Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Thursday, November 29, 2007
If you haven't been watching the bloody brilliant BBC spin off series from Dr. Who called Torchwood this season, you're really missing something.

You can get caught up this weekend when they do a Torchwood marathon prior to the season finale at 8:00 PM this Saturday.

Capt. Jack Harkness is the hottest thing on TV.
posted by Broadsheet @ 4:33 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Unsilent Night

My buddy and newlywed(congratulations!!!!!) Brian Sacawa asked me to post this announcement of his upcoming concert. It's fun, free and everyone should be there!!


Friday, December 21, 2007
8:00 p.m.
Meet at the Washington Monument near the Peabody Conservatory
All ages welcome.

On Friday, December 21 at 8:00 p.m., starting at the Washington Monument near the Peabody Conservatory, saxophonist Brian Sacawa will lead a massive chorus of boomboxes through the streets of Baltimore in the city's 2nd annual performance of New York City composer Phil Kline's UNSILENT NIGHT, an outdoor ambient music piece for an infinite number of boomboxes.

Different parts of the composition will be distributed on cassettes and CDs. At the given signal, participants will press PLAY simultaneously. When the tapes start rolling, "they blossom into a marvelously crafted symphony" (Time Out New York). Then the crowd will walk a predetermined parade route through the streets of Baltimore, becoming single elements in a multi-block stereo system.

The event will end at Joe Squared Pizza and Bar (133 W North Ave) at approximately 9:00 p.m. Participants are invited to attend the UNSILENT AFTER PARTY, featuring the music of the modern classical/hip-hop duo Hybrid Groove Project and DJ Dubble8. The Unsilent After Party is free to attend.

The Village Voice describes UNSILENT NIGHT as "a marvelously fluid, traveling spatial sound sculpture that disintegrates and reforms at nearly every stop light." Time Out calls the event "an electro-happening" and depicts the music as " a winter wonderland of shimmering sleigh bells, chines, and grand chorales."

Participants should meet at the south side of the Washington Monument near the Peabody Conservatory of music at 7:45 p.m. The event will begin at 8:00 p.m. The piece is approximately 45 minutes long. All music is distributed for free. The more boomboxes there are, the more "voices" in the piece.

If you do not have a boombox, you are still an important part of the procession, because the more the merrier! UNSILENT NIGHT is kid-friendly, so the whole family can enjoy some good, down-home holiday noise-making.

Help make a BIG (and joyful) noise and be a part of the 2nd annual performance of UNSILENT NIGHT, Baltimore's newest holiday tradition!

Since its debut in 1992, UNSILENT NIGHT has become a cult holiday tradition in New York City and around the world, drawing crowds of more than 1,000 participants. In addition to New York, UNSILENT NIGHT is also performed in Los Angeles; San Francisco; San Diego; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Cleveland; Tallahassee; Vancouver; Yukon Territory; Berlin; Middlesbrough, England; Sydney; Melbourne; Santa Barbara; Charleston; Rochester, NY; Banff, Alberta; and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. New this year are: Houston; New Haven; Boulder; Bowling Green, OH; and Hamburg, Germany.

This is a free event, and will be held rain or shine (and even in the event of sub-zero temperatures). For more information, contact Brian Sacawa at

UNSILENT NIGHT in Baltimore is presented by saxophonist Brian Sacawa
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:28 PM   1 Editorial Opinions
Monday, November 26, 2007
"Mind the Gap" - no more
That lovely, pitch perfect, iconic British voice that reminds tens of thousands of Londoners and visitors on the Tube every day to "mind the gap" and "stand clear of the doors" has been silenced.

Emma Clarke, whose voice is almost surely more recognizable to more people worldwide than that of the US woman who tells you to "press one for English".... was recently let go by the London Underground go for her series of sardonic parody messages. She claims she was really just tired of taking herself too seriously and decided to lighten things up a little.

An example of her revised admonishments to Tube riders:
“Here we are crammed again into a sweaty Tube carriage … If you’re female, smile at the bloke next to you and make his day. He’s probably not had sex for months.”
As the NYT speculates:
So, was Ms. Clarke terminated for being too funny, or for becoming a vocal critic of the company that paid her? The answer may be one and the same, if advice on the art of comedy from a famous Irish author who spent his adult life in London offers any perspective.

“My way of joking is to tell the truth,” George Bernard Shaw, who must’ve taken at least a few rides on the tubes before he died in 1950, once said. “It’s the funniest joke in the world.”
posted by Broadsheet @ 7:51 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Seen in Rhode Island
We ran to the local grocery store in Hope Valley, RI on Saturday to get stuff for dinner and to have some friends over. Upon leaving, I spotted this person working in the store and nearly fell over with a double take. I ran out to the car and grabbed my camera, came back, and took this photo through the window of the store.

Is it just me, or is this person (and I honestly do not know the gender for sure), a doppelganger for Pat from SNL??? Same hunch, same pants, same hair and glasses... I didn't hear him/her speak, so I don't know if he/she had the same whiny voice, but it damn sure looked like Pat.
Posted by Picasa
posted by Broadsheet @ 7:31 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Cheap Motel Blogging
Greetings from somewhere in upstate NY. I say somewhere, because you can't see a thing outside. It's all fogged in up here. Grey and rainy and foggy and cold. Blegh.

No pretty drive around the lake, no trip to the state park to hike the gorge and see the waterfall, no pretty wineries. Double Blegh. I'm going to try and find the Corning Glass Museum, and stop at Moosewood for a late lunch of hot soup and then keep heading west to NY's other shoreline - Lake Erie and my sister's house.

Yesterday's drive started out very sunny and bright, and I enjoyed taking all the back roads through the Connecticut countryside, but it took longer than I intended, and I hit a wall of clouds at the NY state line. So, instead of a sunny, pretty, fall drive through the Catskills, it was rainy, snowy, foggy and dark. Just makes for a tired Broadsheet when I finally got to the motel last night around 7:30.

The motel is classic - my car is parked right outside the door. It's clean, has a coffee maker, fridge and microwave, and a shower with plenty of hot water, so for $60 a night - including breakfast, not a bad deal.

Except for the barking dog at 7:00 this morning. Took me a minute to realize it wasn't a dog, but the woman in the next room yelping. Wonder if she sits, begs and rolls over? I betchya she does.

Gotta love a cheap motel.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:36 AM   4 Editorial Opinions
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Greetings from the absolutely adorable Langworthy Library situated at the edge of what could easily be Walden's Pond in bucolic Hope Valley, Rhode Island. This place is utterly, hopelessly spilling over with Currier and Ives New England charm.

I'm killing time on the Internet while my friend, who is on the Library's Board of Directors, serves up spiced apple cider with cookies during a lecture by Maureen Taylor on the rich history of Rhode Island photography.

The ride up here yesterday was just picture perfect. Rather than deal with the ribbon of frustration and toll booths known as I-95 and risk major delays due to accidents or traffic around NYC, and being in no particular hurry, I took the scenic route. I came up through York, took a right through Lancaster, Reading and Allentown, and then headed up the unbelievably beautiful Delaware Water Gap into Connecticut.

It was a perfect late fall day, with a granite sky and intermittent snow squalls, dramatic light, and bright sunshine. The leaves were mostly done showing off the best of their color, but hung on to the trees in shades of bright red, copper, rust, and brown. Mostly, they swirled through the air like brightly colored confetti as I drove through countryside filled with stone farmhouses, brown corn fields, lots of pumpkins, and tidy Amish farms. Sunset was gorgeous - with the sun under lighting the clouds with bright pinks and oranges to make them look like giant cotton candy as I drove into New London, CT to meet my friend after work at a very cool restored waterfront wine shop circa early 19th century on the river with a great stone walled basement.

We wandered down the street to a terrific little restaurant, and headed north to Rhode Island to relax over a glass of wine and get caught up on life.

Tonight - perhaps tickets to the Madeline Peyroux concert!
posted by Broadsheet @ 1:28 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
The China Chronicles - The Ancient City of Jiaohe
The photos from this site aren't nearly as dramatic as the real thing. We went to the ruins at the end of the day - at sunset, and the light was soft, the air was cool, and it was just so lovely and so dramatic, that the photos just don't capture it.

The Ancient City of Jiaohe lies about 10 km west of Turpan and was founded in 108 BC. It acted as an important capitol in the region until the 13th century when Ghengis Khan invaded it and destroyed it. What makes it unique, is not only that its ruins still exist thanks in large part to the fact that this region is a dessert and receives so little rainfall that the mud structures are still intact, but that it was built on top of a large islet in the middle of a river (now a trickle of a stream), which had eroded the sides of the islet creating a natural fortress with steep cliffs all around.

There are residential areas, the remains of a large government office building, and a large Buddhist temple. Mysteriously, and sadly, they also discovered the mass graves of about 22 infants. Many theories exist as to their existence. Some believe that an epidemic swept through the city, but that would lead you to believe that others would have died as well, some believe that Ghengis Khan's army murdered the babies, and others believe they may have been part of some sacrifice, but that doesn't jive with a Buddhist society. Their small graves, identities and the reason behind their sudden deaths are lost to time.

This next photo is of the Buddhist temple. You can see individually carved Buddhas sitting in the ruin, but they are missing their heads. They were defaced by Muslim extremists. China is trying to get the Jiaohe Ruins listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as they continue to try and preserve the landmarks along the Silk Road.

It was an absolutely lovely and haunting place to walk at sunset, and we had the ruins to ourselves.

Next: Urumqi
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:42 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Monday, November 12, 2007
The China Chronicles - Turpan
Turpan is an interesting city. Interesting in that you cannot fathom why people ever endured settling here, let alone continue to fight the desert and the elements to keep living here. At 505 ft. below sea level, it is one of the most harsh environments on earth, and yet people have lived in this basin for thousands of years. At some point, you just wanna yell - "Get out of the pool!"

Luckily for us, the end of September is one of the more reasonable times of the year for their climate, and it was not too uncomfortable when we arrived.

One of the key reasons to the enduring success of Turpan, is their development and use of the karez for irrigation, cooling, water, etc. They are literally the lifeblood of Turpan, but they came at a heavy price in terms of the manpower needed to build them.

I'm going to borrow a photo from Wikipedia to show you how they work:

See the lines with all the little dots running down into town? At the base of a mountain range where the alluvial fan starts to drain, they begin to dig shafts down to the water table ever 60 meters or so and create an underground tunnel to transport the water underground using gravity. This way, it avoids evaporation and can be used as a water source miles away from its origin. Digging these things by hand more than a thousand years ago, given that there are more than a thousand of them in Turpan alone, is quite a feat of engineering. You can see the little mounds dotting the desert in straight lines everywhere.

We visited the Karez museum in Turpan, and while it was really just a bunch of displays explaining the engineering, and a stairway down into the tunnels to see the water, its effects are pretty apparent in all the fields and crops they continue to grow in a desert climate.

Not much to look at, but you get the idea. Imagine digging a couple hundred miles of these things.

Before I show you all the wonderful things they do with this water, let me give you an idea of how harsh the conditions are. We drove about an hour and a half outside of town up into the foothills of the Flaming Mountains. They're called the Flaming Mountains for two reasons (1) They're red - d'uhh, and (2) It's REALLY hot here! We set out to hike to some more Buddhist cave paintings through the village of Tuyqo in the Gaochang gorge.

The people in this village live a nearly stone age existence. Seriously, you could easily imagine Jesus Christ walking down the street. It's that basic.

A simple life

Not so basic that they don't have a few of life's luxuries - a closer look shows a satellite dish and TV on the top of the mud roof.

Modern Luxuries

This is a lifestyle in which livestock live in a room of the house:

Goats in the back yard

And those mud bricks you see are literally that - mud. They measure annual rainfall here in millimeters. A hard thunderstorm and the entire village would simply melt. I hope you can also understand why, that when an earthquake hits this region - thousands die. These homes just crumble and the mud slides are horrendous.

These are some freshly made bricks drying in the sun:

Drying Bricks

We hiked through the main village:

Typical Village Homes

And continued about a mile along the gorge on a wooden walkway that they had built lining the one water source coming in to the village from the mountains.

The Valley

To get to the caves:

Although not nearly as dramatic or well preserved as the Mugao Grottoes, they were well worth the hike, and their setting was pretty spectacular.

In the river valley below, they had dammed parts of the river to create a flood plain to grow rushes. They used them for everything from roofing materials, to animal feed to making baskets. With the complete lack of rain, most people sleep outdoors on their roofs, or under lightly thatched patios.

All in a Day's Work

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the things that does grow well in this hot, rocky soil - are grapes. And this region is famous for its grapes, which are dried and sold as raisins the world over. We saw these brick grape drying houses dotting the hillsides and valleys everywhere:

A grape drying house

Back in Turpan, we visited the Karez Museum, and the adjoining vineyard. Where, while they have clearly mastered the skill of growing grapes in a harsh climate;

A Grape Arbor

Nature's Bounty

...they have a LONG way to go in learning how to make wine. After touring the vineyards, we were quite looking forward to tasting a sample of their wares, and headed to the wine garden expectantly. Not wanting to post photos of folks I know personally without their express permission, I can't show you the grimaces of pain and disgust on people's faces after taking a sip of this swill, but trust me - it was plonk. Literally undrinkable, and one of the more expensive alternatives we were presented with. We all solemnly vowed to order beer at dinner.

This is one thing that if it says "Made in China" on the label - take a wide pass.

Chinese Wine

Looks are deceiving!

Next up: The Ancient City of Jiaohe.
posted by Broadsheet @ 1:30 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Almost There.....
Well, it's been nearly a month, but we're 80% of the way there now.


The patio and wall are done, and most of the plants are in. It's hard to see because they are young and bare right now, but I have a weeping crabapple tree, oak hydrangeas, a butterfly bush, hostas, lillies, irises, roses and lavender. Not to mention some wild geranium, miniature boxwoods, and some other plants and vines.

The rest of the plants go in tomorrow, new turf will be in the center, and mulch everywhere. The remainder of the pea gravel goes into the patio, and the potting shed and container for the heat pump need to be finished.

Hopefully, I can move my patio furniture and grill back this week!


The small semi circle of pea gravel that we left next to the walkway is so I that can get some large ceramic pots (hint, Xmas, hint), and fill them with herbs for an herb garden.
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:10 AM   3 Editorial Opinions
Read any good books lately?
OK Internet peeps, this summer when I headed out on a long weekend road trip, I asked for some audio book recommendations to keep me busy, and you really came through for me.

Well, this Friday I'm headed up the coast to New England for a few days, and from there I will drive to Ithaca to check things out overnight on my way across NY State to my sister's house on Lake Erie for Turkey day. From there, I will swing south to my parent's place for a few days before making the trek home to MD after the Holiday weekend.

All told, that's about 24 - 26 hours of driving to kill.

Music and book recommendations welcome. What's on YOUR iPod?
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:15 AM   2 Editorial Opinions
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Game Day
Those shrieks and whoops you heard coming from a house in Bolton Hill today were me.

Wisconsin stomped Michigan 37 - 21, and the Fighting Illini dashed undefeated Ohio State's hopes of winning a national title by beating them 28 - 21.

Ohio State and Michigan face off next week for the Big Ten title and a shot at the Rose Bowl, but after this week - it's anyone's game.

The folks at LSU and Kansas are cheering too. Wonder who'll be number one when the rankings come out tomorrow??

Did I get any grocery shopping, cleaning, or laundry done today? Hell no. It was a total football day.
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:30 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
Three die in China sale stampede
Having been the unfortunate victim of standing in a checkout line in a Carrefour store in Urumqi and nearly missing the bus to the airport, I can completely understand how this happened.

It was hot, crowded, miserable, and no one was willing to stand in a civil line. I had stopped in to make a drugstore purchase because we were flying out to Kashgar that day, and I was pretty sure that there wouldn't be a drugstore in Kashgar. The Carrefour was under the main bazaar, and it was more crowded than any supermarket I have ever been in. It took more than a half hour to check out.
posted by Broadsheet @ 10:15 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Friday, November 09, 2007
Kill a Catalogue, Save a Tree
Green tip for the day folks....

Head over to and sign up to eliminate all the annoying mail order catalogues you no longer want to recieve. It's free and easy.

The mission of Catalog Choice is to reduce the number of repeat and unsolicited catalog mailings, and to promote the adoption of sustainable industry best practices. They aim to accomplish this by freely providing the Catalog Choice services to both consumers and businesses. Consumers can indicate which catalogs they no longer wish to receive, and businesses can receive a list of consumers no longer wanting to receive their catalogs.

Did you know that over eight million tons of trees are consumed each year in the production of paper catalogs?

Go sign up - it's a good thing.
posted by Broadsheet @ 3:51 PM   0 Editorial Opinions
The China Chronicles - Midnight at the Oasis, Put Your Camel to Bed
From Dunhuang, we went to lunch at a newer restaurant near a new hotel complex. Then we drove a short way to the edge of the desert. Being an oasis town, Dunhuang is surrounded by the empty plains and shifting dunes of the Taklamakan and Gobi Deserts. We suddenly came to the end of town - quite literally, and were faced with large sand dunes.

The End of Town

Through the gate in the photo, there is a place to rent camels and ride them out into the dunes. It could have been very touristy, but instead was actually quite authentic, and riding Bactrian camels in the Gobi desert was definitely a highlight of the trip. Cross that one off life's "things to do before I die" list!

Rugged individualism

See the saddle blanket on the camel? They are made of camel felt and hand stitched. I later bought a very colorful one from a Khyrgyz trader to use as a small rug. It's outside my bathroom - next to my bed.

Camel train

They don't call them "Ships of the Desert" for nothing - check out the feet on these things!

Made for sand

Luckily, my ride, while not the smoothest way to travel, was quite docile and didn't spit or bite. I was impressed with how well taken care of the camels seemed to be. Each camel herder had about 6-10 animals they were in charge of, and as their primary source of income, they all seemed to be very well cared for.

We rode about 1/2 hour out into the desert to a large dune and clambered to the top so we could slide down again on little sleds like kids.

Climbing the dunes

Harder than it looks, which is why I skipped this part, but it was worth it - here's the view from the top of the dune courtesy of my friend.

The view from the top

We reboarded our steeds and headed to a small oasis called "Crescent Lake". A tea house built at the edge of a small lake in the middle of dunes. The lake is barely present anymore, and is quickly being devoured by the encroaching dunes.

Desert Tea House

Here's one of the camel herders resting.

Camel Herder

And in a true case of "it's a small world after all", here's another one - where he got the Target grocery bag in the middle of nowhere at the edge of the Gobi desert in China - I'll never know....

The Global Village

Later in the day, I saw this gentleman resting. Not sure what he's waiting for, but this is a very typical sight. This would also be one of the last truly Chinese looking people we would see after today. From here on out - people looked very Central Asian - not Chinese.

Old Man and Cart

So, after traveling since before dawn, and riding smelly camels all afternoon, we had an unremarkable dinner and went to the Dunhuang train station to board an overnight train through the Taklamakan desert north to Turpan. You know, at some point in the day, Purell just smears the dirt around. The train station is in the process of being completely renovated, so we waited with our luggage in a VERY small, very dirty, very crowded room with a lot of other people. I half expected to see chickens and livestock running around. Definitely a third world experience.

We had a small cabin for four with two bunks in it. I had the top bunk, and shared the compartment with a lovely woman from South Africa, my friend from Ireland, and a woman from the US State Dept. stationed in Beijing (originally from Pittsburgh no less!)


It took forever to get the air going in the cabin, and once it did - all the cigarette smoke from the smokers in the other cars seemed to pour into ours. I didn't get a good night's sleep, but 13 hours and a LOT of desert later - we were in Turpan, which, at 505 ft. below sea level, is the driest, hottest place in all of China. Only the Dead Sea is further below sea level.

Tomorrow: Turpan, hiking in the countryside and grapes.....
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:21 AM   2 Editorial Opinions
Good things come to those who wait
Apparently so, since they had to shoot some of these sequences over up to 15 times. No less impressive however. Guinness REALLY wants you to drink their beer.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:05 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Thursday, November 08, 2007
The China Chronicles - The Mogao Grottoes
Sometimes a journey arises out of hope and instinct, the heady conviction as your finger travels along the map: Yes, here and here...and here. These are the nerve-ends of the world...

A hundred reasons clamor for your going. You go to touch on human identities, to people an empty map. You have a notion that this is the world's heart. You go to encounter the protean shapes of faith. You go because you are still young and crave excitement, the crunch of your boots in the dust; you go because you are old and need to understand something before it's too late. You go to see what will happen.

Yet to follow the Silk Road is to follow a ghost. It flows through the heart of Asia, but it has officially vanished, leaving behind it the pattern of its restlessness: counterfeit borders, unmapped peoples. The road forks and wanders wherever you are. It is not a single way, but many: a web of choices.
---- Colin Thubron "Shadow of the Silk Road".

This sentiment pretty much sums up my feelings when I was first offered the opportunity to travel this part of the world. What kid hasn't read the Travels of Marco Polo and wanted to run away from home to explore distant lands and far off adventures?

Our trip started with an early morning flight out of Beijing northwest to the oasis town of Dunhuang in Gansu province. At one point, Dunhuang was the most western point in China, and the end of the Great Wall. A pioneer desert outpost along the Silk Road. To there, merchants and traders arrived near death after trekking the 1,500 miles east from Kashgar to skirt the Taklamakan or Gobi Deserts. The Taklamakan, known in China as "Lishuan", or "Flowing Sands" is the second largest desert in the world and with its shifting sands, complete lack of landmarks, and no oases, is one of the most formidable places on earth. From there, other traders were loading up on supplies, getting ready to try and survive the same journey back. All I could think of was the desert trading station in Star Wars - Tatooine. Looks just like it.

Once a thriving trading center with over 700,000 people, Dunhuang withered away over the centuries, and now has a population of a little over 100,000. Legend has it that the Buddhist monk, Yuezun arrived in Dunhuang in 366 BC and dug a meditation cave into a cliff outside of town. Over the next 900 years, many more monks and pilgrims, seeking austerity and solitude did the same, creating what is now a UNESCO World Heritage site known as the Mogao Grottoes.

When the Golden Age of Dunhuang ended during the Ming Dynasty around 1000 AD, the monks inexplicably built a secret cave to store tens of thousands of manuscripts, documents, and paintings, sealed it up, painted some Bodhisattvas over it and it went unknown for the next 900 years or so.

The Buddhist Abbot Wong at the caves discovered the secret room after an earthquake unveiled it around 1900, and promptly resealed it. About 7 years later, the explorer and archaeologist Auriel Stein arrived following up on rumors about the caves when he was studying the Great Wall, and finagled the Abbot to show him the room. Piled almost ten feet high to the ceiling, and protected from the elements for over 1,000 years, were more than 20,000 manuscripts, paintings, books and tapestries, including the oldest printed book in the world and documents written in languages that don't even exist any more. He did what any good colonial explorer would in those days, and took it all back to London. He was quickly followed by the Russian, French, Japanese and Americans, and before you know it - all gone. Scattered across the world's museums and collector's homes.

Today, only ten of the nearly 500 caves are open to the public, and in 1944 the Dunhuang Academy was built to offer scholars the opportunity to make the study of the caves and their artwork a lifetime's work. Slowly, many of the most valuable original manuscripts are being repatriated to China from their adopted homes abroad.

You are prevented from taking photos inside the caves, so my narrative will have to suffice. I did buy a wonderful book on the caves that was put together with a grant from the JP Getty Museum. The colors and details that exist after hundreds, if not thousands of years, are staggering. They mythology and art history would give my art historian sister a dizzy spell. You can't possibly appreciate them without studying them for a bit, and you can't do that on a 2 hour tour.

Scene after scene of paradise, with literally a thousand Buddhas lining every nook and cranny of the cave. Flying gods and musicians telling legends and myths. Wonderfully carved statues and figurines. Hunting parties flying across the walls in search of white tigers and lions. The paintings are remarkably preserved. A red paint that was used for flesh tones has darkened the faces of many of the figures, but the robes and flowers, are still bright and fresh.

The art is a true collage of Chinese, Indian, Tibetan, Persian and Nestorian cultures. It accurately reflects the multitude of cultures and mythologies brought to Dunhuang by visitors traveling the Silk Road for centuries.

Today, it is visited by more than 200,000 people a year, and is truly one of the less known wonders of our time.

Here's a view of the Grotto entrance. Behind this edifice, is a 200 foot statue of a seated Buddha.

This is the public portion of the caves:

Cave Entrances

But as you drive along, you can see the scope of the entire complex:

Hillside caves

Next up - a Little Camel Riding in the Gobi
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:24 AM   1 Editorial Opinions
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
My neighbor, the hero
"I'm trying to get him down. He's having trouble swinging his arms because I've twisted his coat in a firm grip. This coat was the secret to my success. I finally got him face down. I tried to bang his head down to knock him out, but his defense was adequate to keep me from doing that."
And at 80 years of age no less....what a guy!
posted by Broadsheet @ 11:03 AM   2 Editorial Opinions
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Progress Du Jour
Well, they've completed my brick landing, the excavation, the foundation, and now they are beginning to piece together the flagstone into a patio and build the seating wall. They will also build a small potting shed around the heat pump to cover it from view and give me some storage for pots and garden stuff.


You can see Pumpkin and Peanut checking things out in the doorway....

They are creating a curved garden wall than can act as additional seating or a buffet for parties. It's got a path through to the little garden area in the middle.


I'm hoping that if the weather cooperates, they will be done this week!

posted by Broadsheet @ 10:21 AM   0 Editorial Opinions
Horseradish Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Braised Red Cabbage and Goat Cheese
Horseradish Crusted Pork Tenderloin

It's finally Fall! I turned the AC off weeks ago, and I haven't turned the heat on yet, but lighting a fire in the evening and sleeping under the covers has really been nice.

Nothing says fall like a nice pork tenderloin and some braised red cabbage. The recipe for the pork is mine, but I want to give full credit for the red cabbage recipe to one of my favorite restaurants, The Heart Line Cafe, in Sedona, AZ. We had this dish there a few years ago, and it is absolutely my favorite way to make red cabbage.

Horseradish Crusted Pork Tenderloin

One pound pork tenderloin
1 TBL Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic - slivered
Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper
2 TBL Dijon mustard
2 TBL fresh horseradish
1/4 c bread crumbs (you can use plain or seasoned, I used Garlic and Herb)
1 TBL fresh chopped parsley
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.
Cut slits in the pork and shove the garlic slivers into them.
Season the pork with salt and pepper.
Brown the tenderloin on all sides in the olive oil, set aside to cool slightly.
Mix together the bread crumbs, parsley, horseradish and rosemary
Coat the tenderloin liberally with the Dijon Mustard
Coat the tenderloin with the bread crumb mixture
Place in a small roasting pan, and roast at 375' for about 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 140'.
Remove the roast from the oven, and cover with tin foil. Roast will continue to cook while you make the cabbage.

Braised Red Cabbage with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

1 small head or 1/2 large head of red cabbage sliced thinly
1 Granny Smith apple chopped
2 TBL Hazelnut oil
1/3 cup hazelnuts - cut in halves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Half a log of fresh goat cheese crumbled

Heat the hazelnut oil and add the apple and cabbage. Stir fry until the cabbage is wilted and the apple is soft - about 8 minutes.
Add the hazelnuts and balsamic vinegar and continue cooking another 5 - 7 minutes until most of the vinegar is evaporated.
Season with salt and pepper.
Crumble goat cheese on cabbage and stir through till creamy.

Slice pork tenderloin into medallions and serve on a bed of red cabbage. Enjoy.
posted by Broadsheet @ 9:28 AM   5 Editorial Opinions
Monday, November 05, 2007
The China Chronicles - The Summer Palace
Aside from the Forbidden City, Beijing's Summer Palace is probably the second most visited tourist attraction, and is certainly a must see on any one's list.

It has origins dating back as far as 1750, but is most widely associated with Empress Dowager Ci Xi as her summer playground. This woman was a formidable despot. A tiny terror known for her cunning, treachery, shrewdness and ambition. She essentially ruled China for 47 years after the death of the Emperor Xianfeng, at the twilight of the Qing Dynasty. She began life in the Royal Court as the lowliest concubine, and after tricking the Emperor into getting her pregnant, was able to establish herself as the mother of the next Emperor. Lucky for her, her son was only five when the Emperor died, propelling her into a role of unusual power and prestige at the age of 27. The Emperor realized this, and before his death, set up a system of Eight Regents to rule the country until his son came of age and could assume power. Ci Xi was too smart and ambitious to let this happen, and through a coup with Prince Gong, she had three of the eight regents killed and seized power.

There have been many books and movies written about Ci Xi, and I bought one to learn more about her, because she truly is a fascinating character. She seems to be regarded as a cross between Eva Peron and Imelda Marcos in China.

Oh, and just when you thought she couldn't get any more powerful, her son Tongzhi, who apparently had the libido of a rabbit, and whose ribald tales of debauchery in Beijing brothels was widely known, died of syphilis just two years into his rule as Emperor. Since he spent most of that time cavorting in brothels anyway, his mother essentially had an unbroken period of rule over the country.

Ci Xi sure had expensive tastes, that's for sure. The Summer Palace had largely been destroyed in 1860 after the Second Opium Wars, and with her Navy's treasury nearly depleted from various foreign wars and having lost most of its warships in the first Sino Japanese war of 1894, Ci Xi reportedly spent millions of the Navy's treasury on the Summer Palace for her sixtieth birthday celebration, and to make sure she rubbed the Navy's nose into it well and good, she had an ornate marble boat built that floats nowhere, but adorns the lake to this day.

The Stone Boat

She is also rumored to have insisted on having 128 different dishes prepared for her at lunch every day. Not to eat, but just to enjoy the different smells. The grounds and palaces are incredibly ornate, and as an over the top statement of opulence, luxury and indulgence, you can't get much better than the Summer Palace.

There were lots of other things to see there however, like this shot of four generations of Chinese women visiting the Palace together.

Four Generations

Or of this little boy. Note the open pant bottoms. These are Chinese "diapers", you just plop the kid down whenever he needs to go. The "stop and squat" method is ingrained early and often.

Chinese Diapers

And vendors outside the Palace. A sure sign of fall are these guys selling roasted sweet potatoes off the back of bicycles. The fact that they are roasted in 50 gallon chemical drums, makes them a lot less appealing, but hey, however you like your toxins...


This is a detail of the 750+ meter walkway at the Summer Palace. Every single beam is individually painted on all sides with murals of Chinese landscapes. Hundreds of them! During the Cultural Revolution, they were all painted white....


Dragon Boats cruise the lake at the Palace, giving rides to tourists....


This guy however, was just cleaning duckweed out of the lake.....


Temple details...


We had our own imperial luncheon at the Palace restaurant. Surprisingly not touristy, and they just kept bringing dish after dish, after dish.... The sweet and spicy fish (upper right hand corner) was especially good.


Next: FINALLY - we're off to the Silk Road!!
posted by Broadsheet @ 2:11 PM   0 Editorial Opinions

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