more on that later). Therefore, as a foreigner looking for flea market or antique items, you will be coming across either illegal-to-own, culturally insignificant or, most likely, fang gu things. Fang gu, colloquially, means "fake". Most of what you will find readily available will be fang gu. Maybe 90%. Maybe 100%. But don't discount the fang gu off hand. This fake stuff is some of the best fake stuff in the world. The experts at the most prestigious art institutes in the world have been fooled (and perhaps they still are). The lengths to which the pros will go to fake an item are often amazing: Soaking things in animal urine to achieve a certain patina (smelling things helps to indicate to sellers that you've been around the block...or at least the Internet), burying items in the ground, even adding radioactive chemicals to a glaze to fool possible age-determining thermoluminesence laboratory tests.

So, still knowing all that, I went ahead and spent some time at a few flea markets. And if I saw something I liked, I went ahead and haggled. Because, c'mon: Look at this stuff! Whether "real" or really real, this stuff is awesome. I want some. I'll post the treasures I brought home in another post.

I really, really wanted all three of these acupuncture mannequins. I don't have any acupuncture mannequins! I must have acupuncture mannequins! My kids said, "No. No acupuncture mannequins." So, I still don't have any acupuncture mannequins. *hmpf*

Panjiayuan "antiques" market.

Calligraphy supply seller, Luilichang cultural street, Beijing.

Lordy, I love that painting. I could kick myself for not buying it.

Here, an artisan carves a chop. A chop is a unique stone stamp with the characters of your name that you would use to sign something. This young fellow is getting his first chop.

A lucky cricket hanging in a basket chirps to bring happiness to this store.

Birds in bamboo cages are popular. Some people walk around with them.

On the Luilichang cultural street, Beijing.

What I particularly enjoy about China is the sport of haggling. Most prices in most places are really flexible. Really, really, really flexible. Just about as flexible as the date to which an "antique" item should (or can) be attributed. And just how flexible you can make the price go--in both directions before reaching a comfortable position for both parties--is the game. And it is a game. And in that regard, it should be fun. Some tips for haggling are this: Let the merchant start and name a price. Then smile and walk away either giving them the impression that 1) they have insulted you with such a ridiculously high price or 2) that you don't want to insult them with a counter offer that would be too low. The merchant will follow you and indicate to name your price on a calculator. Okay, okay, I'll give him a price, just to humor him. I start at about one-quarter of his starting price. He'll steadfastly say, "no" and enter a price just below his starting price, only because "he thinks I am a nice person" or "my children are beautiful". I smile and walk away again, saying something like, "See? I didn't want to insult you. But that is what I can afford". He'll follow me again and hand me the calculator. I enter a price that is no more than 30% of his original price. And that is where I will stay until he walks away. And he won't. And if he won't walk away, then he's happy with the price. He's happy, I'm happy. Happy people all around. Depending on how long this takes, very often a small crowd of people will form. Folks here are not shy. This is street theater and seeing as how I stuck out like a sore thumb anyway, I tried to give the audience a good show with lots of arm gestures and exaggerated expressions of incredulity. Frankly, I'll never know if the "last price" was the best or even a fair price for this or that trinket. But when do I ever know when I am shopping anywhere for anything? This haggling over a "real" antique feels actually a bit more honest than spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of jeans at the mall that are supposed to transport me to the lifestyle depicted on the posters mounted on the walls. I'd rather pay too much to this little man on the street who looks me in the eye than to some amalgam of retail marketing triggers.

What about you?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Hello yellow!

China's go-to color is red. It's symbolic meaning, derived from the element of fire, is joy and good fortune. Do you want wealth and happiness to come through your front door? Paint it red and let the feng shui do its thing. Plus, what's Communism without red? Other colors just don't pack the same power-to-the-proletariat punch. Go ahead: Try and start a global revolution in any other color. Mauve? Turquoise? Heliotrope? It won't get off the ground. Even though a good 7% of the men you'd want to mobilize are color blind and cannot even see red in its crimson glory, it's the color to go with.

Yellow, however, comes in a close second in China. Traditionally, the Chinese view yellow as the most beautiful color. It symbolizes the earth and generates both Yin and Yang. Yellow is the color once reserved for the royal family. The roof tiles of the Forbidden City and other imperial abodes are yellow.

In Buddhism, yellow represents freedom from earthly bounds and is the color of mourning in China. 

Nic of Luziapimpinella gave us some photographic homework to close out the summer. She said, give me some yellow. This is some yellow I saw.

You can join in the fun, too!

Yellow fire devouring incense offerings to the Buddha and releasing them from their earthly bonds.

"Yellow has the highest symbolic value in Buddhism through its link with the saffron robes of monks. This color, previously worn by criminals, was chosen by Gautam Buddha as a symbol of his humility and separation from materialist society. It thus signifies renunciation, desirelessness, and humility. Yellow is the color of earth, and thus a symbol of rootedness and the equanimity of the earth."


And a yellow backpack! And see the close-up of the matching Che Guevara polo shirts? Voted Cutest Communist Couple!

Yellow was the color reserved for the royal family and China's most legendary emperors and empresses were adorned at least partially in the most beautiful color. While visiting historic sites, it is popular for tourists to rent imperial costumes and pose for the family photo album...

...but this cheeky fellow upstaged the empress, don'tcha think?

A yellow garbage truck. I mean, garbage "trike".

Yellow joss sticks to offer to the Buddha. 

A yellow man-fan.

Hello yellow Hello Kitty! Pretty girl with a yellow bag takes a pretty cell phone photo.

 Yellow public telephone.

Yellow imperial roof tiles. The more critters you could have lined up at each corner of your roof, the higher your status in the Middle Kingdom.

Yellow shirt! Yellow dragon! Photographing the photographing.

Local greasy spoon (or oily wok?) set up on old yellow desk. These folks are good at improvising.

A yellow swirl of street art.

Beautiful blushing bride wears yellow.

Wait for it...

There. See it? The yellow writing? It says "Jimmy loves Suzy forever". Or close enough.

So, what yellow said hello in your world recently?


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