And on the other hand...

Click here for The Yin Side where the other half of me holds forth!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Floor Scrubbing/Smooth Sailing

Not one to really get into floor scrubbing, being the world's most indifferent housekeeper (in my house, floor-scrubbing is on a par with remodeling), I finally succumbed to the really necessary task. The floor was sticky. I highly recommend the made for TV scrubbie especially since I could not find a proper rag mop or even a sponge. Actually there was a sponge mop in the closet, but so old it bio-degraded just as I put it into the Spic and Span solution.

I could do better...there are a few spots that could use a down and dirty massage with a Brillo pad, but I'm not a down-on-my-knees kind of girl, especially when it comes to housekeeping. I throw a few bowls of hot soapy water around the floor, and with the efficient TV-scrubbie/squeegie...eventually, everything comes clean...enough. Gou le. Ca suffit. A few final swish/swashes with the TV mop/squeegie and a half roll of paper towels to sop up all the muddy water...not perfect, but not too bad.

As Guan Yin advised me, smooth sailing!

Caught in a Web of Strategy Studies

Watched the final battle in Sunzi Bingfa and the 36 Strategies of Sun Bin (right) last night, a long and fascinating, if a little slow, Chinese TV series about The Art of War. I feel like I've just spent time in a strategy think tank, or a semester at West Point.

Last night, I was having difficulty concentrating on the action; I was wary because a VERY large spider, one of Hawaii's less promoted natural phenomena, had taken up residence in a space between a screen and some closed louvered windows in my bedroom, and it made me uneasy. Not very Taoist of me, I am not fond of this particular one of the five noxious creatures (wu du, sounds like voo doo). Which, now that I do research to provide you a link, I realize is NOT one of them; in Chinese symbology, the spider (zhi zhu) is actually considered a good omen, but you couldn't tell it by me. I will trade the spider for the gecko in my personal pantheon of wu du. I wonder if the Wizard had conjured it after finding on the web, so to speak, a picture of a similar spider that we saw while hiking in Hong Kong, a huge nightmarish thing that would throw silk from treetop to treetop, making a bug-catching canopy over trails. Not one of my favorite memories of life in Hong Kong. (Needless to say, I have to cover my eyes when Frodo is fighting Shelob in Lord of the Rings.)

The cane spider (you can Google it, I can't bring myself to do it for you), palm-sized and leggy, is harmless (I think), but unpleasant to encounter. We all have stories about our experiences with them--there was a season when a colony was living in my car. One might turn up on my windshield, suddenly at night, right in front of me. Or creep out of the defroster vent and work its way across the dashboard.

Yesterday, I noticed the spider on the smooth side of the inwardly folding louvers, staying there all day, moving maybe a half-inch downward to where the louvers were open to the outside. I suspect it is nocturnal and was confused; it had climbed up the glass, but couldn't figure out how to get back down. (Though, I'm sure it did; it was just terrorizing me.) Much as I didn't like to see it, as long as I could, I knew it was there and not somewhere else waiting to surprise me when I put on a shoe or pulled a book from my shelf.

It was still there when I turned out the lights for sleep, but I was just a little tense all night wondering if I would wake up to find it caressing my face at 3 a.m. For once I was happy to have the Yellow Emperor taking up more than his share of space on the bed; the cats are very good at arachnid search-and-destroy. I don't even have to tell them, "Sha!" I have sometimes found what looks like the remains of crab feasts on the floor. Good kitties! Hao mao!

The spider is gone this morning; I hope it found its way back outside. But I'm staying close to the Yellow Emperor. Not one of the Bingfa strategies, just common sense.

Which most of the Sunzi Bingfa is. The TV series featured colorful historically based examples. In the concluding battle, while employing a strategy called "The Tactic of Missing Stoves," (not making this up) Sun Bin causes his one-time classmate's downfall by writing some characters on a tree (essentially, "You will die here."). Pang Juan realizes he is trapped, defeated once again by the superior, even though crippled, Sun Bin and, with several arrows piercing his armor, Pang Juan falls intentionally on his own sword.

Earlier in their history together, Pang Juan accused Sun Bin of treason; he branded his face and "picked his patella," that is, removed his kneecaps. Sun Bin could never ride a horse very well after that and always walked with a cane. He never forgave Pang Juan. This is recorded in real historical records. This series does not include the face branding, a punishment that is illustrated in The Emperor and the Assassin, and Emperor of the Sea (at 3:23 in the clip, sorry more shameless promotion!)

Heroic suicide occurs a lot in this drama, usually self-inflicted sword impalements, but once by someone throwing himself against a pillar and cracking his own skull open. More of an Asian tradition perhaps, this is not so well thought of in Western military strategy, as we see practically every day in accounts of offensive activities in Pakistan, etc., although in those cases, taking innocent people along for the ride. Suicide bombing was not included in the Bingfa.

Sun Bin and his rival, Pang Juan, were both "cadets" studying with Guiguzi, a hermit and possibly a Taoist immortal. The series -- not as dramatic and over-the-top in terms of production as a sa geuk, like Emperor of the Sea, was probably more faithful to the history and traditional legend of the story of Sun Tzu, Sun Bin, Pang Juan and others of the Warring States Period. There was a little romance provided by a woman with extraordinary sword skills who was deeply in love with and in awe of Sun Bin, but who eventually became Queen of Qi. There's a great emphasis on Confucian duty and loyalty in the story, as well as traditional wisdom. Guiguzi is as stereotypical as a Taoist hermit can be, and both Sun Bin and Pang Juan are seen consulting yarrow stalk hexagrams. Pang Juan should have taken his final divination seriously.

I can't decide whether to re-shelve this set with my Chinese/Korean drama collection, or with Teaching Company history courses. I may actually refer to this later.

On Fortune Telling and Divination
It interested me to see the Sunzi Bingfa characters seeking advice (or therapy) from the Zhouyi/I Ching (and a fortune teller who employed the cup o' sticks technique.) I am concurrently reading Deng Ming-dao's excellent recent volume The Living I Ching: Using Ancient Chinese Wisdom for Shaping your Life. Despite its new-agey self-help title, it presents the I Ching in a remarkably accessible format, with explanation of its history and with nine illuminating appendixes. One point Deng makes, like one of my linked bloggers, is that the value of the I Ching is appreciated fully only after many years, decades even, of study and practice. Like many of us d'un certain age, I have fooled around with the old yellow-bound Wilhelm-Baynes translation since 1967, so in a way I do have decades of experience. But I never really appreciated the mechanics of the thing until it was explained by my Chinese Tao teacher, even though I had tossed many coins, and, a few years ago, read the somewhat abstruse Numerology of the I Ching by Alfred Huang.

Deng and W/B
Anyone who is interested in Chinese history, philosophy and culture, and in particular, Taoism (religious or not), would do well to delve into Deng's book. The Zhouyi/I Ching is another piece of the Chinese puzzle, and continues to be of value and interest.

I had a hexagram cast and interpreted in the Man Mo Temple in Hong Kong a couple years ago. I do not remember which it was, but the reader, also considering my birthday, advised me I should take care of my health and that I should not retire until 2012. (Which is pretty much what I expected and planned anyway.) It was a fun sort of experience but I think I might recast a hexagram to update the advice.

Less profound is the Chinese fortune stick method: I did this once in a temple in Wudang where the expected payment was to be based on the kind of fortune you got. I had a mid-range fortune. (Yi kuai? Gou le ma?) An English-speaking tourist couple from Taiwan translated it for me. It was a lot like the advice I got from a doctor when I had a recent colonoscopy/endoscopy: just keep on doing what you're doing.

I have a stick-set of my own that I use with the Guan Yin poems; when I bought the sticks, the Honolulu Chinatown vendor asked, "Do you want real or party favor kind?" There is a 78-stick set which is employed as a game for parties; the "real" set, used in temples, has 100 sticks and is linked to I Ching-like oracular statements. I knew the 78-stick set was just a novelty, I had gotten one in Hong Kong. I wanted the real thing. On the vendor's direction, I went to the local Guan Yin Temple to buy the accompanying book of divination, oddly, a little more kitchy than Martin Palmer's.

A hexagram takes time to create and interpret; the sticks are fast-fortunes. Guess which one gives the better advice.
Don't Gamble Today

Smooth Sailing for Floor Scrubbing

Just for fun, I used both stick methods while I was taking these photos. My party game reading was #26, which basically said I shouldn't gamble today. I was actually asking if I should scrub the kitchen floor.

The "real" one, #50, was much more interesting. It was about smooth sailing.

I'm off to scrub the floor.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Purging so hard. Because you want to hold on to the stuff, like a potentially good hand of cards. And you just never know. And also hard because it's dealing with sheer bulk. LPs, video tapes, boxes of board games. And no attic to put them in.

I'm moving some old LPs (some of which were left to me by my father, his recordings of Bunny Berrigan, Perez Prado, and other big band/swing trumpeters) to a space previously occupied by a collection of board games we never play anymore. The nostalgia factor is preventing me from being efficient. What to do with the board games?

I haven't played a board game in years. It's what you do when you have kids at home, (or maybe not, WII and Nintendo may have replaced this charming custom), but how do I discard the really old, depression-era version of Monopoly I remember using as a child? It's like a first edition with wooden houses and money printed on fragile delicate stock. (Never mind that I detest Monopoly; I always sell out early and consent to be an absentee banker.) On my set's instructions, there is a "Copyright 1936" notation. It is probably really valuable, even more than Park Place with hotels.

I don't know what happened to the Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, and Uncle Wiggly games , but I find stored Parcheesi...Sorry!...Boggle...Clue...Scrabble...Yahztee...Uno...Milles Bornes.** Several Trivial Pursuit boxes of questions. And especially peculiar, a board game developed by the Credit Union National Associaton (CUNA), called Managing Your Money, a weird synthesis of Monopoly and Life. (My mother managed a credit union -- she should have been in much higher finance, she was really good, but there it is, some weird promotional item, but my son loved it when he was five years old. Buying insurance policies and calculating interest on loans. He did not absorb its lesson.)

I remember playing all these games with friends, young and older. I think of the closet full of board games in The Royal Tenenbaums, (which only just occurs to me is a prequel to The Darjeeling Limited. That board game of associations, the mind.)

Two cribbage boards, a nice box of "ivory" dominoes and a mahjong set. I never ever played cribbage. Dominoes bored me, but I might like to learn mahjong. (I play computerized solitaire versions; I can recognize the pieces.) I think I'll keep that. One of my Chinese painting classmates can teach me; when she's not painting, she's playing. With great enthusiasm.

I played board games and dominoes at my paternal grandmother's house, at her kitchen table, with cousins, and later, gin rummy with my grandmother alone. I always had the seat with its back to the heat vent, so hot, which tended to bubble the paint on the chair. I liked to finger the squishy blisters of paint while waiting for my cousins' moves.

It's the bulk of stuff that is overwhelming. On the shelf above the board games are a lot of video tapes. (To say nothing of a lot of audio-book tapes about which I will say nothing.) Many self-made copies of MST3K from Comedy Central and lots of movies I don't want to get rid of (but probably available to stream on Netflix) and, some very weird "how-to" stuff:
  • Home Haircutting with Wahl
  • Lauren Hutton's Good Stuff: A Makeup Application Video
  • Drywall
  • Inside Disk Drives
  • NordicTrack (we got rid of this noisy evil thing several years ago)
  • How To Video: Cuisinart Food Processors (but where is the inspiring one about the more dangerous mandolin?)
  • A personalized promotional video: the "virtual experience animation and composite," with my name on it...what the ??
The internet (and personal mastery) has--I hope--made all this pretty much obsolete so I intend to chuck all these into the trash. There was a time I would keep the tapes for recording over, but no more.

I am ready to offer to anyone who wants it, the Trivial Pursuit Canon, as well as all these classic literary knowledge games, but then, I look in the Scrabble box and discover the strangest thing: a rolled piece of Chinese calligraphy, what could it be? Where did it come from? I want to say it's beautiful but I'm not sure, I think it is not very well done, but I will leave it to my Chinese painting teacher to assess the quality and meaning. Some sort of Chinese Scrabble?

**Actually, I have played Milles Bornes fairly recently, not just because it has a French ambience. One of the most fun games to play with a few close, slightly drunk adult friends. A crazy road trip with cards.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Let It Lain, Let It Lain, Let It Lain

Apologies to the ultra-suave Mr. Song for promoting him in such shameless and callous fashion, (go to 1:47 in the clip), but we have no choice but to let it lain...and with thunder and lightning too; it has been pouring for the past several days, replenishing our aquifer (more likely encouraging mudslides), but also turning everything into a damp humid asthmatic mess. My closet smells of moldy leather. My antique kitchen knives have mold on their wooden handles. My hands ache. Typical Hawaii Christmas weather. But no tire chains, snow tires, engine heaters, windshield ice scrapers, things I remember, and not so fondly, from winter in more wintery climes.

Still, the lain has been good for one of my Chinese painting exercises.
Although not good for precise landscape work, the humidity does facilitate the blot-style which makes for quickly rendered cute animals. My ink doesn't dry out in its inkstone, and the paper is just damp enough for interesting spreading. I painted 14 rabbits to perfect a motif I might use
in a Chinese New Year message; rabbits just proliferate, they are all so cute. (Actually this design is from a book my teacher says is for children.) Next on the agenda, a style of camels which I learned recently is just a series of blots accompanying a stylistically drawn face.

Why is there no year of the camel?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Taoist and a Confucian...

walk into a bar and review their 42 years of marriage.

The Taoist is lighthearted because of an enforced (but not unwelcome) vacation from the office until the (Gregorian) new year. The Confucian is relieved because the various seasonal tasks of propriety (gifts for his office staff, many bottles of champagne distributed) have been completed.

Dinner is ordered after the usual martinis (the Taoist has taught the Confucian to appreciate what you can do with gin); the Confucian compliments the waitstaff for being the most attentive on the island. The ultra-attractive young Chinese server (at an Italian restaurant) says they try very hard because the owner yells at them a lot if they don't perform well. Later the owner reveals that the server is his son and in line to run the place.

The Confucian and the Taoist start serious reminiscing after putting a dent in a fine bottle of pinot grigio, recalling past dinners and bars in Vermont, Honolulu, Pittsburgh, Hong Kong, agreeing that the Hong Kong pubs were the best, with crazy characters and despite occasional rats and cockroaches, at least "back then."

The reminiscing moves on to, what else, Woodstock. The pair were "at" Woodstock, the same way Bob Dylan was: "in the vicinity," having turned it down "because of disgust of the hippies hanging around his house," probably very muddy. Married just a few months, the Taoist and the Confucian were driving (for a reason they can no longer remember) with the paternal parents through upstate New York to Vermont, observing all kinds of freaks on the road, picking up flyers and broadsheets advertising the Great Event of 1969.

"We'll drop you off if you want," the father said. The Taoist was intrigued, but the Confucian, proper even then, (not yet having replaced his Buddy Holly black frames with John Lennon granny glasses) said, observing the weather conditions, "I bet it will be really muddy."

"But," he recalls 41 years and four months later, "There are two guys I would like to have seen."

"Jimi Hendrix!" the Taoist says.

"Yes, and that white guy."

"That white guy? What white guy?"

It had been an evening of "that place, you know," and "those guys, you know," the old folks' shared ESP usually leading to an answer but then not quite sure in the end why it was being sought.

The Taoist, in a fit of eternal youth, whipped out her iPad. "Have you got yours working yet?"


A search on "white guy at woodstock" reveals some interesting links but no definitive answer. "Woodstock performers" does.

"Was it...Country Joe McDonald ...John Sebastian ...Tim Hardin ...Ravi Shankar (maybe not a white guy) ...Arlo Guthrie ...Joan Baez (definitely not a white guy)...Cleedence Crearwater (the Taoist is a little tipsy now) ...Janis Joplin ...Johnny Winter (a really white guy) ...The Who (who the Confucian and the Taoist had actually seen some time before)."

AHA! Joe Cocker; Day 3. "That's it!"

We, I mean the Taoist and the Confucian, would have had to be there for Day 3 and Day 4, to see Joe and Jimi, getting really muddy.

Leaving the restaurant, the Taoist pointed out the astonishing breathtaking full solstice sacred (to her, anyway) moon in the sky. Some passing Rasta guy, looking a little like Jimi, seemed to like the observation. The Confucian went to Safeway to pick up some things; the Taoist drove home listening to Bruce Springsteen singing "Glory Days," randomly shuffled, like an I Ching divination, on her iPod. (Bruce was not at Woodstock either; he was still in New Jersey, pretty much unheard of.)

On rising earlier this morning, the Taoist had actually cast an I Ching divination, first in many months, yielding hexagram 53, which is, uncannily, about marriage. It is called "Gradual Progress," and uses the image of a tree on a mountain.

The Taoist believes that the Glory Days are great to remember, but the tree is still growing. It's not over yet. The Confucian agrees, but doesn't really like to talk about it.

Weirdly, in the mailbox at home, the Taoist's free Rolling Stone magazine, which makes her feel old and young at the same time, has a photo of John Lennon on the cover. Old trees on mountains.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Ho Chih Minh!

Wasn't he just adorable in 1961, in the picture on the previous post? Part of my collection of interesting looking Asian Communists, which also includes a couple of images of Zhou Enlai, who had an equally intriguing charisma to his look in the early days.

Zhou Enlai, film star bearing

Zhou and Mao in Shensi in 1937***

I don't know what Ho, at a sprightly 71, and his buddies were doing at night in the Liang River in China, just before the Vietnam War started to heat up with our involvement, but if he was looking for a politically meaningful eclipse, perhaps he had better luck than with the one supposedly occurring right now above me. My eclipse is eclipsed by dense cloud cover, part of some serious rainy stormy weather pushed to the islands by some cyclone 1500 miles off to the west.

I hope I do better with tomorrow's Solstice full moon, which will mark our 42nd wedding anniversary. There's a lot of odd yin/yang stuff going in the heavens right now.

***I saw an exhibit once with this photo, reprinted huge, like 4 feet wide, which also includes a couple of other of the Red geezers like Zhu De and oddly, one of the Western hangers-on, I believe it was Owen Lattimore, I can't remember. Most images I see crop the Westerner out. But in poking around for information about these guys, and the Eighth Route Army I also learn that George Hogg, "English adventurer and local Chinese folkhero...stayed in the Shanxi 8th Route army for a time and also befriended general Nie Rongzhen." How curious this history is. George Hogg is the subject of the movie The Children of Huang Shi, about which I recently commented.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


One of the things about blogging is you develop a little community that opens you up to a lot of things you didn't know, but should have. For instance, another blogger more or less led me to this absolutely wonderful image, and I throw out a challenge to any of my readers to tell me who it is. ( I know, but it's too weirdly charmingly cool to reveal.) Tsui Hark? Ho Chih Minh? Gia-Fu Feng? Who do you think?
I don't have a prize to offer, but maybe a link to your blog?

Just In Time

Like clockwork, the red Christmas cactus is blooming, actually a little early, if not as exuberantly as I hoped, though there's still time. (It has been known to blossom again at Easter.) I think it is still confused by a repotting. But still, there it is.

I thought nothing was happening with the undisturbed, healthier white one; it usually blooms later, but I looked closer and am assured of its promise: one tiny bud beginning to form. There will be more.

We have been having Hawaii Christmas weather. Rainy, cool nights. I woke up around 2:30 a.m. recently, shivering. It never occurred to me to turn off the fan and close the windows.

The rain obscures the usually vivid Waianae Range, so the horizon is pretty much limited to a stone's throw from my balcony/lanai.

This is the kind of day, if I was going to work, I would say I just want to stay home. And today I can, enjoying the steady rainfall, the sound of the stream below, the apartment warmed by some holiday fairy lights (a tropical corollary to a fire in a Franklin stove).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Tree Progress

I put an ornament on it now and then as I walk by. I should be done by Christmas Eve, and it will be fine for the 12 days of Christmas after which I will remove an ornament now and then as I walk by, hopefully undone by Chinese New Year. But tonight, something special. A dear departing co-worker passed his farewell ginger-ti lei to me (he was allergic to it) so I strung it on the tree like a garland of snow. The combined fragrance notes of white ginger and fir are quite intriguing. And real, not something concocted in a perfume laboratory. Yes, that is a gecko in a Santa hat peeking out from the branches.

Earlier, I had thrown a nut/shell/ti leaf lei into a fall/Thanksgiving arrangement that seemed aesthetically pleasing, if not completely traditional.
The custom of lei-giving in Hawaii is something really special. I wore a lei presented to the Wizard a few days ago, a beautiful complex green and purple orchid thing, here a little wilted, but when it was fresh, I dressed to the lei: green pants, a burgundy top. Everyone commented on it.
"Is it your birthday?"

"No, that was last week."

"Well, I love it when folks wear lei for no particular reason."

Which made me think of a comment I made to a blog-o-pal about the curious integration of pagan traditions like Santa (the Wild Man) and amanita mushrooms and bunny rabbits and chicks with the Christian icons of the creche and crucifix. Like language, our traditions evolve and conflate, to the point where no one really knows what anything really means. But they are all quite delicious, hinting at secrets of love and lust and spiritual longing, expressed in these tangible ways. Very natural things, flowers and fecund rabbits point to immortality, the promise (fulfilled or not) of spiritual aspiration.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Tree 2010

The tree has been sitting naked in the living room for a week. Every morning I comb through its branches with my arms to relax it, unfurl it. It's beautiful. It smells divine. I wonder if it really needs ornamentation. The cats love it. Fifi, la plus belle chatte de la maison, lurks under it, I'm sure feeling like she is outside.

We missed getting a live tree last year, and I wasn't sure we would do it this time, but we did. This year, a trip to our favorite tree vendor, who sends us a discount coupon every year, was fruitful. We were greeted in the lot by a guy who was clearly a casual hire, probably from the Salvation Army, toothless, but full of energy and more customer service-oriented than anyone in Bangalore.

"What are you looking for?"

"A six-foot Noble." (Like Song Il-Guk as Jumong, Muhyul or Yum Moon.)

"Follow me. ... here's one," he said, stripping off the plastic net, propping up the heavy tree for our consideration.

"Beautiful, we'll take it."

The Wizard went off with the coupon to pay for it, leaving me with the casual hire to bounce it free of needles (with a curious vibrator that shook all the loose shit out...I wanted to sit on it, that six-foot Noble) and package it up to take to the roof of our car. He looked at me, "Are you sure this is the one?"

This very hard-working guy then told me he just had a woman come in who made him take 18
(eighteen) trees out of the Matson** container, unwrap them, display them...and she didn't like any of them. And then she left.

"We like this one, it's just fine. I hope this makes up for that," I
said. He took it to the car, the Wizard tipped him well (fresh trees are really heavy) and now we have a truly lovely tree, still waiting for decor, but perfect.

All of which made me recall tree selections of the past:

---going to a "lot" at night near my grandmother's house, strung with lights (kinda like a used car lot) with my father, who in my memory resembles Gregory Peck in "To Kill A Mockingbird," (at right) when I was as tall as maybe his mid-thigh, stomping around in the snow. The tree had to be short enough to fit on the "platform" (wrapped in brick-printed crepe paper) for the American Flyer train and village under it (wish I still had that).

---finding a little tree on December 23, just after our Solstice wedding, also from a snowy lot, decorated with tacky glass ball ornaments from Woolworth's that I still use, (they are on their way to becoming antiques) and a paper-cut snowflake made by my aesthetics professor who said at our wedding that I looked like a snowflake; the tree sat on top of a blond '50s era B&W TV-set, a hand-me-down from the in-laws.

---cutting our own tree on a snowy Pennsylvania hillside, celebrating with champagne many things, particularly 100K miles on the Honda station wagon, a recent birthday, an upcoming anniversary, and the fact that we didn't get caught because we cut down someone else's tree, marked with a tag earlier in the season. My perpetual apologies, we never saw the tag until the tree was felled.

--driving around in the Idaho wilderness with a permit to cut anything we could find. Mulled wine and friendship and a poorly wildly shaped but very fresh tree made that holiday memorable.

--waiting for an hour or so with a few other desperate last minute folks like us, for a tree to be trucked in from Makaha: "They didn't sell well out there."

The Christmas tree is indeed a sacrificial thing. I get very upset with indiscriminate tree slaughter. I have ambivalent feelings about the Christmas tree industry. But at the same time, I remember all those trees of the past, their aroma, the bedecked glory, it's time to put on the lights.

**I am not an employee of Matson, but I love the company's logotype. I don't know if it is intentional, but the "T" looks like an anchor. Perfect for a marine shipping company.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


I'm not sure what to say about this. But the events are SO Chinese. A Confucius Peace Prize? An alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize. (The Chinese invented peace. And the Sunzi Bingfa.) Regarding the 21st Century Confucius Peace Prize:
The first honoree is Lien Chan, Taiwan's former vice president and the honorary chairman of its Nationalist Party, for having "built a bridge of peace between the mainland and Taiwan." A staffer in his Taipei office said she could not comment Tuesday because she knew nothing about the prize.
Which is all really really weird.

I was intrigued by this not only because one of my blog-o-pals is publishing The Art of War, line-by-line, oddly with no commentary, but also because I just discovered in my DVD collection a set I bought couple of years ago in Hong Kong, something about the 36 stratagems (or as the DVD says "six times six equals to thirty-six number goes with art," whatever that means). It is a Chinese-produced "TV-play," about the Sunzi Bingfa (albeit pathetic by Korean-drama standards). I bought it thinking it was an academic documentary about Sun Tzu, but I discover it's an interesting drama, (recalling the production values of late '50s television's Hallmark Hall of Fame or Alcoa Presents dramas of my childhood) with very attractive Chinese men in topknots. (Having just finished Muhyul, this may be the next stimulation I need. )

The real point of my post here is that a reading of The Art of War may be helpful in understanding just what the hell the Chinese are really doing with their Confucius prize.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Nothing like a birthday to make you review your year. Did I make progress? (What is progress?) Did I just keep my head above water? (What is survival?) I review this year, the first half of which was spent planning a trip to China, and the last half, recovering from it, and not much else. Well, actually, lots more, documented in both Tao 61s. (And a lot of undocumented shit.) But during this period of dark and new moons, I make a personal internal commitment to plan another trip.

I did observe this morning something that ordinarily would have outraged me, but today just made me sigh. I had been watching the blooming of a huge clump of aloe where I park my car over the past couple weeks. I watched the tall coral-colored blossoms (above) develop daily. I thought I had photographed it, but not. I regret that.

Today, a DoT worker was digging the entire clump out of the ground, to make room for some other "more attractive" plantings the building management wants to install.

I sighed. I may have been the only person who was watching the blossoming in the parking lot.

The deed is done. I can do nothing about it. I can only sigh. An in breath, an out breath.

But at the same time I had an interesting conversation with the DoT worker, a woman who seems attached to me, who is kind and open. She offered me a clump of the dug-out aloe, telling me how to process the plant for its juice. She had no choice but to dig it up. We both agreed that the building manager is a bitch.

I am thinking of equanimity. The aloe comes and goes. People do what they have to do. Friends arrive and disappear. There is no progress. Only survival.

I think I must focus my practice on achieving equanimity. I may be making progress.