My Blog of Blogs
Current and historical attempts to chronicle my life and thoughts
(more about these blogs)

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:

Friday, July 24, 2009

Look Who's a Meatless Celeb!

Not much happening today. But one nice thing: The big Meatless Monday page mentioned us in their "Who's Going Meatless" links. Kinda cool to be displayed in the same space as Sir Paul McCartney!

And now, the newly published material:

And don't miss the weekly Newsletter that summarizes all of this week's posts!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Cool, Clear...EH?!

Another quiet day at home, reading, writing, and sleeping. Today's highlight: No water from 9 a.m. to after 5 p.m. No oatmeal, no morning shower, no laundry. It's back on now--but will it last? (In summer, the campus where I live is a ghost town, and lots of repairs are done at this time. If I were smart, I'd travel, like many of my colleagues...)

This is what was published today:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recharging the Batteries

A quiet day at home, writing (including my Shenzhen Daily columns for next week), reading (Zen Baggage and others), thinking (about more projects to do), sleeping. The jetlag is nearly unlagged at last.

Here's today's new stuff:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Trip to Town Today, and a Trip to Guangzhou Soon

I "went into town" today and bought my blood pressure pills; ate a veggie sub at NYPD Pizza; and went shopping at Metro for groceries. I also started reading The White Tiger for fun (and it is fun).

Reading Zen Baggage has me hot to go visit some major temples. While researching temples in Guangzhou, I found this great homepage by a Singapore-based Buddhist: I highly recommend browsing around. (Lots of good stuff on Guangdong temples in the archives for October 2008-January 2009).

Here's today's new material:

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Birthday Weekend (and books, and films)

My weekend: I had a wonderfully quiet birthday weekend (sorry, Sis, no margs--yet).

The waitress didn't "get" the use
of Lila's new wide-angle lens

That's more like it: Detail of above shot

After sleeping through most of Friday evening, I woke up around 1 a.m. and worked until about noon Saturday. I napped a little, then Lila arrived with lunch. We napped a bit more, then met our friends Stefano and Farah at Miracle Meals for dinner (see pictures above). Then we came home and watched a movie. (By the end of the weekend, we had watched "Time Bandits," "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Silverado," and part of "Excalibur," all films that I brought back from the states, and mostly bought in Japan.)

A crashing typhoon hit Saturday night, so Sunday I stayed in, and Lila went out only to pick up dinner. We watched movies and veged.

When she left this morning, I never went back to sleep (though I'm getting ready to now); my sleep cycle still isn't perfect, but it's close to right.

* * * * * * * *

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Home Again

After well over 24 hours on the road, I'm back in my room in China. The flight and the "ground leg" in Hong Kong and China were no problem, but I had a terrible time at L. A. International Airport ("where the big jet engines roar...")

Before I launch into my rant, let me first accept responsibility for not checking the restrictions. But, having traveled mostly inside China in recent years, I wasn't prepared for...well, you'll see.

I was bringing quite a few books, as well as hundreds of pages of photographic slides. Film is heavy, you know. My first clue that there might be trouble was when I picked up my bag at 3:30 a.m. to carry it out to the airport shuttle and the handle broke off in my hand. I lugged it on out by another handle.

At the airport, I discovered "Self Check-In." It's kind of cool: a touch screen process that even verified my vegetarian meal request. The problem is, there were only 4 or 5 people to accept the luggage for over 20 check-in stations. This is probably OK for people whose luggage was within restrictions.

Mine was not, as we discovered when the human being named Chang came to take my two bags. One of them was 78.5 pounds; only 50 is allowed. OK, says I, what's the fee? One moment (tappity tappity on the keyboard): five-hundred-and-fifty dollars.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Next stop: Hong Kong!

(2:40 am in L.A., 5:40 pm in China)

We always rush at the end.

I saw my long-time buddy Kerstine today, and we went out and met Mike Daly and his sweet wife Akemi for lunch.

After Kerstine dropped me at home, I returned most of my stuff to storage (minus what has been winnowed out) and packed. I spent the evening doing last-minute scanning, and now it's time to jump in the shower--less than an hour until the airport shuttle arrives to take me to LAX for my 7:30 am flight. Next stop: Hong Kong!

This is what was published today:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Doubly Blessed

(Just after midnight in L.A., just after 3 p.m. in China)

Today I saw two of my bestest friends in the whole world. I am actually multiply blessed to have deeply cherished friends in several countries. Some are new friends (I mean, since I left America in 1997); others predate that exodus.

I saw one of each today: Wayne, a friend for over 20 years (!), since my Campbell Hall days; and Robert, whom I met in China a couple of years ago (and who has since returned to the states).

Robert and I visited Hsi Lai Temple, where I used to work, and for whom he does translations. Wayne and I went to La Nueva Posada, the restaurant I missed out on last night because it was closed.

Another friend or two tomorrow, and then back to China early Thursday morning.

Here's today's new stuff:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Birthday Party I

(Monday 11:55 p.m. in L.A., Tuesday 2:55 p.m. in China)

I did some final shopping today, for my Parabola magazine and some books and special socks.

I came home and did some scanning (not much, as the scanner is acting up) and then we had my "birthday dinner" (a few days early). As the "usual place" was closed, we went to another excellent Mexican place, but the usual suspects were there. Nice. Another one will happen--in China--next weekend.

Here's today's new material:

Monday, July 13, 2009

Visiting Day

(Sunday 11:45 p.m. in L.A., Monday 2:45 p.m. in China)

Today my wife's family came to visit, followed by my old buddy David Thom and his mom. (David's dad was the Episcopal priest who prepared him and me and a few other 12-year-olds for confirmation. I'll be writing more about his dad soon.)

Aside from that, I've been working on the scanning and so on. Just three more days in L.A.!

Here are the things that posted today:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Rip and Scan

(Saturday 7 p.m. in L.A., Sunday 10 a.m. in China)

Since my trip to storage on Thursday, I've spent the last couple of days at home, working like a demon. I've ripped all of my CDs (about 150) and sorted lots of photos and old papers. I'll start scanning these tonight.

I've started making plans to see friends in the next few days--only four more play days left. Time flies.

I've also made some revisions to the style of my pages (while I'm here, where Blogger has full functionality). Note the added Search box and "About Me," and the changed Navigation box (if you're viewing on my pages; this has no effect on the FaceBook version or the RSS/email subscriptions).

And that's the news--such as it is.

The Saturday and Sunday morning posts:

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Busy Day, and Old Home Week

(Friday 12:45 a.m. in L.A., Friday 3:45 p.m. in Shenzhen.)

Today (Thursday) was very productive.

I went shopping (clothes and a small slide scanner) and took a trip to my storage. I did a lot of sorting there, and brought things to work on at my parents' house, like CDs (ripping as I speak), slides (to start scanning tomorrow), old school papers and other scraps (either scan and pitch, or just pitch), and a few books that will probably go back to China with me (either physically, or in scanned form).

Also today, I saw Julie Fincher. You might remember me mentioning my old neighbors, who used to babysit me. Julie is their daughter, now a realtor in Oregon. Her sister Sandy came too, with her husband Ken (now both my FaceBook friends); and two of my three siblings; it was Old Home Week.

And now, the newly published material:

And don't miss the weekly Newsletter that summarizes all of this week's posts!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

You Too, Youku?

I spent the day visiting with my family and researching some purchases (didn't have any transportation today, so stayed in).

I also saw a show I hadn't seen before ("Criminal Minds," not bad) and a "CSI:NY." Later, I'll wrap up the "Buffy" episodes I missed from Season 2.

And that leads to a funny story: As some of you may know, tight internet controls in China have made it impossible to see YouTube since before March of this year. One alternative is to watch "Youku," a Chinese version of YouTube, but without all those messy copyright issues.

So earlier today I tried to watch the missing "Buffy" episodes on Youku, and got this message:

"The clip has been blocked in you region."

Wait: you mean the Chinese site is blocked in America? HA! (But really, I'm sure it has to do with copyright being enforced in America. "Buffy" has been licensed to, and that's where I'll watch it tonight.)

This is what was published today:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

In Transit Tuesday to Tuesday, July 7

(It's just after midnight in L.A., but well into Wednesday afternoon in China.)

Well, this sucked. I spent 12 hours on a flight of 6,916 miles--without a sound system. The four movies--Pink Panther 2, Confessions of a Shopaholic, Duplicity, and 17 Again--could be seen, but not heard.

Incredibly boring.

They offered us a compensation voucher to fill in, but were a little vague about what we'd get--maybe miles (not for me, though, as I'm not "in the club") or a discount on my next flight with United.

Then, in San Francisco, they kept delaying my flight to L.A. due to repairs. It only cost us about an hour, but we were notified about 10 or 15 minutes at a time, as the mechanics gave them new estimates.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Go Go Ganesh!

Hi, everyone. I'm blogging from the Hong Kong Airport using my laptop and a free wireless connection.

I had an interesting experiment in "religion" on the way here.

When we were crossing the border, a car in front of us was held up for over 20 minutes. The "Chinese way" is to not think of all the cars in line, otherwise they would have that car move and let the others go. But no, we sat and waited.

With nothing else to do, I started "silently chanting" to calm myself down.

Then, as we sat longer and longer, with the exhaust from the back of the car (the back hatch is opened for luggage inspection), I thought, "This is for the birds."

So I said, "I'll close my eyes and chant, 'Lord Ganesh, move that car' five times, and see what happens." (Ganesh is the elephant-headed Indian god who, it is claimed, clears away obstacles, especially at the beginning of an enterprise--like this trip.)

So I closed my eyes and chanted. And when I opened them, the car was being taken out of line so we could progress.

Coincidence? You be the judge.

Anyway, I made it into the airport three hours before flight time. In a bookstore, the title God is not Great caught my eye. Its subtitle is "How Religion Poisons Everything." This will be my vacation reading, and an amusing contrast to my little "experiment." So far, it's fascinating, if a bit juvenile. More as I progress.

For the record: I don't believe that one's internal monologue can directly affect outward events. But here's a true story:

An Episcopal priest I used to know was at the home of a more evangelical member of the congregation, a woman with the delightful name "Charity." She was making lunch and, unable to find the mayonnaise, raised her hands, looked toward the ceiling, and prayed: "Lord, help me find the mayonnaise." Then reached into the fridge and pulled it out.

The priest, a "man of reason," chided her: "Charity, please. Do your really believe that God helps people find mayonnaise?"

She held up the jar and said, "But Father, here it is!"

So the question is: If prayer doesn't cause God to "help one find mayonnaise," what does it do? Focus one's thoughts? OK, that will get you mayonnaise. But it won't move a car in a border-crossing immigration line.

Here are today's posts:

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mostly Movies and Presently Packing

It was a quiet weekend.

Lila went straight from work to Hong Kong; I stayed home all day and went out to meet her at Poly Plaza when she came back, where we ate at Papa John's (running into our Indian friends Ashwini and Sudha there). We walked across the street and strolled through Coastal City Mall afterward (Lila was convinced she was dead, and this was heaven). Then we came home and watched some new movies she bought in Zhangmutou this week: the John Wayne/John Ford classic The Searchers (who could find a better wife than one who picks up classic John Wayne when she sees it?) and the Disney short The Wind in the Willows, source of the "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" we took in Disneyland in January.

Sunday we stayed in. Stefano and Farah and family stopped by after a visit to the nearby zoo, to say goodbye; since I'm leaving Tuesday, and when I come back they'll be in Indonesia, it will be a few weeks until we're together again.

Other than that, it was such a rainy day that we just stayed in. Lila cooked (pasta fagioli--yay), and we watched several more movies: Night in the Museum 2 (so-so), Angels & Demons (surprisingly better than The Da Vinci Code), and the TV-quality Texas Rangers. We tried to watch Miracle at Sage Creek, but the preaching in this "faith-based film" was so heavy-handed I turned it off after a few minutes.

Now it's Monday morning; today I'll be rustling around to pack for tomorrow's trip to the states. Lila is in HK today, so she'll be back this evening and to say goodbye in the morning. Chances are the next blog entry will be late Tuesday California time (early Wednesday morning China time).

Here are the things that posted Saturday, Sunday, and today:




Friday, July 3, 2009

Feels Like Home

Since March we've been living in Xili, "out on the edge of town." I seldom get into the center of the city: maybe once a week, max.

So, naturally, I've begun to feel a bit like a recluse, an outcast, an even stranger stranger in a strange land. An Outlander.

Imagine how I felt, then, when, in the space of less than two hours, I saw about ten people that I know when I went in for lunch today. Some of them I've known for years (like three or four years; I've only been here five!); others are just nodding acquaintances. Several are in the hospitality biz (restaurant and cafe owners and managers I've cooperated with in the past). Not one was a teacher.

I guess I belong here after all. It feels like home.

And now, the newly published material:

And don't miss the weekly Newsletter that summarizes all of this week's posts!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Master" VCD

My day began with a wake-up call from a man who is partially responsible for what little sanity I have left.

Venerable Chuan Dong (unceremoniously nicknamed "VCD" by yours truly) is a monk on the staff of the Buddhist academy where I taught last year. Unlike most of the people I met there, he was conscientious, fair, and open-minded. It was largely his influence that restrained me from mayhem.

He also has a sense of humor, identifying himself as "Master" Chuan Dong ("Master" spoken with dripping sarcasm) whenever he calls.

He has just finished a year of studies at a special Buddhist institute in Shanghai. As he wrote to me later in the day:

With the valuable experience I got when learning both English and Buddhism [at the institute], I found that interpreters who know both are urgently needed in China. So I am resolved to practice for this goal without indolence. I have to work harder.

Atta boy. I mean monk.

The rest of the day was just more hacking away at my writing tasks. Ho-hum.

This is what was published today:

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Eat, Sleep, Type

I'm leaving China next week for ten days, and before I go I have a lot to do.

In addition to getting ready to go, I have to get as far ahead as possible on this homepage. I also have several weeks' of columns to post for the Shenzhen Daily ("Buzzwords" on the "Speak Shenzhen" page on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday) and get several hours' of editing done for a design textbook my school is publsihing.

So all day today, I was strapped into my chair, as I will be most of Thursday and Friday. No reading, no "Buffy," no fun. Just eat, sleep, type. (Hey, the name of my new autobiography! Eat, Sleep, Type. Nah.)

Here's today's new stuff: