Thursday, September 28, 2006

This display from Ron Silliman's always informative blog. He says this is an exhibition of photographs by Hai Bo at Max Protetch

His blog is at

Epistle Poem

Dear Yarrum, I began to write you a letter
but the door bell went and was persistent,
so I answered. A request for the baby pusher
to be handed out the window for use by mother
and baby on some errand. I can only imagine
it is to do with the beggar in the street who
her husband befriended and offered shelter
via his wife, and left the beggar in my care as
we walked home to this block of flats on
the university campus. As we walked, she lagged
behind and begged off cops and soldiers and
the guards at the uni gates. I admonished her
in my best sign language, but she lagged further
behind until turning and walking away. To be
frank, that didn’t bother me, but I (dutifully)
rang and reported in. She came
pursuing the beggar lady, presumably to
offer help. Sometimes good intentions lead
to foolish outcomes—I feel it today in
my arthritic bones, but who can advise against
helping your fellow man? Here I sit, listening
to Dylan unplugged—Once upon a time you
dressed so fine …
thinking of the ebb and flow
of manna in my time, a rolling stone tempo-
rarily washed-up on these Chinese shores.
The beggars of this town all have the same
enamel large-size cup. They won’t let you pass
and grab at your clothes until you want to
flatten them, but a portion of good manners
and Western guilt withholds your hand. We cover
costs here, there’s nothing fancy in our lifestyle,
this week we work six days to cover the official
holiday next week. Yesterday my stepdaughter
fed the beggar lady noodles at her table in
a restaurant and offered her a job as cook.
Today she was to arrive for an interview
with the two housemaids, but didn’t show.
Instead, she was back on the street
begging, grabbing at the hand that would
feed her … There’s a million books in
a thousand languages attempting to
solve the puzzle of human existence, but
who’s to know. In Bali, they wear
black and white checks for the balance
and wrap this cloth about divine idols
who one could imagine may know better.
Yours in eternal puzzlement - Werdna

Friday, September 22, 2006

Diary update ...

Some days I wonder what I’m taking for granted, what sights of China I am leaving out of this because I see them everyday: the straight-backed ladies who ride their bikes with a charming air; the green-uniformed guides standing on a rise at the gates who nod ‘hello’ if I wave to them; the dusty dinted battered old cars that serve as taxis; the noodle makers who throw their dough in the air and twirl it around into over six foot lengths; the scrawny sad cats and dirty miniature dogs in the grubby back alleys, often tied to a post with a dried-out plastic lid for water. And the way the shopkeepers sit in their stores or on the pavement outside or on chipped concrete steps, eating noodles and watching the Chinese world go by. Yesterday when I went to pick up some more photos (every bloody document needs photos here) the girl from behind the counter was asleep on a couch. She grumpily arose and served me. Nothing unusual in that: the whole town closes down between noon and half-past two. It’s the best time to go shopping – no-one else around almost.

Man Bites Panda!

An inebriated man in a Chinese zoo went into the cage to hug a panda bear, but the bear bit his leg and held him-so the man tried to bite him! The fur was too thick, so a keeper turned the hose on the panda and saved him. But the photo is beautiful, isn't it.

Dante's Inferno

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Linfen news from Reuters

One of the world's oldest observatories has been uncovered by archaeologists near the city of Linfen in Shanxi province in northern China.

They estimate the remains, in the Taosi relics site, are about 4,100 years old. That would make the Linfen observatory some 3,000 years older than the Mayan observatory uncovered in Central America, which in turn is older than the astronomical observatory built by Ulug'bek in Samarkand in 1428.

What's been found of the observatory is a 130-ft.-diameter semicircular platform made of rammed earth and surrounded by 13 stone pillars within a 200-ft. outer circle. The observatory may have been used to mark the movement of the Sun through Earth's seasons.

Rammed earth was a construction technique in which a mixture of soil and water were molded in forms. The forms then were removed, leaving solid earthen walls up to two feet thick.

The 13 pillars, each at least 13 feet tall, formed 12 gaps between them. Ancient astronomers observed the direction of sunrise through the gaps.

They also were able to distinguish the seasons of the year. The site may have been used to observe stars and the Moon.

From the observatory, ancient Chinese astronomers may have made some of the earliest recorded observations of stars in their night skies. The site also may have been used for sacrificial rites, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Chinese archaeologists in 2004-2005 spent 18 months simulating ancient uses of the site to validate their theories about it. They found the seasons they calculated were only one or two days different from the traditional Chinese calendar, which is still widely used today.

Astronomical observation and the making of calendars is regarded as one of the symbols of the origin of civilization. A historical document says that China had special officials in charge of astronomical observation as early as the 24th century BC. The discovery of the ancient observatory in Taosi confirmed the records.

The Taosi relics site, dated back to 4,300 years ago, is located in Xiangfen County, Linfen City of Shanxi Province, and covers an area of 3 million square meters. It is believed to be a settlement of the period of the five legendary rulers (2,600 BC-1,600 BC) in Chinese history.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Out and about in Linfen

From graffiti to furniture removal, from reading the zodiac to washing flapping in the breeze, among the exercise machines - everywhere and anywhere - the citizens of Linfen live out and about when they can, before the coldness of winter comes blustering in.

'Open Mouth' in Linfen

I am happy to report on a very successful literary reading, with song, in Linfen last night.

Four poets, a short story teller, two singers, an 'instant' artist, and two Chinese jokes, filled out the program which was held in the Science Building of Shanxi Normal University. Around two dozen people were present.

Performers included Jamie, 'Mrs Pablo', Rebecca, Jeff Jain, Javvad, Nick, Wong Lee, Mr Wang and myself. The compere for the evening was Shabbs, who conducted herself with aplomb. The presentations were in English and Chinese, with one item in local dialect.

Those to be thanked inlude Pat and John Jain for acquiring the venue, and supplying various edibles and coffee.

Independent of a reading back home (for me!) in Perth with the same name, the name 'Open Mouth' was chosen for the event. It is thought that it may continue as a monthly event.

If you would like more information, contact me at burkeandre at gmail dot com

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Footy as Religion

This striking image, brilliantly conceived and created by AFL Record art director Sam Russell, depicts a phantom ‘Last Supper’ – of footy pies washed down by Coca-Cola and Powerade – attended by the captains of this year’s finalists.

From left to right are Bulldog Brad Johnson, Saint Luke Ball, Eagle Chris Judd, Swan Barry Hall, Crow Mark Ricciuto, Magpie Nathan Buckley, Demon David Neitz and Docker Peter Bell. Fittingly, Hall shares centre stage with the prized cup he and his mentor, Paul Roos, held aloft last year, while his envious counterparts – of whom, only Ricciuto and Bell have previously had their hands on the silverware – attempt to glean from Hall the wisdom and knowledge required to win it all.

AFL Grand Final pushes Poetry Event aside

Amongst the news from Perth of poetry activities sat this little gem:

The Roving Poets and Minstrels Picnic has been cancelled due to clashing with the AFL Grand Final. We will let you know if it’s re-scheduled.

What! Amazing! Not many of the poets of my vintage and older were ever interested in football - but I suppose they wouldn't get a good turn out on such a day, especially if one of our local teams is in the Grand Final. The Fremantle Dockers won a preliminary final last night, and the West Coast Eagles play this evening. There is even a chance of it being an Eagles/Dockers Grand Final ...

Friday, September 15, 2006

Sweeping changes in China

Outside our window, one day the sweepers came, using their traditional brooms of dried bush, swishing away the leaves but just stirring-up the powdery dust of sunny but polluted days. After a month it is the first time I have seen the sweepers here in our courtyard. May they return by winter ...

Wham! BAM! Thank you, son.

Instead of working on getting his father's writings out to the world through the Internet, my eldest son, Miles, has been revising his company's website. Oh, well, I suppose he has to make a living. Here is the new site: you're welcome to have a look.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Quote of the Day - worth sharing, I thought!

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.

- Frank Tibolt

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Peter's Link wouldn't show, so ...

Misused Intelligence by Peter Ciccariello

My email friend Peter Ciccariello is a master artist with the computer and various programs. See for yourself with Misused Intelligence

The Old and the New

They are building big new lecture buildings and campus accommodation, but in the meantime classic Chinese scenes are disappearing. The old and the new were never more on display today than with a young music student playing saxophone runs among the trees next to an old pagoda, with an old man fishing in the polluted waters of this local waterway. Climb a tall bank of stairs beside the water and you see the facade of a once-beautiful old building, now weed-filled, with its forecourt used as a place to hang out washing. Next to this old facade, a weather-beaten man lives in a humpy lean-to affair built of old rubble and plywood and tin sheets. I look into these old eyes of China and wonder what they have seen - what does he make of today's world after the incredible sweeping changes of China's modern political and social history. But where are the young going - with their love of USAmerican culture and commerce, and the effects of globalisation yet to be felt on China's economy. As Mort Sahl so rightly said, The Future lies ahead ... And I can't see back and I can't see forward for them or with them. I am simply full of questions.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Thought for the Day

Where philosophy stops, poetry is impelled to begin. He was
a man, far away from home, biting his nails at destiny.

Susan Howe

Thank you, Doug Barbour, for quoting this.

Everyday shots on Shanxi NU Campus

Ah, beautiful pines are around the campus and remind me of old calligraphy-type scrolls I have seen. And by the roadside in Linfen I have seen many bicycle mechanics, and bicyclists mending their punctures and chains, etc, but this is the first umbrella mechanic I've seen. Everyone stands about giving him advice and watching him work. They sell fruit and vegies wherever there's a space. Like here, inside the uni before the west gate, beside old living quarters.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Notebook Poems

Teaching now
Rows of blank faces
I can’t read
Staring at me
Who they can’t read.

A Shakespeare sonnet,
A Bob Dylan song,
A Van Morrison complaint –
A quote about communication
From Seneca. Am I
Playing with irony

Chalk dust in my throat
Coaldust in my eyes
Hot chillies in my mouth
The lanes full of
Stick brooms and steaming vats
And fish who jump
From their troughs …
Every step a surprise,
Each sense assaulted.

I teach them to say G’Day
Something Australian
To combat the USA influence.
Eling has taught himself English
By watching American movies.
Denver named himself after
John, surprised it’s a town.
Here we are in China
Bamboo Curtain down
But still ghostly felt.

Girls give themselves
English names of
Abstract ambition –
Harmony, Enjoy,
Even my favourite –


Rapunzel, Rapunzel,
Let down your plastic bucket …

Next door,
Three floors up
And kind-hearted,
My American mates
Have devised a pulley system:
They feed a tough string line
Out their balcony window
And lower a bucket.
Last night it was
Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell;
The night before
Two candles and lighters,
A torch because
The power had gone out;
The night before the night before
A block of Mainland cheese,
Gold in these parts.
No need for electrickery:
Just drop down
And haul up.

Necessity gives birth again.


Flying Pigeon,
Forever Gold …

Racehorses? No –
Bicycles in China,
Made of low quality
Chinese steel so
Pretty soon they rust
But scoot through
The frenetic traffic
Well enough.
There’s one called
Alice, another Sally.

By the roadside
Bike mechanics
Work among
Small ballbearings,
Broken spokes,
Bent forks and
Punctured tubes.
It reminds me
Of my youth
As they check the valve
In a basin of water
And rasp the tube’s
Surface to patch it.
We had a clamp and
Some kind of burning system
On our back verandah.
Here they work
On the ragged stone pavement,
Among spilt noodles
And cigarette butts.
One old spark plug
From a motor scooter
Lies on the pavement,
And a young boy,
Opportunist at five,
Picks it up and scurries away.
Maybe Dad will be pleased.

Here on the corner
Where we walk
A three-wheeler
With metal flat-bed on the back
Is turned upside down.
They operate on its axle,
Sticking things together again.
It’s Humpty Dumpty
Engineering, and he’s ready to go
In ten minutes or so –
But just now
He sells melons to
If it’s daylight
It’s business hours
For the poor
Melon sellers
Of Linfen.


Shutterbug exhibition

You are invited to attend the launch of
surface to air
Friday 16th September at 6pm,
Free Range Gallery,
Hay Street, Subiaco.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Images on Campus

Shanxi Normal University has wonderful cultural contrasts and images on its campus. One tree-lined avenue is called Paragon Road which leads down to Bachelor Road: bachelors I know but their aren't too many 'paragons' around :-)
A row of majestic sculptures stand each side of a short walkway into the main teaching building - Darwin, Newton, Galileo and others (I'll check their names and report later) - but my personal favourite scultpture is this wonderful image of Einstein. Such character! The others all look posed, but this one is active.