Category Archives: Events

Washington Is Losing a Panda — The Last of Bei Bei


The Giant Pandas at the National Zoo, like all the other pandas at zoos in the United States, don’t belong to the Zoo itself. They’re effectively rented from the People’s Republic of China on a 10-year lease, for about a million dollars a year, each.

If a panda cub is born in the US, the Zoo is charged a $400,000 baby tax, and the cub must be shipped to China when it turns four years old.


Bei Bei Celebrates His Fourth Birthday

Bei Bei, the Zoo’s youngest panda, was born on 22 August 2015, so it’s time to say goodbye. Next Tuesday, 19 November 2019, he’ll leave for China.

So much for birthright citizenship.


The National Zoo has scheduled a week of special events leading up to Bei Bei’s departure, including Q&A sessions with panda keepers and panda feeding times with special treats. Airbnb is providing free hot chocolate to Zoo visitors on Saturday morning. Here’s a full listing of what’s planned. As always, admission to the Zoo is free.

If you’re not in the area, or just want to avoid DC’s November weather, you can watch the action on the Zoo’s Giant Panda Cam. Camera One will be focused exclusively on Bei Bei for the full week. (Note: Pandas sleep a lot. The cameras operate 24/7, but your best chance for seeing live panda action is at feeding times and around midday, East Coast time.)


The National Zoo has posted videos of some of Bei Bei’s most memorable moments  Here are two of them:

Bei Bei’s First Steps

Playing in the Snow

A Halloween Costume for the Ages

Redditor Eternalrefuge86 has posted a video of the Best Halloween Costume of 2019.

I can’t embed it here, so you’ll have to click the link to see it.  I promise you won’t be sorry.

Best viewed in full screen.

No rush. You can watch it from now through next Easter, and it will still be timely.

Moving Sale Find of the Year

For decades, this 8½ x 11painting hung over a hotplate in a kitchen in Compiègne, a small city north of Paris. It had been in the family so long that the 90-year-old woman who lived in the house said she had no idea where the painting had come from or how it had come into the family’s hands.

Last summer, the woman decided to sell the house and move, so she called in an auctioneer to assess whether anything in the house was salable. Everything else would be hauled off to the dump.

Philomène Wolf, representing the Actéon auction house, noticed the painting immediately. She thought it was a work of Italian primitivism, and urged the owner to get an expert evaluation. If she was correct, the little painting might be worth as much as €400,000.

Infrared reflectography confirmed the age of the painting and identified the painter. It was part of a work created in 1280, and it was painted by Cimabue, the 13th-century Florentine painter who is known as the forefather of the Italian Renaissance.

Last Sunday, the painting, now known as “Christ Mocked”, was sold at an auction outside Paris for more than €24,000,000—the highest price ever for a medieval painting.

According to The Guardian, “About 100 other objects from the house were sold for around €6,000 and the remaining furniture and decorations were disposed of at the local dump.”

From the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy’s Sister

Yesterday, Christie’s New York held an auction of items from “The Collection of Lee Bouvier Radziwill”. The socialite, who became Her Serene Highness Princess Caroline Radziwill on her 1959 marriage to the Polish aristocrat Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwill, was best known as the younger sister of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, a circumstance that she didn’t particularly enjoy.

The sale total was $1,266,000.

Here are some of the items from the collection. (Images from Christie’s website.)

A pair of Indian silver-gilt, enamel, and hardstone-mounted censers and covers
20th century
Price realized: $8,125


A Limoges porcelain yellow-ground armorial part dinner service
20th century
Price realized: $10,625


A North European rosewood side chair
Late 19th/early 20th century
Price realized: $2,750


A Victorian ebonized and verre eglomise side table
Circa 1860
Price realized: $4,750


A pair of decalcomania table lamps
Late 19th/20th century
Price realized: $4,750


And the Definitive Bouvier Signature Item

Two pairs of fashion sunglasses, Gucci
Late 20th century
Price realized: $2,750

Visiting F. Scott and Zelda

Tuesday, the 24th of September, was the 123rd anniversary of the birth of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and as I do every few years, I took Metro up to Rockville, MD, to visit his grave. He and Zelda are buried in the little cemetery next to St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

I’m sure Fitzgerald would have made short work of those plastic flowers, but he’d probably have enjoyed the bottle of Hendrick’s Gin that had been left by an earlier visitor.

I thought back to the time, years ago, when two more-than-just-friends and I made a highly chemically enhanced 2 AM visit to the Fitzgeralds’ grave. It was one of the most memorable nights of my life.

“Boats against the current….”

I didn’t stay long this time. I sat on the grass for a while, read the last few pages of Gatsby, and headed back to the city.

More about That Incredible Wallpaper at the V&A

Here’s a bit more by and about Fallen Fruit, aka David Allen Burns and Austin Young, who created the fantastic wallpaper for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s “FOOD: Bigger than the Plate” exhibition, which runs through 20 October 2019. The artists drew their inspiration from images in the V&A’s massive collection of prints.

Detail from "Fruits from the Garden and the Field"

Detail from “Fruits from the Garden and the Field”

Here’s a video from the artists:


And here’s a PDF containing 321 pages about Fallen Fruits’ larger, long-range goals,  notes on the V&A show, and lots of amateur collages.