Sunday, December 27, 2009

I'm still not quite resolved about the view that I have now that the trees I cherished have been removed.

I suppose the people at ground level don't notice any difference at all.  But I have an idea that in an enlightened society (i.e., condo association) the obvious thing to do would be to build a covered parking structure with a rooftop garden.  Although a taro patch would be locally and culturally correct,  we could, collectively, grow herbs and bonsai.  But a second floor parking lot?  I guess it would be a lot for another level of parked  cars. Everyone would love that!

On the other side of the street is a "collective" of maybe 8 or 10 buildings.  My father-in-law, husband of my Druid-ish mother-in-law, asked once, in all seriousness, if they were for one or two families.

I think it's for twelve, I said.

Is it just me, or are there just too many of us?

I went out today and observed the rising 82% gibbous moon on the one hand and setting sun on the other.  The air was so clear, the mountains so defined, all so perfect, so balanced.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Recently I had a little comment-dialogue with one of my Taoist blogger/corrrespondents about sleeping dreams (in one of his several posts for Dec. 9, you'll have to search for the specific entry).  He says doesn't have any, a pity.  I have an active dream life, and this morning's was most interesting to me.

I've never been one to wake up to an alarm to jump out of bed into a shower (unless forced by circumstances---getting up at an early (unnatural, for me)  time to meditate was very difficult for me in Wudang). An alarm clock;  my mother throwing on the overhead light before dawn to get me up to go to school;  a cat poking me for food; a partner poking me for sex: all these abrupt awakenings are rude interruptions of a vital mental process, one of the purposes of sleep. I value a more gentle transition from the dream state to wakefulness, my body irrelevant while I review the dream and contemplate what it was telling me.  Maybe it is a kind of meditation.  A contemplation of meditation.

In this morning's dream, clearly derivative of my recent holiday in Hana, I was visiting a beach house with friends, and exploring a cliff down to a beach.  It was exquisitely beautiful, the vegetation, the water, the sea, stones and rocks, but very dangerous.  Obviously inspired by places I have been, but also with a unique but consistent geography, there is a country in my dreams, there are places I revisit and remember, just like the various places I visit in wake-time.  After exploring this beautiful spot, I wanted to go back and get my camera to record all these beautiful things (maybe for my blog)...I did, but by the time I assembled all the paraphenalia I needed to record those images (which now have the same reality in my memory--my brain-- as waking ones),  it was too late.  The light was gone, the opportunity was past.

As I was realizing this, another person (clearly modeled on someone from the current TVB DVDs I'm watching now, a con man in 1930s Guangzhou)  was raiding my friend's fridge to make a sandwich. "That's not your food, " I said.  "It's not yours either," he replied.

Then I was wandering in the dream garden where the surf was washing up over a dike lined with...tulips (I'd gone from the tropics to Holland?)... as I drifted up into my bed, waking up.

What were these dream images telling me?  Live in the moment.  Mind your own business.  Nothing is permanent.  A dao dream indeed.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

This morning after I read my daily dose from 365 Tao (Deng Ming-Dao) I turned as is my habit to my Vatican II missal for the readings for the first Thursday of Advent, (the run-up to the winter solstice, the return of the sun/son).  I rather like the liturgical calendars of both these traditions...and it is striking that in many of the Biblical readings (Isaiah, Proverbs, the Psalms, and the Gospels, not so much Paul) if you substitute "Tao" where it says "Lord" or "God" the meanings seem pretty much the same, spiritually, if not culturally.

Then I noticed that today is the Feast Day of Saint Frances Xavier, a Jesuit buddy of Ignatius Loyola, who despite his sciatica and troubles with solitude, went to India, Ceylon and Japan, to do the work of the church militant.  Sadly, this monk, the "Apostle to the Far East," who fastened the signatures from letters from friends to his robes to combat his loneliness, died of a fever at just 46, a reasonably long life in the 16th century, just before he was to enter China.  I don't mean to discuss Jesuit evangelism here, but there is some weird stuff surrounding this saint's life which makes for some bizarre storytelling, just like tales of Taoist immortals.

And it's my birthday, my personal feast day.  At least I've made it to China, receiving spiritual wisdom, not delivering it, and living at least a proper Chinese life cycle (12 animals, five times).  And I have my blogs, Facebook, three email accounts and a texting cellphone.  I'm far from lonely.  In fact I'm looking forward to a few days of more or less solitude to meditate and think about where I am in my own life journey.

Monday, November 30, 2009

It seems to me that Hollywood spends an awful lot to package and distribute films that aren't even very good.  Then there's Hong Kong.  As a Tiny Tony Leung Chiu-Wai fan, I recently acquired a copy of "Infernal Affairs III" and was astonished at the way the DVD itself was packaged.

The disc came in a light plastic film bag, that was in a heavier plastic DVD envelope that was placed, loosely, in the standard DVD plastic box which was itself presented in a cardboard wrapper-box, the kind that opens like a book. The "cover/poster" image was repeated a total of five times; the back credits twice.  It was like a Russian nesting doll. But with no final Tiny Tony action figure inside.  More's the pity.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I have been deriving a lot of pleasure and some inspiring lessons from my recent deep immersion in the wu xia pian (films and the even more melodramatic TV series.)  Wu xia is the Chinese sword and sorcery genre, and can be set anytime from pre-Qin to post-Qing, and that's a lot of territory indeed. Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon (Qing Dynasty, you can always tell from the hair styles) was perhaps the first wu xia pian to have great broad commercial appeal in the West, but it was nothing new, and is not my favorite of the genre.

Even though the wu xia is topically mythical, (and spiritually inspiring like The Lord of the Rings) you still can learn a lot of history, culture and language (despite the bizarre subtitles) from these productions -- or at least that's how I justify my time spent with these extravagant historical TVB maxi-series, sometimes running upwards of 30 hours.  (Also I have contributed significantly to the local economy, particularly the Dragon Gate Bookstore in Chinatown, my favorite video purveyor.) And moreover, in a Jungian sense, myth is just another kind of truth.

Unabashedly escapist, there is something delightful in these films which are devoid of anything that smacks of modernity** -- cell phones, computers, broadcasting, fast food, cars, or dry cleaners (for all those silk robes). Right now I am in the midst of Twin of Brothers, set in the early Tang dynasty and filmed in mainland China with gorgeous sets, actors, costumes and horses.

Wu xia has the same moral and nostalgic appeal found in gunslinger Westerns (think Shane or Paladin), Arthurian legend, and BBC/Masterpiece Theatre costume dramas of Restoration, Romantic, Victorian, Edwardian England. And Shakespeare.  The constants are romantic characters (human nature) in beautiful silk clothes that stay clean without dry cleaning.  And tea.  And wine.  And weapons.  And the yin and yang of  duplicity and honor.

In the wu xia there is a lot of romantic and erotic tension, but in a Confucian chaste.  I am familiar with the delicate metaphorical treatment of sexual relationships and activities peculiar to some films coming out of Mainland China...but these Hong Kong wu xia dramas are even less explicit (even though there are plenty of Hong Kong movies that are extremely violent and pornographic).   Confucian values in the stories place tremendous modesty and self control on the characters, who may feel great love and lust for each other --but ultimately the restraint sometimes leads to unfortunate unrequited love.  In some cases, though, and it's usually the women, who are generally strong, the characters have larger committments to their fathers or shifu (sifu/sensei).

Central to the wu xia genre is the shifu /student relationship, something a little unusual for 21st Century Americans to grasp.  We have supplanted it with manager/employee relations in our workplaces, (shifu as boss or supervisor) but lacking completely the spirit and devotion, the larger purpose.  No martial arts manuals or magical swords and projections of qi for us, we have management tools and processes and procedures and regulations and Excel to accomplish our missions.  How dull and uncreative.  How I would love a sword to carry to meetings, a beautiful embellished dao to lay on my desk instead of a cell phone. (No, I am not hinting at workplace violence, just workplace power and magic...and a little romance.) How wonderful it would be to simply gather my qi and project it across a conference room table and then just fly away.

In the meantime, I have 25 more episodes of Twin of Brothers to enjoy.  Pity this one doesn't have Vincent Zhao or  Power Chan in the cast.

**Although there is a scene I must revisit...the good guys are escaping on a boat on a river, probably the Yangtze, and in the background, on the shore there is what appears to be a crane assembly for a container ship. A little fuzzy and out of focus, but there it is.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sure enough, when I feel overwhelmed by gloom and disappointment, it is a certain sign of a shifting in the energies of my little part of the universe.  Disappointed not only in the careless slaughter of my beloved albizia trees (see previous recent posts), but also in discovering that a couple of my very favorite YouTube videos have been vanished (due to ownership/copyright issues), I am heartened to realize the sun will be entering my own birth sign this weekend.  I am always pensive through Scorpio, a feeling my western astrologer friend says is only natural.  We evaluate ourselves before our birthdays, markers in the cycles of our lives.  Or maybe not. 

I will cope with not being able to visit my favorite Vincent Zhao wushu demonstration on You tube -- I can no longer even point you to it. I have pretty much memorized the routine, so if I just close my eyes, I can almost see it, and maybe practice as if I am following along. And since I have pretty much acquired his entire ouvre with English subtitles, I can hardly complain about the loss of a 2-minute sequence. (What do I want most for Christmas?  Private tai chi lessons with Vincent Zhao!)  And when he gets famous in the West when/if True Legend is ever released (apparently scheduled for a Chinese New Year release in Singapore), just remember, I knew him before!

And the missing Bob Dylan concert video? Well, even had I been AT those concerts, I wouldn't be able to remember them as well.  They all become just another dreamy memory.

Arriving at work, I notice the maintenance staff has put holiday wreaths on the building and are busy stringing lights up the trunks of the palm trees in the parking lot.  And Starbucks is fully in Christmas mode, decked out with snowy pine boughs, and coffee-themed gifts and Christmas CDs on offer.  If it wasn't for all this, it would still feel like July.  We got through the hurricane season (August through October) --the humid depressing late summer in Hawaii-- and now are coming up on the solstice.  The seasonal clues are so subtle here, but I can feel them (trade winds more reliable, cooler nights mo' bettah for sleeping) ... and with the help of Starbucks and the oddly out-of-place holiday decorations (as strange as a tiki bar theme for Thanksgiving in New England). While it seems a little early for all this stuff, I have decided to go with the flow and enjoy; it all comes down so soon after Christmas. 

In the meantime, I am planning my regular Thanksgiving getaway on a Neighbor Island -- Maui this year-- with my astrologer friend.  While we never take pork over the Pali, there is no prohibition about carving up a turkey in Hana!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I guess it's as creepy as taking a photo of a corpse at a funeral (which I actually did at my father's funeral, thinking his sister might want to see proof that her brother was nicely laid out but I never sent the photos on), but I photographed the remnants of the tree trimming.  At the same time, in a kind of funeral gesture, I dumped a bucket of old lei into the stream.  The disposal of lei, the beautiful Hawaiian gesture of aloha that ultimately results in strings of dead flowers and leaves, is problematic. It is disturbing to see a lei tossed in a trash bin. I am told that they should be reverently returned to their source, to nature.  If they can cut down my trees, I don't think anyone can complain if I dump my accumulated old lei into the stream. So here, the dried remnants float away.

And then I documented the corpses and skeletons of the trees.

This one below is actually three branches from the same trunk.  It is huge. It will be a major effort to remove it.

What was everyone thinking?
Working through my resentment at the tree removals, I find other things to look at.  I can now observe clearly the raging stream of muddy water coming down from the mountains as a result of recent rainy weather.

Sorry the image is not as clear as could be, I don't have a telephoto lens on my trusty little Casio EXILIM.

Insider information provided to me has indicated that liability was not the real issue in these tree sacrifices. (Really, that's what we have insurance for.)  The problem was partly that there were people who do not share our view, both literal and not, of the trees...they want a sort of controlled presentation of nature: those trees are in the way of modern order.  And there is the nature jingoist camp: the albizia is not a native tree!  (Like what is NATIVE in Hawaii anyway?) There is a school of thought that claims that anything that didn't get here on its own (through surf wash-up or bird droppings) is a non-native species. Thus, got to go.  Illegal alien. No passport, deportation. Bring on the chain saw.

Several years ago, when I worked for an environmental education non-profit,  I was privileged to visit one of the last remaining truly native places in Hawaii, a Nature Conservancy-preserved Hawaiian rainforest on Maui, on the north slope of Haleakala.  It is very beautiful, spiritual really, but it is odd.  The native Hawaiian rainforest is upside down: all the biodiversity is on the bottom, there is nothing reaching to the heavens.

In this ideological environmental struggle, there are concessions made about endemic (as opposed to invasive) species.  Endemics are acceptable, like coconut palms (the pathetic replacements for our albizias) because they were brought by native people, in the period pre-contact with Westerners.  So pigs and coco palms are endemic and acceptable. Although everyone agrees that wild pigs are a nuisance (but delicious--they can be hunted only with dogs and a bow and arrow).

If you come to Hawaii you will wonder why there are coconut palms high up in the mountains; the coconut is supposed to wash up on the shore and root itself.  It is said that a coconut was planted wherever a wild pig was killed. (And where did those pigs come from?)  Whether this is to propitiate some spirit, or to signal that "pigs have been found in this area" is not clear to me.  I am treading on sensitive territory here.

In my mind though, the bottom line is that in the larger scheme of things, a tree is a tree.  My albizias were really well established.  (Huge trunks, like this one, more than 4 feet from top to bottom.)

And I miss the beauty of the treetops, the birds coming and going in the branches, the fragrance of the blossoms that kept bees busy.  I am told the people (i.e., the condo board members, think "Congress") who voted for the removal of the trees do not live in or on my side of the building. Democracy in action. (I have often thought that if we want to present American-style democracy to the world, we should just invite a few of the potential converts to a condo board meeting.  Then we'll see what happens!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009


If our consciousness does create the universe, it must have manifested my concept for Kung Fu Doc, a version of House, M.D. where M.D. means Ming Dynasty! My latest in an ongoing preoccupation with Hong Kong TVB series on DVD is  The Herbalist's Manual based more or less on a true story of Chinese medicine.  Since I always fail to tune in to House at the right time, and I don't like to watch commercial television (i.e., TV with commercial interruptions) anyway, this HK series will keep me entertained until I download or stream a few of the current season's House episodes (or more likely wait for the entire DVD set).

THM doesn't have much going on with kung fu, but there are wonderful scenes of wandering around in the idyllic Guilin countryside gathering herbs and fulfilling destinies.  The main character has a little struggle in the beginning -- his father, a doctor, wants him to sit for the civil service exams and become an official, not to continue the lowly family tradition of herb doctor. Not exactly a contemporary plot. Can you imagine anyone saying, "No med school for you, you must work for the DMV!"  But the young man prevails and manages some medical successes, with the assistance of a crazy old coot of a sifu/doctor with extremely bizarre two-toned eyebrows called Little Buddha (played*** by the flamboyantly operatic and charming character actor Power Chan, below, as eccentric and goofy as Hugh Laurie) and his daughter, who is thwarted in her own desire to become a doctor (because she's a woman--now that does sound more contemporary). There are hints though that Little Buddha isn't who everyone thinks he is anyway.  A staple of these dramas.

The plot is wild and crazy (and I'm not even half-way through): Little Buddha/Power Chan inspires the young doc by intervening in a flu pandemic with treatments that involve eating live field mice and humidifying and fumigating living quarters with steaming vinegar!  Strangely timely, the flu pandemic plot --probably reminiscent  and meaningful to Hong Kong audiences used to panicking about SARS, bird and swine flus -- features quarantine in the mountains, where the government doctor, favored by the Prince, avoids doing any actual work with the local medical establishment, but does manage to get funding for "expensive imperial medicines" to supplement the common folks' folk remedies (various herbs and the mice and vinegar).  I think the government doctor is destined to become romantically involved with the homeopath/sifu Power Chan's wanna-be doctor-daughter, who actually loves and is loved by the stubborn young doctor who reluctantly married his original arranged fiancee, the daughter of the local Prince, believing that the sifu's daughter was going to marry his own brother.  Got that?  Chinese opera style!  There is a lesson in all these tales: not being forthright about your romantic intentions invariably leads to mis-marriages and unhappiness.

I was quite charmed by Power Chan as the Tolkienish-thief/sifu/military strategist with a pipe in Lethal Weapons of Love and Passion, where I recognized him from the Master Of Tai Chi, there playing a character that was relatively modern if emotionally volatile, but a good guy in the end, and best of all, in a cast with Vincent Zhao.  I guess I have gone over some threshold where I not only am recognizing (maybe, see footnote below) all these Hong Kong actors, but have favorites and opinions!

***I THINK it's Power Chan...the make-up is pretty extreme, but the acting style is the same.  I only wonder, because Power makes another appearance as a drunken prince a few episodes later in the series.  I can't find any definitive information to confirm that the crazy doctor is him; no reason why he can't play both roles.  I keep going back and forth in the video to compare the ears of the two characters.  I'm pretty sure they're the same, but not ready to bet my life on it.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

but they can't steal my qi!

They're just doing their job, a scary one really.

And the Yellow Emperor doesn't seem to object.

And I can still paint, channeling the qi, to feel the dao.  It's a weeping willow.  I'll post the finished version over on the Yang TAO 61.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

And as in most wars, it is the innocent who are the victims in a campaign waged in defense of some social principle (misguided or not).  I pretty much knew that when I came home after work today I would be pissed--the tree trimmers were at it again this morning, taking out more of the "dangerous" albizias.  Sure enough, I arrived home to find my lanai view "improved" with a much better view of the parking lot.  Here are the views I have been accustomed to:

Invisible Parking Lot

Tranquil Treetops

Here is the view I now must turn my back on when lighting my morning incense

Parking Lot in Paradise

I have a feeling that the remaining trees to the right and left of the gaping area will be gone by tonight: the tree trimmer trucks are still lurking.

Such irony after returning from a brief autumn visit to Portland where the tree is pretty much the dominant life form.  I was talking with our hotel desk clerk there who told me that Portland was built by timber barons, much like Hawaii was built by the pineapple and sugar industry.  But things do change.  Paradise keeps getting adjusted and paved over for parking lots and developments, much as my peaceful memory of the Portland Japanese Garden has been overwritten with the new "landscape" view from my lanai.  Somehow though, Portland has a social consciousness that has preserved the tree despite the timber industry.

Of course it isn't really war against the trees themselves (that's more the case with kudzu); the battle conducted with chain saws and wood chippers is waged to protect against liability in the case of a tree branch falling on one of the precious automobiles in the parking lot (which appears much bigger than I previously perceived from the 10th floor).  Oh, and of course to avoid tree limbs falling on precious children, who are probably more likely to be run over by the precious automobiles than to be injured by the trees.  We couldn't possibly park the cars somewhere else. And I spent a lot of time as a kid running around in untended dangerous woods and never got clobbered by anything (although I did walk into a tree and knock myself out after getting hit on the head with a softball at a church picnic.)

Still, nobody seems to be mourning the trees but me; I think everyone else is inside watching TV, hyped up on news and commercials about the the health and auto insurance everyone absolutely must have.  Has anyone considered that the Geico gecko lives in one of the albizias? I've seen his cousins there.

I'm just a little bitter because my lovely lanai is now not quite as conducive to the mood I like for meditation and painting.  I'll get used to it; I have no choice, and I'm sure many people will say it's not THAT bad.  In the larger scheme of things, what're a few trees?  A real war is bloody, claims human life, causes famine, loss of livelihood, and even worse environmental destruction.  But peace is peace, and I have lost just a little of mine. And still...who mourns for the trees?

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Really, I am.  You can ask any of my friends, specifically the three or four who are willing to commune with me and my dust-jackrabbits.  I thought of this at the same time I remembered this sketch by David Foley of the Kids in the Hall, his "bad doctor" routine. (Amazing, this internet, I can recall a comedy piece from 20 years ago and find it in just about that many seconds on YouTube.)

I've already discussed here my failed efforts at clutter removal.  I do have a pretty clear mind, but my living quarters ... well, think Chinese peasant who stole all the artifacts from the landlord. Used bookstore-curio shop decor. I've always believed George Booth is channeling us in his cartoons of the old couple and all their cats and dogs.  (Although I note below, she IS wiping a dish.)

Once I ordered a lovely table lamp, the most costly lamp I ever bought, constructed of old mahjongg tiles.  A coworker who shares a taste for Chinoiserie, whom I know must be very tidy and clean -- she's always passing out soap and hand sanitzers as gifts -- said when I showed it to her, "Oh, you must have a lovely home."

Little does she know.

Once my faithful mechanic brought me home because he was going to keep my car overnight; he asked if he could come in for a glass of water (not being of the generation that, like desert nomads, goes nowhere without a bottle of water).  "Sure," I said, "but just to warn you, the place is really a mess."

When he entered, he said, " weren't kidding."  Bear in mind my mechanic wears rubber gloves, like a surgeon or a dentist, when he works on cars.  And when he does dishes.

Then there was the time I was bemoaning my 20-year-old, incontinent cat, when I discovered ...maggots... under a ripe pile of laundry.  (Life in the tropics.) One of my tolerant and good-natured friends still reminds me of that one.

I was thinking about my personal home economics nightmares after reading a recent New Yorker review of a book about the history of "scientific management": The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong."  All about time motion studies and efficiency expertise and management consulting and home economics (management science for women of the 1930s), which the author concludes is not a science but a "party trick."

I thought motion efficiency was pretty cool one time when I had bushels of apples to peel after an unusually large harvest from our nine trees.  I developed a little "form" (as in certain martial arts practices), to accomplish this task very easily.  I've never had to do it again.

Now I find adding efficiency and metrics (I hate that term) to life just becomes an activity itself, and takes away from the time I have to read, write, and paint, and explore China and Chinatown.  As for the dirt and clutter, since they say "you can't take it with you," I just pass over it (unless it makes me stumble -- I am what the late Peg Bracken called a "random housekeeper.")  Ignorance is bliss.

You should be glad I'm not your doctor!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Ending the day about a third of the way through my latest 30-hour TVB (Shaw Brothers' televison) acquisition, "Lethal Weapons of Love and Passion," a wu xia-kung fu series, with Raymond Lam and another surprise, from "Master of Tai Chi", not, more's the pity, Vincent Zhao, but a guy whose identity I deduced from comparing the credits of both series, one Power Chan.  He played number two brother in the kung fu clan of Vincent's rival (Raymond) in Master of Tai Chi, but here he turns up as a career thief, junior sifu, clever guy and comic relief.  I suppose his "English" name is no stranger than Jet Li.  Power and Jet...good names for kung fu actors.

Power Chan 
The character, who now that I think of it has a Bilbo Baggins kind of quality, is usually carrying a long pipe with a bag of tobacco dangling from the bowl.  He occasionally employs it as a weapon.  It's the best tobacco prop I've seen since David Strathairn's cigarette in "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Stylish Pipe and Smoking Jacket
The series itself is lots of fun: no one is who you think they are, and in fact, no one is who THEY think they are.

Kinda like life in the real world.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I just switched to the "new editor" here on Blogger, but I notice they seem to have forgotten the spell-check option.  (I see by searching "Help" there are some workarounds, none of which is as easy as the original spell-check.  And there is supposed to be a highlight incorrect spelling feature, but it seems to depend on your browser and OS.)

As a poor typist, I want my spell checker. But, as a copy editor, I have very mixed feelings: I never rely on or urge anyone else to use spell checking as the definitive, final edit.

The new editor does make loading images much easier (although the old one forced me to learn some html.)

Perhaps this oversight means eveyone is just loading photos now; no real writing is being done by the You-tube crowd? 

Next to be disabled: the CAPS key?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I was looking for a photograph of someone and came across this image of the Wizard and the someone, resting after we had just successfully navigated down from Pike's Peak in a Ford Explorer that had lost all its transmission fluid.  This occurred about 1,000 feet from the summit; we could see it, but we never made it to the top.  I suspect the trip was more memorable--has it been 5 years already?-- because of the mechanical failure.

But now what seems funny to me now is this image --were they about to break into some Celtic folk dance of manly celebration, having negotiated the mountain?  The Wizard says that at meetings men often mimic other men's gestures and poses -- if one clasps hands behind the nape of the neck, chances are good that another will follow suit, quite unconsciously. Now I have a reason to look forward to a meeting; I can test and verify this theory. I was probably sensitive to the foot positioning because I've been watching so many martial arts movies; footwork and stance is part of the quality of the kung fu.

Or did it seem funny to me because I was demolishing drinking a gift bottle of Japanese Scotch (yes, Kirin whisky) at the time, not my favorite, a little too Islay for my taste, but respectable and deserving of the "whisky" spelling. It was enhanced by the Hershey's Special Dark Kisses I was eating at the same time.  (Nicer than a cigar.) Wish I'd had it up on the mountain when we were waiting for the transmission to cool down!  Then I might have danced a little jig.

And speaking of strange footwork, check THIS out.  It gets interesting about 40 seconds in.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

I had doubts that I would be able to gaze at the moon last night; the day was cloudy, stormy, humid, and rainy. I monitored the sky through the evening and, disappointed, retired to bed with a Stephen Chow movie and Old Pu's book.

Later I awoke at 3 a.m. The light was bright, but not fully full moonish. Out on the lanai I watched the moon, moving like a lantern behind heavy brocade, peeping in and out of the trailing edge of the storm system that was passing. I contemplated that for a while, savoring the fragrance of wet earth and a soft damp breeze, before returning to bed, where my dreams were twisted with allusions from "Royal Tramp II" and the strange event we attended earlier in the day.

Splendor of China was...interesting. Lots of booths of Chinese vendors and organizations (along with the usual offerings of Tupperware and high-end cars; is anyone actually lured to buy a Jaguar, Porsche or Land-Rover at one of these exhibitions: the Chinese didn't seem to be buying ANYTHING except food). No one was visiting the display by the City promoting its rail transit plan. I picked up some brochures from the Confucius Institute at the University of Hawaii's Center for Chinese Studies. It is connected with Beijing Foreign Studies University, where the Wizard may have taught for a period in the year before Tiananmen (there are two BFSUs, not sure which one this is). I missed the actual Chinese dog show, but there were people wandering around with Shar Peis, Chow Chows, Pekingese, Pugs and Shih Tzus on leashes. Even the Wizard, not a dog fancier, was quite taken with a small grey Shar Pei bitch. I once cuddled one of these puppies in its too loose skin; like a baby in an oversized onesy, it snuggled into my neck and snuffled and cooed. If I'd had $500 in my pocket at the time, I would have bought it. The small Chinese dogs are as self possessed as their bigger compatriots. There was a Peke that owned the street in Wudang. It never was on a leash.

The Emperor of Wudangshan

After wandering around the hall for a while, we went to the stage area where the Narcissus girls were modeling "fashions" available at the show from the Chinese vendors. (They really should have staged the posing among the cars.) These very pretty, poised, polished, smiling young women I'm sure would never be caught off the stage in any of these demure, vaguely mandarin-styled garments (except possibly, one might hope, one stunning red sleeveless qipao cut to the thigh). The Wizard enjoyed the catwalking, but we both were more charmed by the dancing that followed, by the Phoenix Dance Chamber, a local Chinese troupe that we have been watching for a decade, both having friends who are involved as dancers and producers. Brightly rouged six-year-olds doing Mongolian horse dances will make you weep tears of joy!

The final stage piece was the qi gong/kung fu performance by the "undisputed master of penis qigong and iron crotch." (Why would anyone WANT to "lift 100 pounds with their privates" anyway?) The Master's daughter opened with an impressive wushu routine with a wooden pole (her own version of penis kung fu, perhaps). In contrast to the Narcissus princesses, she was a tough-looking girl with a rough haircut; she could be cast as a bad guy in any of the wuxia films I've been watching. But dad was even stranger, one of the curly headed Chinese--a qi gong master with a perm? "I think he's Filipino," the Wizard said, although he spoke Mandarin. Outfitted in a wife-beater tank and some sort of complicated cropped cargo pants and boots, the excessively buff master broke some plywood boards with his fingertips, and kicked some bricks into oblivion. Then he demonstrated some qi gong techniques. The Chinese in the audience stood to obediently, if awkwardly, try his healing tricks for their hearts, headaches and insomnia. They were all basic techniques I acquired in Wudang (8 brocades) and with another local teacher. Then Master told us, through his interpreter, we could learn more at his shows at some hotel in Waikiki. Or we could buy his DVDs (just $25) over at the booth in aisle three. It was all way too commercial-Shaolin-monk-stage-act for my taste (been there, done that in Beijing), and though I'm sure he's genuine, he certainly didn't have the stylish charm of Jet Li or the sex appeal (speaking of penis qi gong on this yin holiday) of the equally well developed Vincent Zhao.

On the way out of the hall, I picked up three cheap Andy Lau DVDs from an organization that assists Chinese studying in Hawaii (probably with visa and green card applications). The representative was surprised that, on the cover of "The Warlords" I recognized Takeshi Kaneshiro, right, (who seems to me the Orlando Bloom, left, of Chinese film-- see John Woo's Red Cliff movies and compare with Kingdom of Heaven).

"Wow. You can tell all these guys apart," he said to this old haole woman. "Yeah, and you know, you look a lot like Anthony Wong," I said. He was oddly flattered. Turns out since the Wizard is an academic, we all had some mutual acquaintances. It was an amusing conclusion to the Moon Festival afternoon.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I will be thinking of all my friends, especially those of the female persuasion, tonight, as I engage in some gazing at the moon on the 15th day of the 8th moon, the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. It looks like it will be a lovely one. In preparation, I am going to an exhibition of Chinese things this afternoon where I expect to see qigong and kung fu demos, a Lion Dance, a fashion show with the contestants for the Hawaii Miss Narcissus pageant (well, that's mostly incentive for the Wizard to join me), a Chinese dog show, and perhaps a little shopping at booths of Chinese vendors of Hawaii. (The event is after all sponsored by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.) I will look for some mooncakes to enjoy with my Wudang Tao tea -- or wine --while looking at the moon from my lanai.

Moon Festival is when yin is about to overcome yang (in a very TAO 61 way) and has a lot of interesting legends and meanings associated with it.

I offer for your pleasure this Tang Dynasty poem by Li Bo (701-762), from Summertime Splendor:

A pot of wine among the flowers:
I drink alone, no kith or kin near.
I raise my cup to invite the moon to join me;
It and my shadow make a party of three.
Alas, the moon is unconcerned about drinking,
And my shadow merely follows me around.
Briefly I cavort with the moon and my shadow;
Pleasure must be sought while it is spring.
I sing and the moon goes back and forth,
I dance and my shadow falls at random.
While sober we seek pleasure in fellowship;
When drunk we go each our own way.
Then let us pledge a friendship without human ties
And meet again at the far end of the Milky Way.
(Translated by Irving Y. Lo)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

and they put you on the day shift.

Obama says we should have more.

Hawaii State teachers' union is content with less.

This is the first time I have ever felt that private--probably Catholic--schools may be the best choice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Sword and the Scalpel
(Morning after Autumnal Equinox)

Now I remember why I gave up on network television. Watching an interesting program with commercial interruptions is like walking through a gallery that assaults you with advertising billboards between the fine art. Distracting and shameless.

While watching the season opener of House, I began to have a wild feeling, like Chu Zhaonan (Vincent Zhao Wen Zhou), caressing the hilt of his sword and trying to restrain himself from unleashing its power:

I'm going to have to figure out where to download House sans advertising, or wait until the DVDs come out.

So House is in and out of the institution, where he confronts the concept of compromise with the system to get his own life in order. And don't we all.

It's the same conflict in Seven Swordsmen: Chu/ZWZ kills all the people he was trying to save from the evil establishment and destroys his own self in the process. It's hubris, stuff of tragedy. House and Chu are both trying to overcome it. I have yet to see who really succeeds. (I think we already know hardly anyone really does, as seen in Greek tragedy,the Bible and Shakespeare.)

Last night I left Chu at the Buddhist Temple where he is trying to come to grips with what he did (while the girl whose love for him was unrequited is arriving with a sword to avenge her father, who was accidentally killed when Dad fell on Chu's blade. But of course in these things -- soap operas, really --no one learns the truth until too late, if ever.) I have a feeling House will be back at Mayfield at some point; it seemed too simple last night (or it was the commercial interruptions). I have yet two more commercial free episodes with the Swordsmen; I'll watch them tonight; unfortunately I know what happens. There is more hope, for House.

And yes, there was blood spurting out of mouths in both shows.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


One of the advantages in watching subtitled videos is learning a little something about a foreign language, so I have been engaging in a wuxia extravaganza, partly to train my ear and pick up a few useful phrases in Mandarin. By relying on subtitles, I can catch lots of ways to say hello, thanks, goodbye, all right, not all right, some counting, an occasional obscenity and so on.

But subtitles themselves can be quite entertaining. A few months ago, I enjoyed an old Chow Yun-Fat movie, where he was being advised as an American CIA operative not used to peasant fare, that he needn't eat the unsavory food being offered; he said, in the subtitle, "I'm not worried. I've eaten a lot of INEVITABLE food." Needless to say, he was puking in the next scene.

Which brings me to my most recent amusement, the 39-episode TV series of Seven Swordsmen, produced by Tsui Hark, and probably what he really had in mind for "Seven Swords (Chat Gim)," his elegant but choppy movie that was cut down from four hours to two-and-a half. Unless you know the book it's based on, the plot and the character development seem a little sketchy.

In the more developed, if less extravagant, TV series, Vincent Zhao Wen Zhou (Man-Cheuk Chiu, his Cantonese name, which means I think, Man Chicks Drool Over), playing Donnie Yen's character from the movie, goes on a search for food for his hobbity band of swordsmen, becoming a little distracted in the inn by an exotic dancer after all those ascetic years in the mountains. He orders take-out: a jug of wine and some GLUTTONOUS rice. His hungry buddies from Mount Heaven are delighted. Sticky rice is certainly far from inedible!

Vincent continues to be charmed by the dancer and later rescues her from a slave sale. In the movie, she was Green Pearl, Donnie Yen's counterpart Korean exile. In the TV series, Green Pearl appears to be a Kashmiri expat. I guess I'll have to read the book to find out what's really going on. I'm expecting inevitable gluttony.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Reviewing the current "line-up" of available "Standard Service" channels in the updated brochure that came with my new cable converter, I see that in addition to the usual networks, shopping channels, news channels, sports channels, weather channels, science channels, soap channels, and history channels (all Hitler, all the time), we have The Pentagon Channel. What could that possibly be? Maybe something IS on.

No CIA, NSA, or NRO channel, though. Now there's a premium package that might be worth it! Think of the potential for reality TV.

You can learn a lot about American values by reviewing a list of available television. No CCTV though. But I sorta wish. They probably have a kung fu/wu xia channel. Now that I think of it, every time I turned on the TV in China the past couple years--all of four or five times in Hong Kong, Beijing or Xian hotels--there was some swordplay drama in progress, with commercials advertising TCM --and I don't mean Turner Classic Movies. Or the bizarre Chinese Idol program called "Dancing With Wolves." And a morning business news program about capitalism with socialist characteristics with reports about environmentally responsible packaging of mooncakes, scandals in the quantity labeling of instant noodles, and new
universal zoning regulations (land reform, again?). The commentator closed with the ambiguous remark to viewers, "Thank you for your company."

As an aside here, I share my view of the big new CCTV headquarters, the strange yin/yang engineering marvel/disaster as it was going up in Beijing in '07 (at right), completed just after the '08 Olympics.

I'm old enough to remember TV when we got only two channels (a yin and a yang), colloquially referred to not by their call letters, the number on the dial, or their network affiliation. One, the CBS outlet, was known by the name of the local bourgeois dynasty that owned it, "Gable's," the family who also owned a radio station and the local department store (and perhaps today, Gable's Cable). Probably just as well: the call letters, WFBG (the initials of the dynasty's patriarch), were interpreted by juvenile delinquents as an obscene acronym which I won't explain here. (Needless to say, WFBG radio was not the one that played rock and roll.) The other channel, an NBC station (WJAC), was identified by its city of origin, Johnstown (of flood infamy), but you needed more than rabbit ears to get that one from my hometown. Deprivation was knowing that the Saturday cartoons you really wanted to watch were on Johnstown, not Gable's, but they came in fuzzy and Dad was still sleeping so couldn't fiddle with the antenna. It was a really revolutionary thing, in so many ways, even more than color, when we finally had access to a third channel, the "educational" station out of State College/Penn State University.

Now you just have to pay a cable bill or install a satellite dish to extend your television viewing options. I see reading the finer print it's not completely clear that I actually get the Pentagon Channel. I'll have to tune in just to find out. And, I really do want to see exactly who the sponsors are!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Is that a question?

In a quandary corollary to my uninstalled car radio, yesterday I returned a broken converter to our cable TV provider. For some weeks it hasn't been working right, and as a consequence, the TV hasn't been used. But, since we are paying for the service, and I have a burning desire to see the first episode of House, M.D. on the 21st, I collected the box, having untangled it from a mess of cables and wires that are evidence that the shoemaker's family goes shoeless. I usually depend on my in-house IT expert to do these things. The tangled pile of cables and wires included odd wall warts that related to no existing device, attached to an unplugged-in power strip. Clearing the mess didn't make the cable box work. It is broken, possibly fried in the last big power outage we suffered.

Anyway, that's what I told the cable folks when they asked what was wrong. "How should I know? It doesn't work."

While at the headquarters, I was enchanted by a huge HD screen that was playing lovely video postcards of Hawaii flora and beach scenes, interspersed with satellite images of Mexico and Finland. "Is that a promo or a channel," I asked. "I could watch that all day long," forgetting of course, that I can look at images like that with my own eyes off my own lanai any time.

"It's Digital 1000," the customer service rep told me. "You can get it if you have HD." Which I don't. I have a $250 19-inch color set in the bedroom and an even smaller one in the living room. Channel 1000 made it look worthwhile to spend all that money, thousands of dollars, on one of those big displays that assault you on entering Costco. I could get several more MacBook Pros for the price of one of them. The first time I saw one of those screens in action, all I noticed was how clumpy the newscaster's mascara was.

We reconnected the new cable box and it works just fine, does all the things my basic service says it should. I turned on CNN for about 10 minutes this morning and then turned it back off. So much inanity. Stories about murdered school coaches, flu vaccines, health care/insurance debates, a successful teen tennis star turning pro. I suspect the TV will go untouched again until the House movie.

The Wizard of IT NEVER turns on the TV, not that he doesn't spend a lot of time looking at screens. He surfs the web as much as any couch potato with a TV remote control. But I have come to understand that he will do that because he exercises internal control, picking and choosing on the net. Theatre movies (he won't go, too loud) and broadcast TV are too passive for him. It doesn't quite explain how he tolerates the opera. I suppose because it is broken up into acts, allowing him to jump on his Blackberry in the intermissions. The individual acts are just non-virtual sites he chooses to visit for a while.

Anyway, I'm regarding the TV now a little like a recovered Vicodin addict might regard a vial of pills. If I turn it on, I'll get hooked again. It will be a challenge. Gotta watch out for the TV God. Gotta watch House.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Rather than doing anything really important or productive over the Labor Day weekend, I indulged excessively in video entertainment. I had the complete Season 5 of House, M.D, to finish (can you watch just one episode at a time? I like to watch ALL the DVD episodes, the whole season, pretty much back-to-back, once a year, commercial free) and a number of wuxia/kung fu movies, featuring Vincent Zhao Wen Zhou and Tiny Tony Leung.

How they compare and contrast:
  1. They all feature a lot of blood spurting out of mouths, frequently, but as a result in House you're more likely to end up with a lumbar puncture, not quite so severe as impalement on a sword.
  2. In wuxia, medicine is usually some gooey paste, a foul tasting herbal concoction, or swift jerking of limbs back in place. No MRIs and diagnoses of Cushing's, Wegner's, amyloidosis or lupus.
  3. I actually worked for a guy once who looked exactly like House, but he was not so...hyper-rational (or as Season 6 hints, mentally ill; I will try to remember to tune in to the 2-hour Season Premiere of the only TV program I watch anymore, but not usually on TV); and I still work with some guys who look not unlike Tony and Vincent. Still, none of them are diagnosticians or kung fu masters...that I know of.

But now I have a new idea to integrate wu xia and Western medicine. (If CCTV hasn't already thought of it. ) A TV Series, Kung Fu Doc. (Or at least an interesting House storyline.) In Wudang, I had a hard time taking seriously the TCM prescriptions of this guy who looked exactly like Jackie Chan. He can star in the series! Here is his hospital. Enter at your own risk.

And it came to me as I awoke this morning (9/10, after reviewing House's hallucinatory end-of-season episode last night) that there is a fourth compare and contrast. Both genres explore the distinctions and connections between body and spirit, the material and the non-material, to say nothing of plots involving opioids. I would love to see House be cured of his pain and doubt by a Taoist master (preferably played by Vincent Zhao) projecting qi (energy). Or maybe Wilson could take up qigong; he seems most open to these things.

Thursday, September 03, 2009


Early Evening Full Moon at My Door

Not only did I count five kolea this morning on my way out of my complex, rushing to a dentist appointment (I mean to say, I was going to the dentist, birds don't have teeth), but I was most cheered by having received in the mail last night a magazine with the announcement of a wonderful tour to Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Wudang, focusing not only on qigong and Taoism, but Chinese art and culture. In May 2010. Sign me up! Something to plan. And to places I have not been before, except Wudang (to which I will happily return).

Could it be the full moon? My rock fever is diminishing. Sometimes one fever cures another. That sounds like something House, M.D., would suggest.

And the thing that makes this post kind of yin is having spent two hours in a dentist's chair this morning. Well, there should be no toothaches to expect while in China. My dentist is the most wonderful, but like several of his species I have observed, he has a second life, something he would really rather be doing. My dentist is a performing stage magician. Really. I sometimes think he might, with a great flourish, pull a rabbit out of my mouth, or a lot of silk scarves from my throat. He put his way through dental school with magic gigs. I know this because I first heard of him in Pittsburgh (the Pitt dental school produces the great dentists when it comes to chairside manner). I had a reference when I came to Hawaii and he has been taking care of my teeth for decades now. Needless to say, you never see needles or scary things going in your mouth. Sleight of hand goes a long way in dentistry.

On another note, as one of my readers points out, "Nature always wins." There are interesting sprouts on the vandalized shrubs. Since yet another reader is observing this regrowth with me, here is the current state of affairs. Although, the regrowth is kind of weird, really.

Sprout Sprouting

Not Completely Aesthetic

Saturday, August 29, 2009


We recently had to get a new refrigerator. The old one failed (the freezer worked but the regular part wouldn't chill). My husband noted that it was new. I pointed out it was 15 years old. We could have fixed it, but all its various internal elements were in disrepair, and it was REALLY dirty.

So off to Sears, land of immortal tools and home appliances, where the vast choices baffled me. I didn't know you could spend $7,000 on a home refrigerator. Contemplating that monstrosity, I recalled seeing young couples in Beijing in 1988 bicycling home, balancing their coveted new refrigerators, the size of ones we might have as personal coolers in an office.

I didn't spend $7,000, and the Sears delivery team brought me (delivery free with rebate) a nice trendy platinum-finish one with a freezer drawer on the bottom and on top, French doors, something I would usually expect to open to garden parties, not leftovers and bottles of condiments. This is a more convenient arrangement: the food you usually are looking for is at hand and eye level. The bending over is reserved for less frequent digging around in the freezer. And I expect the new arrangement will prevent small animals from entering the refrigerator surreptitiously and providing surprises on opening, like this:

I've been getting by with a lot of old things. For example, I consider my 20-year-old car, reasonably fuel and emission efficient, to be (in addition to satisfaction of my lust for fast sporty driving), a statement against unnecessary consumption (although it probably is also a resistance to aging on my part). But I must say, that with the top up, exiting the roadster is beginning to feel like crawling out of a hole, with some difficulty. In her 70s, my mother-in-law complained about how hard it was to get in and out of. I'm beginning to see her point.

Which brings me to my body, which I am compelled to realize is moving in an aging direction. I note that I have recently read a number of anti-depressant books about aging and death; they are accumulating over in the corner next to the books on how to clear clutter. Starting with Nora Ephron's meditations about her crepey neck, I moved on to titles like Life After Death (Deepak Chopra); The Thing About Life is That One Day You'll Be Dead (David Shields); How We Die, by some practical House-like physician; How to Live, (Henry Alford). Still on my to-read pile are The Book of Dead Philosophers, and the always curious Tibetan Book of the Dead, a translation approved by the Dalai Lama, so it MUST be true, although I read an abridged version once and it seemed a little like Pilgrim's Progress. ("Hey, Noble One...")

We leading-edge baby boomers are so preoccupied with the controlled progression of life we consult manuals on EVERYTHING. I read piles of books on pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing (after reading all I could about women's sex and orgasms); then books on gardening and cooking and homemaking, keeping bees and raising chickens. Then the ambiguously encouraging books on menopause, reassuring me that the worst time in my physical life would be the best. (Although I think there is something to that "post-menopausal zest" thing; it just doesn't come as quickly as you expect.) And now all these books on body decline and wisdom. All this stuff that a century ago people just DID, no book learning required.

But none of them tells me where I can get a new body with French doors and a more efficient ice-maker. For that kind of overhaul, I need to get back to my Taoist cultivation and meditation -- nothing that can be achieved by reading books. I need a Wudang tune-up.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

(updated August 28, 2009)

After a period of intense lethargy, probably due to the failed hurricane and subsequent tropical depression, things are recovering. Yang is rising.

I was delighted to see the return of one of my favorite bloggers. Despite notices of last post "3 days ago...3 weeks ago...3 months ago...", I am glad I did not despair and remove him from my blog list. I missed his strange pictures and interesting music and movie links .My speculations were not all correct: he's not French, but English, and he was a patient, not a doctor. I wish him well and a good recovery.
I had been worried because for a week I hadn't seen the returned kolea I spotted earlier this month; I thought perhaps she left like a too-early arrival to a party, hanging out in the bar until the event really started rocking or just waiting in the parking lot to make a less obvious entrance with a group. Maybe she was disgusted by the dry lawns where the community exercises their dogs. But this morning, and several since, I spotted her and others in other locations, so they really are back. I drive slowly out of my complex looking for them, but I have a feeling birdwatching may be more dangerous than the hands-on cell-phone use that has been banned. I almost ran smack into a dumpster that was parked unexpectedly right in the middle of the street.

Once I got safely to work, at Starbuck's someone sprung for my latte, a nice gesture.

The cup had a message:

"YOU. Bought 228 million pounds of responsibly grown, ethically traded coffee last year."

(Then why am I not more alert?)

It goes on to point out that 65 percent of Starbucks coffee is bought in this manner, suggesting that 35 percent is NOT responsibly grown or ethically traded. Strange message. I need to start drinking tea again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


After watching the daily progress of the sprouts from the drastically pruned shrubs near my parking space, I was disturbed to see that someone snapped off half a dozen of the new shoots. I find it hard to believe that this was part of the ongoing horticultural maintenance. There are missing shoots from two out of three of these plants; I suspect kids, "youths," who have no respect for common property, to say nothing of nature. Perhaps the same ones who scratch at new paint in the elevators and leave their signs here and there with permanent markers and spray paint.

I will be watching the scarred spots closely to see if new shoots pop out. The plant is not harmed, but the peace of the garden is.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Almost at the very moment I was lamenting the apparent disappearance (that's a funny phrase) of a beloved blogger, I get a friend request on Facebook from someone in New England (far from that little island in the South China Sea) and discover a compelling blog that goes right to my heart. A Buddhist Mason who loves his Karmann Ghia, I love it. But then I think of myself as a Taoist Episcopalian whose most meditative moments come top down in my Miata. This guy is some kind of yang version of myself.

As Bob says, "Friends will arrive, friends will disappear."

I've been a little concerned of late because one of my favorite blogs I follow, over on the Yang side, hasn't been updated for a couple of months. I am reluctant to de-link it, partly because I still go there to look at his photos, and I enjoy his music links. He never writes much --pictures being worth a thousand words, to someone somewhere. This guy has a photographic style that is unusual, like you are really looking out of his head, and over time you get a sense of who he might be. (A French socialist with great taste in music, possibly a doctor, but more likely a patient? A lot of photos from pharmacy and outpatient departments. His last photos include a hospital room. Not encouraging. If anyone knows his condition, I would love to know.)

Another blog I find interesting is so sporadic I wonder if he even tries anymore, but once a month or so, he pops up with something. I feel an affinity for him because his blog started just about the time mine did; I discovered his in a mutual link. He is surprising and sensitive and honest, but not very regular. (I suspect he is a very busy man with a family and a demanding job.) Not that I am so daily, but it is a habit you must cultivate just by doing. On the other hand, if you're not COMPELLED to blog, then you're not a blogger.

I recently* read Stephen King's ambiguously* encouraging On Writing book, and have been thinking about someone else's comment --writing isn't about having something interesting to say, it's about making anything you say interesting. A friend once told me in college when I was the school paper's editor, that I "could write with my mind tied behind my back." That's a backhanded compliment, but he thought what I wrote was interesting anyway.

There are a few things about Stephen King's style that bother me, but I've never read one of his books without pretty much barreling through it in just one or two sittings. And I just learned that Anthony Trollope wrote ALL THE TIME with daily quotas. (Stephen King does the same thing.) Not only did Trollope invent the English letterbox, which at the time was a revolution like having email--providing efficient private and direct correspondence--but he also might be credited with an early paradigm of the laptop computer. He built a little portable writing desk that he carried everywhere. He wrote on commuter trains or wherever he had spare time. It was all by hand, and on the road he used a pencil so he didn't have to worry about running out of ink, the equivalent of a battery failure.

But I digress.

I worry about my missing or absent bloggers. In the blogosphere (what a creepy word), we exist only in our posts. To be sure, on the positive yang side, assuming the servers keep working, there's a kind of immortality there. But in the end, we don't even know who cares.

*Mr. King would really like me to edit out these adverbs, feeling they are unnecessary. But I like adverbs, and the passive voice, too, where appropriate. But I think I know how to use them effectively. (Ooops.)

Friday, July 24, 2009


I have been one to congratulate the Outdoor Circle for defending trees and keeping Hawaii from looking like Florida, where grotesque billboards often block the most gorgeous views, but this protest is downright silly. Big weiner causes big heartburn, I guess.

I am cravin' a hot dog! I know I have a Weinermobile Matchbox Car somewhere, and I think I also have an Oscar Mayer weiner-whistle from 1956 (a choking hazard, to be sure). And now I'm thinking this might be a possible next vehicle after TAO 61 reaches Nirvana.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Called in sick today, not something I do very often, and with new presumably more liberal leave policies -- PTO -- which combine sick and vacation time, I must consider if it's real sick or mental health leave I'm requiring.

The trouble with being home sick is that you never (except for those now obsolete mental health days) get to enjoy it. Because you're sick. Mostly I've been sleeping, my malaise punctuated with very odd dreams. On an ordinary well day, you sometimes think, "If only I could stay home today and ... read, paint, cook, clean, create clever ring tones for the cell phone, maybe even sleep." But home sick, and all you can do is sleep. And read maybe, a couple of pages at a time. And I have been reading, Stephen King's On Writing, not a bad memoir and inspiring as I embark on trying to write a whole book. That's probably why my dreams were so odd though, channeling Stephen, I dreamed I was keeping the ashes of two of my friend's children in shoeboxes --this all seemed very necessary. I was taking care of them for her. But they kept falling out and getting mingled with dust bunnies, cat litter, and other floorsweepings, and each other, the horror. King would probably go somewhere with this, and I guess I am, here, in a way.

Sickabed makes me think of childhood. My own memories of such times are illustrated like Jesse Wilcox Smith's image, above, and the one accompanying Robert Louis Stevenson's poem about the little boy and his toy soldiers, below. I would play with bucolic little cows and horses and ballerina dolls in among the bed linens.

When sick, I was well indulged by my parents. My mother would regularly check on me, bringing tea and thermometers and wet rags for the forehead. When he arrived home from work, in that hour that separated day and evening for the family, my father would treat me to a new coloring book, maybe a fat 25 cent comic book "Special." One particular flu was made more bearable when he discovered a forgotten Christmas present in his desk drawer: a crystal radio. (He always treated me a bit like a boy. Who gives a girl a crystal radio kit?) He strung the antenna wire all over my bedroom and I listened to the outside world on a little plastic box that didn't need to be plugged in, with an earphone not so different than the one I use with my cell phone today.

I don't remember my parents ever actually calling in sick, although I'm sure my father must have. Everyone gets the flu sometime, and he was prone to sick headaches. I inherited his tendency to migraine, which used to incapacitate me from working for a day or so every six months. And of course until she returned to the work world when I was 13, my mother could have been sick every day, but she was always home. It is a problem for a housewife and mother; how do you call in sick?

So now, I long to be pampered when I'm under the weather. But my partner's response to illness is "Just leave me alone." Since we tend to treat others in the ways we like to be treated, this causes some issues. I have to demand the cool wet washrags; he has to tell me to stop fussing over him. Not a difference of the sexes, I think it has to do with how we were raised. He was a boy with an older and younger sister; my mother called me her "one and lonely." (I think she was the lonely one.) My mother was not so busy; his was.

Fortunately as adults, we learn how to take care of ourselves. Still, today, I'm just a little homesick.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


It may not be obvious to my reader that I am not returning to Wudang, or any other place in China this fall. Circumstances bizarre enough for a novel have caused me to change my plans. So, in a sudden rush of yang, possibly instigated by TAO 61 (the car) reaching 200,000 miles, last night at 3 a.m. I wrote the first chapter of my novel and roughly plotted out what is to follow, something that's been kicking around in my head for quite some time, usually at 3 a.m. So, if I can't go to Wudang, I can at least imagine it! And the fun part about fiction: you can make things up, you can throw all your experiences into a pot, simmer and season, and they come out as a whole new reality. It's also the hard part: things have to work, there has to be continuity, we have to avoid libel, there's supposed to be a theme. How I dreaded that in high school, being required to articulate the theme of a book I was reading. I never believed the authors did when they wrote anyway. It just develops in the outpouring. But I already recognize the theme that I have established. (Not unlike my blogs). I'll leave it to my future reader to articulate it.

I must say, I have been inspired by Ken Follett and that Eat-Pray-Love thing...if they can write such commercially successful drivel, why not me? Now I have lots to do when I wake up in the middle of the night. I have choices! I can meditate. I can read, I can write. (I will not do housework; I know some people who use such sleepless periods to catch up on laundry or cleaning.)

Speaking of Ken Follett and his goofy Gothic-cathedral novels, I spent some time Friday night and yesterday (between Chinese painting class and writing) watching the 7 episodes of "The Barchester Chronicles", BBC's 1982 adaptation of Anthony Trollope's The Warden and Barchester Towers. Newsweek recently named a Trollope novel as number one in the list of must-read timely fiction for the summer. Victorian lit was never my interest in school, but I am compelled by the Brits' ability to translate the stuff to TV. What dialogue, I laughed out loud and wept. It's great fun to watch these things back-to-back on a sultry lazy afternoon, not having to wait a week between installments.

And Alan Rickman as Obadiah Slope! He's right up there with the Tony Leungs (Tiny and Tall), Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. Guys with eyes! In Barchester, Rickman seems to foreshadow his portrayal of Snape in Harry Potter. He is the only reason I have watched those movies; he's my contemporary, and I only hope I have perfected myself as much since 1982. He was perfect then, and (as in the language of the Declaration of Independence) is more perfect now.

If my "to read" pile wasn't so towering, I would add some Trollope to it. But now I am content to enjoy the DVDs I picked up at Costco. Next up: The Way We Live Now, the story Newsweek recommended. Something about its relevance to Bernie Madoff! Time to get my car radio installed for some audio books.