A Party for the Ages
By Starling Root
Before you start flittering about in a frenzy to prepare for tonight's festivities, breathe for a moment and reflect upon how NYE has been celebrated through the ages. It'll give you an excuse to, if nothing else, sit on your butt for a sec.
First things first, most of the world follows the Gregorian calendar, which replaced the Julian calendar on February 24, 1582. According to the Gregorian calendar, it's—check your phone—December 31st. That's not the case in the Hebrew or Hindu or Chinese or several other regionally prominent calendars, but, again, most of the world goes by the Gregorian for purposes of business and politics, regardless of religious affiliation. That means that New Year's is the one and only totally global holiday. (Did your heart just melt a little?)
New Year's was celebrated even before the Gregorian calendar was adopted. The difference was that New Year's occurred on dates other than the December 31st-going-into-the-wee-hours-of-January 1st. that we know today. The English, for example, used to equivocate March 25th, the Feast of the Annunciatio, with the first day of the new year. For them, January 1st was actually the date of the Feast of the Circumcision, the eighth day of baby Christ's life.
But who welcomed the new year first? The Babylonians, 4,000 years ago, on the vernal equinox, that day in late March where there are equal hours of night and day. Atiku, as the day was called, represented the conquest of Tiamat, the wicked sea goddess, by the sky god, Marduk. The celebration of the new year included a coronation ceremony for the new king, which was followed by a fantastic feast.
Fast forward a few millennia and Times Square first celebrated NYE in 1904. Why then? Advertising. New York's biggest street party marked the official opening of The New York Times' new headquarters. Before the bash, Times Square was named Longacre Square. But Alfred Ochs, the German Jewish immigrant who owned the newspaper, lobbied the city to change the district's name. (This was back when newspapers had big power and big money!) 200,000 attendees made the festival a major hit. Tonight an estimated one million folks will revel in Times Square.
Alright, you got your history lesson for the day. Now go out and elbow your way toward the cheapest champagne bottle in supermarket.
Editor's Note: Itching for more mental candy? We ran a story last year called Global Folklore: New Year's Eve around the World last year. You should check it out!
Welcome to Oakwood Cemetery
By QB History Buff
Welcome to Oakwood Cemetery in Falls Church, Virginia. You're not dead, just visiting the dead. And, boy, do you have plenty of corpses who are looking forward to feeling the flush of your warm blood in their lot. It's a good thing you just missed the Winter Solstice, or else those dead folks might actually come up to make trouble for trespassing mortals. But that scary window of time passed a week ago and you're safe. So take the Orange line of the WMATA subway to East Falls Church Metro, walk about ten minutes west, and feast your eyes upon this historic resting place.
There aren't many truly quiet places in the auto-oriented Falls Church anymore. Consider Oakwood an exception. Though the cemetery was not incorporated until 1927, Oakwood's first burial occurred in 1779. In those days, a wooden Methodist chapel called Fairfax Chapel sat there. The wooden building was later replaced by a sturdier brick structure in 1819. The chapel lasted until 1862 when Union soldiers destroyed it during the Civil War. Unsurprisingly, many of Oakwood's graves date back to the Civil War.
Today Oakwood Cemetery is located at North Roosevelt Street and Roosevelt Boulevard (hey, we're not praising Falls Church for creativity with its street names.) Oakwood is still an active cemetery, now on 12 acres and welcoming to members of all faiths. It is also one of the few cemetries in the area where every burial site allows for at least two internments.
Either before or after your trip to Oakwood, skip on over to the neighboring Eden Center, a shopping center targeted toward the area's prevalent Vietnamese-American community. Maybe lump in a little pho with your spooky trip.
Let's see what the Aggre-gator's burped up...
By QB Aggre-gator
Quail Bell's Aggre-gator, Gerald, has burped up the following links from November and December 2012. He wants to keep you abreast of global news and views that are imaginary, nostalgic, and otherworldly:
The Snail's Climb
Meg asked: “I know that there are probably a thousand and one influences that made you the person you are today. But who would you say has inspired you the most in the pursuit of your dreams?”
I like snails. Snails are my favorite. I think they are beautiful and resilient, and it’s no coincidence that it’s this creature that taught me to keep going until I reached my goal.
When I was 10 years old, I found myself solving a mathematical problem. I don’t remember the exact details, but it went something like this:
A snail climbs up a pole at the speed of 1 inch per hour, for 14 hours a day. During the night, it slides back 5 inches. How long will it take the snail to climb up a 5 foot pole?
Upon reading it, I immediately felt bad for the snail. It works really hard for those measly 14 inches, but when it snoozes, it looses—literally. It seemed terribly unfair! But as I got deeper into the problem, I’ve discovered that in spite of the nightly setbacks the snail gains the next day—and the next day--as long as it keeps climbing. Moreover, if my calculations were correct, the snail does eventually reach the top!
There it was. I may not have been a math wiz, but I understood life and the story of the snail really stuck with me. Sometimes, when I’m up against a big challenge, I imagine myself as that snail, climbing upwards. In that moment I know that in spite of all the mistakes and slip-ups, obstacles and set-backs, I will eventually reach my goal if I just…keep…going.
New Year's Challenge
How many people aim to lose weight in the new year? While we're hoping for a physically healthier, more attractive you, too, we're also hoping that you'll fertilize your mind garden (or insert the metaphor of your choice here.) Make 2013 your year of intelligence, tranquility, creativity, and/or innovation. Of course, that's a broad goal, so shoot for a more specific resolution and you'll be more likely to achieve it.
Maybe your 2013 goal is to read 10 books about bonsai trees and raise your first bonsai. Or maybe you want to write and submit your first grant proposal. Or maybe you want to come up with an idea for a documentary and shoot it. Or maybe you want to sign up for a weekly meditation class. Or maybe, maybe, maybe. Whatever the goal, it's yours. Make it meaningful and muster up all of your devotion and confidence. We want all of our Quail Bell(e)s to have sexier minds in 2013—ones that stop traffic!
Happy New Year, fledglings!
The Quail Bell Crew
Restaurateur? Try Restaurateuse.
By Christine Stoddard
Photo taken by Style Weekly for Deveron Timberlake's story.
Imagine owning three booming businesses, marrying an ex-male model, and giving birth to a healthy baby boy—all by age 23. That's the accomplished life of the young and ambitious Thai-American, Holy Yang (pronounced Holly.)
“Instead of switching majors, I switch business ventures,” Holy quips of her entrepreneurial whims. Not to call herself fickle, but Holy's business ventures are varied.
Two years ago, Holy opened Made in Asia, an upscale Thai and Pan Asian joint in Chesterfield, Virginia that brings urban cool to suburbia. Since then, the full-service restaurant, bar and sushi bar has held benefit nights, hosted concerts and even sponsored a Mrs. Virginia contestant. Take-out and catering services bring the swanky Made in Asia dining experience to the home or office, too.
In 2011, Richmond Magazine named Made in Asia the city’s “Best New Restaurant.” At that point, Made in Asia had been open to the public a matter of mere months. Holy didn’t miss a beat.
Following Made in Asia’s instant success, Holy jumpstarted her marketing company, Yang Business Services, a firm that designs branding and promotional strategies for Richmond companies. Unsurprisingly, many of Holy’s clients are restaurants, especially the developing and recently established. Perhaps Holy’s most notable client is Bobalicious, the Virginia franchise specializing in frozen yogurt and boba drinks.
Pooping in China
Monthly reflections on living, teaching, and moving bowels abroad
By Brandon Jeune
Editor's Note: Brandon Jeune is a 25-year-old graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. He teaches English to children in China. He writes "Pooping in China" and distributes it to friends and family as an email every month. He has given us permission to serialize the emails here.
October 1st, 2012
Baby, it’s only been a few weeks since I moved to China, and already I miss ya like crazy. Your purple mountain majesties, your amber waves of grain, and of course that fox Lady Liberty. Sure wouldn’t mind her and I making a huddled mass of our own, if you catch my drift. Eh? Eh? I just can’t help but get all hot and bothered when I think about tangling myself up in her toga, and running my hands up her statuesque body, her smooth neck, her white, wispy beard- what the? Uncle Sam!? What the hell are you doing here? Well, I gotta say, you’re not exactly what I had in mind, but…alright, I can get into it. Just turn out the lights, and keep telling me how much you want me.
So yeah, I live in Loudi, China now. It’s a nice, cozy little city of about 4 million people, stuck right in the armpit of China’s Hunan province. By calling it an armpit, I do not in any way mean to denigrate this city. I call it such merely because a) If Hunan province were anthropomorphized and made to stand in profile, Loudi might be about where you could expect the cartographic armpit to be, and b) If Disney initiated the production of a new Honey I Shrunk the Kids sequel starring me, wherein I’m accidentally shrunk and end up in several wacky situations, one of which involving me getting mixed up in a laundry basket that turns out to belong to Justin Bieber (making an assuredly heavily-promoted cameo in the film), and I find myself trapped on the collar of his shirt as he slips it on and hops out to perform at some MTV Summer Break festival with twenty other terrible bands and Mario Lopez wiggling around in the background, and as he sings and dances frenetically on the stage his body begins to heat up and perspire, and soon enough I become trapped in a bead of Justin Bieber’s neck sweat and helplessly slide down, down, around, and into the sopping-wet, suffocating agony of imprisonment inside his hot, sweaty armpit, I imagine it would feel something like what summer in Loudi feels like.
Thankfully, I only had to deal with that hell for about a week before autumn swept in and delivered me from grace. So I’ve got a free pass until next summer, meaning that Justin Bieber armpit heat isn’t my problem for about 8 ½ more months. Suck it, Future Brandon! You’re always enjoying the fruits of Present Brandon’s hard work and planning, but it’s high time you started pulling your weight around here!
So what’s it like here? I’ll start with where I live. It’s an apartment on the ninth floor overlooking one of Loudi’s main drags. I have a kitchen, with a gas burner and a wok, which I used to make Xi Hong Shi Chao Ji Dan (a stir-fry tomato and egg dish) 1-2 times a day, because it’s the only Chinese dish I know how to cook (though my coworker Nick just taught me two new ones tonight…more about him later). The kitchen also has a sink, but, as was explained when I moved in, the maintenance man forgot to install the faucet, meaning it’s basically just a basin with which to dispose of fluids found elsewhere.
By QB Camera Eye
Here lies Pierre Charles L'Enfant, the French-American architect who designed Washington, D.C.'s famous gridded street layout. In 1909, his remains were moved from Green Hill farm in Prince George's County, Maryland to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Look closely at this photograph and you can see the Washington Monument in the distance. Want to earn Brownie points? Hunt for hints of other D.C. monuments. They're mere specks in this image!
Don't Fence Me In
By Amin Chaoui
Editor's Note: Jackson Ward is an historic and predominantly black neighborhood located in Richmond, Virginia. After the Civil War, Jackson Ward thrived as a center for black business and culture. It became known by monikers such as the "Black Wall Street of America" and the "Harlem of the South." Jackson Ward began its decline in the 1950s with desegregation and the construction of the Richmond-Petersburg Turnpike. Now artists, urban planners, and Virginia Commonwealth University are plotting Jackson Ward's revival.
The Great Turkey Debate
By Christine Stoddard
Now that the remains of large Butterball birds have been carved and shoved into Tupperware, it's safe for history-lovers to squabble over who can truly lay claim to The First Thanksgiving.
All of us are familiar with the Pilgrims and their Domino effect of disaster after disaster at Plymouth Rock. The Pilgrims fled England as religious refugees, boarding the Mayflower and dying like flies. Massachusetts was rough-and-tumble compared to England. The climate was harsher, the animals were bigger, and the plants were just different. But, hey, Squanto and other groovy American Indians stepped into the picture and, after a montage scene of harmonious cooperation, there was a huge feast and everybody held hands and ate and sang and later left with happy tummies.
Americana eats that stuff up and then sops up the leftover gravy with a big hunk of bullshit. More and more often you'll hear that the First Thanksgiving took place in Virginia or Florida or Texas. Ten years from now, we'll be scrolling through our iPads or listening to NPR only to learn that Russian settlers in Alaska celebrated the First Thanksgiving. Or, actually, the Chinese reached California in 1249 and had some version of Thanksgiving there. Minus the pumpkin pie. But what if I told you that, even as a history fan, I don't care about where the First Thanksgiving took place?
What is Thanksgiving? What does Thanksgiving mean? I don't mean it in the way they first ask you in grade school, What does Thanksgiving mean to you? I mean, what's the essence of Thanksgiving, as an event? Let's think about what actually happened in every and any version of the First Thanksgiving:
Europeans “discovered” and “settled” their “newfound” piece of land, eventually realizing that they had no idea how to live off of it. The American Indians finally stopped rolling their eyes long enough to take pity on the poor bastards and showed generosity to people who had, at best, patronized and, at worst, demonized them. Because the Indians had been on the land hundreds, even thousands of years, (depending upon which Thanksgiving we're talking about), they knew the flora and fauna well enough to kill and grill whatever was then in season.
Meanwhile, the Europeans had no clue. They just assumed that what worked in England or, ahem, Spain worked in the Americas, too. [Insert buzzer noise here.] Wrong! Geography and agriculture are not mutually exclusive, regardless of which God you worship. So, the Indian women and the European women cooked a whole bunch of food while the men from both sides sat around comparing weapons. They all shared a huge feast that (temporarily) relieved tension between the two groups.