Google+ Followers

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sticky wicket ...










My son Charlie Burke 'batting' on the Great Northern Highway on his way to promote cricket in farflung communities near Derby.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Gifts for the Gab

















I call them swans, but someone said they were geese ... either way, they were a gift to me for talking. Hence the somewhat warped title.

Gals for the Gallery




Tania Jain and daughter Sophie.

A Diary Report ...

Today’s report begins last night when I sat and marked a bundle of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ news reports. Jeanette sat in the study and watched two episodes of Spooks with the heater on and the door closed while I worked. But it had to be done, and there’s a heap more to mark yet. I did have my computer on also, with the CricInfo scores from Chandigarh coming through where India and Australia were playing a one-day cricket game. Australia won, with another great innings by Damien Martyn.

Monday morning I teach ‘Selected Readings’ (Western Media) at 8 o’clock in Building 12, a new building just recently opened. It may be new, but still the smell from the toilets has managed to infiltrate the corridors and seep into the classrooms nearby. The students are delightful, if uncooperative. I say ‘uncooperative’ but really they are monumentally shy and wouldn’t say boo to a mouse. I ask questions and wait for an answer: silence. Sometimes one of my more adventurous students in the front row will whisper an answer, but they will never say it for the whole class to hear. If I insist and get them to stand up, they will hang their head and either remain silent or whisper so even I have to lean forward and put my ear to their mouth. Frustrating. These are Second Years – or, as they call them here, sophomores. They go by the USA system.

It was chilly this morning, but not freezing. Little birds were chirping in the vines covering some old flats as I walked back. The campus has old accommodation, like little cells, still sitting and growing weeds between the newer blocks of flats, all before the big new architectural structures which have taken over the area where an ancient and, by all accounts, beautiful garden and zoo once stood. The little pagoda and the well-decorated entrance to the old garden still stand, and a walkway and little bridge of stone traverses the still waters, which lie like a neglected lake between the building sites and the roadway and off-white domestic apartment buildings off campus.

Here, under a weeping tree in the old garden by the lake, a saxophone student practises, and a flute-player (perhaps the same player), plus a male tenor singer who sings scales some days(maddening). The sax player sounds terrific, but I don’t think they will be out there much longer, playing sax and flute with frozen lips.

In this ancient city, once a major regional capital, the garden may have been an emperor’s retreat where he walked and entertained his ladies and visitors. When I expressed concern that the old China was being destroyed, a student said matter-of-factly, We need the area for classrooms. There was no hint of sadness or concern. Perhaps it was just the forward-thinking of youth that made her so practical, but without the Old China there wouldn’t be a tourism industry—and that’s a very practical aspect of the New China’s economy.

I look out on polluted days like this and see the dirty still waters. They have planted water lilies to consume the algal bloom and clean the waters. Most days there are people there, sitting by the water, fishing for sustenance. On one side, the vines have covered all the building rubble and the rusting remains of an old aircraft.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Barbecue hosted by American Friends in Linfen















Self, Mrs Liu, Jeff Jain and Sophie; Li Fei taking a shot; Mrs Liu and Jeff with Sophie

Barbecue hosted by American Friends in Linfen







The gang's all here ... including Yoko and Mrs Liu ...

Barbecue hosted by American Friends in Linfen










One-year-old Sophie in our courtyard; Candy & Daisy; Chef John Jain and Christina; Tom and friend; Shiskebab and friend ... more to come ... Thanks to Brian Wolff and Pat Jain (off camera) for various vitals, including barbecue chicken and apple pie. Such a delicious event is not common in Linfen!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fun-loving Adelaide poetry punters -

THE LEE MARVIN READINGS


14th Reading * this Monday, October 30

o LEE MARVIN ON A BENDER

Bel Schenk
HEATHER JOHNSON
Cath Kenneally
KHAIL JUREIDINI
Steve Evans



Monday October 30th at Gallery de la Catessen

9 Anster St., Adelaide
(off Waymouth at the King William end, near FAD nightclub)

7.30 for 8 PM start o Price $5
--

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Vegemite Crackdown Angers Aussies

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK, Oct 23 (Reuters Life!) - Reports that U.S. customs agents are searching people from Australia and New Zealand for Vegemite, a popular yeast extract spread, has created consternation among antipodean expatriates living in America.

The Australian Embassy in Washington said on Monday it was looking into Australian media reports that customs officials were checking people for the salty brown spread.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has long prohibited imports of Vegemite because it contains folate, a B vitamin approved as an additive for just a few foods, including breakfast cereals.

But until recently there was no difficulty bringing in a few jars for personal use. Nearly 100,000 Australians and New Zealanders live in the United States.

Like a similar British favorite called Marmite, it is usually spread on toast with butter or cheese.

"Vegemite made me the man I am today," said Brad Blanks, a reporter with a New York breakfast radio show. "In Australia the slogan is that Vegemite puts a rose in every cheek; but today America has slapped the cheek of every Australian."

Weekend reports from Australian and New Zealand media said some people had been searched or asked by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents if they were carrying Vegemite.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Manhole Covers / draft three

‘The beauty of manhole covers—what of that?
Like medals struck by a great savage khan,
Like Mayan calendar stones, unliftable, indecipherable,’

Karl Shapiro, Manhole Covers (1968)


1)

‘Bitten at the edges’, Shapiro said, ex-
act, like here in this coalmining town,
Shanxi Normal University campus to be
exact, where we have learnt to shallow breathe
over manholes in the broad pathways
where god-knows-what passes underground
and perfumes the sulphuric air as
slim ladies in stylish spangled jeans go
riding by, two to a bike, one pedalling, one
balancing lightly on the carrier, like
corps de ballet ballerinas at a rubbish tip.
Those are particles in the air that offend
rising from exotic embossed shields
of ancient khan warriors, the ex-
acts of history nothing to
the attack on us
today.


2)

Down Linfen’s main street, the town’s
one sweet musical vehicle plays
a jingle version of Auld Lang Syne,
rubbish trucked away in this music box
as the ballerina pirouettes
around and around …


3)

Walking back from shopping,
my wife and I stare at the manhole covers,
guessing what the characters say.
There is often beauty in ignorance,
like in a five-star Beijing urinal
I looked up to see a framed script
in beautiful calligraphy
and in the purest ignorance
attributed Confucian thought to it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Chinese manhole covers targets for theives

'China's tearaway economic growth is becoming a physical danger to pedestrians and motorists worldwide, as thefts of manhole covers and drain gratings are attributed to the Chinese demand for scrap metal.'

Reported by Hamish McDonald, Sydney Morning Herald Correspondent in Beijing
April 20, 2004


In Great Britain and America, people are also being charged with theft of gratings, sewer covers and such - all to feed a world hungry for steel. Amazing.

Manhole Covers (draft two)

1)

Across time and oceans, in America,
Karl Shapiro wrote in Sixty Eight,
‘The beauty of manhole covers—what of that?
Like medals struck by a great savage khan,
Like Mayan calendar stones, unliftable, indecipherable,’
at the University of California, to be
exact. That’s the way of his description,
‘Bitten at the edges’, ex-
act, like here in this coalmining town,
at Shanxi Normal University, to be
exact, we have learnt to shallow breathe
over the manholes in the broad pathways
where god-knows-what passes underground
and perfumes the sulphuric air as
slim ladies in stylish spangled jeans go
riding by, two to a bike, one pedalling, one
balancing lightly on the carrier, like
corps de ballet ballerinas at a rubbish tip.
Those are particles in the air that offend
rising from exotic embossed shields
of ancient khan warriors, the ex-
acts of history nothing to
the attack on us
today.


2)

Down Linfen’s main drag, the town’s
one sweet musical vehicle plays
a jingle version of Auld Lang Synge,
rubbish trucked away in this music box
as the ballerina pirouettes
around and around …


3) (first draft)

Walking back from shopping,
my wife and I stare at the manhole covers,
guessing what the characters say.
There is often beauty in ignorance,
like in a fancy Beijing urinal
I looked up to see a framed script
in beautiful calligraphy
and in the purest ignorance
attributed Confucian thought to it.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Happy Birthday, Damien!


Australia v England, 6th match, Champions Trophy

Martyn helps Australia to victory

The pundits had been anticipating a firecracker of a contest to celebrate Diwali, but England's batsmen contrived instead to produce another damp squib, as the middle-order squandered a hugely promising opening stand from Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss to stumble from 83 for 0 to 169 all out

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Wedding Repast

The Chinese Wedding






Our friend LiFei was married today to Xiao Xia, and we were honoured to be invited to his 'first' wedding party. They will be having two others - one at his home town, and one at the bride's home town. As usual, they banished the bad spirits with lots of loud fireworks and showered the bride and groom with sparkling tinsel fired from hand-held big 'crackers'. Red is the Chinese colour for a wedding so the bride wore red - a beautiful outfit which my photos do not do justice to. Li Fei himself looked very fine in his suit. The host of today's dinner was the Dean of the English department here, Dean Tian. He really enjoyed himself with the microphone in his hand! We had a small table of foreign teachers and our boss, Mrs Liu and her off-sider Mrs Gua. It was a veritable banquet - everything from pig's trotters to chicken, and a few dishes we couldn't identify. I will post some photos for your interest.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Sweeping Lady - draft three

… shape of those bent shoulders
and her entire body
speaks of resignation
as this lady sweeps leaves away
under a weeping tree.

Tourists by the hundred
pass, staring at faded buildings
and weathered sculptures
of wood and stone.
She is breathing today
the same air as they,
as she sweeps leaves away …

Holy holy holy her autumn breath,
holy her work beneath the trees,
holy her head more than temple ceilings,
holy her arms more than winding dragons,
holier her face than
the warrior's metallic stare..

Thursday, October 12, 2006

chanting the sweeping lady

My recent attempt at a poem for the Sweeping Lady of Tiayuan has had various responses from 'I like it!' to 'Where's the cryptic Andrew?' (Glen Phillips). Here's an extraordinary chant version by poetryetcer contributor, biloxi andersen:

Holiness
's an automn breath
And holy
's her work
Amongst the trees
And holy's
Her head more than
A temple
Or a Dragon's lear
And holy's
Her face more than a
Fearsome face of a
Death ahead
And holy's
Her **head** more than the (a)
Fearsome death
That lies ahead

A slightly earlier version was posted as a sound bite ... Here's Ziad chanting it

http://www.fileden.com/files/2006/10/11/280447/holymic__002.wav

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sweeping Lady of Tiayuan

(Draft One)

… shape of those bent shoulders
and the entire body language
speaks of resignation
this lady sweeping leaves away
under a weeping tree

as tourists by the hundred
walk past her, not noticing her,
staring at fading buildings,
weathered sculptures of wood and stone.
She is breathing on earth
the same air as they, but
working now, sweeping leaves …

Holy holy holy her autumn breath,
holy her work among the trees,
holy her head more than ceilings of temples,
her arms more holy than a winding dragon,
her visage than the warrior’s metal face.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Pastior 1927-2006

always

by Oscar Pastior


there's no such thing as the poem.
there's always only this poem that
happens to read you. but because
in this poem see above you can
say there's no such thing as the
poem and there's always only
this poem that happens to
read you even the poem that you
don't read can read you and there be no
such thing as always only this
poem here. both you and you
read that and this. call both by
name: they read you even if
there's no such thing as you only here

(Translated by Rosmarie Waldrop )

Thank you to Pierre Joris for, again, introducing me to a new poet I like. There is so much more to know. Check out http://pjoris.blogspot.com/

Tiayuan shots







Dragons ... dragons ... and camel with Tania Jain and daughter Sophie (13 months)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Tiayuan Trip












The following copy was lifted from http://www.chinaplanner.com/gardens/famousgardens/fam_jici.htm

The Jinci Temple is situated where the Jmshui River rushes at the foot of the Xuanweng Mountain 25 kilometers southwest of Taiyuan. It is a famous garden of ancient buildings, skirted by the mountain and the river, where ancient trees soar to unbelievable heights. It is warm in winter and cool in summer, and the buildings look elegant in a classical style.

The temple is also endowed with a rich cultural legacy. The temple was expanded during the Sui, Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties until it attained its present scale. There are more than SO halls built prior to the Qing Dynasty, occupying an area of more than 10,000 square meters. The centerpiece of the entire cluster is the Hall of the Holy Mother, enshrined with 33 painted sculptures of servant maids of the Song Dynasty. These sculptures are one of the Jinci Temple's three wonders.

The two other wonders are two trees - a cypress tree (pictured - AB)dating back to the Zhou Dynasty and a Chinese scholar tree planted in the Sui Dynasty - and a spring that keeps gurgling to this day.


The photos are all mine, and there's more to come :-) tomorrow perhaps, although I am working to catch up on classes missed during the week's holiday for National Day and the Moon Festival. No rest for teachers or students in China!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Scaring the Spirits away - Boom!


The first fireworks were actually green bamboo that were thrown into fires to scare spirits away in ancient China, called "pas chuk."

Some of the daily fireworks displays we have experienced here have actually shaken the ground. If you are anywhere near them, you have to block your ears or they could seriously damage your hearing. The Chinese celebrate with them and use them at weddings, birthdays, store openings, births - any significent event in life. Some days it gets very noisy around here, although you don't often get to see them; just hear them! - but I suppose we will miss them when we travel on. Maybe.

On the other side of the camera ...















While my camera has seized up, you can enjoy this photo of myself taken by John Jain, American English teaching here in Linfen.

coo d'etat

And now, this morning, a pigeon was cooing outside our bedroom window. Not surprising in Perth, but in Linfen where the pollution keeps birds far away, it was an extremely pleasant surprise. This was followed up by tweeting from a smaller bird – a veritable song to my ears. I missed this week’s ‘snap’ poem on Wednesday at ‘poetryetc’ so here is today’s late effort (I call it ‘coo d’etat’):


one 'coo'
and you know
the best

a holiday from
coaldust
so the birds
have come back
to visit

next
'tweet tweet'
a lovesong
to my ears

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Road Less Rattled

Linfen young mothers balance their young in front of them before the handlebars of their silent electric scooters, and Jeff tells of a family of four on one scooter: dad driving, mum facing him on the saddle, youngest holding her, and another child holding him. No helmets, but the traffic flow and confidence seems to win the day. Pedestrians, donkeys, minivans, trucks, beaten-up old taxis, shiny black sedans, and bikes – both pedal and motorised – share the roads, with pedestrians wandering the edges three or four deep at times because the footpaths are crowded with parked cars and bikes … It is so different to the rule-riddled roads of home. Linfen police do stand at the intersections at times, trying occasionally to calm and direct traffic, but they are as laid-back as the road users and only occasionally apprehend anyone walking across in the face of oncoming traffic or a donkey driver meandering across the pypoteneuse.

Young students travel two to a bike, one peddling, the other nonchalantly perched on the back, seemingly balanced by years of practice. And their balance is perfect: the cyclist may mount curbs and steer sudden corners but the passenger will happily prattle on, body swaying naturally to adjust, gymnasts without apparatus, seesawing on the fulcrum of their fundamental …

Chinese Money Laundering

hanging washing out
I try my slacks’ pockets:
bunch of keys in one pocket,
two Yuan notes in the other -

my wife has been
money laundering again

The Moon Festival


The Moon festival (also called the Mooncake or Mid-Autumn festival) falls on October 6 in the year 2006. What is the Moon festival? Every year on the fifteenth day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar, when the moon is at its maximum brightness for the entire year, the Chinese celebrate "zhong qiu jie."

Children are told the story of the moon fairy living in a crystal palace, who comes out to dance on the moon's shadowed surface. The legend surrounding the "lady living in the moon" dates back to ancient times, to a day when ten suns appeared at once in the sky. The Emperor ordered a famous archer to shoot down the nine extra suns. Once the task was accomplished, Goddess of Western Heaven rewarded the archer with a pill that would make him immortal. However, his wife found the pill, took it, and was banished to the moon as a result. Legend says that her beauty is greatest on the day of the Moon festival.

More information and recipes for Moon Cakes at http://chinesefood.about.com/od/mooncake/a/moonfestival.htm

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Chandlerism

Chess is as elaborate a waste of human intelligence as you can find outside an advertising agency.
- Raymond Chandler

As a man with over 25 years in the ad industry, that strikes me as very funny, and sadly accurate. There are a lot of talented people making too much money in adland to use their talents for more artistic ends.