• Tag Archives China
  • Here They Come!

    Imbolc                                                                 Valentine Moon

    Here’s a link to a new service by the Atlantic, a China channel.  If you follow this link and read the very sensible and wise assessment of the US/China situation by Lee Kuan Yew, the former president of Singapore, you will have a greater grasp of the politics than, apparently, do most of the members of our Congress.  Yew points out certain inevitables like:  China is already a world power and eventually will out pace the US in most if not all indices.  Our relative power in the world will decline.  This has all happened before.

    (picture from the Atlantic China channel)

    No, not the rise of China and the relative decline of the US, but world powers rise and fall over the course of history.  No big story there.  This gradual change just happens to be underway in our lifetime.

    He says, and I agree, that China is no Soviet Union.  That is, they are not set on world domination.  What they want is their place in the world, one in accord with their size, economy and long history.  And, they will get it.

    This is a key point.  With or without a sensible US policy China’s rise is certain.  What we can do is manage our reaction to it and help to guide both China and the world as a whole toward amicable relations in trade and political discourse.  Yew makes these points much better than I can.

    What I want to add is this.  Even in a state of relative decline the US will still be formidable from a military, economic, innovation and educational perspective.  None of these are trivial.  And we have come to this position of prominence with a history of barely 400 years, much less if you count from our war of independence.  After less than 300 years as a nation we can stand face to face with a civilization with 4,000 years of history.  That is no mean achievement and its reality will not fade as time goes on.

    We have been privileged by geography, natural resources, immigrant vigor and by a culture developed on Enlightenment principles of equality and personal freedom.  As Yew also accurately points out though, these Enlightenment principles are time and culture bound.  They are not universal.  It is no more appropriate to think that democracy and individualism should be adopted by other countries than it is to think that Christianity should be accepted as a universal religion.

    Perhaps the biggest barrier to understanding between our two cultures can by symbolized by our financial systems emphasis on share holder value rated by corporate performance in quarterly increments versus China’s willingness to build their military over several decades.  We are a sound byte people, addicted to the moment and often ahistorical.  To thrive in a cultural clash with a competitor that has decades and centuries in its vision we must adopt longer term time horizons and realize that ethnocentrism, which was never appropriate as a guide for national policy, may become downright dangerous.

    Should we become culturally different?  No.  Should we recognize that others, like the Chinese, might feel the same way?  Yes.





  • Moon Also Rises

    Spring                                                           Beltane Moon

    The second rainy chilly day.  Perfect.  Tomorrow and Tuesday will be outside days again, planting and other things, but now I have my gas stove turned on, the study is warm and I’m going to have another day of writing, reading and watching movies.

    A friend’s mother-in-law, 97, lies at home, hospice care.  A Chinese national, born in Canton, she has created a long and active life, filled with calligraphy, gardening, cooking, writing, reading and family.

    Another friend went out and stayed the night with her yesterday.

    Moon’s decline underscores the transition for our men’s group.  Death and serious illness has become common, no longer stories of other’s lives.  Perhaps Moon, as well as any other,  shows a way to live into the Third Phase.

    She did not give up the things that made her who she was.  She stayed rooted in her tradition, yet took parts of it and made them her own and, in so doing, transformed them from things of yesterday into things of today and tomorrow.  Each of the Woolly’s have our names in Chinese courtesy of Moon.  She wrote poetry and a book of hers was published a couple of years ago by her family.

    Many were the meals at Scott’s house in which Moon added her touches to Yin’s work.  She had a quiet way, yet exuded a person who knew who she was, a person complete and whole, a real presence in the world.  No one’s cipher.

    Now Moon rises in the night sky.  She will not be forgotten.

  • Not With A Bang, But A Fever

    Samain                                 Moon of the Winter Solstice

    Durban.  On the somewhat binding, sort of advanced, might be effective at some point result of this latest climate summit.

    On this point a very interesting column by a philosopher wondering how to make his discipline matter.  On climate science he suggested analyzing the thought and logic of so-called climate skeptics.  Given the weight and quantity of high quality data documenting climate change, climate skepticism is not skepticism, rather it’s the height of credulity.  That is, true skeptics, given the science, would doubt the doubters who somehow swallow, accept as credulous, the patent propaganda of those whose self-interest (as they short-sightedly see it) turns them against facts.

    “The last-minute successful agreement at Durban puts pressure on what has been the world’s biggest obstacle to a climate agreement – the US Republican party.

    For ten years or more, they have walked out of hearings on renewable energy or climate policy with “We won’t act on climate because China won’t!” – a petulant mirror image of the parental favorite: “Would you jump off a bridge, just cause your friend does?””

    But now – China will

    In terms of sheer global impact, there is nothing else within human control that matters more than reducing carbon emissions.  We insist on running our present in a way that commits our grandchildren to a difficult, if not downright dangerous, world.

    Because this is global politics and because the big emitters, China #1 and US #2, have internal political problems on this issue, as does India, and because the world is in the midst of a very unsettled global economic mess, the odds of something substantive happening seems faraway, distant.

    It may be that this is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a fever.  But, maybe not.*

    “So does the outcome in Durban truly represent a “remarkable new phase,”  as U.N. Climate Chief Christina Figueres put it? Does the Durban Platform really “set a new course for the global fight against climate change”  (the phrase from an Associated Press wire story that many media outlets have picked up)? Maybe, but it will require a whole lot of work by the likes of the United States and China to keep the world on that course. At the very least, perhaps one could say, in that regard, that in the Durban Platform two of the world’s biggest emitters have agreed to stop squabbling and have shaken hands.”

  • Peace? Prize? Putin?

    Samain                          Moon of the Winter Solstice

    Apparently, I was not the only one taken aback by the Confucian Peace Prize.  Here’s a quote from the NYT about the prize and the award givers rationale behind it:

    “It praised his decision to go to war in Chechnya in 1999.

    “His iron hand and toughness revealed in this war impressed the Russians a lot, and he was regarded to be capable of bringing safety and stability to Russia,” read an English version of the committee’s statement. “He became the antiterrorist No. 1 and the national hero.”

    Not only that, it applauded him for “acting as the propagandist of current political events” while still in high school, and for being selected to join the K.G.B. while in college, “which made true his teenage dream of joining the K.G.B.” Much later, of course, came the “large-scale military action towards the illegal armed forces in Grozny, Chechnya.””  NYT, 11/15/11

    Another article I read said that the CCP has distanced itself from the organization that has given now 2 peace prizes, the last one to a man who refused to show up.  Observers believe this was an attempt to divert attention from the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, imprisoned Chinese dissident writer.

    Oops.  Didn’t work.

  • Natural Disasters on the rise in the United States

    Lughnasa                                                                         Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    “This has been a devastating year,” National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said. “Natural disasters are on the rise in the United States,” he noted, including records for heat, tornadoes, floods and fires, and with the bulk of hurricane season still remaining.

    So.  The economy has tanked.  The climate has raised hell, at least that’s one explanation that the right wing might find congenial.  Much warmer in that theological realm.  And, it might well have come up first through Texas and Oklahoma, seems possible to me.

    Then.  Our political parties stumble over themselves in making ridiculous policy, then bending the knee to the most extreme right wing and  apologizing for not having made worse policy.

    If these are the end times, it will be because the Great Spirit got so distracted from laughing at our self-defeating ways that She forgot to run the universe.

    Consider that the natural disasters Jack Hayes refers to are probably caused or at least dramatically reinforced by human action.  Then, consider the all to0 human disasters in Washington, Rome and Athens.

    If shooting ourselves in our collective feet were an Olympic sport, we’d all be medal winners and hearing our national anthems over and over again.

    It is also human that our Asian brothers and sisters, especially the Chinese, see all this as evidence of the inevitability of their rise.  Well.  Probably not.  World history shows the rise and fall of great powers to be a rule, played out over and over again on continent after continent in era after era.  The Qin Dynasty.  Rome.  The Khmer.  The Mughals.  The Macedonians.  The Persians.  The Greeks.  The Maya.  The Aztecs.  At some point in world history others will add, the United States of America, Europe and, yes, even China and Japan and India.

    We need to step back, take a look from the long view.  These are neither the worst of times, look at the fate of Carthage, for example, nor are these the best of times, see the Song Dynasty or the Classical Mayan period or Persian culture.

    Yes, I find the politics of our time, of this millennium, disheartening in their mean-spiritedness, their lack of charity and compassion, their polarization, but, as Cicero said, “No reign lasts forever.”  It could be that our knuckle-headed policy directions will put paid to the human race, it’s possible, for sure, but history tells me that we’ll muddle through somehow, in spite of ourselves.

  • Ancientrails in Exile

    Ancientrails in exile (I crashed my own website.  Geez.  Wrote this while it was down.  Thanks againn to Bill S. who undid whatever I did.)

    August 7th, 2011  5:05pm

    Lughnasa                                                   Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    Got a passport photo for my Brazilian visa.  Looks like a booking photo.  You can’t smile during these sessions.  Why?  Facial recognition software struggles with recognizing faces anyhow and anything that distorts the face makes their task even harder.  A great article in Wired talks about this problem and argues that the solution (if we want one) lies in the work of the caricaturist, who emphasizes the unique aspects of a person’s face.  This is the way our brain recognizes faces, but is very difficult for algorithms to master.

    Now.  If you’re a terrorist, please don’t smile for your passport photo because we may not be able to recognize you.  Gives you confidence, doesn’t it?

    Last night I made an attempt to increase my computer literacy by upgrading my WordPress software on my own.  Note to self.  Don’t do that again.  The result has been a database connection error.  As near as I can tell, I’ve succeeded in taking down my own website.

    Mark and I have been rereading the Go handbook.  It’s a bit confusing, at least to me, but we’re going to get to playing anyhow.  This is a sophisticated, yet simple seeming game.

    On to Tai Chi tonight.  I feel like I’ve made real progress over the last week.  Slow.  But progress.


    August 7, 2011 10:30 pm

    Lughnasa                                                 Waning Honey Extraction Moon

    We learned a new move tonight.  The instructor, Cheryl, said I had the basics of it after our first independent practice.  “Gotta be a first time.” I told her.

    It felt good to get something other than correction.  It’s been a tough slog so far, but I’m gradually pulling myself into the physical world, uniting mind and body.  At some point I want to learn the Taoist thought behind it all.  But not quite yet.

    Not having ancientrails to post in feels pretty weird to me.  I miss the familiarity of it.  Posting on the blog remains one of the more steady tasks I have in my life.  Fortunately, I don’t need the program to keep writing.



    August 8  2011   1:55 pm

    Ancientrails is still down though the error message has changed.  That must mean Bill Schmidt, good friend and cybermage, has made some progress.

    China scolded the US for “gigantic military spending and bloated social programs.”  That roused a patriotic wait just a minute reaction.  On several levels.  The military spending is high, but it has been high for some time as the US, the current and still reigning world hegemon, has many enemies and self-interest spread over the globe.  No matter what those of us who prefer peace or other foreign governments like China might want, the military spending reflects our status as the only ever global hegemon.

    Bloated social programs.  Only if you’re not poor, old, disabled, a veteran or a person who wants at least some security in old age.  Bloated is the wrong word, a Chinese mimicry of our own Tea Party.  How ironic is that?  The Chinese Communist Party lining up alongside the Michelle Bachmanns and Ron Pauls of American politics.

    Do they need reform?  Oh, yes.  Will it happen anytime soon?  I hope so, even though the result might negatively affect Kate and me.

    What the Chinese could have scolded us for, what would have bit harder than hackneyed bumper sticker critiques, would have been questions about our love of democracy.  Democracy as it exists in this country today no longer solves problems.  It creates them.  Why does the nation of Madison, Monroe, Adams, Jefferson and Hamilton find itself broken down into the politics of faction?  Military spending and misshapen social programs are the not cause, they are the symptom of a nation no longer able to make its own form of government work.

    Now, there’s a critique.


  • Working Off the Hump

    Mid-Summer                                                                                  Waning Honey Flow Moon

    Potting, something done for thousands of years by diverse human communities, is hard.  At least for me.  Kate seems to be getting it.  We have a 6,000 year old Chinese pot at the MIA that is one of my favorite pieces in the museum.  It is not easy and especially not easy to turn out something so pleasing in shape, execution and overall proportions.

    We start at 10 am at the Northern Clay Center. Leila Denecke, our teacher and a veteran potter, gives us a demonstration.  This morning she showed how to make a honey pot.  She throws “off the hump” which means that she actually throws the object on a larger hunk of clay known as the hump.  This raises the level of the piece on which the potter works, an advantage in itself, and allows for following one piece with another and another, using clay from the same hump, working down from the top.

    Like most expert artists her hands work the clay with ease, as if any one could do it.  From a lump of clay, literally, she fashions a small jar with a slight belly and a flanged mouth.  With her wire tool she cuts its off the hump, raises the hump higher by creating a cone and creates a flanged top for the jar with a small handle.

    After the demonstration we go back to our wheels.  Most of the class, experienced potters, then try to reproduce whatever Liela has shown us how to make.  Refinement of their craft with feedback from a pro is why most of the students are in this class.

    Hands slick with slip we work at our various levels, one woman has her own studio, has had for twenty-five years, another sells work at art fairs, yet another came up here all the way from South Miami.  It’s a varied group, 6 women, myself and Patrick.  We’ve bonded a bit and will share a meal tomorrow.

  • Art Immersion

    Beltane                                                                              New Garlic Moon

    One of those days.  Into the museum, leaving at 10:30 am and just got back now, 6:00 pm.  Had a Japan Art Cart, oh boy, with very few visitors.  A group of autistic kids and a classical musician and his daughters stopped by and that was about it.  The art cart business is just too passive on the one hand and too intrusive on the other, i.e. we have to encourage people to stop.  On the other hand, I do love talking about the Japanese tea ceremony, a great gift to world civilization.

    After that, and I mean right after that, the art cart closed up at 1:30 and the continuing ed for the day started at 1:30.  Celia Peterson gave a very interesting presentation on games and art, both physical and virtual games, as possible adjuncts to museum experiences and as art objects themselves.   It really cranked up my thinking about the possible, the nearly possible and oh boy I can’t wait until it is possible.

    (screenshot from acmipark, a virtual version of an Australian museum)

    Example.  How about a museum that displays its objects inside a virtual world like second life?  Or, a virtual museum where interaction with objects could bring up art historical, geographical, biographical information, for example, about an object that interested you.  This kind of stuff turns me on, makes me want to get involved.

    After that a meeting on my direct action idea, a rolling, international projection of the artist’s image on museum walls from eastern Europe to California on June 30th, the night before the 90th celebration of Chinese Communism.  A docent has agreed to take the idea to our museum president.  She’s also president of an international association of museums that would probably make this pretty easy.  It’s a big, yet simple idea, and it would have plenty of media punch.  Hope it happens.

  • Monkey. Still. But, Making Progress.

    Beltane                                                                     Waning Last Frost Moon

    Whoa.  84.  Sometimes I think of the seasons as if we were on a moveable patch of earth.  On a day like today our patch got shifted on the seasonal moving belt to about Georgia.  Last week we were parked above the Canadian border for a while.  Who knows where we’ll go next.

    I have passed the 50% mark in reading Monkey:  Journey to the West.   That means I’m somewhere around 1,000+ pages in.  Hard to tell on the Kindle, though I know precisely how far I am in percentages.  This book is funny, wise, rollicking, supernatural and just a bit cynical.  Well, maybe a lot.  Yesterday I bought a book that features English works on the Chinese classics.  It has a lot to say about these favorites, but I’ve still found no commentary that helps me get, say, the wood, water, earth, fire, metal sequence or the names of some characters or the works referenced as if everyone knew them.  Next up, probably next year, is The Dream of the Red Chamber, the best of the six, in the opinion of several writers.

    While hunting for a picture to go with this post, I discovered that Neil Gaiman, author of the Sandman graphic novels and several fantasy novels started, back in March, on a screenplay for a trilogy based on Monkey.  Should be interesting.

    If you feel like you have the time, both Monkey and the Romance of the Three Kingdoms will more than repay the effort.  There’s a different culture at work here, sometimes a radically different one, but, at other times, radically similar.  That’s the power of reading works from other cultures, insights you can’t get any other way.

    A slow day.  Business meeting in the morning.  We scheduled a couple of days in July, post Kate’s second hip surgery, to go over our expenditures in the first six months of retirement, check them against our budget, see where we need to adjust.  Big fun.

  • Ai Weiwei In Jail

    Spring                                                                  Waxing Bee Hiving Moon

    In all the tsunami/earthquake, nuclear crisis, air strikes in Libya, brother coming, dog biting haze I missed this story about Ai Weiwei, a Chinese dissident artist whose marble chair is in our Wu Family Reception Hall.  I’ve attached a summary from the Financial Times and a video interview with Dan Rather (see above).  Especially in the Rather interview I can see the problem he poses for an autocratic regime.  He gets the notion of freedom, of individuality, of free expression.  That’s frightening stuff to autocrats.

    As a man who admires Chinese civilization, its arts, its literature, its inventiveness, its long, long history, I know China and Chinese civilization has room for Ai Weiwei and his kind.  Wandering Taoist sages, eccentrics all, the mountain poets, literati painters are just the ones who come to mind right now.

    The more I read Chinese literature and history I do know that they inflect the dialectic rebel/government in a way not easily understood by Americans.  That is, the rebel is bad and the government good.  Or mostly, anyhow.  This has to do in part with the notion of the mandate of heaven.  As long as the government achieves order, the people are fed and happy, then the government reflects the will of heaven.  But, if the people are starving, crime and violence becomes rampant–see the Warring States period and the end of the Han Dynasty as examples–the government has lost the mandate of heaven and must be replaced.

    I have also added a TED video (above) about China, one that defines it as a civilization-state rather than nation-state and speculates on the impact of China’s rise.  I think the idea is germane to this topic.

    Enough.  I’m thinking about how to impact this man’s detention in a positive way.  If you have any ideas, let me know.

    Fears grow for Ai Weiwei’s safety

    By Jamil Anderlini in Beijing

    Published: April 5 2011 15:22 | Last updated: April 5 2011 15:22

    Fears for the safety of China’s most famous artist are growing amid international condemnation of his extralegal disappearance at the hands of the country’s increasingly repressive state security apparatus.

    Family members of Ai Weiwei, whose “Sunflower Seeds” installation is currently on display in London’s Tate Modern gallery, said on Tuesday evening they still had no idea of his whereabouts after he was detained at Beijing airport on Sunday and led away by airport security.

    Friends, family and associates have been warned not to speak to journalists and Mr Ai’s wife and eight employees were temporarily detained on Sunday after police raided his Beijing home and studio. Beijing police have refused to provide any information concerning his whereabouts.

    A member of Mr Ai’s family said at least one of his associates remained in custody after being detained on Sunday but the others had been released.

    Human rights groups and associates of Mr Ai say he is in grave danger of being tortured and is probably being deprived of medicines he needs to take regularly.