Tuesday, August 31, 2010

and now it's July.** No, wait, it's almost September. Tomorrow in fact, in just a couple of hours. Almost Labor Day weekend. What have I been doing for the past month, to say nothing of the entire summer?

Just read a Spanish proverb on a little inspirational calendar someone gave me which resides in my bathroom. I contemplate the daily quotes as I sit on the toilet. Fortunately they are vaguely, if not intentionally, Taoist, not like the kind you get with calendars for Humans with Seven Highly Habitual Habits and such (the ones that are about productivity and organizing and profit making).

Today's saying was, "How beautiful it is to do nothing, and then rest afterward." Seems very Spanish, very Mediterranean, really, wisdom from the land of siestas. Also makes me think of guys sleeping on top of loads in Chinese trucks.

I only wish I had been doing nothing this summer; then I could beautifully rest this upcoming Labor Day weekend. After my China trip, (which basically was studying the Taoist concept of not doing, wu wei), there followed three months of stressful work, not particularly pleasant effort (that in the end amounts to not much of anything). These are the words of someone who is quite ripe for retirement, a period in which I anticipate actually doing something--but for myself, rather than effort for others merely to earn an income and make some company profitable. My marketable skills peaked some time ago, are probably obsolete now, and I am ready to synthesize my accumulated ...what?...accumulations... into something for me. I want to clear the closets of my apartment, the attic of my mind. Move stuff offstage for a nice finale, the final chapters of the novel that is my life.
Actually I did do something that may be the hallmark (in my mind anyway) of this summer. (The China trip was a spring fling.) I spent an ungodly number of hours watching two extravagant Korean sageuk (historical) series with Song Il Guk (right, former pirate Yeum Jang aka Yum Moon --what a name!--here, pre-branding, in "Emperor of the Sea"--sorry no subtitles in this clip, who needs them, but warning: the branding scene at 4:30 is a little grim.) It was escape, pure and simple: from the meaningless work and into another world (there's that soap opera theme), disconnected from anything remotely modern, but full of the things that define humanity, on this earth anyway. Tragedy and comedy, love and lust, principles and immorality, war and peace, commerce and slave trading. To say nothing of agile sexy guys with very sharp swords, fast horses and archery skills. (I want them on MY side!) After scaling the peak of the 81-episode Jumong, I surmounted another in 51 hours of "Emperor of the Sea." (Bear in mind these are Korean hours, which are just about an hour, more or less.)

The story of Emperor of the Sea was really good, inspiring even. In ~850 CE Korea, the angelic Song Il Guk, (prior to his performance in Jumong), plays a morally conflicted converted pirate, not the protagonist, a short guy who looks like a Korean Martin Sheen and who doesn't look nearly so good as Song Il Guk on a horse. EotS was more or less based on a historical character, the legendary and highly principled Jang Bogo (the shorter guy's role) who opened routes in the Yellow Sea for commerce between Korea and China and helped to stop a slave trade. I've read that even guys like this series. Lots of political and economic intrigue, male bonding and loyalty themes and some very attractive ladies, a complicated love triangle but not too mushy except for the poignant unrequited love plot points. (These K-Ds are very chaste really; it would appear that a woman can get pregnant just by discreetly and reluctantly hugging a man on a beach done up in long silk robes and leather armour...well, there is that symbolic sword.) Whenever you see a "bedroom scene" it's usually because someone is sick or injured (from sword slashings), or rarely, has just given birth. The music in the clip doesn't match the show's soundtrack (the series did NOT use the U.S. Navy Hymn --at 5:48 when Yum Moon/Yeum Jang is seeking refuge in the Buddhist monastery and later dying of multiple arrow wounds--although it seems weirdly appropriate in messianic way, perhaps hinting at SIG's latest series, A Man Called God.) The whole drama has a nice sound track, which I downloaded from some free site.

This clip is nice too...another song from the series. In the video, at 2:45, observe: this man was born to ride a horse!

But now I'm at a loss for further escape...I have four more period Chinese/Hong Kong multi-episode series in the queue, (choices, decisions) and Season 6 of House is being shipped...something for the long weekend. I read a review of Condor Hero, waiting on my shelf, a recent dramatization of a Louis Cha wuxia novel. An Amazon reviewer commented that it sucked him in the same way Korean drama does. So I'm starting episode 2 tonight.

**Astute readers or other old farts will recognize this Frank Zappa reference ("Stinkfoot").

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

After two-and-a-half years going without, I finally have a radio installed in my car. It's been a valuable exercise in mindfulness to drive with nothing but the chatterings of my monkey mind and the sound of TAO 61's (the car's) exhaust. But this weekend, the Wizard kindly struggled to rewire the dashboard -- the thieves had made a real mess -- and get the new JVC radio+CD/MP3/iPOD-ready device installed and working. Still in the box, it had been taking up space in my trunk for two years. And in a Miata trunk, a half-cubic-foot is a lot of real estate.

It's a shiny black and silver thing, with tiny buttons, nearly invisible legends and indicators, and a coded display that I simply can't figure out, let alone see clearly. I did manage to set the clock, but I can't activate it to display the time. I'm feeling incompetent, maybe just old. (I understand why the Wizard wants an analog radio that tunes manually with a dial.)

I did manage to find a radio station this morning. I learned in a local newscast that a tree had fallen on someone and an assessment of the weak old ironwoods on the beach would begin---more tree wars; and that a nomination for the State Supreme Court Chief Justice with an unpronouncable--at least by the newscaster--Samoan name, Fa'auuga To'oto'o, had been criticized by the bar association. I once sat on a jury in his courtroom and thought he was pretty just. And I should give credit to our newscaster for trying; he has trouble with even simple things, recently commenting that we need to free ourselves of dependence on "important" oil.

Bored with the news, I opted for a CD, first of a Teaching Company series on comparative religion. But to effectively use the thing, it looks like I'm going to have to take a graduate class in radio operation -- or at least sit patiently for a while with a manual that's about as helpful as VCR documentation. (My iPAD came with no instructions, so intuitive it was, at least for a veteran Mac user --although someone considering one told me she took a class to learn it first-- I only had to ask a friend three questions about a couple of things I would have figured out anyway.)

The glitzy blingy look of the radio faceplate may help me to remember to remove it to prevent a fourth radio heist from my ragtop...it looks about as appropriate in the 20-year-old dashboard as a big diamond and ruby ring on a wrinkled hand with liver spots. (I need to schedule a detailing, to say nothing of a manicure and a facial.) My all-time favorite Sony, a couple of receivers back, was dull black and disappeared into the dashboard, although that didn't stop the rip-off artist.

If I have to actually learn how to use a car radio, I might just continue to listen to the sound of silence.

And there's something else; it really wants new speakers.