Thursday, November 20, 2008


I should know better than to listen to the news in the morning while I'm getting gets me dEPressed, especially when I'm in one of my very yin cycles, evaluating how the end of the first year in my new cycle (that 61 thing) is shaping up.

For all the global optimism after the US election in anticipation of change--positive change--it doesn't feel so optimistic to me. All you have to do is listen to one half-hour of CNN and realize that in fact nothing really changes---there's just cycles. Russia still wants to turn Poland into a parking lot, actors still go on futile junkets to Africa to call attention to interminable strife, pirates still roam the seas, the economy goes up and down, there are still robber barons (in the form of auto execs with private jets). My Tao teacher explained how that is normal in the "post-heaven" state, illustrating with yin and yang and trigrams and hexagrams and cycles. The Asian mentality just gets suffering....and gets to suffer. But still, it is little consolation considering my 401(k). Glad to have paid off the mortgage in spite of our financial advisor's advice not to. What was he thinking? The Tao, the DOW. And I saw a foreclosure notice on someone's door as I left the building.

So after I turned off the news and left for work, on a glorious sunny morning, I looked for my touchstones, the kolea, the Hawaiian name for the Pacific golden plover, at right. I usually see at least one, sometimes four to six, on my way out of my neighborhhood. I say hello, and then feel like the day will be okay. They always look like they are waiting to see me too. Masters of cycles, they fly to Alaska to breed every April and return to Hawaii in August to winter. They breed in Palin country and but come home to Obama land. I thought this morning I wasn't going to see any, but finally, just before turning on to the main road, there she was, waiting for me. And then another. Has turned out to be a pretty nice day. A two-kolea day.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


With a great sigh of relief, I have completed the monumental effort of "Pillars of the Earth," Oprah's Ken Follett pick, the book I bought in HNL and nearly left with my boarding pass in a restroom in Narita Airport in September on my way to China. I only read a few pages as I lugged it from Honolulu to Hong Kong to Xian to Wudang, and back home, then to let it ripen under a pile of Chinese-related books until a couple of weeks ago. Not sure what Oprah was thinking (especially since her latest tout is Eckhart Tolle), but it did get me through the last of the election noise. On finishing I was motivated to get out my DVD of "Becket" with Richard Burton as a perfectly priggish St. Thomas and Peter O'Toole as Henry II. And then, a quick visit to W.E. Lunt's "A History of England," just to get more bearing. Should have done these things BEFORE I read the book, but who knew? And now I have a compulsion to see "A Lion in Winter," O'Toole again as Henry II, but a little later; "Camelot," and a "Man for All Seasons." All those great Brit-history movies of the '60s. I also feel compelled to track down and reread "Mont St. Michel and Chartres," Henry Adams, which was a required college freshman Western civilization read.

Despite having unintentionally acquired two copies of the sequel to "Pillars," (see previous post about book club orders) I'm not quite ready to commit to 1014 more pages, another kilo of Follett. Checking in Lunt for a quick overview of the 14th Century, I am reminded that this is Black Death time, so I watch a History Channel DVD about the plague (when people really did have reason to think the world might be ending). Interesting stuff, but still my dilemma: do I attack one of the several dozen mostly Chinese-themed books in my to-read stack (the Chinese philosophy texts don't count, I usually read from those with my morning coffee) or do I plunge ahead, or cannon into, as Follett might say, the new "Novel Without End." Noting the Washington Post's blurb which cites Follett's "no-frills prose," (praising with faint damns), I flip through this bulky publishing equivalent of a soap-flavored mini-series to see if the plague appears as a character-- well, it has to -- but come across several of Follett's frequent no-frills sex scenes. Spare me! Though I finished "Pillars" with only minor tendinitis in my wrist, the sheer volume of these volumes must explain why no editor could afford the time to chisel them down to size. Neither of these works would make it as recommends to MY book club, but "Pillars" did make me go on a search in history about a time and place I haven't paid much attention to recently. And I like a big old miniseries as much as anyone.

So what next? I rummage through my to-read pile and after rejecting a few false starts (Stephen King's "On Writing," "Eat, Pray,Love," and two journalistic books about China--"Factory Girls" about migrant factory workers and "China Witness," interviews with the generation of Chinese people since the Long March,) I settle on "Red Dust" by Ma Jian, blurbed as a "Chinese equivalent of 'On The Road' ." I see an intriguing scene where the protagonist is visiting a Daoist master, and a chapter called "Flies in Scrambled Eggs." I think THIS is the book for my mood right now. It's only a 314-page paperback; I can hold it with one hand. When my other hand feels stronger, I may pick up "Pillars Vol. II." As "World Without End," I'm sure it'll be there when I'm ready.