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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Where have you been?

Well, danged if I haven't gone and updated my pages.

True, I've been posting the "365 Secrets of Happiness" right along. But the "Great Fire Wall" of China has made posting so difficult that I just fell out of the habit.

The main reason I'm writing this is to share with you a picture that someone sent to me. It's of the infamous Charlie Manson with a friend and mentor of mine; see the whole thing here.

I still have to use a proxy to post, so there's some limited functionality, making it a chore. But I will be doing more, I promise.

Meanwhile, keep up with me on Facebook!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Man. All through my early years with a camera, ever since my uncle taught me to develop my own pics at age 14, all I wanted was to shoot for the National Geographic. My first "real" camera was a Nikon F, just like "they" used. But my life took another turn, and it was not to be.

And now, the National G has published one of my WIFE'S pictures online. Dang, she beat me to it. Brat.

They're having a photo contest in conjunction with an upcoming exhibition in Washington, D.C., and as the prime example, the height to which everyone is to aspire--they used one of her shots!

Here's the page, with her pic at the top, "front and center."

And here's her Flickr page with all of her Terra Cotta Army shots (and others in Xi'an).

Personally, here's the shot I would have chosen.

Anyway, she's hot!

In lesser news:

Back in September, the local newspaper published two articles about my current project: to visit the 142 key Buddhist temples designated by the Chinese government as being of special interest. Here are the first two, in case you missed them:

Putuoshan and Ningbo

Shanghai and Hangzhou

Well, today they published another, about Xi'an (the same trip where Lila shot the Warriors).

And late last week, Baicai Magazine (a local arts-and-culture online mag) published a more in-depth look at one temple I visited in Ningbo.

So there you have the China Baquets' recent grabs at fame. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Please standby

Hi, y'all.

Yes, it's been ages since I've posted.

And no, I'm not abandoning this site like I have all the others. (Shoot, it's paid up through 2018!)

I've just jumped both-feet-first into a new real-world project that I'll be writing about a LOT when it slows down. But after completing a ton of research I've just visited 18 temples in four cities in ten days. And tomorrow Lila and I leave for six more days, in Xi'an, where I'll document a few more temples.

More on that later.

For now, just know that I'm well and happy. When I settle back in, I'll be re-styling some of the procedures on these pages, but will go on.

Meanwhile, the 365 Secrets of Happiness keep posting, here and on Facebook. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Choose Wisely

After five years here, I still can't speak much Chinese, let alone read it.

So, what to do when, at the ATM, I was confronted by a screen full of Chinese characters, and the choice to "Exit" or "Confirm"?

Add to this that someone walked in and was waiting behind me (even as I was taking the picture).

Sometimes it's just a "we can't print a receipt" notice, or "be careful there's no one suspicious around."

But this one was a list of five items, ending in a special phone number.

I pressed "Confirm" and nothing bad happened.


Catching Up

Saturday? Already? Where did the time go?

Let's see: On Wednesday, I went out to meet longtime dear friends Tim, Wendi, and Rosalee for lunch and an afternoon of catching up.

Then, Thursday, I left the house early, and spent the whole day with TW&R going to Dapeng Fortress in Longgang. (That's Rosalee in front of the fort's Tianhou/Mazu temple in the picture.) The bus ride was a couple of hours each way; Tim and I debussed into typhoon rains on the way back, and had dinner at Taj, so it was 10-something when I got home.

Friday, I got up planning to get some work done, and was stymied by a happy discovery.

I had written to a couple of scholarly friends (both American PhDs in Chinese) earlier in the week, asking about an interesting list. Here's part of the letter I wrote Tuesday:

* * * * * * * *

I'm reading Sun Shuyun's book, Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud. Mainly it's an account of her retracing of Xuanzang's journey [to India during the Tang Dynasty], but incidentally she says a lot about the state of Buddhism in China in the late 20th century.

This passage really caught my attention:

In the early 1980s the government had issued a decree allowing a limited revival of religion. ... The decree allowed for the 142 most important Buddhist monasteries damaged or destroyed in the Cultural Revolution to be restored or rebuilt.

Would you happen to know where I could find a list of those 142 temples?

* * * * * * * *

One correspondent wrote back immediately to say he didn't know where the list was, but he'd check into it. But Friday morning, my buddy Robert wrote to say he'd found it! Believe it or not, it was on the Chinese version of Wikipedia!

There went my Friday. I spent the day deciphering the Chinese of the list, organizing the information, and starting to locate the actual temples (with the help of Google's all-new English-language maps of China).

There's a project brewing here...

Here's what's been published since my last blog post on Tuesday:

And don't miss the weekly Newsletter that summarizes all of this week's posts! (Which won't be but a few more than are listed here!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Indian Music

After spending the day writing (and, as a warm-up for the evening, having Indian food for lunch), I went to Miracle Meals for dinner with Indian friends Aswini and Sudha. This was a prelude to attending a small concert of Indian classical music, specifically a raga called "Mian Ki Malhar" for bringing the monsoon rain, and a dhun ("tune") based on Bhatiali, which are folk songs of Bengali boatmen. This dhun ended in a song by Rabindranath Tagore.

Here's a picture of the performer, Pandit Debojyoti Bose, playing his instrument, called the sarod:

A program note: I've decided to retire the Aphorisms of a Derelict Yogi for a while; no new material has come from Ananda, and I want to spend some time developing other projects. The page will stay there, though, so new readers can find it.

Here's today's new material:

Monday, July 27, 2009

On "Excalibur"

Lila came late Friday (after having dinner out) and we got started on our movie weekend. Altogether over the weekend we watched Rio Bravo (John Wayne, Dean Martin, Rick Nelson, Walter Brennan); Primal Fear (Richard Gere, and the powerful debut of Edward Norton); Dungeons and Dragons (meh--nice enough), and the remainder of John Boorman's amazing Excalibur, which we started last weekend. (We also tried to watch Cuba Gooding Jr. in The Devil's Tomb--but we're trying to forget that.)

Nigel Terry as Arthur and Nicol Williamson as Merlin in "Excalibur"I've always loved Excalibur, and by coincidence, I ran into a little insight about it last week. Stefano gave me a book for my birthday called Witches, Druids And King Arthur. Not the sword-and-sorcery fantasy it sounds like, it's actually written by a historian, and reviews what we know--historically--on these topics.

The author, Ronald Hutton, writes that Arthur's status as an historical figure rose and fell during the 20th century. For a while, more or less mid-century, scholarly opinion held that he was a real person. In the 70s, though, doubt was creeping in until, in 1977, the final blow was struck: David Dumville, whom Hutton calls "Arthur's executioner," wrote a piece that pointed out "simply and crushingly" that there was absolutely no evidence for an historical Arthur. (Hutton goes on to say that, while the public never got that message, academics thereafter shied away from attaching themselves to Arthur as anything but a literary figure.)

Excalibur? Oh, yeah. Hutton says that when everything was ducky, the 60s, free love, hippies, etc., the portrayals of Arthur were commensurately earnest. But the tide turned. "[T]he youth culture had shifted again," writes Hutton;

the Year of Dumville was also the year of Punk Rock. The 1970s had brought Britain not spiritual rebirth but inflation, unemployment, energy crises, industrial unrest and an increasing extremism in street politics. The mood of optimistic idealism among the young in the first years of the decade [riding in the wake of Camelot -J.B.] had given way to an exuberant nihilism. To those who embraced the latter, Arthur was yet another despised authority figure or part of the childlike romanticism associated with the now even more despised hippies. When Arthur returned to the screen, in John Boorman's Excalibur, it was once again in the glamour and melodrama of medieval legend. In place of the earnest hippiedom of Arthur of the Britons [a purportedly "authentic" representation of Arthur on the BBC], the grotesque armour and brutal ways of Boorman's knights were the chivalric equivalents of Punk.

Funny to run across this reference when we were in the midst of viewing the film (having watched part the previous weekend).

The weekend's and today's (Monday's) posts: