Category Archives: Entertainment

Columbia, SC

18 March 2009

What’s There To Do in Columbia, SC?

Here are some suggestions from the official city web site  ( ) :

See a concert at the Colonial Center. an ice show at the Carolina Coliseum. a Broadway show at the Koger Center. a national dance touring company at The Township. a regatta at Lake Murray. a replica of a three ton white shark at the State Museum. historic homes from the 16th century. festivals, concerts and an amazing view at Finlay Park. Catch a theatrical production at one of Columbia‘s many theatres. Walk through the tallest trees on the East Coast in the Congaree National Park. Tailgate at Williams-Brice Stadium as the University of South Carolina battles in Southeastern Conference football. Enjoy food from around the world at one of many festivals. Listen to one of music’s hottest performers at the South Carolina State Fair. Play challenging golf course. Visit Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden, consistently rated one of the nation’s "10 Great Zoos." In short, Columbia really does have it all!

Riverbanks Zoo and Botanical Garden

You can easily spend a full day at Riverbanks Zoo. When you purchase your ticket, check to see the times for your favorite animal feedings (penguins, seals, birds, sharks) and then schedule your visit around that.

Until the Charleston Aquarium was constructed, Riverbanks was the largest Aquarium on the Eastern seaboard between Sea World in Orlando and Sea World in Williamsburg.

Depending on your preference, the botanical garden (across the river on a footbridge from the zoo) is lovely and includes a trail that goes through remnants of a pre-Civil war encampment. It was from this location that Sherman bombarded the City.

State Museum

The State Museum is housed in a former textile mill building that at one time housed the first electrically powered mill in the USA. The building is constructed by master craftsmen using construction techniques that are no longer available in the USA. Taking up four floors, the first floor is Art, second floor is Natural History as well as various traveling exhibits, 3rd floor is Science and Technology, and 4th floor is Cultural History. The Cotton Mill gift shop has gifts and souvenirs made by local artisans and with themes unique to the state.

University of South Carolina

This is the flagship university for the state. It is one of the oldest public institutions in the USA. Within easy walking distance of the State Capitol building, the historic portion of the campus is centered around the “Horseshoe,” which includes the buildings which house the McKissick Museum and the South Caroliniana library (below). The Law School is home to a Children’s Law Center. The Koger Center for the Performing Arts, Town Theater, Workshop Theater, Township Auditorium, and Colonial Center are all within a ten minute walk of the University.

Some web sites for various departments at the university: 

Finlay Park:

This is an award winning park located at 930 Laurel Street, which is near Assembly Street about nine blocks north and two blocks west from the state capitol building. Unfortunately, either due to budget constraints or simply because of winter, the beautiful fountains are not currently operational.

Congaree National Monument

One of the few old growth forests remaining on the East Coast (spared because the swampy wetlands are too low for logging), has a boardwalk of about half mile from a parking area to the river as well as some miles of hiking trails.

Saluda Shoals Park

A lovely park with hiking trails on the shore of the Saluda River, interpretive center, as well as a children’s zero-depth water playground in the summer.  A bit north and west of the city. 

Lake Murray

At one time the Lake Murray Dam was the largest earthen dam in the world.  Lake Murray is about fifty miles long with both open water and coves, and it is a popular destination for fishermen.  The following web site has links for fishing guides:

Tour of State Capitol Building

four city block area that makes up the State Capitol Complex is a very
nice garden in and of itself. There are state-run souvenir shops in the
basement of the Blatt Building and on the first floor of the Rembert
Dennis Building.

How to Find Local Event Schedules and Tickets

Koger Center for the Arts

Trustus Theater

Workship Theater

Colonial Life Arena;colonial%20center


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What’s It All About: The Universe Explained in Three Minutes

November 24, 2008

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You And Me

I’m going to plagiarize an entry from my friend Lifang-June.  She posted a link and lyrics to the song "You and Me,"  sung during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.  Here it is:  
And here are the words in Pinyin, with my very amateur translation of the Chinese 
(HE sings Chinese, SHE sings English, and then the chorus kicks in later): 
wo he ni, (我和你, you and me)
xin lian xin, (心连心, heart to heart)
tong zhu di qiu cun, (同住地球村 living together in a global village)
wei meng xiang, (为梦想  dreaming of other worlds)
qian li xing, (千里行 from across a great distance)
xiang hui zai bei jing ( 相会在北京  come meet me in Beijing)
lai ba! peng you,  (来吧!朋友  O come here, friend!)
shen chu ni de shou, (伸出你的手, give me your hand)
wo he ni, (我和你, you and me)
xin lian xin,  心连心, heart to heart)
yong yuan yi jia ren   ( 永远一家人 , forever we are one family)
(then she sings in English:)
You and Me 
From one world  
We are family
Travel dream
A thousand miles,
meet me in Beijing
Come together
Put your hand in mine
You and me,
from one world,
We are family
(chorus) You and me, from one world, we are family
Come together, meet me in Beijing

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Butt Cold

Can you imagine a scenario where Mandarin Chinese were taught on television, in school, and even in public areas every day in your own country?  The reason I ask is because the inverse is true:  English is taught here, everywhere.  It’s not just a huge private industry, but a state supported effort.  Including . . .
The other day I was riding in a public bus.  There is a television screen in the bus.  Since I don’t read Chinese very well, it’s largely irrelevant to me what kind of entertainment is on the screen.  Sometimes it’s cartoons, sometimes Power Rangers, sometimes other shows.  But the other day I heard a word of English and to my surprise there was an English lesson on the screen. 
A man was saying a sentence in English.  The sentence was written in English on the screen, with Chinese written underneath the English.  I looked up as the voice was saying, "It’s cold outside.  It’s cold outside."  Then the next sentence was, "It’s very cold outside.  It’s very cold outside."  There were more sentences, with each using a progressively stronger adverb to modify the word cold.   "It’s freezing cold outside.  It’s freezing cold outside.  It’s bitter cold outside.  It’s bitter cold outside."  And then, the culmination of this progressive series. 
I could read it, but I couldn’t quite believe my eyes.  I didn’t think they’d really say it, but then the voice said, "It’s butt cold outside.  It’s butt cold outside." 
We see all kinds people who come over here to teach English.  Now, there are a lot of really great people who do this.  For some young people, it’s a way to see the world on a budget.  But once in awhile we see some that you think to yourself, "What zoo did that one get out of?"  You think to yourself, well, what kind of person comes to China to teach English?  Often it’s a person whose personality is on the far end or more from "conventional." 
Even among the expats on our social group, I notice that most of them have certain personality traits in common.  As a rule, I’d say the ones who "make it" are extroverted, open to new experiences, curious and open minded, flexible, creative, resilient, physically healthy, and have a strong sense of humor.  If you don’t believe it, try going to some of the parties.  There’s nothing staid about them little events! 
I’d even venture to say that we fall in the same basic category for the most part.  I mean, how many of the more "conventional" people you know, could you imagine uprooting family and going to live in a foreign, unknown culture? 
(This picture was taken at the restaurant where we
ordered an unknown dish, and it turned out to be
chicken anuses.)
All this talk about the strange character of expats, and English teachers in particular (ha! gotcha!), is a prelude to say that once in awhile we see in print or in names the expression of a bit of the native English speaker’s sense of humor.  A rather strange sense of humor.  Now, the translation "cowboy leg" for "leg of beef steer" on a menu is probably the work of an unskilled translator.  But some of the most odd translations are obviously forms of jest:  "Slimy gross stuff on a bun," for instance.  We also see this in the names of people whose English names are things like "Kissup." 
Hmm.  I couldnt’ help but wonder if "Butt cold" weren’t the result of some passive aggressive humor.  Perhaps the work of some English teacher who felt they weren’t being paid enough?   We’ll never know . . .
Right now in Guangzhou, it is indeed "butt cold outside!"  For some reason, it feels cold even though it’s not very cold.  Perhaps its the humidity.  Perhaps it’s that heat is inadequate in a house designed to keep things cool (there’s no upper limit on the height of a ceiling in a three storey apartment with a glass roof).  But yah, I’d say, "It’s butt cold outside!  It’s butt cold outside!"  

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Danwei TV

I’m posting this blog entry as an advertisement for Danwei TV — and particularly the Sexy Beijing series — which I really enjoy.  I classified it under "entertainment" because it is media, but the media link could easily have been posted under cross cultural issues or daily life, because it illuminates issues related to both.  (I also use the vignettes to practice my Chinese listening and speaking skill.) 
Danwei TV’s "Sexy Beijing" series is a light hearted examination of life in China, made humorous by the juxtaposition and resulting contrast that comes from a very American viewpoint and journalistic style.   There are several episodes in this series, but my favorites are "Lost in Translation," linked below, and then "Finding Love," and "Finding Love in the Country."  All of these, and more, can be accessed from the danwei site: 
But for starters, I recommend "Lost in Translation."  If you like it, you can use the above link to find more videos. 
Here are links to two web sites where this five minute video can be viewed: 
For North American users and speakers of English, I recommend the You Tube site:
For Asian users and speakers of Chinese, I recommend the Toudou site: 
For what it’s worth, I’ve shown the video to some of my Chinese friends.  They all thought it was hilarious, and none of them were offended. 

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Movie Recommendation: Painted Veil

The other night we turned on our television to our one English language channel.  Yep, you heard that right.  There is exactly one channel on television where we can hear English spoken — Channel six from Hong Kong.  Generally speaking, there’s not too much that interests us on this channel.  We sometimes catch the Hong Kong News or yesterday’s David Letterman.  So, expecting nothing, we were delighted and surprised to be captivated by an actual, English language movie that was obviously shot on location in China.  With authentic scenery, period costumes, authentic dialogue in both English and Chinese (with English subtitles), we saw the clear marks of a joint American-Chinese production. 
Filmed on site, we immediately recognized the breathtaking topography as the magnificently beautiful area around the Li River in Guangxi Province.  The film is worth watching if for no other reason than the eye candy of this beautiful area of the world shot with loving cinemetography.   
The character development was also superb, with the film maker taking his time in an unhurried yet never tedious way to show the experience and development of each character.  The excellent pace of the movie lies in sharp contrast to the Chinese tendency to take things a bit too slow and to be a bit shallow in developing a caricature, or the American tendency to speed through time in a shallow and superficial way and to use casual sex as a symbol for "having a relationship." 
Moreover, to my surprise, the film actually seemed authentic to the experience of what it is like to find one’s self living in China.  A young couple already stressed in their own relationship, and isolated from each other, find themselves surrounded by an alien culture, with only one or two English speakers within easy travel distance, only the most rudimentary of support systems, and then challenged almost beyond measure by a cholera epidemic and the anti-British sentiment that eventually led to the end of Colonialism. 
Needless to say, the experience of moving to a remote area of rural China during the 1920’s was significantly more challenging than the experience of moving today to a modern Chinese city.   I don’t claim to compare the two experiences in any more than a superficial sense of "wow, I can relate."  Nevertheless, I could particularly relate to the bewilderment, the overwhelming nature of the experience, the challenges of overcoming cultural and communication barriers.  I don’t want to give away too much of the story, but suffice it to say that the spouses eventually do rise above themselves, are successful, and do overcome these challenges.  But their experience in China results in overwhelming personal cost.  In a sense then, the film is both tragic and uplifting at the same time.  It is not a story for a person who seeks a one-dimensional view, and I definitely would not recommend it for children. 
The film is titled "The Painted Veil" and to my surprise, based on reviews I looked up on the internet, it appears to be a relatively new release.  The only explanation for its appearance on television must be that it was a joint Chinese – American production.  I suspect there would be no real market for it in China.  In the USA, it probably will only appear in art houses, and so it may only be available in your area on DVD.  Though screen would be better, I highly recommend it even if you can only find it on DVD. 

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USA Geography

OK Class, It’s time for your U.S. Geography Test!

You must drag and drop all 48 states in the time
allotted to be promoted to the 4th grade.

Click the webpage below.. Ready.. Begin right away . .
.times a wastin’

Can you pass Third Grade?

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Here’s One For James Brown

In Memoriam: James Brown, May 3, 1933 – December 25, 2006
South Carolina.  A land of contrasts, a land of conflict and tension, of strident harmony.   
A land where vibrant Black African rhythms grind against White sensibilities, where the Jitterbug becomes the Charleston, a land where the Shag is the state dance.  A land where Soul and Blues and Hip Hop are mixed together like sea marshes and oak trees and shrimp nets.  A land where the sound of cicadas overwhelms the senses at dusk, a land where a mixture of shrimp and sausage, potato, onion and corn simmers under the heat of a blue sky and a white summer sun, taking on local names like Frogmore Stew or Beaufort Boil.  A land where Gullah is spoken and voodoo is practiced. 
A land where one’s heritage is revealed, one’s identity forged, by whether one is Episcopalean or Baptist or African Methodist Episcopal.  A land that until fifty years ago still had Jim Crow laws, and where we know what that means.  A land that produced Strom Thurmond, Lee Atwater, and the Hunley.  A land with timeless Rhythm, a land of deep Blues, a land seething with Soul.  Ours is the land where Moonshine appears on Saturday night and then gives way to Gospel and loud "Amens" on Sunday morning. 
A land where everyone knows that BBQ is a type of meat that has been smoked for 24 hours, not an afternoon activity involving a backyard grill.  (And we know BBQ is short for barbeque and we would find it sacreligious to pronounce it as Bee Bee Que, the best we will do is Baah-buuh-que.)  A world where this smoked meat is our national dish, with our regional boundaries demarked by vinegar, mustard, or tomato base BBQ sauce. 
The state which fired the first shot in the war for Southern independence, two full years before the Emancipation Proclamation, and whose capital was burnt in an effort to demoralize and defeat the populace during that war.  A state where battles still rage over the proper place of that battle flag in its modern history.  A land where the word "diversity" is a code word which really means "Black, White racial desegregation."  Where the rice culture of West Africa abounds in the lowcountry marshlands and one can hear the traces of "Negro Spirituals" on the breezes as sweetgrass baskets are woven in the shade on a hot summer day or as shrimp are eaten with grits. 
South Carolina.  The State that gave rise to the "Father of Soul" James Brown. 
James Brown:  Born at Barnwell, living near Edgefield.  An impoverished child who grew up to own a Lear Jet.  We’ll claim him, even if he did some outrageously bad things.  We forgive him for being a man of contrasts and complexity, for this is something we understand implicitly. 
A man who, like most of his fellow South Carolinians, whether White or Black, grew up in a land of segregation and poverty, its economy burned to ashes during or in the aftermath of the civil war, a land crippled by disenfranchisement of half its citizens (not all of them Black, but most).  A man who served a couple of jail terms, who needed drug rehab, who was arrested for beating his wife, who left "at least" four children (who knows how many more), was part of the civil rights movement, who just last week participated in a charity concert.  Just like our state, a man of complexity and deep rhythm. 
We’ll call him ours, just as we also are proud to claim Sterling Sharpe and George Rogers and Ron McNair and Charles Bolden and Jesse Jackson (just a few of our famous Black South Carolinians, see for a few more).  OURS is the man who proclaimed, "Say it Loud, I’m Black and Proud." 
No matter what we think of James Brown, we can’t help but be impressed.  James Brown is larger than life.  Our feet move when we hear his music.  In China, we hear his song and shout with him, "I feel good!" and know that we share part of that soul.  He is one with us.  A fellow South Carolinian.  Striking a common cord in China, in every country.  May his vibrant, pulsing soul live on in our music.  May his music live on in our soul. 

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